23 Following


Invitation to the Game - Monica Hughes, Broeck Steadman Set in a dystrophic 2154, a group of high school graduates have failed to find jobs. The government ships them off to a designated area where they will get minimal food and money but have to scrounge for anything like a mattress. The unemployed have no rights (ex can't ride subway) and are looked down on by the working class as a drain on their taxes. Banding together for protection against criminals they settle down into a boring existence. Then they hear rumors about The Game, a mysterious proposal that is by invitation only. They come home one day to find their invitations and their lives are never the same.
City of Cannibals - Ricki Thompson Set in 1536 England. Dell has lived an isolated existence with her father, brother, and aunt. Her parents used to work in the royal court and her late mother's bible was a gift from Catherine of Aragon. But now they struggle to survive and rely on a monthly donation brought to them by a teenage boy. Dell is ordered to never interact with him and never go to the city because it is full of cannibals who will kill her.

Dell is talented with puppets but, since her mother was killed when her puppet stage was collapsed by a horse, her father has banned them. So she has to keep them hidden. When he finds one he burns it in a drunken rage. Angry, she decides to take her chances running away to the city to find the boy. The city is London and, while there aren't cannibals per se, the sights, smells, noise, crowds, etc are enough to make it seem like hell on earth to her. The author does a good job conveying the sensory overload Dell experiences.

Dell has always though she was a mutant because she was so much taller than the rest of her family; it is only when she blends in with the London populace that she realizes the rest of her family are dwarves. It occurs to her that this might be why her father was able to work as a court entertainer.

After multiple missteps, she finally finds Ronaldo only to learn that he is shortly going to take vows as a Benedictine monk. However, Henry VIII has started his assaults on the monasteries and requiring the monks to submit to him rather than the Pope. Dell has already seen Bishop John Fisher beheaded for refusing to submit to the King. She knows it could happen to Ronaldo as well if he refuses to take the oath of allegiance.

Without giving too much of the plot away, she has to discover why her parents left royal employment, determine who can and cannot be trusted with the secrets she discovers, dodge the attention of Thomas Cromwell, and try to convince Ronaldo to renounce his vows when he is willing to face the gallows for his beliefs.
Beneath a Meth Moon - Jacqueline Woodson Gritty. Laurel loses her mother and grandmother in a flood. After living with her aunt for a couple of years, she moves to a little town called Galilee with her father and brother. Now 15, she becomes a cheerleader and starts dating the star basketball player. Unfortunately, T-Boom introduces her to meth ("moon").

From there her life slowly disintegrates. Her dad is still too grief-stricken to notice, but her best friend Kaylee does and tries to help. Laurel turns away from her, and when her dad finally finds her stash she claims it is Kaylee's. Dad takes it over to Kaylee's mom to narc on her, finally gets the clue-by-four that his daughter has been using right under his nose.

Laurel runs away and starts panhandling to try to get her fix. Her only friend is Moses, who makes a living painting murals of deceased drug addicts for their families as part of an anti-drug campaign. He warns her about the hazards of meth but still gives her $3. When she asks him why he did it when he knows she's going to buy meth, he tells her it's an investment because he'll get $100 from her dad to paint her mural in a few months when she's dead. She knows he's right; part of her is aware of the damage she's doing to herself while the rest just craves the next dose of moon. It's a struggle as to which side will win in the end.

Flash Fire - Caroline B. Cooney Basic premise was good, how would kids handle escaping a forest fire without any adults around to help them? The problem was that all the characters, particularly the parents, were like caricatures. No one was normal, everyone was just so over-the top: the tofu-eating tree huggers; the harpy mom browbeating her plain daughter to be more glamorous because she's impacting mom's status with the country club mothers; the brooding dad who his son can never please; the narcissist mom who works out for hours each day to keep herself beautiful but won't interact with her kids; the socialite pissed at her son because he became a fireman instead of heading to Wall Street, etc.

The kids were pretty much stereotypes as well, the only unique one being a mentally challenged Romanean boy that a family adopted then dumped off on sitters when they got tired of playing parents. The one thing all the kids had in common was that their parents were total nut jobs. They're all on their own when a forest fire flames up into their isolated canyon. Did have some good fire safety advice and portrayed the difficulty of firefighting in isolated locations.
The Difference Between You and Me - Madeleine George Our library has this on their shelf of books recommended by staff, so I decided to try it. It's an interest story about the awkward relationship between 2 very different high school girls.

Jesse is a lesbian who is out to her parents, who are both former activists (they met when they were being fingerprinted after being arrested at a protest). She is admittedly off-beat, cutting her hair with a Swiss Army knife and wearing b*tt-ugly green fisherman's boots every day. She is the sole member of the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos (NOLAW) and prints manifestos about how the in-crowd should be more accepting of the students on the fringe.

She attends the fall dance in a guy's tux (and the fishing boots) and meets Emily, her polar opposite. She is a hardworking over-achiever, with her time taken up with being student body vice president, library assistant, apprentice nursing program, studying Chinese, etc. She also has a boyfriend she has literally known her whole life, but somehow she and Jesse wind up kissing in the girl's bathroom.

A year later, they still met clandestinely to kiss a couple of times per week working around Emily's schedule. No one else knows, including Emily's boyfriend. Despite Jesse's attempts to take things further, kissing is as far as it goes. Then Emily manages to talk her way into an internship with StarMart (WalMart look-alike). They were rebuffed in their initial attempt to build in this small town but are looking to regroup and try again. Emily suggests they buy goodwill by sponsoring the upcoming school fall dance and the athletic programs.

When word gets out, Jesse and Emily find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. Jesse sees the loss of local small businesses and sweatshop jobs overseas. She joins a girl named Esther in mobilizing local protests against StarMart. Emily sees the financial benefits to the school (she's in charge of the dance) and their corporate donations to developing countries. Neither wants to hurt the other but they're also not willing to conceed on their beliefs. Can their secret relationship survive, or is it even worth trying given the gulf that has come between them?

A little heavy on the anti-WalMart side. Jesse's side's arguments are always treated as rational, whereas Emily (and the school principal) only focus on how much the school is going to get out of the deal. In addition, Jesse's best friend's father is a corporate shill who is totally derogatory and insulting to Jesse and her group's concerns.
Summer of My German Soldier - Bette Greene Read this about 30 yrs ago, just re-read. Some of the language might be a little shocking today but my family was from rural Mississippi and I heard similar talk when I was young. What I'd forgotten was what a total SOB Patty's dad was, slapping her in the face hard enough to knock her down and beating her with a belt just for talking to a boy he didn't approve of. Her mom was pretty smarmy to her as well, although she would rarely try to calm down dad when he was on one of his tirades against Patty. Her younger sister was the princess of the family.

So given the lack of love at home it's not surprising that she felt an attraction to Anton. He treated her with more respect than her own family did. To the rest of the people in town he's just another Nazi who deserves to be locked up. So she was willing to help him, even though it came at a great personal cost. She is almost charged with treason and winds up at a reform school. Neighbors turn against her and because she is Jewish she is viewed as a traitor to her religion.

She was only 12 but she was willing to live by her convictions even though she knew there would be severe repercussions (Small Spoiler --> in the sequel you find out that her father has disinherited her).
The Mouse That Roared - Leonard Wibberley I remember the absurdity of this book which I read it back in high school (~1977). I need to find a copy and see how well it has held up over time. Grand Fenwick gets hacked off because America is making a knock-off version of their famous wine, so this little podunk country invades us without anyone noticing. That is until they wind up with possession of the world's most powerful weapon. Suddenly they've got everybody's attention.

Not Exactly a Love Story - Audrey Couloumbis Not exactly a great story. I would have given it 3 stars except for the whole weird phone relationship being just too implausable. I assume the author set the story in 1977 to avoid pesky things like *69 that would have made it simple for her to trace Vinnie's number and destroy the whole premise of the story. You wonder where the parents are because they talk every night at midnight, but never once does a parent overhear the phone ring or interrupt their child chatting in the wee hours.

However, the whole initial set of phone calls was just too bone-deep strange. He calls her at midnight, hangs up, mumbles thru a 2nd call, and then tells her "I want to f*ck you." What would any normal, rational teenage girl do when some pervert wakes her up in the middle of the night and says he wants to f*ck her? Either call the cops or at least tell the parental units that some freak-with-feet is harassing her. So what does she do; she keeps answering the phone and talking with him every night. Because I'm sure she knows from the beginning it's not a rapist on the other end of the phone line, just the geeky kid from across the street who watches her undress from his window.
The Collector - Victoria Scott Too many holes in the plot. Start with a demon named Dante (how cutesy). He is a total badass soul collector. He's so good at it that he's in charge of training other collectors. He's in line for a promotion if he can carry out his latest assignment from Boss Man (i.e. Satan).

He's totally remorseless and enjoys tagging people with seals for their sins, no matter how big or small they are. Then he meets his intended victim, the homely and gawky Charlie Cooper, and he suddenly turns into Dante the Hallmark Demon. He waxes poetic about how wonderful she is and her inner beauty and why he's such a slimeball for corrupting her soul (isn't that his job description?). Eventually he decides he's going to defy the being that runs the 10 levels of Hell by sneaking Charlie away and hiding her until Satan gives up looking for her. Nothing could go wrong with a well thought out plan like that could it?

The flaws in the plot that made me downgrade the book [SPOILER WARNING]:

1) The collector program is too ill-defined. Dante has only been involved for 2 years but he's the senior demon and has trained the 5 others (all of them apparently dead teenage boys). So is this a brand new program Satan has just dreamed up? If so, why later on does it say Dante has heard about a collector that elected to permanently die rather than return to Hell, which would give the impression the program has been around a while. Why is it limited to only 6 demons, who quite frankly don't seem to do a whole lot? They just go around adding black marks to people's souls for bad behavior, which with only 6 demons and 250 million people in the US alone doesn't seem to make much of an impact on the good vs. evil scorecard.

2) Why are all 6 demons apparently dead American teens who seem to focus on the US? I guess Boss Man isn't interested on opportunities for evil in Asia, Europe, Africa, etc.? Nope, just 6 in the US. He shouldn't be running out of space since Dante references the traditional 10 levels of Hell from "The Inferno." So why such a half-assed effort?

3) Dante has the bright idea that he and Charlie are going to hide out among the millions of people living in Tokyo until the collectors get tired of hunting for them. Maybe the demons have the ability to speak whatever language they need to, but for the most part they appear to be clueless teens who need Dante to tell them how to tie their shoes. If not, why can't Boss Man find some locals to look for them? Because how well are a beefcake guy and a beautiful girl with a limp (who doesn't speak Japanese) going to blend in? My daughter spent 3 weeks in China and it was blatantly obvious to all that she wasn't a local. And since Dante bought the plane tickets with the Satanic Black Amex wouldn't that be a clue where they went (he books the tickets then draws out the maximum amount of cash he can)? All Boss Man has to do is check his monthly statement and he'll know where Dante and Charlie are. Not to mention that Charlie is a dirt poor orphan who most likely doesn't have a passport, so how were they going to get past Customs?

4) He never explains how they're going to successfully hide in Tokyo. He's wearing an ankle bracelet that tracks his current location so Boss Man knows where he is. If he removes the bracelet he will permanently die within several hours. So how does he think they're going to escape a very pissed off Satan? Not to mention it's one of the most expensive cities in the world to stay in, so whatever money he managed to swipe won't be enough to live on for long.

5) Apparently the heavenly forces have been doing their own tagging of souls to counteract the collectors but somehow in 2 years of work Dante has never seen a pink seal on anyone. Maybe there are only 6 liberators at work?

6) The total stretch that of all the people in the world, Valerie winds up as a liberator while her ex-fiancé Max is a collector defies credibility. If she's so sweet and he's such a scumbag, how were they ever engaged in the 1st place?

So, sorry but too many gaping holes in the plot to rate this any higher.

Crazy Things Parents Text

Crazy Things Parents Text - Stephen Miltz, Wayne Miltz Speaking as a 52 yr old dad who can barely text on his cell phone, I can see how you could screw up royally on occasion. But I guess since I'm so slow at it I have time to figure out my mistakes. However, it is scary how dumb some people can be, particularly with information that's going to emotionally scar your kids. If someone is going to text their spouse wanting to know where their vibrator is, you would think they would double or triple check the number before hitting the "Send" key ... But, then again, if they did we wouldn't have this book!
Counting Back From Nine - Valerie Sherrard Free verse telling of a high school girl dealing with two great upheavals in her life: 1) her father dying of complications from a car wreck (with some details apparently being withheld); and 2) finally getting busted after months of fooling around with her best friend's boyfriend behind her back. Things obviously aren't the same afterwards.
The Rise and Fall of a 10th Grade Social Climber - Lauren Mechling, Laura Moser Blech! Apparently being a "cool" student at this school involves: blowing off class and getting drunk in the bathroom, being a bitch to the only person who is nice to you (and then accepting her companionship only after you've nuked your friendship with everyone else), lying repeatedly to your dad, hitting on your dad's graduate assistant, being unable to sleep because you're afraid your new "friends" are going to reject you, spending a night topless gropping the guy you supposedly can't stand (somehow her dad doesn't notice that he never leaves their apartment?), and generally trashing everyone in writing including your supposed friends. All this so that you can be one of the five sophomore "coolies" chosen by the juniors to go on a secret road trip? The most laughable section was when she goes out drinking with her sorority pledge older sister, then gets bitched at because she dances with a high school man-whore because that supposedly will negatively impact her sister's chances of being approved by the sorority.
Waiting (Paula Wiseman Books) - Carol Lynch Williams Not my favorite by her; liked The Chosen One and Adeline Street better. I did like the free verse format and I definitely wanted to b*tch slap her mother. However some of the plot twists didn't seem that believable, they seemed more like attempts to tie up the loose ends/gaps in the plot.
Speaking From Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel - Alan Bradley The latest mystery featuring everyone's favorite 11 year old girl with the encylopedic knowledge of poisons. Near the beginning, she counts on her fingers and realizes that the next dead body she finds will give her a full hand. She just didn't realize it would happen that soon.

Finances have become dire for the de Luces. After years of fighting Inland Revenue, the tax bill has reached the point where a "For Sale" sign has been posted for Buckshaw. Flavia is facing the loss of her home, in particular her beloved chemistry lab/bedroom. Father, as usual, does nothing other than to retreat into his study and his stamp collection. For the first time Flavia is furious at his passiveness, but struggles to actually confront him (from a previous story we know he owns a rare 1st edition folio that could be sold to solve the tax problem but he hangs onto it because the sentimental value from his late wife is more important to him).

She has been hanging around St. Tancred's Church a lot lately because the organist has disappeared and her older sister Feely is practicing to take his place (the de Luces are Catholic and St. Tancred's is Church of England but father believes in supporting your local industry). Since father doesn't want Feely walking by herself at night Flavia is deputized to accompany her. Feely notices a problem with the sound so she opens the door to the internal workings of the organ and they discover a bat. How did it get into a closed environment and is it the only thing responsible for the organ being off-pitch?

From hanging around the church Flavia learns that scientists are coming to exhume the body of St. Tancred on the 500th anniversary of his death. Even though they are trying to do it quietly it is impossible to keep Flavia away from something like this. Especially when she's told that sometimes the bodies of saints don't decompose she knows she's got to see. The vicar lets her remain after she sneaks in. When the masons manage to create a small hole in the stonework, she volunteers to poke her head through to look. However, instead of the body of a saint, she sees the body of the missing organist, with a WW II gas mask on his face covering what appears to be a lace handkerchief.

As usual, Flavia rises to the challenge (i.e. starts snooping) and spends a lot of time crawling around the innards of the church. It is her knowledge of chemistry that proves key in explaining the bizarre circumstances of the organist's death.

This time there is more back-fill on the characters. Feely may be getting married, although she's trying to keep the name of the suitor away from her sister. Flavia meets someone who had a clandestine relationship with her mother that only Mrs. Mullet knew about. A local busybody and a private detective also provide information about her parents and Dogger. She also gets closer to Inspector Hewitt's wife Antigone, who she had been afraid to go near. She had inadvertently driven her to tears in an earlier book by asking why they didn't have children when they could afford them on his salary? It turns out every child they had died in infancy and Flavia has been avoiding her ever since. However, the biggest shock comes from the vicar.

Flavia has never liked the vicar's wife, particularly after she spanked Flavia for standing on the altar when she was trying to collect a specimen. Even though she learns she was a school friend of her mother, Flavia initially finds it amusing that she scares the #%&* out of her twice around St. Tancred's. Then the vicar explains about a horrific tragedy from their past, something that everyone in Bishop's Lacey knows about but never discusses. Flavia has now accidently reminded his wife of it. Instead of finding it amusing to scare her, Flavia is now mortified that she has caused her such pain and vows to be nicer to her.

There is the usual snarkiness about Mrs. Mullet's lack of cooking prowess (faced with her porridge, Flavia imagines herself a reverse Oliver Twist: "Please sir I don't want any more!") and reminders that her behavior isn't always angelic (she reminisces about getting dishonorably discharged from the Girl Guides for a hide-and-seek prank and being surprised how long it took the victim to stop screaming and foaming at the mouth). Dogger is always there as a father figure to give her the guidance she can't get from her real dad; she can't imagine losing him if they lose the house.

Flavia succeeds in putting together all the clues, although she comes agonizingly close to becoming the murderer's 2nd victim. At the end father drops a bombshell which should segue nicely into the next book. Unfortunately, it will probably be the better part of a year before it comes out.
Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms - Ethan Gilsdorf Former D&D player from the 1970s and 80s checks out the SCA (a week at Pennsic War), LARP, World of Warcraft (WOW), DragonCon, RenFaire, Tolkien tours, etc. to try to understand those who spend their free time in imaginary worlds. I was in the SCA for 20+ years and went to Pennsic 5 times; he did a good job of conveying what it's like to spend a couple of weeks with 12,000 of your closest friends.
Party - Tom Leveen ***** Spoiler Alert *****

Basically this book took every teen caricature (wierd girl, man-whore, jock, drunk angst queen party girl, foreign student, skater boy, etc.) and threw them together into an end-of-the-year party. It would have been better if the characters or some of the scenarios had been more believable.

Beckett is the first character introduced and is probably the most likeable. She took care of her mother who eventually died from cancer. Mom wanted to keep it a secret so Beckett had to totally withdrew from all her friends to take care of her without telling them why. Now she's broke and thinking about dropping out of school to work. That I could almost buy.

What doesn't make sense is the author stating that mom had breast cancer that lead to a liver transplant. First, there is no way that they will give a liver transplant to a patient with metastatic cancer. The cancer has already gone from her breast to her liver once so giving her a new liver isn't going to prevent it from happening again. Second, they're supposedly poor and no program is going to do a $250,000 procedure without heavy duty insurance or cash donations to cover the cost. Finally, there is no way to reasonably hide the fact that you've had a liver transplant. You're hospitalized for weeks then on immuno-suppression yet no one is supposed to know mom is sick? That illogic was almost enough for me to stop reading this, but I decide to keep going.

Morrigan is pissed at her parents since dad ignores her and mom kowtows to what ever dad says. She breaks up with her boyfriend because he won't have sex with her. She sneaks out to go to the party, gets hammered and damages multiple relationships. The most unlikeable of all the characters.

Ashley is the saintly friend trying to keep Morrigan out of trouble (she used to be best friends with Beckett but got dropped when Beckett went into stealth mode). She also has an older brother who is a local cop who becomes a convenient bit player.

The list goes on. Ryan is a total man-whore but is a good buddy of Josh, the guy that wouldn't have sex with Morrigan for religious reasons. The skater dude has admired Beckett from afar for 3 years but has never developed the cajones to speak to her. The jock is a time bomb because his older brother is a wounded veteran. The foreign student is abused for being a "towelhead," and so on.

Much drinking, brawling, sexing, puking, car wrecking, etc. ensues, but by the end of the evening they've all sung "Kumbaya" and every conflict is magically resolved. Beckett is best buddies with Ashley again and has a date scheduled with skater dude, Morrigan and her parents are working on being civil to each other and she's done a 180 on Josh, Ashley's brother (the cop) doesn't give Josh a ticket because he agrees Morrigan is a total bitch, the foreign student lies to the police to keep the jock from being arrested, etc.