January 28, 2010

Juvenile/YA Book Reviews, Pt. 2

Posted in 1 tagged , , , , at 9:03 pm by suepenkivech

Dead is the New Black and sequels) by Marlene Perez

Can’t get enough of Twilight?  Check out the Dead is a New Black series.  No traditional vamps so far – but it’s got werewolves aplenty, a ghost, dopplegangers, and an energy vamp – and a mystery in each book, which psychic Daisy Giordano and her sisters have to solve.  This is what Twilight could’ve been – action and adventure mingled in between the romance.  You don’t want to miss it!

Recommended:  Middle and High School aged girls, but content appropriate for lower ages as well.

Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

This one was recommended to me this week by one of my fifth graders, and is a great book for historic fiction fans.  Mattie Cook lives in Philadelphia in the late 1700’s, during the yellow fever epidemic which decimated the city.  The book begins with one of Mattie’s friends dying of the fever, which everyone considers a fluke – until more and more people fall ill and die as well.  I was fascinated by the accounts of quarantine, of then-contemporary medical treatments, of the death carts reminiscent of the black plague in Europe – and by Mattie’s story and how she tries to keep up hope, even as life as she knows it disintegrates.

Recommended:  4-8 grades.  Despite the female protagonist, boys might just like this one as well.

Bobby vs Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee

Poor Bobby.  Being in fourth grade is tough – especially when your best friend is a girl (and is starting to act like one!), your father’s a former football star turned stay-at-home Dad (who calls himself a PTA mom and who insists on baking inedible cupcakes for your bake sale) and your sister sets your hair with rollers while you’re on a nebulizer (petting that dog was not a good idea) and you can’t escape.

It only gets worse when your best friend comes in while you’re being tortured with curlers – and tells one of her friends.

Who tells all her friends.

This means one thing.  War. 

Unfortunately, the war escalates into a full blown battle of the sexes, with Bobby and Holly caught in the middle.  Will one of them cross the lines and save their friendship?  Only time – and a class president election – will tell.

Recommended:  3-5 graders, both sexes.  Wonderful, amusing story of friendship and misunderstandings – and overcoming the latter when the former’s at stake.


January 26, 2010

Juvenile/YA Book Reviews

Posted in 1 tagged , , , , at 2:54 am by suepenkivech

It’s been a long time since I did one of these posts, but thanks to the third grade at our school and a reading contest that requires me to tie-dye my hair if they outread me, I’m on a roll with the books!  So, without further ado…

Shredderman: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen

Shredderman tells the story of Nolan, a 5th grade boy who’s better known as “Nerd” thanks to Bubba, the class bully.  He gets an assignment to do a project on something he feels strongly about – positive or negative.  After weighing a few options, he decides to do it on Bubba.

Unfortunately, Nolan realizes that if he turns it in as his project, he’s going to be exposed as the one who Did it – which will only result in more abuse.  So he adopts the identity of “Shredderman” and creates his own website – complete with pictures and videos he took with a hidden camera in his backpack.

Creating Shredderman.com not only gives Nolan the confidence to stick up for himself, it’s a huge hit with his classmates – who gain the confidence to defend themselves as well.  Moreover, the school officials finally have evidence of the bully’s activities.  While Bubba Bixby doesn’t change his ways, he no longer has the same amount of power over the school that he did.  All thanks to the amazing Shredderman.

Recommended:  Wonderful book for 4th – 6th grade boys (girls too!)  It’s an easy read, only 138 pages long, but Nolan is easy to identify with and the attitudes of his classmates are pretty much dead-on for the age group. 

The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes by Marlane Kennedy

Charlotte isn’t a dog person.  She likes dogs – doesn’t run from them, doesn’t mind if they come up to her, isn’t allergic – but she’s just not a huge fan.

Unfortunately, she’s stuck taking care of the St. Bernard her dad brought home and then lost interest in. 

Unpredictably, this isn’t a “dog book” – it’s not the touching story of a girl who decides she loves the dog and convinces her family to do the same.  It’s about a girl who realizes that maybe they aren’t the best family to be taking care of Beauregard, and earns the money to buy the dog from her father; not because she wants to keep him, but because she wants to give him to a rescue group so he’ll be placed  in a better home.   In the process, she learns a lot about responsibility – and ultimately realizes that while a St. Bernard might not be the best choice for their family, a different dog might be.

Recommended: 4th – 6th grade girls.  It’s not brilliant, but it’s a good story.


Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez

Since Lina’s mother died the previous year, life just hasn’t been the same.  Her father, a high school English teacher, has buried himself in his books.  Lina’s grades have dropped, at least partially because instead of reading Watership Down  she’s using the chapter tests as a creative outlet and writing a story of her life using rabbits as characters.  Her best friend’s more interested in her boyfriend than she is in her – and her friend’s mother is having difficulty with her recent divorce and pouring all her energy into making confetti eggs. 

Confetti Girl tells Lina’s story, and how she comes to realize that while maybe things won’t ever be quite the same, with a little effort on everyone’s part they just might be ok.  Great story about the grieving process and how it affects different people in different ways. 

Recommended:  4th – 8th grade girls, or anyone who’s recently lost a loved one.

And finally…

Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

What do you get when you combine a dystopian future, gladiator games, and reality tv?

No, the answer isn’t Gladiator Meets American Idol – though that would be interesting.  It’s the world of the Hunger Games series.

Seventy four years ago, in what was once the United States, thirteen districts rose up against a corrupt central government.  After the fighting was over, twelve districts remained – and the Capitol decided to make sure they never rebelled again.

And so, each year, each downtrodden district must pick by lottery a boy and a girl between 13 and 18 to go to the Hunger Games, a reality tv show broadcast nation-wide.  If one of the contestants from their district wins, the district is given everything they’ll need to survive another year.  If they lose – well, it’s a fight to the death. 

Sixteen year old Katniss isn’t chosen this year for the games.  Her thirteen year old sister is.  Knowing that the kindhearted Prim doesn’t stand a chance, Katniss volunteers to take her place, despite knowing that no one from District 12 has won in nearly 25 years. 

Sounds dark, right?  It is, and it’s not.  The focus isn’t on a bunch of kids killing each other; it’s on Katniss’s reaction to the situation, the alliances and relationships she forms, and the points where, despite knowing she’s risking it all, she says, “This is wrong, I won’t do this.” 

And, because Katniss dares to take a stand, other people do, too.

Recommendation:  Wonderful book series for middle and high schoolers, both boys and girls – and their parents.  Like Harry Potter, this isn’t a series just for kids; it’s a well thought out universe that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a fantasy setting and spectacular characterization.  While romance is present, it’s understated; there’s nothing that’ll jump out and scream “Girls’ book!” to male readers, whose interest will be piqued by the non-stop action and fast-paced story line.

January 14, 2010

I’ve been reviewed!

Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 12:18 am by suepenkivech

Check out this awesome review of “Zombie Elves” by KV Taylor, in her monthly “Spec Fic Reviews”!

Thanks Katey!

December 26, 2009

Zombie Elves, Revisited!

Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 9:22 am by suepenkivech

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read Zombie Elves, an adventure of the Multiversal Time Protection Unit!  Much to my surprise, Zombie Elves was selected as the winner of the 2009 Spec the Halls contest!

Watch for more Virginia/Doug adventures in the future!

December 19, 2009

Zombie Elves

Posted in 1 tagged , at 11:10 am by suepenkivech

This story is a part of the Spec the Halls contest for speculative winter holiday-themed fiction, artwork, and poetry. You may find guidelines and links to other entries at http://www.aswiebe.com/specthehalls.html


The entire story is available at the above link – or order the full anthology at http://www.amazon.com/Spec-The-Halls-2011-ebook/dp/B0062PXHPM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1320275194&sr=8-2

August 16, 2009

Review: 39 Clues #5, The Black Circle

Posted in 1 tagged at 11:42 pm by suepenkivech

THE 39 CLUES BOOK 5 – THE BLACK CIRCLE by Patrick Carman

When Grace Cahill died, she offered her heirs a choice – either accept a check for a million dollars, or choose to take a clue and be part of a hunt for the secret to the Cahill family’s fame and fortune.

Her grandchildren, Amy and Dan, chose to take a clue. With the help of their au pair Nellie, they’ve travelled the world, collecting further clues and dodging their scheming relatives, each of whom is determined to be the first to acquire the secret.

In this chapter of the series, Amy and Dan are awoken by a hotel clerk with a telegram, and thrown into yet another adventure. An unknown agency identifying itself only as NRR is guiding their steps, forcing them to leave Nellie and Saladin behind and giving them a deadline to follow a series of instructions to track down the next clue – in Russia. Realizing that it will be impossible to meet the deadline on their own, Amy and Dan select an unlikely ally; their cousin, Hamilton Holt.

Unfortunately, while the Holts are cooperating, the Lucian teams are united against them. The Kabras and Irina Spasky will do anything to keep them from uncovering some of Russia’s – and by extention the Lucian branch’s – darkest secrets.

Each of the 39 Clues books deals with a specific period in history, and THE BLACK CIRCLE is no exception. While Amy and Dan hunt for the clue, they learn the stories of the Romanov massacre, the monk Rasputin, and the legend of Anastasia, the Russian grand duchess whose body was never found after the massacre.

Recommended for ages 8 – 14, but adults will enjoy this series, too!

July 16, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 12:19 am by suepenkivech

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, KV Taylor started posting WIP Wednesday reports on her blog to track the progress she’d made on her newest novel.

Given that I tend to start strong and then trickle off for a few months, I’m going to give it a shot and see if it’ll help keep me on track!

From the Ashes is my newest work in progress, a science fiction time travel/romance story about a man named Mark who goes back in time to save his world – and to save his friend’s sister from herself.

5,756 / 80,000 words. 7% Complete!

Here’s a quick excerpt from Chapter 2, for your reading enjoyment:

“Leanne, I’m telling you, I didn’t do it.”

Leanne sighed and reached up to rub her forehead, oblivious to the way the motion left her reddish-blond hair in disarray, and tried desperately to suppress the headache she could feel inching its way up to a migraine. She’d been so lucky with Paul, in the year and a half since their parents had died – he was a good kid overall, and didn’t cause her any real problems.

His best friend, though-

“Mr. Piotrowski, we have witnesses who saw you with the can of spray paint,” the school principal said, leaning forward over his desk. He looked, Leanne decided, sort of like a pit bull – same skinny pinched face, same stubborn, ready to bite expression.

She’d never been fond of pit bulls.

June 28, 2009


Posted in 1 tagged , , , at 5:57 am by suepenkivech

Got a story in under the wire for Hadley Rille Books’ Destination Future anthology! Whoever said summer was supposed to be relaxing didn’t have two kids and a deadline for submissions!

Aaaanyway, now that that’s done I’m going to start querying out “Unnatural Selection” again. The rewrite went well, and I’m really happy with it this time – hopefully agents will feel the same! Gilly’s on hold until I feel like dealing with the pacing issues, so it’s time to start outlining the next book, a sort of science fiction/timetravel romance. Watch for more info here!

I borrrowed a new batch of genre YA books from the school library this week when I was catching up on my book processing, so new reviews should be coming soon, too!

March 25, 2009

Book Reviews

Posted in 1 tagged at 3:58 am by suepenkivech

Castle of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix

If you’re looking for your traditional fairy tale story, this isn’t it.

Cecelia’s grown up in a remote town. Her life is as dull as everyone else’s – she cleans, gets the cow from the pasture, goes fishing with her friend Harper – until the sun’s gone down.

That’s when her studies begin. Because unbeknownst to her peasant neighbors, Cecelia is the true princess of the kingdom, raised in disguise to protect her from whatever enemy killed her royal parents. Only her nanny, the knight who tutors her in etiquette and government, and her friend Harper know the truth.

But is it true? The “decoy princess” in the palace has a different perspective, as do the girls already in the palace dungeon, who tell stories remarkably like Cecelia’s. But if she isn’t the kingdom’s real princess, why are forces gathering against her?

Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass

Recipe for a great book: Pick the three most dissimilar people imaginable – a home-schooled astronomy buff who’s spent her entire life in the middle of nowhere, an A-Clique princess whose dream is to become a supermodel, and an overweight sci-fi fan/artist with a mile wide inferiority complex.

Toss them together on a campground preparing for a solar eclipse, and mix well. Let both the insecurities and strengths rise to the surface, and toss in a situation that forces them all to work together. What do you get?

A really great juvenile/YA story. If this one doesn’t win an award, I’ll be sorely disappointed.

39 Clues: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis

Amy and Dan’s quest for the clues takes them to Japan this time, searching for clues left by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of history’s greatest warriors. But this time, outsmarting their relatives isn’t enough – they need to cooperate with them!

March 19, 2009

Blog News!

Posted in 1 at 7:41 pm by suepenkivech

Wonderful news! The amazingly talented Corinne Duyvis has agreed to create a sketch of Gilly Oglethorp for my blog. For those of you who don’t know Corinne, check out her work at her website; not only is she a professional artist, she’s also an aspiring writer!

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