Saturday, October 28, 2006

Between Mom and Jo by Julie Anne Peters

Ever since he was little, Nick has been teased because he has two moms. Nick's mothers taught him not to be ashamed of his parentage, no matter what others said.

Though it is hard for him to deal with bullies and name-calling at school, Nick is pretty happy when he is home.

Happy, that is, until his moms split up. Nick stays at home with Erin - who he calls Mom, who he's always called Mom, because she biologically is just that - while Jo gets an apartment of her own.

What happens when your parents break up? What if they were not married in the eyes of the law, and one of them has no biological or legal claim to you?

As always, Julie Anne Peters has written a realistic, dramatic story. Children of divorce will benefit from reading this book just as much as those who are products of a same-sex marriage. Hopefully, this and other stories by Peters will encourage readers to be more open-minded and more compassionate towards others.

Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge

This thick tome follows young orphan Mosca as she travels across land and sea with a strange man named Eponymous Clent. In no time at all, she is caught up in an intriguing struggle for power between different persons and guilds.

Fly by Night is not a fantasy book, nor is it historical fiction. Instead, her world is something somewhat like our world a few hundred years ago -- but with different laws and events, which have shaped its history and its people accordingly.

Initially, I thought this story revolved around books and literacy because the attractive front cover boldly states, "Imagine a world in which all books have been banned!" Though it did deal with writing and words, the book was ultimately more about power, greed, politics, and trickery.
Some of my acquaintances really loved Fly by Night. It was recommended to me by more than one person. The book never quite lived up to the hype which preceeded it. Perhaps it was not my cup of tea because it wasn't everything that I expected, but that is not to say it was a poor book. I did enjoy some moments of suspense, and I liked Mosca's pet goose.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt

Simone is a fairly well-adjusted teenager who is about to have her life turned upside down. She has known since she was a little girl that she was adopted, but she has never met her biological parents. She has never considered her adoptive parents anything less than Mom and Dad, and she loves them as much as and as well as her younger brother.

Then the phone rings. Simone's biological mother, Rivka has called in hopes that she can finally meet her sixteen-year-old daughter. Simone is understandably anxious about their first meeting, and becomes even more troubled after Rivka gives her some undeniably sad news.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life is a double
delight: a fantastic debut novel and a fantastic novel, PERIOD. It deals with family, friends, and fears - high school, home, and hope - love, laughter, and loss. This book's wit and wisdom will stay with readers for a long time. Highly recommended.

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Specials, the third book in the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, offers just as much intrigue and action as the previous two installments.

What if everyone in the world was pretty? What if things were more peaceful because of it? Would you conform to the norm or fight to be unique?

When Tally was almost sixteen, she was ready to get her obligatory operation, just as everyone else gets at that age. She thought the world was a pretty okay place and took her surroundings and standing in stride.

Then she learned that not everyone gets the surgery, some escaping to a safe haven known as the Smoke, where people look and live as naturally as possible.

Forced by the authorities to visit the Smoke, Tally found herself siding with the dissenters - a decision that risked her life and the lives of those she loved.
After the smoke cleared - no pun intended - Tally found herself one of the Pretties, having undergone the surgery anyway, again under the thumb of those in power. At first, she did not know any better, but once she learned of their mind-altering surgeries, she fought back, this time stronger and smarter than before.

Now she is one of the Specials - stronger than she ever could have imagined, with special privileges and high-powered contacts. But at what price? Sure, she enjoys the power, the strength, the immunity - but she has been given all of these gifts from people who may not have her best intentions at heart.

One thing is for sure: Tally is no longer the blissfully ignorant girl she was a few years ago. She cannot be. She can, however, attempt to right some of the wrongs she has been a part of, and, in the process, change her life and her society.

Readers of Uglies and Pretties will not be disappointed. Specials delivers all that it should and more. The action sequences are packed with octane, an the writing is imaginative and descriptive. The ending of Specials will challenge readers to think, really think, about what they take for granted and what they should truly value.

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties continues the story Scott Westerfeld started in Uglies. Set in a dystopic future where everyone gets an operation at age sixteen to make one pretty, teenaged Tally is learning that everything may not be as peaceful as it seems.
When last we left Tally, she and her friend Shay had attempted to evade the authorities and protect the secret location of the Smoke, a settlement where people who refuse the surgery could find refuge.

Pretties opens with Tally and her buddies getting ready for a party. They are extremely happy and "bubbly," all Pretties now, condoning conformity rather than condemning it. How and why did this happen? Readers may be surprised.

Readers who cheered for Tally in Uglies will continue to do so in Pretties. She is sharper in this story than in the previous tale. In fact, "sharper" may be taken literally when she discovers a painful way to reclaim her wits.

Tally must decide whether or not to follow through on the promises and bargains she has made. Not every decision is an easy one, and none of friends will make it through this journey unscathed.

Trilogies often sag in the middle, producing a second book which is not quite as good as the first and not as important as the last. Such is not the case here.
Pretties is more than a mere second step. It is just as fast-paced as Uglies and perhaps even more thought-provoking. It is followed up excellently with Specials, the final book in the trilogy.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Maximum Ride: Schools Out Forever by James Patterson

Fresh out of New York City, Max Ride and her flock of human-avian hybrids fly to Washington D.C. to locate their parents. On their way, Fang, one of the older flock members, gets his side cut by flying Erasers, human-wolf hybrids, including Ari, who Max supposedly killed in the first book. The flock then goes to a hospital, where an FBI member meets them and lets them stay in her house. Things aren't as they seem to be, and the flock eventually finds themselves in Florida, investigating a major company who will supposedly blow up the world. Maximum Ride is one ride you'll wish would last forever.

James Patterson is one of the most popular adult novelists out there. His attempt at a young adult series proves why the nation loves him. This is a sequel, but there really is no need to read the first book, as he gives details about it as they come up. Still, I would reccommend reading The Angel Experiment first, to set the stage. The characters all have their own unique personality that is pretty consistent throughout the book. Iggy acts blind, the Gasman is a typical kid, Angel is sweet and innocent, Nudge is talkative, Fang is silent, and Max is caring, yet sarcastic. There are many twists and turns in the book, which make you question yourself as you are reading almost every page. Yet all (or most) of the twists are explained, either through inference or simply reading it outright. Patterson's storytelling is amazing, and the major questions in the stories still isn't answered. I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel (there is plans for one), but not so much the movie, because, well...make your own movie/book comparisons. Still, Patterson proves that he can write just as well for Young Adults as he can for Adults.

Adult Guidance: NONE, some violence
Name: Josh McLucas
State: Pennsylvania
Country: United States

The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless by Ahmet Zappa

The book I read was The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless by Ahmet Zappa. The protagonist’s name is Minerva. She has a brother, Max, and they live with their father; her mother is deceased. One day when Minerva’s father is out of the house buying a cake in honor of the anniversary of his wife’s death, Minerva and Max discover their father’s study and learn that he is a monsterminator—a monster hunter. In their father’s study, Max and Minerva discover the Monstranomicon, a living book about monsters. The Monstranomicon bites Minerva, and its venom knocks her out. Her father finds that the children have been in his study, and he explains his occupation and warns them never to go into the study again. They, of course, ignore him. One day, a mysterious package arrives, and the next day monsters kidnap Minerva’s father. Will Max and Minerva save their father? Read the Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless to find out!

I loved this book! It was creative and funny. I liked the illustrations—a great mix of drawings and photos--because they give the reader a visual guide to the book. Also, there are really cool, funny monster defense recipes scattered throughout the book. This book is a must-read. I would recommend it to anyone who loves monsters, the Charlie Bone books, or the Harry Potter series.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 10
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Saugerties, NY USA

Trouble With A Capital O by Miss O, with Devra Newberger Speregen

Olivia (“Miss O”) wakes up on the first day of the school year with a bad feeling. Not even dressed yet, she starts dreading the first day. She has been assigned to the worst teacher in the school—Mrs. Hintermeister (“the Hinter Monster”). To top things off, none of her friends are in her class! Miss O knows she’s in for a long year when she steps into class one minute late and almost gets detention. A few days later, Miss O’s friend Isabella breaks the news that while Googling the other night, she came across a picture of the Hinter Monster with a caption saying “Local Teacher Behind Bars”! Olivia has an exciting year ahead of her—unraveling the mystery behind her teacher’s “mug shot,” entering her one-of-a-kind oatmeal cookie recipe in a baking contest, and dealing with a suddenly obnoxious older sister. How will her cookies turn out? Will she survive fifth grade with the Hinter Monster? Check out Miss O and Friends: Trouble with a Capital O to find out!

I really liked this book. It seemed like it was about a girl exactly like me. Miss O has all these encouraging friends, and this story seems like everything could really take place. I recommend this book to 10- to 12-year-old girls, especially fifth graders. This book is about relationships among friends and family members, and when siblings have trouble getting along. I think girls my age will get a lot out of this book.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

Estrella deMadrigal was confident in who she was and her place in the world. She was a good Christian girl; a daughter, a best friend, a sister, a granddaughter. When Jews are persecuted for their beliefs, though, Estrella's world is changed. She learns that her family are the worst criminals in Spain in the year 1500: marranos, Jews who only pretended to convert to Christianity. When she learns of her true identity, everything changes. Even through all of that, though, Estrella -- or Esther-- is still going through the normal process of growing up and falling in love. In a time when she has to fight every day to even live to the next morning, Estrella is falling in love.

Incantation is a fantastic story. It's a very well-written novel about an interesting time in history. The characters are all very believable as well. Estrella seems very real, and her story captured my attention from the first page, and held it until the end. I didn't want this book to be over, but, at the same time, I raced through it, anxious to find out what would happen next! It's a short, quick read, but Alice Hoffman manages to tell a beautiful, sad, and amazing story in fewer pages than some authors take to write a not so great story. This is a wonderful book that everyone should read!

Content:Violence, death, very sad book about a sad time in history, but not particularly graphic.

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

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

The Baudelaire siblings are at Briny Beach. The oldest, Violet, likes to invent things. The middle child, Klaus, likes to read books. The youngest is Sunny, who is just a baby and loves to bite things. Mr. Poe comes down the beach to in order to tell them about their parents’ death in a great fire that destroyed their house and all their possessions. Mr. Poe takes them to live with their third cousin four times removed, or their fourth cousin three times removed, Olaf. Olaf is an evil theatre performer who messes up the children’s lives. They have to do back-breaking chores and cook all the meals. Then comes a time when Olaf wants the huge Baudelaire fortune. He devises a theatrical performance that involves a real marriage. Klaus figures out Olaf’s plot which was to marry Violet in order to get claims on the Baudelaire fortune. Olaf then hangs poor Sunny out a window in order to get Violet to marry him. She goes along with it, but Olaf’s plan is foiled anyway. He gets away, but not with the money.

I liked this book. I have read several in the series and I really liked all of them. I would say the tone of this book is misery and misfortune. You feel bad for the three children because their parents have died, all their things were lost in a fire and they are stuck living with a raving lunatic. Count Olaf makes them do back-breaking chores and cook all the meals. The characters cope with whatever is thrown at them. Even though I was happy that they no longer had to live with Olaf by the end of the story, I was also sad because they have to go live with another relative they don’t know. I sometimes had trouble relating to what the children were going through, but the story was quirky and kept my interest. I would also recommend reading these books in order because they will make no sense if you don’t.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Shippensburg, Pennsylvania United States of America

The Adventures of Michael MacInnes by Jeff Carney

The year is 1924... Michael MacInnes is a cleaver and rebellious sixteen year old orphan who is accepted to a boy's only boarding school called Stoney Batter. At the time, Stoney Batter was one of the few schools with a letter-press and Michael wants desperately to write poetry for the school paper, but is rejected. Michael's school life may not seem very promising, but all that changes when he meets a mysterious woman who tells him that his poetry will receive great notoriety and he will soon fall in love with a beautiful girl. Michael is skeptical at first, but the predictions soon come true when he publishes a popular underground magazine expressing his controversial views on the school's religious practices and meets a girl from another nearby school. Jeff Carney's The Adventures of Machael MacInnes contains many elements that define the period such as bootlegging and an aerial blimp rescue. Michael is a character who is willing to stand up for what he believes in even if it means cruel retaliation from the school's Dean Reverend and some of the other students.

I really enjoyed how this book takes place in 1924, and addresses many topics that are considered quite controversial even today such as homosexuality and atheism. It's not often that an author comes around who's daring enough to delve into the complex issues many authors dare not write about. I hope that teens who read this book will find it an eye opening and mind freeing experience. Jeff Carney has created a great piece of historical fiction with a very modern twist that many teens can identify with. I look forward to any books Jeff Carney writes in the future and hope to be one of the first to be waiting in line to buy his next work of fiction.

Content:mature reader

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 16
Reviewer City, State and Country: Navarre, Florida USA

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Notorious Izzy Fink by Don Brown

Sam Glodsky, a 13 year old boy, live in the rough streets of the East Side of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. Because his dad needs help making money, Sam is constantly looking for jobs to make a few cents here and there. To help a friend he has to work for a big time gangster Monk Eastman, who no one wants to mess with. He and his archenemy are mixed up with Monk, and Monk ends up trying to kill them. Read this book to find out how he gets out of this mess....and if he gets out of it.

I thought this was a pretty good book. It had a lot of action and suspence, just the kind of book I like. It was a gang book, which kept me very interested. The author put enought detail so I could picture everything in my head. It seemed like it was in the twentieth century, and it really told me something about teh times. Overall, it was a great book.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 9
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Lutherville, Maryland United States Of America

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck

The story takes place in a rural, 1900s town in Illinois. Peewee (real name is Eleanor and her brother Jake operate a automechanic shop. When three women stop to get there car fixed, Eleanor's life changes forever. The one woman, Irene Ridpath, believes that the three of them can revive the old town library. Soon Irene begins to transform Eleanor from a tomboy to a high-class young adult. When her brother becomes unable to race his car, Eleanor has to take his place and try to win the race.

This book was mildly interesting. However, some parts seemed slow and bogged down. It had a surprising ending and was a real page-turner at times. Richard Peck is a great writer and easily captures the mood of early twentieth century rural America. His descriptions are very rich. This book would be a good read for preteens.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Just For You To Know by Cheryl Harness

Twelve-year-old Carmen Cathcart, the oldest sister to five brothers, is constantly embarrassed by her overly large family. Several weeks after settling into their new home, Carmen and her pregnant mother start planning Carmen’s thirteenth birthday celebration. Carmen’s birthday has finally arrived, and Robin (her new best friend) and Carmen go off to see the movie Cleopatra with her aunt. When she comes home she starts thinking of how she could draw Cleopatra when she hears a gasp and glass breaking in the kitchen (the room her mom just walked into). Tomato, glittering glass, and dark red blood lay all over the floor; her mom was going to have the baby! What will happen next in this suspenseful, edge of your seat novel?

Just for You to Know is a very realistic, touching, and heartbreaking book that rips your heart to pieces. I felt a lot of emotion towards the characters while reading this fantastic book. Just for You to Know is such a realistic book that it was almost like you were a part of the Cathcart family and their lives. This book really teaches you that no matter what happens in life, time is going to keep ticking with or without you there. I recommend this book to anyone ages 10 and up who loves real life fiction stories.

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

Monday, October 02, 2006

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

This book tells a story about a ten-year-old boy, who throughout his journey through the forests of Alabama learns the true meaning of friendship. Moon Blake knows how to find just about anything in the forest. He and his father, a Vietnam War veteran who dislikes the government, had been hiding in a forest in Alabama for as long as Moon can remember. His mother died young, and she was buried not far from their little hidden shelter in the woods. But when the land they are living in was sold to a big-city lawyer, things started to go wrong. Pap died because he won't let Moon get any help from the outside world when he got a leg infection, and he was buried next to Moon’s mother. Before Pap died, he told Moon to head to Alaska, where there are other people who hate the government. But he was caught by Mr. Wellington, the lawyer who owns the land, and was turned in to a boy’s home. Moon soon escaped with his new friends, and made their way back to the forest; planning to head to Alaska together. Mr. Gene from the boy’s home contacted an insane constable who would do anything to track down the boys. But Moon soon find himself very lonely when one of his friends went to live with his father and his best friend got sick and had to go to the hospital. Throughout this book, Moon learns more and more about the world around him, and just when Mr. Wellington found his long forgotten uncle who agreed to adopt him, his best friend got really sick and later died. Moon was overwhelmed with grief, but soon got over it. Finally, his uncle, who was just like Pap, came and adopted Moon and brought him to Mobile, Alabama to live with his family. Moon never got lonely again.

When I first began reading ALABAMA MOON, I had no idea what to expect. I had to force myself to keep reading during the first couple of pages because there were so many things to establish. But when I got to the middle of the story, the excitement began… The plot was very interesting, and I can tell that the author spent a lot of time doing research and applying that to his well-written story. Overall, I believe that ALABAMA MOON is a book worth reading because it not only tells an interesting story, but also explains to us what friendship is all about.

Content:Even though the character in the story is only 10, I suggest that the readers should be 12 and up when reading this because of some profanity.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Urbana, Illinois United States of America

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Listen by Stephanie S. Tolan

Charlene, a young girl, is currently ailed by a broken leg, and the two-year-long loss of her mother. Her father, of course, worries about her condition, and forces her to start walking again, claiming that it'll help with her strength. And then Charley runs into something amazing; a dog, a wild dog, which at first, she dismisses, but gradually grows to respect. As she embarks on a journey to save him from the wild, she gives him a name- Coyote. 'The Taming', as she calls it, takes a long time, but she's determined, and after many long, hard weeks, she'd rewarded. Coyote is a semi-tamed dog; although when the book ends, he's still pretty cautious.

'Listen!' definitely had a good story line, for me. I found myself interested in what was going to happen next- and the taming of the dog seemed realistic enough, as realistic as you get, I assume, since Coyote had a very interesting temperment. What seemed a little unrealistic was Charley's... visions of the dog, but the story didn't go badly with a fantasy touch to it. Now, this appears to be written for children, simple content, large text (in that particular edition), and a childish main character. Also, I found the girl's, the father's, and the maid's temperments very real; not perfect, as (unfortunately) many stories are. I did appreciate that.

Content:Censorship? Not really. There was a brief thing around the end of the book, when Coyote disappeared to mate with some random female dog, but... I'm really not going to be such a great judge on this, since censorship isn't a big thing with me. So if you've got an extremely sheltered family, compared to a bunch of biologists...

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 7
Reviewer Age: 12
Reviewer City, State and Country: Mahomet, Illinois United States of America

I Was a Teenage Popsicle by Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Floe Ryan…Frozen zombie or out-of-date freak? Floe was a girl of sixteen when she was “frozen.” She and her parents contracted this strange disease called lympaticotosis, and the only option to come back to life after she had been declared “legally dead” was to be frozen, or vitrified. After a whole ten years, Floe is brought back to life again by the cyronics team (the people who do the vitrifying). With all that done, she must go through rehab. Along with her is totally hot Taz Taber. She has had a crush on him since before she was vitrified. Once through with rehab, Abe Dixon (short for Abercrombie), the cyonics lab owner, shows them one of the latest trends: HOVERBLADING!!! Back in Venice Beach, Floe and Taz were expert bladers; now they have to adjust. Sunny, Floe’s younger sister, comes to take custody of her until her parents are revived since Sunny is now her OLDER SISTER! She is forced to go to the school in the Valley. She meets a new friend, Halley, and her worst enemy ever, Ashleigh Jones, the congressman’s daughter! Soon the cyronics center is being threatened to be closed down. Floe must help save it so she can get her parents back. She comes up with a way to earn money: selling retro bracelets. They are all the rage and the kids make ton of money selling the bracelets, but still no change in the lawsuit from the cyronics center. Ashleigh falls sick with the same disease as Floe and is vitrified, Dick Jones drops the law suit and the cyronics center is reopened. In the end, Floe’s parents are revived.

I liked this book a lot. It had great characters and a gripping plot. The “freezing” was a little freaky because it didn’t seem real, but the book was fun to read. This book also had great relationships between the characters. My favorite character was Taz because he was just that laid back kind of guy – funny and a wonderful friend to Floe. The difficult situations Floe was put through were real enough that I could put myself in her place and relate to her feelings. This made it a better read for me. The only thing I did not like was the fact that they didn’t say what happened to Floe, Sunny, and their parents after they get unfrozen. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story and a little Sci-Fi. I would also recommend it to people between ages 10-18.

Rating (0 - 10 scale): 8
Reviewer Age: 13
Reviewer City, State and Country: Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss

High school is awful under the best circumstances. When Isabell's swollen glands result in a diagnosis of lymphoma, ordinary concerns of homework and popularity give way to hospital visits and chemotherapy. The kids at school don't know how to react and send emotional cards and tastelss videos. Izzy's familt tries to handle the upheaval while holding on to just a bit of normalcy. Izzy make her way through treatment not as a shining hero, but as a regular kid.

Koss addresses issues students have trouble facing with cancer. Humor and clarity carry Izzy from diagnosis and chemotherapy to the joy of being cancer free. What do you do when your friend has cancer? Read Side Effects and let Izzy and her friends and family share their story. This book belongs in school libraries and oncology waiting rooms.

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