Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flirt Club by Cathleen Daly

Flirt ClubFlirt Club by Cathleen Daly

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This story is told entirely by notes and journal entries. Annie and Izzy have been best friends for nearly their whole lives. They keep up with each other throughout their busy school days by writing notes back and forth and leaving them in each other’s locker—and use code names: Annie is “the Bean” and Izzy is “Cisco.” Soon after they begin their eighth-grade school year, they realize that they are hopelessly lacking in the flirting with boys department, so they decide to start a secret club to hone their skills.

As the girls come up with ways to flirt, they practice on boys they like—with surprising results! They soon realize, however, that boys are a lot more complicated than they originally thought…and that balancing friends and boyfriends isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be.

Readers are sure to enjoy the glimpses into the lives of Annie and Izzy, especially because many of their notes to each other are so funny! For example, the Bean writes “Write me back if you can, my little pork chop” and Cisco writes, “Promise me you’ll feed this note to a llama as soon as you read it. PROMISE.” Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Only Girls Allowed (Moffitt).

I have to add that I was kind of shocked at what these girls were doing with boys in 8th-grade...Izzy made out "with tongues" and was "felt up" by the guy she liked; she was also at a party (the parents were out of town) where other kids in her class were drinking beer and got drunk (she didn't drink any beer--she just held a cup full of it). These kids are 13 years old!! That wasn't what I was doing at age 13, that's for sure...and I don't think I'm in the minority. Are most 13-year-olds doing this sort of thing these days? I hope not! This whole idea makes me sad. If these girls were in high school, I wouldn't mind so much...but 8th-grade? I just hope young girls don't read this book and think that this sort of stuff is what "normal" 13-year-old kids do.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Dragon Games by P.W. Catanese

Dragon Games (Books of Umber)Dragon Games by P.W. Catanese

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Hap’s mentor Umber loves taking him along on adventure after adventure with his crew to learn about the extraordinary and dangerous creatures that live in Kurahaven, Sarnica, and beyond, even though Hap pretty much dreads it all.

Before Umber took Hap in, Hap had mysteriously been transformed into a Meddler (a being that has special powers such as having visions, being able to see in the dark, and not needing to sleep), although he has no memory of this. Because he hasn’t yet learned how to harness his powers, the fact that he is a Meddler is of no help to the crew as they encounter not only jealous princes and kings, but also bidmis (small, gnome-like creatures), crabs that trap lost souls, and baby dragons. This is one adventure that none of them will ever forget!

Dragon Games is book two of the Books of Umber series. Readers don’t need to be familiar with the first book, titled Happenstance Found, to enjoy this one. The first book deals mostly with Hap’s life before he became a Meddler and his life immediately following Umber’s rescue of him. The series continues with End of Time.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley

Invisible Order, Book One, The: Rise of the DarklingsInvisible Order, Book One, The: Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley

12-year-old Emily has had to take care of her little brother Will ever since their parents mysteriously disappeared. Living in Victorian London, she’s able to earn a little money by selling watercress. This is what she is doing when she suddenly finds herself in a battle between two groups of faeries—up until then, Emily doesn’t even know that she has the Sight. She ends up rescuing a small piskie named Corrigan after the battle…but by doing this, she is drawn further into the faerie world.

Emily soon learns that the faerie world has been planning to take over the human world and is determined to stop them with the help of Will and her friend Jack.

I enjoyed this book, as it has a bit of everything: history, fantasy, adventure, and suspense. The Rise of the Darklings is the first book in the planned trilogy of The Invisible Order. Those who enjoyed this story might also enjoy The Faerie Wars Chronicles (Brennen).

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Words In The DustWords In The Dust by Trent Reedy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet and caring Zulaikah is the second-oldest girl in her large family. They live in a small village in Afghanistan—a country that places a lot of importance on marriage prospects for their children. For Zulaikah, this reality is hard to take because she has a cleft palate, which makes her less desirable for a match in marriage. After watching her sister get married to an older wealthy man, Zulaikah wonders what her life will become other than helping to raise her younger siblings and doing chores.

Things change completely when two things happen: first, when American soldiers arrive in their village, one of them notices Zulaikah’s mouth and offers her father the chance for her to have free surgery to fix her problem; and second, when she meets a former university professor in her village who offers to teach Zulaikah how to read and write. All of a sudden, her future is looking much brighter—but will her father allow her to follow her dreams?

This is an excellent book. It’s fascinating how different a teen girl’s life in Afghanistan is from a teen girl’s life in the United States—but there are also many similarities, too. Those who enjoyed this book might also like Where the Streets Had a Name (Abdel-Fattah) and Jungle Crossing (Salter).

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Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Search for the Unknown by Jason Hawes

Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Search for the UnknownGhost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Search for the Unknown by Jason Hawes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In this spooky book there are eight short ghost stories, all based on case files and events experienced by the group on the show Ghost Hunters. The stories are told from the point of view of Lyssa, the new interviewer for all of their cases.

There are a variety of ghost stories in this collection, such as one about a case involving a ghost who would leave behind pennies each time it visited; another case helped a family who had a ghost without legs appear to walk up their stairs each night! And as a bonus, at the end of the book there is a guide that includes a quiz, a description of devices used on ghost hunts, and step-by-step instructions on how to conduct your own ghost hunt.

The reader doesn’t need to be familiar with the Ghost Hunters show or the crew that appears on it—I’m not and I enjoyed this collection of stories very much. Those that enjoyed this book might also enjoy the Haunted Mysteries series (Grabenstein).

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse

The Book of the MaidservantThe Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I picked this book up after reading Barnhouse's newer book _The Coming of the Dragon_, which I enjoyed very much. This book, however, wasn't as enjoyable for me.

This story revolves around a young girl named Johanna who is a servant to Margery Kemp, the well-known religious woman of the Medieval era. It follows them as they make the pilgrimage to Rome from London with a small group of others. Dame Margery, as Johanna calls her, is very extreme in her demonstrations of her faith as she is prone to wailing and loud sobbing. This makes it nearly impossible for the others to tolerate her, and eventually they refuse to travel any further with her--except they keep Johanna with the group to serve them. When a mean man in the group threatens her, Johanna runs off on her own and must find her own way in the strange new country.

I just couldn't get into this story. I found that I didn't care about Johanna or the others in her group--especially Margery Kemp, who was just obnoxious. I can't put my finger on what exactly I disliked about this book, but I wasn't sad when it was over. I'm glad I read her other book first, otherwise I would never have bothered reading it after having read this one.

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