15. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction

Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman (Author), Annie Crawley (Photographer), read by Angie, on 05/15/2014

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.

10. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman, read by Angie, on 05/10/2014

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.

10. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri (Author), Randy DuBurke (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 05/09/2014

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.

10. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson, read by Angie, on 05/09/2014

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.

10. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, Inspirational, NonFiction

Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers by Penny Kittle, read by Angie, on 05/09/2014

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.

08. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Eve & Adam by Michael Grant, Katherine Applegate , read by Angie, on 05/08/2014

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. 

07. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell, read by Angie, on 05/06/2014

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.

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

Explorer: The Lost Islands by Kazu Kibuishi, read by Angie, on 05/05/2014

This is a collection of seven short graphic stories. They all center around tales on islands. There is Rabbit Island where the rabbits become to reliant on a robot. The Mask Dance is a scary story about a girl who sails to another island and dances all night with ghostly masked figures. Carapace tells the story of a young man lost on an island and his ghostly companion. Desert Island Playlist is an unusual story about a young girl who washes up on a beach and meets a baby and an old woman. Loah is a tale of fish who escape their exploding island. Radio Adrift is about a young mage-in-training who enlists the help of a DJ to hatch her pixie. The Fisherman tells the story of a group of fisherman who discover a mysterious island. I enjoyed the variety of these stories and the wonderful illustrations.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Unforgotten by Tohby Riddle, read by Angie, on 05/05/2014

Unforgotten is an illustrated poem. It shows angels looking over us until one of them falls to earth. The angel becomes frozen until someone notices it and brings it back to life. I found the illustrations really interesting as all the people are either photographs or works of art. The angels are simple black and white line drawings that really stand out against the colorful backgrounds. This is a different kind of book, but one that was worth the read.

05. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Bombs Over Bikini: The World's First Nuclear Disaster by Connie Goldsmith, read by Angie, on 05/05/2014

Bombs Over Bikini details the nuclear testing done in the Marshall Islands in the wake of WWII. This very informative book looks at how and why the islands were chosen and what happened during and after the tests. I found some of the sillier aspects of the tests fascinating. Putting animals in clothes or smearing them with sunscreen to test what would happen to people. Other things I found bizarre and tragic. Why islanders were not evacuated when it was clear there would be fallout. In the end I was left feeling extremely sorry for the people of the Bikini and Rongelap Atolls. They were forced to leave their homes, exposed to radiation, shuttled around and never fully compensated. It is a tragic era in the nuclear age. Hopefully one we have learned a lesson from. 

I received a copy of this book from the publishers on Netgalley.com.

05. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction, Steam-punk

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson, read by Angie, on 05/04/2014

Piper is a scrapper in a scrap town on the fringes of society. Scrappers pick through the bits that come into their world from the meteor showers. These meteor showers deposit things from other worlds. Piper works to fix the things up and make them work again. One day she chases a friend into the dangerous meteor shower and discovers a destroyed caravan with a girl inside. She brings the injured girl back home with her. Soon Piper and Anna are running for their lives as they are chased by a mysterious man who claims to be Anna’s father. Anna has no memories. The only thing she has a is a dragonfly tattoo which marks her has protected by the king of the Dragonfly territory. Anna and Piper make their escape onto the 401, a train headed to the Dragonfly capital. Along the way they become friends with the 401′s crew: Jeyne, Trimble and Gee. There is danger, adventure and new insights into who exactly Anna is. 

This was a fun steampunk story for middle grades. I really enjoyed learning about Piper and Anna’s backgrounds and abilities. I think kids will really enjoy the adventure of this story; however, it is a bit on the long side which might turn off some readers. I think my complaint is that it started out one way and ended up another. I was fascinated by the meteor showers and the debris from other worlds at the beginning of this book. However, that pretty much got dropped once they boarded the train. I think I would have liked for the two parts to tie together a little bit more. I still really enjoyed reading it though and the ending does leave the story open for further adventures.

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

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett by Tom Angleberger, read by Angie, on 04/28/2014

This is the fourth book in the Origami Yoda series. I will admit that I only read the first one before this one so I know I have missed some things in the other books. That being said I am not sure I would have liked this book any better if I had read the entire series. The book is all about the kids taking on the school. It seems the school has fallen below passing on the state exams and in order to get the scores up they have decided to cancel all electives and extra curriculars and have “fun time” classes. These classes are dreadfully boring and the kids all hate them. The kids band together to find a way to get rid of fun time. Of course Origami Yoda leads the charge and all the other kids adopt an origami Star Wars character as well. There wasn’t anything horribly wrong with the story about fighting fun time. The kids actually come up with some pretty ingenious ways to defeat it. However, I think the whole origami Star Wars thing is a bit strange. For most of the kids they are playing a role, but it seems Dwight (Origami Yoda) truly believes he is his character. Seems like the kid could use some professional help. I also don’t buy that many kids being into Star Wars. Sorry…as much as I love the movies I don’t think it is a love that crosses all barriers and warms all hearts. This is just a really silly story that I am sure fans of the series will enjoy but most won’t. Plus there is the fact that it ends on a cliff-hanger! Seriously, what is up with that?

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

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck, read by Angie, on 04/28/2014

This is a story about a little mouse with no name who lives under the Mews at Buckingham Palace. Everyone is getting ready for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee including the mice. Of course our little mouse gets into a bit of trouble and finds his way out of the Mews and into a bunch of adventures. By the end he has discovered who he is and where he belongs in mouse society. I really don’t enjoy animal books that much and I found this one incredibly slow and predictable. There just wasn’t anything exciting or unique about the story. While I did enjoy the set up of the different mice societies throughout Buckingham Palace I thought the rest was a bit dull and predictable.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett, read by Angie, on 04/28/2014

Dash, Summer, Early and Jubilation Pearl are a family of four. They may not have much, but they have each other. Until the night Dash disappears, then the family of four becomes a family of three and not quite so stable. The police don’t seem to be worried about Dash and think he is just another dead-beat dad. Summer, Early and Jubie know that is not the case. They wonder if his disappearance could be related to the mysterious book job he was doing on the side. No one at the Chicago Public Library (where Dash worked as a page) seems to know anything or want to help. Then the Pearl family is forced to leave their home and seek refuge in a shelter after someone breaks in and threatens the family and steals all their valuables. It is up to Early to try and figure out what happened to her dad and to find a way to save her family. 

I thought this book had some strong points but the story got a bit muddy. I really liked the idea of a book exploring what it is like to live in a shelter; however, everyone in the shelter seemed more like caricatures instead of real people. There is also a heavy reliance on the poems of Langston Hughes in telling the story. I don’t have anything against poetry or Langston Hughes, but I think this will turn some young readers off of this story. This is a story for people who like words and books and the meaning of words and how they come together. It isn’t a story for someone who wants to read a thrilling mystery about a disappearing dad. I think the combo of the shelter story and the missing dad mystery are what muddied things up. One or the other would have made a stronger story. 

28. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Dystopia, Fiction, Teen Books

Champion by Marie Lu, read by Angie, on 04/27/2014

Champion is the final book in the Legend trilogy and picks up where the second left off. June and Day are now firmly on the side of the Republic. The Colonies are not happy about the bio weapons that were used on them in the past and have started up the war with the Republic in earnest. Day is concerned about his brother Eden and his connections with the plague in the Colonies. The Republic has asked for help from Antarctica since the Colonies are aligned with Africa, but have received no help. It is up to June and Day to save the Republic in any way they can.

I have been getting a bit tired of dystopian books lately, but I really enjoyed this series. Champion definitely wraps everything up nicely. I liked how June and Day’s relationship progressed in this book and while I found Day’s illness heartbreaking, I did like where it took the story. I think the thing I enjoyed most about this series was the fact that it was really about the people. Despite all the dystopian elements it came down to a story about two teenagers and how they made their world a better place.

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

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, read by Angie, on 04/26/2014

In 1957, the Little Rock Nine integrated the Little Rock high schools. In 1958, all the high schools in Little Rock were closed to prevent further integration. Many of the white kids were sent off to attend schools elsewhere, but the black kids had no where to go and were forced to miss a year of school. Marlee is attending middle school so she is not affected by the closures, but her sister Judy is forced to go live with their grandmother to attend school. Marlee is now alone and silent; Marlee doesn’t speak. It isn’t that she can’t, but she is so shy she doesn’t speak hardly at all. Then she meets a new girl in school. Liz chooses Marlee to be her friend and slowly brings her out of her shell. But Liz disappears one day and it comes out that she was a black girl passing as white. This causes all kinds of issues in racists Little Rock. Marlee doesn’t want to give up her only friend and convinces Liz to keep getting together. Tensions arise and Liz and her family are targeted. Marlee starts helping out on a committee to reopen the schools and gets her mother, who was against integration, to help her. 

We have all heard about the Little Rock Nine and many books have been written about them. However, I had no idea the high schools closed the next year to stop integration. I thought it was a very smart choice to tell the story of that year instead of the previous year. I could understand Marlee’s confusion and anxiety as the issue of integration caused problems in the town and in her family. Her father was clearly in support of integration whereas her mother was a segregationist. I imagine there were lots of families like this during this time period. I enjoyed Marlee’s determination to keep her friendship and help move things forward. This was an interesting book about a fascinating time in our history. 

24. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

When the Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little, read by Angie, on 04/23/2014

Tara Doucet is devastated when her Grammy Claire is killed in a car accident. Then she starts receiving letters from Grammy Claire. The letters point to a mystery that has to be solved about the nipwisipwis (butterflies). Grammy Claire’s study of the butterflies had taken her from her home in Louisiana to an island in the Pacific. Tara and her sister Riley are taken in by Claire’s butler Reginald and whisked away first to her Louisiana home in the swamp and then to her tree house on the island. Tara continues to receive letters and clues and mysteries keys from Grammy Claire. She has to solve the clues, figure out what the keys open and find out who is trying to endanger the nipwisipwis. 

This is a fabulous mystery for kids. I think they will really enjoy following the clues along with Tara. I loved the relationship between Tara and Riley. Even though it is prickly it is still very sisterly and they do truly care for each other. I did find it a little strange that the girls just went off with Claire’s butler leaving their mother at home suffering from melancholy. I liked the fact that we are left guessing a little bit about the true power of the nipwisipwis. It made it a little more believable. There are many mysterious plants and animals in the world so who knows if butterflies could really have restorative properties.

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

The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman, read by Angie, on 04/22/2014

Jackson Opus has strange eyes. They seem to change color depending on his mood. When they are purple strange things can happen; it is almost like he has a special power. Turns out he does; he has the power to hypnotize people. He is recruited by Dr. Mako at Sentia to learn more about and develop his power. Everyone believes Dr. Mako only wants to learn more about hypnotism, but is he truly good? Jax meets some people who don’t believe he has the world’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately, Jax doesn’t believe them until it is almost too late. 

I think the topic of this book was interesting, but the plot just went a bit over the top. Sure it will appeal to kids, but it doesn’t have a lot of crossover appeal. I wish the characters would have been a bit better. Jax is a contradiction; he is really smart but also super naive. His parents are dimwits and very one-dimensional. Dr. Mako is your typical bad guy out to rule the world. I thought the story of Jax being a descendant of two powerful mesmer families was a bit of a stretch. I like my characters to have a few flaws and Jax just seemed a little too perfect at times.

23. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawangdui by Christine Liu-Perkins, read by Angie, on 04/23/2014

I enjoy books like this. Christine Liu-Perkins did a fantastic job researching Lady Dai and her time period and sharing it in an accessible way for children. There are all kinds of mummies out there: Egyptian  bog, etc. All of these mummies are desiccated remains. What I found truly fascinating was that Lady Dai wasn’t desiccated. Her skin was still soft, her joints still worked, her organs had not decayed. She looked like a recently dead person instead of someone who had died 2200 years ago. Her tomb contained many treasures like still recognizable food and silks and some of the first books. Her tomb and those of her husband and son are truly treasures.

22. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, read by Angie, on 04/22/2014

Kiara is an 8th grade girl with a lot going on. She has been kicked out of school and is being homeschooled. It is just her and her dad at home since her mom moved to Montreal and her brothers are off at college. Kiara has Asperger’s and has problems in social situations and controlling her emotions. She has been called, freak, weirdo, and more and decides she is like Rogue of the X-Men. She never makes friends or keeps them because she is always doing something strange. When a new family moves in next door she tries to make friends with the two boys. Chad and Brandon have secrets of their own however. Soon they have become friends with Kiara, but Chad is drawing her into his family troubles. Chad likes doing BMX stunts and they are soon hanging out at bike trails with a bunch of older kids. Kiara for the first time has friends and she doesn’t want to give that up even if it means messing up her family or school life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Rogue. I learned a lot about Asperger’s from Kiara and her approach to life. I thought Chad and Brandon’s home life was also a timely topic. Their parents are cooking meth and making the kids help on top of some abuse.  I thought the X-Men obsession would be weird, but it actually really worked with the story. In many ways, Kiara is a lot like Rogue. I found myself smiling at times when she was trying to convince Chad he was Gambit or Antonio he was Wolverine. This is a touching story about family and friends and learning to accept who you are. It is a story about trying to change your circumstances and who exactly becomes our families.