This Week in Reviews June 19, 2011

The following VOYA book reviews are only available online. Read about our review codes.


3Q 4P S Graphic Format

Acevedo, Mario. Killing the Cobra: Chinatown Trollop.  IDW Publishing, 2010. 104p.  $17.99. Oversize pb. 978-1-60010-797-9.

War veteran Felix Gomez, accidental killer of innocent Iraqi civilians, chooses immortality as a vampire tormented by guilt instead of an easy battlefield death.  In this graphic novel, he takes on the Cobra Han, a Chinese gang intent on cornering the world heroin trade. Their boss, Jiang Chow, is determined that Gomez will not interfere with a massive drug shipment. Even as Chow begins to understand Gomez’s supernatural powers, he discovers the vampire’s weakness—his human lover, Qian Ning. Captured by the Cobra Han, Qian Ning is used as bait for Gomez. His rescue attempt inflicts serious damage on the Cobra Han but Qian Ning is killed and Jiang Chow escapes to continue his dastardly plans in a future episode.

Dripping in blood and mayhem, the illustrations have strength and the book will appeal to readers who like ruthless villains, a macho hero with a guilty conscience, and scantily dressed women, all delivered with a light touch. They will also enjoy glimpses of an organized vampire hierarchy: the Araneum, or head vampires, who send Gomez messages written on vampire skin via a courier raven. These messages are his orders, but Gomez disregards them while his business with Chow remains unfinished. Additional uncaptioned illustrations, in color and black and white, at the end of the book will please graphic art lovers.  Acevedo’s The Nymphos of Rocky Flats (Eos, 2006) is the non-graphic novel that introduced this quite successful vampire hero.—Rayna Patton.


3Q 3P M J

Axelrod, Amy. Your Friend in Fashion, Abby Shapiro. Holiday House, 2011. 256p. $17.95. 978-0-8234-2340-8.

Eleven-year-old Abby Shapiro has big dreams of becoming a fashion designer.  Growing up in Massachusetts in a working-class family, where money is tight, Abby has to justify each desire, from a longed-for Barbie to a bra.  Her parents are each obsessed with their own issues, while Amy has to enter her turbulent teens with little guidance from those closest to her.  She forges a relationship with Jackie Kennedy through a series of letters.  Amy confides in Jackie, asking her advice, while at the same time, offers Jackie fashion tips and supplys her with fashion illustrations.  The drawings will appeal to any girl who is interested in fashion designing. The book is filled with original sketches from the author’s childhood.  This coming-of-age novel presents a realistic view of teenage life in the early sixties.

Axelrod’s debut novel is slow to start, but once the characters develop, it is hard to put down. It is reminiscent of Sydney Taylor’s One of a Kind Family series (Dell, 1966), with family issues that reflect the challenges of growing up in the turbulent sixties.  There are many references to Yiddish expressions and there is a glossary in the back.  The book will appeal to preteens who are curious about the lives of their parents.  It is very realistic, discussing issues of racism, stereotypes, family breakup, illness, and poverty.  It would make a great read for a mother-daughter book discussion.?Ellen Frank.


4Q 4P M J S

Hart, Christine. Stalked (Sidestreets). Lorimer, 2011. 144p. $9.95 Trade pb. 978-1-55277-533-2.

This title in the Sidestreets series from Lorimer is a definite must-read for girls.  Main character Amy is not one to socialize very much.  She hates being the center of attention and will do anything to get a letter of recommendation for a scholarship program to her land her dream job; she is even willing to take on a summer job.  When Amy lands a job with her best friend, Elise, on a Vancouver Island resort, she could not be more pleased.  Then Amy meets Derek, her really cute boss.  He promises that he will write her a superb recommendation, if she is willing to work for it.

Hart touches on the subject of sexual harassment in the workforce in this quick read.  She creates a strong female character who is willing to step out of her comfort zone to report the truth about her boss.  For young women, this simple story with a simple plot is about a very real danger. The characteristics Hart used to create the protagonist and antagonist are very much like the victim, who is stalked, and the one who is doing the stalking.  Although there is slight sexual content within this book, it is not prominent. This is highly recommend for those twelve and up, especially those looking for a summer job.—Sherry Rampey.


5Q 4P M J

Modisette, Culver. Honored Enemy. PublishingWorks, 2011. 224p. $14.95 Oversize pb. 978-1-935557-06-7.

Born to a white mother taken in a raid, Quanah Parker rose to lead the Comanche Tribe as they fought the Mexicans, the Texans, and ultimately, the United States Fourth Calvary.  Parker would eventually save his people, be honored in Washington D.C., and give Teddy Roosevelt the idea for reestablishing the buffalo herds wiped out in the late 1800s. Along the way, he interacted with a vast tapestry of people, Comanche and white, friend and enemy.

Well-researched, Modisette masterfully juggles a vast array of characters, most historical, some fictional. Although Quanah Parker is the main character, the novel shifts perspective frequently, allowing the reader to see issues from multiple perspectives. Modisette thankfully presents a list of characters (annotated to show which are historical and which are fictional) to help readers keep track. Also notable is that while Modisette’s sympathies are definitely with Parker and his people, he does not shy away from showing the savagery with which both sides fought this war. While there is ample violence (it is, after all, a war), gore is downplayed.  Characters are shot or speared and both sides take scalps. The text merely reports these events, and does not graphically depict them. It should be noted that characters speak as people of the time would speak and there is some minor profanity and a discreet, offstage sexual encounter. These should not prevent the novel being offered by middle school librarians or teachers to present another perspective on the United States’ westward expansion.— Steven Kral.


2Q  2P  S

Ravel, Edeet. Held. Annick Press, 2011. 248p. $12.95 Trade pb. 978-1-55451-282-9.

Having completed a summer volunteer program in Greece, seventeen-year-olds Chloe and Angie are left with three days to explore before flying home.  Their first day out ends in harsh words. The next day, Chloe heads out alone to visit a remote temple.  Separating from the other tourists, Chloe looks for a spot to eat her snack.  Settling on a rock, with her back to the road, she is suddenly grabbed from behind and pulled into a vehicle.  Blindfolded, disguised and sedated, Chloe is transferred to a plane and then a van.  She soon finds herself alone in an abandoned warehouse.  Stripped of her wallet, passport and other personal belongings, she finds comfort in her reflection in a compact mirror.  Her survival depends on a nameless man, who comes and goes. Over the ensuing four months, severe isolation triggers a deep attachment to the man she should fear the most.

This first-person account of a teen being held hostage is weakly written and disappointing.  Ravel attempts to hold the reader’s attention by having Chloe crave physical and sexual fulfillment with her captor.  She relies on the term “Stockholm Syndrome” to justify her character’s lack of self-control and respect. Teen readers will deliberate over what they would do faced with a similar situation to Chloe’s.  Written in flashback and with fictional primary source material, this novel is a missed opportunity to create a realistic portrayal of an intelligent young adult in peril.—Jeanine Fox.



4P 4P M J

Bemis, John Claude. The White City: The Clockwork Dark Book 3. Random House, 2011. 400p. $17.99. 978-0-375-85568-9. PLB $20.99. 978-0-375-95568-6.

Ray and Conker target the Gog, and the villainous Grevol is determined to stop them in this Clockwork Dark action-packed conclusion filled with mechanical monsters, guns, lightning, and magical spells. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago is the scene of the final epic conflict. Here, amazing machines of progress conceal Grevol’s plot to enslave the human race. Conker and Si arrive first and reunite with the pirates. Pursued by the Pinkertons and a Hoarhound, Ray allows himself to be captured to protect Sally, who finally finds her father in the spiritual world of the Gloaming. She gives him the magical rabbit’s foot, which he converts to a Gog-killing spike. Ray and Conker must recover the Nine Pound Hammer to drive the spike. Each defeats personal fear and doubt within himself before saving others.

This third book focuses the complicated plots of the trilogy into a consistent conclusion that forces the reader to consider nature’s strength and technology’s dangers. Coming-of-age realizations that require personal magic, strength, and sacrifice save the Tree of Life, humanity’s life force. The deaths of favorite characters are peaceful, meaningful crossings to a spiritual world. The first two volumes’ middle school fans who are now in junior high will find more than enough action and thought for their maturing tastes.Lucy Schall.


4P 5Q M J S

Clement-Moore, Rosemary. Texas Gothic. Delacorte/Random House, 2011. 416p. $17.99. 978-0-385-73693-0. PLB $20.99. 978-0-385-90636-4.

Asked to look after Aunt Hyacinth’s herb farm in the hill country of Texas, Amy Goodnight and her big sister, Phin, only have to watch over the house, goats, dogs, and plants for one month. Not such a big challenge for a girl who has spent most of her eighteen years attempting to keep the Goodnight clan’s well-established, paranormal talents under wraps, but it only takes a few days for everything to spiral out of her careful control. A team of students from the University of Texas is unearthing human remains on the neighboring McCulloch cattle ranch and locals are happy to blame the rash of recent ranch accidents on the “Mad Monk,” a supposedly unquiet spirit angered by the disturbance of his gravesite. Amy is left trying to decipher which elements of this haunting can be traced to the human hand and which truly come from beyond the grave.

Teens who enjoy feisty heroines, ruggedly-handsome but reluctant heroes, quirky friends and family, all fully embroiled in the best kind of spooky ghost story money can buy will be enchanted by this book. Desperate to feel normal, but forced to reconnect with her paranormal skills, Amy’s internal struggle adds to the external chaos, and her attraction to a confirmed skeptic is not helping. Readers will also find a clever series of plot twists, well-developed character backstories, tense action scenes, and plenty of flirty bantering. The only thing to make this book more satisfying is knowing it is the first in a series featuring various ladies of the Goodnight family.—Stacey Hayman.


4Q 3P M J S
Humphreys, C.C. The Hunt of the Unicorn. Knopf, 2011. 352p. $16.99. 978-0-375-85872-7.
Alice-Elayne, who goes by Elayne, loves her father more than anything. Unfortunately his cancer is terminal. He decides to share a secret with his daughter: she is the last in a long line of females on their family tree sharing that name. A journal written by the original Alice-Elayne in the 1500s discusses the land of Goloth, where mystical creatures dwell and where she made a promise to a unicorn.  Elayne literally stumbles into this land through a tapestry the next day, summoned by Moonspill, the unicorn. He needs her to fulfill the promise made by her ancestor and be the maid of prophecy, who will free his mate, Heartsease, and overthrow the tyrant king, Leo, the greatest hunter in the land. Everyone, from the king to the unicorn, wants her for his own purposes. But her father is dying at home, and the healing touch of a unicorn is the only thing that can save him. Will Elayne fall prey to those who would use her, or will she complete the pledge made to help Moonspill heal the land and remove the tyrant from power before he manages his greatest catch of all, the last free unicorn?
C.C. Humphreys creates two parallel universes, in a vein similar to Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars (Dial 2006/VOYA October 2006). The protagonist travels back and forth between the worlds, seeking to accomplish a mission set forth by others. The style is crisp and quick once Elayne crosses over into Goloth, but drags at the beginning. Readers who love fantasy and unicorns, and who stick past the first few chapters, will enjoy this well-crafted story.—Etienne Vallee.
The Hunt of the Unicorn is a heroic tale of a young girl who must follow her ancestor’s destiny to rid a magical land of tyranny.  This book began as a slow read, but as the story progressed, I found that I finished it in no time. It was quite enjoyable and I recommend it to any fantasy lover. 3Q, 3P.—Halley Jacobs, Teen Reviewer.



Jarrell, Jill S. and Tara C. Cannon. Cooler Than Fiction: A Planning Guide for Teen Nonfiction Booktalks. McFarland, 2011. 198p. $45 Oversize pb. 978-0-7864-4886-9.

This wonderful professional resource for teen librarians and school media specialists focuses on the art of booktalking with a twist. This resource is available at a time when booktalking skills are more important than ever for librarians, and it covers nonfiction instead of fiction, an overlooked appeal for teens. The authors’ take on talking up nonfiction books to teens is refreshing and creative, and shows their love of reading and teens. Each title receives a summary, along with extra discussion questions and activities for interactive appeal. Each chapter groups an assortment of nonfiction titles into unique categories like, “Funny, Gross, and Disturbing,” “Food and Crafts,” “Knowing Your World,” “Science,” and “History.” Of particular highlight is the last chapter, “Interactives,” which includes titles best used for openers, closers, or breaks in the middle of a presentation. Each chapter summarizes the best ways to use each subject and apply titles in that area as booktalks. “Booktalking Resources” is also very helpful, listing many wonderful nonfiction titles that are great for booktalks, along with some professional resources recommended to polish skills.

This book is a much-needed tool for public librarians serving teens, as well as school media specialists, to develop excellent booktalking programs and partnerships while getting more teens to read and have fun doing so. It is a must-have for professional collections in public and school libraries.—Karen Sykeny.


Metz, Ruth F. Coaching in the Library: A Management Strategy for Achieving Excellence. ALA Editions, 2011. 112p. $50. Oversize pb. 978-0-8389-1037-5.

According to Metz, the word chaordic, coined by the founder and CEO of Visa International, describes “any system of organization that exhibits characteristics of both chaos and order, dominated by neither.” It is because most organizations wrestle with “chaordic conditions” that implementing coaches into the managerial structure may become essential for the health and growth of any corporation and its employees. Metz makes a convincing argument for why leaders may need to apply a coaching style; unfortunately, she just did not make a book that provides the necessary tools to learn how to perform the method effectively.

While deceptively thin, this manual is a dense, scholarly approach to a topic that should be treated in a practical, hands-on manner. The book contains neither troubleshooting guides nor answers to frequently asked questions. The scenarios feel stilted and contrived, and while Metz includes sample conversations, they are so specific to the situation that they provide little help for someone beginning a coaching relationship with staff.  Yet, in fact, this book is so general that a supervisor of any business could read it.  Metz does not emphasize the connection between coaching and the library—she merely speckles her examples with library roles and settings to justify the book’s title.

If you are interested in developing a professional coaching style in your library, this is not the appropriate book. Find a manual that provides basic skills and, perhaps, graphic organizers to guide you in your individual planning.—Suzanne Osman.



Leave a Reply