Posts filed under ‘Noelle’s reviews’
Pub Date: Oct 2007
Fiction (Young Adult)
Anna Bloom is depressed, so depressed that her desire to attend school is lacking and residing in her own room happens more often. Additionally Anna considers herself to be heavyset and is thereby obsessed with her weight. In desperation Anna’s parents admit her to a mental hospital.
While hospitalized, Anna decides to write letters to her best friend documenting her daily progress. Although the letters are never mailed, Anna’s writings serve as the core narration of her daily happenings at the hospital. Initially she is confused, scared, and distrustful of the staff and hospital environment. But, with each passing day Anna starts to work through her depression and weight issues. In order to experience Anna’s overall development and to see whether she benefits from the hospital stay, please read her story!
Get Well Soon is fast read that will appeal to readers interested in a variety of fiction types: realistic fiction, humor, and “chick lit.” It is even short enough to appeal to reluctant readers too. If you enjoy this book, Halpern’s follow-up novel, Have a Nice Day, tracks Anna’s growth. Fans of Halpern’s novels should also check out Ned Vizzini’s book, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Both books feature teens admitted to mental hospitals and are written in a similar comical way. Although the two stories share comparable outcomes for each teen, they seem to complement rather than compete with one another.
Fiction (Young Adult)
The end of October is the perfect time to get into the spooky spirit, so I decided to indulge in Lies Knives and Girls in Dresses by Ron Koertge. This unique collection more than sufficed my appetite for fables–these are not your average retellings!
The tales have a bite (wickedness), a kick (creativity), and a punch (humor) that will turn anyone’s version of a fairy-tale world upside down. Add in some post-modern twists and seditious undertones and you may find yourself howling at the moon when you’re finished with this one. One of my favorites of the bunch is coyly entitled, “Red Riding Hood, Home at Last, Tells her Mother What Happened.” Told in the voice of a modern day teenager, Red Riding Hood explains to her mother that she wanted to know what being swallowed whole felt like. Of course by the book’s end you may also indulge in the “Wolf”s” side of the story as well. How delectable?! Other alternative versions of well-known fairy tales consist of a strung-out match girl selling CDs to stoners, Cinderella’s stepsisters become blinded and bloodied, and a fickle Thumbelina searching for a tiny husband, only to leave bodies in her wake.
Writing mostly in free verse, Koertge brings dark and contemporary wit to 23 iconic fairy tales. With much honesty and morality at stake, he creates a world in which we can consider whether or not happily-ever-after is truly that great. More so, the book is filled with delightful cut-paper illustrations by Andrea Dezso that capture the essence of Koertge’s imaginative stories. So, with Halloween approaching; we could all use a daring and bewitching nursery tale. Trick or Treat?
Fiction (Young Adult)
I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
Not only did the title, I Hunt Killers, lure me in, but it reminded me of another book, I Am Not A Serial Killer, which I have always wanted to read. Since they both dealt with the same subject matter, serial murderers, I read them both! I Hunt Killers is by Barry Lyga, a guy I must admit has written some of my favorite novels thus far. And I Am Not a Serial Killer is the debut novel from author Dan Wells.
First let us delve into the frightening mind of Jazz from Lyga’s I Hunt Killers. Jazz (Jasper) Dent is a teenager from Lobo’s Nod. There has been a mysterious killing in town and the body was left in a field with a finger missing. The police chief, G. William Tanner, solved a serial killer case not too long ago and put Cornelius “Billy” Dent, Jazz’s father, one of the most notorious serial killers ever, away for a long time. He is hesitant to believe this body in the field is the start of another serial case, but Jazz is not at all hesitate. As the entire town is expecting Jazz to turn out just like his father, Jazz instead sets out to prove he is the opposite and helps William solve the case.
The story is complicated further by the fact that Jazz was brought up by Billy as an apprentice, with the understanding that he too would become a killer. As a result, Jazz has a desensitization and emotional detachment about crime, death, killing, bodies, blood, and more. It makes him a creepy good guy, a little like the character of Dexter from Jeff Lindsay’s book series and the popular TV show. In fact, if you like Dexter I think you will fall in love with this projected trilogy.
This crime mystery stands alone or could be supplemented by a sequel. It is a satisfying crime novel with a teenage protagonist. I recommend to mystery-lovers and CSI-lovers everywhere. There is more to this, though, than just a good mystery. There is a young man trying to make sense of himself, his parentage, and his place in society. The combination of the two is unique.
I found Dan Wells’ I Am Not A Serial Killer disturbing both in its content and because it was hard to put down. This is a book that because of its subject matter makes one feel at least a little self-conscious or maybe even a little guilty reading, let alone liking.
The premise is simple. John Wayne Cleaver is a teenage boy and a sociopath. He is unable to empathize with people the way others do. Because of this, and his obsession with serial killers, he is convinced he is destined to become one himself. Therefore, he constructs a list of rules he lives by to keep himself from going in that direction.
Yet trouble starts when a brutal murder is committed. John, who is also the son of a mortician, immediately picks up on the clues that this is not just a random crime, but the beginning of a serial killing spree. As more murders occur and more information develops, he becomes convinced that he is the only one who can save the town, even though it will mean having to break his rules and risk turning into the killer he fears.
Both books are not for the squeamish. The plots are not “slasher fiction” per se so much as psychological horror. Yes, they both deal with two men murdering people in brutal fashion, but the real horror is watching the progression of both Billy and John as they lose control of their own inner monster.
Each author has done his homework and has created fascinating characters in Billy Dent and John Cleaver, both of whom are bright self-aware men with an inability to feel normal emotion. And they stick with it: no matter how uncomfortable, even painful, it can get being inside the killers’ heads.
These novels were draining at times because of the tension, suspense, and dark places in which they walk. However, they invite you to notice your own dark places. Each story was well-written and a piece of work you can learn from. I enjoyed the opportunity to study an alien mind from a safe distance. That is one of the points of literature in the first place: to let you share in experiences you would not normally have the opportunity to. In the end, it was entertaining and intriguing to learning how killers and sociopaths think.
Fiction (Young Adult)
With hopeful warmer weather months and outdoor rock concerts approaching, I was immediately intrigued by the content of this book. It is a story about two Brooklyn summers filled with fires, music, loss, and eventually love. This novel was not the type of story that could be labeled quickly or easily, but it turned out to be both charming and enigmatic.
Kid is a teenage runaway who spends most nights sleeping in the basement of a bar in Hipster Central, a.k.a. Greepoint, Brooklyn. It is unclear whether Kid is a boy or a girl, gay or straight, but one thing is for sure: Kid is no longer welcome at home. Instead, Kid finds a kindred spirit in Scout, a fellow runaway who shows up one morning at the bar ready to form a band.
As Kid and Scout’s friendship blossoms, Kid flashes back to Felix, a former love that lived in an abandoned warehouse which mysteriously burned down. Nursing a broken heart, Kid searches for healing through Scout, family, and finally revealing the truth about the warehouse fire.
This book is a fascinating look at life on the outskirts of society and it makes you feel like you’re really “there.” Brezenoff writes in a straight-up style with extremely believable dialogue and stabs of emotion. The development of Kid’s past through his flashbacks is both complex and identifiable. Based partially on the true events surrounding the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse fire of 2006, Brooklyn Burning is ultimately a lyrical love song.
Fiction (Young Adult)
Popular culture is crazy for fairy tales lately. As if television dramas “Once Upon a Time” (on ABC) and “Grimm,” (based upon Grimm’s fairy tales and airing on NBC) were not exuding enough fantastical imagery already, now Anne Ursu conjures up the novel Breadcrumbs.
At first glance one would guess that the book is based on the fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel.” However, this novel is actually based upon a lesser-known tale, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Either way, Ursu’s readers get a dose of mythical delight and an enchanting story for a wintry night.
At its heart, Breadcrumbs is a love story about a girl named Hazel who doesn’t fit in at school and a boy named Jack who is lured away by a snow-witch with a sleigh. Hazel and Jack are best friends. In fact Jack is Hazel’s only friend, until one day when something happens to Jack that makes him reject Hazel. Despite this, when Jack suddenly disappears, Hazel never hesitates in her pursuit to bring him home. The first half of the book takes place primarily in Jack and Hazel’s small town in Minnesota, while the latter part takes place in a magical forest, filled with drawbacks for unwary visitors. Throughout the novel, Ursu alludes to other fantasy novels, both new and old.
I think that any reader who has ever imagined saving the world or looked into a mirror or at a crown and thought “what if,” will be able to identify with Hazel. Jack, too, can be empathized with (though we learn more from him through flashbacks, since he’s missing for much of the book). Even Hazel’s relationship with her harried mother is relatable, because although Hazel’s mother does not understand her daughter’s behavior, every parent can attest to her attempts at nurturing.
Breadcrumbs is a book for anyone who likes to see what can be, rather than what is. It is a book for every reader who has seen a path going off into the woods and wondered if it might lead to a magical place. Breadcrumbs is a novel that can be read and understood by all, but fans of C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, or Lewis Carroll (or others) will get special enjoyment.
Fiction (Young Adult)
Karl Shoemaker is starting his senior year of high school in the small town of Lightsburg, Ohio. In many ways the town and its people are hurting. There seem to be more empty, boarded-up stores than open stores. Like other families in town, Karl’s family struggles with alcohol, drugs, relationships, and anger. Karl’s story is told over the course of six days in 1973.
Karl’s dad died of alcoholism a few years before Karl and his mom become alcoholic wrecks. His mother loves him, but she is Karl’s companion and provider when it comes to the alcohol. Finally, Karl decides to put down the bottle of booze and go to AA. I know the story sounds bleak, but in fact, the book shines with wisdom and in a way I see Karl as a teenage philosopher.
At school Karl along with the other kids with “screwed-up families” are required to attend therapy sessions. This small group of kids has nicknamed themselves the Madman Underground. Even though the members of the group provide Karl with his own alternative family, he just wants to be “normal”– which to him means out of therapy and out of Lightsburg.
While the story is tragic and sometimes borders on disturbing, the writing is sharp and funny. Karl’s story gives a great perspective on what it was like to grow up as a teenager in seventies. And while this story does take place in 1973 and life may have been different back then, after reading this book it seems as though most of life has stayed the same.
Although the book is a coming of age story, it is really about survival and determination and how the friendships we make with one another can help us overcome anything–alcohol and messed up families included. Karl and his buddies in the Madman Underground are truly struggling to survive. There are other Shoemakers out there and if they are lucky, they have their own madman underground.
Fiction (Young Adult)
Author Katie Maxwell had already roped young readers into thinking that vampires were enigmatic, yet charming, before the spawn of the current vampy trend of teen lit. And that a vampire novel does not necessarily need to be either gory or romantic; it can be mysterious, magical, and passionate. Katie Maxwell has written several other adult vampire books under the name Katie MacAllister, and in this young adult series she has done her job translating her adult Dark Ones theme to teens.
Francesca Ghetti quickly realizes how different her life is from the average teen. She finds herself traveling with her mother to a psychic faire full of witches, mediums, and magicians. And although the atmosphere provided by GothFaire is quickly deemed by Fran as abnormal and freakish, she soon realizes that she harnesses powers of her own. While her mother tries to encourage Fran to use her power in conjunction with the faire, Fran feels it is wrong to do so.
Enter the vampire Benedikt, who begins to worship Fran’s psychic abilities. As Fran tries to fend off her new acquaintance, she agrees to use her skills in solving the mystery of who has been robbing the faire of its money. Fran’s life becomes even more complex when she finds herself battling against magical demons. As the relationship between Fran and Benedikt develops, Maxwell gives the reader an entertaining story filled with magic, mystery, and evil spirits.
The second book in the series is Circus of the Darned. While Fran awaits Ben’s return to the fairgrounds, she is approached by a man named Tibolt who has asks her to guard his pendant, and she obliges. Fran soon encounters a huldra, or Viking warrior ghost, as she unknowingly runs through their sacred burial grounds. During Fran’s attempt to send the Vikings home, all manners of gods and goddesses come into play, including one that is obsessed with Fran’s horse, Telsa. Although the vampire relationship is not developed further in this plot, Maxwell has a knack at introducing us to more fabulous legends and fantastical creatures.
The third installment of the series, In the Company of Vampires, was published in 2010, and Maxwell has published it under her adult pseudonym. While the subject matter is a bit more sensual in nature, Maxwell does not lose her bearing on the oddities that the faire offers or the enchanting encounters of Fran’s life. Throughout the storyline, Maxwell tends to a humorous writing style that is full of paranormal and mythical delight.