Friday, June 24, 2011

Notes From the Blender

Meet Declan: he loves death metal & violent video games, has a massive crush on a girl in school named Neilly, and lives alone with his dad.  Declan hates drugs and drinking because his mom was killed by a drunk & high driver.  Yet Declan blames himself because he forgot his shin guards for his soccer game six years ago, and if they had not gone back to the house to get them they wouldn't have been hit by that guy.  Or so he believes.

Meet Neilly: she's beautiful, popular, and she's just lost her boyfriend to her best friend in a span of fifteen minutes.  Neilly doesn't know Declan exists.  Her current situation full of ex's also leaves her dateless to her dad's commitment ceremony.

Meet Declan & Neilly's parents: they've been secretly dating for months and have just announced their engagement to their children.  Oh, and Neilly's mom is pregnant. And they're going to all move in together, in a new house.

Chapters are in first person, alternating between Declan (written by Brendan Halpin) and Neilly (written by Trish Cook).  The language is frank and exactly what you might hear if you were in the halls of your local high school.  This is the second book I have read with Halpin as a co-author (this being the first) and he still feels like the funnier, more authentic of the two writers.  While much of the book is rather wild, Declan's lingering grief over his mother's death and his struggle to face it is beautifully written and very touching.  Issues about sexuality, religion, and blended families (thus the title) definitely put this title with the mature crowd.  It won't be everyone's bowl of ice cream, but I know at least one person who can identify with parts of it and I bet there will be others.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jellicoe Road

An egregious oversight almost happened!  But first some facts for your perusal:
  1. I have been reading a lot this spring & this lame excuse for summer so far.
  2. I haven't been keeping up with reviewing right after I've read something.
  3. I'm trying to catch up with what I've read.
  4. Moments ago I had the sneaking suspicion there was a book I had read a while back and hadn't reviewed.  So I went to my Shelfari list and.......BAM!
How could I forget the smoldering, swoony tension of Jellicoe Road?  My sincerest apologies to author Melina Marchetta!

Taylor Markham has never forgotten Jonah Griggs.  Nor has she forgotten that she was left by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven.  Three years after that Taylor attempted to run away from her boarding school only to be dragged back by a terrifying stranger.  Flash forward another three years - Taylor is a senior at the Jellicoe Boarding School.  She is now the leader of a secret student association that has an annual territory war with the school from the nearest town and the group of military cadets that camps near the school at the beginning of every school year.  Unfortunately for Taylor, Hannah, the closest thing she's had to a mother in six years, suddenly disappears just at the same time as Jonah Griggs reappears in her life.  Jonah is the leader of the cadets, but the last time Taylor saw him was when she tried to run away.

Memories of Taylor's swirl with memories of an unknown narrator and her current situation.  Personally, I found the mystery narrator parts incredibly confusing at first and it was a little hard to get going on the book.  However, I persevered and things started to make sense.  About half-way through the book I actually went back and read the opening part again and had the "ah ha!" moment. While Marchetta ratchets up love/hate relationship between Taylor and Jonah with just about every chapter, my favorite part was actually something very small and insignificant to the storyline.  But because this is my blog I'm going to share it.  At a karaoke night in Taylor's dorm a girl sings a song called "Not Pretty Enough," which most people outside of Australia (where the book is set) who also read YA books have probably never heard of.  This song is by a singer/songwriter named Kasey Chambers and I know every word!      

The Conspiracy 365 Series

In previous posts I have reviewed January and February of this series.  Ya'll may think I'm getting lazy but since it's another series that I read all the way through without interruption I'm going to do one review.  So this is March through December.  And because I don't think you really care about seeing all the covers I'm just doing March and December.

When we left Cal, his foot was stuck in between rails of a subway track with a train hurtling toward him.  Okay, so not to be a big downer but we know he lives because it's a series of 12 books.  Each book ends with Cal in a very bleak situation (except the last one, of course).  As he starts to discover more and more about the Dangerous Mystery of the Ormonds, or DMO as he and his best friend Bogues start calling it, he makes some new friends, some new enemies, and finds himself in so many incredible and near-death experiences it's hard to believe.  Cal flies a home-made experimental aircraft, hang glides, is stranded in the cruel Australian Outback, survives numerous explosions and fights, and more!  So adults, use your willing suspension of disbelief because middle school boys are going to eat these up!

Here's the catch, the primary book publisher is from Australia so purchasing them from your local Barnes & Noble, or online, is going to be tough and/or pricey.  Usborne Books is the United States distributor so if you think these books are right for your collection you'll have to talk to your local Usborne rep.  You can also go to for more information.  These are great hi-low books and fast reads!


The Chaos Walking series

Since I read all three of these books, by author Patrick Ness, back-to-back-to-back and in very quick succession, I decided to do one review for all of them. Let's jump right in because there's just so much!  The fun/hard part is to summarize without giving too much away - I don't want to spoil your reading experience!

You think your library is noisy right after school?  What would you do if you could hear the thoughts of person and animal around you, all the time? All that's left of the settlers of Prentisstown are men and a secret, hidden deep inside all that Noise.  Todd is the youngest person in Prentisstown and he's just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man.  But one day Todd encounters something he's never known: silence, like a void in his world.  From that moment on everything Todd ever knew, or thought he knew, about his world changes.

What follows is a thrilling tale of daring do!  Okay so nothing near that amount of cheese - I've just always wanted to write that in a review of something.  Actually this series is three books that will challenge what you've always thought about your private thoughts, emotions, and feelings.  Ness takes the genre of dystopia, sprinkles in a little sci-fi, and the next thing you know you're hooked.  A small word of caution for the more squeamish reader: because the story is told in first person and thoughts flow freely, it's a bit like reading stream of consciousness writing and when things get violent (as they sometimes do), you might want to skim.  A small word of caution for the more empathetic reader: you're going to be so frustrated with yourself because you will identify with everyone who narrates when its their turn. 

I know this really isn't a lot of information, especially about the second and third books, but consider this a teaser.  And don't go reading the summaries somewhere or you'll spoil it for yourself!  Don't say I didn't warn you.