28. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Paranormal

The Strangers by Jacqueline West, read by Angie, on 03/27/2014

This is the fourth book in the Elsewhere series. Olive Dunwoody lives in a magical house. The house used to belong to the McMartins, a family of powerful magicians who all died. The house is filled with magical paintings that lead to Elsewhere. With a special pair of glasses, Olive can enter the paintings and go to Elsewhere. In a previous book in the series, Adolphus McMartin and Annabelle McMartin both escaped from their paintings. They want the house and its magic back. In this book, Olive’s parents are kidnapped and a family of magicians come to town to help her. Olive has to figure out where her parents are and who she can trust.

I think my appreciation for this book would have been higher if I had read more than the first book of the series. I found the villains in this tale fairly predictable. However, the action was good and I am sure fans of this series were quite happy with how the story played out.

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

I Even Funnier by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, read by Angie, on 03/25/2014

Jamie Grimm wants to be the “funniest kid on the planet”. He is on his way to achieving his goal after winning the funniest kid in Boston contest. He just needs to win the regionals and move on. Jamie pulls his humor from the things around him which don’t seem funny on the surface. Jamie is in a wheelchair after an accident that killed his parents and little sister. He now lives with his aunt and uncle and a horrible cousin who bullies him all the time. Thankfully he has a good group of supportive friends and another uncle who helps him prepare for the competition.

I didn’t read I Funny: A Middle School Story so I didn’t have all the background on these characters. However, I think this is a book that will appeal to kids, especially fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The humor is pretty good and the story is interesting enough to keep kids reading. I thought the turn-around of the bully was a little too good, but other than that the story was fine. Not my favorite, but not horrible either.

25. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Rachel

All-of-a-kind Family by Sydney Taylor, read by Rachel, on 03/24/2014

This was a pretty cute book. Reminded me of an urban Little House on the Prairie. I loved the detailed description of Jewish holidays. Make sure you don’t read those sections on an empty stomach…the food descriptions were very well written!

It’s the turn of the century in New York’s Lower East Side and a sense of adventure and excitement abounds for five young sisters – Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie. Follow along as they search for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor, or explore the basement warehouse of Papa’s peddler’s shop on rainy days. The five girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises. But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!

24. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal · Tags: ,

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks, read by Eric, on 03/23/2014

Ten-year-old Birdie works as an apprentice for Alfred, surrogate father and bogler, in the poor, tough streets and houses of Victorian London. A boglers job is to kill the various dark monsters infesting London, and snatching up their favorite snacks, children. Birdie is the bait for the team’s salt-circle traps, and is vital to luring out the bogles. She’s proud of her work, even though it is very dangerous, and doesn’t pay well. When Miss Eames, an upper-class lady fascinated with the science of monsters, convinces Alfred to allow her to observe their work, they soon find themselves faced with monsters of both the bogle and human kind.

This is an excellent start to a new trilogy, and right up my darkened alley. The bogles are nasty, the dingy Victorian setting is ominous, and the Alfred-Birdie monster hunting team is great. The human murder mystery at the center of it all is creepy, satisfying, and makes me wish for the next book. Recommended.

20. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg, read by Angie, on 03/19/2014

Clare’s mother has died. Her father is a doctor and decides to move them to Malawi where he will work in a local hospital. Needless to say, Clare is not thrilled. She doesn’t want to leave her home, her friends and where she knew her mom. Once they get to Malawi it is complete culture shock. Everything from the living conditions to the food to the school is 100% different than what she is used to. However, Clare makes friends with Memory and her brother Innocent. She starts fitting in at school and things start to look up. She even gets to teach English to the first graders. Clare has to deal with a lot; she has to come to terms with the loss of her mom, to forgive her dad, and to learn to love her new life.

I didn’t think I would like this book as much as I did. I loved Clare and all her trials and triumphs. I thought she was extremely realistic in how she handled everything from the chicken to the shower to the school. Boston and Malawi are worlds apart and I thought Shana Burg did a great job showing just how different life in Africa really is. I also loved that this was not an after school special type book and that everything was not perfect. Life expectancy is low in Malawi; people don’t live to old age (old age is your 40s). I thought it was really realistic to show a child’s death and to show how difficult getting an education was. Excellent book!

19. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick, read by Angie, on 03/15/2014

This is the story of Richmond, Virginia after the Civil War. The war ended three years prior, but the conflict is no where near done. Shad and his family live in Richmond. One night Shad follows his brother to a Klan meeting and joins the brotherhood. At first he thinks it is all meetings and singing songs and playing pranks, but then things get serious. It doesn’t help that Shad has started teaching colored children how to sew in return for reading lessons. Shad has always thought he was stupid because he couldn’t read, but now he learns that he just switches some letters around and can read after he learns some tricks. Everything changes when the Klan kills his teacher and wants to torch the colored school. Shad has to decide if he is going to stick with the Klan or try and do what is right.

This is a very powerful story that isn’t often heard. You read a lot of books about what happened during the Civil War, but not a lot about reconstruction. You also don’t learn a lot about the poor Southern families who didn’t own slaves and who fought in the war for freedom not slavery. I really enjoyed the rawness of this story and how honest it was in its portrayal. My only quibble, and its a minor one, was the scene where Rachel, the colored teacher, first meets Shad on the street. She is extremely forward with him and doesn’t act anything like a just freed slave would act. During the rest of the book she acts much more restrained. That one scene really stood out to me and felt inaccurate. Other than that the rest of the book seemed like it could have really happened.

19. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy) by Jane Yolen, Adam Stemple, read by Angie, on 03/16/2014

Sammy Greenburg is bullied at school. He has a smart mouth and can’t seem to help mouthing off to the bullies. He makes friends with new kid Skink who helps a bit with the bullying situation, but isn’t always around. During bar mitzvah lessons he learns about golems. He decides to make a golem to help him out. Gully, the golem, does protect him from the bullies and he becomes his friend. Sammy, Skink and Gully form a band and get a gig performing at school. Of course Sammy’s rabbi tries to warn him about the danger golems can be to those around him. Sammy has to decide what to do about Gully and the bullies.

There are parts of this book I really liked. I liked the lessons on bullying and making friends and making good decisions. However, this was kind of a clunky book to read. It starts with a chapter on golems going crazy in Isreal featuring Sammy’s rabbi. Doesn’t seem to fit with rest of the story except when the rabbi tells the story later to illustrate how dangerous golems can be. I also didn’t buy just how horrible the bullies were. Bullies are of course mean and terrible and they do really bad things, but do most 6th grade bullies try to kill their classmates? I don’t think so. I found it strange that no one questioned Gully’s appearance (which is gray down to his teeth) or the fact that he just shows up and starts going to school nor do they question his disappearance. Even though this book isn’t supposed to be exactly realistic, it has so many realistic elements that the fantastical bits really stood out and didn’t work.

19. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Cheesie Mack Is Running like Crazy! by Steve Cotler, read by Angie, on 03/18/2014

Cheesie Mack is starting 6th grade and middle school. He decides to run for class president, but finds out one of his friends is also running. So they hatch a plan to get Georgie, Cheesie’s best friend elected instead. Cheesie becomes Georgie’s campaign manager. Cheesie also has to contend with his 8th grade sister Goon (June) who wants to sabotage him at every turn.

This is a book for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and books like that. Cheesie is a funny character that I am sure boys will like. The story is fine, but nothing really that special. However, this book isn’t the most fun to read. It makes constant, and I do mean constant, references to the earlier books in the series. And they are not your harmless references, but pitches to make you go out and buy the previous books. It doesn’t tell you what happened but says things like “you can read about that in my other book”. There are also a lot of references to the website in addition to the books. It is super annoying to read these things over and over and over again.

10. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt, Iacopo Bruno (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 03/07/2014

Max Starling is the son of two actors who own a theater. One day a letter arrives from the Maharajah of Kashmir inviting them to open a theater company in India. His parents jump at the chance and make plans to leave immediately. They plan on taking Max with them, but when he arrives at the docks he finds the ship not only gone but nonexistent. He has no idea where his parents have gone or if they are in trouble. He also finds himself alone, except for his Grammie who lives next door. He has to find a way to support himself and become independent while trying to figure out what happened to his parents. His solution is to become a detective of sorts, a job he kind of fell into and found he was good at. His cases involve a lost boy, a lost dog, a lost spoon, and a lost heir. His cases offer up strange connections to the people he meets. In addition to his cases and striving for independence, Max is also hounded by a family of “long-eared” people who seem to be after his father’s fortune. Max’s father has always said he sits down with his fortune every day and Max has assumed he meant Max’s mom and Max, but did he?

I was highly entertained by this book even if it was a bit on the long side. I really enjoyed all the connections Max made through his investigations and the group of people who grew around him. He starts out with only his Grammie for support, but ends up with a whole new family of friends. I did think the investigations themselves were probably the weakest part. Max claims to be a horrible actor, nothing like his parents, but he is able to pull off disguises with nearly every case. His disguises include becoming a woman and an older man and many others. I found it hard to believe that these disguises would work; however, I loved Max’s process of getting into disguise and how the costume dictated how he would act. The mystery of Max’s parents is not solved in this book as it is the start of a planned trilogy. I am assuming that mystery will continue until the end of the series.

05. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocolyptic, Children's Books, Eric, Fiction, Science Fiction

Rip Tide by Kat Falls, read by Eric, on 02/28/2014

The continuing adventures of Ty and Gemma, introduced in Dark Life. Someone has dragged under and chained a huge floating township, trapping the inhabitants inside to die. Ty and Gemma are swept into the mystery of the deaths, which soon involves Ty’s family, the infamous Seablite Gang, and those forced into a harsh existence on the ocean’s surface.

Nearly the entire book takes place above water this time, which partially is to blame for my lessened enthusiasm. Ty and Gemma face an array of characters and places straight from the set of Waterworld, or any other number of post-apocalyptic movies. There are to-the-death boxing matches, dirty dealings (and people), and a race against time which didn’t seem very hurried. A second novel can’t possibly capture the enjoyment of being introduced to a fantasy world, but even so, I can’t wait for these two to leave the surface behind, and swim down to where things are far more interesting.

04. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

The Secret of Terror Castle (Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur, read by Lisa, on 02/28/2014

Finding a genuine haunted house for a movie set sounds like fun — and a great way to generate publicity for the Three Investigators’ new detective agency. But when the boys arrive for an overnight visit at Terror Castle — home of a deceased horror-movie actor — they soon find out how the place got its name!

04. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Kristin

The Fairy Tale Treasury by Virginia Haviland, read by Kristin, on 02/02/2014

Thirty-two of the world’s best-loved fairy tales, including the The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Frog Prince, Gone is Gone, The Sun and the Wind, and The Bremen Town Musicians.

03. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Better to Wish by Ann M. Martin, read by Angie, on 03/02/2014

Abby Nichols is happy with her life in Lewiston, Maine. However, her father has aspirations for a better life. Her mother is often sad because of the two babies she lost. Abby and her sister Rose like living near the beach and on the same street as all their friends. Once her father’s business takes off, he moves them to a much bigger house in Barnegat Point. Her mother has another baby named Fred who is not normal. Soon after there is another baby girl named Adele. Her father becomes frustrated with Fred and sends him away to school, causing her mother to have a breakdown. Mr. Nichols is very controlling; he decides who the girls can be friends with and what they will do with their time. Abby doesn’t like living with her father’s restrictions and dreams of a different life.

This is an interesting story. It covers a long period of time in Abby’s life and jumps forward quite a bit here and there. This is the first in a planned series of four books spanning four generations of Abby’s family. It offers glimpses into the life of Abby and her family and what happens during her childhood years. I thought her father seemed overly harsh and controlling and really wanted more on why he acted the way he did. Her mother was clearly suffering from postpartum depression and Fred was of course mentally handicapped. I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy this book and look forward to reading the others in the series.

03. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Cats, Children's Books, Fiction

Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea by Lisa Martin, Valerie Martin, read by Angie, on 03/02/2014

Anton and Cecil are brother cats living in a harbor by the sea. Anton is a quiet cat who likes to listen to the sailors sing. Cecil is an adventurous cat who likes to go out on the day trips with the sailors. One day Anton is impressed into service on one of the ships and Cecil jumps on another ship to try and find him. They both have a lot of adventures on the high seas featuring rats and pirates and marooning. This is a fun romp on the high seas. I think kids will really like this tale, especially if they like animal adventure stories. I liked the distinct personalities of the two cats. I also enjoyed the slightly paranormal bit about the cat eye in the sky and the whale.

This was a mixed bag of tales.  Some lived up to the advertising, others were less successful.  One of the problems I had with some of the tales, is telling me how smart the protagonist is, and then all she did was sprinkle magic fairy dust that she had from somewhere to solve all the villages problems.  I realize it is more difficult to show instead of tell, in short tales, but maybe you Not-One-Damsel-in-Distress-9780152020477can’t have short fairy tales that cannot 5c6beb7d1455d9712297b6c80feb8533be shown, but paladinbyxiaji777xj3must be told. strng il_570xN.541902331_kzpc images I did enjoy the story Janet Burd (a Tam Lin variation), as well as the Mollee Whoppee story.

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.

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, read by Rachel, on 02/27/2014

The Pevensie siblings travel back to Narnia to help a prince denied his rightful throne as he gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

A battle is about to begin in Prince Caspian, the fourth book in C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy series, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years. This is a stand-alone novel, but if you would like to see more of Lucy and Edmund’s adventures, read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Pamela

Arabian Nights by Martin Waddell, read by Pamela, on 02/26/2014

arabian nightsTwo little stories children will just love.

When an evil magician needs Aladdin to fetch a magic lamp, Aladdin is too smart for him. But the magician soon wants his revenge. And, the Youngest-of All tried to please her two sisters. But they want to spoil her happiness. Can she still marry her beloved prince?

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

Theodore Boone: The Activist by John Grisham, read by Angie, on 02/23/2014

The Activist is the fourth in the Theodore Boone series. In this book, a bypass is proposed for the city of Strattenburg. The bypass will go through several houses and farms, cross the river twice, and go right by an elementary school and soccer complex. Theo becomes an activist against the bypass. He enlists the help of his friends to put a stop to this unnecessary project.

I am not really a fan of John Grisham or really any adult author who tries to make a buck on the youth market. However, I know this series has its fans and it wasn’t all bad. I am not sure how interested kids will be in a story about eminent domain and local politics, but there are enough exciting bits to make it a worthwhile read. On a scouting trip a foolish boy gets bit by a snake and Theo’s dog Judge gets attacked and nearly killed.

I think my big problem with this book was the fact that the kids don’t talk or act like regular kids. These characters are supposed to be in 8th grade, but they are like no 8th graders I have ever met. I also thought it was a poor way to describe activists to have Theo not know what they are. This is a kid who is very knowledgeable of the law, knows what eminent domain is, but has no idea what an activist is? Didn’t buy it. The ending is also a little bit too perfect in my opinion. I will admit that I did want to find out how the story ended and that it kept my attention throughout, but it just wasn’t my favorite.