Friday, June 27, 2008

The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

I'm not quite sure how to categorize this oddly compelling book. Is it science fiction? A problem novel? Hmmm.

Eli's wealthy father built a vast underground complex for his family to use to escape nuclear war. When they finally have to move into it, Eli's twin brother and grandmother are caught on the outside. Still, the five of them exist in the luxurious compound, working at the gym, learning to play instruments, doing lessons on computers. There have been some mistakes, and after 6 years the food is running a bit low, but with 9 more years until it is safe for them to leave, they make do.

Saying any more would ruin the great plot twist. The reviews call this a thriller. Okay. Considering the father's slow descent into a madness not caused by being locked up, I'll buy that. And I'll definitely be buying the book.

Won't be buying Julia Bell's Dirty Work, but only because a book about girls being sold into prostitution would not go over well in a middle school library. For high schools, this would be a good choice. Aside from the occasional f-bomb (maybe 2 or 3), it's an interesting story about an English girl who gets kidnapped and ends up on a seamy side of life she's never seen. This author's Massive, about eating disorders, was gripping and dark as well.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Buying It

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine was more interesting as a place to start a conversation with my children about our buying habits rather than as a book that might give me some useful hints. It was, in some ways, a ridiculous book. The author and her partner do have three cars as well as two residences, and they live in New York City, which immediately makes them suspect. There are a lot of political and literary references in the book, since the author makes her living freelancing articles on popular culture affecting imtimate lives.

Most of her experiment struck me as silly. She misses seeing first run movies. We always check things out from the library. She complains about the library. She misses eating out because they eat out all the time. She has three different kinds of salt in her cabinet. There ARE three different kinds of salt?

We're thinking about doing this experiment in our home. It's lead to interesting conversations. When asked what they would miss buying, my 14 year old said "Socks and underwear". The ten year old worried about school supplies. We agreed that those were necessary consumables. My son would miss buying Super Smash Brothers for Wii, but that was a joke, because he wouldn't get it anyway. A lenghthy discussion was had about whether or not postage stamps were a thing or a service.

In a way, this book was great, because it started these conversations. However, since we are debating whether or not Aldi's granola bars are a luxury (they are), and how we can break it to Grandma and Grandpa that we will no longer go out to eat on birthdays (about the only time we do eat out), they scope of this didn't speak to me on my level.

Also read The Fattening of America: How the Economy Makes Us Fat by Eric Finkelstein, and thought it was well done and insightful. When I couldn't quite grasp the economic theory because children wanted my attention, I could fall back on his explanations of how it affected his Uncle Al, who was a humanizing example throughout.

I really have to go back to YA literature instead of reading "preaching to the choir" books on life style choices!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More Stine, adult nonfiction

Stine's Curtains is not for the squeamish. Between the various bouts with fake and real blood (a dead swan in an upper bunk doesn't cause the camp to shut down while the perpetrator is found? Ew.), it's more of the same stuff as the other books but without redeeming qualities. Set in a drama camp, it has a psychopath on the loose, a girl with a scary past, multiple times when people look like they are dead but they're only "joking", and way too much blood. Sorry, after the swan I just wasn't interested.

Have found that when I go to the actual library instead of having the wonderful Westerville Public Library deliver books for me, I am not as focused on young adult literature. I read some adult "beach reads", but I pick up mostly nonfiction on popular culture, and memoirs. Read Be Happy or I'll Scream, even though it was sort of warmed over Bombeck (really, is it funny any longer when people can't keep their houses clean? And if the woman's husband is home with the children, why isn't he keeping it clean?). Skimmed through Why We Buy and The Way We Never Were, but they were both sort of dry. Miserly Moms was okay but I'm so miserly it didn't tell me anything new. Enjoyed Anytime Playdate, about television being marketed to preschoolers. It was interesting that all of that began being an issue when my Ms. 10-year-old was about three. None of my children watched much television, and I'm glad. Right now I'm reading a book about the obesity epidemic and its ties to the economy, but my husband is also reading it and he took it to work. The title is something starting with Fattening. I'm looking forward to picking up Not Buying It today.

For some reason, I tend to dislike adult fiction, and young adult nonfiction. I think most of the nonfiction for young adults is very dull, or well-done but on topics students don't care about. (Like Murphy's great fire book that I can't get anyone to read.) Hmmm. Food for thought. (Probably chock full of high fructose corn syrup like everything else!)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Some NEW books

Made a mad dash into the public library and picked up a bunch after my Survival Spanish class. Here are two phrases that may be useful to librarians:
El libro es tarde. (The book is late.) La perdista? (Have you lost it?)

The best by far was Box Out by John McCoy, who wrote the fabulous Crackback. Liam makes the varsity basketball team, and is fairly happy about this until the coach insists on saying prayers during games and having the players come to a once a week prayer meeting. Liam's family goes to a Catholic church and prays before dinner, but it's still not the right thing for the coach to do, and when the coach lies to Liam and tells him it's okay for the coach to lead prayers, Liam quits the team and starts to practice with the girls' team to help them out. While the plot is driven by the prayer issue, the meat of the book is about basketball and the motivation for playing. Liam contacts an organization that writes to the school and tells them the coach has to stop praying or they'll take the school to court, but it all works out. I liked the fact that Liam was religious, but wasn't comfortable with the way the coach was handling things.

P.B. Kerr's One Small Step started out promisingly-- 13 year old is flying plane with father when they are hit by a goose and almost crash. I also liked the idea that the boy was approached to fly in a space mission because of his flying skills and his small size, but the book just moved too slowly and I lost interest.

Anne Cassidy's Looking for JJ had a riveting premise-- a girl kills a friend when she is ten, is incarcerated, and then ends up being released. While she is trying to set up a new life under an assumed identity, reporters start looking for her, and she relives the horrors that brought her to the point of murder. This is a book more for high school students. There's abuse and neglect, creepy boyfriends, and a lot of anger in this book that makes it too intense for middle school students' parents!

Hoped that Kevin Brooks' Black Rabbit Summer would fall on the side of Candy and Road of the Dead, but it went the way of Martyn Pig. Bleah. Maybe for high schools with a large number of Brooks fans, but it's liberally sprinkled with f-bombs, and just kind of ooky.

Reading, just not blogging. More Stine.

Blind Date was actually kind of complex, and more of a boy book. Boy accidentally injures teammate's arm in a football game, then is approached by hot girl to go out. She's a little mysterious, but this adds to the allure. Turns out, of course, that she's a pyschopathic nut job who thinks she is the sister of the girl who was killed when Kerry's brother was driving a car-- no, wait-- Kerry was really driving, and that's why he's blocked it from his mind. That is, until hot girl drugs him and ties him to a chair... hope I didn't ruin the plot for any of you.

Call Waiting also had some complexity, but it seemed a bit far fetched. Is girl framing boy, or boy really pyscho, or is someone really trying to kill her? I didn't care so much.

The Cheater was pretty good. Girl pays boy to take the SAT for her. He asks just for one date, but then of course wants money, etc. so that he doesn't tell her father. Is she desperate enough to murder him?

For sheer, cheesy fun, my top pick has got to be the Cheerleaders: The First Evil etc. Unfortunately, I don't have Cheerleaders: The Evil Returns, but I may try to check it out of the public library. Cheerleader is ejected from bus and lands on the grave of Sarah Fear (have to go back to The Fear Street Saga Begins for details) and is paralyzed, but then cheerleaders start having their minds controlled during pyramid building, and lots of cheerleaders get concussions. There's also a lot of scalding hot water as well as bubbling green slime, because the girl is really possessed by the evil spirit of Sarah Fear. Sarah likes to move around, and over three books, several cheerleaders get to play host. People die, which I never like, but the books are so over the top it is hard to take them seriously. My favorite line comes from The Second Evil: "'I've been attacked by an ancient evil force', she thought scornfully, 'and Mom thinks a bath will help.'" No wonder this is such a popular series.

Also picked up Lisi Harrison's The Clique. It's been in the book fairs, and girls have asked for it, but I'm not buying it. I'm not even sure I want to put the paperback in my collection, because none of the characters are likable at all. Even the "nice" girl who has to put up with the label conscious, obnoxious, snobby private school girls is not endearing. And these are supposedly 7th graders? Horrible. No good lessons or examples, and just incredibly mean spirited.

Finally read E.B.White's Stuart Little. Don't know how I missed it. Definitely shows its 1945 publication date, but is a charming tale of a mouse born into a New York City family. He has many adventures, but I can see the lack of a wrapped up ending giving modern students fits. "But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction." is a wonderful last line, leaving the ending up to all sorts of imagination, but I just wanted to know if he found Margalo or not. Not as good as Trumpet of the Swan or Charlotte's Web, but for fans of Cleary's Ralph S. Mouse, this would be a good follow-up.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A title for parents

David Sheff's Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction is not an easy book to read, especially when I am in the middle of fighting with my 14 year old about how she intends to spend her summer, and I certainly can't answer Sheff's question: Has he done the right things in raising his son? Give me another 15 years, and perhaps I'll have a better answer.

I wouldn't read this just for fun. It was fairly boring, with its endless details about the "happy" family life. Lots of this is delusional. Sheff thinks that his son Nic is a "good kid" even when he is caught smoking marijuana when he is 12. Trusting his son was the biggest mistake, and the reason that parents should read this book. I don't trust any of my children. Love them, yes; give them some freedom, yes; but I follow them about, check out their friends, and know as much about what they are doing as I can. Hope for the best, expect the worst and all that. I don't think that Sheff was at all prepared for the worst that came.

Aside from the liberal use of the f-bomb, this book would be okay for students to read, but I don't think they would be interested. Nic has also written a book, Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamine, that sounds far more harrowing and graphic in its depiction of addiction and the poor behavior choices that go along with it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

MotherReader, ABC TV, and more Stine

So excited! Was random winner in the MotherReader 48 Hour Reading Challenge! Get a book! Next year I will try to be much more organized about my approach. Many thanks, MotherReader!

Got an e mail from Sandra Solberg at Toasted Coconut Media about "Hot Tips from Cool Authors: How to Keep Kids Reading this Summer" --- a WABC-TV segment that aired on Sunday morning. Scott Westerfeld, one of the most consistently high quality, prolific young adult authors I've seen in a while. Of course, You Tube is blocked at my school, and slllooowww at home, but here's the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ8talx7vmE

My R.L. Stine for last night was:
Beach Party-- Karen is enjoying fun and romance on the beach until she realizes that someone is out to kill her. More involved than many of the other books-- took longer to read. Okay.

The Boyfriend-- Joanna cruelly dumps Dex, he fakes an accident, has a real one, Joanna has an accident, Dex comes back from the dead. Is he dead? Confusing and a little cheesy, but showcases why reluctant readers like Stine-- he discusses high school issues. The lower readers are tired of Junie B. Jones.

The Betrayal-- Sets up the whole Fear Street Saga. Probably good to have the whole series of this one. Conveniently numbered on spine. (The Betrayal, The Secret, The Burning)

The Best Friend-- Weird new girl moves in next door and starts to take over Becka's life, claiming they were best friends in 3rd grade. Honey sneaks into Becka's house, steals her clothes, starts to dress like her, and then things get scary! I had to laugh because I think every middle school girl has an experience with someone who wants to be a friend but is just too annoying for words.

And again, R.L. Stine is really heavily skewed towards girls, although boys don't seem to mind.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer Stine-a-thon

Since most of my time recently has been spent limping about, dunning students for overdue books, telling teachers that I don't have any more DVD players and removing dust bunnies from overhead projectors, I'm not in a great mood. So! I'll work my way through the R. L. Stine books.

One nice thing-- Stine is easy to read. Even with mysteries, I know that I will find out eventually what will happen. The vocabulary is not a challenge. Sentence structure is simple. This is hugely important for some of our readers, and the fact that they can finish an entire book in a few days gives them a feeling of accomplishment.

That said, Attack of the Mutant is The. Worst. Book. Ever. Get this-- it's not really even R.L. Stine. It's adapted by Melinda Metz, from the screenplay by Brown and Angel, based on a novel by Stine. What? Oh. It's t.v. book #12. This book is described thusly: "It's exactly what you see on TV-- complete with pages and pages of photos from the show! It's spook-tacular." I can't go on. Reading it represents ten minutes of my life I will never get back. (It's 64 pages.)

Another Goosebumps book, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, was a little better. Children's father is photographer who goes to Alaska to snap pictures of the creature. They eventually find it encased in ice, take it back to California, and then the creature escapes. Ok.
All-Night Party does involve a murder, and students out on a dark and desolate island where they have taken a friend for a surprise birthday party. This one I could actually recommend, and my copy is fairly new, with a nicely done Sammy Yuen cover. There are lots of clues, running about the woods, and a few twists. Fine effort.

Bad Dreams was okay as well. Girls move to Fear Street after death of father, antique bed gives girl bad dreams. There is also a lot of swim team stuff involved, which was a little odd, and (not to ruin the plot here) since the house was unoccupied for so long, how did the insane girl stay in the attic until the new family moved in? Not as good as The Secret Bedroom but better than Beach House.

Monday, June 09, 2008

48 Hour Reading Challenge

This yearly event hosted by Mother Reader (http://www.motherreader.com) coincided with my third weekend off my feet, so I did get some reading done:

Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody. Spin the Bottle. Phoebe and her best friend Harper join the middle school drama club and discover the intricacies of social life at this difficult age. Diva girls, boys who render her incapable of speech, difficult parents-- it's all here, set against a production of Guys and Dolls. What makes this stand out is great turns of phrase. Must have for middle school libraries.

Lupica, Mike. The Big Field. Hutch is displaced as the team shortstop, and can't get out of his system that D-Will is usurping his position. Mollified a little by being elected team captain, and the fact that his team makes the play off, life is still hard because he is taking baseball too seriously, much like his father, who failed as a major league player. I'll buy, but the boys really won't care about the father's crises, and I can't agree with the bio that says that Lupica is "the sporting world's finest storyteller." No, no. That would go to Carl Deuker, hands down, or perhaps the late Thomas Dygard.

Don't be fooled by this cover-- Cabot's Airhead was a VERY interesting look at what would happen if a super smart, jeans and hoodie wearing feminist ended up in the body of a supermodel. Em Watts is killed by a falling tv at a megastore at the same moment that Nikki Howard suffers a fatal aneurysm, so Em's brain is transplanted into Nikki's body. While it's Em's thoughts and feelings that survive, it's Nikki's face that continues on, so she has to continue modeling and surviving in the world of high fashion, even though Em also insists on returning to high school to continue her AP studies. Again, a must have.

Yeah, okay. L. J. Smith's The Vampire Diaries was published in 1991, WELL before Twilight. I'll get these (Book I:The Awakening and The Struggle, Book II : The Fury and Dark Reunion) in prebind because they are clean, decently crafted, and will be popular. Elena is a pretty girl who meets hot new boy who happens to be a vampire; things get complicated when his brother shows up and fights over her. The brothers did this before, in medieval times, and it didn't end well then. Must be the bad boy taking control and loving the girl for all eternity that makes these so intriguing to teens.

Brian Meehl, on the other hand, did a creative spin on vampire lore by creating Morning McCobb and the International Vampire League in his cleverly titled Suck It Up. Even though most vampires are beautiful, there are some SangFU (Blood flubups) who are doomed to spend eternity as gawky teens. Orphan Morning is one, so he is recruited by the IVLeague (a good name on so many levels) to be a spokesman for the cause. He works with a PR agency to show the world that vampires are real, most are good (except for Loners who still prey on humans), and deserve to be treated more fairly. (Later: Accidentally ordered three copies of this: none have ever made it back to the shelf. A very worthy purchase.)

Scott, Kieran. Geek Magnet. KJ Miller doesn't have my sympathy-- I would have been more than happy to attract geeks in high school, but she is annoyed with the ones who cling to her because she likes hot sports boy, and he seems to have an interest in her. Set also during play practices (Grease), KJ befriends the star, who helps her find ways to scare off geeks and attract the other boy, but in the end, geekyish boy wins out. Interesting subplot-- alcoholic father who refuses to get treatment. This raises the book out of truly pink and gives it some depth. Like Jingle Boy, another good offering by Scott. (AKA Kate Brian.)

Those were the books I liked. I will pass on the following:
DeLa Cruz. The Ashleys. Very disappointed. Loved Blue Bloods, and thought it was well-written, clever, and worth having. This was a piece of annoying, name-dropping fluff. Bleah.

Pixley. Freak. Okay, literature like this does not help students who are different and who make themselves targets of bullying. No one else would want to read so much dysfunction. No.

Thompson. Fourth World. Fantasy that involves an annoying, autistic stepbrother and this much rail travel is just not what my fantasy fans are looking for. Read her Switchers instead.

Smith, Jennifer. The Comeback Season. Why so many baseball books involve girls, I don't know. It's sad her dad died, but I can't see to whom I would recommend this book.

Taylor. Mariah Mundi: The Midas Box. Another Victorian-ish horror-y book with quirky characters and evil villains. Eh. I have all the Joan Aiken books, which are better.

Total:2,870 pages, not counting finishing up Binchy's Evening Class. No idea how long I spent.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hulme and Wexler's The Seems: The Glitch in Sleep

Ambivalent about this one. There is going to be a massive series, I'm sure, and it's an incredibly convoluted fantasy that will appeal to my hard-core fantasy fans. I am going to field test this on some students today. Miss Reluctant Reader, who got two pages in, thought it was "stupid". She thinks everything is. She did like the shiny cover.

Becker Drane's life is boring, so he applies to be a "fixer". To his surprise, he gets hired and starts going between his life in the regular world (where his devious language arts teacher has assigned I Am The Cheese) and dealing with the details that keep the world running-- rain, sunsets, and eventually, a problem with everyone's sleep. Many gadgets are involved. The book has several appendices and a glossary but surprisingly, no maps.

This requires lots of thought, and has a lot of details. It gave me a headache, but so did Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, which many of the boys adore. I need to ascertain whether this book makes this subgroup happy, or annoyed. Will report later on the field research.

There is a web site, but it's not as cool as the H.I.V.E. one:
http://www.theseems.com/

The Postcard by Tony Abbott

Must not be too crabby--I enjoyed this book. I am rather fond of "cozy" mysteries and this one is almost one. The Floridian setting was fun, the vintage postcards were visually appealing, and the film noir type sub story was intriguing.

When Jason's grandmother dies in Florida, he travels down to help his father clean out her house. While there, he finds a string of mysterious clues that lead him and a new friend, Dia, around various landmarks in St. Petersburg where they find pages of a story written by a man with some connection to his grandmother. There are a few problems-- Jason's father is an alcoholic, his grandmother had suffered from many health problems, and Jason's family is slowly falling apart. When the clues finally come together, some of these problems are explained or helped.

This would be a hard sell for my students, because of the heavy emphasis on old people in Florida and the somewhat slow pace. I feel bad, because Mr. Abbott has about 60 books to his credit and I don't have one in my library. I've read several of these, but none clicked.

http://www.tonyabbottbooks.com/

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Summer Reading Challenge

Parents are always asking for summer reading lists. Students rarely do. I have many fond memories of hanging out at the public library browsing and reading whatever struck my fancy, but I do know that sometimes it's hard. If you are or live with a reluctant reader, talk to your public librarians. Be specific about what you want or they can't help you as well.

This list is for readers who want a bit of a challenge. Most of these are Classics, but at one time or another I loved them all.

Bellairs, John. A House with a Clock in its Walls.
Bradbury, Ray. Fahenheit 451
Farley, Walter. The Black Stallion.
Fitzgerald. The Great Brain.
Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth.
L'Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time.
Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows.

Just for girls:
Alcott, Louisa May. Eight Cousins.
Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier.
Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables.

Walden's H.I.V.E.: The Overlord Protocol

My students often accuse me of liking every book I read. I assure them that this is not true, although I do tend to buy mainly books that I like personally, since it's easier to recommend them. There are times, however, when I read books that I don't personally like but which I know students will enjoy, and I buy them.

Keep in mind that it's the end of the school year, I'm still following 50 students around because they haven't returned their books yet, and I've pulled some crucial muscle in my leg that makes me move like I'm 103. This might explain why I read these books and don't remember any of them. So, my apologies. The first is very popular with students, and they are waiting eagerly for the second to come out. If you have a middle school library and lots of students who like spy and adventure books, buy these action filled stories of Otto Malpense (do love the name) who is sent against his will to the Higher Institute of Villianous Education for 6 years and plots his escape. The H.I.V.E. web site is ultra cool, and I'd spend more time on it, but I am now going to sit in my wheeled desk chair with a roll of book tape on my lap and repair books while I'm doing inventory.

http://www.bloomsbury.com/HIVE/

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Matt Whyman's Icecore

The subtitle "A Carl Hobbes Thriller" was instructive in two ways: it told me what this was supposed to be, and hinted at a sequel.

Carl has managed to hack into the Fort Know security system and opened the doors. That was all he intended to do, for the challenge of it, but once he has, $10 million in bullion gets stolen and makes its way into the hand of terrorists. Because of this, he is pulled in and, because he is not quite 18, given the option to be debriefed at a remote location in lieu of being charged when he is older. This is how he ends up, after a harrowing plane ride, at a fish cannery/prison where the only chance of escape would mean freezing to death. Other criminals with ties to Carl's endeavor are there as well, and they are not as nice as he is.

At first, I wasn't sure how to categorize this. Like Strasser's Boot Camp, a lot of the story is the abuse that Carl and the other prisoners suffer. The spy novel fans will like the details of how Carl hacked into Fort Knox, but the real fan base here is the readers who like survival fiction. It then occurred to me that while girls like books about child abuse, boys like books about survival, and they are really the same thing. This will be very popular.

This made me think about an online reading map I saw, where one could enter the name of an author and a map would come up with other similar authors. Can't for the life of me remember what the address or name was.

Three more that didn't quite do it for me:
Gratz, Something Rotten. Tried a little too hard to tie a mystery in with Hamlet, also quirky Southern setting.

Bruchac. March Towards the Thunder. Too little Civil War, too much Native American daily life. Bruchac is a hard sell here, with the exception of Code Talker.

Rabb. Cures for Heartbreak. F-bomb early on, and rather disjointed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Death By Bikini

Wow! I was expecting this to be a fun title, since Now and Zen and The Finnish Line were both deftly crafted stories of the intricacies of life and love while studying abroad, but I was just not expecting such a teasingly paced page turner!

Aphra lives with her father at their remote resort. Her mother left years ago, and the reasons behind this are presented bit by bit. Life at the resort is fairly humdrum, since there are no children her age, so when Adam arrives with his family under mysterious circumstances, she is at first intrigued. After a guest is murdered on the beach (strangled by her bikini ties, hence the title), however, she does a little sleuthing and suspects that Adam's father may have had something to do with the death. In the course of investigating, she is involved in some harrowing encounters with unlikely villains, and finds out more about her mother as well as the cute boy. Death By Latte and Death By Denim are the sequels to come.

Really enjoyed the adventurous but put-upon Aphra, thought the details of the island and the Japanese guest added a lot to the story, and was intrigued by the slowly revealed pieces of the mystery, but what struck me the most were how grippingly the chase scenes were done. Joan Lowery Nixon has always been my g0-to author when it comes to mysteries that girls especially like, but this series will certainly circulate even better.

The real crime in this book? It was published in paperback only. Not fair at all.

Also read Joan Bauer's Peeled. I usually love Bauer for her quirky characters and unusual plots, but this was just too much. A local house is thought to be haunted by the ghost of a man who may or may not have killed his wife and her paramour, and when the house is written up as one of the top ten spooky sites in the state, odd characters start arriving in town. One of these is arrested trying to break into the house, and another man is found dead. Hildy, a budding newspaper reporter, tries to find out what is behind all of the goings on. Hildy was rather a smarty pants, and the whole situation seemed overblown. It's tough enough getting students to check out Rules of the Road and Hope was Here. I think that in my library, this would not circulate well.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Oh. My. Gods.

Shades of Percy Jackson! Phoebe Castro's mother gets married to the headmaster of an exclusive private school located on a remote island in Greece and has to relocate there, only to find that the school is populated with the children of the ancient Greek gods. Phoebe has a hard time of it, since she isn't one and is therefore given a hard time by her snotty step sister and some of the other students. She keeps up with her cross country running in order to be able to get a college scholarship and escape all of the problems in Greece, but along the way makes a few friends and comes to terms with who she really is.

A worthy first attempt, but I wouldn't buy it on its strengths as a mythologically oriented book. A little too trite in that respect-- the descendants of Hades are Goths, for example. Too easy. Since my daughter runs cross country, I was looking forward to that part of it (and it's a major part), but the racing and training scenes were just slightly off-- I checked the author's web site, and it does turn out that she doesn't run.

I will sneak this one in as part of my romance book buy to keep my insatiable "pink" readers in books, since the romance/school/ general teen angst parts of the books were quite fun. The cover alone would sell this one in my library, and it will be a good choice for readers who aren't really interested in mythology, sort of like sneaking zucchini into brownies. There is a sequel coming out in spring of 2009.

http://www.teralynnchilds.com/index.htm

Streams of Babel by Carol Plum-Ucci

This book was quite the page turner, but it dropped the f-bomb all over the place, and without discretion. It wasn't a one time thing from a character in a horrible situation, it was used conversationally. As a parent who has grounded an 8th grader several times for using this word, I'm not about to have it in a middle school library. There was no need. It added nothing to the story. Sigh.

Told from alternating viewpoints, this book follows a suburban community where two mothers have died from a sudden and bloody flu that has also hit several teenagers. The other main characters are two boys, both computer hackers, who learn details of a conspiracy to sicken people in the US by contaminating the water supply. These alternating viewpoints are skillfully woven together, and the details of the investigation, virtual spying, and biological agents used in the poisoning are interesting. This book certainly gives one something to think about. When I biked past our local water tower this morning, I thought about how easy it would be for terrorists to poison it!

Timely and well-written mystery for high schools, or middle schools if you haven't been fighting with language issues, as I have!
 
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