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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