In My Mailbox (43)

Sunday August 29, 2010
In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie is a way to share what new books you get each week.  They can be books you borrowed from the library, bought, traded, won or received for review.

So, without further adieu, the following are books I received this past week...enjoy! 




Wayfarer (Faery Rebels #2)
by R.J. Anderson
June 2010
Harper Teen
The faeries of the Oak are dying, and it’s up to a lone faery named Linden to find a way to restore their magic. Linden travels bravely into dangerous new territory, where she enlists the help of an unlikely friend—a human named Timothy. Soon they discover something much worse than the Oakenfolk’s loss of magic: a potent evil that threatens the fate of all faeries. In a fevered, desperate chase across the country, Timothy and Linden risk their lives to seek an ancient power before it’s too late to save everyone they love.
R. J. Anderson has artfully crafted a world of stunning magic, thrilling adventure, and delicate beauty, where a girl far from home must defeat the pervasive evil befalling her beloved faery realm.






Revolution
by Jennifer Donnelly
October 12, 2010
Delacorte Press
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.


Hush
by Eishes Chayil
September 14, 2010
Walker
Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail—and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.

A richly detailed and nuanced book, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story explains a complex world that remains an echo of its past, and illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality.





Saving Sky
by Diane Stanley
August 24, 201
HarperCollins
The country is at war, terrorists strike at random, widespread rationing is in effect, and the power grid is down. But thirteen-year-old Sky Brightman is remarkably untouched by it all. She lives off the grid on sixty acres of rural New Mexico ranch land with chores to do and horses to ride and no television or internet to bring disturbing news into her family's adobe house. Sky's schoolmates think she's a little weird.

Then a string of mysterious arrests begins, and her new friend, Kareem, becomes a target. Sky is finally forced to confront the world in all its complexity. Summoning her considerable courage and ingenuity, she takes a stand against injustice. With humor, hope, and fierce determination, she proves that even a child can change the world.
 




The Exiled Queen (A Seven Realms Novel, #2)
by Cinda Williams Chima
September 28, 2010
Hyperion
Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean danger isn’t far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.
 

Romeo & Juliet & Vampires
by William Shakespeare & Claudia Gabel
August 31, 2010
HarperTeen
"You are deluded, Romeo. Vampires do not have the capability to love. They are heartless."

The Capulets and the Montagues have some deep and essential differences. Blood differences. Of course, the Capulets can escape their vampire fate, and the Montagues can try not to kill their undead enemies. But at the end of the day, their blood feud is unstoppable. So it's really quite a problem when Juliet, a vampire-to-be, and Romeo, the human who should be hunting her, fall desperately in love. What they don't realize is how deadly their love will turn out to be—or what it will mean for their afterlives. . . .

This riotous twist on the ultimate tale of forbidden romance is simply to die for.
 



Low Red Moon
by Ivy Devlin
September 14, 2010
Bloomsbury
Avery Hood is reeling from the loss of her parents--and the fact that she can't remember what happened to them even though she was there.

She's struggling to adjust to life without them, and to living with her grandmother, when she meets Ben, who isn't like any guy she's ever met before.

It turns out there's a reason why, and Ben's secret may hold the key to Avery finding out what happened to her parents...

But what if that secret changes everything she knows about--and feels for--Ben?
 





Cate of the Lost Colony
by Lisa Klein
October 12, 2010
Bloomsbury
The greatest unsolved mystery of American history--what happened to all the colonists who landed on Roanoke Island in 1587? This novel traces the fortunes and misfortunes of one Cate Archer, banished to Virginia by a jealous Queen Elizabeth because of her dalliance with Sir Walter Ralegh. What will be her fate in this dangerous New World?  












Secrets of a First Daughter
by Cassidy Calloway
September 14, 201
HarperTeen
Morgan is a National Disaster.
Morgan Abbott couldn’t be happier. Super-cute Max has quit her Secret Service detail to be her (secret) boyfriend, and the annoying Brittany Whittaker has been ousted from class president, leaving the post open for Morgan! Life is pretty sweet.
Now Morgan just has to tackle college applications—but she has so much else to juggle that looking that far ahead seems impossible! Good thing she’s graceful under pressure . . . well, sometimes.
A trip to London should be just the thing to take her mind off all the craziness, but true to form, chaos follows Morgan wherever she goes—and the trip turns into an international disaster. Can she make it right? Or will she cause a royal mess?
 

Waiting on Wednesday (26)...the Thursday edition ha ha...

Wednesday August 26, 2010 


Waiting on Wednesday...books I can't wait to read hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine








The Trust (Secret Society #2)
by Tom Dolby

February 1st 2011 
Katherine Tegen Books 
Goodreads Summary: Once you get in, you can never get out.... It’s a new semester at the Chadwick School, and even with the ankh tattoos that brand them, Phoebe, Nick, Lauren, and Patch are hoping for a fresh start. Each day, however, they are reminded of their obligations as new Conscripts in the Society. The secret group that promised they would achieve their every dream has instead turned their lives into a nightmare. The teens try boycotting, skipping the gatherings, and avoiding other members and plan to go to the police with details of Alejandro's and Jared’s deaths, but the Society finds sinister ways to keep them in line. While they search for the elusive truth about the Society, they will have to work against it from within.  The Trust is an alluring glimpse behind the facade of a life of entitlement, where secrets aren’t merely fun—they’re deadly.
 I thought Secret Society was pretty good so I'll be interested to see what happens next!

Review - Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists by Carla Sonheim

Wednesday August 25, 2010

Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists 
by Carla Sonheim
Quarry Books
Goodreads Summary: Carla Sonheim is an artist and creativity workshop instructor known for her fun and innovative projects and techniques designed to help adult students recover a more spontaneous, playful approach to creating. Her innovative ideas are now collected and elaborated on in this unique volume. 

Carla offers a year's worth of assignments, projects, ideas, and techniques that will introduce more creativity and nonsense into your art and life. Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists offers readers a fun way to learn and gain expertise in drawing through experimentation and play. There is no right or wrong result, yet, the readers gain new skills and confidence, allowing them to take their work to a new level.

Review: This book is by far one of my most favorite inspirational books ever! I will be telling every librarian and teacher I know about this awesome collection of super fun and creative lessons.  I love the fact that most of these labs can be done by a wide variety of ages and that there is really no right or wrong way to do it. 

A few of my favorite lessons include:

Picasso Dogs...very easy to follow instructions that will result in each participant ending up with there own version of a Picasso Dog...AWESOME!

Sidewalk Crack Drawing...can you look at a crack in a sidewalk and imagine all the different shapes of animals you see? This fun lab will show you all the steps to create fun imaginative creatures that will end up good enough to frame!

Ugh, those are only two of many, many! Through out the book the author also has pages where she features various artists and their own unique styles...my favorite? Gustavo Aimar...
*Fresh and imaginative ideas
*Clear instructions with room for your twist
* Lots of pictures and inspiration
*plus a whole lot more!!!

I can't recommend this book enough for people who love to be creative, who want to be creative or anyone who is looking for creative inspiration!

Ummmm can you tell I like it??? YES!

Tween Tuesdays (13)

Tuesday August 24, 2010

Tween Tuesdays is a meme I first saw at Green Bean Teen Queen and really liked because she is also a librarian who deals with teens and tweens. So, since most of my blog is devoted to YA and teen books I figured that on Tuesdays I can do posts for all the tweeners out there!


I've received quite a few tweener books this summer and I want to at least feature these newer releases because it might be a little bit before I can actually review them. I've added a few comments from "professional" reviewers from sources such as Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal because those are important resources for me when I'm buying books for my library. So enjoy!

The Ring of Five
by Eoin McNamee
Wendy Lamb Books
Ages 10 and up
Goodreads Summary: Here's the first book in a brilliant new trilogy by the author of The Navigator. The Ring of Five, set at a school for spies, is full of surprises as well as fascinating questions about loyalty, destiny, and what it means to be a spy.

Danny Caulfield doesn't know how he ended up at a mysterious academy called Wilsons. A few of the students are pretty scary. Someone tries to murder him. Even the ravens that haunt the school seem to be against him. Yet he also finds friends: Les, an exceptional thief; Dixie, who has an unsettling talent; and Vandra, a physick with special powers.

It turns out that Danny is destined for a terrifying mission. As he embarks on his training, he is shocked and secretly thrilled to discover that he seems to have all the natural gifts of the perfect spy—most importantly, the ability to betray.

Eoin McNamee's background as an author of adult thrillers informs this exhilarating, atmospheric adventure.

Booklist says..."Like the Harry Potter books, the secondary characters add immensely to the richness of the narrative, and there’s plenty of action...The book finishes with a cliff-hanger that will leave kids eager for the next title in this trilogy pitting one boy against a heavenly host."


Thomas and the Dragon Queen
by Shutta Crum
Illustrated by Lee Wildish
Ages 7-12
Knopf
Goodreads Summary: A kingdom is at war...

A princess has been kidnapped by a dragon queen.
A brave squire volunteers to set out on a quest to rescue her.
But there's just one small problem. He's Thomas, the shortest of all the squires. With little more than a donkey, a vest, and a sword, Thomas will have to use all of his courage and determination to battle a beast with many heads, reach a forbidden island, and rescue the princess from a most fearsome dragon-and an even more fearsome fate!
Part thrilling adventure and part enchanting fantasy, sprinkled with charming black-and-white illustrations, Thomas and the Dragon Queen will delight young readers from start to finish.


School Library Journal says..."What sets this story apart from other knightly tales are the unusual size of the hero, the tools-or lack of tools-he has for fighting evil, and the delightful events awaiting him once he finds the princess. Expressive illustrations, many of them spreads, accompany each chapter. Memorable characters enrich the realm by giving purpose to the hero's ordeal. This is a must-read."

Book Review - Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus

Monday August 23, 2010

Shadow Hills 
by Anastasia Hopcus
July 2010
Egmont
Goodreads Summary: His love captivated her... his secrets might kill her.

Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.

After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.

But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what links her to this town…might cost her her life.


Review: Okay, okay, I know....boy and girl so not right for each other, creepy boarding school, the geeky friend, the funny friend, the stuck up rich friend, whatever...all played out right? You'd think so, but not always! I've seriously considered the whole boarding school setting and I'm not stupid...it means  less parental involvement and of course the whole old, creepy school factor and well, that totally works. I mean admit it,  for a paranormal  romance, mystery whatever...could you ask for a better setting? My rambling point is, don't always discount a  book because it sounds similar to something you've read before (I don't really have to list all the paranormal books where the story is set at a boarding school do I?)


Annnnyway...my point is that even with a similar setting, Shadow Hills has its own very unique story line.  Phe (pronounced "fee") has come to Devinish prep with a mission...to find out what Shadow HIlls has to do with her now dead sister, Athena. When she finally arrives at her destination she is not dissappointed. From creepy old graveyards, to creepy old ladies who she has never seen before, but seem to know her, Shadow Hills is a place with a LOT of secrets. 


As far as romance goes, when Phe meets Zach they literally have an electric reaction to one another...and as much as she tries to focus on her goal, Zach is never far from her thoughts (or her dreams for that matter) despite his "cranky" sister Corrinne who does whatever she can to keep them apart.

There is a lot to like about this. There is a definite creepiness factor. Seriously, there is a part in the book where Phe is in a dark hallway and someone is there, and something happens and while I was reading it I got freaked out just imagining it....yes, I was alone, and it was dark...but still!


This book will be a big hit among the middle grade and up crowd. I can already see that I will have some holds on this book in my library. The perfect boy, plenty of mystery and a town with a creepy past (not to mention its "mutant" population!) I was guessing right up to the very end with this one....and I think I see a sequel in the future?

If you know a teen who loves a good paranormal romance/mystery this book would be a great choice! Just FYI there is no sex or anything but there are a few cuss words and a few instances of teenage drinking.

In My Mailbox (42)

Sunday August 22, 2010
In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie is a way to share what new books you get each week.  They can be books you borrowed from the library, bought, traded, won or received for review.

So, without further adieu, the following are books I received this past week...enjoy! 


Blood & Flowers
by Penny Blubaugh
HarperTeen
March 2011
Three years ago, Persia ran away from her drug-addict parents and found a home with the Outlaws, an underground theater troupe. With time, this motley band of mortals and fey, puppeteers and actors, becomes the loving family Persia never had, and soon Persia not only discovers a passion for theater but also falls in love with one of the other Outlaws. Life could not be more perfect.

Until an enemy makes an unfair accusation against the group and forces them to flee their world and hide in the neighboring realm of Faerie. But in Faerie, all is not flowers and rainbows. With bloodthirsty trolls, a hostile monarchy, and a dangerous code of magic, the fey world is far from the safe haven the Outlaws had hoped for....

Following up her critically acclaimed Serendipity Market, Penny Blubaugh has created a beautiful and mysterious world where anything can happen—especially what you least expect.

Pegasus
by Robin McKinley
November 2010
Putnam Juvenile
A gorgeously-written fantasy about the friendship between a princess and her pegasus

Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pegasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.

But it’s different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close—so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo—and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.


Wake Unto Me
by Lisa Cach
March 2011
Speak
A haunted castle, a handsome young man dead for four hundred years, one heck of a scary portrait of a witch, and a treasure hunt -- not to mention a princess for a roommate! -- all await 15 year old American girl Caitlyn Monahan when she earns a scholarship to a French boarding school.

There are secrets behind the stone walls of Chateau de la Fortune, buried for centuries along with the mystery of who killed Raphael, the charming ghost who visits Caitlyn at night. But as Caitlyn unearths the history of the castle, nothing scares her as badly as the secret she learns about herself, and the reason she was chosen to come to the Fortune School.

And nothing breaks her heart as badly as falling in love with a dead guy.
 


Torment
by Lauren Kate
September 28, 2010
Delacorte Press
How many lives do you need to live before you find someone worth dying for? In the aftermath of what happened at Sword & Cross, Luce has been hidden away by her cursed angelic boyfriend, Daniel, in a new school filled with Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. Daniel promises she will be safe here, protected from those who would kill her. 

At the school Luce discovers what the Shadows that have followed her all her life mean - and how to manipulate them to see into her other lives. Yet the more Luce learns about herself, the more she realizes that the past is her only key to unlocking her future...and that Daniel hasn't told her everything. 

What if his version of the past isn't actually the way things happened...what if Luce was really meant to be with someone else?  

Crusade 
by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie 
September 7, 2010
Simon Pulse
The ultimate battle. The ultimate love.For the past two years, Jenn has lived and trained at Spain's Sacred Heart Academy Against the Cursed Ones. She is among the few who have pledged to defend humanity or die trying. But the vampires are gaining power, and the battle has only just begun.

Forced to return home after death takes a member of her family, Jenn discovers that San Francisco is now a vampire strong-hold. As a lone hunter apart from her team, Jenn is isolated—and at risk. She craves the company of her fighting partner, Antonio: his protection, his reassurance, his touch. But a relationship with Antonio comes with its own dangers, and the more they share of themselves, the more Jenn stands to lose.

Then Jenn is betrayed by one who was once bound to protect her, causing her to doubt all she had held as true. To survive, Jenn must find the courage to trust herself—and her heart.

Torn
by Amber Lehman
July 2009
Closet Case Press

It was different this time; we weren't acting on a dare. I knew our motive; we were practicing the act, hoping to impress the right boy when it came time. But then something happened in the mix of the moment, in the mix of the alcohol. It wasn t planned, but somehow our kissing experiment turned into something else. Things went further . . . and once they had, once I returned to earth from the euphoria . . . I wrestled with my feelings at that frank realization, questioning whether our said objective was entirely true.
 
When fourteen-year old Krista McKinley transfers from Catholic school in Ohio to California's public Crestmount High, she discovers she has a lot to learn. Luckily, she is befriended by Carrie and Brandon and things start to look up. But when a simple dare tests Krista's values, it sends her entire world spiraling into a confusing series of events that leaves her questioning her identity as well as the people around her.
 

Flipped (Movie Tie-in Cover) & a poster for the library!
by Wendy Van Draanen
August 10, 2010
Knopf
Juli Baker devoutly believes in three things: the sanctity of trees (especially her beloved sycamore), the wholesomeness of the eggs she collects from her backyard flock of chickens, and that someday she will kiss Bryce Loski. Ever since she saw Bryce's baby blues back in second grade, Juli has been smitten. 

Unfortunately, Bryce has never felt the same. Frankly, he thinks Juli Baker is a little weird--after all, what kind of freak raises chickens and sits in trees for fun? Then, in eighth grade, everything changes. Bryce begins to see that Juli's unusual interests and pride in her family are, well, kind of cool. And Juli starts to think that maybe Bryce's brilliant blue eyes are as empty as the rest of Bryce seems to be. After all, what kind of jerk doesn't care about other people's feelings about chickens and trees? 

With Flipped, mystery author Wendelin Van Draanen has taken a break from her Sammy Keyes series, and the result is flipping fantastic. Bryce and Juli's rants and raves about each other ring so true that teen readers will quickly identify with at least one of these hilarious feuding egos, if not both. A perfect introduction to the adolescent war between the sexes. 

You Are Not Here
by Samantha Schutz
October 1, 2010
Push (Scholastic)
Annaleah and Brian had something special -- Annaleah is sure of it. When they were together, they didn't need anyone else. It didn't matter that it was secret. All that mattered was what they shared.

And then, out of nowhere, Brian is killed in an accident. And while everyone else has their role in the grieving process, Annaleah finds herself living on the outside of it, unacknowledged and lonely. How can you recover from a loss no one will let you have? 




The cloud Searchers (Amulet, #3)
by Kazu Kibuishi
September 1, 2010
GRAPHIX
In the third installment of the thrilling Amulet series, Emily, Navin, and their crew of resistance fighters charter an airship and set off in search of Cielis, a mythical city believed to be located on an island high above the clouds. The mysterious Leon Redbeard is their guide, and there's a surprising new addition to the crew: the Elf King's son, Trellis. But is he ally or enemy? And will Emily ever be able to trust the voice of the Amulet?










Empty
by Suzanne Weyn
October 1, 2010
Scholastic Press
It's the near future - the very near future - and the fossil fuels are running out. No gas. No oil. Which means no driving. No heat. Supermarkets are empty. Malls have shut down. Life has just become more local than we ever knew it could be.

Nobody expected the end to come this fast. And in the small town of Spring Valley, decisions that once seemed easy are quickly becoming matters of life and death. There is hope - there has to be hope - just there are also sacrifices that need to be made, and a whole society that needs to be rethought.

Teens like Nicki, Tom, and Leila may find what they need to survive. But their lives are never going to be the same again. 





Havoc
by Chris Wooding
October 1, 2010
Scholastic Press
Seth finally managed to escape the terrifying comicbook world of Malice, but he left his best friend Kady there. Now he must go back and rescue her. But can he find a way back in? Kady has her own worries. She's trying to reach Havoc, a group of rebel kids plotting to destroy Tall Jake, the evil ruler of Malice. But somebody is watching the comic and can see what everyone is up to. Is there no way to escape?











Ghoul Strike!
by Andrew Newbound
October 1, 2010
Scholastic
To finance the search for her lost parents, 12-year-old Alannah Malarra uses her psychic powers to hunt demons. With the help of her "business associate," professional thief Wortley Flint, she snags ghouls and robs them of their illicit riches. Sure, it's a mercenary existence, but a girl's got to pay the rent. What Alannah doesn't realize is that the petty ghosts she's so good at snaring are just a small part of a big conflict, dating back centuries. The evil Gargoyle hordes from the Dark Dimension are at war with the army from on High, and only Alannah holds the key to victory! 








George Washington's Spy
A Time Travel Adventure
by Elvira Woodruff
November 1, 2010
Scholastic
Sequel to the bestselling George Washington's Socks....

When Katie and her twin cousins step into a mysterious rowboat, Matt and his three buddies run to their rescue. But they are too late--and soon the seven are swept back in time--to Boston in 1775. The British have occupied the city, and George Washington and his troops are planning an attack. While the boys are trying to find their way to the girls after being separated, the boys become entangled with patriot spies.

Book Review- Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Friday August 20, 2010

Heart of a Samurai 
by Margi Preus
Amulet
August 1, 2010
Goodreads Summary: In 1841, a Japanese fishing vessel sinks. Its crew is forced to swim to a small, unknown island, where they are rescued by a passing American ship. Japan’s borders remain closed to all Western nations, so the crew sets off to America, learning English on the way.

Manjiro, a fourteen-year-old boy, is curious and eager to learn everything he can about this new culture. Eventually the captain adopts Manjiro and takes him to his home in New England. The boy lives for some time in New England, and then heads to San Francisco to pan for gold. After many years, he makes it back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider. With his hard-won knowledge of the West, Manjiro is in a unique position to persuade the shogun to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.

Review: Based on a real incident that happened in 1841 when Americans rescued the crew of a Japanese fishing vessel, Heart of a Samurai is a marvelous story that will appeal to almost any reader. 

Manjiro (also known as John Mung) is the consummate underdog who comes to America (possibly being the very first Japanese citizen to set foot here) and maintains his sense of adventure and perseverance. All of this despite the many hardships and prejudices that experiences along the way. Through it all he maintains his wide-eyed sense of wonder from New England all the way to San Francisco.

I really enjoyed this wondrous tale from the perspective of someone like Manjiro who is stranger in a strange land. It was interesting to see America from that persepctive. Something that has never left Manjiro is the thought of his poverty stricken family in Japan and once again his perseverance takes him on yet another adventure as he journey backs to his homeland where he will most likely be looked upon as a traitor.

An action packed page turner that will be a word-of-mouth hit. I'm going to sell it in my library on the Samurai part....boys will love that! 

Highly recommended and appropriate for 7th grade and up. 

Book Reviews - Sports Camp & The Ball Hogs by Rich Wallace

Thursday August 19, 2010

Sports Camp
by Rich Wallace
Knopf Books for Young Readers
April 2010
Goodreads Summary: Riley feels like the smallest kid at sports camp. In fact, he is. He just turned eleven in April, but most kids here are twelve, and a few are even thirteen—and gigantic. It’s hard enough for a shrimp like Riley to fit in. He just doesn’t want to be the weak link as his bunk competes for the Camp Olympia Trophy.

Riley knows he’s no good at strength and accuracy games like basketball and softball. But when it comes to speed and endurance events, like running and swimming, he’s better than he looks. He’s pretty sure he can place in the top ten—and bring in major trophy points—in the final mile-long swim race across Lake Surprise. But he doesn’t count on being followed by the shadow of Big Joe, the giant vicious snapping turtle of camp lore. Wasn’t that supposed to be a legend?

Review: Sports camp like any other camp has all the usual "campy" elements....mosquitoes, cabins, a mess hall with questionable food, practical jokes, a bully and of course the obligatory scary stories. The scariest of all? An evil foot-chomping snapping turtle called Big Joe.

Chock full of sporty competitive moments where the underdog is doing his best to win. I like the realism though in that Riley has his share of wins and losses but keeps his determination. This is a great book for kid who likes to read about sports and the build up to the big game or final showdown. The story is well paced and has enough sporty suspense to keep readers wanting more. Best suited for grades 3 to 7.
The Ball Hogs (Kickers Book 1)
by Rich Wallace
Illustrated by Jimmy Holder
Knopf Books for Young Readers
June 8, 2010
Goodreads Summary: Nine-year-old Ben is brand-new to soccer, but he's a good athlete and knows he'll do well on the Bobcats, his team in the local Kickers soccer league. If he can only work around his obnoxious teammate Mark, the ball hog, Ben is sure he'll score his first goal. But Coach Patty, and Ben's own teammates, show him a little something about teamwork. And suddenly it dawns on him: he's a ball hog, too. Can he change his ways before the Bobcats lose their shot at the Kickers play-offs?

Award-winning sports novelist Rich Wallace introduces the Kickers soccer series, filled with lively black-and-white art and fast-paced, on-the-field action.

Review: The first book in a new series (there will be four books in all) by the author aimed at millions of elementary kids out there who love the sport of soccer. 

As you may have guessed the story centers around a few kids on the coed team, the Bobcats (Ben and Mark) who tend to be ball hogs. When the team starts getting frustrated after a few losses they begin to realize that working together will give them a better chance of winning and along the way Ben learns a few lessons about teamwork and fair play. The end of the book even has a few tips from Ben for new soccer players. A great selection for elementary soccer fans!

Book Review - The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty

Wednesday August 18, 2010

The Ghosts of Ashbury High 
by Jaclyn Moriarty
Scholastic Press
June 2010
Goodreads Summary: This is the story of Amelia and Riley, bad kids from bad Brookfield High who have transferred to Ashbury High for their final year. They've been in love since they were fourteen, they go out dancing every night, and sleep through school all day. And Ashbury can't get enough of them. 


Everyone's trying to get their attention; even teachers are dressing differently, trying to make their classes more interesting. Everyone wants to be cooler, tougher, funnier, hoping to be invited into their cool, self-contained world.

But they don't know that all Amelia can think about is her past -- an idyllic time before she ran away from home. Riley thinks he's losing her to the past, maybe even to a place further back in time. He turns to the students of Ashbury for help, and things get much, much worse.


In the tradition of the gothic novel, this is a story about ghosts, secrets, madness, passion, locked doors, femmes fatales, and that terrifying moment in the final year of high school when you realise that the future's come to get you.

Review: The author has brought back Emily and Lydia from The Year of Secret Assignments to narrate their senior year of high school along with Toby and Riley... two boys and fellow classmates at Ashbury High.

Most of the school and especially Emily has become obsessed with the schools new mysterious "it" couple Amelia and Riley who seem to have dark and mysterious pasts. All of this plays well into their Gothic Fiction class where the students must write about things such as first impressions (mainly on the aforementioned new couple.) Then writing term 2 as a ghost story which of course is seen differently from each of the students perspectives.

The story itself is told through a combination of faculty-meeting minutes, instant messages, e-mails, blog entries and student essays. With a fair amount of humor and the mystery of nobody being exactly who you thought they were will keep readers turning the pages...trust me I kept second guessing myself and had it totally wrong in the end! A haunting in the music rooms and a student possibly possessed by an Irish convict are just a few of the quirky Gothic elements that made this an enjoyable read.

Moriarty is an excellent writer and through all the various entertaining elements of this book its subtle underlying messages of socioeconomic stereotypes, the scary jump from adolescence into adulthood and the power of friendship shine through this gem of a book. Recommended!

Best suited for 8th grade and up

Reviews - No and Me by Delphine de Vigan - What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson

Tuesday August 17, 2010

Be sure and read the summaries because I often refer to the subject matter in my reviews!

No and Me 
by Delphine de Vigan
Bloomsbury
August 3, 2010
Goodreads Summary: The international award-winning story of two girls from different backgrounds, united in friendship

Parisian teenager Lou has an IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life—and that of her parents—all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou bravely asks her parents if No can live with them, and is astonished when they agree. No’s presence forces Lou’s family to come to terms with a secret tragedy. But can this shaky, newfound family continue to live together when No’s own past comes back to haunt her?

Winner of the prestigious Booksellers’ Prize in France, No and Me is a timely and thought-provoking novel about homelessness that has far-reaching appeal

Review: My eighteen-year-old daughter commented to me the other day that homeless people are "so annoying"...I felt utterly exhausted because I've always tried to instill a sense of compassion in my kids. Anyway, after a brief discussion of the multitude of reasons that people are homeless, I hope a left her a little less judgmental of the people in question. I bring this up because a big part of this story is Lou finding out that simply providing a house for No to live in isn't the end to all her problems. Sometimes there is a little bit more to the story...

After No moves in with Lou they are both able to open up about the heartbreaking stories they both have to tell. Throughout it all an unlikely friendship blossoms and under the influence of No's unflinching description of life in the big bad world, Lou expands her views of the world around her. When No's past comes back to haunt her Lou is forced to face the fact that giving No a home and friendship can't fix everything (again, something I also expressed to my daughter).

I really, really, really enjoyed this book. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time I felt that story's main theme expresses that people who step up to the plate, no matter what their age, CAN make a difference in someones life. Even if its something small we can still make a change....a tiny ripple in the pond so to speak. Well written and character driven this is a story that will resonate with readers of all ages. Recommended! 

Best suited for ages 14 and up.
What Momma Left Me 
by Renee Watson
Bloomsbury
July 2010
Goodreads Summary: How is it that unsavory raw ingredients come together to form a delicious cake? What is it about life that when you take all the hard stuff and rough stuff and add in a lot of love, you still just might have a wonderful life? 

For Serenity, these questions rise up early when her father kills her mother, and leaves her and her brother Danny to live with their kind but strict grandparents. Despite the difficulties of a new school, a new church, and a new neighborhood, Serenity gains strength from the family around her, the new friends she finds, and her own careful optimism. Debut author Renée Watson’s talent shines in this powerful and ultimately uplifting novel.

Review:  Tragedy effects different people in different ways...for Serenity the death of her mother and the changes thereafter result in her turning to her family and faith for support. For her brother Danny not so much...acting out and making poor choices is the result.

This book is a beautiful story of a young girl coming to terms with her mothers death and dealing with the resulting changes. Each chapter begins with Serenity's journal writings where she writes about everything from her questioning faith in God, her own poems and the voice of Maya Angelou. As Serenity adjust to her fated circumstances she deals with issues many girls do; crushes, new friends and questions about her future. 

Yes there is a Christian edge to this story but for those of you who usually avoid Christian fiction, please don't disregard this story....the overall theme is about a girl coming to terms with the tragedy in her life (her mothers death isn't all Serenity has to deal with) her faith is simply part of her recovery process.

A simple, heartwarming, well written story of love, loss and healing. Serenity learns to be true to herself and that a complete life consists of both happiness and heartbreak. Don't let the "childish" cover fool you...definitely a middle grade book and older. I loved it and totally recommend! 

Mini-Reviews - A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley - Mamba Point by Kurtis Scarletta - The Red Umbrella by by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Monday August 16, 2010

Some mini-reviews to reduce my pile of books I read this summer (that I LOVED) but haven't reviewed yet...enjoy! 

With mini-reviews I don't recap much of the story....just a few highlights and why I liked the book!

A Little Wanting Song 
by Cath Crowley
Alfred A. Knopf
June 2010
Goodreads Summary: CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she's good at it. But she only sings when she's alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus's Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie's mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she's visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She's got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she's not entirely unspectacular.

ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie's grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can't wait to leave their small country town. And she's figured out a way: she's won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose's ticket out.

Told in alternating voices and filled with music, friendship, and romance, Charlie and Rose's "little wanting song" is about the kind of longing that begins as a heavy ache but ultimately makes us feel hopeful and wonderfully alive.

Review:  Remember the days of daydreaming about how great it will be when all your dreams come true and you're living the life you want? Or maybe you are still dreaming about that day! Anyway, this book navigates through those complicated teen years where you're ready to move on but aren't quite there yet. Full of friendship and romance, with poetry and songs woven throughout this is a must read for those with a romantic heart! I loved this book :) Get it for your library today, best for ages 14 and up.

Mamba Point 
by Kurtis Scarletta 
Knopf
July 2010
Goodreads Summary: When his dad gets a job at the U.S. embassy in Liberia, twelve-year-old Linus Tuttle knows it's his chance for a fresh start. Instead of being his typical anxious self, from now on he'll be cooler and bolder: the new Linus. But as soon as his family gets off the plane, they see a black mamba--one of the deadliest snakes in Africa. Linus's parents insist mambas are rare, but the neighborhood is called Mamba Point, and Linus can barely go outside without tripping over one--he's sure the venomous serpents are drawn to him. 

Then he hears about kasengs, and the belief that some people have a deep, mysterious connection to certain animals. Unless Linus wants to hide in his apartment forever (drawing or playing games with the strange kid downstairs while his older brother meets girls and hangs out at the pool), he has to get over his fear of his kaseng animal. Soon he's not only keeping a black mamba in his laundry hamper; he's also feeling braver than ever before.

Is it his resolution to become the new Linus, or does his sudden confidence have something to do with his scaly new friend? From Kurtis Scaletta, author of Mudville, comes a humorous and compelling story of a boy learning about himself through unexpected friends, a fascinating place, and an extraordinary animal.

Review: This book will resonate with anyone (which is most of us) who has ever felt the need to change, to become someone we think is better than who we are now. Even if we don't act on it...Linus is like a lot pre-teens, insecure and anxious about what the future holds but still wanting friends and the latest video games. This is a great book with such feeling and great characters that I was immediately drawn into Linus' new world.  The descriptive writing is extremely vivid and brings alive the setting of Africa during the early 1980's. The info on Black Mamba's will intrigue readers and the book is also a good tool to discuss Liberia and its culture and history. A must for upper elementary and middle school readers!

The Red Umbrella 
by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Knopf
May 2010
Goodreads Summary: The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution.

In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own. 

Review: This book is a must read for the classroom whenever discussing the topic of Fidal Castro and Communist Cuba or a similar topic...it would definitely bring it home to American teens too caught up in myspace and the latest iphone to ever consider what atrocities other kids their age have had to live through. The resilience Lucia shows when being uprooted from her homeland Cuba to Nebraska is something readers won't soon forget. What would it be like to come to a whole new country with the possibility of never seeing your parents again? An excellent historical novel that is well written and brings to light a historical event that many of don't know much about. Middle school librarians must have this book in their libraries.