Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek

I think this could have been a powerful story.  But, the author looses track of her characters a couple of times.  In one spot this made the story totally confusing.  And, she switches directions a couple of times, not in a twisty complicated way but sort of in a "Huh"  way.  

Reyna is new girl in high school.  First day is hard, everyone knows everyone and has someone to eat
lunch with.  So, when Olive encourages Reyna to join her, well, why not?  Olive is quirky and Reyna doesn't know what to think.  So, when another group of girls invites her into their group, Reyna does.
But, they are not really to her liking either.  Well turns out Olive thinks Reyna is gay like she is and Reyna totally freaks and tries to drop Olive as a friend, even making fun of her like the other girls do.  There is a homophobic teacher who is hard on a gay boy in his class both angering Olive and keeping her silent.  Olive is in  a GLBQT group on line and has met other girls like herself.  There is much chatter about suicide.  When there is an actual suicide in town, folks think its Olive as the victim was wearing her coat.  This turns into an opportunity to strike out against the homophobic teacher, an opportunity for Reyna to redeem herself for all she regrets not doing and a few other things as well.  Ok, well I am happy to have finally finished this book.  There are others much better.  Try Julie Peters or Ellen Whittlinger or David Leviathan.
JDW 12/14

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A year after her first cousin died under circumstances not fully explained, Jess and her mother are returning to mom's hometown to visit.  They will be seeing Mom's twin sister, mother of the cousin and a couple of other cousins in a small town where everyone knows everyone.  And where everyone knows something of the death of Freya but no one is talking.  Jess looks remarkably like Freya, enough so that folks stare and react when she goes exploring the town for the first time.  Right away she is meeting Freya's former friends, her cousins and right away she is very aware of things left unsaid.  She starts questioning everyone she meets, repeatedly.  She keeps getting warned off, even by the local law enforcement, who also happens to be a lost love of her mother's.  As she digs for answers, she comes up with a possible scenario for events. She decides to recreate the circumstances surrounding Freya's death hoping to catch the probable killer.  She puts herself at risk of dying as well.  The rest is for readers to discover.  The story is well paced.  Jess is likeable as are her cousins and the mysterious Will.  Others seem like bratty entitled rich kids sort of stereotypically.  Mom seems pathetic in her avoidance of most folks and in not dealing with past circumstances.  Will's dad, the law in the town, seems off as well.  All in all the story was interesting enough to hold my attention to the end, which does not happen often enough.  JDW12/13

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Very Bad Things by Susan McBride

Katie is plagued by nightmares that she swears are not just in her head, that the person calling her name and leaving behind roses is real, but she doesn't have much proof, even though she finds a rose left by her backpack. Regardless of her dreams, a rumor has begun that her boyfriend Mark has cheated on her, and that same day, she receives a package containing something important to the girl he cheated with. Now the girl's believed missing and he's the prime suspect. Katie doesn't know if she can believe in his innocence, not when he can't remember anything about the night he was with this mystery girl. It doesn't help that Katie's best friend has something against Mark and seems determined to prove his guilt, although she claims it's for Katie's own good. Is Mark innocent, even though he claims some guy drugged him, or is there something else going on?

This book is a quick read. For the most part it is a steady mystery with characters who are hiding things. There are three different narrators in this novel - Katie, Mark, and Tessa - although I don't know that switching the narrator adds anything to the novel. They didn't really seem distinct enough to make it necessary. The book is only 225 pages long, so it's a decent mystery with a few twists. The characters probably could have used a little bit more development, but for the limited pages, it's not bad. 

If you enjoy mysteries and are looking for a book you can read in a day or two that is engaging, this is worth picking up.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

It is nothing new to re-imagine a story, which is exactly what this novel does. It takes the world of fairy tales and puts a modern day spin on the story.

Mirabelle is embarking on her sixteenth birthday and is ready for the truth. Her parents died when she was a baby and she has since been raised by her godmothers who have kept her away from the place of her birth. Given the fact that she's forbidden to return home and the secrecy around her parent's death, Mira's natural curiosity gets the best of her, and she hatches an elaborate plan to run away and discovery the truth by her birthday. When she arrives in Beau Rivage, she realizes that her plan wasn't completely thought out since she doesn't have a place to stay or any idea where to begin looking. She finds herself killing time in a casino and meets a boy named Blue who rudely warns her to stay away from her brother and get out the casino. When she finally leaves, she runs into an older boy who offers her a place to stay and turns out to be the brother Blue warned her to avoid - Felix. However, Felix is too nice and helpful to be bad, so she disregards Blue's advice. While she waits for an opportunity to search for her parents with Felix's help, she finds herself spending time with Blue and his friends, all of whom seem a little strange. When she notices the way animals flock towards one friend and another coughs up flower petals, she realizes that something isn't right with these people. Then she discovers that one friend has a mysterious birthmark identical to her own, which means she's somehow connected to these people. She learns that each mark relates to a curse or blessing, relating each marked person to a fairy tale. In her case, she is marked to prick her finger on a certain object by her sixteenth birthday and fall asleep until an honor-bound person with her same mark comes along to wake her up. Now, while she searches for her parents, she also has to discover what object will be her downfall. At the same time, she has to figure out what to do about her growing feelings for Blue in conflict with her undeniable feelings for his brother. Given the fact that these brothers are cursed and the women they love are affected by this curse, Mira's situation has just gotten a whole lot more complicated.

There are certain elements of this novel which are frustrating, like the fact that Mira is only fifteen and running around with complete strangers and ready to jump into bed with an older boy that she's only known for a day. Just because he's nice to her and helpful is no reason to be hopelessly in love with him. This novel definitely requires you to suspend reality for just a bit. I personally kept forgetting that she was only fifteen since all of them seemed to read more like eighteen or nineteen. Still, it was interesting to see how these fairy tales play out, especially when this novel toys with the idea of fate and how their destiny is already written out for them. She knows who her Prince Charming is, and, unfortunately, it is not love at first sight. Blue and Felix are horribly cursed and there's nothing they can do about it, which is something Mira will not accept. The novel created a really intriguing world and easily sets up future stories. At least one other novel is coming out in 2015- Tear You Apart - which is Snow White's story, but characters for Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid have been introduced. Her website ( features a Cinderella story.

If you enjoy fairy tales and can overlook some literary cliches (head over heels in love with a near stranger, bad boy attraction, etc), this is a enjoyable book. It's fun taking a familiar story and setting it in new world with new twists. Come the end of the novel, you are rooting for the characters to have their happily ever afters and looking forward to more from this strange new (yet familiar) world.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Watched - C.J. Lyons

Four years ago Jessie's dad left him, his mom, and his sister Janey.  His uncle, who is a fire fighter, took them in.  Jessie's uncle also made a video of him when he was twelve and gave it to someone named King online.  King can hack into any computer or cell phone to know and hear what someone is doing.  Since that video Jessie has been at King's beck and call even when he's in school.  Jessie is taking a test when King calls.  He gets out of class only to have his phone confiscated and gets detention.  When he gets out of detention King tells him never to ignore him again or else he will harm Janey.  Jessie speeds home and finds Janey alright.  He has a moment to recover when King calls.  He pleads with King to leave Janey alone.  King says he will if Jessie will make new friends and introduce them to King.  Jessie is given the weekend to think about King's proposal.  Jessie asks about an envelope that came and Janey says it was in the mailbox.  When he opens it a t-shirt, cell phone, and a note with a phone number along with the words I can help.  Jesse thinks it's from King and talks to his uncle about King's latest proposal.  His uncle tells him he's got to do it to make money because a fire fighters salary doesn't feed four people.  He says they can go to the auto show over the weekend to look for a new friend.  Jessie feels like he has no other choice.  After dinner he calls the number and is surprised when a girl named Miranda answers.  She is really good with computers and she can help.  She was hurt by King two years ago, and has been reaching out to his victims.  Jessie is the first one who has called.  At first Jessie says he can't help, but when he thinks about all the people King has victimized and will continue to victimize he agrees to help.  They set up a plan where Jessie goes and gets a digital recorder with audio and video, and will find King at the auto show this weekend.  Miranda has narrowed down where King lives and it's not to far away from Jessie and King works for Telenet, the sponsors of the auto show.  Jessie still has his doubts and Miranda tells him to think about as they hang up.  When he gets back to the house he hears his uncle talking on the phone in the garage.  He sneaks around to the front and heads to his bedroom.  He can't sleep and early in the morning he takes a drive towards the woods past school.  He can't remember a time when he was this free.  In that moment he phones Miranda and tells her he's in.  Can they take down King and get their lives back, or will King continue to destroy innocent lives because of one video or picture?  

I enjoyed this book.  It was a good story about what happens when that one picture or video gets posted online and how your life can end up in the hands of someone else.  In this age of cell phones, computers, and tablets we should be mindful about what gets taken with the technology.  You never know who is lurking in cyberspace.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Unchained by L B Tillit

TJ has lived with his drug addicted parents most of his life though he does remember better times before things got bad.  Now his father has overdosed, his drug addicted mother sent to rehabilitation and TJ to a foster home.  As it turns out, a good foster home.  People don't give up on this kid with a tough bully exterior.  TJ has become fast friends with some of his foster family then his mom gets him back.  She is really only interested in the support money she gets supposedly for his care.  So, he is on his own.  He is recruited into a gang though never fully participates but then tragedy strikes the gang in the form of  a shoot out with a rival gang resulting in the deaths of the leaders, folks start looking to him for leadership and he runs.  The rest is the sort of happy ending we could mostly hope for.  This a Saddleback book for teens not yet able to read well.  There is a lot of action and emotion in the story.  It has won awards and it has been asked for in our library.  So, despite the sort of idealistic ending I think its worth reading, it does work as a whole, is realistic. 

The Mosquito Book by Brett Ortler

Ok so this is everything you did or didn't want to know about mosquitoes.  Future entomologists and biologists would definitely be interested in this book.  Its good, fact filled short narrative non-fiction as well, should meet common core standards easily.  I did not know that there were about 63 different species of mosquitoes in our state.  Alaska has quite a few as well.  I did not know that these blood suckers only do this so they can create more blood suckers.  I did not know their Latin genus names mean fun things like useless and unpleasant or that scientists think that perhaps they could be eradicated without hurting the ecosystem.  There is so much more.  Lots of pictures show how different each species is from the next.  The book explains the differences in breeding, breeding grounds, diseases they may carry, what their eggs look like and what research is being done.  It includes a list of repellants and how to use them and what the future holds for repellants and what really works and what attracts them to us!  All this in just 144 jam packed pages!
jdw 11/21/14

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mr. B Gone by Clive Barker

For me this was a really fun book. If you like horror among other creepy things, then you know Clive Barker!

In this book you are not reading a story, the devil trap in it it's narrating it too you! Creepy uh? But wait until you start turning your head to make sure nobody is behind you. Why is your heart beating so fast?? Is he behind you? Don't look!

The narrative really engrosses you into the story and once you pick up the book you won't stop. No matter how many times the demon inside the book tells you to, you just won't find it in you. Not only is it fun, there are moments that will break your heart, others that will warm it. But then you remember that the creature in this book it's a demon, then you would try to make yourself not to feel sorry for it.

If you like horror and you like interactions this book it's a must for you!