Monday, July 12, 2010

Sorta Like a Rock Star

Title: Sorta Like a Rock Star
Author: Matthew Quick
Age Level: Young Adult (Grades 8-12)
Publisher: Little, Brown
Copyright: 2010
ISBN: 9780316043524

Amber Appleton is anything but your average teenage girl. She lives in a school bus, her best friends are handicapped, and she spends her free time making music with Korean priests, writing Haikus with Vietnam vets, and verbally sparring with the elderly. Although Amber's been dealt a bad hand in her personal life, she hasn't let it affect her faith. After a horrible tragedy, Amber is faced with a decision: hold out hope or admit defeat?

Amber is a character of epic proportions. She is so unfortunate in her home life, but she doesn't let her circumstances get her down. In fact, she takes all of her misfortune and uses it as a catalyst for all the good things she does. I'm not sure how a grown man channeled her so well, but he did a fabulous job. When I first started reading this book, I was kind of turned off by the way it was written. It actually sounds like a teenage girl speaking, which is kind of weird to a 28 year-old. True? True. After I got into Amber's story, though, I really loved that it was narrated exactly the way she would've talked. It helped me get inside of her head better than I would have otherwise. The relationships she develops with the adults around her make up for her lack of traditional parent relationships and the friendships she develops are absolutely golden. I can't stress it enough. Read this book. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and Amber Appleton might even change your outlook on life. Yes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dead Beautiful

Title: Dead Beautiful
Author: Yvonne Woon
Age Level: Young Adult (Grades 9-12)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Copyright: 2010
ISBN: 9781423119562

On her 16th birthday, Renee Winters finds both of her parents lying dead in the middle of a forest. Just a few days later, she is whisked away by a grandfather she hasn't seen in years. She soon finds herself at Gottfried Academy in northern Maine, a mysterious boarding school that specializes in the study of philosophy, Latin, and "crude sciences." Here, Renee finds herself strangely attracted to Dante, a fellow student with a bad reputation and a deadly secret. As she settles in at Gottfried Academy and her relationship with Dante grows deeper, she realizes that the mystery and danger that awaits is far beyond her wildest dreams.

I really enjoyed Dead Beautiful. Although the story was fiction, the ideas behind the story were rooted in philosophers of the past, which gave the book more validity than much of today's romantic fantasy. I also found it incredibly interesting because the concept presented in this novel was very different than the vampires, witches, werewolves, and fairies I've been reading about lately. The love story was also quite compelling. Hopefully a sequel is in the works!

(Review based on an advance copy. This book will be released in September 2010.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Title: Need
Author: Carrie Jones
Age Level: Young Adult (Grades 7-12)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Copyright: 2008
ISBN: 9781599903385

Zara has always had a need to understand things. She can name almost any phobia and believes that if she can name it, she can conquer it. After her father dies, she slips into a deep depression and her mother sends her to live with her grandma Betty in northern Maine. Upon her arrival in Maine, she begins attending school and is promptly taken in by a group of loyal (if somewhat outcast) friends. Not heeding her grandmother's advice to be in the house before nightfall, Zara loses control of her car on a dark and icy road and is rescued by mysterious, handsome Nick. Add a little pixie dust and a stranger who follows her everywhere to the list, and soon Zara begins to realize that things aren't exactly what they seem. In fact, there is magic and danger beyond her wildest imaginations encroaching on her safe, controlled little world.

I absolutely LOVED Need. It had all of the elements for an entertaining adult novel with none of the smut. I believe that one of the marks of a book's true success is if it can transcend age groups. Although this book is really aimed more towards teens, I think it would even be appropriate for mature tweens and even adults. I love that Jones has written a romantic science fiction/fantasy novel that involves a creature other than vampires. The writing is good, the storyline flows well, the characters are loveable AND respectable (a rare combo,) and the book is just REALLY good. I can't recommend it enough. If you liked Twilight, you will love Need.

Buy me here!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Hallo-Wiener

Title: The Hallo-Wiener
Author: Dav Pilkey
Publisher: Scholastic
Copyright: 1995
ISBN: 0439079462

Aptly named Oscar has a hard time fitting in with the other dogs at school. Oscar is a sweet and svelte dauchshund and his classmates are just a bunch of mutts. Regardless of that fact, they feel the need to poke fun at Oscar any chance they get for his "unusual shape and size." Things just get worse when Oscar's mother makes him a hot dog costume for Halloween. Kind dog that Oscar is, he saves the day when they find themselves in trouble on Halloween night.

I discovered The Hallo-Wiener a few years ago when I first began teaching. From the moment I picked it up, I knew I was in L-O-V-E. Being the mother of a wiener dog myself (now two wiener dogs,) I have a special place in my heart for these little critters. So while I may be biased because of it's precious little canine character, I always hear laughs from students and teachers alike when I read it out loud in my library. If you read only one Halloween book this year, make it The Hallo-Wiener. You won't be sorry!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Title: Wings
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Publisher: HarperTeen (Harper Collins)
Copyright: 2009
ISBN: 9780061668036

Fifteen year-old Laurel is new in town, and as a typical new-in-town teen, feels like she doesn't belong. The truth is, though, that she really doesn't. When Laurel says that she feels different from other teens, it's because she is. Laurel quickly meets David who befriends her and becomes the one person she can really trust. When a strange growth appears on her back and turns into something Laurel couldn't believe, she finds herself venturing into a world beyond her wildest imagination.

I found much of this book reminiscent of Twilight, but in a very different way. It is quite interesting and well written, especially to be Pike's debut novel. I recommend Wings, especially for teen girls ages 12-16. Wings is the first book in a set that is supposed to end up as four books by it's conclusion. Disney has purchased the rights to the book and it is set to be made into a movie in 2010.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Title: Bee-Wigged
Author: Cece Bell
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright: 2008
ISBN: 9780763636142

Jerry Bee is a big bee with an even bigger problem. He wants to make friends with people, but people aren't too keen to bee-friend a bee. All that changes when one day he finds an old wig on the ground and is (strangely enough) mistaken for a real boy instead of a boy-sized bee. Hilarity ensues as Jerry wins over the local school and eventually realizes that his wig is not in fact a wig after least not in the literal sense.

Cece Bell's illustrations are abstract and whimsical, adding much detail to her already solid storyline. I highly recommend this book for it's silly story, witty word bubbles, colorful pictures, and excellent life lesson. Children and adults alike will enjoy getting to know Jerry Bee.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Scaredy Squirrel

Title: Scaredy Squirrel
Author: Melanie Watt
Publisher: Kids Can Press, Ltd.
Copyright: 2006
ISBN: 9781554530236

Scaredy Squirrel is a hilarious story about a neurotic squirrel and his agoraphobic tendencies. The aptly named Scaredy is afraid of many ridiculous things. Killer bees, germs, green martians, and sharks are just a few of the things that leave him shaking in his furry boots. Because of his fears, Scaredy lives a simple life of eating nuts and gazing at the view from his tree, always prepared for a disaster of epic proportions. One day, though, Scaredy is forced out of his nest and realizes that life is much more fulfilling with a little bit of variety.

This clever little book by Canadian Melanie Watt had me, quite literally, laughing out loud. From the first page's note to the reader (written by Scaredy himself,) I was hooked. Scaredy's quirky personality and irrational fears connect with readers at every stage in life from the youngest children to the most mature adults. Fans of Scaredy will be happy to hear there are several more books that follow Scaredy on his adventures as he heads further and further away from his tree.

Read this book now! I promise you'll thank me.