What We're Reading

Witch's Boy, Michael Gruber -Jaemi
Witch's Boy This is the story of a very unlikely family, and what happens when best intentions aren't quite enough.

Returning home one day, a witch finds a boy left in a basket with a note. Though it is against her nature, she decides to take it home, and once she gets him there, she decides to keep him, despite the advice from her familiar Falance not to do so. She calls the bear Ysul to be his nurse, and the afreet Bagordax to build his nursery and be his teacher. And so Lump grows up with the ability to speak to animals, with imaginary friends in far off lands he can see through his windows, and without any real human contact. When settlements start encroaching into the forest, disaster strikes.

Lump thinks to make friends with the children he has spied on his walks. He sneaks off to watch them, and eventually works up the courage to approach one. Believing himself normal, and these other children not, he doesn't understand when they scream and run and attack. When he is caught and chained and put on show, only then does he realize his understanding of the world is flawed. Rescued by Ysul, he demands vengeance from his mother, who will not grant it. Instead, he turns to Bagordax, who convinces Lump to free him, which he does, and then rains down death and destruction on the family who held lump prisoner. Combined with the destrcution of a large part of their own house, Lump and the witch have no choice but to flee.

With some quick magic, Falance is turned from cat to man, and carriage much like Cinderella's is conjured. The trio rides hard and non-stop until they reach a clearing. Beyond it lies the realm of magic. Within, the witch is stripped of her powers, Lump watches the Faeries dance, and both are forever changed.

Back in the world of men, the new family takes up the life of Mountebanks, with Falance and the witch turning tricks. With the assisstance of a retired artiste, they learn how to make their show prosper, and head for the Cold Fair in a nearby Kingdom. Things go well for a time. But when the father of the girl Lump has fallen in love with is stricked down in a fencing practice, and he runs for his mother to save him, the man's son, who had plotted his demise, turns Mrs. Forest in for a witch for saving him. She and Falance must run, and Lump is meant to find them through a message to be sent through friends. Only the friends also have been captured, by the time he returns, and he himself must flee as he is recognized as being the Witch's Boy.

Eventually he makes a life for himself with the help of an honest jeweler, who pays Lump fairly for all of the "stones" he found in his underground travles. After a couple of years spent brewing a story of himself, Lump returns to the Kingdom under the name Lum-po, claiming to be a Prince of Cathay. He hopes to win the hand of Aude, with all his riches and jewels. But while she revels in his gifts, she cares naught for him, and her father plans for her to wed the King, which she does. Lump then appears to her as himself, coming through the wall upon spying her crying, and helps her through her predicament in trade for her first born child. He then spends a year preparing for this child, only to make a new deal when the year comes, and end up losing the child instead.

Lost, uncovered, and no longer wealthy, Lump doesn't know what to do. His magic betrays him, and he spends 10 years buried undear the earth, neither alive nor dead. Only when he comes to grips with who he is and what has happened to him, and allows himself to feel, is he set free.

Unsure where he is, Lump follows the sounds of singing and finds himself in a garden, admiring a beautiful girl. And here his true path begins.

Blue Gold, Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos -Jaemi
Blue Gold I've never read Cussler, but I really enjoyed the movie version of his book Sahara, and this NUMA Files tale was no less exciting. Nor does it star Dirk Pitt.

To begin, Dr. Francesca Cabral has discovered a process that can cheaply and efficiently desalinate water, and is on her way to the UN to present her findings and give the process to the world for free. But someone else has other things in mind, and her plane never makes it out of South America, crashing deep in the jungle.

Ten years later, Kurt Austin and his partner Joe Zavala are racing their powerboat when the come abruptly upon a pod of dead whales. Curious as to what could have killed them, as research seems to indicate they were boiled, they begin to investigate. This leads them to a Tortilla Factory in Baja California, Mexico, which fronts for an underwater operation. Before they can discover much about the underwater dealings, the facility explodes, nearly taking Austin and Zavala with it.

Meanwhile, in the jungle, NUMA reasearchers Paul and Gamay Trout have gotten wrapped up in twisted dealings between locals, and end up escaping only to stumble into the territory of the most freaed tribe---the Chulo. With no other options for escape, however, they decide to attempt to steal a Chulo canoe, only to end up discovered and escorted to the center of their village, where they come face to face with the White Goddess, Francesca Cabral.

Dr. Cabral and the Trouts make a daring escape from the Chulo, who are staging a coup to overthrow their leader. It seems hopeless, but with some luck and a helping hand from their NUMA friends, they're saved, and return to the states, where everything starts to come together, and therefore falls apart.

The deaths of the whales, the explosion, and Dr. Cabral's attempted kidnapping, are all related to the business dealings of a trans-national corporation who is slowly and silently taking over the world's water supply. Led by a giantess of a woman who is never seen, hidden in a fortress of a house on the shores of Lake Tahoe, it seems there can be no stopping Gogstad or their monopoly on Blue Gold.

This book will keep you turning pages and on the edge of your seat right down to the last sentence.

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone -Jenni
Bad Boy Ugh. Who doesn't know this guy:

Popular in middle school, Josie is totally nervous for high school. So, in the beginning of her freshman year, when a popular senior (who they call T.L.) asks her out, she is way excited. But, as they spend more time together, she figures out that he's only interested in her for one reason, and it's not for her sparkling company.

Nicolette is a playa. She is always in control, and never falls for guys, just lets them fall for her. But, when she meets up with T.L., she becomes smitten and lets it go too far.

Senior Aviva is a self-described "criss-crosser," not fitting into any group, just doing her own thing. When she falls for T.L., she's convinced it's different. It's not. This guy is just a jerk.

Josie gets sick of how he treats girls and starts a record that girls can add their comments to to warn each other about this shady guy and his total lack of morals and respect for women.

Each of these girls are totally different from each other, but each gets played the same way. How can they all fall for the same jerk? Read Stone's mesmerizing story and see how these three girls finally stand up for themselves.

It's Kind of a Funny Story: a Novel, by Ned Vizzini (Publication Date: April 2006) -Jenni
Funny Story Craig Gilner really, really wants to get into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School; he thinks that this will be the springboard to success in his future. So Craig spends an entire year studying---everyone thinks he is one of the smartest kids in his grade. Craig does indeed get in, but this new school is not what he thought. At Pre-Professional High School, he isn't the smart kid anymore - in fact he isn't anything. Craig begins to really get stressed out. His best friend Aaron isn't any help---his grades are better than Craig's and he's dating Nia, Craig's longtime crush.

Craig's anxiety grows and he starts not being able to eat. He's stressed out and depressed and when he reaches bottom, he checks himself into a psychiatric ward.

Craig's story is honest and funny, and makes you think about all of the pressure out there---and how much of it is in your head and how much isn't---and what happens when you decide to just be yourself.

Grand and Humble, by Brent Hartinger -Jenni
Grand and Humble At the intersection of two streets---Grand and Humble---lies the secret that will unlock the past.

For Manny, the class geek, life is tough. His father doesn't always get him; he won't answer his questions, and Manny feels like he always seems to be hiding something. Instead of being on the stage, Manny sits in the shadows and works the lighting for the Drama Club. His best friend, Elsa, is deaf, and Manny has learned to sign to communicate with her. His life is quiet.

Harlan, on the other hand, is the senator's son ,and was born into privilege. He is popular and athletic, and has a hot girlfriend. Though Harlan's life seems like it should be perfect, it isn't. He is controlled and manipulated by his domineering mother and forced to be "the good senator's son," smiling and forgoing his own life. His life is spent in the spotlight---and under the microscope.

What do Manny and Harlan have to do with each other? They are both plagued by horrifying anxiety attacks; Manny's in the form of nightmares, and Harlan's while waking. The two boys desperately try to find the root of their panic attacks, and they find that it lies at the intersection of Grand and Humble.

If you like psychological thrillers (like Pete Hautman's Invisible), you will love Grand and Humble, which will keep you guessing, and definitely make you think. This is a book that begs to be read again!

Day of Vengeance, Bill Willingham, et al -Jenni
Day of Vengeance Wow. Where to begin...

An evil supervillian named Eclipso needs a human vessel to carry out his evil deeds. First, he takes over the body of Superman, but after being foiled by Captain Marvel, makes the journey from Metropolis to Gotham's Arkham Asylum to inhabit everybody's favorite new inmate and murderer Jean Loring.

Still with me here? Ok, we forge on...

Next, a malicious ghost named the Spectre wants to destroy all of the magic in the world. Not an especially popular idea, particularly with some of the super-powered crowd, whose abilities rely on magic. A group of allies (consisting of a monkey detective, two witches, a bartender, a bouncer and a man dressed in rags), name themselves The Shadowpact and set out to help destroy both Eclipso and the Spectre.

Are you totally confused?

Day of Vengeance is really complex. But, even with the high levels of fanservice and shout-outs to many characters in the DC Universe, it is a good story. Readers won't be lost if they aren't familiar with all of the backstor---Vengeance is a true-blue superhero story with lots of action that is a quick read. If you read Identity Crisis, you're well set to venture into Day of Vengeance. If you're looking for an action-packed story that's on the cutting edge of the DC Universe, look no further.

I am the Messenger, Markus Zusak -Jenni
I am the Messenger Ed Kennedy is a loser. He's nineteen, an illegal cabdriver in Australia (where you have to be 20 to drive a cab - who knew?), he has no girlfriend, lives in a shack and has a smelly dog.

One day, while out at a bank with his friends, he accidentally foils a robbery. Ed gets his fifteen minutes of fame for this, and soon after strange events start to occur. Ed starts receiving playing cards in the mail, each with cryptic messages written on them. Each of the messages is a mission Ed must carry out. Some are lovely and heartwarming. Others are dark and violent. But, each mission is tied to a person, and Ed is going to help these people and ultimately discover who the messenger is.

Here is my message to you: read this book; it is one of the best I have read this year. I Am the Messenger is a fast-paced mystery that will keep you guessing until the last page and is sure not to disappoint even the toughest of critics.

The Foretelling, Alice Hoffman - Jaemi
Foretelling Rain is born to her mother out of sorrow. Rather than a joyous event, her birth marks the permanence of the attack her mother suffered caught alone out on the fields. The Priestesses tell Rain she has the strength of all 50 men, but the consolation means little to her, as her mother the Queen will not speak to her.

As queen-to-be of a fierce Amazon tribe, Rain seeks to know all, and excel. She rides her horse until they become one. She rescues a bear cub, and learns to ride it as well. But in seeking to be something she is not, and letting the bear believe it is something it is not, she brings only sorrow upon herself.

As Rain enters her teens her mother takes up with a woman rescued from a battle. She is surprised to find that her mother can love. The captured woman's daughter, Io, takes to following Rain about. No matter how cruel Rain is to her, Io is only kind in return, loving her as a sister. Soon Rain comes to know that she is a sister, and regrets all the harsh words she spoke.

As Rain continues to grow, she becomes more and more defiant. Breaking rules, searching for herself, trying to find her way, fearing what is to come. Before she has found her answers, her mother is lost in battle. As her most recent child was a boy, not a girl, the Queenship falls to Rain. Some of the tribe do not believe her capable. Seeking to kill her in her sleep, the traitors murder Io instead, as Rain had left already on her journey to bring her brother to his own people.

An interesting look at what life might have been amongst this people. No fathers, no boys, feirce spirits and traditions, but also an understand that eventually change must come.

Dead Connection, Charlie Parker -Jenni
Dead Connection Murray Kiefer does not fit in well at school, though he does have a number of friends. The difference between Murray and his classmates is that Murray's friends are all dead. With the ability to communicate with the dearly departed, Murray spends most of his time hanging around the local cemetery talking to the deceased, until one day he hears a new voice among his friends; a terrified voice pleading for help. Murray believes this voice to belong to Nikki, a popular cheerleader who has been missing, and piece-by-piece he starts to put together whom the voice belongs to and the truth about Nikki.

Told in alternating voices, Dead Connection is a thrilling mystery that will keep you riveted to its conclusion. If you liked Zusak's I Am the Messenger, you'll like this book with its older characters and intricate mystery. Though not out until May, Dead Connection is well worth the wait.

John Lennon: All I want is the Truth: a Photographic Biography, Elizabeth Partridge -Jenni
Lennon You may have heard of John Lennon, or that little band he was in called The Beatles?

John Lennon was a gifted musician, avant garde thinker, and pacifist. Though in Partridge's biography, she portrays him from all aspects and spares no contradiction in his life. She shows him as a rambunctious teen, getting in to bar brawls, through his evolution into adulthood where he holds bed-ins for peace. This Printz Honor book spares nothing and holds little back. Partridge gives her reader a look at the blunt truth behind this rock icon, and a sharp depiction of adverse effects that fame and money can have.

Criss Cross, Lynne Rae Perkins -Jenni
Criss Cross Debbie is an ordinary girl, who wishes something would happen. She hangs out with her best friend Patty and helps elderly Mrs. Bruning with her errands. Hector is an ordinary boy, who learns to play the guitar and thinks that the girl Meadow in his guitar class is very cute. He hangs out with his friends Lenny and Phil. This is the story of how their lives intersect and how the decisions they make influence the path of their lives.

This 2005 Newbery Award winner is filled with exquisitely intricate detail and looks at ordinary life in an unordinary way. The chapters play with form and style: some typical, some more experimental. While the writing is masterfully constructed, the plot is slow and linear. Readers who enjoy the wonders of language and/or are poetry aficionados will embrace this book with its flowing, lyrical style.

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