Archive for August, 2009

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

phoenixWhen Ai Ling runs away from home in order to find her father and while avoiding a forced marriage to an elderly local merchant, she has no idea that she has embarked on an adventure of destiny and revenge.  She will be entranced, threatened and nearly killed by a stunning bestiary of mythological creatures as she becomes aware that the balance of the world of the living and the dead depends upon her choices and actions.  Two brothers join her on her journey and quickly realize that Ai Ling possesses extraordinary powers: she can read minds, possess another’s body, is protected by a magical charm, and has wisdom beyond her years.  In fact, she carries experience, skill and purpose from a life lived 200 years ago. She is also a 17 year-old girl falling in love with one of her companions.  This is an epic saga written with flair and imagination that will captivate fans of girl-hero fiction (and films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).  Its cinematic pacing and elaborate descriptions make it easy to imagine the world of Ai Ling, where the mythic, the magic, and the mundane are deftly – and believably – interwoven.  Recommended for grades 7 and up.

John Sexton, WLS

August 31, 2009 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor


When I started reading this book, I didn’t realize that it was a collection of three short stories (or three quite long stories or very short novels is more like how they felt). The first story was so engaging that I hated for it to end and was worried that the next story wouldn’t pull me in – but, I shouldn’t have worried because the next story and the third story pulled me in just the same. The stories bring you into worlds where humans must make deals with the devils — souls and happiness in the balance. Teenage girls are at the center of each story – all of them trying to lead to regular lives while their families harbor dreadful secrets that make them anything but “normal.”

In the first story we meet a girl who longs to be noticed and popular when she finally meets a gorgeous boy who likes HER and when he offers her everything that her grandmother warned her about her entire life, she’s not sure she cares…In the second story, a deal is made in Hell to save the lives of hundreds of children in exchange for a curse on one baby born who must not ever make a sound, for her voice will kills anyone that hears it. We meet this girl when she is grown, yearning to sing, and beginning to doubt if the curse is real….In the final story a mother has managed to hide a dreadful past from her daughter but her daughter turns 17 and wakes up to the sounds of howling wolves, one of her eyes a different color, and memories that aren’t her own and both of them are suddenly on the ran with the past revealed and horrors of the future before them…

I would only recommend this to high school kids and wish that the title was better…also, in this proof copy it looks like there are plans for extensive artwork that I am not sure are necessary, but obviously cannot judge since they aren’t there yet. However, from someone who found Twilight to go on too long and be annoyingly predictable (Dare I admit this? And I only read the first one…), these tales are anything but. Definitely recommend them to teens looking for that “horror-meets-fantasy-meets-romance” experience.

Amy Kaplan, Briarcliff Manor

August 24, 2009 at 8:01 pm 1 comment

Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldier : a memoir by Dean Ellis Kohler, Susan Vanhecke and Graham Nash

rockDean Kohler’s rock n’ roll memoir is the true story of how even during combat in the Vietnam war, creating music is still possible. Right out of high school, Kohler gets drafted to Nam. With a record deal on hand, Kohler has a hard time leaving, but having left for the war, his love for music makes it impossible for there not to be music. After being told that he is no killer, but a musician, Kohler takes the time to start a band, get some instruments and make rock n’ roll.  Through adventures of meeting girls, meeting bullets, and meeting each other, the band dubbed The Electrical Bananas find themselves having a bit of rock n’ roll in their war-filled lives. A surprising, heartfelt, adventurous story Rock n’ Roll Soldier is a book that you should not pass on reading. Whether it is war, music, or comradeship, the memoir has something to offer to everyone. Take a look and read this magnificent novel while imagining The Electrical Bananas in concert just for you.
Jenny, 10th Grader – Briarcliff Mannor

August 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm 1 comment

Review Copies

Sorry — my email sent you to the blog, but the available review copies are listed on the wiki:


August 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm Leave a comment

Alligator Bayou by Donna Jo Napoli

bayouToday’s America is going through another jingoist stage where citizens feel threatened by newcomers from south of the border.  Now, like in the past, immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries are the butt of hostile, angry remarks.  At the turn of the 20th century, Blacks were not the only group murdered by mobs. In 1899, six Italian grocers living in Tallulah, Louisiana, were lynched. Alligator Bayou is the fictionalized story about a young, orphaned teenager Calegero, who is sent from Sicily to live with his uncles in Louisiana. His hard-working uncles own a small produce store. Whites buy from them even while resenting their presence in the community. Some arrogant whites spit out the usual epithets while Calegero’s uncles try to ignore the abuse and continue tending their store. Calegero manages to make friends with some African-American kids, but this, too, is dangerous because Whites do not want Blacks and Sicilians to unite and stand together. In the course of the novel, readers are made aware of unfair voting laws, segregated schools, Jim Crow, and other heinous acts that were in effect at that time.  The chilling story of racism, threats, and actual murders make this a difficult book to read. The murders themselves, however, are not graphically described, but the menacing power of hate is palpable. Napoli has narrated a story that needs to be told.

Lily Hecker, Pelham

August 6, 2009 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

King of the Screwups by K.L. Going

kingLiam has even more trouble than most teenagers in fulfilling parental expectations.  Having pretty much abandoned the attempt to make his father proud, he practically ensures that he will be cast out of home.  It could have been to a military boarding school but, in the event, Liam is sent to stay with his mother’s brother—a man Liam thinks of as “Aunt Pete.”   Pete is comfortable with the choices he’s made in life and is not about to let his nephew pressure him into making any changes.  Now living out of a trailer in upstate New York and attending a high school where his reputation is unknown, Liam thinks he can remake himself as a nerd.  There is a plenty of room for humor here, since he has no conception of how nerds dress or act and he keeps finding himself inadvertently the center of attention.
Going does a good job of dispelling common assumptions about gays and straights and of writing with a lot of heart about fully-fleshed characters in interestingly complicated relationships.   Recommended.
Miriam Lang Budin,  Chappaqua

August 6, 2009 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

Girl to the Core by Stacey Goldblatt

girlMolly is in love with Trevor, a handsome teenage heart throb. He says he loves her, too. All should be perfect, no? Well, no, because Trevor wants more from Molly than she is ready to give.  Molly is just fifteen, but her dates with Trevor include many evenings on his couch with no parents around. She has a problem saying no. Worse, she sees Trevor kissing Felicia, his ex. But breaking is up is hard to do. Trevor keeps texting and calling and asking her to forgive him. Goldblatt nailed the doubts and highs that comprise the smoldering of unleashed teen passions. But then, suddenly,  Molly gets involved with Girl Corps – a group of nine year old girls who talk about empowerment and finding their voices and wear red capes.  This unlikely fellowship of a fifteen-year-old high school girl and fourth graders spending hours together does not ring true. The overt and hidden agenda of girls being true to themselves is essential. But a novel is not a Cosmo self-correcting quiz. The self-doubt and hesitation about becoming sexual is a real issue for most teenage girls. Just saying “no” doesn’t resolve it. But answering 100 journal prompts (included at the end of the book) doesn’t seem plausible either. Molly somehow finds her “voice” and I suppose that is what the author wanted to achieve. For most teenage girls, however, Girl Corps isn’t an option.

Lily Hecker, Pelham

August 6, 2009 at 1:23 pm Leave a comment

Pop by Gordon Korman

pop“Pop” is the high a person gets when he crashes his body against another’s, as in football. Sixteen-year-old Marcus Jordan, though loving the game of football, is more than happy to avoid contact. Unexpectedly, Marcus meets Charlie Popovich, a former NFL player, who becomes his informal trainer. Marcus tries out for the team, only to learn that he is unwelcome. The Raiders team was undefeated last year and their QB, Charlie’s son Troy, does not want to make room for a new player. Charlie behaves oddly. He’s great when he plays football, but off the field he acts strangely. When Charlie breaks a car window, he runs away, leaving Marcus to take care of the bill. Marcus discovers that Charlie has early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Only Charlie’s family knows this and they want it kept secret. Korman describes Charlie’s deterioration and confusion, but he doesn’t include any medical intervention which in today’s world might alleviate some of the symptoms. There is a scene that doesn’t ring true when Marcus and Charlie’s family scout out the residential clinic that handles Alzheimer’s patients. It is doubtful that a patient would tour the facility and then his family would tell him that this is where he will go to live. This book will especially appeal to football fans. But Korman goes beyond the football field to write effectively about family relationships, illness, and friendship.

Lily Hecker, Pelham

August 6, 2009 at 1:18 pm 3 comments

August 2009