Monday, November 25, 2013

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Jack is a Kansas boy who just lost his mother to a brain aneurysm. His father sends him to Morton Hill Academy in Maine.  Jack is like a fish out of water.  He does not fit in well at first, but he finds a boy who is interesting.  Enter...Early Auden.  Early is a boy who is different from the other boys at the academy, but he befriends Jack.  They develop a relationship based at first around rebuilding a boat.  After a mishap with the boat, Jack decides to join Early on a journey to find the great Appalachian bear, a boy named Pi, and his brother Fisher who supposedly died in the war.  Early is convinced that if he can find the bear--he will find his brother.  Jack thinks he is crazy, but he goes with him nonetheless.  Throughout the journey, you learn about both boys as they learn about themselves and what they are really seeking.
I am not going to lie--it took me a while to get into this story.  But, once they started on their adventurous journey, I was hooked.  I highly recommend reading this one.  You will be hoping that Fisher is alive as well.

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Odilia Garza and her four sisters find a dead body floating in the river.  The five sisters decide that they should return the man to his family in Mexico.  After they deliver the dead body, they set off on a journey to get to their grandmother's house where they hope to find their father.  Along the way, they encounter many beings from Mexican folklore including witches and the evil chupacabra.  In this story, the girls must be careful what they wish for because the answers they got revealed a secret they might have liked to have kept hidden.
This story was a great one about sibling relationships especially in adversity.  I recommend reading this good read.

Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roarke Dowell

Jamie is a 12-year-old Army brat whose brother, TJ, has graduated and going off to war--The Vietnam War.  Jamie cannot wait to hear all about his war experiences, but TJ does not write her any letters.  Instead he sends her undeveloped rolls of film and asks her to develop them and send the proof sheet back to him. Jamie learns to develop film and becomes quite good at it.  At first, she is very disappointed that he does not write letters to her until she sees the story of the war in his pictures.
This is an excellent book about relationships, family, and the tragedy of war.  I highly recommend this book, but I will tell you that the ending though realistic was very disappointing for this reader.  What do I mean by it and find out.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles Halter decides that he wants to leave home to attend a prep school.  Miles has no friends, and he hopes to make them at Culver Creek Preparatory School.  What he does not realize is that he is walking into an interesting caste world of haves and have-nots.  The "haves" just stay at school during the week and go home on the weekends while the "have-nots" stay all of the time.  Even though Miles's family has money, his roommate is part of the group of "have-nots", and that is where Miles fits in.  Enter--Alaska--gorgeous, thought-provoking, fearless, bold girl who lives down the hall.  Alaska is different from other girls because nothing seems to phase her, but Miles soon finds out that there is more here.  Alaska has a boyfriend, but she always flirts with Miles.  He is completely enamored with her, so he is talked into staying at school during Thanksgiving instead of going home.  Over this holiday, Miles gets very close to Alaska and finds out more about her family life--or the lack thereof.  This was all before...then there is after...

Now, I know that you will want more than that, but my rule is not to spoil the book.  I want you to read it.  If I tell you before and after what--I will spoil it.  Please don't search this to find out--wait.  It was not what I thought originally.  Green does a good job of throwing you off to think it is something else.

One other item--I would categorize this as a high school level book.  There are some mature themes that in my personal opinion are better placed at high school.  However, some may disagree with my assessment.

Well developed characters, interesting story line.  Makes for a great novel.

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

Hale has been able to do whatever he wants because he had all the money needed to do anything at his disposal.  Now, his grandmother has died, and she has named him as the heir to her fortune.  He cannot go jetting around the world following Kat.  But, his accountants are telling him that the family no longer has any money.  Kat, a thief and Hale's girlfriend, must figure out how to pull off the con of a lifetime to protect Hale.  The roles are switched here, and Kat is brought into the real world of W. W. Hale III.

This is the third book in the series, and I cannot wait for the next one. Hurry up, Ms. Carter.  Seriously, this was a great, action-packed novel.  If you have not read any from this series, you can start anywhere but you probably want to start at the beginning.  Heist Society, Uncommon Criminals--then Perfect Scoundrels.

SR--Wonder by RJ Palacio

Auggie is a young boy born with a cranio facial difference.  His parents decide that he needs to go to school, so they decide to send him to a private school.  As you can imagine, many of the children are unkind to Auggie because he looks different from them.  This novel chronicles his year as well as the year through other people's eyes as well.

It is hard for me to put into words how I feel about this book.  I just love the characters.  I like the story, but the characters are what sells me on the book.  I even felt sorry for Julian in the end.  When you read the book, you will know why that is a big deal.  Also, I loved Mr. Tushman's graduation speech.  It was wonderful and inspiring.

"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."

This saying sums up a major theme in the book.  I can honestly say that I have not lived by this, but I am really trying now.  I am trying to choose kind, and I can see that others are as well.  But, honestly, if I were the only one who was choosing kind--the world would still be better because of all of the people that I see and talk to on a daily basis.  If I can choose kind, then maybe one of the people that I was kind to--can choose kind later, etc, etc.

Please read this book, and choose kind.  It really could save someone--maybe even yourself.

SR--Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

Jack the Ripper killed women in London in the 1800's.  Years later in New York City--women are being killed in the same fashion.  Jack the Ripper was never found, but he was assumed to be dead.  He had kept quiet for so many years.  And, New York City was so far from London.  Still...

That is the scenario that is facing the police in New York City and Carver Young, a young orphan boy.  Carver dreams of becoming a detective, but he does not know how to go about it.  Carver is in an orphanage, and he has little hope of being adopted.  Until one day, Detective Hawking from the Pinkerton Detective Agency decides to take him under his wing.  Carver begins working with Detective Hawking to figure out the case.  Carver meets the police chief, Teddy Roosevelt, and they develop a working relationship as well.  Hawking knows a lot about the criminal mind, and he encourages Carver to figure out who his father is and where he might be.  This all weaves together to be quite a page turning mystery novel.  Don't miss out on the action--see if you can figure out who Jack the Ripper truly is.

SR--The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The kingdom is full of discontent and on the brink of civil war.  If only, the king's long-lost son had not died in the accident so many years ago.  If only there was a person who could come in and unite the kingdom.  What if there was?  What if he did not die after all?  That is the lie that Conner, a nobleman of the court, hopes to spin when he finds someone who will act as the prince.  Conner finds 4 young men that look like the prince, but he must choose wisely.  He must choose the one that can carry off the look and actions of the prince.  As the 4 boys are with each other every day, they soon become aware of the fact that once Conner makes his decision--only 1 will get to be the prince.  No witnesses can be left of this high act of treason.

I listened to this book on a road trip with a couple of teenage boys.  We all loved it, and if we had to make a pit stop--we had to agree not to turn on the book until everyone was in the car.  It was action packed, and I loved it.  Don't miss this first book--then of course you will want the second one, The Runaway King.

SR--Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

Peter Friedman is now a freshman in high school.  He was a good baseball player, but he was injured at the end of the season.  He is a good photographer, and he has joined the journalism staff at school.  Even though he might not be playing baseball any longer, he has found a place at school.  But, Peter has a close relationship with his grandfather--in fact his grandfather is an award-winning photographer and taught Peter all he knows.  However, his grandfather is not acting the same.  He is different, and this makes Peter's world very different as well.

As always, Jordan tells a great story.  His characters are believable and real.  And, he does not mind dealing with a tough subject.  I have an uncle who I adore that is similar to the grandfather in this story.  It was heartbreaking to read at times, but WOW! it helped me visualize exactly what my uncle may be going through.  Don't miss this great book.

SR--Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Lupita is the oldest of seven children and has to take the lead when her mother's illness takes both of her parents away to the hospital.  Money is tight, and Lupita and her siblings are scared.  But, Lupita is strong and resilient like the mesquite tree where she goes to write.

This book is written in verse and reads so easily.  There is so much depth here that I can't say that it is a quick read, but it did not take me long to read it.  My grandmother was the oldest girl in her family, and her mother became ill when she was a teenager.  I imagine that my grandmother's experiences were much like Lupita's.  I guess that is why I enjoyed it so much.  I definitely recommend this first novel for Texas author--Guadalupe Garcia McCall.

SR--The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Marlee is in middle school in 1958 Little Rock, Arkansas, and like many girls--she has not found a best friend.  Until she meets Liz.  Liz is awesome and helps Marlee stand up for herself.  Marlee believes that this might not be so bad after all.  But, outside of this middle school, many other things are going on.  In 1957, there were 9 African American teens who attended Central High School in Little Rock, but the governor has refused to open the schools because he does not believe in integrating the schools.  Marlee's sister is sent to live with her grandmother so that she can attend school; Marlee's mother is getting paid to teach, but she has no students.  Many things are going on, but none of that matters because Marlee has a best friend.

Until one day, Liz does not show up for school.  There are many rumors, and Marlee is hurt when Liz refuses to see her.  What will Marlee do?  What should they both do?  No matter what they do--someone is going to be hurt.

This was a great historical fiction novel.  I did not know about the year after the Little Rock Nine.  It was appalling to me that they were able to do that for a year.  I had the chance to go to Little Rock this summer and see the high school and the zoo.  I even had my picture taken with the lions in the zoo--well, they were in a cage, but still...when Marlee talks about hearing the lions roar at night from her bedroom window, I now can tell you that is possible.  They were very loud!

SR--Insignia by S. J. Kincaid

It is WW III.  The planet is almost completely out of natural resources, so the war is fought to get assets from the solar system.  The enemy is winning, but Tom Raines may be the saving grace.  Tom is seduced by the money, the power, and a girlfriend.  But, everything he is told is not quite what it seems.  What will become of the world as they know it?  Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?

This is a great book.  There is a lot of action, and it leaves you wanting more.  Which is good--because there is a sequel--Vortex.

The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis

This is what the publisher has to say about this book:

I had always been ugly, as far back as I could remember.
Micay has a deep scar that runs like a river from her right eye to her lip. The boys in her Incan village bully her because of it, and most of the adults ignore her. So she keeps to herself and tries to hide the scar with her long hair, drawing comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God, Inti. Then a stranger traveling from his jungle homeland to the Sacred Sun City at Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw, and the path of her life changes. Perhaps she isn't destined to be the Ugly One forever. Vivid storytelling and rich details capture the life and landscape of the Incan Empire as seen through the eyes of a young girl who is an outsider among her own people.

I really wanted to like this book.  I love reading about people who overcome through adversity.  However, I found it to be a slow moving story.  After a while, I got into it so that I can appreciate the story.  But, I would not say it is a great book.  

SR-Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal

Steve Jobs--quite frankly, I did not know much about him.  It is fascinating how he made it big but only after several failures.  This biography showed his faults, his failures and his drive to overcome and create.  I highly recommend reading this book.  It shows a lot about the human spirit.

SR--How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

Have you ever wondered how famous people really died?  George Washington, Cleopatra, Napolean...just to name a few.

Read about these gruesome deaths in this disgusting volume.  Be prepared to be grossed out!

SR--Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Stohmeyer

Gigi decides to run for student rep, but she'll have to get over her fear of public speaking—and go head-to-head with gorgeous California Will. Bea used to be one of the best skiers around, until she was derailed. It could be time for her to take the plunge again. And Neerja loves the drama club but has always stayed behind the scenes—until now.
These friends are determined to show the world that smart girls really can get what they want—but that could mean getting way more attention than they ever bargained for. . . .

Gigi, Bea, and Neerja are three extremely intelligent girls who are on their way to Ivy League schools, but they are afraid that they might be missing out on what high school life is all about.  So, they make a pact.  They will each take on a challenge so that they can have people know them as people instead of as just brainy girls.  They meet new people and have new experiences, but they have to learn to deal with these new experiences while still being true to themselves.

This was a good book that I read really quickly.  It is great when the smart girls are also pretty and don't let either of those things go to their heads.  Definitely a good read--worth your time.

The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I know that I am just now blogging about this, but I did read it in anticipation of the movie.  Well, I read it before it came out--which was 3 months ago--and I still have not seen it.  Alas...

Clary Fray wants to get away with her best friend, so they go to The Pandemonium Club in New York City.  She sees an interesting boy, so she follows him.  However, she got more than she bargained for...she witnessed a murder.  When she went to find her friend to tell him what happened--the body was gone.  But, the murderers were not--and now, they were interested in her.  But, it is not what you might think.  Clary has just encountered the Shadowhunters--warriors trying to rid the earth of demons.  Why are they interested in her and her mother?  They are just ordinary people, aren't they?  This is just the beginning of the story for Clary to find out who she is and who her parents are.

Wow!  What a book!  It is a thick, fast-paced, page turner.  Definitely you do not want to miss out on reading The City of Bones...and the rest of the series as well.

Here is the trailer for the movie.  

Nobody's Secret by Michaela MacColl

Emily Dickinson is a precocious young woman who is trying to find her place in an archaic society.  One day, she meets a mysterious young man who does not want her to know who his family is.  In fact, she does not even know his name.  She begins to call him Mr. "Nobody".  After a couple of chance meetings, they make a plan to meet at another time.  However, he does not show for this meeting.  She is heartbroken, but she is distracted when a dead man's body is found in the family's pond.  Emily sneaks in to see who the man is and realizes that it is the same man she has named Mr. "Nobody".  Now, she sets off to see if she can figure out who he is and why he came to town in the first place.

I loved this book.  It was a quick read that had a bit of history, a bit of romance, and a lot of mystery.  Definitely a good choice for reading.

SR--Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Every. Other. Day. Kali is a normal teenage girl worried about fitting in and making friends.

Every. Other. Day. Kali is a demon hunter worried about killing all demons that are in her path and surviving.

On her demon killing day, Kali notices a strange mark on Bethany's back, and she realizes that a demon has possessed her body.  Kali takes care of it--but that is only a symptom of the big demon battle going on.  Now, Kali is back in her human form, and they are after her.  Will she survive?  Will she make it to the other day?

This was a great read.  It was full of suspense and action.  I highly recommend it.

Every Other Day Book Trailer

SR--Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso

Taylor Truwell is sent to Sunny Meadows after she is found driving a stolen car.  She does not want to be there and works hard to find a way to escape.  However, she meets some friends that help her to face the truth of why she was there in the first place.
I have to be honest about this one.  When I read the back, I thought this was going to be a thriller.  It was not that at all.  It is about a girl who has teenage angst.  Once I got over my initial disappointment, then I was able to read it for what it was.  It ended up being a good book, but "Sunny Meadows" for a psychiatric facility??  Anyway, if you are looking for a book that has a teenage girl who feels misunderstood and makes really poor decisions then sees the error of her ways--this is a good one for you.  (Oh, I forgot to mention--there is a romance as well...)

SR--Zebra forest by Adina Gewirtz

Annie Morgan and her brother love playing in the forest outside their house.  They live with their grandmother because their father was killed in a knife fight.  Their grandmother is protective of them, and she tells them to be very careful especially in the forest.  However, summer is here and they have big plans to play out there.  Until one day, a prison escapee shows up on their doorstep.  He has a gun and everyone is scared for their lives.  Who is this strange man who seems to know a lot about their family?  Could he be the man who killed their father?  Or, is he someone else?
This book was a quick read and I would recommend it.  I was a little disappointed when there was no big reveal at the end.  I kept thinking that there must be more to the story.  Still, it was worth the time.
Enjoy this good book.