Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Halo Fall of Reach Invasion by Brian Reed and Felix Ruiz

Part of novel Fall of Reach in comic book format. Similar to Star Wars but except with the lasers and combating against a union of alien races. Plot is a very powerful and resourceful planet called Reach being invaded by the Covenant( alliance of alien races) and a group of augmented super soldiers are the best line of defense the planet obtains and if Reach falls then Earth is next.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

I'd give this one to those who enjoyed Morgenstern's Night Circus.  There is actually two magical romances going on here with a nod to the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.  There is a small rural town somewhere in Illinois where the corn grows strong and seems to talk to some folks, where there is a school with bullies, where lives Petey aka Priscilla who believes she is the ugliest beast around, where lives Finn who loves her.  Finn is face blind and has come to know Petey behind the face that only a mother could love. They are high school seniors. Also here is Sean who is Finn's older brother and an emt.  On the day Roza slips through a magical gap in the corn and winds up injured in The brother's barn Sean is there to help her as is Finn.  They grow to love her truly until one day a stranger slips through the corn and kidnaps her.  Finn is witness but cannot describe the man except in terms of the way he moved.  Sean is devastated.  A night horse and then a goat appear in the barn after.  Petey tells Finn why folks see him as spacey and believes he only loves her because she is so distinctive looking and leaves him devastated as well.  Desperate to get Sean back now that he has lost Petey Finn searches his memories of the stranger kidnapper and comes to know he came through the corn that speaks.  And so it is that he journey's through a gap in the corn to the land where Roza is held captive by the man who asks her each day if she loves him yet.  I will leave you all here with Finn trying to get Roza back for  Sean, with discovering what how independent and determined Roza, with Petey learning to see Finn differently and loving him truly.  Face Blindness has not been mentioned in teen fiction before making this a good choice for diversity lists.  Face Blindness can be very severe and disabling and less so.  Finn appears to be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.  Ok, complex likable characters, lyrical writing, magical realism what a wonderful story.  Give us more Laura Ruby. jdw 12/30 15

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

So I will start out by saying that I did not, could not like the protagonist Parker Fadley.  I mentioned earlier about making a person likable no matter how angry, hurt and hurtful to others and how to do it.  One way is to give the person a pet they can relate to even if they cannot let humans near them.  Kathe Koja does this successfully in Stray Dog.  Summers fails, even the dog that tries to like this girl is treated badly and dies possibly as a result.  Parker used to be perfect, then something happens at a party she will not talk about and in her eyes she is irredeemable and tries to prove it to everyone.  This is a short fast read, mostly in dialog which makes it so one can stick with it to find out what happened.  If the characters and plot had been more complex, I am doubtful of that.  This is one big rage that eventually falls apart and the secret is revealed.  JDW12/30 15

Thursday, December 17, 2015

You Can't See the Elephants by Keller

This is an issue driven story.  It focuses on child abuse and the tendency for  adults to look away, just not see, especially if the abuser is a respected community member as he is in this story.  Who can believe that he could do such things to his kids.  Mascha is stuck with her grandparents for the summer, out of her father's hair.  He is severely grieving the loss of his wife, to the point that he isn't there for his daughter and her needs.  Mascha is spending a lot of time sitting on a playground watching kids play.  Kids who refuse to allow her to join in.  This is where she meets Julia who is a bit strange and her even stranger  younger brother Max.  She wants to play running away, he fights invisible monsters and rarely speaks coherently.  Mascha goes to Julia's house after she hasn't seen her for several days and witnesses Max being severely beaten, Julia staring at a wall motionless, emotionless, Mother with a bruised face.  She tries to convince adults of the problem only to be warned off.  This is when she decides to rescue the kids by locking them in a small shack in the middle of a field nearby.  This proved to be wrong in many ways and hard on Max and Julia as well as many other folks.  It did, however, bring to attention that which the kids were enduring.  The reference to the elephants in the title is that they tend to stand still and stare emotionless when they are about to die.  This reads fast and I guess its an ok child abuse story, all the necessary elements in place, mean adults that look good on the surface, adults who care but won't risk their own character as one person did only to be sued.  Kids who act as abused kids often do and are afraid to seek help.  And, of course, a rescuerer.  Sometimes I think stories are too set up to feel natural, plausible though.
JDW 12/17

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

One-Punch Man by ONE

One-Punch Man is a Japanese manga that is now starting to come to the US. It’s about a 25 year old named Saitama that trained hard to be a hero who could send shameless villains flying with one punch. He even trained so hard he went bald. You will follow Saitama as he fights monsters and unwilling train a cyborg he saved. Because of his lifeless expressions it comes at a surprise that Saitama is a superhero, but he does this for fun. 
The biggest problem with that is he can’t seem to find an opponent strong enough to take on. K/S

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

A writer friend talked to me about making characters likable, this author succeeds.  I didn't expect to enjoy this book when I found out it was one more story of a teen not being believed by authorities and therefore taking on the solving of a mystery on her own with great risk to herself.  I expected another egotistical brat.   Sophie is not that.  Sophie is very vulnerable, very likeable and does seek help and support when she trusts enough to do so. 

Sophie and her friend Mina are on their way to a party when they take a side trip, something about a story Mina is researching for a paper.  It ends badly, Mina is shot to death and Sophie is injured.  Sophie and Mina have been close friends since 2nd grade.  There relationship has grown to more than mere best friends, they love each other.  Sophie has to solve the mystery of Mina's death, she has to make sure the murderer is caught and punished.  It is a long winding, very plausible, very interesting path to the solution. The fact that Sophie was framed for the murder and folks initially did not believe her adds to the hardships she encounters.  There is much forgiving needed on the way to the solution. 

Its no secret to the reader that Sophie and Mina have have a gay relationship, nor is it a secret that Sophie must deal with relentless physical pain every day the result of a serious car accident many years early.  This makes this book a good choice for diversity lists.

Calvin by Martine Leavett

This is a short fast read in which teen Calvin begins to experience the first symptoms of schizophrenia.  He sees and here's Hobbs of Bill Watterson's comic strip talking to him, walking with him.  Calvin gets it into his head that if he walks across frozen lake Superior from Canada to the author's home and talks to him that everything will be fixed.  His best friend Susie sticks with him through the beginnings of his illiness, his hike across Superior and the pair nearly perish.  Help comes in the nick of time.  We do not know in the end how Calvin's life will turn out or if Susie will maintain her loyalty to Calvin but we do get a sense of what it might be like to descend into mental illness.
jdw 12/15

Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel

Lorrie was accustomed to boarding school and summer horse riding camp.  She owned her horse. She avoided the shabby big old house in the upscale neighborhood where her aunt and sister lived.  It was the place called home between camp and school.  Aunt said there was a trust fund left behind by her mother when she ran off.  Aunt did not know where the girls' father was.  Then everything starts falling apart, summer camp tuition not paid, school registration not made.  When Lorrie goes home to edgewater house she cannot find aunt, she cannot find the trust fund. She has to borrow money to bring her horse home and ultimately must sell it. She takes on a job at the stables to make money, pay off outstanding debt, bills. She finds her younger sister living with a scruffy boyfriend at edgewater and pawning family possessions to survive.  Things slowly change when she meets Charlie, son of an esteemed senator.  They connect as Lorrie's trust increases.  But something is amiss at Charlie's upscale home.  Secrets will out, the stress of them can kill you and so they do and the intertwined past lives of Lorrie's family and Charlie's family becomes known as do the truth about Lorrie's parents.  This isn't a terrible book but its not great either.  Its ok as a romance as well. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The honor Student at magic high school

Imagine if Magic returned to the world. The magic you read in fairy tales and fiction books. Well in this story true magic has returned to the world. Now that humanity has gotten used to there being magic users, a school was build for Magic users, named as First High.

See this through the eyes of Mijuki Shiba, a honor student at the prestigious school.  The life of a honor student comes with its perks, a lot of exceptions among other feelings.

Story by Tsutomu Sato
Art by Yu Mori.

If you like magic and drama. This is the book for you!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey takes you on a dangerous action packed roller coaster where nothing is as it seems. The story follows a 16 year old girl named Cassie Sullivan who is trying to survive the unknown, or as they are called “Others”. Aliens perhaps? It is unclear to Cassie as it is to the rest of the human population.  The Others wipe out majority of the population, in the process taking control of the planet. They do this in waves. First wave takes out the electronics killing many. The second is a massive tsunami, the result is obvious. The third wave kills the remaining with disease where only the strong survive. The fourth wave makes it clear “not all humans are humans”. All that Cassie knows is that she may be the last survivor and must do exactly that, survive. And find her younger brother who has been taken to a refugee camp which is the fifth wave’s aim, to capture all the children. Along the way Cassie meets a boy named Evan Walker. He will help her in saving her younger brother as well as be her lustful eye candy of the book. The Others are out for human blood, and when disguised as humans Cassie Sullivan realizes that she can not trust anyone. 


Friday, November 20, 2015

The Nest - Kenneth Oppel

Ten days after Steve's new baby brother is brought home "angels" appear to Steve in a dream and offer to help the baby.  There is something wrong with the baby, but nobody can figure out what it is.  On a Sunday as his parents and his sister Nicole are outside enjoying the day.   Wasps circle around the drinks they have, and one stings Steve.  His dad takes him to the hospital and Steve had a mild to moderate allergic reaction to the sting.  He's prescribed EpiPens and the doctor recommends desensitization shots so he doesn't have to rely on the EpiPens.  That night he dreams of a cave-like area where the "angels" come to him again.  The "angels" say they can fix the mistake in the DNA of the baby.  They say it will be fixed soon, and then Steve wakes up.  It takes him three days to tell his mom about the dreams.  She says he has the most interesting dreams.  While Vanessa, their babysitter, is watching them she spies a wasp on the table biting the wood.  Steve and Vanessa follow the wasp back to the nest which is on the outside of the house above the baby's room.  At dinner Steve tells his parents about the wasp nest and his dad says he'll call someone out to take care of it.  After dinner he and his dad talk about the baby.  His dad tells him the baby has a very rare disease affecting the baby's DNA, and the baby could be low-functioning later in life.  After he falls asleep he dreams of the "angels" again.  They tell him his baby brother will be good as new with no defects.  The next night while his parents are out with the baby at a specialist and Vanessa had taken Nicole to a friends house someone comes and pounds on the door.  This frightens Steve and he tries to see if his neighbor sees/hears anything.  His neighbor is running the lawn mower so they are no help.  Once the person leaves Steve finds a sickle left on the front doorstep.  After his parents come back home and he tells them what happened.  They contemplate calling the cops, but decide not to.  His dad puts the sickle away in a safe place.  Later that night he dreams of the "angels" again and he tells them the baby need a heart operation, and that should make everything right.  The "angels" tell him that they are working on replacing the baby.  Steve doesn't understand, the baby is in his crib.  The "angles" tell him they are replacing him all together, and he is growing in the nest outside of his house.  The next night he dreams about the wasps and the queen shows him the larva that will become is new baby brother.  The next day Steve decides to take care of the nest on his own.  He grabs a ladder and climbs up with a broom.  He takes a swipe at it and the wasps come out.  They gather on the broom and land on him.  He drops the broom and climbs down the ladder slowly as not to agitate the wasps.  When he gets to the bottom all the wasps are back in the nest.  His parents are furious when they get home.  A neighbor called them because they had seen Steve on the ladder.  He then tells them about his dreams, and they suggest he talk to Dr. Brown about all of this. Steve goes the next day and talks to Dr. Brown.  He talks to him about how the summer has been and the dreams of the wasps he's been having.  They have a good session and Steve agrees to come back in a few weeks.  Three days go by with out the wasp dreams.  After he goes to bed on the fourth night he dreams of the wasps again.  He is in the nest where the new baby is out of the larva stage and is pupating. He and the queen argue about which one is the real baby.  She then tells him the wasps will take care of the sick baby once this one is done pupating.  All Steve has to do is say yes.  Yes will make everything right, and Steve's baby brother will be healthy.  Steve eventually says yes, but when he wakes up he regrets it.  What will happen to Steve now he's said yes to helping the wasps?

I enjoyed this book and it felt like a horror movie while I was reading it.  This book reminded me of the horror movie The Unborn, which came out in 2009.  In it Casey is having dreams of a boy.   The boy turns out to be the spirit of her twin brother who died in the womb.  The ghost is trying to use Casey to be born into the world.  This is similar to the wasps using the nest to make a new baby to replace the sick one.  


Thursday, November 05, 2015

Star Wars Princess Leia by Mark Ward

This comic book is aimed for not just fans of Star Wars, but any little girl looking for strong female to look up to. The comic is about girl power and fighting for what matters, even if the odds are against you. 

This comic book comes into play after Star Wars A New Hope. After the Death Star has been destroyed, the rebels have to regroup and start over. Among those is Princess Leia who finds herself without a home planet after the Empire destroyed Alderaan. However, as the only remaining royal of that planet, the Empire would like to see her destroyed, along with whatever other people from that planet remain. Leia, though, is not the type to just sit back and do nothing. She makes it her mission, along with an outspoken pilot (who also happens to be female), to find the remaining people of Alderaan and get them some place safe. It's not an easy task, especially with a bounty on her head and traitors in their mist, but Leia will not give up on her people. 

The pace of the comic is perfect with the right amount of ups and downs. We obviously know that she's going to get out of the tricky situation, but there's enough suspense to wonder how it will all work out. With the title character being female and her main companion also female, this comic becomes very empowering to girls. These are both strong women who won't back down. At the same time, being Star Wars it will appeal to all fans - male and female. In no way is it "girlie". This is Leia showing girls are just as tough as the boys and she shouldn't be forced to sit back and let others do the hard stuff. The comic is even more than that. It's about how all lives matter. It even touches on racism and fighting for what matters.

You might not expect much from a comic other than an engaging story, but this comic pulls through with more. It has a message and hope and a strong female character - one that you don't see a lot of in comics. This comic is very successful and enjoyable.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Whippoorwill by Joseph Monniger

What does neglect and abuse do to a human boy, to a dog?  Can such hurt be undone or not?  This fast read takes a look at the issue.   Its an ok story that held my attention.

Clair and Danny have lived next door since forever, but were never friends.  They both are in single family homes without mothers.  But Danny lives with an angry and sometimes abusive father while Clair's father is more stable and loving.  The fathers grew up together as well though were never friends.  Recently a dog has been tied to a pole outside, sometimes fed, sometimes kicked, always whining and trying to get away from the pole.  

Clair gets up the nerve to start befriending the dog, Wally, then training him and walking him when Danny's father angrily says to take him he wants to get rid of him. Clair and Danny form a friendship over Wally, training him and caring for him.  Though Danny had been treating the dog badly, he cleaned him up for Clair got a new leash, fed him better.  The possibility of a deeper kind of a relationship might exist for Clair despite warnings about the unstable family.

Then one horrible night everything falls apart, Danny and his father argue, father is injured and has his son charged.  For a while Clair cares for the dog Wally as no one is next door to do so.  But, when Elwood arrives home he demands the dog and injures the dog.  Clair's father and his friends do a great  rescue.

We know the outcome for Wally and it is heartwarming, even might make dog lovers a bit teary but the outcome for Danny is far from certain and I think just as important to the book as the dog story.

The Fall by James Preller

A person would have to be fairly heartless to read this story and not shed a tear or two.  
Here's quotes from the story that says a lot. Many good decent people look within and find ourselves wanting.  We can't help but wondering. We feel like failures. We can't know what goes on inside someone's head, or the circumstances of of her life, or exactly why anyone does the things she does.  We have to live with the unknowing.

Sam was just one of a group of kids who posted mean stuff on Morgan's facebook page.  He wasn't the worst by far, still he did nothing to stop what was happening.  And, Morgan might have been a friend under very different circumstances.  But she threw herself off the town water tower, a suicide.  
Now Sam has to live with himself and what he did and did not do.  This is the story of Sam's struggle in the aftermath of Morgan's suicide.  I was deeply touched by this story and recommend it.  
Joyce 10/24

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Lost Girl - R.L. Stine

In Shadyside back in 1950 Beth's father Angelo Palmieri was finally going to open his own riding stable.  As she's out walking Beth runs into Aaron Dooley, nephew to Martin Dooley.  He tries to force himself on her and all of the sudden he can't breath.  Beth has powers no one knows about that she used to fend him off.  He accuses her of being a witch, and she just turns and heads back home.  As the whole family gathers for the opening Martin Dooley shows up.  Martin gave Beth's father his first job as a stable boy.  He tells Angelo opening a stable isn't a good idea, and Beth should go out with his nephew because he can teach her things.  Angelo punches him and Martin threatens that he'll be back.  Two days later men Martin Dooley hired come and knock her dad out.  Beth runs and tries to escape.  She then sees the men drag her father to Dooley Stables through the Fear Street Woods.  The men cover Angelo in honey and oats and feed him to the horses, which hadn't been fed for days.  Beth runs from them and enters a cave, and with the darkness closing in around she thinks is this what it feels like to die?  Fast forward sixty-five years to present day Shadyside.  Michael Frost is grocery shopping and sees a beautiful girl with straight black hair there too.  He sees her take ham and turkey.  He runs after her and finds her outside petting his dog.  She tells him her name is Mindy and she's new in town.  The next day Michael sees her in school at the end of lunch.  She is lost and can't find the art room.  Michael shows her where it is and she tells him her name is Lizzy Walker.  Later on in the day Michael, Gabe, and Diego are talking about having a snowmobile party.  Michael's dad runs a snowmobile business and lets he and his friends ride them for free as long as they are available.  Lizzy shows up lost again and while Michael shows her to the gym she pricks his finger and hers and says now we're bloods.  At the end of school he and Pepper are working on the yearbook.  She accuses him of fainting over Lizzy and thinks there is something going on between Lizzy and Michael.  Michael says how could there be she's only been in school a few days.  Later that night Lizzy shows up at Michael's house lost again.  Lizzy is a block over from where she should be, and Michael's parents insist Lizzy stay and eat.  Michael tells her about the snowmobile party they are having on Saturday.  Lizzy invites herself and Michael reluctantly tells her she can come.  Pepper shows up to work on homework with Michael and sees Lizzy eating at the dinner table.  As Lizzy leaves she says she'll see Michael tomorrow.  Pepper is jealous and isn't happy about Lizzy joining them tomorrow.  Michael defends himself by telling Pepper she is new and town and this is a good way to get to know people.  On Saturday as everyone is out riding they see a person walk out of the trees and Michael hits him on accident.  Lizzy screams at Michael that he killed the guy.  Michael  can't understand why he couldn't turn to avoid hitting him.  When they all get a good look at him Lizzy recognizes him and says his name is Angel.  She tells them he's from her old school and got into major trouble.  They all start to leave, but Michael says they have to go back.  When they return to where Angel was hit he's nowhere to be found.  They are relieved he is still alive, but Lizzy warns  Angel is a psychopath and knows who they are.  They could be in a lot of trouble.   During school on Monday the art class is out in the graveyard doing rubbings.  Michael sees two graves that look like husband and wife, but Lizzy says they are father and daughter.  In the fog Michael sees a figure rise up and it is Angel.  When Michael reaches the place where Angel was, he has disappeared.   After school everyone is at Michael's house talking about what to do.  Lizzy starts to faint and Michael goes and hugs her to keep her upright.  Pepper is not happy with this and tells Michael they need to break up.  Later that night with his thoughts on Lizzy, Michael's phone rings.  There is a raspy voice on the end says you killed me and left me in the snow, now it's my turn.  The voice then asks Michael who he should start with to pay for what they had done.  The voice says how about the cute girl with the  black hair and big, dark eyes?  When Michael asks what he is going to do to Lizzy the caller hangs up.  Who will survive, and will Michael and the others find out who Angel really is? 

This book felt like it could have been one of the original Fear Street books that came out when I was in middle school and high school over 25 years ago.  It had all the elements that were present in the original books.   Even at the climax of the story when the reveal happens felt like the original Fear Streets books.  I really enjoyed reading this latest installment of the Fear Street revival.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Not since Westing Game by Ellen Raskin have I read such a wonderful twisty mystery adventure for middle school and really on up.  Just as Winter holiday is beginning, a usually quiet time for Milo and his parents who run an inn at a historic mansion, one by one a group of very unique folks begin to arrive at the inn.  The include an elderly professor who likes loud socks, two girls with  brightly dyed hair, one red and one blue and an elderly woman who knits along with a Mr. Vinge who is somewhat secretive.  Milo's parents spring into action, bringing in their usual help and laying in supplies for what will not be a quiet vacation for Milo.  Along with the help comes a girl Milo calls Meddy who is an expert at role playing games and who teaches Milo.  From the beginning I wondered about this girl, there are hints that something is off.  Right away there are mysterious goings on such as shadowy figures among the trees on the mansion grounds, someone or several someones trying to be silent padding in and out of rooms, some occupied by guests and some not.
Things go missing as well only to turn up somewhere else.  There is a mysterious map, a recurring theme of a gate seen on a knitting bag, and most especially on the giant very green stained glass window in the house.  There is an impression that each of the visitors has a specific reason for being at the house at this particular time.  The name Doc Holystone, a notorious smuggler, keeps coming up as the original name of the house.  With Meddy's prodding Milo suggests that each guest tell a story to help pass the long evening hours.  And so they do and each story told also tells why the person is there.  They are looking for a smuggler's treasure, anything about the artist who made the stained glass windows, the heritage of a young man once orphaned and adopted and now loved by two young women and maybe other things?  Mostly folks find what they are after though perhaps not the way they expected.  Incorporated into this story is Milo's story.  He is an Asian orphan adopted by Americans who longs to know his heritage, just as the young man Owen, who does learn some of his.
The other characters are diverse as well, old, young, educated and perhaps not and so on.  This makes the book an excellent choice for diversity in books lists.  Since Milo's story is part of the whole story the book should have broad appeal that many diverse books for which the diversity is the story do not.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The White Rose by Amy Ewing

This novel is the sequel to The Jewel. The action, suspense, and revelations all come together to make for an enthralling story that'll make you eager for the final novel.

Lucien's plans to help Violet escape were complicated when she tried to save Raven instead of herself. Things then became even further complicated when Violet is caught with Ash, the royal companion, which lead to the two of them being captured and threatened with death. When some unlikely allies show up, everyone manages to escape the confines, but face new challenges that might prevent them for obtaining their freedom. Along the way, Violet and her friends learn of a secret society known as the Black Keys, all working together to bring down the royalty and fight for those who are oppressed. Violet also learns that these Auguries which gave her power are only one form of power that she has. It is believed that she's strong enough to use her new found magic to break down the walls separating people and help them destroy the people in power. Everyone works together to build their army, but when the game starts to change, success becomes even more important to Violet than ever.

This is an excellent sequel. It starts off with wonderful amount of suspense as Violet and her friends try to escape the Jewel. You have a feeling that they'll all survive since it's only the second book in a trilogy - at least until the middle of the book - but the worry that something horrible will happen is fairly present in their escape. The novel slows down a bit when Violet learns the true nature of her power. Then it's all about getting ready for the next stage of their attack. There are a few more peaks of excitement but it's pretty steady until the last chapter when a bomb is dropped and another cliffhanger that has you salivating for the next book (not out until next year). Characters grow in this novel so that you fall in love with all of them and hope for the best. 

After reading this novel I'm even more invested in seeing where things go. It's going to be awful waiting another year. I hope it will be a solid payout, but if the first two novels are any indication, it will be worth the wait. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Damage by Amanda Panitch

Twins, a boy and a girl have been close since being born holding hands.  They have always done everything together.  Now in high school this togetherness is looked at as weird and Julia's brother wants to date other people, do things without Julia sometimes.  This is where things unravel, the brother commits a terrible crime and is thought to be dead.  The family moves and takes on new names, start new lives.  Brother, who has been looked on as a scary person due to past incidents is still alive.  There is still a threat that the horrid past will be revealed and the real truth will come out.  People begin to die, more terrible things happen.  I cannot tell too much as the revealing is the best part of this creepy book about sociopathic kids.  Keep on reading to the end, it isn't over till its over.
the truth is revealed and the future is uncertain.  This is for teens not quite ready for Gone Girl.


The thing about jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Its the end of summer, a new school year has begun. Last year had not ended well, now Suzy's best friend from childhood has drowned.  Its an accident that just could not have happened, Franny was an excellent swimmer.  Suzy begins to question that it was accidental and wonder if a jellyfish sting could be fatal.  She has also stopped talking to anyone, except if it cannot be avoided, and mostly it can be.  Suzy's search for answers tor her friend's death leads her to research jellyfish extensively and there are a lot of fun facts here.  The research project doubles as a school project which includes a hated oral presentation.  It also includes a desire to meet, personally a jellyfish researcher who resides in Australia.  

This is Suzy going through grief and guilt over last school year events and trying to deal and having a hard time.  Her parents (divorced) and teachers try to be supportive but she is rather rejecting.  Even her brother and his mate, guys who attend college, try to help her.  She has counselors as well.

Things come to a head when she carefully plans to travel alone to Australia and meet the scientist.
It includes stealing her father's credit card, stealing cash to carry and a lot of planning.  But, not quite enough planning.  There are things that a 12-year-old just doesn't know.

I really enjoyed all the science in this middle school fiction book.  I suspect some readers may not.  
It is a nicely done story of a person finding her/his way through grief and guilt to acceptance and self forgiveness.  Folks looking for diversity might want to note the gay couple neatly woven in to the story.

Violent Ends: a novel in seventeen points of view.

So, each chapter is written by a different teen author.  Rather than providing a complete picture of the
events in this story, it gives bits and pieces. Some of the chapters are pre disaster, others are after. It felt incomplete to me.  I did not feel like this with Thirteen Reasons Why.  

A loner kid who just switched schools and has family issues, few have taken time to know, goes into his school's pep rally and opens fire.  He kills a significant number of kids and one adult.  Some seem to have been specifically targeted.  Each chapter is a glimpse into the lives of the killer and his victims.  This is one of many fiction books about school shootings to have come out recently.  It isn't the best I've read.


Friends For Life by Andrew Norriss

This short, easy to read book packs a lot in.  I highly recommend reading it.

We make friends for life sometimes, we become friends in school, any grade, and we are still firneds into adulthood and beyond.  But, there is another kind of friend, one who knows how it is to be you, who can see you through rough times and so preserve your life, make it worth living.

Jessica shows up on a bench outside of school dressed for warmer temperatures.  Francis is already there, eating his lunch in peace, dressed for the cold weather.  She is surprised when Francis can see her, he is the first, after all she is a ghost.  They have to be careful about the whole, nobody else can see her thing, Jessica and Francis become fast friends.  Jessica is able to help Francis out in any number of ways.  Francis is a bit of a misfit.  He seems to be destined to become the next great fashion designer and is not in to the cars, sports and the like.

Mom sees Francis thriving when before he was not so much and another misfit is introduced, who can also see Jessica.  then a third making this group a foursome.  These kids get sorted out as well and the families love that their kids are happy. 

There is more, they wonder why Jessica, the ghost, is hanging around and how she died.  They wonder if she has another purpose besides them.  They get into a bit of trouble when they aggressively stop the school bully, finally.  But this too is sorted out.   There is one final challenge for the group, then they have to let Jessica go, her mission on earth complete.  


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Suddenly getting a new foster brother might be a problem for most kids, but not for Jack. Joseph, the new foster brother, is not just a normal middle school kid. He has been around the block in more ways than one. Almost having killed a teacher, and being incarcerated at Stone Mountain might be the most unexpected part about Joseph, but it's not. Jack learns that his new brother not only has a daughter by the name of Jupiter, but also is very determined to find his baby girl. Just like any parent would. It was surprising to me that a kid at that age holds such unconditional love for a child like any adult, or young adult parent would. Same can be said about the relationship between Joseph, and Jack. Although they have not known each other too long, towards the end of the book, they love one another as if they have been siblings all their lives.  Jack always stood up for Joseph when kids would make fun of him and judge him. Due to Joseph's background, most of the staff and administrators at the middle school treat him like a rebel or a street kid due to his background, despite him being quiet and mature compared to most of the students. From searching for Jupiter, Joseph finding the closure he needed, and to the surprising end, this book ultimately took me on an emotional roller coaster in a good way. I recommend getting on the ride.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Another Day - David Levithan

When Rhiannon and Justin talk or even ask a question to each other they always end up fighting.  One Monday Justin suggests that they leave and asks her where she wants to go.  She says the ocean and suddenly they are leaving school and heading there.  Along the way Justin sings along with the radio, which he normally doesn't do, and asks about her family.  She knows something is different, but doesn't question since she's enjoying this change in Justin.  They spend the rest of the day at the beach building sand castles and talking like they haven't talked before.  The magical time ends when Rhiannon's mom calls asking where she is.  Justin drops her off and she wants more days like the one they had today. The next day Justin is back to his same old self, and Rebecca, Rhiannon's friend, is wondering where she was yesterday afternoon.  On Thursday after Justin blew her off, a girl named Amy comes up and tells her she's thinking about coming to school there.  Amy follows Rhiannon around for the rest of the day.  After school she walks Amy to her car she asks Rhiannon what is one thing nobody else knows about her.  She tells her about the time she stole Forever by Judy Blume from her sister and named her private area Helena.  They both laugh and hope they see each other next year.  On Saturday Justin and Rhiannon go to Steve's party.  While there she talks to Steve's cousin Nathan.  They talk about relationships and she starts to question why she is still with Justin.  He finds them talking and she says Nathan is gay, so there is nothing to worry about.  They go downstairs and dance before the cops break up the party.  Just before she leaves Nathan asks for her e-mail.  On Sunday she is surprised to see an e-mail from him and she replies.  She then goes back to spending her time surfing the net.  The next day their friends are asking about Steve's party.  Justin says there were too many skank girls in the kitchen, Stephanie yelled at him, and the cops came.  Rhiannon goes along with Justin's story, and doesn't say a word about her time with Nathan.  Rebecca, Steve, Stephanie, Ben and Rhiannon skip the last few periods because there is an assembly.  Rhiannon mentions to Steve about his cousin, and he says all his cousins are eight years old.  Steve does remember seeing Nathan though.  Rebecca points out that guys lie all the time, and Nathan liked her and wanted to get close to her.  She e-mails Nathan asking for an explanation.  Nathan replies he can explain, but it has to be done in person.  She agrees to meet him at a bookstore the next day.  Rhiannon gets there early and a girl sits down in front of her saying Nathan sent her.  A tells her that every day A wakes up in a different body.  A tells her who he/she's been for the last week.  Last Monday when her and Justin went to the beach it was A in Justin.  She doesn't believe A and thinks this is a joke.  A tries to convince her it is possible.  She agrees to meet A tomorrow, to see if he/she is telling the truth.  She stops by Justin's house and asks him about last Monday.  He remembers being at the ocean, but not much else.  The next day during school Rhiannon is e-mailing A about where to meet with him/her.  She hangs out with Justin before heading to meet A.  She is late meeting A and asks the boy A is in to see his phone.  She asks him questions about the people A has been in.  A then explains how he/she has seen things going from person to person.  When A was in Justin he/she fell in love with Rhiannon.  A is going to prove to her what love really means.  The next day Rhiannon e-mails A and he/she replies the girl who A is in today is trying to kill herself, and she needs to get over right away.  Rhiannon heads over and the girl has a notebook filled with ways to end her life.  They come up with a plan to have A in Kelsea's body tell her father she wants to kill herself.  If that doesn't work drive to a hospital.  When Rhiannon gets home she sees an article about Nathan claiming to be possessed by the devil six days ago.  She e-mails A asking how things went with Kelsea.  Kelsea's father is aware of what's going on and is seeking help for her.  She then takes a drive to where Nathan lives under the guise of selling Girl Scout cookies for her sister.   He has a blank look in his eyes, different from when A was inside of him.  After that trip she and Justin hang out and have pizza.  They talk about Justin's father heading to see his sick grandmother.  He calls and talks to her before his dad arrives.  Steve then calls about a party at Yonni Pfister's house.  They go to the party, and while Justin is getting drunk Rhiannon calls Kelsea's house to make sure everything is okay.  Her father says she is getting the help she needs.  On Sunday she hangs out with A who is a girl named Ashley and is gorgeous.  They head to a national park and have a picnic.  Afterwards they go walking and talk about what each of them wants.  A wants to be with Rhiannon, but they can't be together.  Rhiannon cares about A, but also cares about Justin.  She is trying to justify why she's with Justin, but A says she'll become lost because Justin is also lost.  Rhiannon calls Justin and tells him a friend of hers is in town.  She asks if he would like to have dinner with the two of them, and he says yes.  A and Rhiannon fill the next few hours by telling everything to each other.  They meet Justin for dinner and at one point she leaves to go to the bathroom when she comes back she doesn't want either A or Justin.  He leaves and Rhiannon takes Ashley back to her house.  Rhiannon calls Justin to apologize, but Justin tells her Ashley is not her friend and she is out of control.  At school the next day Justin tells everyone what a slut Ashley was the day before.  In art class Rebecca tries to talk sense into Rhiannon about Justin.  She tells Rebecca everything thing is fine with her and Justin.  The next day a swoopy hair kid catches her eye and it turns out to be A.  They talk and as much as they want to see each other Rhiannon says they should stick to e-mail for now.  As A walks away she can still feel the connection to him/her.  Are they destined to be together, or will Rhiannon choose to stay with Justin? 

I enjoyed this book just as much as I enjoyed Every Day.  I really liked how A broke through the barrier Rhiannon had put up to have her examine her relationship with Justin.  To her everything was fine with Justin.  A saw a person who was becoming lost, and helped her start breaking away to become her own person.  Sometimes we need another perspective from someone else, even if it's a person we barely know, to get us to look at things differently.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Marvel Zombies

Chose it because it has the living undead. A zombie Spider-man and Hulk is got to see scenario. Basically the whole Marvel universe turning into a zombie frenzy. Do not read the graphic novel quickly as you can skip some of the plot detail.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Sometimes you have teen mysteries that take themselves seriously, and sometimes the story is a little bit far-fetched. This story with its quirky characters and adventures puts itself more towards the latter category. At times it's a little out there, but it's an enjoyable ride.

As the new girl in school, Zoe hopes to fit in. The last thing she expects is finding herself connecting with the oddball character of Digby. He has no concept of personal space and has a habit of dragging her into insane situations. Despite efforts to stay away from him, Zoe tags along on Digby's mission to finding a missing girl. It turns out that a number of years ago, Digby's younger sister went missing and he thinks the cases are connected. He has his prime suspects and he'd bound and determined to prove it, even if it means stealing, lying, and breaking and entering. His problems don't end with the doctor he suspects - not when he starts a beef with the mysterious, cultish boy who lives across the street from Zoe. Throw in some drug-dealing, missing ambulances and explosions and you've got the crazy ride Zoe finds herself on with Digby at the helm.

Personally, I like my mysteries to be a tab more realistic and serious than this book. You definitely cannot take this seriously. The police would not be so open with their information to some teenagers as they were in this novel and the antics of the characters are just a little too out there - the dramatic breaking and entering of the doctor's office, Digby in his tutu wearing teddy bear costume. He is a true mastermind and enjoyable to read about, but the situations just snowball to the point that you're shaking your head. He has no boundaries and can talk himself in and out of any situation, dragging Zoe and others in with him. In no way is that a bad thing because it makes for a fun read. It's witty and clever and humorous. Not all mysteries need to be dead serious. It just seems a bit unrealistic that a teen is doing all of this and getting away with everything. Then again, it wouldn't be much of an exciting teen novel if they were shut down at every turn.

This book is crazy in a good way. Everything - however off the wall it may be - ends up working together to connect the pieces and solve the mystery. Well, maybe not all of the mysteries. There is still one string left hanging that definitely creates the potential of a sequel. It will be interesting to see what chaos Digby can create next time around.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Jewel by Amy Ewing

This novel is the first of a trilogy that features a world of conflict between classes. With a romance brewing and desires to be more than your job developing, you can't help but root for the characters.

In a world where the royals are unable to carry babies, surrogates exist to continue the royal line. Not just any woman will do, though. Surrogates are special girls who have a power known as Auguries. There are three auguries - the power to change shape, color, and make things grow. Violet is a surrogate.When she was deemed to have these powers, she was removed from her house and raised in a holding facility. She has now reached her full potential and has been put up for auction for one of the royal houses to purchase. Once purchased, Violet becomes nothing more than the surrogate and her owner has big plans for her because times are changing and people are desperate to make their mark. While Violet may be nothing to her owner, she meets Ash, another person who is nothing more than the job he does. Despite the fact that their relationship is forbidden, together they find connections and life and desires that their positions try to strip away. At the same time, however, Violet meets a man who wants to save her from her life as a surrogate in an effort to start a rebellion. Going with him is not only risky, but it means saying goodbye to Ash. Violet needs to decide what is most important, especially when she learns more about future plans for surrogates. 

I picked up this novel because I enjoyed reading The Selection and felt this book had a similar vibe. It is definitely different (surrogates vs dating game), but there are a number of elements that are similar and classic to dystopian novels (at times I felt the novel was reminiscent of The Hunger Games, especially at the beginning - Lucien reminded me of Cinna). There are the different levels of society with The Jewel being the center and royalty, the Bank still being wealthy, down to the Smoke, Farm, and the lowest of low - the Marsh. Violet's rights are completely stripped away and she's put on display for the ruling class. Then, through it all, a rebellion is slowly brewing. You really feel for Violet and Ash. They're nothing more than toys to serve a purpose for the royalty and you want them to reach their full potential as people. It's easy to see the injustice in everything, especially when it doesn't have to be that way. 

The novel might be a little bit slow to get going - especially setting up this new world and way of life - but it is definitely worth the payout. I know that I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dawn by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is probably best known as a Holocaust survivor and author Night which tells the story of his experience in concentration camps. While his novel is taught in schools, it is actually the first book in a loosely connected trilogy. While Night is biographical, the other two novels, Dawn and Day (sometimes titled The Accident) are works of fiction about experiences after the Holocaust. 

Dawn is a heavily philosophical book. The narrator - Elisha - is the sole survivor of his family after the Holocaust. He joins a group of Jewish terrorists trying to reclaim Palestine from the English. It seems as though part of their philosophy is that they were good people before the Holocaust, but that didn't save them, so what's the point of being good? Their movement has reached the point that one of their followers is being held hostage (David ben Moshe). In response to the English having one of their soldiers, they have taken an English officer as their hostage (John Dawson). Despite attempts to free David, the English plan on executing him, which has the Movement planning on executing John. Elisha is the one chose to pull the trigger, a fact that his conscience struggles with after everything he's already experienced. Dawn is Elisha's struggle to bear the weight of his role as executioner.

This book is very deep. Although it was written in 1961 and only 80 pages long, it is very powerful and still relevant given the world's constant state of conflict. It questions whether or not the Movement's actions are justified. It asks what right man has to kill and play God. Elisha thinks about how executing a man is different than killing a man in war. It also looks at the change of one's soul when one becomes a killer. There is a very powerful image of Elisha seeing the ghosts of his loved ones who with him because if he becomes a murderer, then they are murderers too. Is that how he wants his parents to think of him because he is essentially a reflection of them. This book only takes place within the hours before dawn - the time of the execution - but his internal battle is very thorough. The end results leaves him forever changed.

Dawn is not a book to be taken lightly. It may be small but it is very powerful. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Timeless and Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir

Timeless and Timekeeper are two books that tell the story of Michelle Windsor, a teen who discovers that she has the ability to travel through time. The first book, Timeless, is when Michelle discovers her ability while the second book, Timekeeper, reveals a sinister plot to take everything away from her.

It all begins after Michelle's mother dies and she's reunited with her grandparents that she's never known about. Within her mother's belongings, she discovers a mysterious key. When she holds the key and the diary of her one ancestor, she finds herself suddenly transported in time to that of her ancestor. In this new time, she discovers that only certain people can see her, including a young man named Phillip. She and Phillip for an instant connection, but the fact that she's from a completely different time and can't control her time travels puts a huge damper on their relationship. Worried that their unattainable romance might destroy Phillip, Michelle races against time to make things right.

In Timekeeper, Michelle's world shifts when a new boys appears in school looking exactly like Phillip from the past - he even has the same name and signet ring. If he is the Phillip she'd fallen in love with, why doesn't he remember her? Helping Phillip remember their connection, though, is only half of her battle as she discovers that a woman from her father's past (Rebecca) is determined to destroy her. She now has seven days to make sense of her time traveling abilities and figure out how to stop Rebecca. 

In the realm of sequels, sometimes you can get away without reading the first book. In some ways you can with this book, but things will make a lot more sense if you read the first book. Personally I thought Timeless was a stronger book than Timekeeper. Given that both books are about time travel, there is a lot of shifting between the years. The first novel does a better job of making the timeline clear. There were a number of times in the second book that I became confused about which time and what happened in this time. There were characters overlapping because she's visiting Phillip but sometimes he young and then he's an adult but there's also her father and he's around at the same time as Phillip. Years might be mentioned and I couldn't figure out who was at what age at what point in that year. At times it made my head hurt. I almost wanted an actual time line of the character's past to visually see it all work out. But that might just have been me. The second novel also spent a ton of time explaining the logistics of time traveling, all of the rules and explanations as to how this happened. This is another thing that became very confusing, but again I might have just grown too frustrated to put in the brainpower to sort through it all. Both novels have a good plot, but I felt something was lost in the second book that didn't make it as enjoyable as the first novel.

If you're looking for a romance that is not by-the-books but doesn't involve paranormal crossovers (vampires, zombies, etc) this book is worth a shot. The author cares about the history she's recreating and thoroughly researched each era to vividly describe the past. So if you'd like a little taste of history without being stuck in the past, give these books a shot.