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 anymore...as 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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Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Heart of a Samurai: a Novel Inspired by a True Adventure on the High SeasHeart of a Samurai: a Novel Inspired by a True Adventure on the High Seas by Margi Preus

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In the year 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro and his fisherman friends are washed ashore on a remote island after a storm destroys their boat.  Luckily, an American whaling ship finds and rescues them before they starve to death.



The captain of the whaling ship and Manjiro soon form a bond (which was unusual in that time because the Japanese and the Americans didn't normally like or trust each other) and he offers to take Manjiro back to America with him as his son.  This leaves Manjiro to decide whether he should accompany the captain to a new country and live a life of adventure...or to remain with the other young Japanese fishermen and return home.  After much thought, Manjiro chooses to go with the captain and see America.



This book is based on the Manjiro's life story--he is widely accepted as the first Japanese person to set foot on American soil.  Readers will learn of the prejudice he faced in America, as well as his happy reunion with his family in Japan 10 years after the shipwreck that changed his life.



Readers who enjoyed this book might also enjoy A Million Shades of Gray (by Cynthia Kadohata), which is another historical fiction / survival story.



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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine QueenThe Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In the 1890s, 12-year-old Cissy enjoys attending school and spending time with her friend Kookie.  The highlight of their school days is receiving letters from their former teacher Miss Loucien, who left teaching to join a traveling theater group.  When there's a diphtheria outbreak in their town, Cissy and her classmate Tibbie are sent away with their current teacher to find the theater group so that they can stay with them until the outbreak has passed.  Happily for Cissy, Kookie tags along with them.



They find the theater group living in an old, abandoned paddle-boat that had washed up onto land from the Missouri River.  After some work, the group gets the boat back into the river and their journey really begins!



This is a fun story with a huge cast of likable characters.  Despite all of the crazy hardships faced by this group as they float down the river, they always work together and help each other out.  This book is a follow-up to Stop the Train, but readers don't need to have read that book to understand what's going on in this one.  Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy another one of McCaughrean's books: The Death-Defying Pepper Roux.



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You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does) by Ruth White

You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does)You'll Like It Here by Ruth White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


11-year-old Meggie Blue lives a happy, comfortable life in North Carolina with her mom, older brother, and grandpa.  However, the recent talk among her classmates about aliens makes her unhappy because it brings back bad memories from years ago of the crazy man who trespassed into her class looking for aliens.  An experience like this would traumatize any young child, but this was especially traumatizing for Meggie because she is, in fact, an alien.

Meggie's family first moved from the planet Chroma to Earth when Meggie was just a baby.  They had to leave their home planet because the pollution there was too overpowering.  They first lived in California, but then moved to North Carolina after the crazy man incident in Meggie's class.  Now that the people in North Carolina are growing suspicious of them, they decide that it's time to move on again, but this time they decide to move to an entirely different planet.

Interestingly, they end up on a planet called Earth...but a much different Earth from what they're used to.  The place they find themselves in is called Fashion City, a city run by "The Fathers," where adults are assigned to mindless jobs, clothing isn't allowed to be colorful, and taking "Lotus" pills to make one feel good and numb is encouraged.  The Blue family can't wait to get away from this awful version of Earth, but will they be able to escape before falling victim to the overbearing ways of the city?

I enjoyed this book a lot--I began the story without knowing the plot and was completely surprised to find out that the Blue family are actual aliens!  The Blue family is a nice group of people who genuinely care about others, and this trait shines through strongly when they're in Fashion City and want to help all of its citizens stuck in their dull, repetitive lives.  Those who enjoyed this alien story might also enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday (Adam Rex).



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