Monday, November 29, 2010

The Keepers' Tattoo

The Keepers' Tattoo 
by Gill Arbuthnott
Young adult fantasy
425 pages
New York : Chicken House, 2010

Nyssa was orphaned as a young child and has no memories of her early life. She is lovingly raised by an innkeeper and his wife. Her life takes an unexpected turn when she is forced to flee the only home she has ever known with a man she has known her whole life, but only recently discovered is her uncle. As they run in desperation from the Shadowmen sent by the evil Alaric, Nyssa learns many things about her true heritage. She discovers she is the bearer of a special, secret tattoo. Three lines of mysterious script are hidden on her scalp, a portion of a long ago spell used to defeat another era of tyrants trying to overtake the numerous islands of the Archipelago.  Now that she understands why she is being hunted she decides to take matters into her own hands. She is a bold and brave young girl who wants to prevent evil from prevailing in her kingdom. A fabulously engrossing read!

The Poison Diaries

The Poison Diaries
by Maryrose Wood
young adult historical fantasy
278 pages
New York, NY : Balzer + Bray, 2010

Jessamine Luxton lives a solitary life with her father, an herbalist. While he tends to his special plants and patients, Jessamine does the cleaning, cooking and gardening of the traditional sort. She longs to be allowed into her father's "locked garden" yet he feels she is not ready. Her life drastically changes when an orphan boy, Weed, is dumped on their doorstep. His uncanny knowledge of the plant kingdom intrigues Jessamine's father while the boy himself fascinates her. Eventually the lives of all three are entwined with that of the dangerous poison garden. The question then becomes, who will survive the encounter? A strange, yet curiously appealing story.

Black Hole Sun

Black Hole Sun
by David Macinnis Gill
young adult science fiction
340 pages
New York, NY : Greenwillow Books, c2010

Durango is the leader of a group of soldiers-for-hire on futuristic Mars. His checkered past has led him into some interesting predicaments. He usually tries to get the most bang for his buck, but sometimes his desire to do the right thing outweighs his desire for lots of money. Thus he accepts a dangerous job in a mining community for very little pay. His team thinks he is crazy but they are sworn to follow him. Of course, nothing goes as planned. His leadership skills and his teams loyalty are challenged at every turn. Will he prevail in the end? This was an interesting yet rather annoying read. It was interesting because I love pretty much anything and everything in the genre of teen futuristic fiction. It was annoying because I had a lot of questions about the history behind the government and the soldiers role in the workings of Mars. Lots of things were mentioned but not developed so I didn't feel I had a good grasp on the world. Some of the characters were appealing and there was plenty of action so I did read the whole thing. I might even be tempted to read the next one if it seems like the author might divulge more of the back story.

Fish

Fish
by Gregory Mone
juvenile historical fiction
241 pages
New York : Scholastic Press, 2010

Maurice is the fifth child and youngest son born to the Reidy family on a small farm in Ireland. It becomes evident quite early that he isn't cut out for farm work. He is a good, peace-loving boy who accidentally discovers he has an amazing affinity for water and he swims every chance he gets. This earns him the nickname of Fish, which will serve him well in years to come. When he is about twelve years old the family horse dies which means they have no way to work their entire farm. Fish, as the least helpful on the farm, is chosen to go to the city and work for an uncle so he can send money back home. Fish quickly adapts to city life and loves his job as messenger boy for his uncle. Then one of his assignments goes terribly wrong and he unwillingly gets caught up in the world of pirates and treasure hunters. Throughout everything Fish remains an absolute hero, never wavering from his sense of right and loyalty. A fabulous adventure story with a wonderful main character. The variety of secondary characters give depth to the story and allow for some truly funny moments as well as some real nail-biters! 

Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles

Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles
by Karen Romano Young
juvenile realistic fiction
(unpaged)
New York : Feiwel and Friends, 2010

Middle-schooler Dooreen (Dodo) Bussey has had a few problems at school. So you think she would be excited about moving to a new city and starting fresh at a new school. Not so, she is still quite nervous about relocating from LA to San Francisco. On the drive there she discovers doodling and even decides to call herself "The Doodlebug". Filling her blank sketchbook with doodles of the move and her new life proves an excellent outlet for her ADD. Unfortunately, not all of her new teachers find it acceptable. Dodo and her sister Momo both face challenges at their new school and they each have unique ways of coping. Reading Doodlebug is a bit tedious at times as the writing is sometimes cramped and chaotic, causing the flow of the story to not always be clear. However, for fans of illustrated diary-type books, this is a decent one that has a real story dealing with some fairly serious issues.

The Missing Golden Ticket and other Splendiferous Secrets

The Missing Golden Ticket and other Splendiferous Secrets
Roald Dahl
ill. by Quentin Blake
juvenile biography
117 pages
New York : Puffin Books, 2010

Whether or not you are an avid Roald Dahl fan or just a casual reader, this fun-filled book will truly delight your senses. The chapters alternate Dahl's wisdom and insights from each and every month of the year with fun facts, recipes, quizzes and other delectable bonuses. There is much background information revealed about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, including an entertaining missing chapter. As always Quentin Blake's fabulous black and white illustrations bring Dahl's words to life!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Touch Blue

Touch Blue
by Cynthia Lord
juvenile realistic fiction
192 pages
New York : Scholastic Press, 2010

Eleven-year-old Tess loves her quaint island home. When the government threatens to close their school due to a small student body, Tess is terrified. This would mean having to move to the mainland for her mother to work and for her to attend school. And she would no longer be able to go lobstering with her father. The town hatches a brilliant plan to increase their school attendance - take in foster kids! Tess's family is given the opportunity to welcome a sullen, red-haired musician into their family. Tess has read many novels dealing with foster kids and orphans so she feels relatively prepared for this change in her daily life. She quickly realizes that real life does not have a storybook ending. Her new foster sibling is not Anne of Green Gables nor is he Gilly Hopkins! A great book about kids having to adapt to changes in their lives whether they be large or small. I loved the literary references and all the good luck/bad luck information. 

Magic Below Stairs

Magic Below Stairs
by Caroline Stevermer
juvenile fantasy
199 pages
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, c2010

Frederick Lincoln seems to be living a life very common to young orphans in Victorian London. He helps out in the kitchen to earn extra tables scraps and to avoid contact with the orphanage director as well as the resident bullies. Frederick soon discovers he has an unusual companion, Billy Bly, a queer little brownie that no one else can see or hear. Billy aids Frederick in being chosen to leave the orphanage to work for Lord Schofield, a mysterious wizard. Frederick is soon immersed in the astounding world of magic as he assists his master in clearing up the remnant of a nasty curse placed on the family home. Frederick is a great character with a bit of a selfish and naive personality. Add into the mix a slightly vague wizard and you have a fabulous combination of historical and magical adventures.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

a crack in the sky

a crack in the sky
by Mark Peter Hughes
juvenile/teen futuristic sci-fi
403 pages
New York : Delacorte Press, 2010

Don't worry! Infinicorp is taking care of everything!
Infinicorp created the dome cities that saved a lot of people from the Great Sickness and the increasing heat of the world's atmosphere. Unfortunately, some still struggle to survive Outside. These people were called Foggers by the dome residents and blamed for every little thing that goes wrong with the dome. Eli Papadopoulos is the youngest of the ruling clan behind Infinicorp. He is rather unmotivated to gain a high and important position within The Company. He would rather spend time reading ancient books and daydreaming. He sees things that cause him to think the dome is falling apart, unable to withstand the terrible storms raging on The Outside. When he confronts his parents and other authority figures within his family he is given no satisfactory answer. This leads him to defy his elders by seeking help in very unconventional places. Eli's search for truth is long and difficult, thank goodness he has his special friend Marilyn to help him along the way. A very promising start to an exciting new post-apocalyptic series. Can't wait for the next one, though it will probably be quite awhile.
Recommended for 5th grade and up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Librarian on the Roof!: A True Story

Librarian on the Roof!: A True Story
by M. G. King
ill.by Stephen Gilpin
picture book biography
unpaged
Chicago, Ill. : Albert Whitman, 2010

RoseAleta Laurell is a real-life librarian. When she began working at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas she found it a dusty, dark and dreary place. The town's children never visited the library, they thought it was just for adults. RoseAleta was determined to set them straight and make them feel more than welcome. When all of her original ideas to raise money didn't bring the desired results, she decided to camp out on the library roof. She vowed to stay up there until enough money had been raised to create a fun and inviting children's section. She weathered ridicule as well as terrible rainstorms, but she toughed it out until the people came through! The changes in the library were phenomenal and all because of one librarian!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Clockwork Three

The Clockwork Three
by Matthew J. Kirby
juvenile historical fantasy/adventure/mystery
386 pages
2010-10-01 Scholastic

At first glance Giuseppe, Frederick and Hannah have nothing in common save for the city in which they live. Through a series of seemingly unrelated events their paths cross and re-cross until they are thoroughly intertwined. Each has a secret heart's desire that they will need to divulge to the others in order to achieve it. When working together the three remarkable children accomplish amazing things and learn more about themselves in the process.
The three main characters are superbly developed. The supporting cast of personalities is equally intriguing while not overshadowing the children. A wonderful book that has hints of so many genres that there is sure to be something for everyone. At times it reads as pure historical fiction then there is a dash of fantasy or mystery with a great deal of adventure thrown in to ensure it will be devoured by all ages, boys and girls alike.
(I recommend this for 5th grade and above).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

X Isle

X Isle
by Steve Augarde
post-apocalyptic teen fiction
477 pages
New York : David Fickling Books, 2010, c2009

There was a series of catastrophic storms that flooded most of the world, severing communications and food-supply lines. The only way to improve upon their situation and to get food in their stomach is to get passage to X Isle. Unfortunately the traders from the mysterious island only take teenage boys. Every time the trading ship comes to the mainland people crowd the shore with their most prized possessions trying to gain passage for their children to the safe haven of X Isle. Thanks to his father's amazing poker abilities, Baz is finally chosen. But is X Isle truly a better life for the boys? Will he ever see his father again? Strange and bizarre things are happening that cause Baz and the other boys to decide where their loyalties lie. Then they must decided to take action to improve their future.
I must say I was a tad disappointed with the middle section of this book. It improved and I did like the ending. A gripping storyline that just seemed to waver a bit around a rather goofy subplot. I also predicted another subplot that way actually catch some people by surprise but to me was rather annoying in its obviousness. Overall a good addition to my list of post-apocalyptic teen reads, but not my favorite. And I must say, I absolutely love the cover!

Monday, October 4, 2010

hold still

hold still
by Nina LaCour
young adult realistic fiction
229 pages
New York, N.Y. : Dutton, c2009

Caitlin and Ingrid were inseparable. They both shared a passion for photography and a similar sense of humor. Then Ingrid made a choice that forever split them apart. It became obvious that Caitlin didn't know Ingrid as well as she thought. When Ingrid took her own life, it became obvious that she had been hiding things from Caitlin. Devastated by her best friend's actions, Caitlin took several months to recover. Eventually she started going back to school and meeting new people. Then she decided to finally clean her messy room and found one of Ingrid's journals waiting for her. Reading the entries caused memories to burst forth for Caitlin, yet they also explained what Ingrid had been feeling those last few months. As with any novel with this subject matter, it was a hard book to read at times. However, the characters were realistic and the author didn't dwell only on the negativity. Depressing, but worth the read.

My Invisible Sister

My Invisible Sister
by Beatrice Colin & Sara Pinto
juvenile fiction
119 pages
New York : Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers, 2010

Frank has moved too many times in too few of y ears. He is determined that this move be their last. If he could only get his sister on board then everything will be great. You see, his sister and her condition are the reason for so many moves. Elizabeth suffers from Formus Disappearus which causes her to be invisible. She is also a teen-ager which adds its own set of problems. As the siblings try to settle in they both make an lasting impression on the neighbors and their classmates. The parents play lesser roles in this short novel of sibling relations and coping with disabilities. The authors created their own rather silly problem for this book, yet any of a number of conditions could play out similarly. An entertaining story with a bit of a serious underlying message. Great for kids 4th -6th grade.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Adventures of Jack Lime

The Adventures of Jack Lime 
by James Leck
middle school mystery
126 pages
Toronto : Kids Can Press, c2010

Jack Lime has made a name for himself in the corporate city of Iona. Fellow classmates come to him to solve crimes ranging from missing pets to missing students. Jack shares three of his adventures with a noir-style narrative reminiscent of old black and white detective movies.The writing invokes the feeling of a sleepy little town that seems innocent on the surface but with mischief and mayhem underneath. Enter Jack Lime to rid the world, okay the high school, of all sorts of criminals. A unique delivery of a mystery for the middle school and teen age-group. The book is short in length which should appeal to older reluctant readers.

Frankly, Frannie

Frankly, Frannie
by A.J. Stern
intermediate chapter book
124 pages
New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 2010

Move over Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody, there is a new girl in town. Frannie, or Mrs. Frankly B. Miller as she prefers to be called (for the moment) is a girl that knows what she wants and goes for it despite the trouble that seems to follow her everywhere. Frannie loves offices, briefcases, big words, business cards and anything else from the Grown-Up World. The problem with Frannie is that despite all of her "scientific evidence" she doesn't always do the right thing. She thinks she is "helping" when in fact she is causing nothing but Trouble with a capital T! Will her good intentions with disastrous results cause her to be banned from her class field trips? Read Frankly, Frannie by A. J. Stern to find out. This is a very cute and humorous series for beginning chapter book readers that is now on my favorites list.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth

Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth
by Sandra Dutton
juvenile realistic fiction
134 pages
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010

Mary Mae is ten-years-old and full of questions. The questions make her mother very uncomfortable as they challenge her interpretation of The Holy Bible. Many of her questions stem from her science class and what she is learning about fossils and the dinosaurs. In an attempt to stifle her questions the Pastor suggests that her Sunday School class perform a puppet show about the Creation. Mary Mae is happy to do this although it spawns even more questions for her. Mama is so determined that she stop learning about such things that supposedly conflict with her beliefs, that she pulls Mary Mae out of school with the intention of homeschooling. Thankfully Mary Mae has the support and listening-ear of her beloved great-grandmother with whom she shares a passion and talent for music. How long will Mama ignore the evidence in her very own backyard before she realizes that Mary Mae means no harm?
A sweet realistic novel showing a spirited yet confused young girl who refuses to just give in and conform to her parents beliefs. Mary Mae must develop her own faith in her world and God just as everyone should do.

Thief Eyes

Thief Eyes
Janni Lee Simner
teen fantasy adventure
259 pages
New York : Random House, c2010


Icelandic lore and mystery collide with a very-modern day girl for an epic adventure. Haley travels to Iceland with her father to see the last place her mother was seen before she disappeared last year. Innocently picking up a coin on the side of the path throws Haley's life into total chaos. Luckily handsome Ari is there to save the day, or at least try to.
This was a good book, not my favorite, but worth reading. The Icelandic legends were intriguing. The characters were a bit annoying. Overall a good addition for those who like books such as East. I was pleasantly surprised as I read that the author was able to write cleanly without relying heavily on graphic (adult) scenes and language. However the last few chapters changed that. There is a scene where an animal is "sacrificed" to complete a spell. Also a few pages from the end the f-word and s-word were used on the same page. This was quite a glaring use of such language as the words were never used previously in the book. Unfortunately, just these few pages will limit who I can recommend this book to.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Smile

Smile
by Raina Telgemeier
New York : Graphix, 2010
middle-school graphic novel
213 pages

Smile is an autobiographical graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. As a sixth-grader Raina suffered an unfortunate accident that would affect her life for years to come. Her two front teeth were knocked out, thus beginning an extensive dental/orthodontic/periodontal nightmare. Raine tries to keep an upbeat attitude despite the lack of support she receives from her friends.
Never having had orthodontia myself, I wasn't sure I would be able to empathize with Raina's character. I needn't have worried. Raina is a great character who took everything in stride yet was completely believable and realistic. Despite having different issues to deal with, I could totally see myself in some of Raina's situations. A great read with warm and friendly illustrations. Reading Smile was like spending time with a friend from junior high, and don't worry that is a good thing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

illyria

illyria
by Elizabeth Hand
teen drama
135 pages
Viking Juvenile (May 13, 2010)

(From the publisher via amazon.com)
Madeleine and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other’s first love. Even within their large, disorderly family—all descendants of a famous actress—their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous. When they are cast in their school’s production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together.

The author definitely is a talented writer. The story however, was not my favorite. And no, it is not due to the taboo topic of incest which is a big part of the story, nor the language, nor the drug and alcohol use Parts were intriguing, other parts were boring, and the characters were a tad annoying at times. My favorite character was the mysterious Aunt Kate who I have my theory about but I won't say here as I don't want to ruin anything for anyone who might read this. It was worth reading since it is a short book, but I can't see myself re-reading it again. If anyone else has read this, please leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Meeting

The Meeting
Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox #1
by Brigitte Luciani & Eve Tharlet
Children's graphic novel
Minneapolis, MN : Graphic Universe, 2010

Mrs. Fox and her young daughter flee from their burrow just before the hunting dogs destroy it. They are seeking shelter and a place to rest when they accept the hospitality of Mr. Badger. The badger children aren't too sure of these strangers staying in their home and putting them out of their beds. The little fox thinks she is too good to play badger games and doesn't settle in well with them either. When the parents decide this might be a bit of a more permanent solution and begin expanding the badgers burrow to make more room, the youngster's emotions explode with surprising results. This cutely illustrated graphic novel is obviously trying to show the struggles some people face when blending families. The author specifically demonstrates some parallels to a family of multiple ethnicity. If a child is soon to be a part of this type of situation, reading this book with them might help them prepare and adjust more easily.

Monday, August 16, 2010

dirty little secrets

dirty little secrets
by C. J. Omololu
teen realistic fiction
212 pages
New York : Walker & Co., 2010


Lucy can't wait to escape her claustrophobic home. Her mother is a skilled and compassionate nurse by day, but a filthy pack-rat and garbage collector by night. Lucy has to walk on eggshells to not offend her mother to keep the verbal abuse to a minimum. Miraculously she has a best friend who doesn't question the fact that she is never invited over. Now a potential boyfriend makes her desire for a normal life even greater. As her house full of secrets threatens to explode into the world, Lucy has to decide what to do to overcome her mother's hoarding ways.
I was completely fascinated by this book. There are numerous television shows currently showing about this very topic - people who are hoarders and the strange lives they lead. I am particularly intrigued by the episodes involving children who are trying to live a normal life and keep their own rooms spotless as an oasis in an otherwise cluttered and filthy lifestyle. Dirty Little Secrets was at once horrifying and heart-wrenching. Lucy was a fantastic character that was trying to make some lemonade from the abundant lemons in her life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Spy in the House

A Spy in the House
The Agency: Book 1
by Y. S. Lee
young adult historical mystery
335 pages
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2010

Nothing is as it seems. That is the underlying theme to this magnificent Victorian mystery. Mary Lang was a 12-year-old orphan making her way by thievery. She is caught and sentenced to death by hanging when a group of women secretly whisks her away and grants her a new lease on life. She becomes Mary Quinn and gains an education normally reserved for wealthier children. As she approaches the mature age of eighteen she is feeling a little dissatisfied with her role as teacher's assistant at the school and speaks with the matrons in charge as to her options. Great is her surprise when she finds out that the school is a cover for The Agency - a group of women working as undercover detectives. Feeling as if she was went for this line of work, she accepts her first job as a paid companion to the spoiled daughter of a wealthy merchant. As Londoners try to survive an oppressive heat wave that makes the Thames River a noxious nuisance, Mary strives to come to terms with her past as well as her future.
A fabulous historical mystery that I would be proud to own in my personal collection. I have a feeling I will be reading this repeatedly. The author has created an amazing blend of intrigue, action, romance, history and mystery that will keep me coming back for more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"A" Summer Giveaway!

Head on over to this great book give-away at Two and a Half Book Lovers. She is giving away some great stuff. I am currently reading A Spy in the House by Lee and loving it! While you are there browse around the blog for some great reading suggestions as well as some great movie reviews as well.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lockdown

Lockdown
Escape From Furnace 1
by Alexander Gordon Smith
teen horror/science fiction
273 pages
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c2009

Alex Sawyer is a relatively harmless juvenile delinquent. He and his buddies like to steal the lunch money from the weaker kids at school. Then they move on to petty theft, breaking and entering unoccupied homes and taking whatever was lying about. Alex isn't necessarily happy about it, but doesn't think he is hurting anyone. He finally decides he is going to do one last job, only problem is, this one goes terribly wrong. Alex is convicted of a murder he didn't commit. He is sent to the terrifying prison for juvenile delinquents called Furnace. This underground facility is the brain-child of some mysterious benefactor. All male juvenile delinquents are sent deep underground and never seen again. The world of Furnace is brutal and disgusting, but there is no escape. At least that is what everyone tells Alex. As he tries to survive and retain a little bit of hope he never stops trying to think of a way out. Though is there really any life left for him on the outside? He is a convicted killer. The public has no idea what is really going on inside of Furnace. The strange creatures that bring fear to even the toughest of Furnace's inmates are the things from nightmares. A cliff-hanger of an ending means I will be looking forward to the sequel (in December)!

Adam Wreck and the Kalosian Space Pirates

Adam Wreck and the Kalosian Space Pirates
by Michael S. Bracco
unpaged
juvenile science fiction
graphic novel
Levittown, NY : Alterna Comics, 2009

Young Adam Wreck is bored out of his mind! He is traveling through deep space with his scientist parents who are searching for alien life. For two years Adam has been away from friends, TV and new video games. He just wants something interesting to happen for once. Finally his wish comes true and the family ship is attacked by pirates. Adam is able to flee in an escape pod and discovers a treasure of galactic proportions. Adam has the adventure he has been yearning for with some unexpected side affects.
Adam Wreck's exciting and entertaining adventure is sure to be a hit with boys. The black, white, gray and orange illustrations are engaging and accompanied by just the right amount of text to not turn away even the most reluctant readers. I hope there are more tales to tell of Adam Wreck and his adventures through space.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Michael Townsend's Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders

Michael Townsend's Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunders
Graphic Novel/Mythology
160 pages
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, c2010

Nine classic tales from Greek Mythology are presented here in a bright and bizarre graphic novel format. I can honestly say I have never read more ridiculous versions or seen such wacky illustrations for these myths. While not my favorite thing, they will probably be popular with the younger crowd (particularly boys) who tend to prefer comics and the graphic novel genre.

Candor

Candor
by Pam Bachorz
teen sci-fi
249 pages
New York : Egmont USA, 2009

Oscar Banks is the ultimate role model in the idyllic town of Candor, Florida. At least that is what his father thinks. Mr. Banks has created Candor as his own unique way to deal with rebellious teens. Parents can also receive special help with various problem including weight loss, addiction, marital problems and so forth. You see, Mr. Banks gives his wealthy residents a new addiction, his subliminal message-filled music. From the moment a person moves to Candor he is constantly exposed to music and this creative form of brain-washing. Oscar Banks plays the part of the Founder's perfect son but really he knows the secret of the Messages and has created his own messages that keep him from becoming a Candor Clone. He runs a lucrative business right under his father's nose by intercepting the wealthy teenagers as they move in, providing them with his music then helping them escape town. Oscar is relatively satisfied with this set-up until Nia moves to town. Oscar definitely doesn't want her to become a living zombie like everyone else, but he doesn't want to send her away and never see her again either. His actions and the consequences of those actions have a fascinating domino effect that lead to an astonishing finale. A rather intense read at times but thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Dancing Pancake

The Dancing Pancake
by Eileen Spinelli
ill. by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
juvenile realistic fiction - in verse
248 pages
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

Bindi is struggling with life. Her parents are separated for reasons she doesn't understand. She is good friends with a couple girls and a boy, but the dynamics of the friendships seem to be undergoing a change. Her mother join her aunt and uncle in opening a cafe called The Dancing Pancake. All of these things together require her to move out of the house she has always known into an apartment over the restaurant. As she comes to terms with all the changes surrounding her, Bindi grows up and realizes changes aren't always a bad thing.
As I read this, I was frequently reminded of another book I read recently - It's Raining Cupcakes. The similarities include family and friendship issues and mother opening a themed restaurant. That being said, they are quite different as well. The Dancing Cupcake is told in verse and overall has a lighter tone. Eileen Spinelli writes great stories about young girls dealing with life.

Token of Darkness

Token of Darkness
by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
teen supernatural thriller
197 pages
New York : Delacorte Press, c2010

High school football star Cooper is severely injured in a car accident over summer vacation. Returning for his senior year he is a changed person. He won't associate with his former friends anymore, he doesn't sleep because he is haunted by recurring nightmares, and he has an invisible friend. Actually, he thinks Samantha is a ghost. She has been by his side since the moment he awoke in the hospital. She is a troubled spirit with amnesia, yet Cooper would have given up on his recovery without her friendship. Wanting to help Samantha, Cooper gets involved with some local sorcerers and discovers that she might not be what they think she is. Danger surrounds them as amateurs dabble in the dark arts. Who will be left standing when it is all over?
 I was expecting just your basic ghost story when I began reading, quickly I realized I was wrong. The plot had a few things that made me roll my eyes because I was reminded of a Scooby-Doo plot, but overall an exciting paranormal story.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark
by Glenda Millard
teen adventure/drama
New York : Holiday House, 2010

Skip is full of plans. But will they work? He escapes from his foster home on the last day of school only to realize his great plan didn't cover where he was going to sleep at night. A homeless man, Billy, halfheartedly takes Skip under his wing. As Skip gets to know Billy he comes to think of him as family. Billy is supportive of Skip's artistic endeavors unlike his own father was. There routine existence is interrupted by that terrible thing called war. As the pair flee the burning city, their family grows. Skip strives to hold his new family close despite the devastation around them. And maybe this time his great plan will work and they will live happily ever after. While this is a story with a war in it, it is not a story just about war. It is about people, especially one young boy, becoming at peace with themselves and what the future could hold. Skip is an endearing character that I just wanted to hug. The characters contrast yet blend with each other so well that they feel quite realistic. A great story full of hope and love. Just a side note: the cover is not my favorite and doesn't really convey to me the depth of the story within.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Gardener

The Gardener
by S. A. Bodeen
teen science fiction
232 pages
New York : Feiwel and Friends, 2010

Mason doesn't understand why his mother is so against him applying for a summer work program at the local lab complex, TroDyn. She has an irrational hatred for the place and she won't provide an explanation. Mason is planning to forge her signature on the application when he uncovers some secrets his mother has been keeping. As he confronts her at her workplace, a nursing home, he meets a beautiful girl. This is a girl he should never have seen, let alone spoken to. Now they are on the run together from the mysterious and evil Gardener.
If you are looking for a real page-turner that you just can't put down, this is the book for you. It's creepy, suspenseful, and fast-paced. S. A. Bodeen, I love your style and can't wait to read more of your imaginative creations!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Anna Maria's Gift

Anna Maria's Gift
by Janice Shefelman
ill. by Robert Papp
intermediate historical fiction
100 pages
New York : Random House, c2010

Anna Maria Lombardini is only eight-years-old when her beloved father passes away. Already having lost her mother years ago, she is sent to an orphanage in Venice. Her father had given her one last gift from his death-bed, a new violin made just for her. The master Antonio Vivaldi becomes her music instructor at the Pieta, pleased with her mastery of the violin. A fellow orphan is jealous of Anna Maria's talents and throws her precious instrument into the canal. Anna Maria is distraught from losing this last link to her father. She enlists the aid of some friends to scour the city for her violin. An intriguing historical fiction story for beginning chapter book readers. Who doesn't love books about orphans and their adventures?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It Creeps!

It Creeps!
Ghost Detectors #1
by Dotti Enderle
ill. by Howard McWilliam
Intermediate Mystery/Adventure
79 pages
Edina, Minn. : Magic Wagon, c2010

Malcolm is your typical young nerdy inventor. He has turned the family basement into his laboratory complete with chemistry set and lingering smell of a stink bomb. Malcolm loves getting magazines in the mail, but not for their enlightening articles. He flips straight to the advertisements in the back to see what strange contraptions he can order through the mail. Sometimes he is disappointed with his purchases, but that all changes with one particular package. The arrival of the Ecto-Handheld-Automatic-Heat-Sensitive-Laser-Enhanced Specter Detector (for serious Ghost Hunters Only) is the BEST thing he has ever received! Now he just has to find the perfect place to do some ghost-hunting. The McBleaky House is perfect: gray, gloomy and overgrown. Reluctantly helped by his best friend Dandy, he waits until nightfall to test his Specter Detector. The results are hair-raising, spine-tingling and pretty funny too! The Ghost Detectors is a fun new series for readers who are just starting to read chapter books and like things a just a tad spooky.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

green

green
by Laura Peyton Roberts
juvenile fantasy
261 pages
New York : Delacorte Press, c2010

Lily Green feels like she never fits in. It doesn't help that her mom has moved them yet again for her job. The day of her thirteenth birthday finally rolls around and she is looking forward to hanging out with the only friend she has made in the new town. The doorbell rings and Lily finds a little box on her doorstep. When she opens it she finds a key that had belonged to her beloved grandmother who passed away a year ago. The key arrives with a bang and Lily's life literally explodes into total chaos. As she travels the unknown she learns more about her grandmother and herself.
It was great to read a middle-school fantasy that also showed the main character as a realistic pre-teen girl with issues. She truly grew as a character and as a person, gaining confidence and self-respect. Green is a book I will definitely recommend to girls in fourth grade and higher.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mouse Magic

Mouse Magic
Wizards of Mickey Vol. 1
all-ages graphic novel
unpaged
Los Angeles : Boom! Studios, 2010

Mickey is a sorcerer's apprentice, of course! When his master is off on an errand, he is left in charge of the village's Diamagic - the source of rain needed to grow their crops. Not surprisingly, Mickey goofs up and Peg-Leg Pete steals the Diamagic. Mickey leaves Miceland in shame, determined to regain the crystal that is so important to his neighbors. He stumbles into a competition for sorcerers where the final prize is the entire collection of Diamagics that would make the winner the Sorcerer Supreme over all the land. The only thing standing in Mickey's way is the fact that you have to compete as a team of three and Mickey is all by himself. Enter Donald Duck with pet dragon Fafnir and Goofy to complete the team and call themselves Wizards of Mickey. I am sure you can imagine the bumbling methods they use to compete in the games! An entertaining read for all ages.

Dark Life

Dark Life
by Kat Falls
juvenile science fiction
297 pages
New York : Scholastic Press, 2010

Earthquakes have destroyed much of the land on the Earth's surface. Rising water levels have made much of the remainder unable to support human life. To survive people are crammed into ridiculously tall stacked apartment buildings with no personal space whatsoever. A few have become pioneers and moved to the ocean floor, creating farms and raising fish as livestock. Ty was born deep-sea to a pair of scientist pioneers. He and his younger sister are among the only children thriving in the ocean depths. Ty thinks of nothing more than exploring his environment, doing his chores and looking forward to when he turns eighteen and can stake his own claim on a piece of oceanic real-estate. Then Gemma literally drops into his life. A stubborn Topsider who is searching for her older brother, Gemma yearns for her own space and independence. She just happens to pick a terrible time to visit the deep-sea colony. A group of outlaws is spreading chaos and disorder in their wake as they capture and destroy supply subs and attack helpless homesteaders on the ocean floor. The Topside government is no help and it is up to the pioneers to capture and punish the criminals themselves. Add to all this action the rumors that children born deep-sea have mutant abilities and you have one exciting story! Definitely recommended for kids ten and up, there is some slight violence but nothing graphic. This was a book I could not put down. I was also happy that it actually had an ending. The author could definitely write more, but is not necessary.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Birthmarked

Birthmarked
by Caragh M. O'Brien
young adult fantasy/science fiction
361 pages
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2010

In the future the Enclave is all-powerful city within the wall. Those who are outside the wall live to serve the Enclave, and wishing they could have the opportunity to live inside. Sixteen-year-old Gaia and her mother are midwives who dutifully serve by turning over a certain quota of newborn babies to the Enclave. Gaia begins to question everything she has been told when her mother and father are arrested and taken within the walls. Gaia has to decide whether or not to flee to save her own life or risk dying by entering the Enclave to rescue her parents.
A fabulous blend of post-apocalyptic science-fiction and a fantasy medieval world. Flawed Gaia is a realistic character with depth and emotion. She acts on impulse and truly follows her heart. Leon is an intriguing male counterpart who has to figure out his own path in life despite his family. An exciting read and a book I actually hope there is a sequel to as I really want to know what happens next.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Epitaph Road

Epitaph Road
by David Patneaude
teen science fiction
266 pages
New York : Egmont USA, 2010

Men are practically extinct and women rule the world. In the year 2097, teenager Kellen Dent is an object of great curiosity as one of the few young men in Seattle. He lives a fairly privileged life as his mother holds a high position in the PAC government that now runs the United States. Yet Kellen yearned to be with his father who lives the life of a loner and fisherman off in the north. When two new girls move into the apartment building, Kellen is forced to open his eyes and re-learn his history lessons. The kids end up in a race against time and another deadly outbreak of the male-killing virus.
As usual I was intrigued by the post-apocalyptic plot. The selective killer-virus was a great way to swing the powers of the world in the opposite direction. However, I felt the characters were a bit shallow and I didn't grow attached to any of them. I would have loved to know more of the history between Kellen's parents in particular. Although not my favorite, it is still a good-read and nice addition to my favorite genre.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Big Nate: In a Class By Himself

Big Nate: In a Class by Himself
written and illustrated by Lincoln Peirce
Juvenile Humor
214 pages
New York : Harper, c2010

Nate is destined for Greatness (despite his crazy hair)! At the moment, he is just your typical sixth-grader just floating through school trying to avoid the school bully and get the attention of a certain girl. Nate doodles his way through every class instead of taking notes and he is a master of creating nicknames for all of the teachers. One morning a friend gives him a fortune cookie that changes his life. "Today you will surpass all others" could mean anything. Nate spends the day trying to do something that will make the fortune come true. All I will say is that he succeeds in an entertaining and hilarious way!
Big Nate will appeal to all those fans of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The diary-type format with loads of illustrations are great for reluctant readers as well as those who just want a funny book. I must say that personally, I enjoyed Big Nate more than I did the Wimpy Kid books. But they all are great reads!

100% Pure Fake

100% Pure Fake: Gross Out Your Friends and Family with 25 Great Special  Effects!
by Lyn Thomas
Juvenile Non-Fiction
48 pages
Toronto : Kids Can Press, c2009

100% Pure Fake is 100% Pure Disgusting and 100% Pure Perfection! It is the perfect book for practical jokers, Halloween parties and reluctant readers who love anything with a huge gross factor.  You will learn how to make everything from fake blood to fake (and edible) poop. Many more lovely things can be made right in your own kitchen with just a little help from a grown-up.Warning: Do not read this while you are eating, just before you are going to eat, or right after eating. Some of the photos are that realistic!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Turtle in Paradise

Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm
juvenile historical fiction
191 pages
2010-05-11 Random House Childrens Books

Turtle's mom has a new housekeeping job for an older woman who can't tolerate children so the only solution is to send Turtle to the Florida Keys to stay with an Aunt and numerous other relatives that she has never met. Resilient and capable Turtle takes it in stride and is even pleasantly surprised to find a fairly comfortable place with boy-cousins Kermit, Beans, Buddy and their best friend Pork Chop. She knows that life is nothing like Hollywood portrays in their movies, Shirley Temple indeed! Turtle definitley feels more connected with Little Orphan Annie in the funny papers and wishes for a Daddy Warbucks to come and sweep her away to a life of riches. Living in Florida gives young Turtle many new experiences, yet she clings to her dreams and yearns for the perfect life with her somewhat fanciful mother. Two-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer Holm has done it again! She shows us a particular moment in history perfectly through the eyes of a tough little girl. As I read Turtle in Paradise I was transported to Depression Era Key West, experiencing hurricanes, hunts for pirate treasure and diaper-changing right along with Turtle. I love how the author incorporates her family's history into her novels. It will be interesting to see if she will win yet another Newbery next year!

Thirteen Days to Midnight

Thirteen Days to Midnight
by Patrick Carman
young adult suspense/horror/science fiction
296 pages
New York : Little, Brown, 2010

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? If you asked Jacob he would probably tell you any but the power he already has! Jacob's foster-father tells him, "You are indestructible" and then dies in a car crash. Jacob walks away completely unharmed. Not sure what to make of this apparent super power, he keeps it  to himself and tries to move on with his life. New girl in school, Ophelia - Oh for short, is drawn to Jacob and gets tangled in his dark secret. Milo, Jacob's best friend, joins them in their search for control of this strange curse and to test its limits to the extreme. One of the big questions is can they use this force for good, to save people, or will that cause more chaos?
Intense, captivating, fairly clean - couple of minor swears, a little dark, thought-provoking, and a great read!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos

Daisy and the Trouble with Zoos
written and illustrated by Kes Gray
chapter book
207 pages
London : Red Fox, 2008

One of my favorite picture book characters is now the star of her own chapter book series. Daisy, of Eat Your Peas fame is celebrating her birthday by going to the zoo with her mom and her two best friends. The best part of the whole day is that her mother arranged so she could help the Zoo keeper feed the penguins! Who could ask for a better birthday? Daisy gets over-excited and hits a couple of snags throughout the day. Thanks to her ever-patient mother and great friends, she survives even if the zoo doesn't.
This is a fun read with great illustrations for 2nd grade and up. The only problem I had was the use of a lot of British slang yet no glossary to explain them to those of us not familiar with such terms. I had to google a few just to understand what kind of sandwich she chose for her birthday luncheon. But all-in-all a cute little chapter book and I definitley recommend the Daisy picture books as well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Shadow Project

The Shadow Project
by Herbie Brennan
teen action sci-fi fantasy
355 pages
New York : Balzer & Bray, c2010

Danny Lipman is a young burglar who picks the wrong house on the wrong night. Expecting a normal home to pilfer, Danny is surprised by a strange elevator in the basement. Curiosity getting the better of him, he enters and is taken further underground and interrupts a top-secret government project. Of course he is caught and detained. Faced with the choice of jail or joining, he opts for becoming one of them - mostly because they promise to take care of his grandmother who has recently suffered a stroke. Danny is shocked to learn that The Project is involving astral projection and remote viewing to spy on international terrorists without being seen. Shortly after Danny joins things start to go incredibly wrong and he has to literally jump in without any formal training. Someone is using dark magic to try to destroy The Project and another secretive group that has remained in obscurity for centuries. Danny and his companions need to fight a battle they don't understand to essentially save the world.
I absolutely loved the idea of this story. I mean, how cool would it be to be able to spy on people without them knowing you were there? However, I felt this book was too vague and disjointed in places. Some statements seemed to contradict each other and a few too many loose ends for my taste. Again a great premise, but could have been better written. Maybe if I had read it while having an OOBE on the astral plane I would have like it better!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Clone Codes

The Clone Codes
by The McKissacks
juvenile science-fiction
172 pages
New York : Scholastic Press, 2010

A future Earth where there are three classes of people. The Firsts are humans, plain and simple. Seconds are clones of Firsts and not considered human whatsoever. Clones are created as adults and only live for 12 years. Cyborgs were once human but due to accidents necessitating replacement parts (non-human) they are considered only 3/5 human. Cyborgs are not allowed the same rights and privileges as full-humans, but they are treated slightly better than Clones. 13-year-old Leanna has just discovered that her mother and her partner, Doc Doc, were arrested as part of an underground movement fighting for equal rights for all Clones and Cyborgs. Leanna is immediately thrown into a whirlwind of terror, fleeing from all she has known into the protective care of other members of The Liberty Bell organization. Her life has been full of secrets and she had no idea how drastically things were going to change!
The McKissacks did a great job collaborating on this futuristic novel. It apparently is the first in a trilogy. I think I would have preferred a longer more in-depth novel as opposed to three shorter books. It felt like this was definitely an intro to a bigger story. Still a good read with interesting connections to past US history, especially slavery and abolitionists.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Muppet Robin Hood


Muppet Robin Hood
written by Tim Beedle
art by Armand Villavert, Jr.
Los Angeles, CA : Boom! Kids, 2009

The title pretty much tells it all. The Muppets characters in the Robin Hood story. Kermit of course is Robin of Loxley Swamp. The lovely Maid Marian is none other than the fabulous Miss Piggy. Fozzie plays Friar Tuck and so forth. As with all Muppet stories, they are great for all ages. The characters are very kid friendly yet there are jokes that will get adults to laugh out loud while going right over the kids head. Fun for the whole family!

NUM8ERS

NUM8ERS
by Rachel Ward
young adult science fiction
325 pages
New York : Chicken House, 2010

Jem has a unique gift, curse, talent. Whatever you want to call it, it makes her life miserable, causing her to isolate herself from everyone else. You see, if Jem looks in a person's eyes, she sees a number. It is the date that person will die. Despite her best intentions she gets involved with a fellow misfit named Spider. Jem is especially reluctant to grow close to him as his number is only three weeks away. The duo are hanging out in downtown London when she notices that everyone around her is showing the same number, that very date. She freaks out and the two of them flee what moments later is the scene of a terrorist attack. They are now wanted for questioning by the police which sends them trekking cross-country to freedom. The whole time Jem is racked with guilt because she knows Spider doesn't have much time, but she can't very well tell him that. She grapples with tough questions like does she cause these dates to be true, or is there any way she can alter events so the number changes?
An interesting plot with intriguing characters. However, I was quite bothered by the language throughout. I find it hard to believe that normal teenagers in their everyday lives can't say a sentence that doesn't involve the F-word. If the language had been toned down a lot, I would have said this is a great read.

The Line

The Line
by Teri Hall
juvenile science fiction
219 pages
New York : Dial Books, c2010

Rachel leads a lonely life as the daughter of the housekeeper on The Property. She spends her time studying "official" government texts, hiding in the orchid greenhouse and searching online for stories about The Others who live Away on the other side of The Line. In fact pretty much all of her spare time is spent obsessing about Away. One day she discovers a recorded plea for help from the other side of The Line. She bravely steps forth to give aid to the unknown. Things start to spiral out of her control and she is faced with facts about her parents that she never dreamed of.
The futuristic Unified States is only vaguely described and I was a little confused about the back history that led to the creation of the Line. Initially the story seemed a little slow to take off, but I was fairly okay with this as it gave me a good understanding of the characters. Adversely, the end seemed a bit too rushed to me concluding quite abruptly. Obviously there is going to be a sequel, but such sudden endings aren't always the best. Certain aspects were predictable, but all in all, this was a decent futuristic sci-fi novel for elementary school-age kids. For an author's first novel this was good, but I definitely hope the sequel is better. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mickey Mouse Classics: Mouse Tails

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Classics
Volume One: Mouse Tails
Various authors and illustrators
all-ages comic collection
Los Angeles, Calilf : Boom! Studios, c2010

Mickey and friends arrive in a brand-new collection for all-ages. Included are stories with Goofy, Donald, and Minnie, just to name a few. Each story is a self-contained story in just a few pages. Whether you are a long-time fan of these characters or a young kid just being introduced, there will be something here to make you laugh.

A Family Secret

A Family Secret
by Eric Heuvel
Juvenile Graphic Novel
62 pages
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2009

Jeroen is a young boy not much interested in family history until he stumbles upon his grandmother's scrapbook from World War II.  As his grandmother tells the story of her best friend, a Jewish girl, whose family was seeking shelter in the Netherlands. Eventually she had to go into hiding as her parents were taken away to a concentration camp. Jeroen's grandmother never saw her best friend again, but what an impact that relationship had on her life and now her grandson's just from hearing the story. Originally written in Dutch, this engrossing historical graphic fiction is very accessible to upper elementary and above.