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Category Archives: YA Books

Nerds Heart YA 1st Round

As mentioned yesterday, Nerds Heart YA starts today with the revealing of 1st round winners.  Paired with Violet Crush, we are making the decision on which book moves on in the tournament, Stringz by Michael Wenberg, or Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John.  Each of these books has a musical theme, as well as a backdrop of Seattle, Washington.  Read through the reviews of each book and see the winner revealed at the end.

Stringz by Michael Wenberg

Jace Adams is tired of being a teenage nomad, moving from city to city all because of his mother’s lame excuses to change location.  He just wants to settle down, surf and play cello.  Everything changes when he moves to Seattle and actually makes good friends.  All in good time, as his world is turned upside down, in good ways and bad, and he is forced to make decisions about his future and his identity.

While the main character was likable enough and the character development fun to follow, this book fell short when it came to the execution.  Some holes in the plot and in the characters made it hard to follow.  The friendships that Jace develops in his new school and homelife are intriguing and contribute a lot to his develop as a person.  Seattle as a setting and music as a theme is more than attractive to me, but unfortunately this novel needed a few more rounds of editing.

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Piper is just your run-of-the-mill intellectual, over-achieving teenager.  Except that she’s deaf.  When she decides it’s time for a change, to do something different in her world, she becomes the manager of a high school band, recent winners of Seattle’s Battle of the Bands.  She doesn’t quite realize what she’s getting herself into, as she faces flack from her parents, numerous fights within the band, and the opportunity to make the band great or let them wane away in their lack of discipline.

Piper is an awesome character.  A well-rounded character, with her life story so obviously hindering her in more ways than just her deafness, she struggles to understand her role in her family and amongst the band.  She wrestles with her identity and often chooses to go out on a limb, seemingly uncharacteristic of the past Piper.  Though the other characters are not nearly as developed as Piper, the author leaves you wanting so much more from them.  With a creative storyline and a different main character than we are used to seeing in the YA world, Five Flavors of Dumb is definitely a winner.

As may be apparent by the short reviews, our choice in the book to move on in the bracket is Five Flavors of Dumb!  Follow along at the Nerds Heart YA homepage to see who the final winner is!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2011 in YA Books

 

Nerds Heart YA

Starting in 2009, YA book bloggers have been hosting, participating and reading for the Nerds Heart YA competition.  With the goal of showcasing books that might not have received as much publicity as deserved, the competition is set up bracket-style, with bloggers deciding which books move on in the tournament.  This year’s competition contains a shortlist of books that were published in 2010 and feature one or more of the following criteria:

  • Person(s) of color
  • GLBT
  • Disability
  • Mental illness
  • Religious lifestyle
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Plus-size

Nerds Heart YA has already begun by the choosing of judges and the reading of novels set up in the bracket.  Beginning tomorrow, bloggers will begin to post their winning picks.  Check out the daily schedule for the first round here:

13th June This Purple Crayon/Book Addiction
13th June VioletCrush/The Literary Wife
15th June Pineapples & Pyjamas/Book Harbinger
(Edit) 21st June Birdbrain(ed) Book BlogBookworming in the 21st Century
17th June Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic 
17th June Books, Movies and Chinese Food/The Brain Lair
20th June The Wandering Librarians – Arianna/The Wandering Librarians – Anna
20th June We’re not butterflies…/A Backwards Story
22nd June TheReadingZone/Shylock Books
22nd June Early Nerd Special/Snarkymamma
24th June Book Nut
24th June Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Books
27th June the rejectionist
27th June TATAL 
29th June Sunshine and Bones
29th June Stella Matutina

Stay tuned tomorrow for my decision on which book moves on, Stringz or Five Flavors of Dumb. 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2011 in YA Books

 

Paranormal Week: Other Novels

I read quite a few YA paranormal novels in preparation for this week and just to get a taste of what is out there.  Some of the books that I wanted to feature cannot be classified in the previous posts this week, so here is a random conglomeration of other books that I read.

Sleepless by Cyn Balog (click on image for more information)

A story about Sandmen and their interactions with their human charges really peaked my interest as I felt these creatures and their “stories” to be different from a lot of paranormal novels out there.  Unfortunately, the novel was flawed in a few too many ways for me to truly enjoy it.  The main Sandman in the book was fabulous and really came to life for me, but there was too much going on and too many discrepancies for the actual story to flow in my reading.  I have heard good things about Cyn Balog, though, so I hope to read her other paranormal novel, Fairy Tale, soon.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Main character Evie is a member of the International Paranormal Containment Agency and has been for most of her life.  She enjoys her life capturing and living amongst paranormals, but sometimes she just wants to be a teenager.  This is the book that tipped me over the paranormal edge.  I was kind of on the fence about this genre, but that is old news.  Kiersten White nailed the teenage persona with the character of Evie, with her desire for a boyfriend and a locker in a real school.  But Evie is independent and bold, wanting the best for the people in her world, capturing my heart with her every more.  Paranormalcy may not contain the poetic-type writing of Maggie Stiefvater, but the snark and teenage angst are spot-on.

Deception by Lee Nichols

Emma can see ghosts. Not only can she see ghosts, but she can communicate with them, compel them to do her bidding and generally understand their nature and world. When she finds this out, her life is turned upside down and she must figure out for herself who she is and what her future will hold.  Emma is a kick-butt character in a potentially awesome story. She is bold, honest, sarcastic, and swoons at the sight of a wonderful, caring man. She is real to the point of being thoroughly confused by her past and the secrets her family has to hide. She is courageous enough to accept her ghostkeeping abilities and face evil head-on.
Unfortunately, Emma’s character and the premise of the story are hindered by awkward pacing and a lack of explanation for a lot of happenings and features of the story. I will admit that I did read this novel quickly, racing through to find out what would happen to Emma and the people in her life, but in the end I was just a bit confused. How exactly does ghostkeeping work? How does Emma control and use her powers for good? What exactly did happen in her family’s past?
I understand that this is the first novel in a series, and that a lot of my questions might be answered in the forthcoming novels, but there were just too many key points missing.

So there you have it, my friends, the beginning of my relationship with paranormal YA books.  Stay tuned tomorrow for a giveaway!

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Paranormal, YA Books

 

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games was chosen as my book club’s book choice for the month of February.  The participants were asked to write a review of the book prior to our discussion and I thought I should post it here as well.  I am very much looking forward to hearing the thoughts of my fellow readers and IRL book lovers.  Get ready for some huge fangirl action on this review because I absolutely love this series.

In the nation of Panem, the residents of the districts are controlled by the people of the Capitol.  While the districts reap harvests and nearly starve to death, the residents of the Capitol live in luxury, with every amenity at their fingertips.  Not only do the districts provide food and energy sources to the Capitol, they provide entertainment.  Each year, 2 teenagers from each district are chosen to participate in the bloodbath called The Hunger Games, in which the 24 “tributes” go head-to-head knowing they are literally fighting for their lives, knowing that only one will reign victorious and the others will meet their early graves.  So when 16-year-old Katniss’ sister is chosen as a participant, she finds she has no choice but to volunteer to take Prim’s place and enter the fight for her life.

Believable world-building is critical in dystopian novels such as this one, and Suzanne Collins gets it done.  While no reader wants to believe that the world can exist in such terrible form as Panem, it is easy to get caught up in this world and forget that The Hunger Games do not actually exist.  The author gets it down to every detail, including the geography, the lives of the Capitol residents and the emotions of starvation and vulnerability.  Facts are coupled with emotions, drawing us deeply into the lives of the tributes and their fight to stay alive.

Katniss, while not my favorite female protagonist in literature, is fabulous from the get-go.  After her father died, she was forced to start hunting and bargaining in order to keep her sister and mother fed and alive.  She is tough, brave and smart, though her deep love for her sister and best friend Gale bring her character full circle in emotionality.  Her ability to think quickly and take risks makes her likable, yet her vulnerability in certain situations make her character believable.

Without ruining the rest of the series for those that have not finished it, I will say that the symbolism and foreshadowing in this first novel are brilliant.  This novel is more than just a story of a brutal society, it is possibly an ode to free will and democracy, an imploration to consider each other as individuals with merit and value.

The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins

Published by Scholastic

October 2008

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Book Review, Dystopian, Scholastic, YA Books

 

Book Review: The Agency #2

Mary Quinn has taken on another case with the Agency, a group of female detectives disguised as an academy for girls. Only this time, Mary not only has to use her wits and acting skills to solve the mystery, but she has to pose as a young boy the entire time.

Mary is set on proving herself capable of being a detective, and a great one at that.  When she accepts the mission of solving a murder case, she has no idea how emotional the case will be, as she returns to her past, basically living on the streets and being looked down upon.

As you might know, I was a big fan of Y.S. Lee’s first Agency book, A Spy in the House.  Filled with action, intrigue and a touch of romance, the second book in the series does not disappoint.

Unlike the first book, I felt like the case took a while to unfold.  There were a lot of characters to follow, and I found myself having to go back and re-read some paragraphs, but each character added a new element and aspect to the mystery and the novel itself.  We get to see a different social circle of London, as Mary (or Mark) works at a construction site and lives in a boarding house.  This setting introduces a whole new cast of characters.

Brought into the story again is Mary’s semi-love interest James, bringing with him a new set of challenges for Mary and the Agency.  The romance is subtle, yet an important part of the novel.  While we still see Mary’s independence and strength shine through, the swooning after James is perfect, as she tries so hard to cover it up.  While we as the readers can see how perfect they are for each other, it might take a while for this relationship to develop.

During the course of the first book, we were introduced to a bit of Mary’s past, the complications of her former family life and her biracial background.  The second book reveals a bit more of Mary’s inner struggles and what she has been through during her short twenty-some-odd years.  She faces the challenge of remembering what it was like living on the streets and stealing in order to survive.  Y.S. Lee takes us fill circle with her personality, revealing her “weakness” and emotions that she actually does possess.  Mary Quinn is a character you can’t help but love.  The Body at the Tower only does more to reveal that.

The Agency #2: The Body at the Tower

by Y.S. Lee

Published by Candlewick

August 2010

 

Book Review: Girl Stolen

When sixteen-year-old Cheyenne is kidnapped in her stepmother’s SUV, her captor has no idea that she is in the backseat.  He only intended to jack the car, and is in for the surprise of his life finding out that not only has he kidnapped a girl, but he has kidnapped a blind girl with pneumonia.  Forced to make a decision, her captor takes her to his house and proceeds to fix his mistakes under the watchful eye of his father.

Told in alternating POV, this novel gets in to the minds of Cheyenne and her kidnapper, Griffin.  We learn of how Cheyenne lost her sight, as well as the struggles she has had since then.  Griffin has problems of his own, trying to sort through the reality that is his life, living in a home where stealing is like breathing and violence is a part of everyday life.  Author April Henry has seamlessly brought together these two characters, as the chapters flow together in a way that keeps you turning pages quickly.  At the same time that the characters are woven together, there is also a distinct voice to each of them.  Obviously, Cheyenne is blind and experiences the world in an entirely different way than Griffin.  The distinction between the two voices gives light to how our circumstances hinder us or enable us to see the world differently.  However, each character is seeking survival and strength during this tumultuous time, and this is what brings them together.

The plot of the novel reveals the emotions of the characters, as any good novel should.  However, because the two main characters have such depth to them, it is not just the plot that we follow, but also the revealing of inner struggle, doubt and sacrifice.  When it comes to the plot, the pacing might be a little off, but only in order to continue with the alternating points-of-view.

I feel as if Girl, Stolen should be a completely different experience for each reader.  Though short in page count, there is much depth when it comes to emotion, the reality of life, and human nature.  One could most definitely fly through this novel, getting caught up in the kidnapping aspect of it, rejoicing in triumphs and feeling despair with the characters.  One could also read for the character development, possibly putting aside the fact that the novel is told from the point-of-view of a kidnapper and his victim.  This novel is definitely one that I will read again, trying to glean from it what I can.

Girl, Stolen

by April Henry

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

September 2010

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in Book Review, Contemps Challenge, YA Books

 

5 Great Covers

Adele of Persnickety Snark is hosting the FIVE challenge on her blog during these last few days of December and today is the day to highlight great book covers of 2010.  I give you, my five favorite covers of books from 2010, along with their summary from Goodreads.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Scarlet March lives to hunt the Fenris–the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She’s determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls’ bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett’s only friend–but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they’ve worked for?

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth, and what follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there’s still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

This coming-of-age true story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school, and especially those who have ever had a bit of their own dental drama.

Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards

Sixteen-Year-Old Celstia spends every summer with her family at the elite resort at Lake Conemaugh, a shimmering Allegheny Mountain reservoir held in place by an earthen dam. Tired of the society crowd, Celestia prefers to swim and fish with Peter, the hotel’s hired boy. It’s a friendship she must keep secret, and when companionship turns to romance, it’s a love that could get Celestia disowned. These affairs of the heart become all the more wrenching on a single, tragic day in May, 1889. After days of heavy rain, the dam fails, unleashing 20 million tons of water onto Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the valley below. The town where Peter lives with his father. The town where Celestia has just arrived to join him. This searing novel in poems explores a cross-class romance—and a tragic event in U. S. history.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in Book Review, YA Books