Friday, January 30, 2015

reviews & thoughts from Saleena 1/30/15





How to Speak Dog is exactly that, a simple look at behaviors that dogs have with explanations from a Vet on why they do those things, or what they mean.  It's kind of young, but a simple overview that anyone could learn from.



Sex & Violence was DEFINITELY not the book I thought it was going to be.  I am so glad I saw it on the Garden State list to read, and that I grabbed it.  I couldn't stop reading it, just stayed up way too late to see what happened.  The story centers around Evan, who moves around a lot due to his father's job.  He doesn't get serious about anyone, but is very happy to simply "hook up" and move on.  Then, a horrible assault happens to him; and suddenly life is very different.  His dad moves them back to his old home town in Minnesota for the summer, hoping some therapy and small town vibes will do some healing for him. 
I love the realistic way we see Evan struggling through therapy, not sure how it's going to help, but trying.  I also think that Mesrobian did a bang up job of showing some of the additional traumas you can have, and how hard it is to just "get over it".  The links of his familial heritage, and friends he makes just make the book feel real.   This was a powerful read.

45 Pounds has good intentions; with a main character struggling with food issues and self esteem.  Unfortunately, I didn't love the book...I didn't hate it; just felt like the issue of "oh the horrible fatness of me" and the bullying & self hatred that she goes through have been done before.....it just felt like BAM!  Message book!
However, the message delivered was good, and it did show that others might have their own issues you don't know about...so all in all, not awful, but not a fun book either.




This is a fun, light, quick look at some "bad girls" through history.  They are brief biographical stories followed by a comic panel featuring the authors talking about the story.  I thought it was cute, not really teen as purported, but fun nonetheless.






 Boxers & Saints are two books that connect; one from the Chinese traditional religions side and one from the Christian side and it's set during the 1800s.  It's a graphic novel, and engrossing to see the fictionalized life stories.






This is another "issue book", this one dealing with bullying.  It was well written, dealing with all angles of things but still, I feel like I was being hit on the head with the "issue" format.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

1/22/15, reviews by Saleena


Brown tackles the touchy subject of "sexting" in this novel, and manages to convey the many sides of the issue without getting preachy or maudlin.  Yes it's a tough read, but it's a painfully relevent issue....so I think, all in all, a good read and leaves readers with lots to talk about, or think about afterwards.




This is a quick graphic novel story of the origins & a few stories of the goddess Aphrodite.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and the stories are fun...so if you enjoy the many Greek fiction novels and want to learn a bit more about gods & goddesses without giant tomes to wade through, check out this and the other O'Connor graphic novels.





Ellen Hopkins is not one to shy away from controversial topics, and in this one, we get murder, abuse & religion...as well as a look at families, falling in love and dealing with grief.  Smoke is a continuation of a previous book (Burned), but whether or not you've read it, you can appreciate the story.  It's in poetry form and alternates between the two sisters' voices...the one that stayed behind and the one who is on the run for murdering her father.   I think teens and adults can easily turn this into a discussion starter, and of course, is really well done.



This book made me wish I had more time, and artistic ability, to do fancy stuff with my nails.  The illustrations are easy to follow, and it just looks like a blast.....now if only teens enjoyed programs with crafty stuff......sigh....





Courage Has No Color is the story of the "Triple Nickels"...the 555th regiment and the first African American paratrooper regiment, formed during WWII.  They faced a lot of obstacles, and proved that whatever your race, you can be courageous.  I like that the author also touched on the Japanese predicaments, which were similarly trying.  I found this to be an informative and interesting book.




This graphic novel looks at three women who dedicated their lives to the study of Primates.  It consists of very brief biographies of each of them, and highlights how they got into the research as well as why they wanted to do it.  I learned a lot and enjoyed that it was brief and informative, so that if I want more information I can find it, but still touched on all the major parts of their accomplishments if I don't want to go any further.


The Magician is a fabulous story, full of magic and intrigue...and of course, two teens who have to save the world against all odds.  I enjoy meeting historical figures who turn out to be magical ....and I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers...however, I am happy to finally be reading this series and am happy to be working my way through the next volume.  I've been listening to them instead of reading them which adds a whole new dimension to the story for me.  I highly recommend this series if you haven't read it yet.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

1/17/15 lots of reviews from Saleena

Operation Oleander is the story of a girl who finds that good intentions can still have awful consequences.  Her dad is overseas and she wants to do something so she creates Operation Oleander to solicit donations to go overseas to a local orphanage.  Unfortunately, one day as the unit is delivering supplies to the orphanage, there is a terrorist bomb attack.  Now her best friend's mom is dead, her dad is injured and many died from the orphanage as well.  Can she find a way to make any of this make sense?  
This book is a middle grade book, and it tackles some hard questions.  I like that the author doesn't try to give easy answers.  If you are looking for a book with some deep issues, give this one a try.


Tara is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah, but is struggling with questions of identity and religion due to being a child of dual ethnicities.  Does honoring the traditions of her Indian grandparents betray her Jewish religion?  Can she truthfully participate in a Bat Mitzvah if she isn't sure she believes in god?
Freedman does a pretty good job of telling the story of a young girl stuck in the dreaded "between" place.....between child and teen, between Jewish and Hindu, between a friend and a girlfriend and questioning everything.....this is a sweet story.

Riot is another story of being of dual ethnicity; but this one is set in the 1800s, when being half African-American wasn't exactly accepted.  Myers bases his story of the real riot that happened in NY during the Civil War and in showing us the issues of that day; we can still see so many of the issues we still face as a nation.  Myers writes a short but impactful story.






In this 3rd book in the Finishing School series, Sophronia continues her education as well as continuing to thwart the efforts of those who would bring down the government and/or hurt those inhumans she is allied with (werewolves & vampires).  This volume also forces a confrontation for Sophronia with the two sides of her heart....can she allow herself to fall in love?  And with whom?
I love these books so much!  If you haven't read any of them, you must...you simply must.



Shida, who's name means "problem" in Swahili, struggles in her small village in Tanzania.  Then the government sends incentives to encourage her entire village to move closer to the neighboring village in order to better share resources, get better education for the children and access to medical care.  At first it seems to be the best thing ever, but there are those who disagree with the move; and then a series of difficulties begin having.....has someone set a curse on them?  Do they need to move back?  Shida is desperately hoping to stay and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse; but the old beliefs and the new education don't always agree...and she is caught in the middle of everything.
This was an interesting book highlighting issues and problems from Tanzania.  It was a bit dry at times as the author attempts to explain things to the reader so we understand where Shida and others are coming from...but this slows down the story sometimes.  It's written for middle grade readers, and anyone looking for a story outside their experiences should try it.

Wrap-up List is kind of an alternate universe book.....in this universe, you can be randomly contacted by a grim reaper type creature, they call "Deaths" but that each have separate identities.  If you are contacted, you get one week to wrap up your earthly concerns, as well as clues to their "fatal weakness" in the hopes of being pardoned.   Gabriela is only 16, and stunned to get her letter....so while she is researching how to get a pardon, she is also trying to get her list accomplished...most of which concerns finding love for her friends before she goes.
This is an odd, quirky and interesting little story.  I never would have picked it up myself, but found myself intrigued by the story.  I could have done without all the heavy Catholic lessons along the way, but nonetheless enjoyed the book.

Conor O'Neill is pretty much afraid of everything; so when he accidentally encounters a banshee who is foretelling of a death in his family; he is completely unprepared.  Watching the banshee, Ashling, as she tries to learn about life in the world (she's been gone since the 1600s), he finds himself having odd dreams of her life & death as well as struggling to figure out what he can do to stop the family member from dying.  His struggle will take him all the way to the realm of the Underworld, where he must face a deadly challenge and a horrifying choice.  Can a coward like Conor really find the strength to win?
Another odd little book, but I really enjoyed it.  Conor's acknowledgement of his weaknesses, makes him an endearing character.  Watching his growth from whiny boy to courageous young man is quite exciting and heartbreaking.  Give it a try.

Mira is a bright young lady struggling with the impending death of her beloved grandmother.  Readers follow her as she and her family work with the hospice to make her grandmother's last days as great as possible....but juxtaposed with this sadness, life continues......Mira befriends people in her support group, and might even be falling for a young man who escaped the horrors of Rwanda.  This was such a sweet story, sad and touching but full of life.  

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, review by Nina Soukhanovskii

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.  A Quote to Consider: “With a shiver of foreboding he saw his marriage becoming what most of...