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.