Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Vacation Reads

Y'all, between getting back from vacation and working my tail off trying to get caught up with everything going on (I'm helping with the library's strategic plan, getting everything ready for the District 6 Conference in April, starting spring storytimes, and planning for Summer Reading Club in addition to all the regular day-to-day work)... my brain's taking a little vacation when it comes to writing reviews. HOWEVER, I still want to tell you about some of the awesome books I read when I was on vacation. So, here goes!

172 Hours on the Moon by John Harstad. Grades 7 and up. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 2012. 355 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Eager to build publicity for the space program, NASA decides to send a lucky group of teenagers to the moon for 172 hours. For Mia, Antoine, and Midori, it's the trip of a lifetime. But there's something that NASA's not telling them. There's a reason that no one's been back to the moon for 40 years. And by the time they figure out what's going on, it might be too late.

This is one wild ride! It's a crazy, sci-fi romp, translated from Norwegian, and teens who dig horror and thrillers will eat this one with a spoon. It reminded me of nothing more than my beloved Christopher Pike (and I mean that in the kindest way possible). Bonus: it's a science-fiction book that's not too science-fiction-y. Great for fulfilling genre assignments.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Grades 7 and up. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2012. 509 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

On the eve of her forced marriage to a brutal man, Ismae is brought to the convent of St. Mortain, patron saint of death, where she learns that Mortain has blessed her with deadly gifts. She trains at the convent, learning thousands of ways to kill a person who bears the marque of Mortain, but when she gets her most important assigment - to accompany Gavriel Duval to the high court of Brittany and protect the young duchess - she learns quickly that she's not as prepared as she thought. Oh, she can converse with souls of the departed, fire a crossbow with uncanny accuracy, and poison the most wily of people, but how to deal with the tingle of electricity whenever she touches Duval's hand?

This story swept me up and didn't let go until it was finished. The courtly intrigue! The slow-burning romance! The nuns of death! I had heard great things about this book from some of my trusted librarian friends and it didn't disappoint. It's a richly constructed world with a lot of characters to keep straight, but it'll be a great choice for teens who have loved Tamora Pierce, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Sabriel by Garth Nix, or the Kingdom books by Cynthia Voigt.

Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown. Grades 7 and up. Little, Brown, July 2012. 358 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

All her life, Kendra has had to be perfect to make up for her completely imperfect older brother, Grayson, whose debilitating OCD has often put him in the hospital. But when Kendra makes a terrible mistake and Grayson gets back from his latest hospital stay no better than he was before he left, Kendra makes an impulse decision: it's time to escape. Kendra just knows that as soon as Grayson has to force himself to step outside his routines and face his anxieties, he'll get better. Heading west into the sunset, Kendra will get way more than she bargained for... and she just might get her brother back.

I love brother/sister stories and it's obvious that this is a subject close to Jennifer Brown's heart. She constructs Kendra and Grayson's complicated relationship with care and treats Grayson's OCD with sensitivity. I liked this one more than Bitter End and not quite as much as Hate List.

Purity by Jackson Pearce. Grades 9 and up. Little, Brown, April 2012. 224 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

When Shelby's mother died, she asked Shelby to promise her three things:

1. To love and listen to her father
2. To love as much as possible
3. To live without restraint

And even as Shelby doubts her faith in God, she follows these three promises religiously, letting them guide how she's living her life. So when her father takes on the task of organizing their church's Princess Ball, a purity ball, Shelby feels compelled to follow along. But Shelby's not sure that she wants to pledge her purity, so she finds a loophole: she'll lose her virginity before the Ball. But with only five weeks to pick out the lucky guy and get the deed done, Shelby doesn't have much time.

This was a deeper story than I expected. Shelby's dealing with sex and love and friendship (and just who has the right to her purity, anyway), but she's also questioning her religious faith and finally starting to connect with her dad after too many years of silence. I appreciated the messages about taking one's convictions seriously and questioning what doesn't seem right until you figure out what you do believe in.

Whew! Those are some of my vacation reads. Thinking about them now kinda makes me wish I was back on the beach! What have YOU been reading lately?