Friday, June 28, 2013

Review: One Came Home

One Came Home 
by Amy Timberlake

Book Description:
In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn't, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of "pigeoners" trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha's blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

I enjoyed Georgie's story a lot more than I had thought I would.  I was worried the whole book was going to be about pigeons. Ugh.  No, this book is about a girl who can shoot a thumb right off a man and uses her spunk to track down the sister that everyone believes is dead. 

Georgie was pretty awesome.  She's a girl who speaks her mind, she's smart, and she shoots a gun better than most men. In fact, I loved reading about her at fourteen and I would love to read a follow-up book when she's a couple of years older. I think things could get really interesting in Georgie's life when she's around eighteen. 

Historical fiction fans, western fans, adventure fans, mystery fans I would recommend this book to all of you. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Guitar Notes

Guitar Notes 
by Mary Amato

Book Description:
On odd days, Tripp Broody uses a school practice room to let loose on a borrowed guitar. Eyes closed, strumming that beat-up instrument, Tripp escapes to a world where only the music matters.

On even days, Lyla Marks uses the same practice room. To Tripp, she’s trying to become even more perfect—she’s already a straight-A student and an award-winning cellist. But when Lyla begins leaving notes for him in between the strings of the guitar, his life intersects with hers in a way he never expected.

What starts as a series of snippy notes quickly blossoms into the sharing of interests and secrets and dreams, and the forging of a very unlikely friendship.

Challenging each other to write songs, they begin to connect, even though circumstances threaten to tear them apart. 

I really enjoyed this book! I'm not much of a musician, though I used to play the clarinet eons ago, but I do know what it's like to feel passionately about something and not always have other people understand. Or to have people too much pressure on you just because you are good at something. 

I loved the two perspectives of this book and I loved reading the notes that Tripp and Lyla left for each other. It was very cool to see how their friendship developed and how they supported each other completely.  I highly recommend this book to any middle or high school age reader! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gold Star Review: Boy21

by Matthew Quick

Book Description:
You can lose yourself in repetition--quiet your thoughts; I learned the value of this at a very young age.

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights, and Finley is left to take care of his disabled grandfather alone. He's always dreamed of getting out someday, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood, and the life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won't pick up a basketball, but answers only to the name Boy21--taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, a unique friendship may turn out to be the answer they both need.

This is a book that I never would have picked up without prompting. It's got a sort-of unappealing cover, it's about basketball and boys that live in a not-so-nice neighborhood. Not my normal type of book. Am I glad, however, that I was forced to pick this one up? YES!

I sat down to read this and I won't lie, I was pretty much figuring I'd hate it. Instead I found myself totally absorbed, unable to put the book down until long after my regular bedtime, even as my eyes were fighting me, wanting to close. There is something about the tone of this book that hits it just right. The story is powerful and haunting and absolutely, heartbreakingly believable. I finished this book and immediately started recommending it the next think I thought I'd hate it, LOL!

Yes, there is violence, and yes, it's definitely a book for high school readers, but I don't think there's a person out there who wouldn't find something in this book relatable or compelling once they started it. Please ignore the cover. Please trust me. This is an excellent book and I am most definitely awarding it a GOLD STAR.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Reading Sign-Ups Start TOMORROW!!

Attention my teen readers! 

Our Teen Summer Reading Program runs from June 24 – August 2
but you can start signing up tomorrow, Friday, June 21st.

Here's the basics:
Once you sign up, we will give you a log book to keep track of the time you spend reading. For every three hours read, we will sign your logbook and give you a raffle ticket to fill out and place in the raffle jar. Winners will be drawn every Friday. We’ll call the winners, who will then choose from a selection of prizes.
Super simple.

We don't tell you what to read and you don't have to write any book reports. You just have to read whatever you would be reading anyway and let us know how long you spent reading! Easy.

If you have any questions, call us at 413-736-4561 ext. 3 or just stop in and ask!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

Book Description:
A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

This is the perfect semi-creepy, slightly magical, but still historically set realistic story for anyone in middle school all the way up to adults.  I guarantee you will be as sucked into the story as I was, eagerly turning the pages to find the next intriguing photographs and trying to place them into Jacob's mysterious tale.

This story is mysterious, full of danger and wonder. It feels realistic, but then weird things start happening... I couldn't put it down and I'm really looking forward to seeing where it goes in the upcoming sequel.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mini Reviews: The Death is Terrifyingly Close Edition

Lair of the Serpent
by T. Lynn Adams
Tombs of Terror, book three

Book Description:
A humanitarian trip to Cambodia turns deadly when Delilah, a young medical volunteer, is kidnapped. When Jonathon arrives in the jungle and discovers that his friend is missing, he recruits the locals to search for her. Every clue points to the followers of the Naga Mani--- a sacred stone with legendary powers that only work with a human sacrifice. With time running out, it's up to Jonathon to rescue Delilah.

While the premise for this book was very exciting, I found it didn't really capture my attention all that well. It wasn't until Jonathan reached the Naga Mani that I found myself unable to put the book down, and that was pretty much at the end... I think some readers would be totally into it, but it just wasn't the book for me.

by Chris Howard

Book Description:
17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using salvaged scrap metal, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree--they were destroyed more than a century ago--his missing father used to tell him stories about the Old World. Everything changes when Banyan meets a mysterious woman with a strange tattoo--a map to the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts . . . the locusts that now feed on human flesh. But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.

This book drew me in from the first pages. In Banyan's world the sea has overtaken us, the only food is popcorn, and death lurks around every corner. I found it utterly dark and captivating. I look forward to the next book!

by Michael Northrop

Book Description:
The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive. . . . Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision. . . .

In the same way that I reacted to Pfeffer's Life as We Knew It, this book made me shiver and curl up tight against my doggies. I found myself so sucked into this book that I read it all at once, unable to turn the pages fast enough. I cried and I honestly worried about how many of the kids would actually survive... utterly compelling.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gold Star Review: The Elite

The Elite
by Kiera Cass
The Selection, book two

Book Description:
In America Singer’s world, a bride is chosen for the prince through an elaborate televised competition. In the second book of the Selection series, America is one of only six girls left in the running. But is it Prince Maxon—and life as the queen—she wants? Or is it Aspen, her first love?

I have to admit that I was equal parts extremely excited and extremely nervous for this book. I really loved The Selection, a lot more than I had anticipated I was a fast, easy read that drew me right in... (You can read my review here) I could not wait for the sequel, but I was terrified of "middle book syndrome, " you know, the middle book in a trilogy that really serves no purpose...the one that should just have never existed because the "trilogy" would have been better as a duet? I was especially scared about this one because I knew it was going to focus so heavily on the romantic triangle in America's life.

I was so HAPPY when I read this book. Yes, it focuses on the romantic issues, but it does so openly, honestly, without pretending to do anything else...AND, though I'm still a HUGE fan of Prince Maxon, I found myself wavering into Aspen's camp from time to time. That *never* happens to me. That means that Kiera Cass has basically written the MOST CONVINCING ROMANTIC TRIANGLE I think I've read to this point. Super KUDOS to that... and a GOLD STAR!

Besides the romance and the interactions between the girls, which I continue to find fascinating (it's like watching ANTM, you know at some point there's going to be cat fights...they can't help it!), there was actually a lot more revealed about the politics and origin of America's world. I loved how Cass revealed things through America's own education and felt that the world was really starting to come into focus around her. I cannot wait to see how America faces the political prospects that face her in the next should be *very* interesting...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review: Secret Letters

Secret Letters
by Leah Scheier

Book Description
Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin’s ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits—and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective—to save her cousin’s reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.

I really enjoyed this historical mystery. Dora has characteristics that make her very similar to her father, Sherlock Holmes, his analytic mind, an astute observational sense... but, she's much easier to relate to as a main character. She's charmingly flawed, but still smart. I loved her interactions with the other investigators she meets and watching her walk the line between her station and the career path she'd like to pursue. I hope that more books come out featuring Dora. I'm sure other historical mystery fans (those that like Y.S. Lee's books, especially) will also enjoy this one.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: The Wells Bequest

The Wells Bequest 
by Polly Shulman
Companion to The Grimm Legacy

Publication date: June 13, 2013

Book Description
Leo never imagined that time travel might really be possible, or that the objects in H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels might actually exist. And when a miniature time machine appears in Leo’s bedroom, he has no idea who the tiny, beautiful girl is riding it. But in the few moments before it vanishes, returning to wherever—and whenever—it came from, he recognizes the other tiny rider: himself!

His search for the time machine, the girl, and his fate leads him to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a magical library that lends out objects instead of books. Hidden away in the Repository basement is the Wells Bequest, a secret collection of powerful objects straight out of classic science fiction novels: robots, rockets, submarines, a shrink ray—and one very famous time machine. And when Leo’s adventure of a lifetime suddenly turns deadly, he must attempt a journey to 1895 to warn real-life scientist Nikola Tesla about a dangerous invention. A race for time is on!

I LOVED The Grimm Legacy. The idea of a library that houses object, fairy tale objects even!, that can be lent out to the public. OMG, I would have died to have this be a real work there, AWESOME! 

To say that I was both stoked and utterly nervous to read a companion book was sort of an understatement. I wasn't quite sure that Shulman could recreate the fabulous experience I had reading the first book...and yet, I think I might have enjoyed this one EVEN more!!

You all know that I love science fiction. This second book delves into all sort of science fiction wonders, centering mostly around H.G. Wells and Nikola Tesla. Time travel, cool robots, electricity, and pneumatic tubes... I really loved how Shulman was able to incorporate all of these science/tech-y things without making it too overwhelmingly hard for a reader to understand.

There's time travel, danger, death ray threats, romance, and the coolest Library EVAH! Check it out. Really, stop by the library and CHECK IT OUT!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Splendors and Glooms

Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz

Book Description
The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants.

Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall.

As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late.

This book is very gothically atmospheric. The characters are intriguing. The sorcery that gets blended into the story is done very well and I found myself drawn in by both the story lines and the horrific things that the children and even the adult characters were facing. 

 And yet... I found this story read very slowly. Don't get me wrong. It was beautifully written, I enjoyed the story and I was satisfied when it was done, but it also took me about five days to read and for me, that is a *really* long time. I'm not sure exactly why it was so slow, but I have a feeling readers who are only halfheartedly interested may not make it through this one...