Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sunrise Over Fallujah

Sunrise Over FallujahSunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers
New York, NY: Scholastic Press, 2008
320 pages
3.5 out of 5

Robin "Birdy" Perry, a new army recruit from Harlem, isn't quite sure why he joined the army, but he's sure where he's head: Iraq. Birdy and the others in the Civilian Affairs Battalion are supposed to help secure and stabilize the country and successfully interact with the Iraqi people. Officially, the code name for their maneuvers if Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the young men and women in the CA unit have a simpler name for it:


This was one of our Battle of the Books selections this year and work is one of the few things that could get me to pick this one up. Don't get me wrong, Walter Dean Myers is an excellent author who should be read, but war stories in general are not for me.

It is as realistic at they come. The dread, fear, and hope reduced to sadness are all palpable. There were times when I had to set the book aside due to the images I was conjuring up. (Having loved ones who are in the military and have been shipped out doesn't help matters).

The emotion most conveyed is that of confusion as the enemy is hard to spot and the rules have a tendency to change--even in the middle of combat. The most surprising aspect of this is that it's not overly bloody; though that's not to imply that it isn't violent. Much of the violence is discussed after the fact, or by a third party, or it happens very quickly. There is one major moment of violence that serves to punctuate the issues that arise throughout the novel.

The writing is well done and I do like the characters, but the subject matter is not what I typically gravitate to. I am glad I read it, and I think if others are not too put off by the subject matter, they will enjoy it.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local library.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend

New York: Dial Books, 2010
272 pages
3.5 out of 5

For months Cass had heard her best friend, Julia, whisper about a secret project.  When Julia dies in a car accident, her drama friends decided to bring the project--a musical called Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad-- to fruition.  But Cass isn't a drama person.  She can't take a summer of painting sets, and she won't spend long hours with Heather, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school and has somehow landed the leading role.  So Cass takes off.  In alternating chapters, she spends her first part of summer on a cross-country bike trip and the rest swallowing her pride, making props, and--of all things--falling for Heather.

This is a story of the breadth of love.  Of the depth of friendship. And of the most hilarious musical one quiet suburb has ever seen. (Description from Amazon).

I can't say that I know what I was expecting when it came to this novel, but I know it's not what it ended up being about. What's better though, is that I mean that in a good way.

The novel is told completely from Cass's point of view, but at different times in her life. It flits between the summer where she comes to grips with losing Julia and "the present" school year where she once again comes face-to-face with an old nemesis from middle school.  The switch was jarring a few times, primarily because I wanted to know more about what was happening and not take a trip down memory lane. Though the flashback chapters are important to understanding the relationship between Cass and Julia, I found them less interesting than the present events.

As the description mentions, Julia wrote a play called Totally Sweet Ninja Deathsquad. Whenever a phrase such as this pops in a book, I get a little worried. How hard is this trying? Well this one doesn't feel that way at all. The language is appropriate and natural. I can absolutely see Julia as the author of the play, and her friends as the ones who get it on stage.

This novel is an example of how things come about in unexpected ways. Friends prove themselves, opportunities present themselves, and love finds a way.

Disclosure: I borrowed this ebook from my local library.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In My Mailbox (22)

IMM is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.  The idea is to share books bought, borrowed, scavenged, traded and won.  For more information click here.


Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for SurvivalHere Comes Julie Jack

Here Comes Julie Jack by Ann Clare LeZotte*


The Book of Lost SoulsSecond Hand Heart

Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto
Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde


Football GeniusThe Magnificent 12: The Call

Football Genius by Tim Green
Magnificent 12: The Call by Michael Grant

*This one is a little younger than MG, but I wanted to mention it because it features a kid with a disability.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Home Again

Yes, I'm back. Thankfully I returned before the riots began in London, but I was certainly distressed to read about such sad things. Even so, I was sad to leave because my trip was absolutely wonderful.

Anyway, there were things to finish up for classes, and the difficult task of getting back into the swing of things to contend with, which is why I've been so quiet.

My London adventures kept me quite busy so I didn't get much reading done. I finished Frankenstein just before leaving and Songs for a Teenage Nomad shortly after returning. That being said my normal blogging schedule will start up again next week starting with IMM on Sunday. Thanks for your patience. 

If you want to find out more about my study abroad trip check out my travel blog:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Skyship Academy

I listed Skyship Academy with my Debut novels that I hope to read and now it has a new cover!  Doesn't it look fantastic?  

Debuts Sept. 8!

A devasted Earth's last hope is found in Pearls: small, mysteriious orbs that fall from space, and are capable of supplying enough energy to power entire cities. Battling to control the Pearls are the Skyship dwellers--political dissidents who live in massive ships in the Earth's statosphere--and the corrupt Surface government.

Jesse Fisher, a Skyship slacker, and Cassius Stevenson, a young Surface operative, cross paths when they both venture into forbidden territory in pursuit of Pearls. Their chance encounter triggers and unexpected reaction, endowing each boy with remarkable--and dangerous--abilities that their respective governments would stop at nothing to possess. Enemies thrust together with a common goal, Jesse and Cassius make their way to the ruin of Seattle to uncover the truth about their new powers, the past they didn't know they shared, and a shocking secret about the Pearls.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blog Hiatus

From Flickr: London, England by TJ Morris
This time next week I will be in London!!  I'm participating in a fantastic study abroad opportunity through Florida State University.  During my trip, I will not have time to post on the blog so there will be a hiatus from now until August.

I will, however, be keeping a travel blog. Please feel free to follow if you're interested. If not, I'll see you August! Have a wonderful summer!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dust City

Dust CityDust City by Robert Paul Weston 
New York: Razorbill, 2010
299 pages (digital edition)
4 out of 5

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?
His son, that's who.

Ever since his father's arrest for the murder of Little Red Riding Hood, teen wolf Henry Whelp has kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves...until a murder at the Home leads Henry to believe his father may have been framed.

Now, with the help of his kleptomaniac roommate, Jack, and a daring she-wolf named Fiona, Henry will have to venture deep into the heart of Dust City: a rundown, gritty metropolis where fairydust is craved by everyone-and controlled by a dangerous mob of Water Nixies and their crime boss leader, Skinner.

Can Henry solve the mystery of his family's sinister past? Or, like his father before him, is he destined for life as a big bad wolf? (Description from Amazon).

Henry brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "teen wolf."  He actually is a teenaged wolf, typically thought to be of the big and bad variety.  Residents of Dust City tend to recoil in fear when a wolf is nearby because they have terrible reputations.  It's worse for Henry because his dad is THE big bad wolf.

This is an interesting and entertaining tale with elements of mystery and suspense. Other fairy tale characters are also involved including, Cinderella, Snow White, Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, and others. The world presented here is one possibility of what it might be like if fairy tale characters were part of a real world.

But it also makes you think.  Though framed as a fractured fairy tale, I felt there was also a bit of social commentary.  The species were judged based on looks and the behaviors of earlier generations since the animal species had only evolved more recently to take on the characteristics of humanoids.  This specifically includes wolves, foxes, and ravens.  Also, the reason the city is called Dust city is based on the fairy dust trade. It can be purchased legally in refined forms meant for specific ailments, or in a purer form on the street.  These are just two elements of the novel that I felt parallel aspects of reality.

I enjoyed this book and was often disappointed to put it down.

Disclosure: I borrowed this ebook title from my local library.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Challenge Update

This year I've chosen to participate in three challenges, and now seems like a good time to evaluate how I'm doing.

The Catherine Ryan Hyde Challenge
The challenge is to read one, yes, just one book by Catherine Ryan Hyde. So far, I have not read that book. Looks like I need to make a trip to the bookstore.

The 2011 Debut Author Challenge
I thought I was doing pretty well with this one.  I feel like I type the word "debut" and tag posts 2011 DAC an awful lot.  And I do, but it's for IMM, not my reviews...oops. So far, I've read three debut novels. That just leaves nine to go. Luckily, I have ten debuts in my possession. I just need to get reading!

100+ Book Reading Challange
To do this one right, I should be around the halfway mark of fifty books. My last count has me with thirty-seven.  Hopefully catching up on the challenges above (and making good use of my over-abundance of travel time coming up) I'll get a bit closer to the halfway point. Even better, Shelfari might stop telling me that I'm behind my pace...whatever that means.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tween Tuesday: Gossip from the Girls' Room

Tween Tuesday is a meme hosted over at GreenBeanTeenQueen.  This meme highlights great books for tweens.

by Rose Cooper 
New York, NY: Delacourt Press
199 pages
4 out of 5

Gossip from the Girls' Room fills readers in on all there is to learn about middle school life at Middlebrooke, where Sofia has her very own blog and discusses all the juicy gossip that comes out of the Girls' room; read along to find out just what happens when class is not in session.

In Sofia's words...

Mia St. Claire is only the most popular girl in all of Middlebrooke Middle School.  For three very obvious reasons:
1. She's very rich.
2. She has ton of money.
3. She can buy anything and everything she wants. And she does.
I'm sure people like her for other reasons too, but none of those reasons are obvious enough for me to really know. Or care about, for that matter.

If books could mate, this book would be the love child of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Popularity Papers. It is formatted as Sofia Becker's pre-blogging notebook, where she keeps track of gossip she overhearss, her thoughts on that gossip, as well as updates on other happenings in her life and around the school. It also has cute little doodles that, much like DoWK, often finish a sentence.

I like the blogging element of this story, because you get to see what Sofia considers blogging about and what she actually ends up blogging. Choosing to reveal gossip can lead to trouble so it's interesting to see the decisions she makes in terms of letting something slip or keeping it to herself. Also, a book like this would not be complete without some kind of parental embarrassment. This element adds humor, and makes me glad that I am no longer in middle school.

To sum up, this is an enjoyable story that is a perfect read-a-like to other series listed above.

Disclosure: I borrowed this title from my local library.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In My Mailbox (20)

IMM is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.  The idea is to share books bought, borrowed, scavenged, traded and won.  For more information click here.


The Mostly True Story of Jack

That's all for this week.  A little light, but it sounds really interesting.  Also, it's a debut!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teenage Waistland

Teenage WaistlandTeenage Waistland by Lynn Biederman & Lisa Pazer
New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2010
317 pages
4 out of 5

"You all believe that losing one-hundred-plus pounds will solve everything, but it won't.  Something heavier is weighing on you, and until you deal with that, nothing in your lives will be right.  - Betsy Glass, PhD, at first weekly group counseling session for ten severely obese teens admitted into exclusive weight loss surgery trial

Patient #1: Female, age 16, 5'4", 288 lbs
- Thrust into size-zero suburban hell by remarried liposuctioned mom.  Hates new school and skinny boy-toy stepsister.
- Body size exceeded only by her mouth.

Patient #2: Male, age 15, 6'2", 335 lbs.
- All-star football player, but if he gets "girl surgery," as his dad calls it, he'll probably get benched.
- Has moobies - male boobies.  Forget about losing his V-card - he's never even been kissed.

Patient #3: Female, age 15, 5'6", 278 lbs.
- Mobidly obese and morbid, living alone with severely depressed mother who won't leave her bed.
- Best and only friend is another patient, whose dark secret threatens everything patient #3 believes about life

Told in the voices of patients Marcie Mandelbaum, Bobby Konopka, and Annie "East" Itou, Teenage Waistland is a story of betrayal, intervention, a life-altering operation, and a long-buried truth that proves far more devastating than the layers of fat that protect it.

This was an everything novel. Yes, the main focus is on four teens who have lap-band surgery in order to lose weight, but within the lives of those four teens, just about everything happens.  There's sibling rivalry, a parent living vicariously through his child, the big game, familial distance, and a terrible secret.  Describing it in a list like that makes it seem like it's the description for the next episode of some popular soap opera. The good news is that all of these issues fit the characters and the novel without it feeling like it's trying to do too much.

Multiple voices allow for this to not feel quite so overwhelming.  Marcie, Bobby, and East all take turns telling their portion of the story.  There is a fourth character, Char (short for Charlotte), who does not narrate, but is still an integral part of the story. Plus, the fact that all her information is rolled up with East's is a wonderful method for showing how closely the two have bonded and is a perfect set-up for what's to come.

The characters are interesting and dynamic without coming across as cliche. This is tough when you have the jock, the big mouth, the wild girl, and the shy girl.  Even the ancillary characters (like Marcie's perfect, modelesque step-sister) don't necessarily fit the mold you would expect.

I was sucked in to their stories and struggles. Some scenes made me laugh, some made me sad or angry, but mostly I just wanted to know what happened next.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this title from my local library.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dairy Queen

Dairy QueenDairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock 
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006
275 pages
4.5 out of 5

When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people.  But D.J. Schwenk can't help admitting to herself that maybe he's right.  Because it's obvious that no one is talking about why D.J's best friend, Amber isn't so friendly anymore.  Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens or his mouth.  Or why her mom has two jobs, or why her college-football-star brothers don't call home.  And certainly no one is talking about how D.J's Dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the football team.  There's definitely a lot not being said.  And that's not even mentioning the many reasons that Brian Nelson is out of D.J's league.

Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

I love D.J. She reminds me of me, minus the being tough and playing football part. Ok, so I guess she doesn't remind me of me at all, but I love that there's romance without it being super-duper girly and gushy all the time.

D.J. has more important things to deal with, like working the farm while her dad can't, getting in shape for football, & figuring out what is up with her best friend, instead of being all woozy over a boy.  She just does her thing and eventually it all comes together instead of her working ridiculously hard to make everything come together and then it all falling apart so that it can come together the "right" way.  (I think I just described every romance ever.)  Don't get me wrong, there are elements of that here, but it's a little different. At least, it felt different.

This was another of my audiobooks and I think  Natalie Moore* is one of my favorite narrators now.  She sounded very much like a Wisconsin teenager and also has a way with other character voices. I loved this book. It makes a great summer read. I'm just sad that we don't have the others in audio. 

*Apparently, I'm not the only one who likes her. There's a list on goodreads.

Full disclosure: I borrowed the audio version from my local library.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (20)

IMM is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.  The purpose is to share books bought, borrowed, scavenged, traded and won.  For more information click here.


The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book II: The Hidden Gallery The Pull of Gravity

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner*


The Girl Who Could Fly

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester


Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book I Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading

Wildwood by Colin Meloy*

*2011 Debuts!