Moving On

 It seems I won’t be at the bookstore much longer – I’ve been offered a teaching job starting this August. A shame that I didn’t have the opportunity to launch Inkblog much earlier. I do hope you’ve enjoyed the reviews, and if I have the chance to come back to YA blogging in future, I will.

Thank you!

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Son of the Mob

I hope nobody terribly minds the influx of Gordan Korman that will inevitably happen here; when an author has written dozens of excellent titles it’s hard to pick just one…and hard to read anything but that when you’re on a roll. So – Son of the Mob!

Author: Gordon KormanSon of the Mob, 2004 Canada/US Softcover Edition

Summary: Vince Luca is the son of a powerful New York mob boss, but he has a dilemma – he wants no part in the “family business.” Unfortunately for Vince, he keeps getting involved without even knowing it, and finding himself in situations where he can’t avoid stepping in. Even when doing what he believes to be right, he ends up entangled by the mob.

Cue love interest…in the form of an FBI agent’s daughter. In fact, it’s the same agent that has been hunting Vince’s father for years. How can Vince be expected to choose sides without betraying someone he cares about?

Two Cents: This book (and it has a sequel, which isn’t QUITE as good in my opinion) has got all the elements – action, adventure, humour, romance, slice of life. It’s a nice, well-rounded title with a fast-paced plot and realistic emotions. I actually picked it up on recommendation from a customer, a teenage boy who’d read the first one and was coming back to get the sequel, Son of the Mob 2 – he said he never liked reading until he picked this out for a book report.

Recommended For: Teenage boys, probably 13-16s, and definitely any fans of Korman’s work in the 9-12 category will not be disappointed. It has some similar elements to Artemis Fowl as well, so fans of that may want to give this one a look. That said, it appeals across the genre board, so if you’re looking for something that doesn’t fit neatly into one category, Son of the Mob is your book.

Personal Rating: 7/10

Links to Buy: Amazon US / CA / UK

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Such A Pretty Girl

If the books you read say something about a person, then I guess there are a lot of really weird things to be said about me, because when it comes to teen fiction I can’t even look at the Clique or It Girl books; I read Meg Cabot…and stuff like this.

Such A Pretty Girl, 2007 Softcover Edition

Author: Laura Weiss

Summary: Meredith has just turned fifteen, and is facing the most terrible decision of her life. Her father has just been released early from prison, where he has been for the past three years, ever since he was charged with sexually assaulting his own daughter. She was promised nine years of safety, but now her father is back and her mother has clearly chosen his side. Meredith doesn’t have any doubt about whether or not her father will come after her again – the question is, what can she do to stop him?

Two Cents: Dark and gripping. This book’s cover summary was just vague enough to keep me guessing, but by the time I had finished the first chapter I knew I wasn’t going to be putting it down anytime soon. Meredith’s emotional turmoil is very realistic and laced with just enough issues to keep it from being repetitive. Since it’s a first-person perspective, the reader is doing plenty of guessing as to whether she’s overreacting or not – well, I won’t spoil the ending, obviously.

Recommended For: Teenage girls. Obviously, since the story deals with abuse and incest issues, plus there’s some mention of Meredith’s sexual relations with her not-quite-boyfriend, younger readers should be warned. There aren’t any graphic scenes, however, so I’d say 14+, but it’s up to your own discretion. I also can’t quite place this in a genre; I suppose it would appeal to fans of psychological novels and thrillers, plus there’s a small amount of romance. Really I would recommend it to just about anyone of age, because Weiss has superbly dealt with a serious issue that many people are closing their eyes to.

Personal Rating: 8/10

Links to Buy: Amazon US / CA / UK

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Harry Potter and the Cover Dilemma

Harry Potter book 7 - ooh, it’s a shiny Horcrux! (UK/Canadian Hardcover Adult Edition)So as you may or may not know (having read the Introduction/Your Host sections, or just after picking up on the way I talk), I work at a big-name Canadian bookstore. Not too long ago, we got in our pre-order details for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the much-anticipated seventh book in the HP series. I, like about a billion other people, lined up eagerly at the store (before I worked there!) at midnight for the launch of the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, then proceeded to stay up until my eyes watered, gnawing through its 500+ pages before someone on the great wide Intarweb had the chance to spoil it for me.

This year I’m in a dilemma. I’m going to be in the U.S. during the launch weekend as part of an unrelated trip whose dates I can’t change (even if I was willing to do that for Harry, which I admittedly am not). I’ll be missing the launch at my home store, which is a disappointment – I do work in the kids’ section, I enjoy this kind of thing – but even worse is that now I have to choose between biting the bullet and getting a copy during my trip, or waiting the agonizing few days before I’m safely back across the border. I don’t want to buy the US version, and since I only see these friends once a year I shouldn’t really spend my time reading anyway, but I do want to go to the launch…any launch. And if I’m already there, can I actually hold back from buying it? Compounded by this are a number of other factors; one, the price will be steeper if I get it in the States, two, I don’t want the Americanized version, since I’ve been reading the UK/Canada ones up till now and a bunch of stuff is changed (“Sorcerer’s Stone”? Pardon?), but then, the UK cover is hugely disappointing. Generally I’ve preferred our artwork over the US version, but not this time!

The last factor, of course, is that if I wait until I return home – or even hit a bookstore somewhere in Ontario on the way to the airport – there’s a chance that someone will spoil it for me. Ah, it seems so silly to worry about something like this when there are so many other things in one’s life, but there you have it!

The hardcover Adult Edition is very attractive, however. It’s pictured above. Maybe I’ll pre-order that to one of the Toronto stores, hmm?

Any of you readers have plans for the launch? July 21st seems impossibly close!

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Charlie Bone

I had intended to review something from the teenage end of the age spectrum this time, but as I was walking by the Ns in 9-12 Fiction a glint of sparkly blue cover caught my eye and I realized that I never finished reading the Charlie Bone series. I read books 1 and 2 back before Christmas (I seem to have a penchant for European authors these days) but 3 wasn’t in stock, and now it was, so I said “never mind” to my previous plans and took The Blue Boa back to the lunchroom with me.

Well.Book 1 - Midnight for Charlie Bone (2006 US/CA/UK Softcover Reprint Edition, Egmont Books)

Author: Jenny Nimmo

Summary: Charlie Bone has found himself Endowed. Suddenly granted the ability to communicate with the people in photographs and paintings, his eccentric aunts ship him off to Bloor’s Academy, a school for gifted children, to further develop his talents. Unfortunately for Charlie, there is plenty of activity going on behind the scenes in the school that his kind nature won’t permit. As he gathers more enemies among his classmates and teachers, he bands together with new friends and unexpected allies to force out the truth behind Bloor’s mysteries, and the fabled Children of the Red King.

There are five books so far (at least one more expected in August 2007), starting with Midnight for Charlie Bone, and the series is referred to as “The Children of the Red King.”

Two Cents: Someone pointed me to this series after I greatly enjoyed Golden & Grey, and later a customer compared it to Harry Potter, which seems to be a common trend for this series. Well, the magic elements are there, along with a boarding school full of untrustworthy classmates and evil teachers, plus a protagonist that finds himself abruptly thrown into a strange new world where he’s not just a normal kid anymore. The similarities do stop there, and though I was unsure if I wanted to continue on to Book 2, I did, and it did much to raise my opinion.

This series has a large cast of interesting characters. You don’t get to know all of them well, but the potential is there, and the ones that are developed are developed well. The series is dynamic and keeps you turning the pages, to be sure.

Recommended For: Younger end of the spectrum; these look thick but the print is large and there is some decoration in the margins. Ages 8-10 or so, fans of Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket, definitely falling into the adventure-fantasy category.

Personal Rating: 7/10

Links to Buy Book 1: Amazon US / CA / UK

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Macdonald Hall

OK, I’ll admit it, Gordon Korman is my hero. The Macdonald Hall (once known as simply Bruno & Boots) set has been my favourite YA series since I was old enough to be legitimately reading them. As I recall, this transpired in the library of my old elementary school with a copy of Go Jump in the Pool! My personal copies of these books are still those musty 1970s editions, though the recent rerelease (slight editing of titles and older technology references, I noticed) have attractive new covers, not all of which I could resist buying as well. Oops.

At least they’re nicely priced. 

Author: Gordon KormanThis Can’t Be Happening! (2003 Canadian Softcover Edition)

Summary: Bruno Walton and Melvin “Boots” O’Neal have been partners in mischief ever since they came to be roommates at Macdonald Hall, a respected boys’ school. Of course, this always means trouble for the staff and occasionally the students of the Hall (not to mention Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, across the street), and such is how This Can’t Be Happening! opens – with the dynamic duo being separated and sent to live with new roommates. Bruno must concoct a plan to put things right, but everything manages to backfire on him, until a strange coincidence puts him and Boots in the spotlight…

Later books (there are seven in all) cover adventures with disagreeable teachers, a huge and hilarious fundraising campaign, millions of zucchini sticks, a Hollywood movie being set on campus, hijacked television broadcasts, masked practical jokers, and more than one encounter with the “well-behaved” young ladies across the street, not to mention their psychotic, shotgun-wielding Headmistress, and occasionally the police.

Two Cents: I already mentioned that I loved these books. I probably will never stop; they are downright side-splittingly hilarious and the dialogue is gold. I only wish there were more of them – and that they were longer. The 2003 version of This Can’t Be Happening! clocks in at 128 pages, and the others are longer, but not by much. Personal favourite is Lights, Camera, Disaster! (original title was Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood) for the no-holds-barred amazing characterization of Jordie Jones and his merry partnership with Bruno and Boots.

I often tell customers who are looking at these (Korman is a popular author, especially looking at the Kidnapped series, so people frequent the K shelf looking for more of his work) that it’s his first work – the first Macdonald Hall book was written when he was 12 – and still one of his best. Definitely worth checking out!

Recommended For: The younger end of the 9-12 spectrum, simply because of the size of the books, or perhaps for kids who are slower taking to reading. The content is perfect for just about anyone – these are funny and don’t appeal to any particular genre or age, great for both genders as well, and don’t have any objectionable content.

Personal Rating: 10/10

Links to Buy Book 1: Amazon CAIndigo

Amazon UK/US doesn’t seem to carry the latest printing, so trying your local store – new or used – is a good bet. In Canada, Chapters/Indigo/Coles often keeps them stocked and they’re available on the website as of this writing.

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Half Moon Investigations

After Artemis I figured I’d check out Eoin Colfer’s other books too. I’ve been a sucker for Holmes (and Poirot, Kudo, et al) for ever, and so immediately hit upon this one. Schoolboy detectives? Oh yes. I was expecting something similar to Artemis, and Fletcher Moon isn’t, but his story was really something too.

Author: Eoin ColferHalf Moon Investigations (UK Hardcover Edition)

Summary: Junior high student Fletcher Moon – nicknamed “Half Moon” thanks to his diminuitive size – is a fully qualified detective just looking for a case. Unfortunately, even doing something as simple as finding lost trinkets is enough to end him in hot water, on the run from the police with an unexpected partner and framed for arson. Going undercover as part of the local mob family, Half Moon unravels the most incredible of plots, at great cost to himself.

Two Cents: While I liked Red and a few others, the sheer number of characters coming at the reader is a bit hard to take in at first, especially since the narrator (Fletcher) doesn’t really know any of them well. That aside, the narrative voice is funny and glib. Glad I read this, and I definitely liked the concept, though as far as I know there aren’t any additional Half Moon books planned. Detective stories are popular in the 9-12 age group and Colfer’s has been executed better than most, with an complex but not difficult to follow plot and an exciting undercover operation. Most mystery novels don’t give the detective a chance to develop his personality, which is probably why Fletcher appealed to me.

Recommended For: 10-12 range, fans of Artemis Fowl,  fans of Hardy Boys or Holmes. Has all the qualities of an adventure novel with mystery and spy elements thrown in.

Personal Rating: 8/10

Links to Buy: Amazon US / CA / UK

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Filed under Ages 9-12, Title Reviews