Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 304
Reading Level: 14 and up

From goodreads.com:

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens--both named Will Grayson--are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history's most fabulous high school musical.

John Green is my favorite author. I'll just get that out of the way now. I could gush about his books for days, but I'll try to contain myself. With Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I knew I could expect in-depth characters, an interesting story, and great writing. But, this book wasn't written by one author; it was written by two. Although David Levithan is another popular young adult author, I had never read one of his books before, so I didn't know what to expect. What I found was brilliance.

Each author wrote from the perspective of one of the Will Graysons in alternating chapters. I expected to love John Green's Will Grayson, and I did. Will is a typical teenager dealing with life, love, and friendship. His best friend, Tiny Cooper, is a larger-than-life character who is both extraordinary and believable at the same time. The humor and honesty in these chapters was highly enjoyable.

Even though I loved John Green's Will, I have to say that David Levithan's Will blew me away. Will is a teenager dealing with depression and I was astounded by how real the depression was portrayed. I've heard reviewers’ comment that this Will was unlikable in the beginning, but I disagree. As a mental health professional, I know quite a bit about depression and I saw Will's "unlikable" behavior as a reaction to the depression. This endeared the character to me instead of pushing me away. It has been a very long time since I've felt so connected to a character. Also, there was more plot in this storyline, so I enjoyed that aspect as well.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is that I couldn't predict the story. Specifically, there is a huge moment in the middle of the book (I won't spoil it) that completely took me off guard. I literally stared at the page for several minutes in shock. I had to re-read the previous passage a few times before it sunk in enough for me to move on. The shock and emotion that part elicited has been unmatched by anything else I've read.

I can't think of anything I didn't like about this book. It was fabulous from beginning to end. I actually stayed up till two am on a weekday, just so I could finish the story. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Happy reading!

~ Rose

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review - Mackenzie Blue: Friends Forever?

Author: Tina Wells
Publisher: HarperCollins (June 22, 2010)
Age Level: Grades 4 to 8
Source: Publicist for Review

Description from GoodReads:

Mackenzie Blue is hitting the trails!

It's time for Brookdale Academy's camping field trip, but Zee has much more to deal with than a lesson about nature. . . .

1. My BFF, Ally, is visiting all the way from Paris! Ooh la la!
2. My friends and I are so going to win the environmental scavenger hunt!

1. We have to stay in teeny-tiny log cabins. How will we all fit?
2. The legendary (and terrifying) Mountain Man . . .

The Mackenzie Blue series is by Tina Wells.  When I was approached by by Buzz Marketing to review the books, I was excited to read a new middle grade series that I might be able to share with my students.  When the books arrived, I realized by looking at the covers and format that there would likely be a formulaic feel to each book. This didn’t bother me.   As a 9 year old, I read every Nancy Drew Book, Hardy Boys, etc.  Each one was really the same with just a different antagonist and different location.  Many children love books in series formats.  With a series, they get to spend time with favorite characters, and there is always the understanding that each one will turn out just fine for the main character and his/her pals. Maybe the best comparison for childrens book series, such as Mackenzie Blue, would be the weekly sitcom or drama. Each week, the main character faces a new challenge, learns a lesson, and everything is wrapped up neatly in 30 to 60 minutes.  Or in case of the book, the dilemma is wrapped up in 200 pages.

In these books, Mackenzie “Zee” Blue is a 7th grader at Brookdale Academy. Her BFF, Ally, has moved to France and she has several other friends including a close male friend named Jasper.  Each book focuses on a dilemma that Zee must learn from.  In the third, and most recently published book, Friends Forever?, Zee is attending science camp with all her the other seventh graders.  In addition to the common issues of being away from home, dealing with outdoor bathrooms, and camp chores, Zee is trying to figure out how to maintain her friendship with Ally (who is visiting from France) and her current friends.  As if friendship troubles wasn't enough, there seems to be something up between Landon (Zee has a crush on him) and Jasper (her male BFF) - could Landon be jealous?  During all this, Zee must also cope with getting her first period.  

When I first started reading the Mackenzie Blue series, there were several things that struck me.  A friend of mine said “You are looking at it with your educator’s eyes”.  Maybe I was – maybe I always do.   However, I was torn.  I realized that there are many tween girls who would likely want to read these books and would enjoy them and even those that we would identify as reluctant or hesitant readers might like them. The books have illustrations dispersed through the pages and at times you see snippets of Zee’s diary or text messages. Zee is a fun main character that girls would like to know.  She worries about her friends, tries to do the right thing, and faces issues that every 12 year old girl is struggling with. These are all positive elements that tween girls love.

So what was my issue? First, I cringe every time an author throws in name brands and certain things that in my mind aren’t necessary and date the book. For example, “She pulled her iPhone out of her pocket. It had a bright blue skin with a big pink Z.” (p. 28 MB #3) Do I really need to know who has an iPhone (or a Sidekick in the first book) or that one of the girls in the cabin has a Louis Vuitton bag? I can honestly answer “no”.  Isn't this the concern with children watching television is that they are overly exposed to products being directly marketed to them? Not only during the commercials, but also in the product placements within the show.  As I read through the books, I almost imagined that I was flipping through a tween version of Vogue magazine.  I found that it often distracted from the story and placed more focus on products than on the wonderful qualities that were hidden within the pages of the book.

My second concern was the Instant Messaging (“IM”) name of “E-zee”.  I am puzzled by the selection of this nickname for a 12 year old girl.  I am especially surprised that Wells, a marketing expert, would not have thought about the connotations of that name.

Finally, and I know that authors often have little control over the covers of their books or the illustrations, but, often I felt that the drawing of the characters made them appear to be in late high school rather than in seventh grade.

I agonized over writing this review and I have probably spent more hours writing and re-writing this because I recognize that I am likely in the minority regarding my opinion of the books.  Ms. Wells has worked hard to write books for girls.  I recognize this fact.  Over the course of the three books, I have also seen growth in her as a writer and I would say in all sincerity that Mackenzie Blue: Friends Forever? #3 is the most developed  of her three books.  However, if I can offer any input to Wells, it would be to focus more on her wonderful characters and spot on issues facing tween girls, then creating a book version of a tween television sitcom.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Smart Chicks Kick It Tour

This will be my first post on the tour coming up. I'm very excited about the Smart Chicks coming to town - and you can check out their website HERE.

The Smart Chicks will be in the Houston area on September 14th in the Woodlands at the Barnes and Noble (even though it doesn't list it on the calendar), and on September 15th, in Houston hosted by Blue Willow Bookshop.

I will definitely be attending the Blue Willow event, which will be held at The Refuge (they ask that you bring a canned good to help support The Refuge). If you're there, please be sure to find me and say hello!

You can stay tuned to the blog, because we'll be doing some major giveaways in connection with the tour. We'll have books from each of the authors as free giveaways, and we'll have a raffle with at least two prizes. You can start thinking about one giveaway now... The signed copy of City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare, will be a YouTube contest. You'll make a video showing why you deserve to get the signed copy of City of Bones. :)

Before the event, I'll be doing a group interview for the podcast with some of the Smart Chicks. You leave questions for them by commenting on this post, and I'll be sure to include all your questions when I do the interview, but you have to comment here before September 14th.

Get excited! ^_^

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Troy High

Troy High, by Shana Norris

Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 256
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: Medium/High

Here come a few more gods and goddesses… Actually, this is just a fun re-telling of a large part of Homer’s Iliad. A nice departure from the fantasy realm for me – I picked it up on a recent trip to the bookstore because it sounded kind of cool.

From amazon.com:

Homer’s Iliad, the classic tale of love and revenge, is shrewdly retold for teens in Troy High.

Narrated by Cassie, a shy outsider at Troy High, the story follows the Trojans and Spartans as they declare war on the football field. After the beautiful Elena—who used to be the captain of the Spartan cheerleaders—transfers to Troy High and falls madly in love with Cassie’s brother Perry, the Spartans vow that the annual homecoming game will never be forgotten. Off the football field, an escalating prank war fuels tensions between the schools.

The stakes are raised when Cassie is forced to choose between the boy she loves (a Spartan) and loyalty to her family and school.

I’ll start this one off by just saying that parts of it fell flat for me, but not enough to make me dislike the book. It was some of the character interaction that left me hanging. Cassie’s relationship with her older brother and his character development leave a few gaps going from his original attitude to the one he’s got at the end of the story. She lets him walk all over her for most of the book, never standing up for herself until the end, and she readily forgives him without much fight, either.

I also felt like Cassie’s relationship with her best friend wasn’t as solid as it could’ve been. There are some major-blowout fights that should’ve given Cassie more pause to think and should’ve had stronger reactions, but the fights seem to blow over without many repercussions. It would’ve been nice to see Cassie dealing more with the consequences of her choices.

But I still enjoyed the overall story. It was fun to research the characters and the history of the Iliad to figure out who was who. I liked the idea of bringing Helen of Troy into the modern age. Transferring the Iliad to the football field gave it new life and made it interesting to me.

The author did a wonderful job with the Helen character, Elena, and her relationship with Cassie is one of the highlights of the book. The chemistry between the two of them is just right. Cassie learns a lot from Elena. I really enjoyed seeing their friendship develop, as it was something I didn’t expect at all.

So despite my picking at a couple aspects of the book, I did enjoy it. If you’re looking for a book that is a quick read and delivers an interesting re-telling, pick up Troy High.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fantasy Friday: Beastly

Beastly, by Alex Flinn

Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 304

Reading Level: 14 and up

Enjoyment Level: High

This is the second book of Alex Flinn’s that I’ve read. I read and reviewed A Kiss in Time last year, but I think I liked Beastly more. (And it’s about time I read it, too! I borrowed this from my sister more than several months ago.)

From amazon.com:

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

Re-told fairy tales are books I generally tend to avoid. It gets less and less like re-told, and more and more like regurgitated. But I liked Alex Flinn’s take on "Sleeping Beauty" (A Kiss in Time), so I read Beastly, too. "Beauty and the Beast" has always been my favorite fairy tale. That said, I was still apprehensive to read Beastly, since I had such high hopes for it.

The plot, since this is a re-telling, follows a pretty well-established line for Beauty and the Beast. No real surprises with that. There were a few highlights where something stood out, but not much. It was really nice to have it set in NYC (my favorite city), which made for a good alternative to some countryside castle.

The characters set this apart in the re-told library. The story comes from the Beast’s point-of-view, and as such, it feels more gripping to me. Being in the mind of the Beast lends a nice reality to the plot and it makes him falling in love with “Beauty” much more natural than in other versions.

I also really like that the Beauty of the story is plain and bookish – someone the Beast, pre-curse – would never look twice at. Again, it makes the story realistic without becoming cheesy. The interaction between all the characters is great. They all make the Beast’s transformation (physical and mental) meaningful. (A side-note/rant here… I am SO upset that they picked Vanessa Hudgens to play the Beauty character in the movie. Stupid Hollywood – can’t they leave a plain character plain? She’s not supposed to be beautiful!)

Like a lot of books, I felt that the ending was just slightly too fast and neatly wrapped. I would’ve liked to see a few more of the repercussions from the events in the climax, but it’s nothing that made me dislike the book. I still wholeheartedly recommend the book to anyone who’d enjoy a good urban-fantasy version of "Beauty and the Beast". It’s fast-paced and interesting.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We won an award!

Now that we've been blogging for a while, we finally won an award! :) Thanks to Lost in Believing for thinking of YALR! I'm so excited. Probably more than I should be, lol!

So I guess now it's time to fulfill my part of the award by sharing seven things about myself. I'm not sure if they're supposed to be things most people don't know, but I'll assume not. I don't know if there are seven things to share, otherwise! ^_^

  • I collect Babysitter's Club books. I have about 70 of them right now.
  • Dragons are my favorite mythical creature and they have been since I read my first Anne McCaffrey novel.
  • I love to watch Friends, even though I've seen every episode several times now.
  • I paint ceramics, and I'm attempting to get into painting canvas.
  • I have a record player, and I still use it!
  • I've always loved to write, but I started getting serious about it when Order of the Phoenix came out.
  • My favorite movie is Empire Records.

And I'm also supposed to pass this award on to fifteen other bloggers, however, at this point, I think we're all running out of people who haven't gotten it yet. lol. So I'm at least going to try getting ten bloggers into this list.

Kristy Baxter's Blog
YA Book Realm
B is for Books
The Unprofessional Critic
Reading Extensively
YA Book Nerd
Girls in the Stacks
Cari Blogs
The Here. The Now. And the Books!

Enjoy, everyone!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review - Scaredy Squirrel

Author/Illustrator: Melanie Watt
Publisher: Kids Can Press Ltd (February 1, 2006)
Age Level: Ages 4 to 8
Source: Personal copy
Rating: 5 stars

Description from GoodReads:

Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It's way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he's well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel's emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute. Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day ... his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk. But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting ...

Recently, I discovered the work of Melanie Watt, an author & illustrator from Canada. There are some authors/illustrators that you enjoy one or two books or some that you enjoy the books but don't feel the compulsion to purchase. And then there are illustrators and authors like Watt who I want to own every one of their books.

Scaredy Squirrel is one of Watt's series. There are currently four books in this series and each book follows a similar format. All begin with a small warning on the inside cover. For the first one, it reminds readers to wash their hands before reading. Scaredy Squirrel is easily frightened by life outside of this tree. He is afraid of Martians, killer bees, poison ivy, tarantulas, and of course germs. His day is pretty much the same, with a minute by minute schedule but then one day something changes. A killer bee enters the tree and then the unexpected happens and Scaredy discovers something unique and special about himself.

The formulaic manner of the Scaredy Squirrel series is far from boring or annoying. For young readers, who love to have the same book read over and over again, this pattern will provide them with a sense of comfort and predictability. Scaredy's fears and the challenges that he faces can be an excellent place to begin discussing with youngsters how they can make changes or take risks. The illustrations in the book are simple but fun and bold at the same time.

Watt is a funny, creative, writer and illustrator and I encourage you to check out all of her books.

You can find out more about Melanie and her books here: http://melaniewatt.com/default.aspx

Mr. Shu - a school librarian in Indiana - did a animoto video featuring Scaredy Squirrel. You can check it out here: http://animoto.com/play/M4x2UKAO5TwNAGIYL6bX4Q

Enjoy and have fun reading a book,

Friday, August 13, 2010

Three Viewpoint Friday: GRACELING.

Okay, so we normally do a Three Viewpoint Thursday every few weeks, where Vilate, Aly, and I get together and chat about a book, but I messed up and am posting this late. So this week, we have a Three Viewpoint Friday chat about Graceling by Kristin Cashore. This is a young adult fantasy novel, and the first in Cashore's Seven Kingdoms Trilogy. We all enjoyed this tremendously!

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight — she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme, and in her case horrifying, skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug. When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace — or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away... a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Renee: Today we're talking about GRACELING by Kristin Cashore, the first in her Seven Kingdoms Trilogy. To begin, what are your overall impressions?

Vilate: I thought it was a nice sort of throwback fantasy. The kind I might've picked up when I was younger and searching in the adult section. It has a little of the feel of an epic fantasy story without being long-winded and full of flowery descriptions. I liked that it kept the fantasy while having a tight plot and interesting characters.

Aly: I have been reading so much urban fantasy that I forgot that I love High Fantasy. I really loved this book. I want to re-read it because I felt I read it too fast. I do have to say that I felt that it really was almost an adult book with a YA cross-over though. Just me....but still loved the book, the characters, the story.

Renee: Like Aly, I've been reading so much paranormal/urban fantasy lately, that it was nice to read a straight fantasy novel, and this one was so great! I loved the plot twists and characters. And yes, there were more adult themes in this than I anticipated, but I liked it.

Renee: What did you think about Katsa? She's a very different YA heroine -- very independent. Did you like the welcome change, or find her hard to relate to?

Vilate: I actually didn't find her to be all that different than other YA heroines. The trend is definitely towards strong and independent young women, so it wasn’t jarring for me. I found her personality to be a very good example of what might happen to a person in her situation. Even though we're more used to heroines who are feisty and independent, it felt like her situation couldn't have produced anything else, so it felt very natural and easy.

Aly: I think that she is a great heroine. Strong, but flawed in some ways. I hate when they are so perfect that there are no imperfections. I also liked that in many ways Po was also a strong character and a good match/complement to her. So I found her easy to connect with for the most part.

Renee: I think Katsa is a refreshing heroine, especially near the middle of the book when she begins to show some softness, while still being strong. At the beginning, she was a little too tough and impulsive at times.

Renee: And YES, I loved Po as a complement to her fly-off-the-handle style, with him being more calculating and rational. He was easily my favorite character.

Vilate: As much as I liked Po, I found it a little... typical of YA books these days, the connection between Po and Katsa. I didn't really feel like Katsa's development was necessarily helped by Po. I actually felt like she had a better, more natural connection to Bitterblue. I loved the time the two girls spent together and really felt like Katsa gained a lot from the interaction.

Aly: But I still really loved Po. I liked that Katsa who never saw herself as being a mother someday developing this bond with this child (Bitterblue) but I did feel that Po was a good balance. I hate when the girl is so much less than the boy or heck, even the other way around. If a "mortal" falls for an immortal paranormal with amazing abilities, there will always be an imbalance. In many ways, Katsa's gifts make her the superior to most people but Po is a good balance. He is strong, a worthy fighting opponent and then personally more social which balances out Katsa's roughness.

Renee: Definitely. Maybe it's just because Po is now one of my favorite YA male characters, but I liked that he was comfortable with a strong female. There was a definite feeling of equality, without him always being the hero or having to be superhero. I especially loved how Po brought out the gentleness in Katsa, and then at the end of the novel, it came full circle and she was able to help him on his own journey with his Grace. I liked how that worked out.

Vilate: I do like Po, don't get me wrong. :) I just didn't find anything really unique about the pairing. It's so commonplace in the books I've been reading I guess. Po is a great character, though. Of course, I especially liked Katsa's cousin. He was a wonderful addition to the cast. Blue hair! His was the character I found most exciting and unique. I want to know him in real life! lol.

Renee: We mentioned Bitterblue earlier, and now Raffin (Katsa's cousin). I felt that all of the side characters were very well developed in this book. In fact, the only character I felt wasn't developed enough was Katsa's uncle, King Randa. He seemed very one-dimensionally "mean." What do you think?

Aly: I think Randa was meant to be one dimensional in some ways but I felt he was in some ways more developed than Bitterblue's father. He had this amazingly powerful ability and we saw some of the impact of it but I was still a little confused but him.

Renee: That struck me too... Bitterblue's father kind of came in as a plot device, and wasn't fully explored (as much as I would like).

Vilate: Randa was very one-dimensional to me, but all of the kings were like that. I think it happened that way because that's how Katsa saw him. He used her so badly that it would've been unnatural for her to see him as anything but cruel. Bitterblue's father... I would've liked a little more foreshadowing for him. He's barely mentioned in the first half of the book and I particularly enjoy when the major plot catastrophe is pulled into the story as soon as possible. It did fall a little flat for me in this case.

Renee: That leads to my next point. The book is almost 500 pages long... How did you feel the pacing went? Did it slow down for you at any points?

Aly: I started with the audio book because I thought that would be quicker. I could do a cleaning project and listen. But I swear the narrator reads slower than I do and then there were 3 different speakers and it drove me crazy. So maybe when I switched to the book and actually started reading it and could go at my pace without annoying voices that if there were slow parts I didn't notice it.

Vilate: lol, Aly! I hate it when an audio book is "acted" out. I didn't find any of the pacing slow, per se, but I did have a difficult time getting into the story at first. Granted, I was very distracted, but the fact that I kept coming up with excuses not to read probably tells more than me being distracted. Once I got into it, though, it was an easy and quick read.

Renee: This might sound kind of fangirl-ish, but whenever there were extended periods where Po wasn't there, I got a little distracted, haha. But seriously, I was so absorbed with Katsa & Po's journey (with the help of Raffin, Giddon, etc.) that when they finally encountered the "villain" I was kind of disappointed. I forgot all the friends were working together for a reason, if that makes any sense... I kind of liked just watching/reading them "be." And the main plot, kind of like Vi said, happened too quickly at the end for me.

Aly: I think my hesitation in starting it, Vi, was that so many people had said how wonderful it was and that I must read it. I sometimes get a little stubborn about reading it. Also I hate to be disappointed. However once I started and left the audio, and kept going it reminded me that high fantasy was my first love and something I had read a lot more than urban fantasy/paranormal books. I mean every book can be torn apart for parts that might have been overly done or not done enough but really this was great and I am eager to read FIRE and also BITTERBLUE when it comes out.

Vilate: Absolutely. I'll have to pick up FIRE as soon as I can, and I'm sure that I'll love it. It was really nice to read the fantasy, since I love the straight fantasy world. (That's also the reason I liked SHADOW, by Jenny Moss so much).

Renee: Yes, I am eager to read FIRE, and especially when BITTERBLUE comes out, since it has several of the characters from GRACELING in it. And ultimately, I really loved this too. It lived up to the hype for me.

Vilate: Despite the hype GRACELING already has, I'll add to it - this is a GREAT book and anyone who likes fantasy should pick this up. I already have someone in mind to pass it off to. :)

Aly: Oh, I did want to ask about Katsa's resistance to marrying Po even after everything. Some people are bothered by their obvious physical relationship at the end but her refusal to marry him?

Vilate: That does sort of bother me, but only because I don't understand the commitment without marriage thing. I don't consider myself much of a traditionalist in a lot of ways, but it just seems silly that Katsa would be fine with committing but not with marrying. I think it gets to the logical part of me in that it doesn't really seem logical. But it's not the physical aspect.

Renee: Okay, this REALLY bothered me in the beginning, because I didn't understand her resistance to the institution of marriage, even if it's with someone who loves her and is okay with giving her endless freedom. Somehow near the end I became okay with it, and I was okay with it as an unconventional happy ending. What actually bothered me was after seeing Katsa interact so well with Bitterblue was her total resistance to the idea of children... After seeing her so well with a child, I expected more of a change of heart.

Aly: Well if it was present day then people are more free with this but I also think of things being a little more *traditional* in the time period this feels it belongs in. I was okay with the ending but I still am not sure that I see this as YA and it doesn't have anything to do with the physical relationship. It has more to do with the fact that Po and Katsa really seemed more like adults and not teens.

Vilate: Good point. As with several books I've read lately, I'd go with this as a crossover or "new adult" book. Both characters were on the older side and if I didn't know that publishers were making money in the YA market, I'd wonder why this didn't end up in the adult section.

Renee: True, they did feel very grown up. Hopefully we'll get to see more of these characters in BITTERBLUE.

Renee: I know Vi, you said you'd recommend this. Would you recommend this Aly and to what age group?

Aly: I would definitely recommend it. I tend not to be a big book banner. I was reading adult lit as a teen. I might not recommend it to teens whose parents I know have issues with sex in YA but I would definitely recommend it to both teens and adults. It is a beautiful book in many ways and I really enjoyed it.

Renee: Agreed. Thanks for another lovely chat!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sci-Fi Saturday: The Dark Life

The Dark Life, by Kat Falls

Published by: Scholastic, Inc.
Pages: 297
Reading Level: 10 and up
Enjoyment Level: Medium-High

This is just a random book I picked up at the store a few weeks ago. I liked that it has a male main character. And I liked the cover, so really, how could I lose?

From amazon.com:

In this futuristic coming-of-age tale, 15-year-old Ty has spent his whole life in a deep-sea colony on the ocean floor. His family and the other pioneers provide fish and other food for the Commonwealth citizens who live aboveground in stacked cities following earthquakes and tsunamis that destroyed much of the Earth. The pioneers chafe under the harsh rule of the Commonwealth, a situation made worse when those who live subsea are charged with capturing a gang of pirates that has been terrorizing Commonwealth ships and pioneer homesteads. Ty is swept up in the hunt for the bandits when Gemma, a "Topsider" orphan, comes to his community to search for her missing brother, who may have ties to the pirates.

The beginning was a bit slow-going for me, but it picked up a few chapters in and I enjoyed the dynamic between the characters. Ty is a great character for boys to relate to. He is a great big brother. His relationships are natural and they grow with his own growth as a character. The author does a great job of making readers care about Ty and his situation.

The plot leaves a little to be desired at the end, where things happen really fast. It feels like the author was rushed to get the story finished, and a lot of things that needed explaining in a logical way ended up simplistic. But up until the last couple of chapters, the mystery and details were amazing, and it kept me interested the whole way. I’d even be interested in reading a sequel, if there is one.

I feel comfortable recommending this book to boys, for sure, as I think that even reluctant readers will keep reading until the end.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Winner of the LINGER ARC

Well, thanks to excel spreadsheets and random number generators, the winner of the signed ARC of LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater is going to Fiona Chan.

Congratulations Fiona. You have 24 hours to contact me. I tweeted this and also emailed you. I am excited to send it on.

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Voices of Dragons

Voices of Dragons, by Carrie Vaughn

Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 309
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: Dragons!

If a title has ‘dragon’ in it, I’m more than likely going to pick it up. If it has ‘nice’ dragons in it, I’m more than likely going to love it. So, no surprise here that I enjoyed this one thoroughly.

Kay lives in a world where dragons are segregated from humans. The beasts live in isolation deep in the mountains, but it’s within sight of Kay’s home town of Silver River, where her father is the Sheriff and her mother is a high-powered official. There was a treaty made between the dragons and humans sixty years ago: dragons would disappear, and humans would leave them alone. When Kay goes climbing and has to be saved by a dragon, that treaty is put to the test and Kay’s life changes forever.

Carrie Vaughn is one of those adult-type writers trying her hand at writing for teens. Sometimes that actually doesn’t work out very well, but in this case, the experience of writing for adults seems to lend a certain sophistication to the characters and plot of Voices of Dragons. This elegant story doesn’t have the edgy feel to it that a lot of others in this new category, but because of the maturity of the main character, I’d go ahead and classify this as “New Adult”.

The plot is wonderful. It takes on a hard theme of intolerance and puts it into an interesting perspective by twisting it between humans and dragons. Carrie Vaughn has done a wonderful job giving us a plot that is believable and understandable by really telling it how it is: intolerance is always on both sides of a conflict.

Not only is the theme done well, but the characters are amazing and well-grounded. Kay approaches her struggle with grace, and yet with the reaction that I would expect from a young girl whose world is turned around.

And, of course, the dragons take my breath away. There is a great amount of mythology wrapped up in this setting of a modern-day world. It’s wonderful to see how well my favorite monsters fit in (and I want a dragon even more now!). I could compare this book with Robin McKinley’s Dragonhaven. Both are exquisite and full of magic and life.

I can recommend this book without hesitation, although parts of it do get a little slow (mostly parts where there aren’t dragons, so I guess I’m just biased). This book will appeal to both readers of general teen fiction and of fantasy teen fiction, and there’s enough action for both male and female readers.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

(On a side note, I'm giving away free copies of the first episode in my short story series, The Undead Crimefighting League. If you want one, email me at vilate@yaliteraturereview.com.)