Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hush, Hush

By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: Hush, Hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 391
Publisher: Simon & Shuster
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? Yes, a second book is in the works...Maybe more?
Rating: 1 (View Scale)
Recommend? No

Description: (From the book jacket)

A SACRED OATH

A FALLEN ANGEL

A FORBIDDEN LOVE

Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those who have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

Review: I almost put this book down after the first chapter, but I think a review is necessary considering that this book is a big seller on Amazon and there are numerous requests for it at our local library. Amazon has a book trailer for this book on its website and the cover is amazing and sure to draw attention.

Scene One: High school Biology Class. Near naked Barbie and Ken dolls are stuck to the chalkboard with the message “Welcome to human reproduction (Sex)”. Sexual innuendo and tension surround this fantasy which is heightened by the borderline demonic character of Patch Cipriano. His dark, mysterious personality seems predatory...he seems to be able to read minds and plant thoughts and images into the minds of those around him.

Vee and Nora are supposedly best friends, but Vee is constantly causing problems of no small significance for Nora, and never takes non-verbal clues from Nora. Vee seems to be obsessed with edgy and dangerous situations. When in the hospital with a broken arm she is excessively enthralled with the effects of painkilling drugs. Sex and boys are prominent topics of Vee’s conversation in spite of her lack of experience.

The book starts with a quote from 2Peter 2:4 “...God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment...”

Becca Fitzpatrick’s isolated use of scripture makes for bad theology, but it suits her purpose as a basis to develop a novel designed to draw readers into a dark world of demons and the occult.

Rating: 1 for violence and horror, sexual innuendo.

Positive: Nora, in spite of Vee’s actions, is a loyal friend and is willing to place herself in danger to save her friend.

Spiritual Elements: Spiritual elements abound...from fallen angels, to Nephilim and demons...even to having a fallen angel finding redemption and being restored his wings and position.

Violence: Nora is subjected to horrifying visions, and is being pursued by a deranged killer.

Language: None

Sexual Content: There is much sexual tension throughout the book even though little graphic description is employed.

Other: Lying was used as a way out of many situations.

Recommendation: I found that this book made me uneasy the whole time I was reading...like evil was lurking around the corner. I think this book might have the capacity to draw in young teen readers to the world of the occult, and using elements of scripture makes it even more offensive. I do not recommend this book.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Truth About Sparrows


By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: The Truth About Sparrows (Booklist Editor's Choice. Books for Youth (Awards))
Author: Marian Hale
Primary Audience/age group: 9-12
Genre: Historical Fiction
# of Pages: 260
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Year of Release: 2004
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes!

Description: (From the book jacket) I turned twelve on July 18, 1933, the day we left Missouri. Mama said there’d be no cake this year. She said I was getting a whole new life for my birthday instead.

Sadie doesn’t want a new life; her old one suits her just fine. But times are hard in drought-plagued Missouri, and Daddy thinks they’ll be better off in Texas. It’s tough for Sadie to give up her beloved home for this strange place, where even children clean shrimp at the cannery to help make ends meet and where people are rude to her disabled father.

Yet when trouble comes, it is the kindness of these new neighbors that helps the family through. And no one helps more than Dollie, a red-headed chatter box of a girl who just might become a good friend – if Sadie gives her half a chance.

Review: Marian Hale writes a touching story about loss ...the loss of the only way of life Sadie Wynn had ever known. The depression robbed her of her home and her best friend and caused her family to fight for their very survival. As the family travels from Missouri to Texas, they also gain much...friendships, an affinity and appreciation for hard work and the comfort of caring and being cared for.

I much admired Sadie as she struggled with the hard decisions that her father had to make as to what was best for the welfare of his family. Leaving her friend, Wilma, with the promise that they would be best friends forever, chafed at her insides and created an empty place in her heart that she was sure could never be filled by anyone else. Her loyalty to her best friend almost prevented her from accepting friendship from others who came into her life.

Compassion for others is central throughout this gentle narration that presents a detailed picture of life in a small coastal fishing colony on the coast of Texas during the depression.

Rating: 5

Positive: Strong family values were key throughout. Loyalty to family and friends was encouraged...neighbors were like family and willing to lend a hand whenever needed. Hard work and friendships were highly valued. Determined to improve her situation, Sadie got up most mornings before four A.M. so she could work before school peeling shrimp in a cannery for five cents a bucket. God and the Bible provided a steadying influence on daily life.

Spiritual Elements: Bible verses were quoted on a daily basis and prayer was a regular part of their life.

Violence: Sadie’s brother Jacob got into a fist fight with one of the boys from town after being called a “bay rat”. Both boys came out bloodied.

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Other: There is an incident where Sadie’s mother goes into labor a month early with only Sadie and her friend Dollie there to help with the birth.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book. My only concern is with the age range for which it is recommended. The chapter describing the birth of the baby causes me to recommend it to an older audience...probably 12+. This would probably be a case of knowing your reader (or perhaps parents reading it with younger readers.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

If the Witness Lied


By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: If the Witness Lied
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Realistic Fiction
# Of pages: 213
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 View Scale
Recommend? Yes...if you are a Caroline Cooney fan

Description: Baby Tris was the reason his mother was no longer alive...her decision to delay the chemotherapy she needed so that Tris could be born changed the life of her family forever. Now Tris has also been blamed for the death of his father...accidental to be sure, but who would have thought that a toddler would release a parking brake causing the vehicle to run over and kill his father?

As the family split apart after the death of their father, Tris’s sisters, Madison and Smithy moved out...Smithy to boarding school and Madison to her godparents. Only Jack stayed home to provide some kind of stability for his little brother Tris. “Aunt” Cheryl moved in and is determined to take over the household and make it suit her purposes. She is in love with publicity and has found a lucrative possibility in airing the whole tragic story in a detailed docudrama for television.

Review: The plot moved quickly and captured my interest, but the improbabilities overwhelmed believability. Tris, at the age of two had the vocabulary of a five year old and spoke in coherent sentences, giving critical information when it suited the situation. Jack had no problem ditching school and collecting his baby brother from his daycare and riding off with him in a kiddie seat on the back of his bicycle with the explanation that he had a half day of school and was taking Tris to a soccer game. The day care director was entranced with the idea of a TV producer coming to film Tris in the daycare situation. (No permission requested or granted.) Pictures taken with Dad’s cell phone are discovered...surprise! They were taken by a curious one year old Tris, who loved buttons, just as the Jeep ran over Dad. These photos supplied critical evidence as to what really happened that awful day. Madison and Smithy just happened to begin their trek home (after an absence of months) on the very same day that Jack has absconded with Tris to try to keep him out of Cheryl’s clutches. All the good guys show up at just the right time to save the day. (I’m glad the day was saved, but it was a little too coincidental.)

It was a page turner, even if I was saying “No way could this happen.”

Rating: 4

Positive: Jack was the ideal big brother...totally dedicated to little Tris, and wonderfully patient with him. He and his sisters recognized the need to stick together to protect what was left of their family.

Spiritual Elements: Before their deaths, Laura and Reed Fountain were bringing the family up in the church, and the influence of the church could be seen in the lives of the children as they questioned their relationships with God.

Violence: A few instances of aggression

Language: One instance of profanity

Sexual Content: None

Other: The family had to endure picketing in front of the house because their mother chose to delay the chemotherapy she needed to save her own life rather than abort the child she was carrying.

Recommendation: I would recommend this to young adults who are Caroline Cooney fans looking for a quick easy read. You may be incredulous, but if you can overlook the inconsistencies, it should hold your interest.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments)


Reviewed by Shawna
Title: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Dark Fantasy
# Of pages: 512
Publisher: McElderry
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 3
Rating: 1 (View Scale)
Recommend? No

Description: Fifteen year old Clary was only expecting to enjoy a night out with her best friend Simon at New York City’s Pandemonium Club when three tattooed teenagers murder a young man right in front of her. When the body mysteriously disappears, Clary realizes no one else can see the teens. With her newfound “Sight” Clary is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters, a group of demon-slaying warriors, and finds the battle between demons and Shadowhunters is a lot closer to home than she ever imagined.

Review: Clary’s new world introduces us to not only the Shadowhunters and demons but also to the world of vampires, werewolves, and faeries. All the evil monsters we ever imagined lurking under our beds at night are very real, which makes for an interesting plot. Clary’s character is very much likeable as she moves from a typical teenager hanging out with her best friend, Simon, to the dark world of the Shadowhunters, discovering there’s more to her mundane life than she realized. The book has a great mix of action and romance with even a love triangle or two; however, the language and sexual references kick the book off my recommended list.

Rating: 1 for language

Positive: Clary’s relationship with her mom seems strained after a fight but when her mom disappears, Clary realizes how important she is to her. Clary finds courage she didn’t know she had as she accepts the reality of the new world of the Shadowhunters. Clary and the other Shadowhunters have to rely heavily on each other and risk their lives to save their family and friends.

Many Shadowhunters look down upon the Otherworldlies, anyone who is not full-blooded human or Shadowhunter. This group includes werewolves, faeries, vampires, etc. that are not visible to the human eye. Many of the Otherworldies help Clary, and she realizes that their being different doesn’t make them any worse than she.

Spiritual Elements: The demons the Shadowhunters track are not those of the Bible, but fictional characters, half-human and half-angel, are described as supposedly being referenced in the Bible. The Shadowhunters do not belong to any particular religion although all religions help them by hiding weapons around the altars inside their churches. Neither Jace nor Clary believes in God although Jace says later he believes God just doesn’t care about them.

A psychic named Dorothea lives downstairs from Clary. She reads tarot cards and tea leaves to her. The Shadowhunters do not use magic, but the warlocks are able to cast spells.

Violence: Quite a bit of violence exists but was for the most part moderate. The book is about the Shadowhunters ridding the world of demons. They come up against many violent and scary beings including warlocks, werewolves and vampires. The two most graphic scenes are in the beginning when the Shadowhunters kill the demon, who looks like a teenage boy, and during the final battle scene, where there is bloodshed between the werewolves and the undead. There are also a couple of scenes that are a bit more disturbing as opposed to grotesque such as Jace’s father killing his pet bird in front of him.

Language: There are over 50 uses of foul language, mostly words found in the Bible and their variations. Over ten of those are in disregard of God or Jesus along with the word g**d*****, which gives the book its 1 rating.

Sexual Content: There are several sexual references along with a couple of mild kissing scenes. Some of the characters seem to be open to sex before marriage although that does not occur within the book.

Other: The first scene in the book takes place at Club Pandemonium where drugs are being handed out to the clubbers but none of the main characters use them. Alcohol is present in the book but we rarely see any of the main characters drinking except when Isabelle, one of the teenaged Shadowhunters, becomes drunk at a party. Two of the characters are gay.

Recommendation: Not only were several of the characters seemingly open to underage drinking and sex outside marriage, they were also keen on using bad language excessively. I’m a visual person, so when I read graphic scenes or coarse language they seem to become imbedded into my mind and are easily accessed. I’m more likely to use bad language when I see it repetitively. As the Bible says, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.Luke 6:45b NKJV. The things we focus on and think about are the things that will come out of our mouths, and even though I found the book appealing I do not recommend it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Truancy

By Reviewer Angi
Title: Truancy
Author: Isamu Fukui
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fiction
# Of pages: 432 pages
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 2
Rating: 1 (View Scale)
Recommended? No

Description: From Book Jacket:
In an alternate world, in a nameless totalitarian city, the autocratic Mayor rules the school system with an iron fist, with the help of his Educators. Fighting against the Mayor and his repressive Educators is a group of former students called the Truancy, whose goal is to take down the system by any means possible - at any cost. Against this backdrop, fifteen-year-old Tack is just trying to survive. His days are filled with sadistic teachers, unrelenting schoolwork, and indifferent parents. Things start to look up when he meets Umasi, a mysterious boy who runs a lemonade stand in an uninhabited district. Then someone close to Tack gets killed in the crossfire between the Educators and the Truants, and Tack swears vengeance. To achieve his purpose, he abandons his old life and joins the Truancy. There, he confronts Zyid, an enigmatic leader with his own plans for Tack. But Tack soon finds himself torn between his desire for vengeance and his growing sympathy for the Truancy. Isamu Fukui wrote Truancy during the summer of his fifteenth year. The purpose is not just to entertain, but to make a statement about the futility of the endless cycle of violence in the world as well as the state of the educational system. And, as he put it, I need to be in school myself if I want to write about it.

Review: First, I’d like to say that I felt like the fifteen year old author made a good effort on his first novel. However, past that this novel was full of senseless and heartless violence and killing. I don’t feel like Fukui in any way was successful in making a statement about the futility of the endless cycle of violence in the world or the state of the educational system. I did not read that he intended to make that statement until doing this review, and after reading the book, I honestly thought he was advocating violence as a means to an ends. None of my three children feel as repressed or resentful of school as Fukui apparently does.

Rating:1

Positive: The relationship that Tack had with his sister was touching and honest.

Spiritual Elements: None of consequence. The name of the head Truant was Zen, he changed it to Zyid when he started the Truancy.

Violence: There is violence, gore and killing galore in this novel.

Language: Many foul words are used – including as*, pi** and bast***.

Sexual Content: Tack kisses a girl, but there is nothing beyond a simple kiss.

Other: Many of the truants drink beer, some to the extent that they pass out. It is stated they do this to help them forget about the killing and deal with the death of their peers. All authority is portrayed as against kids and merely interested in obtaining and keeping power over the students. Even those that are portrayed as pacifists are drawn into the violence – and the book ends with the author reinforcing his belief that parents, teachers, government keep students in invisible chains, they have no rights, and they are not equal. It is through violence the Truancy claims to have broken the cycle of oppression and have “taught” the adults how wrong they have been.

Recommendation: I would suggest keeping this book out of the hands of your teen. There is no benefit at all that I can see for reading Truancy. It’s language, violence, and portrayal of parents, teachers and government as plotting to constantly manipulate and squash the spirit of kids – is inappropriate for teens.

The Goodbye Season


By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: The Goodbye Season
Author: Marian Hale
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 271
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 View Scale
Recommend? Yes (Highly)

Description: At sixteen, Mercy Kaplan was determined that her life would be different from that of her Mama’s. Mercy was always saddled with a never-ending list of chores ranging from laundry and cooking to caring for her young brother and sister. She set her sights on freedom and something better than housework and children...marriage was definitely not for her. The year was 1918 when Papa announced that he had to leave home to look for work and that she was to work for another family for room and board...there just simply wasn’t enough food and money to go around. Mercy was devastated at the thought of leaving her family, and thus began a season of goodbyes. Mercy endured saying goodbye to a number of people who had endeared themselves to her before realizing what she truly wanted from life.

Review: I enjoyed this book. Even though Mercy faced many challenges, she did not let that discourage her, but found internal strength as she sought to do what was right. Mercy was almost too perfect, but I found that this did not detract from the story.

Cora Wilder, a recent widow with two small children, hired Mercy to look after them. Cora did some strange things that indicated a troubled past, and Mercy became embroiled in a mystery that could have put both Mercy and the children in danger. In the same household was Daniel, Cora’s nineteen year old stepson, whose gentle ways and tender care of his young siblings threatened to melt Mercy’s heart. This all made for a fascinating story that had me hooked from the very beginning.

Rating: 4 for one violent scene in the book.

Positive: Mercy was hard working and loving, always looking for the good in others. One of Mama’s sayings was “Each burden comes with its own blessing.” Mercy was both burdened and blessed as she coped with loss as the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919 took the lives of many of those around her. She was empathetic and available to help in any way she could, realizing that being useful and busy was a way of managing the grief that threatened to overwhelm her from time to time.

Spiritual Elements: Mercy and her family were believers in God, and at time Mercy questions God as to why things happened as they did. Bible stories were read to the children each night before bed.

Violence: One short scene in the book.

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Other: None

Recommendation: I would recommend this book for middle school and up. It’s wonderful to be able to recommend a good, clean book with a protagonist who displays such positive character qualities.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

By Reviewer Angi
Title: Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The
Author: E. Lockhart
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fiction
# Of pages: 352 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 1 (View Scale)
Recommended? No

Description: From Book Jacket:
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “Bunny Rabbit.”
A mildly geek girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp togue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.
Frankie Landau-Banks:
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew is lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way.

Review: Frankie Landau Banks is witty book written in third person present narration. I enjoyed the banter, the intellectual conversations and Frankie’s creativity. I found the relationship triangle between Frankie, her boyfriend Matthew and his best friend Alpha, believable. As a teenager I often saw my boyfriends torn between spending time with their friends or me. The way Frankie “worshiped” the popular Matthew and held onto him even when she knew he was holding her back from being the person she knew she truly is, is common in teen girls as well. However, I think that by snooping around, following and spying on Matthew, she avoids talking to him, confronting him, and is quite immature. When she found out about the boy’s secret society, she could have used her creativity to form a female version. Instead she sets out to manipulate the leader of the boy’s society and cause serious problems around campus.

The book is written with some big words (love the word panopticon!) and fancy literary terms (neglected positives). However, due to the casual attitudes about sex, alcohol and drugs, this is not a book I can recommend.

Rating:1

Positive: I appreciated the fact that Frankie did not want to be defined by the boys in her life. She didn’t like it when her boyfriend assumed how she felt without ever asking her.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: None

Language: I don’t recall any bad language.

Sexual Content: Frankie and her boyfriend kiss and make out quite a bit, though she seems committed to not going all the way with him. Frankie references some of the sexual activities of her friends.

Other: Many of the students use marijuana, drink beer, and smoke cigarettes, although Frankie, the main character does not. Frankie lied constantly and stole from friends. She trespassed and broke into buildings. She also pulled pranks against school authorities. Having large amounts of money is taken for granted, as Frankie and most of those at the boarding school are extremely rich and spend money carelessly.

Recommendation: I can not recommend this book. The casual attitude towards drugs, alcohol and sex is not a good example for teens of any ages. The snarky, quirky, manipulative manner of Frankie is not something any teen should aspire to be.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Graveyard Book


By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title:
The Graveyard Book
Newberry Award, 2009
Author: Neil Gaiman
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 307
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes

Description: (from book cover) ”Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy – an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack – who has already killed Bod’s family…”

Review: I’m not a fan of fantasy or vampire stories, so I didn’t really expect to like this book much. However, the book isn’t so much a fantasy as it is a story about a boy growing up and learning about the world and his place in it. I ended up liking Nobody Owens quite a bit.

Rating: 4, for mild violence

Recommend: Yes

Positive: Bod’s adopted family and extended circle of friends are loving and kind, even though they are dead. Bod grows up to be respectful and considerate of others. During his short-lived tenure at a school outside the graveyard, he tried to help children who are being bullied. There are times when Bod is rebellious, but he respects his parents and guardians.

Spiritual Elements: There is no overt mention of religion or spiritual matters in this book – in fact, although the story takes an afterlife for granted, there’s no mention of heaven or hell. The story is grounded in a world in which ghosts, vampires, witches, werewolves, and magic are reality, which may make some parents uncomfortable. There are elements of Druid or ancient religions that play an understated role in the story.

Violence: The book begins with the murder of Bod’s family, but it’s not graphic. Actually, it makes me think of old-style horror, in which what we didn’t see was scarier than seeing everything! (Spoiler) The climax of the story has a confrontation with the murderer, but again, the violence is not explicit.

Language: None to speak of.

Sexual Content: None.

Rating:
4, for mild violence

Recommendation: Yes

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Savvy


By Reviewer: Dianne Title: Savvy
Author: Ingrid Law
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 9-12
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 342
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Highly recommended

Description: The Beaumonts are a truly unusual family. At the age of thirteen each family member receives a unique birthday gift...their very own supernatural power or savvy, which they then have to learn to use and control. Rocket has a way with electricity which he is struggling to learn how to handle. Fish can stir up the weather with a stray thought or an angry outburst, causing anything from a light breeze and intermittent rain showers to a full blown hurricane. Rounding out the family are Momma, whose savvy is being perfect, Grandpa Bomba who can cause earthquakes, Poppa, who lacks a special savvy, Mibs, Samson and Gypsy, all of whom have not yet reached their thirteenth birthdays.

As Mibs approaches her thirteenth birthday, her curiosity about her soon to be revealed savvy turns to alarm as she learns that her Poppa has been severely injured in an automobile accident. Her only concern now is that her savvy might in some way save her Poppa. As she stows away on a bus that she thinks will take her to the hospital, a hair-raising adventure begins. Along for the ride are her two brothers and the preacher’s son and daughter...and all learn lessons in life, love and finding hidden talents.

Review: I really enjoyed this warm, feel-good, coming of age book. There is nothing sinister about the supernatural savvy that belongs to each family member, and it serves to create a bond that draws them closer together than a blood relationship ever could. Mix in some mischief and caring about others and you have a recipe for success.

Rating: 5

Positive: The strong loving relationship that exists among the members of the Beaumont family makes you forget their struggle to appear as a “normal” family and fully accept them as an almost ideal family. Their love for each other is evident from the care they take to keep from hurting Samson, who is sure that his pet turtle is only hibernating and not dead, to guarding the tunes that Grandma Dollop loved and preserved in canning in jars. Each of these unusual characters learns to deal with the hardships of being different and gains insights in trusting, hoping, and believing.

Spiritual Elements: The Beaumont family is a family of church goers. The children are tended to by their pastor’s wife when Poppa has an accident and Momma and Rocket go to the hospital to stay with Poppa. Lester is a Bible salesman and is the driver of the Heartland Bible Supply Company bus that eventually takes the kids to Salina where Poppa is in the hospital.

Violence: None

Language: H*ll is used a couple of times referring to the place.

Sexual Content: A mild kiss is exchanged between Mibs and Will.

Other: A plan was fabricated to fool Miss Lill into thinking that Mibs had called the pastor’s wife to report that they were all safe.

Recommendation: This book was a pleasure to read, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to the intended age range. Even though the protagonist is a girl, I think boys would enjoy this book as well.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Alligator Bayou


By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: Alligator Bayou
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 280
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Year of Release:2009
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: From the book jacket: Tallulah, Louisiana. 1899.
Calogero, his uncles, and cousins are six Sicilian men living in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana. They work hard, growing vegetables and selling them at their stand and in their grocery store.

To 14-year-old Calogero, newly arrived from Sicily, Tallulah is a lush world full of contradictions, hidden rules, and tension between the Negro and white communities. He’s startled and thrilled by the danger of a ’gator hunt in the midnight bayou, and by his powerful feelings for Patricia, a sharpwitted, sweet-natured Negro girl. Some people welcome the Sicilians. Most do not. Calogero’s family is caught in the middle: the whites don’t see them as equal, but befriending Negroes is dangerous. Every day brings Calogero and his family closer to a terrifying, violent confrontation.

Review: Life is not fair and sometimes you have to do whatever will save your skin, instead of what makes sense. Calogero learns this lesson the hard way when he confronts bigotry in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana. As a Sicilian immigrant, he works hard and generally does not go looking for trouble, but trouble seems to find him and the rest of his family as well. Many times as I read this book I was reminded of the injustice that is perpetuated by fear of those who are different, those whose cultures we do not understand.
This book was inspired by an actual incident that occurred in Tallulah, Louisiana close to the turn of the 20th century when Jim Crow laws were in full effect. (Spoiler) Five Sicilians were lynched when they served a black customer in their grocery before they served a white customer who subsequently entered the store. Donna Jo Napoli researched the history of this occurrence and created a story which will make us all remember the sting and ugliness of prejudice. Although not an especially fun book to read, it is one that is gripping.

Rating: 3 for violence

Positive: It is clear in this novel that intelligence, character and worth are not determined by skin color or ethnicity. The value of an education was emphasized as Calogero was determined to go to school even if he couldn’t attend the school for whites. He was encouraged to be an independent thinker. In addition, Calogero had a strong sense of family and was hoping to send for his younger brother Rocco.

Spiritual Elements: The Sicilians were from a strong Catholic background and called on God and the saints in times of trouble.


Violence: There was a fair amount of violence – from bullying and fighting, to the shooting of pet goats. The lynching scene, while not graphically described, was still horrifying.

Language: None

Sexual Content: Mild kissing between Calogero and Patricia.

Other: There was some use of alcohol; limoncello, a lemon liqueur and grappa, a strong brandy. There were no incidents of drunken behavior.

Recommendation: Considering the topic of this book, I would recommend it for ages 14 and up.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Winners from Teen Read Week 2009

Thanks everyone for visiting us during Teen Read Week 2009! We have our winners! Jon M. won the Archives of Anthropos six book set by John White. Kk won Teen Idol by Meg Cabot! Please email your addresses to connievail at hotmail dot com and we'll get them mailed to you this week! Keep checking back for more reviews and more book giveaways! Be sure to keep reading!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Sword Bearer

This review comes to us from Angi's son, Cole. Cole is 14 and an avid reader, whose favorite books include Eragon (Inheritance), Hunger Games and The Lightning Thief. You can still enter to win this whole series! To enter, go here and leave a comment!
Title: The Sword Bearer (The Archives of Anthropos)
Author: John White
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 10-14
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 294
Publisher: Intervarsity Press
Year of Release: 1980
Part of a Series? Yes, 1st of 6
Rating: 4 (View Scale)

Description: It was John's birthday. He would be thirteen. And what's more, it was on this day that his grandmother would tell him the mystery of his locket ... and of his parents. But it was not to be. Before he could find out, he was magically transported to the land of Anthropos where he was startled to be hailed as the Sword Bearer, the slayer of the Goblin Prince. Here, in this imaginative story of the early history of Anthropos, John White captures the excitement and wonder of another world.

Review: The Sword Bearer is a book with a solid Christian message. I found that the author has created a series much like the Narnia series. The story itself is pretty good, but the writer can get a little too descriptive. I disliked the main character, John, at first because he was a whiner, but I grew to like him later as his personality improved.

Rating: 4 for mild violence and the use of magic and mention of wine.

Positive: This book is rooted in strong Christian beliefs. As far as I could tell nothing contradicted Scriptures. Overall, the book is good for young readers and will strengthen them in their beliefs.

Spiritual Elements: This whole story is an analogy so naturally it is full of spiritual elements. In the book John fights an internal battle between good and evil and also over his belief in The Changer (God)

Violence: There is some mild violence, such as the detail of dead people/animals and when John kills the Goblin Prince.

Language: On one page a character called “The Guardian of the Old Way” uses the word “dam*ed” twice in the context of meaning cursed.

Sexual Content: None

Other: I got this book when I was twelve and it is great for people who don’t especially like long books. It is a wonderful book to read in your Christian walk, and while it can be a little slow, it is still a good read.

Recommendation: The Sword Bearer is great, especially for those who enjoyed the “Chronicles of Narnia”. The whole book is well founded in scripture and is nice for younger teens who enjoy fantasy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Hunger Games

By Reviewer Rachel (aged 18)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Adventure
# Of pages: 382
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 3 (Hunger Games series)
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend? Yes but with Reservations

Review of Catching Fire (Book 2) and Mockingjay (Book 3)

Description: Pamen, what once was North America, is now twelve districts ruled by the harsh Capital. Every year the Capital makes each district give one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to the Hunger Games. The kids are put into an arena to fight to the death, and the victor is rewarded with riches. When Katniss’ sister is chosen to play in the games, Katniss, seeing the games as a death sentence, offers to take her place. She is accepted, and she goes to meet her fate. She has survived death once before, but will she survive it again?

Review: When I read the book's cover, I was very hesitant. The book didn’t sound like the kind of book I would enjoy, and it seemed like it was going to be very violent. However, when I read the book I was amazed! It wasn’t morbid, and it kept me interested. It was highly suspenseful, yet it had some comic relief in it. I found that I got teary eyed at some places and was laughing at others

Rating: 3 for violence and drinking.

Positive: Gale and Katniss care for each other, and when one is in need, the other helps her get through it. There are numerous times when Katniss and Peeta try to save the others from death.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: This book is about an area with 24 kids in it fighting to the death, so naturally it’s going to get violent. However, since it is from Katniss’ point of view, we don’t see that many deaths. There are a few, however. Two scenes that I found to be the most violent are when Katniss is having hallucinations of decaying dead bodies and when she sees a boy being eaten by mutant wolves. Most of the killings in the book are not described in great detail, but death is certainly prominent.

Language: none

Sexual Content: There is a lot of kissing, and Katniss and Peeta sleep together to keep warm.

Other: Haymitch is a HUGE alcoholic. In almost every scene he is drunk.

Recommendation: The Hunger Games is definitely for young adults. Children would probably be scared by the violence. However, for the story line, Collins kept the violence to a minimal. The other problem I had with it was Haymitch’s drinking problem, but other than that I enjoyed the book a lot. It was well written and definitely worth reading.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teen Read Week 2009 Book Giveaways

Teen Lit Review is celebrating Teen Read Week by posting many reviews this week and giving away some books.
Below is a list of books we are giving away:
Teen Idol by Meg Cabot - go here to enter
The Archives of Anthropos by John White - go here to enter

You can celebrate Teen Reading Week by going to the library or perhaps picking up a new book - Barnes & Noble has some coupons here. Or, you could always go to Amazon.com and buy your teen one of my favorite books/series - DragonSpell (DragonKeeper Chronicles) (DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul). (You can see the review here.)

Happy Reading!

Teen Idol

Be sure to go here to enter to win the drawing for our 2009 Teen Read Week drawing. We are giving away a six book set The Archives of Anthropos.


Title: Teen Idol
Author: Meg Cabot
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fiction
# Of pages: 320
Publisher: Harper Teen
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: High school junior Jenny Greenley is so good at keeping secrets that she's the school newspaper's anonymous advice columnist. She's so good at it that, when hotter-than-hot Hollywood star Luke Striker comes to her small town to research a role, Jenny is the one in charge of keeping his identity under wraps. But Luke doesn't make it easy, and soon everyone -- the town, the paparazzi, and the tabloids alike -- know his secret ... and Jenny is caught right in the middle of all the chaos.

Review: Teen Idol is a cute, easy read. Jenny is an instantly likeable character who grows from a people pleasing girl to young woman, with the help of a new found friend, who finally figures out who she is.

Rating: 4 for mild language, mild disregard for authority, some rude or crude behavior or comic mischief.

Positive: Jenny is a good example of a responsible, smart, thoughtful young woman. She doesn’t succumb to peer pressure and typically does the right thing. She is a good judge of character and a true friend.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: None

Language: One use of the words he**, skan*, suc*s. The Lord’s name used in vain at least once.

Sexual Content: One reference to a boy being a homosexual. A comment that indicates teen sex is OK if it is safe. Jenny worries about Luke seeing through her shirt and crosses her arms to cover up. Jenny as Annie tells one of her readers that if her boyfriend stops trying to get into her pants then he is seeing someone else. Besides kissing there is no sexual activity, just typical teen references to sex.

Other: There was one narrative where Jenny talks about her menstral cycle and her ability to use specific sanitary products that is a bit explicit, but at the same time comical. Luke drinks a beer but gives Jenny a soda.

Recommendation: I do recommend Teen Idol to readers 14 and over. I think it’s appeal will be limited to girls. Overall, it’s a cute, fun, quick read.

If you would like to win my yard sale copy of Teen Idol, leave a message below. Happy Reading!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Am Rembrandt's Daughter

Be sure to go here to enter to win the 2009 Teen Read Week Drawing for the six book series The Archives of Anthropos!

By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: I Am Rembrandt's Daughter
Author: Lynn Cullen
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 307
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: Fourteen-year-old Cornelia, daughter of the renowned and once prosperous painter, Rembrandt, seeks to come to terms with her identity. The death of her mother when Cornelia was nine years old devastated her, leaving her feeling unloved by her gruff and taciturn father who obviously favored her older half-brother, Titus. She struggled to overcome the taint of her illegitimate birth, poverty, and the rejection she sensed from her father and from society in Amsterdam. When Titus marries, she truly wonders if her father will even want her in the house. Without any friends, Cornelia is surprised at the attentions of Carel, the wealthy son of a shipping merchant. She becomes enamored of him and totally discounts the shy advances of Neel, a pupil of her father’s who has long concealed his interest in her. As she becomes aware of the true character of Carel, Cornelia also becomes aware of the deep devotion her father has for her and the honorable intentions of Neel. The revelation of a long held secret helps her determine the course of her life.

Review: Life was hard in the 17th century, and Lynn Cullen gives a good portrayal of the hardships a lonely, poverty stricken teen would face on a day to day basis. The use of flashbacks fills in some background information of Cornelia’s life and gives insight into her actions and reactions. Almost as reticent to speak as her father, the author develops Cornelia’s thoughts as a means to understanding her. (At times I wanted to shake Cornelia for not speaking her mind.) A longing for love and a suppressed desire to follow in her father’s footsteps into the world of art make this novel an excellent read.
Lynn Cullen’s well researched novel has woven fact and fiction together to create a snapshot of life with an eccentric person who was an influential artist in the seventeenth century.

Rating: 4 for mild language, some description of nudity portrayed in the paintings of Rembrandt.

Positive: Cornelia holds strong feelings about the unity of the family, and very much wants a “normal” family. She may frequently be at odds with her father, but is wounded and inwardly defends him when he is criticized by others. It continuously bothers her that her father never did marry her mother and she seeks to know why, knowing that it would have been the proper thing. She is always conscious of those less fortunate than she is, and quickly steps in with a helping hand whenever she is able to be of assistance.

Spiritual Elements: Rembrandt is on “speaking terms” with God, and frequently refers to Him as his aide and guide.

Violence: None


Language: Infrequent use of mild language.

Sexual Content: There are some references to indiscretions on the part of several of the characters, nothing graphic. There were some instances of mild kissing.

Other: None

Recommendation: I would recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction. It was not a book that I “couldn’t put down”, but I found it to be informative and enjoyable. (Make sure to read the Author’s Note and the Character List at the end of the book.) It did spur me to do a little research on Rembrandt! It is age appropriate for the intended audience.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Raiders from the Sea (Viking Quest #1)


Be sure to go here and enter to win our Teen Read 2009 giveaway - the six book series The Archives of Anthropos!

Reviewed by Teen Reviewer Sarah
Title: Raiders from the Sea (Viking Quest Series)
Author: Lois Walfrid Johnson
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 10-14
Genre: Christian/ Historical fiction
# Of pages: 199
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Year of Release: 2003
Part of a Series? Yes, book 1 of 5
Rating: 5 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: (from book jacket) When Briana O'Toole rescues a stranger from drowning, she doesn't realize that her actions may have put her family and neighbors in danger. Then, in one harrowing day, Viking raiders capture Bree and her brother Devin and take them away from their home in Ireland.

All of the Irish prisoners are at the mercy of Mikkel, the proud young leader of the Vikings. When he separates Bree and Devin, Bree sails to Norway on the Viking longship. Devin travels the dangerous road home. What will they discover about living with the courage to win? How can they change what is happening to them? Can they trust their all-powerful God, even in life-or-death situations?

Review: Lois Walfrid Johnson effectively mixes historical, Christian, and adventure fiction to make a captivating read! This book is completely devoid of any violence or language (that would probably have accompanied the ruthless Viking raiders in any other book) and can therefore be recommended to all ages. But I would say the best part of this book is there are five more that follow it!

Rating: 5

Positive: Looking out for others is an underlying theme in this book as displayed in Bree's family and her close-knit relationship with her brother. Bree often finds comfort when she focuses on those around her and then comforts them.

Spiritual Elements: Although Bree and Devin have moments when they feel angry at God, asking "why?" did the raid and their separation have to happen, their faith runs deep. They learn to trust God even when a Viking raid, hunger, loneliness, and a raging storm threaten their courage.

When Bree suspects a Viking raid may be coming and runs to the village to warn Brother Cronan, she looks at the tall tower with 3 foot thick walls and comforts herself with its safety, then changes her mind and prays for God's safety, not men's. Prayer is central as the O'Toole family make preparations, afraid of the unknown, and as Bree and her brother Devin find courage on their own. When a storm arises and the Vikings pray to their god, Thor, Bree follows God's call to pray to Him and He answers her.

Violence: None

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Other: Bree and Devin struggle with hatred towards their captors... but I'm sure that'll be answered in the sequels.

Recommendation: This book is exciting to read and easy to get engrossed in - but best of all appropriate for all ages. Be sure to have the 2nd book handy - you'll be eager to know how Bree's, Devin's, and Mikkel's adventure continues!

Monday, October 19, 2009

TLR's Summer Book Splash Winner



The winner of The Book of the King by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry is:

Danielle the Librarian

I will be contacting you by email.
Congrats!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Teen Read Week 2009

It's teen read week 2009! Teen Lit Review is going to celebrate by posting lots of reviews and giving away lots of books. Pass the word, and stop by often, it's going to be a fun week!

We're going to start the week off big with the grand prize giveaway. We are giving away a complete set of the Archives of Anthropos by John White, Jr. This six book set has a retail value of over $70! To win, just leave comment telling us what you're reading this week. Be sure to leave an email address of where we can contact the winner. Entries will be accepted through midnight on the 24th. Good Luck and happy reading!
The Archives of Anthropos Series starts with The Sword Bearer (The Archives of Anthropos). It was John's birthday. He would be thirteen. And what's more, it was on this day that his grandmother would tell him the mystery of his locket ... and of his parents. But it was not to be. Before he could find out, he was magically transported to the land of Anthropos where he was startled to be hailed as the Sword Bearer, the slayer of the Goblin Prince. Here, in this imaginative story of the early history of Anthropos, John White captures the excitement and wonder of another world.








Thursday, October 8, 2009

TLR's Summer Book Splash Giveaway



It's the end of TLR's Summer Book Splash. I wanted to thank all those who participated. Since one of our goals as a book review blog is to encourage reading, we wanted to open up the book giveaway to all our readers. We are giving away a copy of The Book of the King by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry.




All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. We will draw the winner on Monday, October 19. Please leave an email address so that we may contact you.

Devil on My Heels

Reviewed by Shawna
Title: Devil on My Heels
Author: Joyce McDonald
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 272
Publisher: Laurel-Leaf
Year of Release: 2004
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes but with strong reservations

Description: From Amazon: It’s 1959 in Benevolence, Florida, and life is as sweet as a Valencia orange for 15-year-old Dove Alderman. Whether she’s sipping cherry Cokes with her girlfriends and listening to the Everly Brothers, eating key lime pie made by her housekeeper, Delia, or cruising around town with the coolest boy in school in his silver-blue T-bird convertible, Dove’s days are as smooth and warm as the soft sand in her father’s orange groves.

But there’s trouble brewing among the local migrant workers. Mysterious fires have broken out, and rumors are spreading that disgruntled pickers are to blame. Suddenly, black and white become a muddy shade of gray, and whispers of the KKK drift through the Southern air like sighs. The Klan could never exist in a place like Benevolence, Dove tells herself. Or could it?

Review: I found this book at a book fair at my local library. The title, Devil on My Heels, first drew me in followed by the setting, Florida and its orange groves. I’ve often seen movies of the 1950’s Deep South but never with this same setting. The main character, Dove, is a fifteen year old girl, who lives a comfortable life on her dad’s orange groves until news of the KKK sweeps through town. Dove’s life begins to change drastically as she is called to choose sides. The characters and mindsets are very reminiscent of the 1950s, and although the book deals with racism it has a positive message of how you can be courageous and make a difference at any age. However, the book is not appropriate for all ages due to some mature content.

Rating: 2 for language

Positive: The most outstanding lesson of the book is do not let violence happen in front of you without doing anything about it. Dove learns what it’s like to standby and watch a friend being abused and not have the guts to do anything. This scene plays out in her mind throughout the book, and she chooses to stand up for what it right later on.

Spiritual Elements: Dove believes in God based on some of the things she says, but God is not a central part of her life. She prays and feels the answer she gets is, “God is on vacation.” Later on, she swears on the Bible.

Violence: A central part of the theme is that Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members are present in Dove’s town, and the violence they bring slowly escalates. A man was killed in a hit and run, and his killer was not found because of the victim’s race. Dove remembers seeing a picture of a black man hanging as a child. (Spoiler) The Klan chases down a young man. Once they have him, they burn him with cigarettes and beat him and another young man with belts. Earlier two prejudice teens beat up the same man as passer-bys watch. The scenes are somewhat descriptive.

Language: The book is riddled with language from ten plus accounts of the words h***, d***, and a** to s*** giving the book a 2 rating. It also uses several phrases demeaning to God and the African-America race (which is used to build character qualities and the setting).

Sexual Content: The third page of the book explains how Dove has already been French-kissed. Later on, she sneaks out on numerous occasions to make-out with her boyfriend. I will have to say that once the plot turned to the KKK, I forgot about the make-out scenes. They just didn’t seem to be as important.

Other: Several of the characters smoke (again, part of the 1959 setting), one being Dove’s eighteen-year old love interest. Dove steals cigarettes from her housekeeper but is reprimanded with a lesson on why smoking is bad. Some of the adult characters drink and are seen drunk.

The author brings in a couple of scenes on banning books. Dove is all for reading the banned books chosen by her favorite teacher.

Recommendation: The only reason I would recommend the book is because the author has a new take on this time period with the setting being Florida’s Orange Groves. The book held many reservations with the language and sexual situations; therefore, I would recommend it for more mature teens, probably aged 16 plus. I would love for our readers to make suggestions on other more appropriate books for this time period.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Lifting the Sky


By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: Lifting the Sky
Author: Mackie d’Arge
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fiction, verging on Fantasy
# Of pages: 310
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes but with Reservations

Description: From Amazon: In the spirit of The Yearling comes the unforgettable story of a ranch hand’s daughter. Blue’s wandering mother has always told her, “Just bloom where you’re planted.” And it’s been a pretty good motto, considering how Mam never stays put in one place for very long. Then Mam gets hired as a hand at a tumble-down ranch, and for the first time, Blue sees a place she longs to call home for good. There she makes a friend in an enigmatic Shoshone boy whose search for an ancient petroglyph intrigues her. And it’s there that the faint lights Blue has always been able to see around people begin to shine with new energy. But Mam begins to show signs of getting restless once again, and when the father who abandoned Blue years ago suddenly shows up at the ranch, the family she always thought she wanted may not be the one her heart is craving after all

Review: I found the story of Blue Gaspard riveting as the paranormal is skillfully interwoven with the everyday hard work that running a ranch requires. Blue’s loneliness resonates with anyone who has given up on making friends because adverse circumstances always seem to intervene. Instead Blue finds comfort in caring for the animals on the ranch – both domestic and wild. There seems to be a silent understanding that develops between them, and the animals often calm at her presence and touch.

Blue’s relationship with Shawn, a Shoshone boy about her age, gets off to a rocky start as she is trespassing on Native American land in addition to rescuing a pronghorn antelope fawn which he accuses her of poaching (which technically she is). Shawn is definitely not interested in being friends with a white girl, but the connection is made when Shawn becomes aware that Blue has the ability to see auras. His great-grandmother had also had the ability and had named him “Sees the Living Light”, even though he did not see any such lights. Though she finds him touchy, Blue connects with Shawn and I found myself cheering as at last she finds a friend.

The story is not without adventure as Shawn disappears for several days and Blue sets out to find him. She has a pretty good idea where he went, and ends up facing various perils as she seeks him out. I think most teen girls would rate Lifting the Sky as a “really good book”.

Rating: 4

Positive: Blue is not afraid of hard work and is willing to stick with a job until it is done. She shows initiative in that when she sees something that needs doing, she simply starts working. She has much love and empathy for animals. Blue’s main desire is for her father to return so they can become a whole family unit again, not realizing the negative influence that her father had on their family life.


Schooling was valued and Mam cautioned Blue to do something with her life...Mam had married at seventeen, and told her not to do what she did, that her school lessons were too valuable to be set aside for marriage.

Spiritual Elements: Blue prays frequently, but has no idea of who to pray to. Sometimes she prays to a tree, other times to Indian spirits, other times she prays to whoever is out there to listen.
The emphasis on the mystical (the seeing of auras, supernatural healings, the Indian spirits, ley lines, crystals, the magic etc.) is a factor that makes me skeptical of this book for less mature teens. This is well written and makes the magical and occult very fascinating and attractive. Teen readers need to be aware of the influence of the occult.

Violence: Blue hated the branding time and the castrating of male calves was described in more detail than I wanted to read about.

Language: There were a couple of instances of “omygod”.

Sexual Content: Mention was made of a “fleeting affair” that Blue’s mom had with a cowboy from New Mexico. There was no description of anything that happened between them except that her mom threw a skillet at him when she learned that he was married with three kids. (This added absolutely nothing to the story.)

Blue and Shawn had no romantic relationship...only friendship.

Other: Both of Blue’s parents had a problem with alcohol. Her mom had generally overcome her addiction, but when Blue’s father showed up with two bottles of wine, she had no problem drinking both of them after he walked away again.

Recommendation: Know your reader and be prepared to discuss the “spiritual elements” in this book. Recommended for mature readers ages 14+.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The River Between Us


By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: The River Between Us
Author: Richard Peck
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Historical fiction
# Of pages: 164
Publisher: Scholastic
Year of Release: 2003
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes, mainly for more mature readers

Description: (from book cover) ”A steamboat whistle splits the air one April evening in 1861, and with it, all is changed for fifteen-year-old Tilly Pruitt and her family. They’ve been living in a muddy little Mississippi River town in Illinois, fearing the approach of the Civil War. Tilly’s twin brother, Noah, however, has been marching and drilling with the other boys in town, and all of them are ready to soldier—some for the North, some for the South. When the Rob Roy from New Orleans docks at the landing, two remarkable figures come ashore: a commanding and glamorous young lady in a rustling hoop skirt and her darker, silent servant. Who are these two fascinating strangers? Is the servant a slave? Tilly’s mother invites them both to room and board at her house, and with that simple gesture, the whole world shifts for the Pruitts as well as their visitors. Within a masterful tale of mystery and the female Civil War experience, Richard Peck has spun a breathtaking portrait of the lifelong impact one person can have on another. Unexpected and enlightening, this is a novel of countless riches.”

Review:
I like to learn something from the historical fiction I read, and this book introduced me to the antebellum quadroon culture. The story was also somewhat suspenseful, in that the fact Delphine was not what she appeared to be wasn’t revealed until near the end of the story. I thought the story was an interesting exploration of the thread of race that has woven throughout American history – not just during the antebellum and Civil War periods, but into the early 20th century, as well (for the opening and closing chapters).

Rating: 4, for implied sexual situations

Recommend: Yes, although I would suggest it for more mature readers


Positive: Tilly and her family are tolerant enough to accept the strangers into their home when most people shun them. Tilly and Delphine take risks to find Noah when he’s sick in an army camp, and they nurse the other sick men in Noah’s tent even though it is unpleasant.

Spiritual Elements: Three of the characters (Tilly’s sister, mother, and Calinda) have the “gift” of being able to foretell the future (or at least to "see" negative things). Tilly’s sister has visions, while Calinda reads cards. There is also an unflattering portrayal of the local preacher’s wife as narrow-minded and hypocritical. Tilly’s family doesn’t seem to have much use for religion.

Violence: Tilly and Delphine go to Cairo to find Tilly’s brother in an Army field hospital, which is really nothing more than a tent. The description of the conditions (such as smells and the filth) is graphic. Later, Noah loses part of one of his arms during a battle.

Language: None

Sexual Content: Nothing is explicit. However, the main plot of the book rests on the fact that Delphine is the illegitimate daughter of a married white man and a “woman of color.” Delphine treats the arrangement as perfectly normal, and since Tilly’s family accepts her, they accept her background as well. Although I don’t approve of adultery, the quadroon culture was part of American history, and I think Peck actually manages to portray it in a way that shouldn’t be offensive. (SPOILER) However, some parents may be offended by the fact that Delphine won't give up her culture even after it is wiped out by the war, and though she lives with Noah and bears him a child out of wedlock, she refuses to marry him, even though he wants to marry her (this is revealed in a later conversation in the last chapter, not portrayed as part of the main story).

There are also some references to nineteenth-century standards of modesty.

Other: The father of the family has more or less abandoned them. (SPOILER) I was saddened by the way Tilly’s mother rejected her, showing Noah to be the favorite. The mother even commits suicide when she thinks Noah has died in battle.

Rating:
4, for implied sexual situations

Recommendation: Yes, for more mature readers

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Giver

By Reviewer: Amy Jane
Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Science fiction/Fantasy
# Of pages: 192
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? No (though there are related books)
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes, for the specified age

Description: 12-year-old Jonas is the latest in a long series of “receivers” whose job it is to store in himself all the memories of the long-ago—before the memories beyond one’s own life were passed away from personal keeping.

While the memory-keeping meant that many pleasures passed out of understanding, so also the enormous pains and evils of history were borne alone by one, rather than weighing on the lives of the community. In this way the majority could live lives unburdened by any of what we today call the “harsh realities” of life.

Review: This book was a good exploration about the costs and benefits of creating peace and order at any price. It presents a world that, logical in its detail, denies parts of the indefinable of the human soul.

Rating: 4 for violence and awakening adolescence.

Positive: Jonas makes every effort to obey the rules because he really does want the best for those around him. Many times he thinks of others before himself.

Jonas’s relationship with his parents and sister is very respectful, if not exactly warm.

[Spoiler] The Giver chooses to stay with the community, as an experienced voice and hoped comfort, even though it is a sacrifice.

Spiritual Elements: Nothing overt.

Violence: [Spoiler] Jonas learns what “being released” means—euthanasia via needle for those who do not fit into the perfectly ordered society: non-thriving infants (needle in the head's soft-spot), the very elderly when their time is up, and others.

Language: nothing objectionable.

Sexual Content: Jonas shares a dream that introduces “stirrings” – the awakening of pre-sexual feelings.

Other: Everyone who has once felt “stirrings” is responsible to take a pill each morning to neutralize them.

Recommendation: I do recommend this book, especially if it is a part of discussion with a caring adult.

Every security involves some kind of sacrifice, and every pain can teach us something, often making us stronger. There is a reason for the pain God allows in this world—even if we don’t know what that is this side of heaven.