Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dark Well of Decision

By Reviewer Shawna
Title: Dark Well of Decision
Author: Anne Kimberly
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Christian Supernatural Fantasy
# Of pages: 136
Publisher: Highland Press
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: From Book Cover: “In one frightening moment... after peering into the foreboding opening of an ancient well, thirteen-year-old Zoe finds herself pulled by a strange force down into its liquid depths. Trapped and completely alone, she cries out to a God she is not sure exists. Out of the darkness... a tiny balcony suddenly appears, softly illuminated by flickering lanterns. Where did it come from? It wasn't there before! And where does it lead? In the midst of another world... she is faced with the biggest decision of her life while pitted against a powerful evil that seeks to destroy her.”

Review: “Dark Well of Decision” blends Biblical truth with a wonderful world of fantasy. Zoe is a typical thirteen year old who is at the point in her young life where she questions her grandmother’s faith. Zoe is taken into a tiny world inside a well on her grandparent’s farm where she discovers the Noachs, tiny people with the specific purpose of helping to make rainbows for God. They lead Zoe on a spiritual journey where she must decide what she really believes in. At times, the book is a bit slow as Zoe discovers the setting around her, but the plot is choked full of Biblical messages presented in a new and interesting way that would appeal to a child’s imagination.

Rating: 4 for mild to moderate violence that may scare some children

Positive: Zoe’s character truly respects her parents who have taught her how to be sincere and keep her word. She adores her grandparents. Her grandmother in particular has a strong spiritual influence over Zoe. The story also teaches about hope, not giving up, and how everyone has a purpose in life.

Spiritual Elements: The story is a combination of Biblical truth and fantasy with real life characters and well as “imaginary” creatures. Both sets of characters teach Zoe about God. Zoe can see God in her grandmother’s life and remembers her grandmother teaching her about faith. The Noachs, a group of tiny people Zoe encounters, use Bible stories and verses to share the gospel with her along her journey to find God for herself.

Violence: The violence is fairly mild. The Ophis, a group of demon-like creatures who are black with red eyes, capture Zoe. They belong to the devil. There is mention of blood. Zoe pricks her finger then a tube fills with blood for her to sign a document with. One scene includes a description of H***.

Language: H*** is used to describe the actual place.

Sexual Content: none

Other: Kristo, a Noach, smokes a pipe that smells like cherries.

Recommendation: Overall, the book has great messages about faith, and the gospel is presented clearly. My only concern was that descriptions of the Ophis may be too scary for some children. I recommend the book for ages 10 and up with discretion. I would encourage you as a parent to sit down and discuss the messages in the story with your child and explain the differences between Biblical truth and fantasy.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ultimate Blog party Winners!

Whew! That was one awesome party! We met so many great people and had an awesome time!

Congratulations to Sandra S of Rylee For Life - you Won Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Jewel D. Williams!

Terra H won Mixed Bags (Carter House Girls, Book 1) by Melody Carlson!

Thanks to everyone who visited us during the Ultimate Blog Party! We hope you sign up for the newsletter and check back often for more giveaways and reviews.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Welcome to the Ultimate Blog Party 2009! Drawings for Teen Books!

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

This post will stay stickied until the end of the party, March 27, 2009, so scroll down for new reviews.

It's finally here!! The ladies at Teen Lit Review are so excited to have you over! Hi! I'm Shawna, and I will be telling you a little bit about our site.

Another friend and blogger, Angi, and I decided to start a teen book review blog in order to help parents find out what really is in the books they allow their children to read. We hadn't seen a lot of other sites out there that based their reviews on the content of the books. So, being concerned parents ourselves and all-around book lovers, we jumped right in under God's direction, and He has been blessing the site ever since.

We review pre-teen, teen, and young adult books with a Christian perspective and rate them based on a 1-5 scale. You can easily search our site by topic/genre, age, series, or our favorite authors, which are listed on our sidebar if you scroll down.

We are also looking for more mature Christian reviewers. Please visit the Reviewer Interview for guidelines on how to become a reviewer. You can also contact me anytime for concerns or suggestions for our site:

If you enjoy our site, we would love it if you helped spread the word and placed our button on your blog's sidebar. You can get the button code here. Also, please sign up for our Newsletter for info on our newest reviews and book giveaways. You just enter your email address into the space provided on our sidebar.

To say thanks for stopping by, we are also giving away 2 books:

Book Drawing #1: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Jewel D. Williams. Please read the review here.

Book Drawing #2: Mixed Bags by Melody Carlson. Read the review here.

Here are the rules to enter.

1. Leave a comment below and please specify which book drawing (or both) you would be interested in.
2. You don't have to be a blogger to participate but you must leave an email address so we may contact you.
3. You must live in the US.
4. If you post about our site or put our button on your blog, we will give you 2 entries into the drawing.

The contest will end Friday, March 27 at midnight. We will email the winners and announce them on our site.

We have book drawings once a month, so please join us back here often! Thanks again for stopping by!!

To see the drawings we want to enter, please click below:

INTL 20, 19, 21, 26, 30, 68, USC 47, INTL 30, INTL 3, 68, 44, or any other prize that allows us to promote Teen Lit Review or buy books to review and giveaway. Thanks!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beyond the Reflection's Edge

By Reviewer Angi
Title: Beyond the Reflection's Edge (Echoes from the Edge)
Author: Bryan Davis
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 12 - 16
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages: 400
Publisher: Zondervan
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? yes
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend?: Yes

Description: Sixteen-year-old Nathan Shepherd has a great life traveling where the careers of his father, an investigator, and mother, a renowned violinist, take him … until his parents are found murdered. Left with only a mirror and notes from his father’s last case, Nathan goes into hiding at the remote country home of Tony, his father’s college buddy, and Tony’s teenage daughter, Kelly. The mysterious mirror must be a clue to what happened to his parents, and when images appear in it—people and things that don’t exist—Nathan and Kelly painstakingly gather evidence. But the killers want the mirror too, and danger threatens the teens at every turn. As it becomes evident that Nathan’s father had stumbled upon dark forces at work in the world, several questions arise. Could it be that the mirror is a portal to a parallel world? Could this technology be used for evil purposes? And could his parents still be alive, trapped in another dimension? Nathan and Kelly struggle to solve the mystery before they too become victims. This chilling, hair-raising adventure is jam-packed with action in a fantastical world where nothing is as it seems, and even mirrors tell lies.

Review: Nathan is a very likable character, who has good morals and values. I’ve read some reviews that say he’s “too good to be true”. I disagree, I know young men like him exist and it’s refreshing to see his example as the lead character in a story. I wish I liked any of the other characters, but I must admit I did not. I was never able to connect or relate to them very well. I had very little trust in them and kept waiting for them to turn out to be one of the “bad guys”. I had a very hard time keeping up with the three alternate worlds and really just gave up trying. All that being said, I was on the edge of my seat many times and anxious to find out what happened next. My 14 year old son read it before I did and really enjoyed it (he’s more of a science fiction fan than I am!).

Rating: 4 due to mild violence and action scenes.

Positive: Nathan is a 16 year old boy who has an excellent relationship with his parents and he’s committed to remaining pure and honoring women. He is loyal and always tries to make the right choice. He seems to be a good influence on those around him.

Spiritual Elements: There were several references made to God and his beautiful creations. Nathan is a well behaved gentleman.

Violence: There is quite a bit of action and adventure in this story along with a bit of violence. There were gun fights, car chases, and “murder” – but never were the details gory or in poor taste.

Language: None

Sexual Content: None

Other: None

Recommendation: Overall, if your teen likes science fiction/action/adventure stories then I would suggest this story. My son didn’t have any problem keeping up with the change in dimensions and characters, and is waiting for me to get him the 2nd book. Now that I think about it, I too want to know what adventure Nathan goes on next!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Specials (Uglies Book 3)

By Reviewer Shawna
Title: Specials (The Uglies)
Author: Scott Westerfield
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages:400
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 3 of 4
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes with Reservations

Read Reviews for Uglies, Book 1, and Pretties, Book 2, and Extras, Book 4, First

Description: From Book Cover: "Special Circumstances":
The words have sent chills down Tally's spine since her days as a repellent, rebellious ugly. Back then Specials were a sinister rumor -- frighteningly beautiful, dangerously strong, breathtakingly fast. Ordinary pretties might live their whole lives without meeting a Special. But Tally's never been ordinary.

And now she's been turned into one of them: a superamped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid.

The strength, the speed, and the clarity and focus of her thinking feel better than anything Tally can remember. Most of the time. One tiny corner of her heart still remembers something more.

Still, it's easy to tune that out -- until Tally's offered a chance to stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heartbeat, or carry out the mission she's programmed to complete. Either way, Tally's world will never be the same.

Review: Tally yet again had been forced to succumb to what others want her to be. But, her character is so strong and resilient and for the most part sets a good example for overcoming obstacles in one’s life. The series as a whole is about being able to make choices for yourself, and this is definitely something teens need to be taught. Although it is not a Christian series, does not discuss Christian themes, and has a few reservations, we can still pull some positive messages from the books. After all, choosing whether or not to accept Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for sin is a choice each person has to do own their own. I think that would be a great discussion topic for you and your teen.

Rating: 2 for language, violence, and underage drinking

Positive: Once again, a major theme in the book is fighting for the greater good. Plus, taking responsibility for your own actions, confessing the truth, and forgiveness are emphasized along with being able to overcome negative obstacles that have been forced on you by others.

As in the other books, we are able to see how our lifestyles can affect the environment for the worse or better.

Spiritual Elements: none

Violence: A certain group of teens including Tally cutting themselves to stay focused is a bigger plotline. One scene allows you to be inside Tally’s head as she cuts her arm. Tally does come to realize that her impulse to do this was caused by an operation and is not the best way to handle situations. Also, she is more violent due to her new operation and has the desire to hurt the person who caused all this, but she rethinks this before anything happens.

There is some moderate blood shed.

Language: The language was worse in this sequel, but all the words that were used are found in the Bible. There were 8+ instances of cursing.

Sexual Content: There is only one kiss in the book.

Other: Alcohol use is still apart of the story in minor characters but is not mentioned as much in this sequel.

Recommendation: I wasn’t very thrilled with the amount of language but still feel that the positives messages expressed in the book outweigh most of my reservations. Of course, it may not be the best choice for certain teens who find the “cutting” parts too disturbing. Again, my recommendation is for teens aged 15 and up.

Watch for the review of Extras, the 4th book in the Uglies Series.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Healer's Keep

By Reviewer Amy Jane
Title: The Healer's Keep
Author: Victory Hanley
Primary Audience/age group: 15 +
Genre: Fantasy
# Of pages: 384 (depending on ed.)
Publisher: Laurel Leaf (PB) and Holiday House (HB)
Year of Release: 2002
Part of a Series? No, but the author has several books set in the same world, and overlapping characters between books.
Rating: 3 for violence (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes, highly (It is unlikely that kids used to modern PG-13 movies will be traumatized by the violence or situations in this book)

Description: Healers-in-training Dorjan and the disguised Princess Sara possess uncommon gifts within the Healer’s Keep. In their dreams they visit one another and battle evil with the help of a gifted slave girl they’ve never met. When danger and accusation drive Dorjan and Sara from the Keep, they set out to rescue the slave, not knowing she has already taken her freedom and is trying to avoid re-capture.

When the three gifted young-people meet they learn how much each of their gifts are needed, both to hold their physical world together and to keep Sara’s parents, the king and queen, from dying.

Review: I was very impressed at the author’s ability to keep the multitude of characters unique from each other and use each one to advance the plot. There were points of action that were mystical, and others that were based very solidly in the physical world. All throughout I felt confident the author knew what she was doing and never doubted she could make the best come out of a bad situation.

Rating: 3 for the violence and the plain-speaking implication of what beautiful slave-girls could be used for. It is not dwelt on, but it highlights a main character’s danger and clarifies her motivations.

This is definitely a 15+ book. The casual (though never condoned) assumption of violence, and intensity of action, along with the emotional manipulation of a female character early in the story skew this solidly to an older audience.

Positive: A good representation of the benefits of mutual interdependence. No one has the arrogance to assume they are sufficient in themselves, gifts complement one another. An emphasis on mercy and the use of non-violent solutions when possible. The good men are honorable in all their interaction with the ladies dear to them, and the slave risks her own freedom to bring along an endangered 8-year-old when she escapes.

Spiritual Elements: There are references to God and prayer, but not in the relational sense we know Him.

A discussion and experimental use of gen takes up most of one class in the Keep. Its description makes it sound at first as though the author is trying to appropriate the idea of chi (life-force energy), but the weirdness wears off when you see it’s an effort to describe where magic comes from. (A fair effort in a fantasy book, since magic is a core element.)

There is also a near-death experience where a character must choose where she will go, and an “afterlife” scene where one character gives over the rest of her life to extend someone else’s.

Violence: Disturbing, but not gratuitous. Most is to emphasize the savagery of the evil characters (one orders a decapitation) and the location. The slave lives in a barbarous country, illustrated by their various practices, primarily scarring of the face (designating slave or free, married or single, whom a soldier serves) and branding—again of the face.

Language: I can’t remember any strong language, and just now that strikes me as odd, considering the intensity of the evil characters

Sexual Content: The type of scars that designate an (essentially) prostitute slave are mentioned. On the safer side of the world kisses are exchanged and secrets exposed. The foolishness of surrendering them so soon is regretted.

Other: A mind-altering drink plays a significant role.

Recommendation: I highly recommend it for older readers. The themes of loyalty and honor are powerfully portrayed. In this book women can act with power without having to put down or act better than the men around them, so I recommend it as one of few books I’ve read that have a healthy approach to male-female relationships. I would urge the parents of <15 to read it themselves to verify its appropriateness because of the intensity.

Pretties (Uglies Book 2)

By Reviewer Shawna
Title: Pretties (Uglies Trilogy, Book 2)
Author: Scott Westerfield
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages:384
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? Yes, 2 of 4
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes with Reservations

Read reviews of book 1, Uglies, and book 3, Specials

Description: From Book Cover: Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.
But beneath all the fun -- the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom -- is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.
Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life -- because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.

Review: Tally’s story continues. Now that she’s become pretty, things don’t seem quite as important to her anymore. Will she be able to overcome what has been forced on her? This sequel is as quick-paced and attention-grabbing as the first as you grow more with the character of Tally Youngblood. Again, the book has some very positive and timely messages for older teens and young adults but with a few more reservations.

Rating: 2 for violence and underage drinking

Positive: The characters come to realize that being “pretty-minded” isn’t that gratifying. In fact, being so caught up in your own beauty and others as well as living the party lifestyle is quite empty and limits your choices in life. Other positive themes in the book include the value of friendship, loyalty and not leaving friends behind as well as fighting for the greater good and that it’s ok to be yourself.

Spiritual Elements: A group of hunters find Tally in the woods and believe she is a god because that’s what they’ve been led to believe by the authorities in Tally’s city. She goes along with it for awhile, but eventually tells the hunters the truth.

Violence: One disturbing scene in the book is when a group of pretties, those who have undergone the operation to become pretty, cut their arms with knives in order to make themselves think more clearly. *Please read the recommendation below.*

The tribe of hunters that Tally come in contact with are considered savages who are at war with a group called the Outsiders. Each group has killed members of the opposite party. We are given a glimpse into the mind of the holy man in the tribe who is set on avenging his father’s death by killing an Outsider although this does not happen. It is made very clear that murder of any kind is wrong.

Language: There are several instances of the word h*** and a couple instances of the expression “p***ed off.”

Sexual Content: Two of the main characters are in a relationship, and they kiss on several occasions. Tally remembers a conversation she had with another friend who advised her not to have sex with the first pretty she likes. She does consider having sex with her boyfriend, but it is not made clear as to whether she does or not. I was quite shocked when Tally wakes up in her boyfriend’s bedroom, and he isn’t wearing a shirt. The scene really seemed out of place to me, and it is made clear that she spends the night there every night. There is no mention of kissing or sex or any sexual detail related to this scene, but you are left to make your own conclusions.

Another male character goes to alert Tally of danger and finds she is naked, taking a bath. But, there is nothing sexual about the scene.

Other: Tally and her friends are living in New Pretty Town where partying every night with alcohol is the norm. However, they come to realize that drinking keeps them from being able to make their own decisions. Alcohol is part of the setting of New Pretty Town. It is used to keep the New Pretties from remembering their pasts, when they had choices, and from going against the authorities. There are more mentions of alcohol in this book than in books 1 or 3.

Recommendation: Book 2 by far has the most reservations for me, and I had to drop the rating to a 2 and increase the recommendation age to at least 15 because of the topics covered. My two biggest issues were the number of times alcohol use was mentioned and Tally spending the night with her boyfriend. I did feel that alcohol use was part of building the scenes, and the book did have a redeeming quality of the two main characters seeing the negative side of allowing alcohol to rule their lives.

Tally’s relationship with her boyfriend is a bigger part of the plot this time, but I felt it was overshadowed by the bigger picture – finding a way to free themselves from another’s views that have been forced upon them. If you do allow your teen to read the series, I would encourage you to discuss making good Christian choices in regards to underage drinking and appropriate behavior with the opposite sex. Succumbing to alcohol can have a devastating effect on young lives for years to come. Also, allowing oneself to get into tempting situations with the opposite sex can also make it harder to say no to sex before marriage. God calls us to live holy lives and be set apart from the standards of this world.

Romans 12: 1-2 NIV states, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Another reservation I had was teens cutting themselves in the book. This real psychological problem has been highlighted in the media recently although I do believe that the act in the book has some differences than the real disorder. However, this still may be a concern for some parents who are dealing with the issue in their teenager. There is only one scene in the book where the cutting occurs, but it happens more often and in greater detail in the third book, Specials. Please read that review.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Uglies (Uglies Series Book 1)

By Reviewer Shawna
Title: Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1)
Author: Scott Westerfield
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages:425
Publisher: Scholastic Trade
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 4
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes with Reservations

Read reviews of book 2, Pretties, and book 3, Specials

Description: Pretty is in. Ugly is out, but how do you know who’s ugly? Because everyone starts out ugly in Tally Youngblood’s world. In this society of flying cars, toothbrush pills, and forced beauty operations, the pretties rule, and the uglies long to be pretty. At the age of 16, everyone undergoes an operation to make them beautiful. But, when Tally’s new friend Shay decides she may not want the operation, Tally is forced to make the hardest decision of her life, betray her friend or be ugly forever. Then, Tally discovers the operation may not be such a pretty thing after all.

Review: Even though Scott Westerfield’s high-glammed world of beauty is futuristic, the underlying messages are timely today. His book is a loud reminder of what our children are learning from us as well as the world around us. From make-over shows to air-brushed super models, our world is bombarded with messages that say we have to be beautiful to fit in. But, how far will our world go to achieve beauty? This fast-paced drama will keep you reading and cause you to rethink your on misconceptions about what it truly means to be beautiful.

Rating: 3 for some violence

Positive: ‘Beauty isn’t everything’ is expressed through one particularly strong character. Tally wants to be beautiful, but Shay wants to be respected for her mind. She wants to stand up and not be forced to undergo an operation that will erase her uniqueness.

Another strong message in the book is how wasteful society can be as a whole. Another world existed before Tally’s, our world, in which we were so dependent on oil that it destroyed us. This theme will cause you to think about what our choices are doing to the environment.

Spiritual Elements: none

Violence: The descriptions of the operations are a bit grotesque. Some mild fighting takes place with some blood shed along with one character’s neck being broken.

Language: There are two instances of the word h*** and use of the expression “full or cr*p.”

Sexual Content: Several “Pleasure Gardens” exist in New Pretty Town, the city where everyone goes after their operations. The gardens’ purpose is only briefly described when Tally encounters a couple hidden in the bushes. There is nothing explicit or precisely stated, but you get the picture of what goes on there.

A romance takes place between two of the main characters. There are a few mild kisses, and the couple end up having to travel alone for a few weeks. But, nothing else happens between them.

Other: All that is expected of the new pretties, those who have just had the operation, is that they party all the time. There is some mention of them drinking and becoming drunk.

Recommendation: Uglies is the first book in a series of 4. I would encourage you to read the other reviews first before making a decision on whether to allow you teen to read the books. This one is the mildest, but the other books have a few more reservations; therefore, I only recommend it for older teens aged 15 and above. One of my biggest concerns is the drinking. I did not feel that underage drinking was highly glamorized, but it is a big part of the setting, especially in book 2, Pretties. The main characters do come to realize that partying all the time and drinking isn’t the best choice, but again, there is a lot of mention of it. I will go into more detail about it in the second review. I did feel the overall theme of the book, “being pretty isn’t everything” outweighs a lot of my concerns. The book’s theme could be a great lead in to some conversations with your teens about putting beauty and going along with the crowd above everything else.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You're Invited to the Party 2009

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

The 5 Minutes for Mom Ultimate Blog Party has come yet again. We've been waiting all year in anticipation of the best blog party in the blogosphere. The ladies at Teen Lit Review want to invite all our readers, bloggers and non-bloggers, to participate. It all begins March 20 and ends March 27, 2009. Their will be lots of new faces to meet and tons of prizes to be given away. So, come on over and enjoy the fun. Teen Lit Review will be giving away a book or two during the blog party week, so tell all your friends to stop by. And, to all you bloggers out there, it's not too late to sign your blog up for the party. Head on over to 5 Minutes for Mom for instructions.

The prizes we want to be entered for are below:
INTL 20, 19, 21, 26, 30, 68, USC 47, INTL 30, INTL 3, 68, 44, or any other prize that allows us to promote Teen Lit Review or buy books to review and giveaway. Thanks!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Zoe Lucky and the Green Gables' Mystery

By Reviewer Angi
Title:Zoe Lucky: and the Green Gables' Mystery
Author:M. Carol Coffey
Primary Audience/age group:Ages 9 - 12
Genre:Mystery, YA fiction
# Of pages:156 pages
Publisher:Outskirts Press
Year of Release:2008
Part of a Series?Yes
Rating: 4 (View Scale)

Description:When Zoe’s dad, a policeman, is killed in a shoot-out, Zoe and her mom move from their country home to the college town of Oakland (a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA). Shortly after they settle into their apartment, Zoe sees the newspaper photo of the Oakland burglar, and she recognizes the escapee. To add to the drama, Zoe’s Mom is working nights, and Zoe is facing her home alone fears.
Zoe receives Paki, a plucky African Gray parrot for her 13th birthday, and he helps her set aside her fears and meet new friends. Toby, a blue-eyed charmer, shows Zoe around Oakland and is her sidekick through some spine-tingling adventures. With her first kiss, Toby is her first love. Miss Jahari, Zoe’s upstairs neighbor, is a professor of African Studies at PITT.
Because her apartment house is painted a pukey pea soup color, Zoe names it Green Gables.
The burglar breaks into Zoe's apartment and Miss Jahari’s apartment at Green Gables. Mom is ready to pack up and move; however, Zoe wants to stay and solve the mystery. After Toby and Miss Jahari help Zoe put together pieces of the puzzle, the clues and suspects begin to break out of the woodwork.
But, will Zoe be able to solve the Green Gable’s mystery before the burglar makes his final return?

Review: Zoe Lucky: and the Green Gables' Mystery was a very interesting book, unlike anything I’ve read before. Instead of bonding with your typical dog, cat or horse – Zoe bonds with a parrot. Just as many tween books ascribe fictional abilities and features to dogs and cat – the author gives the parrot the ability to think, analyze and be sarcastic. I found the use of a parrot fresh and endearing. The story moved quickly and held my attention, however I never really connected with the characters or what was happening. The book needs a bit more editing; there were some spots where the paragraph flow was confusing and awkward. Overall, I found Zoe Lucky to be a quick, different read.

Rating: 4

Recommend: Yes

Positive: There is very little objectionable material in this book. Zoe seems to think through decisions and try to make the right choice. When she discovers that one of her friends is attempting to shoplift some bras from Victoria’s Secret, Zoe tries to stop it.

Spiritual Elements: References are made to God and the Divine Master.

Violence: Zoe’s house is broken into; no one is hurt, just scared. A dog corners some of the kids, but there is no attack.

Language: No bad language that I recall. (I remember one Ohmygosh, which is a word I don’t care for.)

Sexual Content: References to the strip section of Pittsburgh, Victoria’s Secret bras, and the typical tween question “have you gotten your period yet?”

Other: Zoe is staying home alone at night at the age of 12, seems kind of young to me. Girls who live in the neighborhood with Zoe are a bit mean and lack manners.

Recommendation: If you are looking for a different type of book for your daughter to read, not your typical girl type clique or science fiction book, then you may consider giving this one a try. I didn’t love it, but it is a quirky, cute read.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winner of Zoe Lucky

Congratulations Audrey! Audrey is the winner of Zoe Lucky. Be sure to check back often for more reviews and book giveaways.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Circle of Friends - Sarah

By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: Sarah: The Circle of Friends, Book II
Author: L. Diane Wolfe
Primary Audience/age group: 15+
Genre: Romance
# Of pages: 360
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press, LLC
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? Yes, #2 of 5
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend: No

Description: (from book cover) ”A student at Georgia Tech, Sarah Martin is bold, intelligent, and appears destined for a career in biochemistry. But her poor self-image has been masked by behavior unbecoming to a young lady brought up in an affluent Southern family. Estranged from her father, envious of her best friend’s perfect life, Sarah feels inadequate and unable to measure up to expectations. When a friendship suddenly turns romantic, Sarah questions herself even more. A future NFL receiver, Matt’s joyful spirit and social status appear beyond her reach. Yet beneath his eager smile and playboy antics lies a young man hiding in shadows and desperate to trust again. Faced with challenges, they must help each other come to terms with past disappointments before insecurities and doubt threaten to sabotage their future.”

Review: This book is a modern-day fairy-tale romance – the “ugly duckling” girl with no self-confidence is courted by, falls in love with, and marries a handsome “prince” of a football star. When they face problems, their friends have the right thing to say to get Sarah talking to Matt again, and that helps them reconcile their differences to build a strong and committed marriage.

Rating: 2

Recommend: No, for attitudes toward premarital sex and alcohol use

Positive: Sarah and Matt have a strong and loving relationship and work through the problems that inevitably arise. Both of them are reconciled to a parent from whom they had been estranged for years. The book portrays a close-knit group of friends who support each other through various trials.

Spiritual Elements:
Matt’s roommate, Mike, is a quiet but unashamed Christian. On occasion, he makes it clear that he is praying for Matt, and he believes Sarah is God's answer to those prayers. At the end of the book, Sarah and Matt attend a Christmas play, where the message leads them to regret their former lifestyles and to commit to leading better lives.

Violence: none

Language: There is occasional use of a variety of objectionable language. I can think of a couple of times when an offensive phrase jumped off the page and sort of shocked me because it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Sexual Content: Although there are no explicit descriptions of sex, there is a good deal of sexual content throughout the book. It is clear that both Matt and Sarah have had numerous sex partners before they become involved, and they go away alone together to have a “special weekend” not long after they meet. Sarah moves in with Matt and his roommate before she marries him. Although nothing is graphic, there are many references to Matt and Sarah’s sex life, both before and after they are married. Other characters are also engaged in sex; one friend gets pregnant out of wedlock (and marries the baby’s father), while Mike reveals he and his high school girlfriend chose abortion as the way to get out of an unintended pregnancy. However, that incident has deeply influenced Mike, and he has vowed to remain celibate until after he is married (and does).

Alcohol use is treated casually in this book, almost as if drinking is normal behavior by all college students. Several characters, including Matt, drink to the point of being so drunk they are unable to function and have a bad hangover the next morning. Matt and Sarah frequently use champagne to celebrate the special moments in their relationship.

Rating: 2

Recommendation: No, for attitudes toward premarital sex and alcohol use

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Author: Mildred D. Taylor
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 276
Publisher: Puffin
Year of Release: 1976
Part of a Series? Yes
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes, with reservation

Description: (from book cover) “With the land to hold them together, nothing can tear the Logans apart. Why is the land so important to Cassie’s family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she is black—to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family’s lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride—no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.”

Review: As the country’s first African-American president settles into office, this book is a reminder of how far our nation has come. It is a Newberry Award-winning portrayal of the days in the Deep South before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement. It’s not an easy book to read, but I think we need to read it and to talk about it.

Rating: 2, for violence

Recommend: Yes, with reservation

Positive: The Logan family and their community show a great deal of resilience to unfair and cruel treatment by the whites. Mr. and Mrs. Logan, in particular, realize the value of education and owning their own land in helping them have some degree of control over their own destiny. The family is very close-knit, and they are very willing to help out others in need. They organize a peaceful boycott of the local store to protest unfair price gouging.

Spiritual Elements: I don’t remember any emphasis on spiritual matters.

Violence: The violence in this story is my main reservation; however, without the violence, the story would lose its impact—and its honesty. There are several instances of mob violence directed by whites against blacks, including a man who is severely burned in his home, and a graphic scene in which a boy (falsely) accused of murder is dragged out of his house in the middle of the night and nearly lynched.

Language: Some mild bad language (“what the devil”) and frequent use of racial epithets.

Sexual Content: There is a brief mention of using slaves as “breeding stock.”

Other: I was really disturbed by the way vengeance seemed to be condoned in this book. When the main character, Cassie, is humiliated by a white girl in town, she devises a plot to humiliate the white girl and get revenge by playing “Uncle Tom” to the girl. She then lures the white girl to the woods and beats her up. That’s wrong, according to Christian ethics, but in this book it’s accepted as all right because the white girl is getting what she deserves. Also, the story includes a white boy who tries repeatedly to befriend the Logan children, but they are warned by their father to stay away from him because he’s white and nothing good can come from a relationship between whites and blacks. At the same time, they are friends with (and stand up for) a black neighbor boy who lies and gets their mother fired from her teaching job and who cheats the oldest boy out of his good winter jacket. Maybe I’m na├»ve, but I have a real problem with “skin-deep” evaluations of people’s character.

Rating: 2, for violence

Recommendation: I had a difficult time reading this book. Maybe it’s because I have an over-developed sense of empathy, or maybe it’s because I was disturbed by the fact that no one was willing to look past skin color in their dealings with other people. Despite my reservations, I think it’s an important book for young people to read and to talk about. Something ugly in our history won’t go away just because we simply turn our faces and pretend it’s not there.