Monday, June 9, 2014

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Charlotte finds herself reeling after her husband leaves her.  Feeling unappreciated by her children as well, Charlotte treats herself to a vacation in Austenland hoping for a little (pretend) romance and relaxation.  But during a parlor game Charlotte sees a corpse.  When she summons help, the body has disappeared and everyone believes that she is simply playing the game of Austenland very well.  But Charlotte is sure that something more sinister is actually at work and continues her investigation.  This is based on Austen's book Northanger Abbey so it is darker than it's predecessor but still fluff.  I didn't enjoy it as much as the original.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Jane is obsessed with Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, especially as he is portrayed by Colin Firth.  She is so obsessed, in fact, that she is unable to form a real relationship with an actual man.  When a wealthy relative dies Jane learns that her inheritance is a trip to an English resort where she can immerse herself in the Regency era, complete with guaranteed romance from a gentleman.  Jane soon finds herself in England dressed in empire-waist gowns and living the life she has dreamed of with two other women.  But the Regency era isn't exactly as she had expected and the man she finds most interesting is no gentleman.  Will Jane be able to break her addiction to fictional love?  This is an adult book, not YA, and is pure escapism.

The 100 by Kass Morgan

 The human race has been living on a space colony for about 300 years after Earth was finally uninhabitable.  On the ARC, teens who have been convicted of crimes have a chance to have their sentence reviewed when they get to 18 but recently, everyone has been found guilty and has been executed.  Clarke is approaching her 18th birthday but she is told that she will be among the 100 imprisoned teens traveling back to Earth to see if it is safe for the rest of society to return.  The government has been trying to keep things quiet but the ARC is failing and no one will be able to live there for as long as they had imagined.  In addition to the prisoners, two others are on the ship - Wells, who purposefully broke the law in order to be reunited with Clarke, and Bellamy who held the leader of the colony hostage in order to come aboard and help his little sister.  When the ship lands on Earth the teens find that the planet is in good shape but there is lots of tension in the group as they try to establish a new society.  I don't know that this is a great book but I enjoyed reading it!

Magicalamity by Kate Saunders

Tom is leading a normal life until the day he discovers that he is a demisprite - his father is a fairy and his mother is mortal.  Tom's father has disappeared and his mother is being hidden in a jar of sun-dried tomatoes because the ruling fairy family has it in for them.  Tom is left under the care of his three fairy godmothers, each more unusual than the last.  Tom has to take the lead to clear his father's name of murder, usurp the throne, and figure out how to fly!  A good, goofy adventure with a lot going on.  It reminds me of The Last Dragonslayer or Cold Cereal.  Seems to be a rising genre of absurd, crammed full of stuff, fantasy.

Sleeping Beauty's Daughters by Diane Zahler

Princesses Aurora and Luna are frustrated with how overprotective their parents have always been, especially their mother.  They are not allowed to leave the castle grounds, no one visits and all sharp objects have been removed.  After Luna cuts her finger on a piece of glass the girls learn the truth - that their mother is the Sleeping Beauty of tales.  The girls learn that they have also been cursed but the fairy that lessened the effects of their mother's curse has not been seen for years.  Of course Aurora manages to prick her finger on something and it's up to the two girls to keep her awake while on a quest to find a fairy to help save her.  A fine story with some nice girl power although it didn't grab me as much as fairy tales usually do.

The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni

After her mother died, young Verity left home to live with relatives in another town.  But now as a young adult in 1867 she is returning to town to live with her father and marry a man she has only met through letters.  Verity is excited to begin her new life but her father seems distant and her fiance feels completely different from the man she thought she knew from his writings.  She is further shocked when she goes to visit her mother's grave and finds it set outside of the cemetery inside a cage and hears that her mother and aunt were accused of witchcraft.  Verity is determined to honor her mother's memory but there is another mystery at work in her hometown and someone is anxious to keep Verity quiet.  This story sounds pretty exciting but in reality it didn't grab me as much as I had hoped.

The Creature From the 7th Grade: Boy or Beast by Bob Balaban

Charlie is not popular.  He is a nerd and everyone knows it and picks on him.  Just when he thinks things can't get any worse for him, he begins turning into a dinosaur.  Charlie's a little freaked out by his transformation but his parents aren't surprised.  Turns out, they knew about the dino DNA in the family line and that some male members of the family begin to become dinosaurs when they hit puberty.  Charlie thinks that he will be even more of a target for the bullies at school but surprisingly, his new look makes him more interesting to everyone and he feels what it's like to be popular for the first time in his life.  Not a deep book but silly and fun.

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

Lewis lives on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in a house that has been falling apart for years.  In fact, the kitchen roof fell in years ago and now Lewis' family cooks out back.  Lewis is used to his life of poverty and being picked on and ignored as the only Indian in his school.  When George moves to town and wants to be his friend, Lewis doesn't know how to react.  The two boys share a love of music, especially the Beatles.  George warms up to Lewis immediately but Lewis doesn't know how to reciprocate because he's too embarrassed of his home to invite George over. When Lewis runs afoul of the school bully who begins waiting for him around every corner, even George doesn't understand just how vicious the attacks are.  A huge snowstorm brings all of Lewis' problems to a head and he has no idea how to solve them.  A great book about poverty, Native American life, bullying, and great music. 

Fourth Down and Inches by Carla Killough McClafferty

This book addresses the growing concern about concussions in football and it is fascinating but also terrifying!  It begins with the history of football where players wore no helmets or padding.  Although concussions were not a concern at that time, there were seasons that were cancelled after players died from the hard hits they were receiving.  Eventually, players were required to start wearing gear to protect them but it was nothing like uniforms today.  But the book points out that even with the amount of protective gear worn by players today, the effects of the sport are evident.  We are beginning to realize how dangerous concussions are, but studies show that the hits a player receives that don't lead to concussion are just as dangerous over time.  And young players - high school and younger - are at the greatest risk.  I left this book wondering why we continue to let people play this sport considering the obvious dangers of it.

A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger

Mike's parents are going through a tough time. His dad has left home to live with another woman and his mom is understandably unhappy and sliding into depression.  After seeing himself in an unusual mirror at a garage sale Mike is unhappy with his weight and begins to diet.  He has a critical voice in his head telling him that he needs to lose more weight in order to look better and he becomes more obsessed with his eating.  Mike also begins to withdraw from his close friend Tamio and only listens to Amber, a new friend who knows ways to trick people to keep them off his back.  If you hadn't guessed yet, this is a book about anorexia but with a male protagonist which is unusual.  Mike's descent into anorexia is believable because the voice he hears sounds perfectly reasonable at first so you, as the reader, are not on the outside of this problem.  Well done.