Wednesday, December 26, 2012

If We Survive - Andrew Klavan

It began as a mission trip to a town in Costa Verdes, but ends in a revolution.  Pastor Ron, Nicki, Jim, Meredith, and Will were getting ready to leave after helping rebuild a wall for the school in town.  As they are waiting for Palmer, their driver, Mendoza, a mercenary, comes in and shoots the owner of the cantina dead.  Mendoza says he was an enemy of progress.  On the TV there are scenes being shown from all over the country of revolutionaries rebelling against the capitol and government.  Mendoza has orders to take all Americans prisoner for suspicion of being spies.  All of them are taken to a prison in town.  Pastor Ron is taken from them and dragged down the alley and shot to death.  The order is given to execute all of them.  Palmer had given the revolutionaries the slip to go get his van to escape.  Palmer rescues them and they head to the airstrip.  Once they get there they discover that the revolutionaries have destroyed all of the planes to prevent anyone from leaving the country. They escape into the jungle and everyone thinks they are going to die there.  They encounter an old Indian tribe that lives there.  The tribe helps them out of the jungle and they all head to the village.  Palmer, Nicki, Jim, Meredith, and Will leave the next day and get to the airfield.  Once there they are captured again by Mendoza's men.  Will they be able to escape back to America, or will their lives be cut short because of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I enjoyed this book just as much as Klavan's Homelanders series.  It had the same pace of action and adventure, and it kept you guessing about who really wanted to help Nicki, Jim, Meredith, and Will escape and get back to the United States.  I also recommend Klavan's Homelanders series.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen by Susin Nielsen

Nielsen has written several teen novels which all have received good reviews.  In this story, Henry's older brother has committed the ultimate crime and left his parents' and Henry's lives in shambles.
Since the story of the crime comes out slowly, I think that's the way the reader needs to get it so I won't reveal the details.  Suffice that Henry has been eating for comfort and gained lots of weight.  Mom is in counseling in a different city.Henry and his father moved away and tried to start new lives where no one would know them, judge them but they cannot  escape the impact on their lives.  Henry is in therapy which does not always go well.  Dad drinks and works.  There is an odd group of geeky kids at school that sort of adopt Henry when they discover he can be an asset to their "brain bowl" team.  Even when he tries to avoid them, they are there.  Gradually he really becomes friends with them.  At a regional meet he sees students from his past, that he is trying to both hide from and forget.  This threatens to ruin everything for him.  Instead, things turn out differently, not perfectly but differently.  Henry and the most annoying kid on his team get together to earn money by recycling to take Henry, Farley,  Henry's parents to a pro wrestling meet in nearby Seattle.  There is a bully who over hears the pair and ultimately beats up Farley and steals the money.  This is the point where Henry can no more run from his problems.  Dad mean time has found someone to talk with and is doing better, though Henry disapproves since she is a pretty female and Henry wants his parents together.  Henry fears this woman will cause the marriage to break up.  In fact it really just helps everyone.  Mom is the slowest to come around, after a mental breakdown and we know the least about her.  There are a lot of funny scenes in the story that help lighten the mood of this serious book on friendship, mental illness, the effects of bullying and more.  Some books I feel beaten over the head with the lessons.  Not so here.  Its an enjoyable read.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Final Journey by Gudrun Pausewang

This novel was written twenty years ago in German. A few years later it was translated to English and is a timeless tale of a young girl's journey during the Holocaust.

The novel takes place almost entirely on a train. Alice is an eleven-year-old Jew who was taken from her home with her grandfather and grandmother. Her mother and father had already left and were at a "dentist clinic." She believes that she is going to join them in the east. Forty-nine people are crammed in the cattle car with no bathroom and no seats and no idea where they are going. As they pass station after station without stopping and without being given water, the reality of their situation slowly worsens. The naive Alice soon learns the truth that her loved ones tried to protect her from and begins to connect the dots of her memories living in the basement. As the journey comes to a close, even those who seem to know it all don't really know everything.

This novel about the Holocaust only touches briefly on the horrors that Jews and others faced - but that doesn't make it any less powerful. There isn't the excessive suffering and withering away that one usually reads about - the utter hopelessness - but there is the unknown future that hangs over everyone. It captures the complete disregard for human life these victims suffered and how, despite loss, one needs to carry on and how people can come together in the face of tragedy. The ending itself, while somewhat ambiguous for someone unfamiliar with the history, is equally haunting given the characters' naivety.

While this book might not talk about all of the experiences one faced during the Holocaust, it shows the reality that not many people made it beyond that final train journey. It is filled with characters you care about and, while some may not be as developed or memorable, you worry about their fates. Overall, this is a haunting journey for both reader and character.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay

The timeless tale of Romeo and Juliet gets a new twist when we discover what happens to their souls after that fateful night in the tomb. Now one is on the quest to insure true love in others while the other is out to destroy it.

Shakespeare's tale supposedly isn't the true telling of the love between Romeo and Juliet. The details are a little sketchy, but it basically ends up that Romeo sells his soul to the "Mercenaries" in order to insure Juliet's happiness, but when she kills herself, her soul joins the "Ambassadors." Now their two souls are on a mission. The Ambassadors fight to bring soul mates together while the Mercenaries are working to tear lovers apart and destroy the Ambassadors. Juliet and Romeo are now on a mission to help/hurt two soul mates. Juliet's soul inhabits the body of Ariel and believes it's her mission to bring Ariel's friend Gemma together with her soul mate Ben. However, Juliet has fallen in love with Ben and he shares her feelings, which isn't right because he belongs with Gemma. In the meantime, Romeo is there getting in Juliet's way. Also, this mission is different than all of their other missions. They are alone, being haunted by specters which can only mean this is their last mission, which doesn't bode well for their souls. Will true love prevail or will their souls be doomed?

This is an interesting book, especially when you see the parallels with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. There's a love element and a creepy element with the specters. Some of the Mercenary and Ambassador elements were a bit confusing, but I listened to this on audio book, so it was difficult to reread. The story pulls you in because you're worried about Juliet and the threat of Romeo and the specters. Then you're wondering how she'll get Ben and Gemma together when Gemma is such an unworthy character, but you're hoping she can find a way to be with Ben because they're such a perfect pair. There's a lot going on, but it all fits together into a intriguing love story that's not overly sappy.

Overall though, it's an interesting book and ends with enough of a cliffhanger to pull readers in for the sequel - Romeo Redeemed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tune Book 1: Vanishing Point - Derek Kirk Kim

Andy Go is in college studying art for the past three years, and with 1 year left he decides to drop out.  He thinks he doesn't need to finish and he's good enough to make it in the real world.  Two months later he's sitting at home doing nothing but watch television.  His parents finally intervene and tell him he has a week to find a job or he's kicked out of the house.  As he is resting in the park before the next interview he runs into his old friend and crush, Yumi.  They talk and she shows him her sketch book.  When Yumi forgets her sketch book Andy reads it.  He discovers that Yumi is in love with him.  He runs around town saying she loves me, getting weird looks from everyone.  He heads to his last interview.  Although they look human the two people are from a parallel Earth called Praxis.  They want living human specimans for their zoo instead of boring objects that do nothing at all.  At first Andy thinks that all of this is crazy, but after he thinks it over he signs the contract.  He then leaves Earth and goes to Praxis where the real adventure begins.

This book had me laughing just about every page.  Anyone who has gone to college knows someone like Andy.  I can't wait for volume 2 to see what happens to Andy.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Leverage (A Sports Novel) by Joshua C. Cohen

This is a very dense, not easy to read novel.  It has in it, questionable recruiting of football players, money exchanging hands, steroid use, drinking parties, brutal hazing, even more brutal bullying resulting in a suicide, child abuse and lousy foster homes. I think that's everything. 
So, Kurt once implicated in a murder but cleared is recruited to play on an already winning football team.  Money is given his foster mom and given to him to keep up the good work, keep him well fed.  the best players on the team all take d-bol to bulk up further though they really don't need to.  Money is being diverted from other athletic teams for the football field and a state of the art jumbo tron.  The gymnasts have always shared the weight training room with the football players.  This time however, the footballers take offense.  A challenge takes place which gymnasts win, which embarrasses the footballers.  The captains seek revenge by stuffing a dead squirrel in a gymnast's sports locker, gymnasts retaliate for that offense.  Problems escalate with no one talking to coaches til the captains of the football team catch two gymnasts, duct tape one up and attack the other while yet another remains unseen in the equipment room.  Kurt comes to the rescue.  He had been working out with the gymnasts, after coach gone.  The beating was kept secret, but the victims and Kurt are made ill by the events and miss several practices, the beaten kid commits suicide.  There are more attempts at revenge with more injuries until finally too many kids are at risk of being killed.  Kurt, for instance is taken hunting by his football team captains and has to dodge bullets.  Kurt, Danny the kid hiding in the equipment room and an unexpected friend find a way to end the torment, reveal the secrets not meant to be kept so that there is no doubt in the minds of the coaches that the truth has been told.
I had to stop reading this after every few pages because there was so much brutality in this book.  Hazing of the new football team members was shaving their heads bloody.  Kurt, foster child had boiling water dumped on him, was cut with a scissors and duct taped with another foster kid in a garbage can.  The other kid died.  The beating Ronnie, who committed suicide was very vividly described.  The son of a town cop was beaten by his father as was Kurt.  I want to believe that the world is not mostly brutal like this book with only slivers of good.  I hope I am right.  All these thinks undoubtedly go on, we do hear of them, just not all in the same place at the same time.  Just my say.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

stained by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

I read this book because I am updating our GLBTQ bibliography and other lists have mentioned this title.  I suppose that we can assume that the Catholic Priest, who is abusing a teen, is gay. But I don't think it belongs on my above mentioned list. This is a story about child sexual abuse.  I would put it on a list with Lyga's Boy Toy.  The teen never had a chance to determine his sexuality. 

Jocelyn has always been friends with her neighbor Gabe, even when he has seemed to push her away.  The friendship has never been as close or predictable as she wanted.  She didn't understand Gabe but never gave up on him.  Occasionally, he would unexpectedly share a deeper part of himself with her like when he took her to the hideaway in the woods.  New boy Benny comes to town and Jocelyn soon become a couple, both of them smart and on the fringes of popularity.  Gabe remains elusive til he simply disappears. 

The priest is at the center of the search for Gabe.  More than once kids have told Jocelyn to ask him whats up with Gabe.  Jocelyn wants more desperately than most to find her friend.  When she does ask Father Warren about Gabe, his intrusive questioning creeps her out.  When Gabe reveals himself in his hiding place, to Jocelyn, and only to Jocelyn, she tells him he absolutely must come home, the priest may be approaching Benny now.  He must be stopped.  The story, set in the 70's rings tragically true.  Perhaps it needs to be told as a fiction story, I don't know.  JDW

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deadpool-Monkey business by Daniel Way

Deadpool is an assassin for hire. But on the long run, he had seek the desire to change his ways. Which is why  he travels to New York in hopes to learn from the best. Spider-Man! However it doesn't go as smoothly as he thought it would. There has been a murder and Deadpool is first suspect in the list. With an alibi Deadpool joins Spiderman to find out who is targeting hit-mans and why. They didn't see that coming.

Second story is about the origins of hit-monkey. How did a wild monkey became one of the hit-man legends.

Writer: Daniel Way
Art: Carlo Barberi & Tan Eng Huat

Art is very detail yet maintains the style that most love about a comic book. If you love spider-man this is the book for you. There is action, mystery and comedy in this comic book. Recommend if you like all of the above.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

This is a fun, quick read.  Its not gonna win any medals or awards but I recommend it all the same.
I think anyone who has heard the Chicago Ghost Urban Legend of Resurrection Mary would enjoy this.  Its the legend of the girl who was killed on prom night and still walks seeking a ride to prom?
She wasn't called Mary or Anna in my Iowa hometown where I first heard the tale.
This has a new spin.  Anna is trapped in a house where she viciously kills anyone who happens to enter.  Cas Lowood, a boy about the age of Anna when she died, is a ghost buster.  He and his white witch mom have come to town to release Anna and send her to where she belongs.  He has the knife his dad used before he died ghost busting.  Nothing much goes as planned.  People die, Cas loses his knife and Anna and Cas seemingly fall in love.  Anna is released but not to a final resting place, rather from that evil which trapped her in the house, perhaps the same evil that killed Cas' father?  Cas is possessed of an Obeahman requiring very special release using his mom, a kid and his grandfather who practice a bit of voodoo and black magic and some of the school kids who first introduced Cas to Anna and actually made it out of the house alive.  Anna, at first evil turns out to be quite likeable.  Cas lightens intense scenes with humorous statements.  And there is a sequel which I am about to read:  Girl of Nightmares.

Legend by Marie Lu

This is another first book in a teen dystopia series.  Day is a loner rebel who the current government wants captured and executed.  He is causing so much trouble.  June is a prodigy about Day's age who is highly trained by the government as a spy, assassin guard etc.  She loves to go off on her own to challenge herself, something government training cannot do, she is so advanced.  Their worlds collide when Day pulls off a heist of plague medicine in which June's beloved brother is killed.  Plague pops up in one poor sector or another with no real sense as to why.  Victims' doors are marked and the medical police cart them away.  Occasionally a different sort of mark is placed on a door, though no one knows the significance.  It is known that there is cure and prevention for plague but only wealthy people have access to it.  There are other horrific things this government is doing.  Kids who fail their training trials at aged ten are theoretically sent to labor camps and are never seen again.  June is assigned the task of finding Day and bringing him in.  She is highly motivated to do so by the loss of her brother.  When she succeeds, she is already seeing things a bit differently.  She even seems to have fallen in love with Day.  His capture results in the death of his mother and the capture of his brothers as well.  Day's execution time is set.  But before then, June has discovered the truth about her brother's death, the plague and other things the government is doing and sets out to free Day and his brothers instead.  At story's end Day is freed, one of his brother's is dead, June has become a rebel and there is still Day's younger brother to rescue.  This book just sets up the series.  Anyone reading this will really want to read the next books.  Think about the Nazi regime and their labor camps and other stuff that regime did.  I suspect that this is where the story is going - though I will have to find out along with everyone else.  Its an easy enough read, I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wizzywag by Ed Piskor

this story just like any other starts off with a simple kid named kevin who enjoys challenging things in life whether it is a puzzle or a situation that later rolls into becoming a one of the famous first time hackers. Kevin (the main character) was just a regular kids who got bullied in school but had a good close friend. these two would basically do everything together, but on main thing they liked to do was to figure things out. so a little bit down the line of the book they started to fool around with a phone booth that they would walk by all the time. they discovered that if you would whistle at a right pitch you would be able to use free long distance phone calls, as kevin being the main character he had perfect pitch to do this. but many other people could not do this, so they would need to get an illegal device called an "blue box". as being kids with an illegal toy the police question them on how they are getting free long distance calling on the phone booth. this is just a little bit of the begin, i have to say it is a little slow through some parts but it is a good read on my parts. "wizzywag" shows an interestingly perspective on the tail of a hacker who got blown way out of proportion by the media.

Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler

This book came out the year Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility turned 200. This novel plays homage to the classic with a modern twist.

Gabby and Daphne are sisters with nothing in common. Gabby, the older sister, has stepped up to help her mother after her father left them. She's the sensible sister who works hard, studies to get good grades, and does her best to make sure her sister behaves. Considering how her father broke her mother's heart, Gabby doesn't believe in love and wants nothing to do with boys. Daphne, on the other hand, lives in a romantic fantasy world of happily ever afters. She meets the new boy in town and instantly believes he's her soul mate. She is spoiled and irresponsible because she's so wrapped up in her dream world to pay attention to the harsh realities of her family's situation. Then a financial crisis leaves the family dependent on the one boy in town Gabby can't stand - the person responsible for the death of the only boy Gabby ever had feelings for. When her mother has to go out of town, Gabby is forced to be even more responsible for her oblivious sister. Pretty soon everyone has boy issues, whether they want them or not.

This book does a decent job of maintaining the gist of Austen's novel. There are modern issues that fit nicely into the story that all seem realistic. However, for two-thirds of the novel I couldn't stand either main character. Daphne is a spoiled brat who desperately needed a reality check and Gabby was so narrow-minded and critical of everything she was just downright unlikeable. I could understand where each girl is coming from, but they were both so extreme that they were annoying. In the last hundred pages both girls received a bit of a slap in the face which thankfully brought them around to some resemblance of sanity.

Aside from some unbearable main characters, the book wasn't horrible. You could relate to the character even if you couldn't stand them and the book makes you believe change and happily ever afters are possible.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Every Day - David Levithan

Since the day he was born, A has woken up in a different body each day.  He doesn't interfere in the persons life unless he absolutely has to.  On day 5994 A wakes up in Justin and falls in love with Justin's girlfriend Rhiannon.  They have a perfect day by skipping school and have a picnic near the ocean.  After A leaves Justin all he can think about is Rhiannon.  A few days later he wakes up in Nathan and he goes to a party Justin and Rhiannon will be at.  It is there A, inside of Nathan, gets to dance and have a good time with her.  After A moves on to another person Nathan claims to have been possessed and his story spreads across the news.  A few days later A meets with Rhiannon at a bookstore and tells her what is going on.  It takes her a few days to process the whole situation, but accepts that A is a different person each day.  No matter what body A is in he sees her every day, unless he's to far away from her.  Nathan continues to hound him over e-mail about who and what he is.  A finally tells Nathan what is going on and that he wasn't possessed.  When Nathan sees A in two different people two days in a row, he starts to believe what A is saying is true. Rhiannon on the other hand thinks that it won't work out between them since A is a different person each day.  Can A and Rhiannon find a way to be together, or are they destined to love each other from afar?

I'm very glad I choose this book to read.  I loved the story and really liked how the book ended.  The way the story unfolds you as the reader will get sucked in. You feel what the characters feel, and that to me, makes a book really good and enjoyable when the author is able to do that. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Forget Me Not - Carolee Dean

     This is a novel written in verse, it takes place at a high school and like any high school is full  of drama and self-discovery.  
    Ally, the main character, a high schooler that can not believe a picture of her is going around school being texted to everyone. She is afraid her life will be over, her reputation will be lost and she wants to figure out how everything got started.
    The counselor at the high school by the name of Mr. Toms has spoken to Brianna Connor, a teen attending the high school in order to investigate if she has anything to do with this but she denies sending a dirty picture of Ally
    Elijah has his own set of problems and can barely handle them, wants to know how he got into this deep hole and wants to find the solution of how to get out. He has landed in this hole after taking a whole bottle of over the counter sleeping pills, and now he can see ghosts.
   There is a link between Ally and Elijah, actually there is a link between Elijah and Ally because Elijah has been in loved with Ally and would do anything to save her.

Ally continues to try to have her normal life socializing with her friends, she attends a party where drugs are distributed for all to try but she is not interested in any drugs she wants to know how this picture got distributed.

The book takes a twist Ally has been in a accident and she ends up in a coma state, the accident shattered her two legs but the really twist was for Elijah becuase at the hospital something important happends Elijah kisses Ally. After this he reacts how could he do this if he knows she is at the hospital in a state were she is vulnerable and she is still trying to figure out her picture issues.

The book has a very interesting plot because it relates to what the current high school generation is dealing with. All this aspects of technology and issues about privatecy that we as a society are living now a days.
Most of all it has a great conclusion to how Ally and Elijah are able to solve their dilemmas and are able to mature and self-discover what they are really searching in life.
LRD&RPA 11/15/12

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Amber House by Kelly Moore and daughters

The cover of this book is gorgeous and perfect for the story which is set on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.  Amber house is alive or seems to be.  Within it are secrets of the past (everwas), present and possible futures (Neverwas).  Relatives of the first inhabitants with the right gift can see these secrets by touching something in the house such as a stair railing or a long forgotten toy, or sometimes by looking into a mirror.

Sara, her five year old mildly autistic brother Sammy, her mother have come from Seattle for Grandma Ida's funeral.  The plan was to sell the family estate and get back home for Sara's 16th birthday.  Sara's mother does not want the house, does not want to go into the house.  Sara has visited her grandma only once at the family estate.  It includes a stable with horses, a dock with a sail boat named liquid Amber, a huge maze with a gazebo at the center and lots of secret passages.  There is
also a legend that somewhere inside is hidden a treasure of lost diamonds left by the first resident.  He was a gem smuggler later turned slave smuggler.  When his wife went mad from the loss of a child, he took one of the slaves as a mistress.  One descendant of that liaison was an abolitionist. One descendant wrote a book about Amber House, possibly from the vision she had.  One lives on the edge of the property along a river with her grandson Jackson.  She has cared for grandma Ida many years.  Jackson is thought to be fourth cousin to Sara.

At the reception following the funeral, things change.  Sara meets a local teen Richard and perhaps forms a friendship.  Mother reconnects with old acquaintances.  There is a chance to hold a gala 16th coming out for Sara and at the same time a realtor's open house to show case the manse and maximize profits for Sara and Sam's future.  Mom plans the affair. Sara hangs with Richard and acts appropriately so that all the important teens and their parents will  attend the party.  And, Sara and sometimes Sammy and Jackson explore Amber House searching for its secrets.  With all mom's demands on Sara, she doesn't have a chance to figure her real feelings towards Richard or Jackson. So it goes through a successful gala the likes of which neither Amber House  nor the neighbors have seen in a long long time.  But, something happens to Sammy along the way, he goes to sleep and doesn't wake up.  He is thought to be in a coma of unknown origin.  Sara suspects the house has stolen his soul.  She must confront some horrors if she is to rescue Sammy. 

Sara has the house's history in a book, she has her fortune, she has her experiences with the mirrors and objects in the house but she does not go about anything in a systematic way which frustrates me.  There is to be a sequel to this story, which I assume will fill in the blanks in the House's story and end its taking of the souls of its children which seems to lead to madness in the survivors. 

I enjoyed this story very much and look forward to reading about Sara's relationships with Jackson and Jackson and the House of Amber. JDW

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

This is fairly easy to read even though the narrator and his friends are 17 and in high school  I would give it to any one from 6th grade and up.

Freak, Sunshine and Drip have been friends for at least 9 or ten years.  They are alphabets as they call themselves.  They have medical diagnoses that keep them out of normal classrooms and on the short bus to special classes.  They are regularly harassed and even beaten by a BD student and his gang.

One day the bus drops of Sunshine near her home then Drip and Freak and Sunshine just disappears.
Folks immediately accuse Jason (Freak) of hurting Sunshine.  He does not stand up well for himself because of his alphabet.  Through repeated questioning, DNA testing, a search, a severe beating in the hands of the bullies, its easy to see how much Freak has grown to love Sunshine, how much he is hurting for his loss and scared for her, and how much adults distrust him and he therefore distrusts them.  Jason and Derrick (Drip) know about Sunshine's secret place along the river, her secret stash in her room, her scent (like honeysuckle).  They do not know about her greatest secret and greatest secret stash.  They know they could not hurt their friend.  One FBI Agent who gets to know Jason, who looks past his alphabet earns Jason's trust and learns all the truth he can share.  It is with certainty that we also know Jason and Derrick, especially Jason did nothing to hurt Sunshine.  The search for Sunshine ends due to money issues and a sense that perhaps she left on her own.  Agent Mercer lets Jason in on what he knows.  Jason later repays this trust by calling on him for help, which he freely gives.  There is a realistic, bitter sweet ending. Sympathetic readers are likely to shed a few tears and learn a little of misperceptions about persons with a wide range of disabilities.  JDW

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

This is called a romance but it is very much more than that and it is not about pushing sex!

Echo and Noah are both traumatized teens who used to be very different from who they are as the book starts.  They were popular.  They were smart.  He was a jock, she an award winning artist.  They are now in an experimental counseling project hopefully to help them deal with their traumas and to move on. They do want to move on they say they want normal.  Initially, except for the counselor Echo's friends and probably former friends, her father, her step mother are all irritatingly clueless to her needs.  Noah has experienced something similar but has found a new group of friends who use marijuana and drink beer.  He is kept from the only thing important to him, his younger brothers, by equally clueless adults in his life.  Both are seniors only a couple of months from graduation.  After their counselor asks Echo to tutor Noah they unexpectedly fall in love.  Its a very special relationship that is enjoyable to read.  For Echo getting to normal means remembering what happened to her and for Noah it means letting go of anger.  His anger extends to abusive foster parents, the people in authority who refused to believe him and the foster parents of his little brothers who are trying to keep them from him.  I'll say right now that the adults only moved slightly towards understanding these two very likable, determined, hurt teens.  It is Echo and Noah who must change the most.  Noah has to stop fighting everyone so hard, apologize.  Echo remembers her trauma accepts that the person who caused it cannot change, accepts that she has been replaced in her family by a stepmother and her new half brother.  They move on, they are excited about their future, perhaps it will be together.  Noah's brothers will be in his and Echo's art is a part of her future.  I think the story ties up too neatly, still I enjoyed it.  Recommended JDW

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Son by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry returns with the conclusion of the 1993award winningbook The Giver, it was time for this book to be published. In this book the story is told by a different point of view a young woman named Claire tells the story.
The story introduces Claire, a 14-yeard old, who lives in the oppresive community, were The Giver had taken place. In her twelve ceremony she was selected to be a vessel, she has no knowledge to want the selected job consists of. After a few days of living with the other vessels, Claire finally has an idea to want her responsabilities might be. In other words vessels is another word for birthmother,  Claire ends up giving birth. In the community the products, the newborns, are used as manufactured commodities and always having present that there should not be a relationship betweent the child and the mother. There were minor complications with the birth but most importantly the newborn and Claire were healthy. After of trying to send the child into the "right path" standards of the community  and with no successful outcomes the child must be released.
 Then the story has and unexpected twist, and goes into a whole different direction that the reader did not see coming. Claire was able to have a connection with the product, her newborn, which was not supposed to happend she is able to feel: love, human connection and how sometimes evil is able to make the human reflect . Claire is able to escape, she learns that there is life out there with actual emotions and meaning to life, and that life is beautiful.
Now her journey starts she must go in search of her child, but where to look. Elsewhere exists but she is not sure how to confronted. The protagonist, Jonas, from The Giver plays an essential role in this book.
After reading the book the reader will understand the connection between the books, and how self-discovery is essential in life. The book is a great read because it has unexpected twists and simply because of the fact that Lois Lowry did such a great job having a wonderful ending to the story of this quartet of books.

RPA 10/30/12

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

Although this book starts out a bit slow, it quickly picks up the pace and is a thrill-ride well worth the wait.

Rinn Jacobs moves to her mother's hometown after an accident tears apart her family. She is bi-polar and when she goes off of her meds, a fire starts which kills her Grandmother. Now transplanted to an unfamiliar town, Rinn deals with the guilt she feels while trying to make new friends. One thing she learns about the school she's attending is that a creepy tunnel the students have to travel through is haunted by a girl named Annaliese who died in the abandoned pool at the end of the tunnel. Intrigued, Rinn and a few new friends try to contact the ghost and pretty soon odd things start happening her friends, like severe headaches, unexplainable mood changes, and ultimately death for some. Rinn is now desperate to keep her friends safe and figure out what Annaliese wants and why.

Give or take the first 100 pages, the novel is mediocre. It took a while to get the characters developed, the intrigue peaked, and for the creepiness to really get started. That's not to say there's a point where it's so boring you want to put it down, but it wasn't as exciting as what happened after page 100. Things start happening really quickly after that point and all you can do is hold on for the ride as twists and turns develop in the story. Pretty soon you're wondering if this is a reliable narrator and what's really going on. The truth about Annaliese is yet another surprise in the story. All of the characters in the novel are great. You feel for Rinn and want to see her succeed after everything she's been through.

As a ghost story, this book won't necessarily give you nightmares, but it's definitely a creepy story that is well worth the read.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Willa lives with her mother, stepfather, and two stepsisters. She's happy in her life, even though she's aware of certain advantages her stepsisters have that she doesn't given their wealthy mother. None of that seems to matter when Willa's father, whom she hasn't seen since she was four, disappears after murdering his family. Fearful that he might come after her, the bonds of her blended family get tested. When the threat is over, Willa begins a journey to discover what it means to be connected to a man capable of killing his family and how that will affect the family she's grown up with.

This book was an enjoyable and quick read. It digs deep into family connections - the ones from blood and the ones created out of love. Most of this book is about Willa returning to her father's hometown, the town her mother desperately tried to escape. Willa goes out of duty to the dead sisters she never knew about in search of meaning behind what happened and how it affects her. Some of the legalise in terms of inheritance seemed really confusing and not entirely realistic if you ask me, but I'm not a lawyer so maybe it is all legitimate. It helps wrap up some issues later on in the novel, so whatever works (this is fiction after all). The characters are complex without being developed enough. Because the novel goes so quickly, it almost feels as if there isn't enough time for the more complex relationships to develop and get resolved, like the relationships between her and her stepsisters. Even with Willa, the writer throws in a certain self-destructive behavior at the beginning and end of the novel and seems to forget about it in the middle. Even the resolution of that problem seems too easy. Everything seems to get wrapped up in a neat bow at the end when there are clearly still issues these characters need to deal with.

The book is good, but it didn't send me over the moon. It definitely could have delved deeper into family dynamics. In the end, it is a decent book but not entirely memorable.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Collected Poems of A.E. Housman

The conditions, and times of these poems were written around the 1930's.  Conditions of working, and living were very different than present times.  On page eleven the description of the wooded lands implies it is Easter time of the year. The way the  author describes the cherry trees that are in bloom is beautiful.
The next poem we read about is titled, "The Recruit" it deals with how the young man prepares to leave his home behind.  It is hard to start out in a new surrounding indeed, it is a big adjustment.The following poem, "Reveille" talks about the young man, who kills a bird with a yellow bill. The same poem indicates the road that can lead home, and the other one you can follow to work.
Ludlow is an actual  village in England that I found in the Atlas.  Next, we are presented to the yeoman, or Navy officer in modern terms, who must say goodbye to his love.
We find that the train tracks are close to Ludlow as indicated in the writing.
The poem mentions the young men are in the woods collecting daffodils, and coming home at noon.  The young ladies of Ludlow repair palms found on the edge of the pond, or hedge.
On page thirty three, it is mentioned that the young man was very brave.  He also was a champion runner, and I was carried on the village people's shoulders, back to Ludlow with a laurel on my head. On Bredon Hill, you can hear Church bells very clearly on Sundays, for people who wanted to attend Church. It seems the women of the households got up early, and went to Church alone.
On the streets the sounds of soldiers could be heard on the road as they passed.  Amazing, was that only one red coat soldier bothered to look at the females watching them.
Young men come to Ludlow for girlfriend companionship. Sometimes the young soldiers will die young, and never get old.
Page 179 States," I with the ice  in my palms, shall sleep as sound. Frost in the founts that used to leap, and perished nations how sound sleep." These lines of the poem are meaningful to me, because it warns us that winter is coming.

Remember, any laundry was sent out to a laundress in that time as we see on page 188. You must pay for this service, and it was pricey. There were no washing machines, or dryer's.

Soldier's handle life weather it is the past, or the present in many dangerous situations. On page 198 we read about a killing between two men that did not work out the way it was planned.

The conditions of these written poems, which was written  in the 1930's  brings to mind a subject the author implies throughout his writings as follows: human events that lead to all our deaths in different ways.  We have a page in the poem that describes a type of death back then on page thirty-nine.  These poems  are  worth reading, because in our modern times we have a lot of different ways to enhance our tasks .  It was a lot of  manual labor that took a lot of hardships, and conditions as stated in the poetry in the past.  This poetry book was a good read. LRD 10/15/12

Friday, October 12, 2012

THE DEADLY SISTER by Eliot Schefer

Abby Goodwin discovers the body of Jefferson Andrews in a ravine with his head bashed in along with her sister Maya's cell phone.  Maya is off somewhere in a drug induced stupor.  Maya's stuff is no Andrews car.  Its all circumstantial but it sure looks like Maya is the killer.  Abby secrets Maya off to grandma to hide from the police with the help of her sort of best friend.  Abby seems to be sort of trying to find out who really murdered Andrews but only sort of.  She talks with his weird younger brother. She goes to Medusa's Den which is a combination tattoo parlor and hub of drug trafficking.
Not only was Jefferson Andrews star of the school football team he was a dealer and was dating several popular and unpopular girls at the same time.  There are small inconsistencies and the ineffective way she looks for the killer and the fact that Abby first hides her sister then lures her out in the open that says something is not quite right.  Its very slight.  Eventually we find out that Abby is a very unreliable narrator and perhaps worse.  I felt more confused than intrigued.  For a mystery, it just never gets too compelling, just sort of ho hum.  There are definitely better mysteries out there.
That's just my say though.  Joyce 10/12/12

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

James Patterson is adding to his young adult repertoire with a new series about a teen detective. I was excited about this series because I enjoy an adult series that he also writes with Maxine Paetro, although I was somewhat disappointed in this novel.

Tandy Angel is a unique person who is often times described as robotic given her lack of emotions and extreme smarts. Her parents have just been murdered in their locked penthouse, which makes everyone in the apartment a suspect, including Tandy, her two brothers, and her mother's assistant. She decides that it is up to her to determine who killed her parents, even if the truth is that she's responsible. As her investigation gets underway - she's not shy about accusing anyone - she begins to learn shocking truths about her parents and what they had planned for their children.

To say this family is strange would be an understatement. When I first started the novel I thought that Tandy has Asperger Sydrome, but soon it became clear that her behavior was a product of her parents' creating. A number of discoveries uncover a deep plot around her parents that is both intriguing and disturbing. This book is clearly the start of a series as there are a lot of questions left unanswered. In some ways that's good, but in other ways it's very frustrating. Tandy - the narrator - leaves a lot of holes in her past, some of them eventually being revealed, but there were a lot of situations where it became "that's a story for another time" and it became annoying. The narrator directly communicates with the reader and at times felt awkward and ultimately left me on the fence about this novel.

The story itself is a good story, especially because you don't have any clear suspects or even clues, so it can be anyone and that keeps you guessing. However, I'd personally rather keep the guessing to the mystery rather than guessing about the character who constantly reveals stuff about herself but in tiny doses. True, part of that is her character and how even she has holes about her past, but sometimes you just want answers. There is definitely enough questions to warrant someone picking up the next book to hopefully get closure.

The Kill Order - James Dashner

Before the maze and before WICKED there was the flares.  The sun has scorched the earth leaving people either dead or infected with madness.  Those who are infected will eventually die.  Some have survived the madness, but one day the bergs come.  The people on the bergs shoot darts with a virus that will kill the remaining people.  Many people die with in a day or two of being shot by the darts.  Mark, Alec, Trina, Lana, and a few other people make it out of their village alive.  Mark and Alec take down a berg, and via a pad they find out where the bergs are coming from.  They decide to make their way to the berg home base.  They come across another village where in the middle of all the corpses is a little girl, who appears to be immune to the virus.  As they make camp in the forest, Mark and Alec scout ahead and come into contact with a group of survivors from the little girl's village.  They are captured when their fate is about to be decided more darts fly through the air killing most of group.  There is also a forest fire, which forces Trina, Lana, and the little girl to flee.  Mark and Alec track them to the berg command center, fearing that they have been captured.  They get trapped on a berg where they discover what the Post-Flares Coalition has in store for the rest of the human population. 

I'm glad James Dashner did a prequel to the Maze Runner series.  There were a few questions going through my head when I was reading Maze Runner and the other two books.  The Kill Order gives you insight into what the world was like before WICKED formed, and before Thomas when into the maze.  It also introduces us to the virus that would become the Flare.  If you are a fan of the Maze Runner series this is a must read. 

T.B. 10/9/12

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Scorch - Gina Damico

After Zara took Lex's power to damn souls, Lex has spent the summer with her Uncle Mort picking up a few new Junior reapers.  When they come back to Croak the Juniors welcome Lex back, everyone else on the other hand treats her like a pariah. Norwood and Heloise have been turning most of the town against the Juniors, and more specifically against Lex and Mort.  Zara has been damning souls left and right over the last few months, and shows no signs of slowing down.  Lex tries to go about her life normally as much as possible.  She uncovers a mystery about a cabin in the woods beyond the River Styks.  It supposedly holds the Wrong Book, which holds horrors from a grim called Grotton.  Lex has the bone key, but the cabin is hidden behind an invisible barrier.  During a catch the flag type game played by the grim's after Halloween to let off some steam, there is an explosion at the fountain in the square.  Many grims are injured and a few die.  Everyone thinks it was Zara who attacked them, which is partly true.  A few weeks later during Thanksgiving Lex's parents come to visit.  All the Juniors are at Uncle Mort's having dinner, along with Lex's parents. Zara comes attacking once again.  In the battle Lex accidently damns the soul of Corpp, the owner of the local bar, who had come to warn them Zara was on her way.  Diggs undamns the soul and sends it to the afterlife.  When most of the town comes for the Juniors, Uncle Mort and the rest of them go on the run.  They scythe to the desert outside of DeMyse, another Grimsphere like Croak.  The leader of DeMyse, LeRoy, is an old friend of Uncle Mort.  They stay there till past the new year, then Zara comes attacking once again.  She is demanding Lex give her the bone key and the Wrong Book.  Uncle Mort decides that it is time to go back to Croak if they are going to have any chance to beat Zara. 

I enjoyed Scorch just as much as Croak.  Both books have really good stories with characters you care about.  The action is fast paced.  Once you think you know what will happen next, the author throws a curve ball and takes the plot in another direction.  I eagerly await book 3 whenever it comes out. 

T.B. 10/2/12

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

La Probabilidad Estadistica del Amor a Primera Vista - Jennifer E. Smith

Haley Sullivan, una chica de dicisiete años, esta esperando el siguiente avion para Londres, ya que a perdido su vuelo original. No esta de acuerdo de hacer este viaje pero su mama lo a casi decidido por ella. Haley a pasado por un periodo de estres ya que su padres se han divorciado y ahora ella esta haciendo este viaje para ir a la boda de su padre con su futura esposa, Charlotte. Haley se imagina lo peor de Charlotte, no la conose, ya que como pudo haber aceptado matrimonio de un tipo casado y con hija. Su padre fue a vivir a Londres por trabajo, es professor universitario, de un dia para otro, Haley se entera de su futuro matrimonio.
Durante su espera en el aeropuerto Haley conose a un chico, Oliver, este se le hacerca porque observo que Haley necesitaba ayuda. Despues de varios eventos estos deciden comer algo juntos, cuando es tiempo de abordar se dan cueta que estan asignados a sentarse en la misma fila ella en el 18A y el en el 18C. Al final se sientan juntos, durante el viaje se conosen mas, Oliver es originalmente de Londres y le cuenta todo sobre la cuidad, igual sobre su vida.
Cuando llegan a Londres Haley a quedado impactada por este chico, y ahora no puede creer que no lo volvera a ver.
Haley ahora no puede creer que ira un evento con el que no esta de acuerdo y no vera mas a este ser humano que la dejado flechada. Durande su estacia en Londres Haley se llega a dar cuenta que Charlotte no es la mujer por la que ella pensaba, y se muesta madura en reconoser que ahora de esta madera su padre es feliz y igual su madre con su nueva vida y amor actual. Pero no puede creer que no volvera a ver a Oliver.
Pero cosas del destino ocurre una serie de eventos y vulve a tropesarse con Oliver se da cuenta que es este a quien le debe todo su nuevo ver a la vida y no puede creer que todo esto haiga ocurrido en menos de veinticuatro horas!

En lo personal este libro me encanto y nos habre los hojos a nuevas posibilidades y nunca hablar antes de conoser a las personas. Y que el destino puede ser caprichoso y puede abrir muchas puertas a nuevos retos en esta vida.

LD/RPA 9/11/2012

The Rifle - Gary Paulsen

This book as the title says it is about a weapon, a rifle. Paulsen introduce us to Cornus McManus a gunsmith in the 1760's, very humble, very dedicated and in love with his fiancee. We learn about Cornus's life and what made him create such a tremendous gun. As the book moves along we follow the rifle's life trayectory. This book is a very short novel maybe around one-hundred pages but Paulsen did a wonderful job describing the weapon, describing the gunsmisth feeling towards the weapon. He goes into detail why the weapon is so unique, gives exact description about the accuracy of the gun.
Unfortunately Cornus had to sell his beloved  rifle in order to afford getting married. John Byam is the next owner and carries the weapon into battle with the redcoats. Then the gun is passed down to generations being lost in an attic for years then rediscovered and sold in an antique store. All in all Harv, a mechanic, is the actual onwer of the rifle. Is Christmas eve 1994, and Harv has placed the rifle in fire place mantel. He is poking the fireplace and a spark ignites the rifle making it go off. The bullet goes out the window and hits the neighbor, Richard, who is fixing a light on the Christmas tree.

Personally I really like the book, to me was all about timing of life. How events occur because life, karma or whatever the individual believes in, has already been  placed there for a certain cause.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The Book of Tomorrow is an adult novel with young adult appeal given the teenage narrator. While the book starts out slow, eventually a mystery develops and sucks you in.

Tamara's life is turned upside down when her father commits suicide. Now she and her mother have lost everything and have to leave Dublin and head to the country to live with her odd aunt and uncle. Tamara is bored and sulky but eventually meets a traveling library where she discovers an odd locked book. When she finally opens it, she discovers that it's a blank diary. Deciding to finally write in it, she opens the book again and sees that she has already written in it - which is impossible. This diary seems to tell her what is going to happen tomorrow. When what is written actually comes true, Tamara uses it to her advantage to try and change the things she doesn't want to happen. In the meantime, her mother is withering away under a depression that Tamara doesn't feel is right and is desperate to help despite the opposition from her aunt. And her intrigue in some castle ruins leads to a mystery that will blow her mind even more so than a diary that can tell the future.

I struggled to get into this novel because at first it didn't read like a story in the sense that Tamara was telling me everything I needed to know before the story really felt like it started. Once things got going, though, and you were living in the moment with the narrator, things got more interesting. Slowly the mystery started to develop and suspicions began that became really interesting. Even without the diary predicting the future, it's a good story as Tamara's curiosity leads her to discover new things about the people and the world around her. It was nice to see her character change and develop into a better person because she was somewhat of a brat at the beginning. She's not perfect come the end, but definitely more likable.

This book is worth sticking out the slow beginning. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Adult author Jodi Picoult enters the world of Young Adult literature with a novel that she wrote with her daughter. It is completely different than what the author has written before but is just as enjoyable.
This novel starts in the fairy tale world of a book called Between the Lines, about a young prince who goes on a journey to rescue a princess. In the next chapter, however, you learn that the world inside the fairy tale is real and all of the characters are actors forced to repeat the story every time the book opens. The Prince, Oliver, is desperate to escape the world he feels trapped inside. On the outside world is the reader Delilah, who has fallen in love with a book because she feels connected to Oliver. One day she notices something different in the illustration and suddenly Oliver is communicating with Delilah. Together they try to come up with a plan to help Oliver escape from the book so that they can be together. Will it work? Or will Oliver be forced to live his life on repeat.
This is a unique and clever story that was enjoyable to read. It was nicely paced with a steady roller coaster of hope and then let down as the pair came up with plan after plan. I liked the illustrations throughout the story and how it intermingled the fairy tale with the current story of Oliver and Delilah. It was also nice to have different chapters from the two different points of view. My only complaint is that I'm a little confused on how it all works out in the end. I wish it was explained a little bit more and that we got to see more clearly how all of the pieces fit together. Otherwise it was a really enjoyable book.
I've been a fan of Jodi Picoult for a long time and this book was a nice change. Although it does not sound like her other books, that gives it an authentic feel that she really did write this with her daughter. It was a great story and well worth the read, especially if you ever considered what happens to the characters of your favorite book when you read the last page.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fair Coin - E.C. Myers

Ephraim comes home from school one day and finds his mother near death after taking pills with alcohol.  Apparently his mom thought that a bus accident victim at the hospital was Ephraim.  It turns out it was Ephraim, but an Ephraim from a different reality.  He sneaks into the morgue to check out the body.  He finds his wallet, library card, and a coin on the other Ephraim.  This coin can grant wishes, and he wishes that his mom would be a better mom.  The next morning his mom is cooking breakfast and there is no sign of pill bottles or alcohol.  He keeps this information to himself not even sharing it with his best friend Nathan.  His next wish is to have the girl who he has had a crush on notice him.  The wish kind of works and she does notice him, but not in the way he wanted it.  He finally tells Nathan and they agree to both touch the coin when either of them makes a wish.  This way they both benefit from it.  After several more wishes Ephraim lands in a reality where Nathan is popular and not his best friend.  He runs into an older version of Nathan who tells him that each time they make a wish and flip the coin they travel to an alternate reality.  There is also a controller which controls which reality they go into and records coordinates of the different realities.  The coin by itself just bumps you into the closest reality to the one you are in.  This younger version of Nathan is only out for greed and money.  He also wants to stop the older Nathan from ever getting the coin and controller back. Ephraim decides to make sure this younger version of Nathan is stopped any way possible.  The only way for Ephraim to get back to his own reality is to have the coin and controller, which Nathan has, and he's not going to give them up without a fight. 

I do love alternate reality books.  They really do make you think about choices the characters have made, or will make and how they affect the story.  Will thoses choices make them a better person, or are they making a choice for their own selfish gains?  Fair Coin can get a little confusing with all the different realities that are visited, but everything sorts its self out in the end.  There is a sequal coming out in October 2012 called Quantum Coin

T.B. 8/31/12

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger

This is the second book of a cute and quirky series. If you are a Star Wars fan you will probably enjoy this book more than the average reader.

In the previous book a kid named Dwight created an origami finger puppet of Yoda - a wise character from Star Wars. Students started going to Origami Yoda for advice and he soon became a huge hit and brought people together. In this book, something Origami Yoda said leads to Dwight being expelled and possibly sent to another school. This book is then a "case file" or a series of arguments and stories as to why Dwight should not be sent to another school. The stories detail how Dwight and Origami Yoda have helped different students deal with difficult situations. In the meantime, Harvey -who is somewhat of a bully - interjects his own comments and judgments, using his own Origami Darth Vader ("Darth Paper") to prove that Origami Yoda and Dwight have not done any good. Will the case file save Dwight or are he and Origami Yoda history?

This is a really quick read and a cute story. It takes place in a middle school and you can definitely hear the voice of the students. That said, there's not much depth or character development, but I don't think any of that's the point of the story. It's just a light, fun book with plenty of moments to chuckle. The pages also have little drawings around the edges which add to the story.

I enjoyed this book. Then again, I'm also a Star Wars fan so I don't know how the average reader will feel about this book.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Although this book was written in the 70s, it is a timeless tale with themes that are still relevant today.

In an all boys school there is a secret society called the Vigils that creates "assignments" for select boys to complete. Archie creates the assignments and is relatively revered in the school. A change is coming at the school, though, when the headmaster is out and the current man in charge, Brother Leon, sets out a plot to sell 20,000 boxes of old Mother's Day chocolates. While the school is used to chocolate sales, it was only half this amount and Brother Leon calls upon the Vigils to make sure every box is sold. There's only one flaw in his plan and it's a new boy named Jerry Renault. At first Jerry says no to selling chocolates because of an assignment but when the time period is over, he continues to refuse to sell. Brother Leon is furious because this boy is disrupting the system and soon others begin the start thinking like Jerry. The Vigils aren't happy either, especially after they told him to start selling and he continues to refuse. Can order be brought back or will free will reign?

This novel plays on a lot of important themes for teens such as peer pressure, bullying, free will and standing up for what you believe in. That said, the message at the end of the book isn't that uplifting, even if it is a bit realistic because sometimes the bad guys to succeed and wills are broken. Some of the ideas in the book are a bit perposterous and the characters caricatures, but maybe you have to go extreme to get your point across. I would have liked a little bit more character development. I wanted to know a little bit more with regards to motivation for certain characters. Most of all though, I wanted to see the bad guys taken down a peg and that never really happened.

This book is realistic in the point that the good guys don't always succeed, but unrealistic in certain situations. My expectations and hopes left me disappointed with the book, but I think it has merit for the themes that it presents.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford

This is  middle school fast read about friendships and the way they grow and change.  Araminta known as Minty chases after a flash in the woods, sure someone is lurking and taking secret pictures of people.  She stumbles on a hollow tree in which people have been placing their greatest, most painful secrets.  There is something magical about this tree that seems to say if you give me your secrets, I'll take care of them.  Not long after, Minty meets the flash in the woods who turns out to be Raymond.  He has been sneaking around taking pictures and spying on people.  It is his hope to match the pictures with the secrets on the slips of paper from the tree.  Minty decides to assist him in his detective work.  She has her own secrets, her best friend seems to have a new best friend and seems to be leaving her behind. Yeah that one is familiar. Throughout this summer before middle school Minty and Raymond, spy and gradually figure out which secret belongs to whom, mostly anyway.  Minty manages to take some pretty funny action to resolve some of the hurts.  She learns Raymond's greatest secret.  She finds her own worked out just by being herself and helping or tormenting others.  I like the witches house and who the witch turns out to be.  It seems like most neighborhoods have some spooky house to be avoided at all cost.  It seems like kids, not knowing exactly why, make up creepy stories to explain things.  We did in my neighborhood, so did my best friend.  This is great comfort food.
jdw 8/22

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fall From Grace - Charles Benoit

When Sawyer meets Grace for the first time it is at Model UN being held at East High School. She plans on stealing the North Korea treaty for the United States. The only reason for doing this for fun and she is bored. Grace ropes Sawyer into helping her, and after she leaves him a thank you gift in his locker. He admits to himself that it was fun. After this little adventure Sawyers life goes back to normal. His shifts at the ice cream store, hanging out with his girlfriend Zoë, and having his parents make all the important decisions in his life. For example: where he's going to college and what classes he should take during his senior year. A few weeks later Grace pops in at the ice cream shop he works at. She says she's researching law loopholes at the library, but Sawyer isn't believing her. A few days later while Sawyer is at the library doing his career project, he runs into Grace again. They make small talk and plan on meeting at her aunt's apartment to watch The Sting. The watch the movie and afterward he drives her to the library near where her aunt lives where she plans on stealing a painting from the library. After the trip to the library she randomly calls him at odd hours like 1 or 2 in the morning to come and get her. He doesn't ask any questions, but he still has them. Between the random trips to pick up Grace, his father pestering him about calculus, and Zoë asking him questions about who the girl is he's hanging out with Sawyer has forgotten all about the career project. Right before Thanksgiving break Grace plans to steal the painting from the library. All Sawyer has to do is drive her back to her aunt's place. It takes longer for her to get back to the car than she planned, but she has the painting. A few days later Grace and Sawyer are casing the museum because Grace has a plan to steal a painting from there. In the early morning hours on Black Friday Grace attempts to rob the museum. Sawyer goes there because he's worried about her. They end up getting caught and Sawyer is charged with attempted robbery. Sawyer now has a choice to make. Option one: testify against Grace, who he's only known for a few months, and have nothing on his record. Option two: he doesn't testify against Grace, has a record, and possibly faces jail time. Sawyer's life is in his hands. Which would you choose?

I like the way Benoit takes some one who is set on a path in life and throws in a totally opposite person into their life. Sometimes we need that randomness and unexpectedness to make life a little more exciting. Even if it is doing something that you may not ever consider doing on your own. Sometimes when you are with that one person you just say to yourself I'll do it for them.

T.B. 8/16/12

Monday, August 06, 2012

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray should not be confused with Fifty Shades of Grey. The one is about a teen's struggles through the Soviet's evacuation of Lithuania and the other is an adult romance novel, therefore they have no connection whatsoever.

Lina is fifteen-years-old and an aspiring artist when the NKVD knocks on her family's door one night and gives them twelve minutes to pack up and leave. She's then loaded up into a cramped train car with her mother and brother and given a daily bucket of food and water for the entire car to share. Her father had been taken elsewhere and she's desperate to reconnect with him, believing that her art can lead him back to her through clues in her drawings. Lina bonds with her fellow evictees, especially a young boy named Andrius. Soon they are brought to a work camp and forced into hard labor with little rations. There they are encouraged to sign a document sentencing them to 25 years of labor and admitting that they are criminals. Lina and her family fight this and their time in the camp eventually comes to an end when a handful of the people in the camp, including Lina and her family but not Andrius, are loaded into trucks and sent to an area near the North Pole where they are sentenced to work and survive harsh conditions that many do not survive. Lina has to find the strength to survive and hold onto hope that she will make it back to her father and Andrius.

I have never been big on history but I've always known a fair amount about Hitler and the Holocaust although not very much about Stalin and what he did, which is what this book focused on. It was very eye opening to realize that the Holocaust was not the only genocide going on at the time. In terms of the book itself, it was a good story as you struggled with Lina to make sense of this unimaginable situation she's been forced into. I would have loved to have seen her drawings, however. I don't know if that would have detracted from the seriousness of the novel, but she constantly talked about drawings and leaving clues and I think it might have enhanced the story to give the reader a clear visual from the eyes of the survivor, especially because the drawings were mentioned so often. It might have helped us connect with Lina and her situation. I didn't like the ending of the novel. It ends abruptly and then there's a letter written about twelve years later that doesn't answer some of the important questions like: how were you honestly able to survive twelve years in the North Pole? what really happened to your father? how were you rescued? For me it was a very unsatisfying ending. There was some closure, but by no means enough.

This is a great book to help the world realize that the Jews under Hitler were not the only ones in Europe treated like criminals for doing nothing because Stalin was doing the same thing and all you had to do to be a target was live in the country he wanted. This books shows the struggles to survive and hold onto hope that it will all work out in the end.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo By: Luca Caioli

Was born and raised on the Island of Madeira which is about 860 kilometers from Lisbon, Portugal. Cristian comes from a poor family. His Father is a gardener for the town where Cristian was born. His Mother Maria Dolores cleaned houses in Paris, France.

Cristian when he was twelve years old he tried out for the team " Sporting of Lisbon" that is was huge achievement. Cristian was a great idol of the masses, who was the most loved, and talked about player in the world.

Cristian next played on the English Team that is known as the Red-Devils from Manchester, England.

Cristian became the best goalie in the Portuguese League. Cristian wore on the back of his soccer shirt #28. Cristian's Mother suffers a lot of emotions when her son is playing soccer. Cristian has a new Coach called Fernando Santos from Turkey. When Cristian was on a English Team his Number on his soccer team was # 7.

Cristian returns to Yakarta for a dinner to raise money with the Veep of the Soccer Team for his Dad, whose name is Dinis Aveiro who was 50 years old, who dies in a Hospital in London. Meanwhile, Cristian was in Moscow. Cristian returns to his home town , Madeira for the funeral of his Father.

Cristian is thirty years old, so he then returns to London, and a woman accuses him of assulting her sexually in his Hotel Room .

April 22/2007 Cristian is nominated the best player of the year. Cristian had a convertible that was very showie.Cristian decides to quit the team and leave Manchester United Soccer Team. Cristian is offered to play on the Team in Madrid. Cristian goes to Madrid's Team July 1, 2009. On his new Team he plays for Madrid, and his Soccer shirt on the back is #9. Cristian wears a crucifix around his neck as he descends from the plane, and arrives in Madrid, Spain.

Cristian goes directly to a Clinic to get his right ankle checked. Cristian cannot play soccer for 3 - 4 weeks. The scandal paper in Paris claims that Paris Hilton was the girl friend of Cristian. Portugal soccer team, and Spanish soccer team were the two teams the public wished Cristian would consider.Cristian had a baby, but didnot want anyone to find out the Mother.

Pepe Jeans were represented by Cristian Ronaldo Co. from London,England.

Soccer is a group game where the teammates on the team help each other.

Cristian plays defense for the Valencia, Spain. His nickname is Messi, who is the world's best player of the world. Cristian is also a good singer. He does jingles for adds which bring him money.

Cristian retired from soccer, but so far does not want to be a coach for any team. This novel is a good read. LRD

A Good and Useful Hurt by Aric Davis

This is an adult mystery/horror story with older teen appeal. The story centers around Mike who is a gifted artist. He practices his art by creating elaborate tattoos. Lately he has been adding ashes of lost love ones to the ink thus making a permanent memorial on the receiver. Mike has tried a few times to start a shop of his own and to work for others. Its only recently that things came together. Now his shop with Lamar as piercer and tattoo artist, himself as special request artist, Becky who does the sterilizing of equipment, the books, the appointments and so on their shop, located in a popular shopping area has a growing reputation. Mike, only a short time ago, lost a girl friend to a drug overdose so he wasn't expecting to fall in love again when strong willed, independent Deb shows up and asks for a job as a special piercer. She does some pretty strange stuff. He does fall in love then loses her to a serial rapist/killer. He is encouraged to make his own memorial tattoo from some of her ashes. He actually single handedly exhumes her, removes a finger, burns it to get the ashes. After he tattoos a small heart in the web of his fingers Deb appears to him in a dream and instructs him to find her killer, with her help. He obtains ashes from all the killer's victims and creates tattoos. They appear separately and collectively in dreams until the killer is identified and justice is served. This killer was very brutal and the way in which justice is served is very graphic and brutal too. Just a warning. There is so much caring and loving among the tattoo shop employees and for Mike. Its easy to like these people, cheer them on and approve of the justice. Reader's who enjoyed Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box will likely enjoy this book too. JDW 7/23

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

I think this may appeal to readers of gritty urban lit but I think they may not discover it. Its an adult book with teen appeal since it centers on two teenage characters. Skeeter who owns a fabulous female fighting pit bull he had bred with tragic results and Esch the only female in a male household. Esch has chosen to let the many male friends of her brothers have sex with her rather than fight their never ending passes and is pregnant. Esch's mother died in childbirth several years previously. The family lives in a swampy, wooded area outside of New Orleans just before and immediately after the destruction of hurricane Katrina. And so this family of survivors, does what they can to survive yet another set back. Its a tough book to read but despite the squabbling, poverty and alcoholism and Katrina there is love to be found here. This has gotten very positive reviews and is well worth the read. JDW7/23

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fear: A Gone novel - Michael Grant

It has been a year since the barrier went up around Perdido Beach, California and everyone over the age of fifteen vanished into thin air.  Most of the kids trapped in the FAYZ have survived, but not all.  The group of survivors has split in two with one group living by the lake lead by Sam, and the other group living in Perdido Beach lead by Caine, Sam's brother.  Astrid, who has been living in the desert for the last four months, notices a black mass growing on the dome.  She heads back to tell Sam and the others about it. She's not the only one who's noticed the black on the dome.  The kids fishing, along with Cain and the others in Perdido Beach have noticed it too.  Outside of the dome Connie, Sam and Caine's mother, works with the Army to take down the barrier.  When she is told that the Army is going to nuke the dome, she comes to the realization that it will kill everyone in the FAYZ.  She really wants to get the word out to stop the nuke from detonating, but if she does her Army friend will go to jail.  Back in the FAYZ the black mass continues to grow and envelop the barrier.  Not to mention that Drake/Brittney entity possessed by the gaiaphage is on the hunt for Diana who's pregnant.  It wants to rise from the underground and plans to use Diana's unborn child to be born.  Is this the end of the FAYZ as Sam, Astrid, Caine, and everyone else have come to know it?  Will the Army nuke the FAYZ and risk killing everyone inside? 

I've been enjoyed this series and book five did not disappoint.  It brings up more and more questions about what the FAYZ really is.  We still don't know the truth about the gaiaphage, which seems to have its own agenda.  All we know is that most of the kids believe it is evil, and the kids under it's control see it as God.  There will be a sixth and final book of the series coming out in 2013.  No publication date has been set yet. 

T.B. 7/17/12

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Once" "Then" and "Now" by Morris Gleitzman

This is a series of three book (the fourth is coming out in a few months) that first follow a boy in the Holocaust and then jumps to his life seventy years later. The first two books are amazingly emotionally charged while the third book loses some of the magic. It is still a great series.

Once begins with a naive Felix who was sent to an orphanage by his parents three years ago. He receives what he believes to be a sign from his parents that they're coming for him but instead sees men (Nazis) coming and burning books. Fearing that his parents (booksellers) are in grave danger, Felix leaves and tries to warn his parents. For most of the novel Felix believes this horrible situation is about book or specifically Jewish books. Along the way he meets Zelda, a six-year-old whose parents he discovered shot dead. He rescues Zelda, only to be caught by the Nazis. He is rescued along with Zelda  and hidden but is still under the illusion that his parents are out there and he needs to find them. When he finally realizes the truth, he is devastated and with the Nazis in town, he has to find the strength and courage to save himself and those he loves that he can still save.

Then begins right after Once. Felix and Zelda are on the run from the Nazis. They both know the truth about their parents and now believe the only way to survive is to find new parents. With a few more shocking discoveries about what the Nazis are capable of, a kind woman finds the children and brings them into her home, dyes their hair and passes them off as her niece and nephew. It sounds easy enough, but when Felix makes an enemy out of a town bully, he has to be extra careful not to be caught with his pants down (literally). With the Nazis always around, Felix knows that even with the help of a friend in the Hitler Youth, the only way to protect his loved ones is to leave, but can he save them before it's too late?

Now jumps about 70 years and changes narrators. Now the story is about Felix's granddaughter Zelda (obviously named after his childhood friend). She's living with Felix in Australia while her parents are saving lives in Africa. As the new girl in school, she suddenly becomes the target of bullying, a fact that Felix is extremely sensitive about. All of that gets put aside, though, when a horrible bushfire starts and threatens to destroy the town, forcing Zelda to be brave like her namesake.

The first two books have an amazing voice. Felix is only ten and believes in storytelling and how with the right story anything is possible. His naivety is so believable you feel horrible that he's experiencing all of this without realizing the severity. The first two books just have so much emotion that you get sucked in and cannot put it down. You are one with these characters to the point that I was yelling at the second book when certain events took place. They are powerful and what's nice is that they are a really quick read. It's great storytelling to get in that emotion in under 200 pages. Something gets lost in the third book, however. The voice isn't as strong in the third book. The story didn't draw me in as easily as the first two books, quite possibly because it didn't have the back story of the Holocaust to have this constant threat to the characters. It did pick up when the bushfire started, which is based on Australia's Victorian Bushfires of 2009. Maybe there is something to be said about background knowledge when reading books because I knew nothing about those fires so I had no connection to that storyline whereas I do know about the Holocaust so I was able to connect more to those books. That's not to say that the third book doesn't have it's positives. When the fires start the story gets bumped up a notch. Zelda also does have a unique voice - she really wants to please her grandfather and is a bit paranoid, which is why she desperately wants to be brave like the original Zelda. She's just not as strong a character or storyteller as Felix.

I really enjoyed this series, especially the first two novels. All of the books are under 200 pages so they're all quick reads but with a lot of depth. The third book is the only one that seems to lack something but this is definitely a series that should be read.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Jesse Andrews

Greg has kept to himself most of his high school life.  He isn't that good looking, and trying to talk to girls or get them to notice him has blown up in his face.  He is nice to the jocks, the geeks, the stoners, and everyone else.  His only real friend is Earl.  They have been making movies together since middle school.  Greg's first day of senior year goes really well until he gets home.  His mom tells him Rachel has acute myelogenous leukemia.  Greg hasn't really spoken to Rachel since sixth grade when he tried to get with one of her friends by flirting with her.  His mom nags him to call her and hang out.  When he finally does call the conversation is very awkard.  Each day for the next week he calls Rachel, but she just hangs up on him.  One day she doesn't hang up and invites him over to her house.  Greg starts hanging out with Rachel, and some of the time she would come over to his house.  Greg's mom lets it slip that he and Earl make movies, but lets no one see them.  At school he and Earl start hanging out with Rachel and a few of her friends.  Greg and Earl visit Rachel the night before she goes in for chemotherapy.  The next day they head to Earl's house and Greg gets into a scuffle with one of Earl's brothers and Greg goes to the hospital with a broken arm.  When Earl visits he tells Greg that he gave Rachel ten of their movies to watch.  His whole family visits him in the hospital and so does Rachel's friend Madison.  She tells him what a good friend he's been to Rachel and how happy she is.  Greg doesn't believe her, but her friends have seen how happy she is.  He visits Rachel before he leaves the hospital and she tells him how good the movies are.  He thinks she's just being nice, but Rachel really believes the are good.  After he leaves the hospital he continues to visit Rachel, and his grades and school work suffer.  In the midst of all this crazyness Madison approaches Greg about making a movie to cheer Rachel up.  As much as Greg has tried to remain invisible through out high school, this movie will make him be remembered for a long time. 

I really enjoyed the sarcasm and snarkyness of Greg.  I really felt like I was back in high school again.  The book was written in a way that made you feel like you were there in the story right along with Greg, Earl, and Rachel.  I recommend The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Here's the link to my review I did earlier this year:

T.B. 7/10/12

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This is a unique novel written from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old boy who has a form of autism, probably Aspergers (although he is never labeled in the book). The storytelling style does take some getting used to, but in the end it's a good story.

When the story begins, the narrator - Christopher - discovers that his neighbor's dog has been killed with a garden fork. Christopher decides it's up to him to discover who killed Wellington (the dog). However, his father tells him to mind his own business. Christopher is a very logical person yet sometimes doesn't completely understand what people say to him, so he finds loopholes in what his father means by "mind his own business" and continues to investigate. He makes some shocking discoveries that lead him to run away from home and start on another adventure into an "unfamiliar" world all on his own. On this journey a simple train ride becomes nearly life and death for Christopher who can't handle loud noises and a lot of people.

This novel does a great job of getting into the head of a person with Aspergers. The author gives Christopher a great voice to the point that you can hear him telling the story. One way the story shows Christopher's unique way of thinking is by what I considered "tangent" chapters where Christopher started talking about math or computers. These chapters don't really have anything to do with the Wellington mystery but they show how smart Christopher is and how he doesn't necessarily think like the rest of us. For a person who likes a fluid story these chapters made it difficult for me to get through the novel but at the same time, I understand why they were in the novel. I liked the mystery and the revelations and the relationships between the characters. You could sympathize with their frustrations and you wanted to see Christopher succeed because the world was against him and there wasn't anything he could do about it. It ended with me wanting more closure but, then again, what I wanted closure on wasn't what Christopher thought was most important so it worked for the narrator.

This really is a unique book that might take some getting used to. It did a great job getting into the narrator's head and if you get past the "tangent" chapters, there's a great mystery and journey for Christopher.