Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Fighting Chance by Claudia Melendez Salinas

This has similarities to several other books I've read in the past.  One is Walter Dean Myers' book Scorpions.

A boxing club has been using free a formerly unused storage shed for boxing  training and practice bouts.

Now the town park district has decided that they need to take it over for paid programming. Coach and several boxers try to fight the take over. That is just one of the things going on and this one is left unresolved.

Miguel Angel is one of the neighborhood kids using the facility to stay away from drugs and gang violence.  His best friend has joined a gang and tries to pull him in.  Among other things Miguel hides a gun for Beto and is found at the site of a murdered man and arrested.  

Miguel tries to resist joining Beto's gang which gets him targeted by Beto's leader.  Beto is to kill Miguel but finds he cannot.  This gets Beto killed by the leader.

Now Miguel, in addition to having been arrested, possibly losing his refuge from gangs and guns has
lost his best friend and he begins to question his life as is, to consider revenge for Beto's murder and really struggle.  

This book does not have a neat ending.  We are not sure that Miguel will really resist joining a gang to get revenge for Beto but there is hope.  This part is a bit different from other books where the kid involved generally predictably winds up in jail or juvie.  I did like that about this book.  But in addition to the possible loss of the packing shed by the arrest was never completely resolved.  That is did Miguel get cleared or did coach just bail him out?

There is also a thread about kids from the wrong side of town dating and relating to wealthy kids and the kinds of issues involved, gives authenticity to the story.  This is an ok story.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The house of the scorpion by Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion takes place in the future in a country called Opium which borders between the United States and Aztlan(Mexico.) The novel begins with a young boy named Matt who happens to be a clone of El Patron or the original Matteo Alacran. Matt must survive the whats coming after him because every direction he faces there is always someone trying to physically or emotionally harm him. 

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Countdown Zero - Chris Rylander

After helping the Agency take down the evil organization called The Pancake Haus a few months ago, Carson has gone back to his normal life.  This includes pulling pranks at school with his friends.  They decide to pull Prankpocalypse, which is to execute as many pranks as possible.  A few of the pranks are building a wall of snow behind every entrance of the school, rearrange the sauce and condiment bottles in the cafeteria, hide the tables and chairs from the cafeteria in one of the school bathrooms, and hide expired eggs all over the school.  Carson is stuck in Principal Gomez's office as he arrives around 3 am.  Carson uses a rock to break a window and run from the school.  Everyone else helping Carson gets out without being seen.  A week later Carson gets a note in his lunch telling him Agent Nineteen has seventy-two hours to live.  Meet on the school track in six minutes.  He makes an excuse to his friends about having to go to the bathroom to meet Agent Blue on the track.  He takes Carson to Agency HQ, which happens to be underground underneath the school.  There's a lot more security than there used to be since there is a rogue agent on the loose.  Agent Blue says to seriously think about coming back to work for the Agency.  This time around he could be seriously hurt, or even die.  He agrees and they go to see the Director.  Director Isadoris tells Carson that Agent Nineteen checked in at a base which does research and produces insidious biochemical agents.  There was an automated communication which said the virus, code name Romero, had been released.  Shortly after they lost contact with the base.  The base in question is inside Mount Rushmore, which is where some of Carson's classmates are going for a field trip over the weekend.  Agent Blue has talked to Principal Gomez and Carson can go on three conditions: 1. he helps clean up Principal Gomez's office, 2. if Carson gets one more disciplinary incident between now and eight grade graduation he will be expelled, and 3. he must give up the names of his accomplices from the Prankpocalypse.  After school at Dillon and Danielle's house he tells them Gomez wants him to give up everyone that helped out the week before.  The trouble is most of them are going on the trip and turning them in would exclude them from going.  Jake, who Dillon invited over, says he'll take the blame so everyone else can go on the trip.  His mom is on the school board, so it won't be hard for him to take the blame.  The next day Carson gives Principal Gomez Jake's name, and he gives Carson permission to go on the Mount Rushmore field trip.  Carson's mom is excited he's able to go on the trip and Dillon and Danielle are surprised but happy he is going when they see him on the bus on Saturday morning.  After they get to the campgrounds everyone has trouble putting up their tents, which makes for some funny incidents.  Later that night Carson tries to sneak out to meet with Agent Blue, but Jake has to go to the bathroom.  Carson slips away from Jake to meet Agent Blue.  He gives Carson everything he'll need to get into the base including the antidote to the virus.  Jake finds Carson behind the bus.  Carson lies saying he needs to use special toilet paper when Jake sees the backpack next to Carson.  The next day after the group arrives Carson stays near the back so when Agent Blue creates a diversion he can slip away quietly.  It takes a few seconds more for Carson to realize the diversion has been done when Agent Blue drops his camera.  As Carson climbs to where the secret entrance is he gets to one last cliff and his body gives out.  Jake who had followed Carson saves his life.  Carson tells Jake that he's a spy and he has to retrieve the virus before it's unleashed on the world.  Jake helps him get through the stages to enter the facility.  After they get to the lab where Agent Nineteen is they see him laying on the ground unconscious and one of the doctors barely conscious.  Carson gives the antidote to the doctor through a drop slot.  Once the doctor and Agent Nineteen are injected with the antidote Carson opens the lab.  Phil walks out while Jake comes back with the virus.  Carson is then locked in the lab with Agent Nineteen watching Phil and Jake leave with the virus.  Will Carson be able to escape and help stop the virus from being released, or will he and Agent Nineteen perish in the lab with no one able to rescue them? 

I enjoyed this book.  It was a fun and entertaining read.  I really liked that there was a secret base hidden inside Mount Rushmore.  It makes you think where else has the government put secret bases only they know about.  I'm glad there is a third book because this one ended on an interesting note and I would like to see how the story continues.  The third book just came out in February of 2016.