I loved Eleanor and Park so of course I had to pick up the next Rainbow Rowell book. Her stories are wonderful and so very realistic. Fangirl is about Cath. Cath is headed to college and not really ready for it. Her twin sister Wren has told her she doesn’t want to be roommates and wants to meet other people. Cath has always had Wren to rely on so this makes going to college even harder. Cath also worries about their dad who isn’t the most stable man around especially without Cath and Wren to keep an eye on him. Cath’s roommate doesn’t help either. She is snarly and rude and has an adorable boyfriend who keeps hanging around the room. Cath isn’t interested in socializing or having the college experience. She doesn’t want to meet new people or party and is scared of the cafeteria. All she really wants to do is work on her Simon Snow fanfiction and finish Carry On Simon before the next book comes out. Cath is an uber Simon Snow fan and her fanfic has thousands of followers online. Cath is more comfortable in that magical world than she is in the real world.
So for the first part of the this book I could do nothing but feel sorry for Cath. She is completely anti-social and one of the most scared people you will ever meet. Regan and Levi do slowly bring her out of that shell but it really takes a lot of effort. I thought the fanfic would be weird but it really kind of worked and in a way made me wish there really were Simon Snow books; even though they are really just Harry Potter fanfiction in themselves. I really appreciated Cath’s journey through these books. She grows up a lot and really comes into her own. And of course I loved Levi. He is the perfect first boyfriend in almost every way. As long as this book was I could have actually read more of this story. I can’t wait to see what Rainbow Rowell comes up with next.
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!
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.
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.
Oh Elizabeth Scott, how you break my heart every time I read one of your books. They are almost always books that make me think and make me want to cry. Heartbeat definitely falls into that category. Emma is a teenager living with her stepfather. Her mother is in the hospital dead, but being kept alive for the baby she carries. Emma blames her stepfather Dan for only thinking about the baby and not about what her mom would have wanted. She believes her mom was scared to be pregnant and knew something was going to happen to her. She doesn’t believe her mom would ever have wanted to be kept in a vegetative state like she is. Emma is mad at the world and has given up on all the things she had before her mom died. She was a straight A student on track to become valedictorian and attending a top 10 school. Now she is failing all her classes because she can’t be bothered to do homework. Every day she goes to the hospital and sits with her mom because even though she is dead she is still here. It is at the hospital where Emma meets Caleb Harrison, the local bad boy. Caleb knows what it is like to lose someone because his little sister died. His parents blame him for her death and he blames himself. In the three years since she died he has fallen into trouble through taking drugs and stealing cars. His latest escapade was driving his father’s car into the lake. Emma and Caleb bond over their shared grief and the relationship helps Emma come to terms with her situation and start to move forward.
I usually hate weepy books, but there is something so compelling about the stories Scott tells that I can’t help but devour them all. I loved the fact that this story seemed ripped from the headlines even though she had to have started writing it long before the Texas case became a story. This story of course ends differently than that one did, but I thought Scott did a fantastic job of portraying the realities of the situation. Emma was also a fantastic character. You could feel her rage and grief oozing out of the pages. You wanted to help her stop self-destructing, but there was no way. I want to be sucked into a story I read and not want to come up for air. This was one of those stories.
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.
The Apprentices is the sequel to The Apothecary. Maybe I would have gotten more out of this book if I had read the first one, but somehow I don’t think I would have liked it even then. Because I didn’t read the first book, I had no idea who the characters were and why I should care about them. The story jumps around between each character so much that it is a little difficult to keep the thread of the story going. And what a convoluted mess of a story it is.
Janie is a girl who goes to boarding school and is super smart. She gets accused of cheating on a test even though she aced it by her scheming roommate. Roommates father wants her experiment on desalination, but that plot goes no where fast. Janie ends up living with the family who owns the Italian restaurant even though she doesn’t know them. The boy of the family of course develops a crush on her. In other story lines, Benjamin is in love with Janie but hasn’t seen her in two years. He and his father are out in war torn Asia trying to help people. There are of course some other characters we are supposed to care about, but really could care less. There is a of course a couple of villains who want to kidnap all our characters so they can make a nuclear bomb that can’t be stopped. There is an island with a secret uranium mine. There are boat rides and plane rides and bus rides and cannibals and magic and sorcery.
It was a trial to read this book and I probably would have given up on it if I didn’t have to read it. Wouldn’t recommend unless you were a super fan of the first one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amy is a bit of a loner with no friends. Then she starts hanging out at Miss Cogshell’s house. Craig is not a loner, but he doesn’t seem to have any true friends. When Craig finds a baby seal he asks Amy for help. They end up taking care of the seal pup at Miss Cogshell’s house and become attached to each other. This is a story about friendship and responsibility and finding your place in the world.
Julian did something that got him suspended from school. He doesn’t want to talk about it though. When he gets in trouble again his English teacher makes him take on a journal project. He has to write every day and turn it in to his teacher. Julian talks about his friends and the neighborhood and school and girls, but he still won’t talk about what happened over Christmas break.
I actually liked this story a lot more than I thought I would. Julian is a very likable character even if he does seem to just go along with his friends. I thought all the nicknames the kids had were pretty funny and it made me wonder if kids actually did give each other nicknames like that in the 1960s. I really liked Julian’s growth in this book. It seems he really comes to accept who he is and what he has done. I thought the girl part was a little ridiculous, but it added a lot of humor to the story. I think this is a story kids are really going to relate to. Who hasn’t done something they regret and wanted to forget about?
Serafina dreams of being a doctor, but unfortunately she doesn’t even go to school. Her family is very poor, living in Haiti, and she is needed at home to help her mom and grandma. A flash flood wipes out their home and village so the family has to move to another part of the island and rebuild. Soon after an earthquake strikes as well. Serafina is on her own after the earthquake trying to find her family.
I really enjoy novels in verse. I like the fact that authors have to get their story told using so few words. I think Serafina’s story is a good one. You can feel her desire to go to school and her fear when she is on her own after the earthquake. I am assuming this story is set during the recent earthquake in Haiti, but there is no exact date given and it could be at any point in the last century. This is a powerful story and a really enjoyable read.
Judith and her best friend Lottie disappeared. Lottie’s body was found and Judith came back with her tongue cut out two years later. Judith has to deal with her mother and brother’s contempt and the contempt of the people in her village. She keeps her silence and hasn’t told anyone what happened to her. Then her village is attacked and the one person who can help them is the man who kept her prisoner. Judith pours out her heart to Lucas, her childhood love, but only in her head. It is only after she makes a friend and decides to learn to speak again that Judith comes out of her shell.
This was a book I didn’t want to put down. Judith’s story is given out in little bits throughout the book and you are never really sure what happened to her. She is treated like a pariah in her village because she doesn’t speak, but once she finds her courage and her voice things are different. My only beef with this book was the fact that the time and place was so vague. It seemed to be Puritan New England, but that is never specified. However, I really enjoyed Judith and Lucas’s story and how their relationship grew throughout the book.
Gregory comes from a family of mathematicians and her really doesn’t like math. He is the oddball in his family and no one seems to understand him. For Gregory loves writing, poetry specifically. He and his best friend Kelly love to write together and share what they have written. In order to pass his math class and appease his family he has to keep a journal where he writes about math and his life. He also enters the citywide math contest. Gregory learns about the Fibonacci Sequence and decides to do his project on it. But he doesn’t do a traditional math project; he decides to write poems based on the Fibonacci Sequence, which he calls fibs.
Full disclosure, I am not a math person. So a book about math really wasn’t my thing. However, I did like Gregory’s story and how he had to overcome his math deficiencies and find his place in his family. I liked his friendship with Kelly, but didn’t think it was ever fully explained why she and her mom were moving away. It almost seemed like there had to be some tension other than math and the author decided that the best friend leaving was perfect. I think this book will find an audience with the math nerds and the word geeks among readers.
Zach, Poppy and Alice are best friends who like to play games full of imagination and story. Their stories usually center around The Queen, who is a old doll in a glass case in Poppy’s house. One day Poppy decides to take her out of the case and the doll starts speaking to her. It turns out the doll is made of bone china using the bones of a little girl named Eleanor. The three friends head out on a quest to return Eleanor to her grave.
I really enjoyed the friendship between Zach, Alice and Poppy; it was nice to see boys and girls as friends. I do wish they wouldn’t have included the love interest bit, but overall it was a good friendship that can overcome disagreements and quests. I thought Eleanor’s story was creepy and spooky. I loved how the kids figured it out (using the library). Fun, little mystery story.