Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha

The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant ThingsThe Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things by Neil Pasricha

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because the title was funny to me: The Book of Awesome...I wanted to see if it really was awesome!

The author Neil Pasricha made this book out of the blog he keeps ( Basically, the blog & book are about the little things in life that are really awesome--like popping bubble wrap and waking up early and realizing that it's actually Saturday.

I enjoyed this book and have recommended it to a few coworkers who were looking for a funny, quick read.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow

Saving ZashaSaving Zasha by Randi Barrow

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In 1945 Russia, dogs are rare--because of the war, many died from starvation or in battle. This is why 13-year-old Mikhail is shocked to one day find an injured man with a German Shepherd in the woods near his home.

Mikhail's family did all they could for the man, but he dies, leaving behind his dog whose name, they learned, is Zasha. Zasha is such a good dog that they decide to keep her, although it will be dangerous for them because some might view them as traitors for having a German dog (the Russians hated all things German during the war, and, even though the war is over, many people continue to feel that way). They must do all they can to keep Zasha safe from those who might do her harm or try to kidnap her--especially since they find out that she is expecting puppies!

Readers will appreciate Mikhail's love for Zasha--along with the trying times he and his family experience in post-war Russia. Those who enjoyed this book about dogs and World War II might also enjoy Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury.

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Wicked Girls: a Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch TrialsWicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Based on real people and events that took place during the Salem Witch Trials, this book is told from the point of view of three girls, ranging in age from twelve to seventeen; these are the girls that made the accusations of witchcraft. Told in free verse format, readers learn about the motivations behind the girls' "afflictions"--which led to 19 innocent people being hanged.

This book received starred reviews across the board (Booklist, School Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus) but I just didn't like it! Maybe it's because I listened to it? I just didn't like the characters or the way their story was told. My favorite part of the book was the note at the end that described the people upon which the characters were based. Readers who enjoyed this might also enjoy another Salem Witch Trials book Beyond the Burning Time by Kathryn Lasky.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

True...(Sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

True... Sort ofTrue... Sort of by Katherine Hannigan

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

11-year old Delly is considered a bad kid by her family and teachers because of her behavior--but she doesn't really understand what is so bad about what she does. For example, if the weather is too nice to miss during the day, she simply skips school; when she sees a canoe on the river that she wants to ride in, she just takes it. Is that so wrong? She just understand doesn't why everyone calls her a bad kid...and hearing it over and over again starts to make her think she is a bad person through and through.

Things change when a new girl named Ferris Boyd arrives in town--she doesn't speak and won't let anyone touch her. Delly takes an immediate interest in her and decides that she wants to be her friend. She, Ferris, and Delly's younger brother R.B. end up spending a lot of time together in a tree house in the woods near Ferris's house. Being around timid Ferris and sweet R.B. help to make Delly more aware of her actions and the effects her actions have on others, and she starts to be not as much as a trouble kid as she was before.

I have to say that I didn't enjoy this book at all. As I listened to it, I knew that this was going to make it onto a list somewhere (themes of: 'bad kid' main character on a road to self-discovery, sibling rivalry/sibling love, making new friends/learning to get along with others, troubled friend with a troubled homelife, etc.)...but it's not that good! The first thing that struck me was Delly's ridiculous made-up vocabulary--some might find it charming, but I found it extremely irritating. I also didn't find Delly all that likable; she's bossy, acts before she thinks, and is wild. Finally, the fact that Ferris doesn't speak and the fact that animals seem to magically flock to her might appear to be related to an unsuspecting young reader. Even the ending of the book is unrealistic! I haven't read anything else by Katherine Hannigan, but I think I'll stay away from the rest of her books.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) by Maryrose Wood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story continues the tale of Penelope Lumley and her three charges, the Incorrigibles. The children are still learning how to behave like children--instead of wolves--and the group faces more challenges when they take a trip to London with the Ashtons while the mansion is being repaired.

Strange things keep happening to Miss Lumley and the children: the guidebook they have doesn't seem to be of the normal variety, they encounter a fortune-teller who gives them a cryptic warning, and they notice Mr. Ashton getting twitchy near the time of the full moon. Luckily, Miss Lumley finds a friend in Simon, a young man who helps them find their way when they first arrive in unfamiliar London. Throughout all of this, Miss Lumley can't stop thinking about her parents--where they are and who they are.

I was excited to get this because I really enjoyed the first book (The Mysterious Howling) but I have to say that I was disappointed. This story felt like it lacked the humor/excitement/special something that the first book did. This book ended with many loose ends, so I expect there will be another book in the works.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Ten Miles Past NormalTen Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Janie was younger, her parents moved their family from a house in the suburbs to a 'wanna-be farm' outside of town. (It's a 'wanna-be' farm because it's so small, only has goats, and has a small area to grow vegetables.) The fact that their farm is 'wanna-be' doesn't matter to the kids in Janie's classes at school her freshman year--the fact that she lives on any type of farm is definitely weird to them.

Janie has a tough time adjusting to high school life at first; she seems to blend in to the point of invisibility. In fact, the only time the other kids notice her is when she has hay in her hair or goat poo on her shoes. She sits through lunch alone in the library because her friends have a different lunch period...and she pretty much drifts through her day until she reaches the classes she has with a friend.

Janie, however, doesn't give up completely; she and her best friend Sarah join an after school Jam Band (where she learns how to play the bass!), they work on an important interview project with the help of Sarah's awesome older sister, and she actually starts to make some new friends. Freshman year isn't looking as bad long as she tries to forget about that popular blog her mother maintains about her family and the 'wanna-be' farm.

I enjoyed this book! I especially enjoyed how Janie has a strong sense of self and can see when a boy isn't as great as she thought he was when she gets to know him a little better--I think that is a great message for young girls. Those that liked this book might also like Itch by Michelle D. Kwasney.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shark Wars by E.J. Altbacker

Shark WarsShark Wars by E. J. Altbacker

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

In ancient times, Gray is a young shark who is part of Coral Shiver (a clan).  Because Gray is such a huge shark for his age, he often sneaks off to find more food when he's not supposed to, putting his shiver in danger--and this eventually leads him to be exiled.  Luckily, his best friend Barkley (who's a dogfish) sticks with him, and together they try to find a new shiver to join.

The two of them soon find a small group of sharks and they decide to form their own new shiver--calling themselves Rogue Shiver.  Later, they inadvertently get involved in a conflict between two other evil shivers...and the Rogue Shiver get confused, not knowing who they can really trust anymore.

This story has a lot of action, which readers will be sure to enjoy.  A lot of issues weren't tied up at the end, but it's the first book in a series.  Readers who enjoyed this animal book might also enjoy Ragtag by Karl Wolf-Morgenl√§nder.

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