Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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Monday, July 23, 2012

The Thing about the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt

      Kelsey finally has a chance to start over. Now that she is starting public school she can get her life back on track. Focus on college, get good grades, and keep her past a secret. No one knows that Kelsey was recently kicked out of Concordia Prep or the reasons behind her expulsion.  Kelsey soon finds that life at Concordia Public isn’t as easy as she thought, especially since she met Isaac.
    Isaac is on his last chance. This Senator’s son has been kicked out of so many private schools that if he can’t make it work at Concordia Public he is off to boarding school. Kelsey wants to stay far away from this bad boy, but when they are forced to work on a school project together the two can’t help but grow close. No matter what her feelings are for Isaac, Kelsey must keep her secrets. As their project to bring the students of Concordia Prep and Concordia Public together draws closer, Kelsey struggles to keep her past hidden.
    Told from alternating view points of Isaac and Kelsey, The Thing about the Truth, keeps readers on the edge of their seat as Kelsey’s lies start to unravel. Author Lauren Barnholdt chose to write the story from a before and after standpoint, which only adds to the suspense of finding out about Kelsey’s past. The Thing about the Truth is a great story and a quick read. The characters are real and the author does a great job conveying their emotions.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Katerina Trilogy Book One: The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

It’s 1888 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, should be concerned with balls, her studies at school, and attracting a rich and powerful husband. Instead she’s trying to hide her necromancy from her family. It’s a dark secret – and a dark power. One best kept to oneself. But Katerina accidentally raises a corpse – or two. Once her secret is out, various powers within the Russian aristocracy scheme to involve her in their intrigues against the crown. Katerina strives to remain loyal to the tsar, but that path may lead to the death of everyone she loves. 

The Gathering Storm is a historical paranormal novel rich in detail and description. Katerina is an interesting character, quite headstrong and unique for her time. The fantasy/paranormal aspect of the novel develops gradually, slowly seeping into the realism of the plot. And yes, there’s romance - an unwanted suitor and an impossible no-win love situation. The ending leaves some loose ends, but that’s not unexpected with a series. Overall, this was an enjoyable read, and something a little different for fans of paranormal romance. 

By the way, Book One will leave you wanting Book Two, which won't be published until October 2012. To keep up with the author's latest news while you're waiting, check out her blog or friend her on Goodreads!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody

Lexington Larrabee has everything. Fabulous clothes, an expensive car, a mansion, a jet at her disposal and a check for $25 million dollars waiting for her….that is until her dad spoils everything. After causing one too many scandals Lexi’s father decides she has to earn her inheritance… all $25 million. Now she must complete 52 weeks of 52 dead end minimum wage jobs before she can cash in on her fortune. Now add in the fact that her father has stuck her with a babysitter, granted a very cute babysitter who is quite ripped, and Lexi’s world pretty much sucks. But there is more to meets the eye with this rich girl. Underneath her fabulous lifestyle, Lexi’s lives in a world without love. Will her 52 jobs be able to solve her problems or will Lexi be drawn back into her old life of scandal?
     52 Reasons To Hate My Father is a great summer novel. We have all seen the socialites scattered on the tabloids, but in Jessica Brody’s new novel she adds a certain twist to the out of control rich girl that we usually see. 52 Reasons to Hate My Father will keep you entertained and smiling as Lexi struggles to adjust to her new lifestyle.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I was reading this book called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and realized that part of it takes place in the time of WWII. It is about a boy who's grandfather dies. All his life Jacob (the boy) had thought that his grandfather's spooky stories were lies - fairy tales.  Then he's told that he is crazy because he saw a monster that killed his grandfather but the police said that the death was caused by a pack of feral dogs. After some time of nagging his parents, and his psychiatrist saying it might be good for him, Jacob and his father decide to visit the island where the grandfather spent time with the "peculiar children.". (Jacobs grandfather was evacuated to this "orphanage" as a child.) Jacob finds the school and it is in ruins. Everybody died years ago when it was bombed by German planes. He sees a girl, chases after her, and runs into a cave/tunnel-ish thing. He travels back in time and ends up in the year 1940 on September 3rd.  

In this book the school is in a loop, a day in time that repeats over and over, and every night the planes bomb them (though they are not demolished). These "peculiar children" are using the loop as a hiding place. But just what are they hiding from?
~review by Elise Guthrie, rising 7th grader, HMS

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

Bliss was a semi-predictable but nonetheless lovely fantasy story. Rose Bliss, the most responsible of the four Bliss children, is left with the task of running the family bakery while her parents are out of town. While this would normally be an overwhelming job, it's made even more so since this is no ordinary bakery. It's a magical bakery whose confections seem to clear up everything from heartbreak to the flu. But not while the 'rents are away! For now, the magical cookbook is locked away and only Rose has the key. However, no sooner have Mr. and Mrs. Bliss driven away than mysterious Aunt Lily arrives on her motorcycle, claiming to be a long-lost relation and vowing to help lift the burden of running the bakery from Rose's shoulders while her parents are gone. There's something odd about Aunt Lily, though, if only Rose could figure out before it's too late...

Tween readers will enjoy this tale of a girl who's burdened with more than her share of responsibility and has a few insecurities about her appearance and self-worth. Mayhem and mischief abound, and many of the recipes reminded me of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's "cures" from Betty MacDonald's classic tales. I enjoyed this book, and the cliffhanger ending was just enough to peak my interest in a sequel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

“Hershey’s Kisses, the Thin voice said. Twenty-five calories.
The Thin voice whispered, Brown rice, one hundred thirty-five calories. Steamed broccoli, two cups, fifty calories. One bite of chicken, thirty-six calories. Two hours on the exercise bike.

A diet is temporary, the Thin voice said knowingly. Being thin is forever.”

The Thin voice won’t go away. It is constantly there to remind Lisabeth Lewis that she is a failure. Everyone is thin, why not her? Life deals another twist of cruel fate when Lisabeth makes a deal with Death himself. Her new job? She is now Famine…as in one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Lisabeth must now face hunger in a way that she never thought of. She is slammed face first into a world were millions go without food every day, not because they are on a diet, but because they are on the brink of starvation and death. Lisabeth must learn to use her new power to not only help fight the injustices of the world and keep balance, but also the personal demons that live inside her.

Jackie Morse Kessler uses the historic story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the current epidemic of eating disorders to create a story that will suck you in. As the Thin voice plagues Lisabeth into a world of despair, you are completely enthralled at the ironic twist of her being forced to be Famine. Kessler’s unique writing style is sharp, refreshing, and completely addicting. Given the fact the Hunger is only 177 pages, Kessler is able to create a storyline that is well developed, but quick to the point. Hunger is the first installment of the Riders of the Apocalypse series. Rage, the second in the series, was released in April of 2011 and the third installment in the series, Loss, was just released in March 2012. Once you start this series you will not want to put it down.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

“This is the box, Ed. Inside is everything. This is it, Ed. The whole
story of why we broke up."

In Why We Broke Up, Min Green explains to her completely different ex-boyfriend the moments that led to their break up. As Min makes her way through a keepsake box, she reveals the start of the relationship, how they fell in love, and the heartbreak that was unavoidable. The mundane objects in Min’s box all represent a moment that made Min questioned the romance of such a dissimilar couple.

 A Printz honor for excellence in Young Adult Literature, Why We Broke Up will send you back in time to when you felt that first pang of love and the earth-shattering pain of your first breakup. We have all been there and we go through it with Min as she re-hatches what exactly went wrong for the basketball team co-captain and classic film connoisseur couple.

Author Daniel Handler, from the famed Lemony Snicket series, weaves a tale of love and heartbreak that we have all known. This book made me laugh, cry, and want to scream at the extreme use of fragmented and run-on sentences. About forty or so pages into Min’s story I was sure Handler had set me up for a disastrous storyline, but I stuck with it and am I glad I did. The feeling of nostalgia that haunts this book cannot be denied. A tale of first love and heartache is one that anyone can relate to. We might not all have Min’s story, but we have all felt her pain.

Be sure to check out the back cover as some of today's most popular authors share their first love/first heartbreak stories.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

From the moment seventeen-year old Sadie saw Garrett Delaney she knew that they were perfect for each other. How couple they possibly not be together? Fast forward two years and Sadie and Garrett are inseparable...as best friends. They share everything together...movies, music, and clothing styles. Only problem is that Sadie is still madly in love with Garrett. Too bad he is so busy dating every other girl but Sadie to notice. Now Garrett is off to writers camp for six weeks and Sadie is left at home. Will this be the opportunity she needs to get over Garrett? Or will the six weeks apart make him realize that she is the one for him? 

In Getting Over Garrett Delaney, Sadie starts to realize there is more to life than Garrett. She ventures out and makes new friends, while connecting with old ones. She begins to learn relationship lessons that many girls in their twenties and thirties are still learning. Getting Over Garrett Delaney is a great reminder of how often anyone can get so caught up with the person they are infatuated with that they forget about everything else in life. Abby McDonald paints a funny story with some unique characters and some hard truths. Sadie has to take a hard look at herself and realize the person she has become might not be the person she wants to be.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Cahill Witch Chronicles: Book 1: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

In an alternate 1800s New England, sixteen-year-old Cate Cahill is a witch. So are her younger sisters Maura and Tess. Unfortunately, witchery is considered devil-sent. “Women who can do magic – they’re either mad or wicked. Destined for an asylum at best, or a prison ship or an early grave.” So Cate and her sisters must hide their magic, practicing only where they cannot be discovered and learning more about control than ability.

When a nosy neighbor persuades Cate’s father to hire a governess, it increases Cate’s fear that their secret will be revealed. Not only that, but her intention ceremony is quickly approaching, and she must publicly and irrevocably declare her vow to join the Sisterhood or announce her engagement – to her choice or someone the Brothers choose for her.

Then there’s the diary, and the letter, and the prophecy…and there’s Finn.

This novel was absolutely riveting. The author has done an amazing job weaving all of the details and plot threads into a cohesive and fascinating read. I highly recommend this one to fans of romance, paranormal romance, historical fiction, and suspense.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani

In Lovetorn by Kavita Daswani, Shalini has only known one world: India. She lives in a massive house with 37 of her relatives and loves it. She has been engaged to Vikram, the man of her dreams, since she was three years old. Nothing could spoil her wonderful life…except when her father decides to take a new job and uproot her family to L.A. How could she possibly adjust to this completely different lifestyle? Her little sister seems to jump right in, while her mother struggles more and more with these new surroundings. As Shalini adjusts to live in California, will she be able to hold onto the world she has always known and the person she has always known herself to be?
                I instantly gravitated to Lovetorn because of my unhealthy obsession with anything related to India. This was a pretty easy and straightforward read. The author provides a glossary to help the reader understand the different foods, phrases, and words that Shalini uses. This is a great reference tool and I was really glad it was included. Daswani creates a storyline around Shalini’s mother that I thought was very well written and crucial to Shalini’s struggles to accept this new lifestyle. Some of Shalini’s actions and feelings did not seem genuine to me. I think the author could have spent more time on Shalini’s transition from being completely in love with Vikram to realizing that she might feel different. I would have liked to have seen the author develop more into the secondary characters, especially Sangita, Shalini’s little sister and Toby, an American boy who makes Shalini rethink everything she knows. Other than that, Lovetorn provides an insightful look at the lifestyles of India and the transition that many teen immigrants face.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudestsky

Justin Goldblatt is tired of being the unpopular kid in high school. Sure there are about six kids that he is more popular than, but Justin dreams of being the guy that everyone wants to be. So he devises a plan. First he needs to get Chuck the quarterback to notice him. With a quarterback as a boyfriend, Justin will be unstoppable. Too bad is plan is destined to fail. 

  My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan is the first novel by Seth Rudestsky, who is a Broadway actor and SiriusXM radio host. One thing that really irked me about Rudestsky’s writing style was his tendency for the character of Justin to randomly ramble about absolutely nothing that pertained of helped the story. I wasn’t invested in the storyline and I felt like I needed adderall to keep up with his writing. The premise behind the storyline is interesting, especially when Justin has to pretend to be the boyfriend of Becky, the most popular girl in school. Now add in the fact that Becky is the secret girlfriend of Chuck, the object of Justin's affection, and you have a recipe for disaster for poor Justin. The two supporting characters of Spencer and Becky did help keep the story grounded, but the main character of Justin was more annoying than relatable

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    If I ever decide to write author John Green a letter, I am pretty sure it would go something like this, “Dear John Green….Thanks for ripping out my heart with The Fault In Our Stars. I laughed, cried, then cried some more. But it was a pleasure to have my heart ripped out by such an awesome book.”

   Sound a little extreme? Well this is an extreme book.

   Hazel Grace Lancaster is anything but ordinary. Actually she probably wishes she was ordinary. Because ordinary kids don’t get cancer and they certainly don’t have to tote around oxygen tanks. Enter Augustus Waters, a witty terribly handsome one-legged cancer survivor. Hazel doesn’t stand a chance and neither does the reader. Together they chase a recluse author, battle cancer, help a blind kid, and discover how fantastic living can be.  It is impossible not to fall in love with Hazel and Augustus’ epic love story.

   John Green has written a superb book. I do not think I cannot stress the intensity and power that he has packed into a mere 318 pages. Yes it is a cancer book and cancer books are generally sad, but The Fault in Our Stars goes well beyond your average ‘cancer story’. This book is a force of emotions to be reckoned with. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Love? Maybe. by Heather Hepler

Just because Piper's birthday is on Valentine's Day doesn't mean she's a romantic. Actually, after witnessing her mother's two divorces and her best friend's messy breakup, Piper doesn't even believe in love. But even though Piper has given up hope her friends haven't. Jillian concocts crazy plans to bring the three of them perfect dates for Valentine's Day, and Piper goes along for the sake of friendship and to try and heal Claire's broken heart. But surprisingly it's Piper's heart that's healed, and Piper's hope that's restored.

Hepler's novel is a fun read with loveable characters and an upbeat ending. I devoured this title, and place it next to her other book, The Cupcake Queen, as a highly recommended gentle romance.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik

Elise Benton is a pretty normal teenage girl, but her life is turned upside down when her family moves to California and she is enrolled in the elite prep school, Coral Tree Prep. Her new school is filled with the children of A-list celebrities, who are just as glamorous as their famous parents. Elise just doesn’t fit it. Now add in the fact that her mother is the new principal and Elise has a one way ticket to outcastland. When Elise’s older sister catches the eye of Chase, one of Coral Tree Prep’s most popular students, Elise begins to hangout with Derek Edwards, who is definitely the most popular student at school, Chase’s best friend, and a total snob. Or is he?

In Epic Fail, author Claire LaZebnik paints a modern day high school version of Pride and Prejudice. Normally, I steer clear of retellings, but this one took me by surprise. LaZebnik was able to develop the characters in a way that they stood on their own, even though they were modeled after Austen’s infamous characters. The modern day twists that LaZebnik adds to this classic story plus her easy going writing style makes this version not only entertaining, but quite enjoyable.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Most people know Thomas Jefferson as the third President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the founding fathers. But there is a lot more to Thomas Jefferson than was covered in your American History class. In Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, the reader learns about the last twenty years of Jefferson’s epic life. Told through the eyes of three young slave boys, Beverly, Madison (Maddy), and Peter Fossett, you learn of the scandalous and not so secret life of Thomas Jefferson. Beverly and Madison are definitely not ordinary. Though they are slaves, they are keeping a big secret, which everyone knows about. They work at Monticello, but both are troubled by the daunting secret that their master and owner, Thomas Jefferson, is their father. The novel raises the question of how can the man who wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” not only own slaves, but also let his children be slaves? Sally Hemings, Beverly and Madison’s mother, has been a topic of controversy for over two centuries. Bradley portrays her as a woman determined to see her children free above anything else.

 I have always been fascinated by the story of Sally Hemings, so I was quick to grab this new Young Adult book. Each perspective is different and each will cause you to feel a range of emotions. Maybe it is the fact that each character starts out as a young child with na├»ve eyes and as they grow both the character and the reader are exposed to the hypocrisies of the situation. It would have been interesting if Bradley chose to represent the character of Harriet, Jefferson and Hemings’ daughter, and her perspective on the situation at Monticello. The last character portrayed in Peter Fossett, who is another young slave boy. Peter’s situation tells of the aftermath after Jefferson’s death. The last scene is harrowing and you cannot help but feel distraught at the entire situation. Bradley provides additional research information for anyone who wishes to research more about the Hemings and Jefferson. All in all, Bradley did an amazing job of connecting all the characters and presenting the situation well enough that the reader is more than moved by the story.

Ms. Judith

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Forbidden by Syrie James and Ryan James

After years of moving all over the country Claire Brennan is happy to be starting her second year at Emerson Academy, and though her single mother still frets way too much over her safety, Claire hopes the days of constantly looking over their shoulders for an unseen danger are finished. Claire has made some close friends, and she’s hoping her crush will ask her to the formal. Everything is going so well. Until the visions begin. And the psychic messages of danger from someone named Helena. And Claire meets Alec, a mysterious new student with too many secrets.
 Alec is a Grigori, an angelic being whose purpose is to watch and, when necessary, eliminate Nephilim (children of angels and humans) to protect humanity. Alec has gone AWOL from his duties and is hiding as a normal teenager at Emerson, but when his godfather finds him and asks Alec to locate a Halfblood (the progeny of human and Grigori whose existence is forbidden) at Emerson, Alec can’t refuse.

This new entry into the angelic fiction genre is written in both Claire and Alec’s voices. Both main characters are well-drawn, with believable motivations and reactions to their situations. The angelic angle is played down somewhat, with the Grigori being ruled by a governing council instead of a heavenly father, which enables the story to develop without religious overtones. The ending leaves enough room for a sequel, and fans of the genre will definitely demand one.

~by Heather Miller Cover for School Library Journal

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Alison wakes up strapped to a hospital bed, covered with scratches and bite marks, and with no memory of how she got there. She's told that she was admitted by her mother after she had a psychotic attack and attempted self-harm. She also confessed to murdering Tori, a student she had an argument with just before the girl disappeared. Alison's story, however, is unbelievable, and the timeline just doesn't add up, so the police are baffled. Alison is transferred to a care facility, and as her memories begin to come back she fears that she really did murder Tori . . . with the power of her crazed mind.

This novel is broken into three parts. The first two cover Alison's breakdown, flashback memories, and the time she spends recovering in a psychiatric care facility. It's there we learn about her synesthesia, her strained relationship with her mother, and the reasons for her anti-social behavior. There's also an element of suspense as Alison tries to put her memories together cohesively and find out if she did cause Tori's disappearance, and if so, how. The third part takes a bizarre left turn into science fiction as Alison is pulled through a wormhole and lands in a mostly abandoned alien research facility. Though all of the three parts are interesting and well-written, the small hints given in the first two parts really don't prepare the reader for the third. I finished it, but admittedly skimmed the last few chapters in disbelief.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Amplified by Tara Kelly

Check out Amplified today!

Recent high school graduate Jasmine Kiss (yes, that is her real name) has just left home for good after an argument with her father. He wants her to go straight to college. She wants to take a year off, join a band, and find out if she has what it takes for a career in music. Now she's stuck with no place to sleep, no job, and a beat up Jetta belching smoke. After perusing Craigslist she finds the perfect situation advertised: "Looking for a live-in lead guitarist (industrial rock)." The catches are "guys preferred" and must "be comfortable on stage." Jasmine is very much female, even if she does dress like a guy, and she's never played outside her dad's garage. Still, she gives it a shot and manages to get the room and a spot in the band. Now she just has to learn to trust her bandmates, and herself, before their big, career-changing gig in less than a month.

I absolutely loved this book. Jasmine is a very believable character and I identified with her fears and doubts, even if some of the music lingo went over my head. The realistic plot moved quickly but evenly, carrying me through the book at a rapid pace. I devoured this one, and recommend it to teens who love alternative music, quirky characters, and realistic fiction.