Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day of the Night Crawlers

Day of the Night Crawlers
Notebook of Doom #2
by Troy Cummings
New York, N.Y. : Scholastic, 2013
89 pages. Intermediate mystery.

 Alexander and his new friend, Rip, continue to be confronted with strange and bizarre creatures. Luckily they have the mysterious notebook Alexander found shortly after moving to town. This notebook provides all the necessary information for dealing with a variety of ridiculous yet creepy creatures. This is the second entry in the series. The monsters are Tunnel Fish and they cause the night crawlers to go crazy all over town. As they try to find a way to stop the fishy fiends, they uncover some other mysteries around town. Boys in 2nd and 3rd grade will particularly be fans of this series.

Contaminated

Contaminated
by Em Garner

New York : Egmont USA, 2013.
30 pages. Young Adult Horror.
 Velvet is doing her best to take care of her younger sister until she can find their mother. She has had to quit school to work and they live in a rundown government assisted apartment complex. Obviously, life is far from ideal. Their mother is one of the contaminated. One of the innocent victims of tainted protein water which turned them into aggressive, hard-to-kill zombies. The government has been working hard to cure or at least contain the problem. Velvet's mother is finally coming home, but their new life together is not quite what any of them expected.

As usual, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. Some of the characters were great, others annoying. Circumstances were a little too convenient sometimes for Velvet and her family. The main storyline is interesting, especially the twist at the end. So I will be reading the next one to find out what happens.

Friday, December 20, 2013

August Moon

August Moon
by Diana Thung
Graphic Novel
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Top Shelf Productions

From Goodreads:
 The townspeople of Calico believe in family. In fact, some say that the souls of dead ancestors watch over this town, and on a clear night, you can see their "Soul Fires" dancing through the sky.

But when young Fiona Gan comes to town with her father, she finds that the Soul Fires are just the beginning of Calico's mysteries. Strange graffiti appears all over town, a huge rabbit-like creature is found in an alley, and a peculiar street boy named Jaden claims to come from the moon.

Now time may be running out, because Fi and her dad are not the only newcomers to Calico. As the Soul Fire festival approaches and a creepy corporation starts to bulldoze the nearby forests, she finds herself drawn into Jaden's battle for the soul of a community.



My Thoughts:
I did like this graphic novel, however I think it will be difficult to find the right audience for it. Young children will not understand the subtleties and might grow bored with it. Teens and some adults I think would be the best audience, though they might be turned off by the main characters being young children. If one were to just read the text they might not get the full scope of the story either, the pictures do a lot to enhance the tale and bring it to the reader. It is also fairly lengthy which will deter some readers. But aside from all of that, the magical events are intriguing and the bad guys are creepy!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Freakling

Freakling
(Psi Chronicles #1)
by Lana Krumwiede
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Candlewick Press 
 
Freakling is about a kid, Taemon, who grows up in the shadow of his older brother. He knows he is different from those around him, but he knows he must keep it a secret. Everyone in their city has Psi, basically telekinesis. If a person doesn't have powers then they are shunned and sent to a colony outside the city walls for those without the power. Taemon doesn't think he has anything to worry about until the moment he is faced with an impossible choice. As a result he finds out some of the deep dark secrets that surround his family and fellow citizens of Deliverance.
An exciting sci-fi dystopian that is fine for the upper-elementary grades and middle school. Some of the choices Taemon faces are great for discussion and quite thought-provoking. 

All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Disney Hyperion

From Goodreads:
"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.
Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.


My Thoughts:
  This is actually more of a three and a half stars, but not quite a four star. Time travel books generally are a headache to read as you try to make sense of all the loopholes and paradoxes that may or may not exist. I do like how the author dealt with all the possibilities, though I had my fair share of confused moments. I liked the ending, it was well done for a time travel tale. The characters aren't what did it for me, it was the story itself that intrigued me. The only character that was truly interesting was Finn, both versions of him. By the way, I love the cover! I will probably read any follow up books that come out just for fun, but I am not dying to read them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Burn Mark

Burn Mark
by Laura Powell

Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA

Glory is a teenage witch who has just come into her powers. She and her great-aunt keep it a secret from the rest of the coven so she doesn't have to be registered with the British Inquisition. If that were to happen she would be bridled with iron cuffs so she couldn't practice her powers or she would have to work for the government. At the same time Lucas Stearne discovers he too has witch powers which really should be impossible. His father is a High Inquisitor, actually the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition. Having the fae blood is quite detrimental to the family who has held high office for generations. Lucas tries to redeem himself by entering Glory's family coven as a spy. The two inevitably have to work together to solve lots of suspicious happenings both current and from the past.

This takes place in an alternate history where witchcraft is part of life and governments are connected to Inquisitions. The covens are like mobsters and the inquisitors like the FBI and CIA - or the British equivalent of those.

I was totally fascinated by this premise. However the book was rather poorly edited - not just typos and grammatical errors. There were inconsistencies in character as well. Glory's character in particular was annoying whenever she was speaking. Her voice didn't feel real with all of her slang and poor grammar. Though some times it wasn't as noticeable. I wish she had spoken more normally all of the time. It just felt to me like the author was trying to force her to sound low-class and ignorant.

Overall I did like it enough to read the whole thing. If there is a sequel I might try it.

A Tinfoil Sky

A Tinfoil Sky
by Cyndi Sand-Eveland

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Tundra Books

This was a fabulous story of a young girl forced to follow her drug-addict mother around from man to man, dealer to dealer. Mel never knew a normal life with a normal home. At least she didn't remember one. One day Mel's mom decides to take them back to her hometown to live with her mother, a grandmother Mel doesn't even remember. They are not welcomed with the warm and open, loving arms that she dreams of. Instead they end up living in the car and singing for change on the corner. One day her mom doesn't return to their spot under the bridge and the car is towed away. Local law enforcement steps in and Mel is forced to live with the grouchy and hate-filled grandmother. Eventually they grow to understand each other as they confront their shared past and hopefully their shared future.

The Crown of Embers

The Crown of Embers
Fire and Thorns #2
by Rae Carson
Audio
Published September 18th 2012 by Greenwillow Books
Jennifer Ikeda - Narrator

From Goodreads:

In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.


My Opinion:

As far as bridge books go, this was fabulous. A lot happened to keep the story progressing. The characters are well-done with some surprises coming out that may surprise you. Looking forward to the next one. The narrator is wonderful so these are great choices for audio books.

 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Fire and Thorns #1
by Rae Carson
Published July 1st 2012 by Recorded Books
Jennifer Ikeda - Narrator

From Goodreads:

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.
 


I loved this one. The audio is fabulous. It has been a long time since I listened to it, so details are beyond me at this point. But if you like YA fantasy, sci-fi, dystopian-feel, you will probably like this one. A strong-girl character with a great network of other strong characters. Some romance, lots of action, magic...what more do you need?

The First Prophet

The First Prophet
A Bishop Files Novel
by Kay Hooper
Published November 27th 2012 by Jove
390 pages - in the annoying tall paperback format that publishers are choosing lately for some unknown reason

From Goodreads:
 
Within the FBI, there exists a team of psychics whose powers cannot be denied. But these agents are feared—by a cabal of conspirators with only one weapon: to blind the psychics to the evils all around them.

Months ago Sarah Gallagher woke from a coma with psychic abilities she couldn’t control. They changed her life and cost her the man she loved. And now, someone is playing games with Sarah’s mind.

It begins with Sarah’s home being destroyed by fire—an act of arson that draws novelist Tucker Mackenzie into Sarah’s confidence. But he has other reasons for pursuing a woman who can see what others can’t. So does a mysterious enemy intent on eliminating Sarah, and everyone she cares about. Because it’s only a matter of time before her visions lead her and Tucker to a secret many will kill to hide. Only then will they begin to discover the scope of a terrifying conspiracy so deep and complex they can trust almost no one.


My opinion:

 This was not my favorite of Hooper's books as there were several times where it got rather confusing. There were too many similar characters that it took quite awhile to figure out who was who. It did have the feel of an X-files episode, which was kind of fun.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Elite

The Elite
Selection #2
by Kiera Cass
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by HarperTeen 
 
From Goodreads:
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.
America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.
Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
 
 
What I think:
This was not even close to as entertaining as the first one was. America's dilemma between the two guys is getting old to the point of ridiculous. There were a few good moments. I actually liked what happened with her friend Marlee but I feel it should have made her a little more cautious in some of her behaviors. A definite bridge book. I certainly hope the next one concludes a lot of stuff and is better than this one.

The Selection


The Selection
by Kiera Cass

Hardcover, 327 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by HarperTeen

What a fun read! Pride and Prejudice, The Hunger Games and The Bachelor all rolled-into one entertaining and engrossing read! What a creative spin on the trendy dystopian genre! I can't wait for the next book - I know who I am rooting for.

The Pride and Prejudice because all the girls spend their time dressing up, hanging out in a parlor and talking about each other and The Prince. The Hunger Games because there is a process by which girls are chosen to go to the castle and the caste system is reminiscent of the districts in The Hunger Games. Also, the royal family airs a news show every week and they have an entertainment host that reminds me of the guy on The Hunger Games, whose name I can't remember now for the life of me. And finally, the easiest comparison, The Bachelor - 35 young and beautiful women are chosen to move into the castle to interact with the prince in the hopes that he will find one of them worthy to marry.

If you are expecting more violence and edginess based on other people comparing this to the Hunger Games, you will be disappointed. If you are expecting a fun version of the Bachelor, you will probably enjoy it more. I had absolutely no expectations when I opened this book and was pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shatter Me


Shatter Me
by Tahereh Mafi

Hardcover, 338 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by Harper 
 
Juliette has a terrible curse - or gift, depending on who you ask. She can suck the life right out of a person just by the merest touch of her skin to theirs. Of course, she doesn't want to hurt people. Juliette just wants to be loved by her parents, a friend would be nice. Instead, she ends up locked away in an insane asylum as the world she once knew falls apart. The new government, The Reestablishment, now has her in its sights. To one of their leaders she is the ultimate weapon. However, Juliette does not want to be a weapon. Adam is the bright spot in her life, a boy she once knew from afar at school. They are now thrown together with unexpected results as a war rages around them.
This books is just barely a three for me. I am really really torn about it. I absolutely loved the idea - it reminds me of The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance by Dakin - though I was sure this would be better as I liked the dystopian setting. Yet I really disliked the writing style. Juliette's "voice" was quite annoying and how it was written with no punctuation, too many strikeouts and an excessive amount of repetition was almost too much for me. Adam is the reason I kept reading and ultimately finished the book. Adam and James, and even Warner - just a little but. I really don't see myself seeking out the sequel that this one was building towards.

Oh yeah, I really disliked this cover. It just didn't fit the character or the story. I saw this cover on goodreads.com and like it much better.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Entangled





Entangled
by Amy Rose Capetta

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers 
 
From Goodreads:
  Seventeen-year-old Cade is a fierce survivor, solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar. Or so she thought. Her world shakes apart when a hologram named Mr. Niven tells her she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan.
Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws—her first friends—on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.
 
I gave this 3-31/2 stars on goodreads.com, it is definitely not a four.  I liked a lot of the ideas, but I wish there was more to the back story. I got a little tired of hearing her constantly going on about what was in her head, The Noise or Xan. The best part of the book was her collection of friends that were willing to go to the end of deep space for her. I am not entirely sure Cade did anything to deserve their loyalty and affection. The ending was fabulous, but I don't know that I want to read any more of this series. Though I might, just to see what happens to Rennik. :)

I received a free ARC from the publisher.

Monday, August 5, 2013

After: Ninteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia

After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 384 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Hyperion Book CH 
 
Here is a variety of post-apocalyptic short stories. Some were fabulous, some were not-so-great (almost terrible even) and others were just mediocre. So basically there is probably something for everyone in this collection. However, since I am a life-long fan of dystopian literature, this was right up my alley. Though be prepared for several references to same-gender relations as that is apparently going to be the norm in the future according to several of these authors. Love the mini-bios at the end so I can check out more works by those authors whom I enjoyed.

The Body at the Tower

The Body at the Tower
by Y. S. Lee
The Agency #2

Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2010.
337 p. Hardcover
 
From goodreads.com:
  This is another colourful, action-packed Victorian detective novel about the exploits of agent Mary Quinn. At a young age, Mary Quinn is rescued from the gallows and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. The school turns out to be a front for a private detective agency. At age 17, Mary takes on her first case (A Spy in the House). In this, the second book of the series, Mary Quinn sets out to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death at St. Stephen's Tower, better known as the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The accident occurred after hours in a highly public part of town and despite the presence of night watchmen. Mary, disguised as Mark Quinn, becomes a builder's assistant to find out the truth about the body at the tower.
 
This is a fabulous historical mystery series! I listened to the audio version and it was wonderfully done.
Now I just to get #3 for more Mary Quinn adventure and excitement!

Insomnia

Insomnia
by J. R. Johansson
The Night Walkers #1
Paperback, 351 pages
Published June 8th 2013 by Flux

Parker hasn't had a proper night's sleep in over four years. He has the power - curse might be a better word- to see the dreams of the person he last make's eye contact with before going to bed. Whether he witnesses memory dreams or outright fantasies, they are exhausting as he feels he is physically there. His body does get some rest whereas his mind as it is always active in these other dreams, gets no rest. Parker fears he is dying though he can't talk to anyone. He is sure no one will believe him, they will just stick him in his own padded cell. He figures he will just wait it out, the body tremors he can deal with. Then he starts having hallucinations, at least he hopes they are just products of his weary mind. A new girl, Mia, comes to his school and suddenly Parker has found dreams where he can lie down and sleep. The first time in years he has found someone who has peaceful calming dreams. Too bad he has to act like a psychotic stalker to make sure she is the last person he looks in the eye before he goes to bed.
There seem to be several YA books out there about people doing things in their sleep or being able to see into dreams. I found Insomnia to be slightly different in a good way. It was kind of intense at times, and of course somewhat ridiculous at moments as well. Overall it was a good, creepy teen novel. I will definitely read the next one, even though I have to wait a year. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Etched in Clay

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet
by Andrea Cheng
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Lee & Low Books (first published October 1st 2012)  
 
Dave was a lucky slave, at least as much as there could be such a thing. Dave was owned by pottery-makers. The owners quickly learned that Dave had a special talent for making their wares. As the business transitioned from one family member to another, Dave went with the business. His wives and children were sold off, but he was always retained due to his skills. Dave also learned to read and write, which was quite dangerous for a slave to know. He was proud of his accomplishments and began to carve little rhymes and statements or just his autograph into his pieces of pottery despite the threat of losing a finger. Dave's inspiring story is told through poems in his own voice or various others in his life. The author also did the gorgeous woodcuts that add to the mood of the book. 

Yesterday

Yesterday
by C. K. Kelly Martin
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers 
 
I really wanted to give this four stars, but I couldn't for one big reason. The information dump towards the end when she visited the hypnotist. I like to learn about new worlds and governments throughout the story. Sprinkled throughout the beginning were a few hints, but then all of a sudden she is relating everything from before the attempted mind wipe and clear. It was interesting but just way too much all at once. The end was good though. I like that it was self-contained, no need for a sequel - though it seems like there always is even when not necessary.
The language was a little too much for a young adult book. I know I have said it a million times, but I will say it again: It really bothers me that there are ratings and language restrictions in movies, but in books it doesn't matter. I don't enjoy reading about teens who frequently drop the f-bomb. It just really disrupts the flow of the story for me and really flaws the character. I don't expect all characters to be completely clean of language, but sometimes it is a little excessive. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Curiosities

The Curiosities
A Collection of Stories
by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Lerner Publishing Group 
 
Summary from goodreads.com:
  From acclaimed YA authors Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff comes The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories.

- A vampire locked in a cage in the basement, for good luck.
- Bad guys, clever girls, and the various reasons why the guys have to stop breathing.
- A world where fires never go out (with references to vanilla ice cream).

These are but a few of the curiosities collected in this volume of short stories by three acclaimed practitioners of paranormal fiction.

But The Curiosities is more than the stories. Since 2008, Maggie, Tessa, and Brenna have posted more than 250 works of short fiction to their website merryfates.com. Their goal was simple: create a space for experimentation and improvisation in their writing—all in public and without a backspace key. In that spirit, The Curiosities includes the stories and each author's comments, critiques, and kudos in the margins. Think of it as a guided tour of the creative processes of three acclaimed authors.

So, are you curious now?
 
I was intrigued by this collection solely because Maggie Stiefvater was involved. I have absolutely loved everything of hers that I have read. I was completely unfamiliar with the other two contributing authors. I will admit right off that I read every single one of Maggie's stories, and quite liked all of them in their diversity. However, I only read a few of the others. Some were okay and others not so much. I understand the origins of this collection and it is fairly unique. Yet I was quite bothered by the notes and commentaries "handwritten" in the margins. The comments before each story were okay but the other little notes I just found annoying. I probably would have liked it a little more if it weren't for that factor. It was just too cutesy for me and detracted from the impact of the stories.  

I realize this was an "experiment" of sorts, but I would have preferred the stories on their own.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pulse

Pulse
by Patrick Carman

New York, NY : Katherine Tegen Books, 2013.
Young Adult Science Fiction/Post-Apocalyptic
371 pages
 
From Goodreads.com:
 The year is 2051, and the world is still recognizable. With the help of her mysterious classmate Dylan Gilmore, Faith Daniels discovers that she can move objects with her mind. This telekinetic ability is called a “pulse,” and Dylan has the talent, too.

In riveting action scenes, Faith demonstrates her ability to use her pulse against a group of telekinesis masters so powerful they will flatten their enemies by uprooting street lights, moving boulders, and changing the course of a hurtling hammer so that it becomes a deadly weapon. But even with great talent, the mind—and the heart—can be difficult to control. If Faith wants to join forces with Dylan and save the world, she’ll have to harness the power of both.
 
My Thoughts:
First, I want to say that I love the cover - though it only slightly fits the story. Second, I want to say that the above description is not very accurate. The book did not have very many "riveting action scenes". There were a few brief glimpses of some of the characters powers throughout the beginning and middle of the book.  The only true action scene was at the end and it fell a little flat in the "riveting" department. Patrick Carman has so many amazing ideas,  yet too often I find the actual book to be rather disappointing. I felt that Pulse was just a build-up to book two in the trilogy. It actually felt a little like a middle "bridge" book of a trilogy to me. I hope that book two will be more exciting and fulfilling to read. And yes, I will be reading it. 

If You Find Me

If You Find Me
by Emily Murdoch
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin 
Young Adult 
 
From Goodreads.com:
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
 
My Thoughts:
This book was actually quite disturbing and horrifying in some ways. Carey and Janessa are amazing characters that fight for a better life despite their upbringing. The family dynamics throughout this book were heartbreaking and touching at the same time. the most terrible thing to me is the realization that what happened to these young girls really does happen to some people in this world. It is extremely sad and I will admit I shed a few tears while reading this book. There were a few times where it seemed a little wee bit over the top as in, "could all of this really happen to the same girl?" But yes, it probably very well could happen. Yes, I felt sadness and anger and horror as I read this book, but what I felt most was the love, hope and resilience that the characters felt, despite the ugliness in their life.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Maggot Moon

Maggot Moon
by Sally Gardner
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2013, c2012.
Young Adult, Dystopian/alternate history. 279 pages.

From Goodreads:

What if the football hadn’t gone over the wall. On the other side of the wall there is a dark secret. And the devil. And the Moon Man. And the Motherland doesn’t want anyone to know. But Standish Treadwell — who has different-colored eyes, who can’t read, can’t write, Standish Treadwell isn’t bright — sees things differently than the rest of the "train-track thinkers." So when Standish and his only friend and neighbor, Hector, make their way to the other side of the wall, they see what the Motherland has been hiding. And it’s big...


I really don't know what to say about this book. The first time I started reading it I was kind of tired and the book made absolutely no sense. In fact, I felt like I was on something that was truly messing with my brain. However, the cover literally haunted me as did the summary I had read. So I decided to try one more time before turning it in. I am so glad I did. Standish Treadwell is an amazing character. He is flawed in many ways, but that is what makes him so human and endearing. I was literally sucked into his world and was rooting for him clear to the very end. I may have even shed a tear or two at the end. Warning: I would not suggest this for anyone under 16, possibly even 18. Standish does have a tendency to use some very naughty words quite often. There are some rather violent moments as well. Also, there is a specific scene at the end that might offend certain people. That aside, this was a unique and brilliantly written novel. If you have read other books by Gardner don't expect this to be the same. I have only read two, The Red Necklace and I, Coriander - both of which I loved, but in very different ways. And don't forget to pay attention to the subtle drawings in the margins. The portrayal of flies, rats and maggots is quite fascinating.  


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Paper Artist

Paper Artist: Creations Kids Can Fold, Tear, Wear, or Share
by Gail D. Green, Kara L. Laughlin, and Jennifer Phillips

Capstone Young Readers. Minnesota 2013.
Children's craft book.

"Fold it! Tear it! Share it! Wear it!" This book contains numerous ideas for everything from jewelery to hats and picture frames to wind-chimes. The crafts vary in difficulty from easy to quite complex so there is something for everyone though most will require some form of adult supervision. The The materials lists and directions are quite clear and the colorful photos are fabulous. If you are looking for unique and creative crafts to give as gifts then definitely check out this book.

I read a free digital copy of this via NetGalley.


The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater

New York : Scholastic Press, 2012.
Young adult fantasy, 390 pages.
 
Blue has always led a rather unconventional life with her household full of psychics. But things are about to get even stranger now that she has met the Raven Boys. She has always avoided boys in general thanks to a prophecy from her mother. Raven Boys in particular are best ignored as they are everything Blue is not. The spoiled private school boys come from money - old money, they have deep, deep family roots and not a care in the world. Despite psychic prophecies and such differing backgrounds, Blue's fate seems to be intertwined with this strange group of boys and their quest for something not quite of this world.
Stiefvater is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. I have loved everything I have read. Each world she creates is fabulously different from the others. Her characters are deep and diverse. I can't wait for the next book in this series. 

Orleans

Orleans
by Sherri L. Smith

New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2013.
Young adult sci-fi, dystopian, 324 pages.
Delta Fever has devastated the Gulf Coast after numerous devastating hurricanes. The area has been quarantined and walled off from the rest of the country. Despite the disease and the separation, people have survived and even in some cases flourished in the wasteland. The fever affects people differently depending on their blood type. Thus the people have segregated themselves into tribes for their health and protection. Certain tribes are more dangerous than others as they are insane from the illness and need fresh blood to stay alive. Other tribes are in danger as the hunted because they remain quite healthy despite having the fever in their system. Fen finds herself alone after an attack on her tribe. Well, not quite alone, she has a brand new baby whose blood has not been tainted with the fever. She is desperate to get her across the border into the Outer States where she can hopefully live a better life. As they traverse the dangerous terrain they are hunted, trapped, caught and escape at various times. To further complicate matters, they encounter a scientist from the other side who is trying to find answers and a cure for the Delta Fever. As they travel together Fen realizes she needs answers too, though she never knew she had questions.  

I love the cover, I love the idea and the characters were interesting. The ending was not my favorite because it made me cry. But at the same time I liked it because it was an actual ending, something that is rather rare in this genre.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Swipe

Swipe
by Evan Angler
Nashville, Tenn. : Thomas Nelson, 2011. 
Juvenile Dystopian. 275 pages

From goodreads.com: 
 (sorry, it has been awhile since I read this so figured they could summarize better)


Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong?

Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, "Swipe" follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn't even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.

The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It's almost Logan Langly's 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn't been able to shake the feeling he's being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago . . . and never came back.

When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers? Find out in the first book of this exciting series that is "Left Behind" meets "Matched" for middle-grade readers


My review:
 On the lower end of 4 stars. I love the idea, I really want to know what happens next. Sometimes the writing wasn't as smooth as it could have been. Some of the characters were not developed enough for their part in the story. But overall a nice, exciting addition to the genre. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Whisper

The Whisper
by Emma Clayton
(sequel to The Roar)
New York : Chicken House, 2012
309 pages, paperback
juvenile science fiction

Mika and Ellie are reunited but they have been captured. They have to play along with the bad guy's plans in order to free all of the other children who are like them. In their adventures they will finally learn what is on the other side of The Wall. Is it what they have been told their whole lives? Is it worse? Or could it possibly be better than anything they could have expected? What will the siblings have to sacrifice in order to make things better?
This one was okay as far as sequels go. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. There is still a little too much preachy environmental stuff that doesn't mesh so well with the story.  However, there is a certain aspect to the sci-fi reader in me that liked bits and pieces of it. I do not know if I will read anymore if there are any.

The Gammage Cup

The Gammage Cup
by Carol Kendall
San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1959
283 pages, paperback
juvenile fantasy

From the back cover:
"Troublemakers? Outlaws? Words like these have never been spoken in Slipper-by-the-Sea!  In this isolated town, the Minnipins, or Small Ones, minded their jobs, dressed simply, and never questioned the leading Family. Now five upstarts dare to be different. it is so upsetting that the only thing to do is banish them forever! Now, high on the mountain, a fire burns in the night. Only the small, courageous band of exiles knows that the Minnipins' dreaded enemies are preparing to attack. Can the outlaws rouse the village in time? Will they survive?"
This is a fabulous book that sends a great message about individual worth. Nobody needs to conform to what everyone else is doing. Everyone needs to stand up for who they are and what they believe and things will turn out all right in the end. If you are looking for a fabulous fantasy adventure with a real moral to it, you should definitely read The Gammage Cup!

The Perilous Gard

 The Perilous Gard
by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Illustrated by Richard Cuffari
New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Puffin Books, 1992
280 pages, juvenile historical fiction/fantasy

From the back cover:
"Because her sister Alicia sent an impulsive letter to Queen Mary, Kate Sutton, lady -in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth, has been exiled. Sent to Elvenwood, "the Perilous Gard," Kate is intrigued by the master of the isolated castle, Sir Geoffrey Heron, and his strangely silent brother, Christopher. Elvenwood is shrouded in secrets that no one will explain to Kate, so she sets out to find some answers on her own. But her curiosity almost kills her, for she stumbles upon the otherworldly province of the secret residents of the land around Elvenwood - the People of the Hill. And the People want to make Kate a slave for life."
 The Perilous Gard is full of exciting adventure, sweet romance, thrilling fantasy and a whole lot of mystery.
This is a great choice for fans of historical fiction and fantasy. Girls will most likely enjoy it the most as there are some romantic elements. And let me just say one more thing, the black and white interior illustrations add to the creepy factor of the book and the Elvenwood itself.

After the Rain

After the Rain
by Norma Fox Mazer
William Morrow, 1987
249 pages, paperback
young adult, realisitic drama

Rachel was a surprise child to her older parents. Her brothers are several years older and living lives of their own while Rachel is still in high school. At fifteen she is already a worrier, she worries about everything. As she struggles through typical teenage-girl emotions she reluctantly gets drawn into a closer relationship with her elderly grandfather. This at times complicates her life more but also allows her to see some things from a different perspective. As she gets to know her dying grandfather better, she is also getting to know herself better as well.
Oh how I wish young adult novels were still being written more like this! Mazer includes lots of issues in her book but they are dealt with in a more mature and realistic manner. There is no need for excessive swearing, abundant drug-use, detailed intimate relations between teens or all the political issues that seem to run rampant in today's teen literature. I didn't love After the Rain, but it felt more real to me than most books I read today.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking
by Astrid Lindgren
translated from the Swedish by Florence Lamborn
illustrated by Nancy Seligsohn
Scholastic September 1973
116 pages, paperback

Tommy and Annika are intrigued by their new neighbor in Villa Villekulla. She doesn't behave like any other kid they have ever known. She is much more exciting! She doesn't have any parents!  Her mother had died when she was just a tiny baby  and "Pippa was sure that her mother was now up in Heaven, watching her little girl through a peephole in the sky". Her father was a sea captain who had disappeared overboard in a storm but Pippi knew he hadnot drowned. She believed he had "floated until he landed on an island inhabited by cannibals...and he had become the king of all the cannibals". Until he came back she would live on her own in their old house. She would be just fine: she had a suitcase full of gold, a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson, and she's the strongest person in the world!
This classic is such a fun book to read again and again. It is especially fun to read aloud to young children. Despite it being written nearly 70 years ago and in a whole other part of the world, you can't help but feel the adventurous and independent spirit of Pippi Longstocking.
And if you don't mind dubbed movies, be sure to watch the film from the early 1980's. It combines elements of all the books but is fairly entertaining in it's own right!

The Ear, The Eye and The Arm

The Ear, The Eye and The Arm
by Nancy Farmer

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Orchard 
(first published March 1st 1994) 
From the back cover: 
 "The year is 2194, and Tendai, his brother, and his sister - the children of Zimbabawe's chief
 of security - have escaped from their father's estate to explore the dangerous city of Harare.
 Desperately wanting to prove himself to his father, Tendai embarks with his siblings on a
 dangerous vouage throug the Zimbabwe of the future."

Nancy Farmer was inspired by the mythology of the Shona culture to create this fabulous adventure full of bizarre characters and growing friendships. This is definitely not my favorite of Farmer's books but it is a fun read nonetheless.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Flora and the Flamingo

Flora and the Flamingo
by  Molly Idle
San Francisco, Calif. : Chronicle Books, c2013
unpaged, picture book

Flora, in her pink swimsuit, flippers, and swim cap, greatly admires the graceful flamingo. At first she tries to be discreet, but the flamingo is not flattered by the attention and tries to deter Flora's aping ways. Eventually, the two form a friendship and practice beautiful dance moves together.  The stunning illustrations display such personality in the two characters that words are truly not necessary. This gorgeous wordless picture book is sure to delight girls of all ages.

A Leaf Can Be

A Leaf Can Be
by Laura Purdie Salas
illustrated by Violete Dabija
unpaged, picture book
Minneapolis : Millbrook Press, c2012

A leaf is more than just a simple part of a tree. Many of a leaf's uses are described in simple rhyming pairs such as, "skin welter, bat shelter. shade spiller, mouth filler". The cute illustrations add some character to the minimal text while displaying a variety of shades of greens and browns that are befitting to a book about leaves. As a bonus, at the end of the book there are a few pages giving more detailed information for each statement. This is great as it makes this picture book accessible to a wider range of ages.

My Dad, My Hero

My Dad, My Hero
by Ethan Long
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, c2011
unpaged, picture book

Ethan Long has given us an adorable picture book where a young boy describes the many ways his father is not a superhero. "He cannot shoot webs out of his wrists...And I know he can't bend steel with his bare hands." The big question is whether or not the boy is okay with not having a superhero for a father. Brightly colored, full-page illustrations are reminiscent of a comic strip from the Sunday funnies. The large text and simple yet effective sentences make it a great read-aloud or a fun story for a beginning reader.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ashes

Ashes
by Ilsa J. Bick
New York : Egmont USA, 2011
465 pages
young adult science fiction/zombies

 From goodreads:
"An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.
  Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

  For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human."

I like some of the ideas. None of the characters totally grabbed me, except maybe Tom. The cannibalistic zombie kids were a bit much for me. Overall a lot of stuff was rather pushing it as far as believability goes. Yet it is a good action-packed intensely fast read. And yes, I will read the next one - this one ended on such a sudden note - and left many unanswered questions!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lulu and the Duck in the Park

Lulu and the Duck in the Park
by Hilary McKay
illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
Chicago : Albert Whitman, 2012
104 pages, intermediate chapter book

Lulu loves all animals! She tries really hard to find the perfect pet for her teacher and as a result is banned from bringing any animals to school ever again! Lulu intends to do just that until one day the class is on a field trip and she saves a duck egg abandoned when a group of dogs attack. After all, an egg isn’t really an animal…yet. But will her teacher agree with her?

One of my top 10 picks for intermediate chapter books of 2012.

Maggie's Chopsticks

Maggie's Chopsticks
by Alan Woo
 illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
unpaged picture book

Little Maggie is finally big enough to use her very own chopsticks. She is determined to use them her own way even if she struggles. Each family member tries to show her their own method although they never seem to work for Maggie. She gets really frustrated until Father says, "You shouldn't worry what other people think. Everyone is different. Everyone is unique." This makes her feel better and she persists with her own learning until she is confident and comfortable. The gorgeous illustrations add another layer to the culture behind Maggie and her chopsticks. This is a great story to demonstrate individuality and that persistence will pay off.

The Way We Fall

The Way We Fall
by Megan Crewe
New York : Hyperion, c2012
309 pages, young adult science fiction

It has been awhile since I read this one, so here is an excerpt borrowed from goodreads.com:
It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.


I liked the idea of the story and I still do. It had so much potential that just didn't come through for me. The format is what bothered me the most. A journal narration I can handle, but a journal written like letters to an ex-friend/crush was quite annoying and unnecessary.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When We Wake

When We Wake
by Karen Healey
New York : Little, Brown, 2013
296 pages. YA science fiction

Tegen is ecstatic, the boy she has loved forever is finally her official boyfriend. To celebrate their first day together they go to a political rally in their home city of Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately, Tegen is in the wrong place at the wrong time and takes a sniper bullet meant for the Prime Minister. Fast forward a hundred years: Tegen wakes up in a new century with a whole lot of attitude, but without a clue as to what has happened. The world is not quite what she thought it would be and her presence has awakened a lot of anger in various political and religious factions. With the help of assorted friends she decides to show everyone she is the boss of her own body - not the government that revived her, not the Inheritors who think she is devil spawn and not the journalists that just want a hot story!
This book is a little disjointed and has too many political agendas for my taste. An interesting idea though, I just think it could have been better executed. I didn't love or sympathize with Tegan, yet I had just a little sympathy for Abdi.

Adaptation

Adaptation
by Malinda Lo
New York : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012
386 pages, YA science-fiction

A couple of teenagers (who may or may not be crushing on each other) are stranded at the Phoenix airport with their teacher after a debate competition. All flights have been cancelled due to random bird attacks that have caused numerous planes throughout the country to crash. The trio decides to rent a car to drive back to San Francisco rather than live in the airport until flights open back up. Of course this entails driving through the back roads of Nevada where bizarre-acting bird causes them to crash. They wake up some time later in an unusual hospital situation with no memories of what happened yet they have some unique abilities they didn't have before. What really happened to them after their car crashed? Did they really crash near Area 51? Will they ever be able to tell each other of their true feelings?

I liked the X-Files feel of parts of this novel, but overall I didn't really like it. Too many parts felt overly contrived and unlikely. Will I read the second part? Not likely.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

BETA

BETA
by Rachel Cohn
New York : Hyperion, c2012
331 pages, young adult novel

Demesne is an isolated luxury island resort for the very wealthy. It was created after The Water Wars and is very exclusive. It has it's own self-contained atmosphere so the air can have a special blend of oxygen that makes the residents happy and relaxed. The water surrounding the island is infused with special healing properties and is free of dangerous waves and currents. The technology is so advanced that the entire work force is made of clones. These clones have been altered so they are not affected by the special air and they have no emotions. Their faces are tattooed revealing their status as clones and their specialty. Elysia is a Beta, an experimental teen clone. She is promptly purchased by a wealthy lady as a companion for her children. Elysia knows from the start that she is different from most other clones. She knows enough to keep it a secret from her owners as she seeks information about the supposed Clone Insurrection that is rumored to be mounting.
You might think life is complicated for all teenagers, it is even more so for a clone teenager.  Elysia is a character who I mostly liked. I had to keep telling myself that she was a clone so she wouldn't react like other kids to a lot of things. I have to admit that I guessed the big climax of the story quite awhile before it happened. The end was wrapping up quite nicely until the very last page when I was kind of thrown for a loop and now I can't wait for the next one. As a caution: there are some rather adult moments in this book so I wouldn't recommend it for anyone under 16 and even then it would depend on the individual teen.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Atherton: The House of Power


Atherton: The House of Power
By Patrick Carman
Little, Brown and Co, 2007. 330 pgs. Chapter book.

Patrick Carman's new series begins with Atherton: The House of Power. Carman writes for an older audience than he did in The Land of Elyon trilogy. The tone of Atherton is darker and more serious, sometimes it is downright grim. Atherton is a unique world of three levels: The Highlands, Tabletop, and The Flatlands. The majority of the world's populace resides on Tabletop where figs, rabbits and sheep are raised for food. The rulers live a life of luxury on the Highlands. The House of Power is so called mainly because they can control the output of water to the lower levels. And you probably don't want to know what lives in the Flatlands. Only one boy is brave enough to explore his world and wonder what might be on the other levels. Edgar learns that he can only reach his goals with the help of some friends, something he thought he would never have. Friendships are discovered and social status ignored as Edgar, Samuel and Isabelle try to understand and cope with their changing world. I liked the feel of this novel, but was bothered at times by the author's narrative style. The book is written mostly in the third person, but occasionally the author speaks to the reader using 'I' and 'we'. It is unnecessary and distracting. Overall I enjoyed reading this book and am curious where he will take the series. This should definitely be recommended to those who liked City of Ember and other post-apocalyptic books.

Truesight


Truesight
by David Stahler Jr.
Eos, 2004. 168 pgs. Chapter book.

Truesight is a futuristic story of a Utopian society on a distant planet. There are two cities on this planet Melville is home to the Seers, people who can see. Harmony is the city of the blind. The people of Harmony are descended from a group of people on Earth who decided to embrace their disability of blindness and create a Utopian society of only blind people. They decide to carry the concept of their society even further and genetically alter their unborn children so they would also be blind. 13 year-old Jacob is an active member of Harmony until he starts experiencing severe headaches. His physical suffering causes him to act and react differently to his environment and the people around him.
This book falls right in my favorite genre of children's literature, futuristic science fiction. It is the first of a trilogy. The library has copies both in Juvenile and YA. It will probably find more readers in the YA section, but will also appeal to some of our mature fifth and sixth graders. Content-wise there is nothing wrong with it, it is just of a more serious nature.

a is for musk ox

 
a is for musk ox
by Erin Cabatingan  and Matthew Myers
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2012
unpaged picture book


In this creative and informative alphabet picture book Musk Ox is in trouble from page one. He is caught with the apple (of A is for Apple fame) in his mouth. When he is confronted by Zebra he says he did it to save the book from being just like every other alphabet book out there. He then proceeds to show Zebra how every single letter in the alphabet can refer to a musk ox. Patient Zebra humors him although it tries his patience immensely. When you reach the end you have not only worked your way through the alphabet, but you will know more than you ever wanted to know about musk oxen. If you are a fan of the non-traditional ABC books like Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and AlphaOops!: The Day Z went First by Alethea Kontis,  then you will be very entertained by A is for apple musk ox.

Chu's Day



Chu's Day
written by Neil Gaiman
illustrated by Adam Rex
New York : Harper, c2013
unpaged picture book

Bad things happen when the adorable baby panda, Chu, sneezes. His ever cautious parents are always asking him, "Are you going to sneeze, dear?" Thankfully neither the "old-book-dust" at the library nor the pepper in the restaurant trigger Chu's nasal reflex. But of course, the one time his vigilant parents let down their guard...you better hold onto your hats.
Gaiman's story is cute yet unremarkable. However, when you pair it with Adam Rex's fabulous illustrations, you have a picture book for all to enjoy.
For more sneezing, check out Zoo Ah-Choooo by Peter Mandel or my personal favorite, Robert the Rose Horse by Joan Heilbroner. 

Time for Bed, the Babysitter Said



Time for Bed, the Babysitter Said
by Peggy Perry Anderson
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
easy reader. unpaged.


No matter how many times the babysitter asks Joe to go to bed, he always answers, "No!" After numerous attempts and lots of mischief on little Joe's part, the babysitter finally asks, "why, oh why won't you go to bed?" Joe's answer might surprise some with it's magical simplicity. Adorable and uncluttered illustrations paired with short and simple rhyming text make a fun book for beginning readers.

Mud Puddle



Mud Puddle
written by Robert Munsch
illustrated by Dusan Petricic
Toronto : Annick Press ; Richmond Hill, ON : Distributed by Firefly Books Ltd., c2012
picture book. 32 pages.

Every time little Jule Ann plays outside a mischievous mud puddle is sure to find her. Maybe  it's hiding up a tree or in her sandbox, she never knows where it is going to turn up. Jule Ann goes to great lengths to disguise herself and hide from this filthy nuisance yet she always ends up splattered in muck. Her exasperated mother has long since given up on bathing her so Jule Ann decides to confront the sneaky slime with a secret weapon. Whether you are a long-time fan of the incredible Robert Munsch or not, you will surely enjoy this clever tale.