29. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Apollo and the Battle of the Birds by Joan Holub , 128 pages, read by Angie, on 03/28/2015

This is the first book of this series I have read. It is a good beginning chapter book for the kids who want to read Rick Riordan but aren’t quite ready. It is a short adventure story with lots of action and interesting characters. In this book, the Olympians are headed off to fight for the aegis (a shield). The meet Ares along the way and invite him to join their group. Nice introduction to Greek mythology and a fun story.

29. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Win or Lose by Alex Morgan, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 03/28/2015

The Kicks are the middle school girls’s soccer team and they are headed for the championship. Devin is the seventh grade co-captain and new in town. Things get heated on the team when Devin is misquoted in the local paper. Suddenly it is is seventh graders against eighth graders and the team is not working together just when they really need to. I’m not a huge fan of sports stars writing books, mainly because the majority of them do not write well and it seems like they get published just because of their name. This book wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t anything spectacular either. There are some good lessons about friendship and teamwork in the book. There aren’t a lot of girls sports book so this does fill a need.

29. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery

Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, 368 pages, read by Angie, on 03/28/2015

Truly Lovejoy comes from a long line of Lovejoys. When her father is injured in Afghanistan and loses his arm, the family picks up and moves to his hometown in New Hampshire. JT can’t be a pilot with only one arm and his injury has turned him into Silent Man. Truly misses her joking father and feels like she is invisible in her family of seven. It doesn’t help that her math grades are bad and she has to be tutored by her dad before he will let her join the swim team.

JT and his sister True have taken over the family bookstore, Lovejoy’s Books, while their parents join the Peace Corp. Truly isn’t thrilled with leaving Texas or her best friend. In Pumpkin Falls, she tries to go into stealth mode, but being 6-feet tall and new in a small town she definitely stands out. She is soon friends with Lucas and Cha Cha and solving a 20-year-old mystery. While helping out in the shop she finds an unmailed letter in a first edition of Charlotte’s Web. The clues in the letter lead the friends allover Pumpkin Falls and introduces them to a lot of interesting characters around town.

I really enjoy small town books with quirky characters and Pumpkin Falls seems to have its share. There is the busybody postmistress, the bag lady who seems to carry kittens in every pocked and the helicopter mom who can’t seem to let Lucas grow up. Pumpkin Falls also has a winter festival and a required cotillion for the middle schoolers. Then there is the frozen waterfalls and the fact that the town was founded by a Lovejoy. It all adds up to an interesting story. I liked the fish-out-of-water aspect of Truly’s tale and the fact that her dad is a wounded warrior. I thought the mystery aspect wasn’t that interesting and didn’t really add much to the story; however, the rest of it was really entertaining and a fun read.

29. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 212 pages, read by Angie, on 03/27/2015

Princess Cimorene doesn’t want to be a proper princess, she wants to learn to fight with a sword and learn magic and learn to cook and everything else her parents forbid her to do. When they set her up to be married she decides to run away. She heads straight to the dragon caves and volunteers to be a dragon’s princess. Luckily she is accepted by Kazul and they get along wonderfully well. Cimorene starts organizing Kazul’s caves and learns a lot about living with dragons. She learns that not all dragons like princesses or have one and that not all princesses are happy being with dragons. She also has to devise ways to deal with the pesky knights who keep showing up to rescue her. Then she gets involved in dragon politics and has to save the dragons from terrible wizards.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the rest of the series. It was a great audiobook to listen to. I like my heroines to be a bit on the unusual side and Cimorene definitely fits the bill. She is independent and smart and a role-breaker. I liked the different takes on the role of dragons and princesses and knights. This is a bit older than a lot of the fantasy books popular right now but fits right in with Jessica Day George’s dragon series and others.

29. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan, 108 pages, read by Angie, on 03/28/2015

Lucy and her family are heading to Aunt Frankie’s farm. It is flood time when the river rises and they are going to help her aunt. Lucy is the odd duck in her musical family. She is the only one who can’t sing. Even her little brother Teddy who doesn’t talk can hum in perfect tune. Lucy wants to be a poet. She likes writing poetry, but doesn’t know if she is good enough and hides her poems from her family. She also hides the fact that Teddy sings to her every night. He doesn’t talk or sing to anyone but her. On Frankie’s farm Teddy starts speaking more and more starting when he says cow. As the river rises the family learns each other’s secrets and works together.

I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did. It is a perfect beginning chapter book: short, simple language and a powerful story. I really enjoyed Lucy and her family, especially her relationship with Teddy. I like stories with close families and good relationships. My one quibble might be that the kids are all a bit too perfect. Teddy is two but says big words and sings in perfect tune. Middle sister Gracie draws really well. And of course Lucy writes wonderful poetry. I think it would have been just as powerful a story if the kids weren’t quite as special.

29. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Map Trap by Andrew Clements, 144 pages, read by Angie, on 03/28/2015

Alton has loved maps since he was a baby. He draws maps, collects maps, wears maps and does geocaching. One day he takes his folder of secret maps to school to impress Quint. Big mistake. The folder of maps disappears and Alton starts getting ransom notes. He has to figure out who has his maps before they get all over school. His secret maps are like regular maps; they map things like Ms. Wheeling’s mind and the heights of the sixth grade and the smells of the school. If they get out people’s feelings could get hurt. This is a nice, short book for those readers who like a little gentle mystery. I really appreciated the creativity of Alton’s maps, but I got a bit irritated by Quint’s slang (it was a bit much). Good teacher interactions as well.

27. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin, Kevin Cornell (Illustrations), 112 pages, read by Angie, on 03/26/2015

This is a really cute beginning chapter book. It is the tale of a dog who is in charge of keeping the chickens in his yard safe. Of course, he has to keep them safe from themselves. The four chicks take up with a squirrel who convinces them there is a UFO in the yard out to kidnap the chicks. Turns out it is a barbeque and the dog has to save everything. Very cute and appropriate for beginning chapter book readers. A good recommendation for fans of Mercy Watson.

27. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

More of Monkey & Robot by Peter Catalanotto, 64 pages, read by Angie, on 03/26/2015

The second book in the Monkey and Robot series. This is a good transition book for young readers who are ready to move on from easy readers but not quite ready for chapter books. The four chapters in the book are all independent stories that can be read together or separate. Funny stories that are sure to tickle kids.

26. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Missing Pieces of Me by Jean Van Leeuwen, 226 pages, read by Angie, on 03/25/2015

Weezie’s momma says she is a bad kid. Nothing she does ever seems to come out right whether it is making her momma tea or cooking dinner or picking flowers. Momma dotes on Ruth Ann and Jackson, but has nothing good to say to Weezie. Momma also doesn’t talk about Weezie’s daddy. She won’t even say his name or tell Weezie anything about him other than that he was a bad guy. Weezie wonders if finding her daddy would make any difference in her life. She has very little to go on: just a photo with a first name. She enlists the help of her friends Calvin and Louella to help her figure it out.

Weezie’s story seems to be one of heartbreak and loss, but on closer inspection it is one of hope and determination. Weezie is beaten down at every turn, by her momma and by some of her classmates. She doesn’t let that drag her down though. She is positive in spite of everything. She is an artist with true talent and is recognized by her teacher if not by her momma. She is a good friend to Luella and Calvin even when her momma tries to stop her from being their friend. She is a good big sister to Ruth Ann and Jackson even though her momma never recognizes her efforts. And she is a good daughter despite her momma’s indifference. I appreciate the fact that while the ending is hopefully it is not necessarily a happy ending. It is realistic in that momma has not made a big change in her attitude and Weezie’s homelife is still very much the same as it was. Sure she knows who her daddy is, but that has not really changed her circumstances. The Missing Pieces of Me is a wonderful story that I highly recommend.

26. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Lulu's Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst, Kevin Cornell (Illustrator), 185 pages, read by Angie, on 03/25/2015

Lulu’s parents are going on vacation without Lulu. She is NOT happy about it and is even more unhappy when she learns they are leaving her with a babysitter. She tries everything she can think of to get rid of Sonia Sofia Solinsky, including introducing cats to the highly allergic babysitter, sneaking out the window and blockading herself in her room. It doesn’t matter what she does, Solinsky is always one step ahead of her. After the blockade is destroyed Solinsky lets it slip that she is actually a spy. Of course, Lulu wants to be a spy as well and begs Solinsky to train her. Solinsky demands obedience and once Lulu is on board she has a much better time with her babysitter. The only problem is that her parents missed her so much they are determined to never leave her again. That will not do! Lulu then has to convince them to keep taking vacations so she can have Sonia Sofia Solinsky keep training her. I really enjoyed Lulu’s third outing. This series is very tongue-in-cheek funny. I really enjoy the interjections of the author, which didn’t seem quite as plentiful as they were in other books. However, I liked this story and how Solinsky tames Lulu. I think Lulu fans will enjoy this one as much as the others.

21. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Mariah, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense

Doll Bones by Holly Black, 244 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/19/2015

Three friends, Zack, Alice, and Poppy, play an imaginary game that seems to have all the best elements of fantasy. Making their own rules and using action figures, they write adventures that span weeks, months, and years. However, when Zack’s fathers decides Zack is too old for games with girls and dolls, everything changes. Zack is so angry and hurt that he handles the matter by refusing to deal with it. He tells Alice and Poppy that he no longer wishes to play their pretend epics and shuts himself off. The girls are hurt and bewildered. Then, late one night, Poppy and Alice show up at Zack’s window. Poppy has been suffering from evil dreams in which one of the dolls visits her. The doll, known as the Queen, claims she was made from the bones of a murdered child, and she will not leave them in peace until they bury her body in the proper place. Not knowing whether they really believe, the children set off on a dangerous adventure.

Children’s horror is not an overly populated genre, but Holly Black enters it with style and skill. The tale picks up quickly and keeps pace throughout the book. Revelations regarding the nature of the children’s changing relationships are woven seamlessly throughout the drama of being terrorized by a ghost. Dealing with the changes of life and maturity can be almost as frightening as supernatural events. In the end, the book was never too scary, too ridiculous, or too boring. I would recommend it to an older child, probably around middle school, who enjoys horror.

19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

The Giver by Lois Lowry, 179 pages, read by Angie, on 03/18/2015

It seems that utopian societies always have a dark side. The community in The Giver is no different; the perfect society is balanced by an absence of so many things – colors, feelings, choice. Jonas discovers this absence when he becomes the new Receiver of Memories. In this capacity he learns what really happens in his community and he finds that he can’t live with it. He has to make changes to his circumstances.

This is a really interesting book and a great book for discussions. There is the sameness of the community, the regimented lives of the citizens, the lack of choice in everything they do and the release of people from the community. I thought Jonas’s story was one many could relate to; he really grew up and into himself in the book. He learned to think and act for himself and as an adult.

I did find that when I finished the book I wanted to know more though. I wanted to know how they created the sameness — do they genetically engineer all the people to be color blind? The colors are still there obviously but the people just don’t see them. How did they get rid of the weather, the sun, the hills, the animals? I assume they have climate control, but they aren’t under a dome or anything so how does it work? How did the Receiver of Memories gather all the memories in the first place? They seem to be from many different people and places and times and at least one seemed to come from an animal (the elephant). How are they gathered and stored and tied to the community? Jonas looses them so they are obviously tied to a place. Lots of unanswered questions!

The ending is also very ambiguous and left a lot of questions. Was it real? Did he live or die? How will the community deal with the memories? Will the Giver be able to help them? Will the community change? And should the community change? Even with all the sameness and lack of choice was the community bad? Is release bad?

19. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson, 224 pages, read by Angie, on 03/15/2015

Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, MO. The family is grieving the death of her brother Jon. Mrs. Thatcher has withdrawn almost completely from her family and Judge Thatcher has thrown himself into work. Becky is determined to honor her promise to Jon and have as many adventures as possible. She becomes friends with Amy Lawrence and Sid Sawyer almost immediately. She also makes an enemy of Tom Sawyer when he tattles on her and gets her in trouble. Becky takes part in a bet the boys have about who can steal something from the Widow Douglas who everyone believes is a witch. Trouble starts when Widow Douglas is accused of grave robbing. Becky and Amy know it was actually the notorious Pritchard Brothers who did the grave robbing and Becky decides she has to find a way to clear Widow Douglas’s name.

This was an interesting alternative preview to Mark Twain’s books. Lawson takes a lot of aspects of the the Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn stories and gives them a backstory. Sam Clemens himself is staying at the Widow Douglas’ house while his steamboat is being repaired. He collects the stories around him for his future books. I liked the fact that a lot of the adventures Tom Sawyer ends up having in Twain’s books are imagined as the adventures of Becky Thatcher. In this book, Tom Sawyer is a tattle tale and brown noser who has no friends whereas Becky is the adventurer who brings down the Pritchard Brothers. It was a nice twist.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 03/14/2015

Marlin is a stutterer and has a lot of problems communicating with people. He has no problems talking to the animals in his father’s zoo however. Marlin’s dad is the famous adventurer Ronan Rackham and he created The Zoo at the Edge of the World in the Amazon jungle. The Zoo attracts wealthy tourists from Europe who come to see the amazing jungle animals and wild circus. Ronan’s latest capture is a jaguar the locals believe is a man-eater. Marlin is drawn to the jaguar and one evening while he is talking to it the jaguar talks back. Suddenly, Marlin can hear all the animals talking and they can understand him as well. This comes in handy when he has to save the zoo from his tyrannical, bullying brother, his crazy father and the scheming duke who is trying to encroach on the jungle.

I was intrigued by the premise of a zoo in the jungle during Victorian times. It is an interesting and plausible idea as the world was expanding for people during that time. Adventurers were discovering parts of the world never before seen by Europeans. I also liked the idea of a Marlin learning to deal with his communication problems and the fact that he is bullied by his brother. Talking animals I can do without, mainly because I thought it took away from the reality of the rest of the story.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh, 352 pages, read by Lisa, on 03/18/2015

Take two sisters making it on their own: brainy twelve-year-old GiGi (short for Galileo Galilei, a name she never says out loud) and junior-high-dropout-turned-hairstylist DiDi (short for Delta Dawn). Add a million dollars in prize money from a national cooking contest and a move from the trailer parks of South Carolina to the Gold Coast of New York. Mix in a fancy new school, new friends and enemies, a first crush, and a generous sprinkling of family secrets.
That’s the recipe for The Truth About Twinkie Pie, a voice-driven middle grade debut about the true meaning of family and friendship.

From Goodreads.com.

At first I didn’t like this because there was too much telling, not enough showing, but about halfway through it finally hooked me and held me to the end. It had some pretty good recipes in it too.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

No Flying in the House by Betty Brock, Wallace Tripp (Illustrator), 157 pages, read by Lisa, on 03/17/2015

Most little girls have parents to take care of them, but not Annabel Tippens.She has Gloria, a tiny white dog who talks and wears a gold collar. Annabel never thought it was strange that she had Gloria instead of real parents. Until one day a wicked, wicked cat named Belinda comes to tell her the truth — she’s not just a little girl, she’s a half-fairy!
And she can do lots of things that other kids can’t do, such as kiss her own elbow and fly around the house. But being a fairy isn’t all fun and games, and soon Annabel must make a choice. If she chooses to be a fairy, she’ll have to say good-bye to Gloria forever. How can she decide between her newly found magic and her dearest friend?

From Goodreads.com.

18. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa

Seven Stories Up by Seven Stories Up, 240 pages, read by Lisa, on 03/16/2015

In this companion to Bigger than a Bread Box, a leap back in time and an unlikely friendship changes the future of one family forever.

Annie has never even met her grandmother before.  In fact, she’s never had much family to speak of.  So when she and her mother pull into the drive of her grandmother’s home in Baltimore, Annie can hardly contain her excitement!

But when she actually meets her grandma, the bitter old woman doesn’t seem like someone Annie could ever love, or miss.  Until one magical, stormy night changes everything.

It’s impossible that Annie could have jumped back in time. . . right? But here she is in 1937— the year her grandmother was just her age!

Molly is an invalid. She lives by herself, on the top floor of a hotel.  She seems a little lonely, but friendly and fun, nothing like the horrible old woman Annie just met.

Annie entices Molly down from her room, and together the two girls roam. They sneak around the grand hotel, and explore the brick streets of old Baltimore. Carnivals and taxis, midnight raids on the kitchen.  The two grow closer.

But as Molly becomes bolder, and ventures further from the safety of her room, Annie begins to wonder how she’ll ever get back home. Maybe she’s changed the past a little too much.

From Goodreads.com.

12. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Lost Children of the Far Islands by Emily Raabe, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 03/09/2015

Gus, Leo and Ila live with their parents in Maine. They have a pretty idyllic life until their mother gets sick. She deteriorates rapidly and suddenly the kids are whisked away to a grandmother they don’t know on a remote island. Their grandmother is the Morai, an ancient being who protects the world from the evil Dobhar-chu. She is also a selkie, a shape-shifter who can go between the human and seal shape. Gus, Leo and Ila are also shape-shifters. Because Gus and Leo are 11 they are taught how to change shapes. Ila is too young to shift, but seems to be gifted in that she has a third shape of a fox. With their mother fading and their grandmother old and weak, the kids are the only ones left between the world and the evil of the Dobhar-chu.

I really enjoy books that delve into different cultural mythologies. There are books about selkies, but you don’t see a lot for this age group. I liked that even though the book deals with the mythology of selkies it doesn’t specify the culture they are from or directly point to a specific culture. I liked the kids a lot. Gus and Leo are twins but very different. The star of the show was little Ila though. She doesn’t speak for the first 5 years of her life and it is only after the mom falls ill that she starts to talk. It turns out she is also the most talented of the family in regards to shifting. She is a fierce little thing and quite entertaining. This is a great stand alone book for fantasy fans.

09. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 03/09/2015

Twig has a secret, a secret that means she keeps her distance from everyone. She lives with her mother in the town of Sidwell where Johnny Appleseed gave her family a rare pink apple. Her mother’s pink apple recipes are famous. Twig has no friends her age, but immediately likes Julia when her family moves in next door. Her mom doesn’t want her to be friends with Julia however. It seems that 200 years ago their family was cursed by a witch who just happens to be Julia’s ancestor. The curse is that every male member of the family is born with wings. Twig’s secret is her brother James who has been hidden his entire life because of the wings on his back. James is getting tired of hiding though and starts leaving the house more and more often. Twig and Julia become determined to somehow break the curse and start researching their ancestors for the answer.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoyed the story and thought it was really interesting, but I also thought it lacked something. There isn’t a lot of character development for pretty much everyone except Twig. There is a whole plot line involving saving the woods from development that seemed like an after thought to get a character into the story. I also thought the ending was just a little too perfect. Even though magical realism is not really my favorite thing I did think it worked fairly well in this story.

I received this book from Netgalley.com.

09. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Mariah, Science Fiction, Steam-punk

The White City by John Claude Bemis, 400 pages, read by Mariah, on 03/08/2015

This is the third book in a steampunk trilogy. The White City wraps up a fable that is loosely based on the tall tale of John Henry and the nine pound hammer. In this world, though, the railroad now cutting through America, is part of an evil take-over by mechanics and technology. A black-coated, top-hatted, evil industrialist is using a machine called the Magog to control humanity. Anyone who is too close to where it is in operation begins to fade. At that point, if the infected person tries to leave the vicinity, they begin to cough up black oil and die. The only hope to fight this mechanized evil is the natural magick of Ramblers. They use spell components from nature to work an earth friendly magic. The White City finishes a battle that began in the first book of the trilogy, The Nine Pound Hammer.

I read this together with my eight year old son. I thought it was alright. I have not come across a lot of steampunk that I thought was appropriate for younger children. That seems like a serious lack! The mix of magic and robots hooked my son immediately and he loved the entire trilogy.