September 17, 2010
by Catherine Jinks
Nina Harrison is busy working on her latest book and the story is coming along well. Her vampire heroine has just rescued a young man is about to make a romantic move but then Nina is interrupted. Time to get ready for the night’s meeting of The Reformed Vampire Support Group.
Nina doesn’t just write about vampires, she is a vampire and, fanged at 15, her life is less than a lark. She looks too young to drive, has all the problems a regular vampire is stuck with and her only friends are an unlikely lot of vampires she would never have chosen on her own. Besides, being a vampire isn’t really all that grand. The stories are much better than reality.
But when one of the group members doesn’t answer his door, everyone troops over to see what the problem is and they discover a very big problem. A pile of ash in his coffin-bed and a stake right in the middle of the whole mess. Someone is out hunting vampires. What is the point of being a reformed vampire, one who never feeds off humans, if humans are still going to behave like this toward you.
When the other vampires wonder aloud if Nina’s popular vampire novels could be part of the problem, perpetuating vampire myths and all that, Nina decides that she will be one of the two vampires who undertakes a dangerous cross country trip to track down the killer.
I will admit up front that I normally avoid vampire books. I’m just a bit tired of them. But this was an audio book and I needed something to listen to while knitting my Loch Ness Monster. Strangely appropriate, yes? I’m glad I picked this one out. Jinks’ vampires are completely unlike other vampires. For one thing, we have their powers all wrong. Secondly, these vampires have to support themselves. After all, if you aren’t feeding on humans, you have to pay for an alternative. There is humor, there is adventure and there is a romance too.
An excellent read that will appeal to teens and adults too. Even if they don’t think they like vampire books. After all, there are other monsters out there.
by Diane deGroat
Gilbert and his family are going to the beach. His sister is reading a book about the ocean but all Gilbert can think about is the feeling that he forgot something. His sister points at her book and the pictures of sharks and other scary things. There is no way she is going swimming. Mom points out that the little girl has a lovely new suit and it hits Gilbert. He forgot his swim suit.
Fortunately Gilbert is able to find a suit although his mother is sure it is too big. Still, he can’t resist having a suit that says Surfer Dude — perfection. At the beach, Gilbert helps his sister dig a hole and create a pool. Someplace she feels safe enough to swim.
Gilbert grabs his boogie board. With some help from Dad, he finally manages to surf until his tumbles off the board and loses something rather important. His suit! Other swimmers spot the mysterious object and are sure it is something dangerous.
Gilbert manages to retrieve his suit and even decides to swim again but this time he swims some place a bit less scary.
Good beginning readers are hard to find but DeGroat’s Gilbert readers are top notch. She has enough story to keep things moving and interesting, her characters are fun and she always has a twist at the end. Some of the Gilbert books are picture books so if you are looking specifically for beginning readers, look for the “I Can Read!” banner on the front cover.
Help your young reader work on their skills while experiencing books with this fun character. These books would be good for both girls and boys.
September 9, 2010
by Kristin Wolden Nitz
Seventeen-year-old Jen has plans for the summer when Dad tells her that she is needed at the Schoenhaus, the bed-and-breakfast inn owned and operated by her grandmother. One of her regular staff has been injured and a themed weekend is coming up. Guests will gather together and spend the weekend acting out and solving a mystery.
Jen resists until Dad tells her a bit about the mystery. It is loosely based on the disappearance of Jen’s mother some 13 years earlier. Her grandmother may need help but Dad is more than a little worried about why the woman is suddenly determined to prove that a murder took place years earlier.
Reluctantly, Jen agrees to help and soon finds herself not just cleaning room but playing the part of the victim, a character based on her own mother. To complicate matters, the victim’s boyfriend is being played by Jen’s handsome un-cousin, a boy related to her grandmother’s second husband.
Again, I can’t give too much more information without giving away some serious plot elements which I am entirely unwilling to do. This is, after all, a mystery. As a mystery, it passes two big tests for me:
- It hooked me and wouldn’t let go. I picked up this book while I was packing for a lakeside weekend. I planned to read it because the author is a personal friend. I did not plan on staying up until the wee hours of the morning to find out who the murderer was.
- I didn’t figure out who the murderer was and that is a huge compliment because, very often, when I read a mystery I do figure it out.
Nitz plants clues in sight of the reader but she also has created a complicated enough story complete with red herrings that the clues don’t stand out.
The main character is an athlete and sports are frequently discussed but the book will probably have a much greater appeal to girls than boys. It would also be suitable for advanced younger readers — no sex (just romance) and no drugs although the main character does have a glass of wine with dinner but even that plays into the mystery.
Give this book to the tween or teen reader in your life, but you might want to wait until they get their chores done.
September 2, 2010
by David Patneaude
This post-apocalyptic novel takes place some thirty years after a virus wipes out 95% of the male population in approximately 2 weeks. Not surprisingly, women take over the roles formerly held by men. In short, they remake society. When schools teach history, they teach about the horrors brought to earth not by humanity but by men. Students learn how much better the world is under the reign of women.
Fast forward 30 years to the main story. Kellen is getting ready for his trials — the tests that will determine if he is a 2nd class member of society. Second class is the best that men can hope for in this new world. If he fails his trials, he can appeal but eventually he will be sterilized and relegated to an even narrower existence. You might think that when men are only 5 % of the world population, they would be cherished, but history lessons are rife with the crimes committed by men. Still Kellen doesn’t want most of the jobs open to men — he’s tired of living a life where he must constantly be accompanied by a woman, or a girl, known as a “minder.” He yearns for the freedom of life in the wilderness. A life outside of this women’s world.
Then he learns that the peninsula where his father and other loners live is about to be quarantined because another outbreak of the plague is expected. What would life in the wilderness be without his father? Kellen must get out ahead of the quarantine to warn his father of the impending danger.
I can’t tell you much more about the book because it would completely spoil the plot. But Kellen does have several eye opening moments in the wilderness. For one thing, even there men are not truly free. Tale a close look at the cover, a lonely male figure with women watching over him.
It would have been very easy for the author to create a cast of card-board characters for this kind of novel. Women would be evil and men to be pitied. Fortunately for the world of teen literature, Pateaude does much better than this. He gives any thinking reader quite a bit to noodle over in compelling story about love and friendship and family and trust.
Unlike a lot of dystopian literature, this novel isn’t as disturbing as it might be. Yes, the premise of feminism gone frightfully wrong is terrifying, but there is hope. After all, Kellen can’t go to the wilderness alone and those who go with him, statistically speaking, are not very likely to be male.
Give this book to the reluctant male reader in your life. Challenge him to read it and then have a lively discussion. Does he think it is possible? What similarities does he see between his life and Kellen’s? You might be surprised by the answers you get and, if you are much of a thinker, you might also be just a little bit uncomfortable.