Monday, February 27, 2006

Guitar Highway Rose by Brigid Lowry

Rosie Moon, 15, is irritated with her life. Her mom treats her like a 5 year old, her dad doesn't really care, and her younger brother is a nuisance. The best thing about her life is her best friend, Pip, until a rebellious new kid, Asher, comes to school. His parents are seperated, which doesn't help with the move. Asher and Rosie want to get away from it all and when Asher is accused of stealing a wallet, their dreams become a reality. They set off for their "crazy" adventure where they find themselves...and each other.

At first, I was confused by the writing style. The book used words that I wasn't familiar with because the book originated from Australia. The book was also incomprehensible because it jumped to different characters, and I got thoughts and opinions confused. As I read more, it became clear and it was amazing. The plot was well thoughtout. Lowry used superior descriptions for the settings and people. It felt like you were there! The book showed situations that teenagers have to overcome these days. Towards the end of the book, I couldn't put it down. It was supenseful, a definite page turner. Overall, it was an exceptional book. Kids under 13 should not read this book. It had some vulgar language and usage of drugs.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 14
Reviewer City, State and Country: Villa Hills, Kentucky USA

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard

Jack is a kid who grew up on Freedom Station. He works in a bar and can tell the Earthies from the Spacers. He thinks he knows everything about Earthies, but that was before Kit showed up. Kit is just a normal Earthie except for what she carries with her. When Jack finds out Kit's secret, he feels he has no choice but to help her. Even if it is illegal. Even if it means risking their lives in space.

Spacer and Rat, by Margaret Bechard, is an amazing sci-fi story that will keep you not only entertained but surprised as well. I have never read another book like this, but I am hoping more will come out. The characters fit in very well with the story. The description of the scenery was thorough but sometimes difficult to understand. I recommend this book to any reader who is looking for a good sci-fi book.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania United States

The Bungler's Paradox by R. M. Wilburn

In an excellent beginning to what one hopes will be an excellent series, R. M. Wilburn creates a realm of realistic characters caught in a world directed by imagination - literally. Buggy, heroine of The Bungler's Paradox, is on the brink of turning twelve when her family is "summoned" to Lloyd's Hollow. What follows next is an eye-opening crash course into The-World-Is-Not-What-You-Always-Thought-It-Was 101. Faced with the reality of magic, the indomitable, impressively imaginative Buggy must rely on her budding skills and new-found friends to guide her through what may very well be the coming apocalypse of the world, the final battle between good and evil. Challenged on every side, never completely sure of on whom she can rely, Buggy must "Dream big!"

Imitating the creative style of her protagonist, Wilburn writes as one might dream. Her characters are real, but with a touch of the other-worldly. Similarly, the emotions and reactions in the book are what one would expect in real life, while the events that jump-start them are anything but. Her writing style includes a lot of humor, though her characters can become a bit caustic and brusque in their responses to each other (certainly real-to-life!). And if that's not enough, Wilburn also provides her characters with meaningful relationships, that develop and change as the book progresses - not the least of which are those relationships that Buggy shares with her parents and brother. As the start of her imaginative series, Wilburn simply could not have done better.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 21
Reviewer City, State and Country: Salt Lake City, Ut USA

Anyone But You by Lara M. Zeises

This book is about the lives of a "mixed" family. Sea is a girl that is taken in by her father's ex-wife when he leaves. The story is based on the interchanging of lives between Sea, and her 2 step-brothers; Critter and Jessie. They are all at an age of trying to figure out who they are and where they are going in life. When Sea feels threatened by a new person in Critter's life, she becomes withdrawen and looks for other ways to fill her time. She meets up with a boy named Scott, who shares her interest in skateboarding. During the summer the couples learn that life is not easy, no matter whether you are a boy or a girl. Eventually Sea's father comes back into the picture after many years, and that is when Sea turns to Critter. During the course of this Sea finds herself drawn to Critter as more then just a brother. The book leads to a conclusion that is both understandable due to the closeness of the family, but also that sometimes love is where you least expect it...

The book is very well written and goes at a good pace, you look forward to the next page to see what happens between the characters. I could see from the beginning that Sea and Critter where heading down the path that led them to each other. It's just a matter of reading the book to follow the growth of that relationship. Both their hearts have to be broken before they realize that they have each other both as friends and companions. I would have likes to have had Jessie play a bigger role in the story. Also, the relationship between Critter and Sarah, was much more developed story line then that of Sea and Scott, when it seems that teenage girls go through alot more emotions when it is the beginning of a relationship. I would have liked to have read more on their relationship. Overall the story was well written and all the characters belonged where they were written in. I liked the dynamics of the varying relationships and how they twisted and turned throughout the story.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 6
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Dilworth, MN USA

The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemmingway

A world is dying. Its only chance for survival lies with a Great Spell that nobody knows how to perform. What they do know is that they need three objects of power- a cup, a sword, and a crown. Strange things are happening in Eade, a peaceful English town that is home to a boy called Nathan. Nathan has dreams of a world that is contaminated by magic. He gradually realizes that he is dreaming of a real world, a world completely different from his own. The Grimthorn Grail is a cup that once belonged to the Thorn family that is said to have strange powers. The only remaining Thorn descendant wants the cup back and is trying desperately to prove that the original sale was illegal. As Nathan’s dreams become more and more real and he learns about this other world, he realizes the fatal problems that it is facing. The cup comes from the other world, he is sure of it, but he also thinks that it was sent to his world for safekeeping until a need to use its powers arose. Where does the cup truly belong? Can the world be saved?

“The Greenstone Grail,” is the first novel in a trilogy, each focusing on in turn on one of the three powerful objects, each full of unanswered questions. Vivid descriptions bring the story to life as Nathan, his mother, and his best friend discover knew dangers and complications in their quest to set things right. Amanda Hemmingway weaves the story of a world that has an unbelievable problem and a young boy who just might have the power to set things right. Advanced mystery readers will enjoy the many unanswered questions of the book as each different character encounters fears and problems of their own.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, PA USA

In High Places by Harry Turtledove

In High Places: A Novel of Crosstime Traffic, by Harry Turtledove, is an exciting science-fiction adventure. Khadhija, the daughter of a wealthy Muslim Moorish merchant, is not all that she seems to be, and neither is the world that she is currently in. Khadhija is actually teenager Annette Klein, from the 21st century United States. She and her family are working for Crosstime Traffic, a business that trades merchandise from the alternate timeline- a world where history has taken a different path- to their modern timeline. In this alternate world, Europe is still engulfed in the medieval Dark Ages and greatly contrasts to the “home” timeline. For example, technology is basic, and the Muslims rule and occupy most of Europe, which is disunited into small states. The most significant difference is that in the alternate timeline, slavery still exists without any controversy. Annette and her family are preparing to return to the home timeline, so they travel in a caravan to locate the Crosstime Traffic portal that will send them home. However, bandits capture Annette, her local friend Jacques, and other travelers, and sell them all as slaves. Separated from her family, Annette’s situation becomes even worse: her captors take her and the other slaves and transports them through an unauthorized Crosstime Traffic portal into a land ruled by Khadhija’s own people. She must escape, but it seems as if she will be a slave forever.

In High Places was adventurous and page-turner. The historical analysis was very interesting and this book is perfect for any history buff. It did seem, however, that the author could have addressed the topic of slavery better. The argument made against slavery could have been more complex and powerful. All in all, a good read with an excellent plot, especially on a rainy day.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Aurora, Colorado United States

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Center of the World by Andreas Steinhofel

A coming of age story set in a remote mountain range in Germany; Steinhofel weaves the elegant tale of a seventeen-year-old boy named Phil. Although the novel does deal with Phil's sexuality, it primarily illustrates his tumultuous relationship with his unconventional mother, Glass, and reclusive twin sister, Dianne. From the birth of Phil and Dianne by their teenage mother in the prologue of the story, the family occupies a large estate, called Visible, on the outskirts of a socially repressive and ultra-conservative town. The town not only discriminates against Glass because of her promiscuous nature, but they transfer their criticisms to her two children. Therefore, throughout Phil's childhood, he feels ostracized despite his mother's advice to ignore the harshness of the "Little People," or the people who inhabit the town. Phil does discover refuge in the form of a young and vivacious girl named Kat, who becomes his one and only ally. However, despite Phil's seeming acceptance of his sexuality, he does not believe that his family or his friends would approve of his relationship with a charming and attractive runner, named Nicholas, who becomes his first boyfriend. The novel is written in a first-person narrative with intermittent flashbacks that describe the roots of Phil’s personality.

Steinhofel's greatest accomplishment is that he portrays homosexual relationships as the equivalent of heterosexual relationships. By demonstrating that the journey toward self-discovery of a young gay man is the same as that of a young straight man, Steinhofel shows that discriminatory views on homosexuality are completely unfounded. In addition to vividly depicting Visible’s breathtaking surroundings, his crisp and graceful prose provides insight into Phil’s complex thoughts and emotions. Satisfying the reader with Phil’s self-discovery, Steinhofel does an excellent job of balancing the scales between satisfaction and misery, having and wanting. By the end of the novel, one aches with a confused combination of happiness and grief. Steinhofel and his novel deserve every word of praise!

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Kansas City, Kansas USA

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Georgie's Moon by Chris Woodworth

After Georgie Collins moves to Glendale, Indiana, her dad leaves to go off to Vietnam and promises to send his undying love to her through the moon every night. Georgie becomes friends with Lisa Loutzenhiser and is forced to work with her at the nursing home every Saturday because of the good deeds program the school set up. After Georgie visits Lisa at her house she begins to wonder why Lisa won’t tell her what happened to her older brother, Alan. Is it because something bad will happen to their friendship if Georgie finds out? Find out the answers as Georgie battles through life one day at a time in this fantastic book called Georgie’s Moon.

This book was really good. I’m not a really emotional person but this book almost made me cry, it was so sad. I recommend this book to kids ages 8-12. I think this book was well written and thought out. I think Georgie’s Moon is a page-turner and I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to see what would happen next. I hope to read more of Chris Woodworth’s books soon.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Upper Strasburg, PA US

Carrie's Courage by Norma Jean Lutz

Carrie’s Courage is a wonderful book about a ten-year-old girl named Carrie Ruhle who befriends a Jewish girl named Dvora who has just moved into town. Will Carrie be able to stay friends with Dvora though because her best friend Violet absolutely hates Dvora since she is Jewish? Can Carrie save her new friend from the white-robed Ku Klux Klan who is terrorizing the Jews, blacks, and other immigrants in her neighborhood before it’s too late? Find out as Carrie and her friends struggle with racism in this fantastic book called Carrie’s Courage, which is one of the many books in the spectacular Sisters In Time series.

I think that Carrie’s Courage is a wonderful faith-based book that kids ages 8-12 will enjoy reading. I loved the short, flowing, and very interesting poems the author added to this amazing book. The characters matched their 1920’s time frame very well. I thought that the ending was kind of sad though. If you like American Girl books then I think you will love this brilliant book. I’m hoping to read all of the books in the whole series.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Upper Strasburg, PA US

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Joy Writing by Kenn Amdahl

A little like reading Elements of Style on amphetamines, Joy Writing by Kenn Amdahl, cascades over its pages with enthusiasm for writing. I wanted to take up my pen and buy a box of yellow tablets before I finished reading it. Yellow highlights throughout my copy remind me that there are other writers that I want to read. The examples he chooses are engaging and witty. Much of his advice is common sense: “Revising means making choices.” Some of his advice is surprising, “Let yourself write badly when you create first drafts…” And some of his advice is phrased in a silly way, “…the poet must distract the Colonel Klink/editor within himself. Simply telling him to wait in the closet isn’t enough, we need him in a different time zone.” Most of it is practical; join a writing group. And all of it is written in an intimate, conversational tone as if Kenn were talking directly to the reader. Joy Writing is 160 pages of inspiration for budding writers.

Alice O’Grady, English Teacher, Wilson HS, Long Beach, CA

Now Starring Vivien Leigh Reid: Diva in Training by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout

After visiting, Annika Anderson, on the set of her movie Danny Boy, Leigh doesn't think she'll ever be like her overdramatic diva mother. As she enters Hollywood for the first time, she doesn't know what to expect. Her first acting class turns out to be a disaster and she makes friends with Karis, the strange girl in the class. But Leigh wants more than that, and soon she's offered a role on a popular soap, Diamond Heights. Acing isn't as easy as it looks, and as Leigh gets into the rythm of things on set, she also begins to develop diva like tendencies. Her behavior tends to be the downfall of her relationship with her boyfriend, her friendship with Karis, and her newfound acting career. And Leigh has to do something to fix everything before leaving Hollywood.

This book was a great continuation to Introducing Vivien Leigh Reid. It's not often that a sequel is as good or even better than the original. Vivien again offered enough laughs and adventures throughout the book. I love the way the story is written and it's really fun to read. It goes by so fast, and once you start it, you can't put it down. I know that I'm looking forward to reading the third book about Leigh when it comes out.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 19
Reviewer City, State and Country: Philadelphia, PA USA

Plenty Porter by Brandon Noonan

As Plenty Porter enters her teenage years in Galesburg, Illinois, she realizes that her large family does not actually know one another. Being the youngest of eleven, no one expects much of her yet she is usually aware of everything that goes on around her. When she befriends the motherless Ed Prindergast, the young son of their wealthy neighbor, she does not realize that she needs his friendship as much as he needs hers. Although Plenty narrates, the story actually revolves around her older sister Marcie and her problems. Plenty knows there is something going on but doesn't know if she can find out what's going on with, Mr. Darcey, her estranged grandfather, Mr. Prindergast, her parents, and her sibligs who each have interwoven lives that seem to leave Plenty, who was plenty, out.

Brandon Noonan relates a novel in which the reader really does not see the end coming. Although the story is narrated by Plenty, the reader wants to know what is going on with Marcie, why her hair falls out. I enjoyed the structure of this novel, which is told in two parts, as well as many chapters. Because the ending was a complete surprise to me, I enjoyed it and it made the novel worth reading. I don't think Plenty Porter is bound to recieive high acclaim, but it is definitely a good read for history lovers and those interested in personal growth in a character or multiple characters.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 17
Reviewer City, State and Country: Kansas City, MO USA

Riding Out The Storm by Claudia Jones

Thirteen year old Emily Clark loves books and horses. She rides her horse, Moonbeam every day to calm her down. For the fourth Quarter of P. E. at Garven Junior High school in Woodbridge, Missouri the class is going to swim, Yes! Untill Emily almost drowns on the first day. What is wrong with her? She loves swimming. She spent all last summer with her best friend Jane's house swimming in her pool. She goes to Mr. Turner the psychaitrist who says she is a reincarnated Micheal who drowned at 21. This sets her off to find her other family. She finds them, visits them and puts their guilt and sorrow to rest.

This is a very good book. The Author creates good empathy, the horse thing was a nice touch. Emily sounds like a little Daddy's (and Mommy's) girl. She spends a little too much time explaining every single person Emily meets in page long detail. That makes it a little stop-and-go but it's okay.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 14
Reviewer City, State and Country: Raymond, Illinois USA

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

Breaking out of their summer routine, the Penderwick sisters, along with their dad, stay at Arundel Cottage for a few weeks. With beautiful gardens and new friends, the girls' excitement builds as the days progress. Until, of course, trouble arises - mainly in the form of Mrs. Tifton and her creep of a boyfriend, Dreadful Dopey Dexter Dupree. Each girl must experience some personal sorrow, in addition to collective worry over the fate of their new friend, Jeffrey. As the plot develops, so too does the girls' knowledge of themselves and what it means to be "family."

Nonetheless, it is not the plot which makes this book wonderful - although it is both exciting and suspenseful. Nor is it the characters themselves who made me love reading it - though they are colorful, unique, lovable, realistic. No, it is the amusing dialogue and swift, spirited interplay between the characters, especially the sisters, which made Birdsall's story well worth reading. Few authors can capture everyday language and make it into something enthralling. Birdsall can. She wrote an excellent book, which I highly recommend to readers of all ages.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 21
Reviewer City, State and Country: Logan, Utah USA

Secrets Of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita

Kaitlin Burke has everything many American teens dream about. A successful career as an actress, a hit TV show and on top of it all a jealous costar. After her daily routine of make-up, taping, interviews, and photo shoots Kailtiln is ready for a vacation unfortunately her parents publicist and manager don't believe in vacations. She does the next best thing; Kaitlin understands that if she wants to feel like a real teenager she needs to have the same responsibilities as one. She enrolls in a local High School and Goes undercover as an average teenager. What will Kaitlin learn from this experience? Will it be everything she expected it to be?

I have always loved an adventure. Jen Calonita has given a great view to the life of a teen star. I love the fact that teenager around the world will be able to relate to Kaitlin's character, a funny down to earth girl despite her great success. Although this book reminded me of Teen Idol I can honestly say it's nothing like it and you will be pleased with it. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good read.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 21
Reviewer City, State and Country: N. Hollywood, California USA

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Nobody's Fault by Jonathan Pearce

What do you do when your mom's been dead for seven years, your dad has a new wife, it's summer and you have nothing to do? If you are twelve-year-old Tery, you allow yourself to be coerced into working for the summer school edition of the Korndogger with Sheba, the queen herself, as your editor. What you don't do is tell people that you still have visions of your mother who gives advice and encouragement. Tery, whose name comes from Teru, a Japanese name meaning sunshine, in honor of Obahchan, her Japanese grandmother, thinks she is alone in her vision-seeing abilities until she interviews 106 year old Julius Caesar Kuhl, Junior for the newspaper. What began as a forced task to please her father and Sheba turns into a heart felt exploration of life in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake. Mr. Kuhl, the oldest man in town, just happens to be kin to Ritchie, vandal and prankster extraordinaire. Ritchie's appearances deftly coincide with disappearances of his grandfather's prized possessions. Is something more sinister going on? Readers will quickly turn pages to learn the conclusion.

The backdrop of earthquake and the unsettling transition from middle school to high school make this a book with historical focus and contemporary lessons. The author has created a history/mystery/coming of age stroy that works. I liked Tery's spunkiness and compassion. This would work well as background ofr San Francisco earthquake and lessons on preparedness.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 58
Reviewer City, State and Country: Timonium, MD US

The Wreath by Chris and Chloe Howard

There are creatures under the sea who are part fish, part human known in storybooks as mermaids and mermen. However, in reality, these creatures look almost exactly like normal people. The only differences are that they have a thin layer of skin between their fingers and toes and the fact that they can breath underwater. They are divided into royal houses, they have a king, and there are traitors, enemies, and an evil army. Kassandra is a Telkhines (never call them mermaids and mermen) who is a descendent of the king. Unfortunately, the king is out to get her. She wears the wreath, an object that is passed down from mother to daughter, or sister, or some distant female relation who can be trusted to use it properly. The wearer, once she reaches the age of thirteen begins to gain extraordinary powers, and the king knows Kassandra is not on his side. Kassandra just turned thirteen. She knows absolutely nothing about the Telkhines, or the wreath, because she was sent as an infant to central Nebraska, with the skin between her fingers and toes removed, by the king (who didn't know she had the wreath at the time) so that she would be out of the way and not cause any problems, or so he thought.

Surprises are unlimited, problems abundant, and new friends and enemies are constantly turning up. Chris and Chloe Howard have written an amazing fantasy about a girl with more problems than anyone can imagine. Readers will discover an undersea world very different from the Little Mermaid. Teen fantasy readers will excitedly follow Kassandra's every step as she discovers who she really is, and her important role in saving her newly discovered family.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, PA USA

British Born, Amrican Bred by Valorie Beardsley

British Born, American Bred is a fanfiction of Prince William's life from when we meet him at St.Andrews University right up until he dies as an old man or rather an old, and much loved, King. To say this book is about Prince William and the narrator, fictional Emily Harrison who was born in Britain but brought up in America (hence the title), falling in love would be an understatement. William and Emily fall in love and get engaged within a year of meeting each other and in the first 50 pages of book. This book is more about their life together, troubles with the press and royal relatives as well as the trials of married life, being King and Queen, dealing with illness and parenthood.

This book wasn't what I expected at all and was really a disappointment; instead of being a fun and easy read that was great for relaxing, I found myself having to force myself to read a book I didn't enjoy. The writing was poor to say the least and rather than feeling the relationship between Prince William and the fictional Emily Harrison as it happened, I felt I, as the reader, was told what was happening as if it were some kind of report. Instead of falling in love as Emily did and experiencing the events as they unfolded, I felt cut-off from the story, while the large time-scale it was set in seemed over-ambitious. I really wanted a story of love, not a whole life's journey that was hard to comprehend; as a 15 year-old I can't really relate to having children, grandchildren and dying at eighty. The way Prince William spoke was cringy, scary and odd all at the same time, and as a British teenager I can certainly say that I don't know many people who talk like that (and those who do are rather un-flatteringly called chavs). Can you really imagine Prince William calling the girl he loved "Luv" or Prince Charles "pops"? - Scary. However if you are planning on reading the book, and do get beyond the first couple of pages, I wouldn't reccomend it to anyone under 15 as the author attempts to write a rather explicit love scene early on.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 3
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Bristol, England