Friday, July 27, 2012

Vote for your favorite teen novels!

Young Adult Novels PollNPR is doing a poll of the top-100 best-ever teen novels, and a lot of Library Lady novels are featured on the list! There are 235 books listed, with a nice mix of classics (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird) and newer titles (i.e. Cinder and The Chemical Garden series). Make sure you vote so that NPR can create a list that represents everyone who loves teen lit! Check out the poll here. Happy reading (and voting!)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Every Other Day Book Review

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  EgmontUSA. ISBN: 9781606841693.

Annotation: Kali isn’t like other girls: every twenty-four hours she changes into a hunter with strength and speed who can kill supernatural creatures that pose a threat to humans. Kali doesn’t have any friends at school, but when she notices that popular girl Bethany has been marked for death by one of the creatures she hunts, Kali must try to save her life while keeping what she truly is a secret.
Personal thoughts: I was intrigued when I heard about this book, and after reading it, found that my interest was warranted. Jennifer Lynn Barnes has done a good job of creating something interesting and unique that also challenges the reader to think below the surface of the plot. Of course the story contains more fantastical things like chupacabras, hellhounds, dragons and basilisks, but they play second-fiddle to Kali trying to cope with her distant father, abandonment by her mother and her general loneliness. Many teens are certain to pick up on these bigger issues, while the supernatural elements of the book will appeal to a wide audience. I hope that the author decides to write a sequel because I think there is something really interesting in this story that could easily be expanded upon further.  
Plot summary: In Kali D’Angelo’s world, Darwin discovered preternatural creatures on his journey to the Galapagos Islands, and things like hellhounds, zombies, and basilisks are a normal, if unpleasant, part of everyday life. Kali’s mother left her and her father when she was three-years-old and since she was twelve, Kali has kept a secret from the rest of the world: every twenty-four hours, Kali transforms. One day, she is a normal teenage girl. The next, she is a hunter with superhuman speed and strength and a desire to track and kill the preternatural creatures that feed on humans. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but her dark side has left her angry, bitter and without any friends. Everything changes, however, when Kali accidentally spots a strange marking on popular girl Bethany at their high school. It appears that Bethany has been bitten by a chupacabra, a preternatural creature that infects and drains the life of its host. Although they’re not friends, Kali knows that she must save Bethany and find a way to kill the chupacabra. One major problem exists with Kali’s plan, however: she spots the mark when she is a normal human girl. How can Kali fight a deadly preternatural creature without her mysterious powers?
Review: From Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author of the Raised by Wolves series, comes the briskly paced and dark story of Kali D’Angelo, a girl who spends half her life as a vicious demon-hunter and the rest as a loner who wonders why she and her father were abandoned by her mother years earlier. Many heroines in young adult novels spend a lot of their time pondering their identities. In Kali’s case, however, trying to find out who she is has a more literal meaning: Kali, and the reader, don’t know why she morphs every other day into a demon-hunter, and much of the story is spent in uncovering exactly what is behind her transformations. The novel is also full of other mysteries that need solving, including the chupacabra that Kali must rid from her new “friend” Bethany, the truth about Kali’s mother, and the psychic connection that Kali discovers with someone Zev. Although the plot is, at times, a bit confusing, many readers are sure to enjoy this story. It is not overly romantic, but instead focuses on Kali, who is a likable if not warm and cuddly heroine. The side characters are also interesting, as is the relationship between Kali and Zev. Jennifer Lynn Barnes has stated that she intended Every Other Day to be a stand-alone novel, but is open to the possibility of writing a sequel at some point in the future. Whether the story becomes part of a series or not, it is still something that can be easily recommended to teens who enjoy supernatural novels with a lot of action and mystery.
Genre:  Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Damage by Anya Parrish, Misfit by Jon Skovron, Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs.   
Themes:  Demon hunters, supernatural creatures, chupacabras, vampires, conspiracy, father/daughter relationships, abandonment.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.   
Series Information: First installment in Starters and Enders series. Second novel, Enders, set to be released December 11, 2012.  
Discussion questions:
-      Would you like to be able to transform like Kali does? Why or why not?

-      Kali is often described as having a “hero complex” in the novel. What does that mean? Do you think it’s a good way to describe her?

-     Why do you think Kali and her father have such a strained relationship?

-    Do you think that Skylar truly cared what people at school said about her?

-    Do you think Zev truly betrayed Kali? Why or why not?

-     If a sequel is written for this novel, what would you like to see happen in it?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Starters Book Review

 Author: Lissa Price. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780385742375.

Annotation: It’s been a year since sixteen-year-old Callie and her seven-year-old brother Tyler lost their parents in the Spore Wars. Now, living on the streets with their former neighbor Michael, Callie learns of Prime Destinations: a company that pays teens to let their bodies be rented by seniors who, through a chip implanted in their brains, can live inside the teen and be young again. Callie wants the money the company can offer, but is it worth it to let a stranger rent her body?
Personal thoughts: I am always a fan of a good dystopian novel, and this one was truly enjoyable! The book is very creative and well-written, combining some ideas I’ve read before with some new ones to make for a fresh story. I really liked Callie and am looking forward to seeing where the author takes her as the series plays out. I also found the support characters to have a lot of depth as well, something that adds to the strength of the novel. I can’t wait for Enders to find out what happens next! I would definitely recommend this series easily to a teen reader.
Plot summary: After the Spore Wars took the lives of her parents, sixteen-year-old Callie Woodland and her seven-year-old brother Tyler were forced to flee their home for a life on the streets of Los Angeles. Since the only members of the population who were able to receive vaccinations against the biological bombs were children and the elderly, North America has been reduced to Starters, teens twenty and under, and Enders, seniors eighty years and older. Unclaimed minors, those without grandparents or other living relatives to be their guardians, live in abandoned buildings and survive off scraps, anything to avoid capture and imprisonment in one of the state run institutions for orphans. Callie and Tyler, along with their friend Michael, have survived for a year on the streets, but just barely. Tyler has a medical condition, and Callie isn’t sure how much longer he can live off of food found in garbage cans and water stolen from drain pipes. Everything changes, however, when Callie hears about a company called Prime Destinations. Since modern medicine has allowed the Enders to live well into their 100s, many are seeking ways to recapture their youth. Prime offers wealthy Enders the chance to rent the body of a teen donor, who, for a hefty payment, allows the company to implant a microchip that allows the renter to live in them while the actual mind of teen enters a sleeplike state. Callie is concerned by the thought of some 150 year old Ender woman controlling her, but the money she would earn could get her, Tyler, and Michael a home, food, and medicine for years. Should Callie donate her body to Prime Destinations for the chance to give her brother a better life?
Review: The sea of young adult literature has recently been swarmed with dystopian novels, some better than others. Starters, the first installment in a new series by Lissa Price, is, fortunately, one of the better ones! Set in the not-so-distant future following a catastrophic war, Callie Woodland’s world is divided. At one end are the Starters, teens and children who were able to get vaccinated against the biological weapons. At the other are the Enders, seniors who were also vaccinated and survived the war. For those teens and children who survived and were lucky enough to have a wealthy, living grandparent or other Ender relative, life is good. For those who lost their parents and had no one else to claim them, however, life is very much survival of the fittest. Many elements of this story are reminiscent of The Hunger Games: Callie is a strong female figure who provides for her younger sibling, there is a harsh police force that Callie must outwit, and there are those who live a lavish lifestyle, oblivious to the plight of the unclaimed Starters. For these reasons, but also because it is simply a good story, fans of The Hunger Games might find just the series they are looking for to continue in the vein of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy. One thing about Starters that differs from The Hunger Games, however, is that there is considerably less romance in Lissa Price’s story. There is a bit of a love triangle, but Callie spends most of her time trying to provide for her brother rather than choosing which boy to end up with. Overall, this is a very enjoyable start to a series that readers, both teen and adult, are sure to love. The sequel, Enders, is set to be released December 11, 2012.
Genre:  Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan, Divergent series by Veronica Roth, Eve by Anna Carey, Legend by Marie Lu, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting.  
Themes:  Dystopian, war, plague, orphans, technology, conspiracy.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Los Angeles Times, Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.  
Series Information: First installment in Starters and Enders series. Second novel, Enders, set to be released December 11, 2012.  
Discussion questions:
-     Do you think something like the Spore Wars is possible in the near future? Why or why not?

-     Why do you think only Starters and Enders were vaccinated? Do you think that was a mistake? Why?

-      If you were Callie, would you donate your body to Prime Destinations? Why or why not?

-       Did you agree with Helena’s plan?

-       What would you like to see happen in the sequel?

Friday, July 13, 2012

There is No Dog Book Review

 Author: Meg Rosoff. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Putnam Juvenile. ISBN: 9780399257643.

Annotation: Bob is an average nineteen-year-old guy: he’s lazy, doesn’t want too much responsibility, and spends most of his time dreaming about members of the opposite sex. The only problem is that Bob was actually appointed God of a small, unimportant planet called Earth millennia ago, and his coworker, Mr. B, has spent thousands of years trying to get him to care more about the world he hastily created in seven days.
Personal thoughts: I have to start out by saying that this was one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. The follow-up statement to that, however, is that I think that’s the point. Meg Rosoff doesn’t talk down to the reader; she trusts that teens will be able to see the humor and irony in what she writes and she is correct in that many, though not all, probably will. I would have trouble recommending this to a teen if I was unsure of their stance on tinkering with the whole story of creation, but for open-minded readers, this is something that they’re sure to enjoy.   
Plot summary: In the beginning, God created the Earth in seven days, but only because he was lazy and didn’t want to spend the time really thinking things through. This is what Mr. B has had to deal with for millennia: a nineteen-year-old named Bob who was only appointed as God of the small, insignificant planet called Earth because his mother won him the job in a poker game. Now, after thousands of years of trying to fix the mess Bob made, Mr. B has had enough and has put in his resignation, hoping that the powers of the universe will assign him to a better, more orderly world. Bob, on the other hand, has bigger concerns than human suffering, death, floods, and tsunamis: he is in love. Lucy, a twenty-one-year-old assistant zookeeper, is the most beautiful of Bob’s creations that he has ever laid eyes on. Bob has fallen in love with mortals before, always to the dismay of Mr. B as natural disasters, plague and calamity usually ensue, but Lucy is different. Bob wants to court Lucy properly, taking her on dates, seducing her (without changing himself into a minotaur or a giant eagle), and seeking her hand in marriage. But how does an all-powerful God work up the nerve to ask a pretty girl out?
Review: The latest novel from award-winning author Meg Rosoff (her first book, How I Live Now, won the Michael L. Printz Award), is, in a word, different, but an interesting choice for adventurous and open-minded young adults. In the first chapters, it is clear that the reader is in for something more than a little bit quirky. God is a nineteen-year-old boy who’s fantasies about the opposite sex seem to take up most of his time. Also included in the cast are Mr. B, the middle-aged man who was assigned to work with Bob in his creation and maintenance of the Earth, Mona, Bob’s beautiful but drunken mother who won his job in a poker game, and Eck, Bob’s one-of-a-kind pet who’s powers of observation are far greater than anyone realizes. There are many subplots in the novel, but the main focus of the story is Bob’s infatuation with the beautiful and kind mortal, Lucy. Whenever Bob falls in love with one of his creations there are serious environmental repercussions, and throughout the novel torrential downpours leading to overwhelming flooding are connected to Bob’s successes or failures at seducing Lucy. There is also a runaway capybara, a cruel friend of Mona’s with plans to cook and eat Eck, and flying whales. The novel is well-written and inventive, almost like a dream sequence that gets weirder with each page. There is No Dog is a good choice for teens who want something truly unique and aren’t afraid of a hefty amount of oddness. For the average reader, however, this one might be a little too out there to be appealing.
Genre:  Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.
Themes:  God, creation, love, responsibility, mother/son relationships.       
Awards/Reviews:  Starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Horn Book. Written by award-winning author.
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions:
-      Why do you think Mr. B wasn’t initially given the job of God of the Earth? Do you think that Bob being assigned to the planet was a mistake? Why?

-      What do you think it was about Lucy that caused Bob to become so infatuated?

-      How was the weather tied to Bob’s feelings for Lucy?

-      Describe the significance of Eck in the story. What role did he play in the plot? Do you think he was an important part of the story? Why?

-       Do you think Mona is a good mother or a bad mother? Why?

-     How is Meg Rosoff’s writing style different from other authors you’ve read? How is it similar?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tiger's Destiny Book Review

Author: Colleen Houck. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Splinter. ISBN: 9781402798436.

Annotation: After being captured by Lokesh, Kelsey uses her cunning to escape the clutches of the evil sorcerer and must travel to a fiery underground realm to complete the final quest and end the curse that has plagued Ren and Kishan for centuries.
Personal thoughts: This is one of my favorite series for young adults, so I was very excited to get an advanced reader copy. I think that Tiger’s Destiny might be my favorite installment thus far, for a variety of reasons. I really enjoyed all of the action in the story. In past novels in the series, I was a bit critical of Colleen Houck’s very descriptive writing, but this actually worked really well in terms of setting the stage for Kelsey, Ren and Kishan’s journey underground and in the epic battles that ensue. I also liked how Kelsey and Kishan’s relationship was intensifying, adding another layer of conflict to the love triangle between Kelsey and her tigers. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this series concludes, and to finding out what Colleen Houck comes up with next.  
Plot summary: The quest to end the Tiger’s Curse is almost complete, but Kelsey finds herself imprisoned by the evil sorcerer Lokesh. Using her cunning and convincing him that she wants to be his bride, Kelsey learns that Lokesh wants a son, a strong heir who can continue his father’s legacy of treachery. Before she can be wed, Kelsey is rescued by Ren and Kishan and the three return to India where Mr. Kadam informs them of their next task. The final gift of Durga, the Rope of Fire, lies in a fiery underground realm full of vampire-like demons, the walking dead, and powerful phoenixes. Kelsey wants nothing more than to complete their quest and end the curse that has plagued Ren and Kishan for centuries, but something is proving more difficult even than venturing deep into the Earth and battling vicious creatures: although she is in a relationship with Kishan, Kelsey can no longer deny that her love for Ren has anything but diminished. Can one girl from Oregon end the Tiger’s Curse, defeat Lokesh once and for all and decide where her heart truly lies?
Review: Colleen Houck’s epic story continues in this fourth installment in her best-selling series. What draws so many readers to these novels are the combination of fantasy, romance and action, and Tiger’s Destiny is chock full of all three. What differentiates this fourth book from the previous three is the amount of battle it contains. Kelsey, Ren and Kishan are always fighting some mystical creature in their efforts to break the Tiger’s Curse, but Tiger’s Destiny is the first novel in the series to have full on warfare as a major part of the story. Houck does a good if incredibly descriptive job of setting the reader down in the midst of a battle, and fans are sure to enjoy scenes of Kelsey and her handsome tigers wreaking havoc on their enemies. The romance aspects of Tiger’s Destiny also get more intense, with Kishan and Kelsey’s relationship becoming more serious, along with her conflicted feelings towards Ren. The end of the novel is sure to leave the reader clambering for the fifth and final installment in the series, Tiger’s Dream, which is set to be released in 2013.  
Genre:  Adventure/Romance
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Previous installments in the Tiger’s Curse series by Colleen Houck
Themes:  Destiny, romance, magic, curses, India, adventure, war.      
Awards/Reviews:  Fourth installment in best-selling series.   
Series Information: Fourth installment in the Tiger’s Curse series. Previous novels in series: Tiger’s Curse (2011), Tiger’s Quest (2011), Tiger’s Voyage (2011).
Discussion questions:
-       Including Tiger’s Destiny, which is your favorite novel in this series? Why?

-       Why do you think Lokesh wanted to marry Kelsey? Do you think it was a smart move for her to convince him that she felt the same way? Why or why not?

-       Do you think that Kishan realizes that Kelsey still loves Ren? Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who had feelings for someone else?

-       Describe the role that each of Durga’s weapons plays in the novel. Which is your favorite? Which was the most important? Why?

-      What are you hoping to see happen in the fifth and final novel in this series?