Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Due to the last-minute push to ALA Midwinter, I'll be taking a hiatus for the next two weeks.  I'll be back after the conference to talk about serving on the Printz Committee, what my plans are in 2011, and of course, reviews!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday season, and that 2011 is full of great things.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Review: Mostly Good Girls

Mostly Good Girls
Leila Sales
2010; Simon Pulse; ISBN 978-1-4424-0679-7 (hardcover)

Summary:  Violet's junior year should be just like she planned.  There's tasks like lots of studying in order to keep up at her private school and editing the literary magazine.  Then there's spending time with her best friend Katie, and maybe even finding a way to talk to her crush, Scott Walsh.  But things don't go according to plan.  Violet loses her position on the lit mag and discovers a secret about Scott.  Worst of all, Katie suddenly becomes a different person, making choices that Violet doesn't understand or like.  Will Violet be able to hold on to Katie, or will her junior year be completely ruined?

The tangles of friendship are explored in this contemporary novel.  Violet and Katie's long-standing friendship is authentically presented, full of inside jokes and mutual concern.  The world of a rigorous prep school is well-captured, showing the pressures to which teens are subjected.  As the story reaches its conclusion, the reader finds that Violet and Katie's friendship, although changed, is still strong.  Mostly Good Girls would pair nicely with Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
Lish McBride
2010; Henry Holt; ISBN 978-0-8050-9098-7 (hardcover)

Summary:  Sam seems like a normal guy: high school drop-out with a job in fast food, friends for life with Ramon and admirer of his coworker Brooke.  But then Sam discovers he's not so normal--he's a necromancer.  Capable of raising the dead, such power is dangerous, especially for a newbie like Sam.  There's already a necromancer in Seattle, and he's not happy about an unregistered necromancer on his turf.  Sam is in deep trouble, and he's only got a week to get out of it.  It'll be up to his new guide, a Harbinger named Ashley, and Brid, the hot half-werewolf, to give Sam that help.

Mix sarcastic humor with supernatural creatures and you get Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.  One of the 2011 Morris Award finalists, this novel cleverly creates an engaging hero in Sam, who faces an unusual hero's journey.  As Sam discovers his heritage, he slowly finds the path that works for him.  The leisurely pacing allows plenty of time not just for Sam but for characters like Douglas, the evil necromancer and Brid, heiress to her werewolf clan.  A great read for older teens, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer will appeal to fans of Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, and Holly Black.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: The Ring of Solomon

The Ring of Solomon
Jonathan Stroud
2010; Hyperion; ISBN 978-1-4231-2372-9 (hardcover)

Summary:  In 950 BCE, the great king Solomon relies on his seventeen magicians to help him rule Israel.  The ambitious magicians and the spirits they control all fear Solomon, due to the powerful ring he wears.  Even the mischievious, incorrigible djinni Bartimaeus steers clear of Solomon.  That is, until he's summoned by Asmira, a young woman with little magical skill.  She has been sent by the Queen of Sheba to defeat Solomon and take his ring.  Can Bartimaeus defeat this powerful king and fulfill Asmira's mission?  If he ever wants to leave Earth and return to the Other Place for rest and rejuvenation, Bartimaeus will have to find a way.

A prequel to the popular Bartimaeus trilogy, The Ring of Solomon is a welcome addition.  Bartimaeus's wisecracks and intelligence are showcased in this installment.  Other characters like Asmira, Solomon, and the cruel magician Khaba are equally memorable.  More than just a humorous fantasy romp, The Ring of Solomon poses interesting questions about morals and ethics.  Best of all, all the elements readers loved in the original trilogy are on display in this prequel.  Let's hope this isn't the last book featuring Bartimaeus.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

2011 William C. Morris Award Finalists

The 2011 Morris shortlist has been announced!  The finalists are:

Hush by Eishes Chayil
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber (read my review)
The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston

This might be one of the most balanced shortlists I've ever seen.  There's a little something for anyone: historical fiction, contemporary, fantasy/paranormal, humor.  There's some talked-about books and some relative unknowns.  Big publishers and small. 

I want to congratulate the Morris committee: they did a great job!  I can't wait to find out who the winner is. 

Due to my responsibilities on the Printz committee, it's unlikely I'll be able to do a Morris Award review roundup as I have done in the past--at least not in the depth as I have done.  It's possible that reviews of some of these titles will appear this month.  I definitely encourage everyone to give these a read and form your own opinions!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Review: Black Hole Sun

Black Hole Sun
David Macinnis Gill
2010; HarperCollins; ISBN 978-0-06-167304-7 (hardcover)

Summary: Durango is many things.  He's a Regulator, one of the soliders/protectors who are fiercely loyal.  He's also a dalit, a Regulator without a master.  Like the samurai on Earth, Durango and his rag-tag crew of other dalit Regulators criss-cross Mars, trying to earn enough money to fill their bellies.  A job protecting the miners of Fishers Four will barely do that.  What's worse, Durango and the other Regulators will be facing the Draeu, legendary cannibals that scare almost everyone on Mars.  As he tries to protect the miners and his crew, Durango is forced to confront many hard truths about his life and about survival. 

A gripping science fiction adventure, David Macinnis Gill has combined several elements in his second novel.  Taking the idea of Japanese samurai and mixing it with the red planet creates an unusual world, one that is slowly explained to the reader.  To keep those readers turning the pages, Gill fills the story with action setpieces and a dash of romance between Durango and his second-in-command, Vienne.  Reluctant readers are likely to enjoy this sci-fi flick in book form.