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Archive for June, 2013

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Posted by Caitie F on June 30, 2013

Title: Under the DomeUnder the Dome
Author: Stephen King
Hardcover: 1074
Pub Date: Nov 10, 2009
Publisher: Scribner
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

Review:

I am a big Stephen King fan and we went out and bought this book the day it came out (and had a bad experience that I detailed over here). With the show coming, I wanted to get this done before the show started, which I did by a whole two days.

I really enjoyed the book. This felt like classic Stephen King. A large cast of characters, an impossible situation, and lots of gore. There were parts that were gross. There were parts that were horrifying. But as a whole, it is a very good story.

The villains are wonderfully written.They are BAD and it is great. You don’t know what they will do next to get more power – or what they will do just because they can.

The good guys are equally great. I had my favorites, including Julia, Joe, Barbie, and Rusty, but there were more than that. Since this is Stephen king, not all the good guys make it and it breaks the readers heart into a bunch of piece.

The one issue is that this is a long book and some of it feels unnecessary. I could skim chapters, which is never a great sign. I know the end is controversial, but I really like it.

That said, if you like Stephen King and long books, this is great.

I watched the first episode of the series and I am done. I knew there would be changes, but my favorite character in the whole book isn’t even under the dome. And some of the acting was terrible. It was not a show for me. I think it would have been much better if it was on HBO or Showtime and it feels like Stephen King is in it for the money, especially if it is a full series and not a mini-series.

 

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Playing with Fire by Bruce Hale

Posted by Caitie F on June 25, 2013

Title:Playing WIth Fireplaying with fire
Author: Bruce Hale
Hardcover: 320 pages
Pub Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Rating: +++

Summary from pub:

Juvenile delinquent and budding pyromaniac Max Segredo belongs in juvie hall. At least, that’s what his most recent foster family would tell you. Instead, Max ends up on the doorstep of Merry Sunshine Orphanage-their very heavily guarded doorstep. As he begins to acclimate to his new home, Max learns a few things straightaway: first, cracking a Caesar Cipher isn’t as hard as it seems; second, never sass your instructor if she’s also holding throwing knives; and third, he may not be an orphan after all.

Soon, Max and the rest of the students are sent on a mission to keep a dangerous weapon out of the hands of LOTUS, an international group bent on world domination. Of course, all Max cares about is finding out more about his father, the man he’s now sure is still alive. As the stakes get higher, Max must make some difficult choices, including who to trust, and finally learns the true meaning of family.

Review:

For some reason, spy school always sounds like it would be a lot of fun. Picking locks, breaking codes, learning how to dodge around lasers – sounds like fun, right? If you think it does, this is a great middle grade novel about an orphanage that is really a spy school and what family really means.

I really liked all the kids in the book, even the ones that didn’t seem like they would be that likable. You can easily understand where they are coming from and why they are defensive or have some aggression issues. It sets up rivalries and shows there is more than one side to every story.

There is some character development in this book, but it is mostly plot-driven, which isn’t raelly a bad thing for a book like this. It is the first in a series, so I would hope there is more character development in the next book, but this book does exactly what it promises.

The message of the book is a little heavy-handed and is repeated again and again, which might makes reader wants to yell at the book “Okay, I get it already!!”. It doesn’t take away from the rest of the book, but it might make you roll your eyes again whether you are a middle grader or an adult.

This is a fun book that will excite readers and may make them interesting in doing some spying. Just make sure there aren’t any heating or air conditioning vents they could try to crawl through.

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Posted by Caitie F on June 22, 2013

Title: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s LibraryLemocello
Author: Chris Grabenstein
Hardcover: 304 pages
Pub Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

Review:

When I am not reading or watching TV, I am often playing board games with friends and family. So when I saw a book about a game involving a library, I knew it would be perfect for me. I just didn’t know HOW perfect.

First of all, I wish this library existed. It sounds like the coolest place on the planet. If this library was in my hometown, it would be hard for me to leave. There are board games, educational games, interactive holograms, and of course, a ton of books. Every book lover should read this book just to get the chance to imagine this place.

I thought the main character might annoy me, as he doesn’t really read, he just loves games and I have read a couple middle grade books where the main character makes fun of books and it is irritating.. But it turns out that he doesn’t make fun of books or people who reads them and he is a pretty cool and open minded kid.

The puzzles throughout the book really really fun to do. They weren’t so simple that the reader will get annoyed that the characters can’t figure it out, but they also are not impossible.

There are some predictable aspects of the book, but it didn’t bother me at all because most books need villains and those villains need to do things that are bad. The villain really had me laughing at times because we all knew people like that when we were a kid.

This is an absolutely wonderful middle grade book that book lovers of any age will enjoy.

Posted in Review | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Posted by Caitie F on June 19, 2013

Title: Someday, Someday, Maybesomeday someday maybe
Author: Lauren Graham
Hardback: 352 pages
Pub Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Rating: ++++

Summary from publisher:

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates-Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material-and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

Meanwhile, she dreams of doing “important” work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It’s hard to tell if she’ll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won’t call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet.

Review:

Yep, the Lauren Graham who wrote this book is that Lauren Graham of two of my favorite TV shows of all time, Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. From what I have seen from her interviews, she seems like a pretty cool person too, so when I saw she had a book I was excited, yet nervous. I read a couple positive reviews and they were correct, Lauren Graham can write!

This story is perfect for summer. It is a quick read and it was also the kind of book that made me so happy while I was reading it. Not everything in it is sunshine and roses, but the tone and characters made me smile so much. If you are looking for a fun book to take on a plane or take to the beach, this one is a great choice.

It isn’t too deep, but it does show consequences and doubts. Everyone has felt the way Franny does at some point, even if you aren’t an actor. Sometimes, you feel like you are stuck in one place and can’t get moving. It shows that you can get out of that rut and make things better. I loved the hope in the book and I especially love the best friend who is sometimes the voice of reason. The characters all felt so real and I wanted them to be!

I found myself laughing out loud many times. There was even one point where i texted my husband the picture of a paragraph because it was so funny. I can honestly say I have never done that before.

You should read the acknowledgements at the end since it is adorable.

I just can’t get myself to give this five stars because it wasn’t the best book I ever read, but it was a really fun book that I think a lot of people would love!

I saw this is going to be a television show and I don’t know. I think it would make a great movie, but am not sure about a full TV show. But i know I will watch it!

Posted in Review, Summer reads | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

The Hidden Summer by Gin Phillips

Posted by Caitie F on June 14, 2013

Title: The Hidden Summerhidden summergrade
Author: Gin Phillips
Hardcover: 208 pages
Pub Date: June 13, 2013
Publisher: Dial
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

After a falling out between their mothers, 13-year-old best friends Nell and Lydia are forbidden from seeing each other for the whole summer. Nell struggles with the thought of not only losing her best friend, but also losing the only person in whom Nell finds refuge from the difficulties she faces at home. Determined to find a place of their own, Nell and Lydia spend the summer hiding out in an abandoned golf course where Nell and Lydia find mysterious symbols scattered throughout the grounds. As they reveal the secret of the symbols, Nell discovers she isn’t the only one seeking haven and begins to uncover what’s really been hidden all along, finally allowing herself to be truly seen.

Review:

If you are looking for a light, middle grade summer read, this is not the book you are looking for. If you are looking for a middle grade book that looks at mental illness in a parent and how it affects a child, friendship, and learning to mature, then pick this book up.

Nell is the kind of kid you wish didn’t have to exist. Her mom suffers from a mental illness, never specifically stated, and Nell never knows what she will get when she gets home – happy mom, quiet mom, or angry mom. Even when her mom is happy, she always have to look for signs for a sudden change. Her dad is gone and she has had many stepfathers.

It just breaks your heart and really brings the character to life.

Yet Nell is a smart girl and a kind girl. She genuinely cares about other people, is adventurous, and does her best. It brings the reader joy when she is happy and when sad things happen, you want to jump into the book and cheer her up.

This is a serious book, but worth a read.

Posted in Review | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Posted by Caitie F on June 12, 2013

Title: Tiger LilyTiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Hardcover: 304 pages
Pub Date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: +++++

Summary from publisher:

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Review:

I am not a fan of fairies, but I do love Peter Pan and read so many wonderful reviews of this book that I had to give it a try. I am so glad I did. If you prefer paperback books, this title comes out in paperback on July 2!

The storytelling of Tiger Lily was risky, but it ended up working really well. The story was the story of Tiger Lily, but it was from Tinkerbell’s view so it was non-traditional. It made me actually like Tinkerbell because it gave her a personality and a side of the story that makes you look at the classic in a whole new way.

Going into the book, you know it doesn’t have a happy ending, but it didn’t take away from the enjoyment because the journey was wonderful and the characters were deep and rich. My favorite character had to be Tik Tok, Tiger Lily’s adopted guardian. He was a joy to read and his transformation was heart-breaking, but as a reader I got so invested that I still loved to read it.

This book wasn’t just about Peter and Tiger Lily, it was also about the destructive power of a man and  of a society. It was a very powerful, tragic, but still very beautiful book.

If you are a fan of Peter Pan, or just like fairy tales, you should read this book. The characters have depth you don’t get in the original story, the writing is superb, and it is a beautiful take on this well-known story. The paperback version of this book would make it a good summer read.

Posted in Review, Summer reads | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass

Posted by Caitie F on June 10, 2013

Title: Pi in the SkyPI in the Sky
Author: Wendy Mass
Hardcover: 256 pages
Pub Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe, and all he gets to do is deliver pies. That’s right: pies. Of course these pies actually hold the secrets of the universe between their buttery crusts, but they’re still pies.

Joss comes from a family of overachievers, and is happy to let his older brothers shine. But when Earth suddenly disappears, Joss is tasked with the not-so-simple job of bringing it back. With the help of an outspoken girl from Earth named Annika, Joss embarks on the adventure of a lifetime and learns that the universe is an even stranger place than he’d imagined.

Review:

Wendy Mass should be officially named the Queen of Middle Grade. How many amazingly perfect middle grade books must she write before we just give her this title?

And not only does this book have amazing characters, a perfect plot, and fantastic writing, but it also teaches you about space! I am a grown person and I want to go look up all the great things Carl Sagan said about the universe and watch everything Neil deGrasse Tyson has ever said. This should be required middle school reading just because it can make even the most non-science student want to learn more about science. The kids who already love science will also love this book. Even the ones that aren’t crazy about books!

Even ignoring the awesome science in it, it is still a fantastic book. Joss is incredibly likable and so funny, especially when he didn’t mean to be funny with his observations of humans. He really grows up in this book – surprising for someone over a billion years old. He is always putting himself down because he feels like he is the least of his siblings, but soon he, and even sooner the reader, figure out that isn’t true.

Annika is another fantastic character. She is so smart, she is inquisitive and she made me laugh. She wants to be heard and is assertive, which is awesome. All of JOss’ brothers are great, but my favorite “character” is a very famous scientist. I don’t want to spoil it, but it is someone everyone has heard of and many have been inspired by this person.

I am so excited for others to read this phenomenal book and get so excited about the characters and science!

 

Posted in Review | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

BEA Children’s Author Breakfast 2013

Posted by Caitie F on June 5, 2013

I went to the breakfast again this year. I knew it couldn’t live up to last year, but was hoping it would still be a good time! Luckily it was! I sat at the round table and got a “breakfast” of coffee and a muffin. I mean, it was a good muffin, but they should really have some more food there for the price. Onto the authors!

The event was hosted by Octavia Spencer, the wonderful actress from The Help. Her book Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective comes out in October. I have a galley and hope it is good! She talked about how she grew up reading every mystery series she could, starting with Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. That and her love of kung fu movies is what inspired her book. She thinks diversity is very important in books for children of all ages, which is why she has a very diverse cast of characters. She was entertaining, but I was happy when the other authors took over.

Mary Pope Osbourne, author of the Magic Treehouse series, was the first speaker. She talked about how great her readers are. She said that “Nothing is sweeter, funnier, or more authentic than a 7 or 8 year old.” She has met readers in all parts of the country, in all situations and they have one commonality – they love life, have an innate sense of justice and fairness, and they want to helps others. She talked about how we could change the world if everyone was on reading level when they are in third grade. I am not sure about the timing, but higher literary rates would improve things.

She also runs the Magic Treehouse Classroom Adventure Program. If you are an educator of 1st-3rd graders, I recommend you check it out. It has guides for lessons and lots of materials. She also gives grants to Title 1 schools so they can get her books. Last year, every third grader in the entire city of Newark got 28 of her books. I love this program and it made me love her even more. If your school district has Title 1 schools, I hope you contact a teacher you know to let them know about this program!

Rick Riordan was next. I adore his series and was really hoping that he was a nice guy. He isn’t just nice, he is also hilarious. He used to be a middle school teacher, so I am not surprised he is so successful. I don’t think anyone knows that age group better than the teachers. Percy Jackson started out as a bedtime story. As he was writing he would read it to his students His goal was for the kids to be interested even in fifth period after lunch. He talked about what he hears from students and his speech was so entertaining. He even made a joke about our lame breakfasts, which everyone in the room appreciated.

I love learning that authors are good people in addition to good writers, and it makes me like him so much more…and reminds me I need to get on to catching up on his series.

Veronica Roth, author of Divergent and Insurgent was last. She talked about how she gave up on reading in high school because she was ashamed of the books she liked. People made fun of the excitement for books, and she went away from it. In college, she found her love of reading again and learned to read like someone who is eager to learn. She also talked about learning to deal with critiques and found out that is how you become a better writer. She was very humble about mistakes she has made and her speech was all about humility. It was nice, but didn’t have as much to say as I was hoping.

Overall, the breakfast was a good time. I knew it wouldn’t be as great as last year (I don’t know if anything will top that), but it was still a very nic eevent and I hope I can attend again next year!

Posted in BEA | 1 Comment »

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Posted by Caitie F on June 4, 2013

Title: The TestingThe Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Hardcover: 352 pages
Pub Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

It’s graduation day for sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale, and the entire Five Lakes Colony (the former Great Lakes) is celebrating. All Cia can think about—hope for—is whether she’ll be chosen for The Testing, a United Commonwealth program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders of the slowly revitalizing post-war civilization. When Cia is chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmarish half-memories of The Testing. Armed with his dire warnings (”Cia, trust no one”), she bravely heads off to Tosu City, far away from friends and family, perhaps forever. Danger, romance—and sheer terror—await.

Review:

Everyone is looking for the next Hunger Games. I haven’t seen anything that made me that excited about a character or story until I read this book. The Testing brings fantastic characters, a riveting plot, and questions of what you would do for survival in this new dystopian young adult series.

Cia is brilliant and caring. In some ways,. she really reminded me of why I loved Katniss. But she is not a carbon copy of Katniss. I don’t really think she was even inspired by Katniss. She just has that kind of strength that makes her a character you love and care about. Did I mention that she is smart? Because she is really smart and that intelligence makes this book so great. She isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes and learns from them, but you can really understand her decisions. She is also caring, which is hard to do when there are a lot of people around who want you gone any way possible.

While you always know her intentions and motivations, you never really know about everyone else, which adds so much suspense. Her father told her to trust no one, but she feels like she has to or there is no hope. The reader gets to be suspicious of everyone. It is great because you don’t know where it is going ever. there were many times I thought I knew I could trust a character, and it turns out I was completely wrong.. It is a little bad because it makes you want to never stop reading, especially when the plot is so exciting.

The world that is created is highly believable. There was a horrible war that has seven phases, the first four were human-made, and the last three were from the Earth. Humankind has to revitalized everything. People learn to decontaminate water, figure out how to grow food, and make the planet habitable again. Each colony is within the United States, so it is easy to picture. The Five Lakes District is near the Great Lakes. Since that is where I am from, it made the impact even greater. They were talking about my home! The community still managed to have a Midwest feel which I loved and it made me a little homesick. As each character talks about their colony, you can figure out where they are fromt and the changes that have occurred. It is a really strong world and it helped me get lost in the book.

There is so much in this book about the lengths even people who seem good will go for survival. Are you honest when others aren’t? If you figure out that someone is dishonest, would you warn others to save them or make it easier for yourself to go to the end? Would you kill someone if it was the only way for you to survive? It looks at all of these questions and so many more in a way that makes you question so much.

This is a fantastic debut and I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Posted in Review | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »