Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: Personal Effects

Personal Effects
by E.M. Kokie
Book Description:
Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, Matt feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps. T.J.’s gone, but Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on his brother’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. But as Matt searches for answers about T.J.’s death, he faces a shocking revelation about T.J.’s life that suggests he may not have known T.J. as well as he thought. What he learns challenges him to stand up to his father, honor his brother’s memory, and take charge of his own life.
Wow. This debut novel blew me away. Before I tell you why, let me note that this book is getting what will probably be my last gold star for the year!
This book was touching. This book was funny. This book was everything. I ran the gamut of emotions right alongside Matt as he discovered who his brother actually was...and who that makes him.
This book touches on some heavy topics. Grief, homosexuality, abuse, love, and it does it all while still feeling natural. Matt is a fully realized character surrounded by people that have interesting facets, as well. The way that even characters who are no longer in the story manage to become fleshed out as the tale progresses...that takes talented writing and storybuilding.
My heart broke for this character and then rejoiced as he was reborn into a stronger, more complete person. Well done. Impossible to put down and well worth reading. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!!!

We're going to take a little break here on the blog for the holidays, but I promise to come back with reivews/interviews/and more great book stuff after Christmas.  :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: Path of Beasts

Path of Beasts
by Lian Tanner
The Keepers, book three
Book Description:
The city of Jewel is in peril once again, as it is held captive by the frightful Fugleman, his band of Blessed Guardians, and an army of merciless mercenaries. There's no doubt that Goldie and Toadspit want to get their city back, but how can a small group of children fight against such overwhelming forces of evil? And how, as Goldie is determined, can they avoid bloodshed in a war that will set thieves against soldiers, and trickery and deception against a mighty cannon that shoots cannonballs bent on destruction? As Toadspit fights the Fugleman in a duel to the death, Goldie must face her hardest task yet. If she is to save the city, she must walk the mysterious Beast Road, deep inside the Museum of Thieves. No one knows where it goes and no one has ever returned from it.
An amazing end to the trilogy. While I felt that things were not quite as strong in book two as they were in the first (which I absolutely loved!), I am sooo pleased to say that book three did not disappoint in the least. Goldie, Toadspit, Bonnie, Mouse, and even Pounce team up to save their city, defeat the evils they could face directly, and even indirectly, and each finds the place they belong forever.

Strong characters, an intriguing and danger-filled plot, and a Museum that once again left me longing for a chance to explore it... this book packed quite the punch. I cannot wait to read more from this author, even though this particular story may be finished.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: The Humming Room

The Humming Room
by Ellen Potter
Book Description:
Hiding is Roo Fanshaw's special skill. Living in a frighteningly unstable family, she often needs to disappear at a moment's notice. When her parents are murdered, it's her special hiding place under the trailer that saves her life.

As it turns out, Roo, much to her surprise, has a wealthy if eccentric uncle, who has agreed to take her into his home on Cough Rock Island. Once a tuberculosis sanitarium for children of the rich, the strange house is teeming with ghost stories and secrets. Roo doesn't believe in ghosts or fairy stories, but what are those eerie noises she keeps hearing? And who is that strange wild boy who lives on the river? People are lying to her, and Roo becomes determined to find the truth.

Despite the best efforts of her uncle's assistants, Roo discovers the house's hidden room--a garden with a tragic secret.

Inspired by The Secret Garden, this tale full of unusual characters and mysterious secrets is a story that only Ellen Potter could write. 

It's been a long time since I've read The Secret Garden, but as I was reading this book based on it I found things coming back to me. I liked Roo as a character, finding her brusque, but understandably so. I thought that the new setting on an island at an old children's tuberculosis hospital was creepy and interesting. It gave a really remote feeling that would have been hard to come by otherwise in a modern retelling and allowed for a very distinctive secretiveness surrounding Roo's new friend, "the river spirit."

The backstory and description of the garden held me captivated and I found myself wanting to see it. When the family reunites over the garden's restoration, I felt touched. Things wrapped up very quickly at the end, though, and I was left wanting just a little more.

The book did leave me wanting to reread The Secret Garden. Since I probably won't have time (and because a co-worker keeps telling me that the movie is one of her favorites of ALL TIME), I checked out the movie version instead. This will allow me to revisit the original story and see if there was a little more at the end and what things may have been left out in this newer version. 

Good for readers finishing elementary school and in middle school. A quick and intriguing retelling of one of my favorite classic childhood tales.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: Hidden

by Sophie Jordan
Firelight, book three
Book Description:
A dangerous journey.
Shattered bonds.
Undying passion.

Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted her fate long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.

The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning. . .
Have you ever read a book and been desperate for the main character to get together with one of the love interests...soooooo badly...even though you know it will never happen? Yeah.  That's how I feel when I read the books in this series.  I don't want to ruin it for you since this is the last one, but... I thought she ended up with the wrong guy!!

Aside from my heartbreak, this was a very good ending to the series. I still love how Jordan can make these books steamy and adventurous without getting too graphic! The draki are still amazingly cool, there's plenty of action and adventure, and I loved how Jacinda and her sister both really figured out exactly where they needed to be in the end.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review: Dead is a Killer Tune

Dead is a Killer Tune
by Marlene Perez
Dead Is series, book seven
Book Description:
High school freshman Jessica Walsh is a Virago—a woman warrior who must protect her hometown from danger. And in Nightshade, California, trouble is always lurking. At the town’s Battle of the Bands, Jess’s boyfriend, Dominic, and his band, Side Effects May Vary, are up against Hamlin, a band so popular, their fans follow them everywhere. Soon, the competing musicians are doing risky, illegal, and even fatal things—and claiming that they heard strange music that compelled them to do it. Can Jess and her friends track down the tuneful tyrant before it’s too late?
I love this series and I love Jessica as the new main character. It's great to see some of the main characters from the first five books in the series make cameos, but the new crop of "Scooby Gang" keeps things going just fine! I really like the Virago angle and still find Nightshade to be a town full of mysteries.

I thought that the Pied Piper element of this story was very well done. I loved the way that it integrated into the battle of the bands. The introduction of some new characters and elements also paved the way for some intriguing romantic developments...

These books may not be stellar literature, but they are one of the series that I have to read as soon as the new book comes out. Each book is just a fast, fun little foray into an intriguing world and I rip through these almost *too* quickly. If you're looking for a quick read, I would wholeheartedly suggest the first book Dead is the New Black.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Tempestuous

by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
Twisted Lit series, book one
Publication date: Dec. 18, 2012
Book Description:
After a mistake with big financial consequences topples her throne, former "it girl" Miranda Prospero is bitter: she finds herself stranded in a crazed new world, holding court among geeks and misfits at a mall Hot Dog Kabob stand. Then, she gets her chance for revenge. When the storm of the decade snows in the mall workers and last-minute shopaholics for a long winter's night, Miranda sets out to get back at the catty clique who was behind her exile. But there's a complication. She somehow gets handcuffed to sullen loner Caleb. With him (literally) bound to her side, Miranda learns more in one night about her own heart, and human nature, than she ever did as prep royalty. With this twisted take on Shakespeare's The Tempest, authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes prove again that, from Juliet's grief to Cordelia's rage, no one knew about teen angst better than the Bard. His wisdom holds up nearly half a millennium later.

Review: This is the fun start of a series with an interesting theme.  The authors plan to revamp different classic tales and put out modern versions.  This first book, based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, was a fun ride.  Though some things have been changed from the original version and most of the characters have different names, there are definite pieces from the original that can still be found in this version.

This story takes place from Miranda's point of view, and Prospero (or here, her father) is not involved in the story at all.  Miranda has fallen from grace, falsely accused of being the ringleader of a massive school-wide cheating ring.  Now, to make reparations, Miranda must work in a disgusting fast food job at the mall.  On the positive side, Miranda's made some great new friends, including her new bestie, Ariel. 

When she and most of the other mall workers get snowed in at the mall during a freak blizzard, Miranda suddenly has a lot of problems to tackle! Ariel's surprise birthday party must be reimagined, her skeezy ex-boyfriend and her old frenemies are also locked in the mall causing trouble, someone is robbing the high end mall stores, and worst of all, she finds herself handcuffed to a boy that is so not her type.

With some *very* creative problem solving that had me laughing throughout, it was very fun to follow Miranda's wild and crazy night.  I liked the elements of romance that pervaded the story and I liked that those who needed a comeupance got it in one way or another...

There were some times that the characters sounded a little like they were in the wrong time the authors had tried to use vintage dialogue from The Tempest and it didn't quite work, but aside from that, I thought this was a very fun update.  I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Exposure.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's on My Hold List?

Welcome back to
"What's on My Hold List?"
This is the December 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 James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

by Kate Messner
by William Alexander
by Katherine Applegate

*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??

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: See You at Harry's

See You at Harry's
by Jo Knowles
Book Description:
Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. Her dad is always busy planning how to increase traffic to the family business. Her Mom is constantly going off to meditate. Her sister Sarah, who's taking a "gap year" after high school, is too busy finding ways not to work; and her brother Holden is too focused on his new "friend" to pay attention to her. And then there's Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, and the center of everyone's world.

If it wasn't for Ran, Fern's best and oldest friend, there would be nowhere to turn. Ran is always calm, always positive. His mantra "All will be well" is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe.

But when their lives are unexpectedly turned upside down, Fern feels more alone than ever, and responsible for the event that wrenches the family apart. All will not be well. Or at least, all will never be the same.
What a book! I have to warn you...the cover of this book is deceiving. When you pick it up, you might think this is a light read with a slight romance, or something fun for summer... you will get way more from this book than you were expecting!

This is a book that deals with a family. A close knit family and their relationships. A family dealing with children coming of age and a family dealing with the worst sort of grief. While Fern is our narrator, and a great one at that, each family member is fleshed out and becomes a strong part of the story. Even Fern's extended family, her friends, seem like real kids that you could meet.

This book felt so authentic that I found my heart breaking as I was reading. I was sad, I was angry, I smiled, I laughed. I felt like a part of the family almost. It was completely gut-wrenching to deal with what Fern's family must face.

I cannot help but give this book a huge GOLD STAR for being simply amazing.

I can't recommend this one enough. If you haven't read it yet, and you like realistic fiction, this would be a great one to pick up ASAP!! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Review: A Confusion of Princes

A Confusion of Princes
by Garth Nix

Book Description:
You'd think being a Prince in a vast intergalactic empire would be about as good as it gets. Particularly when Princes are faster, smarter, and stronger than normal humans. Not to mention being mostly immortal.

But it isn't as great as it sounds. Princes need to be hard to kill—as Khemri learns the minute he becomes one—for they are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Every Prince wants to become Emperor, and the surest way to do so is to kill, dishonor, or sideline any potential competitor. There are rules, but as Khemri discovers, rules can be bent and even broken.

Soon Khemri is drawn into the hidden workings of the Empire and dispatched on a secret mission. In the ruins of space battle he meets a young woman called Raine, who challenges his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself.

But Khemri is a Prince, and even if he wanted to leave the Empire behind, there are forces that have very definite plans for his future. . .

I have to say, sadly, that I was disappointed in this book. I LOVED all of Garth Nix's other books and so I was *super* excited when I found out this one was on its way. I loved the premise and I thought it was going to be amazing.

Unfortunately, though the premise is indeed intriguing and I liked the setup of the book very much, I found myself completely losing interest just over halfway through. I made myself continue, though, and found the ending to be quite good. It was sad that really it was the introduction of romance into the story that seemed to derail it for me...

I wish it could have been what I hoped.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mini Reviews: A Tween Edition

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer
by Jennifer Gennart

Book Description:
Twelve-year-old June Farrell is sure of one thing—she’s great at making pies—and she plans to prove it by winning a blue ribbon in the Champlain Valley Fair pie competition. But a backlash against Vermont’s civil union law threatens her family’s security and their business. Even when faced with bullying, June won’t give up on winning the blue ribbon; more importantly, she won’t give up on her family. 

Quick Review:
I really enjoyed this title. I think it's a lot more serious than the cover leads readers to believe. It handles the issue of families with homosexual parents very well. I'm glad I read it. Probably best for 5-7th grade readers.

Dying to Meet You
by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise
43 Old Cemetary Road, book one

Book Description:
This is the story of the churlish, child-hating sixty-year-old children’s book author Ignatius B. Grumply, who rents an old Victorian mansion in Ghastly, Illinois, for the summer . . . only to find it already inhabited. Enter eleven-year-old Seymour Hope and the vivacious, “old as dirt” writer-ghost Olive C. Spence. The ensuing tale of unlikely roommates is cleverly, seamlessly told in letters, newspaper articles, Grumply’s work-in-progress “Ghost Tamer” manuscript, and winning illustrations by M. Sarah Klise.

Quick Review:
Cute. I love all the different "media" used to tell the story. The letters, the newspaper articles, etc. It was a fun read. A great read for grades 4-6.