Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 15, 2010

Does My Head Look Big In This?

Abdel-Fattah, Randa.  Does My Head Look Big In This? Toronto:  Scholastic.  2007.  Print.

Amal is a typical teenage girl; obsessed about boys, clothes, and her friends.  When Amal makes the decision to wear the hijab full-time, she knows that it will be hard, probably the hardest thing she has ever done.

With humour abound, Amal’s journey in Does My Head Look Big In This? is a great read.  Right from page one, I think that young adults will be able to relate to Amal and the challenges she faces.  Whether it is a wearing a hijab or something else that makes individuals stand out from the crowd – accepting differences is something that all teenagers face.

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Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 15, 2010

Map of Bones

Rollins, James.  Map of Bones.  New York: Harper, 2006.  Print.

When the bones of the Magi (also called the Three Wise Men) go missing during a gruesome theft at a German cathedral, SIGMA Force must work with Rome’s Carabinieri to try and stop a secret society set on unleashing evil into the world.

I enjoyed the action that this book had to offer.  Although none of the characters had much depth, the book delivered what it offered: non-stop action and page turning suspense.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 15, 2010

Carpe Diem

Cornwell, Autumn.  Carpe Diem.  New York:  Square Fish, 2007.  Print.

From the minute she wakes up in the morning, all the way to the minute she goes to bed, sixteen-year-old Vassar Spore eats, breathes, and lives planning.  With her heart set on becoming valedictorian, maintaining her 5.4 GPA, and getting into her namesake college, Vassar does not have time for much else.  When her eccentric artist grandmother sends her a ticket to Southeast Asia for her birthday, Vassar can not image spending her summer swatting flies and applying sunscreen.  However, by some power unknown to her, her grandmother forces (aka blackmails) her parents into sending her.  Soon Vassar is in the middle of the Asian jungle, where not even careful planning is always enough to save you from falling in love.

This YA story was just wonderful. It had a fine balance of humour, lovable characters, adventure, and lets face it – a great plot.  Kudos to Cornwell on her first novel.  If the rest are anything like this, consider them sold!

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 8, 2010

Atlantis Found

Cussler, Clive.  Atlantis Found.  New York:  Berkley, 2001.  Print.

When a small town mine owner finds evidence of an ancient civilization buried in an old mine shaft, regional experts are called in.  Soon though, they find their lives in jeopardy; someone wants the secrets of the ancients to stay hidden.

Clive Cussler is always a good standby for adventure, and Atlantis Found is no exception.  Fast-paced and catchy, Dirk Pitt and his sidekick Al have come to the rescue again!

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 4, 2010

Slam

Hornby, Nick.  Slam.  New York:  Riverhead Books, 2008.  Print.

Sam is  the first person in his family to have the chance of “doing things right,”   aka – finish high school, attend college, meet someone, get married and have kids.  Soon though, Sam meets Alicia, and in no time at all, Sam is looking at a very different future than the one he had envisioned for himself.

I quite liked reading this book, written about something that is not often written about from the perspective of a young man.  The characters were wonderful, and their interrelationships were believable and special.  I especially liked the way the book was crafted; with Sam seeing brief glimpses into his future.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | March 2, 2010

Tyranny

Fairfield, Lesley.  Tyranny.  Toronto:  Tundra, 2009.  Print.

In this graphic novel, Fairfield examines the issue of body image through her young protagonist, Anna.  As Anna battles with anorexia and binge eating, she must decide whether or not she has the strength to live, and battle the Tyranny with.

Although this short graphic novel was a quick read, it had images and text that will stick with readers much longer.  It is a powerful little read.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | February 25, 2010

Finding Nouf

Ferraris, Zoe.  Finding Nouf.  New York:  Mariner, 2008.  Print.

Nayir ash-Sharqi may only be a desert guide to some, but to others, he is the only hope of finding out what happened to sixteen year old Nouf Shrawi.  When Nouf’s body is found and the autopsy reports drowning…in the desert, Nayir attempts to track Nouf’s last few days.  Helping him search for evidence is 28-year-old Katya Hajazi, who hopes that the truth will set Nouf free.

This mystery is set in present day Saudi Arabia, and reveals much about the practices of a society so different from our own Western one, while also revealing that in essence, we are all much the same.  I liked parts of this book, but some of the time I found it very heavy reading.  I enjoyed the visual descriptions that the author added to make the setting come alive, but I’ll admit that I found it hard to relate to the characters.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | February 15, 2010

The Ice Princess and Genius Squad

Lackberg, Camilla.  The Ice Princess.  Trans. by Steven Murray.  London:  HaperCollins, 2007.  Print.

When Alex Wijkner’s body is found in an ice filled bathtub, it sends the entire town of Fjallbacka into an uproar.  Left to pick up the pieces are Alex’s parents, her husband, and her childhood best friend Erica Falck – who is convinced that Alex was not the type to commit suicide.

Soft at the right parts, and driving at others, I really enjoyed The Ice Princess.  I found that I liked the laid back style of Swedish author Camilla Lackberg.  Everything happened at its own pace, and not once did I feel that “just read what happens at the end” desire that occasionally overshadows this style of whodunit book.

Jinks, Catherine.  Genius Squad.  New York:  Graphia, 2008.  Print.

This book picks up where Jinks’ Evil Genius left off; with Cadel Pigot trying to evade his former psychiatrist Prosper English.  Although I quite liked Evil Genius, I’ll admit that I often found moments of it dull.  Genius Squad falls into the same trap.  I really liked parts of the book, but I found that other sections of the book were just too slow to keep my interest.  Cadel Pigot is still an amazing character and I will probably still read the next book in the trilogy, but I just won’t expect it to keep me up at night.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | February 15, 2010

World Without End, Hannah’s Dream, Tithe

Follett, Ken.  World Without End.  New York:  Dutton, 2007.  Print.

This epic sequel to Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth attempts to continue the story of Jack the builder’s descendants.  Although interesting historical fiction, I found World Without End to be lacking the same ability to mesmerize the reader as well as the characters that made Pillars so memorable.

Hammond, Diane.  Hannah’s Dream. Toronto:  Harper, 2008.  Print.

Samson Brown and his wife have spent half of a life time looking after Hannah, the last elephant remaining at a second rate zoo.  When an opportunity arises for Hannah to spend the rest of her days in a blissful elephant sanctuary, Samson knows that he might have to get used to the idea of life without Hannah.  Enlisting the help of newcomer Neva Wislon, Samson sets out to free an animal that has become the daughter he never had.

Touching and sweet, Hannah’s Dream rambles along at the perfect pace.  The characters are lovely (even the villain has her moments) and the plot has oh-so-perfect timing.  I very much enjoyed this novel.

Black, Holly.  Tithe: A Modern Fairy Tale.  Toronto:  Simon Pulse, 2004.  Print.

I read this book on and off during the fall.  I must admit that it wasn’t my favorite.  I liked the idea of the novel – that a fairy world still exists among us as well as fairies hidden among humans.  It was dark and edgy, but at times, I thought that it was this way without being purposeful, and that a lot of the backdrop was not essential to the plot.  I would have rather seen more character development, and less “woe is me” attitude.

However, I realize that I may have seriously underestimated the desire of teens to read about exactly what I disliked – especially since this novel is on the YALSA Best Book for Young Adults as well as their Teen’s Top Ten Booklist.

Posted by: jennclimenhaga | February 15, 2010

Leviathan

Westerfeld, Scott. Leviathan. New York: Simon Pulse, 2009. Print. 

When Alek Ferdinand goes to bed he doesn’t expect to be woken up with news of war.  However, when you are a prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, anything is possible.  Soon he is on the run, trying to hide from both the Germans and his own country men.  In the meantime, Deryn Sharp has always been an airman at heart – the only problem is that isn’t male, and the air service does not let girls become soldiers.

As fate would have it, Deryn and Alek meet in the most extraordinary circumstances – on board the Leviathan.

I really liked both the idea of this book (which Westerfeld calls a novel of alternate history) as well as the book itself.  It had a few bumpy parts where too much time passes without explanation, and there were a few characters more than necessary, but all in all, it was a good read.  I am both impressed with Westerfeld’s imagination as well as his ability to make history readable.

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