Monday, July 5, 2010

By Michael Grant
Series: Third in the Gone series

Warning: Review contains spoilers to Gone and Hunger.

It has now been seven months since everyone fifteen and older poofed and conditions only continue to worsen for those left behind. “Are you eating?” has replaced “How are you?” as the standard greeting. Electricity is out. The absence of water pressure gives no alternative but to let any fires burn themselves out. Then rumors begin spreading about the big poof when the kids reach the exact age of fifteen being a way to leave the FAYZ and return to the loving arms of parents who are waiting just outside the FAYZ wall though not everyone is convinced this is true. To make matters even worse, Caine talks Zil, leader of the Human Crew, to set the town on fire as he and his declining number of followers pursue Caine’s latest plan. As the town begins to erupt into flames, Sam begins seeing images of the one person he fears, the one who had almost killed him, back from the dead and ready to continue where he and Sam left off. Grant does not disappoint readers in this latest installment of the Gone series. While action sequences take a step back in this installment, giving the suspense center stage, readers will be eager for the fourth book when they reach the end.

Monday, June 21, 2010

By Sherrilyn Kenyon
Series: First in the Chronicles of Nick

Fourteen year old Nick Gautier is the “scholarship kid” at a private school where the other students are attending because parents are rich while Nick lives in a small condo cut from an old house whose mother works at a strip club and barely makes enough to get by even when she does double shifts. One night after Nick stops some “friends” try to kill him when she stops them from mugging an elderly couple. Luckily, or unluckily, he is saved from a mysterious stranger who offers to pay for Nick’s hospital bills, but since Nick and his mother does not accept charity, also agrees to hire Nick to work for him to pay off the debt. When Nick returns to school after his hospital stay a crowd is gathered outside complete with an ambulance and police. A student had bitten off a chunk of another student’s arm. Suddenly, Nick’s schoolmates are being turned into brain-craving zombies at an alarming rate and this is only the beginning of Nick’s entrance into the supernatural world of the Dark-Hunters. The Chronicles of Nick is a prequel series from Kenyon’s adult Dark-Hunters series, but readers do not need to be familiar with the first series to enjoy this YA series opener, though it might help with the back story of some of the characters and their place in the Dark-Hunters world. Fans of the supernatural genre will enjoy the numerous supernatural creatures that appear in this installment from zombies (both “living” zombies who are actually only brainwashed individuals as well as the traditional dead-brought-back-to-life zombies) to shape shifters to a variety of demons each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and powers.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Light
By D. J. MacHale
Series: First in the Morpheus Road trilogy

Marshal Seaver is looking forward to spending the summer with his friend best friend Cooper Foley. However, these plans immediately change when Cooper is forced to spend the entire summer with his parents at their lake house. As Marshal prepares for what is sure to be a boring summer, his father leaves for a business trip. This is when Marshal begins being haunted. It begins with strange sounds and a rouge breeze. Then Marshal comes face to face with a character straight from his own sketchbook. There is only one person Marshal can talk with about these happenings and that is Cooper. However, when he tries contacting his friend, he finds out that Cooper is missing. As Marshal begins piecing together the events that lead to his friend’s disappearance and the reason he is suddenly being haunted by a character of his own creation, he begins to consider if these two events might actually be part of the same mystery. Readers will find this story un-put-down-able as the suspense builds and what seems to be two separate mysteries begin to blur into one large puzzle. There are scenes, although suspenseful, have little or no dialogue and long paragraphs though most of these occur when Marshal, who serves as narrator, is alone. There are also a few occurrences where a phrase is repeated nearly word for word within a couple of paragraphs. All in all, horror and supernatural fans will devour this book and become eager for the next installment when they reach the end.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
By Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln is well known for saving the Union and freeing millions of slaves during his term as the sixteenth president of the United States. What is not as well known is the time he spent in his youth hunting vampires. That is, until Grahame-Smith, as he describes in his introduction, stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln and became the first living man to lay eyes on it in 140 years. Using this journal as a guide, Grahame-Smith gives the general public the real story of one of America’s greatest presidents while also revealing the true cause for the Civil War as well as other events in American history. Okay, it is obvious this is a work of fiction, but Grahame-Smith’s use of a biographical style gives the story a “realistic” tone. This book will be enjoyed by vampire buffs as well as Lincoln and history buffs.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about The Grapes of Wrath
By Steven Goldman

Mitchell Wells, a high school junior, could be the biggest loser on the planet. He has one best friend, David, though this gets a little awkward when David comes out to Mitchell. His decent GPA is about to be tank because of a Claymation film Mitchell turns in as an alternative project for a typical three to five page paper on The Grapes of Wrath containing violence, nudity, ketchup packet blood bursts, and a flying monkey sequence among other interesting additions that has little actual connection to The Grapes of Wrath, though Steinbeck does make a cameo appearance as Satan played by a nude dancing Ken doll with Steinbeck’s photo tapped to its face. And girls… well, does hanging out with his sister and her best friend count? Goldman captures the reality of male adolescence in his young adult debut, though slightly ridiculous, but what average, contemporary American high school experience isn’t? This humorous, at times laugh-out-loud story will be enjoyed by all kinds of readers, even those who actually like their high school experience.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

By Alex Flinn

A modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast, told through the point of view of the Beast. Kyle Kingsbury is a vain, good looking, Manhattan private school student who treats everyone by their looks. When he goes too far with his vainness at a school dance, he is transformed into a beast and given two years to break the curse by having a girl see through his hideousness and love him with him loving her back and kissing to prove it. For the first year of the curse, Kyle feels he will forever remain a beast, only going out at night and watching the world go by through the windows by day with only a maid and his blind tutor as company. Then he meets Lindy using a magic mirror given to him by the witch that put him under the curse. When her father tries breaking in he agrees to send Lindy to live with Kyle. During their acquaintanceship, Kyle begins to fall in love with Lindy, something that would not have happened pre-transformation because of Lindy’s “average” looks. But can Lindy look past Kyle’s beastly form and love him before the remaining year runs out? Flinn combines aspects from several versions of the Beauty and the Beast story along with references to other transformation stories and characters that are forced into hiding because of their appearance. Readers who enjoy retellings of classic stories would not be disappointed with Beastly.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Son of the Mob
By Gordon Korman

Vince Luca is your basic seventeen year old high school student. His best friend Alex is constantly vicariously trying to score through him with “This is my love life we’re talking about” every time Vince is about to go out on a date. His older brother is a pain. His father has a successful vending machine business. Well, that was the cover up his mother told him when he was little to explain his father’s different working hours from the other fathers in the neighborhood, telling him “you never know when a vending machine is going to break.” It isn’t until Vince is older when he learns his father’s true occupation and what brings in the money that provide a roof over his head, the clothes on his back, and the food in his stomach – Vince’s father is a Mob boss, which explains why Vince has listed sixty plus “uncles” during his youth without knowing exactly how they were related as his father was an only child. Vince wants nothing to do with his father’s “vending machine” business, but, as one could expect, being the son of a Mob boss can put a serious crimp in his dating life; particularly when he begins dating Kendra, who father is the FBI agent who wants more than anything to put Vince’s father in jail. Vince’s voice as he tells the story is full of his wonderfully dry, sarcastic sense of humor which this reader found immensely entertaining and appropriate to the story being told. The pace of the story is quick with something always going on or a new twist about to be discovered. However, the ending, at least to this reader, felt a bit rushed though it did tie together the subplots.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Most Excellent Year
By Steve Kluger

What does Fenway Park, finding first love, and Mary Poppins have in common? The most excellent year for freshmen students T.C. Keller, Augie Hwong, and Alejandra Perez. There are three loves in T.C.’s life; his dad, his best friend and unofficial brother Augie who he met shortly after his mother died when he was six, and the Red Sox. But during freshmen year he begins falling in love with Alejandra. Though Alejandra plays hard to get, she also begins falling in love with T.C.’s Boston accent while pursuing her interest in singing and dancing (which gets her a part in the school’s play of Kiss Me, Kate) under her political parents’ noses. Due to his love of musicals and old school screen sirens, and his preference to perform the songs traditionally sung by women, everyone close to Augie seems to know he is gay, except for Augie. That is until he begins falling in love with Andy, who may or may not have the same feelings for Augie. The majority of the story is told through a diary assignment as T.C., Augie, and Alejandra study The Diary of Anne Frank in their freshmen English class. Similar to how Frank named her diary Kitty, T.C. addresses his entries to his dead mother, Alejandra to her role model Jacqueline Kennedy, and Augie writes to several “Divas of the Week” including Liza Minnelli, Angela Lansbury, and Judy Garland among others. Incorporated throughout the entries are IM messages between T.C., Augie, Alejandra, and Andy, e-mails from and between characters, transcripts of T.C.’s meeting with his school advisor, notes passed during study hall, and Augie’s mother’s theatre review column from the Boston Globe. This charming, funny story will be enjoyed by its target audience as well as an adult audience.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Eleventh Grade Burns
By Heather Brewer
Series: Fourth in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Warning: Review may contain spoilers to Eighth Grade Bites, Ninth Grade Slays, and Tenth Grade Bleeds

Depressed following his break up with Meredith and convinced he is the Pravus but unsure about how the ruling over vampirekind and enslaving the human race side of the prophecy will play out, Vladimir Tod begins his junior year. But it’s going to be a dark year for Vlad. His Uncle Otis is awaiting trial for crimes against vampirekind which is likely to end only in his being sentenced to death. D’Ablo has somehow secured a seat on the Council of Elders and continues his desire to perform the ritual that will transfer Vlad’s Pravus powers to himself. A new vampire, Dorian, comes to help Vlad but has a palate for uncommon blood, and since Vlad is the only half-vampire, half-human in existence, he has the rarest type of blood. Plus Joss, Vlad’s ex-friend vampire slayer, is back with nothing to stop him from eliminating Vlad. This penultimate volume of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod is full of twists and surprises that will keep Vlad fans turning the pages. But nothing can prepare Vlad or the reader for what is waiting at the end.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tenth Grade Bleeds
By Heather Brewer
Series: Third in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Warning: Review may contain spoilers for Eighth Grade Bites and Ninth Grade Slays

It appears that sophomore year is going to be the best for Vladimir Tod; the bullies that had beaten him up over the years seem to have moved on to other targets and the girl of his dreams is now his girlfriend. However, the year still sucks; Henry, Vlad’s best friend, is becoming distant and Vlad fears it could lead to the end of their friendship, his thirst for blood is at an all time high and he fears he might harm those close to him, a classmate is on the verge of exposing his secret, he has vivid nightmares of being tortured, and he is unable to communicate telepathically with his Uncle for extended periods. Add to that the possibility that Vlad could be the Pravus of vampire legend and that an evil vampire from Vlad’s past is searching for a ritual that could steal Vlad’s powers or kill him in the process, sophomore year looks to be as sucky as the rest. The plot begins to darken with this installment with an ending that shows changes are going to be made in the last two installments of the series.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ninth Grade Slays
By Heather Brewer
Series: Second in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Warning: Review may contain minor spoilers for Eighth Grade Bites

Although starting his first year of high school, Vladimir’s freshmen year still sucks. Bullies continue to use him as a punching bag, he feels the girl of his dreams was unsatisfied with the way their date at last year’s Freedom Fest ended, and a classmate is on the verge of exposing his half-vampire secret. If that was not enough, Vlad’s best friend Henry’s popularity soars due to his position on the student council, leaving Vlad to hang with Henry’s newly arrived cousin Joss. Plus, Vlad hears that there is a vampire slayer stalking him. But with a surprise winter break trip to Siberia with Uncle Otis, Vlad begins to develop his mind-control and telepathy skills and learns a little about his vampire heritage that might be connected to his own destiny. Readers who enjoyed Eight Grade Bites will devour this second book. Brewer reveals more of Vlad’s vampire world and what it might mean to Vlad’s future. Several plot twists keep the reader turning the pages and eager for the next installment to the series when they reach the end.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eighth Grade Bites
By Heather Brewer
Series: First in The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Eighth grade is tough for Vladimir Tod. He is picked on by bullies, the girl he likes seems to prefer his best, and only, friend, and his parents have both died three years ago which he is still trying to deal with. Oh, yeah, and Vlad also has a secret; while his mother was mortal, his father was a vampire. So, along with his school life, half-vampire Vlad has to additionally deal with his enlarged fangs, his blood cravings (luckily his guardian is a nurse who “steals” about the be spoiled blood from the hospital and “prepares” the blood in various ways), learning the extent of his abilities, and no one to teach him. When Vlad’s favorite teacher turns up missing the substitute is more interested with Vlad then the other students. When Vlad feels his cover on his secret life is about to be blown, he discovers there is a vampire hunter after him. What is an eighth grade vampire to do? Brewer’s debut novel is a real treat for any vampire fan. The simple writing style should appeal to a junior high / middle school audience though may turn away older teens and adults who still enjoy reading young adult novels unless these older readers enjoy vampire stories, in which case it is a quick, enjoyable read. In a way, the first book of the series feels more like a prologue for what is to come, which wets the readers’ appetite for Vladimir’s ninth grade year.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Lightning Thief
By Rick Riordan
Media Tie-In Cover
Series: First in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series

Percy Jackson finds himself in a heap of trouble when he is expelled from boarding school… again. Not only are Greek gods and creatures coming out of his mythology textbook and into his life, but he seems to have angered some of them. Percy soon learns that Zeus’s master lightning bolt has been stolen and he is the prime suspect. Now, Percy and his friends have ten days to find the true thief and return Zeus’s stolen property before war breaks out between the gods and Percy must come to terms with the father who abandoned him and is now coming back into his life in a big way. While this reader found the beginning a bit slow to get into, he kept with it and was completely hooked into the story and characters by the second/third chapter. While some of the chapter titles can spoil or give too much away about what happens in the chapter, the reader will enjoy the surprises of who, or what, the next mythological creature or god will be the characters meet or run into. Many of the storylines are concluded by the end of the story though the author does introduce some twists at the end that will leave the reader ready for the next book in the series. Fans of Greek mythology should enjoy seeing favorite mythological gods and creatures in a contemporary setting.