Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith Review

First of all, did anyone else watch Project Runway? Did you pick a favorite designer to root for? I pick Bert.  And before you go accusing me of being a fair-weather fan, I picked him before he won the first challenge. It looks like this season is going to be full of drama and crying and Tim promises a season of “firsts.” I am intrigued. Now, moving on to books. This next book, The Marbury Lens, had been on my TBR list forever. It even made it home with me a few times, only to go back to the library unread. I am not sure where the resistance came from. After all, it received great reviews and awards. It is an ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011 book and it won the Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year for Fiction 2010. I am embarrassed to say that I had to make myself read this one. I am so glad I did because this is one wild, riveting read.

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith 2010

Sixteen-year-old Jack finds himself in the wrong place, at the wrong time after having too much to drink at a party. He is kidnapped, drugged, and nearly assaulted before he escapes. The only person he tells is his best friend, Connor. Jack just wants to forget the whole thing and he hopes their trip to London will help. Unfortunately a new nightmare begins when a stranger gives Jack an unusual pair of glasses. Through these lenses Jack can see Marbury, a war-torn, desolate land filled with murderous creatures. In Marbury Jack is responsible for the survival of two younger boys. In London Jack is falling in love and Connor is reassuring him that he is not losing his mind. In Marbury he is being hunted. The desire to see things through to the end in Marbury threatens his relationships and his sanity, but the pull is like an addiction. Can Jack free himself from The Marbury Lens before it is too late?

I could not put this book down. Just as Jack was desperate for more of the Marbury story, I too needed to what happened next. The story is so compelling that I found myself willing to believe that Marbury is real and that the events could truly be happening. I wonder if I should have been questioning my own sanity? Underneath the horror is a powerful story of friendship, addiction and trauma and the lengths the mind will go to in order to protect itself.

I loved the relationship between Jack and Connor. I can’t think of any other book that I have read that portrays such a deep and loving friendship between teenaged boys. Sure, they joke around with each other and give each other a hard time, but they trust, understand, and help each other always. It was the one positive thing a dark, brutal world. I also really enjoyed Seth’s story. Saying anymore about him would spoil the story, but I will say his story was interesting and the role he played in Jack’s life was fascinating.

This book is certainly not for everyone. It has both realistic and imaginary horrors, violence, gore, drinking, and a ton of swearing. However, the writing is amazing and the story is unique and thought-provoking. I loved it and find myself still thinking about it, wondering…

The unique blend of realistic fiction and science fiction make it hard to come up with readalikes. Here is what I have decided-horror like Stephen King, gritty reality like Ellen Hopkins or Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl, and disturbing dystopian society like Suzanne Collin’s Panem.

Happy Reading!


In Which I Try to Write Reviews Instead of Wasting Time Thinking About Project Runway

Seriously. It’s a problem. Another problem that I have right now is a giant list of books that I have read, but have not reviewed. Not a word about them. So, time to stop being lazy and do some writing! 

The Sorcerer of the North, Ranger’s Apprentice #5 by John Flanagan 

Will is now a full-fledged Ranger assigned to the sleepy fief of Sea Cliff. He is not there long before an old friend arrives with a new assignment. There is trouble up North. Lord Syron of Macindaw Castle has fallen ill and people are blaming an evil sorcerer. Will must shed his Ranger cloak and go undercover to discover the source of the trouble.

As I have mentioned before, I love Halt, so I was sad to see that he played only a minor role in this book. It makes sense though, since Will is finally on his own.  The story does not disappoint; it is full of danger, action, and adventure. Once again Flanagan manages to write a morality tale without preaching. This book addresses issues of popularity, appearances, and the dangers of judging others based on appearances. The cliffhanger ending will have readers racing out for the next installment, The Siege of Macindaw. 5 stars!

Desires of the Dead (The Body Finder #2) by Kimberly Derting

Violet can sense the echoes of those who have been murdered. She tries to keep this ability a secret, but when the FBI starts snooping her entire way of life is threatened. Normally she would turn to her best friend Jay, but since they started dating she has found it difficult to confide in him. While her ability is no secret from Jay, the FBI and a stalker are. Keeping secrets can be a dangerous business for Violet.

I was so disappointed with this sequel that I probably will not read anymore in the series. In the first book Violet was such a strong, confident character and her relationship with Jay was sweet. She has a strong support network and she uses it. In this book she is a totally different person and I didn’t like her. She is whiny, insecure, and secretive. I also found myself hating Chelsea, Violet’s best friend. This girl is a bully and everyone is ok with that. Blah. Frustrating, disappointing read.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman, sequel to If I Stay *SPOILERS*

It’s been three years since the accident. Mia is a rising star at Julliard and Adam is an award-winning rock star. Chance brings the couple together again for the first time in years. As they explore New York City they reconnect, reopen old wounds, and come to understand each other better.

I LOVED this book! It is heartbreaking and hopeful, the perfect sequel to If I Stay. The writing is beautiful-raw, powerful, real. Emotions run high because Adam is so damaged, hurt, and desperate for answers. How does the one night for Mia and Adam turn out? I’ll never tell. Read it yourself.

Ok, that’s all I have in me for now. I promise to keep plugging away at these reviews.

Happy Reading!



Top Ten Tuesday-Books That Tackle Tough Issues


It’s Top Ten Tuesday, the day I get to indulge in fun list-making, thanks to the bloggers at The Broke and The Bookish. This week we lucky listmakers will share our favorite books that address tough issues. I apologize in advance for not expounding on my choices, but the bandages on my hand and thumb make typing annoying and frustrating. So, here’s my list:


Shine by Lauren Myracle is a powerful novel about hate crimes against homosexuals, drug addiction, poverty, and sexual assault





The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith is a haunting account of post-traumatic stress syndrome following a kidnapping and attempted rape.




Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers is all about the mean girls. This book is about cliques, bullying, sexual assault and revenge.



The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is a heartfelt novel about loss and grief. This book goes well with Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler and If I Stay by Gayle Forman




Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu is about mental illness and it’s impact on a family. The illness? Hoarding. If you are interested/intrigued/terrified/horrified by all the hoarding reality-type shows on tv, you won’t want to miss this book.



Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin is a heartbreaking look at mental illness, neglect, and child abuse.




Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is the ultimate issues book, it’s chock full of them! And it’s hilarious.





Monster by Walter Dean Myers examines racism and youth violence.





Flash Burnout by K.L. Madigan looks at sex from a male point of view. Issues of friendship, loss and drug abuse are also addressed.





The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is another book that uses humor to discuss tough issues such as poverty, racism, and alcoholism.



And there you have it, some of my favorite issues books. I am kind of pleased with myself for using books other than Speak, Thirteen Reasons Why, and The Hate List, which are all very amazing issue books too! 

Happy Reading (or should I say, Go grab a tissue?)


Mondays with Megan- Wisdom’s Kiss Review

Hi Everyone and Happy Monday. I am still down a functioning thumb, but I am back at work. Now I have to get busy writing reviews for all the books I managed to read while recuperating. Let’s kick off what will hopefully be a week of reviews with Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdoch. I received an advanced reader’s copy from

Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock September 2011

Princess Wisdom, aka Dizzy, longs for adventure and excitement. Her future mother-in-law, the conniving Duchess Wilhelmina, longs to control Dizzy’s home kingdom. Unaware of the duchess’ schemes, a wedding is arranged between Dizzy and the Baron of Farina. Dizzy, accompanied by her grandmother, Ben sets off to join her future husband. Along the way they meet Trudy, a red-haired orphan with the unusual magical gift of sight. Trudy, or Lady Fortitude, reluctantly joins the party as a lady in waiting. It is Trudy’s hope to be reunited with her long-lost love, Tips. Of course, nothing goes according to plan when mistaken identities and treasonous plans are revealed. It quickly becomes obvious that the thing that can save the day is a touch of witchcraft.

This charming and humorous fairy tale-esque offering from the author of Dairy Queen and Princess Ben is full of magic, romance, betrayal, and treachery. There is also an extraordinary cat. While I appreciated all the wordplay, literary references, rich vocabulary, and beautiful fonts and page decorations, I found the eight points of view to be distracting and at times redundant and unnecessary. I enjoyed the happily ever after ending (it’s a fairy tale, happily ever after is expected, not a spoiler) and the glossary of unusual terms provided. Fans of The Princess Bride, fairy tales and  good old comedy of errors with appreciate this story. This is a clean read, suitable for younger readers, but clever and sophisticated enough to entertain older readers.

Pair with The Princess Bride by William Goldman, A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn, or Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede.

Happy Reading!


Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Should Be Required Reading

It’s time for a Top Ten Tuesday list! As always, thank you to the folks at The Broke and the Bookish for hosting. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books that should be required reading for teens. The biggest challenge I had with this list was deciding between classic and contemporary works. A required reading list is a tricky thing. On the one hand, I feel it’s important to read classics. One the other hand, some of them are just so darn boring! A list of classics only will turn a lot of teens off of reading. So, let’s mix it up!

  1. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Not only is this book fast-paced and suspenseful, it is also packed with thought-provoking issues. Physical perfection comes at a price. In Uglies, people sacrifice their individuality and free-will for physical beauty. In return, the government provides a life of peace, stability, and equal access to resources. It’s a tempting offer, but some are not willing to accept this life.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The world still needs the powerful words of Atticus Finch.




3. Endgame by Nancy Garden. This is a disturbing look inside the mind of the victim of bullying. Gray feels trapped, ignored, and alienated by both his peers and the adults in his life. When he finally snaps and takes matters into his own hands the outcome is devastating.



4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This cautionary tale is not just about censorship, it is about what happens when people is society stop questioning and challenging authority. This classic continues to be relevant today.



5. Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. This moving and entertaining story about a deaf girl managing a high school band is all about rising to a challenge, overcoming obstacles, and coming out the other side with a better understanding of yourself. It is an inspiring, feel-good story and it’s the perfect balance to a lot of the heavy material teens are required to read.


6. Mythology. The lives of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were full of violence, treachery, betrayal, sex, love, and debauchery. Talk about a good time! Of course these stories all come with a moral and valuable insight into human nature. Let’s not forget history and language skills that can be learned from myths. They entertain and educate, what’s not to love!

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book about World War II offers a unique narrator, Death, describing life for civilian Germans. It’s about small defiances having a huge impact and how the power of words can lead people to both good and evil.



8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This is a haunting cautionary tale about the corrupting nature of power and egotism.  It begs readers to wonder how they would act in an uncivilized environment.



9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This compelling story about sexual assault is sure to be a classic. It explores the trauma and isolation felt by survivors of rape.



10. Shakespeare. The original writer of teen angst! The works of Shakespeare are so ingrained in pop culture, you really need to know his stuff.




And there you have, another Top Ten List. Next week I will have a list of books that tackle tough issues.

Happy Reading!



Mondays with Megan-Post-Op Edition

Hi everyone! It’s Monday and I am reporting from home this week. I had to have hand surgery last week and I am still recuperating (mostly I am struggling to do things one-handed). Let me tell you, thumbs are amazing little appendages and I can’t wait for my left thumb to be functioning again. While I can’t drive or open a jar, I can still read (thank goodness!), so that’s the plan. Finally my book hoarding is going to come in handy; I have a towering stack just waiting to be tackled. I read Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (disappointing) and The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan (awesome) this weekend and will have reviews ready soon. On deck I have:

Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin
Nose Down, Eyes Up by Merrill Markoe
The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (e-galley)
Torment by Kate Lauren
The Magnificent 12:The Call by Michael Grant
Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern
Pop by Gordon Korman
and Mad Love by Suzanne Selfors

That’s 11 books-should keep me busy!

Happy Reading!


Haven by Kristi Cook-Guest Review

 My intern Cassie was kind enough to leave me with a book review to use. How lucky for me, since I won’t be at work today or tomorrow. I haven’t read this myself yet, but here are Cassie’s thoughts about:

Haven by Kristi Cook:

Violet McKenna has never felt she fit in anywhere, and having the ability to see premonitions, especially foreseeing her father’s murder coming true, she wishes she was normal. But when she sees a brochure for Winterhaven Boarding School, she has an unexplainable attachment to it and tells her stepmother she wants to go. Violet soon realizes that Winterhaven is not a normal school, but a haven for kids who have special abilities just like her. When she meets the devastatingly handsome Aiden Gray, there is an electric and mesmerizing attraction to one another. But soon Violet foresees blood and death in Aiden’s future and learns that he is not what he seems. But with this new revelation, Violet learns of her true destiny.

As a person who is a sucker for romance, vampire stories, and tales of lore, I did find this book entertaining. Right away I figured out the mystery that is the oh so charmingly Aiden and was immediately sucked into the story line (no pun intended). If you like to read stories that are filled with action (it is Buffy the Vampire Slayer-ish), mystery, romance, vampires, werewolves, psychic powers, and a strong group of friends, then this book is a tantalizingly and suspenseful good read.

Other read-a-likes you might like: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Fallen by Lauren Kate, and Clarity by Kim Harrington

Happy Reading!