Friday, March 31, 2017

Train I Ride


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.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Goldfish Boy

Matthew has been struggling with some obsessive behaviors ever since his mom lost baby Callum just before he was due to be born.  You see, he thinks it was his fault.  He was sick right before the the incident and well, it must have been his germs that caused it.  Til recently he has been able to keep the hand washing, etc to himself but it's gotten worse.  Now he is refusing to go to school, wears plastic gloves, and won't touch anyone.  

Interestingly enough, due to his confinement in his room, he is the last one to see Teddy, the toddler staying next door, before he disappeared.  Can Matthew's observations from his room help him solve the case?  Can he find the courage to get the help he needs?

Overall it was the mystery of the book that made it rise to the top.  I was skeptical of the parents being oblivious for so long.  Then I was angry especially with the dad (who eventually came around).  But the disappearance of Teddy and the investigation and Matthew's internal struggle was the meat of the book.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Doll's Eye

Hadley is not happy with her new life - new stepfather, stepbrother, house in the country.  She wishes that things could go back to the way they were, wishes she knew her real father.  Shortly after arriving at the house Hadley finds a mysterious dollhouse with 3 dolls and a glass eye.  Weird things start happening - she meets the old lady who lives about the garage and this lady makes new dolls for the dollhouse that look just like her family.  The old dolls disappear.  Then, while holding the eye, Hadley rashly wishes that her stepfather and stepbrother were not around and that her real father was - and she gets that wish.  But wishes have a way of coming true in unexpected ways and Hadley is not pleased with the results.

Intermingled with this story is the back story of the original family that lived in the house and the bargain that girl made with a kobold.  

I liked the book - very creepy but in the last 20 pages or so it turned sour for me.  The original girl's bargain was a bit gruesome and the ending was unexpected and unsatisfying.  Maybe a sequel???  Kids will probably love it... me not so much.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jack and the Geniuses: At the Bottom of the World

Science and mystery meet in the first book in a new series by Bill Nye, the science guy.  Jack, Ava, and Matt are 3 orphans who have been in the system for a long time but due to Ava and Matt's genius status and relationship with Jack the 3 have managed to liberate themselves from the system and are on their own.  When they become curious about a nearby skyscraper they meet and become employed by Hank Witherspoon an inventor.  Soon Hank invites them to the Antarctic to meet a fellow inventor and to help him judge a contest.  When they arrive though the other inventor is missing.  Can Jack and the geniuses find out where she went and survive at the bottom of the world.

So, this wasn't bad but it was pretty unrealistic - from them living alone to them being able to go to the Antarctic and then the risks they took while there.  Kids probably won't mind.  There were some good science bits of course with explanations at the end.  

The Pants Project

Although Liv hasn't really told anyone yet, she believes that she may be Transgender.  What is making everything more difficult is the fact that at her new school all girls are required to wear skirts.  Liv is so uncomfortable.  In her first few weeks at the new school she encounters bullying about her two moms, her haircut, and she loses her best friend.  Can Liv figure out how to get out of wearing skirts and reveal her true feelings?

This was a pretty decent book about a person trying to figure things out both personally and in light of other middle school "drama".  There were good moments of friendship and revelation.

The Booth Brothers

This book investigated the relationship between the 3 Booth brothers - Julius, Edwin, and John and the events leading up to and beyond the Lincoln assassination.  I thought it was interesting because we don't often hear about the 2 other brothers and how they reacted to the events.  The book was well done without being too long.  I think for a younger students just getting interested in the topic it would be a good entry level book.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Artie Conan Doyle...

I wanted to like this more than I did.  Perhaps I am still holding a grudge from 8th or 9th grade English when I had to read The Hound of the Baskervilles in what I considered the "low group" instead of The Scarlet Letter.  I was not a fan or The Hound and have never read another Sherlock Holmes book.  With a young Artie Doyle and his friend Ham trying to solve a mystery I thought I would enjoy it more but it just took too long to really get going.  I liked the last 1/3 of the book but I am not sure kids will stick around that long.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Lights! Camera! Cook!

Cookbooks are a popular item for students to check out and many kids love watching shows on Food Network.  This cute new series will be a hit, especially for the younger set - 4th and 5th graders.  It features 4 young chefs who are competing to be the Next Best Junior Chef.  It features challenges, recipes, friendship, and some conflict.  I found a few pronoun issues in the book which may be fixed before the book is actually released in September.  

Overall, a fun read that kids will enjoy.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Gauntlet

I am kind of bumming about this book because I loved the way it started - I was thinking it was so Jumanji(ish) and was really getting into it.  But then it fell apart for me.  The challenges didn't seem that challenging, I never really got a big sense of danger, the brother was found too easily and I just felt some descriptions weren't thorough enough.  I had trouble visualizing everything and in the end had trouble caring.  Then near the end the scene with the blood - ew and the actual ending just seemed like a comedy of errors and not realistic in any way.  


Julia is short for her age and does not like to be reminded about it.  She is irritated that her mother is making her try out for a summer play in the Wizard of Oz as a munchkin.  Typecast much?  But as the summer progresses she learns a lot about the theater, stereotypes, friendships, and herself.  In the end she comes to terms with her height and ends up loving the theater.

I listened to this on audio.  I loved Julia's voice although I must admit that by the end of the recording I was getting a bit "over it".  Not sure if I would have had the same reaction to the physical book.  I also felted it lagged a bit in the middle but that may also be because my listening was interrupted several times.  Overall an enjoyable book.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Erth Dragons: The Wearle

So I am not really a fan of what I consider "high fantasy" - Tolkein, elves, dwarves, totally made up lands and languages.  But dragons are an exception.  Surprisingly this came from the one year I taught 7th grade and the short story by Anne McCaffrey called "The Smallest Dragonboy" which led me to read all the Dragonriders of Pern series (well, not all written by her nephew).  I have reader some D'Lacey books as well so I was pretty set about giving this a go.

In this book a wearle of dragons have come to earth in search of another wearle that had been sent years before and never heard from again.  As they settle in the keep their distance from the Hom (early humans), dig for a mineral that helps them with their firemaking ability, and start raising young.  But a terrible accident sets things in motion - a dead queen, a missing young dragon, mysterious dark creatures, and a curious boy.

I did enjoy the book.  It would be best for those who enjoy this type of fantasy and is better for stronger readers who are not intimidated by alternate languages and settings.   

The Dam Keeper

I am sorry but this did not work for me at all.  It was quite strange but I could have gotten past that.  It is the story of pig, whose father created a windmill that protects the town from a deadly fog.  His father, however, has disappeared and now pig is left in charge of the windmill.  Pig is often bullied, mostly by hippo so it is an interesting dynamic when pig, his best friend Fox, and Hippo end up having to work together to keep the fog from overrunning the town.  My biggest issue with the book was that it barely got started and it was over...  and now we wait for the next book.  No thank you.  When a book ends that abruptly I rarely buy it for the library.  If it really becomes popular I will wait until a few more in the series come out.  I didn't know this was based on a short movie until I looked the book up on Amazon.

Amina's Voice

Amina has a beautiful voice but she freezes up in front of people.  When her uncle comes to visit from Pakistan she worries that he will not approve of the American lifestyle or her music.  She is also concerned about friendship issues and an upcoming competition.  When their local mosque is vandalized Amina finds out who her true friends are and also finds her voice.

Nit picky stuff - the girl on the cover seems older than the character, the resolution seemed too quick and neat and I didn't feel that there was enough evidence leading up to her sudden change.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars

I am not sure exactly how I feel about this.  The writing itself was lovely - there were several quotes that were just great.  But, I am not really a fan of magical realism.  I don't want to give anything away but wait happens to Molly's mom is pretty weird.  I did like how Molly grew into her own understanding and admiration for her mom.  I liked the friendship between Molly and Pim and how things worked out with Ellen.  I think, while it may not be something I particularly enjoy, it will find an audience.

By the way - the copy I read had the above cover but when I looked it up I found the cover below much more frequently (Australian original ?) and I like it better.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Scar Island

Jonathan has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Boys because of something that happened that he feels responsible for.  But Slabhenge is nothing like a school - more like a prison run by a tyrannical "Admiral" and staff. After just a few days, however, Jonathan and the other boys finds themselves suddenly without any adults.  While some boys want to leave immediately, others, including Jonathan want to stay and enjoy their new freedom.  But, a la Lord of the Flies, things quickly deteriorate.  To make matters worse a hurricane is coming.  Can Jonathan come to terms with his past and help the boys all face their futures?
At first I was put off by the horrible conditions of this "reform school" but I was sucked in by the action and adventure of it all as well as Jonathan's story of healing. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017


I try to like graphic novels - I really do but...  This wasn't bad actually but it is the first in a series and does leave you hanging.  Blue is an orphan disguised as a newsboy.  She meets an interesting inventor that she starts to work with and also meets a strange boy named Crow.  Blue must figure out who she really is and what she believes.  I thought the characters names were interesting - Jack, Jill, Muffy, Blue - very nursery tale(ish)...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Pri is a budding artist with a lot of questions.  Her biggest questions have to do with her heritage - India and why her mother never talks about it.  When she discovers a pashmina in an old suitcase and puts it on she is transported to India where 2 guides show her glorious sites.  But she wants to see the real India.  Pri finally gets her chance and i India she learns the truth behind her history and the pashmina.
This was a really nice graphic novel about a girl discovering her history.  The use of color in the dreamy pashmina sequences was great.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Image result for all rise for the honorable perry t. cook

There are no words - this is hands down one of my favorite 2016 books.  So terrific!!!