The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston

The Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston
Published by Razorbill (Penguin Group)
Genre: YA, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

A hidden laboratory…

A brilliant invention…

A team of quite unusual creatures…

But can they save the department?

Elliot Von Doppler and his friend Leslie think nothing ever happens in Bickleburgh, except inside the gleaming headquarters of DENKi-3000—the world’s fifth-largest electronics factory.

Beneath the glass towers and glittering skywalks, there’s a rambling old mansion from which all the company’s amazing inventions spring forth. And no one except Uncle Archie knows what’s behind the second-to-last door at the end of the hall.

Until Elliot and Leslie are invited to take a glimpse inside.

They find stooped, troll-like creatures with jutting jaws and broken teeth; tiny winged things that sparkle as they fly; and huge, hulking, hairy nonhumans (with horns). It is unlike anything they’ve ever seen!

But when Chuck Brickweather threatens to shut down the DENKi-3000 factory if a new product isn’t presented soon, the creatures know they are in danger. And when Uncle Archie vanishes, it’s up to Elliot, Leslie, and every one of the unusual, er, “employees” to create an invention so astonishing it will save The Creature Department.

Information has taste? Robert Paul Weston’s The Creature Department is one delightful and utterly unpredictable idea and event after the next. We should expect nothing less from a book with a glow-in-the-dark cover!

Elliot Von Doppler accepts an invitation from his (rather mysterious) uncle to visit a research and development department at a local factory and…all at once… the summer doldrums have ended. He and pal Leslie are confronted with the inexplicable, the somewhat disgusting but otherwise-quite-nice, and quite desperate group that are in charge of company inventions. Herein we are catapulted into a world that we can make sense of, but certainly cannot predict. It’s a fun romp with odd creatures (and a few great illustrations) odd inventions, and odder executives. Science and creativity meet and so much fun erupts! Loads of humor collide with some slimy descriptions, and manage to create a mild level of suspense from one scene to the next.

All age readers will enjoy the ideas about friendship, loyalty, and a sense of the ridiculous; and likely share a great desire to try out the famous dim sum recipes, too. Although this story is meant for Middle school readers – this adult reader was completely entertained from start to finish.

My Recommendation: buy this for the young reader on your list, but read it yourself before you pass it along!

The Ghastly Dandies Do the Classics by Ben Gibson

The Ghastly Dandies Do the Classics by Ben Gibson
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Preschool, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, picture book
Length: Short Story (64 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rated: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Poppy

They’re dapper. They’re monstrous. They’re erudite. They’re the Ghastly Dandies, a breed of beast that happen to be as well-versed in classics as they are well-dressed in knickers and neckties!

These ghastlies are guaranteed to delight readers of all ages with their clever renditions of Moby Dick, Hamlet, The Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, and more.

These classic, illustrated tales told by monsters are sure to make your own little “ghastly” giggle. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to read to your kids, read again with your friends, and show off on your coffee table when you’re done.

Don’t miss the first compendium of adult classics ever to be told by monsters!

For a humorous and very brief introduction to the classics like Moby Dick, Hamlet and The Great Gatsby, you could do worse than choosing The Ghastly Dandies Do the Classics.

The author tackles seven different classics in only a few pages, and I think that’s the only fault I found with this book. I wish he’d done fewer books in order to spend just a bit more time with each. I’m familiar with all the stories he features, and he just barely touches on the themes behind them. I realize preschoolers don’t have long attention spans, but I do believe the author’s talent with words and humor would have made things work.

There are some large words that parents will need to explain (even just in the blurb … erudite isn’t something you see in many preschool books), but I like that the author challenges the kids.

Things that made me laugh? When one of the dandies takes a bite out of Moby Dick and exclaims, “EW! Gross! Slimy whale blubber!” and then goes on to suggest they head home because rhubarb pie tastes better than revenge.

Some of the stories worked for me, like “Moby Dick”, but others were so briefly touched upon that they made little sense (“Hamlet” and “Pride and Prejudice” were two of the weakest).

Still, I completely enjoyed the pictures and the fun. I think preschoolers will take everything at face value and will, at least, know there are books with those names. It’s a decent intro and hopefully will intrigue enough that these new readers will seek out the actual stories when they’re older.

This Side of Jealousy by Lili Peloquin

This Side of Jealousy by Lily Peloquin

This Side of Jealousy by Lili Peloquin
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: Full (288 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

When jealousies run rampant and dark secrets are uncovered, the sisters realize that there is a dark side to paradise in this breathless romance perfect for fans of ABC’s REVENGE.

Alice and Charlie haven’t stopped fighting since they arrived in Serenity Point two weeks ago. Those two weeks changed their lives. And Serenity Point has changed them.

Charlie has a new group of friends and a new life. Jude and Cybill are beautiful, exciting, and dangerously seductive. And though Sasha is proving to be a friend and confidante to Alice, Alice can’t get away from the people, places, and events that mire her in the past.

Alice loves Tommy, but the memory of Camilla, dead and gone, is driving a wedge between them. And Alice’s ex-boyfriend Patrick won’t give up on her, no matter what she says to keep him away. Jude is slowly giving up his bad boy ways for Charlie—but Cybill continues to come between them. And then Nick arrives: Dr. Van Stratten’s former intern seems to know things about last summer— things that Jude and Tommy would rather not be revealed. Alice is determined to find out what.

While the sisters grapple with the terrible truth about their family, the one-year memorial of Camilla’s death looms. The tension mounts and sparks fly as bright as July Fourth fireworks. Alice and Charlie are desperate to find out the truth that everyone seems to be hiding.

Is Camilla their enemy and rival—even six feet under? Or is she their sister, whose memory they have to protect? And what really happened to her that night on the bridge? In a town built on secrets and lies, can the truth stay buried for long?

This is the second book in the INNOCENTS series…and the title of the series is a bit of misnomer. These two girls are anything but innocent! The book is labeled for 12+, but be advised there’s a lot of drug and alcohol use as well as sexual situations (not graphic at all).

I could easily see this made into a movie or television series– it reminded me a lot of a teen version of a soap opera. There are mysteries and secrets that go back for years.

I wish I had read the first book before reading this one–it took a little while to get caught up to speed. It’s definitely possible to read them out of order, but I really think the enjoyment level would have been ramped up if I had an idea of what had gone on earlier. It was very much like sitting down to watch a series after missing the first few episodes.

I’m looking forward to reading the first book–and then the upcoming books in this series. The author has done a wonderful job of setting up the mystery and I HAVE to find out what happens next!

Sylo by D.J. MacHale

Sylo by D.J. MacHale
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Group)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (407 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Does Tucker Pierce have what it takes to be a hero when the U.S. military quarantines his island?

Fourteen-year-old Tucker Pierce prefers to fly under the radar. He’s used to navigating around summer tourists in his hometown on idyllic Pemberwick Island, Maine. He’s content to sit on the sidelines as a backup player on the high school football team. And though his best friend Quinn tells him to “go for it,” he’s too chicken to ask Tori Sleeper on a date. There’s always tomorrow, he figures. Then Pemberwick Island is invaded by a mysterious branch of the U.S. military called SYLO. And sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option for Tucker, because tomorrow may never come.

It’s up to Tucker, Quinn, and Tori to uncover the truth about the singing aircraft that appears only at night—and the stranger named Feit who’s pushing a red crystal he calls the Ruby that brings unique powers to all who take it. Tucker and his friends must rescue not just Pemberwick Island, but the fate of the world—and all before tomorrow is too late.

Sylo is a heart-thumping adrenaline rush that totally overwhelms a reader with its scope, suspense and its amazing storytelling voice. I was left wide-eyed and boggled at the end.

I’m not sure where to start. Sylo started off small and innocuous. It was the things the young hero paid attention to that led to his questioning the things around him. It slowly built as things started happening and one piece of the puzzle snapped together with another piece. The whole picture doesn’t become clear until almost the very last page but along the way the author kept me engaged, energized and connected to his characters. There is a definite connection between Tucker, Quinn and Tori; so much so that what happens to them had me gasping, choking up, smiling or worrying on their behalf.

There is death. Sometimes grisly, sometimes mysteriously but no one remains untouched by loss in this story. It’s that grittiness of reality that kept me glued to the book’s pages. Once the book gets started with Tucker and friends having to make some big decisions, I think about the fifth chapter or so, make sure you leave plenty of time for reading. I am glad I did because I didn’t want to stop. I couldn’t. The writing is that intense, focused, clear and very effective. Dialogue was key – nothing was out of place or extraneous. I learned what Tucker learned when he learned it. It gave me that helpless feeling as much as he must have felt helpless at times. There was nothing anyone could do to avert what eventually happened. And to think, someone close to the hero couldn’t be trusted. That hurt. I was so sad for him on his behalf.

I think Tori sort of likes Tucker and that bit of hopefulness is what I hope the author will eventually expand upon. I understand this is the first book in a trilogy and for an opening salvo, Sylo was extremely effective. It ends with the first step accomplished and more questions being raised. The author’s writing is powerful enough to make me, without a doubt, want to find out what happens next, how far the evil plot goes and who truly are the good guys and bad guys. Are they really UFO’s? Where did the technology come from? The mysteries alluded to in this first book are intriguing and a great hook.

The hero is committed to finding out the truth, and I’m committed to reading about his journey. Sylo is a novel filled with incredible storytelling that should not be missed. If a reader is looking for something that reminds them of the old T.V. series, The X-Files, this book will please. If a reader enjoys a book about a teenager that shows promise for the kind of man he’ll become because of what he survives, and I’m not talking acne and bad dates, then this book will amaze. I’m so glad I read it. It blew me away.

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (284 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Sunflower

Kayla McHenry’s sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left, her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy Kayla’s secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles, Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin’ do.

Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year’s supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla’s wishes-past appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is her best friend’s boyfriend.

Sweet sixteenth birthdays are supposed to be special, memorable. Most girls start daydreaming about their sixteenth birthday long before they even become a teen. Do you remember your sixteenth? Didn’t you want all of your wishes to come true? To have just a few magical moments before reality hits and everything is normal again? Sure, who doesn’t, right? The heroine in You Wish is turning sixteen, and let me tell you, her wishes don’t go quite as planned.

For Kayla McHenry, high school isn’t all that great. She’s beginning to have a a sarcastic and cynical attitude towards life. She doesn’t try hard to fit in and be popular, in fact, she snubs the popular crowd. I felt a lot of Kayla’s pain. High school can be tough, especially when you don’t know where you belong. There are so many cliques and if you’re not quite there in any of them, it’s going to be a long four years.

One little harmless birthday wish changes things in a big way. Strange things are occurring, beyond Kayla’s understanding. Until it dawns on her what’s actually happening.

You Wish is a comical, lighthearted book about typical teen issues. Looking for love, falling for someone you can’t have, trying to belong, and needing to be noticed by family. With each passing day, a new birthday wish from Kayla’s past comes true, and between juggling with those real life wishes, new complications arise. Kayla all of a sudden has a lot to balance.

Written in the first person, Ms. Hubbard has created a charming character in Kayla. It was fascinating to read her journey towards being a better person and understanding life. The witty dialogue and funny situations had me laughing out loud and made for a pleasant read. Even though I wanted to know how the story ended, I was sad to see it go. Readers young and old can easily enjoy this wonderful book. If you like to read contemporary young adult novels, I recommend putting You Wish on your list of books to read!

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (443 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Rose Hathaway knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa – the last Dragomir princess – must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes to gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken . . .

But since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn’t been feeling right. Something dark has begun to grow in her mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy’s iron gates. And now that Lissa and Rose’s sworn enemy, Victor Dashkov, is on trial for his freedom, tensions in the Moroi world are higher than ever.

Lying to Lissa about Dimitri is one thing, but suddenly there’s way more than friendship at stake. The immortal undead are on the prowl, and they want vengeance for the lives that Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most . . . but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

Life’s never been simple for dhampir Rose Hathaway. Now, while mourning the loss of her long-time friend, Mason, and contemplating her upcoming graduation, things are more complicated than ever before. And when you add in her undeniable love for fellow guardian and instructor, Dimitri Belikov, Rose’s life at St. Vladimir’s is just downright insane. And about to get much, much worse…

I wasn’t sure I was going to care much for Rose when I first started this series. She’s headstrong, she’s crabby, and she has the tendency to blow off anyone who doesn’t agree with her. Even more so when she knows they’re right. However, these are the traits that, if developed and used properly, will make her into an exceptional guardian in the future. I have to admit, although she’s still a bit headstrong and inflexible, she’s learned a lot and has grown even more over these first three novels. In Shadow Kiss, she’s forced to face reality on more than one occasion and learn to deal with – and even accept – the kind of horrible things that happen in her world. Not an easy road for a seventeen-year-old, even if she is half-vampire.

Dimitri, despite himself, really starts to loosen up around Rose and lets more of the real him show. I really enjoyed getting to know Dimitri better and learning just a touch about his non-guardian side. He’s the quintessential guardian – he’s strong, dedicated, and he’s learned to put all else second to his charge, no matter how tempting that distraction might be. To allow Rose into his life like he has, even knowing that it’s the last thing any sane guardian would do, takes a lot of courage – and trust in Rose’s abilities. I know he’s the major reason for her successful progression as a guardian. His belief that she can do and be all they expect of her forces her to focus and prove Dimitri right. They make a great team when they work together.

Shadow Kiss is an excellent follow up to Frostbite, carrying on the story and pulling the reader deeper into the world of the Moroi and dhampir. You learn a little bit about everyone in this third installment and you can definitely find growth across the board with all the major characters. I loved how the author took time to focus some on Lissa’s use and development of her spirit magic as well. I am very excited to move on to the next book in the series, especially after the shocking ending of this one!

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Age Recommendation: 14+
Length: Full Length (416 pgs)
Rating: 5 suns
Reviewed by Gladiolus

Haven Moore cannot control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy. In our present, she designs beautiful dresses for her classmates with her best friend Beau. Dressmaking keeps her sane, since she lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmotherÕs house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee. Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

In New York, Haven meets Iain Morrow and is swept into an epic love affair that feels both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Iain is suspected of murdering a rock star and Haven wonders, could he have murdered her in a past life? She visits the Ouroboros Society and discovers a murky world of reincarnation that stretches across millennia. Haven must discover the secrets hidden in her past lives, and loves, before all is lost and the cycle begins again.

Do you believe in reincarnation? After reading The Eternal Ones you will certainly consider the possibility. I know I did.

In this one we meet Haven, who has been reincarnated into a new life but doesn’t know it yet. Why is that? Well, people are trying to hide it from her.

Haven is a great, believably written teen who struggles through high school and not being able to fit in, a common occurence and completely authentic. Through all of those trouble, she remains true to herself which is something I really admired. Beau, her best friend, is also a really amazing character. He stays true to himself throughout this story as well. It seems to me that a big lesson in this book was about a person’s true nature coming through no matter kind of trials they faced.

The plot was just awesome — unique and interesting. In a YA paranormal world typically populated with vampires and shifters, this was a nice change. With strong, descriptive writing the author kept me hooked. I loved following the adventures of Haven as she tries to find out who she really is and who she can really trust.

Overall, I give this one five suns! I enjoyed everything about it from beginning to end. If you’re looking for a paranormal book that’s a little different from the norm, I recommend you give this one a try.