Thursday, January 27, 2011


Havoc (Malice)Havoc by Chris Wooding (illustrated by Dan Chernett) 
Scholastic Press, 2010
396 pages
3.5 out of 5

There's no going back.

Everyone knows the rumors -- if you gather the right things and say the right words, you'll be taken to Malice, a world that exists within a terrifying comic book.

Seth managed to escape from Malice, but it meant leaving his best friend, Kady, trapped there.  And he's not sure whether he should try to take down the Malice comic from his own world or go back with an artifact he thinks can help from within.  He is sure that he's desperate to save Kady.

Meanwhile, Kady has her own battles to fight. She's trying to find Havoc, a rebel group of kids who want to fight Tall Jake, Malice's cruel overlord.  But she can't help feeling that someone's watching her and that Tall Jake knows what her plans are before she puts them into action.

Malice is spreading.  Tall Jake is gaining influence on the world outside the comic.  Seth and Kady think that if they gather the right objects and find the right people, they'll be able to defeat Tall Jake once and for all.  The only question

I was super-excited to read this title and called dibs on it before it even made it to the shelf (just one benefit of working at the library).

Overall, I love the way this book works.  The majority is text with section of comic mixed in.  It's a really interesting idea and it works quite well for this story.  It also picks up right where it left off in the first one.  I like it when this happens.  Sometimes it's hard to play catch up.

I'm sad to report that I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first one.  Elements of the story were fun and interesting, and there's some real imagination behind Malice.  The ending, however, fell a bit flat for me.  Things do get resolved, but still there's a nagging feeling that the story ended a little prematurely.  (For some reason, I thought this was supposed to be a trilogy; maybe that's why I feel a little gypped).

During the big battle, there's a line that seems really out of place.  I won't reveal it because it's the big monster, but damn did it seem like I slipped into Dungeons and Dragons for a minute.  Anyway, the rest of the story and dialogue fall in line with the first.  Kady, Justin, and Seth were exactly as I remember them.  It does get a little heavier on the romance and can get a little too saccharine for my taste, but it's not too overdone. 

I am glad I read it, and I did enjoy it.  I just wish there was a bit more to it.  Not necessarily this novel, but perhaps the ending could have been delayed for one more.  I think it would have helped the story feel complete.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story

Houghton Mifflin, 2002
86 pages
2.5 out of 5

Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head.  Phineas, a railroad construction foreman, was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain.  Miraculously, he survived to live another eleven years and become a textbook case in brain science.  At the time, Phineas Gage seemed to completely recover from his accident.  He could walk, talk, work, and travel, but he was changed.  Gage "was no longer Gage," said his Vermont doctor, meaning that the old Phineas was dependable and well liked.  The new Phineas was crude and unpredictable.  His case astonished doctors in his day, and still fascinates doctors today.  What happened and what didn't happen inside the brain of Phineas Gage will tell you a lot about how your brain works and how you act human.

Phineas Gage is an interesting subject, but this title left me generally unimpressed.  It is classified as a biography, and though it does follow Phineas Gage from his accident until his death, the amount of information about the brain in general makes it feel like it could be categorized elsewhere.  It reminded me of true crime novels where the killer was never found or didn't confess to everything.

Early in the book, there was a long parenthetical didactic moment stressing the importance of wearing a helmet when engaging in certain activities.  Don't get me wrong, this is an important thing to know, but didn't seem to fit with the book (and it was the only inclusion of this type).

Another odd element was the continued use of a quotation marks.  Every word that could be deemed new vocabulary was surrounded by the little guys.  It seemed they were used as "emphasis," but it made for some "very" annoying reading at times. 

The book is written in a conversational tone, which is nice.   It was set up so that there was case study information and then would shift to the science side of it.  It's almost like reading an episode of Bill Nye or another science-y show.

Best description ever: The iron rod was like "a rocket through his brain."


I borrowed this title from my local library.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox (IMM) is hosted by Kristi, the Story Siren.  Click for more information.


Moon Over ManifestI am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President 

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I want to Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb (e-book)


 Hexbound (Dark Elite, Book 2)If I StaySleeper Code (Part 1 in the Sleeper Conspiracy)

Hexbound by Chloe Neill 
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Sleeper Code (Sleeper Conspiracy Part 1) by Tom Sniegoski

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Off Topic: Inside Out

Inside Out (Harlequin Teen)Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder 
Harlequin Teen, 2010
384 pages
4.5 out of 5

Keep Your Head Down.

Don't Get Noticed.

Or Else.

I'm Trella.  I'm a scrub.  A nobody.  One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers.  I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops.  So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels?  The only neck at risk is my own...until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution.

I really enjoyed this book.  I don't need to tell anyone how popular (or perhaps pervasive is a more appropriate word) YA dystopia is right now.  But this one really gets it right.

Trella is a wonderfully strong character, both in body and spirit.  Before she gets swept up in Broken Man's scheme, she tends to go it alone, except for her best friend, Cog.  But what's so magnificent about Trella is that when her world is turned upside down, she realizes that she can't do everything alone.  And not in a whiny girl way either, but a mature, "wow! this is bigger than me" kind of way.

One problem I encountered was the measurement of time.  There's all this talk of centiweeks and what-have-you.  It's all explained early on, but it didn't completely make sense to me.  I probably should have read it again, but by the time I realized it was confusing, I was a ways away from the explanation.  Not being able to determine exactly how old a character is did not diminish my reading experience.  But that section might be worth a second look.

Now the best part, I can't explain, but absolutely love.  The novel manages to complete the story while setting it up for the sequel as well.  Off the top of my head, I can't think of another example of this, except maybe TV shows.  I love this.  If I never get my hands on the sequel, I could still feel this story is complete.  (Of course, I'm absolutely reading the next one!)

So, yes, I like this one.  I like this one a lot.  And even though it has a female main character, there's plenty of action.  There's also a dash of romance, but that can be overlooked if you don't like kissing books.* 

*Of course by "kissing book" I'm referencing The Princess Bride.

I borrowed a digital edition of this book from my local library.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine

Carolhoda Books, Inc, 2005
112 pages
4 out of 5

For more than one hundred years, a submarine lay buried beneath the ocean floor near Charleston, South Carolina.  This Civil War stealth weapon--the H. L. Hunley--made history in 1864 as the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship.  But something went wrong during that daring mission.  The Hunley never returned to port.

Despite decades of searching, the Hunley remained unfound, hidden by murky water and layers of mud.  In 1995 her story took a startling turn.  As she had during the Civil War, the Hunley once again made newspaper headlines.  How the submarine came to be on the ocean floor, how she came to leave it, and what happened next make up one of the most compelling stories in the history of archaeology and the history of the Civil War--an amazing tale of bravery, mystery, bones, and gold.

 This book focuses on the H.L. Hunley and its role in the Civil war.  The Hunley was tapped for the mission of breaking the Union Blockade in Charleston Harbor.  Although the submarine was cutting edge technology of the day, accidents plagued the submarine.  During tests of the Hunley in Mobil Bay, she sank twice killing her crew.  Even so, she was resurrected and returned to active duty.  Her final mission was a success, but the Hunley was not seen again for over a hundred years.

 One of my favorite elements of this book is that is inclused a forensic chapter on the crew.  Using many of the forensic techniques employed by law enforcement, the team working on the Hunley was able to identify each crew member.  They took it further, however, and used the skulls to create replicas of the men's faces.  It's amazing to see the final crew of the Hunley.

This book is great for history buffs, submarine enthusiasts or anyone interested in archaeology.  It details the raising of the Hunley, the excavation process, and the mystery surrounding her sinking.This book is divided into two sections: the building of the Hunley and the events of the 1860s and the events following the Hunley's successful mission and subsequent disappearance.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Black Book: Diary of a Teenage Stud, Vol. I

HarperTeen, 2001
240 pages
3.5 out of 5

"Not since American Pie has there been a more honest portrayal of the American teenage boy and his desires." -- Honor Elspeth "Honey" Black

"Fantasy and reality are all the same to Jonah Black.  Freud would have had a field day."  -- Dr. Leonard Larue, Ph.D.

"And all this time I thought Jonah didn't even like girls.  The man's a Casanova!" -- Thorne Wood

"Jonah Black has no idea what a stud he really is."  -- Posie Hoff

Volume I details Jonah's crash-and-burn reentry into the high school society and family he left behind two years before.

Seventeen year old Jonah is returning to his home town in Palm Beach Florida after two years at a private school in Pennsylvania.  Jonah was expelled from Masthead Academy, but won't reveal the reason to his friends.  He simply lets them believe the rumors going around; none of which seem to be true.  But coming home creates more problems for Jonah and his senior year is not what he expected.

Writing is one of his favorite past times and he has a tendency to lose himself in his work.  The novel is structured as a diary, with the chapters delineated by the date and time if he writes more than once in a day.  Occasionally, Jonah's writing turns from real life to that of fantasy.  One moment he'll be writing about being stuck in class and then drift to a story where the teacher body-slams him for not paying attention.

This novel was a little confusing with the way daydreams and reality merge and intertwine, especially in the beginning.  The daydreams ebb and flow throughout the novel and although it is very obvious when he is daydreaming, Jonah strikes me as an unreliable narrator.  I can't help but wonder if he's telling the truth about seemingly "normal" activities.

I often found myself furrowing my eyebrows during Jonah's and his sister's (Honey) conversations.  At times they feel like typical brother/sister interactions, but at other times it feels a little strange.  Usually I was thinking, "I would never have a conversation like that with my brother."  But I do like the various names she calls him; though strange, they are endearing.

Jonah's voice occasionally strikes me as odd because some of his fantasies seem more appropriate for a bodice-ripper novel instead of the sexual fantasies of a seventeen year old boy.  The other characters fit the bill of typical high schoolers, but manage to do so without falling flat.  Each has his or her own distinct personality.

Overall, I did like this novel.  I know I've been a little nit-picky, but it was a fun read.  I think I'm going to hunt down the sequel.

*Title is currently out of print (oops); the link is to Shelfari.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Ugly Truth

Amulet Books, 2010
Middle Grade
217 pages
5 out of 5

Greg Heffley has always been in a hurry to grow up.  But is getting holder really all it's cracked up to be?

Greg suddenly finds himself dealing with the pressures of boy-girl parties, increased responsibilities, and even the awkward changes that come with getting older--all without his best friend, Rowley, at his side.  Can Greg make it through on his own?  Or will he have to face the "ugly truth?"

In this fifth installment of the wildly popular series, Greg is confronted with school life without his best friend (or any friend at all, it seems).  In the midst of struggling to find a new best friend, he's being exposed to the world of hormones and bodily changes.

Greg doesn't take the information seriously.  And why should he? He gets the typical biology lesson at school and Grandma's talk about enjoying your youth before getting bunions.  Growing up is confusing, and the adults who try to explain it just confuse Greg even more.

Greg's voice remains true and fans of the series will certainly enjoy this latest installment.  Kinney takes on the topic of puberty and growing older in a way that readers will be able to connect with.  This book does a great job at keeping up the humorous look at pre-teen life while also hinting to the bumpy road ahead.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Debut Author Challenge

It's time to sign-up for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.  Hopefully since I'm starting at the beginning of the year this time, I'll actually read at least twelve titles. This challenge is hosted by Kristi, The Story Siren.
If you would like to learn more or sign-up yourself go here.

 Below is my wish list.  It all depends on what I can get my hands on.  Some of the most popular 2010 books didn't show up at my library until the beginning of December. That doesn't mean I won't buy titles, but I'm already out of space (and paying for Grad School), so I do so sparingly these days. 

2011 Debut Titles Wish List: 
XVI by Julia Karr
The Rendering by  Joel Naftali
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen
The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander
I Am J by Cris Beam
Unlocked by Ryan G. Van Cleave
Department 19 by Will Hill
The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless by Allan Woodrow
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald
Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey
Skyship Academy by Nick James
Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster

If I am incorrect about a title's debut status, please let me know.  Also feel free to offer suggestions!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Catherine Ryan Hyde Challenge!

Just an announcement that I am participating in the 2011 Catherine Ryan Hyde Challenge.  This challenge is hosted by Shooting Stars Mag (this link will take you to the challenge page).  It's an easier challenge than most: participants are to read at least one novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde with the option to read more.

At my library, we have a very long list of titles by this author, some of which are familiar--such as Pay it Forward and Diary of a Witness--while others are not.   I have not read any of her novels before, so it will be a treat to discover something new.