Thursday, January 4, 2018

FUNNY GIRL, edited by Betsy Bird

The story: Actually, it's a bunch of stories--funny stories about being a modern girl. If you're a fan of humor that comes in small doses, this is the book for you!

June Cleaver's ratings: Language G; Violence G; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse G; Magic & the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (getting your period, underwear, feminism) PG; overall rating G.

Liz's comments: Pretty sure MS girls will find these stories funnier than I did. ;) My favorite was "Over and Out" by Lisa Graff, detailing the misadventures of a pink bra. Strictly for girls!

ROSEMARKED, by Livia Blackburne

The story: Zivah is rose marked by a disease that will kill her. Dineas is scarred by torture and loss. Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; Violence PG-13; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG-13; Magic & the occult G; GLBt content G; adult themes (torture, implied genocide, scenes of battle violence) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: Told in alternating viewpoints, this is a fast-moving fantasy that will especially appeal to girls. A complicated story, best for 8th and up.

WHAT TO SAY NEXT, by Julie Buxbaum

The story: David and Kit have known each other in passing all their lives. It takes the death of Kit's father in a car accident to bring them together at an isolated lunch table in their high school cafeteria. David ("somewhere on the spectrum") and Kit strike up an unlikely friendship that goes in directions neither of them ever expected. But when David accidentally reveals Kit's biggest secret, can the damage ever be undone?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG-13 (the "s" word appears about every other page); Violence PG-13 (a bullying beat-down); Sexual content PG-13 (significant making out); Nudity G; Substance abuse R; GLBT content G; Adult themes (bullying, underage drinking, grief and guilt) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: I liked this one a lot. I feel like handing it to the mothers of several boys I know with Asperger's syndrome who wonder whether their sons will ever be able to get a date. It's always interesting to find a well-written book offering a glimpse into the alternative way the mind of a person with autism works. Hand this one to readers who liked Sophie Kinsella's "Finding Audrey." Best for 8th grade and up.

JANE, UNLIMITED, by Kristin Cashore

The story: Four alternative endings are offered for Jane's trip to Tu Reviens, a mansion on a storm-swept island off the coast of New England. There could be smugglers, pirates, FBI agents, art forgeries, or space pirates or a fantasy world awaiting, depending on which person Jane follows at the critical moment. Or there could be...none of the above. How to choose?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language R; Violence PG; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance Abuse PG; Magic & the occult PG; GLBT content PG; adult themes PG; overall rating PG-13 (although really, it's too confusing for MS readers).

Liz's comments: I was really a fan of Cashore's "Graceling" and "Fire" ("Bitterblue" not so much) and so was really looking forward to this one, which seemed like your standard "poor girl stumbles on a mystery at her rich friend's gala house party" until page 269, when the first set of questions have all been answered and the alternative dimension kicks in. Even though I knew it was coming, I found it disorienting--like a completely different book. Then the next section continued on in a totally different direction. Some people would find that challenging and cool (hence the starred reviews in some places) but I found it disjointed and strange, and would have liked the book better if it had just ended at page 269.


The story: Lee Jaewon spends his life one step ahead of the gangs who want to own him, the government that wants to make him their man, and the bill collectors who won't stop at a little torture. He has little to lose--but he finds that perhaps, there's something worth gaining. When he secures an internship that throws him together with Tera, a young woman formed and raised as a weapon of war, Jaewon can't help falling for her. Even if it will never work. Even if it could bring down the country. Even if they could both end up dead.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG-13; Violence R; Sexual content PG; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG-13; Magic and the occult G; GLBT content G; adult themes (parental abandonment, betrayal, political intrigue) PG; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: A futurist story starring genetically-enhanced warriors operating Transformer-like war machines. Any reader of Dan Wells' or Brandon Sanderson's YA sci-fi books will also like this one.

ASH AND QUILL, by Rachel Caine

The story: Jess Brightwell and his fellow team members from the Great Library are trapped in Philadelphia--a near-ghetto run by the Burners, who hate the Library and everything it stands for, and who would think nothing of killing them all unless they can offer a suitable bribe. When that bribe is found, it's out of the frying pan and into the fire as the group makes a getaway, only to fall into the clutches of Callum Brightwell. Callum might be Jess's father, but he'd never let family ties stand in the way of making a killer business deal...accent on killer.

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG-13; Violence R; Sexual content PG-13 (fade-to-black sex that younger kids probably won't notice, if they ever even get as far as book 3); Nudity PG; Substance abuse PG-13; GLBT content PG-13; adult themes (political intrigue, family scheming, betrayal, difficult concepts) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: Another series I've been waiting a long time to read in order...imagine my chagrin when I realized, about 1/3 of the way through, that there's no way the author was going to be able to wrap things up by the end of book 3. Truthfully, this series is probably better for 9th-up, due to its denser prose and its challenging concepts, but for the 8th grade GT kids in any middle school who are looking for the next thing after Harry Potter--here you go.

THE EMPTY GRAVE, by Jonathan Stroud

The story: All the villains have assembled, most notably Penelope Fittes and Sir Rupert Gale. Also assembled: the ghosts--and who would ever have guessed that the villains were the SOURCE of the ghosts? Lockwood & Co. are ready to use their hard-won experience to take on all the bad guys and, as they do, deal with The Problem once and for all. Can four teens take on the most experienced agent in the world and come out on top?

June Cleaver's ratings: Language PG; VIolence PG-13; Sexual content G; Nudity G; Substance abuse PG; Magic & the occult PG-13; GLBT content G; adult themes (demons and those who deal with them) PG-13; overall rating PG-13.

Liz's comments: I've been waiting for several years to be able to read the entire series of 5 Lockwood & Co books, and I'm happy to say it was worth the wait. Such a fan of Jonathan Stroud! Recommend this to any good MS reader who's willing to do a little alternative thinking, and who likes a well-plotted story with plenty of creepy action. And when they're done with this series, send them over to the Bartimaeus books. Cuz why stop here?