29. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin , read by Angie, on 10/28/2014

Many years ago a band of 60 went into the mountains to battle the Nethergrim. Three returned: the wizard Vithric, the warrior Tristan and the local John Marshall. The kingdom has been relatively peaceful since then. Edmund’s family owns the local inn but he really wants to be a wizard. He hoards his collection of books and tries to teach himself spells. Katherine is John Marshall’s daughter. She loves training horses and learning swordplay from her father. Tom is a slave to a horrible master. His friendship with Edmund and Katherine is the only light spot in his very dark life. Their lives change when several children are taken from the village, including Edmund’s brother, by the monsters of the Nethergrim. John Marshall sets off to rescue them, but the children can’t wait at home. Edmund, Katherine and Tom take off for the mountains on a perilous journey. They will discover scary truths about the Nethergrim, its history and what it wants with the children.

This book reminded me a bit of the Lord of the Rings. There is an evil in the world and a band of heroes must find a way to defeat it. It is a pretty dense book for a middle grade novel and does get a bit slow in the middle. I wanted the kids to set off on their journey much quicker than they did. There is a lot of backstory and preparations to get through before they head for the mountains. The last quarter of the book is pretty exciting with some interesting revelations about the Nethergrim and what happened to the band of men years ago. This is the beginning of a series so the next books will hopefully pick up the pace a bit.

29. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman , read by Lisa, on 10/26/2014

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

29. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa · Tags:

School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott, read by Lisa, on 10/16/2014

Who’s got time for hair curlers and high heels when you’re busy keeping baby turtles alive?

Chip has always been a tree-climbin’, fish-catchin’ daddy’s girl. When Daddy dies, Mama moves her and her sisters south to Grandma’s house and Chip struggles to find her place in a family full of beauty queens.

Just when she’s wishing for a sign from Daddy that her new life’s going to work, Chip discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm. Could unusual pageant lessons and secrets be the key to making Chip’s wishes a reality?

Full of spirit, hope, and a hint of magic, this enchanting debut novel tells the tale of one girl’s struggle with a universal question: How do you stay true to yourself and find a way to belong at the same time?

black_beauty  black-beauty-ladybird-book-children-s-classic-series-740-gloss-hardback-1986-1445-p  imagesBlack-Beauty-02-800x587blbeaut 902078-M 054677Although Beauty’s life starts out soft and sweet, you know abuse by humans is coming down the pike.

There is a lot of moralizing.  Moralizing of a sort that I agree with, we should Not abuse horses, nor other animals.  And I think showing kindness to other humans is a standard by which we ought to judge others (if we are going to judge them at all).  But I am surprised that this is a classic, it might as well have been titled, 50 ways Not to abuse horses.  That said given the great positive influence this title has had on the treatment of horses and animals, I am glad of its impact.  Plus the story had a happy ending.

AWESOMELY FUN CHILDREN’S BOOK!
In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.nbsp;But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship–and a cheeky sense of humor–he just might triumph in the end.

23. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

Dreamwood by Heather Mackey, read by Angie, on 10/22/2014

Lucy has run away from boarding school and is off to find her father. Her father is a ghost clearer and has gone to the Pacific Northwest on a job. Once Lucy gets there she finds her father gone with no idea where to find him. She discovers that something is very wrong there. The trees that the economy depend on are dying from Rust. She believes it is related to the loss of the dreamwood trees. Many years ago dreamwood trees grew on the Devil’s Thumb in Lupine territory. But they were all cut down and the thumb has been deserted. Anyone who goes there never comes back. Lucy partners with Pete who wants to find dreamwood to save his family. She also got backing from Angus Murrain the local landowner. The thumb is treacherous and full of supernatural powers but Lucy is determined to find her father.

I liked Lucy as a strong female protagonist. She is smart and spunky but maybe just a bit too full of herself. I found myself rooting for Pete more than Lucy. I liked this alternative history version of America with First People Nations and belief in ghosts. I even liked the thought of the first dreamwood being a nature spirit on a warpath. I thought Murrain was pretty one-dimensional and his intentions easy to read I just wish Lucy would have seen him for what he was long before she did. She was so smart about a lot of things but completely blind when it came to Murrain. Overall this was an entertaining book that I sure young fans of fantasy will enjoy.

23. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Just Jake by Jake Marcionette, Victor Rivas Villa (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/22/2014

Jake has just moved with his family from Florida to Massachusetts and isn’t happy about it. In Florida he was the cool kid with tons of AWESOMENESS. However, his awesomeness doesn’t seem to have followed him north. He has problems making friends and his cool factor is near the bottom. His one saving grace is the kid cards he makes. They are trading cards of all the kids both in his old school and his new one. I didn’t realize this book was written by an actual 12-year-old until the end. It actually makes me feel a bit better about it. As I was reading it I thought the story was a bit unsubstantial and juvenile, which makes sense when you consider the author. However, I thought it was a great effort by young Marcionette. I think this book will appeal to fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Patterson’s Middle School series.

22. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, read by Lisa, on 10/21/2014

When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all around Manhattan, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

22. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, read by Angie, on 10/21/2014

So the Heroes of Olympus series is now over. I like the fact that this is a more mature series than the original Percy Jackson series. The kids are older, the dangers are more real, and the quests just seem a bit more epic. This book tells about the final battle with Gaea and all the gods and monsters she has gathered to her side. Our team of heroes is split with Nico, Rayna and Coach Hedge escorting the statue of Athena to Camp Half-Blood and Percy, Jason, Annabeth, Piper, Frank, Hazel and Leo on the Argo II heading to Athens. The battle is really one of two fronts with the monsters gathering in Athens to wake Gaea and the Romans gathering around Camp Half-Blood in New York to fight the Greeks. The gods themselves are no help at all because their Greek and Roman aspects are fighting each other so the kids are on their own. It is an epic journey requiring courage, sacrifice and smarts, which these kids all have in spades. I loved the end of this series. I loved the fact that the book is told through multiple points of view so we get a very thorough picture of what is going on. I loved the ending and how everything was wrapped up so nicely. But most of all? Most of all I loved the line after the book was over that said Riordan is now tackling a series on the Norse gods who are some of my faves!

Poor Rump. His mother died before giving him his full name. He has always been stuck with half a name and no destiny. He lives with his grandma in The Village on the Mountain. The villagers look for gold in the mines to send to the King (King Barf!). All of their rations come through the fat, greedy miller Oswald. This is a land where names have power, magic exists and pixies and gnomes are everywhere. Rump discovers his mother’s old spinning wheel and discovers he can spin straw into gold. The magic comes at a price and soon he finds himself in the power of the miller. When the king comes looking for the new gold, the miller claims his daughter spun it knowing that Rump would help her. Rump goes to the Kingdom and does help Opal, but at a huge cost. Because of the magic Rump can not give the gold away, he has to receive something for it. He is unable to bargain, he must accept any trade offered to him. When Opal offers her first born child Rump despairs, but he has to accept. He runs away to Yonder to find his mother’s family and to hopefully break the bargain. Alas, it is not to be. Rump has to find his true name in order to overcome the magical curse and be free.

I love fractured fairy tales. There is just something so enchanting about taking a story we all know and turning it on its head. The tales of Rumpelstiltskin are really not that detailed in explaining why things happen. Liesl Shurtliff simply fills in Rump’s backstory for us. She explains his actions and those of the other characters in the story. The miller becomes the true villain in this tale and Rump is simply a boy who has to find his destiny. I loved all the fantastical characters like the pixies, who are attracted to gold, the gnomes, who are messengers, and the trolls who don’t eat people! I thought this was a thoroughly creative and imaginative story and I loved it.

16. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler, read by Angie, on 10/15/2014

Auggie lives with her grandpa Gus who is a trash hauler. She and her friends who live on Serendipity Place love going with Gus to the junkyard and seeing what kinds of neat things they can find. They are all poor but proud. Auggie is starting a new school since her old school has been condemned. The school is bright and shiny and full of well-off kids, nothing like their old school. Mean girl Victoria starts tormenting Auggie on the first day and never lets up. She even steals Auggie’s best friend Lexie. Victoria’s father is on the House Beautification Committee and they come after Auggie’s neighborhood with a vengeance. Everyone tries to fix up their houses, but the committee just wants to condemn them all and build a community center. Auggie and Gus spend all the time working on their house. They find materials people no longer want and they turn them into art. Soon their yard is full of metal sculptures of all kinds. They have to figure out a way to stop the House Beautification Committee and save their neighborhood.

I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I loved Auggie and Gus’s relationship and the sense of community between the people who live on Serendipity Place. I didn’t quite understand the rationale for the story about Auggie’s mom, but it fit with the rest of the book. I did want the neighbors to figure out the committee’s plan a little bit sooner, but I really loved the end result. Victoria and her dad are pretty one-dimensional villains in this story, but then most villains are. I liked the lesson on how one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

16. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

The Miniature World of Marvin and James by Elise Broach, Kelly Murphy (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/15/2014

James is going on vacation and Marvin is sad that he won’t be able to see his friend for a week. While James is gone Marvin and his cousin discover the fun that can be had in a pencil sharpener. It’s fun until James’s dad starts sharpening pencils. When James gets home Marvin is glad to hear that he was missed. This is a nice beginning chapter book. Short, easy chapters with great illustrations.

15. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

Anastasia Romanov: The Last Grand Duchess by Ann Hood, Denis Zilber (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/14/2014

Maisie and Felix are off for another adventure through time. This time they are headed to Imperial Russia and the Romanovs. Before they leave they befriend Alex Andropov who is Russian and has hemophilia. Alex smuggles himself along through time and once he gets there he doesn’t want to leave. The three kids spend months with the Romanovs in 1911 traveling from one palace to another. They need to give Anastasia a Faberge egg and get a piece of advice. Unfortunately when they arrived the egg ended up in the Czarina’s possession. Then Alex wanted to destroy the egg so he wouldn’t have to go back to the present time. Felix is also enjoying his time in Russia and bonding with Anastasia. Whereas Maisie is feeling jealous and left out and just wants to get the mission done. There is a lot to figure out.

I still don’t really like this series. I find the kids pretty unlikeable and unrelatable. There are also instances where logic seems to be thrown out the window for no reason. For instance, why does Alex have to destroy the egg? To get back to the future he has to be touching either Maisie or Felix when they give the egg to Anastasia. So instead of trapping them in 1911 he could just not be around when they give her the egg. Seems pretty straight forward to me.

14. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Kira, Science Fiction · Tags:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, read by Kira, on 10/11/2014

An enjoyable book.  Main character Miranda starts the story off, telling how her neighbor and best friend Sal, quit hanging out with her, after he got punched, as the two were walking home.  A number of other 6th graders enter her life, as space is opened up.  These include AnneMarie, whose best friend Julia “broke up” with her.  Collin joking fellow who’d always been in the background, Marcus the kid who hit Sal, and even Julia, AnneMarie’s long-time best friend.  It also describes Miranda’s relationship with her Mother (single mom) and Mom’s boyfriend Richard.  The heart of the story is how Miranda navigates her friendships.  There is also a time travel mystery, as she receives notes from a9781921656064-1xdllbt person who has already seen the future. images2680954d79bd11915bdcbc13da7008c5 The question is who is doing the time travelling.  All the clue are laid out for you, but I didn’t think it was obvious.  Minor quibble – I didn’t think the explanation for Sal’s jerky behavior really made sense.  But overall enjoyable!

71989-thumb140 YouAreHere.4

14. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Horror, Lisa, Mystery

The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen by James Lincoln Collier, read by Lisa, on 10/13/2014

In the quiet town of Magnolia, someone is a’ haunting, making people do awfully weird things. Eugene knows because he’s being haunted, too. His friend Sonny’s dad walked right off of a building and fell to his death, and then another friend’s dad crashed his car into a tree. The same “specter” that was haunting them is inside Eugene, talking to him, telling him to do crazy things! Along with the help of their friend (conveniently, the daughter of the town’s newspaper editor) Eugene and Sonny pledge to get to the bottom of the haunting.  But not before uncovering a bigger mystery that will affect nearly every townsperson in sleepy little Magnolia…

14. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Kim, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Merciless by Mary Burton, read by Kim, on 10/12/2014

In this riveting linked novel, rising romantic suspense star Burton deftly heightens the suspense that began in “Senseless.”

No Pity. Each skeleton is flawless—gleaming white and perfectly preserved, a testament to his skill. Every scrap of flesh has been removed to reveal the glistening bone beneath. And the collection is growing…

No Compassion. When bleached human bones are identified as belonging to a former patient of Dr. James Dixon, Detective Malcolm Kier suspects the worst. Dixon was recently acquitted of attempted murder, thanks to defense attorney Angie Carlson. But as the body count rises, Kier is convinced that Angie is now the target of a brutal, brilliant psychopath.

No Escape. Angie is no stranger to the dark side of human nature. But nothing has prepared her for the decades-long legacy of madness and murder about to be revealed—or a killer ready to claim her as his ultimate trophy…

14. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

Leonardo da Vinci: Renaissance Master by Ann Hood, Denis Zilber (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/13/2014

So everyone is now back from the Congo and Kansas respectively and ready for their next adventure. Well Maisie and Felix are the Ziff twins are not included in this one. This time they are heading back to the Renaissance to meet Leonardo da Vinci. They end up with Sandro Botticelli to start out with (neither of the kids have heard of him) before they meet Leonardo. Again they do not ask his name for a few days (seriously what is wrong with these kids!?!). They meet the Medici family and attend carnival before completing their mission. Again the logic of these books just leaves a bit to be desired. Maisie is even more unlikeable in this one than she was the previous book and Felix doesn’t make that much of an impression. The one thing I do appreciate about the books in this series is the backmatter. Ann Hood gives the reader a very nice biography of the famous person we met in the book.

14. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

Amelia Earhart: Lady Lindy by Ann Hood, Denis Zilber (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/13/2014

Maisie, Felix and the Ziff twins are sent back through time to the Congo to find the missing Amy Pickworth. They get chased separated and Maisie and Felix end up chased by gorillas and stalked by lions. They escape leaving the Ziffs to their fate. They end up with Amelia Earhart as a young girl before she falls in love with airplanes. Of course they don’t realize she is Amelia Earhart because she goes by Meelie and the kids spend a month with the family without asking their names (I’m serious here!). Finally they realize who she is and complete their mission.

So I haven’t read any of the other Treasure Chest books and wasn’t really familiar with the stories or how the time travel works in this series. Apparently, the family has been amassing treasures throughout time and storing them in a room called the Treasure Chest. In order to time travel you have to be a twin and find an object that will take you to the time and place you want to go. Once there you have to give the object to the person you are seeking after getting a lesson in order to go home. Seems a bit complicated and it really is if you never ask a person their name. Not my favorite mainly because I didn’t find Maisie or Felix that likeable and they just seemed a little on the dim side (I really can’t get over the fact that they stayed with Earhart for a month and never found out who they were staying with).

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Tell Me by Joan Bauer, read by Angie, on 10/12/2014

Anna is a twelve year old drama kid. She is currently starring as a dancing cranberry at the mall. Unfortunately, her parents are not getting along right now and need a little space. They decide to send Anna to Rosemont to stay with her grandma Mimi for a little while. Rosemont is getting ready for its famous flower festival which Mimi founded and runs. Anna jumps right in to life in Rosemont. She meets Taylor and Taylor’s horse Zoe and she gets a role as a dancing petunia at the local library. While at the library one day Anna notices a sad girl who seems to be in trouble. Anna can’t get the girl out of her mind and is determined to help her. She enlists the help of Mimi, the librarian, and the everyone she can think of including the librarian’s grandson Brad who works for Homeland Security. Anna spends her days helping with the festival, being a petunia at the library and trying to remember more details to help this mysterious girl.

Joan Bauer does a good job writing these types of books. They have strong female lead characters who kids can identify with. Anna is smart and determined and dedicated. Things don’t always work out for her but she does the best she can with what she has. Human trafficking is a pretty dark subject but it is handled with a gentle touch in this book. It is a good introduction of the subject to kids who have probably not heard about it before. I like the fact that the case wasn’t solved like magic but through investigation and determination. Tell Me is a good read and another winner for Bauer.

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Twice As Nice by Lin Oliver, read by Angie, on 10/12/2014

Charlie’s friends aren’t talking to her ever since she told on two boys who started a fire. Her twin Sammie thinks this is for the best since mean-girl and leader of the pack Lauren isn’t nice at all. Charlie just wants to be part of the in-crowd though. When Lauren decided to form The Junior Waves club she needs Charlie to increase their chances of getting approved. Charlie is excited to be back in the group and will do pretty much anything even if it means going against what she knows is right.

This book was pretty cliched with no likable characters. I know it has a nice message about not giving in to peer pressure and bullying and being true to yourself but the delivery had the subtlety of a sledge hammer. Pretty much any cliche you can think of was in this book and you knew how the story was going to play out from the beginning. There are much better books out there that deal with these topics.