Mobile Library

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of surprises. That’s not the case when I read. I kind of love it when an author takes what I think I know about a story, flips it around, and gives me something unexpected. That’s just what happened in Mobile Library by David Whitehouse. (The title should tell you why I wanted to read this book. Thank you, NetGalley, for the opportunity!) This book won’t be released to the masses until January, but I recommend putting it on your to-read list now.

Mobile Library begins with a glimpse at the ending, and I thought I had things figured out. Let’s face it. Many, many books are rather predictable. I thought this one would be no different. This is one instance when I’m glad I was wrong.

Bobby Nusku is a kid with a rather sad life. His mother left a long time ago. He walks on eggshells around his father and Cindy, his dad’s horrible girlfriend. He has only one friend at school. He’s a target of bullies. Bobby’s big plan to get back at those who would hurt him is to turn his best friend, Sunny, into a cyborg. As one can imagine, that plan doesn’t exactly turn out the way Bobby would have liked. Sunny is taken away, and Bobby is left all alone in the world.

Things change, however, when Bobby encounters Rosa, a girl whose disability makes her vulnerable to bullies, and her mother Val. These two kind people offer Bobby a refuge from his life. Val cleans the town’s mobile library (known to many as a Bookmobile), and she introduces Bobby to the escape offered in the pages of books.

Val provides Bobby the love he’s been starving for, and Bobby quickly becomes part of Val’s family. But not everyone understands their relationship. They think something sordid is going on, and that results in ostracism, vandalism, and Val losing the job she needs to care for herself and her daughter.

Even though he’s been warned away from Val, she’s his only solace after his father beats him one night. He runs to her house, and Val knows she has to do something to get Bobby away from his dad. So what does she do? She takes Rosa, Bobby, her dog Bert, and she steals the mobile library–the one no longer used by the town, the one she still has the keys for–and escapes into the night.

Val realizes that she and her small family are always one step from being found, and she’s always looking over her shoulder, but she and the kids soon find help in an unexpected place. While hiding out in the woods, Bobby runs across Joe, a homeless man with reasons of his own for staying under the radar. Joe joins forces with Val, Bobby, and Rosa, and this ragtag team journeys across England and into Scotland in the hopes of finding safety, peace, and a home of their own. Once again, though, things don’t go exactly according to plan.

The authorities are closing in on Bobby, Val, and company, and they’re running out of places to hide. Is anyone willing to help them? Can they get out of this mess and still remain together? What will become of Bobby, Val, Rosa, and Joe, and will anyone ever understand how these people came together to form their own family within the walls of a mobile library? Is there any hope for a happy ending? Find out for yourself when you read Mobile Library, an novel by David Whitehouse!

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I love all of the misdirection in this book. I had several “What the crap!” moments while reading, and that’s always fun. I admit that I jumped to some conclusions at the beginning of the book (which was also the ending) that mirrored the town’s concerns regarding the relationship between Bobby and Val. That was just one thing that was turned on its ear. There were quite a few surprises in this book, and their eventual revelations made for a page-turner of a book.

The librarian in me enjoyed the literary allusions in Mobile Library…not to mention the bulk of the story actually occurring in a library on wheels. Bobby’s reading list will connect with those who’ve read the same books…and it may just encourage others to pick up the books he’s enjoyed so much.

Even though a few of the characters in this book are children, I think Mobile Library is definitely an adult book. Some teen readers may be fine with it, but this is a book with a lot of subtext, a bit of profanity, and some mature situations. I would recommend this book for public library collections. Not so much for school libraries.

Mobile Library won’t be released in the U.S. until January 20th, 2015. (The U.K. release is set for January 8th.) So, unless you’re a member of NetGalley or have some other source for advance copies, you’ve got about a three-month wait for this book. It’s worth the wait.

If you’re interested in learning more about Mobile Library and author David Whitehouse, check out the author’s websiteGoodreads, and Twitter.

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rain Reign

I finished a book today that I can hardly wait to share with my students and teachers at school. That book is Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. It was released last week, and it’s already earned a spot on several must-read lists. I predict that this book will find a place on several award lists as well. It’s absolutely amazing, and this book should be included in every elementary and middle school library collection (at the very least).

In Rain Reign, we meet Rose Howard, a young girl who has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism (also known as Asperger’s Syndrome). Her voice shines on every page, and readers get a small glimpse of what life is like for Rose. Rain Reign is a must-read for anyone–especially educators and other caregivers–who have any interaction with high-functioning autistic children. I know I was able to see one of my students in the character of Rose, and this excellent book may have provided me with just a bit more understanding.

Fifth grader Rose Howard loves homonyms, prime numbers, rules, and her dog Rain (whose name has two homonyms). Rain is the one of the few gifts Rose’s father has ever given her, and their bond is a strong one. When nearly everyone else–including Rose’s father–gets irritated by Rose’s obsessions, Rain is always there to provide a comforting and calming presence.

Comfort and calm is something that Rose will sorely need in the days to come. Hurricane Susan is making a beeline for Rose’s small Massachusetts town, and her precious routines will be tossed to the winds. The power goes out, creeks turn into rivers, bridges are washed out, trees fall…and Rose’s father lets Rain out of the house without checking on her return.

When the storm finally passes through, Rose realizes that her dog is missing. Did she forget her way home in the horrible storm? Was she carried downstream by the powerful currents? Where is Rain? Rose doesn’t understand how her father could have let this happened, but she’s determined to find her beloved dog…even if that means letting go of her routines.

Rose searches high and low for Rain. She enlists the help of her uncle, her teachers, and even her classmates. Rose does everything humanly possible to find her dog, but how will she handle it when she finds more than she was looking for? Will her world be thrown into yet another storm, and how will Rose–a girl who needs routine and consistency–deal with the fallout? How will she handle the many changes to come? Read Rain Reign by the brilliant Ann M. Martin to find out.

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As soon as I return to school next week (I’m on fall break right now), I plan to hand this book over to my guidance counselor. (In addition to working with autistic students, she’s also a dog lover.) Several other teachers may also benefit from reading this book. I think Rain Reign could be unbelievably useful in communicating with and understanding autistic students.

In addition to being enlightening for educators and students, parents of high-functioning autistic children may also find this book to be helpful, especially if the parents don’t really know how to communicate with their children. Rose’s uncle provides an example of a good caregiver. Her father is the opposite. As a matter of fact, I wanted to punch Rose’s father in the face on more than one occasion.

Rain Reign is also a great book for students who have fondness for word and number play. This could even come into play in language arts or math lessons. Class studies of this book could include looking for homonyms that weren’t mentioned by Rose or finding prime numbers out in the “real world.” And don’t even get me started on how this book could be used to illustrate character’s voice. Read one chapter, and you’ll see that for yourself.

I don’t know that I’ve adequately conveyed it in this post, but I love everything about Rain Reign. It definitely tugged at the heartstrings (yes, I cried), but it taught valuable lessons. Rose was a brave girl who worked past her own issues when something was important to her. She tried to understand others even when it seemed like no one understood her. She always wanted to do the right thing and follow the rules…when it would have been much easier–and far less painful–to just “go with the flow.” Rose is a character, much like August Pullman in R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, who we’ll be talking about for a long time to come.

For more information on Rain Reign and other books by Ann M. Martin, go to her official website, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.

*I receive an advance copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.*

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus

Read you must all of Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books before proceeding! This is the sixth (and final?) book in the series, and I don’t want to spoil things for you…but I will! (I’m extremely in touch with the Dark Side of the Force!) Before picking up Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, make sure to read these prequels (which I guarantee are better than the actual Star Wars prequels).

Well, it’s been quite a ride. I read my first Origami Yoda book nearly three years ago, and I finished the sixth book last night. As far as I know, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus is the last book in this highly entertaining (and thought-provoking) series, but I’m still hoping that this is not the last we’ve seen of Origami Yoda and friends. To borrow from Princess Leia…

Help me, Tom Angleberger. You’re my only hope…

Anyway, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus picks up where Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue ended, and the kids from McQuarrie Middle School are in for yet another adventure…one without Origami Yoda!

Now that the FunTime Menace is no more, the students of McQuarrie Middle now get to enjoy things like elective classes and, of course, their highly anticipated field trip to Washington, DC. But what will they do when Rabbski, their principal-turned-math-teacher declares that origami–especially Origami Yoda–is off-limits? How will these seventh graders survive without the sage advice of Origami Yoda?!

Have no fear! Dwight is here…with a bunch of Fruit Roll-Ups he folds into Fruitigami Yodas. Unfortunately, the vile Harvey also comes prepared with EMPEROR PICKLETINE, the most evil, sour, and smelly being in the galaxy! Harvey and Emperor Pickletine seem bent on ruining this field trip, and the Dark Side may be more powerful than anyone realized. Is Fruitigami Yoda strong enough to fight this new threat?

As the seventh graders of McQuarrie Middle explore Washington, DC (and get into a fair amount of trouble), a battle is brewing between the Dark and Light Sides of the Force.

Who will win? Will Yoda come through for the Origami Rebellion one more time? Well, I can’t say. But I can tell you that this final battle is full of mischief-making, fisticuffs, space food, and even a little bit of smooching! I’ll leave it to you to find out who does what!

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What can I say about this series that hasn’t already been said? It’s opened up so many cool conversations between my students and me. (They are fully aware of my love for all things Star Wars.) I know Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus will only add to those conversations…though I have to admit I may steer them away from making origami figures with pickles. Yuck!

I realize this may be the last Origami Yoda book–at least for a while–but I think I’ll be enjoying this series with my students for many years to come. (I still think we’ll see more from Origami Yoda. After all, we never thought we’d get Episodes VII, VIII, and IX of Star Wars either!)

To learn more about all things Origami Yoda, click here. You may also want to check out the video below. May the Force be with you!

The Blood of Olympus

So, the final book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, The Blood of Olympus, was released on Tuesday. As you may have guessed, I rushed to the nearest book store immediately after work and picked up several copies–one for me, one for my library clerk, and a few for my school library. (Honestly, if I’d gone to work on Wednesday without this book, a couple of my students probably would have rioted. Luckily, I was able to avoid that.)

I started reading The Blood of Olympus as soon as I got home. I would have liked to finish the book in one sitting, but, alas, my job and the need for sleep got in the way once again. At any rate, I finished the book two days ago, and I’ve been processing what happened ever since.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post because I want to avoid spoilers at all costs. I will say, though, that The Blood of Olympus delivered on all counts. It was action-packed and full of twists and turns, it contained a fair amount of the snark and humor I’ve come to associate with Rick Riordan, and it even tugged at the heartstrings a bit. I think fans of this series will be totally satisfied with how things concluded for Percy Jackson and the other heroes we’ve come to know and love. I know I was.

I’m pretty sure the first of my students to check out The Blood of Olympus probably finished it this weekend. I am really looking forward to geeking out with them about what happened. I’m also hoping that other students will see us getting so excited about this book, and they’ll want to see for themselves what the big deal is.

Since I’m not going to give any plot details away here, I’ll go ahead and start wrapping things up. If you’re reading this and wondering what’s so special about this series…well, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Here’s a handy reading list to get you started!

For more information on The Blood of Olympus, the thrilling conclusion an amazing adventure, from Rick Riordan himself, check out the video below…and read this book. You won’t be disappointed!

Still want more? Click here for all things demigod!

Published in: on October 12, 2014 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Spindlers

This one has been on my to-read list for quite some time, and I finally got around to it this weekend. The Spindlers, an upper elementary/middle grade novel from acclaimed author Lauren Oliver, is a fantastical tale that brings to mind such classics as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and even The Chronicles of Narnia. It is rather scary at times, making it a perfect recommendation for younger readers looking for a spooky, Halloween read, but it also explores themes like hope, forgiveness, and perseverance.

Like Liesl & Po, The Spindlers is another great children’s novel from Lauren Oliver!

Something is very wrong with Liza’s little brother, Patrick. Last night, he was his usual happy-go-lucky self. This morning, though, Patrick is different and wrong, and Liza is certain of what happened. The evil spindlers, spider-like creatures from Below, have stolen Patrick’s soul. It’s the only explanation. So what is Liza to do? Well, she’s going to rescue her brother’s soul, of course!

Liza braves the dark and finds an entrance to Below in her basement. Armed only with a broom, Liza enters this strange world in search of Patrick’s soul, but nothing could have prepared her for what she would face. Almost immediately, Liza encounters Mirabella, a talking rat who wears a wig, makeup, and a skirt made out of newspaper.

Mirabella helps Liza navigate this strange new world, with all of its dangers and mysteries. Mirabella introduces Liza to troglods, nids, lumer-lumpen, nocturni, and several other creatures that inhabit Below. Some of those creatures are helpful. Others…not so much. The trick is knowing which is which.

As Liza and Mirabella travel through Below, they are getting closer and closer to the spindlers’ nest…and to the captive souls within. The journey is becoming more perilous, but Liza is determined to rescue her brother before it’s too late.

Will Liza be able to get past her own fear of the the spindlers to do what she must? Who can she rely on when help is needed? Can Liza rescue her brother’s soul–and her own–before the spindlers get the best of her? Journey Below for these answers and more when you read The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver.

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I plan to recommend this book to my 3rd-5th graders who can’t get enough of spooky stories. The Spindlers has just enough scary stuff to keep them on the edge of their seats but not so much that it will give them nightmares (I hope).

I think anyone who reads The Spindlers will draw parallels to other works of fantasy, particularly those mentioned at the beginning of this post. The resemblance to Alice in Wonderland is likely the most apparent, and that may just be the hook needed to entice young–and older–readers to pick up this book. Further discussions on the similarities and differences between the two stories could prove to be rather interesting.

For more information on The Spindlers and other fabulous books by Lauren Oliver, check out the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gracefully Grayson

Last night, I finished reading Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. Thanks to NetGalley, I was able to read an advance copy of this book (which is due for a November 4th release). I like the book, and I think it addresses a subject that I’ve never seen represented in a middle grade book–gender identity. That subject matter, however, is likely to result in challenges in many libraries in America.

I hate to even acknowledge the possibility of a book being challenged or banned, but I know that many people, particularly conservative parents, are uncomfortable with their children reading/learning about transgender people or those with non-traditional sexual identity. That’s a shame.

In my humble opinion, Gracefully Grayson meets a need in middle grade and young adult literature. Many young people struggle with their gender identity, and books like this one let them know that they’re not alone. This book provides a measure of hope and gives transgender readers someone to relate to. That’s not a small thing when one feels totally alone in the world. Additionally, many readers may read a book like this one and feel just a bit more empathy for those struggling with gender identity. Maybe, just maybe, it could make young people–and older people–examine their own behavior and realize just how difficult these situations can be.

Twelve-year-old Grayson Sender has a big secret. A secret so big that, if it were revealed, could mean facing hatred, bullies, and discrimination. Grayson was born a boy, but “he” was meant to be a girl.

Grayson wants to dress in pretty clothes, curl her hair, and live as a girl. Grayson longs to be her true self, but she knows that not everyone would accept her. Even her own family may not understand and would expect her to continue living a lie. What is Grayson supposed to do?

With the help of a brave, caring teacher and understanding new friends, Grayson may have found a way to be herself. When Grayson auditions for–and gets–the female lead in the school play, she finally steps out of the shadows and into the light. This is her chance to be who she is, but not everyone is accepting of what seems like a sudden transformation.

Grayson’s teacher is threatened because of his decision to cast Grayson in a girl’s role. Her aunt and cousin seem to view Grayson as some sort of freak. Grayson is subjected to ridicule and even injury from bullies. Grayson doesn’t know what to do, but she knows she can’t go back to hiding. She’s finally starting to be herself, and that freedom is worth any price…isn’t it?

Read Gracefully Grayson for an inspiring story of a young person determined to be herself and what it means to finally be accepted.

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If you know of any young person struggling with gender identity, I urge you to recommend this book. Grayson’s story, while fictional, is all too real for many transgender young people today. How great would it be to finally see that someone understands?!

As I mentioned before, my fellow librarians could face challenges to Gracefully Grayson, especially if it’s added to school library collections. My position is…add it anyway. I feel it’s more important that kids–all kids, regardless of gender identity–find relatable books than it is for parents to be comfortable. This book addresses a real issue, something everyone will likely encounter in some way, and it does so in a thoughtful, sensitive fashion. It has the potential to open minds and change lives, and that makes it worth any potential challenges that may arise.

If you’d like to learn more about Gracefully Grayson and connect with author Ami Polonsky, check out her websiteTwitter, and Facebook.

Published in: on October 3, 2014 at 11:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Keeper of the Lost Cities

I’ve finally done it. I have finished reading all twenty of this year’s South Carolina Book Award nominees. It took me a little longer than normal this year because, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the list of nominees. It’s going to be a struggle to sell some of these books to my students…but that is not the case with my final nominee.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, definitely the longest and most intimidating of the SCCBA nominees, is probably my favorite book on the list. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter, so my enjoyment of the book is really no surprise. This book features beings with special abilities, a fantastical world hidden from human eyes, and an orphan who’s more powerful than she realizes. Sound familiar? Those similarities to Harry Potter will make Keeper of the Lost Cities, the first book in an exciting new series, an easy sell to many of my students. Hopefully, they’ll stick around to find out how the two series are different.

Sophie Foster has always been a bit different. She’s never had many friends, she doesn’t fit with her family, and she’s always been smarter than everyone around her. When she was five, she discovered that she could hear the thoughts of others. She never told anyone about her telepathic ability, but it seems someone out there knows just how special Sophie really is.

When Sophie meets Fitz, her entire world changes. Fitz is the only other Telepath she’s ever encountered, and he reveals that Sophie isn’t exactly human. She’s an Elf, and she definitely does not belong in the human world.

In order to keep her human family safe, Sophie must leave everything behind and move to Lumenaria, a land where she’ll learn what it means to be an Elf and how to harness her special abilities. At her new school, Foxfire, Sophie struggles, but she’s slowly figuring out this strange new world, and she’s finally making a few friends.

Some Elves, however, are less than happy with Sophie’s entrance into the Elf-world. Some have doubts about her place here, there is concern about her history in the human-world, and no one seems to know how to handle just how powerful Sophie appears to be. Her mind is impenetrable for even the most skilled Telepaths, and, while most Elves display just one special ability, Sophie has several. Why is she so different? What is so special about Sophie Foster?

As Sophie tries to piece together the puzzle that is her life, she discovers that her history, abilities, and place in this new world are more uncertain than she realized. Someone in the shadows is manipulating her, leading her on a chase to uncover the truth, but what is the end game? And can she figure out what’s going on before Sophie–and her new friends–are placed in mortal danger?

Read Keeper of the Lost Cities and join Sophie as she navigates this unfamiliar, strange world and attempts to find her place in it.

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I haven’t even come close to capturing everything that transpired in Keeper of the Lost Cities (which is nearly 500 pages long). There are twists and turns galore, and I think this book will keep readers riveted the whole way through. Readers will wonder about Sophie’s past, and they’ll get a few answers, but dozens more will pop up.

This first book has a bit of resolution, but that won’t stop readers from clamoring to read the second installment. (By the way, book two, Exile, is already out. Book three, Everblaze, will be released on November 4th. There’s also a fourth book in the works, and it should come out in November of 2015.) I predict that the entire Keeper of the Lost Cities series will be a hit with many upper elementary and middle grade readers who have a fondness for fantasy.

For more information about Keeper of the Lost Cities and author Shannon Messenger, visit her blog. You can also connect with her via Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Now, I must do my best to create a book trailer that will get my students super-excited to read this book!

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Brutal Youth

Brutal Youth. The title of this book could not be more fitting. It just about cured me of any desire to ever work in a high school again. This intense story by Anthony Breznican paints a vivid picture of some of the most horrible teenagers, teachers, and parents to ever step foot in a school. Yeah…it’s that bad.

Brutal Youth is by no means a bad book. It’s actually a stellar piece of work, but it is often very upsetting…which is why it took me nearly two months to read it. I started reading it in July–when I was trying to gear up for another school year–and it started to color my feelings about going back to work, even though I work in an elementary school. For that reason, I had to put it aside until I felt prepared to handle what I was reading. Finally, this past weekend, I was ready, and I quickly reentered the disturbing world of St. Michael the Archangel High School.

Peter Davidek didn’t exactly want to attend St. Mike’s, especially after the incident on the roof during his introductory tour. A kid who’d been bullied relentlessly snapped and unleashed his wrath on the entire school. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the school.

Somehow, Peter ended up at St. Michael the Archangel High School even after the horrible event he witnessed in the spring. Now, he’s a freshman, and it doesn’t take long for him to realize that this school is much worse than he ever could have envisioned.

Most of the teachers simply don’t care. The guidance counselor is a hateful woman who seems to delight in others’ misery. The parish priest would like nothing more than for the school to close (and he’s got his own shameful reasons for that). Even the few adults who aren’t totally wretched seem to be hiding something.

If the teachers are bad at St. Mike’s, the students are worse. Hazing runs rampant, and the adults turn a blind eye for the sake of “tradition.” Freshmen are tortured, humiliated, and abused daily…all for the sake of the enjoyment of the upperclassmen (and some of the faculty), and some kids are willing to do just about anything to keep from becoming targets.

Peter sees all of this going on around him, and he tries to avoid trouble, but it usually seems to find him. It doesn’t really help that his best friend, Noah Stein, does his level best to antagonize everyone around him…making him a target that most of the school would like to take out. Peter has also unknowingly befriended the school’s most notorious pariah…and that puts Peter in a spotlight he never wanted.

This year at St. Mike’s will show Peter Davidek the absolute worst of humanity. He’ll see friends driven mad by the actions of sadistic bullies. He’ll see a girl he once liked become someone he’d do anything to avoid. He’ll see the appeal in getting revenge on those who oppress others. Peter will learn so much about himself and the world around him…and some of those lessons will be horrid and eye-opening.

How will this brutal year change Peter? Will he retreat into his own mind, or will he use what happens to grow stronger? I’ll leave that for you to discover…

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I’m the first to admit that my own high school experiences were sometimes not great. If it hadn’t been for the band, I would have done my level best to graduate early. (I was the nerdy, fat girl who wore braces, glasses, and played the tuba. It’s something of an understatement to say that I was the target of bullies.) My experiences now seem like nothing after reading Brutal Youth.

The people in this book were absolutely awful, and very few of the characters had redeeming value. Even the characters I sort of liked did things that made me shake my head. The bullying scenarios in this book take torture to a whole new level and exhibit cruelty that I hope to never see. And I’m not just talking about kid-on-kid violence here, although that was bad enough. Teachers bullied teachers, the priest bullied everybody, and parents bullied their kids. No one escaped torment.

With a title like Brutal Youth, one might think that this is most definitely a YA book. I would have to disagree. In my opinion, this is an adult book with young adult characters. Quite frankly, some teens won’t be able to handle this book. (Profanity, while true to the story, is abundant, there’s quite a bit of violence, and the book contains pretty frank talk of sexual situations. It’s an upsetting, disturbing book that could contain some triggers for those who have been severely bullied or abused.)

Other teen readers, though, will find kindred spirits in Peter Davidek, Noah Stein, and other “poor, unfortunate souls.” Sadly, they’ll identify with those who are bullied the worst, and Brutal Youth may give them a voice for expressing their feelings (though not in the way some people expressed themselves in the book, I hope).

Adults who read this book may find themselves reflecting–either positively or negatively–on their own high school experiences, and this could lead them to examine how “tradition” often fuels oppressive or aggressive behaviors.

Speaking (or writing) as an adult reader, I have to say that, while I was horrified by the actions of the kids in Brutal Youth, I was even more perturbed by what I saw of the adults. Which is worse: bullying someone to the point of violence, or turning a blind eye when it happens in front of you? Most of the adults in this book were guilty of the latter, and that can be viewed more harshly than the actual act of bullying. Kids at least have an excuse. They’re stupid sometimes, and their brains aren’t fully developed. What excuse do the adults have? Spite, jealousy, self-preservation? Is any excuse even valid here? I honestly don’t think so.

Well, I think I’ve said enough for one post. (Bullying is kind of a hot-button issue with me, so we’re lucky I’ve limited myself so much.)

If you’re looking for an intense, uncomfortable, and thought-provoking read, I suggest you give Brutal Youth a try. It’s not exactly an easy read, but it’s worth the time you put into it.

For more information about Brutal Youth and author Anthony Breznican, click here. You can also connect with the author on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.

*I received a free review copy of Brutal Youth through Goodreads First Reads.*

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Doubt Factory

Thanks to a much-needed beach vacation, I was able to finish reading The Doubt Factory, a new YA thriller from Paolo Bacigalupi, this weekend. I read this book thanks to NetGalley, but you can read it in just a few weeks. It is scheduled for an October 14th release.

If you’re something of a conspiracy nut (like me), The Doubt Factory will confirm everything you’ve ever believed…and give you a few more things to induce paranoia. For those who are on the optimistic side…well, this book should take care of that.

Alix Banks has a pretty decent life. Big house, nice car, semi-attentive parents, the best education. But what’s the cost of all the good stuff in Alix’s life? Alix knows her father is involved in some fairly heavy-duty PR work, but she doesn’t really pay much attention to how Daddy dearest “brings home the bacon.” All that is about to change…

When someone known only as 2.0 enters Alix’s life, she is oddly intrigued at first. This mysterious–and strangely compelling–figure wants Alix to pay closer attention to her dad’s work…but why? Why would this character, believed to be a petty vandal, be interested in Alix’s father?

Alix is curious, and her curiosity eventually leads her into a dangerous game of truth, deception, and corporate greed. 2.0–better known as Moses–and his merry band of activists attempt to open Alix’s eyes to her father’s shady business dealings. They know that he spends his days covering up what “fine, upstanding companies” don’t want revealed–side effects of medications, carcinogens in household products, wrongful deaths, etc. Alix’s father sells doubt. He–and those like him–finesse their government contacts, throw money at problems, mire the legal system in pointless paperwork and delays…all for the purpose at casting doubt on the claims of those would endanger the all-important profit margin.

At first, Alix refuses to believe everything she’s being told. She’s sure her father is incapable of such heinous acts. She reveals what she knows about 2.0 to her dad and his security team…and she almost immediately regrets it. Deep down, she knows her dad is hiding something, and she makes it her business to find the truth.

Alix becomes obsessed with her father’s company, and she is disgusted by what she uncovers. Moses was telling the truth. But what can Alix do to change things? And can she convince Moses to help her when she turned her back on him once before? Can a couple of teenagers take down something as big as the Doubt Factory, and is Alix willing to betray her father, a man who loved and raised her, for the sake of the truth?

_______________

*Spoilers ahead!*

Even though I found The Doubt Factory to be a gripping thrill-ride of a book, I will admit that one thing did bother me: Alix’s relationship with Moses. There was a fair amount of Stockholm Syndrome happening here, in my opinion. The girl fell in love with her stalker/kidnapper! Sure, it worked out for Belle in Beauty and the Beast, but this is no Disney fairy tale. What kind of message does this send? “It’s okay, girls. I know that creepy guy follows you around, bugs your house, drugs you, and keeps you locked in a cage, but he’s a really great guy once you get to know him.” I know that Moses had his reasons for doing what he did, but Alix’s reaction to him felt wrong to me. Even when she discovered he was telling the truth about everything, she was a little too willing to forgive the whole kidnapping thing. That definitely would have been a deal-breaker for me.

Despite that one glaring issue, I did enjoy The Doubt Factory. I’m a little wary of eating, drinking, breathing, cleaning, taking my meds, or doing anything else after reading it, but maybe a dose of paranoia is a good thing. Keeps me on my toes and aware of what’s going on around me. I can definitely say that this book made me want to do a bit more research on the things I put into my body, especially medications. The Doubt Factory was eye-opening to say the least.

The Doubt Factory is ideally suited to high schools with strong business programs. This book would be an interesting read in business classes and could illicit some interesting discussions of ethics, honesty, government involvement in commerce, FDA regulations, whistle-blowing and its aftereffects, and many other issues.

For those of you wondering if you should add The Doubt Factory to your library or classroom collections, let me give this recommendation. This book is a great addition to libraries and classrooms that serve older YA populations (high school age and up). There is some profanity, sexual situations, violence, and criminal activity. Not to mention all the chemical, legal, and corporate mumbo-jumbo. I just don’t think this is a book that most younger readers will appreciate.

If you’d like more information on The Doubt Factory and author Paolo Bacigalupi, click here. You can also connect with the author on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Published in: on September 22, 2014 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Unbreakable

Thank goodness for NetGalley! I’ve only been a member for a short while, but this awesome service has allowed me to be the first to read some pretty awesome books, including the first two books in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls After Dark series, Reborn and Eternal. Well, just two days ago, I was invited by NetGalley to read Unbreakable, a Shadow Falls After Dark eBook novella, which will be released to the masses on September 30th. (That was a pretty good surprise on an otherwise craptastic Monday.) Of course, I dropped everything and commenced with the reading.

If you’re at all familiar with the first two Shadow Falls After Dark books (or at least the first since Eternal doesn’t come out until October 28th), you already know a little about the character of Chase Tallman. He’s the oddly compelling vamp who turns Della’s world topsy-turvy. But what do we really know about Chase? How did he become a vampire? What led him to Della?

Unbreakable answers a few questions about Chase, but several more are left unanswered. Readers learn a bit about his relationships with his family and his loyal dog, Baxter. We also see Chase’s first brush with love and how that eventually led him to Della.

While we did see the tragic circumstances that led to Chase becoming a vampire, I do wish that part of the story had been a little more fleshed out. I wanted to see how he dealt with the aftermath. Also, there was really no mention of the whole “rebirth” thing, and I would have liked to see more of Chase’s early days as a vamp. Maybe these things will get more attention in the next full-length novel (which I think should be out next summer).

If you’d like to learn more about Unbreakable and C.C. Hunter’s other amazing books, be sure to check out the author’s website here.

Published in: on September 17, 2014 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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