Friday, April 27, 2012

The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Pages: 576
Language: PG-13
Content: PG-13 (Death Themes)
Level: Middle School/High School
Recommendation: Must Read

Summary: It's just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quiet a lot of thievery...

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich.  Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist--books.  With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.  

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

Review:  This book is one of those books that everyone in existence should read.  The insight into the innocent German mentally during WWII was very refreshing.  Liesel Meminger is one character that will stick with you for a very long time.  The novel is written through Death's point of view and therefore would not be suitable for a younger reader.  The character also use the occasional profanities.  These complex themes would be fantastic for discussion in any type of group or classroom setting.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Pages: 230
Language: PG-13
Content: PG-13 (racial slurs and sexual content)
Level: High School
Recommendation: Must Read

Summary: Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.  Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.  Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

Review:  This book is a great insight into one man's experience growing up in modern day Washington on a reservation.  The book is filled with discussion of the underlying racism between Caucasians and Indians in and around two small towns in Washington.  The point of view is that of a typical teenage boy.  I laughed out loud several times while reading this novel.  The language and reference to sexual material fits this stereotypical point of view as well.  I would not recommend this novel to anyone who cannot handle strong language and/or heavy themes.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chronal Engine

Title: Chronal Engine
Author: Greg Leitich Smith
Pages: 192
Language: G
Content: G (complex themes)
Level: Middle/High School
Recommendation: Good Read

Summary: When Max, Kyle, and Emma are sent to live with their reclusive grandfather, they think he's crazy, especially when he tells them about his time machine.  But after Emma is kidnapped at the exact time that her grandfather predicted, Max and Kyle are forced to believe his eccentric stories--even the one about the Chronal Engine in the basement.

Now, to save Emma, Max, Kyle, and their new friend Petra must pile into a VW Bug, and use the Chronal Engine to take the road trip of a lifetime--right back to the Cretaceous period.  With dangers all around, the teens find themselves dodging car-crushing herbivores in addition to the terrifying T. Rex.  In this ancient environment, can three contemporary teens hunt down a kidnapper, forage for food, and survive long enough to return home?

Review:  This book has a very basic plot, simple characters, and unique interest levels.  However, it does have a LOT of scientific lingo regarding the study of dinosaurs which can be a pro and a con.  I would recommend this novel for a young reader who loves the idea of time travel and/or dinosaurs.   As a bonus feature for the young reader, this novel also includes anime-like pictures every few pages.  It helps any reader visualize the characters and situations.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Obsidian Blade

Title: The Obsidian Blade
Author: Pete Hautman
Pages: 320
Language: G
Content: PG (complex themes)
Level: Middle/High School
Recommendation: Good Read

Summary: The first time Tucker saw the disk, his father disappeared into thin air.  The Reverend Adrian Feye had climbed onto the roof to fix a loose shingle -- and suddenly he was gone.  An hour later, the Reverend came walking up the road, tattered and sunburned, bringing with him an unspeaking, yellow-haired, dark-eyed girl.  He refused to say where he had been, instead declaring that there would be no more prayer in the Feye house: He had lost his faith.

Now Tucker's family is unraveling.  The Reverend spends hours brooding in his study.  Tucker's once warmhearted and loving mother withdraws from the world, claiming she doesn't care to be watched by ghosts.  And, above them, the unearthly disk comes and goes.

Then, one day, both of Tucker's parents vanish.

From the distant past to an even more distant and terrifying future, Tucker desperately searches for his parents -- and discovers the astonishing secrets of the Klaatu diskos.

Review: This book is very innovative as far as the plot line is concerned.  Pete Hautman's novels always reflect his innovative imagination.  However interesting the plot is, the lack of character development detracts from it.  I found Tucker, the main character, to be somewhat flat, and the secondary characters are not developed as well.  60+ pages into the novel, I was still unsure as to what the book was about besides questioning one's faith and the destruction of a family unit.  Hautman does his best to keep the reader involved, but I am afraid that the average middle school or high school student would get bored before the novel truly takes off.  I would still recommend this novel to any science-fiction lovers or readers who are interested in the idea of a not-so-distant unhappy future.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rebel Fire

Title: Rebel Fire
Author: Andrew Lane
Pages: 335
Language: G
Content: PG (some violence)
Level: Middle/High School
Recommendation: Good Read

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes knows that Amyus Crowe, his mysterious American tutor, has some dark secrets. But he didn’t expect to find John Wilkes Booth, the notorious assassin, apparently alive and well in England—and Crowe somehow mixed up in it. When no one will tell you the truth, sometimes you have to risk all to discover it for yourself. And so begins an adventure that will take Sherlock across the Atlantic, to the center of a deadly web—where a friend is in peril and a defeated army threatens to rise again.Andrew Lane’s exciting second case for the teenage Sherlock leads the young detective to America, straight into the heart of a shocking conspiracy.

Review: A great sequal to a good book. I enjoy Sherlock's character a lot!!! This book is packed full of adventure and mystery, and the guys will love it! Full of old fashioned adventure!!!!

The Final Four

Title: The Final Four
Author: Paul Volponi
Pages: 244
Content: PG
Language: PG13-ish
Swears: 20+
Level: High School
Recommendation: Optional

Summary:Four players with one thing in common: the will to winMalcolm wants to get to the NBA ASAP. Roko wants to be the pride of his native Croatia. Crispin wants the girl of his dreams. M.J. just wants a chance.March Madness is in full swing, and there are only four teams left in the NCAA basketball championship. The heavily favored Michigan Spartans and the underdog Troy Trojans meet in the first game in the semifinals, and it's there that the fates of Malcolm, Roko, Crispin, and M.J. intertwine. As the last moments tick down on the game clock, you'll learn how each player went from being a kid who loved to shoot hoops to a powerful force in one of the most important games of the year. Which team will leave the Superdome victorious? In the end it will come down to which players have the most skill, the most drive, and the most heart.

Review: Told through alternating views, this book dives into the heart of March Madness . ..with a glimpse of the competitiveness, heart, and soul that the players must deal with. For those who enjoy sports and want an inside glimpse, the book is great. There isn't a lot of character developement, and I would have liked to see more of what made the characters tick.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nine's Legacy (Novella)


Title: I Am Number Four: The Lost Files, Nine's Legacy
Author: Pittacus Lore

Pages: 96
Language: PG
Maturity: PG13 (Violent)
Recommendation: Definitely
Level: Middle School/High School

Summary: In this novella, Number Nine is introduced and his background comes into perspective. Number Nine and his Cepan live a luxurious life in a Chicago penthouse where they spend their days training to defeat the Mogadorians. But when a mysterious girl enters Nine's life everything gets turned around.

Review: I wasn't sure if I wanted to get into Nine's head. I loved his mysteriousness when he was released in The Power of Six and was apprehensive to see how he became so "kick-butt". Reading this novella turned out to be the right decision. The growth of Nine from the beginning to the end is amazing and seeing how he became the strong character that we get a glimpse of in The Power of Six really whets your appetite for the third installment in the Lorien Legacies. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Six's Legacy (Novella)


Title: I Am Number Four: The Lost Files, Six's Legacy
Author: Pittacus Lore
Pages: 87
Language: PG
Maturity: PG13 (Violent)
Recommendation: Definitely
Level: Middle School/High School

Summary: How did Number Six get so powerful? Where did she learn to control her legacies so magnificently? In this novella we discover what is behind Number Six, what happened to her cepan, and how she managed to meet and save John just when he needed it. 

Review: Honestly, the majority of the information in this novella is depicted in The Power of Six, but I would definitely read it anyway. The actual events that Six describes to John and Sam are told from Six's point of view and are much more detailed. In fact, if you haven't read The Power of Six, I suggest reading this first as you will go into book two with a better understanding of what Six has been through. I enjoyed this novella and can't wait to read about Number Nine!

Note: As far as I can tell, this is only available electronically.

The Power of Six

Title: The Power of Six
Author: Pittacus Lore
Pages: 416
Language: PG
Maturity: PG13 (Violent)
Recommendation: Definitely
Level: Middle School/High School

Summary: In this thrilling second installment in the Lorien Legacies Series, we follow Sam, John and Six as they try and stay ahead of the Mogadorians and the FBI. Their goal: find the remaining four before the Mogadorians do. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Number Seven who is convinced John Smith is one of the Garde, but is stuck in Spain with a Cepan who has forgotten her reasoning for being on Earth. With love twists, epic battles and devoted friendship, this book is a definite page turner that will leave you wanting!

Review: Amazing sequel! I've decided that Six is probably one of my favorite book characters of all time. In this book, we learn more about Six's past and how she became the kick-butt girl we now know. I also enjoyed being introduced to Marina (Number Seven) and loved following another point of view from a different member of the Garde. If you liked I Am Number Four, then you will thoroughly enjoy The Power of Six!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Title: After
Author: Amy Efaw
Pages: 350
Language: Pg13/R 10+ swears, 3 "F's"
Maturity: PG13/R
Recommendation: Optional

Summary: Who could do such a thing? Certainly not someone like Devon Davenport-a straight-A student-athlete with everything going for her. But in a moment of denial, desperation, and sheer panic, she did something that most people couldn't even imagine. And now Devon is being charged with attempted murder. In a skillfully crafted story, Amy Efaw takes readers through the days leading up to-and after-Devon's crime, painting an unexpected picture of a truly empathetic character caught up in an unimaginable situation.

Review: NOT for sensitive or young readers!!! The entire book deals with the details of a "perfect" teenager who dealt with or I guess DIDN't deal with a teen pregnancy. She blocks out everything that happens to her, and the reader finds out what happened when she finally remembers things . . . and the memories are very graphic. I wouldn't recommend these books to kids....but there are girls who could probably benefit from reading the book.


Title: Shelter
Author: Harlan Coben
Pages: 304
Language: PG13
Swears: 10
Maturity: PG13
Level: High School
Recommendation: Good Read

Summary:Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

Review: Loved, loved, loved the characters in this book . . . .so believable and great!!! There were a few sensitive issues in the book, (main character's mother is a drug addict, and he rescues her from a "cheap" motel...nothing graphic, but it is there.) The mystery involved is great and totally keeps the reader going. Great for boys and girls alike.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Title: Bittersweet
Author: Sarah Ockler
Pages: 378
Language: PG
Content: PG
Level: High School/Middle School
Recommendation: Good Read

Summary: Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances, a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life—and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done. It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last....

Review: Loved Hudson .. and love ice skating . . so . . . . I really enjoyed this book. The character is strong, facing things that most kids go through and it was great to see her previal in her own way, although not quite the way she thinks she should. Good read.