July 2007

I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up this book. I adore Garret Freymann-Weyr’s other books, WHEN I WAS OLDER, MY HEARTBEAT, and STAY WITH ME. I think that she’s an absolutely brilliant writer. Her characters are always amazing. Her writing is always beautiful. Her stories are much, much more than the usual predictable stories (as I often think when struggling to write something new, fiction-wise, it seems, when I look at my overflowing bookshelf, that every story worth telling has been told).

So I’m not certain as to why I didn’t read THE KINGS ARE ALREADY HERE sooner. I wish I had! I think the authors other novels are marvelous, and this one does not disappoint. It’s a quick read, at less than 150 pages, but still a powerful, moving story. Despite its slim size, it is an intense story that holds more substance than many books three times larger.

It is a story of obsessions. Phebe and Nikolai both live their lives orbiting not around the sun but around their respective talents: ballet for Phebe and chess for Nikolai. To both of them, that is everything. They do not see much need for human relationships, for normal lives.

Right before they meet, though, Phebe is beginning to let her mind wander as she dances, to think of things that are not ballet. At the advice of her teacher, she decides to spend the summer with her father in Switzerland to clear her mind, and that is where she meets Nikolai.

Nikolai believes that Stas Vlajnik, a legendary chess player, can help him to improve his game. And, of course, to him, that is everything. Phebe, understanding the obsession, orchestrates a search for Vlajnik to help Nikolai. That summer in Europe, though, she is doing more than helping Nikolai; she is finding out that she is not only Phebe the ballerina, but Phebe the teenage girl, the person.

This is a wonderful little book. Breathtaking, even. It is an intelligent, emotional story that, like all of Garret Freymann-Weyr’s work, is something of a must-read.

Five Stars


BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale is completely awesome. It’s based on an obscure Brothers Grimm fairytale. It is fantastic. I reviewed it for Curled Up With a Good Kid’s Book but the review won’t be posted until September, when the book is released, so I just wanted to tell you to go ahead and pre-order this one now!!

I was going to wait and blog about this one tomorrow, but I couldn’t sleep (yes, I’m still up at 5:30 AM), so forgive me for any fuzziness/mistakes in this post, as I haven’t slept since yesterday. My mind is too busy, with various things, to sleep.  Including this book, of which I intended to read a chapter of before going to bed but ended up reading the whole thing.

Yes, it really is that good. I don’t want to give away too much, but I’m going to have to tell you more than what’s on the back cover because that is very vague which is all well and good, but don’t read on if you are very very anti-spoiler.

At the start of the book, everybody in Mena’s group of friends, who all happen to be from her church, hates her for doing the right thing in a situation where that meant going against what her friends did. So she’s starting high school not only friendless, but with people actually knocking her books out of her arms in the hallway. The atmosphere at home is a bit chilly, too; her parents seem to have sided with her church.

There’s one bright spot in Mena’s day, though: science class. Ms. Shepard is a really amazing (and really weird, but in a good way) teacher, and her lab partner, Casey, isn’t too bad either. Soon, Mena’s got a new crowd: Casey, his big sister Kayla, and her friends.

Kayla, however, is a very outspoken and opinionated sort of person. So getting involved with her pretty much means that Mena’s not going to be suffering the freeze-out from her church in silence for very long.

First of all, I have got to say I LOVED Kayla. Mena was a great character, too–they all were–but Kayla was by far my favorite. I guess she’s the outspoken, intelligent person I want to be but don’t have the guts to be. Ms Shepard is another fantastic character; she’s a science teacher I wish I could have! Josh, Casey, Mrs. Connor–I could go on about how great all of the characters are, but you get the idea.

EVOLUTION certainly talks about controversial issues, but it’s not in a heavy-handed Christian fiction sort of way. The topic of evolution obviously comes up, and it is nicely addressed–not as evolution vs. intelligent design, or evolution vs. religion. I read a comparison somewhere of this book to the movie SAVED (brilliant movie, by the way, see it!), I can’t remember where, and that was right on target (not that Mena gets pregnant or anything, just in the way the issues are addressed).

I love the characters and the story in this book, but it’s also just a very well-written novel. It obviously flowed well, if it had me in its clutches all night! Robin Brande is pretty much brilliant. This is a smart, absorbing novel sure to find a fan in anyone who reads it!

Five Stars

PS: You can win a copy of this book and other cool prizes by participating at its website.

You may have read my review of KITTY GOES CALIFORNIAN. It’s a great book, but maybe you don’t have a big book-buying budget. Well, you can read it for free online! Go! Read! I appear to be the only one to ever have reviewed this marvelous little book, but that doesn’t mean the rest of you can’t read it! Come on, it’s great, it’s a good summer read, and it’s free!

Here‘s a great summary of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS in haiku form! **SPOILERS**

An interesting interview by The Disco Mermaids of four fifteen year old girls about their reading.

Here’s some distressing news: those big comfy chairs in your favorite bookstore? They may soon be gone.

Here’s a nice article that might answer some of the questions you were left with after the ending of HP 7. **SPOILER ALERT** (obviously)

Okay, I kind of missed my one-year blog birthday. It was July 24. But isn’t that exciting?

In other exciting news, my local independent bookstore, Malaprops,  is beyond awesome. They have some great author events lined up for the next couple of months! In just over a week, it’s the wonderful Kerry Madden, author of GENTLE’S HOLLER, and then in September it’s Charles de Lint! I had a total fangirl moment when I read that on the website. I actually squealed. THE BLUE GIRL is one of my favorite books ever, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of his most recent YA novel, LITTLE (GRRL) LOST. And I will actually (I hope) meet him! And this is the fantabulous bookstore where I met John Green, who is fantastic. And then, in November, they’ll have Alan Gratz. He wrote a couple of books I haven’t actually gotten a chance to read yet but they sound great from his website.

Anyway, that’s my exciting news! I hope you all have fabulous indie bookstores near you, too. If you do, check out their schedules! You never know what you might find!

First of all, let me say I loved this book. I was called away from it after reading only a dozen pages, and Livy Two’s distinctive voice had already found its way into my mind. When I stepped outside, I saw the mountains that I, like Livy Two, call home, half-expecting to see one of the novel’s colorful characters step out of the woods behind my house.

I suppose that my experience reading this book is a little different from that of most readers, as I’ve lived most of my life in the same mountains as Livy Two. We’ve walked the same streets, breathed in the same mountain air. And Kerry Madden captured it perfectly.

Livy Two Weems is a twelve-year-old girl growing up dirt poor in a family with nine kids in the Western North Carolina mountains in the 1960s. Those mountains are her home, but she’s always wanted to see beyond them–that’s why she loves the lending library truck that comes to Maggie Valley so much. Livy Two knows the magic that books can have, taking us out of our everyday lives and off to far away places. Livy Two also has a passion for music, making up her songs about her life in the holler and strumming her guitar.

Money’s always been tight, but now life is getting even harder for the Weems family. Livy Two wants to help, but she’s not sure she knows how. Even when a terrible tragedy strikes her family, though, Livy Two has to try and stay strong, and keep singing her songs.

I loved this book. GENTLE’S HOLLER is a beautiful, hopeful, moving story that any reader will love. Starting with Livy Two, it’s full of strong, three-dimensional characters. Every one of them stands out in my mind–no easy task when just the family has twelve people (and one heroic daschund) in it. Grandma Horace with her collection of glass eyes, Louise with her paintings, Daddy with his roasted peanuts and dreams for writing a big banjo hit. Every one the characters is amazing. Livy Two’s voice is especially fresh and original and real.

Creating brilliant characters is not Kerry Madden’s only strength; the setting of the story is just as masterfully described as the characters. The mountains in the 1960s seemed just as real to me, as I read this, as those present-day hills outside my door.

Kerry Madden is an amazingly talented writer. I’m just glad there’s a sequel to GENTLE’S HOLLER, and I won’t be wasting any time before picking it up!

Five Stars

UNDER THE ROSE is the sequel to the fabulous SECRET SOCIETY GIRL, and it’s just as good as the first book! Amy Haskel (society name “Bugaboo”) is a member of the prestigious secret society Rose & Grave at the prestigious Eli University. Her club is the first to include women, and that’s meant some difficulties for them in the past–and many of the the chauvinistic patriarchs of the society aren’t about to change their minds about it now. However, Rose & Grave is now also dealing with another scandal: society secrets have been leaked. Who’s the leak? And why? Who can be trusted? Who is a traitor?

This book is just as fascinating and fun as the first in the series. The believable, interesting characters are back. Diana Peterfreund’s writing does not disappoint–this book can just as easily take you away for an afternoon without the realization that time has passed as SECRET SOCIETY GIRL!

If you loved SSG, you’ll love UNDER THE ROSE. And if you haven’t read Diana Peterfreund’s first novel, what are you waiting for?!

Five Stars

Chances are, I’ll be posting something later with my full opinions on the book, spoilers and all (but you’ll be warned first!). For, now, though:

It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me want to just grab Harry by the shoulders and SHAKE him.

And now it’s over. I loved it. There were points when I was angry at Rowling for the fates of certain characters, but the fact that I cared so much is only a testament to her remarkable talent at creating characters I could care so deeply about.

I stayed up all night to read it. Had I not read the epilogue, I would have been able to say, “I was not disappointed.” If you haven’t read it yet, just skip the epilogue. It’s kind of terrible. Until then, though, it’s probably my favorite book of the series.

And now, it’s really, truly, over. Never again will millions of people dress up in costumes and line up at midnight for an a book. It was great. But now it’s over. Not to say I won’t reread the books (in fact I reread book six on Sunday), but it will never be the same.

I’m one of those who have pretty much grown up with Harry. And now, it’s over. Thanks, Ms Rowling, for making his last adventure an amazing one (minus the epilogue).

My favorite quote: “After all this time?” “Always.” (Which you won’t get unless you’ve read the book so it’s not a spoiler).

Update: My Shelfari review. It says basically the same thing as this blog post but is longer and as such goes into more detail. Still spoiler-free.

(It’s posted on a blog I’ve created to make up for WordPress’s lack of a “cut” feature like that of LJ. It’s not a real blog, just a place to put stuff.)

This is the new home of the Teen Book Review (formerly found on Blogger)! I much prefer wordpress, so I’ve moved it. All of the old posts and comments have been imported. However, you will note there have been a few changes:

Check the sidebar. You will see, under the heading “pages,” links to information (the post previously found at the top of the page) and to the various review lists. In the TBR review list, the links still go to the Blogger pages with the reviews. They’re still there, though, so that’s okay! But future review links will go to the WordPress pages.

As some of you may have heard, there has been a breach in Harry Potter security. According to various sources (I just searched on Google News and read some articles), some books were shipped out early to readers. Supposedly some of the seventh book has ended up online, although it is unclear as to whether or not it’s real. Apparently one newspaper also posted an early review which gives away the meaning of “deathly hallows,” along with some other bits of information THAT SHOULD BE SECRET!

As much as I might be a bit tempted to see how it ends, I would rather wait until Saturday to find out after reading the whole thing, and I am very disappointed that some people have tried to ruin that. I talked to a friend who accidentally read part of what is supposedly book seven when browsing through a friend’s wall on facebook.

I don’t want to know yet unless the whole book shows up on my doorstep (which, it won’t, because I didn’t preorder one, but reserved one for the midnight party at the local bookstore). My internet activity is going to be pretty limited for the next few days to make sure I don’t accidentally read something I don’t want to, and I talked to one friend who is refusing to go online at all until she’s read the whole thing!

You know I love the Harry Potter books. I don’t think JK Rowling is the greatest writer ever, but she does a great job with the wonderfully complex and exciting plot of the Harry Potter books.

The movies, however, are another story. I have seen all of them within the first week. It was not, however, until the fourth one that I learned to really like them.

They are nothing like the books. Of course, they have to cut a lot of stuff out to fit these books into 150-minute movies, but I often disagree with their editing decisions, not in the least because I have friends who have not read the books, only seen the movies, and there are parts that they don’t understand because of it. One friend who I saw the fifth movie with didn’t understand about banning Weasley products because it was not fully explained what the Weasley twins had been doing.

However, once you stop comparing them to the books (but keep in mind what you already know about the story as it will fill in the gaps nicely), the movies are really quite good. The action and special effects are exciting. The casting was done fairly well, and the actors do their parts nicely (I was especially pleased with Luna Lovegood in the fifth movie!).

Strictly as movies, they’re pretty good (if maybe a bit confusing). Compared to the books, however….Not quite so much. What do you think?

I thought I’d share a few things I’ve found interesting recently.

Two interviews with author Zoe Trope: Here and Here. I haven’t read her book, as I just got interested in it from the interviews, which I really enjoyed! I’ll definitely post a review when I do get a copy and read it. (Read them in order as the first interview tells more about who she is and about her book).

an interesting article about how people don’t see children’s writers as being on the same level as those who write for adults.

Galley Gallery has pictures of authors with their books!

And this one isn’t exactly book-related but it is kind of cool. On Blingo, you can use the google-powered search and they pick random searchers to win prizes, from a $5 Amazon gift certificate to a new car! I was kind of skeptical but I know people who have actually won things. And if you win that Amazon gift certificate you can buy a book, so it is book-related!

As I’ve been rereading the books, I’ve been thinking about the various characters, both those that I love and those I love to hate. Here are a few thoughts.

Harry Potter: Yes, I know he’s the protagonist. I’m supposed to love him. He’s the hero, after all. However, I’ve always found him to be kind of annoying. He’s stupid and whiny. Especially in book five (although they didn’t show that as much in the movie). I love JK Rowling, but I hate Harry Potter.

Fred & George Weasley: These two are pretty much interchangeable. They are not real characters; just comic relief. They say funny things, but are not developed as actual people. I love them anyway, I just wish we knew them better!

Lee Jordan: Here’s another one I wish we saw more of. I’ve always enjoyed what little bit of him is in the books (his quidditch commentaries are hilarious!), but he’s barely there. More Lee Jordan would be nice!

Luna Lovegood: She’s good for a bit of comic relief, too, but she’s also a real character, or more real than Fred and George, at least. I quite enjoy her eccentricity!

Sirius Black: I was a bit teary when he died. He’s always been one of the more interesting characters, that’s for sure. Actually, that whole generation seems more interesting than the current one (Lily, James, Sirius, etc.). I’d like to see a prequel about them, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Anyway, Sirius has always been a favorite of mine. He is much more interesting than many of the main characters, and I don’t really think whiny Harry deserves him as a godfather.

Dumbledore: I know it’s a bit blasphemous these days, but I’m not a big Dumbledore fan. Sure, he was a great wizard and all, but not the greatest guy ever. Especially in the more recent books, he kind of bothered me. I can’t put my finger on why. But I wasn’t too upset when he died (I don’t think that’s a spoiler anymore with book seven so close).

That’s it for now. Anyone care to share their own thoughts about the characters?

I love the idea of Tell An Author You Care Day. So much, in fact, that I did it twice today! I’ve also decided to make this a regular thing for me. The 16th of every month will be Tell An Author You Care Day at TBR! I’ll be doing more posts about my favorite authors and such. Feel free to join in on your own blog if you’d like!

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