Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Guardian by Joyce Sweeney

Genre: Young Adult
At age thirteen, Hunter has already been placed in four foster homes. Despite the fact that Hunter has a pretty bad life, he does not complain about it. He just takes it. His foster mother is verbally abusive (and sometimes physically, as well), his sisters are mentally abusive, and a bully at school is physically abusive. It doesn't help that his foster father Mike, the only person who truly appreciated him, is dead. After experiencing all these misfortunes and abuse, it's a wonder how Hunter stays sane and good at heart.

When mysterious miracles start happening and Hunter's prayers begin to come true, Hunter can't help but wonder if it is the work of his guardian angel or if he's finally cracking down from all the abuse he has taken. It's not until his guardian angel is revealed to him does Hunter realize he has to make an important, life-altering choice. Joyce Sweeney's The Guardian is a splendid novel about family, hope, and faith.

Hunter truly is the real angel of this novel. Although he has his own problems to deal with, he still worries about others, namely his youngest foster sister. He also does his best to support the family through doing yard work for others, earning the most income out of all the children in his family. Not to mention, he is intelligent for his age.

Hunter's situation makes readers desperately wish that his guardian angel was truly real despite the other characters' skepticism. Hunter may not live in a heavenly place, but he sure does try to make the best of his situation. Although I wish the ending could have been different, I thought this was a superb and unique novel that is absolutely worth reading.

Delightful and divine, The Guardian is a powerful novel that will captivate readers.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Freaky Monday by Mary Rodgers and Heather Hach

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Thirteen-year-old Hadley Fox is the typical overachieving, overscheduled, and overwhelmed straight-A student. Though not yet in high school, she is already worrying about how she will get into Stanford. While Hadley is a traditional student, her English teacher Ms. Pitts likes to experiment with unconventional teaching methods. For this reasons, they have never gotten along well. Therefore, when she forgets to prepare for an oral presentation for Ms. Pitts' English class, Hadley completely freaks out. It was not until Hadley and Ms. Pitts switch places can they both understand each other better.

It was ironic how Hadley is an overachiever in terms of learning, yet she doesn't realize that Ms. Pitts is also an overachiever in terms of teaching, often staying up late into the night just to correct papers. Their issues are further juxtaposed, as Hadley's and Ms. Pitts' secret admirers are revealed to them in the same Monday. In addition, while Hadley had an important oral presentation to deliver, Ms. Pitts' also had an equally, if not more important, interview for the position of chair of the English department.

For such an accomplished junior-high student, Hadley does not really have a lot of respect for Ms. Pitts. This trait, along with her tendency to be a drama queen, annoyed me throughout the story. However, Hadley's obsession with academics reminds me of myself, and I can understand her reactions that result from her paranoia with grades and getting into college. Through her switch with Ms. Pitts, Hadley does learn to be a better person.

Though the novel is predictable and greatly resembles Freaky Friday, it was enjoyable to read about the troubles that Hadley and Ms. Pitts encounter while in each other's bodies. I probably would have enjoyed this novel more if the perspective had alternated between the characters, instead of focusing on Hadley's views, considering the premise of the novel.

Freaky Monday does have a great moral about not judging people until you have been in their situation. I liked the novel, but I thought it was a bit too simple, especially considering how everything eventually worked out to Hadley's favor. Overall, this was a cute, fun story to read. However, I wouldn't recommend this for anyone above the age of twelve.

*This was also reviewed for HarperCollins' Children.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby

Genre: Realistic Fiction

College genius Theodore Mead Fegley decides he can’t take it anymore. Just eight days before graduation, he decides to head back home to High Grove, Illinois, back to his overbearing mother, and back to the life he once knew. Mead has worked his whole life to be able to graduate from this top-ranking university; not to mention, he was just about to give a raveling presentation on the Riemann Hypothesis (a baffling mathematical equation that has trumped many academic scholars for over a century) just before he left. However, no valid answer is provided for his resolve to ditch school. As the story progressed, the reason becomes clearer.

Life After Genius is an ingenious book. Jacoby offers a unique view inside the mind of a genius, covering the pressure, scrutinizing, and the torture of geniuses perfectly. Mead was a particularly admirable character, who I could definitely relate to. What’s commendable about Mead is that he goes through his life without a single word of complaint. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for Mead, while resenting those who torment him. Another interesting thing about the book is that it often jumps back and forth between Mead’s present and his flashbacks, which gives you a more in-depth look at Mead’s life as well as increase as the suspense. If you ever want to read about a genius’s life, this would be the best book to read.

*This was also reviewed for Book Divas – CollectiveX.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel by C.M. Butzer

Genre: Graphic Novel

Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel is as straightforward as its name suggest; it's a historical graphic novel about the Gettysburg, which leads up to Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address.

What a dynamic ending to a graphic novel! I'm rarely touched by graphic novels, but this was excellent.

I wish I had this book when I was first learning about the Gettysburg Address because it would have helped me understand it a lot better. The visuals greatly enhanced the understanding of the historical events leading up to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Keeping the novel succinct helped highlight all the important events of the Civil War.

The organization of this book is efficient, so that it's easy to find the information you need. The book opens with an introduction to all the characters. I really love the artwork; it really goes well with the novel, and it was the most significant part in clarifying what was being said. They are really striking, and the author's notes at the end really added to their depth.

In the author's notes, the author explains his drawings – what it was supposed to represent and why he drew what he did. An added bonus to the pictures is that some of them are more metaphorical than literal. The explanations are thorough and easily comprehensible. My favorite part of this book was when Lincoln was making his speech, and the author drew historical events that happened long after the speech. This emphasized the timeliness of Lincoln's words and its historical impact.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Model President by Brian Tacang

Genre: Children's Fiction

Millicent Madding initially thought she would make a great sixth grade class president when she first decided to run. She had the brains, the creativity, and the leadership – all indicators of a great president for Winifred T. Langley Middle School. Furthermore, nobody else would volunteer, so why not her? Imagine her horror when a new rival arrives – Fiona Dimmet, an elitist model from Pretty Liddy's Junior Fashion Academy. Since the academy is undergoing renovation; Fiona, along with her crew, are only temporary students at Langley Middle School. However, Fiona is bent on crushing Millicent as well as her drab fashion sense. Popular, pretty, superficial, and arrogant Fiona then decides to change the rules of the election: the election would take the form as a modeling competition.

In my opinion, the whole story was really pointless. Fiona wasn't a real student at Langley, so it didn't make sense why she would still be allowed to run. The plot was overly dramatized, overdone, and mostly over-the-top, especially with Millicent having two parents who are lost in time travel and as well as an aunt who lost her memory while performing in a circus.

What I especially hated was how the people from Pretty Liddy's all had to mutilate the English language, using words such as "superberific", "spectabulous", "beautilicious", and "fabulistic".

This is another nerd - vs.- popular kids story, and it was clear what the outcome was going to be like. The characters are really stereotypical. Brainiac Millicent has an intellectual uncle as well as super-intelligent parents; while pretty Fiona is perfect in every way, in terms of clothing, style, and popularity.

It was really absurd how all the students just immediately flocked and groveled to the kids from Pretty Liddy's right after they arrived. Even Millicent's friends ignored her after Fiona's overly dramatic, Hollywood-style arrival. They didn't really have to act like mindless zombies, which were exactly what they were compared to in the book. It shocked me even more when even the principal and teachers listened to them. You'd think they'd have the sense not to worship a bunch of kids who put them down because of their clothing.

The Model President certainly was an unfabulistic story for me, unfortunately.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Webs of Power by Darlene Quinn

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Darlene Quinn's Webs of Power ties the story of three women whose lives were all affected when Philip Sloane announces his plans to take over Consolidated department store. Paige Toddman, the wife of Consolidated's West Coast Division CEO, faces a life-altering dilemma when she realizes that she is pregnant. Her world threatens to fall apart as she decides that she would do whatever it takes to raise her child, despite what her husband Mark may wish for her to do. Meanwhile, Ashleigh McDowell who has to deal with issues at home while her fiancé Conrad Taylor goes oversea to manage his father's business. Finally, Viviana De Mornay engages in an affair with Philip Sloane in the hopes of becoming the wife of a powerful man.

What makes this book interesting is how it weaves details and insight about the retail world into the stories of the three women, while it easy to relate to the three main women. The trouble with weaving the stories together is that it sometimes is confusing to follow along with all the different characters. At first, I liked Paige's story the best and Viviana's the least. However, as the story progressed, Ashleigh grew on me, although I still held some dislike for Viviana for being so desperate for power. The characters all had strong personalities, making the readers guess at what they would do next. Overall, Webs of Power was drama-filled, which makes it unpredictable.

*Note: This was also reviewed for Book Divas.

Okay, so I'm unreliable...

I'm still getting used to balancing schoolwork and reviewing, so bear with me! I'll try to get some reviews up in a few days time.