Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Home is Beyond the Mountains

Home is Beyond the Mountains
by Celia Barker Lottridge
Book Description:
Samira is only nine years old when the Turkish army invades northwestern Persia in 1918, driving her family from its tiny village. They flee into the mountains, but the journey is so difficult that only Samira and her older brother survive. Beginning with a refugee camp run by the British Army, the children are shunted from one temporary home to another, finally ending up in an orphanage where it seems that they will live out their childhood. Then the new orphanage director, Susan Shedd, decides that she will take the 300 refugee children back to their home villages — a journey of 300 miles — through the mountains, on foot. Samira embarks on the journey with wonder and fear. Even if they make it, will there be anyone in her old village to take her in?

I was surprised how easy this book was to read.  It's written in very simple sentences and goes very, very quickly. I think I read the whole book in about 2 1/2 hours.  I had not really thought I would enjoy this one that much (thanks in part to a yucky cover :/) but it turned out to be pretty interesting.

I honestly know like nothing about the middle eastern area in history and so this story was pretty much all knew to me.  Some themes from history are all the same, though, so this story of children who become orphaned in a foreign land did not feel so foreign that I couldn't relate to it.  This was a heartbreaking and yet, still hopeful story. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Tiger Lily

Tiger Lily
by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Book Description:
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart. 

Though I LOVED the concept for this book and found the way that Anderson twisted the story to be really interesting, I had a really hard time connecting to the characters.  This story is actually told by Tinker Bell and so you are watching Tiger Lily, Peter Pan, and the lost boys from a distance. It makes it easy to see everything that's happening, but it made it hard to really understand everything that Tiger Lily was feeling. 

If you are a Peter Pan fan, I would recommend giving this a try.  See if it works for you, or if you have the same problem I did... This reimagining of Neverland is worth reading anyway.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: Prized

by Caragh O'Brien
Birthmarked Trilogy, book two

Book Description:
Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?
Hallelujah. A second book in a trilogy that tells its own complete story. :)
I was amazed at how different this book was from say Ally Condie's Crossed which although it also involved the main characters relocating to a new, dangerous environment, did not seem to actually have any was a book that did not need to be written. Here, Gaia grows as a person. She defines her ideals. She faces a new hostile environment and she triumphs.
I was extremely excited to read about an entirely new and believable society. I thought that O'Brien did a marvelous job with the worldbuilding in Sylum and that the way that Gaia and Leon reacted to it was completely legitimate and realistic. Gaia and Leon, who have both been forced to grow up way too quickly, must still struggle with regular teen issues. 
An excellent second book. I cannot wait to find out how the series will finally end! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception

Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception
by Gary Paulsen
Book Description:
Kevin doesn't mean to make trouble when he lies. He's just really good at it, and it makes life so much easier. But as his lies pile up, he finds himself in big—and funny—trouble with his friends, family, and teachers. He's got to find a way to end his lying streak—forever.

Looking for a really quick read? Something to get you through an afternoon, but not necessarily something that will blow your mind?

This just might be the book for you.

With some humor, some reminders about how lying can really get you in trouble, and a character who really is just trying to keep everyone in his life somewhat happy (while also doing his bidding, of course :P) this book is a breeze to read!

Of course, if you're looking for a more profound read, I have way different recommendations for you!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: The Red Umbrella

The Red Umbrella
by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Book Description:
In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

An excellent historical fiction set in a time period, again, that I knew very little about... I vaguely knew that while Castro was in power a LOT of Cubans came to the US (thank you, Scarface, LOL), but I'd never heard about Operation Pedro Pan, which was a mission to save children from the Revolution.

Lucy's story was heartbreaking and very realistically frightening. She is continuously in danger in Cuba and sees things that no one should ever have to see. Then in an effort to keep her and her brother safe, Lucy's parents send them to America. I could not imagine going to a foreign country without my parents, without knowing where I would end up, without being able to contact my parents to be assured that they were still alive, as a teen! Lucy's effort to keep her brother safe and with her is one of the bravest things I've ever read. She truly perserveres through an immensely difficult situation to become a strong and brave young woman.

I greatly admired the picture of family that is preeminent in this tale. Lucy's parents are strong, involved figures, constantly putting the safety of their children first and refusing to back away from their own moral beliefs. They were excellent role models. As were the parents in the foster family that Lucy joins. My greatest joy in finishing this book was that Lucy and her brother essentially ended the book with two wonderful sets of parents to rely on. It warmed my heart in a fantastic way.

Another book that I should have read much, much sooner. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: The Peculiars

The Peculiars
by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

Book Description:
On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.
I have mixed feelings about this book and I'm not sure exactly how to describe how I felt upon finishing it. There were things I really loved, but somehow I still found this book to be lacking...something. I am somewhat frustrated because I can't seem to identify exactly what it seems to need! Grr...

I liked the steampunk aspects of this book. There were some cool inventions and I especially liked the description of the unique doors that guarded Mr. Beasley's fantastic library. The horseless carriages were cool, too.

I liked that this book delved into the realm of the fantastic. People with wings, half-goblins, and other strange mutations. It was an interesting exploration of what it meant to be "human." But... a lot of this aspect of the book wasn't even really address until the last third of the book and it's really left not fully explained to fulfill the need for a sequel.

Lena was an interesting character, but she wasn't great. I was actually more interested in Mr. Beasley, the well intentioned and handsome young librarian Jimson Quiggley, and even the beastly marshal that ends up trying to hunt everyone down. While I was fairly solidly invested in the world of the book, I did not find myself that much behind the main character. :/

Were it not for the action sequence at the end and the idea that the Scree will be more fully explored in the next book, I would find this one almost forgettable. It was by no means awful, but I wanted SO much more. 

If you read it, tell me what YOU think about the book!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Review: Camo Girl

Camo Girl
by Kekla Magoon

Book Description:
Ella and Z have been friends forever, both of them middle-school outsiders in their Las Vegas suburb. Ella is the only black girl in her grade and gets teased for the mottled colors of her face. (Her deceased father was white.) Z is the classic “weird kid” who maintains an elaborate—and public—fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Though Z is content with his imagined world, Ella wishes for a larger group of friends, so she’s thrilled when Bailey, another black kid, arrives at their school. He’s popular and wants to befriend Ella—but to join the cool crowd, Ella would have to ditch Z. Does she stay loyal to the boy who has been her best and only friend for years, or jump at the chance to realize her dream of popularity?
This was an easy to read book.  In some ways some of the events seemed to wrap up a little too easily, but if you can suspend your disbelief, the points addressed in the book really do make for an enjoyable story.  The main characters of Ella and Z were really well fleshed out and the struggles they each face were intriuging to read about.  This was definitely not the best written book I've ever read, but it got its point across, which was important.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Payback Time

Payback Time
by Carl Deuker
Book Description:
Through the eyes of a distinctly non-athletic protagonist—a fat high school journalist named Mitch—veteran sports novelist Deuker reveals the surprising truth behind a mysterious football player named Angel. When Angel shows up Lincoln High, he seems to have no past—or at least not one he is willing to discuss. Though Mitch gets a glimpse of Angel's incredible talent off the field, Angel rarely allows himself to shine on the field. Is he an undercover cop, wonders Mitch? Or an ineligible player? In pursuit of a killer story, Mitch decides to find out just who this player is and what he's done. In the end, the truth surprises everyone.

Review: I was really surprised at what this book was actually about when I finally read it. Sure the cover looks like it's a book about football, right? Well...that's wrong. I mean, it does have to do with football, but only in a small way. This book is actually more of a mystery with a main character who dreams of being a big-time reporter someday. Mitch is a pretty normal guy. When he teams up with his hot sports photographer co-worker, though, he ends up becoming a somewhat ballsy "Dick Tracy" kind of guy. I admired his determination.

Though sadly the ending wraps up a little too quickly and felt a little "ho-hum," I really liked the character build up and tone of the rest of the book. ...and I still can't believe how off I was about this book, LOL!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
by Chris Westwood
Book Description:
When Ben Harvester meets the mysterious Mr. October in London's Highgate Cemetery, he has no idea what a strange and dramatic turn his life is about to take. But Ben soon discovers that Mr. October works for the Ministry of Pandemonium, a secret organization responsible for tracking down lost souls and guiding them to the afterlife. And Mr. October wants him to be his new recruit.

As Ben's apprenticeship begins, his eyes are opened to a new world of wonder -- a world where magic is real and ghosts haunt every crime scene, accident site, and hospital corridor.

But with the wonder comes horror. Because the Ministry is not the only organization hunting spirits of the dead. The ghoulish Lords of Sundown want those spirits for their own sinister reasons. And as far as they're concerned, Ben's just chosen the wrong side in a very dangerous war.
This was a cool ghost story perfect for a middle school audience. Ben is a great character trying to balance his new position as an assistant at the Ministry of Pandemonium, helping the dead to find their afterlives, and being the best son he can possibly be to his mom, newly diagnosed with cancer. He revels in the satisfaction that his work brings him and he feels that it is an important and necessary job, but it takes him away when his mom might need him the most.

It's not until his mom's name appears on one of the lists for "pickup" that Ben realizes he may have to break ALL the rules...and lose not only his job, but the war against the Lords of Sundown, in order to save her. Ben's relationship with his mother is one of the best parts of this book. It's inspiring and touching. There were several heartfelt moments that had me threatening to tear up...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering on this day and a review of Flesh and Blood So Cheap

September 11th has become a very sad day in American history. It is a day of remembrance. While I sometimes get very, very frustrated with the way that politicians will try to tie this day to blind patriotism, I try never, ever to forget the people who lost their lives eleven years ago. Not only were there the people who died trying to escape the two towers that had been hit, but there were also many rescue workers who sacrificed themselves to help save others. This is a day, one of many, unfortunately, around the world (because we Americans sometimes forget that others in the world have suffered similar, or even worse, days in their history) that should remind us that HATE is something that truly does kill.

It is sort of serendipitous that I just recently finished a book that dealt with another American tragedy and discussed not only how it transpired, but also how it has shaped history and US workplaces since it occured.
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
by Albert Marrin
Book Description:
On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City burst into flames. The factory was crowded. The doors were locked to ensure workers stay inside. One hundred forty-six people—mostly women—perished; it was one of the most lethal workplace fires in American history until September 11, 2001.

But the story of the fire is not the story of one accidental moment in time. It is a story of immigration and hard work to make it in a new country, as Italians and Jews and others traveled to America to find a better life. It is the story of poor working conditions and greedy bosses, as garment workers discovered the endless sacrifices required to make ends meet. It is the story of unimaginable, but avoidable, disaster. And it the story of the unquenchable pride and activism of fearless immigrants and women who stood up to business, got America on their side, and finally changed working conditions for our entire nation, initiating radical new laws we take for granted today.

With Flesh and Blood So Cheap, Albert Marrin has crafted a gripping, nuanced, and poignant account of one of America's defining tragedies.
It was extremely interesting to learn more about a tragedy that I'd heard of, but never really researched. The fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (a sweatshop in New York City) was one of the most devestating fires in US history. It was the largest loss of life in New York City's history until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
This book discusses how the conditions came to be such that when the fire broke out on the top the floors of this building that all of the workers on one floor and about half of the workers from another floor were unable to escape the building safely and thus lost their lives. It talks about the horrible working conditions that used to be found in the US for immigrant workers until the creation of unions. It also goes on to discuss how working conditions in the US have been improved through the actions following this tragedy and how in other parts of the modern world there are still plenty of sweatshops and similar fires have claimed hundreds of lives.
In my timely reading of this book, I cannot help but connect the Triangle Fire to the 9/11 tragedy. In both cases far too many people lost their lives. It also made me curious about what other major (non-natural disaster related) tragedies occured in the US's history. I picked out just a few more (from the fairly long list available at wikipedia) and wanted to highlight them today, as well.
In chronological order:
1865 - The Sultana sinks due to a boiler explosion, killing approximately 1700 people.
1889 - A dam burst in Jamestown, PA causing a huge flood that killed 2209 people.
1911 - The Triangle Fire in NYC kills 146 people.
1912 - The Titanic sinks after hitting an iceberg, killing approximately 1500 people.
1941 - The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii kills 2403 US citizens and 55 Japanese pilots.
1944 - The Hartford Circus Fire in CT kills 168 people.
1995 - The bombing in Oklahoma City kills 168 people.
2001 - The terrorist attacks in NYC and two other sites in the US caused 2973 US deaths, as well as the deaths of 19 hijackers.
Today is a day to remember, to pass on the ideals of tolerance and safety, and to consider our place in the larger world.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
Book Description:
Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.  

I have to be fully honest... I tried to read this book about a year and a half ago and I couldn't get past the first two chapters. Something about it just did NOT work. So when I tried picking it up again, I was a little leery. Having learned that I LOVE audio books, I decided to try it that way and it made a marked difference. I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't listening to this book, I would have put it down again...
...And, it's not that it's a bad book. Not by any means! It has starred reviews from several publications and it even won a Newbury Honor. It just is a little hard to start. This book not only feels like a lazy old western movie, where tumbleweeds should be rolling by (not in a bad way, just setting the tone), but it also has chapters that don't really seem to fit together into a cohesive storyline in the beginning. It takes almost half the book for things to start to be progressing toward any type of a climactic moment.

Though I really ended up liking Calpurnia, her grandfather and the other members of her family very much, I would have to find just the right reader to recommend this book. It is not for an impatient reader and certainly not for anyone who wouldn't embrace the quirks of historical fiction. It is well done, but a very quiet read.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: Bluefish

by Pat Schmatz

Book Description:
Travis is missing his old home in the country, and he's missing his old hound, Rosco. Now there's just the cramped place he shares with his well-meaning but alcoholic grandpa, a new school, and the dreaded routine of passing when he's called on to read out loud. But that's before Travis meets Mr. McQueen, who doesn't take "pass" for an answer--a rare teacher whose savvy persistence has Travis slowly unlocking a book on the natural world. And it's before Travis is noticed by Velveeta, a girl whose wry banter and colorful scarves belie some hard secrets of her own.
I was surprised, honestly, by how much I liked this book. It has such a "blah" title and the cover does nothing for without being prodded, I might never have picked up this book.

Short and quirky, this was a good read. It has a heartwrenching feel that builds into a heartwarming feel that will stick with you after the book is done. Both Travis and Velveeta are characters that you just want to see succeed. Both come from families with some *issues,* but luckily they find one another and one great teacher.

This is a book that just feels honest and true to life. It was one that I rolled around in my brain for a few days after I'd finished listening to it. It is one that I think would actually interest more people than they might expect... 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: The Girl is Murder

The Girl is Murder
by Kathryn Miller Haines
Book Description:
Iris Anderson is only fifteen, but she's quickly mastering the art of deception.
It's the Fall of 1942 and Iris's world is rapidly changing. Her Pop is back from the war with a missing leg, limiting his ability to do the physically grueling part of his detective work. Iris is dying to help, especially when she discovers that one of Pop's cases involves a boy at her school. Now, instead of sitting at home watching Deanna Durbin movies, Iris is sneaking out of the house, double crossing her friends, and dancing at the Savoy till all hours of the night. There's certainly never a dull moment in the private eye business.
Love mystery? Love historical fiction? should check out this book.
Set in the 1940's, this book's atmosphere was exceedingly well done. The clothes, the slang, the political unrest... I felt like I'd dropped straight into the forties and I wanted to dance the night away with the Rainbows! The best part was that even with the slang and the differences in our culture between then and today, Iris still felt like an average teenager. I didn't have that horrible disconnect that you can sometimes get when historical fiction feels too foreign
Iris was a great character through which to view the forties. She's Jewish, so considered an outsider, and she's just been exiled from the richest section of New York City down to a much lower socially acceptable area because of scandal and economic misfortune... Iris decides she needs to help her Private Investigator father to close his cases because their family desperately needs the money and because she can go places he can't. 
Which leads to a new life built on secrets and lies. Soon Iris is double-crossing "friends" at school and misleading her father... how long can she keep that up? The answer...not too long. The real question, though, is will she be able to solve a potential murder before it all blows up in her face??
A rollickingly good ride...and I'm looking forward to the sequel, The Girl is Trouble.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: Sweet Shadows


Sweet Shadows
by Tera Lynn Childs
Sweet Venom, book two

Book Description:
Gretchen may have known she was a descendant of Medusa long before her sisters—after all, she's spent her life fighting the monsters that escape the abyss—but that doesn't mean it will be easy to teach the other girls the ropes. Can she rely on Grace and Greer, or even trust herself to keep them safe? Greer has pressing social commitments on her plate and precious little time to train in her newfound powers. But that wretched second sight won't leave her alone, and her fabled heritage seems to be creeping into her fashionable life.

Grace has worries closer to home—like why her brother, Thane, has disappeared. He's hiding something. Could it possibly be related to the secret heritage the triplets share?

With the warring factions among the gods of Olympus coming for them, the creatures of the abyss pushing into their world, and the boys in their lives keeping secrets at every turn, the three girls must figure out where their fate will take them and how to embrace the shadows of their legacy.
I am a huge fan of Tera Lynn Childs's writing style. If you want a fun, easy to read book, you can pick up any one of her titles and throroughly enjoy yourself. There is always a little element of romance and there is also plenty of adventure.

In this series, TLC has definitely taken things up a notch. Not only are there three main characters, the triplets Gretchen, Greer, and Grace, to juggle, but each has her own day-to-day teen problems...and a prophecy that leaves them hunting monsters and running for their lives in their spare time. :P

This book was impossible to put down. From the first page, the girls were battling monsters, uncovering big secrets, and well, trying to figure things out with the help...inadvertantly, of course, of the cute boys in their lives! After the girls had discovered one another in the first book, Sweet Venom, they had still been somewhat uneasy with one another. Here, though, readers get to watch the girls turn to one another. They start to not only depend upon one anothers' talents, but also to seek each other out for emotional support. I truly think that was my favorite aspect of the book.

I cannot wait to find out all the secrets that are still just out of reach in the next book! I, for one, am *DYING* to know exactly what Grace's brother, Thane's, big secret is... he definitely knows a lot more about what's happening than he lets on. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What's On My Hold List?

Welcome back to
"What's on My Hold List?"
This is the September 2012 edition!

One of the most beautiful things about working at our Library is that I know what's coming out and what we'll be getting and I can put the books on hold right away!

by Gwenda Bond

by Rae Carson
sequel to The Girl of Fire and Thorns

by Karen Marie Moning

by Sophie Jordan
Firelight, book three

by Rick Riordan
The Heroes of Olympus, book three

*If you click on each title, it will take you to the book on for more information. :)*

So, these are the books I'm waiting anxiously to get my hands on...
what are YOU waiting for??