Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dirty Little Secrets

Dirty Little SecretsDirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu 
Walker & Company, 2010
212 pages
5 out of 5

From the outside, Lucy's home looks normal.  Inside the front door is where the secrets begin.  Towering piles of magazines.  Bags of junk flooding every inch of open space.  The rotting smell permeating the air.  This is what she's kept from everyone--that her mother's compulsive hoarding has reduced their lives to garbage...literally.

With just two years until graduation, Lucy finally feels like a normal life is within her grasp.  Her new best friend, Kaylie, and her longtime crush, Josh, make a future seem almost possible.

The one morning Lucy comes home to find something she never expected, something that will change her life forever.  And she must ask herself--how far can she go to protect her family's secret?


This is currently the only title* that covers the topic of compulsive hoarding.  This topic has increasingly been brought to the forefront with various TV shows literally airing out the dirty laundry of compulsive hoarders.  The kids in these instances are affected by it, and although emotions are touched on, the problems usually focused on are health related and/or the threat of losing the children if the mess is not cleaned up.

Lucy's story is a different dynamic.  She has been taught to live with while still being ashamed of her mother's secret.  She fears the day that someone sees into the house and realizes the awful conditions in which she lives.  She fears that day that the stink she's become accustomed to follows her to school and someone notices.  I felt incredibly sad for Lucy.  The only day she looks forward to is high school graduation, when she can just leave the mess behind like her older siblings.

Kaylie and Josh are excellent additions to the story.  Kaylie stands by her side even though Lucy never asks her to spend the night and inexplicably and often bails out on plans.  Josh and Lucy finally get some time to get to know each other, and Josh's candor about his own mother's affliction seems like it should be eye-opening for Lucy.  You just want her to realize that she is not responsible for or defined by her mother's compulsive behavior.

But she can't.  And so she must find a way to keep the secret forever. 

This is a truly wonderful book.  I love that a well-written, emotional title on this topic exists. I highly recommend it.

*At least not that I could find in my library or with WorldCat.

Disclosure: I borrowed this title from my local library.  I'll be posting a modified version of this review to my library's website.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tween Tuesday: The Rendering

The RenderingThe Rendering by Joel Naftali 
Egmont, USA, 2011
288 pages
4 out of 5

One mad scientist + one evil mercenary vs. two kids + three skunks = nonstop adventure

Doug Soloman was a normal kid.  But that ended once he became wanted for murder.  Now he's being hunted by VIRUS--an evil organization bent on world domination.

Only Doug and his friend Jamie stand between mad scientist Dr. Roach and VIRUS's success--well, them and three superpowerful skunks.

The Rending is a wild technological adventure that pushes the limits of reality with out-of-this-world gadgets and fun.

It was after I finished reading the book that I realized that is a skunk on the cover.  Brilliant.  Who in their right mind would think "I need an animal to turn into a superpowerful being.  A skunk! Perfect."  Apparently, Joel Nafatali would and it's awesome.

This science fiction novel is heavy on the tech speak, but it's not exclusionary if you don't know your way around.  The tech savvy characters discuss it in tech talk, then break down for the lay person, otherwise known as the main character.   And it's all done in a way that is not condescending to the character or the reader.

Doug's story is told in the form of a blog.  Since is a techie novel and the reader meets Doug after everything has already happened, this medium makes sense.  Some "posts" end abruptly for  various reasons, which I had a little bit of a hard time with because blogs are not in real time.  But this can be easily overlooked.

I love that these characters have real names: Doug and Jamie.*

This book is great.  It's got adventure.  It's got a loving (if not odd) family: Doug and Jamie are like brother and sister (no romance here!), there's Auntie M, and the Skunks (two male and one female) who are like surrogate parents to Doug.

The story is fresh and entertaining.  Wonderful debut.

Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sarah at GreenBeanTeenQueen.  The purpose is "to highlight great reads for tweens!" 
Disclosure: I purchased this title for review and my own enjoyment.

*This may sound strange, but I have a pet peeve about characters (and children) given an odd name for the sake of having an odd name.  This is in no way relevant, but it was in my notes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse)Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
177 pages
3.5 out of 5

"Thou art the Black Rider. 
Go thee out unto the world."

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she's been appointed Famine.  How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home--her constant battle with hunger and the struggle to hide it from the people who care about her.  But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life and to face the horrifying effects of her awesome new power.  Can Lisa find a way to harness that power--and the courage to fight her own inner demons?

The approach to the topic is interesting and turns a problem novel into a fantasy novel.  It's a great technique that makes the issue of anorexia manageable. 

Even if a reader has no experience with an eating disorder they can relate to this novel because of Lisa's "thin voice."  It's safe to say that everyone has a voice. It could be a thin voice, the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the voice that says the truthful answer when we speak the lie.  In every case, the voice is there.

There are other issues sprinkled in the novel as well.  Lisa's relationships with her mother and father are sketchy as well as the relationship with her boyfriend. 

The tense occasionally felt off and I found myself rereading passages in a few places.  Third person can be tricky (as I've experienced in my own writing).

I tried to read this shortly after it came out, but wasn't able to get very far.  I'm very glad I gave it another try.  Great title.  I'm looking forward to Rage.


Disclosure: I borrowed this title from my local library.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tween Tuesday: Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2011
240 pages
3 out of 5

Ronald "Cheesie" Mack is not a genius or anything, but he remembers everything that happened before, during, and after fifth-grade graduation, and he's written it all down in his own unique and hilarious way--with lots of lists, drawings, and splenderful (that's splendid plus wonderful!) made-up words.

Cheesie--with a little help from Steve Cotlet--writes about family, friendship, and tough choices in an unforgettable voice that will have kids laughing out loud.  Readers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid will love both the clever humor and the black-and-white-illustrations throughout. (Description from Amazon).

Overall this book is quite enjoyable with a nice, easily wrapped up story featuring the shenanigans of eleven-year-old boys.

Cheesie's voice is honest and does feel kid-like, but it also comes across as a little know-it-allish.  Though this can be an accurate depiction of eleven-year-old boys, the inclusion of vocabulary words immediately followed by their definitions just felt condescending (perhaps this is just me knowing all the big words already), but it was not my favorite approach.

My major pet peeve was the constant mention of the website.  It seemed that every few pages the words "visit my website" appeared together.  I understand the importance (and need) to promote the book and the character (especially in the instance of a series), but I made audible annoyed sounds every time I read those words.  My suggestion might be to include a symbol or some other easily-scanned-over-if-I'm-not-interested-in-sharing-something-related-to-this at the end of appropriate sentences and keep the "Visit" section at the end as a final reminder.

Even with my dislikes, I did enjoy the book and I'm happy to see that it's being ordered for my library.  The next time someone asks for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and it is inevitably checked out, I have another back-up to suggest.

Out today!

Disclosure: This review is from the ARC pilfered from the orphan ARC shelf at work.  (As in a colleague received it and placed it there for others to enjoy.)  Also the ARC edition does not include final illustrations, so I cannot make comments about them.  If they are anything like the book, I'm sure they will be entertaining.

Tween Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sarah at GreenBeanTeenQueen.  The purpose is "to highlight great reads for tweens!"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (13)

IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme to share titles borrowed, bought, scavenged, traded and won.


The Replacement

 The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (ebook)


SmileDangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat BooksThe Squire's Tale (The Squire's Tales)

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block
The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris

All the Lovely Bad OnesThe Body of Christopher Creed

All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn


How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien GirlfriendfamilyInside Out and Back Again

Family by Micol Ostow
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai*

*2011 Debut Novels!

As you can see, I'm not doing so well at not adding to my pile of unread books.  Tomorrow I'll have an update on my personal challenge.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Hate List

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009 (Pbk. 2010)
408 pages
4 out of 5

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria.  Shot trying to stop him, Valeria inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create.  A list of people and things she and Nick hated.  The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year.  Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.  (Description from Amazon)

Intense.  That is the best word I can think of to describe this book.  The book begins with Valerie's first day back to school after the shooting.  She is still recovering, awkward, and afraid of her classmates reaction to her return.  The rest of the story is told through Valerie's flashbacks and newspaper reports.   

This book features a topic that I find terrifying.  I was in middle school when Columbine happened and lived a bit of history as I experienced changes in policies and school safety as a result.  I can't say that I was or was not worried about it actually happening, but I remember it leaving people keyed up on the subject.  Those feelings returned as I was reading this book.

I felt sorry for Valerie.  She found herself caught up in a scheme planned and executed by the person she loved; the person she thought understood her best in the world.  Valerie's journey is a slow one, but also interesting.  Ultimately, this book is about learning to live again.

There were parts of the story that I feel could have been fleshed out more: Be, the lover of all things purple, and Nick's weird older friend, for example.  Everyone came down on Valerie, but it seems no one asked questions about that guy.

All in all though, I think this topic was handled quite well.

Monday, March 14, 2011

In My Mailbox (12)

IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  It's a weekly meme to share titles borrowed, bought, scavenged, traded and won.


 The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition


Radiance: A Riley Bloom BookKnife Music: A Novel

Radiance by Alyson Noel (ebook)
Knife Music by David Carnoy (ebook)

The Loser ListCheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or AnythingDivergent
The Loser List by Holly Kowitt
Divergent by Veronica  Roth

*from the arc shelf at work