Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Prisoner of Ice and Snow


















The book starts with an assassination attempt on the prince and keeps going from there.  Valor has been accused of trying to kill the prince but what she really did was fake the attempt in order to be thrown into the same prison as her sister, Sasha, who has been accused of stealing a very valuable music box which is the key to a treaty between their country and another.  Once inside the prison though Valor finds that the intrigue goes deeper than she thought.  Who can she trust and how can she prove her sister's innocence?

This was a fun read - lots of action.  There is a bit of a set up for a sequel but the ending was satisfying.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Isaac the Alchemist

















This was an interesting look into the life of Sir Isaac Newton.  He was a reclusive man who kept many of discoveries secret for a long time.  He also had a fascination with alchemy.  This seems directly opposite of his scientific mind but at the time both the sciences and alchemy were seen as "magic".  This book shows the bridge of these two interests of Newton.  The text is not too dense with mathematical or scientific terms or equations so for the most part it is an accessible read for students.  The difficulty lies in the direct quotes from his works and other people talking about him.  These contain old English spellings and grammar which could trip up younger readers.  I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher to review for MSBA and also had an eBook from NetGalley.  I liked the text and hope others on the committee read it but it would probably be too complex for the readers in my library - I will pass it on to the junior high.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Horizon


















8 kids on a plane - some headed home, some on vacation, some going to a robotic competition.  Then there is a crash and these 8 seem to be "chosen" to survive.  Instead of landing where they think they were flying - the Arctic - they end up in a jungle with weird creatures, deadly plants, and strange devices that seem to alter physics.  What is going on here?  Who or what is the mastermind behind this?  

This is the first in a new series - similar to 39 Clues, Spirit Animals, etc with an online component as well as the book.  It reminded me of Maze Runner but a bit tamer for the younger crowd.  I think students will enjoy this new series.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Best Medicine


















What could be more embarrassing for a 12 year old boy than for his mom to have breast cancer?  That's what Philip thinks at first but when he takes a step back and learns that it's not all about him he learns a lot about himself and those around him.

So I was wondering how much of this book would focus on mom's breast - the blurbs about the book made it seem kind of shallow in that regard.  Philip was a bit one track at first but did learn and grow throughout.  My issue was the other character's development - all of a sudden at the end he finds out his best friend is dating someone and he had no clue they liked each other, he learns about the bully's secret, and his crush now likes him.  There didn't seem to be enough lead up to those events and some things were just left dangling - the poetry assignment for one.  I just didn't think the book as a whole was fleshed out enough.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

See You in the Cosmos


















In my circles this book has been receiving a lot of buzz.  Confession - I had a hard time getting into it.  Maybe I just don't like rockets or the format was weird for me.  I buckled down today though and told myself I needed to just read in longer sections.  So off I went - 90 degrees, kayak, waterproof back, book, and wind.  I plunked myself out in the pond and read til I drifted to shore and repeated that for at least an hour.  That definitely helped me get into the book more.

Alex is obsessed with rockets and has built one that he wants to test out at a convention.  So he books himself a train ticket and heads out.  Problem is - he's 11.  But, his mom is pretty quiet and let's him do whatever he wants.  When he gets there he meets people he only knew online.  While the launch doesn't go as planned, he sets off on an even bigger adventure which takes him to Las Vegas and LA, he learns the truth about his father and meets a half sister, and develops friendship and strengthens family bonds.

I did end up liking the story but was troubled by this 11 year old hooking up and traveling with so many strangers...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Big & Little Questions...


















Wren's life has been turned upside down.  With no warning her parents decided to get divorced.  Over the summer she went to stay with her grandparents while they worked out details.  Because she was some embarrassed and confused she didn't talk to anyone - not even her best friend - about it.  Now that school has started everything has changed.  A new girl has moved in, Amber is mad at her, her dad is in a different house and she sees him on the weekend.  Wren has a lot of questions but mainly - will her life and family ever be the same?

This is a decent solid chapter book for about 4th graders.  There are some familiar themes and doesn't really break any new ground but it is pretty good.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Funny Girl


















This book is a selection of short stories and comics by many talented authors.  The title - Funny Girl - says it all.  Funny stories about girls by girls.  The problem with a collection of stories and humor in particular is that inevitably some are better than others and since humor is so subjective some are funnier to the reader than others.  I found this to be the case.  I also felt, that some were a bit too advanced for my particular library, so I will send it along to the junior high.

Wishbones


















Feather's mom is morbidly obese and after a scary incident requiring her hospitalization, Feather knows she must intervene.  When a boy, Clay, shows up things seem to get worse.  As Feather starts trying to help her mom she finds out that her mom used to be an activist and very healthy.  What was the "trigger" that caused her mom to overeat and hide away from everyone.  What does Clay, who suffers from Anorexia, have to do with it?

There was a lot going on with this book - from the 2 main issues of overweight and underweight to the secrets people keep for others.  I liked the book but it is really too heavy for my students.  I think it would do well in a junior high and high school setting.  My biggest complaint was that in Feather's digging into the past she was able to find out about her mom being a dancer and an activist but wasn't able to find out about the "big secret" to the book.  I can't imagine that (no spoilers) the event wouldn't have been in the news of the time and searchable via the internet.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

















This was a short text about Chef Roy Choi and his passion for food.  It tells about his life growing up as a Korean American and how he struggled to find his place.  He eventually became a world class chef but even then he didn't find his true passion and calling.  He eventually started opening food trucks and small local fast food places that offered quality food with unique flavors.

The story behind the story and the illustrations really added to the book.  The messages of doing what you really love and giving back to your community were powerful.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers


















Utterly silly British import.  I chuckled a bit at it.  I think my students will like Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Faces' silly antics.  Not sure it is of sufficient caliber for the Maine Student Book Award though.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Great Penguin Rescue















Another solid title from Sandra Markle.  This installment is about the plight of African Penguins and efforts to rescue them.  Solid research and writing and students will enjoy it.

Night Witches


















Before the war both Valya and Tatyana were trained as pilots by their father.  Now, Tatyana is using her skill as a Night Witch bombing Germans during the Battle of Stalingrad.  Valya, meanwhile is told to stay at home and care for her mother and grandmother.  But then, in the space of a few days both her grandmother and mother are dead and Valya is determined to find Tatyana and join her as one of the famous night witches.

A solid story with lots of actions.  Fans of WWII fiction will enjoy this perspective.  I wish their had been an author's note about the history of the real Night Witches.

Monday, May 29, 2017

When My Sister Started Kissing


















I really am intrigued by Helen Frost's work.  The skill to create a poetic narrative and to use different forms for the different voices - superb.  I think overall though I was more taken by that than by the story itself.  I was drawn in at the beginning with the death of Claire and Abi's mom and wish there had been more about that.  The story was not bad - it just didn't really grab me and while I appreciate the different voices and poetic forms I did get a bit confused by who was speaking at times.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Remarkable Plants


















This is similar is organization (or lack of) and style as Jeff Probst's other book that I read recently.  There is great information here but it really jumps around.  Regardless, my students will probably enjoy it.

The Book of Chocolate

















It is so interesting to me that something that is so cheap and readily available has such a long and complicated history.  It is one of the foods that we take for granted but a lot of effort has gone into creating what we enjoy so much.  This book was a well written and fascinating look at the history of chocolate.  I enjoyed it a lot.

Thornhill

















I am not sure what to say about this book.  I do typically like scary stories and even sad ones but this was just so sad and disturbing - not in the actions themselves but in the implications.  It is about a girl, Mary, in an orphanage at Thornhill which is closing down in 1982.  Then is is also about a girl, Ella, in 2017 who moves in next door to the abandoned Thornhill building.  Mary's story is told through her diary and Ella's story is told through pictures.

Mary is selectively mute (the why we never know or how she became an orphan) and is abused by one girl at Thornhill in particular.  Ella is left alone a lot and begins exploring the ruins of Thornhill and sees a mysterious "person".  Through Mary's diary we discover the events leading up to a tragic event.  The disturbing part is that no one helped her - she was obviously hurting and no one reached out.  Ella finally finds Mary's room and her diary.

But the ending...  I wasn't a fan, so sad and tragic and I felt unnecessary.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mango Delight


















So, this wasn't a bad book but it was a book filled with middle school tropes - losing best friend, first love, etc.  It is a fluff book that certain readers will eat up but for my MSBA reading it's not in the running.

Quicksand Pond


















When you read a book by certain authors you expect greatness.  It is wonderful when an author delivers yet again and disappointing when it just doesn't live up to your expectations.  I am not sure exactly where this falls for me.  I thought the writing was well done and for the most part I liked the story.  

Jessie is on vacation with her family and discovers a raft upon which she starts exploring around the pond.  She is soon joined by Terri.  Unfortunately Terri and her family have a history and while their friendship is genuine others feel it is doomed.  Meanwhile, an elderly lady watches the girls using the raft and is taken back to her childhood days on a raft and a terrible event that led to the downfall of Terri's family.

But the ending though...  too many loose ends and unsettled emotions.  I also was disappointed in the treatment of Terri and how no one came to her help when she was obviously abused.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sea Otter Heroes














This was a really neat scientific mystery.  The Elkhorn Slough was far healthier than scientists thought it should be.  It is close to nearby farms and orchards and the runoff from fertilizers should have made the algae grow and destroy the sea grass but the opposite was happening; the seagrass was flourishing.  Through careful observation, study, and some luck, Brent Hughes was able to discover how the sea otter population was helping to ward off the algae.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush


















For students who are reading and are fans of Jack London's works this may be a good addition and back story to many of his tales.  I did not find this to be overly exciting - simply a telling of certain events in his experiences without much flair.  I did like the tie in of his experiences and their appearances in his writing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Extreme Weather
















This book is chock full of weather facts and fun.  It starts with a basic introduction to weather and then goes into the more extreme aspects.  Droughts, tsunamis, tornadoes, blizzards, and so on are all discussed in terms of causes, records, etc.  

While my students will enjoy this and find many interesting facts, I was annoyed by the organization or lack thereof.  The information jumped around.  Tornadoes were discussed and then many pages later there was a challenge about them and then they were discussed more later.  Thank goodness for the index.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cold Summer


















So, I love time travel books and movies.  The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my favorites.  When I saw the blurb for Cold Summer on Edelweiss I was thinking - "Time Traveler's Wife" for teens - nuff said.

Kale has been a time traveler since he was a young boy but very few people know about it.  His parents - they always thought he was just a runaway, especially his dad, even though Kale has tried to explain it many times.  Usually it has been short trips - back to the 70s, 90s and never returning to the same place over and over.  But that has changed.  Now he keeps going back as a soldier in World War II and as his life at home in the present gets worse, the pull back gets more frequent.

Then there is Harper.  They have know each other since they were kids and she would come for the summers.  But now she is there to stay and the attraction has become so much more.

Can Kale find a way to get his father to believe him and ground himself in the present before something happens to him in the past?

I did enjoy this.  I felt like it took awhile to really get into gear - a lot of time was spent with Kale and Harper avoiding their attraction and of course, Kale trying to come to terms with his family and his "ability".  The last 1/4 of the book was really good.  There is a bit of swearing a a close sexual encounter.  I think the book would be okay for upper middle school and high school though.

Out of Wonder
















This was divine.  In this collection Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderly, and Marjory Wentworth pay homage to a diverse cast of poets and their work.  Some poets mimic a style, some showcase theme, and others just celebrate a certain poet or poem.  Not only were the works beautiful and diverse but as an educator I can see this book as a doorway introducing students to these wonderful poets.  Very well done.

Geology is a Piece of Cake

















Katie Coppens introduces geology concepts like rocks, minerals, tectonics, and so on using cake.  This is a perfect text for 4th and 5th graders just learning these concepts and the delivery is done in a fun and lighthearted way.  I can't wait to show this to the teachers at my school.  The only problem is that if they wanted to use all these recipes in their instruction I am sure the health committee would get on them :)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pursued















For the last 6 months Axel and Daisha have been pursued by men trying to steal their parent's invention.  You see, their parents invention always people to transport simply by GPS coordinates instantaneously.  Their parents worked for a wealthy investor who wants to use the invention solely for financial gain.  To prevent that Axel and Daisha's parent decided to destroy the invention but were killed before they could.  Their last words to the kids were to take the devices to a mysterious person (turns out not to be  person but a place) and destroy it.

Can Axel and Daisha keep evading the men in pursuit and destroy the devices before it is too late?  I wish I knew :)  This is the first book in a series and it ain't over...  But it was full of action - a bit too scientific in parts but good overall.

Survivor's Club


















This is the account of Michael Bornstein's life in Poland during WWII and his survival as a prisoner at Auschwitz.  What is truly amazing is that he was only 4 when he was at Auschwitz.  Miraculous indeed that he survived.  The book tells of his experiences before, during, and after the war.

I greatly appreciated his honesty and how he worked with his daughter to write the book.  I will make sure this book finds a home in either my district's jr. high or high school library.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Piecing Me Together


















This is very well done.  I must say at first I wasn't sure if I liked it and it took a bit for me to get going but once I did it was beautifully told ad powerful.

Jade is poor and her family struggles to make ends meet.  But Jade is talented and smart.  She gets into a prestigious private school on a scholarship based on her grades.  But she always feels on the outside - like people assume she is there because she is black not because she is smart.  Then she is picked for a mentoring program.  Again she feels that it is more out of sympathy and she finds it condescending.  With the help of her mentor she learns to speak up for herself and what she needs.  Soon she able to voice her opinions and concerns with her family, her teachers, and her friends.

What I really loved was the use of collage as her art and as part of her story.  The references to York, the black slave who was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition was woven into the story well.  Because Jade is a high school student I am not sure if the book would find an audience at my elementary school but it should be in the junior high and high school.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

One for Sorrow

Image result for one for sorrow hahn

In my world, a book by Mary Downing Hahn gets an automatic pass to the top of the TBR pile.  When I was a teacher I read Wait Til Helen Comes to almost every class of 4th and 5th graders that I had.  The Old Willis Place is another of my favorites as is Took.  I have found some in recent years to be not as good but there still have to be read.

So... this one.  The beginning was very much like some of the others.  You have Elsie who is not very nice trying to befriend Annie a new girl.  Annie is able to "escape" Elsie's clutches and makes friends with some other girls.  The other girls are not nice to Elsie at all - in fact they are downright bullies.  The book takes place in 1918 / 1919 during the Spanish Flu epidemic and Elsie catches it and dies.

But wait - that's only the 1st third of the book.  Soon Elsie's ghost is back haunting Annie and making her do terrible things.  How can Annie get rid of Elsie and can Elsie ever find what she is looking for?

I did like the ending and the plot picked up and separated itself from some others in short order.  I anticipated the ending but it was good and offered a promise of healing and redemption.  I kind of wish it had been more like the ending of Wait Til Helen Comes with a bit more closure but then it would have been too similar.

I did have a few small issues.  The Pledge of Allegiance was mentioned several times.  While the original pledge was introduced in 1892 it has changed wording several times since then and was not formally adopted til much later.  I think it would have been good to add that historical context or the wording at least once in the book.  

I did enjoy the book overall and its creepiness will ensure that students will like it too.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Two Truths and a Lie

















This was so darn good.  I don't typically gush - but I am gushing.  To be fair a lot of my love comes from my perspective as a school librarian.  Add to that the "fake news" conversations and top it with the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and you have a sure winner.  I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy of the book.  I can see using it with my 4th or 5th graders as we talk about research and evaluation of resources - print and digital.  Very well presented and fascinating accounts.  It was difficult to tell the truths from the lies.

The Crooked Sixpence















Ivy's grandmother has always been a bit mysterious.  She was in an accident on Twelfth Night in 1969 and lost all her memories.  But now, after an accident sends her to the hospital, things start to get weird.  Ivy and Seb soon find themselves in a strange new world and a mystery that was set in motion on that night in 1969.  

What are uncommoners and uncommon objects?  What role did her grandmother and other relatives play?  Most importantly how can Ivy and Seb figure everything out and save their parents from the Dirge?

This was a meh for me.  Part of my issue has been time and so my reading has been choppy.  I will be moving along nicely and then get interrupted.  That being said though overall I didn't find enough to keep me riveted and because it is the first in a series there are loose ends.  It didn't end horribly but there is much more to be done.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Banana-Leaf Ball

















This book is based on the life of Deo Rukundo whose family was displaced by war in Burundi and who ended up in a refugee camp for many years.  While there, and through the help of Right to Play, Deo and the other children were given hope and taught how to get along by playing soccer.  Later, Deo himself became a coach for Right to Play.

A tale of hope and promise which will fit in well with this theme of the summer reading program and a celebration of diversity.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Me and Marvin Gardens


















So, I read a lot.  I think I finished this Tuesday night but for some reason didn't do my blog them.  Weds. night I went to a meeting and got home after 8:00 and then had Survivor.  So 2 days later I am trying to blog.  My memory is not great - I envy people who can book talk with great detail.  That's not me, I am good with saying whether I liked it or not but I already have another book going and lose the details...

But here goes...Obe's family is in mourning if you will - but it's the loss of land and history.  Over time the Devlin's have had to sell their land and now that land is being developed - new homes, new families.  With the new families come new kids and suddenly Obe is in a turf war with his former best friend and the neighborhood kids.  In addition, Obe feels that the development is encroaching on his territory and cause pollution, trash, and noise.

Then one day Obe meets Marvin.  He's unsure what to make of Marvin who is kind of like a dog, kind of like a pig and who eats plastic.  Obe develops a friendship with Marvin but worries when Marvin's scat seems toxic and starts causing problems and the neighborhood fears a "danger" they don't understand.

Can Obe keep Marvin safe and mend fences and friendships?  I enjoyed this story and the uniqueness of Marvin.  It was also a good way to address some environmental concerns without seeming preachy.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

The List


















I am conflicted about this book.  I loved the beginning and the set up.  The polar ice caps have melted resulting in global flooding.  Many of the survivors are fortunate to live in a secure location known as the Ark led by John Noa.  Letta is in training to be a wordsmith.  Her job is to create and copy the approved list of words that people are allowed to use.  This list has just been cut from 700 to 500.  John Noa believes that language is what doomed the human race and he wants to limit people's creativity, drive, and future thinking.  He believes people should live for today only - just the food they need for the day.  He regulates everything in Ark and Letta never questioned it - until her teacher Benjamin disappeared and she met Marlo - a boy who lives outside of Ark and believes in the right of expression.  Soon Letta is caught up in finding the truth.  What she finds is more horrible than she imagined because Noa wants to get rid of language altogether.

This was quite intriguing - especially at the beginning.  I did not, however, like the ending because the struggle did not seem to have any effect and it was still uncertain.  Yes Letta saved the people from becoming wordless but someone else was in control who wasn't much better...  This was originally published in Ireland with the title The Wordsmith.  It doesn't appear that there is a sequel...

Flying Lessons...


















The trouble with short story collections as well as poetry collections is that there are usually great entires and then some that are not as strong.  I enjoyed most of the stories in this book but not all.  Overall it is a book I will probably purchase for the library because of the featured authors and the diversity represented.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Warden's Daughter


















Anytime you see a new book by a Newbery winner or honor winner you go in with high expectations.  There must be a lot of pressure.  I had this reaction when opening this book - it must be good because it's by Jerry Spinelli.  Don't get me wrong - it was good.  But not great...

Cammie is living in the late 50s.  Her father is the prison warden and she is the warden's daughter.  But she is not a happy girl.  Her mother died when she was a baby and what she really wants is someone to be her mother.  Her dad is distant and busy.  She decides to turn to her trustee, a prisoner who has been hired to take care of things in their house.  But, Eloda, is distant as well.  Cammie struggles through the summer with identity, friendships with girls her own age and with one of the women in the prison, and with her anger and grief.  Ultimately, Cammie learns valuable lessons about herself.

My issues are mainly with the pacing and then the ending.  The book was pretty decent in the first half - Cammie was a good narrator and the writing was decent.  But, it wasn't until about halfway through - when Cammie told us it was going to get good - that things started moving.  The ending of events in the main narrative was enough...  Ugh, then we had Eloda's diary which really didn't add much more to the story.  Finally, we had Cammie in 2017 and again I didn't find it necessary.  A decent book but it had some flaws.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Well, That Was Awkward


















I was pleasantly surprised by this.  The book follows 4 middle school students and their journey through first crushes and the awkwardness of school.  Much of the book revolves around Gracie and her efforts to help her friend Sienna hook up with A.J who Gracie used to like.  Sienna isn't even sure she likes A.J until she hears that A.J likes her.  So, at first I was really thinking the book was fluff and stuff but near the end, as Gracie delved into some pretty deep emotions about her family's history, the book developed more substance.  The ending was also very satisfying.  This is a perfect book for middle school.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Suspect Red












It is 1953 and America is at the height of McCarthyism.  Richard's father is a G-man and Richard looks up to him and wants to be like him.  But things are very confusing...  certain books are now questionable as well as movies and people.  When a new family moves in next door Richard is thrilled that Vladimir is his age.  But the family has ties to Czechoslovakia and has some pretty crazy ideas.  Richard is torn between his loyalties to his new friend and his suspicions about their activities.

I really enjoyed this.  Each chapter started with some historical background and photographs which help acclimate the reader to the time period.  One of the better books I have read about this time in US history.

Hideout


















After an incident at school Sam just wants to get away and maybe prove to himself and the world that he is stronger than he looks.  That's why he sets out in his new boat to find a missing body even though his dad, a police officer, told him not to go to the swampy area.  While Sam does not find a body right away he does find a boy, Davey, living in an abandoned cabin waiting for his brother and father to get him.  Slowly Sam and Davey build a friendship but in spite of the thrill of living on their own there are underlying currents of fear and suspicion.  Where is Davey's brother and dad?  Then, when Davey's brother shows up, Sam figures out that all is certainly not right.  Can Sam help out his new friend without placing himself in danger?

There was a lot of action in this book and a bit of a mystery.  Sam learns a lot about himself and the nature of friendship.  My one complaint was that the climax came too early and then there were several chapters that wrapped up some loose ends - the ending was too long without some conflict.

Friday, April 14, 2017

One Trick Pony

















Very interesting dystopian graphic novel and different from Nathan Hale's other works.  Set in the future we have groups of people who are struggling against an invasion of alien blobs that eat mechanical devices.  Strata and her family and friends live with a caravan that struggles to save the technology and history of the human race.  When Strata discovers a robotic pony it unleashed the pipers and a bunch of trouble.  But the pony and Strata may just be the key to humanity's survival.

I liked this and I haven't been found of graphic novels lately.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Last Day on Mars

Image result for last day on mars book


The sun is going supernova.  Earth has already been destroyed and the temporary colony on Mars is next.  Many people have already evacuated on their way to a potentially hospitable planet far away.  Liam, his friend Phoebe, and their families are among the last to leave.  Liam and Phoebe's parents are scientists and are running important tests that will be vital to their future survival.  But, as time draws dangerously close there is an accident.  Liam and Phoebe's parents are trapped and injured and the kids must find a way to save them.  But there is more at work here - time travel, sabotage, aliens...
I liked the beginning of the book but it started to lag in the middle for me and I just lost interest.  Perhaps it was because I couldn't really follow what was happening - it seems like their are 2  adversaries and a mysterious Phase 1.  As the first book in a series I am sure things will be explained later...  I will admit too that my reading has really been interrupted and inconsistent in the last week or so which may have made a difference.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hedy's Journey
















I loved the simplicity of this and the illustrations were beautiful.  The book talks about Hedy's journey from Hungary to the US during WWII.  It was interesting how she was separated from her parents at the beginning and traveled alone for a bit.  In the end though I was left wanting a lot more.  Perhaps for an intended younger audience it is enough and a gentle introduction but for the audience I read for it didn't seem to have enough substance.

Ninja Plants













It has really been a week.  I am feeling so far behind on reading but I have been out late almost every night this week.  One more week til April vacation and then maybe I can catch up a bit.

When I requested this book I was really hoping for something similar to Zombie Makers by Rebecca Johnson.  While the information in this book was interested I found it too dense for recreational reading.  I wish the author had focused on fewer plants that had these features and written less text.  I also did not like the fact that the introduction was sooooo long.  I usually read on my elliptical in the morning for about 15 minutes just to get the blood flowing.  The introduction took me that whole 15 minutes.  Too long.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Ethan I Was Before


















The Ethan from before the incident was active, daring, adventurous, and he had a best friend Kacey.

Now, Ethan and his family have moved from Boston to Georgia supposedly to take care of his grandfather but really it is to give Ethan a fresh start.  But can Ethan ever get past the blame and guilt that he carries around?  He meets Coralee, a spunky girl who has some secrets of her own.  But Ethan doesn't know who to trust or believe.  Eventually Ethan learns that a lot of people have secrets and regrets and those things need to be released before life can go on.

This was very well done.  There were some surprises along the way and some good development of characters, friendships, and understanding.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Siren Sisters


















I really liked the beginning of this - 4 sisters, 3 of whom are already sirens and luring sailors and ships to destruction and another sister, our main character, who is almost a siren.  But Lolly doesn't want to be a siren.  She wants to hang out with her friend Jason.  

Like I said the beginning was good - tension with a bully, love interest with Jason, a townsperson bent on finding and capturing the sirens, a school teacher who knows more than she is saying, the mystery of the Sea Witch.

But then things fell apart or lost the tension.  The bully never really amounted to much,  the townsperson was killed in a shipwreck caused by now siren Lolly - no big deal, the Sea Witch gave Lolly and Jason the means of breaking part of the curse and then didn't offer much resistance and the ending was really nebulous.

Bummer - started well but in the end didn't work for me.

Apartment 1986


















This was not what I was expecting at all based on the description when I requested it - and that's ok.

Callie is having a rough time of it.  Although initially her family's move to the city seemed like an okay thing now it's a hassle - her dad has mysteriously lost his job, her brother is being bullied, she isn't really sure if she has any friends, and she doesn't really like her new school.  For awhile she is able to escape on the roof of her school to relax but she ends up being late to class.  One morning, realizing that she is going to be late to school and that this will amount to her parents finding out about all her tardies, Callie just decides to skip school and go to a museum.  There she meets a cool new friend.  During the next week Callie skips school every day - she is able to keep her parents from finding out, she gets to know Cassius, and she learns more about her grandmother about her desire to live in and maybe fix the past.

What I liked about the book was that Callie learned a lot about regrets and forgiveness and that often people has problems and issues that they hide.

What I didn't like was that Callie was able to get away with skipping school for a week - really?  Also the principal at her brother's school was awful.  Callie also used some sayings incorrectly but it was hard to tell if it was an editing glitch and intentional or just her quirkiness.  I noticed this more at the beginning of the book.  

Overall I enjoyed the book but it took me awhile to get rolling.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Train I Ride


















Wow....

I'm not sure where to start.  I guess first let me say that a book does not have to be long to pack a punch.  This was only 178 pages and my emotions are in a whirl.

Rydr's life sucks.  She has been ferried back and forth across the country between her mother who is a drug addict and her grandmother who cares for her when her mother is unable to.  Then Rydr's mom dies and she has to live with her grandmother.  That doesn't go so well either - her grandmother is old, smokes, and doesn't act like she wants her there.  Of course, then Grandma dies and she has to leave her neighbors, her few friends, her school counselor.  She has to travel across the country on a train to live with an Uncle she has never met who is also old.

Of course, the reader doesn't learn all of this right away but as Rydr's journeys across America she meets wonderful people - the man in charge of the snack car, her chaperone, and a boy scout.  Their friendship helps her come to terms with her reality and keeps the spark of hope alive in her.

Now, happy ending?  No...  we don't know what happens to Rydr when the train gets to Chicago.  Some people will hate that I am sure.  I know for me some of the most impactful books have been the ones without the happy ending, without a sequel, with just your own hopes and dreams to carry you and this character through.  

This is one of the longer posts I have done in awhile.  I was inspired by someone else's review today and I am going to try and be a bit more thoughtful in my reviews and a little less harried.  We'll see if it works.

Bottom line - beautiful.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Boy X















This book was previously published in Great Britain with a different cover.  I like this one better.

Ash's father just died in a terrible accident and now it is just Ash and his mom.  His mom's job is kind of boring - medical research, blah, blah, blah - at least that's what Ash thinks.

That is, until the day he wakes up in a medical facility on an island in Central America.  Ash can tell he is different pretty quickly - faster reflexes, improved hearing but he doesn't know why.  What he quickly learns is that his mom has been involved in a potential chemical virus or antidote and that there are people who will do anything to get their hands on it, including killing people at the medical facility and infecting others with the virus.  Now Ash has 24 hours to stop the thieves and get back with the cure to save his mom.  

But who can Ash trust and even more importantly, what is happening to him?

High suspense and lots of action.  Some double cross activity that may be hard for some readers to follow.