Posted in Young Adult Lit

Torn (Trylle #2), by Amanda Hocking

11966216Torn (Trylle #2)
Amanda Hocking
2012 St. Martin’s Griffin
ISBN – 9781250006325
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
3.2 Stars

Spoiler Alerts don’t read if you haven’t read Switched.

Torn takes up exactly where Switched has left off. Wendy has just escaped the Trylle palace and went back home to her brother, who now she must explain everything that happened and why she had to disappear. When she is back home the Vittra (the evil Trylle???) attack and kidnap her and her brother. It is in the Vittra palace that she learns that she has quite a strong connection to the Vittra as well, she is the king’s daughter. Now she is torn between two warring sects of troll, and she must decide where to place her loyalties.

Based on the reviews I was expecting this book to me loads better than Switched, and yes it was better, but still sort of meh. Wendy grows up some, so she is not quite as obnoxious, and both the Trylle and the Vittra fill her in on her background a bit, so the story isn’t as frustrating with so many holes. Overall, it was better, but still not great for the same reasons that Switched was not that great. Again I listed to it on Audiobook, and the narrator didn’t change, so that didn’t get any better. I liked the plot better, and it ended if a horrifically wonderful way. Hocking trapped me, I must finish the series now…

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Posted in Young Adult Lit

The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau

13326831The Testing
Joelle Charbonneau
2013 Houghton Mifflin
ISBN – 9780547959108
Genre – Dystopian
Age – High School
3.33 Stars

After the Seven Stages War, much of the world was destroyed, a barren wasteland. A new and elite group of people must help to rebuild a better world, but first they must make it through the testing. Cia Vale has worked her entire life to be chosen for the testing, and finally after graduation, she is chosen. Before she embarks on this journey her dad tells her harrowing accounts of his time at the testing. He has dreams and flashbacks of deaths and horrors beyond belief, and he believes these are true  snippets of what happened in the process. So off she goes to the testing, and realizes that these horrors may actually be true. Hopefully she can make it through the process alive.

Ahhh, mixed feelings. I read this book in lightening speed. It was enveloping, and fast moving, and exciting. Charbonneau has a way of ending each chapter on a cliff hanger. I just couldn’t go to bed. Yay! I love books like that. Unfortunately, I had this horrible haunting thought throughout the entire book…What a Hunger Games rip off…and was it ever! From the very beginning until the very end, I feel like the author changed just enough to not get sued. Now I love a good evil government dystopian as much as anyone, but come on, that book has been written. Blah, her lack of creativity bugs me! But her on the edge of the seat writing made me happy. I had the hardest time rating this book based on that. On any given moment my rating changes from 2 stars to 4 stars. If you have a day with nothing to do, see for yourself, but be prepared to throw other plans out the window.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Fire, by Kristin Cashore

6137154Fire
Kristin Cashore
2009 Dial Books
ISBN – 9780803734616
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
3 Stars

Fire has the ability to control people’s minds. She is the last known human monster hybrid. Some people hate her because she is dangerous, and others are inexplicably drawn to her. Both offer her a world of danger. Because of this she protects her abilities, and refuses to use them against other humans, unless of course in times of self defense. She lives and roams in the forests of The Dells, a land that is in turmoil. Neighboring kingdoms have hopes of overthrowing King Nash and his brother Prince Brigan. It is during this time that the royal family plead with Fire to use her abilities in order to help them uncover the plots to overthrow the kingdom. Will Fire be able to help to keep peace in the Dells, or will her monstrous heritage cause more harm than good?

I liked this book. That’s really it though. After reading Graceling, I am just not all that impressed. Please also note that this is a companion novel, not a sequel, no need to read Graceling first. However if you plan on skipping one, make it this one. Fire was cool. She kind of reminded me of Merida from brave. She was independent, “brave” and although she has a heart of gold, she still struggles with her own weaknesses. So really she was this book’s savior. I didn’t really like any of the other characters, and the plot was good enough to keep me reading, but wasn’t enthralling. Honestly, I probably would have like it a lot more if I had read it before Graceling, it just didn’t stand up next to it.

Posted in Picture Books

The Princess and the Pig, by Jonathan Emmett

11344755The Princess and the Pig
Jonathan Emmett
Illustrated by Poly Bernatene
2011 Walker & Company
ISBN – 9780802723345
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
4.5 Stars

One day a farmer found a piglet at the market. No one wanted to buy the piglet, but the farmer felt bad for her. He named her Pigmella and put her in his wagon and started travelling home. On his way he stopped for some rest in the shade under the balcony of the castle. At that exact time the queen was spending time with her new baby daughter who she had named Priscilla. All of a sudden a strange and farty noise came from the princess’ back side. The queen set her down quickly and ran to get help.  In all of her hurry, she didn’t notice that she dropped the baby off the edge of the balcony. The baby landed in the farmer’s cart, and made the pig fly out of the cart onto the balcony. Upon this discovery both the farmer and the queen thought that fairy magic had transformed their babies into different creatures. So the princess left with the farmer to live as Pigmella, and the piglet, grew into quite an interesting princess!

This book is great. It is funny, and lighthearted. Just when you think you have it figured out, well keep reading. “It’s the sort of thing that happens all the time in books,” is the reasoning behind decisions and beliefs in this story, so that explain all of the oddities perfectly! I think this book would be absolutely perfect for story times, as kids are sure to giggle at the ensuing calamities. Also the large format/pictures, the bright colors, and the personality add to this effect. I also like that you can see brush strokes in the illustrations, I think it give the pictures some added life. So, you try to imagine a pig dressed up as a princess. Don’t tell me you didn’t just smile. Seriously awesome!

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Posted in Young Adult Lit

Switched, by Amanda Hocking

11457525Switched
Amanda Hocking
2011 Brilliance Audio
ISBN – 9781455857630
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
2.5 Stars

Wendy has always felt like she didn’t quite fit in. Her father died when she was young, and her mother who tried to murder her on her 6th birthday has been institutionalized ever since. Recently she has noticed that she has an odd ability to convince people to do the things she wants them to, just by thinking it. Now a new kid, Finn, comes to school and explains to her that she is not human, she is Trylle, a nicer word for a troll. He tells her that she was switched at birth, and the family she has always known is not really hers. She is part of a dying race that all possess various special powers. Even more unbelievable, her real mother is the queen, making her the princess. Now she must return to her home, to learn how to be a princess, and how to rule the kingdom that will become hers.

Not great, but I didn’t hate it either. Wendy is terrible. I understand that she has had a hard life, but jeez she seems a bit spoiled to be so upset with EVERYTHING! When she walks into this new world, no one will explain anything to her. They either expect her to just know, or they tell her she will find out soon enough. How frustrating. That aside, I liked the story. It was interesting, and I wanted to see how it ended. It is hard for me to overcome characters I don’t like, but for some reason I thought this one had promise. In the end, it didn’t really have a ton. I also want to note that this was an audiobook for me, and I didn’t love the narrator. I think I probably would have given this 3 stars if I had read it myself. After finishing, I looked at reviews for the second book in the series, Torn. It seems like readers resoundingly Torn better than Switched. So now I am listening to number two. More to come soon!

Posted in Picture Books

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever, by Brenda A. Ferber

13588401The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever
Brenda A. Ferber
Illustrated by Tedd Arnold
2012 Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780803735057
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
5 Stars

Valentine’s Day is nearing, and Leon is making a valentine for his very special crush Zoey Maloney. After Leon constructed it, the valentine became very rebellious. He jumped out of Leon’s hands exclaiming that her cannot tell Zoey that he loves her because “Love is Yucky, Stinky too. It will turn your brain to GOO!” The valentine runs away, and Leon chases him. During the chase they run into several groups of kids who have their own reactions and join in the chase, to see how the situation resolves. Will Leon ever catch his valentine? Will he tell Zoey Maloney that he loves her, or take the advice of his valentine?

What a fantastic Valentine’s day book! The illustrations are great, of course they are, they are done by Tedd Arnold! They include overly large heads and expressive faces, with just enough detail in the background to add to the story and not take anything away. There is repetition and rhythm that makes the book fun to read. I love the way all of the different view points of love at a (very) young age are addressed, including romance, fear, and cooties! This book is hilarious from start to finish, and somehow Ferber is able to make love a thing that is relatable to every age group. Fun for kids and adults alike!

Posted in Picture Books

How to Train a Train, by Jason Carter Eaton

trainHow to Train a Train
Jason Carter Eaton
Illustrated by John Rocco
2013 Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763663070
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
4.5 Stars

We all want a pet train, why? “Trains make awesome pets.” This manual tells you everything you need to know about tracking, selecting and training your very own train. First you must decide what kind of train you want, then you have to catch it. After you find the right one it is time to give it the right name, then the training may commence. If you work hard to give your train a great home, he will provide you with great friendship!

This book is adorable. It makes the idea of training a train just like training a dog. It mentions that some trains like to play fetch, but you also have to teach them not to jump up on people. It also cautions that it may take time for your new train to become comfortable. All of these important lessons can be a great way to introduce the idea of a new pet dog in your household. Not to mention kids love trains. They make great noises, and this book highlights some of those noises, which can make for great interactive reading. I really enjoyed the illustrations as well. John Rocco’s style is different from a lot of children’s books. The pictures are realistic, while still being light and whimsical. How to Train a Train almost had me convinced on my next pet, but I don’t think I have the space!

Posted in Young Adult Lit

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

storyIt’s Kind of a Funny Story
Ned Vizzini
2006 Disney Hyperion
ISBN – 9780786851973
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
3.4 Stars

Craig is seriously depressed. He has been depressed ever since he got accepted into his high school. That was the most triumphant day of his life, and also the last truly great day he has lived. Now, he is so depressed he is considering suicide, so he calls a suicide hotline. They suggest that he go to the nearest emergency room and check himself in. This is exactly what he does, and soon finds himself in the adult psychiatric ward of his neighborhood hospital. Throughout his stay he makes new friends, reassesses his old friends and life, and struggles to create a new and manageable baseline.

I have pretty mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand I thought it was wonderfully written. It was serious and light hearted all at the same time. It made something that could have been horribly depressing and hard to read much easier. I like the idea that simple interactions with fellow human beings really can change our perspectives and lives as a whole. The characters seemed authentic, they made me remember my days of high school. They were accurate to put it simply. Because of this, I found it relatable, and I think lots of other teens will be able to relate as well. Now for the other hand…I thought it was naïvely optimistic. The ending as a whole was not believable in my mind. As much as I really want to get into the nitty gritty of what upset me, I will leave it at that so I don’t give away the rest of the story. I especially liked it less after I read about what the author has been doing since. For anyone that has read it and knows, you will understand. For all others, sorry for being cryptic.

Posted in Children's Lit

Fallout by Todd Strasser

17262252Fallout
Todd Strasser
2013 Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763655341
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Middle School
4 Stars

Nuclear war seems imminent in the summer of 1962. Everyone is talking about it, but Scott’s dad goes one step further, he builds a bomb shelter for his family. His family soon becomes the joke of the neighborhood. Everyone is convinced that Scott’s family is paranoid. That is until a nuclear bomb is actually dropped. Scott’s dad has only stocked the shelter with supplies for his family for two weeks.  As the family races to their shelter in the middle of the night, they must fight off all of the neighbors that want in as well, but a few make through the doors. Now they must all fight to survive in a too small space, with not enough food, air, or water. People tend to show their true colors in the most stressful of situations, and this is no exception.

So I have been trying to gather my thoughts on this book for a while now, and I have written several reviews and deleted all of them. I really liked this book, and I can’t figure out why. It is not highly plot driven, it is not a book that you can’t put down, and it is not incredibly suspenseful or action packed. It is however, and incredibly personal account of an extremely frightening situation. The relationships and interactions that take place in the story, are honest, they are simple and complicated all at the same time. Parts of the book are difficult to read, in an emotional sense. The families in the story are faced with a very hard situation and are forced to make tough decisions, decisions that I would hope I would be strong enough to avoid. I think one of the important lessons in this book, is to not judge others that are in a situation that you know nothing about. This book is well written, emotional, and terrifying. I hope I never have to live through anything like it.