Thursday, September 26, 2013

WONDER by R.J. Palacio

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Hardcover, Books for Young Readers, 315 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Knopf

First line:
"I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid."

This is a story that grade school children should read or have read to them. It teaches tolerance, kindness and inclusiveness.
August, or Auggie, was born with a cleft palate and or facial deformities. His mom homeschooled him but in this 5th grade year, they (parents and son) decided to mainstream him. Of course they are all worried. The principal asks a few students to be Auggie's friends and show him around school.  The kids are typical in their reactions and responses to him: shock, surprise, bullying, meanness, ignorance. For the most part, they try to help him and soon Auggie finds he has a couple of good friends.
Through most of the book I was having a hard time sympathizing with Auggie. Perspectives and characters were on the extreme ends, it seemed. Maybe to help middle graders really grasp what is being taught?  As I read I felt talked down to a bit but I think I understood better why as I read.
My favorite scene was the camp scene.
I also enjoyed the chapters that were told from a different perspective.

Rating: PG
V: No
L: No
S: No

The Journey
Teaching without preaching

The beginning

3 1/2 STARS

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (Cassandra Chronicles #1) by Cristin Terrill

You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Hardcover, 368 pages

Expected publication: September 3rd 2013 by Disney Hyperion

First line:
"I stare at the drain in the center of the concrete floor."

3 things about this book:

1. Time travel
2. List
3. Triangles

Time travel blows my mind. This book wasn't too much over the top trying to explain what time travel is all about. James is smart, talented and driven. He has lost too many people in his life and wants to find a way to change the past. Time travel is the answer since he has come up with a formula.
Marina and James have been neighbors, and friends, since they were young. Marina wonders how long she's been in love with him. And what she will do to protect and help him. Even going back in time to save him. Armed with a list of... I can't tell you because it would spoil the story. :)
Finn is a friend of James. Marina doesn't like Finn because he makes James attention divided between the two of them.
But the past can change a person and the future isn't always kind. Some say a monster and a saint lurks inside of us all, but it's the one we feed that thrives. This story shows clearly how greed and love and pain can change what we were because of the beast we feed. Love triangles, futuristic triangles, and plot triangles weave throughout the book. I liked how it didn't take until the end of the book to figure out the bad guy.
It was hard to put this book down. This book is not a standalone but it wasn't a cliffhanger. I felt the ending was solid.

Rating: PG 15
V: Fighting, someone getting tazed, threatening to kill,
S: kissing
L: Some swearing, a couple of "F" bombs

Interesting storyline

*sigh* it's a trilogy

Thanks, Netgalley

Monday, September 23, 2013

THE ORIGINALS by Cat Patrick

17-year-olds Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey Best grew up as identical triplets... until they discovered a shocking family secret. They're actually closer than sisters, they're clones. Hiding from a government agency that would expose them, the Best family appears to consist of a single mother with one daughter named Elizabeth. Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey take turns going to school, attending social engagements, and a group mindset has always been a de facto part of life...

Then Lizzie meets Sean Kelly, a guy who seems to see into her very soul. As their relationship develops, Lizzie realizes that she's not a carbon copy of her sisters; she's an individual with unique dreams and desires, and digging deeper into her background, Lizzie begins to dismantle the delicate balance of an unusual family that only science could have created.

First line:
"My part is first half."

How would you like to be a set of triplets who were identical but you really weren't triplets but three different people who had to act/dress/date like one person and really you were a clone?
That's what I thought.
The mind reels with the possibilities and implications of illegal human cloning. In this story, many lives are touched, and torn, by this science.
There are three girls whose mom have taken them deep into hiding to get away from "them" meaning the government. In order to protect the girls, they have to act like one person. One person doesn't stand out but three do, obviously. One girl takes the morning shift and goes to school for a few periods, the next finish school and the third goes to night school.
Then there is the mystery of how or who created them. And why?

V: No
L: No
S: Kissing

Unique story

Hurried or let down ending? I can't decide.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


From the After Life, ten-year-old Andy Smithson’s relatives initiated a curse 500 years ago. Now they no longer agree it should continue and one is willing to sacrifice Andy’s life to end it. Unaware of the disagreement and with no say in the matter, Andy is unexpectedly and magically transported from his home. He finds himself in the Land of Oomaldee, facing mortal danger at every turn as he seeks to find a scale from a rare red dragon, the most ferocious of dragon species, to break the curse and save his life.

First line:
As soon as Imogenia died, the spirits that manage new arrivals escorted her to the terminal just inside the cemetery grounds in the land of Oomaldee."

 Dragons, magic and time travel. This book has everything a middle grade reader, especially a boy, will love!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

OUTPOST (Razorland #2) by Ann Aguirre

Deuce’s whole world has changed.

Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn't fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Hardcover, 317 pages

Published September 4th 2012 by Feiwel & Friends

First line:
"I woke to the cold kiss of steel on my throat."

I'm not sure why I picked this series up. I'm not really a zombie person. I haven't really enjoyed the zombie books or movies. I think I'm drawn to the worlds in Ms. Aguirre's stories and how each place functions and survives, their rules and order.
Deuce was born underground in tunnels. It was a harsh environment. In order to survive you had to be able to literally look death in the face. You had to be able to kill. Deuce became a Huntress at fifteen. Her job was to patrol for Freaks (zombies) and kill them.
Something happened and Deuce and her hunting partner, Fade, had to leave the Enclave and go Topside. They had obstacles and adventures and almost died and were saved and in OUPOST, they live in a town called Salvation.
In Salvation you don't have to fight to live. Everyone has a house and plenty of food. Behind their wood walls, they feel safe from the Muties (zombies). Deuce tries to fit in. She's given dresses to wear and her foster mom, Momma Oaks, braids her hair. And Deuce is expected to go to school. But Deuce isn't cut out to be a girlie girl or sit quietly in a school room. She is trained to fight and that is what she wants to do. BUT their are townspeople who think Deuce is trouble and bringing sin and punishment on their town. 
Deuce grows and changes and becomes better throughout the story, especially in matters of the heart. She has a lot of hard choices to make too but she stays true to her character. There was some parts that she kept going over and over how she's an outcast and she's trying to fit in; it got a little annoying but nothing major.
Fade and Stalker are interesting characters and it was intriguing to read about them and their choices.
And the zombies! Interesting, interesting. I really can't wait to see how this series ends with HORDE this October.

Rating: PG 15
V: fighting zombies, blood and gore, brutal killings
L: No
S: lots of kissing

World building
Momma Oaks
A good second book in trilogy

Constantly reminding reader of her being outcast


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham 17, finally confronts her past. Hannah, the closest adult she has to family, disappears. Jonah Griggs, moody stares and all, is back in town. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.

First line:
"My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die."

Three things I liked about this book:
1. Relationships
2. Jonah Griggs
3. Ending

Told in two narratives: one earlier, one twenty-two years later,  I was emotionally drawn into the story of five kids tied by tragedy and of Taylor Markham. I was also confused in the beginning trying to figure out where everyone fit in but it worked. I loved it.
First person was a good choice for this story. Taylor had a strong voice and emotions. I loved her tough girl persona and her weaknesses. All the characters were strong and weak. Ben, Raffy, Santangelo, Jessa, they are in our schools and neighborhoods. And best friends. After reading this I wanted a group of best friends, like Tate and Narnie and Jude had. Jude. Love that name and character (Jude Law might be influencing my love of the name). 
Jonah was not the typical boy with a dark past character. He does have a dark past but he is also vulnerable and sweet. I liked the way he took care of Taylor.
So many books feel rushed at the end but this one built up and finished well--all loose ends tied up, almost all the stories were told and finished up.

I have to admit I was moved to tears a couple of times reading this book. This doesn't happen to me often. There were also plenty of times that I giggled.

Rating: PG 16
V: No
L: Swearing
S: Kissing, reference to sex

Generational mystery
Cover significance 
Jonah Griggs
Solid ending


4 1/2 STARS

Saturday, September 7, 2013

JACOB OF AVONDALE by P. Craig Packer

 The king’s servant, Jacob, makes a shocking discovery in a secret room. What he finds could change his life forever. Witness the transformation of a commoner into a conqueror in Jacob of Avondale.
As Jacob reached the top of the staircase with the tray of soiled food still in hand, he heard a strange whispering coming from the room near the far end of the hall. In all of the years that Jacob had been a servant in the castle, he had never seen the inside of that room. He saw the court jester standing near the far wall with his back to the door. The little man seemed to be profoundly captivated by something and was whispering in an eerie, monotone voice.

The tyrannical reign of King Humphrey and Queen Millicent has inspired growing discontent among the people of Avondale. Few hold out hope for any change.

The king’s servant Jacob, an orphan who’s seen little beyond the castle walls, makes a shocking discovery in a secret room. What he finds could change his life and the future of Avondale forever. Jacob’s newly acquired treasure launches an epic journey for him and his friends, Princess Catherine, Raoul, and Elizabeth.

To restore the kingdom to its former glory, he’ll need to locate the five missing components of an ancient artifact. Along the way, he must defeat ferocious beasts, summit mountains, and journey to the depths of a vast and frigid lake if his expedition is to be successful.

But is a lowly servant up to such a task? Witness the transformation of a commoner into a conqueror in Jacob of Avondale

First line:
“You pick that up right now!” echoed the queen’s voice from down the long, dimly lit hallway as she disappeared around the corner.

V:Some fighting



CLOCKWORK ANGEL(The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

Orphan Tessa Gray, sixteen, crosses the ocean from New York to find her brother Nate in Victorian London, her only possession a clockwork angel necklace from her mother. She is ignorant of her power to transform; the Dark sisters are not. They kidnap her for the Magister, who wants to marry Tessa and claim her power.

Shadowhunters, warriors of angel blood, battle demons and keep the peace in the Downworld of vampires, warlocks and other supernaturals. Orphan teen Shadowhunters Jem, Will, and Jess rescue Tessa and agree to help save Nate. Vengeful vampire Lady Camille Belcourt and her current lover, warlock Magnus Bane provide entrée to the Magister's secret Pandemonium Club.

First line:
"London, April 1878. The demon exploded in an shower of and guts."

How? How does Ms. Clare keep me reading her books? Sigh.

Rating: PG 13
S: No. Tensions
L: No
V: Fighting, intense images of death and paranormals




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

THE ROSE THRONE by Mette Ivie Harrison

Richly-imagined fantasy romance from the author of Princess and the Hound, a tale of two princesses--one with magic, one with none--who dare seek love in a world where real choice can never be theirs. For fans of Megan Whalen Turner, Catherine Fisher, and Cassandra Clare.

Ailsbet loves nothing more than music; tall and red-haired, she's impatient with the artifice and ceremony of her father's court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inherits the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trouble is that neither princess has the power--or the magic--to rule alone, and if the kingdoms can be united, which princess will end up ruling the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strategic marriage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?

First line:
""Princess Ailsbet, you father demands you attendance at court this morning," said Duke Kellin of Falcorn, bowing."

This is a story of magic and romance and palace intrigue. Two princesses, from two different kingdoms might be the only chance the countries have of uniting, both in their magic and their lands. Both are betrothed and one falls in love with the wrong man. 
The story is told from two different view points: Ailsbet and Marissa. One has the appropriate magic and one supposedly has none. How will this affect relationships?
This is a quick, clean read. The characters were pretty well written. I wanted to slap the prince or at least put him in time out; the king is a bully; both princesses are strong and weak in their own ways. Kellin could have been fleshed out.
I could not understand the magic system for a long time. I wish that would have been explained a little more.

Rated: PG
V: Poisonings 
L: No
S: Kissing

Duke Kellin