Before I Die

From Teen Book Reviewer
author: Downham, Jenny
Before I Die
Sixteen year old Tessa, a girl fighting terminal cancer, writes a list of ten things she wants to do before she dies. A list that includes drugs, fame, love; things that will make Tessa feel alive. Things that challenge herself and the people around her. With only a few more months left to live, Tessa is determined to experience all of life’s adventures. The novel accounts her mission to find absolute and ultimate happiness from her craziest moments to the most intimate ones. This is more than just a book about a dying girl with a list; it’s about what it’s like to have your life cut short, the effects it has on you and the people around you. The way that the world around you changes, the change in the way you perceive things, the memories you remember and what becomes important to you in your final days. As Tessa becomes too weak to worry about her list she writes letters to her loved ones with instructions to live their lives to the fullest. As the novel dra
ws to a close, Tessa gets increasingly closer to death and eventually accepts the ways of life.
This is a beautifully written novel that tugs at your heartstrings and that makes you think about your life and the way you choose to live it. At times humorous, but mostly heart wrenching, this is a story of love and life. Before I Die is a beautifully written story that is not only unique, but entertaining and relatable. I really enjoyed reading this extraordinary, life affirming novel and i recommend it to teens of all ages.

The centurion’s wife

From Ginny Pisciotta
author: Bunn, Davis
The centurion’s wife
If you like biblical fiction you should enjoy this book.  Experience the drama of the earliest days of Christianity through the eyes of Leah and Alban. Although born to wealth and power, Leah is now working as a servant in the household of her uncle, Pontius Pilate. She is dreading an arranged betrothal to Alban, an ambitious centurion who is sent by Pilate to find out what happened to the body of Jesus, and whether the disciples were planning a revolt against Rome.  Procula, Pilate’s wife, sends Leah on a similar mission.  Revisit familiar biblical characters, and meet new fictional ones in this novel filled with danger, intrigue, romance and life-changing faith.

Juliet, Naked

From Ellen Druda
author: Hornby, Nick
Juliet, Naked
This is a romance on two levels: fan and famous, and man and woman.  Duncan runs a website for an obscure, reclusive musician named Tucker Crowe.  Duncan loves Tucker. Duncan’s girlfriend Annie posts a review of Tucker’s “Juliet, Naked” cd on Duncan’s website.  Tucker responds to Annie’s review, and circumstances bring him to England to meet Annie.  Now Annie loves Tucker. The problem is, Tucker doesn’t love anyone except his son Jackson.  The story is amusing and contemporary, and the audio book is multi-voiced to give it more layers and authenticity. Hornby revisits his favorite themes of love, loss, and loneliness, but the witty dialog and endearing characters make this an enjoyable and easy experience.

In the shadow of the cypress

From Catherine Given
author: Steinbeck, Thomas
In the shadow of the cypress
Thomas Steinbeck, John Steinbeck’s eldest son, began his career as a cinematographer and a photojournalist in Vietnam. He has also written a number of screenplays.  His first novel, In the Shadow of the Cypress (2010) follows his first book, a collection of short stories entitled Down to a Soundless Sea (2002).

In the Shadow of the Cypress takes place around the turn of the 20th Century in Pacific Grove, California.  Here the lifestyle of a growing Chinese immigrant community in a coastal fishing village is juxtaposed against a quiet and overwhelmingly Caucasian seaside area. The story line centers on a marine biology professor’s investigation of the history and whereabouts of a priceless Chinese relic.  Steinbeck’s richly exotic tale is predicated on the intriguing theory that the Chinese were the first explorers to discover California’s coast.  In fact, some say the cypresses planted in groves along the cliffs are not indigenous to California, but rather, to China; they are said to have been planted by Chinese sailors when they first encountered certain areas of the coast. And according to Steinbeck, the Chinese have always considered these groves sacred.

Steinbeck masterfully conveys how unnerved the native Californians are by the foreign ways of these early 20th Century Chinese immigrants.  For example, the village’s Chinese laborers work themselves to the point of exhaustion building the nation’s new railroads.  They earn meager salaries, yet they live so resourcefully and frugally that many soon become prosperous. The Chinese fishermen dry their huge hauls of squid in the open air, thus creating disturbingly powerful odors that permeate the American residents’ neighborhoods on the outskirts of the village. Diligently obedient to their elders, the Chinese proudly preserve their culture’s traditions and participate in its hierarchical business systems.  Meanwhile, the Americans view the Chinese as self-reliant, ingenious, insular — and mystifying.

Steinbeck’s colorfully atmospheric tale draws the reader along, albeit slowly and at a bit of a distance due to “the professor’s recovered journal” format of the first half of the narrative. Lacking the immediacy of dialogue, Steinbeck’s chosen style of writing this half may detract from the story’s suspense for some readers.  Yet the characters’ dedication to chasing down answers despite their fear of retribution from the Chinese community elders may nevertheless make this story hard to forget.

Horse soldiers : the extraordinary story of a band of U.S. soldiers who rode to victory in Afghanistan

From Chris Garland
author: Stanton, Doug
Horse soldiers : the extraordinary story of a band of U.S. soldiers who rode to victory in Afghanistan
Horse Soldiers is the story of the United States’ initial military
response to the 9/11 attacks. In October of 2001 a select few Special
Forces were sent into Afghanistan to collaborate with the Northern
Alliance against the Taliban. The Pentagon thought it would take a year
and a half to defeat the Taliban but the Special Forces/Northern Alliance
completed the mission in six weeks. Combining 19th century military
tactics with 21st century technology, the “Horse Soldiers” were able win
an historic victory.
The author feels that these men provided the blueprint for how modern war
should be waged–small groups of men trained in keeping the peace, making
war when necessary and working closely with the native people.

The Scientific American day in the life of your brain

From Lola Ferris
author: Horstman, Judith
The Scientific American day in the life of your brain

Did you know that your brain is on a 24 hour schedule, allowing you to
make decisions,get hungry, or be more likely to lose your temper at
certain times of the day? Your blood and seritonim levels change as the
daily cycle goes on.
Judith Horstman, a science journalist for Scientific American, gives
us a fascinating look at this important organ,giving us an idea of why
some people are crabby in the morning, experience stress at work and why,
at 9:PM we slowly start to unwind.
In lively, humorous prose she lets us into this secret world, telling
us why multitasking is dangerous for our health and how meditation may
delay aging.
I recommend this book for a novel look inside our brains from a point
of view we may never have explored.

The Sandman : the dream hunters

From Teen Book Reviewer
author: Gaiman,  Neil
The Sandman : the dream hunters
This is a graphic novel that deals with a love affair between a Buddhist priest and a fox spirit.  After making a bet with a raccoon dog, the fox spirit falls in love with the priest, to the point that she gets to stay in the temple with the priest.  While this is happening, in another palace, a rich man begins to fear for his life, yet does not know why.  After consulting a few people to help him understand his fear, he learns that the priest’s body will remain sleeping until it dies, while his mind will be stuck in dream world.  The fox overhears of this by way of demons, and as she goes to fix it, but gets stuck in her own dream.  In order to help the fox, the priest seeks information on how to visit the Dream Master.  He explores the realm of dreams with help from a raven, until he finds the Dream Master.  Once he finds him, the priest learns of the fox’s entrapment, he begs to converse with the fox, and once doing so, he switches places with the fox, allowing the fox to escape.  The fox awakens, and the monk dies a few days later.  The fox seeks revenge in the form of ruining the rich man’s life, which she succeeds in doing.  The story has a nice ending as the narrator states that it is noted that people have seen the fox and priest walking through fields in their own dreams.
            This book was really captivating.  It kept me interested until the very end.  Anybody looking for an interesting read is going to love this book.  The illustrations also kept me asking for more, as they added to the beauty of the book.  I hope that you will read it after reading this review, and enjoy it as much as I did!