Tag Archives: genre:romance

Edna in the Desert Review

edna_in_the_desertEdna in the Desert by Maddy Lederman

eLectio Publishing, 2013. 978-0615884738

Synopsis: Edna’s parents are at their wit’s end. Their daughter is constantly in trouble at school and she needs a wake-up call, but no good solution has presented itself. As a last resort, Edna is sent to spend the summer with her grandparents in Desert Palms where she is cut off from her phone and her computer. Bitter and angry, Edna is about to give up when she meets Johnny. Will her time in the desert cure her rebellious streak or will it create even more of a mess?

Why I picked it up: The author emailed me about reviewing the book and I loved the premise, so I agreed.

Why I finished it: My interest is always piqued when I hear about a story in which those of us obsessed with technology are forced to do without it. I can’t say I’m not guilty of hiding behind my cell phone just walking out on the street or even in social situations, but I’m trying to get better at this whole interacting-with-others bit. In this way, I’m no different from Edna. I’m always in a place where I am surrounded by signals that allow me to communicate via text or to look something up on the internet. But when she’s confronted with a situation in which she can’t use her usual methods of getting out, Edna is forced to find a different solution to her problem with what is available to her: a paper phone book and a rotary phone. While she is initially resistant (to put it mildly) to spending the summer with her grandparents, her acquaintance and budding romance with Johnny seems to help alleviate her boredom. She also becomes invested in getting to know her Grandma and Grandpa, the latter of whom is suffering from PTSD and rarely leaves the house. Lederman’s writing draws in the reader and as we go on this summer journey with Edna, we find ourselves just as changed as the protagonist. We learn to recognize Edna’s self-absorbed behavior as our own and it makes us think about what we could change to get us to be more in touch with the important people in our lives. Edna and the reader are forced to consider the consequences of our actions, to learn how to love much more fully and live a life that is richer. It’s a coming of age story that asks the reader hard questions without forcing an immediate answer. While the ending is somewhat bittersweet, we, like Edna, will have made a more positive change that we will be able to carry with us into the real world.

Other related materials: Salvaged by Stefne Miller; Rise by Stefne Miller; Collision by Stefne Miller; In Front of God and Everybody: Confessions of April Grace by KD McCrite; Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor; Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words by Rachel Coker; All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven; Paper Towns by John Green; Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver; It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini; We Were Liars by E. Lockhart; I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson; Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

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Divergent Review

Divergent_16Divergent by Veronica Roth

Katherine Tegen Books, 2011. 978-0-06-202402-2

Synopsis: The post-apocalyptic city of Chicago has been divided into five factions: Abegnation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). At sixteen, young adults are tested to determine which faction they will call their own. Beatrice Prior already knows that she will have a difficult time with her decision, but when her test results come back inconclusive, she will have to make the choice on her own. At the Choosing Ceremony, she chooses Dauntless, making the decision to leave her family and make a new life for herself. Renaming herself Tris, she begins her initiation training and begins to uncover a plan that could send their entire society into chaos.

Why I picked it up: The movie comes out on Friday and I decided I had probably read it before I saw the movie.

Why I finished it: It started out a little bit slow for my taste, but it picked up the more I got into the story. Roth has created for the reader a dystopian society that is reminiscent of We, The Giver, and 1984: the notion that though the government has been designed to keep peace, it is in fact creating dissonance in society, showing that not all of the people are equals (which was one of the reasons for the Communist movement in Russia). But aside from the history lesson that we could get from this book from a deeper read, we have teenagers that are forced to make decisions about themselves and the kind of people they will become. None of Beatrice’s inner conflicts are foreign to the reader, and the feelings of being too small, believing that the wrong choice has been made, and the desire to find a place in the world transcend age and gender. Tris, as she calls herself after she switches from Abegnation to Dauntless, may seem like a small character, but she grows more determined and more brave as the events of the plot take their course. Like many modern teenagers, she has to learn hard lessons about her peers, about her mentors, about love, and about the world as a whole. She spends a fair amount of time doubting herself, but it is her stubbornness and her inherent selflessness (a trait from which she tries to distance herself) that gives her the fuel she needs to keep going, to keep fighting. My one qualm with the book is that Roth spends quite some time describing the movements of the characters to the point where it detracts from the dialogue in some places; in the little intimate moments, I don’t care whether their hands are on each other’s waists or running their fingers through hair while the other has their hands on their hips, I just care whether they’re going to embrace/makeout/whatever. Teenagers have wandering hands, we get it. But overall, this is a strong debut novel with a message that we are in charge of our own transformations, that despite feeling out of control, we do have a say in our own future.

Other related materials: Divergent (movie); Insurgent by Veronica Roth; Allegiant by Veronica Roth; The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins; The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau; Independent Study (The Testing, Book 2) by Joelle Charbonneau; Graduation Day (The Testing, Book 3) by Joelle Charbonneau; Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner; Matched books by Allie Condie; The Giver by Lois Lowry; Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry;  Feed by M.T. Anderson; Gone by Michael Grant; Uwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman The Mind Readers series by Lori Brighton; Life As We Knew It series by Susan Beth Pfeffer; The Selection books by Kiera Cass; Under the Never Sky books by Veronica Rossi

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The Tale of Despereaux Review

the_tale_of_desperauxThe Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering

Candlewick Press, 2003. 978-0763617226.

Winner of the 2004 John Newbery Medal

Synopsis: Despereaux Tilling is not an ordinary mouse. Not only is he smaller than a normal mouse and has larger ears than a normal mouse, but he taught himself how to read, he doesn’t like to scurry around the castle, and he is in love with a princess named Pea. Roscuro is no ordinary rat. True, he does live in a dungeon as most rats in the kingdom do, but he has long held a fascination with the light and the world above the dungeons. Miggery Sow is a girl who has a secret wish, a wish to be a princess and live in a castle with servants and ladies in waiting, without people that will hit her on the ear. How do all of these characters fit into each others lives? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Why I picked it up: I’ve heard conflicting reviews from friends and classmates – some loved it, others not so much – so I thought I would read it for myself.

Why I finished it: DiCamillo’s book has a number of things going for it: she is a talented author that has crafted a tale of an unlikely hero, but something about the story lacks substance and while I did finish the book, I didn’t feel particularly attached to the characters or engaged in the plot. Not much is done to develop the characters beyond what makes them stand out. We know that Despereaux has large ears, loves music, behaves in a most un-mousely like manner, has a plethora of brothers and sisters, but even his oddities weren’t enough for me to root for him – but that might also have been because I knew how it ended the whole time. Roscuro is portrayed as slippery and conniving, obsessed with his plot for revenge, but it merely came off as a sort of cookie-cutter villain that is struggling with his own morals. And while Miggery Sow has a role to play in the story, I found her, well, boring. Pea is arguably the least fleshed out: she’s a princess with a love for music and whose mother died when a rat fell in her soup…and that’s about it.  I wanted this to be so much more than a book about the sort of casual acquaintances one could make in an office and it could have been. DiCamillo infuses the plot with a lot of heart and humor, creating a delightful soup of forgiveness, love, and redemption, but it was missing the flavor I have come to expect from her storytelling.

Other related materials: The Tale of Desperaux (movie), Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo; Lousie, the Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo;  The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo;  The Borrowers by Mary Norton;  The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien; The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary; Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary; Stuart Little by E.B. White; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

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Boy Meets Boy review

 Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 978-0375832994

Synopsis: Paul has a great life, great friends, and everything is about to get better now that he’s met Noah. Noah is the most perfect boy and he makes Paul feel like he can walk on air. Then things start to fall apart: his best friend Joni stops talking to him, his ex-boyfriend Kyle won’t leave him alone, his friend Tony has been banned from talking to him, and the school bookie isn’t giving his relationship with Paul good odds. Paul needs to find a way to show Noah he loves him before things get worse and he risks losing Noah forever.

Why I picked it up: It’s been on my ‘to read’ list for a while and it came highly recommended to me by my library school classmates.

Why I finished it: I love, love, love the simplicity of this love story and the complexity of the characters. There is a sense of perfection in that everyone in the book is openly accepting of homosexuality, and yet there is a struggle between the characters to know who they are and what they want. The relationships are realistic and it reminds the reader of how they felt about their first real love: the nervousness, the desire just to be close to them, and know everything about them comes across very well. Levithan has created a set of characters to whom the reader can relate, whether they are straight or gay. I also loved the quirkiness of the community: the cheerleaders riding Harleys, the DJ nights in a local bookstore, the Dowager Dance in which a high school senior must dance with the portrait of a dead woman. It’s a story that makes you remember your first love, the awkwardness of high school, and just makes you smile.

Other related materials: How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan; The Lover’s Dictionary: A Novel by David Levithan; The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan; Every You, Every Me by David Levithan;  Hero by Perry Moore; Geography Club by Brent Hartinger; Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez; Rainbow Road by Alex Sanchez; So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez; Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

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What’s On: House of Anubis

House of Anubis starring Alex Sawyer, Jade Ramsey, Nathalia Ramos, Tasie Dhanraj, Brad Kavanaugh, Bobby Lockwood, Ana Mulvoy-Ten, Francis Magee, and Eugene Simon.

Nickelodeon, Fridays at 7/6c

Synopsis: Anubis House is the home of nine students attending a British boarding school. When one of the students mysteriously disappears the same day an American girl named Nina moves into the house, the students begin to suspect foul play. A woman who lived in the house long ago tells Nina that the house has a strange past linked to Egyptian mythology and Nina decides to enlist the help of her fellow housemates in solving the mystery. The students form a group called “Sinuba” dedicated to solving the mystery of the house.

I have to admit, I came in at the end of this series, and was completely confused. But after watching the end of the second season, I went back and caught up, and now I am completely hooked! The show is a cross somewhere between a teen soap opera and a mystery, which by itself isn’t enough to keep me watching, but the characters have great charisma and the writing is smart. There is always going to be another facet of the mystery house and something else for Sinuba to uncover, I just have to hope that the mysteries and the clues do not start down the path toward ridiculousness combined with the numerous off-and-on relationships between the characters. House of Anubis also originated inBritain, and I’m a sucker for British TV shows. The show recently wrapped up its second season and the studio has announced a third season is in the works.

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Wings review

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

HarperTeen, 2009. 978-0-06-166803-6

Synopsis: Laurel has just moved to Crescent City and now attends the public high school after being homeschooled for most of her life. In biology class she meets David, a shy but handsome boy who helps Laurel with her homework. Laurel has never considered herself normal, but when she starts to sprout a flower out of her back, she knows there is something more to her own family history than she knows.

Why I picked it up: The woman I baby-sit for knows I liked teen books and let me borrow a copy to see what I thought of it after a conversation involving vampire myth.

Why I finished it: I knew there had to be a plot somewhere, and I finally found it, but I was over half-way through the story before it manifested itself. Billed as the first in a series, Pike has woven together an intriguing mythology with a heavy-breathing romance that didn’t entrance me quite as it was meant to. The first few chapters took me the better part of a week to get through, but I was finally rewarded with a much more interesting read the last quarter of the book in which we finally get to the point of the story. Not being a big fan of romance novels, I couldn’t really appreciate the budding romance between Laurel and David and then her confusion after meeting Tamani, who explains why she has a flower growing out of her back. It was just too…mushy for my taste, and for a while, I wanted to stop reading it but my curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to know what happened despite my grimacing at the gentle touches and tender embraces that are the hallmark of most romantic literature. Toward the end of the book, I felt like I should have been choosing a side – Team Tamani or Team David – and Pike isn’t giving any hints as to which boy Laurel will choose, but it’s a series, so I am willing to bet that we’ll find out. Personally, I hope she chooses the werewolf. An intriguing first novel, but not enough to make me read the rest of the series.

Other related materials: Spells by Aprilynne Pike; Illusions by Aprilynne Pike; Faeriewalker books by Jenna Black; Firelight novels by Sophie Jordan; Shadow Falls novels by C.C. Hunter; Entwined  by Heather Dixon; Nightshade books by Andrea Cremer; Fallen novels by Lauren Kate; Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini; Abandon by Meg Cabot; Hereafter by Tara Hudson; Wolves of Mercy Falls books by Maggie Stiefvater; Matched by Ally Condie; Crossed by Ally Condie; Hex Hall novels by Rachel Hawkins

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Feature Presentation: Geek Charming

Geek Charming Starring Sara Hyland, Matt Prokop, Sasha Pieterse, and Jordan Nichols

Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2011. Rated PG

Synopsis: Dylan Schoenfield (Hyland) is a selfish, snobby, popular 16-year-old who wants more than anything to be crowned Blossom Queen at her school’s spring formal. Josh Rosen(Prokop) is president of the school film club and wants to make a film for the local film festival that will win him a trip to Hollywood. Josh need a subject for his documentary for the film festival and Dylan needs a way to help her campaign for Blossom Queen, and after Josh rescues her purse from a mall fountain, the two make a deal. Dylan will be the subject of Josh’s film and he convinces her that it will help her win. After Dylan and Josh have a fight about her behavior, Josh second-guesses his topic choice until Dylan shows up at the screening for a science fiction movie. The two reconcile, and despite the fact that the two dislike each other, they begin to grow closer.

Based on a novel of the same name by Robin Palmer, this movie is part teen drama part romantic comedy. The plot, unfortunately, is largely formulaic: cute popular girl is forced to spend time with a boy who is way out of her league and eventually the two develop romantic feelings for each other. In the background, we have Dylan’s dad dating a woman whom she could care less for, Josh is living in a single parent household after his parent’s divorce, and some long abandoned friendships. Hyland (ABC’s Modern Family) makes a convincing popular girl that is gradually softened by Josh’s geeky nature, and had to laugh at the fact that she was channeling gossip girl characters with her diva-like attitude and apparent helplessness at being unable to do much besides shop without some help. Prokop brings a sort of naivety to his character that makes him both charming an endearing, though he seems to be socially awkward and well, pretty much the polar opposite of Dylan. It is a cute movie that is both touching and humorous that has more to it than just a popular girl fraternizing with a geek.

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