Monday, April 25, 2011

I Am J by Cris Beam

Like many teen books, this one deals with the internal voices of doubt and confusion of a kid coming of age - unlike most of those other teen books, the main character of this book was born a girl, but self-identifies as a boy.

I've never read another book like this one - Beam is really reaching out to an under-represented audience with this excellent book. J is confused, angry, and lonely, which makes him an interesting dramatic character; those same traits also makes him a crappy friend, a bewildered boyfriend, and a sullen child.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey

If you have even a little wave in your hair - YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. Emphatic enough?

Massey has tons of curl herself, runs a salon specializing in curls, and truly feels your pain. She talks about how so many of us have struggled with our hair our entire lives - hating it, fighting it, and settling for bad haircuts.

She's got some pretty radical ideas, but if you take away even one or two tips from this book you'll be happier that you were before. I'd already given up traditional shampoo years ago and seen the amazing difference, but I was very interested in her styling and trimming tips.

I've recommended this book a bunch already, and I'm thinking about buying a copy for my stylist as a gift!

(Is it bad that when I tagged this post, I considered: depression, grief, horror?)

Crap Lyrics by Johnny Sharp

Even as a huge music buff, I couldn't do it: this book is not at all interesting.

While Sharp tries to be funny and does a commendable job of categorizing why the songs are crap (over-reaching literary references, bad rhyme scheme, nonsensical lyrics), in the end it's just not engaging enough to read.

Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan

This book is told in alternating chapters by twin teens: one girl, one boy, one gay, one straight, both looking for a boyfriend. They're in the center of seven kids in their family, and it's a typically strange kind of normal family.

When there are nine people in the house, what's one more? So the family takes in another teen for the last month of school, so he can finish out the year before moving with his family. He's quiet, artsy, very goth, and says he's a vampire. Both Kyle and Judy are intrigued by this addition to the family - he's their same age and mysterious, both off-putting and also strangely attractive.

Really, this is at heart a teen discovery novel - a bunch of young adults feeling out the edges of their world to figure out where they fit in and who they will become. Nearly everyone's different in one way or another by the end of the book, and while there is some drama involved, it's not a tacky "after-school special" lesson.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Once I really got going, I could not put this book down. It's got a great, brisk pace and each event acts like dominoes in a line - impact, after impact, after impact. Nothing is without consequence, and each action causes the next (expected or unexpected) reaction.

History scholar Diana Bishop has denied her family's witchcraft legacy since her parents were brutally murdered when she was seven. She's spent her life and career making sure that magic plays no part - she wants to know that she truly earned everything she achieved.

But things have started to get weird, and lots of non-human creatures have taken an interest in Diana. And it all seems to come back to one particular manuscript she checked out of the Oxford library.

The best I can say is this: take the best of the old Ann Rice vampire books, combined with the not-terrible parts of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books, with the intrigue of Dan Brown's books. Have I got you curious yet?

I picked up this book at 8:30 pm and put it down when I finished the last page at 4:30 am. My arms ached from holding the 600 page novel, but I just couldn't seem to quit. I think the last book I did that with was "The DaVinci Code."

Just my luck: this is book one in an anticipated "All Souls" trilogy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine

Everything kinda fell apart when Rowan's older brother died - her mum's totally fallen apart and become a zombie, her dad get fed up and moved out, and Rowan is left to hold things together for her six-year-old sister.

But when does Rowan get to be a 16-year-old kid, and grieve too?

The world tilts on its axis one day when a boy Rowan's never met insists she dropped a photo negative - that turns out to be an incredible picture of Jack she'd never seen before. Who was the boy? Where did the photo come from?

This is a short, powerful book about family dynamics and all the things we don't know about the people we know best. I consumed it in a sitting, and will highly recommend it to our teen readers.

An Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor

I've thoroughly enjoyed Taylor's "Irish Country" series, but this may be my favorite so far.

We've come to know the good doctors and the residents of Ballybucklebo pretty well to-date, but I was still surprised and delighted with the twists in this chapter of the tale: Kinky takes offense to the budding romance between Kitty and Dr. O'Reilly, young Barry tries to decide if country GP doctoring is really his calling, and the whole gang works "under the table" to give Bertie Bishop his what's-due.

John Keating's reading of this series is a true gem - he pulls off a dozen different kinds of accents throughout with nary a pause. With each book I've come to love his characterizations more and more.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


by Lili Wilkinson

This is a smart, hilarious read for anyone who has ever questioned their place in the world. Wilikinson's main character falls into the, Questioning category of LGBTQ. However, that is not the biggest question in Ava's life. Sure, she questions her sexuality throughout the novel, but she also questions the friends she is choosing in her new school and those she left behind. Is she one of the pretty people, a geek, or a near-goth lesbian? Feeling as though she must pick a side of her personality, Ava makes some tremendous mistakes that threaten friendships, both old and budding.
Teens and adults will enjoy watching Ava navigate her life while recalling their own attempts to fit in. Let out your inner geek, some of the trivial facts Ava's friends toss out will send you searching for added details.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Radleys by Matt Haig

High school can be agony anyway, but the Radley kids are true weirdos with no friends: Clara's a militant animal-rights vegetarian, and Rowan's just awkward and strange. Neither of them is sure why things are always so hard for them ... until Clara's at the center of an accident at a field party.

Then, when the family curse is revealed to them, things become much clearer.

Also complicating matters are a couple currents of drama concerning the Radley adults: Peter's heretofore-unmentioned brother Will has arrived on their doorstep, Helen's acting stranger and more tense than usual, and the next-door neighbors are getting rather too close for comfort.

Overnight, everything has changed and nothing's quite right in the Radleys' previously very boring suburban home. Interesting indeed!

This was one of my favorite of recent vampire reads because it's well written, with a different twist on the mythology. The "abstainers handbook" excerpts that begin each chapter were hilarious, and I thought the Radley kids' coming to knowledge was very well done.