IDENTICAL, based loosely on the myth of Castor and Pollux, is the story of identical twins Paul and Cass Giannis and the complex relationships between their family and their former neighbors, the Kronons. The novel focuses principally on events in 2008, when Paul is a candidate for Mayor of Kindle County, and Cass is released from the penitentiary, 25 years after pleading guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, Aphrodite Kronon. The plot centers on the re-investigation of Aphrodite’s murder, carried out together by Evon Miller, an ex-FBI agent who is the head of security for the Kronon family business ZP, and private investigator Tim Brodie, 81, a former homicide detective. The complex web of murder, sex, and betrayal-as only Scott Turow could weave-dramatically unfolds, and the chilling truth is revealed: people will believe what they want to believe.
Alice is orphaned and sent to live with her uncle in the country. Uncle Geryon lives in The Library and has a fortress-like library filled with all manner of strange books. There are invisible servants and talking cats to add to the strange mix of the household. Alice discovers quite by accident that she is a Reader, a magician who can read herself into magic books. The books can be prisons for dangerous creatures or portals to other worlds. Alice tries to find out what happened to her father and what is happening to her. She doesn’t know who to trust and ends up working with Isaac, another young Reader who has snuck into the Library trying to locate a book.
I love books like this that deal with books in a mysterious and dangerous way. Basically any book with Library in the title will get my attention, but it has to be quite enthralling to keep me reading. This one pushed all the right buttons. Alice is a spunky and smart girl who is not afraid of doing what’s right even when it hurts. She isn’t gullible or easily led, but thinks for herself and looks out for herself. I loved the idea of books as prisons and portals. I especially loved the cats. They are just as you would image magical cats to be full of attitude and mystery. This is the beginning of a series and leaves several questions unanswered, but I was ok with that. The main story is wrapped up nicely with just a few threads left dangling to keep your attention. Definitely a series to watch.
This book tells the story of Francie as she grows up in the 1970s and 80s. She has to deal with her parents’ divorce, her disabled uncle moving in, new friends, new schools, family feuds and all the things that come with growing up. This is the third book in this series; the previous two followed Francie’s mom and grandma. A lot of time is covered in this short novel. It starts with Francie starting school and ends with her married with a baby on the way. Unfortunately, the span of years really cuts down on the storytelling. Each chapter is basically a different year in her life so very little is actual told about what happens to her on a daily basis. It is more like a collection of vignettes than a fully fleshed-out story. There are things like the feud between family members that is mentioned but never really explained. And there is an incident when Francie is young where she is almost kidnapped and another girl disappears. This is mentioned several times but really never goes anywhere. I think the book would have been better served to tell Francie’s story through childhood with more attention to detail than to try and tell her entire life story in 200 pages.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
This book takes a look at the cities of four American cultures: Cahokia, Inca, Aztec, and Maya. The author goes over what cities are, how they developed, what life was like and the religions of these cultures. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The author gives us a lot of good information, but unfortunately the organization of the book makes it very difficult to distinguish when the city changes. I think it might have better served the reader to perhaps do a chapter on each culture and its cities instead of breaking the chapters up like they were. I also thought the illustrations were horrible. There are no actual pictures of the ruins of these cities or their artifacts instead all the illustrations are a horrible gray block type that is a bit too abstract for the audience to appreciate. This is a fascinating subject that wasn’t served well by this book.
The old gods are dying. Hermes is wasting away, Athena has feathers growing inside her, and Demeter has become the floor of the desert. Athena and Hermes are on a quest to find out why they are dying. Demeter tells them to find Cassandra to help them. Cassandra is not an old one, she is a reincarnated prophetess living the life of a teenage girl with no idea who she once was. She is happy predicting sporting events and coin toss. She is happy with her boyfriend Aiden, her best friend Andi and her brother Harry. Her world is turned upside down when she starts having visions of gods dying or being attacked. She has no idea what is going on. Athena and Hermes track Cassandra through the witches of Circe (where they find Odysseus). Along the way they are attacked by Hera, Poseidon and Aphrodite who are waging war against them in the hopes of stopping their deaths. Cassandra is awoken to her true heritage once Athena gets a hold of her. She also finds out that Aiden is Apollo and he doesn’t appear to be dying like the other gods. She will have to decide whether to run or fight as war wages around her.
I absolutely loved Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares so I had high hopes for this book. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it. I thought it moved pretty slow. It is the beginning of a series so it is setting up who everyone is and what is happening, but not a whole lot happens other than that. It also ends in a bit of a strange place where you are not sure how things are going to play out in the future. I really enjoy books that put the old gods in the modern world and I enjoyed seeing how Athena and Hermes and the rest had adjusted to life today. I wish we would have gotten more backstory on what they had been doing for the last 2000 years and why they are suddenly dying after all this time. Maybe those questions will be answered in future books.
Fanella has been trapped in Faerie for 400 years. The curse on her family has finally been broken, but she finds she is under another curse and she cannot die. Because Fanella started the curse on the Scarboroughs and doomed each generation of Scarborough women to be sent to Faerie, she feels she should die now that the curse has been broken by Lucy. The Faerie queen tells her she too must perform three acts in order to break her curse. Fanella jumps on the chance before she is told the acts must be of destruction and on her family in the human world. Fanella will do anything for the chance at death so she agrees. Then she is also told if she doesn’t complete the acts the original curse will be reinstated. Fanella goes to her family and convinces them she has been freed from Faerie. She begins her acts of destruction; first destroying safety, then love, then hope. All the while she is trying to work through her feelings for her family and her new feelings for Walker, the handsome friend of the family who has taken an interest in her.
I didn’t love this book. Perhaps if I had read the first book where Lucy broke the curse I might have been more invested in it. I found I got really frustrated with Fanella’s tendency to just jump into things and not think them through. I loved her Faerie companion though. The Queen turns Ryland (her brother) into a cat and sends him into the human world to advise Fanella. He is full of snarky comments and truly adds a humorous touch to the book. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the ending as well. Fanella spends all her time working towards her death, but in the end chooses to live out her life (with Walker of course). I found it typical and not surprising but a bit of a muddle to the story. Not a bad book, just not my favorite.
What did I know about Benedict Arnold before reading this book? Very little. I knew he was a traitor, but I had no idea what he had actually done or who he was other than that. Turns out Benedict Arnold was a hero before he was a traitor and if he had been treated a little better history may have remembered him as the former instead of the latter. Benedict Arnold was a successful business man before the Revolutionary War. When the colonies decided to rebel against Britain he was one of the first to sign up and fight. He became a general in the army and led many successful campaigns. However, he was not well liked by some of the military authorities or by the colonial government. He was passed over for promotions, accused of crimes and even forced to stand trial. This was all partially his own fault as he was reckless and went against authority. He became embroiled in the plot to give Westpoint to the British because of the poor treatment he received. While his accomplices may have been caught, Arnold made it to British territory and eventually to England. His treatment was not all that much better however and his treachery may have been for naught. This book reads like an action/adventure novel. It is a bit long, so younger readers might find its size daunting. However, I think they would enjoy it once they get into it. Fans of history and adventure will enjoy this nonfiction work.
Alex is not speaking to her best friend because she slept with her boyfriend the night of her dad’s funeral. So she spends the whole summer dealing with her grief over her dad. She goes back to school ready to forgive Becca only to find out she has cancer. So the friendship is back on and Becca shares her bucket list with Alex. They call it the f*** it list. Becca has been working on this list since she was 12 and it has a wide range of things she wants Alex to take care of for her. While Alex is working on the list, she starts hanging out with Leo. And when I say hanging out I really mean making out. Alex is obsessed with horror movies and Leo shares her love of the genre. But Alex is a very closed off person who comes off as not very nice. She doesn’t want to open herself up to her feelings for Leo and drives him away instead.
This book didn’t end up being exactly what I thought it was going to be. I assumed it would be more about Alex and Becca’s relationship and dealing with Becca’s cancer. Instead it was more about Alex and Leo’s relationship and Alex dealing with her feelings. That was fine, but I felt like it was a little misleading. This is also not a book for the younger teen crowd. There is a LOT of language and a lot of talk about sex and a lot of well described make out sessions. Nothing wrong with that either, but it might shock (or educate) younger readers (and their parents). I enjoyed the story of Alex as she dealt with her grief over the loss of her dad, her fears about Becca and her new relationship with Leo. It was a fast read just not suitable for younger audiences.
How can you resist a title about human medical experimentation? This short little book was full of all kinds of information on medical experiments done on people with and without their knowledge. The majority of the experiments took place during the last century but there were a few from the 19th century mentioned. The book covers everything from Nazi concentration camps to radiation experiments during and after WWII to the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments. I think the most disturbing information however was the fact that there are still questionable experiments being done today. Regulations are much stiffer here in the United States so drug companies are outsourcing their medical experiments to 3rd world countries. I was fascinated by everything talked about here, but I did wish there had been a little bit more detail about some of the instances.
The Carpet People was first written by Terry Pratchett when he was 17 years old. He reworked it and reissued it a few years ago. You can see his progression as a writer and a satirist in this early work. It has the beginnings of the depth and humor as his early Discworld books. You get a good idea of where his leanings lie and what message he wants to send out into the world through his books. I would be interested in reading the original version of this book just to see how it was finessed for the reissue.
The Carpet People tells the tale of the land of the carpet. It is populated by different groups of people, animals, monsters, kings and emperors. The Munrungs are a simple people led by Glurk. They are part of the Dumii Kingdom, but only in the sense they are counted and pay taxes. When The Fray destroys their village they take off across the Carpet. Along the way they discover the monsterous Mouls are ravaging the land on their vicious snarls. They help free the Deftmene people and they meet a mysterious Wight who sees all possible futures. Together they all band together to free the land of the terrible Mouls and to come up with a better system than kings and emperors. This story is part adventure, part fantasy, part political satire and all fun. Fans of Terry Pratchett will not go wrong with reading this early work.
Red Porter comes from a long line of Porters. He is proud of his family heritage and his place in the world and his community. Then his daddy dies and suddenly mom is talking about moving them from Virginia to Ohio. Red doesn’t want to leave his home or the shop and store his daddy owned. He tries everything he can think of to stop his mom from selling even if that includes enlisting the help of Darryl Dunlop. The Dunlops have been the Porter’s neighbors for a hundred years and there has always been bad blood between. The Dunlops and Porters couldn’t be more different. The Porters are pillars of the community whereas the Dunlops beat their kids and cause trouble.
Red is also having trouble reconciling the racism he sees in his community with his own beliefs. Red is learning that just because it is the 1970s that doesn’t mean racism is gone. There are still people who want to put Blacks in their place and keep them separated from the whites. Red is friends with Ms. Georgia, an old Black lady who lives up the road from his family. Her grandpa was murdered 100 years ago on land he was buying from the Porters. Red decides to try and solve the mystery of where the Freedom Church was and what really happened the night George Freeman was murdered. This leads him to some hard truths about his family and the Dunlops.
There is a lot going on in this book. It is a book that would spark a lot of discussions on civil rights, women rights and racism. It is also a good discussion book on grief and how different people deal with a loved ones death. Red wants to hold onto everything related to his father, but his mother can’t stand being around everything without his father. I liked the progression of the characters. Red grows up a lot during the course of the book. He learns to stand up for what he believes in and not to give in to the bigots and racists. His mother also changes. She is devastated with grief at the beginning, barely able to function, but by the end she is strong and more than what she was.
For most of human history people believed the earth was the center of the universe and the sun, planets and stars all revolved around the earth. There were many different ideas of how the universe was set up but all of them followed the Biblical teachings that the earth was the center of everything. Then came some radical thinkers who tried to reconcile what they had learned with what they observed about the universe. They couldn’t get the two to match up. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton all used science and observation to try and understand the universe. They and others like them were also persecuted by the Church and other scientists who believed the earth-centric configuration of the universe. I thought this was a very well-organized and interesting book. It was easy to follow and understand and I think it is perfect for kids starting to learn about the universe. I did think the last chapter on groups who still believe the earth is the center of the universe was a little less scientific explanation and a little more preachy, but other than that it was a great read.
Sometimes I read a book and wonder what happened when I was a child that I missed reading it then. Maybe I was just too preoccupied by The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High and didn’t pay attention to books that might be considered quality. Maybe I only read things I could get through Scholastic Book Club. Whatever the case, I am glad I have the opportunity to read some of these as an adult and to introduce them to kids.
The Westing Game is one of those books I never read as a kid but know I would have loved. It did when the Newbery when I was a pre-reader, but I am sure it was on every library shelf throughout my childhood. It is a wonderfully engaging mystery that reminded me a lot of the movie Clue (not an exact match I admit, but some elements were there). I liked that it is not a dumbed down mystery for kids, but one that made me think even as an adult. In the introduction, it states that Rankin never “wrote-down” to children, but instead wrote to the adult in children. I think this perfectly describes this book.
The story begins with the Sunset Towers and its new occupants. They are all carefully chosen, except for the mistake, and all are connected even though they do not realize it. Sunset Towers is in the shadow of the Westing House whose mysterious owner, Sam Westing, disappeared 20 years ago. Then Sam Westing is found dead in the house and the occupants of the Sunset Towers are notified that they are heirs to the Westing Fortune. The sixteen heirs are paired up and given clues to solve the mystery of who murdered Sam Westing. They winner of the Westing Game will receive the Westing fortune. Along the way we learn so much about each of the characters and their connections to each other and Sam Westing. In the end there is only one winner of the Westing Game, but everyone who plays benefits in some manner.
This is the type of nonfiction I really enjoy reading (maybe I just have the mind of a middle schooler!). It is on a fascinating subject I know little about. It contains all kinds of useful information with lots of pictures. And it isn’t so long that I lose interest.
Plastic Ahoy is all about a scientific expedition called SEAPLEX that traveled out into the Pacific Ocean to investigate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The scientists onboard wanted to learn how the plastic was affecting the marine life. They investigated whether marine life was using the plastic and garbage as habitats, whether the marine life was consuming the plastic and what happened when it did, and if it was affecting the phytoplankton in the ocean. The book follows three scientists through their experiments and conclusions. It was very educational, but entertaining and interesting at the same time.
Timothy Hunter is approached by four strange men. These men talk of magic and offer to show Tim the magical world. He is sent to the past with the Phantom Stranger. He learns about magic in the present day with John Constantine. He travels to other realms with Dr. Occult. And he is taken to the end of the universe with Mister E. Along the way he is pursued, tempted, tricked and educated. All of this is to give him the choice of a life of magic or a life of science. But does he really have a choice? I enjoyed this book and its look into the world of magic; however, I do think I would have gotten more of the references if I had been reading other comics related to this one. It seems like many of the characters are drawn from other stories, which I haven’t read, so I didn’t get as excited by their appearances as I would have if I knew who they were.
During the summer of 1994, Chicago and the nation were glued to the news stories of eleven-year-old Yummy. Yummy was a shorty member of the Black Disciples trying to prove his worth to the gang leaders. He shot into a crowd of his rivals, but missed them all and instead hit 14-year-old Shavon. The murder of a young girl by an even younger boy shocked the nation and brought the harsh realities of inner-city Chicago to light. Yummy went on the run, but was eventually gunned down by his own gang members when they got tired of all the media coverage. This story is narrated by a fictional classmate of Yummy’s who wants to find out what happened to Yummy and why he turned out the way he did. It is a fast read and one you will not want to put down.
Carter Moon loves her life in small town Little, CA. She loves working at her family’s cafe and stargazing at night with her best friends Alien Drake and Chloe. Then Hollywood comes to Little and brings Adam Jakes, teen heart-throb extraordinaire. Adam is a child star, turned teen heart-throb, turned car-crashing, drug rehab screwup. This movie is supposed to be his redemption film. As part of his redemption, Parker his manager sets up a small town romance with Carter. Carter is to play Parker’s new girlfriend and get a nice check to help her family. The plan goes awry when Carter starts developing real feelings for Adam and has a hard time just playing a part.
So usually something like this is not to my tastes. I like a little more reality in my realistic fiction. However, I was a bit enchanted by this story. It read like a Disney movie (which I secretly enjoy!). I liked this story of two kids from completely different worlds. I laughed at the antics of Chloe and Alien Drake. The only part I thought was a little bit forced was the story of Carter’s gambling-addicted brother. I know it was a set up for why Carter wanted the money, but it still seemed a bit forced. This is a sweet romantic story that I am betting teen girls will enjoy.
I received a copy from Netgalley.
I had the pleasure of listening to Penny Kittle talk about Book Love at a conference recently. Her passion and dedication to introducing books to teenagers was inspiring. This book just continues that inspiration. If I had a teacher like Mrs. Kittle in high school I think I would have had a blast. Kittle discusses how most high school students are not readers and do not read at the level to prepare them for their future. Instead of cramming classics and class reads down their throats (which they don’t read any way), Kittle advocates finding the right books for the right kids and building their stamina for reading. She intersperses her philosophy and teachings with stories of her students. These stories are amazing. The fact that she gets so many non-readers to become readers is a testament to her love and resilience. I am not a teacher, but a librarian, and I found all kinds of ideas for books to connect with reluctant readers. Of course, most reluctant readers don’t find their way to the public library, but when they do I might be better prepared. I wish this book was required reading for all high school teachers. I would recommend it to all those interested in getting kids to read.
Eve Spiker is the daughter of biotech giant Terra Spiker. When she is in an accident and loses her leg she is immediately whisked off to Spiker Biotech to recuperate. Miraculously the leg is healed in a matter of days with no pain and no scars. Eve is introduced to Spiker lackey Solo who explains that she has been genetically modified by her mother with super healing. Solo lives at Spiker ever since his parents (Spiker scientists) were killed in an accident and he has hated Terra Spiker for years. He thinks she is evil and wants to take her down. Only his new love for Eve stops him short. While recovering Eve is tasked with creating her perfect boy and testing out some new genetic software for Spiker. Eve creates Adam, who is beautiful and intelligent and perfect in almost every way.
I thought I was really going to like this book; I have really enjoyed other books by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate in the past. However, this one just fell short of my expectations. I think the premise is intriguing. I like the fact that it is set in present day and deals with genetics and biomedical ethics and what it means to be human. However, all of those ideas fell by the wayside when confronted with the one-dimensional characters and the over-used plot ideas.
Eve and Solo and eventually Adam narrate the book and unfortunately there is little to distinguish them personality wise. They all seem like caricatures of typical teen novel characters. Eve is brainy and innocent and naive and never really questions anything. She loses her leg and has her arm crushed but doesn’t question the fact that there is no pain. She also doesn’t really react when told she is genetically modified. Solo claims to hate Terra Spiker and believes her to be evil, but never really gives us any reasons for this hate. He comes of as someone overly stuck on their own importance. Adam is supposed to be the perfect creation and he must be because he can literally stop traffic. In fact he is so beautiful everyone who sees him stares and wants him no matter the sex or age. Really??? Every time this was described I cringed with incredulity; it just seemed so impossible and such a stupid plot idea. Then we have Aislen, Eve’s best friend, she is so overly sexualize that she is barely a person. And her story about a drug-dealing loser boyfriend really has no place in the story at all. The ending is fairly ridiculous with the Spiker scientists becoming evil henchmen all the sudden. And don’t even get me started on the stupid love triangle.
I can say that this story moved at a fast-pace and was entertaining in spots. However, I don’t think I would recommend it.
The Freedom Summer Murders covers the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner in Mississippi. The book really brings the crime and its impact to life. There is a lot of information packed into this book, but it is all stuff the reader needs to know. However, I do think it might be a little too much for some younger readers. The book first describes the murder, then introduces the three men, then details the aftermath and the trials that resulted from the murders. I did find the narration a little choppy and wished we had been introduced to James, Andrew and Mickey before we learned about their murder. I especially enjoyed the aftermath section which talked about the difficulty in getting information out of the Neshoba County residents and how much resistance there was to prosecuting the men who murdered the civil rights activists. It is strange to me to think this happened just 50 years ago. It was definitely a dark time in our history.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.