Monday, November 29, 2010

The Half-Life of Planets

"Love hurts, love scars, love wounds, and Mars."*

Hank has Asperger's syndrome and his fixation is on music.  His social skills are less than stellar and figures he will never get to kiss a girl.  Liana is fixated on astronomy and until recently, kissing.  On the last day of school Liana found a note in her locker with one word, "slut."  Her relationships have never gone past kissing but she is determined to prove to herself that she doesn't have to kiss to be in a relationship.  That summer their paths collide.  Hank realizes that Liana understands him as much as anyone possibly can and thinks he might be in love with her.  Liana realizes that she might just love Hank too, for his quirks not in spite of them.

Told in alternating first-person chapters, Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin write a sweet, funny love story.  Halpin's writing is definitely stronger than Franklin's and I enjoyed Hank's view of things much more than Liana's.  Hank has a razor-sharp sense of humor (although his character probably doesn't realize it), but honestly sometimes Liana just comes off as whiny and shallow. So extra brownie points to Brendan!  

* Lyrics from "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, capitalization by me.
Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Remakes of a classic are hard to do and not be totally predictable.  Unless you are throwing in something completely different - like with Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies, because let's face it: zombies don't tend to follow the rules.  But I [seriously] digress.

If you haven't figured it out by now Jane by April Linder is a re-make/update of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  And if you haven't read Jane Eyre and you're reading this blog, well you darn well should get right on that.  I'm also not going to summarize the story for you because it pretty much goes just like the original, with the updates mostly being in the details.  For example, no one travels by horse-powered contraptions in the new book, unless you count sports cars.  Although it's been quite a while since I read Bronte's book, I distinctly remember liking it a lot, but with Linder's book....I finished because there's that weird part of me that needs to know how something wraps up even if I don't really like the book.  Oh I suppose it would be interesting to compare the two Janes in a paper of some sort, but I felt a distinct lack of creativity in Linder's work.  Characters had only slightly different names if there was any change in their names at all and the majority of the plot points were exactly the same. 

I hate to say it Mrs. Linder, but I think your audience is going to be limited in scope and you're going to have some whiners on your hands.  Some zombies might not have been a bad idea.  Cool cover though.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Heist Society

Kat's family isn't the kind that makes offers you can't refuse.  Her family liberates things for the sake of the thrill.  And they're really good at it.  The thing about Kat is that she's walked away from "the life"... mostly.  The last con Kat pulled was to get herself into an exclusive prep school because she wanted to have a normal life.  But just because Kat walked away from her family doesn't mean they don't still need her.  When Kat gets an offer that she can't refuse from a wealthy (ahem, evil) Italian man, she must put on the biggest con to pull the biggest job to save her father. 

I'm a little torn.  Part of me wants to rave about this book and part of me wants to not.
Pros: Intrigue; lots of fun settings - Europe, London, upstate New York, Las Vegas; witty characters; high class art heists.
Cons: Plot points and dialogue practically the same as Ocean's 11, Ocean's 12, and Ocean's 13 movies; cast of characters is too young for the plot to really work.  My willing suspension of disbelief never quite kicked in.
Several times I found myself having to read entire sections again because I really didn't understand what was going on.  So either I'm not so bright or that is the point of all the mystery and misdirection that thieves employ.  

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Lonely Hearts Club

Penny Lane Bloom is tired of boys.  More specifically she's tired of when girls lose their identity over a boy.  Not only has she had a friend ditch her for a boy, Penny tried to be someone she really wasn't to land the boy she thought was her one and only.  Being a child of Beatle-maniacs (hence the her first and middle name), she decides to form the "Lonely Hearts Club" to help girls like her realize that they don't need to date to find their identity.  In a very short time the club goes from having a very small membership (just Penny) to 30 girls from her high school.  Since the most crucial part of club membership is not dating, lots of people are noticing changes in the female portion of the student body.  Neither the male population of the high school or the principal are particularly happy with Penny.  On top of everything, Penny is fighting a losing battle with herself over Ryan Bauer.  Not only is Ryan extremely good-looking, he's genuinely nice (not something Penny has experienced much with guys).  So what's a girl to when she thinks she wants to violate rule number one of the club she founded?  Time to change the rules...but only a little.

Elizabeth Eulberg's novel is cute and fast, but a little too gimmicky for me.   I don't know if the average teen reader will find all the Beatles' reference interesting or annoying.  The storyline also becomes a little predictable.  However, there are some thoroughly wonderful girl power speeches sprinkled throughout the story.  Since it's a quick read, it's worth the time.

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list. 

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder

You know you're enjoying a book when strangers come up to you in McDonald's and tell you that they've been watching you smile as you've been reading....

Jessie's sophomore year could not be weirder.  Her two best friends, Bizza and Char, have transformed themselves into faux punks.  Her true punk older brother is not only going to be leaving for college soon, he quit his punk band, shaved his mohawk, and is falling for the prom queen!  And people who she has always pegged as complete nerds are suddenly becoming appealing as possible social consorts.  Even though Jessie considers herself a mathelete, she doesn't know if leaving her old friends behind for new ones is something she's ready to do.  But when Bizza has a fling with Jessie's long-time crush, she realizes the only thing her "friends" have ever really done is used her.  Not knowing where she fits in, she cautiously reaches out to different cliques at school, including the band geeks and the Dungeons & Dragons crowd.  And why, oh why does she keep having dreams about Henry, the cute but short-pantsed and white gym-shoed friend-of-a-friend? 

So author Julie Halpern, I will employ a Stephen Colbert method - Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger.  As stated above, I very much enjoyed reading this book.  My only complaint: the cover.  It's a good visual representation of the content, but I think some bolder colors and something that looks a little less like a doodle will be more appealing to the intended readership.

Note: This book was read for possible inclusion on the 2011/2012 YARP list.