Thursday, December 27, 2012

REVIEW: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Literary Mystery, Southern Fiction
Audience: Adult

Summary: Caren Gray is a strong, educated African American woman and a single mother. She has mixed feelings about managing Belle Vie, the sprawling plantation where she grew up and where her ancestors were once slaves. Despite the unease that the former slave cabins instill in her, she feels tied to the place. But when an immigrant sugar cane worker is found dead on the edge of Belle Vie and Caren decides to launch her own investigation, all of her latent misgivings are stirred up again. And even as centuries-old secrets from the past rise up from the past, in the present Caren begins to fear that her nine-year-old daughter may know more about the murder than she's telling.

First Line: It was during the Thompson-Delacroix wedding, Caren's first week on the job, that a cottonmouth, measuring the length of a Cadillac, fell some twenty feet from a live oak on the front lawn, landing like a coil of rope in the lap of the bride's future mother-in-law.

Tracy's Thoughts:
A nuanced mystery with gothic undertones, Attica Locke's second novel (after Black Water Rising) is far more than a typical whodunit. The atmospheric Southern setting and eerie history of slavery permeate the plot, adding depth and weight to the story. Issues of race, class, and history are key, but these themes are seamlessly and subtly integrated into the plot rather than a carelessly tacked on "moral."

Attica Locke's writing is stellar, descriptive and even poetic at times: "[B]eneath its its loamy topsoil, the manicured grounds and gardens, two centuries of breathtaking wealth and spectacle, lay a land both black and bitter, soft to the touch, but pressing in its power." However, I did not find the characters quite as captivating as the setting. I had a bit of a struggle warming up to Caren, who is a bit of a mystery herself. I appreciated that she is a strong but flawed woman, and I was pulling for her 100%, and yet, for me, she remains distant throughout the novel.

But despite my quibbles (and, if you haven't noticed by now, I almost always have quibbles), I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The linkage of past and present, along with the blending of history, social issues, and various relationship issues make for a complex and satisfying read.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

REVIEW: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Post-apocalyptic/Science Fiction
Audience: Young Adult/Adult

Summary: Set in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone upon reaching their fifteenth birthday undergoes extensive plastic surgery to become "pretty" and anyone who does not undergo the transformation is an "ugly".  Tally must ultimately decide for herself what she values the most; meeting her society's expectations or being true to herself. 

Lucinda's Views: With its original setting and original premise, this book is an enjoyable, memorable read. Tally's battle within herself and the expectations of her society beg the question to the reader, "is it better to conform and be accepted by society or to be true to oneself?"  Tally's struggle also mirrors that struggle that all go through in order to come to self-knowledge.   Well-written and wholly original, this book is worth read!  I would also like to recommend the remainder of the series, Pretties, Specials, and Extras.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

BCPL's Ultimate Teen Booklist, Part 5 (Q–Z)

Have you been wondering what happened to our Ultimate Teen Booklist? Well, now we're ready to wrap it up—for this year anyway!

102. The Queen’s Thief (series) by Megan Whalen Turner (1996–2010)
Gen is a thief—a very, very cocky one. He boasts he can steal anything, and after his boasting gets him caught with the just-stolen seal of the King of Sounis, the king’s advisor decides to take advantage of Gen’s skills. So Gen is released from prison and sent on a mission to steal an object that will cement the King’s power. And thus begins an adventure story that is much more complex that it first seems. For Gen is also a very, very clever thief. As Gen grows older and the novels’ plots become more sophisticated, the series becomes even more compelling. Set in a world that is much like ancient Greece—only not quite—these books are full of political intrigue, unexpected shocks, and hidden clues that come together perfectly in the end. Middle School/High School.
Titles include:    
1. The Thief    
2. The Queen of Attolia    
3. The King of Attolia    
4. A Conspiracy of Kings
103. Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illus. by Nathan Hale (2008)
In this boldly illustrated reimagining of the classic fairy tale, the adventure is just beginning with Rapunzel’s escape from the tower. Instead of a languishing princess awaiting rescue, 'Punzie is a self-sufficient, tomboyish cowgirl determined to right the wrongs of the evil Mother Gothel and rescue the downtrodden. Along the way, she teams up with a charming huckster named Jack (and his Goose Goldy). Middle School/High School.

104. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (1938)
Young and naive, the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter arrives at her new husband's sweeping Cornish estate in a state of awe. There she finds that her life is overshadowed by the beautiful Rebecca, Maxim's first wife, dead but still a source of mystery. High School.

105. Rocket Boys/October Sky by Homer Hickman (1998)
It was 1957, and the small mining town of Coalwood, West Virginia, was slowly dying. Faced with a dead-end future, teenaged Homer Hickam dreamed of sending rockets into space. In pursuit of his unlikely dream, he joined forces with a  group of misfits, and they learned to build sophisticated, working rockets from scraps of metal. This is a well-loved memoir full of hope and inspiration; originally titled Rocket Boys, the book was later rereleased as October Sky after the success of the film of the same name. Middle School/High School.

106. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (series) by Ann Brashares (2001–2011)
After finding a pair of jeans that are a perfect fit for all of them, four childhood best friends form the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Across the series, these teenage girls grow up, dealing with complicated romantic and family issues, but through it all they have each other and the “magic” jeans that help them reconnect each summer. The later books in the series—especially the final title, which was published as Adult Fiction and revisits the quartet in their late twenties—may be best for more mature readers. Middle School (mature)/High School. 
Titles include:
1. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
2. The Second Summer of the Sisterhood
3. Girls in Pants
4. Forever in Blue
5. Sisterhood Everlasting
107.  Skip Beat (manga series) by Yoshiki Nakamura (2006–Ongoing)
After discovering that her rock idol boyfriend is using her as a maid, Kyoko  undergoes a makeover and adjusts her attitude before joining showbiz and seeking revenge against Sho. Using the manga style drawings, Kyoko's looks and features change depending on her mood and the inner demons she is trying to keep under control. To date, there are 29 volumes in the series. Middle School/High School.

108.  Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron (2007)
Eighteen-year-old James Sveckis is an extremely intelligent, lonely, and confused Manhattanite who is searching for direction. He’s been accepted to Brown but dreams of bypassing college and settling alone in a sleepy Midwestern town. He might be gay, but prefers not to discuss it. This novel focuses more strongly on character than plot as James psychoanalyzes himself and his disconnect with the world around him. High School (mature).

109. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962)
Fantasy meets horror in this modern classic about a nightmarish traveling carnival and the two teens who notice something is very, very wrong with the carnival and its effect on the people of their hometown. This novel is tangentially related to Bradbury’s earlier work, Dandelion Wine; together, along with the Dandelion Wine sequel Farewell Summer, the books make up the Green Town Trilogy.  Middle School/High School.

110. Song of the Lioness (series) by Tamora Pierce (1983–1988)
Eleven-year-old Alanna of Trebond was suppose to go to a convent to learn to be a lady. Instead, she disguises herself as a boy and travels to court to pursue her dream of becoming a knight. Across the span of the series, Alanna encounters friends, foes, and numerous misadventures as she learns to embrace her magic and to use it wisely. Middle School/High School. 
Titles include: 
1. Alanna: The First Adventure
2. In the Hand of the Goddess
3. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
4. Lioness Rampant

112. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1998)
Melinda became a pariah last summer when she called the cops and busted up the end-of-the-year party. High school should be the best time of her life, but instead every day of Freshman year is a struggle as she finds herself rejected by her former friends and alienated from her parents. Now Melinda’s barely speaking at all. But inside, beneath the silence, Melinda is witty, ironic—and hurting terribly over what really happened that night. High School.

113. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher (1993)
Outcasts Sarah Byrnes and Eric Calhoune were each other’s only friend since childhood. They were bonded by her terrible scars and his layers of fat, but things were never quite the same after Eric discovered swimming, slimmed down, and made new friends. Still, their friendship persevered and their loyalty remained unquestioned. But now that Sarah Byrnes—the smartest, toughest person Eric knows—sits catatonic in a mental ward, he can’t help but wonder what he should have done differently. Eric is determined to find a way to help his friend, even if it means digging into the secrets Sarah Byrnes wants to keep hidden. Like most of Crutcher’s novels, this book tackles a whole boatload of Big Issues, many of them potentially inflammatory. It’s no coincidence that most of Crutcher’s works are regular targets of censors. But whether you agree with the characters’ views or not, this is a book that inspires thought and critical debate on important issues. It’s also a funny, irreverent, and suspenseful story of perseverance and friendship. Middle School (mature)/High School.

114. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (2007)
Deanna was thirteen when her father caught her in the back of a Buick with her older brother’s friend, seventeen-year-old Tommy. Three years later she is still unfairly branded as the school slut and her father can hardly look at her. Deanna dreams of escaping, perhaps with her brother—who now lives at home with his girlfriend and their child. This is a wonderful, absorbing book that is impossible to put down. It is realistic fiction at its best—a compelling story with believable, likable characters and a satisfying conclusion that in no way minimizes or oversimplifies the lives of its characters. High School.

115. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007)
When Clay Jensen finds a mysterious box with no return address waiting on his front porch, he is intrigued and excited. But he is shocked by its contents: 13 tape recordings from Hannah Baker, his former classmate and secret crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. The tapes serve as a type of suicide-note-cum-chain-letter and each recording is about a different person who is somehow connected to Hannah’s reasons for committing suicide. Following the instructions on the tapes, Clay ventures out with a (stolen) Walkman on an all-night journey to try to figure out why Hannah made such a terrible choice—and to discover what part he played in her decision. This is an intense, compulsively readable novel for mature readers who will be just as curious and anxious as Clay as they learn all the reasons, great and small, that influenced Hannah’s awful decision. High School.

116. A Time to Kill by John Grisham (1989)
John Grisham’s first novel is an excellent legal thriller about racism and uncertain justice in a small Southern town. When the two white men who attacked his ten-year-old daughter go free, a black father decides to take the law into his own hands and shoots them. Now it is up to young criminal lawyer Jake Brigance to defend Carl Hailey’s actions, all in the midst of a deep well of racial prejudice and violence. High School.

117. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
In this classic tale of courage and morality in a small, Southern town, a young tomboy tells the story of the summer her father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. This is a powerful look at discrimination and an emotional exploration of human instinct, as viewed through the eyes of a child. Middle School/High School.

118. Twilight Saga (series) by Stephenie Meyer (2005–2008)
When Bella Swan leaves her life in Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she is instantly drawn to Edward Cullen, a handsome and mysterious boy who she later learns is a vampire. Over the course of the series, Bella and Edward face several challenges to their relationship and to their lives, and Bella learns more about the secrets of creatures she once thought were only make believe. Middle School (mature)/High School.
Titles include:
1. Twilight    
2. New Moon   
3. Eclipse    
4. Breaking Dawn
119. Uglies Quartet (series) by Scott Westerfeld (2005–2007)
In a future society where people are required to undergo extreme plastic surgery at the age of sixteen—transforming teens from “ugly” to “pretty”—Tally rebels against the enforced conformity and the operation which may affect more than just her appearance. Middle School/High School.
Titles include:
1. Uglies    
2. Pretties    
3. Specials    
4. Extras
120. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (2007)
In a future world where teens under the age of 18 can have their lives “unwound” and their body parts harvested for use by others, 16-year-old Connor is stunned to learn that his parents have signed the order. Determined to escape his fate, Connor goes on the run and encounters Risa and Lev while eluding the police. The three teens have anything in common—except that each of them has been marked for Unwinding. This is an action-packed thriller filled with thought-provoking moral questions. Middle School (mature)/High School.

121. Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)
One of the most beloved fantasy novels of all time, this heroic adventure is the story of what happens when a small band of young males go in search of a new home after Fiver, a clairvoyant, has a terrible vision of the future. But few in the group have been far from home, and their journey is filled with unforeseen dangers and epic struggles. The protagonists of this dynamic tale may be rabbits, but they aren’t the rabbits of Beatrix Potter’s children’s stories. Middle School/High School.

122. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)
Set during the 18th century in the harsh and beautiful landscape of the English moors, this novel follows the intertwined lives of two families over several decades. Heathcliff is a powerful, moody figure who dominates those around him, and his relationship with Catherine and is all kinds of twisted. Whether you see the book as romantic like Twilight’s Bella or think the characters are obsessive and crazy, it’s a captivating story of love, jealousy, and revenge, a masterpiece of Gothic literature. High School.

123. Xanth (series) by Piers Anthony (1977–Ongoing)
This is a comic fantasy series set in the magical world of Xanth, where every person is born with a unique magical ability called a talent. Xanth is also populated by centaurs, demons, dragons, goblins, harpies, merfolk, ogres, zombies, and other creatures of legend. There are currently over 30 titles in this series, but these pun-laden adventures don't need to be read consecutively. Middle School (mature)/High School.
Titles include:
1. A Spell for Chameleon
2. The Source of Magic
3. Castle Roogna
4. Centaur Aisle
5. Ogre, Ogre
6. Night Mare
7. Dragon on a Pedestal
8. Crewel Lye: A Caustic Yarn
9. Golem in the Gears
10. Vale of the Vole
11. Heaven Cent
12. Man from Mundania
13. Isle of View
14. Question Quest
15. The Color of Her Panties
16. Demons Don't Dream
17. Harpy Thyme
18. Geis of the Gargoyle
19. Roc and a Hard Place
20. Yon Ill Wind
21. Faun and Games
22. Zombie Lover
23. Xone of Contention
24. The Dastard
25. Swell Foop
26. Up in a Heaval
27. Cube Route
28. Currant Events
29. Pet Peeve
30. Stork Naked
31. Air Apparent
32. Two to the Fifth
33. Jumper Cable
34. Knot Gneiss
35. Well-Tempered Clavicle
36. Luck of the Draw (December 2012)

As always, we welcome your opinion... Did all of your favorites make the list? If not, let us know. We will happily consider them for next year's update to our Ultimate Teen Booklist.

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