A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Literary QOTW: Jolly Old England

In the spirit of the London Olympics, what is your favorite book set in England (besides Harry Potter or Jane Austen)? ;)

Stefanie says: Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I'll review this eventually, but if you like books with secret quests that go all over Europe on a mission from a recently deceased aunt, you'll love this! Seriously though, Maureen Johnson's books are amazing, and this one is equally funny, poignant, and adventurous not to mention the fact that it really made me want to go to England. It has a sequel called The Last Little Blue Envelope that is equally fabulous.

Chris says:  That's easy--Peter Pan!  This is for sure one of my favorite books, period, and it just so happens to take place in England (well, partially in England).  In this one, you've got lost boys, pirates, mermaids, people who can fly, and much more!  There's a reason why J.K. Rowling read from this book at the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.  Honorable mention goes to The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland

Title: Scones and Sensibility
Author: Lindsay Eland
Pages: 256
Publisher: Egmont USA
ISBN: 9781606840252
Publication Date: December 22, 2009
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 5.5, Points: 9.0

In a nutshell: New Jersey girl Polly Madassa is a young lady with a classic soul. Her life is a chain of daydreams about Pride and Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables, and she's determined to spread her romantic notions wherever she goes, even adopting an Austen-like way of speaking with big, lofty words. Polly has a summer job delivering sweets from her parents' bakery, but she decides to make a few extra stops in an effort to kindle some new romances for her friends and neighbors with the help of some delicious scones. Unfortunately for Polly, matchmaking turns out to be harder than it looks. Maybe she should've read Emma.

I'd recommend it for grades: 3 to 6

I'd recommend it to: girls who love Jane Austen or sweet, tame romances

What I liked most about this book: Polly speaks in Austen-speak with fancy words and with a lofty air, and it's hilarious. She's like a little mini Emma Woodhouse.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Polly attempts to make raspberry cordial like Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, and she nearly burns down the bakery. So funny!

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Literary QOTW: From the Page to the Small Screen

Question:  If you could recast one of your favorite TV shows with characters from teen and YA fiction, who would you choose?

Chris says:

I'm going with the show Friends:
Ross: Colin Singleton from An Abundance of Katherines --He has a poor dating history and is very smart yet bitter about not being labeled a genius.
Rachel: Holly Hills from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series --She's pretty, blonde, artistic, and sweet, but she's also the unattainable girl who doesn't seem to know Greg exists.
Monica:  Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson series --She's smart, organized, and has a little bit of a problem with pride.
Chandler: Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series --He's socially awkward, often finds his family embarrassing, and generally has a glass-half-empty attitude.
Phoebe: Susan "Stargirl" Caraway from Stargirl --She's quirky and compassionate, dresses eccentrically, sings random songs while strumming, loves nature, and has an upbeat outlook on life.
Joey: Henry McMillan from The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod --He's loyal, popular, and hungry and he has a way with the ladies.

Stefanie says:

I think I'll attempt to tackle everyone's favorite musical t.v. show - Glee! (Just a few characters...add more in comments if you want to! Chris helped a bit too.)

Sue: Professor Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series --He's always quick to creatively insult his students, he's super competitive, and he has a trademark outfit.

Will: Professor Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series --If Sue is Snape, Will is Lupin. He's a kind-hearted mentor to Harry and an excellent teacher.
Quinn: Mimi Force from the Blue Bloods series --She's another rich, popular, gorgeous blonde who starts out as a complete brat but grows into a somewhat selfless leader.
Artie:  Isaac from The Fault in Our Stars --He struggles with a disability but manages to stay positive and be a good friend.  He's also dealing with a pretty tough break-up.
Puck: Rodrick Heffley from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series --He's all rock-and-roll and rebellion and no direction in life plus he likes to pull practical jokes.
Rachel: Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables --She's an over-dramatic yet driven girl who is dying to get out of her small town.
Kurt:  Paul from Boy Meets Boy --He's proud of who he is and doesn't want to change, but still struggles with being openly gay in high school.
Mike: Bo Brewster from Ironman --Bo is a gifted athlete but also has to deal with a controlling father.  He's also smitten by a girl who shares his gift.
Brittany: Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series --She's quirky, cute, and blonde, and she has crazy, fantastical theories about anything and everything.
Santana: Clove from The Hunger Games --She doesn't take crap from anyone, and she's not afraid to go all "District 2" on you!
Finn: Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson series --He may not be super book smart, but he's got a big heart and a brave soul, he's a loyal friend, and he's completely adorable. Plus, he's got a thing for one of the most driven girls he knows.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NPR Asks about the All-Time Best Young Adult Novels

NPR is currently doing a survey of the all-time best young adult novels, and I have to say that the list of nominees is excellent. Vote for your favorite top 10 here and stayed tuned for the Top 100 winners list!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart 
Pages: 492
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 9780316057776
Publication Date: March 7, 2007
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 5.6, Points: 18.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/83369.The_Mysterious_Benedict_Society

In a nutshell: A strange advertisement in the local newspaper asks for extraordinary children to submit themselves to a series of peculiar, mind-bending tests, and after many children try and fail, four are left. Those four, each with their own particular intellectual "super power" form a top-secret spy group called "The Mysterious Benedict Society," which is headed by the mysterious Mr. Benedict himself, a genius in his own right, who suffers from narcolepsy and whose sleeping spells are brought on whenever he gets overexcited. Mr. Benedict gives the four children, Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance, a dangerous mission at a school for gifted children, where a despicable plot lurks beneath the surface.

I'd recommend it for grades: 5 to 8+

I'd recommend it to: Gifted education teachers. If you've been struggling to find a book for your most voracious readers (and they haven't already devoured this series), this is the book for them! They'll love all the logic puzzles they can solve for themselves, and the story portrays smart kids in a positive, kick-butt light! I wish this book had been around when I was a tween! I'd also recommend this to fans of Roald Dahl as it maintains some of the same quirkiness, and it includes clever young characters who could give many an adult a run for their money.

What I liked most about this book: I loved solving all the puzzles myself, and you will too! I think every kid has a spy phase, and this book allows you to get in touch with your inner detective. Plus, the main characters are just so loveable, each in their own way. I think every kid can probably find themselves in one of the four main characters.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I love Constance's rhymes. They are hilarious, and she might be my favorite character.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars...and 5 stars for the other four books in the series as well - The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (prequel), The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (book two), The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma (book three), and Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums (puzzles-only book). Book two is my personal favorite.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Literary QOTW: Mom and Pop

Question: Who's your favorite literary parent figure?

Chris says: Since I know who Stefanie's going to pick, I'll go a different route.  Thomas Schell from Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Thomas was born in the middle of Eastern European chaos, never knew his own father, and achieved the American Dream in New York City.  He instilled in his son Oskar some of my favorite qualities--curiosity, the desire for adventure, and unwavering perseverance.  Even after his untimely death on 9/11, he is able to send his son on an adventure that has an impact on the whole family.
Honorable Mention Dads: Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (no explanation required), Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman (he was different, but he had his own style), and Katniss' father from The Hunger Games (exists only in memories, but he made an impact)
Honorable Mention Moms: Molly Weasley from Harry Potter ("Not my daughter. . ."--EPIC!), Wendy Darling from Peter Pan (she becomes a mother to the Lost Boys), and Mrs. Bennet from Pride & Prejudice (not at all perfect, but she cracks me up!)

Stef says: Chris knows I love Atticus Finch. He's the ultimate single father in literature in my eyes, so choosing him is a given, but I've got to pick a mom too, right? I'm going to give the mother figure award to a character in a fairly recent not-really-teen novel - Aibileen Clark from The Help. I'm amazed by this woman's strength and her ability to always show love regardless of whether that love is returned. Aibileen, an African-American maid, has spent a lifetime raising white children, instilling in them genuine love and self respect only to have many of them grow up to treat her with the same disrespect and disdain as their parents. Yet, she refuses to become bitter or jaded with each new child she raises and continues to teach them her refrain - "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." (Cue the waterworks.) I greatly admire not only her bravery for telling her story but also for never letting those around her effect her capacity to pour out love to her "babies". Aibileen teaches us that the greatest parents show us unrequited love even when we may not deserve it.

Honorable mentions go to...1. Lily Potter (Harry Potter), whose life-giving sacrifice not only saved the life of her son but arguably the entire wizarding world. Plus she's a redhead. ;) 2. Miss Honey (Matilda), who sees a remarkable yet unloved little girl and turns her entire world upside down to adopt her and make sure she will always feel loved...not to mention instilling in her a love of reading! Extra points! 3. Mr. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), who may be guilty of picking favorites and doing very little to stop his wife's crazy antics but who has one of the sweetest father-daughter moments in all of literature when he discusses Lizzy's proposal to Mr. Darcy with her in order to make sure his darling daughter is marrying for love and not money. Sigh. What a great dad...and he even ran off the creepy Mr. Collins too.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Title: Countdown
Author: Deborah Wiles
Pages: 400
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
ISBN: 9780545106054
Publication Date: May 1, 2010
AR Levels: Interest Level: 4th-8th, Book Level: 4.4, Points: 9.0

In a nutshell: The 1960s were a volatile time in American history, and many a writer has attempted to capture the wonder and terror of that decade. Deborah Wiles has bottled that wonder and terror in this novel that beautifully blends actual history with fiction. Based loosely on her own life in Maryland during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Wiles' main character 12-year-old Franny Chapman has a perfect younger brother and a perfect (albeit somewhat secretive) older sister, and she just can't seem to measure up. Add in a crush on a cute boy next door, a "crazy" uncle suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a disloyal best friend, a military father whose stressful job is keeping him away from home, a demanding/stressed out mother, and a country terrified of nuclear war, and Franny just can't seem to make sense of much of anything, but Franny will find out that when fear begins to overtake you, it's not always enough to duck and cover; sometimes you have to stand up and be brave, and you'll find yourself along the way.

I'd recommend it for grades: 5 to 8

I'd recommend it to: historical fiction lovers, middle siblings, and anyone who's ever been afraid of the world around them...and American history teachers! It's rare to find a children's lit book about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Take advantage of it!

What I liked most about this book: Franny Chapman is adorable yet discerning in a very Scout Finch sort of way, and that's a very good thing. She's a narrator you root for from the very beginning, and seeing the world through her eyes completely draws you in to what it must have felt like to be a girl who's dying to grow up faster but still scared of the world around her. I love her, and I hope the next two books keep her as the narrative voice. Wiles has said this will be a trilogy about the 60s, and I believe the next book centers around Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi (my stompin' grounds!).

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I have lots of single favorite moments, so it's too hard to choose, but some of my favorite parts are the actual historical pieces interspersed in the book. Wiles spins real speeches, biographies, advertisements, photographs, news stories, quotes, and more into the story effortlessly blending fact and fiction. It's so seamless that you feel like you're getting sucked into the 60s in a time warp.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): a well-deserved 5 stars...equally entertaining and suspenseful (and educational!)

*Side Note: I haven't listened to it, but I'm sure the audiobook of this is incredible because I heard that it uses real footage during the historical parts. I may check it out sometime and update you later.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tweak by Nic Sheff

Let me begin by saying that this is a difficult book to review.  I had read great reviews about this book, so I picked it up in the teen section of a local book store; however, after reading it, I'm wondering why I found it there.  The book was fascinating, to say the least, but I don't see it as a book that every teen needs to read.  Tweak does a great job of exposing what life is like for an addict at this age who has secluded himself from his family; it's gritty, it's real, and it doesn't sugarcoat anything.  The problem I have is not with the book but instead with the audience to whom it's being marketed.  This book could be appropriate for older teens, but I would still advise that educators and librarians read it first and recommend it cautiously.  

Title:  Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines
Author:  Nic Sheff
Pages:  336
Publisher:  Ginee Seo Books
ISBN:  9781416913627
Publication Date:  February 19, 2008
AR Levels: Interest Level--9th to 12th; Book Level--4.9; Points--17.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/657371.Tweak

In a nutshell:  Nic Sheff's real life journey with substance abuse began at age 11.  He's done it all--alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth, pills, heroin.  He was in and out of treatment programs during his teens and early 20s, and finally his family told him they were through with him until he decided to get help and commit to staying clean.  He's lived on the streets, in his car, on friends' couches, and has resorted to extreme measures to feed his habit, including dealing drugs and prostituting himself.  This book chronicles a few years of his life on his journey to recovery.  (I sugarcoated that description--the language and content of the book are much more vivid.)

I'd recommend it for grades: 12+.  If I have to give it a grade recommendation, I'd say mature 12th graders (if that).  The f-word is used hundreds of times, the sexual content is very explicit, and the descriptions of drug use are very graphic.  Viewer discretion advised is an understatement.

I'd recommend it to: All of that said, there is still an audience for this book.  Teens and young adults struggling with addiction might appreciate reading about the similar struggles of someone their age.  Also, parents and educators familiar with students in similar situations might benefit from an insider view of what that experience can be like.

What I liked most about the book:  Nic is very genuine and doesn't hold back from sharing his failures and weaknesses.  He gives the reader total access to his past.

Single Favorite Moment:  At one point, Nic is talking with Spencer (his recovery sponsor), who tells him a story to illustrate that even the worst of experiences can have a positive outcome.  The story he uses is the Arabian Horse Story if you're interested.

Star Rating:  I'm giving this one 3 stars.  It's a good book, but it's not for everyone.  You may also like Nic's father's telling of the story--Beautiful Boy by David Sheff.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Literary QOTW: It's All in the Setting

For this week's Question of the Week, we're talking about one of Chris's favorite story elements--setting.  Feel free to post your answer as a comment.

Question:  Of all the books you've read, which one has the most unique setting that impressed you?

Stef says:  Okay, I know we talk about Harry Potter a lot (What can I say? We're Potterheads.), but seriously, very few book settings come close to wowing me the way the wizarding world does. Moving photos, chocolate frogs, Whomping Willows, flying cars...what's not to love? Not to mention that the settings are just so diverse. In one world you have places that make you blissfully happy (like Olivander's Wand Shop) and completely terrified (the cave in Half-Blood Prince) and everything in between. Honorable mention goes to C.S. Lewis' Narnia. The idea of walking into a wardrobe of old winter coats and out into an enchanted snowy forest had me standing in a closet and using my imagination a lot as a kid. 

Chris says:  While I'm a fan of wizarding worlds and fantastical furniture, I'm going old school with this one, all the way back to a book published in 1979.  Kindred by Octavia Butler doesn't exactly have a new setting, per se, but it does put very unique spin on a few you might be more familiar with.  Kindred is a science fiction novel in which Dana, a 26-year old African American female, travels back-and-forth between modern-day California and the antebellum (pre Civil War) South to help the son of the man who owns the plantation on which Dana's ancestor is enslaved.  Obviously, these two settings are not just dissimilar--they're total opposites, with 20th century California representing freedom and the American dream and 19th century Maryland representing the slavery-laden past of the U.S.  (I know, I'm probably getting too deep and philosophical. . .)  Anyway, I had previously read books about time travel and books about the antebellum South, but this one blew me away. Octavia Butler doesn't hold back on the reality of the plantation setting, and she uses the differences between the past and the present to make the story that much more powerful.

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Title: Scarlet
Author: A.C. Gaughen
Pages: 292
Publisher: Walker Children's
ISBN: 9780802723468
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 9th-12th, Book Level: 4.4, Points: 10.0

In a nutshell: Everyone thinks they know the story of Robin Hood and his Merry Men who rob from the rich and give to the poor, right? You've got Little John, Friar Tuck, loveable ol' Much, and spunky little Will Scarlet. Except this time one of Robin's Merry Men isn't a man. Unbeknownst to anyone but the gang, Will Scarlet is *gasp* a GIRL! And a mighty kick-butt girl she is! The boys call her Scar for short, and she's no damsel in distress but rather a knife-throwing beauty hiding from her dark past and trying to make amends for her former life. While Scarlet's trying to find her place in the gang, she's also struggling with feelings for two of her band mates and plotting how to elude the evil thief hunter Sir Guy of Gisbourne who's been hired by the Sheriff of Nottingham to find and kill Robin and the gang, and to make matters worse, she's met Gisbourne before, and if he recognizes her, her life is over. Full of angst-y romance, gasp-inducing plot twists, and heart-pounding fight scenes, this book is sure to delight guys and gals alike. Personally, I'm really hoping she'll write a sequel because I need more!

I'd recommend it for grades: 8-12+ for some mildly sensual scenes (very mild) and PG13 language

I'd recommend it to: anyone who likes a good adventure or who has a thing for Robin Hood (um...guilty!)

What I liked most about this book: Scarlet is an excellent heroine. She starts out pretty unsure of herself but not in a Bella Swan way because, hello, she throws knives and never pouts, but her character develops immensely throughout the book while still maintaining a healthy and admirable humility. Plus, she makes other characters better, and if that's not the mark of a true heroine, I don't know what is. Also, the love triangle is awesome. I can't give away too much, but let's just say I'm definitely Team Robin. You saw that coming, right?

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): This is hard to say because almost everything would be spoiler-y, but I think I can safely say that Robin Hood has a few white-knight moments where he rides in and saves the day, and my favorite involves him saving Scarlet from a burning building. TOTALLY swoon-worthy. Honorable mention goes to the giant (yet somewhat predictable) plot twist at the end. I saw it coming from a mile away, but it was still AMAZING and quite clever on the part of the author.

Star rating (where five stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): a solid 4 stars

Saturday, July 7, 2012

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

I'll admit that I was browsing through the bookstore and picked this one up because the cover looked interesting.  I guess sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.  AEAFOTFOTE (the title is even long when abbreviated!) started off slow and seemed like it was going to be utterly boring, but it turned out to be a great book.  To be honest, it's not for everyone--it's not an action-packed adventure or vampire romance or middle school collective of awkward moments and fart jokes.  This book is more of a comedy of errors in which everything that can go wrong can go wrong; the cast of characters is a quirky band of misfits that helps the main character find his way back home.  

Title:  As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth
Author:  Lynne Rae Perkins
Pages: 368
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books
ISBN:  9780061870903
Publication Date:  April 27, 2010
AR Levels:  Interest Level--6th+; Book Level--5.0; Points--9.0

In a nutshell: Sixteen-year old Ry is making the journey from Wisconsin by train to his summer camp destination on the west coast.  He finds out around Montana that camp is cancelled, and when he leaves the train to make a phone call, the train leaves without him.  After wandering around Montana for a while, he meets Del and they embark on a journey to get him back to Wisconsin and ultimately to find his parents in the Caribbean.  Along the way, they meet a random assortment of people who "help" them reach their destination and learn about themselves.  It's not laugh-out-loud or slapstick funny, but it's funny in its own special way.

I'd recommend it for grades: 7-12+ (adults would love this book, too!)

I'd recommend it to:  anyone who likes a good book about a journey and anyone who appreciates finding the humor in normal life situations.

What I liked most about this book:  It's not very likely that all of these events would happen to one person, but the book doesn't read too far fetched.  I also appreciated that it's not crude or obnoxious.  

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  At one point on the journey, Ry and Del catch a ride from an elderly man who doesn't see well or have feeling in his legs; he's a terrible driver who can't see out the window of the car, causing him to drive like Mr. Magoo.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars.  This would make a great movie.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Disney After Dark (Kingdom Keepers Book 1) by Ridley Pearson

If you're as Disney obsessed as me, you've probably always wondered what goes on after the park closes.  Well, that's what Ridley Pearson tackles (sort of) in this series.  I'll admit, I didn't like this book through the first 50 pages because the action of the story starts abruptly on page 1 without clear background information; however, I don't like not finishing a book, so I stuck it out.  The book redeems itself very quickly, and I ended up reading over 250 pages in one sitting (i.e. I couldn't put it down).  This book is one part Night at the Museum, one part Avatar, and one part Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew.

Title:  Disney After Dark (Kingdom Keepers Book 1)
Author:  Ridley Pearson
Pages: 326
Publisher:  Disney Press
ISBN:  9780786854448
Publication Date:  August 29, 2005
AR Levels:  Interest Level--4th to 8th; Book Level--4.2; Points--9.0

In a nutshell:  Disney's Magic Kingdom in Orlando has created a new attraction called Disney Host Interactive (or DHI) in which 5 young teens were selected to have their likenesses used as holographic tour guides that can interact with park guests.  These kids instantly become rock stars at their schools, as people can see them in the park everyday without them actually having to be there.  (Sounds kinda confusing, I know)  They quickly learn though that they may have been chosen for a different purpose.  At night, they are transported back into the park--in what turns out not to be a dream--where they interact with one of Disney's Imagineers, as well as characters that seem to have come alive.  On top of that, they learn that Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty may or may not be planning to take over the park and eventually the world, and it's their duty to stop her.

I'd Recommend It For Grades: 6-9+; the characters are middle schoolers and the books are relatively tame.

I'd Recommend It To:  Anyone who's a huge Disney fan and who wants to know what happens in those parks after dark

What I Liked Most About This Book:  It didn't shy away from revealing some of the behind-the-scenes secrets.  Most of the time, Disney won't go near a conversation about the characters in the park not being real, but this book tells you about cast members, the tunnels and secret passages, and other secrets.

Single Favorite Moment (without getting spoiler-y):  If you've ever been to the Magic Kingdom, you're familiar with the It's a Small World ride and how annoying it can be.  My absolute favorite part is when the characters end up on the ride at night.  One of them comments about how annoying the song is, and then something happens on the ride that reminded me of The Shining and Child's Play.  Read it, it's amazing!

Star Rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  4 stars; the first 50 pages get 3 stars, but the rest of the book redeems it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Literary QOTW: We Love to Hate Them

And now we welcome you to the portion of our show where we answer a weekly literary question. Include your answer in the comments because audience participation saves the lives of fairies just like clapping does.

Question: Who's your favorite book character you love to hate?

Chris says: Bellatrix Lestrange.  If there ever was a book villain who's incredibly interesting, it's Bellatrix.  She has a high-profile family tree, a vicious past, and a knack for hurting the characters you love the most.  She's involved in one of my absolute favorite moments of the entire series (yes, you know which one I'm talking about).  And on top of that, Helena Bonham Carter (Mrs. Tim Burton) brought her to life with a demented, yet funky, flair in the movies.  Honorable mention goes to Iago (from Othello, not Aladdin), Milo Minderbinder (from Catch 22), and Satan (from Paradise Lost).

Stef says: Scarlet O'Hara. She's a hardcore Southern Belle who knows how to get what she wants with no regard to the price she or anyone else will have to pay. She's downright diabolical at times (stealing her sister's fiance even...yikes!), yet she's such a strong woman that I have to love her too. In the end, you finally get to see her heart, and yours breaks for her when she realizes that what she really needed all along just walked out her front door. And Vivian Leigh's portrayal of her is cinema magic. Honorable mention goes to Professor Delores Umbridge, who has no redeeming qualities especially not the fact that her office is covered in kittens. No offense, kittens.

He Says/She Says: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

From time to time, we'll do he says/she says reviews in which the two of us review a book we've both read. Here's the first of those reviews.

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Pages: 318
Publisher: Dutton Books
ISBN: 9780525478812
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
AR Levels: Interest Level: 9th-12th, Book Level: 5.5, Points: 10.0

In a Nutshell:  Sixteen-year old Hazel was diagnosed with Stage IV Thyroid Cancer as an early teen, but due to medical marvels, she has been living fairly uninhibited--except for the oxygen tank and frequent chemical exposure.  She makes a few friends at a support group, including Augustus, whose cancer is in remission.  Their friendship--which starts out rocky because of Hazel's less-than-cheerful disposition and bleak outlook on life--sends them on a journey of self discovery, on which they will learn about coping with what life gives you, handling fear of the unknown, and truly living when you might be dying.

He Says:  
I'll be honest--John Green could probably annotate a tax law manual and make it a worthwhile read.  So, needless to say, I was very excited to hear about The Fault in Our Stars, and I even pre-ordered it like 7 months in advance to get an signed copy.  I immediately tore into it and couldn't put it down.  For those who haven't read it yet, it's the perfect combination of hopeful exuberance, youthful hilarity, and gut-wrenching poignancy (translation: It was really good!).

I'd Recommend It for Grades:  8th-12th+; This book gets pretty intense at times and does feature some strong language.

I'd Recommend It To: ANYONE and EVERYONE!
What I Liked Most about this Book:  These characters had very realistic personalities and emotional responses to their life situations.  To share something personal about me, my biggest defense mechanism is humor--I tend to make jokes at inappropriate times to keep from dealing with intense emotions (I'm the guy that tries to make people laugh at funerals.).  Hazel and Augustus both do this, so I felt especially connected to them.

Single Favorite Moment (Without Getting Spoiler-y):  At one point in the book, Augustus jokes about taking Hazel's breath away.  If you didn't catch the punchline, reread the "In a nutshell" section and the "What I liked most about this book" section.

Star Rating: 5 stars, hands down.  I would love to go beyond that if I could.

She Says: 
I also pre-ordered this book and got a signed copy (with a Hanklerfish...might I add! Nerdfighter inside joke), and I took my time reading it because I didn't want it to end! I think it's got Printz Award written all over it. It's rare that a book can make you laugh and cry in the same sentence, and this one does that time and time again.

I'd Recommend It For Grades: 9-12+ (and all adults too!) for some strong language and some mildly sensual scenes

I'd Recommend It To: anyone with a heart :)

What I Liked Most about this Book: The authenticity of the characters. Green doesn't sugarcoat what it must feel like to be a teenager with cancer, yet these teens aren't over-dramatic archetypes either; they talk and act like real teens - making jokes, flirting, philosophizing on life - and they're super witty. You care about these characters the second you meet them, and after you finish reading, you want to start all over and meet them again. Also, this book is laugh out loud funny at times, and that's something I never thought I'd say about a cancer book.

Single Favorite Moment (Without Getting Spoiler-y): I don't want to give away too much, so you'll have to read the book to really see what I mean, but John Green has a gift for Venn Diagrams, and this book contains a fabulous one. Also, I now want to go to Amsterdam because of this book.

Star Rating: 5 of course!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

I have to admit, when I found out that John Grisham had been writing books for teens, I got very excited.  I remember working my way through the the John Grisham canon (The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, A Time to KillThe Firm, etc.) when I was in high school.  Now, he's introduced us to Theodore Boone, a precocious 13-year old lawyer-to-be.  I'll be honest--if you're a fan of Grisham's other novels, such as those listed above, you might find the Theodore Boone series a little watered down.  But they're perfect for a preteen or teen who's reading his books for the first time.

Title: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer
Author: John Grisham
Pages: 288
Publisher: Penguin Group
ISBN: 9780142428696
Publication Date: May 25, 2010
AR Levels:  Interest Level--4th to 8th; Book Level--5.2; Points--8

In a Nutshell:  Theodore Boone (Teddy to his parents, Theo to everyone else) is the 13-year old son of two lawyers.  Needless to say, Theo knows more than his fair share about law and being a lawyer, and he even aspires to be a lawyer one day.  When his town becomes abuzz with a very high-profile murder trial, Theo can't get enough of it.  He gets his government class seats in the trial (through his connection with the judge) and he spends as much of his free time outside of school in the courtroom.  His friends often ask him for legal advice, and this is also how Theo finds himself tangled up in the town's biggest murder trial.  

I'd Recommend it for Grades: 6th-9th; this series is definitely written for younger teens, although it can be a good lead-in to Grisham's other books for older readers.

I'd Recommend it to: Any teens interested in being a lawyer or anything in the legal field.  Also to anyone who likes reading about crime or mysteries.

What I Liked Most About This Book: Unlike most crime/legal books, this one does a good job of explaining legal terms and procedures without including a lot of "Hollywood"-type situations that can't actually happen in court.

Single Favorite Moment (without getting spoiler-y): As I said, Theo's friends go to him for legal advice.  One of my favorite parts was when the school secretary asks him for advice in exchange for no-questions-asked about an unexcused absence from school.

Star Rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  I'm going with a 4.  It doesn't pack the punch of Grisham's other novels, but it definitely fits the group it was written for.

***Note: There are already several follow-up books in this series.***