Thursday, February 21, 2008

What-the-Dickens: A Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire

Unlike other skibbereen (or tooth fairies, as we know them), What-the-Dickens was born without siblings, and without knowing his purpose. His only motivation is finding a gift for the cat that tried to eat him (and see how confusing that could be), he embarks on a tale that brings him into contact with birds, tigers, humans, and other skibbereen. That's how he meets Pepper, in the middle of her job, exchanging a tooth for a coin. He is dragged back to headquarters with her, but soon discovers the world he knew nothing about isn't as welcoming as it first appeared. Many mishaps and adventures come from his own lack of knowledge.

What-the-Dickens' tale is told to distract Dinah, Zeke, and Rebecca Ruth from the terrible truth of the storm outside--a storm that has wiped out all contact with the outside world--and the fact their parents are missing. The book switches between present time, and What-the-Dickens' story.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lily Dale: Awakening by Wendy Corsi Staub

Calla cannot believe what has happened. First, her boyfriend of two years breaks up with her by text message, then two weeks later, her mother dies in a freak accident in their home. Her life is in shambles.

Instead of going with her dad to California, Calla decides to head with her grandmother to Lily Dale, the small town where her mother grew up. Once inside this gated town, she realizes she didn't know her mother at all. Lily Dale is full of mediums. All kinds of mediums. And Calla's grandmother is very well known and a registered medium as well. Calla wonders what this means for her and the strange people only she seems to see. Maybe she's a medium as well.

As Calla's three weeks in Lily Dale come to a close, she wonders if there's more to her mother's past than she's ever known. Could staying in Lily Dale be the only way to learn?

Lily Dale: Awakening is the first book in the series. Keep an eye out for Lily Dale: Believing.

If I Pay Thee Not in Gold by Piers Anthony and Mercedes Lackey

Mazonia is a country completely opposite ours. The women have all the power, and men are mere slaves. You see, women can conjure, and men cannot. So that gives women more power.

Xylina is a young Mazonian, about to do her trial to see if she's fit to be a full citizen. Her trial consists of fighting unarmed an unarmed man. If she succeeds, she has the right to be a full citizen in the Mazonian society.

But Xylina doesn't really care. Her mother is gone and a curse is upon her head to bring harm to any who care for her. And after she becomes a citizen, it certainly seems the curse is in full force. Or is there someone behind the curse, threatened by the ease in which Xylina can conjure?

An interesting tale with twists throughout from two great fantasy authors. Xylina is an engaging and emphathetic character.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Quad by C. G. Watson

Someone is out shooting people in the quad of the high school. But who?

Everyone has their own theory about who it could be. None of them guess the right answer. All they know is someone is out in the middle of the quad with a gun, and at least one person is dead. But no one knows why. Not yet.

A great book about the pressures high school students go under everyday--especially from their peers, and what it might take for them to crack. Who could you have pushed a little too far?

The Moon Riders by Theresa Tomlinson

Myrina has always wanted to be a Moon Rider, what the Achaeons call Amazons. This isn't the traditional story of Amazons, however, as the Moon Riders marry and move out of the tribe after seven years.

Myrina gets her chance to train with the Moon Riders but she is not alone. Along with the other trainees, Cassandra--princess of Troy--joins the group. She can't stay for the whole seven years, but is looking for something new. The events in Troy, though, change the future of the Moon Riders forever.

This is a great retelling of the beginning of the Trojan War. Even if you know what's coming!

Nobody's Princess by Esther Friesner

This is the story of Helen of Troy, who was first Helen of Sparta. She is not your typical princess, though. Helen wants to learn how to fight and hunt with her brothers, and has no patience for indoor activities with her twin sister. Her mother realizes her need for adventure, as she has it too.

Helen embarks on an adventure of her lifetime when she escorts her sister to Mycenae where she'll wed Agamemnon.

Helen's story is vastly different from the story of Helen of Troy. Helen's story is amusing and adventurous, perfect for anyone looking for something more action-packed.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Liesel is a young German girl during World War II. Left in foster care after her brother's death, she steals books when she wants to feel better. Hans, her foster father, teaches her how to read and makes her feel welcome in her new home.

Hans has a few secrets as well. He owed a favor to a Jewish family and must keep his promise.

Max is a Jewish man on the run from the concentration camps. His life intertwines with Liesel and Hans as the war continues, and Liesel learns more about the war than she ever thought possible.

This is a moving story narrated by Death as he moves throughout Liesel's life. Provides a different perspective on World War II and the poorer Germans who had no say in what happened in their own country.

Anahita's Woven Riddle by Meghan Sayres

Anahita is a nomad living in Iran, and is approaching the age where she must marry. But she doesn't want her life to change. In a society where her family's livelihood is at stake, she requests she be allowed to choose her husband. The local khan, who controls the landowners and local city where Anahita's tribe depend for water and goods want her hand and punishes her tribe when her father consents to a riddle contest.

What riddle does she weave? And who will be the man to solve it?

A different viewpoint of a society completely unlike our own. Anahita's struggle for independence in a country where women are to be quiet, covered, and above all, obedient. A little unrealistic, considering her family is mistreated because of her decision to choose her husband instead of him being chosen for her. However, the story is fantastic.

How It's Done by Christine Kole MacLean

Grace is 18 and ready to start out on her own, as soon as she finishes high school. Pushed by her conservative Christian parents, she tries to be good and stay on the straight and narrow. Then she meets Mark, a 26-year old college professor, and everything beings to change. Grace feels the need to follow her heart, but will it lead her off the path?

This is a strong story demonstrating the importance of thinking for oneself, to make clear decisions based on personal beliefs, and to stand strong against outside pressure. And yet, we all know that following your beliefs when they've never been tested is not easy. A great book about consequences, especially hard ones.

Hello, Groin by Beth Goobie

Dylan thinks there is something wrong with her. She has been dating Cam for months, but feels nothing when he kisses her. However, anytime Dylan is with her best friend Joc, her feelings explode. Convinced she is screwed up somehow, Dylan tries to fight her feelings and her true self.

Meanwhile, she is asked to put together a display at school of book covers, in the shape of a girl and boy. Without considering the consequences, she puts Foxfire over the girl's groin, a book about an all-women gang. Now she must worry about her secret getting out.

A thought-provoking novel about being different, feeling wrong, and how much happier you can be when you stop hiding and fighting what you really are. There are some unrealistic moments, like when Dylan and Joc come out, life goes on as normal.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Bloodline: Reckoning by Kate Cary

This is the sequel to Bloodline. While I won't say much about it, I once again enjoyed the story and Quincey Harker's personality change from the first story to the sequel. Once again told in journal entries, Mary's life is still in danger from an unforeseen source.

Bloodline by Kate Cary

Told in journal entries by various characters.

John is a young soldier in the British army during WWI when he meets Captain Harker. Little does John know what will happen when he goes out on a night raid with his CO, but the consequences land him in a hospital back home with Mary Seward as his nurse. The two fall in love, but when Captain Harker follows John back and sweeps John's sister Lily off her feet, John and Mary are determined to save each other and Lilly. Which means following Harker and Lily back to Transylvania.

I liked the format of the book very much, and enjoyed a different take on the Dracula story.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

Keturah lives in a small village in a little kingdom. She lives with her grandmother, who midwives many of the women in the village. Keturah one day, wanders into the forest, following the hart the Lord of the village has been trying to hunt down. She soon gets lost and can't find her way home.

Lord Death finds her but Keturah tricks him to giving her one more day to live. They continue this pattern while Keturah frantically searches and bargains with Lord Death. As the days pass, Keturah learns her entire village will soon be dead as well, and she must also focus on saving their lives as well.

An engrossing tale of seeing what's right in front of you. There are a lot of fairy tale elements here, and I could barely put the book down.

Companions of the Night by Vivan Vande Velde

Kerry is a pretty typical teenager living with her brother and father after her mother left. She's never been in any real danger before, until she enters the 24-hour laundromat and stumbles on vampire hunters and their victim.

Ethan, the vampire and victim, is badly beaten. Kerry helps him to escape, finding herself a target as well, now that she's helped Ethan. Thrown together, they must learn who has kidnapped her family and murdered Ethan's friend--before it's too late.

Fairly believable and somewhat predictable. Thrilling tale and a warm if not happy ending. Kerry doesn't actually believe Ethan's a vampire until he shows her proof, and even then, she believes he's a good guy. I knew some of what was going to happen, but not everything.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Junior lives on a reservation in Washington state. When he decides (after throwing a book at his teacher) to get off the 'rez' and try his luck in the 'white man's world', he could never imagine how his life would change--and how he would be treated by other people on the reservation.

Not to mention how he's treated at his new school.

This story is told in the first person, with some of Junior's (or Arnold as he's called off the reservation) cartoons thrown in for illustration. Junior paints a vivid tale of heartache, poverty, and perseverance.

Uninvited by Amanda Marrone

You think you know vampires? You don't know vampires like this one!

Jordan has a very crappy life. Her mother and stepfather barely pay attention to her, she has no real friends, and her ex-boyfriend--the only guy who appears to care for her--is dead. Or so she thought. Michael begins to appear at her window every night, begging to be let in. For 3 months! Jordan tries to deny him. Every night she gets a little weaker as he begs and pleads with her to let him in.

And then, for the first night in 3 months, she isn't home when he comes. But her former best friend is there, and sees him. She accidently tells him where Jordan is--at a party--and then frantically tries to get ahold of Jordan to warn her. Is Jordan safe outside when she's barely safe indoors?

Looking for a thriller? This story takes a bit to get going, but by the end, you'll swear someone's knocking on your window.

Wizard's Daughter by Catherine Coulter

Wizard's Daughter begins with Nicholas Vail, a newly titled earl who goes to London to seek out a specific young woman. Why he does this, he is unsure--he just knows he has to meet her. And she turns out to be Rosalind de La Fontaine, a beautiful 18-year old who has no real idea who she is. Found beaten and bloody when she was quite young, the only thing she remembered was the bit to a song.

Nicholas and Rosalind quickly marry and return to Nicholas' house, where all sorts of things begin to happen. There's a ghost living in the library. Books appear, books that only Rosalind can read. And a nagging sense that Rosalind is not her real name--and her history is tied up with mysterious tales of the Pale.

An engrossing read, although the ending was added a little too easily. The novel is long, and some of the details are confusing, but the overall story is engaging.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Good Girls by Laura Ruby

Audrey is 16 but jumped ahead a grade, so she's now a senior in high school. She has friends, goes to parties, and has what she thinks is a friends-with-benefits relationship with one of the hottest guys in school. Before she ends their relationship, she decides to give him one last parting gift.

But someone takes a picture of the intimate moment between her and Luke, and sends it to the entire student body. Where she was once popular, Audrey is now a social outcast from her friends and pretty much anyone but the girls who have already been labeled slutty.

A great story illustrating how damaging a 'bad' reputation can be--not just to someone who was good turned bad, but for those judged 'bad' in the first place. Audrey has to change her friends and her social life completely due to one badly-timed cell phone picture.

Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan

Sarah and her mom move to a small Midwest community, so her mom can be close to the married man she wants to marry--when his divorce is final.

Sarah has her own problems to worry about--she's an outcast at school for being from California, liking New Age music, and speaking her mind.

She is asked to be the fortune teller at the Senior Carnival, but little does she realize she'll open herself to psychic abilities that leave her questioning strange possibilities and her neck in a noose.

This book is full of karma, reincarnation, and the Salem witch trials. I love Lois Duncan--she manages to weave a story along with terror and drama.