Monday, November 23, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a note to let you know I won't be posting this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Hope you and those you care about have a fantastic week.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Book review - Hello?

Title: Hello?
Author: Liza Wiemer
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books:  Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

                      Love Letters to the Dead by Lauren Myracle
a decent read
Summary (provided by publisher):Tricia: A girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma's death.
Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical.
Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry.
Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past.
Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both.
Linked and transformed by one phone call, Hello? weaves together these five Wisconsin teens' stories into a compelling narrative of friendship and family, loss and love, heartbreak and healing, serendipity, and ultimately hope.

My opinion: I wasn’t sure about this one at first. It is kind of a slow start and I didn’t connect with the  characters very quickly. It gets stronger as you go, though, and becomes a solidly entertaining read. The various format styles helped considerably, keeping the character perspectives clear. It wa
s interesting how their various traumas came to light and affected their choices. Somewhat predictable but still worth a read.

Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pick 6: Sports stories

While I’m not a fan of most things athletic myself, I must admit sports have great natural drama for stories. Competition reads well on the page and can provide other natural lessons on teamwork and fair play. Here are six sports themed books published in the last six months.

6 New Sports Stories
1. March Grand Prix by Kean Soo
2. A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
3. Breakaway by Kat Spears
4. First & Then by Emma Mills
5. Losers Take All by David Klass
6. The Edge by Roland Smith

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book review - The Anatomical Shape of a Heart

Title: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: romance
Similar books: Has to Be Love by Jolene Perry

                     Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn
A quick, fun read
Summary (provided by publisher): Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci's footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital's Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is-and tries to uncover what he's hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix's own family's closet tear them apart?

My opinion: Bex and Jack are a great leading couple. Strong willed, fun loving, and flawed. While their relationship happens a little too easily and doesn’t enough bumps and trials to be realistic, the characters themselves are so likeable that it sort of makes up for the unbelievable love story. I like that the parents’ stories weren’t simple either. Their conflicts are complex and require understanding.

Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Friday, November 13, 2015

Book review - Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan

Title: Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan
Author: Sheila Agnew
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books:  Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter

                       Boy's Best Friend by Kate Banks
funny, informative, and heartwarming
Summary (provided by publisher): New York City. Evie Brooks has seen it on the TV, but she never imagined herself living there. But when her mother dies, Evie finds herself leaving her home in Dublin and moving to Manhattan to visit with her American uncle for the summer. Never having owned a pet more substantial than a goldfish, twelve-year-old Evie is intrigued by Uncle Scott s veterinary practice, and before long is working as an assistant in the clinic. Soon she finds herself immersed in dogs galore, parrots, reptiles, and an assortment of other creatures and their eccentric owners. And she loves it. Manhattan would be just about perfect if it weren t for Uncle Scott s lawyer girlfriend, who has plans for him that do not involve Evie. Before the summer is over, Evie has an important decision to make: stay in New York and confront the problem of Scott s girlfriend or return to Ireland to live with her godmother."

My opinion: I’m a big fan of this one. Evie is a great protagonist - sweet, conflicted, sassy, and realistic. She skews a little young but not overly so. Agnew blends information about animals and veterinary medicine nicely with a plot about grief and unexpected family. The Leela storyline is a little over the top but the rest of the book and what it accomplishes balance that unreality out. A great book for young girls.

Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Picture books for everyone

The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

Jeffers has this great knack for taking everyday, mundane situations and turning them into something absurd. In this case, a boy accidentally licks a book which leads him to eat it. Henry then goes on to eat a number of books. Kids will enjoy the sheer ridiculous in this book. Visually, this book is done in almost an altered book style. Illustrations are a combination of collage and original drawings. Even the text that shows through on each page has some bearing in the events therein. Cute, clever, and likely to be met with cries of "again." Cries which most parents won't mind.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book review - The Peddler's Road

Title: The Peddler’s Road
Author: Matthew Cody
Genre: fantasy/retelling
Similar books: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
                       A Tale Dark and Grimms by Adam Gidwitz

Summary (provided by publisher): Drawn from the Pied Piper tale, this exciting new trilogy by the author of Powerless is brimming with adventure, mystery, and rats!

It is said that in the thirteenth century, in a village called Hamelin, a piper lured all of the children away with his magical flute, and none of them were ever seen again.

Today tough, pink-haired Max and her little brother, Carter, are stuck in modern-day Hamelin with their father . . . until they are also led away by the Piper to a place called the Summer Isle. There they meet the original stolen children, who haven't aged a day and who have formed their own village, vigilantly guarded from the many nightmarish beings that roam the land.
No one knows why the Piper stole them, but Max and Carter's appearance may be the key to returning the lost children of Hamelin—and to going home themselves. But to discover the secrets of the Piper, Max and Carter will have to set out on a mysterious quest down the dangerous Peddler's Road.

My opinion: Lots of cool stuff going on here. This is an excellent retelling, taking the bare bones of a familiar story and respinning it with new details and motivations. I’ve often wondered where the Piper took all of the children, what he gained by those actions. This book give him motivation in spades. A great cast of characters: Max, Carter, and the other children not to mention the magical creatures and the housekeeper, all of whom are fully-fleshed and each with his own motivation. A great sense of adventure, plenty of action. One could argue that it gets a little overly descriptive at times but those moments pass quickly. An exciting story on it’s own with at least one sequel to come.

Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Friday, November 6, 2015

Book review - Placebo Junkies

Title: Placebo Junkies
Author: J C Carleson
Genre: surrealism
Similar books: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

                       Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson
interesting but odd
Summary (provided by publisher): Meet Audie: Professional lab rat. Guinea pig. Serial human test subject. For Audie and her friends, “volunteering” for pharmaceutical drug trials means a quick fix and easy cash.
Sure, there's the occasional nasty side effect, but Audie's got things under control. If Monday's pill causes a rash, Tuesday's ointment usually clears it right up. Wednesday's injection soothes the sting from Tuesday's “cure,” and Thursday's procedure makes her forget all about Wednesday's headache. By the time Friday rolls around, there's plenty of cash in hand and perhaps even a slot in a government-funded psilocybin study, because WEEKEND!

But the best fix of all is her boyfriend, Dylan, whose terminal illness just makes them even more compatible. He's turning eighteen soon, so Audie is saving up to make it an unforgettable birthday. That means more drug trials than ever before, but Dylan is worth it.
No pain, no gain, Audie tells herself as the pills wear away at her body and mind. No pain, no gain, she repeats as her grip on reality starts to slide. . . .

Raw and irreverent, Placebo Junkies will captivate readers until the very end, when author J. C. Carleson leans in for a final twist of the knife.

My opinion: My first impression of this book was simply how strange it was. Audie’s role is so far from the norm, so “other”, that she’s hard to relate to. It wasn’t until she began hallucinating  that I realized that we couldn’t really trust anything she’d said or seen. As always with first person narration, we’re experiencing the story through one person’s lens and when that lens is clouded it is hard to know what to believe. For those who enjoy and atypical reading experience, this can be a lot of fun. Others will find it too difficult to follow.

Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Books on screen

If I Stay
I never read this book when it was initially popular. It just didn't' seem like my sort of book. I listened to the audio book recently and it just blew me away. The gentle simplicity of the narration is sharply at odds with the grim nature of the story. It is deeply and viscerally emotional. We loose some of that in the film version, largely because we're no longer entirely in Mia's head. While events don't adhere strictly to those of the book, the intent remains the same. Solidly done, but I believe the book is much better.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book review - The Adventures of Miss Petitfour

Title: The Adventures of Miss Petitfour
Author: Anne Michaels
Genre: humor/easy reader
Similar books: the Claude series by Alex T. Smith
                     Three ring rascals series by Kate Klise

Summary (provided by publisher): Miss Petitfour is an expert at baking and eating little cakes. She also has the most marvelous, everyday adventures. Her favorite mode of travel is by tablecloth, and on windy days she always takes her sixteen cats out for an airing.
Join Miss Petitfour and her feline companions as they embark on five magical outings, including a quest for “birthday cheddar” and a visit to the village’s annual Festooning Festival.
And if you prefer books in which nothing ever happens, books in which people (and cats) sit by the fire with buttery shortbread biscuits and steaming mugs of cocoa, books full of interesting facts that will never come in useful, and books with digressions and meanwhiles and long words and lists, then you will find plenty of that here too.
So fetch a tablecloth and turn to the first page of this book. “Sometimes, all you must do is reach out your hand for something wonderful to happen . . . ”

My opinion: While older readers prefer high adventure and complicated plots, this is not always the case with those just beginning to read independently. That’s when books like this one come into play. Low in drama but with plenty of silly fun, this book will appeal to youngster and their parents alike. To aid young readers, long and unusual words are printed in a different color and explained in the story’s text.

Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley