Wednesday, May 29, 2013

THE LIONS OF LITTLE ROCK by Kristin Levine Beehive Award Nominee

Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn't matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

First line:
"I talk a lot."

An intriguing read about a year during the civil rights movement set in Little Rock in the 50's. I get frustrated with anyone being bullied or picked on by people who think they are bigger and better than someone else. This story brought out some of the frustration and I wanted to knock a few heads together. I have to say I enjoyed all the characters because they all changed or ended up suffering with the natural consequences of their actions.
Marlee hardly speaks. Her family encourages her but she's shy. Then she meets Liz who helps her speak. Then Liz is gone and there is a rumor that she was a black girl passes as a white girl. Marlee is forbidden from seeing Liz and at first is fine with that edict because she feels Liz lied to her. But after thinking about Liz and missing her, Marlee decides to see her friend anyway.
Marlee becomes more and more courageous as she tries to help her friend.

Rating: G
V: Bullies
S: No

Character arc
The lions
Teaching of the era through story

Some preaching


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A WOUNDED NAME by Dot Hutchison

There's a girl who could throw herself head first into life and forge an unbreakable name, an identity that stands on its own without fathers or brothers or lovers who devour and shatter.
Sixteen-year-old Ophelia Castellan will never be just another girl at Elsinore Academy. Seeing ghosts is not a skill prized in future society wives. Even when she takes her pills, the bean sidhe beckon, reminding her of a promise to her dead mother.

Now, in the wake of the Headmaster's sudden death, the whole academy is in turmoil, and Ophelia can no longer ignore the fae. Especially once she starts seeing the Headmaster's ghosts- two of them- on the school grounds.

At the center of her crumbling world is Dane, the Headmaster's grieving son. He, too, understands the power of a promise to a parent- even a dead one. To him, Ophelia is the only person not tainted by deceit and hypocrisy, a mirror of his own broken soul. And to Ophelia, Dane quickly becomes everything. Yet even as she gives more of herself to him, Dane slips away. Consumed by suspicion, rage, and madness, he spirals towards his tragic fate- dragging Ophelia, and the rest of Elsinore, with him.

Yet even in the face of certain death, Ophelia has a choice to make- and a promise to keep. She is not the girl others want her to be. But in Dot Hutchison's dark and sensuous debut novel, the name "Ophelia" is as deeply, painfully, tragically real as "Hamlet"

First line:
"The sky is blue today."

The first line doesn't do justice to the lyrical words throughout the book. The haunting, twisted, profound sentences that Ms. Hutchison weaves together to tell a story we all know and yet now, we understand.
This story is set in modern times at Elsinore Academy.  Dane's dad, the headmaster, has mysteriously died. Now the uncle is taking over, even marrying the widow (remembering Hamlet now?). Dane is distraught, grieving, angry and after talking with his dad's ghost, ready for revenge. He constantly yells at his mom or says snide things to her now that's she remarried. The only friends he feels he can turn to are Ophelia and Horatio.
Ophelia is beautifully portrayed in this story. Wanting to badly to be seen by others for who she is and not "her mother's daughter" (in other words, crazy), she takes Dane's pain, both literally and figuratively. I don't like that he isn't respectful to her or tries and protects her better from himself. He often leaves her more bruised after she's tried to consul him.
All the characters are well developed. From Dane to Ophelia to her mom's ghost, all the characters were unique and drove the story and madness.
The story flows well and chaotically. Even though I knew the ending, I was fighting it. I wanted a happier ending.

"I love and I hurt, inescapable and intertwined... To love is to hurt, either in giving pain or in suffering it. Which helps more with grief: feeling the pain or sharing it?"

"To whom do we owe the greater debt, the living or the dead?"

"Which is worse, to struggle to fly against the tether that always snaps you back? Or to accept the tether with such blind contentment that you don;t even mind when your wings are clipped?"

"Sorrows come not as spies but as armies whole hosts that stand at the gates to tear down our defenses."


The prose
Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view

The bruises
Skimmed some of Shakespear's words


Thanks to Netgalley for the preview!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

THE BRIXEN WITCH by Stacy DeKeyser

An enchanted coin. A witch’s curse. And rats, rats everywhere! What’s a boy to do?When Rudi Bauer accidentally takes a witch’s coin, he unleashes her curse. Accident or not, he knows he’s got to fix things, so he tries to return the coin, only to lose it on the witch’s magic mountain just as the snows come. Plagued all winter by terrible dreams, Rudi tries to find the coin again in the spring, but it has vanished—and a plague of rats has descended on his village.

     Then a stranger arrives and promises to rid the village of rats—for the price of the missing coin. Desperate to get rid of the rats, the villagers agree—but when they cannot pay, the stranger exacts a price too terrible for anyone to bear. Now Rudi is going to need all his courage—and some help from his savvy grandmother and a bold young girl—to set things right in this fast and funny adventure.

First line:
Rudi Bauer ran for his life and cursed his bad luck."

Beehive Award Nominee
I liked this retelling of the Pied Piper. I really liked Rudi and how he changed and grew in throughout the book. Great middle grade story and I would recommend it to any family!

Rating: G

Pied Piper retelling
Rudi's growth
The witch!

Didn't like:
Well, the rats. Not that I'm afraid of rats but there were soooo many! yuck!

4 1/2 STARS

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

INSOMNIA by J.R. Johansson

It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.

Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people’s fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets—and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia’s eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he’s gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it’s Parker.

Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?

 First line:
"It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me."

Oh my glob! This book made me a good way. Poor Parker! He has strange dreams that don't allow him any rest. For the last four years, the last person he makes contact before he sleeps is whose dreams he has. He witnesses horrible/odd/creepy things he wishes he didn't. (Four years!! How can someone go that long without sleep and not go crazy?)
Then he meets Mia. And looks into her eyes. Parker worries about entering her dreams but finds they are peaceful. And that he can sleep! Now Mia is like a drug to Parker. He can't get enough of her dreams because now he is rested. He almost stalks the poor girl. Then she gets threatening letters and everyone, including Parker, wonders if it's him.
Ms. Johansson has written an amazing, mind-numbing book. I couldn't take it all in at once and yet I couldn't put the book down. 
And the series is called The Night Walkers?? Creepy! And intriguing! Bring it on!


Rating: PG 17
L: No
S: kissing
V: Fighting, nightmares, blood,

Unique story


4 1/2 STARS

Thanks to Netgalley for the preview.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


A darkly compelling mix of romance, fairy tale, and suspense from a new voice in teen fiction

The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.

First line:
"The streetlights flickered on outside the window and Jenny looked up from her book."

This book is full of all sorts of literature: Shakespeare, Sleeping Beauty, mermaids, fairies, trees and more.
Jenny watched in horror as her brother was literally swallowed whole by a forest of trees. For seven years she's tried to find but nothing works. Until one day she's lured into the Realm and meets all sorts of deceptive people. Jack and Puck try to get her to leave the forest but she's determined to bring her brother back with her.
So starts Jenny's adventures, and there are many. While she's strong and smart, she's no match for the magic of the Realm so she has to rely on others to help her.

Rating: PG
S: Kissing
V: Fights, scary creatures
L: No


Some convenient rescues

3 1/2 STARS