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Monday, August 30, 2010

Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis

Raising Dragons, Dragon in our Midst Book I by Bryan Davis
Publisher: Living Ink Books
Genre: Action/Adventure Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (417 pgs)
Rating: 4 Suns
Reviewed by Aloe

A boy learns of his dragon past; a girl has known of hers for years. They combine their faith, courage, and love to overcome evil, a slayer who seeks to bring an end to dragon heritage, forever.

The kids at school call Billy Dragon Breath for good reason. His breath is bad! It isn't the normal, morning-mouth bad; it's the hot-as-fire, don't-you-dare-get-near-me bad. Trouble erupts when his hot breath sets off the fire sprinklers in the boy's restroom at school, and his parents learn that they've kept their secret for too long.

Billy finally discovers the secret. His father was once a dragon! Now that's a piece of news a guy doesn't deal with every day! Billy feels betrayed, alien, lost. When the dragon slayer traps him on a cold mountaintop in West Virginia, Billy learns to battle with weapons of steel and spirit while relying on a power he doesn't understand, a power that helps him learn to trust again.

Bonnie, an orphan, tries to find a home, someone to love her, even though she feels like a freak because of a body feature that she calls a deformity. But this unusual feature becomes a life-saving attribute as she discovers that her love for others and her faith in a creator hold the answers she's looking for.

Can you imagine finding out that dragons exist today? So do dragon slayers…

This book is fast paced, very exciting and full of well-thought-out, bigger than life characters. Mr. Davis does a good job of blending history and fantasy together. He also accurately depicts teenager anxiety and their uncertainty about life in general.

Billy had a real problem with bad breath. And now he was actually having “hot” breath. He accidently burnt his mother when he kissed her goodbye on his way to school. He’s been avoiding everyone and trying not to worry about it, but soon he won’t be able to anymore. What’s happening to him and why?

His only real friend is Walter, a boy he grew up and enjoys playing with; he’s a good friend. He also likes his history teacher at school – he’s British and interesting. And the new female student is interesting, too, but why does she always wear that backpack?

This story is mix of fantasy, fact, and imagination, and it works very well. Young adult readers will be drawn into the story concept and swept along in the action. There’s good, there’s evil, and both sides are powerful – you don’t know who is going to win. And the battle is wicked; even boys should find themselves flipping pages to see what’s going to happen next.

This is the first book in a series of four, and I’m sure looking forward to the next one. This book is just the beginning of the tale, setting the scene for the books to come. You’ll be glad to know there are more; one is just not enough.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Girl V. Boy by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout

Girl V. Boy by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: Contemporary
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (311 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Wisteria

All's not fair in love, war, and high school journalism.

Sixteen-year-old Luisa Perez is not looking to win any awards for school spirit. In fact, she and her friends make it a point to avoid all activities considered "extra-curricular." So when her English teacher volunteers her to be an anonymous columnist for the school paper, Luisa's first impulse is to run. But, unlike her high-school dropout sister, Luisa does want to go to college--it may be her only ticket out of a life spent working at the cowboy-themed diner where she waitresses part time--and it would be nice to something on her applications.

Her first assignment is to cover her high school's latest fundraiser, which pits the girls against the boys. Luisa will cover the events from the female POV, while another anonymous writer provides the male perspective--or, at least, that's how it begins. The two columnists soon find themselves engaged in an epic battle of the sexes--a battle that Luisa is determined to win. Just who does this guy think he is, encouraging his peers to act like Neanderthals with their girlfriends? And why can't Luisa shake the very sinking feeling that her new unidentified nemesis might also be her new boyfriend?

Luisa is one of three “Luisa’s” at her school and it’s easy for her to fade into the background. When her writing teacher decides she needs an extracurricular activity—he signs her on as a journalist for the school paper.

Interesting love interests, spicy articles and fun dialogue ensue, making for a fun and entertaining read. The thing I liked the best about this novel is the constant questioning and twisting plot. There are several boys that seem to be competing for Luisa’s attention and she’s a likeable character in the way she is trying so hard to keep herself balanced, but she can’t keep up. This book is witty, exciting and a must read. I didn’t want to put it down.

Girl v. Boy is full of snappy, roller-coaster worthy characters and dialogue. It is a light hearted, tightly woven read that will keep you turning page after page wanting more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (281 pgs)
Rating: 4 Suns
Reviewed by Wisteria

After a close encounter with the front end of a school bus, Alona Dare goes from Homecoming Queen to Queen of the Dead. Now she’s stuck as a spirit (DON’T call her a ghost) in the land of the living with no sign of the big, bright light to take her away. To make matters worse, the only person who might be able to help her is Will Killian, a total loser outcast who despises the social elite. He alone can see and hear (turns out he’s been “blessed” with the ability to communicate with the dead), but he wants nothing to do with the former mean girl of Groundsboro High.

Alona has never needed anyone for anything, and now she’s supposed to expose her deepest, darkest secrets to this pseudo-goth boy? Right. She’s not telling anyone what really happened the day she died, not even to save her eternal soul. And Will’s not filling out any volunteer forms to help her cross to the other side. He only has a few more weeks until his graduation, when he can strike out on his own and find a place with less spiritual interference. But he has to survive and stay out of the psych ward until then. Can they get over their mutual distrust—and the weird attraction between them—to work together before Alona vanishes for good and Will is locked up for seeing things that don’t exist?

Alona Dare is the stereotypical not-so-smart blonde. Will Killian is the not-so-typical tall dark and brooding boy. Too bad Alona is dead and only Will can see her.

The Ghost and the Goth is a two person point of view chapter novel. Alona’s character reminded me of so many other blonde cheerleader leads—but there was one huge thing that set her apart—her snarky-ness. She isn’t exactly the brightest crayon in the box, but she has a silver tongue that ends up helping Will when everyone else wants to believe he is crazy.

Will, facing his own demons (and a myriad of ghosts from all decades) never imagined Alona Dare would be the one girl that would haunt him. When she starts to show up everywhere he is—he realizes he can’t just ignore her (no matter how hard he tries).

This book doesn’t focus on the romantic side of the two characters, and focuses more on their internal struggles with their lives and their families. I did expect more romance out of the characters, but the lack of it didn’t diminish my attachment to Alona and Will.

The Ghost and the Goth is the new telling of Cheerleader meets Bad-Boy. Alona is a ghost (and a character) that refuses to be ignored. Will is a brooding, ghost-ignoring Bad-Boy that will leave you wanting to yell at him yourself! A good, unique read in today's paranormal YA market.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delany

13 to Life by Shannon Delany
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (308 pgs)
Rating: 5 suns
Reviewed by Wisteria

Everything about Jessie Gillmansen’s life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she’s about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he’s a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie’s small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can’t avoid…

Talk about a fun, fast, paranormal roller coaster that will leave you craving more of Pietr.

Debut Novelist, Shannon Delany, brings a whole new level to the werewolf world with 13 to Life. The story opens with Jessie — a girl with not much left to lose — but nothing really to gain. She’s lost her mother and is faced with all the heartbreak she can bear. Yet, when Pietr, a hot, Russian mystery boy shows up, she can’t help but be a little snarky, outspoken, and just downright curious. Pietr and his crazed family of seeming-misfits will have you wondering what they are trying to hide and why they are all-too-willing to fight each other to keep whatever secret they are hiding.

This book definitely has it all — drama, love, flirting (even though it’s really unintended in the beginning!), and mystery that will have you refusing to put the book down. It is an awesome start to the series!

13 to Life will leave you craving more of Pietr and his mysterious and seemingly corrupt family. Jessie is a relatable character that is well written and I heavily identified with her from the beginning. This is a must read — and Ms. Delany, I want a Pietr of my own!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Karma Bites by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas

Karma Bites by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 suns
Reviewed by Cholla

Life seems to have it in for Franny Flanders.

Her best friends aren’t speaking, her parents just divorced, and her hippie grandmother has moved in. The only karma Franny’s got is bad karma.

Then Franny gets her hands on a box of magic recipes that could fix all of her problems. It could even change the world! Finally, life is looking up.

But Franny is about to learn that magic and karma aren’t to be played with. When you mess with the universe, it can bite back in unexpected ways.


When they said middle school wasn’t going to be easy, they weren’t kidding! Franny Flanders is going in with the odds already stacked against her. Her two best friends can’t stand one another. Her parents just divorced. And when you add the oddest of all grandmothers into the mix, you have to wonder, can things possibly get any worse? Without a doubt, yes, they can.

Franny is your ordinary girl. She’s excitable, she’s fun, and she loves her friends. However, she’s also stuck in a tough situation, both with her family and her friends. Sometime in the past, her two best friends, Joey and Kate, had a falling out, leaving Franny to shuffle between them like a lost ship. The idea that her two closest friends can’t even be civil to one another tears at her heart and her twelve-year-old sense of fairness. She struggles for a way to bring the three of them together constantly. And when she’s accidentally presented with what seems to be the perfect solution, disaster strikes.

Even though Franny is a pretty level-headed kid, she is still just that – a kid – and she lets the excitement get the better of her. Despite well-meant warnings and her own gut feeling, she gets caught up in what’s happening around her, unable to make herself stop, in much the same way kids do every day. In the way of pre-teens everywhere, an uncontrollable sense of what should be overcomes her better sense and the hard truth of what is. Aside from being a bit hard-headed, Franny is a loveable character - very realistic in her thoughts, fears and actions. I found a lot of myself in her – never settling into her own niche, always kind of floating between her more popular friend Joey and her less popular, but just as good friend, Kate. All in all, she’s a good kid with a strong idea of how she wants things to be. Eventually she does come around and comes to grip with the idea that some things just can’t be solved with magic. Some things just aren’t meant to be. In addition, like most kids her age, she can learn only one way – the hard way – before she gives in and realizes that others often do know best.

Karma Bites is a great story, full of laughs, difficult choices, and crazy middle-school hijinks. It’s a fun way to show kids that not everything bad has to be the end of the world, nor does it give false hope by swearing that everything will always be okay. Despite the magical aspect, these kids are very real in their ideas, actions, and feelings. Because of this, you’re sure to love Franny and her madcap group of friends and family from the very beginning. By the end of this delightful story, you’ll be cheering her on!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dead is Just a Rumor by Marlene Perez

Dead is Just a Rumor by Marlene Perez
Publisher: Graphia
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (216 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

As the creepy little town of Nightshade prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary—on Halloween, of course—many of its paranormal residents are receiving mysterious blackmail letters. Psychic teen Daisy Giordano and her sisters set out to find out who is behind the threats. But launching an investigation isn’t easy for Daisy with her overprotective father watching her every move. Though she’s is happy to have him back after the years he spent being held captive by an anti-paranormal group called the Scourge, Dad is having difficult time adjusting to home life—and the fact that his little girl is now a senior in high school. He even disapproves of Daisy’s boyfriend, Ryan. Can their relationship take the strain?

And Daisy’s got even more on her plate: A talented amateur chef, she has won cooking lessons with celebrity chef Circe Silvertongue. After nosing around (with a little help from Circe’s pet pig), Daisy begins to suspect the temperamental chef’s secrets aren’t only in her ingredients. . . .

The fourth installment in this favorite series is full of surprises and scares!

Things aren’t exactly as they seem, but normal isn’t normal in Nightshade, California. Intrigue, confusion, romance, and a pet pig make up Dead is Just a Rumor.

When I saw this book was on the list of to be reviewed, I had to have it. I’d read the other books in the Dead series and had to see what happened next. It’s like reading a soap opera—you have to know what’s coming next and can’t put it down.

Daisy is still trying to find her place in Nightshade. It doesn’t help that she’s got psychic abilities she’s yet to discover. But it’s because of her still learning about herself that really made me identify with her. She’s not perfect and because of that, she’s more realistic. I loved her father. He’s been in captivity for quite a long time, but he’s still her daddy and still protective. For those of us who had over-protective folks, it’s easy to relate to her frustration. Some things worked out for Daisy, i.e. the Ryan front and it’s great to see she got something she really wanted—him.

My favorite character was the pig. Call me crazy, but anyone who has a pig for a pet is good people to me, even if they aren’t all that they appear to be (or perhaps are more than they appear to be).

This story has plenty of twists and turns that kept me in my seat. Even when I thought I knew what would happen next, I was off and it was a nice feeling.

If you want to read a story that’s not at all what it seems and a pleasure to open, then you need to read Dead is Just a Rumor. I give this book, 4 suns.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shiner's Return by Nolan Carlson

Shiner’s Return by Nolan Carlson
Publisher: Vintage Reflections Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical
Age Recommendation: 10+
Length: Short Story (80 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Orchid

The Summer and Shiner tale continues... Travel back with Carley and his best friend, Troop, as they once again dive into adventure, mischief, and fun. Join them in their antics at school and as they save Big Louie, the giant catfish. There are Halloween hijinks, a daring rescue for Shiner, and more trouble than Carley bargained for this school year. You'll recognize some old familiar faces and be introduced to new ones-the terrifying schoolmarm, Miss Both, Carley's new rival, Moose Harrigan, and a girl Carley would rather not know, Toby Swanson. And Carley welcomes a brand new friend. Don't miss his excitement or the journey back to Turtle Creek and Carley's hometown.

Summer’s over, it’s back to school. But this year the teacher is the dreaded Miss Botch.

Carly has returned Shiner the Raccoon to the wild and now has to get through a new year at school. His pa has promised him a puppy if he stays out of trouble. Poor Carly. Trouble seems to find him this year, both in and out of school. Every time something goes wrong it seems Miss Botch is looking over his shoulder. Punishment then follows as a matter of course.

His parents try to help Moose, an orphan, by giving him a weekend job. Unfortunately the boy is a bully and huge, so Carly gets into even more trouble when he’s with Moose. His friend Troop is the only one he can rely on.

Boys will be boys and their gang, the Mustangs, get up to all sorts of mischief during the summer and winter. Carly believes he’s been in so much trouble he’ll never get the dog he’s pining for. The one bright light for him is when he sees Shiner again and finds his old friend now has a mate. This proves to Carly that he did the right thing returning the raccoon to the wild.

The boys, Carly and Troop reminded me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Set in the 1940s in Kansas, the story had the same drowsy days of summer attitude coupled with hard working parents and kids who do chores as a matter of course. Each chapter has a different minor story to tell, while the main story continues in the background.

The only reason I didn’t give this book a higher rating was because it was a bit too drowsy. Although the boys got up to all sorts of scrapes, there was no mind gripping adventure forcing you to read on to find out what happened next. I got the feeling all the way through that everything would turn out all right so there was no need to worry.

Shiner’s Return is still a good book to read or maybe even to read to a younger child. The characters are really true to life and the lifestyle gives a good look into how things were in the 1940s. I would recommend this book for the younger reader. Especially if they enjoy the Tom Sawyer type of books.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (247 pgs)
Rating: 4 suns
Reviewed by Snowdrop

The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see—into the past, into the future—and she has no choice but to flee her town. Liza’s quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds.

Not your typical YA faerie book - this well-written story gives us a different look at the realm of faerie vs. humans. A war has destroyed the human world and has left humans feeling as though they cannot trust anyone for fear that they will hurt them with magic.

Liza, has been brought up to fear magic. She was easy to empathize with as she panics and feels she will be no longer wanted by anyone if she reveals her evil (magic) side. As she flees her town, her stubborn nature and strong will are what help her in the upcoming adventures and keep her moving forward.

Liza is joined by a few misfits along the way; Matthew, a fierce protector, who is touched by magic and has been hiding it for years; Allie, the best friend with magical healing powers and Tallow a tag-along cat with a humorous personality. The four make a great team and rely on each others' strengths to help them through many obstacles.

There was a tiny glimmer of romance developing between Liza and Matthew, though Ms. Simner did not expand upon or explore the idea of their budding romance in this novel. It would have been truly exciting to see unfold while they were going through such an emotionally charged journey together.

The use of American landmarks is quite creative. There are references to different rivers and landmarks from the state of Missouri. The destruction left by the war is so descriptive during the misfits' adventures along the abandoned highways and cities.

The one thing that is alluded to is that there are always two sides to a story. I think it would be wonderful to see both sides of the history of the war. There are glimpses here and there, but are never really elaborated upon, nor do they explain what started the war in the first place. The fae left the plants and forests to have magic within them that seek to kill humans, which is also not explained. This bit of dark magic makes Ms. Simner's tale that much more interesting and unique. I feel a sequel could be created that may explain the past war and could easily carry on with the characters in their new awareness of magic and it's uses. All in all, a wonferful read that I recommend for lovers of magic and adventure.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shiner and King by Nolan Carlson

Shiner and King by Nolan Carlson
Publisher: Vintage Reflections Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical
Age Recommendation: 10+
Length: Full Length (204 pgs)
Rating: 4 Suns
Reviewed by Orchid

The only thing better than more adventures with Carley and Troop is sharing the fun with a German Shepherd named King—the best dog in the whole wide world, according to Carley. Hometown shenanigans abound along with a surprise or two with Luke Webster, and with Carley at his side, King shows his true colors as a hero while Shiner roams free in his new life in the wild woods along Blue River. Could a boy's life get any better? Of course, Mick Fuller and his dog, Devil, and Toby Swanson are back, meaner than ever, and Miss Botch's swats still hurt. Carley still seems to spend a bit more time in trouble than he'd like, but he wouldn't trade his life in Belford for anything in the world!

School’s over and Carley, Troop and King have the whole summer ahead of them.

Now Carley has his dog, King, he’s determined to enjoy the summer. King becomes a hero when he goes for help when Carley’s Grandpa is taken ill. The dog is devoted to Carley and follows him everywhere. The two of them accept a dare to enter a creepy house with an old hermit inside, and fall foul of a man who everyone thinks is a bit mad.

Carley and Troop still manage to find trouble at every turn, plus this time Carley is beginning to get both annoyed and fascinated by Toby Swanson, a girl who wants to be a boy.

Once again the setting reminded me of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Lazy days of summer, fishing, getting into trouble, going places where no other boys dared. Bike racing, going on hikes, dust on the road - everything kids love about the summer break.

This is the third in the series and apparently there are more to come. They are delightful books to read, but aren't suspenseful enough to make you sit on the edge of your seat. I believe this series is better for the younger reader to either read themselves or have read to them. A rainy afternoon, a roaring fire and one of these books would be perfect - that’s when I read them and they captured my imagination.

A very well written and thought out series. A pleasure to read.