Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hard Eight

Hard Eight is by Janet Evanovich. Number eight in the Stephanie Plum saga, this is the most thrilling ride yet. Mabel lives next door to Stephanie's parents and her granddaughter and great-granddaughter are missing. She put up her house for her granddaughter's custody bond when Evelyn divorced her jerk husband Steven. Mabel asks Stephanie to help her find Evelyn and Annie and save her home. Before the case is solved she's been involved in three (that's right three) car bombings, a kidnapping, an attempted kidnapping, snakes in her apartment, spiders in her car, a dead guy on her sofa, and an attack by a killer rabbit. Throw in Ranger, Morelli, and some killer geese and Stephanie is having a really bad week.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - V (violence) - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shattered Mirror

Shattered Mirror is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. The 3rd in the Den of Shadows series tells the story of Sarah Vida, youngest daughter of the matriarch of the Vida witch family. The Vida clan lives to hunt and kill vampires. The vampire they would most like to kill is Nikolas, an evil killer who carves his name into his victims. As Sarah poses as a student in a local school she meets Christopher and his sister Nissa who are vampires, but vampires who don't feed on humans. Sarah finds herself attracted to the siblings, which puts her at serious odds with her family. Then Nikolas comes to town. Can Sarah survive their battle? Another great Atwater book. She is a phenomenal young artist whose work is tight, poignant, and very easy to read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Point Blank

Point Blank is by Anthony Horowitz. The second in the Alex Rider series, finds Alex again forced to work for MI6. Something is up at a fancy school in the remote French Alps that only accepts the sons of the rich, famous, and powerful. Can Alex figure out what's going on in time? Will he get out alive? What will he do when he meets himself?

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Water Song: A Retelling of "The Frog Prince"

Water Song: A Retelling of "The Frog Prince" is by Suzanne Weyn. This is a touching fairy tale made modern. Emma is trapped in her family's Belgian estate during WWI. Her mother has been killed in the bombings and she can't get back to England to her father because of the German U-Boats patrolling the Channel. Then she finds Jack at the bottom of the well. Jack is an American soldier who has been seriously wounded by a chlorine gas attack. His skin is peeling and his eyes are so swollen he looks like a frog. Will the "frog" and the "princess" fall in love? Will they survive the German occupation of the estate? A very enjoyable tale and a fun read.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why is by Jay Asher. Clay receives a box of cassette tapes from Hannah. She committed suicide and in the tapes she says there are thirteen people who caused her suicide - and he is one of them. Clay is staggered. He really liked Hannah, but he was afraid to speak to her - at least until that last party. This is the story of a young woman's descent into hopelessness, guilt, and despair. When we hear of a suicide, especially a teen, we always ask "why?". This novel explores that horrible question. It is a phenomenal novel, a tragic yet magnificent work that is almost impossible to put down. You find yourself angry and humiliated with Hannah; then cry and mourn with Clay. I highly recommend this fantastic book. Hannah's truth is hard and brutal, yet heart-rending.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Land of Loss

Land of Loss is by K.A. Applegate. This is the second book in the Everworld series. David, Christopher, Jalil, and April are still searching for Senna. They are also trying to stay alive in Everworld. They travel with the Vikings to attack the Aztecs only to be captured and taken alive to be sacrifices to Huitzilopoctli, the Aztec god of death, who likes to eat the hearts of his victims - num num.... This book is told from Christopher's point of view and is a little darker than the first. You get the distinct impression in this one that Senna is not the victim she first appeared.

Ratings: 7th grade - 7 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - V (violence).

Sinbad's Seven Voyages

Sinbad's Seven Voyages is retold by Gladys Davidson. This small book is a collection of four tales from The Arabian Nights. It includes Sinbad's Seven Voyages, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Abou Hassan or the Caliph's Jest. For those who are unfamiliar with these classic tales this is a great introduction; for those who have heard them it is great reminder of why these tales are so timeless and popular.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Goats

The Goats is by Brock Cole. This is a disturbing, yet tender, tale of two outsiders who learn to trust each other and in turn discover themselves. At the summer camp from hell two teens, a boy and a girl, are the victims of a cruel "prank". They are designated "goats" by the other campers and tricked into a trip to an island in the middle of a lake. They are stripped of their clothes and left there; the intent is that the others will come back later and spy on them and gloat over their misery and fear. The two manage to escape from the island, naked and alone, and begin a journey of self discovery that changes them both. Along the way they discover both kindness and cruelty from adults and children alike. This is a powerful tale, and though the style of writing is at times difficult to follow it is a must read. I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone who has ever been a "goat".

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity).

Five Children and It

Five Children and It is by E. Nesbit. Set in early 1900s England, this is the story of five children who discover a sand fairy who grants them wishes. Sounds cool huh? But as the saying goes, "be careful what you wish for, you might get it." This is a wonderful story of the love of brothers and sisters for each other, their family and friends. Nesbit is known for her wonderful children's tales. This can be a difficult read as the setting and language are very 1900s British. It is still a wonderful story and Nesbit is a writer whose books are worth getting to know.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

Bimbos of the Death Sun

Bimbos of the Death Sun is by Sharon McCrumb. HOLD ON! It's not what you're thinking. Don't dismiss this book so quickly. This novel is not science fiction but a wonderfully witty and enticing murder mystery. Dr. James Owens Mega is a professor of engineering at a local college. His girlfriend teaches science fiction/fantasy writing in the English department. He writes a serious science fiction novel about "the effects of sunspot activity in relation to polymer acrylic on capacitive interaction among high-frequency micro components in thick film circuits." His girlfriend, Marion, helps him make it into a marketable product which the publishers decide to title Bimbos of the Death Sun, much to James' embarrassment. Marion books him as a featured author at Rubicon, the ultimate science fiction/fantasy convention, to help sell his book. While there he meets a Clue-like cast of wacky characters, and his fellow guest author Appin Dungannon who created the famous novels about Viking warrior Tratyn Runewind. Dungannon's writing is popular, but the man himself is a real jerk - and he ends up murdered. James finds himself helping the police solve this "murder most foul". This quirky mystery pokes fun at all things sci-fi/fantasy and even if you've never been to a science fiction/fantasy convention you will recognize some of the goofy characters portrayed in the book. A thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended read, for mystery fans everywhere.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).


Uninvited is by Amanda Marrone. Jordan's life is a mess. She runs with the party crowd: drinking, drug use, sexual stupidity are rampant in her life. Her ex-boyfriend, who was hardly a paragon of virtue, kills himself - or did he? The evening of his funeral he shows up at her window begging her to let him in. Jordan quickly discovers Michael is a vampire. He says he loves her and wants to be with her and her life stinks so badly his offer is looking really good. But is an eternity with Micheal the best choice? Is he really all he seems? This novel started very slow and was a hard read since Jordan is seldom sober and her alcohol/drug influenced thoughts are sometimes hard to follow. It definitely gets better as you move through it and watch Jordan struggle to get herself together. The ending is certainly hopeful. Jordan's life will resonate with far too many teen girls - unfortunately. There are lots of references to teenage drinking, drug use, and sex although they are not graphic.

Ratings: 10th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Practical Magic

Practical Magic is by Alice Hoffman. The Owens women have been thought of as witches for more than 200 years. The aunts certainly make a living dealing in love charms and spells. Sally and Gillian, who were take in by the aunts when their parents died in a fire, only want out. Sally gets married and Gillian runs away. However you can't run away from your destiny or from the strong ties of family. Not at all like the movie, this is a wonderful story of family and the bonds that hold it together. It's also a love story; false love as well as true love. It almost makes you feel there really is someone out there for everyone.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Demon in My View

Demon in My View is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. The sequel to In the Forests of the Night also draws its title from poetry, this time Edgar Allan Poe. This is the story of Jessica, a teen shunned by her entire school. Under the pen name Ash Night she is writing books about vampires. But are they only stories? She thinks so until Aubrey, the vampire in her book, enrolls in her senior class. Is her writing fact or fiction? Has she somehow linked to the mind of a vampire? If she has, she is re-telling their histories and secrets -and they are not happy little vampire campers. Will Aubrey kill her or not? A spectacular continuation of the series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.


Tattoo is by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This is a very interesting book. Four friends buy temporary tattoos at the mall and discover that once they are applied they have strange magical powers. Bailey is the link between the group of girls and the powerful Sidhe, ancient fairies, who need the girls to help them save the world from a powerful evil. This book was an unexpectedly appealing and fun read.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (some mature thematic content).


Untamed is by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast. The fourth volume in the House of Night series is a thrilling roller coaster ride of suspense. Zoey has lost all three of her boyfriends and her close knit group of friends no longer trusts her. The only friends she has left are Aphrodite and Stevie Rae, and they have "issues". Things at the House of Night go from bad to worse as Neferet's true intentions come to light, loyalties are tested, life-altering choices are made, and an ancient evil awakes. This novel is mesmerizing! It's a fabulous hard-to-put-down read that will leave you counting the days until March when the next volume in the series is released.

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seven Up

Seven Up is by Janet Evanovich. Number seven in the Stephanie Plum mystery saga, this outrageous tale is delightfully witty and enjoyable. Eddie De Chooch is old and an FTA - he got caught smuggling cigarettes; he also has a dead body in his tool shed - oh and he's dating Grandma Mazur. As if things aren't complicated enough, Dougie is missing, Steph's apartment is broken into (again), her "perfect" sister returns from California, and Morelli wants to "get married!?!". To solve this case Steph must make a deal with Ranger, but is she willing to give him what he wants in trade. Another fantastic and riotously raunchy tale.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - S (non-graphic sexual references) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

Summer Knight

Summer Knight is by Jim Butcher. This fourth installment in the Dresden Files fantasy series is the most intense yet. Poor Harry, his life is falling to pieces. As if things aren't bad enough in waltzes Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie. The Summer Knight has been killed and war is brewing between the Winter Court and the Summer Court, and as usual humanity is caught in the middle. Only Harry Dresden can prevent all out war and preserve the balance needed to protect the world - but at what cost? Another wonderful tale from Butcher. It's wonderfully intense and suspenseful, and hard to put down.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth is by Norton Juster. Milo is a young boy who is bored with everything. One day a tollbooth is delivered to his room and he embarks on a journey through the Kingdom of Wisdom. The rulers of Dictionoplois (who love letters) and Digitopolis (who love numbers) have banished the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason. It's up to Milo, Tock the Watchdog, and the Humbug to free them. A delightful tale full of fantasy and many pearls of wisdom, if you look for them. A must read fantasy for well-read individuals.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lost in the Labyrinth

Lost in the Labyrinth is by Patrice Kindl. A wonderful re-telling of two famous myths from a very different point of view. Xenodice is the daughter of King Minos and Queen Pasiphae. Her brother is the fabled Minotaur and she is in love with Icarus, whose father built the labyrinth. The myths of Thesus and the Minotaur and Daedalus and Icarus are re-told from Xenodice's point of view. An extraordinary tale from a very strange point of view; which is Kindl's typical style. A must read for lovers of Greek mythology and fantasy.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - AC (some more mature thematic content).

Deep and Dark and Dangerous

Deep and Dark and Dangerous is by Mary Downing Hahn. Ali goes to Sycamore Lake with her artist aunt Dulcie to babysit her young daughter, Emma, while Dulcie paints. While there they meet a girl named Sissy. Ali is frightened by her influence on Emma. Sissy is mean and spiteful, and a....ghost. How did Sissy die? Was she really killed by Ali and Emma's mothers? This is one of Hahn's creepier tales. It is also a fantasy about how secrets can destroy lives in more ways than one.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.


Dive is by Gordon Korman. This realistic fiction series consists of three installments: The Discovery, The Deep, and The Danger. Four teenagers are offered a summer internship as divers for a respected marine research institute in the Caribbean. Upon arrival they find the crew they are supposed to be working with want nothing to do with them, why? Why are they charting caves when that has nothing to do with the mapping they were supposedly to work on? They discover the scientists are really treasure hunters. The question becomes now what do they do? The ocean is a dangerous place? Another good series from Korman who also wrote the Island series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Dark Portal

The Dark Portal is by Robin Jarvis. Book One in the Deptford Mice Trilogy, this is a fascinating fantasy in the mold of Watership Down. Albert Brown is a married mouse with two children, Audrey and Arthur. He takes a trip into the dangerous sewers where the rats live. The rats who worship an evil god called Jupiter. Albert discovers Jupiter's evil plans and sets in motion a series of events that could destroy his entire family. Will Jupiter succeed or will the Brown children stop his evil plans? A fantastic story! Jarvis has invented a complete society and mythology for the mice, rats, and bats who inhabit his world. A wonderful tale of good vs evil.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

The City of Ember

The City of Ember is by Jeanne DuPrau. The first installment in the Book of Ember dystopian fiction series. Doon and Lina live in Ember, a city that is dying. All the supplies are running out and the generator that supplies electricity is on the verge of a breakdown. Lina discovers a box with "instructions". Instructions for what? She and Doon believe they have found the way out of Ember. Have they? Will anyone believe them? A great story, well written and suspenseful.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tunnels of Blood

Tunnels of Blood is by Darren Shan. The third in the Cirque Du Freak fantasy series, Darren and Evra go off with Mr. Crepsley. They suspect him of murdering humans, but is he? And what is a vampaneze? Darren must chose between his friend Evra and his new girlfriend, Debbie. Another excellent entry in this fast-paced series.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (some violence).