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eleanor__parkWow, I just finished Eleanor & Park a book about two misfits in love. Eleanor meets Park on the school bus where he is deeply into the music on his his Walkman (it's 1986) and reading a comic book, trying to avoid Steve and Tina behind him.  Eleanor is overweight, has a mop of messy red hair and is dressed in the weirdest thriftstore clothes with pieces of fabric pinned over the holes.  She's dirt poor and her mother is remarried to a maniac (her dad wasn't so great either, he's totally forgotten his kids). No one will let her sit next to them, so she sits next to Park.  She's irksome but funny and Park begins to like her.  When he sees her reading his comics over his shoulder, he begins to share them with her. They are both great characters; their relationship is so full of feeling. When you think you know where it's going,  the book heads off in a surprising way and the last section is amazing.  Eleanor & Park is due out February 26 2013.  If you like quirky characters and romance, don't miss it.  Also, the cover is great!

Eleanor & Park won the 2013 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction Award!

"The day I went to Irving I was the last to leave our house... I mean forever." This great opening line creates the mood of loneliness and dread that defines The Tragedy Paper. Tim's mother and her new husband are going to Italy half way through Tim's last year of high school and Tim is being sent to his stepdad's alma mater, a boarding school.  tragedy_paperTim is a loner; he has always been; he's very self conscious about being albino and has had few friends. On the way to the school he meets a girl, Vanessa, at the airport where they are stranded. He winds up having a great time with her and falls for her but doesn't tell her he's headed to Irving, even though he knows she goes there. Her boyfriend is the most popular guy in the school, and while Tim becomes obsessed about Vanessa, she seems okay with having a secret relationship with him and staying with Patrick, her boyfriend.

We learn the story about Tim from CDs he left the next student to get his room, Duncan. Duncan too is nervous about his senior year. He will have to write his tragedy paper, he has memoirs about some dreadful thing that happened to Tim last year, he avoided Daisy over the summer, and now he has Tim's old room and a bunch of tapes narrated by Tom explaining what happened.

The tragedy paper is a terrific book. It reminds me of The Chocolate War, though it's so different. I guess it's the bullying and the fact that it's so well written. The past and present intertwine with the annual tragedy paper, and tragedy is present throughout. It was hard to put down.  It will be released on January 8.

also_known_asMaggie, aka Peggy, Margaret, Meg and more, the daughter of spies, is a safecracker. She’s been doing this since she was three, and now her family is going to NYC where she will have her first solo assignment. They’re leaving Iceland which was dull, so she’s excited. It turns out that a media mogul is about to publish an article that will uncover the Collective, the spy organization, including Maggie’s family and her job is to get the documents before they’re published. To make the connections needed for the job, Maggie is enrolled in a private school where Jessie, son of said mogul, goes.

Maggie’s never really gone to school and had friends. The first person she meets is fun and snarky Roux, a girl who’s on the outs with everyone there. Roux and Maggie get invited to a party at Jesse’s house where Maggie does some snooping, but more importantly falls head over heels for Jesse. What do you do when you’re supposed to be spying on the father of your new boyfriend and your parents are clamping down on your social life.

Also Known As is a fun book that should be popular with fans of Ally Carter.  Expected publication date is February 26th 2013 by Bloomsbury.

being_henry_davidA boy wakes up in Penn Station with no memory of who he is, no wallet, and a weird guy asking if he can have "that."  That turns out to be a copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden and the guy is grabbing at it, eating some of the pages when he does get it.   In the station he meets skinny, ugly Jack who gets him to buy him a meal and then  persuades him not to stay the night in the station. Jack asks his name and not wanting to reveal the truth,  he says Henry David. That's how he winds up sleeping behind a dumpster, getting involved in a drug deal gone bad and meeting the man, Magpie, who is using Jeff and his young sister Nessa and plans for Hank to become another of his kids in crime.  It's enough for Henry, who suffering from a knife wound gets out with some money he's stolen and takes the train to Concord, Massachusetts and Walden Pond where the sights and sounds are totally different and where he'll have to find out who he is and what he's done.

The opening of Being Henry David is vivid, with sights, sounds and smells of Penn Station coming alive. I was drawn in right away by the situation Hank finds himself in.  In one scene Armistead paints a graphic picture of what life is like in New York City for kids on the run. 

While Hank sometimes acts out of character, this is an compelling book with an unexpected plot.  The expected publication date is March 1, 2013 by Albert Whitman Teen

Blue has always known that she would kill her true love.  She is the daughter of a psychic and lives with her mom and raven_boysother psychics.  Though not one herself, her presence makes their psychic powers stronger.  Every year on St. Marks eve, Blue goes to the old, isolated ruins of a church with her mother to see the future dead follow on the corpse road.  Tonight she goes with Neeve though, her mother's half-sister.  While Neeve names the future dead, Blue writes down their names.  But tonight, Blue sees one boy.  His name is Gansy and according to Neeve the only reason Blue saw him is "Either you're his true love... or you killed him."  

Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater's richly conceived newest book is a modern day quest tale.  The raven boys attend a boarding school Aglionby Academy, and Gansy is their charismatic leader.  He has been researching ley lines,"straight, invisible energy lines that connected spiritual places" all over the US and in the British Isles.  A wealthy boy, Gansy has the help and loyalty of Adam, a working class student at Aglionby , and Ronan, a somewhat elusive student who likes to fight and who is on the brink of being thrown out of school for his poor grades. Mysterious Noah rounds out his followers.

As Blue joins the quest and gets to know the raven boys, they come alive for us.  Stievater's richly described world resonates.  A  pig car, woods that speak, the Monmouth, an old factory where Gansy lives, Latin classes and three curved lines all make for an intriguing read.

Patrick Ness took up writing this book after it's conceiver, Siobad Dowd died. Dowd was a great writer of YA books including A Sift Pure Cry, Bog Child and Solace of the Road.

monster_callsConnor O'Malley's mum is dying of cancer. Ever since she started her treatments he's been having nightmares of darkness and  screaming wind. Then one night the monster in the yew tree in his back yard smashes the window and comes into his room telling him that he will tell three stories, but then Connor will have to tell the fourth and it must be  the truth. In the morning he finds yew leaves on his floor.

Most incredibly, Connor is being bullied and hit by two guys at school because his mother is sick and he cannot fight back. Connor is isolated and alone, and won't talk to his best friend, Lilly. She was the one responsible for telling that his mother was ill, so now he is invisible at school and friendless. His father lives in the states with his new family and he hates staying with his grandma who just doesn't get him. He has only the monster to pave the way for him to understand how to deal with his mother's sickness.

A Monster Calls is a powerful book and the black ink illustrations by Jim Kay add to this story about the horror of dealing with a dying mother when you're a only thirteen.

The Crown of EmbersImage is a great continuation of The Girl of Fire and Thorns.  The only problem is I’ll have to wait at least 9 or 10 months till the next book comes out.  While the first book has a lot of action in the desert where Elisa had been kidnapped by her maid and then sided with her kidnappers and killed an animagi, here she is returned to Joya d’Arena, Allegro her husband the King has died and she has been named Queen Regeant.  But, all is not peaceful. Ruling is not as easy as fighting in the desert was.  There are numerous attempts on her life; clearly someone in her court is siding with the Inviernos.  Elisa falls in love; she discovers a prophecy of old and sets out on a dangerous quest to find the safira.  The end of the book is a cliff hanger, but we’ll have to wait.

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Image of cover of Cinder126 years after World War IV, teenage Cinder is a mechanic, who fixes androids and ports and coms and has a booth In New Beijing’s weekly market.  She is also a cyborg and lives with her selfish stepmother and two half-sisters, one of whom is her best friend.  Prince Kai’s father is dying from the plague which is ravaging the population of New Beijing and all six earthen kingdoms, and the lunar queen Levana wants to extend her power over planet earth by forcing Kai to marry her. Though Cinder’s stepmother accuses her of being human, Cinder comes across as fully human with emotions and feelings that get her into trouble.

Cinder departs in so many ways from the original, yet is tied to it by headings quoting from the original. It is the first of a planned quartet.  This futuristic take on Cinderella is quite enchanting.

Having failed to prove up her late uncle Chester's homestead in Montana, Hattie is found at the opening of this sequel to the 2007hattie_ever_after Newbery Honor Book, Hattie Big Sky, as a cleaning lady in a hotel, but not for long.  From Montana she had sent letters to her Uncle Holt, who raised her for 5 years in Iowa, describing her ordeal on the homestead.  He had them published in his hometown newspaper as the Honyockers Homilies and now she has decided to become a reporter.  Hattie grabs the opportunity to go to San Francisco as wardrobe mistress for a traveling variety show,  That's pretty much what feisty Hattie does, grab opportunities and work hard to get what she wants.   

Arriving in San Francisco, Hattie takes a job as a cleaning lady at the Chronicle, an unusual stepping stone to becoming a  reporter, but it gets her inside the paper's morgue where volumes of old issues were kept.  She goes there hoping to find news about her late Uncle Chester,  and winds up learning research skills which will become very handy.  Characters from the first book show up.  Her childhood friend Charlie, home from WWII takes a job in Seattle for Boeing, and visits San Francisco for an air show, one of the most delightful parts of the book.  Perilee, her neighbor and close friend in Montana who taught her how to survive the winter is now living in Seattle and present through the letters Hattie writes to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sequel and though not  as strong as the first book. it is a quick, fun read  especially for those interested in historical fiction and feisty female characters.  Hattie is a delightful character and Larson seems to have left room for a possible sequel.  Let's hope so.  Hattie Ever After will be released on February 12, 2013.

 

This week is BannedBBW_Read_200x200 Books Week.  You can celebrate it by reading a banned or challenged book. What is a challenged book?  Accordiing to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, "a challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported."  A banned book has been removed from a library or libraries.

The American Library Association in conjunction with many other groups like the American Booksellers Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the National Council of Teachers of English among many other group highlight Banned Books Week every year as a way to "value of free and open access to information."

Many of the classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby,and Brave New World have been challenged.  It seems like most of the classics have been challenged at some time and place.  More recently the Harry Potter series was the most banned book in America because some people thought it encourage witchcraft.  Banned Books Week celebrates our freedom to read as Americans.

If you happen to be reading or going to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (he also directed the movie),  it was on the Top Ten list of Challenged Books from 2006-2009.  I read this recently and then just saw the movie.  Both were great and while the book has more detail, the actors in the movie were fantastic and really brought it to life.

How to write about Son, the conclusion of The Giver series without spoilers? It was a complete surprise, taking us back to the world of The Giver, which the second and third books did not do.  Written in three parts, Part I takes usson to the community of The Giver, where Claire at her Ceremony of 12 becomes a birthmother and who's child, or product as they call infants, is taken away from her and for whom she yearns. Claire is sent from the Birth home to work in the fisheries, but they have forgotten to give her the forgetting pills.

In part 2 Claire leaves, but is caught by the ocean and washed up to shore inan isolated village where, not knowing her history, she is cared for and then becomes the assistant to the village healer and midwife. As she comes to remember that she had had a son, she begins to yearn for him again and to plan to find him.   Part 3 takes us to Jonas and  the boy whom he saved in The Giver.

Lowry writes so convincingly of a mother's yearning for her son. It is something she has experienced and the rendering here is so soulful.

divinersI really liked this big book by Libba Bray, The Diviners, with its many characters, its setting in 1920s New York City, its twisting complex plot and cinematic thrust.  When Evie O'Neil is sent from her boring Ohio home after one scandalous comment too many to live with her Uncle Will in New York City, she encounters an unusual array of characters with individual secrets.  Not surprising, since she too has a secret.  Evie can tell all sorts of things about a person just by holding something that belongs to them.

Evie is robbed in Grand Central Station by Sam, a skilled pickpocket who later falls for her big time and who comes to have a significant role in the book. She goes to live with her Uncle Will who runs the  Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies." Evie's best friend Mabel also lives in in the Bennington, a residence hotel that has seen better days. She is the complete opposite from Evie and is in love with Evie's
uncle's tall, quiet assistant, Jericho, who is also filled clouded with secrecy.   Another resident of the Bennington is Theta a dancer with the Ziegfield Follies. Other characters include a young man Memphis who runs numbers in Harlem and when younger had the gift of healing.  His brother Isaaiah is able to foretell events.  Bray does a great job of setting the stage of Prohibition New York, though sometimes the 20s slang is  carried too far.

When the police come to the museum to ask Will to help them solve a strange, occult like murder, Evie cannot be deterred.  She goes to the site where the body is and when touching a shoe buckle, gets really a creepy feeling and hears a song about Hungry John.  The murderer comes to be known as the Pentacle Killer. Though a bit too long, the action moves quickly, chapters are short and it's hard to put down.  The main plot was completed and there are lots of threads that are left to develop in the next book.  It can't come out too soon.  There is a movie in the works and there is also a great website which gives you a feeling of the atmosphere of the book.

liarspy“The first thing Dad does is hang the Seurat in our new living room. It’s not a real Seurat, because that would make us millionaires. It’s a poster from a museum. I feel a little better as soon as I see it on the wall above the couch, exactly where it always was at home.   Georges' architect father has recently lost his job, so consequently  his family has sold their home and moved to an apartment a few blocks away in Brooklyn.  He is named after the painter Georges Seurat, whom he calls Sir Ott.

Georges is in middle school and has no friends there; his former friend having started hanging out with the popular crowd.  At school he is teased and bullied mercilessly and called Gorgeous.  But in his apartment building he meets an eccentric family with a boy his age,Safer, and a  10-year-old sister, Candy, with whom he becomes friends.

Georges' mom works double shifts at the hospital everyday, so he never sees her, but they leave each other notes with scrabble pieces like:
"Kangaroos are quiet
Love me"

Rebecca Stead has a unique voice. Liar & Spy has delightful eccentric characters, themes of loneliness, fear, bullying, and family.   "Like Mom says, life is a million different dots making one gigantic picture. And maybe the big picture is nice, maybe it’s amazing, but if you’re standing with your face pressed up against a bunch of black dots, it’s really hard to tell.” 

This will be released on August 7, It's a great book for grade 5 and up.

passengersAstrid Jones' family has moved from NYC to Unity Valley, PA. That's a good name for the town because everyone there is expected to act and feel the same. Astrid's family doesn't fit in, except maybe her seemingly perfect sister Ellie. Her mother is totally weird, she's supposed to be a real estate dealer, but is agoraphobic and never leaves the house, but the weirdest thing is she texts Astrid's best friend and tries that way to control Astrid's love life. Her father is disappointed in his work and marriage, so he gets stoned all the time. But at least the two of them build bird houses together, or used to anyway, much to the disapproval of the townspeople.

Astrid is so full of love but she doesn't know what to do with it so she spends hours laying on the backyard table sending love to passengers in airplanes flying over. She can identify all the different types of planes. Sending love to passengers is so much easier than the people she knows, because there is no push back from them. Interspersed in the novel are details of passengers flying over with love and life problems. At first these sections seem awkward, but we see that  Astrid has a spiritual connection with these passengers.

When Astrid starts fooling around with Dee, a girl from a neighboring town in the cooler at her catering job she feels love for her, but she doesn't like being pushed to go further or declare herself as a lesbian. Astrid's best friend isn't helping in this, but she does have Fred Socrates. she's in the Socrates Cafe and really interested in philosophy, and her conversations with Fred help her find her place in the world.

Ask the Passengers is due out October 23, 2012

This quiet coming-of-age novel, The Summer I Learned to Fly,  is about thirteen-year-old Drew who lives with her widowed mother and is spending hersummer_fly summer working at her mother's fancy cheese shop where she always brings her pet rat Hum, concealed from her mother of course. There's Nick, a nineteen-year-old handsome surfer, motorcycle guy, who works there that she crushes on, but he when he gets a girlfriend she is hurt and starts to ignore him. Then she finds her father's book of lists, lists of his hopes and dreams, learning about him as she never had since he died when she was very young.

She also meets Emmett Crane, a guy who leaves notes on folded cranes, who takes the leftover cheese she throws out in the alley every night.  Emmett shows up randomly, he doesn't seem to have a home or family, has secrets and is sad. He knows lots about rats and loves cheese. With Emmett Drew begins to test the boundaries that her mother has set, to take risks, never in a dangerous way exactly, starting with going on a picnic, secretly, but also getting involved in his quest to find healing waters.

Reinhardt is great at writing stories that get to the heart of peoples' emotions, often teens and single parents.  Usually her books are quiet and thoughtful.  I also recommend How to Build a House.

edgeBecca King has been left on her own at the ferry stop to go to Whidbey Island to live with a friend of her mother Laurel. Leaving her mother she said, “ “You’ll come back,” … “I will,” Laurel promised. “As soon as I can.” But will she? Becca, not her real name, has psychic abilities that ennable her to hear whispers from the minds of other people. Her stepfather used her to listen in on his clients so that he could milk them, but when she figured out that he had committed a crime he knew from her expression that she knew. Becca and her mother had to flee San Diego.

On the ferry Becca sees a young man with whom she clicks, but he’s sitting in a patrol car and she is very wary of the police. Arriving on the island, Becca learns that her mother’s dear friend has died and now has nowhere to stay. She is afraid but does find a place with a woman who has her own secret and tragic history, Everyone on the island seems to have a secret.

One day Becca and Seth her only friend on the island who is a musician and high school dropout go to Saratoga Falls to give his dog a run.    While they are there, Derric, the boy from the ferry and now a classmate, falls, breaking his leg and going into a coma. Derric Nyombe Matheson, a Ugandan orphan who was adopted by the town sheriff, is popular and had been friendly to her on the first day of school, but he is surrounded by others like Jenna who don't want Becca to talk to him. He also has enemies, including boys who trip him in school and Becca’s friend Seth. Somehow Becca is sure she can help Derrick come out of his coma.

The island with its deep, mysterious woods, its farms and small towns comes to life as the mystery unravels. Friendships are built and developed and old wounds are repaired, but with the surprise ending it emerges that this will be a series. I’m pleased as I found the book hard to put down. it’s not a thriller with a rush, but a mystery set among complex characters in a closed and mystical landscape. George’s writing is fluid and captivating.

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George will be released on September 4, 2012

Autumn and Adonis are complete opposites but they’re alike in some ways.  Adonis is brilliant, he gets all A’s and is polite, quiet,the head of the chess club and the wrestling team manager.  Adonis is in a wheelchair because he was born withoutpinned3 legs below his knees, but that doesn’t keep him back.

Autumn is a brilliant wrestler,she can strategize in a second on the mat.  She’s a good friend and a great cook but she can’t do school.  She can’t read and she’s behind in everything else too.  Autumn also loves Adonis and follows, stalk is his word, him everywhere.  He can’t stand her, but for some reason he keeps dreaming about her.  As annoying as she is, she gets under his skin.

Told in alternate voices, this is a very personal view of two teens whose ways of speaking as well are very different, but who find there is something that draws them to each other.  Pinned will be released on Oct. 1 by Scholastic.  It’s a great book for girls who are into sports as well as for reluctant readers.

Divergent by Veronica Roth July 10, 2012

This is quite an exciting book, somewhat along the lines of The Hunger Games.  This society, in a future Chicago, is made up of factions.  Decades before their ancestors had decided that humans were selfish and corrupt so people formed factions, each against what they thought were soceiey’s biggest ills.  Abnegation, the original home of heroine Tris, is selfless; they run the government because they won’t succumb to corruption.  Erudite is made up of intellectuals and they are the researchers. Dauntless are the brave and they protect society, Amity is friendly and they provide the caretakers and counselors for society.  There is also Candor who “provide rustworthy and sound leaders of law.”  

When young people turn 17(??), they must pick a faction and then go through an initiation.   Tris decides to leave her faction and become a Dauntlesss.  She had always admired their bravery when she watched them jumping onto trains and off of buildings.  The initiation is brutal, but as she learns she is really a Divergent, not wholly belonging to one faction, she finds out how dangerous that is, especially with power hungry people like Eric running the show.  Things have changed since the factions were first initiated and there are people that want to discredit Abnegation and Tris’ father.  

me_and_earlIf you’re looking for a really funny book, try Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. "Me" is Greg Gaines, a senior in high school, and who according to him looks “sort of like a pudding… extremely pale and somewhat overweight.” Greg’s secret to not making enemies among any of the many groups at his school is to not really belong to any particular group but to gain access to every group. Of course this won't work if you are seen with a particular group, so he has to be pretty invisible, or as he says, “insanely low-profile.” Greg’s only friend is Earl who is filled with violent rage from his awful home life. The two of them make mediocre films together.

Greg’s life changes when his mom insists that he become friends with Rachel who has leukemia. It turns out that he becomes “really good at cheering up Rachel” even though he didn’t want to get involved. His awkwardness at speaking is hysterical and Gaines uses humor Greg, Earl and Rachel to grapple with big issues. The set  up is similar to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, but the similarity ends there.