Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mia the Meek by Eileen Boggess

Fourteen-going-on-fifteen-year-old Mia Fullerton is a very shy person who has the nickname, “Mia the Meek”. She will soon start her freshman year of school at St. Hilary’s with a goal of getting rid of her nickname and being known throughout her school. There are a few problems getting that accomplished though, such as her mom being her English teacher, her annoying little brother, and new neighbors with a son her age named Tim. At first she thinks Tim is the best neighbor she could possibly get--hot, has her teddy bear’s eyes, and loves her favorite book, until she realizes that he is the biggest jerk ever after he contradicts everything she says. After school started, an election was held for class president and Mia was nominated by her best friend and was seconded by her forever crush, Jake Harris. What better way to leave her shell and lose her nickname? The only problem is that she is running against her popular archenemy, Cassie. Who will win the battle for class president, and will Mia get to finally date Jake?

Mia the Meek is an extremely hilarious, laugh-out-loud book with an acceptable amount of romance. I highly recommend this amazing book to young adults who enjoy funny love stories. This is the first book in the Mia Fullerton series and I can’t wait to read the next one, which is called Mia the Melodramatic. The only thing I really didn’t overly enjoy and I thought took away from this book was the swear words and the use of God’s name in vain. Overall though, I think this is an incredible book that I wouldn’t mind reading again and I would definitely give praise to the author for writing this marvelous piece of art.

Content:Use of "oh my God" , "thank God almighty" and Phrases like that talk about stuffing bras

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Upper Strasburg, PA United States

In the Break by Jack Lopez

Jamie and Juan are best friends and dedicated surfers. When Jamie injures his stepfather, F, during a fight, he needs to get away--and Juan's going with him. So is Jamie's older sister and Juan's unattainable crush, Amber. The three of them are heading South, going down the coast to Mexico and stopping to surf; there are some great waves along the way. They're running from the law, but they're having the time of their lives at the same time...At least while they're in the water and able to forget about what they're running from, and what they might be runing towards.

In The Break is a fantastic story, once you get caught up enough in it not to take so much notice of all the slightly tedious talk about surfing (though that's probably not a problem for people who know something about surfing). The fact that Jamie, Juan, and Amber are surfers is a big part of the story, but it's a great story even for those of us who know nothing about surfing! It's definitely a page-turner, with very believable characters. The characters, and their relationships with each other, are very real, but real life doesn't always have the neatly tied-up happy endings that a lot of movies or books do. The ending of In The Break is very realistic, which isn't a bad thing, but be warned--if you like tidy, happy endings, this isn't the book for you. It is, however, an awesome story!

Content:Some sexual situations & violence.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Asheville, NC USA

May Bird - Among the Stars by Jodi Lynn Anderson

What happens when you're lost in a strange world and need to find your way home? If you're May Bird, you enlist the help of some unique friends, face the bad guys head-on, and believe that you'll get home, no matter what.

May Bird Among the Stars is the second book in a trilogy. It picks up right where the first book, May Bird and the Ever After, leaves off. May is the only living human in the Evil After, where ghosts and the undead roam. She and her loyal cat, Somber Kitty, must escape before the evil Bo Cleevil finds them.

This book does just what the middle book in a trilogy should do: continue the story set up in the first book, offer changes, dangers, and rewards to existing characters, introduce new characters, and have skirmishes with the villains.

May Bird Among the Stars is just as funny and well-paced as its predecessor. It delicately balances the humorous bits with the scary parts, and is intelligent enough to engage adults while fun enough for the target audience of kids.

As soon as the third and final book comes out, I plan to read it all in one sitting. I am quite anxious to see how this wraps up!

May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson

What happens when you fall into another world? Alice could tell you all about Wonderland.

Likewise, May Bird could tell you all about the Ever After.

May Bird is a bright, independent and imaginative young girl whose best friend is her hairless cat, the aptly-named Somber Kitty. One day, she receives a mysterious letter which prompts her to visit the nearby woods. Little does she know that she's about to go on the trip of her life -- among the no-longer-living!

With the help of Pumpkin - a timid ghost who has, without her knowledge, been her long-time guardian - she navigates the strange land. The Ever After is part Beetlejuice, part Oz, and sometimes a little scary for May, but her bravery sees her through.
Somber Kitty also fell into the Ever After, but he was separated from his owner. While May Bird tries to find a way home, Somber Kitty attempts to find her by following her scent. Somber Kitty is absolutely adorable and simply meowvelous. His determination and loyalty make his part of the story just as important as hers.

May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson is the first in a trilogy. The second, May Bird Among the Stars, comes out this fall; the third title has yet to be released or announced.

I can't wait to find out what happens next!

Go Ask Malice by Robert Joseph Levy

During Season Three of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, viewers were introduced to Faith, a bold Slayer who loved breaking the rules and testing the limits. A fan favorite, she appeared on the spin-off series Angel on multiple occasions, then came back to BtVS during its final season.

Faith was one of my favorite characters. She was memorably portrayed by actress Eliza Dushku. Many fans wished she had her own spin-off. Those who were loyal readers of the official BtVS/Angel original books also wished for a book that focused solely on Faith.
The book Go Ask Malice is supposed to be Faith's diary, chronicling the time of her callling, and found in the ruins of Sunnydale after the series finale.

This means that, from the get-go, the reader is supposed to believe that Faith would 1) keep a diary; and 2) carry it around through multiple moves, from Boston to Sunnydale to Los Angeles, then prison, then out of prison, then back to Sunnydale. I tried to suspend disbelief for the sake of the story, but I couldn't.

I never stop reading a story once I've started it, but this was really hard to get through. Since it was a diary, it was written in first person, but it didn't sound like Faith's voice to me. I constantly wanted to correct it. It wasn't one hundred percent wrong.
Little tidbits were thrown at readers here and there - things and people Faith had said on the show in passing were made into plots and crucial characters - but overall, it never felt right.

For a better taste of Faith fiction, try the short story written by Christopher Golden and Thomas E.
Sniegoski in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds:
Prima's Official Strategy Guide. It is brief but powerful, and you'll be wishing Golden and Sniegoski wrote a full Faith novel instead.

The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld

Vampires really do exist.
The apocalypse is nigh.
And the band played on.

Scott Westerfeld follows up Peeps, his bestselling vampire story, with The Last Days. I thoroughly enjoyed Peeps, and when I discovered that there was to be a sequel, I was very excited.

The Last Days was quite different from what I expected. Instead of following the typical sequel format and employing the same main characters and same narrative style as the first story, Westerfeld opted to introduce five new main characters, each of which shares his or her view of things in alternating chapters. While Peeps falls into the category of dark comedy and seems more controlled and steady, The Last Days is an apocalypse story which feels more dystopic and chaotic.

The tale begins innocently enough: Best buds Moz and Zahler have been fooling with guitars for years now but never really had a serious band. All that changes when they meet Pearl, a musical genius who brings serious talent to the group. She also brings along her friend Minerva, whose very prescence simultaneously unnerves and intrigues the boys. The band is rounded out by Alanna Ray, a paint-can drummer with an inner metronome and hidden afflictions.
Minerva is inflicted herself, being a peep who has struggled with the disease and spent months locked up in her room, cut off from the world. It is with Pearl's help, then that of the band, that she re-connects with the world; it is due to her peep status that the book begins to tie-in with its predecessor.

When Cal, the protagonist of Peeps, finally showed up, I cheered out loud. The action kicks in, the beasts are unleashed, and the ultimate showdown between good and evil becomes more dependent on music than violence. An interesting tale - though I must admit, I prefer Peeps.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Boy meets girl.
Boy likes girl.
Boy gets infected.
Boy helps save the world.

Nowadays, a unique spin on the classic vampire story is hard to come by. Thankfully, Scott Westerfeld delivers with Peeps, which drips with snarky dialogue, well-researched diseases, and fresh twists.

In this novel, vampirism isn't a curse; it's a disease. There's no big Dracula-esque bloodsucker, but there are plenty of rats and cats. Cal learns all this and more when he moves from Texas to the Big Apple, meets a girl, and gets infected. Instead of getting the full-scale disease, he is a carrier, a peep, slang for parasite-positive.

Ultimately, Peeps is about science and natural selection, rather than horror and campfire tales. This dark comedy will make readers laugh and think - two great elements of escapism. Peeps is a fast-paced story which is as catchy as the disease it details.

Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley

Patty doesn't think she fits in anywhere, not even in her own family. She has a strict Taiwanese mother, an absentee white father and a college-bound older brother. As far as she can see, the scoreboard reads world = 100, Patty = 0. She is dragged with her mother to meet a fortune teller who reads her belly button
(!) while everyone else is rocking out at the high school dance. She has to go to math camp while everyone else has fun summer plans. In other words, everyone else wins at life, while Patty comes up empty.

Patty's story is not just for hapas - read the book to discover the definition! - and not only for biracial teens. It has many levels of appeal. I recommend Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley to a wide variety of people - both genders, various races, all thoughtful teens, and all astute adults, especially parents. This is a story for anyone who has wondered about an absent parent or struggled with a strict parent. This is for the smart kids who wonder why their parents keep testing them and making them prove themselves. This is for the kids who look different from their classmates on the outside or simply feel different on the inside. This is for anyone who considered his or her own personal secrets, lies, and truths.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Last Apprentice: The Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney

Mr. Gregory has an apprentice named Tom Ward. The spook (a person who takes care of dark creatures) is out sick and Tom must catch a ripper for him. A ripper is a dark creature who sucks on the blood of a human. Risking his master's brother's life, Tom catches the ripper and puts it to rest. With all this done, Tom goes back to his master. A little while later, news comes that Mr. Gregory's brother is now dead. The spook and his apprentice go to the funeral in Priestown, (a town that is full of priests who hate spooks because they "sell their spirits to the devil), but only because there is a dark monster in the catacombs under the church. On the way to the funeral, the Quisitor makes an appearance with a cart full of fake witches to try and burn at the stake. On that cart is one of Tom's friends, Alice. Tom can do nothing but go into the funeral. Some time later the spook is taken into prison for being a spook. Tom goes to rescue them and, to do that, must go into the catascombs near the bane. So he does and gets almost all the prisoners out but a few. After that he goes back into the catacombs. On his way out he found the spook sitting in front of the golden gate which is a gate that kept the evil shape-shifting bane locked up. Tom was tricked and it really was the bane he was talking to. Alice comes up out of nowhere and spits on the bane. The bane hates women so he fled. Tom and Alice went out the gate. That night the bane tried to get Tom to give it some of his blood to eat. Tom said no, so the bane tried Alice. Alice gave her soul to the monster and let it out past the silver gate. It’s the day of the burning and Alice and Tom go and save the people from burning with the banes help. Since Alice gave it her blood, it gave her three requests and that was one. The spook and they set off and figure out how to defeat the bane. They do defeat the bane in the end.

I really enjoyed this book because fantasy is one of my favorites. I enjoyed reading about the dark creatures in this book – they were interesting, really creepy and gave me chills. Tom was very spunky, Alice was quirky and Mr. Gregory was queer in a good way. I’d really like to know more about his past. The setting of the story was very religious, with Priestown being full of churches and priests. This was a contrast to the characters, who were dark and spooky. The wording was easy to understand, but it kept me interested for the duration of the story. There were a few places where I was confused because I didn’t read the first book (this is the second in the series) and I recommend that people read the first book before reading this one.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Shippensburg, Pennsylvania United States

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fugitives of Chaos by John C. Wright

The five orphens of chaos have had their memories erased, and now they are going back to the schedule they had before they tried to escape. Then Amelia remembers everything that happened to her and her friends, and knows their memories have been erased. The five know they have to try to escape the school and recover their memories, and this time they are better prepared to face their enemy. Their escape seems to be working but then Colin attacks Boggins and disappears and Amelia is taking by Mr. Glum into his underwater lair. The five eventually reunite with one another, and all of their memories are retrieved, but they learn that their absence from the world will mean the distruction for all, and if that realization is not enough to freak them out they also have to deal with someone trying to kill them.

I liked the characters in the book, and how even though they are completely different from each other, as in they are different species and have completely different attitudes, they are able to work together to save each other. I really liked how the author had Amelia use physics throughout the book and I liked the friendship between the five chaoses and how they children never stopped trying to save each other. I liked that the author used the Greek gods as characters in the book, because its interesting to read of these gods and goddesses, that once were considered everything and now are considered a myth, be put in a world where the majority of people don't belive they ever existed. The author also did a good job in putting the story of Aphrodite's and Ares' relationship in the story. I liked this book better than the first book, though. The first book ended on a kind of sad note because the kids were getting their memory erased and their only hope at remebering was really small, but the at the end of this book they've escaped from the school and they're boat to freedom is coming and just ends on such a more optimistic note than the first book. All in all it was a very good book and I can't wait to read the next in the series.

Content:I would consider this book for a mature reader, because there is a part where a naked guy is described and also there is a little violence in it.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 14
Reviewer City, State and Country: Tucson, Arizona U.S.A.

Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

Claire Danvers is one of those exceptionally bright students who is able to get out of high school early. But instead of letting Claire go hundreds of miles away for college, her parents send her to Texas Prairie University in the small town of Morganville, Texas. Claire’s dorm situation is absolutely awful, the most popular girl, Monica, is out to hurt her, even kill her. So Claire moves off campus and becomes the fourth roommate in the Glass House. Her three roommates, Eve, a goth girl who was kicked out by her parents, Shane, a perspective love interest to Claire, and Michael, a boy who sleeps during the day and comes out at night, quickly fill Claire in on the situation at Morganville-it’s a town run by vampires. After learning the truth Claire fights to stay alive, which isn’t easy when the roommates have secrets of their own.

When I first got this book I didn’t think I would like it that much since I’m not really into vampires, but this was one of the best suspense books I have read in a while. It is a thrilling page-turner that I just couldn’t put down. Even though it is suspenseful there is a bit of a love story going on, too. The only part I didn’t like was the cliff-hanger ending.

Content:mature reader

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Erlanger, Kentucky United States

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In the Company of Ogres by A. Lee Martinez

This book is about a witty and extraordinarily mediocre protagonist called Never Dead Ned. Although as is said in the book, Occasionally Dead Ned would be more specific, but that doesn't have that certain ring to it, does it? Ned can die well enough, it’s just the staying dead part that seems to get him. Every time Ned finds himself six feet under a mysterious Red Women resurrects him with her magic. Ned gets a job in book keeping him well and alive, but when he gets a dreaded blue slip, he is unwillingly promoted to commander of the infamous Ogre Company. When he gets to Ogre Company he meets the elite of the group. They include the binge smoking en- er uh treefolk, a red hot salamander named Sally, a giant extremely rare two headed ogre, a moonstruck Amazon, a very motivate siren, a blind oracle who can now only hear and smell the future, orc who looks like a goblin, yet another suicidal goblin, and many more. As more and more of Neds deep and disturbing past, and as the Ogre Company gets more and more motivated this story spirals upwards to the climax of a battle against an endless demon hoard, and only Neds hidden power can save those he loves, and everyone else besides...

This book is a deep, engrossing, can’t put it down comedy that will keep you reading and laughing till the very end. The character's personalities and the jokes throughout the book will keep you laughing. This book uses hilarious jokes and character interaction to riotous results. One of the funniest parts of the book is the total disregard for the death of a goblin. The goblins lifespan is measured in months, only rarely years, so when an ogre just happens to step on a goblin and kill him, before anyone even bats an eye. The goblins are given the most dangerous and stupid jobs thinkable, like training giant reptilian birds called rocs, which really just amounts to getting eaten until the rocs get either full or board. This book is a must read for anyone wanting a laugh.

Content: This book should be approved by a parent before reading due to slightly suggestive content, cursing, and violence.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Fayetteville, Pennsylvania USA

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shan Serafin

In Seventeen, author Shan Serafin introduces readers to Sophia. She's a seventeen-year-old taking college classes for the summer in New York City with her two best friends (extroverted, smart, blonde bombshell Shauna and Shauna's brother, introverted, brilliant, and unique JP) and a bunch of strangers. That doesn't sound so bad, but Sophia's life isn't going the way she wants. She isn't as smart as either of her friends, as beautiful as Shauna, or any of it. She's not sure life's worth living, so she sets an ultimatum: show me a reason to live or I'll kill myself in seven days.

Seventeen is a brilliantly written story, and one that is not often told. Most of the characters, but especially Sophia and JP, are very real. I had a hard time seeing Shauna as three-dimensional, though. The writing is breathtaking, and it's a story that will really draw the reader into it; it's a page-turner! The ending is surprising, and sad but certainly not what you'd expect. This is a very unique book that shouldn't be missed!Content:This book is probably best suited for more mature readers.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Asheville, NC USA

Monday, September 11, 2006

Butterflies in May by Karen Hart

Karen Hart's novel Butterflies in May is about Ali, a teenage girl whose life is going pretty well. She has a great boyfriend, she gets along pretty well with her parents, she has a fabulous best friend, she is doing well in school, and she's sure to get into a great college when she graduates. When her suspicions are confirmed about what's happening to her body, however, her world isn't so perfect anymore. Ali is pregnant, and that means making some hard choices. Still, Ali has help, and it'll all turn out okay. Right?

The subject of Butterflies In May is important, and this book doesn't preach about premarital sex the way some books do; Karen Hart realizes that some things are just going to keep on happening. It is also obvious, however, that people have to deal with the consequences of their actions, the way Ali and Matt do (but it doesn't seem like the worst possible thing always happens to every character in the book). The writing in this book is decent, and the plot one that is certainly not terrible either, if a little unremarkable. There are plenty of stories about pregnant teenagers on television, in books, in the movies, everywhere. This isn't a new spin on any of it. It is, however, an important story to tell, and Karen Hart does a fairly good job with it.

Content:This book is probably for a bit more mature readers, but nothing too bad. It deals issues that should be discussed with parents, though.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Asheville, NC USA

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Keeper of the Flames by Jenna Solitaire

The main character of the book is Jenna Solitaire who is the Keeper of the Boards. Jenna has already found two boards and with them she can summon their powers for her own use. Her companion, Simon, and her are going in search of the board of fire which they think is somewhere in Pompeii. While she is there she meets an old man who apparently knew her great-great grandmother and will help Jenna in her quest for the board of fire. Paraud, an evil wizard is trying to take the two boards Jenna has for himself so he can use their powers.

I thought that overall the book was somewhat good. One thing I didn't like about the book is that it was more ment for a girl rather than a boy. There were also a lot of kissing scenes. I think that if the author would have cut back on the kissing then more boys would also enjoy the book. However there also was adventure and excitement. This probably wouldn't be one of my favorite books.

Content:adult guidance kissing scenes

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks

Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks (award-winning author of So B. It) is beautifully written and easy to read with short chapters and explanations of advanced vocabulary, but its subject matter is not suited for its ten-year-old target audience. Better suited for readers over the age of twelve, this young adult book looks at sexual abuse through the eyes of the victim.

Eleven-year-old Jamie Reardon wants nothing more than for his life to be as “normal as cornflakes” – the way it was before his cat died, his father left, and he and his mother moved from their house to his aunt’s trailer to help her recover from an accident that claimed her short term memory. But achieving normalcy is difficult – especially when Jamie can’t forget about the night he was abused by the trailer park manager.

Helping Jamie deal with this traumatic experience is a cast of secondary characters that are both quirky and endearing. Audrey, a classmate otherwise known as Madame Yerdua (Audrey spelled backwards) the hypnotist, befriends Jamie and “sees” him. Arthur, as Jamie nicknamed him, helps Jamie feel safe again. And Aunt Sapphy, short for Sapphire, helps Jamie by being someone he can finally tell his secret to – someone who won’t remember it in the morning. With their support, Jamie learns to face his fears and jump the scratch – like on a broken record – in his life.

Like an after school special, this book mixes poignant moments with a serious topic but only scratches the surface of this delicate issue.

Invisible Ink by Terry Griggs

A pen named Murray, an empty diamond inkwell that emits splashing sounds, and a depressed Persian carpet are only a few of the things that lead Olivier to believe that his step-step-stepgramma is not an ordinary person. Then at his step-step-stepgramma's yard sale, a woman gives him a conch shell and through it, he hears a call for help from a friend. As he is trying to figure out what to do, a little girl gives him a stone, and a strange man sees and immediately starts chasing him. Of course, by this time, Olivier is extremely confused. Why would a man chase him because he has a piece of gravel from a driveway and how can you hear voices in a conch shell? He knows something is wrong, but he is not sure what. That is until he finds his friends and they tell him that all the wind is gone. Someone is controlling the weather and they must find out who and stop him before the world is torn apart! Can they do it? They must.

Invisible Ink, the third book in the Cat's Eye Corner series, is full of strange happenings and odd people. It is an adventure wrought with humor, danger, and astonishing characters. Young adolescents with a sense of adventure will find Terry Griggs' book funny and enjoyable. Cat's Eye Corner is a place where you can always expect the unexpected.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 14
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, PA USA

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

The Rules of Survival is about a boy, Matt, and his two sisters, Callie and Emmy, who live with their slightly unstable mother, Nikki, in South Boston. One fateful night when Matt and Callie risk walking down to the local grocer store (while their mother is out for the night, of course) they witness a man helping a young boy whose father is screaming at him. That incident sparks a curiosity in Matt and he sets out to find this mysterious, strong stranger. Fate plays out and Matt's neurotic mother and the man, Murdoch, begin having a relationship. For once in Matt's life things are going well, his mother has started acting semi-normal, he starts to relax, his sisters are safe. Things can't last forever. Eventually Nikki slips up, and Murdoch discovers her true personality. Then the only question is will Murdoch own up to everything Matt wants him to?

A strong sense of empathy is evoked for the frightened children in this novel. Livid, animated descriptions and an omnipresent sense of fear play a big part in making this book worthwhile. The plot isn't particularly upbeat but life isn't upbeat, and this story is a life story. The author formats the book so that Matt is writing to his youngest sister, Emmy. As the novel progresses the reader begins to feel as if the entire sad story is truly his/ her own. The characters are all very human, they make decisions which they know aren't the best, they struggle through hard times and feel like they should give up. This story is a good portrayal of what some people go through, it is one which everyone should be aware of.

Flamingnet Reviewer: LSam
Erlanger, Ky

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Elise The Actress: Climax Of The Civil War by Norma Jean Lutz

Ten-year-old Elise is trying to take people’s minds off the hardships of the Civil War. She puts on skits and writes funny poems and clever riddles for her family, friends, and neighbors. One day while shopping for her family, Elise runs into a man who is labeled a traitor. Milton Finney is hated and mistreated by his neighbors because his son went to fight for the South. But tender-hearted Elise feels sorry for Mr. Finney and begins to leave riddles for him. She could never suspect that reaching out to him in kindness would one day save his life! This book is packed with activity and excitement. There are many events that describe the terrible times the country was going through during the Civil War—especially when a brave and noble president was assassinated! To find out how Elise and her family and friends make it through this difficult time, read Elise the Actress!

I liked this book because Elise is so much like a real girl of today, even though the story takes place during the 1800s. She has a sense of humor and is very sharp and smart. Elise faces some really tough problems but relies on her faith to give her strength to get through them. Making people feel better during the war and helping out wherever she can are things a real girl might do, so this is an inspiring story. Also, this book is never boring—some parts are sad and some are funny, and there is always something exciting going on to keep the reader turning the pages. Altogether, it’s a great book, and I recommend it, especially to readers who enjoy the American Girl books.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 10
Reviewer City, State and Country: Saugerties, NY USA

Befiddled by Pedro De Alcantara

Becky Cohen is completely miserable. Everywhere she goes she’s made fun of. Will Becky ever learn to stand up for herself? She’s mocked at school, gym class, and even at home in her family’s apartment. She’s mocked the most at violin lessons by her teacher and peers. Becky dreams of being a professional violinist, but because of her stage fright she never performs well. Things start to look up for Becky when the apartment’s handyman, Mr. Freeman walks into her life. At first, Becky is still failing everything. Gradually though, things start to get better for Becky. Mr. Freeman is teaching her so many things about the violin, friendship, even life. She’s making friends, doing well in gym, she’s even signed up for a violin scholarship competition, yet violin lessons are still torture because of her stage fright. Becky decides to quit going to lessons even though she has the competition coming up. When her hardworking mother finds out about her not showing up at violin lessons, she loses everything: her violin, violin lessons, and contact with Mr. Freeman. Can Becky speak her mind and get everything she’s lost back? Will Becky win the violin scholarship? Find out in this novel by Pedro De Alcantara.

I liked the theme because it has a very good lesson, which was that you need to learn to speak your mind. The plot was a little slow. The characters, especially Becky, were very relatable. I liked this book.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Fayetteville, PA USA

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven is bursting with adventure, imagination, and heroism. Kendra and her younger brother, Seth, are less than excited when their parents drop them at their distant grandparents’ house and head off on a seventeen day cruise. The kids are shown to an attic playroom stocked with magnificent toys and even a live hen, Goldilocks, to keep them busy. But they soon find out the real excitement is waiting outside, on the grounds of what they come to find out is a magical creature preserve. It doesn’t take long for Seth’s adventurousness and Kendra’s astuteness to uncover the truth about the preserve, but once they’ve been let in on the secret, they find there’s much more yet to be discovered. For instance, there’s the matter of their missing grandmother. Then, there's the fairies that take a vengeful dislike to Seth. The plot crescendos on the night of the summer solstice, when the creatures are free to do as they please and the caretaker and his meager staff are abducted. Kendra and Seth must summon their courage to venture out onto the grounds to save their grandfather and, in the end, the sanctity of the preserve itself.

Although long and a bit slow at times, Fablehaven is packed with magic, courage, and adventure. Mull uses the setting of an enchanted preserve to get readers thinking about important environmental issues, and the story of an unusual family crisis to inspire thoughts on wrong and right, courage and resourcefulness, and even religion and spirituality. The author has included a reader’s guide at the end of the book to encourage discussion about the material and the topics it broaches. The vocabulary readers will find in Fablehaven may present a challenge for the 9–12 group for which it is intended, with words like “verdant,” “espalier,” and “ubiquitous” gracing the pages, but as long as there’s a dictionary nearby, young readers will benefit from the new terminology. More awkward is stilted prose resulting from a lack of contractions. Mull’s predilection to spell out every “it is” and the like in the non-dialogue parts of the narrative slows readers down and sounds unnatural; a small stumbling block to overcome in return for Mull’s bountiful imagination.

Content:It might be wise to recommend adult guidance with this one, as there are some morbid topics and violent scenes. For instance, before the story begins, Kendra and Seth's other grandparents are killed after a gas leak incident.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 26
Reviewer City, State and Country: Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD USA

Miss O and Friends Write On! The Miss O & Friends Collection of Rockin’ Fiction

The book is dedicated “For all the girls out there who love to imagine, create, and write!” What a great idea! Girls visit the website ( to submit poems and short fiction. The winners are published. The collection includes stories about friendships, growing pains, and family concerns. Sometimes writing ideas are right under your nose and sometimes you find them in poems “at the edge of the universe.”

This book is a creative addition to a middle school writing program. Teachers could use suggestions for submission for lesson plans on writing. These short stories and poems told in middle school voices are sure to appeal to girls, their teachers and parents. Hermine Brindak’s illustrations are delightful and engaging. This is the most exciting book of children’s writing that I have seen in a long time.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 59
Reviewer City, State and Country: Timonium, MD US

Diva by Alex Flinn

Caitlin McCourt has plans to be a diva- but not a pop star, an opera singer. With this goal in mind, she auditions for the muical theater program at Miami High School of the Arts. Her amazing voice sweeps her in the door, but at this new artsy school, she just doesn't feel as interesting as the other students, who are all self-confident and inhibition-free. Caitlin, who spent the first fifteen years of her life overweight and uncomfortable with herself, spent her first year in a newly thin body with an abusive boyfriend, a perfectionist mother, and a lot of self doubt. After spending so much time just trying to blend in, its a huge challenge for her to learn to be herself again, but her new friends and voice teacher are there to help her out. As she finally has a chance to discover her full potential, will she be able to overcome all the fears and doubts she has had in the past and head for the stage?

I really enjoyed reading Diva. I could associate with Caitlin and grew to really like her, despite her self-deprecation and sometimes grating issues. The fact that she is an opera singer, not an actress or dancer, sets her apart from the slew of books about artsy kids. My only issues with the book come at the very end. While its true I would not have liked Caitlin to continue suffering in her abusive relationship with Nick, I felt like the resolution was a little too abrupt and was unrealistic. I was, however, very excited to see her start a new section of her life, and I was left hopeful for her future as a singer.

Content:adult guidance, for some more mature relationships and problems

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 17
Reviewer City, State and Country: Edina , Minnesota USA

The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman

Patience, self control, and moderation. These are the qualities that Francine Green has too much of and Sophie Bowman needs a little more of. Francine is a quiet girl who is afraid of trouble and speaking up for what is right. Sophie is a very outspoken individual and takes pride in standing out in the crowd. These two girls make an unlikely pair but become best friends when Sophie transfers to Francine’s school. And in turn each learns a lesson from the other. Francine learns more about what’s going on in the world, especially the Communist Scare, and starts speaking out for what she believes in. Sophie learns the value of friendship and love. Sophie’s father and friend are put on the “suspicious” list as being possible Communists and Francine is warned to stay away from them. Inevitably, Francine loses her best friend when Sophie leaves for a safer place.

I thought this was a wonderful book. Karen Cushman does a great job of describing the world situation and home life of that time period. This book was very thought provoking, which I really liked. It also addressed some of the normal teenage problems, crushes, being overshadowed by an older sibling, and feeling like your parents don’t understand you. Adding period slang was the finishing touch on this remarkable book.

Content:Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 15
Reviewer City, State and Country: Erlanger , Kentucky United States