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.


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.