Friday, September 25, 2015

Another Day - David Levithan

When Rhiannon and Justin talk or even ask a question to each other they always end up fighting.  One Monday Justin suggests that they leave and asks her where she wants to go.  She says the ocean and suddenly they are leaving school and heading there.  Along the way Justin sings along with the radio, which he normally doesn't do, and asks about her family.  She knows something is different, but doesn't question since she's enjoying this change in Justin.  They spend the rest of the day at the beach building sand castles and talking like they haven't talked before.  The magical time ends when Rhiannon's mom calls asking where she is.  Justin drops her off and she wants more days like the one they had today. The next day Justin is back to his same old self, and Rebecca, Rhiannon's friend, is wondering where she was yesterday afternoon.  On Thursday after Justin blew her off, a girl named Amy comes up and tells her she's thinking about coming to school there.  Amy follows Rhiannon around for the rest of the day.  After school she walks Amy to her car she asks Rhiannon what is one thing nobody else knows about her.  She tells her about the time she stole Forever by Judy Blume from her sister and named her private area Helena.  They both laugh and hope they see each other next year.  On Saturday Justin and Rhiannon go to Steve's party.  While there she talks to Steve's cousin Nathan.  They talk about relationships and she starts to question why she is still with Justin.  He finds them talking and she says Nathan is gay, so there is nothing to worry about.  They go downstairs and dance before the cops break up the party.  Just before she leaves Nathan asks for her e-mail.  On Sunday she is surprised to see an e-mail from him and she replies.  She then goes back to spending her time surfing the net.  The next day their friends are asking about Steve's party.  Justin says there were too many skank girls in the kitchen, Stephanie yelled at him, and the cops came.  Rhiannon goes along with Justin's story, and doesn't say a word about her time with Nathan.  Rebecca, Steve, Stephanie, Ben and Rhiannon skip the last few periods because there is an assembly.  Rhiannon mentions to Steve about his cousin, and he says all his cousins are eight years old.  Steve does remember seeing Nathan though.  Rebecca points out that guys lie all the time, and Nathan liked her and wanted to get close to her.  She e-mails Nathan asking for an explanation.  Nathan replies he can explain, but it has to be done in person.  She agrees to meet him at a bookstore the next day.  Rhiannon gets there early and a girl sits down in front of her saying Nathan sent her.  A tells her that every day A wakes up in a different body.  A tells her who he/she's been for the last week.  Last Monday when her and Justin went to the beach it was A in Justin.  She doesn't believe A and thinks this is a joke.  A tries to convince her it is possible.  She agrees to meet A tomorrow, to see if he/she is telling the truth.  She stops by Justin's house and asks him about last Monday.  He remembers being at the ocean, but not much else.  The next day during school Rhiannon is e-mailing A about where to meet with him/her.  She hangs out with Justin before heading to meet A.  She is late meeting A and asks the boy A is in to see his phone.  She asks him questions about the people A has been in.  A then explains how he/she has seen things going from person to person.  When A was in Justin he/she fell in love with Rhiannon.  A is going to prove to her what love really means.  The next day Rhiannon e-mails A and he/she replies the girl who A is in today is trying to kill herself, and she needs to get over right away.  Rhiannon heads over and the girl has a notebook filled with ways to end her life.  They come up with a plan to have A in Kelsea's body tell her father she wants to kill herself.  If that doesn't work drive to a hospital.  When Rhiannon gets home she sees an article about Nathan claiming to be possessed by the devil six days ago.  She e-mails A asking how things went with Kelsea.  Kelsea's father is aware of what's going on and is seeking help for her.  She then takes a drive to where Nathan lives under the guise of selling Girl Scout cookies for her sister.   He has a blank look in his eyes, different from when A was inside of him.  After that trip she and Justin hang out and have pizza.  They talk about Justin's father heading to see his sick grandmother.  He calls and talks to her before his dad arrives.  Steve then calls about a party at Yonni Pfister's house.  They go to the party, and while Justin is getting drunk Rhiannon calls Kelsea's house to make sure everything is okay.  Her father says she is getting the help she needs.  On Sunday she hangs out with A who is a girl named Ashley and is gorgeous.  They head to a national park and have a picnic.  Afterwards they go walking and talk about what each of them wants.  A wants to be with Rhiannon, but they can't be together.  Rhiannon cares about A, but also cares about Justin.  She is trying to justify why she's with Justin, but A says she'll become lost because Justin is also lost.  Rhiannon calls Justin and tells him a friend of hers is in town.  She asks if he would like to have dinner with the two of them, and he says yes.  A and Rhiannon fill the next few hours by telling everything to each other.  They meet Justin for dinner and at one point she leaves to go to the bathroom when she comes back she doesn't want either A or Justin.  He leaves and Rhiannon takes Ashley back to her house.  Rhiannon calls Justin to apologize, but Justin tells her Ashley is not her friend and she is out of control.  At school the next day Justin tells everyone what a slut Ashley was the day before.  In art class Rebecca tries to talk sense into Rhiannon about Justin.  She tells Rebecca everything thing is fine with her and Justin.  The next day a swoopy hair kid catches her eye and it turns out to be A.  They talk and as much as they want to see each other Rhiannon says they should stick to e-mail for now.  As A walks away she can still feel the connection to him/her.  Are they destined to be together, or will Rhiannon choose to stay with Justin? 

I enjoyed this book just as much as I enjoyed Every Day.  I really liked how A broke through the barrier Rhiannon had put up to have her examine her relationship with Justin.  To her everything was fine with Justin.  A saw a person who was becoming lost, and helped her start breaking away to become her own person.  Sometimes we need another perspective from someone else, even if it's a person we barely know, to get us to look at things differently.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Marvel Zombies

Chose it because it has the living undead. A zombie Spider-man and Hulk is got to see scenario. Basically the whole Marvel universe turning into a zombie frenzy. Do not read the graphic novel quickly as you can skip some of the plot detail.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Sometimes you have teen mysteries that take themselves seriously, and sometimes the story is a little bit far-fetched. This story with its quirky characters and adventures puts itself more towards the latter category. At times it's a little out there, but it's an enjoyable ride.

As the new girl in school, Zoe hopes to fit in. The last thing she expects is finding herself connecting with the oddball character of Digby. He has no concept of personal space and has a habit of dragging her into insane situations. Despite efforts to stay away from him, Zoe tags along on Digby's mission to finding a missing girl. It turns out that a number of years ago, Digby's younger sister went missing and he thinks the cases are connected. He has his prime suspects and he'd bound and determined to prove it, even if it means stealing, lying, and breaking and entering. His problems don't end with the doctor he suspects - not when he starts a beef with the mysterious, cultish boy who lives across the street from Zoe. Throw in some drug-dealing, missing ambulances and explosions and you've got the crazy ride Zoe finds herself on with Digby at the helm.

Personally, I like my mysteries to be a tab more realistic and serious than this book. You definitely cannot take this seriously. The police would not be so open with their information to some teenagers as they were in this novel and the antics of the characters are just a little too out there - the dramatic breaking and entering of the doctor's office, Digby in his tutu wearing teddy bear costume. He is a true mastermind and enjoyable to read about, but the situations just snowball to the point that you're shaking your head. He has no boundaries and can talk himself in and out of any situation, dragging Zoe and others in with him. In no way is that a bad thing because it makes for a fun read. It's witty and clever and humorous. Not all mysteries need to be dead serious. It just seems a bit unrealistic that a teen is doing all of this and getting away with everything. Then again, it wouldn't be much of an exciting teen novel if they were shut down at every turn.

This book is crazy in a good way. Everything - however off the wall it may be - ends up working together to connect the pieces and solve the mystery. Well, maybe not all of the mysteries. There is still one string left hanging that definitely creates the potential of a sequel. It will be interesting to see what chaos Digby can create next time around.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

This novel is the first of a trilogy that features a world of conflict between classes. With a romance brewing and desires to be more than your job developing, you can't help but root for the characters.

In a world where the royals are unable to carry babies, surrogates exist to continue the royal line. Not just any woman will do, though. Surrogates are special girls who have a power known as Auguries. There are three auguries - the power to change shape, color, and make things grow. Violet is a surrogate.When she was deemed to have these powers, she was removed from her house and raised in a holding facility. She has now reached her full potential and has been put up for auction for one of the royal houses to purchase. Once purchased, Violet becomes nothing more than the surrogate and her owner has big plans for her because times are changing and people are desperate to make their mark. While Violet may be nothing to her owner, she meets Ash, another person who is nothing more than the job he does. Despite the fact that their relationship is forbidden, together they find connections and life and desires that their positions try to strip away. At the same time, however, Violet meets a man who wants to save her from her life as a surrogate in an effort to start a rebellion. Going with him is not only risky, but it means saying goodbye to Ash. Violet needs to decide what is most important, especially when she learns more about future plans for surrogates. 

I picked up this novel because I enjoyed reading The Selection and felt this book had a similar vibe. It is definitely different (surrogates vs dating game), but there are a number of elements that are similar and classic to dystopian novels (at times I felt the novel was reminiscent of The Hunger Games, especially at the beginning - Lucien reminded me of Cinna). There are the different levels of society with The Jewel being the center and royalty, the Bank still being wealthy, down to the Smoke, Farm, and the lowest of low - the Marsh. Violet's rights are completely stripped away and she's put on display for the ruling class. Then, through it all, a rebellion is slowly brewing. You really feel for Violet and Ash. They're nothing more than toys to serve a purpose for the royalty and you want them to reach their full potential as people. It's easy to see the injustice in everything, especially when it doesn't have to be that way. 

The novel might be a little bit slow to get going - especially setting up this new world and way of life - but it is definitely worth the payout. I know that I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dawn by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is probably best known as a Holocaust survivor and author Night which tells the story of his experience in concentration camps. While his novel is taught in schools, it is actually the first book in a loosely connected trilogy. While Night is biographical, the other two novels, Dawn and Day (sometimes titled The Accident) are works of fiction about experiences after the Holocaust. 

Dawn is a heavily philosophical book. The narrator - Elisha - is the sole survivor of his family after the Holocaust. He joins a group of Jewish terrorists trying to reclaim Palestine from the English. It seems as though part of their philosophy is that they were good people before the Holocaust, but that didn't save them, so what's the point of being good? Their movement has reached the point that one of their followers is being held hostage (David ben Moshe). In response to the English having one of their soldiers, they have taken an English officer as their hostage (John Dawson). Despite attempts to free David, the English plan on executing him, which has the Movement planning on executing John. Elisha is the one chose to pull the trigger, a fact that his conscience struggles with after everything he's already experienced. Dawn is Elisha's struggle to bear the weight of his role as executioner.

This book is very deep. Although it was written in 1961 and only 80 pages long, it is very powerful and still relevant given the world's constant state of conflict. It questions whether or not the Movement's actions are justified. It asks what right man has to kill and play God. Elisha thinks about how executing a man is different than killing a man in war. It also looks at the change of one's soul when one becomes a killer. There is a very powerful image of Elisha seeing the ghosts of his loved ones who with him because if he becomes a murderer, then they are murderers too. Is that how he wants his parents to think of him because he is essentially a reflection of them. This book only takes place within the hours before dawn - the time of the execution - but his internal battle is very thorough. The end results leaves him forever changed.

Dawn is not a book to be taken lightly. It may be small but it is very powerful. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Timeless and Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir

Timeless and Timekeeper are two books that tell the story of Michelle Windsor, a teen who discovers that she has the ability to travel through time. The first book, Timeless, is when Michelle discovers her ability while the second book, Timekeeper, reveals a sinister plot to take everything away from her.

It all begins after Michelle's mother dies and she's reunited with her grandparents that she's never known about. Within her mother's belongings, she discovers a mysterious key. When she holds the key and the diary of her one ancestor, she finds herself suddenly transported in time to that of her ancestor. In this new time, she discovers that only certain people can see her, including a young man named Phillip. She and Phillip for an instant connection, but the fact that she's from a completely different time and can't control her time travels puts a huge damper on their relationship. Worried that their unattainable romance might destroy Phillip, Michelle races against time to make things right.

In Timekeeper, Michelle's world shifts when a new boys appears in school looking exactly like Phillip from the past - he even has the same name and signet ring. If he is the Phillip she'd fallen in love with, why doesn't he remember her? Helping Phillip remember their connection, though, is only half of her battle as she discovers that a woman from her father's past (Rebecca) is determined to destroy her. She now has seven days to make sense of her time traveling abilities and figure out how to stop Rebecca. 

In the realm of sequels, sometimes you can get away without reading the first book. In some ways you can with this book, but things will make a lot more sense if you read the first book. Personally I thought Timeless was a stronger book than Timekeeper. Given that both books are about time travel, there is a lot of shifting between the years. The first novel does a better job of making the timeline clear. There were a number of times in the second book that I became confused about which time and what happened in this time. There were characters overlapping because she's visiting Phillip but sometimes he young and then he's an adult but there's also her father and he's around at the same time as Phillip. Years might be mentioned and I couldn't figure out who was at what age at what point in that year. At times it made my head hurt. I almost wanted an actual time line of the character's past to visually see it all work out. But that might just have been me. The second novel also spent a ton of time explaining the logistics of time traveling, all of the rules and explanations as to how this happened. This is another thing that became very confusing, but again I might have just grown too frustrated to put in the brainpower to sort through it all. Both novels have a good plot, but I felt something was lost in the second book that didn't make it as enjoyable as the first novel.

If you're looking for a romance that is not by-the-books but doesn't involve paranormal crossovers (vampires, zombies, etc) this book is worth a shot. The author cares about the history she's recreating and thoroughly researched each era to vividly describe the past. So if you'd like a little taste of history without being stuck in the past, give these books a shot.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

we all looked up by tommy wallach

A strange light appears in the night sky.  As days go by reports begin.  This is a meteor.  There is over a 90% chance it will hit earth and devastate the land, the people.  It will hit in about two months time.  Named Ardor, it is a pretty good reason to act uncharacteristically.  And so we meet a variety of high school kids, athletes, slackers, overachievers, and some of their parents and a few other adults.  For some this is opportunity to step out of their usual and try things they always wanted to try, to free themselves from  over controlling parents, to plan a party for the end of the world.  Others, try to continue as if nothing is happening, even with reports on TV, in blogs and with infrastructure slowly breaking down.  And, some up their bad guy behavior rioting, vandalizing and the like.  Whatever they do, there is a lot of philosophy behind it, a lot of serious thought, and well what would you do?  What would it be like to know that the world as you knew it would surely end and you with it?  The end hasn't come yet as the book ends leaving readers to speculate  on the fate of the world.
This is tougher than many teen books today but well worth the read and I hope Wallach writes more substantive books for teens.

Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Since we can't know exactly what folks said over a hundred years ago, this otherwise factual book is often considered fiction.  Still the people really existed and there really was a plot to still rob Lincoln's grave and hide the body to use as ransom to get a well know expert counterfeiter out of prison.  So, we get to meet all the coney men and counterfeiters in business at the time of Lincoln's assassination.  There were lots, counterfeiting and getting the fake money into circulation was big.  It made lots of real money for the criminals.  Coney men were the folks who put the fake money into circulation.  These criminals were not always the brightest and sometimes they were a little scared of getting caught and did get caught.  How they almost got away with robbery and how the secret service saved the day is an exciting way to get a bit of history.
JDW 8/22