07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel, read by Angie, on 02/07/2014

Ely’s best friend is his dog Tommy. Sadly, Tommy gets hit by a car and Ely is devastated. He goes to his grandpa’s farm for the summer and finds a t-rex in a cave. Now Ely has a new best friend, one who destroys everything in his path. Ely and Grandpa have to teach the t-rex to obey. Once they do they start earning all kinds of money to pay for damages and helping the local politician. Ely has run-ins with the local bully who wants to destroy Ely’s good fortune. There is a story in here about friendship and bullying and making what you have good. The illustrations are fabulous and the story is one kids will enjoy.

07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Chickenhare by Chris Grine, read by Angie, on 02/07/2014

Chickenhare and his friend Abe the turtle are sold to Mr. Klaus the taxidermist. They must escape his evil clutches along with their new friends the monkey and the elf girl. Mr. Klaus is determined to turn them all into stuffed animals because his beloved goat Mr. Buttons ran off 40 years ago. The escapees are helped by a tribe of Shrompf. There is a mighty battle between the good guys and Mr. Klaus and his evil henchmen. The heroes are aided by the dead Mr. Buttons and triumph in the end. Mr. Klaus and henchmen become dinner and all live happily ever after. I am not really sure what to think about this story. There are some fairly funny gags and the illustrations are good. But the story is gruesome and there is cannibalism. I am sure there are kids out there who will really enjoy this one, but as an adult I was not really a fan.

06. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, read by Angie, on 02/06/2014

Sage is an orphan and a thief. After he is caught stealing a whole, cooked roast he is purchased by Lord Connor, one of the regents of Carthya. The king, queen and crown prince have all been poisoned and Connor is determined to put a new prince on the throne. Prince Jaran has been presumed killed by pirates for the past four years, but Connor has a plan to put an imposter in his place. Sage wants nothing to do with the plan, but not going along with it surely means death. Attempting to thwart Connor at every turn, Sage nevertheless does what he needs to do in order to become Connor’s choice. Along the way secrets are revealed and motivations exposed. Does Sage have what it takes to become Prince Jaran and save Carthya?

Sage’s story is a compelling one. Sage is such a rascally smart aleck that you can’t help but root for him. I love the fact that no one is really who they seem to be nor are they who they start out as. Connor isn’t a villain in the stereotypical way, but he is a magnificent one nonetheless. Connor isn’t your typical hero either, but he makes a marvelous prince.

2014-15 Truman Nominee.

06. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Playing with Fire by Bruce Hale, read by Angie, on 02/06/2014

Max is an orphan who has been shuttled around to seven different foster homes in the last six years. When his latest home burns down he is sent to The Merry Sunshine Orphanage. The orphanage run by Hanti Annie is more than a home for orphans though it is a spy school. Max receives coded messages that indicate his father is alive. A covert mission gives him the perfect chance to see if he can find and rescue his father from the evil LOTUS group. Max must decide if his only blood relative is his family or if the group at the orphanage has become his family. Loyalties will be tested.

This book was a little over the top even though it is about orphans being trained as spies. I didn’t feel like we go to know any of the characters enough to really care about them one way or the other. I also thought the storyline with Max’s father was fairly predictable and not nearly as inventive as the plot suggested. I liked the fact that there was a very multicultural cast of characters though I thought it was a missed opportunity to have Hanti Annie speak pidgin and not understand English that well when she was an accomplished spy who spoke seven languages. I think some kids will enjoy this book, but there are better spy stories out there.

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

The Saturday Boy by David Fleming, read by Angie, on 02/04/2014

Derek’s father has been deployed to Afghanistan for months. Derek’s only communication with him is through letters. He keeps all of his dad’s letters in a Knight Rider lunchbox and reads them whenever he needs his dad. Derek is also having a tough time at school. His friend Budgie is only nice to him when they are alone. At school he makes fun of Derek and is very mean to him. Derek lives a lonely life filled with superhero comics and cartoons. Then one day he finds out that his father’s helicopter has been shot down and he did not survive. Derek’s world turns upside down and he and his mom have to figure out how to cope.

I really enjoyed this story. II thought it was touching and sad and funny and all the things you would want from this type of book. However, it wasn’t perfect. Derek seems to be a bit immature for his age (5th grade). He still believes in Santa Claus and is obsessed with his favorite cartoons. Derek also seems to have some behavioral problems where he acts out without thought. I thought the bullying from Budgie was well done and showed just how insecure kids are at this age. It is the time where they are growing out of being a child and becoming young adults. This is the period when they become more aware of what others think of them and how they are perceived. Budgie isn’t a bad kid, but he doesn’t have a lot going for him. So he bullies Derek and others to make it seem like he is more secure than he is. Derek tries to deflect the bullying, but can only take so much. This is a story about a boy trying to become a man without his father around, but it is also the story of a boy just trying to be himself. Great message and a great read.

05. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Wells Bequest by Polly Shulman, read by Angie, on 02/04/2014

The Wells Bequest is a companion novel to The Grimm Legacy. The action takes place in the New York Circulating Materials Repository. In this book Leo sees himself and a beautiful girl appear in his room. They tell him to read The Time Machine and to stop Simon. Leo is the youngest in a family of scientist. He doesn’t fit in with everyone else because he is into machines and technology. His science fair project on robots takes him to the Repository where he meets Jaya Rao the girl from his vision. Soon Leo is himself a page at the Repository and learns all about the wondrous things there. Simon FitzHenry is also a page at the museum and he is obsessed with Jaya. When his obsession is thwarted he turns into a sociopath with evil plans. He is going to use Nikola Tesla’s death ray to destroy major metropolitan cities if Jaya doesn’t agree to love him. Leo and Jaya then have to use the Well’s Time Machine to travel back to 1895 and stop Simon’s ancestor from stealing the death ray from Tesla. It is all very complicated.

First off I will just say that I really like the idea of the Repository. I think it is really interesting to see things from books come to life. I thought the explanation of how some of these things could be real was a little clunky, but I went with it. Where I think this book falls apart is with the characters. My major issue was with Simon the evil villain. Simon is 16 years old yet so obsessed with the love of his life Jaya (who has never expressed an interest in him or dated him) that he is willing to blow up cities to have her. Not sure where the logic went on that plotline but it ended up no where near the actual book. My second issue was Jaya herself. I am not sure why Leo and Simon are so in love with her because she is just not a likeable character. She is mean and impatient and doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of common sense. She is also very reckless with the artifacts and everything associated with the Repository. You would think the head page would have a little more respect for the institution she has worked at for so long. My final issue was the ending…everything is solved because of True Love. Seriously, there is a machine from a book that will point you to your True Love. Sociopath Simon is fine after finding his True Love in someone other than Jaya. It is also implied that Leo and Jaya are True Love as well. It is all just rather silly and washes away any of the good feelings I had about the book. I really did like the time travel aspect and meeting Tesla and Mark Twain. However, the flaws in the book were many and the good stuff just seemed to fall into the background.

04. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, NonFiction · Tags:

The Black Belt Librarian: Real World Safety & Security by Warren Graham, read by Angie, on 02/03/2014

I think this is a book that everyone who works in a library should read. It is nice and short, but it is full of practical advice for keeping things safe in your library. I really liked the fact that most of the advice can be tailored to your specific situation but is relevant to everyone. This book is easy to read and seems like it would be fairly easy to implement. It is full of library anecdotes that any library employee can recognize. I think some of the best advice in the book is about being aware of your surroundings and being consistent in how you enforce library rules.

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

Bluffton by Matt Phelan, read by Angie, on 02/03/2014

I really enjoy Matt Phelan’s books. I think they are wonderful slices of life. I appreciate the minimal text and lovely illustrations. Bluffton is the story of Henry and his summers spent with Buster Keaton. It seems Keaton and other vaudeville acts summer at Bluffton and fictional Henry was able to get to know them a bit. Henry wasn’t happy working in his dad’s store and really wanted to do more with his life. Unfortunately, Buster never shows him any tricks and just wants to hang out and play baseball. The book takes place over several years as Buster and family returns to Bluffton each summer. While I enjoyed this book, I am not sure it will find a wide audience with kids. I would guess very few kids have heard of or know of Buster Keaton or even vaudeville. Also, they might not be interested in a book that really doesn’t have a lot to say or a very exciting story. This is a sleepy little book that is a fast read and great for fans of Phelan. But we don’t really learn a whole lot about the historical characters and I am not sure we learn enough about Henry to really care that much. Beautiful as always with a Matt Phelan book, but limited appeal.

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

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore, read by Angie, on 02/01/2014

Ephraim’s father has had a stroke and his mom decides to move the family to Maine to help in his recovery. They move into the old family house,
The Water Castle. The house isn’t like a normal house, it is full of strange rooms that seem impossible and secret tunnels. The Appledore family has lived in the Water Castle for generations. They came to Crystal Springs, ME to find the Fountain of Youth and built a hotel and spa and water bottling operation on the spot.

Ephraim meets two kids at school who seem to know more about his family history than he does. Will Wylie’s family has always hated the Appledores. They were hunting for the Fountain of Youth too and planned on selling the water. The Appledores beat them too it and they have been bitter ever since. Mallory is a member of the Darling family. The Darlings have worked for the Appledore’s forever and her father is the current caretaker. Ephraim, Will and Mallory start out as enemies, but soon come together to work on a school project and to find the truth about the water of Crystal Springs.

Interspersed throughout the book are journal entries of Nora Darling. She worked for Dr. Appledore in 1909 and the journal details their quest to find the water and her hopes of becoming an explorer someday. Of course there are Appledores and Wylies at that time as well and the entries show that things haven’t changed all that much in 100 years.

This book is a little hard to classify. The Fountain of Youth storyline makes it a little more science fiction, but those elements are not treated in a fantastical way. Blakemore really tries to make this more realistic than anything else with historical elements thrown in. I like the ambiguity of the genre. I thought the kids quest for the truth about the water was a really good mystery. I do wish there weren’t quite so many threads left hanging at the end though. We don’t know who really set the fire that burned down the bottling plant and hotel in 1909. We don’t know if the water actually gives the drinker immortality. We don’t know if Ephraim’s dad is really going to recover. We also are left wondering about Mallory’s mom and if she is who it is implied she is.

03. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward, read by Angie, on 01/31/2014

Arthur Whipple doesn’t fit in his family. Everyone else has the same birthday and breaks world records every day. Arthur was born a day early and has failed at every record he has attempted to break. Even the people who work for the Whipples are record holders. Arthur tries everything to make his family see and appreciate him but they never do. Then a mysterious dwarf and giant ruin the big birthday bash and a family from Mr. Whipple’s past comes back and beats the Whipples at everything. The family cook is blamed for all their troubles, but Arthur knows he isn’t the real culprit. He has to find out who is behind everything and convince the others of the truth.

Ugh! I almost didn’t get through this one. It had so much going for it, but really didn’t live up to its potential. For one thing it was WAY too long. 400 pages is a lot of story especially for a book as convoluted as this one. The world record stuff was interesting at first, but quickly became a crutch for the story. It was way too unbelievable and clunky a device. The last thing that really bothered me was the fact that there wasn’t really any conclusion or moral or lesson to be learned from this book. We don’t know who ruined the birthday party; we don’t know who really hired the dwarf and giant; we don’t know why the cook was blamed; we don’t know what is up with the Goldwins; and Arthur’s family never appreciates him. I really wanted more from this book and didn’t get it.

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

EllRay Jakes and the Beanstalk by Sally Warner, Brian Biggs (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 01/30/2014

EllRay has to deal with bullies and skateboarding and friends trying new things in this book. EllRay really wants to learn to skateboard and thinks his cool, older neighbor Henry is just the one to teach him. Trouble maker and cool guy Fly is always hanging out at Henry’s and he doesn’t want little kids around. He is a bully and puts Alfie’s life in danger. EllRay is also dealing with one of his friends making friends with the kid who bullies him. On top of everything else EllRay has to compare himself to a fairytale for a class project.

This series is a good one for beginning readers. It deals with real issues that kids deal with. I like the fact that there is a lot going on in EllRay’s life; it makes him seem more real.

30. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer by Sally Warner, read by Angie, on 01/30/2014

EllRay Jakes’s little sister Alfie has a problem. Suzette Monahan has been mean to Alfie and causing all the other girls to be mean as well. EllRay tries to get Alfie to stand up for herself, but that doesn’t work. So he decides to take matter into his own hands and teach bully Suzette a lesson. This is a pretty decent beginning chapter book about bullying. It shows both sides of the issue with Suzette’s bullying of Alfie and EllRay’s bullying of Suzette. There are also some other instances of kids picking on others which could also be construed as bullying. I liked the fact that EllRay and his family are African American since there aren’t a lot of beginning chapter books featuring non-white characters. I think it is important to show diversity in books so kids can identify with the characters they are reading about.

30. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Jinx by Sage Blackwood, read by Angie, on 01/30/2014

Jinx goes to live with Wizard Simon after his stepfather tries to leave him in the Urwald. The Urwald is a forest filled with clearings where people live, the path that you must not stray from, and lots of forest filled with trolls and werewolves and witches and wizards. Even though Simon is a wizard, Jinx has plenty to eat and Simon takes care of him, he is even teaching him about magic. Jinx has magic of his own; he can see the emotions of others and hear the trees of the Urwald. Then one day Simon goes too far and does a spell that takes away Jinx’s magic. Jinx leaves Simon and wonders into the Urwald where he finds two other children with curses of their own. Reven can’t tell you anything about himself that would reveal who he really is. Elfwyn can’t tell a lie; if you ask her a question she must speak the truth. Together they set out across the Urwald and stumble upon the Bonemaster, an evil wizard who keeps them prisoner. They must figure out how to escape from him and to take away his source of power.

Jinx is one of the better middle grade fantasy novels I have read in a while. It takes parts of legends and fairytales and weaves it all together into a new story about a different land. What I enjoyed most was that it doesn’t explain everything or solve every problem. This leaves it open for more books in the series, but it in no way diminishes this story. It is creative and imaginative and just plain fun to read. More than anything this is a story about coming to terms with who you are and what you are or aren’t willing to do. It is a story about family and friendship and the magic that connects us.

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

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, read by Angie, on 01/28/2014

It is 1871 and the year the pigeons came to town. They descend on Placid and nest nearby. It is also the year that Georgie’s sister Agatha disappears. The sheriff brings back a body wearing Agatha’s dress, but Georgie is positive it isn’t Agatha. She sets off on a quest to learn the truth. Billy, Agatha’s beau, goes with her. Together they travel the same path as Agatha and try to discover what happened to her. There are cougars and counterfeiters and kidnappers along the way, but they do eventually learn some if not all of Agatha’s story before they return to Placid.

Georgie is an outstanding narrator. She is sure of herself and her abilities even though she is just a little girl. I like the fact that she ends up saving the day and Billy and solving most of the mystery. I am not sure how much appeal this will have to kids as it did get a little bogged down. The kids reading this might appreciate the ending and how everything was neatly tied up, but I thought it was a little too neat. Everything gets explained and Agatha’s story is brought to light, but I think it would have been better to leave a bit of mystery. I didn’t buy that Georgie would never shoot a gun again even though she is a sharpshooter. I thought that was out of character and didn’t make a lot of since. I got a little bored with all the information on the pigeons, but it is a fascinating part of our history so I appreciated the information.

2014 Newbery Honor Book.

Flora is a pig ready for adventure. As a little piglet in her pen she was always looking outside and trying new things. More than anything she wants to pull a sled. She idolizes the sled dogs she sees training on the farm. One day she sees her chance and gets taken to a ship. She thinks her time is now; she will finally get to have the adventure she has always wanted. Unfortunately, she soon finds out she is on the ship for a completely different reason. Then the ship hits an iceberg and sinks and now Flora, the captain and crew, the surviving sled dogs and one adventurous cat are stranded in the Arctic. Flora has to prove she is more than food if they are all going to survive.

This book reminded me a little bit of Charlotte’s Web. It is a fun adventure story with a pig lead. I like the fact that Flora has to prove her worth, but she is always confident in herself and her abilities. There are some good messages in here about being yourself and living up to your potential and doing things even when others say you can’t.

28. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors, read by Angie, on 01/27/2014

Ben is being forced to spend the summer with his grandpa in Buttonville. Buttonville is a dying town since the button factory closed. Ben is positive this is going to be a horrible summer spent with his grandpa at the senior center then he sees a giant bird, as big as a helicopter, flying over the town. Pearl Petal, known troublemaker, saw it too and is convinced it landed at the old button factory. Ben isn’t so sure about Pearl’s ideas until his grandpa’s cat deposits a bat on his bed. Turns out it isn’t a bat but a baby dragon. They head off to the button factory to discover what is going on in Dr. Woo’s Worm Hospital. Then the sasquatch escapes and Pearl and Ben are tasked with capturing it and returning it to the Imaginary Lands. Chaos ensues.

I really enjoy fantasy that takes place in the normal world. You don’t have to build a whole new world you just use ours and tack on an Imaginary Land where things like dragons and sasquatch and fairies live and occasionally visit our world. This book is a fun adventure that I am sure kids will enjoy. I loved the humor and the illustrations. And of course there is pudding…who can resist pudding?

28. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody, read by Angie, on 01/27/2014

This is the story of William Shackley, son of Rodric who is off on crusade with King Richard. Geoff Shackley is regent for his nephew Will. Will is a boy on the cusp of manhood who is not really sure how to make the leap. Circumstance force him to grow up however when Sir Guy of Gisborne comes to the castle and forces a fight that leads to Geoff’s death. Will and his mother escape but become separated. Will finds himself a hostage of the Merry Men led by Gilbert. Of course there are other Merry Men: Rob the drunk with a secret in his past, John Little the bear of a man who is also a good friend, Much the Miller’s son who is actually Much the Miller’s daughter, treacherous Stout and others. Will convinces the group to raid Shackley Castle for its treasure which sets off events beyond their control.

Matthew Cody explains in the author’s note that there are many variations on the legend of Robin Hood. Sure he took some liberties with the story but the basics are here and they work. I really enjoyed the fact that the story was told from Will Scarlet’s point of view instead of Rob’s. This is really Will’s story and the group becoming the Merry Men of legend is just part of that story. Will has to grow up and realize his past life is in the past; there is no way to get back what he has lost. He has to move on and create a new life. A life with Rob and the Merry Men in Sherwood Forest, robbing the rich to help the poor.

27. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, NonFiction

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, read by Angie, on 01/26/2014

This book has been on my “to read” list for a while, but with the movie coming out I thought I had better move it to the top of the list. It was definitely worth the read. While this is a work of nonfiction it reads like a mystery. Robert Edsel makes sure the reader connects with the men and women who were part of the Monuments Men during WWII. You get to know them and their families and their motivations.

I find it fascinating that not only did Hitler want to conquer Europe he also wanted to conquer its culture and artifacts. Hitler believed himself to be a connoisseur of art and set about acquiring as much as possible to build his collection and the collections of the museums he wanted to create. This meant the pillaging of Jewish art collections and the pillaging of museums in conquered lands. No one really knew the extent of his acquisitions and the acquisitions of his men until near the end of the war.

While the creation of the Monuments Men came from the top of the military brass, it was never fully staffed or given the materials needed to do the job properly. However, with little to help them out the Monuments Men were able to find and restore thousands of pieces of stolen art. I really enjoyed reading about how little conversations or bits of information would lead them to more bits which would lead them to a cache of stolen treasure. The Monuments Men were detectives on the trail of the biggest art heist in history. The fact that all of the stolen materials were found doesn’t not in any way diminish their acts of heroism and determination. These men and women were and went on to be some of the pillars of the museum and art world and I am glad they are finally getting the recognition they so richly deserve.

27. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, NonFiction

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health by Gene Stone, T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., read by Angie, on 01/26/2014

I recently watched the documentary Forks over Knives and decided to see what else the book had to offer. It is basically a narrative of the movie, but it still has some really good information on why you should change the way you eat. Forks Over Knives promotes a plant-based whole foods (vegan) diet. Doctors Campbell and Esselstyn have been researching the connections between nutrition and health for decades and their research has led them to this diet. Removing animal products and processed foods from the diet has been shown to greatly reduce the risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health issues according to their studies. The book highlights why the diet is better for you, the environment and animals. It also provides a lot of recipes to get you started. I’m not sure if I could ever go completely vegan, but it does make me think about what I eat and how I eat.

23. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

My Summer of Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald, read by Angie, on 01/22/2014

Lucy’s dream summer is not turning out the way she planned. Her sister Claudia is back from college, but instead of spending all summer sharing secrets by the pool Claudia is hanging out with her boyfriend Bean. Lucy’s best friend Sunny is wrapped up in her boyfriend Eric and the boy Lucy likes is giving her mixed signals. Lucy thought she would be helping turn the Pink and Green Spa into a reality, but feels pushed out by all the adults working on the project. To make things even worse she is stuck with Bevin, who is embarrassing and hangs around Lucy all the time. Can Lucy turn things around?

This is the sequel to My Life in Pink and Green and picks up shortly after the ending of that book. The spa is becoming a reality and Lucy is still trying to make things happen. She has a lot going on in this book and learns some lessons about herself and those around her. Lucy definitely grows up a bit in this book. I enjoyed the first book and I enjoyed this one as well. I think this is a good series for girls. The situations are all pretty realistic and there is also information about green initiatives.