Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Land of Debris and the Home of Alfredo by Kenn Amdahl

A man walks through the deserted prairie of Oklahoma. He knows he is missing something, but he can’t quite figure out what it is. Suddenly, in a moment of breakthrough, he realizes he has no memories left. Who is he? Why is he in the middle of nowhere? He finds a gas station and tries to call the one number that he remembers and gets an answering machine to “The Land of Debris and Home of Alfredo”. Progressing through the most ludicrous of situations, the man finds himself in such places as New Mexico, Mexico City, Oregon, Las Vegas, Lousiana, and Kansas. The man is the accomplice to drug trades, casino scams, police cover-ups, and voodoo ceremonies by total default.

I found the book to be enthralling, but not super coherent. It was just plausible enough to keep a story and yet it somehow kept me reading it. It was laced with drug references and innuendo, but it still keeps its main objective in sight: to find out the identity of the protagonist. Its storytelling was superb, and I found it digging deep into me and finding the vagabond hidden in my personality. The book built up to a fantastic ending, but it left me with nothing. I really hated the ending, but the incredible body of the book almost totally made up for the overly demure ending.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 6
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Greencastle, PA USA

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox

The Place, a land that seems utterly different from the real world, but it is so close. Laura and her cousin, Rose, are both fifteen. At fifteen they are qualified to go into the Place but they must past the test first, the Try. But before they could enter, they dicover a dark secret hidden in the Place. As Laura and Rose try to figure out the secret, Laura's father disappears. Now Laura and Rose have to find Laura's father and the secret before time runs out...

I thought this book was fairly good. I loved the plot and how the setting connected with the story line. All the characters had their distinct features and personalities about themselves. However, I wish the story was told in someone's point of veiw, not third person. It was a little difficult to get a sense of their emotions. Overall, Elizabeth Knox kept the story in line and did not go off track. It was a good book!

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 14
Reviewer City, State and Country: Villa Hills, Kentucky United States of America

Maggie's Dare by Norma Jean Lutz

When twelve-year-old Maggie Baldwin goes to her friend, Adelaide’s, house, for her weekly dance lessons that occur on Thursdays, she is in for a big surprise! While waiting for her dad after dance lessons Adelaide breaks the big news that Maggie is invited to travel with her to Salem in a fancy stagecoach. Adelaide is getting a slave girl for a Christmas present, but Maggie disagrees with the whole idea of owning slaves. After seeing that Adelaide treats the girl poorly, Maggie decides to help her and the less fortunate against Adelaide’s wishes. Will the girls be able to stay friends after having conflicts about almost everything or will they give up trying and go their separate ways?

Maggie’s Dare is one of the many books in the Sisters In Time Series, which are all about girls living in different time periods. I loved Maggie’s Dare so much that I couldn’t put it down; it was a real page-turner. This is a wonderful Christian-based book that can keep you up all night long trying to find out what will happen next. I really liked the character named Jacob because he brought life to the story and it made the story all the better. Maggie’s Dare is recommended for kids ages 8-12.

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

Monday, March 20, 2006

So Super Stylish by Rose Wilkins

Octavia Clairbrook-Cleeve, daughter of a famous actress and director, has no wish to be in the spotlight. After leaving her glitzy school behind, she enters the local high school. For a while, she believes that she has gotten away from her former life. Unfortunately, she is mistaken. Bud, her mother's boyfriend, decides to pack up and move to live with them, bringing his son, Milton, along. While that causes some excitement, nothing can compare to the fact that India Withers, Octavia's nemesis, comes to her school claiming that she's doing research for her next acting gig. And India is in to cause as much harm as possible to Octavia's somewhat calmer life.

I really liked reading So Super Stylish. I wish that I had started with it's prequel, So Super Starry, first. It was interesting to read about the life of someone famous. While this reminded me of the Introducing Vivian Leigh Reid and the A-List, So Super Stylish is original in it's own way. The story kept me interested as soon as I read the first page. I would recommend this book as a fun, quick read for the summer.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 19
Reviewer City, State and Country: Philadelphia, PA USA

Sunday, March 19, 2006

First Impressions by Marilyn Sachs

Alice, the middle child in a family of 5, understands what it's like to be forgotten. When reading Pride and Prejudice, she immediately connects with Mary, the forgotten sister and bases her opinion of the novel on her character's impact on the story. When she receives a C on her book report, she is given the chance to reread the novel and write a new report for a better grade. As she reads Pride and Prejudice again, she sees things in a different light. First, she begins by trying to rewrite the story by changing Mary's personality. Then, her life begins to change. She gets her first boyfriend, she learns about true friendship, and her relationship with her parents and siblings change. Slowly, she learns about her purpose in life, as well as the importance of leaving Mary's character the way she is.

I thought that First Impressions was a cute book. It was clever how the author incorporated Pride and Prejudice into this story. I have not read Pride and Prejudice before, and reading this made me want to read the classic. I would recommend this for younger teens, as the main character is younger, but anyone can relate to Alice's problems. This is definitely a book that should not be overlooked.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 6
Reviewer Age: 19
Reviewer City, State and Country: Philadelphia, PA USA

As Simple As Snow by Gregory Galloway

This isn't a run-of-the-mill mystery, nor a cautionary tale. It's a story about a boy, a girl, a town, a code. It's a story about that time in your life when you realize nothing is as simple as it seems. Once you realize that, you can't go back, no matter how hard you try. You can only go forward.

"As Simple as Snow" will be haunting me for a long, long time. Some say that all stories can be narrowed down to one of two plots. This story employs the "new person moves to town" plot - but it's far more complex than that. Anna, a high school student, is more than what she seems. She likes to write obituaries for people who are still alive - for every person in town, even though she's just moved there with her parents. She wears black clothes, black boots, dark makeup, offsetting her blond hair. She loves Lovecraft, making mix CDs, and discussing the codes Houdini and his wife shared. She can argue both sides of a debate with equal passion and knowledge, thus making it unclear which side she herself would support. She insists that people call her Anastasia. The narrator calls her Anna. He's a high school student as well. His name is unknown; it is unimportant. What is important is their relationship. He finds himself intrigued with Anna, despite her status as a "Goth," and the two begin dating. Her ideas challenge him; her intelligence impresses him; and, seven months later, her disappearance baffles him. Author Gregory Galloway has created a stunning and haunting tale. Just as Anna herself, this book is hard to categorize. Many would call "As Simple as Snow" a mystery, but just as many might refer to it as a coming-of-age story. The writing is engrossing, placing the reader on the same page (no pun intended) as the narrator, trying to figure out Anna herself as well the codes she used. Readers will be looking for clues in the grand design while falling for this strong, willful character and wondering why she left. It even has an appropriately creepy website, where you may download the mix CDs Anna created and watch a unique trailer for the book. If the trailer doesn't make you want to read the book immediately, I don't know what will.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 23
Reviewer City, State and Country: , California USA

Small Steps by Louis Sachar

It’s been two years since Armpit’s (now preferring his given name, Theodore) release from the juvenile correction facility, Camp Green Lake. Armpit is living a great life; he has a well paying job, he’s attending summer school to make up for the schooling he’s missed, it appears that his life seems back on track. His greatest obstacle is trying to have a nice reputation when everyone knows you as a ‘big bully’. That’s where Ginny, Armpit’s ten-year-old neighbor, comes in. Ginny has cerebral palsy and together, Ginny and Armpit are learning it takes small steps to go great distances. Armpit is tested in his new life when an old friend from Camp Green Lake shows up with a moneymaking scam. Scalping tickets for the latest teenage sensation, Kaira DeLeon, Armpit finds himself meeting this young star and beginning a chain of events that throws his life out of whack. Will Armpit’s new girlfriend be as perfect as he dreams, or will she be a nightmare he can’t wake up from? Be sure to read Louis Sachar’s sequel to Holes, Small Steps.

Small Steps, Sachar’s sequel to Holes, proves just as entertaining as the original best seller. With its creative plot and satisfying climax this book is an easy read, and a great story if you are in search of a relaxing novel to enjoy. The book is a great read-aloud with simple language, and kids of elementary grades will love it, but I don’t necessarily recommend it to children over 13 or for someone searching for a complex plotline. The book’s best quality, in my opinion, was its theme: Any problem can be solved or fixed, and if you take small steps towards correcting the problem, it proves a lot easier.

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

To Light A Candle by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

The books starts out with Kellen, Jermayan, Vestakia, and Shalken returning from destroying the barrier that kept the elven lands in a drought. While those four are settling into their old and new lives evil is planting itself within the city of Armethalieh. Armethalieh is has a problem that if not solved could lead to starvation of all of its people, but nothing is being done about the problem because the High Council is more concered about politics than about the good of the city. Cilarnen, a mage of Armethalieh, sees the food problem and with the help of friends plans on fixing the problem. Before Cilarnen and his friends can act on their plan they are caught and charged for treason, and Cilarnen ends up banished from Armethalieh. The only thing that stops Cilarnen from certain death is an elf who helps him get pass the borders of the city and then leaves him in a centaur village. Cilarnen lives his life in the centaur village until one day when the village is attacked by a demon and recieves a message that he must give to Kellen. Kellen is working with the elven army and its allies to rid the elven land of the creatures of the demons that threaten all of the residents in the elven land. The servant of the demon queen has risen in power and plans to help the demon queen gain control of Armethalieh. If the demon queen gains control of the city it could mean the destruction of all the creatures of light.

I liked the book. The characters in it were well written, and every character had their own personality that in the end helped their cause to prevail against the evil demons and the demon creatures. The authors of the book did a really good job at bring the reader into the story by writing descriptive paragraphs that allowed the reader to easily picture the situations and the surroudings of the characters. My favorite part of the book is the ending when the elven army finally learns what the true intent of the demons is. That was my favorite part because the whole book leads up to the elves finally learning what the demons are doing and because that knowledge gives the elves the chance to defeat the demons and save all the creatures of light. The book was really good because it leaves you wanting to read the next in the series so that you can finally learn if light will triumph over darness.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 14
Reviewer City, State and Country: Tucson, Arizona U.S.

Keeper of the Winds by Jenna Solitaire

Jenna has just lost her last remaining relative, her grandfather. With his death, Jenna has been overwhelmed with secrets from her past. These secrets are the secret to her future.

From the strange man staring at her during her grandfather's funeral to the strange break-in at her house, Jenna realizes that there are people out there trying to harm her. When she finds an ancient board in her Grandmother's trunk, she instantly knows that her life is connected to it. With the help of Simon Monk, she learns the magic of the Boards. Jenna learns that she is in control of the Board of the Winds and has unleased something very powerful. When she is kidnapped and her board is stolen, Jenna has to find a way to find it fast before everything is destroyed.

I was instantly interested by the summary of the novel as well as the cover. I don't usually chose to read mystery novels, so this was a nice change. There is also fantasy in Keeper of the Winds, which creates a really nice balance with the mystery. Once I started reading this, I could not put it down. While it wasn't a short novel, I feel like I read it really fast. I'm happy to see that this is only the first of four books, so I'm looking forward to see where Jenna's next adventure takes her.

Rating: 7
Age: 19
Philadelphia, PA
Priyanka Setty

Octagon Magic by Andre Norton

The dollhouse and rocking horse of old Miss Ashemeade (rumored to be a
witch) are by no means the usual playthings of little girls. That's the point behind Andre Norton's new book, "Octagon Magic." From these "toys,"
eleven-year-old Lorrie Mallard is mentally transported to a forgotten time in the home's history. The mini-adventures Lorrie experiences serve moral lessons applicable to the real world of the new student in town. Using magic as a method of teaching never quite occurred to me and seeing it thus applied, through daydreaming episodes, makes this storyline unique for young and adult readers alike. From an adult perspective I found it hard to stop reading. The story opened in action with teasing by Stan Wormiski (name indicative of his behavior), and continued so throughout its ten chapters.

Lorrie's Canadian background is a bit vague, especially as regards the brief mention of her parents, but otherwise handled well. The book, after all, concerns her future, not her past. Magic is meant to be mysterious, and its
secrets help Lorrie to eventually accept her new environment.

Reviewed for Flamingnet by Sarah Jones
Age: 21

Anatopsis by Chris Abouzeid

In a coming-of-age, coming-into-powers story, the magical prodigy Princess Anatopsis - Ana for short - must become partners with two most unlikely people. Her fellow student, Prince Barnaby, could be the poster-child for fathers' disappointed hopes, lacking any real magical talent. Ana's servant and friend, Clarissa, likewise lacks any magical talent, being a "mortal." Together, though, they must discover other valuable talents within themselves in order to prepare for the witchery exams and forestall the end of the world of magic as they know it. All in a day's work, right? Maybe, if Mr. Pound never gets involved, but when a member of the near-living-dead is sent to be your tutor, you know there is trouble ahead. As everything Ana holds dear is threatened and changed, she must ultimately rely on her own strengths and talents - and the timely help of remaining allies, of course - to survive.

This wonderfully creative plot is adeptly combined with a descriptive writing style and an astute portrayal of human nature. The complexity of the relationships Ana shares with the other characters in the book, for instance, makes for a lot of character development. Abouzied candidly shows how people really are: complicated. Although, it can seem a bit disheartening at times, when Ana, only thirteen, must wake up to the realities of the world around her. Nonetheless, Abouzeid has written an excellent coming-of-age story that would tug on the heartstrings of anyone who has experienced - or who is experiencing - the confusion of growing up in an imperfect world.

Rate: 8
Age: 21
City: Logan, Utah

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Perfect Distance by Kim Ablon Whitney

Kim Ablon Whitney’s novel, The Perfect Distance follows Francie Martinez, a young Mexican-American woman on her way to the Maclay Finals (the granddaddy of all junior equestrian eventing). Francie trains at the same farm where she is also a groom resulting in prejudice behavior from her barn mates. Through life altering relationships and events Francie discovers that all she needs to win the Finals is confidence.

Having been a competitor at the Maclay Finals, Whitney is able to use personal knowledge to project the stresses of competing to the readers. Whitney explains all the horse jargon, but does it in a way that the novel does not read like a textbook or dictionary. The topics of sex, alcohol, and bulimia are addressed in the novel making it better suited for a more mature audience. Having said that, the vocabulary could be beefed up a little to accommodate an older age group. Being an avid rider, I can say that Whitney’s novel is a true-to-life documentation of the struggles riders face while trying to compete and maintain a 2.5 grade point average.

Reviewed by Jhana Kessell
Towson University
Towson, Maryland USA

Monday, March 06, 2006

French Kiss by Aimee Friedman

Alexa and Holly are friends who happen to be part of two different social groups. Alexa and her boyfriend Diego are celebrating their aniversary in Paris while Holly is going to England for a track meet. Holly is devastated when she hurt her ankle and is unable to run for the rest of the meet, but then she gets a phone call from Alexa begging her to come to Paris. Taking advantage of the opportunity, she goes over and spends a guilt-filled week there, hoping she won't get caught by her coach and worrying about her relationship with her boyfriend, Tyler. Still caught up in her fight with Tyler, Holly catches the eye of Pierre, Alexa's cousin. Meanwhile, Alexa happens to meet Xavier, a famous artist. Between sightseeing, shopping and hot dates, Alexa and Holly learn the meaning of friendship and love.

I thought that this book was a fun read. French Kiss reminded me a little of Gossip Girl, and while the story is not the same, fans of Gossip Girl should pick this one up. This is the perfect book to get away from real life for a while. The fact that the story takes place in Paris makes it so much more fun to read. This is the pefect guilty pleasure for spring. I'm looking forward to reading the prequel to this, South Beach, next.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 19
Reviewer City, State and Country: Philadelphia, PA USA

The Sword of Straw by Amanda Hemingway

Nathan has problems dreaming. Not just any dreaming, but dreaming himself into another world and universe. But recently Nathan has dreamed himself into a new world he hasn't explored before, with a princess in distress. Her subjects are going away because they think they are cursed by the traitors sword. This sword might be the one out of the 3 object that Nathan needs to collect to make a very powerful spell. But when troubles arrive in both worlds with a bully in school and demons in his dream world, Nathan feels he is doomed for failure.

This was a very suspenful and action packed book. The book was written in a way that it kept me wanting to know more, and it kept me reading. This book was confusing for me because I haven't read the first of the series, and it related to it a lot, so if you're interested in this book read the first one first. This book had a great ending because events turn out in the most odd ways and things you would never believe would happen occured.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 11
Reviewer City, State and Country: Lutherville, Maryland USA