Review: Lockdown

by Walter Dean Myers

Reese is in a juvie jail called the Progress Center.  Busted after money woes caused him to steal prescription sheets from a local doctor’s office, he’s almost to the end of his 2.5 year sentence.  Reese is overall a good kid, he’s even scored a spot in a new work release program where he gets out of jail for 10 days a month to work with elderly patients at a place called Evergreen, but Reese has a problem keeping his hands to himself.  If another inmate challenges him, Reese can’t help but defend himself with his fists, and if someone picks on one of his friends, Reese can’t stand by and watch his friends get hurt.  Reese’s heart may be in the right place but that won’t help him if his hands and his tempter keep getting him in trouble.  Will Reese be able to get his act together so he can be released from juvie and get his life on track once he’s back outside?

Reaction: I have only read one other Walter Dean Myers book — I know, for shame! — and it was Monster.  I loved Monster.  I loved the format.  I loved the flawed main character who was a product of both his environment and his own choices.  I loved that I felt for the main character despite not being entirely certain of his innocence.  I loved not really knowing whether he was guilty or innocent, and I love the fact of his guilt or innocence did not really matter to the message of the book.  Monster is obviously a classic.  Though very similar in many respects, Lockdown did not have the same sparkle as Monster.  Lockdown seems to have to try harder and tell more to accomplish a similar goal.  That being said, I read Lockdown pretty much all in one sitting and was invested in Reese and his outcome.

I found Reese to be a very accessible character.  He’s a good kid who loves his sisters, has crappy parents, and has made some bad choices.  He continues to make bad choices while in juvie, especially when it comes to fighting, but, I have to say, I couldn’t help but hope he stepped up and fought in some of the situations.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to decide whether to join a fight when you know you could face severe consequences or not join a fight and watch a friend, someone who is younger, weaker, and more helpless than the person wailing on him, get beat to a pulp.  Because of his actions, because he is in jail, these are the kinds of choices that Reese has to make to survive, to get out, to get on with his life.  I enjoyed Reese’s time at Evergreen and his interactions with Mr. Hooft, a cantankerous old gentleman who lived through a work camp run by the Japanese during World War II only to be left to die pretty much alone, without visitors, in a retirement community.  I also really enjoyed Reese’s sister Isis, called Icy.  She has big dreams — to become President or to be a movie star and win an Oscar.  She is positive and hopeful, dreaming of college when she is only 9 years old.  She gives Reese hope and a reason to stay clean.  He wants to make sure Icy gets everything she wants and needs, and it able to reach her lofty goals.

While I do wish WDM had taken some more risks with the formatting, I can’t deny that Lockdown is compelling and will draw in readers who loved Monster and love Walter Dean Myers.

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Review: She's So Dead to Us

by Kieran Scott

When Ally was a freshman, her father’s bad business decision cost her family their fortune, as well as the fortunes of most of her closest friends.  Ally and her parents fled in shame and haven’t been back to their hometown, Orchard Hill, since.  Now it is just Ally and her mother, her father’s whereabouts unknown, and they are moving back to Orchard Hill where Ally’s mother has taken a job at the high school.  Orchard Hill will never be the same for Ally.  Her old friends have shunned her, not forgiving her for her father’s mistakes, her quick exit with no goodbye, or the fact that she is no longer a member of the elite rich and famous of Orchard Hill but instead lives in — gasp — a condo!  Not only that but a new family has moved into her old house, the one with the personalized basketball court her father built just for her, and her former best friend, Shannen, is now best friends with the new occupant of her old bedroom.  Ally tries to move on when it’s clear that she can no longer go back to her old life.  She makes new friends, forges her own path, but she can’t seem to let go of the past or the hope to regain some of her former friendships.  Making it even harder to let go is her growing attraction to Jake, the occupant of her old bedroom and newest member of her former crowd.  Is there any way she can be with Jake when all of her old friends, his friends, shun her?  Will they ever forgive her for the sins of her father?

Reaction: Not my typical kind of read, this book arrived on my doorstep at the right time, just when I was looking for something light and fun to read.  I have never read a Gossip Girls or Private or It Girls or any of those other series but, from what I know, I believe this book will definitely appeal to the same audience.  Despite my reservations that it would be filled with too much drama, backstabbing, and brand name dropping, I read with an open mind and really enjoyed this novel.  I was pleasantly surprised that the brand names and pop culture references were kept to a minimum and flowed naturally in the story.

As for the story itself, I liked Ally.  She’s been through a lot but she has tried to make the best of it.  I didn’t always agree with her decisions and I don’t know why she would possibly want to be friends again with those girls, who are mostly evil and vindictive, but generally Ally was a likeable character.  She certainly had her flaws, one big lapse in judgement in particular that comes back to haunt her, but she is a very realistic character.  Jake, on the other hand, is not as likeable, at least not for me.  The story alternates between Ally and Jake, so we get to see his perspective on things.  I can see his appeal and the reason Ally is attracted to him, mostly because he is a hot boy, but he isn’t always the nicest guy.  He is quite the player and I fear even if he becomes serious about Ally he won’t be able to stay faithful.  He lives too much for his group of friends and does things against his better judgement to please them, though he gets a bit better at that as the story progresses.  Despite my dislike of Jake, I found him to be a pretty believable teenage rich boy and, though I usually avoid alternating narrators, I enjoyed reading Jake’s parts almost as much as Ally’s.

I have to say I really liked the format of the novel as well.  The story is broken down by months and takes place across an entire school year.  Each new month page is smattered with a gossipy conversation between unknown people who are not the main characters talking about events happening to the main characters.  Hard to explain, but I loved it.  I do not necessarily love the cover.  Looks a little too plain and the pearls a bit too old.  I did like the font and coloring of the title.

The ending is a cliffhanger and I’m excited to see what happens next but seeing how She’s So Dead to Us doesn’t come out until May, 2010, who knows when the sequel will be out!

Review copy sent by publisher.

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Waiting on Wednesdy: The Reckoning

The Darkest Powers, Book 3
Kelley Armstrong

Only two weeks ago, life was all too predictable. But that was before I saw my first ghost. Now, along with my supernatural friends Tori, Derek, and Simon, I’m on the run from the Edison Group, which genetically altered us as part of their sinister experiment. We’re hiding in a safe house that might not be as safe as it seems. We’ll be gone soon anyway, back to rescue those we’d left behind and to take out the Edison Group . . . or so we hope.

What is going to happen between Chloe and Derek.  I must know but I’ll have to wait until April 16.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  What are you waiting for?

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Review: Give Up the Ghost

by Megan Crewe

Cass has spent much more time in the last few years in the company of ghosts than she has in the company of living beings.  After a horrible encounter with her supposed best friend that left her ostracized by the entire school and then the untimely death of her older sister, Cass has had a lot to deal with.  When her sister shows up as a ghost, Cass is the only one who sees her and now Cass still has her big sister around for help and advice, even if she isn’t technically alive.  Cass has also made good friends with a few ghosts that hang around her high school.  For Cass, ghosts are the ideal friends because they can’t hurt her the way people have, and that makes them extremely appealing.  Cass’ world is about to change again when Tim, student council VP and card carrying member of the popular crowd, asks for her help.  Tim lost his mother just months before and wants Cass to help him contact his mom’s ghost.  Cass is skeptical and reluctant to trust a living person, but when she realizes that Tim needs her for much more than just talking to his mom, how can she refuse?

Reaction: This one surprised me, in a good way.  I really thought it was just going to be a cutesy ghost story with a fluffy romance and some “issues” thrown in but not developed, and I was ok with that because I do enjoy that kind of book, but Give Up the Ghost was much more than that.  Cass has some serious issues with trust.  Not only did her friends completely betray her but ever since her sister died, her mother has thrown herself into her career as a travel writer and is barely if ever home and when she is home she seems to criticize Cass to no end.  I didn’t always like Cass necessarily, though I understood where she was coming from.  I didn’t agree with the choices she was making when it came to learning other students’ secrets and then using the secrets against them.  I know in her head she was doing a service, trying to stop the high school evils from happening, but her actions often didn’t make her any better than those she was trying to school.

Then there is Tim, who is a complete wreck.  Just when I thought Cass was the one who really needed help, along comes Tim.  Tim, who seemingly has it all, at least to Cass, is hurting and no one has noticed.  The death of his mother and the betrayal of his father when Tim needed him the most has left Tim a shell of his former self.  His friends don’t know how to talk to him so they don’t and he has practically no support system except for an aunt who lives in another town.  Tim is left to wallow in his grief with no clear way out.  I was proud of Cass for trying with Tim.  She didn’t make it easy on him and she certainly didn’t make all the write choices but she could have continued to shut him out but she was able to see beyond her own problems and issues to help Tim in the best way she knew how.

Give Up the Ghost is a great book for people who are dealing with grief, for people who have dealt with bullying, and for anyone who’s felt like they are on the outside.  Both Cass and Tim show that no matter how bad things get they aren’t always going to be that way.  I think Cass especially really matured and grew to learn that shutting people out is no way live.

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Book Review: The Devouring

by Simon Holt

A year ago, Reggie’s mother walked out on her family.  Since then, Reggie’s father has buried himself in work and Reggie has taken on the role off cook, cleaner, and mother to her younger brother Henry.  Reggie’s one escape from her new life is her job at a local bookstore that specializes in horror novels.  Reggie loves horror stories.  When unpacking a shipment at work, Reggie comes across a journal of a crazy woman.  The woman tells a tale a frightening tale of entities called Vours.  Vours are attracted by light but feed on fears.  They can enter a body using a person’s fears and take over that body.  They retain the person’s memories and can live as the person they take over but they are not the same.  Reggie thinks she has found a wonderful story but it turns out to be more real than she could ever imagine.  When Reggie’s brother is taken over by a Vour, she is determined to find out how to conquer the Vour and save her brother.

Reaction: What a pleasantly creepy surprise!  A true teen horror a la R. L. Stine or Christopher Pike.  I loved the pacing.  The story flowed well and I thought Reggie’s realization that Vours are real was realistic and accurate.  The creepy parts were REALLY creepy, at least for me, specifically the scenes where Reggie and gang enters the old house in the woods and then when she goes back, BY HER SELF!  It obviously made an impression on me.  If I have a complaint it is that sometimes the voice shifted to Henry or to Reggie’s friend Aaron and I found it a bit awkward.  Overall, a really awesome horror story.  This is the book that broke my several month reading slump.

Next: The Soulstice (The Devouring #2)

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Library Loot: January 12-26

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

So many books, so little reading.  The story of my life for the past three months or so, though now there are even more books it seems!  Anyway, here’s what I’ve been checking out but not reading. :)

I’m currently reading Cybil’s Graphic Novel finalists and have 53 items checked out and 11 items on hold.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Robin Benway has a new book!

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June
by Robin Benway

(via Alea)

I hugged my sisters and they fit against my sides like two jigsaw pieces that would never fit anywhere else. I couldn’t imagine ever letting them go again, like releasing them would be to surrender the best parts of myself.

Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood—powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose?

April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds—everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other.

Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

Audrey, Wait is an all-time favorite of mine and I have been just dying for another book by Benway.  And I’ll still be waiting until August 3, 2010…

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  What are you waiting for?

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