Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review: Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Title: Bumped
Author: Megan McCafferty
Genre: Teen Fiction, Dystopian Fiction,
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
ISBN-13 Book: 9780061962745
Source: Downloaded galley from NetGalley.  This is my honest review!

BumpedBumped by Megan McCafferty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Melody and Harmony are twins who were separated at birth. Melody was raised in a more traditional environment, while Harmony was raised in a secluded religious community. In their world people are only able to procreate in their teens. Once they reach adulthood, they are sterile. In Harmony's community, they marry early, usually around age 13, so they can have children. In the outside world where Melody is from, people pay teens to deliver and then give up their babies so that many couples can have children. When Harmony leaves her strictly religious community to seek her twin, neither girl is prepared for the changes their lives are about to undergo. Both will face choices that may change their lives forever.

This was an intriguing novel. Both Melody and Harmony are strong characters, but they are strong in different ways. Harmony breaks with tradition to travel from Goodside to meet her sister. She hopes she can talk her sister into abandoning the path she is on and bring her home with her to Goodside. Melody is determined. She knows what she wants, and she has worked hard to get it. She is hoping that her contract as a Repro will be profitable when she delivers her first child. To do that she has made herself everything a Repro should be; strong, smart, talented, and attractive.

I admit it took me a while to write this review because I just didn't know what to say. It gave me a lot to think about and looks at some interesting aspects of our own culture. There is such a dominance of the media in every aspect of the novel. Teens are encouraged to become pregnant so that adults can adopt their babies. There are stores marketing to pregnant teens, and media that tells teens that it is their civic duty.

This story is interesting and leaves the reader with a lot to think about. The influence of media and how the media can target teens, and even how teens can be exploited by the media are reflected in this novel.  Ultimately in the end this was a novel about choice, and these two girls learning that they have to make choices and that their are times they need to follow their own paths. This might be a better choice for older teens because of mature subject matter.

Lots of slang specifically designed for the book is used and at the beginning it can be difficult to follow, but after a couple of chapters you get the hang of it. 

Very interesting!

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Friday, March 25, 2011

My Bias Against Series Fiction and a Surprising Book Review: The Edge by Rudy Josephs

Okay, I am about to admit to you that I am a geek.  Yes, I am a Star Trek fan more commonly known as a Trekkie.  I have seen all of the movies, and most of the televisions series.  I even own two of the series complete on DVD.  Yes, I realize that this may be a sad admission.

I will also admit to reading the Next Generation series fiction when I was in high school.  I read about the first ten books in the series then gave it up as the stories became a bit to repetative for me.  After a while it seemed like I was reading the same story over and over.  I will admit it took me fewer Star Trek books to realize this than it did for me to realize this with Nancy Drew, but then again I was a more experienced reader by the time I started reading Star Trek.

The thing of it is, over time I have become very jaded about these long series fiction titles.  I usually avoid them (like the plague) because I felt they were all the same.  My husband still reads them, and seems to enjoy them.  I guess in a way they are a form of brain candy.  Yet, they are not something I usually read.  I also have to admit that I loathe adding them to my library's collection.  I do buy them for the library, but these long series that are just carbon copies of each other take up tons of valuable shelf space.  Shelf space I could be using for more original novels--I admit I have gotten a bit snobbish about them in recent years. 

This jaded attitude towards these never ending series (Star Trek, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Sweet Valley High, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, etc...) has been with me for a while, but I know there are people out there who still love these series books.  They come into my library wanting more of them while I found myself looking with hope towards the day when our vendor would send us the notice that the series has been cancelled.  (I know very unlibrarian of me.)

So can you imagine my surprise when I picked up a new Starfleet Academy book, and discovered that I really liked it.  I originally started reading it because I had heard that this series was being aimed at teens.  In the past most of the Star Trek books were aimed either at adults or towards children with their Middle Reader series.  I could easily avoid them because they weren't aimed at the audience I collect books for in my library.  This time however, the target audience was teens, and before I started making space for a new "endless" series, I wanted to make sure it was going to be worth it.

I loved The Edge.  I know it isn't going to be an award winner or get any other accolades, but I just wanted to say that I really liked the story.  It also reminded me of something--why I started reading endless series fiction back in the day.  People read these books because the characters are familiar.  It is like sitting down and spending time with old friends.  You don't have to learn new rules, get to know a new character, or understand a new setting. You just sit back and enjoy.  Something I needed to be reminded of before I dismiss those series entirely.

Title: The Edge (A Starfleet Academy Novel)
Author: Rudy Josephs
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Science Fiction
Publication  Date: December 28, 2010
Publisher: Simon Spotlight
ISBN-13  Book: 9781442414242
Source: Ebook purchased from Barnes and Noble for my Nook.

The  Edge (Star Trek: Starfleet Academy)The  Edge by Rudy Josephs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book really surprised me.  I gave up reading Star Trek series fiction when I was in high school after I realized that one book was just like the next.  I was really hesitant when I picked this up thinking that this book would be one more of the same type of series.  While it does have the feel of series fiction, the characters and the story were original and fun.  Basically, this one is a fun read for the Trekkies out there looking for something new. 

On a side note, this particular series is being marketed to teens.  It is definitely suitable for teens, but I think that marketing may limit its interest because I really feel that adults will enjoy reuniting with these favorite characters too. 

Overall a fun book.

Cautions for sensitive readers:  The books is about performance enhancing medicine and there are a couple of deaths, but nothing graphic.  A pretty clean read.

View all my reviews


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Post: Christine Hurley Deriso Author of Then I Met My Sister [Teen Book Scene Tours]

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Christine Hurley Deriso author of the book Then I Met My Sister which comes out April 8, 2011 from Flux.  Christine will be telling us why she writes for teens!

Then I Met My Sister

Why I Write for Teens:

The teenage years have always been challenging, but life for today's teens seems almost unbearably stressful. I know it's important to plan for the future, but our society seems to give teens no room at all to live for the moment, to appreciate the present as a gift in its own right rather than as a stepping stone to the future. It's stripped a lot of spontaneity and joy from teens' lives, and I think that's tragic. I also think it explains a lot of the depression, anxiety and other stress-related symptoms so many kids exhibit. I want teens to trust their wisdom, their bravery, their insight and their instincts. I want them to explore what they want from life, rather than what others are thrusting on them. But mostly I want them to have a sense of humor ... to be able to step back and laugh at the absurdities of life and know that this, too, shall pass. I want them to recognize the universality in the human condition and to have compassion for everyone they encounter. I want them to be joyful. I want them to lose themselves in a good book, and to learn about themselves in the process. That's why I write for teens.

Thank you Christine for joining us today.  Be sure to look for Then I Met My Sister in stores April 8th!  In the meantime, check out this great trailer!

Summary from Goodreads.com

Shannon has been the backdrop of my life since the moment I was born.

Summer Stetson lives inside a shrine to her dead sister. Eclipsed by Shannon's greatness, Summer feels like she's a constant disappointment to her controlling, Type A momzilla and her all-too-quiet dad. Her best friend Gibson believes Summer's C average has more to do with rebelliousness than smarts, but she knows she can never measure up;academically or otherwise.

On her birthday, Summer receives a secret gift from her aunt; Shannon's diary. Suddenly, the one-dimensional vision of her sister becomes all too solid. Is this love-struck, mom-bashing badass the same Shannon everyone raves about? Determined to understand her troubled sister, Summer dives headfirst down a dark rabbit hole and unearths painful family secrets. Each revelation brings Summer closer to the mysterious and liberating truth about her family,and herself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's Talk: Sex and Female Exploitation in Recent YA Dystopian Novels

I usually publish my thoughts in my Thursday Thoughts feature, but this one couldn't wait until this Thursday.  This is something I have been thinking about for a while, and something I need to say.  I would really like to hear what you all think about this topic, and if you think it is something we should be concerned about as readers and buyers of YA literature for teens.  

Lately I have noticed an increase in sexuality and sex in YA novels.  Now I know this isn't exactly a new trend, but the way sex is being used in these novels is definitely attention grabbing.  Three recent novels are ones that have really gotten me to think about sex in teen dystopian novels thematically.

In Julia Karr's XVI at the age of sixteen girls are legally able to have sex.  In some cases this makes them the unwilling victims of predators who are often excused for the act because the girl "was asking for it" or because she was a "sexteen" participating in typical "sexteen" behavior.

 Wither (Chemical Garden, #1)
In Wither by Lauren DeStafano, genetic engineering has resulted in shortened life expectancy for humans.  Males only live to the age of 25 while females only live to the age of 20.  This has resulted in girls being kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages or even the sex trade.

In Megan McCafferty's book Bumped we see a world where adults over the age of 20 are sterile, and rely on teenage girls to procreate for the species.  In this novel, bumping, or becoming pregnant has become a seriously commercialized business, where teens have babies to make money.
First, let me start off by saying that I am in no way saying I didn't enjoy these three books.  In fact, I found the books intriguing and ones that I couldn't put down until I reached the very last page.  I wanted to know the fate of the female protagonists, and I ended up enjoying these thought provoking books.  I do, however, want to discuss this trend of sexuality and objectification of women in these novels.  I think it is important to look at these trends and talk about how we feel about them. 

One thing interesting to note about the three titles above is that they are all types of dystopian fiction.  In XVI we have a world strictly controlled by a government that doesn't care for the people and smothers free speech.  In Wither not much is told about the government, but the fact that girls can be kidnapped, killed, or married off to anyone and no one seems to care tells the reader a lot.  In Bumped pregnancy is a commercial business and teen girls are encouraged to have children for the good of their nation.

I have read all three of these books and I did find them to be intriguing concepts.  They are books that stick with you and tend to make you more than a little uncomfortable.  What is interesting in all these novels, is that while your protagonists are strong females, they are living in worlds that exploit teen girls and in some cases they may be seduced by the commercialized exploitation, and in others they choose to fight.

In XVI, Karr's protagonist Nina dreads her sixteenth birthday.  She has no desire to be a sex teen and doesn't look forward to the unwelcome attention being sixteen will give her.  Her only desires are to protect her younger sister and to stay out of the government run FELS program which in essence is an escort service.

In Wither, we first meet Rhine our protagonist after she has been kidnapped and put in a truck as cargo.  She knows the Gatherers have been trying to kidnap girls and make them into either wives or prostitutes to the wealthy.  The really unlucky ones end up dead on the roadsides.  When she is chosen to be one of Linden's three wives, she longs to escape her gilded cage and find the brother she was taken from.  Though she begins to like Linden she uses all of her strength and smarts to try to escape.

One of the most interesting examples of this phenomenon is Megan McCafferty's Bumped.  In Bumped we actually have two protagonists Melody and her twin sister Harmony.  Melody and Harmony were separated at birth.  Melody was raised in a more traditional environment, while Harmony was raised in a secluded religious community (think Amish like).  In their world people are only able to procreate in their teens.  Once they reach adulthood, they are sterile.  In Harmony's community, they marry early, usually around age 13, so they can have children.  In the outside world where Melody is from, people pay teens to deliver and then give up their babies so that many couples can have children.  Both Melody and Harmony, are exploited in different ways.  Harmony is forced to marry some one she doesn't love so she can bear children.  Melody is selling herself and her eggs to the highest bidder so that she can make money from her future pregnancy.  Both of these girls are strong willed and realize that the futures before them may not be what they really want, but in a world so strict for Harmony, and a world so commercialized for Melody, when does a girl really have a say.

All three of these novels deal with women as sex objects or women or girls being exploited.  My question is where is this theme coming from.  Is this a result of media focusing on women and sex, or is there something else.  To be honest, I don't know.  I have enjoyed reading these books, but on another level have been seriously disturbed by them.  I fear for women in these societies, because they have no rights, and no say over their own bodies. 

For those of you that have read these books, or have noticed this trend, what do you think of it?  Why are we suddenly seeing a rise in the sexual exploitation of girls in these novels?  Any thoughts?  Any other novels you have noticed this in?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Wither
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Genre: Teen Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, Post Apocalyptic Fiction
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
ISBN-13 Book: 9781442409057
Source: ARC received from library vendor.  This is my honest review!

Wither (Chemical Garden, #1)Wither by Lauren DeStefano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genetic engineering has backfired and left the population to die off at 25 for males and 20 for females. This has left the dying population desperate, and girls are captured at a young age to become part of polygamous marriages in order to keep the species alive. When Rhine is kidnapped by the Gatherers her only thoughts are of escaping and returning to her twin brother, but with so many obstacles, and a dangerous new father-in-law does she dare to try to escape from her new marriage?

I was surprised by how quickly this novel pulled me in. DeStefano does an excellent job with her pacing. Hooking you at the very beginning and propelling you swiftly through the novel. I finished it in a day, and for me that is rare. I just couldn't put it down.

Rhine is an intriguing and strong character. When their parents died, Rhine and her brother had to depend on each other in this unpredictable and dangerous world. All Rhine wants is to return to her home and her brother.

I also found Linden, Rhine's husband to be an interesting character. It is clear that he truly cares for Rhine, but I wonder how he can be so oblivious to what is really going on around him. It seems like he has blinders on and doesn't really want to see the world as it is.

Overall this was an intriguing and well written dystopian/post apocalyptic tale. DeStafano is an author to watch, because she knows how to weave an exciting, and interesting tale. I definitely want to know what happens next.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 7, 2011

Happy Book Birthday to Vespertine and Your Chance to Win a SIGNED Copy!

Today I would like to wish a Happy Book Birthday to Saundra Mitchell's Vespertine. This book is wonderful, you don't want to miss it! Check out my review.
 The Vespertine (The Vespertine, #1)

To celebrate I am giving away a SIGNED copy of Vespertine to one lucky winner!

Here are the rules and ways to earn  an extra entry:

  • Must be a follower to enter this contest. 
  • Must be 13 years of age or older.
  • Must click link to fill out the form below.  Comments will not count as entries. 
  • Winner will be chosen by Random.org
  • Contest ends March 21, 2010 at 11:59 EST.
  • Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. 
  • EXTRA ENTRY: Share this contest +1 (Share on Twitter, FB, Blog, etc...  URLs must be included if asked or you will not get credit for the extra entries.  I will check.)
  • Not responsible for items lost during shipping.  I do purchase delivery confirmation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

Title: The Vespertine
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Genre: Teen Fiction, Paranormal Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: March 7, 2011
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
ISBN-13 Book: 9780547482477
Source: Read ARC through NetGalley.  This is my honest review!

The Vespertine (The Vespertine, #1)The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the Summer of 1889 Amelia van den Broek leaves her country home in Maine to spend a season with her cousins the Stewarts in Baltimore.  There she will attend dinners, go calling, and even attend balls where she hopes to find a suitable husband.  But as the sun sets Amelia finds more than she ever hoped for, for in the vespers she sees the future.  At first intrigued and excited by this new power, Amelia is an immediate sensation, but as her darkest predictions begin to come true those she loves and trusts begin to turn on her.  In a world where the slightest misstep can lead to ruin, Amelia walks a fine line between the other world and a suitor that is most unacceptable.

I couldn't put this one down.  Saundra Mitchell pulls you into the late 1800s with sounds, settings, and tea services.  The novel felt so authentic that I felt like I was right there gossiping with the girls in their tight corsets at teas, dinners, and balls.  She leaves you on the edge of your seat as the girl flaunt and tease with propriety knowing that if they were caught it would be ruin. 

The characters in this novel are exceptionally well developed.  Amelia who doesn't understand her powers is at once both excited by and afraid of them.  The visions at first positive have a dark side that frightens her.  When she meets Nathaniel, he excites her in ways she has never known before, unfortunately he is below her station and not an acceptable match for a well bred girl like her.  Zora is a city girl who loves Thomas Rea who just happens to be at the very edge of what is considered a suitable match.  Other characters come and go, and all hold your interest.

What I loved about this book was its authenticity.  It felt like I was stepping back in time.  It pulled me in and kept me reading.  I had to know what happened next--every little detail.  In a word, it was magic.

What I wish for this book: MORE!!!  I loved this book so much I was so sad that I had finished it so quickly.  I wanted more, I wanted to see what would happen next.  Perhaps that wish will be fulfilled in spring 2012 when The Springweet is due to be released.  According to the website it is a companion novel to The Vespertine--I do hope to see some familiar faces in this companion novel!   

Overall, a great historical fiction novel with a touch of the paranormal.  A book too good to miss!

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Book Review: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Title: Eon Dragoneye Reborn
Author: Alison Goodman
Genre: Teen Fantasy, Teen Fiction
Publication Date:  December 26, 2008
Publisher Book: Viking
Publisher Audio: Brilliance Audio
ISBN-13 Book: 9780670062270
ISBN-13 CD: 9781423379553
Source: Checked out Audio book from my public library and purchased a paperback copy of the book for my collection.  This is my honest review.

Eon: Dragoneye RebornEon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eon has trained for years as a Dragoneye candidate hoping he will be chosen by the Rat Dragon. Despite being a cripple, Eon has done his best to serve his master and make himself worthy of the Rat Dragon. On the day of choosing however, Eon is chosen not by the Rat Dragon, but by the mysterious Mirror Dragon, and is then plunged into battle for the throne. Everything rides in the balance and Eon hasn't fully bonded with his dragon, because he holds a terrible secret. A secret that can get himself and everyone he loves killed. You see, Eon is a masquerade. Eon is really Eona, a girl.

This book was action packed with a likable heroine that you just wanted to cheer for, or sometimes throw things at. Eona did her best to keep her secret hidden, and does everything she can to keep up the pretense that she is a boy. Her choices were believable and so were her friendships. I really like characters who you can follow and understand throughout the novel and Eona was one of those characters. If she was discovered the penalty would be a horrible and painful death. Yet when she achieves her position, she finds her self in embroiled in a fight for the very throne.

The details of this novel were exquisite. Goodman creates a world so real and so gritty that you feel like you are really there living among its people and hoping to survive the dangerous politics of the Imperial Court.

The audiobook is read by Nancy Wu who does an excellent job narrating Eona's story and making you feel that you are right there in the moment. You can hear the anxiety in her voice when Eona makes dangerous and sometimes hasty decisions.

Overall, this was a fantastic addition to the fantasy genre. Eona is a girl who doesn't quite understand the worth a girl can have because her society doesn't accept the power of women. But Eona is a powerful character and a smart one too. I look forward to the sequel, Eona which is due out April 19, 2011.

A great read if you enjoy strong female characters in fantasy.

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Review: Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger [Teen Book Scene Tours]

Title: Jazz in Love
Author: Neesha Meminger
Genre: Teen Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Publication Date: January 10, 2011
Publisher: Ignite Books
ISBN-13 Book: 9780983158301
Source: Purchased copy from Barnes and Noble.  This is my honest review!

Jazz in LoveJazz in Love by Neesha Meminger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jazz has a problem.  Her parents.  Sure they love her, and she knows that they are good parents, but ever since a neighbor reported seeing Jazz hugging a boy (a guy whom she has been friends with since kindergarten) they have gone out of their way to make things complicated for her.  Now her mother wants her to participate in what she calls "Guided dating" where together they choose a proper Indian boy for Jazz to begin to date.  Jazz wants to be able to choose her own boyfriend, starting with the yummy Tyler R. who would definitely not fall into her parents "suitable boy" category.  Jazz just wants the right to choose, but how do you compete with years of family and cultural tradition to find real love?

This novel was brilliant!  I loved the main character Jazz and her feisty nature.  It was a roller coaster ride of emotions and expectations as you progress through the novel.  Jazz is an extremely likable and well drawn teenager.  She is a smart and reliable girl, and makes mistakes even smart girls sometimes make.  She wants real love and doesn't think she will find it in her parents "Guided Dating" plan.  So what's a smart girl to do when her parents won't let her date the boy she dreams of?  Sneak around of course.

This novel was a crash course in what not to do on the path of love.  I love that Jazz makes realistic decisions and mistakes.  She wants the best for herself and those around her, even though at times she doesn't really know what is best.

Realistically drawn characters, wonderful friendships, and teenage mistakes, all bundled up in a novel that will tug at your heartstrings as you cheer at Jazz's ups and cry for her failures.  You won't want to put this novel down! 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Just HAD To Buy...But Are Still Sitting On My Bookshelf

 (Button created by Lindsi from Books, Sweets And Other Treats )

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Stop by and join the fun!

 Top Ten Books I Just HAD To Buy...But Are Still Sitting On My Bookshelf 

1.  Across the Universe  by Beth Revis.  I had to have this book as soon as it came out, yet since I bought it I have had so many other commitments that I haven't gotten the chance to read it.

 Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)
2.  Shipbreaker  by Paolo Bacigalupi.  Everytime I pick this one up to read it something seems to happen to keep me from reading it.
Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)

3.  The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima.  I loved the first book in this series, The Demon King and I am dying to find out what happens next.  Problem is, just can't seem to get around to reading this book.
The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms, #2)

4.  The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong.  I have been curious about this book for a long time.  The teens at my library seem to love it, but I haven't had the chance to read it yet.
The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1)

5.  Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.  This one is probably going to get me a lot of boos and hisses, but I haven't read this book yet.  Everyone tells me how wonderful this series is, but for some reason I can't fathom I don't have the motivation to start it.  So the book continues to sit on my shelf and collect dust.
Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, #1)

6.  Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  I actually did start this one and am about 50 pages in.  Problem is...that was months ago.  It isn't that I am not enjoying the book--I loved what I have read so far, but like so many of the others, other things have come up and I just haven't gotten back to it.
Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)

7.  Brightly Woven  by Alexandra Braken.  I have been wanting to read this book for a long time.  I keep hearing how great it is and I don't want to miss it, but yet it still collects dust on my shelf.
Brightly Woven
8.  Firelight  by Sophie Jordan.  This is a more recent addition to my shelf, but I can see it getting buried there like these others.  It really sounds intriguing and seems like a book I would love to read--just haven't gotten there yet.
Firelight (Firelight, #1)

9.  Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley.  One of my coworkers read this book and loved it.  What was so surprising though, is that this particular coworker isn't a fan of teen fiction, so when she put it out as one of her favorite reads of the year, I had to buy it.  Buy it I did, and now it sits, sadly on my shelf of unread books.
 Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe)

10.  Deception by Lee Nichols.  This book looked good and interesting--just haven't brought myself around to reading it yet.  One more book collecting dust.
 Deception (Haunting Emma, #1)

So those are my guilty admissions!  How about yours?  What books have you had sitting around on shelves that you haven't read yet?  
If you could pick one of my ten books to make me read what would it be?


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