Thursday, December 24, 2015

REVIEW: Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson Healey's life is perfectly ordered and regimented at the hands of her overbearing mother.  Her senior trip through Europe hasn't been all that exciting since every single detail has been research and planned down to the most minute aspect.  This changes when Allyson meets super sexy and mysterious Dutch actor, Willem, in England.  Following instant attraction, Allyson (introducing herself as Lulu) agrees to spend 'just one day' with him in Paris. Neither divulge their true identities, yet it is the most intimate day of Allyson's life.

After a magical day and passionate night, Allyson wakes up the next day alone, her heart fractured. Willem is gone and she feels as if she's been duped. Crestfallen, Allyson returns to her life but can't shake the memory of that one day.  She embarks on her freshman year of college, spiraling into a deep depression while conforming to the 'perfect' life her mother has planned. Allyson finds herself, as well as her heart's desire, while following an unforeseen path that leads her to unexpected friendships, a much needed heart-to-heart with her mother, and an adventurous return to Europe to seek out Willem for closure.

Just One Day is a book about growing up, love, heartbreak, travel, identity and "accidents" of fate. As a fan of Forman's work, I've had this on my radar for a while but hadn't gotten to it yet.  My desire to read was expounded when I discovered it has recently been challenged for removal from a public middle school library in Minnesota. Parents of a 6th grader claimed it was inappropriate, citing graphic sexuality, underage drinking and a date rape scene. After reading, I agree that this isn't something for a 6th grader to read; however, I wouldn't pull it from a middle school library.  It comes back to parents actively parenting and knowing what their kids are reading. A panel of school administrators and such voted to keep it.

I found Allyson to be irritating at times but my opinion of her came full circle since she was able to mature and find herself and her voice instead of being domineered by her family.  I would never react in such a fashion to an ill-fated romance, but her depression is realistic and plausible shows young readers how one might recover from such heartache. I liked the ambiguity of the ending and will probably read the companion novel and the accompanying short story to get a sense of Willem's perspective and closure for a happy reunion.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars



#justoneday #gayleforman #YAlit #contemporary #realisticfiction #romance

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

PROGRAM: Sharpie Tile Coasters


I originally found this idea from Pinterest.  This is a relatively cheap and easy program for teens. They get the chance to be creative and have items to take home for practical use or to give away as gifts.
Nothing like a little blonde ambition!

Materials:

  • Sharpies in a variety of colors
  • Glazed, 4 x 4 white ceramic tiles 
    • Purchased at any home improvement store. We got ours as Lowe's for $16.00. There are usually 100 in a box.
  • Pencils with erasers to sketch out designs before using the permanent markers.
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)
  • Eye droppers (optional)
  • Access to an oven (bake these when they're done for 30 min @ 350 degrees to set the marker). Or, spray with clear laquer. (If neither are available, print instructions for teens to take home with them to give to their parents).
  • One can clear, spray laquer (optional)
  • Your imagination!
Instructions:

Once you have the materials gathered, decide on a location for teens. We were able to do this in our Teen Zone. You'll have to delegate materials based on the number of attendees. Teens were guaranteed 4 tiles to make coasters but were able to do more since we had a bunch of extras. 

At this point, let teens design at will. Most drew really fantastic images or other designs.  An optional technique is to stagger colors on the tile, then use an eye dropper of rubbing alcohol to yield a tie-dye effect.  Unfortunately, these materials went MIA on the day of our program. The Closet of Doom has swallowed whole! :(

Examples:

Check out some of the cool creations!!!


Alice in Wonderland Inspiration
I think the Evil Queen would approve!
Give peace a chance!
After my own heart <3 <3
Minecraft!
I am the Batman.


#teen #library #DIY #SharpieArt #programs

Monday, December 21, 2015

REVIEW: Silver Eve by Sandra Waugh

Silver Eve is book two in Waugh's Guardians of Tarnec YA fantasy series.  Evie Carew is a Healer and yet her own heart is broken following her abandonment of her village after the death of her beloved, Raif. She's determined to lead herself toward her own destruction until she learns that she has a greater destiny.

Meeting the Seer, Harker, who insists Evie find a specific shell, she learns that she is the Guardian of Death, the second of four Guardians--Life, Death, Dark and Light. Evie must find an amulet and combine it with the others to restore Balance to the world. To help her, she is paired with Rider, Laurent, with whom attraction sizzles as they form an otherworldly bond. Together, they journey on a quest to save their world from chaos.

I was pleasantly surprised by this hidden gem.  I hadn't heard of the series until I received this book to review for ROYAL.  I have not read the first book, Lark Rising, but wish to do so now.  In it, readers meet Evie's cousin, Lark, who is the first Guardian--of Life.

There is excellent writing, character development and word building while still making this a fast, accessible read.  I don't always love high fantasy but, Waugh pulled me in with Evie's story, the angsty passion felt by these potential lovers (Evie + Laurent = Forever) and the greater impact for adventure and an ultimate battle between good and evil.  Overall, I really enjoyed it.

Recommended for grades 7 and up. This series is a must purchase for school and public libraries. I wholly recommend it for readers who enjoy good fantasy and adventure novels with a dash of epic romance.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars



#silvereve #guardiansoftarnec #fantasy #YAlit #teen

REVIEW: Save Me by Jenny Elliott

"Witches,whales, and a forbidden soul mate."

Something strange is happening in Liberty, Oregon. Cara's life takes a surprising turn when a routine whale watching expedition turns dangerous. Tossed overboard by an aggressive, transient orca, Cara is thankfully saved by the dreamy new guy in town. Feeling an instant connection, she's hopeful that David is the guy of her dreams--too bad he ends up being her new journalism student teacher.

With her love life in shambles, Cara turns to her best friend, Rachel; however, it seems as if Rachel has taken a walk on the dark side, exploring witchcraft and forsaking her friends and family.  Her only refuge seems to be Garren--the school's drop dead gorgeous new student who's just a bit peculiar.  The true question if whether he' friend or foe, when exceedingly dark and dangerous occurrences being happening to Cara.

I can genuinely find redemption in nearly any read but this is almost an impossible task for me concerning this book.  Save Me wants to be a swoon worthy supernatural fantasy in the vein of Twilight and similar series but it falls far short.  The plot is far too scattered to keep readers' interest.  The supernatural twist just didn't work for me and there were huge holes inadequately filled in to try and explain events.  I'd hoped that what I'd encounter were shape-shifting whales rather than the poorly developed explanation we received. 

The character development didn't do much for me either.  You'd think you'd show more emotion if your best friend was possessed by a demon and you'd just witnessed a gruesome exorcism, but not Cara.  All of the characters are a bit too nonchalant about the weird and dangerous things happening in town.  Garren is just creepy, even if he's supposed to be an all knowing, guardian angel. Furthermore, David is not the slightest bit swoon-worthy.  Cara's mother was right to be concerned about her daughter's growing infatuation with a college boy and his rather complicated relationship with his father. Despite this 'connection' they both feel, there is no spark or passion to their interactions.

All in all, I finished it but wouldn't have it it wasn't a book I was reviewing for ROYAL. For fans of YA paranormal romance, there are plenty of better books.  If I had to gauge an appropriate reading level, I'd assign this to grades 8 and up. I would say this is an optional purchase for school and/or public libraries, if collection development is keen to purchase all the 'Swoon Reads' titles.

Final rating: 1 out of 5 stars



#saveme #paranormal #romance #YAlit #teen #swoonreads

REVIEW: Soundless by Richelle Mead

For generations, sound has been absent from Fei's village. High atop a mountain, her people struggle to survive amongst the avalanche causing rocking terrain, which prevents them from building a self sustaining community.  Instead, they are essentially enslaved to a zipline which delivers meager supplies in exchange for an excess of metal (i.e. silver) found deep within the mines.  Not only are Fei's people slowly starving but extended exposure to toxins in the earth make many go blind as well as deaf.

After a startilingly prophetic dream, Fei's hearing returns and proves to be a valuable tool in aiding her people. She journies down the mountain seeking answers, her ability to sense noise a benefit while traversing dangerous terrain and people. Learning the truth is disheartening when her own people shun her and are then savagely attacked; however, Fei's vision comes to fruition when the ancient and powerful creatures of legend, the Pixiu (a winged lion), return to aid those deemed worthy.

I am a huge Richelle Mead fan starting with the Succubus series and then all the others including Dark Swan, Vampire Academy, and Bloodlines. When I first learned of Soundless' imminent publication I was thrilled. The premise sounded unique and interesting, especially since it hinted at the incorporation of Chinese mythology.  Unfortunately, the novel fell flat for a multitude of reasons:

1) Protagonist - Based on Mead's other heroines, Fei doesn't have much spark. She has good motivations but is portrayed as rather bland and boring.  I wasn't compelled to like her or follow her journey.

2) Supporting characters - these were pretty 'blah' too. There just wasn't anyone all that memorable which is surprising from this author.

3) More Pixiu please!  The creature appearance needed to happen so much earlier! This would have added a new dynamic to the story and made the plot much more interesting - HINT: think Jay Kristoff's Stormdancer! (Seriously, if you haven't read the Lotus Wars trilogy by @misterkristoff put it on your 2016 to-read list!)

4) Pacing - super slow and overall uncompelling.

Overall, for me this was just okay. I've read better and worse but I certainly expected more, especially from a standalone novel.

Final rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.


#soundless #mythology #Chineselore #bookreview #YAlit #teen

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

REVIEW: Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

Years have passed since the Moon split, leaving the sun suspended in the sky. Night never comes and those humans left on Earth must struggle to survive.  Let's not forget the Visitors--aliens who have come to take over Earth and use human bodies as hosts.

Fifteen year old Megan is determined to travel deep into the deadly and unpredictable 'Zone'--the area at the heart of the strange planetary disturbance--in order to search for her missing father.  Not only does she solve the mystery behind her father's disappearance but also the unsolved questions of Earth's paralysis.

I just wasn't a fan of this book.

1)  It is not something I'd pick up to read on my own. The premise doesn't do it for me.

2)  If I hadn't been reading this for ROYAL, I never would have finished it.

Why?

1) The plot felt unfocused and jumbled. The better story here would be the events right after the Moon splits and the world falls into chaos.  The world building and cohesive story based on a merging of plot and characters just wasn't there.

2)  While some of the description was intriguing and the idea that Earth has reverted to the Wild West has potential, the characters remained flat. I had little interest in Megan or the rest of her 'posse'. Too much of the setting and dialogue felt stereotypical instead of blending modern world survivors with the reinvention of the Old West.

3)  As villains, the Visitors lacked depth and and real sense of purpose.  The one central "Big Bad" should have made an appearance much sooner. There is a glimpse of the end game toward the end but by that point I'd lost interest.

Overall, I've certainly read better and worse.  I'm not sure I see the general appeal to teen readers. If a teen does pick it up, I'd say this is for middle school age readers. This is not recommended for purchase.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars

#YAlit #dystopian #aliens #futuristic #bookreview 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

REVIEW: Let It Snow anthology

Let It Snow is a YA anthology featuring three interconnected holiday romances.  When an ill-timed winter storm buries the residents of Gracetown on Christmas Eve, chaos erupts with some unlikely outcomes.

"The Jubilee Express" by Maureen Johnson

Jubilee is not having a stellar Christmas Eve.  Instead of heading to her boyfriend's family Smorgasbord, she's whisked to an ill-fated train ride to spend the holiday with her grandparents in Florida when her parent are arrested in a holiday, Santa village brawl.  When the cheerleader-laden train breaks down, Jubilee dares an escape to Waffle House and continually tries to contact Noah all while meeting a host of interesting characters including Stuart.  Spending the holiday with Stuart's family, she begins to realize that Noah's unavailability is a sign and based on Stuart's own insights, she can do better--and better just might be right in front of her.

I really enjoyed this story. Jubilee is a fun character with noticeable flaws. What is endearing about her is her humor--Johnson writes her with a hilariously, authentic voice--,vulnerability and her emotional journey throughout. She's funny and smart but I hated the way she let Noah put her off. As a reader, I was glad when she listened to Stuart's experiences and realized that it wasn't going to work with Noah. I was angry when she bolted but the story had a nice ending.

One alarming factor might be that she willingly left the restaurant with a virtual stranger.  This probably isn't the best choice and makes her a sketchy role model.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

"A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle" by John Green

Tobin, JP and the Duke are spending a blissfully parent free Christmas Eve watching a James Bond marathon when a phone call changes their plans.  Keun, acting assistant  manager, calls in a panic, trying to get friends to bring him Twister and make his night when a train-full of stranded cheerleaders wander into his Waffle House. The trio set out on a snow filled adventure full of dangerous crashes, adrenaline laden chases and some unexpected frolicking in the snow. As it turns out, Tobin and the Duke aka Angie are more into each other than either cheerleaders or greasy Billy Talos.

This story has Green's characteristic wit and sense of adventure. I had to cringe at all the bad decision making. I liked the story well enough as it fits within the whole anthology; however, I wasn't as invested in the story.  There are too many stereotypes and while the Duke tries to illustrate this to her male friends, it just seems to fall short. I did like the connect to Jeb, whom we met within Jubilee's story, and was interested to read how the third story would pan out.

Final rating 2.5 out of 5 stars

"The Patron Saint of Pigs" by Lauren Myracle

Addie is having a terrible Christmas. She cheated on her boyfriend, Jeb, then broke up with him following a tear-filled confession before he could dump her.  After a heartfelt email, Jeb promised to consider meeting her at their spot; however, when he doesn't show up, Addie, pines, chops her hair and dyes it pink.  The day after Christmas, she's still mopey but her friends tell her to rally, quit thinking of just herself and carry on with life.  Addie has a job to do--take a break from her job at Starbucks and head to the pet store to pick up her friend Teagan's new teacup pig pet, Gabriel.  Of course, Addie forgets and has to work a miracle to find the little oinker. Later, as these three stories come together with a little help from Jubilee, Stuart, JP, Tobin and the Duke, she learns that Jeb was just delayed--it's pretty swoon worthy when he does show up.

This was my second favorite of the three and Myracle did a nice job of wrapping up all the loose ends. Addie is a bit annoying but I do think she learns from her mistakes but I'm a skeptic and don't think she and Jeb will be in it for the long haul--just saying.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

#letitsnow #bookreview #romance #YAlit #teen #holiday

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

REVIEW: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Published in 2012, Cinder marks the beginning of Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. A futuristic twist on Cinderella, protagonist, Cinder, is a 16 year old cyborg living in New Beijing as a mechanic and under the domineering thumb of her stepmother.  Everything she knows changes when 1) Prince Kai seeks her assistance in repairing a very important android and 2) her beloved step-sister, Peony, contracts a deadly virus, leading Cinder to be handed over by her step-mother for experimental testing.  Her immunity to the disease leads to some surprising revelations concerning Cinder's true identity and the role she'll play as Queen Levana of Luna threatens the security of not only New Beijing but Earth as whole.

I just love this first book.  I've read it four times and appreciate its innovative twist on a fairy tale classic more each time.  While elements of the original tale seep through, Meyer deftly creates a compelling world of her own with outstanding detail, memorable characters, excitement and humor.


The adventure continues with Scarlet--a twist on Red Riding Hood. At 18, Scarlet Benoit is a fiery and fiercely independent protagonist living with her ex-military grandmother on a farm in rural France. When her grandmother, Marie, goes missing, Scarlet is determined to find her; however, what she doesn't bargain for is the unexpected connection to Cinder and Queen Levana's alarming plans for genetically modified soldiers' attack on Earth. Scarlet is drawn to the mysterious streetfighter, Wolf, and together they unravel one mystery before joining Cinder as well as her new, unlikely ally, Captain Carswell Thorne--a wisecracking, wanted fugitive. They have to stay one step ahead of the queen's evil plans in order save Prince Kai from a deadly marriage alliance.

As much as I love Cinder--the story and characters--, the series as a whole begins to gel with Scarlet.  There are still plenty of memorable Cinder moments as she discovers more about her past but the addition of Thorne, Scarlet and Wolf and the intertwined stories push the adventure to another level. Lest I forget Iko, the beloved android with a faulty personality chip, readers grew to love in Cinder. She's back with a surprising new look much to her dismay, but it makes for amusing reading.

Cress, the third book in the series, is a retelling of Rapunzel. Born a Lunar shell which separated her from her family, Cress has lived nearly her entire life isolated on a satellite orbiting Earth. Forced to work as a computer hacking spy for evil thaumaturge Sybil, her only connection with the outside world has been immersing herself into the fantasies of Earthen net-dramas. Determined to aid Cinder's cause, Cress uses her skills to protect the rebel spaceship and its crew...and it's Captain. In a gloriously failed rescue attempt, Cress makes it to Earth with charismatic Thorne, too bad they are stranded in the Sahara and he's now blind. Readers are in store for an entertaining adventure with plenty of character in peril. The real question is if they'll reunite to foil the royal wedding.

Having finished the whole series, I can now say Cress remains my favorite book.  I adore Thorne and will be a Cress + Carswell shipper for life. It wouldn't be a Meyer book if Cress' backstory wasn't rooted deep within the queen's plan to take over Earth. What I love about Cress is her character evolution more than any other in the series. She's smart and innocent yet Cress is a survivor. I love the building of the story throughout. There's a great balance between what happens with Cress, Cinder and Scarlet as well as Kai.  I love the little glimpse of Winter and of course Iko!

For fans, Winter is the much anticipated final book of the series. Taking place almost entirely on Luna, Cinder has returned to reclaim the throne and incite a revolution among the Lunar people. Readers finally get to know Winter, the gorgeous princess with an unseemly scar who seems fragile and altogether out of her mind.  In this adaptation of the Snow White classic, Winter is the doomed heroine while Jacin fills the role of the Huntsman.  Best friends since childhood, Winter would have their relationship move forward, yet Jacin knows that he can never hope to call her his as a mere guard. Queen Levana is the evilest of evil stepmothers.

Meyer blends elements of this classic tale seemlessly within the complicated plot fueling this final book. I refuse to give away spoilers but it is safe to say that the end and all the adventures in between live up to the the hype and expectations set throughout the series. There's romance, humor, action and peril galore. But despite everything, readers truly get a happy ending worthy of our most beloved fairy tale characters.

Overall, I just adore this series. I rank it within my top five and that is hard to do.  It feels bittersweet that it is over. I do look forward to the short story release of Stars Above in early 2016. For fans wanting confirmation that Levana deserves to be despised, read Fairest.  This is an intriguing prequel to the series that will have readers, at times, questioning their hatred for Levana but ultimately agreeing that she put the 'E' in evil and should reap what she sows.



Final series rating: 5 out of 5


#Cinder #Scarlet #Cress #Winter #LunarChronicles #marissameyer #twistedfairytales #YAlit #teen #bookreview

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

REVIEW: The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen


Nielsen's trilogy is categorized as historical fantasy fiction with a plausible realistic flair.  The kingdom of Carthya is in shambles and a civil war is imminent. Nobleman, Connor, devises a plan to put his own 'king' on the throne by choosing a young man to impersonate the king's long lost son. Sage, along with three other orphans are subjected to a number of gruling tests in order to win Connor's favor and be chosen to complete this task; however, there is trechery and deceit at every turn.  The False Prince ends with a surprising twist.  

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Runaway King shifts gears. Prince Jaron has returned and taken the throne. However, when a deadly assassination attempt puts his life as king in danger, he must make some tough decisions to protect his life and the safety of his kingdom.  Jaron sets out on a journey amongst the pirates. This second book is filled with the same excitement and mystery. Jaron encounters a interesting mix of characters, some who'll have a large impact on his future and others who've shaped his past. 

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Shadow Throne is the final book in the series. The kingdom of Carthya is still in peril as Jaron learns that King Vargon of Avenia is plotting a hostile take over fueled by kidnapping Jaron's best friend and possible love interest, Imogen. He plans a daring rescue when everything goes wrong. Isolated from his his allies, Jaron make one last ditch effort to save his kingdom and everyone he loves. The real question is whether his characteristic wit and cunning will be enough or if he'll lose everything

In general, I enjoyed the series.  This is one that bridges the gap between juvenile and YA fiction. The recommended age is for grades 6 through middle school.  There is good world building yet I wouldn't say that I was all that connected to the characters. After I finished the first book, I wasn't compelled to read further other than the necessity to get to book three which was the subject of my review. I didn't feel as if Jaron changed all that much over the course of the series. 

Overall, I felt as if this final installment lagged a bit with book two being my favorite.  Maybe it is because I'm a sucker for a good pirate adventure or that I found it the least predictable of the three. I would recommend this for those emerging as teens who enjoy similar fiction. There is moderate violence and a touch of romance but all is age appropriate and not graphic. 

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

_________________________________________________________________________________
Thanks to Scholastic for a ROYAL review copy submitted to the SWON Libraries.


#AscendanceTrilogy #JenniferANielsen #teen #YAlit #review #fantasy #fiction