28 January 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Jack the Ripper is one of the -- if not THE -- most famous serial killers of all time in London. And it appears that there might be a copycat, but officials can't seem to grasp hold of any leads whatsoever.

Rory has just come from New Orleans to attend boarding school in London while her parents are working in Bristol. In the wake of a string of murders, the school decides that students are safest on campus, so there they remain. Things start to get pretty creepy when one of the murders takes place on school grounds -- on the same evening that Rory meets a strange man while sneaking back into her dorm. This strange man might lead to the killer, except no one else can see him.

Recommended to all high school readers, mystery lovers and general fiction readers alike.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Doug's life is not fun. Home life consists of his amazing mom, his distant and abusive father, his bully older brother, and another brother who is off fighting in Vietnam. School consists of bullies and a few close friends. When Doug's father decides to move the family to Marysville in hopes of a better job (one that won't fire him), Doug even loses those few friends. Now school consists of students and teachers who think that Doug's brother is a thief and that Doug's no good either. Good thing for Lil Spicer or life might be just about the most miserable that it could be.

You might not think that a pretty girl, Audubon's Birds of America, baseball, and Jane Eyre have a whole lot in common, but in this case you might be wrong. Those few things might be the best things in the whole wide world. At least for one teenage boy who is just trying to find some good in the world.

Recommended to all middle grade readers. This title is great for boys who might not love to read, and who also aren't necessarily into sports or cars or other "guy stuff." But all ages and all interests are sure to get something out of Doug's experience and his perseverance.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

21 January 2013

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

When you move around a lot and don't really want anyone to ask you questions about your life "before," or get to know you too well before you up and leave again, it could be a challenge or an opportunity. Mclean Sweet is determined to take advantage of her semi-nomadic life with her dad and create new opportunities in every down, including new names, new wardrobes, and new personalities along with new schools and new friends.

But in Lakeview, it all starts when Mclean just won't stay hidden. Usually she easily transforms into Beth or Eliza Sweet, but this time she's Mclean. And then there are these friends that are basically finding her, rather than the other way around. And Dave, with whom she discovers she can actually have honest conversations -- and maybe even an honest relationship?

Also, try Dessen's Along for the Ride for your cravings of not-quite-fluffy chick lit.

Laddertop, volume 1 by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card, illustrated by Honoel A. Ibardolaza

Years ago, aliens came to Earth and provided humans with advanced technology that could power the entire planet. There are four giant towers, called Ladders, that stretch high into space that must be maintained in order to keep the power on. And because of the small tubes and tight spaces, the job requires children. Only the best kids get accepted to Laddertop Academy, and from them only a few get selected to actually participate in going up to the Laddertop stations.

Azure and Robbi are eleven-year-old girls who are best friends, and both are selected into the Academy, where there are weird tests and training to determine who will be selected for the journey to the stations. Who are the aliens, why did they disappear, and why specifically do they need children for their work?

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

17 January 2013

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

If she knows nothing else, Jessica knows one thing for absolutely sure: She is a runner. Jessica lives for running, and is one of the best on her school's track team. She just beat her personal record in the 400 meter. But then, just a few days later, her team's bus was in an accident on the way home from a meet. One of their teammates was killed, and Jessica's leg had to be amputated.

Now Jessica doesn't know who she is. And she has no idea how she's supposed to figure it out while surrounded by well-meaning doctors, friends who don't know what to say to her, overbearing parents, and an irritating younger sister. Not to mention the guilt that she has over the financial troubles that her parents are having because of fighting insurance companies. But with the support of an undaunted best friend, her track team and coach, and something of a new cheering squad, Jessica begins to recognize that the finish line doesn't always have to be an ending, and she can finally see the new start that is unfolding in front of her.

Recommended for older middle grade readers and all high school girls. This is a fast-paced read with not only a positive message, but also really likable characters, which sometimes makes all the difference!

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

The absolute last thing that Reese wants to do is go on this family boating trip that his father is super enthusiastic about. Reese insists that he's responsible enough to stay home alone, and his father insists that this is a FAMILY activity.

So, they embark on the boat trip only to be shipwrecked on an abandoned island. When creepy things start to happen, Reese, his parents, and his little sister must figure out where they are and how to survive long enough in order to get back home. In a Lost-esque atmosphere, there is certainly a lot to learn about the island itself, as well as it's dangerous creatures who seem to be out to get them. But Reese and his family figure out a way to defeat the bad that seems to be part of the island's very groundwork?

Recommended to middle grade boys, with maybe a few exceptions

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Equal parts creepy and wonderfully mystical, this tale of peculiarities will surely take hold of any reader.

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather's stories: of how he lost his family to the war, of when he took refuge from Poland in a children's home in Wales, of how he battled monsters, and of the wonderful special friends he made during his childhood. Of course, at sixteen years old, Jacob had long grown out of believing his grandfather's tales of his childhood friends who could levitate, become invisible, or grow fire from bare hands. And he had long grown out of believing that the monsters his grandfather supposedly battled were real.

But when Jacob finds his grandfather following some kind of mysterious vicious attack, and they share secret last words, his becomes determined to uncover his history, and to find what truth their might be behind the stories. With a trip to an isolated island of Wales, he uncovers more than any dreams are made of . . .

Recommended to all with a flair for the "different," the quirky, and the paranormal, for both children and adults.

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Book trailer from Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/m1DU2ULOKGGNSS/ref=ent_fb_link

And there's more on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/MissPeregrine

Every Day by David Levithan

For as far back as memory goes, A has woken up as a different person every single morning. A does not become a different person on the inside, but inhabits a different body each day and must live according to that person's life. By accessing memories, A can interact, react, and get through the day leaving the host body's life relatively unaltered . . . most of the time.

But when A is in Justin's body and meets Rhiannon, all of the rules change. For the very first time, A discovers another person that makes moving on impossible. A wants to be with Rhiannon, not for just a day, but every day.

This is a story of friendship, of love, of self, and of faith. While new perspectives emerge with each and every body, and experiences of intense emotions from grief, to despair, happiness, fear, and peace are alternately overwhelming and thrilling, A does not get to hold onto any of this. None of it belongs to A. Until the experience of love.

Recommended to each and every reader. Well done in print and on audio.
Reviewed by kate the librarian.

One of my favorite paragraphs from the novel (p.107):


07 January 2013

The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

We read this story in alternating chapters, both from Robbie's perspective. We learn about Robbie's current situation in real-time, while he also catches us up on the story that has lead to his arrival at the Great Oaks School. 

At Great Oaks, Robbie has his own room, but other than a desk, chair, paper, and pencil, he has nothing else. A bed is brought in when it is bedtime, and taken out when it is time to wake. His shoes and socks have been taken. His door remains locked from the outside. His only speaking company is Mr. Lester who has him make lists, but won't explain the rules. Great Oaks School is the End of the Line for Robbie . . . until he starts to unravel the mess of his life. But how does one begin to apologize for killing his only friend?

Recommended to most middle grade and older readers. This a poignant story from a first-time author, and it will make you sad, angry and frustrated . . . but ultimately, it will also remind you of the humanity that exists - and lapses - in all of us.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

04 January 2013

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Karl Stern is a skinny kid who gets bullied by his high school classmates more than he would like, but he's always been able to hide in the background of life for most part. He's living in Berlin during the reign of Hitler and the Nazis, but having been raised in a family of no practicing religion, he certainly does not consider himself a Jew. And his fair looks do not broadcast his ethnicity either, something that separates him from his younger sister and her dark features.

But it doesn't take long for the fact that he is a Jew to get him expelled from public school, beaten, and even left for homeless. For a while he still has his boxing as a refuge, but even that gets taken from him eventually. Along with his parents and his sister, he must figure out how to survive even when it becomes harder and harder to believe that the injustice against Jews won't last forever . . ..

Recommended to mature middle grade and high school readers. Here is portrayed a unique perspective of Nazi-era history. The Berlin Boxing Club was named the 2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Teen Readers and was placed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

Prisoners in the Palace : A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl

Liza has been raised as a lady, to enter into London society, to meet and marry a gentleman, and to live a life of relative comfort. When her parents die in an accident during her seventeenth year, she is left in solitude and with a large debt with which she has no means to pay. 

She is lucky enough to secure a position at Kensington Palace as a maid to sixteen-year-old Princess Victoria and her Baroness, even though such a position is inappropriate for a lady. Liza doesn't much enjoy bathing in cold dank quarters with the servants or wrestling with her own dresses. But because of her education and knowledge of languages, the Baroness asks Liza to spy on the princess's mother, and as a result Liza uncovers a very deliberate plot is brewing to keep the princess from establishing her own regency when she turns of age. Having empathy for the princess, as well as knowing that her mistress might be the only one who can restore Liza's financial independence, Liza reaches out to a few key players -- a spy with knowledge of the palace, a newspaper man, and the maid whose position she replaced -- and if all goes well everyone might end up getting exactly what they deserve.

This charming story of the pre-Victorian history of the London regency has it all -- colorful characters, espionage and trickery, kidnapping and murder, true friendship, and true love. Recommended to most middle grade readers.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.