28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Starstruck by Rachel Shukert, read by Courtney, on 02/28/2014

Starstruck follows the struggles of three young women as they attempt to rise to fame and fortune in Hollywood. It’s the 1930’s; the “Golden Age of Hollywood”. The Great Depression has cast a pall on the country and tensions are revving up overseas. The glittering stars of Hollywood provide the distraction that keeps the American public entertained under troubling circumstances. Margaret lives in Pasadena with her high-society parents. She’s been groomed for her upcoming debutante debut, but wants none of it. A regular reader of the trade magazines, Margaret dreams of one day setting foot on the lot of famous Hollywood studio. She even skips school to hang out at a diner in LA where she hopes to catch even the slightest glimpse of one of her idols. On one of these outings, she has the good fortune to run into a powerful agent representing Olympus Studios. She’s offered a screen test; a opportunity most girls would kill for. She’s elated, but a problem remains: her parents will have nothing to do with Hollywood or acting. They want her to marry well and follow in their society footsteps. In stark contrast to Margaret, there is Amanda. Amanda worked her way up from the bottom. Poverty will make people do things they wouldn’t normally do and Amanda made the most of her good looks and charm in order to make money. It’s not uncommon in Hollywood, but if anyone finds out, all her hard work will be for naught. Gabby, on the other hand, is the girl born into showbiz. Her mother, a classic stage mother, raised her in Vaudeville prior to trying their hand in Hollywood. Gabby works hard and has no life outside of the studio, but her best never seems to be good enough. She’s a good singer, but struggles with the dancing that’s expected to accompany her talent. Instructed to lose 20 pounds by her director, Gabby begins taking diet pills.
The three girls’ paths cross on the storied Olympus Studio lot and their lives are forever changed. Deception, intrigue and a little bit of movie magic combine to make a stylish and compulsively readable series opener. Comparisons to Anna Godberson’s work would not be amiss here. Where this series shines, however, is the use of historical context to bolster the plot. None of the characters exist in a vacuum. Imagined characters brush shoulders with real Hollywood legends. Events like the Great Depression, the implementation of the Hays Code and tensions brewing at home and abroad add to the authenticity of the story while never distracting from the juicy plot. A great start to a fun and stylish new historical YA series.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Teen Books

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond, read by Courtney, on 02/23/2014

Billy Dean is a special child. He is born on a day of death and destruction, when bombs nearly destroyed the small town of Blinkbonny. He is the only life that came out of that dreadful day. Billy’s world consists entirely of a small attic room with locks on the door. His mother, a beautiful hairdresser, is his only contact with the outside world. She teaches him nearly everything he knows. Billy’s father only comes around from time to time, smelling of incense, candles and cigarettes. When his father does come around, he tells Billy strange and confusing tales. One day, his father leaves and does not return. Billy’s mother decides it is finally time to bring Billy out into the world.
At the age of 13, Billy sees the world for the first time and is both frightened and entranced. There are only two other people who are aware of Billy’s origins: the woman who helped birth him, Misses Malone and the local butcher, with whom Billy’s mother has been having a relationship. As it turns out, Misses Malone has plans for Billy that involve talents Billy is unaware of possessing. It begins with Billy being used as a medium to help connect survivors with their lost loved ones. It escalates into healing the sick. Billy is treated as an angel, with everyone from miles around coming to town for his blessing. Billy isn’t so sure and suspects that he may actually be the monster that his father once told him he was. He isn’t even sure about his own abilities. He’s fairly certain that he’s not who everyone else seems to think he is.
David Almond’s newest is definitely a challenging read. The entire book is narrated by Billy whose spelling can only be described as phonetic. Billy’s story is unusual and the particulars are revealed incrementally. This is likely going to be one of those books that readers either love or hate. I doubt there’s much middle ground. I, for one, found this to be a strangely compelling tale, the likes of which I haven’t come across in YA literature very often. Appeal may not be broad, but for more sophisticated readers, this will be a fascinating and rewarding read.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, read by Courtney, on 02/21/2014

Josie Moraine is not your typical 1950’s teenager. To start with, most of the girls she’s met are not the daughters of New Orleans prostitutes. Most girls haven’t even set foot inside a French Quarter brothel. Josie’s been making money cleaning one up every morning for years. The brothel’s madame, Willie, is more like a mother to Josie than Josie’s real mother. Josie’s father is not even remotely in the picture. Her father figure is a local writer and book store owner who long ago gave Josie a room above the shop that she could escape to when circumstances got too tough. The store is currently run by the writer’s son, Patrick as the father is sick with what a modern reader can only assume is Alzheimer’s. Josie is done with high school and is hoping desperately to be able to leave New Orleans in the near future. When a wealthy man walks into her bookstore and speaks to her of colleges out east, Josie starts dreaming. Then the wealthy man turns up dead. Her mother leaves town with her abusive ex, Cincinnati, which also leaves a fair amount of drama in their wake. In the meantime, Josie is introduced to a girl her age who attends college at Smith and encourages Josie to apply as well. Josie becomes fixated on the dream of attending the prestigious all-women’s college, but circumstances seem to be conspiring to keep her in New Orleans.
Out of the Easy is a lovely period piece that transports the reader to a colorful era of New Orleans history. Josie’s is anything but sheltered. She brushes up against some of the roughest characters in the French Quarter, but always manages to keep her wits about her. She’s smart and tough. The other characters in our story are fantastic as well. Willie is the perfect madam-with-a-heart-of-gold. She’s shrewd and tough, but clearly cares deeply about Josie’s well-being. Josie’s mother is a complete terror and her ex, Cincinnati is palpably creepy. While the book is billed as a mystery, Josie does not fulfill the traditional book role of a teen spy who is somehow able to solve a murder all by herself. In fact, Josie is only interested in the murder because she developed an affinity for a man she had only met once. She sees in him a possible father, as far from the truth as it may be. She knows she’s desperate for a father and acknowledges that this desperation is likely why she cares anything about the murder of a wealthy tourist. It isn’t until she finds his watch in her mother’s room after her mother skips town that Josie begins to suspect this murder might involve people she knows. Even then, she doesn’t fill her time trying to track a killer, which is actually a really refreshing change of pace. The murder definitely affects her life, but not in the way that it might in most YA mysteries. What really shines in this book is the character development and the sense of place created by Sepetys. Out of the Easy is a wonderfully nuanced and layered novel.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel

Lucifer, Vol. 1 by Mike Carey, read by Courtney, on 02/17/2014

Fans of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman will remember Lucifer as the devil who retired from Hell and locked the door behind him. Now Lucifer Morningstar is back and starring in his own comic. He’s out of retirement and major plans. It’s going to take a bit of trickery, magic and obfuscation, but when Lucifer sets his mind to something, there’s really very little one can do to change his mind.
I love the world of Sandman, so it’s really no surprise that this comic would appeal to me. Many of the players that we know and love are present in this story. I didn’t love it quite as much as Sandman, but for those who just can’t get enough (and can’t wait for more of the new Sandman prequels), Lucifer should tide them over nicely.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, read by Courtney, on 02/16/2014

The War Within These Walls follows a young Polish boy whose Jewish family has been moved into the ghetto in Warsaw by the Nazis. Like so many others, Misha’s family endures devastating conditions. Misha begins to sneak through the sewers just to find food for his family. Eventually, his little sister joins him as well. Until she fails to return, that is. As things go from bad to worse, Misha joins his fellow Warsaw residents in one final stand against the Nazis.
The Warsaw Uprising is not addressed in YA fiction much, if at all. This slim novel brings the events of that struggle into focus with a sparse verse-like narrative and somber blue-grey drawings. It’s a lovely, if devastating, story about an important chapter in our collective history.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Humor

How Are You Feeling? by David Shrigley, read by Courtney, on 02/15/2014

With advice like this….
“How to Become a Better Conversationalist:
Smile
Listen
Avoid talking about anything
interesting or worthwhile.
Helpful Acronym: FURRY
Feel
Uplifted
Really
Really
Yes
Other helpful acronyms:
GLUE
BEANS
FLACID [sic]
CLOGS
…how can you go wrong?
Seriously though, I laughed out loud throughout.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Nikki, Romance

Break in Two by MJ Summers, read by Nikki, on 02/28/2014

18585911Thirty-one year old Claire Hatley is running from Seattle having just discovered that her live-in boyfriend has traded her in for a twenty-two year old hostess. Devastated and alone Claire must make a fresh start. She answers an ad for a chef at a guest ranch just outside Colorado Springs and finds herself face to face with Cole Mitchell, quite possibly the sexiest man to ever ride a horse. Common sense tells them to stay away from each other, but their attraction is not to be denied. He gives her a glimpse of what love should be, but just as she starts to trust him, the past comes back to tear them apart.

Join Claire and Cole as they embark on the stormy love affair of a lifetime.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki, Romance

Lila and Ethan: Forever and always by Jessica Sorensen, read by Nikki, on 02/20/2014

81+VkGcV6gL._SL1500_Lila Summers just wants to know one thing for certain: that Ethan Gregory will be with her always. Once her friend, he’s become so much more, melting the pain of her past away with each kiss. Now Lila is on a road trip with Ethan, in the wilderness under the stars, and she can’t imagine her life without him. But when she talks about the future, something in Ethan changes . . .

Ethan has no doubts about his feelings for Lila. His life with her gets better every day-and that’s the scary part. How can he walk into a future where he has everything to lose? With Lila, his whole heart is on the line for the very first time. But if Ethan can’t give her the promise she needs, his greatest fear might come true: he’ll lose Lila for good.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, read by Courtney, on 02/15/2014

Hollow City picks up almost exactly where book one left off. Jacob and his peculiar friends have left their loop with Miss Peregrine (who is still stuck in bird form) in tow. They’re not sure where they’re headed, but they definitely know that they need the help of another ymbryne to Miss Peregrine return to her human form. Without her, they cannot get Jacob back to his time and they will have no one to protect them from the hollows and wights. In their quest to get help, they meet a bunch of other peculiars from other loops. Along the way, they find that the hollows are collecting the ymbrynes in London for their own needs. In spite of the fact that London (and most of the rest of Europe) are deeply embroiled in WWII, the gang heads off to London.
Overall, this wasn’t really as good as the first book in the Peculiar Children series. It becomes readily apparent that some of the pictures are now requiring a bit more suspension of disbelief to accept them as part of the story. The other loops were interesting, particularly the all-animal loop. The pace, however, drags from time to time and the initial novelty of the format starts to wear thin. This book follows a lot of second-book-in-the-series formulas. The first book set up the world; this book has them hitting the road and leaves their world worse than its beginning. The ending clearly sets us up for the next book in the series. I didn’t hate it; I didn’t love it.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki, Romance

Sweet Rome by Tillie Cole, read by Nikki, on 02/19/2014

18759341You met Romeo Prince in the Amazon & USA Today bestselling novel, Sweet Home. Now hear the story from his lips: unbarred, uncensored, and raw to the bone.

It makes me laugh when I hear folks think Molly and I rushed into things too fast, spouting that we couldn’t possibly have felt what we did for each other in such a short space of time. I say, how the hell would they know? We made it, didn’t we? She became my whole life, didn’t she? And as for my folks not being real, being true? Tell that to me aged ten, eleven, twelve—damn, all my bastard life—when I was never enough, when I was beaten until I bled for being too good at football and not being everything they’d dreamed: the perfectly dutiful son. Tell that to thousands of kids around the world getting wailed on by asshole parents for whatever stupid reason; tell them evil don’t exist in their eyes.

Fuck Romeo and Juliet. This is the story of me and my girl, from my lips. No mushy sentiment, no cheese, just the plain, hard truth, and, because I’m feeling generous, I’m going to let you in on more of our story too.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki, Romance

Sweet Home by Tillie Cole, read by Nikki, on 02/15/2014

sweethome_ebook_1At age twenty, Molly Shakespeare knows a lot.

She knows Descartes and Kant.

She knows academia and Oxford.

She knows that the people who love you leave you.

She knows how to be alone.

But when Molly leaves England’s grey skies behind to start a new life at the University of Alabama, she finds that she has a lot to learn—she didn’t know a summer could be so hot, she didn’t know students could be so intimidating, and she certainly didn’t know just how much the folks of Alabama love their football.

When a chance encounter with notorious star quarterback, Romeo Prince, leaves her unable to think of anything but his chocolate-brown eyes, dirty-blond hair and perfect physique, Molly soon realises that her quiet, solitary life is about to dramatically change forever…

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags:

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen, read by Courtney, on 02/11/2014

The False Prince starts out with a teenaged orphan named Sage stealing a slab of meat for the others in his orphanage. On his way home, Sage runs into a man called Connor who shows a great deal of interest in Sage. After a discussion with the lady who runs the orphanage, Sage finds himself along with three other orphan boys his age in the custody of Connor and his henchmen. Connor tells the boys he has a plan. That plan involves one of the boys becoming wealthy and powerful beyond his wildest dreams. The boy that is chosen will be part of a massive and dangerous secret. The boys that aren’t chosen? Well, no one seems to want to say out loud what will become of them. Escape is a tempting option, but when given the chance to leave, one of the boys does and is promptly killed for his decision. Sage decides he will go along with Connor to see just what he is plotting, as much out of self-preservation as his own curiosity.
Once at Connor’s estate, it is revealed that the royal family is, in fact, dead. The eldest son and his royal parents had all been poisoned some weeks prior, but no one outside the king’s inner circle knows. Connor is one of the king’s advisers and is thus privy to such information. Connor decides to take matters into his own hands. His plan is dangerous. There was once a second son in the royal family. The younger of the two boys had been sent away years ago by his parents due to behavior-related incidents. Instead of going to the boarding school he was supposed to attend, the young prince ran off, only to wind up on ship that is overtaken by pirates. According to the official narrative, the prince did not survive. Since no body had ever been found, however, Connor decides that he will create an alternate story where the prince was secretly in hiding. Lacking an actual prince, Connor is determined to train the orphans that he’s tracked down to be as much like the real prince as possible. Then, when the public has been informed that their beloved king and queen (and heir) are dead, Connor will present the rest of the advisers with his version of the prodigal son. Naturally, the boys not chosen will be privy to treasonous secrets, which puts their chances at long and happy lives at a minimum. Sage decides that, even though he really doesn’t want to be the king, he would prefer not to die just yet, so he sticks around and attempts to play Connor’s game.
The False Prince is a delightful series opener. Sage is a fantastic character with wit and cleverness to burn. The rest of the cast of characters are equally intriguing and nuanced. The playful tone of the narrative counteracts the more serious questions of political intrigue and personal identity. The pacing is impeccable and a massive twist at the end will leave readers reeling and hankering for the next book in the trilogy (if they don’t go back and reread the book with different eyes). I had my middle-schoolers read this one for our most recent book group and they all loved it.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki, Romance

Wrecked by Priscilla West, read by Nikki, on 02/10/2014

wrecked2Two years ago, Lorrie’s mother was murdered. But that wasn’t the end of it. Reeling from the tragedy, Lorrie’s father spiraled into alcohol, depression, and finally suicide.

The two most important people in Lorrie’s life are both gone but she’s still alive.

Trying to recover from the tragedy, Lorrie returns to campus, ready to pick up the pieces of her life. All Lorrie wants is to get back to “normal.”

Then she meets Hunter. The man, the legend, “The Hammer.”

Hunter is a cage fighter who takes on every fight like he’s got nothing to lose. His life is a tangled mess of girls, booze, and fist fights. And while it may seem like he’s got a devil-may-care attitude, he’s fighting a private cage-match with a monster he can’t defeat.

Lorrie knows that Hunter is exactly the type of guy she should stay away from, especially in her fragile state, but Hunter has other ideas.

As Hunter and Lorrie grow closer together, will they be able to overcome their pain and heal each other? Or will they both end up wrecked?

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale, read by Courtney, on 02/09/2014

Kippy Bushman has lived in Friendship, WI for her entire life. It’s a nice, small, cozy town. The kind of place where everyone goes out of their way to be nice and they’re polite even if they’re upset. Thus it is a considerable shock when Kippy’s best friend, Ruth Fried, is found dead. In a cornfield. Strung up from a tree like a scarecrow. It’s a particularly vicious murder by any town’s standards, but for Friendship, it’s downright unthinkable. The town is paralyzed with the loss. Kippy is given the unsettling task of deciphering Ruth’s terrible handwriting in her journal so that she can redact “the sex parts” for Mrs. Fried’s benefit. Bit by bit, we learn more about Ruth, who, as it turns out, is not a particularly nice person. Kippy is stunned by the terrible things Ruth wrote about her and is left feeling rather conflicted. Ruth was, after all, everything that Kippy was not. Ruth was the party girl; the one who would steal another girl’s boyfriend just for the fun of it. There were plenty of people who weren’t sorry to see Ruth dead, in spite of their crocodile-tear-filled TV interviews to the contrary. The police are so anxious to put the case to rest that they quickly arrest Ruth’s boyfriend and keep him in custody. While Kippy doesn’t like the boyfriend, she is forced to admit to herself that the facts don’t add up. The killer is still out there and it’s very likely that he wasn’t a stranger. Kippy teams up with Ruth’s brother, Davey, and her neighbor, Ralph, to do some investigating of their own, much to the chagrin of the Friendship Sheriff’s department.
I picked this one up because it was billed as a sort of “Fargo-meets-Mean-Girls” premise, but I don’t know if that’s really accurate. It is most definitely a darkly comedic whodunit, so it bears at least some similarity to Fargo (minus the woodchipper, mercifully), but that’s where the similarities end. Honestly, I can’t really compare this to anything else I’ve read; this book takes some very strange turns. I did enjoy Kippy as a character, even if she was a bit hard to relate to. She has a sweet relationship with her father. Many of my favorite characters in this book, however, were introduced very late in the book and left me wishing they’d turned up earlier. While this is relatively straight-forward mystery, the plot takes some very unexpected paths to get there. I kind of wish that the pacing had been more even, but I was reading while on vacation, so my attention may not have been as consistent as usual (which is, of course, my fault and not the book’s). Overall, a very original and darkly humorous twist on the teen murder mystery.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki, Romance

Crash Into Me by K.M. Scott, read by Nikki, on 02/01/2014

Crash Into Me FINALWhat would you give up for everything?

Tristan Stone was powerful, commanding, sex incarnate. And he wore it all so well. From the moment his mesmerizing gaze met mine, I had no choice but surrender to everything he was. His power. His decadence. His passion. He was all I never knew I needed.

He wanted to possess me, and I wanted to be his everything. All I had to do was accept what he offered. But everything has a price.

The world he gave me fulfilled my wildest dreams, but would that be enough when the past crashed into the present?

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, read by Courtney, on 02/03/2014

Until he was 10, Jasper “Jazz” Dent lived with his father, Billy. Then his father was caught and arrested for the brutal murders of scores of women. Now, Jasper lives with his grandmother and tries his best to live as normal a life as a kid can live when said kid spent his formative years being raised by a serial killer. His grandmother is completely insane and blames Jazz’s long-absent (likely dead) mother for Billy’s violent tendencies. The rest of the town of Lobo’s Nod regards Jazz with unease. Everyone suspects he’ll turn out just like his father. The only two people who are willing to treat Jazz as a person wholly different from Billy are his girlfriend Connie and best friend Howie (who happens to suffer from extreme hemophilia).
Jazz’s upbringing makes him eternally convinced that he might still be just like his father, even though most signs point otherwise. Instead, Jazz uses the skills he learned from his father to investigate a local murder that seems strikingly similar to one his father might have committed. If his father wasn’t already in jail, that is. Unfortunately, local law enforcement doesn’t seem too keen on having the teenaged son of a serial killer helping them out with their current case load, so Jazz and his friends are more or less on their own. Then the body count starts rising and even the police realize that they might just need Jazz’s help to stop the killer before he can claim anyone else.
I Hunt Killers is a fun, bloody, fast-paced thriller. Comparisons to Dexter/Castle/Hannibal are inevitable, but not entirely accurate. Jazz knows the mind of a serial killer, but he comes across as far too empathetic to be a killer himself. Connie and Howie are great characters; they also have the bonus qualities of being about the last two people Jazz would ever hurt if he did ever turn to killing. The plot is a bit on the preposterous side, but it’s still an intriguing concept. I assigned this to my high school book club and a great discussion ensued.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Courtney, on 02/01/2014

Up until recently, Hayley and her father have been living on the road. Hayley’s father, a veteran with PTSD, has been trucking and picking up odd jobs to earn a living. They never stayed in one place very long, so Hayley hasn’t much in the way of traditional schooling. At long last, Hayley’s father decides to settle down in his hometown so that Hayley can go to school and graduate like a normal teenager. While not exactly enthused, Hayley settles into a life than is indeed more or less normal. She makes friends, even starts falling for a boy. The only problem is that she’s not exactly sure that being here is helping her father. He’s not always getting out of bed in the mornings, he gets drunk and angry at unpredictable times, he still wakes up screaming in the middle of the night…Even if Hayley does find a way to live a normal life, who will take care of her father?
The Impossible Knife of Memory takes on the tough subject of a parent home from war and still bearing the scars, physically and emotionally. Hayley has never had a stable life, but it is the only one she knows and she would rather be at her father’s side than anywhere else. The downside to her life with her father is that she is ill-equipped to deal with her own life. She too seems to suffer from a form of PTSD. Hayley’s internal struggles add a sense of immediacy to even the everyday hurdles she encounters. The relationship between father and daughter is nuanced; there’s a lot of love and a lot of anger. Hayley also must try to understand the drama of her friends and their situations, something she is unaccustomed to. It takes some time for her to realize that life-altering struggles are a part of everyone’s life, not just hers and her father’s. Hayley will definitely say and do things that will make readers want to yell at her, but in the end, Hayley’s growth as a person satisfies.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

March (Book One) by John Robert Lewis, read by Angie, on 02/28/2014

March Book One is the first in a planned trilogy that tells the story of John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement. John Lewis was an important member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and part of the group who helped integrate Nashville’s lunch counters. I really enjoyed how this story flashes back from Lewis getting ready to go to Obama’s inauguration in 2009 to his childhood, years in school, and his participation in the movement. We remember names like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, but may not be aware of the significant role played by people like John Lewis. I think this is a wonderful book that sheds light on the life of one of the Civil Right’s heroes.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes, read by Angie, on 02/27/2014

Gaby’s mom has been deported to Honduras and her absentee dad is back to take care of her. Her dad isn’t the best caregiver; he is always quitting his job and he forgets to get groceries so Gaby is pretty much on her own. Thankfully her best friend’s family steps up and helps out. Gaby’s class starts volunteering at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter and Gaby finds a passion for animals. She starts writing profiles on each of the animals to help get them adopted. She is convinced her mom will be home anytime, but sneaking back into the country is not as easy as it once was and her mom is having trouble finding the money.

I found Gaby’s story enchanting. I think it is something kids can relate to even if their parent has not been deported. Any kind of absentee parent situation could apply to this story. I really enjoyed the animal shelter part of the story. I think animals lovers’ hearts will melt hearing the stories of all these animals. I know I wanted to adopt a couple of them! I thought Gaby was a very realistic kid in how she acted, how she spoke and how she thought of the things happening to her.

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko, read by Angie, on 02/26/2014

Al Capone Does My Homework is the third book in the Alcatraz series. I read the first one and really liked it, but I had not read the second. Turns out I really didn’t need to. In this book, Moose’s father has been promoted to assistant warden and Moose starts worrying about him. Then one evening when only Moose and Natalie are at home, their apartment catches on fire. Everyone believes Natalie, Moose’s autistic sister, started the fire. Everyone but Moose and his friends. They set out to figure out who really started the fire. There was also a theft and people are receiving gifts from secret admirers. As always, there is a lot happening on Alcatraz.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it is wonderful that Choldenko includes an autistic character in this series even if they never label Natalie as autistic. I appreciate the fact that Natalie, although not like the other kids, is treated well by them. It is the adults who are afraid of her because she is so different. I liked how Moose and his friends and family try to work with Natalie so she can fit in better. I thought the mystery of the fire and the money was well done and intriguing. I also really like the fact that Choldenko has done her homework on Alcatraz and although she does take liberties with the stories she bases it on events and people who did or could have lived on Alcatraz.