21. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Janet · Tags:

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, read by Janet, on 05/20/2013

The Unwanteds     In the “perfect” society of Quill, those who don’t follow the exact rules or meet the highest qualifications are weeded out when they reach thirteen.  They are taken to the outer wall of the kingdom, through a gate always kept locked from the inside, and handed to some enormous Eliminators to be thrown into the Boiling Lake of Oil.  Alex and the others knew they were doomed, but were very surprised to be welcomed by a giant flying tortoise and Mr.Today.  They actually had escaped from a land of black and white with stiff rules to a colorful place where people were enjoyed and taught many magic and creative activities that would eventually save their lives.  Alex missed his twin, Aaron, who was a Wanted in Quill, but visited him in dreams, hoping to someday bring him here to Artime.  There are many surprises and lots of exciting experiences – good booki!

14. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Joyce, Mystery · Tags:

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn , read by Joyce, on 04/18/2013

Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?

Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.

Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.

06. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Janet, Mystery · Tags:

Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach, read by Janet, on 05/05/2013

Missing on Superstition Mountain   Why were people warned to not go on Superstition Mountain?  Was there really a lost gold mine there?  Whose skulls were lined up on the ledge?  Simon, Henry, and Jack couldn’t pass up the temptation to explore and had a very exciting adventure.  Looking for historical information in the library introduced them to a new neighbor, Delilah, who also wanted to explore.  Unfortunately, she had an accident on the mountain, which led to finding a hidden canyon and another mystery.  This was an exciting book that was hard to put down (even as an aging adult).

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor, read by Leslie, on 04/30/2013

Sparrow Road

Twelve-year-old Raine spends the summer at a mysterious artists colony and discovers a secret about her past.

I really think that this is going to be my favorite Mark Twain nominee.  The characters were all so real and the storyline rolled out at a nice pace.  Sometimes authors try to stuff things into their stories as they are reaching the end so it feels too rushed.  I thought that Raine’s personality as an only child trying to deal with all the upheaval was well done, she is a very grounded character, not flighty like some authors might make their characters when dealing with similar plots.  Very well done.

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

In Front of God and Everybody by K.D. McCrite, read by Leslie, on 04/26/2013

In Front of God and Everybody

Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny–especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone’s patience.

I loved April Grace!  Having been the older sister, I can’t see her view of what’s it’s like to be the younger sister, but I loved her sarcasm when dealing with her sister.  And as a kid, she is rather invisible and dismissed by adults when overhearing and seeing things they think are secret.  Very good book, I can’t wait for the next one.

19. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Will at the Battle of Gettysburg 1863 by Laurie Calkhoven, read by Angie, on 04/18/2013

Will lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with his mother and three sisters. His father is a doctor helping out in Washington and his brother is a prisoner of the South. It is 1863 and the Civil War is raging. Will dreams of being a drummer boy for the Union Army and doing heroic deeds, but his mom won’t let him join up. Then the war comes to Gettysburg. The bloodiest battle of the War is fought right on Will’s doorstep and he is right in the middle of it. He finds that war is not heroic deeds and glory but bloody, chaotic and terrifying.

This was an amazing story of what it was like in Gettysburg during the battle. Calkhoven does a great job weaving historical details into her fictional characters’ story. She shows the true horror of war, but also the selflessness of some of the people. I really enjoyed how she showed the townspeople opening their homes for the soldiers on both sides and taking care of the sick and wounded. She also provides historical notes at the end of the book with details about the battle and the Civil War.

2013-14 Mark Twain Nominee.

21. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags: ,

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, read by Angie, on 03/21/2013

Foster wants to become the first kid with a cooking show on the Food Network. Her specialty is cupcakes and muffins but she can cook anything. She practices for her show every time she cooks. The only problem is she and her mom just moved to small town Culpepper and who is going to discover her in Culpepper? They had to leave Memphis fast to get away from her mom’s Elvis impersonating boyfriend and Culpepper is where they ended up. Culpepper is a quirky little town with a reclusive Hollywood diva, a young documentarian without a camera and a host of other fun characters.

I love small town books. They always have the quirkiest characters. I think this book has a nice mix of crazy and sane. I like Foster’s ambition and determination to make it big. I also enjoyed the fact that she had a little dimension. She can’t read and she tries to hide that fact with everything she can. Once her secret is out she accepts the help of those around her. I do wish there would have been a little more development for Foster, but overall this was a fun little book.

07. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah · Tags: ,

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, read by Sarah, on 03/06/2013

Foster is the best cupcake baker in West Virginia, but she is hiding a secret she is too embarrassed to admit.  She and her mother have just escaped a rough relationship and have started fresh in this little town named Culpepper.  The town boasts a prison, Angry Wayne’s restaurant, a church for sale, and a haven house for prisoners’ families to stay in while visiting.  Foster and her mother have won their way into the town’s hearts with their hard work, perseverance, and dedication.  Foster wants to be the first kid on the Food Network with her own show, so often she will practice her shtick with the stuffed catfish on the wall of their borrowed trailer.  Good stuff.

I really enjoyed this 2013-2014 Mark Twain Award nominee.  The author connects you to Foster immediately and you can’t help but root for her.  If you believe in yourself and work hard, then you can be successful at anything you put your mind to.

25. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Melody · Tags:

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, read by Melody, on 02/19/2013

The Unwanteds is one of this year’s Mark Twain nominees.   It is the story of the land of Quill where every year there is a sorting of thirteen year olds.  Some become Wanted and go on to positions of power and influence, some become Necessaries who do the manual jobs, and some are Unwanted who are purged and sent to their deaths.  In actuality, the Unwanted are taken to a magical land where their talents of creativity and imagination which had doomed them are cultivated and nurtured.  But their world can not remain hidden forever.  I really liked the ideas of this book but found the premise to be much more promising than the execution.  The world building was very spare and the characters not very well developed.  A lot of fluff and very little bones.

24. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

The Underdogs by Mike Lupica , read by Angie, on 02/20/2013

Will lives for football; he is a football star. Unfortunately his town, Forbes, PA, is running out of money and decides they can’t fund the football team this year. Forbes has seen better days; the Forbes Flyers shoe factory has gone out of business and taken all the jobs with it. People are moving away and the town is slowly dying. Will writes to New Balance and asks them to sponsor the team; and of course they do. Now he just has to get a team together. He convinces his dad, former football player sidelined for a knee injury, to coach the team. Unfortunately, he only has 10 players. He recruits new girl Hannah and bullied by his father Toby to join. All Will wants is a chance to beat the Castle Rock team in the championship.

I have read this book twice now and there is still a lot of football in this book. This book is all about football; I know nothing about football nor do I really want to. So all the passages describing plays and the games went right over my head. I am sure for people who follow football this was a fantastic portion of the book. Thankfully it is easy to skim the football parts and still know what is going on. I enjoyed this book even with the football. It was a little predictable: Will is a football genius, New Balance actually funds the team and the CEO comes to the championship, they silence Toby’s bullying dad by making him assistant coach, the whole town comes out to support them, etc. All things you would expect; there were very few surprises in this book. However, I am not sure kids will care. This is a quick read with lots of sports action. The characters are likable and you really do root for the team even though you know they are going to win.

19. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Joyce, Mystery · Tags:

Hidden by Helen Frost, read by Joyce, on 01/31/2013

 When fourteen-year-olds Wren and Darra meet at a Michigan summer camp, both are overwhelmed by memories from six years earlier when Darra’s father stole a car, unaware that Wren was hiding in the back.
30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah · Tags:

Barn Boot Blues by Catherine Friend, read by Sarah, on 01/26/2013

hw7.plWhat if your parents got a crazy idea that they can manage a small farm in the middle of nowhere, and they drag you away from the only life you ever knew in the bustle of the city?  That is exactly what happens to 12 year old Taylor McNamara just before starting school.  Will the chicken poop flying everywhere and the bloating sheep get her down?  Will she survive embarrassing moments of farm mishaps that leave their evidence on her stylish clothing?  Will her friends help her succeed in convincing her parents that the farm life is not for them?

Taylor was a believable pre-teen who only wanted to be accepted in her new school, be able to make friends, and survive the chore of taking care of 74 farm animals.  Her new friends are great; trying to help her in any way that they can.  Taylor’s parents sound like typical adults who try something new, discover it is going to be stressful, and forget about the kid for a while.  I like how the author let you in on the parents’ relationship throughout the story, too.  All in all, it was a good book that I would recommend for tweens (especially if they are interested in the perils of farm life!)

23. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby, read by Angie, on 01/22/2013

Hannah is a maid at a hotel. She is working to support her family since her dad got sick. Frederick is a clockmaker’s apprentice. He is glad to be out of the orphanage and wants to create an automaton man. Guiseppe is a street busker. He plays his violin in the hope of making enough money for food and shelter from his padrone. These three young people’s lives come together in a way no one expected. They become friends and go on a quest for a missing treasure. The hunt leads them down paths they didn’t expect, including theft and murder.

This book is told from the perspectives of the three young protagonists. We learn their stories in the alternating chapters. They are interesting stories, but I have to admit I found this book a little slow. While the three storylines are interesting, they don’t truly intersect until the very end. I also found the ending just a little too easy. This is a kid’s book so of course I knew everything would turn out ok, but I don’t like perfect endings. They are certainly not true in life and shouldn’t be in literature. This is a 2012-13 Mark Twain nominee.

17. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

The Familiars (The Familiars #1) by Adam Jay Epstein, read by Angie, on 01/16/2013

The Familiars is the tale of three magical familiars and their adventure to save their loyals (their humans). Aldwyn is a scrappy alley cat from the city who hides in a familiars store and becomes the familiar for Jack. He has to hide the fact that he is not magical like the other familiars: know-it-all blue jay Skylar and friendly tree frog Gilbert. When their loyals are kidnapped they decide it is up to the three animals to rescue them. What follows is a wild adventure through Vestia.

This is a wonderful fantasy book for middle grades. I enjoyed the journey aspect of the book as the familiars travel throughout the land encountering one narrow escape after another. Along the way they learn more about themselves and their abilities. This book is similar to other fantasy novels. You have the quest aspect, the trials and tribulations along the journey, and the discovery of abilities you didn’t know you had. It works really well with animals as the main characters. This is a great series for kids who like fantasy and animals. 2012-13 Mark Twain nominee.

16. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Leslie · Tags:

The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby, read by Leslie, on 06/11/2012

The Clockwork Three

Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events. . . .As mysterious circumstances bring them together, the lives of these three children soon interlock, and they realize that each one holds the key to the others’ puzzles. Together, the three discover they have phenomenal power when they team up as friends, and that they can overcome even the darkest of fears.

I thought this book was just okay.  I felt it was a little involved in details that didn’t matter to the story and it took a while to weave them all together and make the story seem coherent.  I also thought it was a bit ripped off from the book by Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

16. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham, read by Leslie, on 06/09/2012

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (Theodore Boone, #1)

A perfect murder
A faceless witness
A lone courtroom champion knows the whole truth . . . and he’s only thirteen years old
Meet Theodore Boone
In the small city of Strattenburg, there are many lawyers, and though he’s only thirteen years old, Theo Boone thinks he’s one of them.

I liked this foray into childrens books by Grisham.  It was not too complicated for kids to understand and like, it is especially appealing to boys.  Theodore has just the right amount of curiosity, not so much as to find himself in danger, he uses his mind to it’s fullest.  Much enjoyed.

16. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Hide and Seek by Katy Grant, read by Leslie, on 05/12/2012

Hide and Seek

Thirteen-year-old Chase, a geocaching enthusiast, must constantly rely on his wits to solve unexpected problems. This outdoor adventure and boy’s coming of age story is set in the remote, rugged mountains of northern Arizona.

A good book with a bit of mystery in it, good boy book.  I liked it and like the geocaching aspect to it.  It introduces a great hobby to kids.

15. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams, read by Leslie, on 05/04/2012

Palace Beautiful

When sisters Sadie and Zuzu Brooks move to Salt Lake City, they discover a secret room in the attic of their new house, with a sign that reads ?Palace Beautiful? and containing an old journal. Along with their neighbor, dramatic Belladonna Desolation (real name: Kristin Smith), they take turns reading the story of a girl named Helen living during the flu epidemic of 1918. The journal ends with a tragedy that has a scary parallel to Sadie and Zuzu?s lives, and the girls become obsessed with finding out what happened to Helen after the journal ends. Did she survive the flu? Is she still alive somewhere? Or could her ghost be lurking in the nearby graveyard?

A very enjoyable read, girls especially will enjoy this mystery.  Well written, fast reading for me, the characters mesh well.  A very popular book with my kids.

15. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Leslie · Tags:

Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleave, read by Leslie, on 04/15/2012


Eleven-year-old Polly Peabody knows her family’s world-famous rhubarb farm is magical. The plants taste like chocolate, jewels appear in the soil, bugs talk to her, and her best friend is a rhubarb plant named Harry. But the most magical thing is that every single Monday, at exactly 1:00, it rains. Until the Monday when the rain just stops.

This book has been compared to the world of Roald Dahl, but not having read a lot of his books, I can’t say how close it comes.  I found it to be a little out there, although it is popular with my kids.  I guess the appeal of a fruit or vegetable that might taste like chocolate has some merit.  I thought it was just an okay book.


15. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs, read by Leslie, on 04/09/2012

Belly Up

12 year old Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it’s claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain’t the polar bear’s lunch.

A good book for kids to enjoy the mystery and trying to solve it before the book revealed the culprit.  Being used to adult mysteries, I did not enjoy it as much but kids are liking it when I recommend it.  No talking animals but a good example of needing to talk to adults about issues.