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.