Saturday, July 16, 2016

Devil and the Bluebird - Jennifer Mason-Black

Bluebird's sister, Cass, left two years ago.  Blue summons a crossroads demon at midnight with a guitar.  The demon gives her six months to find her sister or both their souls are the demons.  As a down payment for their agreement the demon takes her voice.  The next day Blue packs clothes and brings her mom's silver ring, her mom's guitar, a notebook, pens, and pencils.  She leaves a note for Lynne telling her she's gone looking for Cass and not to worry.  Blue starts her journey by hitching a ride with a woman driving a truck full of fish.  The women tells her the best way to save her money is to stay at shelters, and not at motels.  The next day she gets a ride from Jed who is heading to Albany for a gig with his band.  They find a place to eat in Albany and the demon appears telling her she can only stay three days with someone who knows her name.  Three weeks if she keeps herself hidden.  Any longer than that and Blue will invite suffering onto whoever she is staying with.  She crashes at Jet's girlfriend's aunt's house.  She accompanies them to hear Mr. Chicken play and they get offered a recording deal.  Bet, Jet's girlfriend, is the only one that isn't happy about the deal.  Back at the house Blue sees a girl sitting on an old freezer, which turns out to be the demon.  The demon tells Blue she only has two days with people, not three.  Blue packs up her things and leaves before midnight.  She boards a bus to Rochester.  After she gets there she meets an old woman who offers her a place to stay and something to eat.  She goes with Amy and when they get there she introduces her son Marcos.  Her husband and younger son Yoshi aren't home.  Just as Blue gets comfortable Amy comes and accuses her of giving Marcos weed, and tells her to leave.  She gets a ride to a town outside of Rochester and goes to buy food.  She pays for it from money she was going to use for a bus ticket.  When she looks in her wallet to get money she discovers the rest of her money is gone.  It dawns on her that Marcos took it while she was in the bathroom.  She sits in a park figuring out what to do next.  An old women sits next to her, who turns out to be the demon in disguise.  She tells Blue not to blame her for the money getting stolen.  Blue has to focus on their deal.  She tells Blue to keep the guitar close because it carries more answers than she can imagine.  She plays and people give a few dollars here and there to listen to Blue.  She's made up some of the money that was taken.  She heads to the library to figure things out.  Blue asks the librarian call a local motel for rates and directions.  The librarian then offers Blue a room to stay for the night.  She stays for the night and leaves when the librarian goes to work the next morning.  Blue plays for the librarian and in return she gives Blue a frame backpack to help Blue carry her things.  She heads back to the park to play for money, and encounters a boy who shows her where to get gloves so her hands won't freeze.  His name is Steve and doesn't want to talk about his family.  They grab lunch and end up back in the park.  He tells her somethings about him, and she tells him she's looking for her sister.  He suggests they travel together, and Blue tells him about the deal with the crossroads demon.  He doesn't think she's crazy, and they hitch a ride to Chicago with a couple.  Steve quotes Bible verses to make them seem like good Christian folk. They end up at Cynthia's sister Ruth's house.  Ruth reluctantly agrees to let them stay in the guest room.  After their things are taken to the guest room Fred tells Blue he knows who she is and where she's supposed to be.  Ruth and Cynthia want Blue to play for their church group in exchange for staying a day.  Blue reluctantly agrees and tells Steve she needs to leave by midnight or the demon will hurt Fred, Cynthia, and Ruth.  She plays for the church group, and after gets a visit from the demon.  The demon reminds her about the two days since Fred knows her name.  She leaves a few minutes before midnight with Steve chasing after her.  They make their way through Chicago hoping someone will pick them up.  A bus picks them up and they end up in a bus graveyard questioning whether the bus ride was real or not.  They find a dinner to have breakfast at.  When Blue shows Steve the song she played for the church group he gets mad and leaves.  She reaches Union Station where a guy is being really nice to her.  He leaves when another girl comes up and chases him away.  She leaves the station and heads to a park like the one she met Steve in.  She sees Steve who is angry at Blue.  He explains why he got mad at the song she played.  She apologizes to him and they start heading to find a place to stay.  The next thing they know the girl from the station named Florida and a guy named Rat kidnap them.  Is Blue's journey destined to end in Chicago, or can she and Steve escape so Blue can find her sister?

 When I read the summary for this book it sounded like an episode of Supernatural come to life in book form.  It's a story of a girl who made a deal with a crossroads demon to hopefully find her sister.  I could see Sam or Dean doing this in an episode of Supernatural.  Throughout the whole story I felt drawn into the book, and could put myself where Blue was going on her journey.  I thought it was a really good story and I enjoyed reading the book.

T.B.
7/16/16

Friday, July 01, 2016

All the light we cannot see by Doerr. Prisoner of night and fog by Blankman and These shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Doerr's book takes place in Hitler occupied France during the years 1941 to 1944.  It deals with the resistance movement with the use of radio transmissions, the attempts to preserve valuables in Museums, to keep them out of enemy hands and a blind girl who was part of it all.  The writing is beautiful, tight, absorbing.  It may be a little slow moving for folks who don't read a lot but many who have read it say how fast they got caught up in it and how much they enjoyed the read.  I did too.

Donnelly's story is a different time period, earlier in history.  Shipping is big business, things go wrong often.  Women know their place and it is not in the workplace.  There is much poverty and all the low life and prostitution and stuff that goes with it. A teenage girl's father dies, said by the wealthy folks to be accidental.  But, she overhears a conversation in which it is said that he was murdered.  Now Jo is on a mission to solve her father's murder.  But it being unbecoming for a woman of her class to do so and she doesn't know her way around the seedy areas she must go to, she needs help.  That comes in the form of a newsie named Eddie.  The pair fall in love though this is a forbidden love.  They search for answers to Jo's father's murder.  They suspect that a few other recent accidental deaths or suicides were also murders by the same person.  It takes a lot of heart ache and danger and searching to unravel the mystery.  

Blankman's story takes place in Munich during the same time period as Doerr's.  As a vehicle for showing teen readers the inner workings of the Hitler party and its rise to power it works fairly well.  It is interesting to read about the bevy of young girl "pets" he liked to keep around him and pamper, the heroine of this story is one. And about his hit squads, how he decided who was aryan enough to serve in his military and Hitler's psychological profile. The phrase "night and fog" is more a part of the French occupation than that which occurred in Munich.  That was just one of the bothersome things in this story.  There is once again a teenage girl who overhears folks saying that her father was murdered.  The story was that he was killed stopping bullets from hitting Hitler when the military of the ruling party fired on Hitler and his marchers during a demonstration and therefore died a hero.   Gretchen sets out to discover every facet of her father's death from who all the conspirators were to who did the shooting to why and more.  There is a picture.  A Jewish Journalist she crosses paths with gives it to her and they form a bond though not like the strong love between Jo and Eddie in Donnelly's story.  The pair work together to get that information which Gretchen wants.  Its just that every person she wants to talk with dies or in the case of Hitler warns her off.  One can assume a cover up and that her nosing around is causing the murders of all those people.  Also, Gretchen has a very creepy brother  and even after a couple of dangerous encounters she keeps throwing herself in his path which does risk her life.  She risks the journalist's life as well.  Its true there is a nail biting finale which i am told folks really like but in Donnelly's story Jo was willing to stop her search for detail when other lives appeared at risk.  Jo was to me a much more sympathetic character than Gretchen with her nothing will stop me attitude.  Remember I said she had been shown a picture of the incident in which her father was shot.  Even though she never admitted it, Gretchen had to have know who shot her father in the back, who murdered him just from the photo.  
jdw 7/1/16

Monday, June 06, 2016

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Finley is sad.  Its not just that her parents might be divorcing.  Its not just being sent to spend summer with grandparents she doesn't know.  She escapes into a world part real part fantasy she calls Everwood, especially  on her blue days when life feels overwhelming.  A burned out house, forbidden neighbor boys, cousins she didn't know she had all become a part of her Everwood.  Secrets of what caused her father to become estranged from his family emerge. Near tragedy and the seeming end of Everwood eventually cause Finley to face her sadness and seek help.  Finley did have some kind of happiness when telling stories/living in Everwood.  In the end readers will be hopeful that the happiness she found in Everwood will extend into her every day life and become brighter.  This is a decent middle school novel, I recommend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul

Hank has a crush on Amanda but is afraid to ask her to prom directly.  So he devises a spectacular plan that goes spectacularly awry.  In the aftermath of just one more thing gone wrong, he meets Peyton.  Despite her problems and his crush on Amanda they find themselves interested in each other.  A tentative friendship forms, splits and forms again as the pair ride the rocky road of their not so normal lives.  This is a fun, lightweight read.  Maybe good for the beach?  
jdw 5/18/16

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Can You Keep A Secret? - R. L. Stine

Emmy keeps having nightmares that she is a wolf, but this time her bed sheets are shredded to pieces.  The next morning she tells her mom and she says the dreams stem from when she was bitten by a dog at the age of five.  On the news they hear about a wolf attack in Shadyside Park behind the high school.   To distract them from the news her mom asks Emmy what she and her sister Sophie are doing today.  Sophie is going to the library to work on a school project, while Emmy is going to visit Eddie at his new job at a pet cemetery.  When she gets there Emmy notices a strange smell and sees him digging a grave for the dog that was killed last night.  The dog tumbles out of the bag when he gets ready to put it in the grave.  This makes Emmy very sick and she remembers her dream about being a wolf from the night before.  She and Eddie leave the pet cemetery after he tries to get an advance on his paycheck from his boss Mac.  Mac only gives him ten dollars.  After dinner Emmy is packing an overnight bag when Sophie tries figure out where Emmy is really going.  Sophie gets mad Emmy won't spend time with her and only wants to be with her boyfriend and friends.   She and Eddie head to Fear Street Woods for an overnight camp out with their friends Danny, Callie, Riley, and Roxie.  They joke about the wolf attack and wonder if it is a good idea to be camping out in the open.  Eddie tells them they will be safe and pulls out a gun from his jacket.  As the guys are gathering firewood, Emmy sees the wolf in shrubs.  Eddie shots at it and it turns out to be a raccoon.  Eddie and Emmy walk away from the group and go by a tree which he calls their secret place.  He pulls out a knife to carve their names in the trunk.  The trunk is hollow and Eddie finds a briefcase full of money.  They head back to the rest of the group and tell them what they found.  Danny wants his share and Eddie tries to stop him from taking the money.  They wrestle for control of the gun and it goes off.  No one gets hurt and everyone decides to put the money somewhere safe.  They head to the pet cemetery Eddie works at to bury the briefcase.  They all watch Eddie bury the briefcase.  Danny doesn't trust Eddie to watch over the money since his family really needs money.  Sophie calls Emmy saying she thinks she saw the wolf a few blocks away from the playground watching her with incredible blue eyes.  Eddie takes Emmy home and she finds Sophie in their bedroom.  Emmy tells her she was with Eddie and a few others camping out in the Fear Street Woods.  Sophie wants Emmy to spend more time with her and wants her to come to her track meet on Monday.  Emmy can't because she's got to pick up Eddie.  They both go to bed and Emmy has another wolf dream.  On Monday after Emmy picks up Eddie they head to his house to have dinner with his mom and step-father.  Eddie's step-father tells them about an armored car robbery that happened a few days ago.  Eddie and Emmy realize that the money they found was the money from the robbery.  Eddie's step-father shows them surveillance video of the robbery.  After they leave Emmy realizes the robber will be after them for the money because Eddie carved their names into the tree.  They decide to dig the briefcase up from the grave and put it back into the tree.  When they get to the pet cemetery and dig up the grave Eddie discovers the briefcase is gone.  Eddie believes Danny took it, and they head over to his house.  As they are talking to him Riley comes out of the bushes behind Danny's house.  He says he went to check the money because he didn't trust Eddie.  When Riley got there the money was gone.  Riley punches Eddie in the jaw and leaves.  Emmy and Eddie try and figure out who took the money.  Eddie says the security cameras at the pet cemetery might have caught something.  They agree to try and look at them after school the next day.  Emmy comes home to Sophie waiting for her.  Emmy tells her everything from finding the briefcase to burying it in the pet cemetery.  After they fall asleep Emmy has another dream about being a wolf.  After her job as a nanny Emmy sees someone watching and following her.  When she meets up with Eddie she tells him she thinks the robber is following her.  As they look at the security footage it shows Riley digging up the grave and taking the money.  The next day Riley is out sick and Emmy goes to Sophie's track meet.  After they get home their mom tells them Great Aunt Marta from Prague is coming to visit.  Marta wants to see the girls one more time.  After dinner Eddie calls Emmy saying he and Danny are going to confront Riley.  Emmy tells them to wait for her.  Sophie drives Emmy over since Emmy is to frightened to drive.  They get to Riley's house thinking they got there before Danny and Eddie.  Instead they find Riley face down in the hedges with his clothes and skin ripped away along with his face a pulpy mess. 

Like all of the other Fear Street books I enjoyed this one too.  I feel like there is not as many werewolf books out there as there are zombie and vampire.  I liked how Stine brought in how greedy people can be when money is involved.  Some people can resist the temptation, but most of us would likely not return money if we found it.  Greed can make us do things we normally wouldn't do, and if we are caught then we have to face the consequences of our actions. 

T.B.
5/17/16

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer

The sequel of "House of the Scorpion." Starting off at the same time as the first end. Matt has inherited the whole country of Opium between United States and Aztlan (Mexico.) From the opium and the guilt he now carries but with his new found power he wants to free all the eejits (slaves/workers) and rip down the whole drug trade. But every turn there is always danger facing him.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Crisis Zero Book 3 in the Codename Conspiracy - Chris Rylander

Just as Principal Gomez is going to expel Carson, the National Security Bureau barges in and arrests him.   By lunchtime there are rumors abound about what he did.  During lunch Carson and Danielle get a message to go to the maintenance shed immediately.  They are met by Agent Smiley, and she tells them Director Isadoris wants them to steal Principal Gomez's computer hard drive.  During fifth period they talk about how to distract the NSB agents so they can get the hard drive.  Danielle contacts her cousin Brad who brings fainting goats to the school.  As the goats fill the hallway students, teachers, and the NSB agents go to see what the commotion is.  Carson slips into Gomez's office, and gets the hard drive.  He comes in the east entrance acting like nothing out of the ordinary is happening.  He puts the hard drive in his locker.  During seventh period it is announced that everyone will be searched when leaving the school.  The NSB is looking for items related to Principal Gomez's case.  Carson runs from his classroom and tries to get to his locker.  He runs into Agent Chum Bucket, who gives him a message, right before he is arrested by the NSB for having the hard drive.  Carson cleans up after peeing his pants as an excuse on why he ran out of class.  He also tries to decipher what Agent Chum Bucket's message about the school's secret sauce means.  Carson heads to the cafeteria and goes into the pantry area looking for the vats of special sauce.  He finds them along with the actual hard drive from Gomez's computer in a plastic bag. Carson takes the hard drive to Agency Headquarters.  Director Isadoris tells Carson that there is someone reporting to Medlock, and he wants Carson and Danielle to find out who this person is.  They should suspect everyone, even friends.  The director also wants him and Danielle to find evidence inside the school about why Gomez was framed, and if there is any connection to their new principal Ms. Pullman.  Before he leaves Carson asks to see Agents Blue and Nineteen.  Agent Nineteen is in a stasis tank, and Agent Blue is waiting for a new prosthetic leg.  Carson updates Danielle on what Director Isadoris told him.  They make a list of possible suspects both students and teachers.  There are six people on the list and each of them takes three.  During school the next day two of Carson's suspects are maybes, while two on Danielle's list are crossed off.  Since Carson and Danielle have been on assignment, he hasn't hung out with Dillon that much.  He agrees to help Dillon pick mushroom samples early in the morning to test out a new theory.  As he is agreeing to this one of his suspects, Gus, comes across the cafeteria and punches Carson in the face.  This lands them both a trip to see the new principal, Ms. Jayne Pullman.  Gus comes out with tears down his face.  She asks Carson to tell her what happened and he does.  She doesn't give him detention, and closes the matter.  She also gives him a clean slate, something Mr. Gomez never did.  After school Carson breaks into a closet of one of the teachers that was on their list, Carson sees a hooded figure run from Agent Nineteen's music room.  The room is trashed and Carson comes face to face with the new principal.  He tells her he broke into the closet on a dare, and then saw a person running from the music room.  She gives him one weeks detention.  The next day he tries to see if Junior, his last suspect, can be crossed off the list.  Carson sees a black hoodie in Junior's locker, just like the person who trashed the music room.  A lot of people have black hoodies, but this is too much of a coincidence.  While in detention he and a few other students see construction trucks enter into one of the parking lots.  The construction is supposed to put solar powered snow melting panels under the parking lots.  That night Carson gets a note in his dinner to meet behind his garage.  He and Danielle update Agent Smiley on everything that's gone on.  She tells them to get closer to the construction zone to find out what is going on.  The next morning Carson goes to school early to see what he can find out.  He falls into a hole and gets his foot caught.  Just when he thinks he's going to be crushed by construction equipment, Carson is able to get out of his shoe and escape.  He runs into the last person he wants to see, Ms. Pullman.  After getting a pair of used socks from the nurse Carson leaves the nurses office.  There are still a few minutes before school opens when he sees a kid in a black hoodie.  Carson sneaks up on him in the music room and the kid turns out to be Junior.  Carson chases after him through the gym, the locker room, and the school stage.  Junior doesn't want to tell Carson who paid him to mess up the music room.  He gets away after punching Carson in the ribs.  Can Carson and Danielle figure out who paid Junior?  Is the construction connected with Principal Gomez's arrest, or is there some connection to the new principal?

I really enjoyed this series.  It was funny, but also makes you think about who or what could be hiding in our schools.  The chance of a government base under a school is remote, but you never know.  It also shows even if you are best friends with someone, no matter how much you know about each other, there will always be a few things you don't know about them or vice versa.  Carson has to keep secret that he's a government agent, but eventually other people find out.  Secrets always have a way of getting out whether you want them to or not.

T.B.
4/28/16

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Jessie has to move with her father from a middle class Chicago neighborhood to a very wealthy, elite neighborhood near Hollywood when her father decides to marry a wealthy woman there.  She finds herself in an elite, very competitive school as well.  She and her father recently lost her mother to cancer.  The woman and her son recently lost their father/husband.  There are other losses in this book as well, a brother, a sister.  Everyone with a loss is struggling in his/her own way with grief, some more successfully than others.  

Jessie is feeling especially misfit in new school, new designer home, no friends when she receives an anonymous message telling her how to start navigating the new school.  The somebody who is nobody and Jessie begin to regularly communicate and Jessie begins to have friends again.  The course of friendship isn't always smooth but its getting there.  The mystery identity of SN keeps one reading and guessing  and hoping along with Jessie.  The pair play a game - tell me three things to get to know each other and to help Jessie guess who the mystery person is.  All in all this is a decent romantic story worth your time.  Thats from someone who generally doesn't care for such stories.
jdw4/23/16