Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Teen Fiction Tuesday: Cryer's Cross

Cryer’s Cross, by Lisa McMann

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 232
Reading Level: 12 and up
Enjoyment Level: High

I’m not sure how to intro this one. I went to the event at Blue Willow Bookshop when Lisa McMann was in Houston – I’d never read anything of hers before, but Cryer’s Cross sounded really interesting. I tried to get in contact with her publicist for an interview, but I never heard back. Luckily, Lisa is awesome and she gave me a few minutes of her time anyway (hear the interview HERE). She gave us a great author event full of readings from Cryer’s Cross and her new, upcoming series. And afterward, I read CC and loved it.

From GoodReads:

Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer’s Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she's not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world's sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer's Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn't get close to... the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she's always loved, Kendall keeps up the search--and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can't stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried...

This is a tense book. Pretty much the whole time, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I love that the mystery and creepiness just kept me reading. The story kept me interested and engaged, and offered a few surprises and twists that I didn’t expect.

Kendall is a great character. I love that she has OCD and deals with it the best she can. Even though I don’t have that problem, I could empathize with her. I had no trouble connecting with her personal story. Her quirks really felt like they made her who she is, and although she struggled with the disorder, she would’ve been a different person with a different outcome if she hadn’t had that trial to deal with. I love that the author writes clearly enough to show that our trials help prepare us to handle things we encounter outside of our lives and experience.

I highly recommend this one. It’s great for reluctant readers, too, since it hooks the reader quickly and keeps the tension high until the ending. It’s got a touch of the paranormal, but it’s not overstated or overdone, so readers of straight fiction and of mysteries will like it as well.

Here's your chance to win a signed copy - just follow the guidelines below.

  1. be a blog follower
  2. tweet, blog, or facebook about the contest
  3. leave a comment on this post with a link to your tweet, blog, etc.

You have until May 16th to enter. Sorry, due to major budget cuts, this one is not open internationally. :(

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Monday, May 2, 2011

Middle-grade Monday: The Genie Scheme

The Genie Scheme, by Kimberly K Jones

Publisher: McElderry Books
Pages: 179 (paperback)
Reading Level: Middle-grade
Enjoyment Level: Medium

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Simon and Schuster, I got a whole load of books for middle-graders to review. I’m making my way through them, and this will be the first I’ll share with you. (Lucky you!)

From GoodReads:

When Janna impulsively buys a winter hat for a bag lady, she expects nothing in return. But Janna's kindness pays off in a big way when the bag lady turns out to be a genie! Now Janna is the genie's master and she couldn't be happier, especially when she learns that the "three wishes" rule is strictly for fairy tales!

Before long, Janna's room is overflowing with clothes and gadgets -- but things aren't quite as simple as they seem. Making wishes comes with its own set of rules, and Janna discovers that "unlimited" has some...well, limits. Genies can't make something out of nothing, so everything that Janna wishes for is taken from somebody else. Oops. And then there's the problem of genie wattage -- there's only so much of it, and Janna is using it up faster than she'd like. What's a greedy girl to do?

With insight, warmth, and a refreshing dose of humor, Kimberly K. Jones puts a new twist on the old adage "Be careful what you wish for."

I can’t say this is the strongest middle-grade showing I’ve read. It’s cute, and witty in parts. The flow of the story is probably the best thing the story has going for it. I felt like the plot moved nicely along, pulling me toward the ending without any snags or points where I felt snags. From the beginning, we see the direction of the plot, and the author delivers what you expect.

That said, the main character, Janna, isn’t terribly likeable, even at the end after she’s done her growing. The point is that she grows from a greedy, selfish girl, to one who thinks of others. I think it’s poorly executed here. Janna has few redeeming qualities – the fact that she buys a hat for a poor elderly woman is the only moment that pointed to an underlying good nature in Janna, and that was at the beginning. It was difficult for me to really enjoy the book while I was totally exasperated with the main character. She also seemed much younger than thirteen.

The moral of the story is not subtle in any way. It smacks you upside the head from the beginning, and that also made it difficult to really enjoy this. Maybe I’ve gotten used to the intricacies and nuances that are in older teen fiction, but I found that I didn’t like being forced to have the theme and moral shoved in my face.

But I’ll end on a positive note and say that I loved the interplay between Janna, the genie, and Janna’s friend Albert. That gave me a few chuckles here and there. Albert is a great character and he surprised me more than once, which was a welcome thing in this book.

Although I didn’t care for the story, it’s still a decent middle-grade novel for kids who like magic. And with the pace of the plot, it’s a good one for some reluctant readers. There’s a lot of action and the flow will keep reluctant readers from losing interest.

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate