Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Monday, November 14, 2011

City of Orphans

Avi is a prolific writer of books for young adults. This historical fiction title is set in New York City during 1893.  Maks Geless lives with his parents and siblings in a fourth floor walkup tenement building. There is no indoor plumbing. Maks must lug water up all four floors. The privies (outhouses) are also outside. Money is very tight. To help the family make ends meet with their bills, Maks is a newspaper boy for The World newspaper. He makes only pennies by hawking his papers near the elevated train station, but every little bit helps the family. Bruno is the leader of the Pug Uglies gang. They have targeted the newsboys--beating them up, stealing their papers, taking their hard earned money. When Maks is attacked by Bruno, a street girl named Willa fends off the gang with a large stick. Without Willa's help Maks would have been beaten severely. Maks realizes that Willa is an orphan living on the streets. He brings her back to their apartment and the family welcomes her.
When Maks' sister is accused of stealing a very expensive watch from a room that she was cleaning at the exclusive Waldorf Hotel, Maks' immigrant parents aren't much help in understanding how the legal system works in New York. With Willa's help, Maks goes to the Tombs--a holding area for prisoners waiting to be sentenced and learns that Emma is very frightened, living in deplorable conditions and very hungry. Maks and Willa end up befriending a detective who gives them ideas of how to prove his sister's innocence.

Will they be able to stay out of Bruno's way? Will the Pug Uglies stake out their apartment building making it impossible to do any detective work? Read this title to find out how difficult life was living in New York in the 1890's if you are poor and from an immigrant family.


What an unusal story! London Lane is 16 years old. She forgets everything and everyone from her past, yet she can "remember" the future. To cope with this perplexing disability, she writes notes to herself each evening so that when she wakes up, she can figure out what she needs to do at school, what clothing to wear, who she had a fight with, etc.

When a new boy moves to town, things start to get complicated. Luke Henry is definitely a heartthrob for London. Yet, each day it is like meeting him all over again. London tries to hide her problem from him.

London and Jamie, her best friend, whom London depends upon to keep her life sane at school, have a falling out.

What does the flash forwards or flashbacks that London is having regarding a cemetary have to do with her life? Read this book to find out!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sarah's Key

Julia Jarmond is an American living in Paris. Julia's husband Bertrand and her daughter Zoe are about to move into larger accommodations--where Bertand's grandmother has resided since July of 1942. The apartment needs updating and will be remodeled before they move in. It is located on rue de Saintonge.

As Julia does research about an event that took place in Paris in July of 1942, she begins to have reservations about ever living in the apartment on rue de Saintonge.

Julia is asked to write an article about the roundup of Jewish families by the French police under the orders of the Nazis who were occupying Paris. Sarah Starzynski and her family were taken in the Vel d'Hiv roundup to a stadium and then eventually to a concentration camp.

What does Julia discover while researching her article? How does this affect her? Will she and Zoe and her husband move into the apartment on rue de Saintonge? Read this historical novel to find out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blood Red Road

Moira Young's first novel entitled Blood Red Road is a stark novel. Set in the distant future, lawlessness rules the land.

Saba and her twin brother Lugh were born 18 years ago on the longest day of the year--midsummer. When four men wearing long black cloaks appear in SilverLake where she and Lugh, their Pa, and their much younger sister Emmi live, the men on horseback bring a cloud of thick red dust with them. When they leave, Pa is dead, the neighbor Proctor John is killed and Lugh has been kidnapped by the men.

Saba vows to find Lugh and save him. Because they have only lived with their Pa and their Ma until she died giving birth to Emmi, Saba is uneducated and very socially unaware. In order to find Lugh, Saba must learn to trust others. With her very smart pet crow Nero as a guide, she and Emmi set out on the adventure of their lives.

Filled with action and great characters, this title is sure to thrill fans of The Hunger Games.


IraqiGirl is the blog created by a fifteen-year-old girl living in the town of Mosul in Iraqi. Because it is a blog, there are postings by others who respond to her blog throughout the book.

Her blog begins in 2004 and continues through 2009. In her early entries, she vehemently denouces the involvement of the United States in her country. After several people respond to her rants against the US, she decides instead to shift her focus to the effect of the war on her personal and school life.

Her life is drastically affected by the war. She worrries constantly about the bombings. When any family member is late arriving from work or school, her thoughts are always praying that no one has been killed. She has recurrent nightmares. Her exams and school life are put on hold after the school building is destroyed.

If you want to read about life in a country at war and what it means to be a teenager under those conditions, this is the book for you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Power of Six

The Power of Six is the third book in the Lorien Legacies series written by the pen name Pittacus Lore. The series begins with the ever popular title I Am Number Four.The Power of Six follows John Smith's abupt departure from Paradise, Ohio with his best friend Sam.The second book I Am Number Four: The Lost Files: Six's Legacy is the second book in the series.

John Smith, number four of the aliens from the planet Lorien, has lost his protector and teacher Henri. John has also left his first and only love interest Sarah in Paradise, Ohio. John and Bernie Kosar must heal from their severe wounds before they can proceed to find the others. It is up to John, his best friend Sam and the beautiful and fiercely talented Number Six to find the other remaining aliens.

The Mogadorians are obviously much better organized than Henri and John realized. It is now up to the remaining aliens to come into their legacies and defeat the Mogadorians so that they can reclaim their home planet Lorien.

Number Seven is in Spain in a convent with her Cepan, Adeline. In the eleven years that they have sought refuge in the convent, Adeline has become devoutly religious neglecting to instruct Marina (Number Seven) in her powers. She has also hidden the chest which contains Marina's legacies from her. Marina has tried in vain to find where John Smith has gone since the explosion and deaths in Paradise, Ohio. She searches the Internet in hopes of finding a clue as to where she should meet up with the other remaining numbers.

Will John and Sam and Number 6 be able to find Number Seven? Will John understand all the things in his chest of legacies without the help of Henri? How will they find the others?

This title is filled with action! The characters display all kinds of special powers. Bernie Koshar displays incredible forms! Fans of I Am Number Four, will love this title!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer is suited to girls much more than guys. The story revolves around two very talented singers—Brooke and Kathryn.  Kathryn meets Brooke in their freshman year of high school when they both make Honors Choir. Brooke is well established as one of the most popular girls in the school. Her older twin brothers Bill and Brice have carved out an easy path for Brooke to follow.

When Kathryn is invited to a slumber party by Brooke, she can’t believe she could be accepted into the A-list clique of the school. Everything seems fine. Brooke and Kathryn become best friends. Then an incident happens which unravels their newly formed friendship. Brooke unleashes her other friends to shun Kathryn. Their treatment is brutal.
Both girls are striving to win The Blackmore Award which comes with hefty prize money which could be used for college. Only one can win. With over eighty other contestants trying out, perhaps neither will win the coveted prize.
Chapters alternate between Brooke and Kathryn telling their story. Flashbacks to previous events are another way in which the story is told.

If you enjoy teen girls and their troubles and squabbles, you will definitely enjoy reading Rival.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Fans of dystopian fiction will certainly want to read this title by Veronica Roth! In this futuristic society when Beatrice turns sixteen, she has to undergo an evaluation which will determine which faction of society she is best suited to become a part of. Being raised in Abnegation (selfless) faction has been the only life she has ever known.
When her results are not conclusive, she is told to never reveal them to anyone. The word divergent is used to describe what Beatrice is. Not understanding what this means and the severe danger she would be in if she were to reveal her true appraisal, Beatrice keeps the information even from her beloved parents.
Dauntless (the brave) faction is what Beatrice chooses. Her initiation into Dauntless is grueling—filled with life threatening experiences. Did she make the right choice by leaving Abnegation? Did her brother Caleb choose well in his choice of Erudite (the intelligent) faction? Can either Beatrice or Caleb trust the changes that they are being forced to endure?
Read this thrilling, yet chilling novel to find out!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Miss Peregine's Home for Peculiar Children

What an unusual book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is! This intriguing mystery is also a novel about paranormal experiences! I loved it!  It is written by Ransom Riggs and is his first novel.

The protagonist is Jacob Portman. He is the grandson of Abe Portman. Abe was part of the kinder transport of Jewish children by their parents from Poland to protect them from the Nazis. Abe was evacuated to a mysterious island off the coast of Wales.

Jacob has grown up with stories from his grandfather. These stories are told to Jacob by using  accompanying photographs from the period to tell these wild tales. Nearly all of the photos reveal something very peculiar about the children in the photographs such as the cover photo on the novel that shows a young girl levitating several inches off the ground. As Jacob grows older, he believes his grandfather has really lied to him and fabricated most of the stories.
When Jacob’s now elderly grandfather is viciously murdered in Florida, Jacob sees the creature who committed this horrendous crime. His dying grandfather’s last words send Jacob on a quest to solve the mystery of what really happened at the orphanage during World War II.

Mature readers will especially find this title to their liking.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dust & Decay

The sequel to Rot & Ruin—Dust & Destroy-- is finally out!  Rot & Ruin ended with Tom & Benny and Nix all intrigued with having seen a jet fly over them. This is unheard in the fourteen years since First Night occurred which released the virus which has turned society as we know it into a much different place.
Seasoned bounty hunter and older brother Tom Imura has worked tirelessly to train Benny, Nix, & Chong so that they will be warrior smart. He knows that they aren’t quite prepared to survive in the Rot & Ruin, but events in their town have propelled them to start on their journey east towards Yosemite sooner than expected.
Tom has sent supplies head of them. What Tom doesn’t know is that someone has intercepted the supplies. He also doesn’t know that a new Gameland has been created after he burned the previous one to the ground and freed all the children being held captive.
Lilah, the Lost Girl, is also traveling with them. She has survived in the Rot & Ruin for years on her own. When Chong panics and takes off on his own, Tom leaves the others to find him.
The forces of evil have regrouped with a new leader. Could it possibly be that Charlie Pink-Eye survived? Is he the one leading them? Or has someone else surfaced?

Read Dust & Destroy to find out whether Charlie Pink-Eye did somehow miraculously survive his death. What is the New Eden that Preacher Jack wants to institute? Fans of the first book will not be let down with this sequel.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stuck on Earth

David Klass has written a very funny book! Stuck on Earth had me laughing outloud! Imagine if you were an alien from the planet Sandovin. Imagine that you had to figure out whether the human race on earth was worth saving or whether the Gagnerian Death Ray should be used to erase the human species for good. How would you decide to go about it? 
David Klass creates the character of Ketchvar III. Ketchvar looks like a common snail. But he is much more than that! He is the alien sent to determine whether the human beings on earth should be spared. Ketchvar decides to crawl into the brain of a normal teenager. He decides to use the nose of Tom Filber to slide into and thus enter his brain where he obviously can experience everything that Tom does. What could be better than to become a part of a normal fourteen year old who is in good health with above average intelligence?

What Ketchvar doesn’t realize is that Tom Filber is not your normal teen. Rather he is awkward and not liked by his peers. Ketchvar witnesses Tom’s life—the dysfunctional family members, the school buddies, the beautiful next-door neighbor. The more Ketchvar begins to see life on earth through Tom’s eyes, the more difficult time he has in knowing whether Homo sapiens are really worth saving.
I imagine any teenager would love this hilariously funny book! Read it and see for yourself.

After Ever After

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick is a sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie which tells the story of Jeffrey’s older brother, whose own eighth grade year will be remembered as the year his little brother got cancer. Now that the little brother, Jeffrey Alper, is in 8th grade himself, and now that Jeffrey has passed the five year remission mark, he’s free to live the life of a normal kid. Or at least that is what most people would think.

The “after ever after” part of Jeffrey’s life includes a number of attention and learning challenges as a result of the treatments he received. He has always depended upon his older brother. This year is different. Jeffrey’s older brother is not around to help him cope. He is off in Africa learning how to listen to his own drum; literally, he is studying drumming. Jeffrey’s best friend, also a childhood cancer survivor, will face challenges of his own. A beautiful new girl in his school provides added excitement and distraction. Eighth grade is certainly going to be interesting!
This realistic fiction book is just that--realistic. It does provoke emotions in the reader. (Note: You do not have to have read Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie to thoroughly enjoy this book.)

Three Rivers Rising

Written in verse form, Three Rivers Rising, a novel of the Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood of 1889 has multiple narrators that tell the story of that tragic day which took so many lives.
One narrator is Celestia. She is 16 and along with her mama and papa and older sister Estrella vacation at an elite resort in the Alleghany Mountains. The resort sits on Lake Conemaugh –a reservoir held in place by an earthen dam. Three rivers—South Fork Creek, Little Conemaugh River, and Stony Creek converge at the town of Johnstown in the valley below the resort.

A second narrator, Peter, lives with his father, a coal miner in Johnstown. When he takes a job at the elite resort, he meets Celestia and is immediately attracted to her.

A third narrator, Kate, is a girl determined to become a nurse.

A final narrator is Maura. She is the mother of four children all under the age of four years old. Her husband drives the locomotive which runs through the valley where the three rivers flow.
As their stories unfold over the course of several months, you are pulled into their time and history. You can witness the flood. You will feel what it must have been like on that fateful day when the dam gave way!

Ninth Ward

What must it have been like to survive Hurricane Katrina in one of the poorest areas in New Orleans—the Ninth Ward? Read this excellently written fictionalize account which tries to help all of us who wondered why more people didn’t heed the warnings to evacuate when there was still time to escape Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.
Lanesha is twelve and living with her Mama Ya-Ya. Mama is in her 80’s but has always loved and cared for Lanesha since her birth. Lanesha’s mother died in childbirth with Mama Ya-Ya as her midwife. Mama has so much wisdom and knowledge which she has managed to impart to Lanesha through her twelve years.

Mama Ya-Ya can also sense things that others can’t.  She tells Lanesha after the brunt of the hurricane is over that the worst is yet to come. She has some type of foresight that allows her to know the future. What the worst of the storm is Lanesha has no way of knowing until it is upon them!

Read this excellent, brief, historical fiction novel  written by Jewell Parker Rhodes to feel the terror and uncertainty that all those who survived Katrina must have felt.

Crossing Stones

What a delightful piece of historical fiction Crossing Stones by Helen Frost is! Written in verse form and told from the perspectives of four teenagers in 1917, I was immediately drawn into their lives and decisions.

Emma and Frank Norman are neighbors to Muriel and Ollie Jorgenson. Both farm families live on land separated by a brook. Cleverly placed stones in the brook allow the families a convenient route to each other’s homes by avoiding a much longer route by land.  The title of the book Crossing Stones comes from the stepping stones placed across the brook.

Muriel is plucky—outspoken in her beliefs about the President, Woodrow Wilson, and the war (World War I) in Europe. She longs to make her mark in the world. Emma, however, is more content with her life and longs for a more normal life as a married woman with children.

When Frank, Emma’s brother, goes off to war, both families worry terribly about his fate. Ollie, though underage to serve in World War I, sneaks away to enlist and follow in Frank’s footsteps. Muriel’s Aunt Vera is involved in the movement to allow women the right to vote.
Will Ollie and Frank return home from the war? Will plucky Muriel follow in her bold aunt’s footsteps and join her in the Suffragist Movement?  Read this great historical fiction piece to see what life was like in 1917. Watch the second author on this YouTube video to see Helen Frost discussing her book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Box Out

Basketball enthusiasts will surely enjoy John Coy’s novel entitled Box Out.

Imagine being a sophomore in high school and being moved up to play on the varsity basketball team due to a team mate’s injury. Six-foot-tall Liam Bergstrom has the height to garner rebounds like the senior player he has replaced. What Liam doesn’t have is the experience to play at this level. He must learn techniques from the varsity coach—Coach Kloss.
Prime for Liam to learn is the technique called box out—“to position your body between an opposing player and the basket in order to get a rebound.”

When Darius Buckner, another sophomore and defensive star player quits the varsity team after Liam’s first varsity game, Liam takes notice. Darius is probably the best aggressive player on the team. Without him, will the team make the playoffs?
Another dilemma catches Liam off guard. Unlike his junior varsity coach, Coach Kloss insists on praying before the start of teach game. In fact, players are called upon to lead the prayers. When Liam realizes that not everyone on the team is comfortable with the Christian nature of the prayers, he begins to question whether the coach is violating separation of church and state.

To add to Liam’s stress of trying to play catch-up on the varsity team and being conflicted about the coach’s methods, Liam’s girlfriend MacKenzie is on a student exchange program in France for the semester.
Will Liam stay on the team? Will they advance to the playoffs? Will his coach keep his job? Will MacKenzie stay committed to Liam? Read this play-by-play basketball novel to find out.


Kathy Reich’s new novel entitled Vivals is the first book in her new series for young adults. As Kathy has done with the popular BONES television show, she uses forensic science with the solving of a mystery.
The setting is South Carolina near Charleston. Tory Brennan has just been reunited with her father, a scientist, after the sudden death of her mother in a car accident. Since Tory’s dad never even knew about Tory’s existence until her mom’s death, it is easy to imagine how strained their relationship proves to be when Tory is thrust upon him at the age of 14.
Tory and Kit (her father) live on Morris Island while her dad works on Loggerhead Island where it appears a mysterious, secretive experiment is occurring.
Tory forms a friendship with three boys—Ben, Hi and Shelton. In one of their adventures, Tory is pelted in the head by something thrown by a monkey. The monkey’s “bullet” is mud caked with a dog-tag from the armed service stuck inside the mud.
The four kids set about deciphering the name on the heavily corroded metal name tag. Since Tory is really into science, she spurs the group to enter a locked area on Loggerhead Island to use the science and lab equipment which will help them identify the identity of the service person. Little does the group of four realize that they will inadvertently come upon a secret lab where experiments with a wolf-dog are being conducted! When Tory takes pity on the caged pup and decides the group needs to free the pup that is when the real action begins in this adventure/mystery.

Readers who aren’t daunted by a long book, who enjoy mysteries and stories packed with adventure and intrigue will certainly find enjoyment in this first book of the new series by Kathy Reich.

Addie on the Inside

I hope every seventh grade girl has the chance to read Addie on the Inside by James Howe. Why? It is a fast read—written in free verse, but it touches on all the emotions and feelings most seventh grade girls feel.

Tall for her age and smart, Addie is, however, outspoken. She does have a tendency to alienate some of the more socially conscious students in her classes. Not fully developed in her body, Addie has insecurities the same as most teenage girls’ experience.

The author of Addie on the Inside, James Howe, clearly understands the angst that defines being a teen. His message is spot on for all girls—don’t let others define who you are. Although this is a companion book to The Misfits & Totally Joe, a reader does not have to have read the others to thoroughly enjoy this read.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alchemy and Meggy Swann

I usually love any book which is historical fiction because I enjoy learning about periods in history by reading fictional pieces.

Alchemy and Megg Swann seemed as though it would be a good match for our 8th grade social studies curriculm which does cover the end of the Medieval period and the Renaissance. I was initially unable to get involved with the story. This made me wonder whether students would also find getting into this title was going to be difficult for them.

Meggie suffers from bilateral (both sides) hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of both hip joints at birth in which the ball at the top of each thighbone is not stable in the socket. Although she lived with her mother who ran a tavern, Meggy's gran really raised her and provided her with "sticks" (a handmade type of crutch) so she could move around. When her beloved gran dies, Meggy's mother sends her to live with a father whom she has never met.

Initially her father turns her away as he thinks she is a beggar at his door. With no friends, a father who doesn't even want to know her name, Meggy must find how to survive in Elizabethan England in London.

The vivid descriptions of the smells, the filth, and the poverty are worth the read.


I loved the protagonist of this easy to read novel--Owen Birnbaum. Despite being the fattest kid in his school, Owen is probably the brightest! His desire to capture images from a security camera that was in the deli his parents owned the night it was robbed and they both were murdered fuels his creative genius. By scavenging electronic parts from demolition sites around the city, Owen and his younger sister Caitlin have all kinds of parts and motors with which to tinker to hopefully create Nemesis.

With any luck, Nemesis will allow Owen to capture who the killer of his parents was on that fateful night two years ago.

But life isn't always easy for tweleve-year-old Owen. His adopted mom has him on a diet--only three Oreo cookies in his lunch each day. Someone is stealing his Oreos! Owen suspects that it is Mason Ragg--a quite disturbed boy who always has an aide with him in school.

Being the genius Owen is, he creates The Thief Catcher which will nab the thief in the act of stealing his cookies. When his cookies still are stolen, despite this new device, he has to resort to other tactics. When his sister suddenly insists on being called by a boy's name--Jeremy--Owen's life becomes even more twisted.

Will this boy genius be able to finally catch the Oreo thief? Will Mason Ragg be the culprit? Will Owen's Nemesis work? Will he and his sister finally learn who murdered their wonderful parents? Read Slob to find out.


Tommy Winterson has had a rough journey through his first eleven years. He was born with cystic fibrosis--a lung disorder which makes his breathing labored and causes his body to be stunted in growth. People who suffer from cystic fibrosis have a shortened life expectancy.

Tommy, his fifteen-year-old siter Beatrice (Bee for short), and his mother are flyng from their home in Warren, N.H. to California on a trip funded by a wish foundation called Blue Moon. Tommy's wish is to swim in a shark cage off the coast of San Francisco hoping to see a great white shark in the wild. Tommy knows everything about sharks.

When the weather and sea conditions are a washout for Tommy's dream, his sister Bee has another idea--to look up Ty Barry, the guy who has survived a shark attack which bumped him five feet into the air while he watched the seventeen-foot shark swirl beneath him.

Will Bee be able to find Ty? Will Ty be willing to pay attention to Tommy who clearly idolizes him?

This is a great book which should appeal to both boys and girls due to the strong character of Bee, Tommy's sister.

How to Survive Middle School

Warning! This book is very funny!!!!! If you want a fun book to read, this is a perfect choice!

David Greenberg definitely has talent for a boy about to enter middle school. Dave and his best friend Elliot have created a "Jon Stewart-type Daily Show" for middle school kids entitled Talk Time.

Hammy--Dave's hamster--always has a starring role in each of the Talk Time shows. Dave's top 6 1/2 thing about many different topics are part of the show's lineup. Dave's older sister Lindsay is also featured in the videos, however, without her permission. She "stars" as the zit-weather report--a very unflattering role for a girl about to enter high school!

Dave's uncle scares him with horror stories about middle school.

As the first day of school approaches, Elliott, Dave’s best friend, decides to join forces with Tommy Murphy, an arch enemy and totally mean-spirited kid. This leaves Dave to fend for himself in the cafeteria and hallways on the first day. Disaster lucks as Elliott, with inspiration from Tommy, sets Dave up for a very terrible first day.

This book is a riot to read! Boys will especially enjoy it and rejoice when Dave's Talk Time goes viral on YouTube much to the dismay of Tommy and Elliott.

Close to Famous

Foster McFee has an incredible dream. She's enthralled with Food Network's chef Sonny Kroll. She'd like to have her own show on Food Network entitled "Cooking with Foster." Already an accomplished baker, Foster has managed to sell her famous cupcakes and muffins by first offering them for free to potential customers.

There are problems in Foster's life, however. Her mom's boyfriend Huck is a self-serving, Elvis impersonator who has turned abusive. Fleeing Memphis and Huck in the middle of the night with all their possessions stuffed into trash bags, Foster and her mom make it to a small town in West Virginia called Culpepper.

Culpepper has its own cast of characters as each small town does. Perhaps the most intriguing one is a former actress named Miss Charleena Hendley.

Will Foster be able to make friends in Culpepper? Will she find a suitable venue to sell her delicious baked good? Will Hank, the abusiver boyfriend of her mother's, find them? Will Foster be able to realize her dream of having her own Food Network show? Read Joan Bauer's new novel entitled Close to Famous to find out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Dead Boys

Richland is located in the desert. When twelve-year-old Teddy Mathews moves to Richland with his mother, his main concerns besides finding and making new friends are his fear of scorpians, black widow spiders, and rattlesnakes. Little does Teddy realize that he will need to muster the courage to face these last three fears as well as something much more sinister.

There is something unnatural happening in Richland. A twelve-year-old boy has mysteriously disappeared once each decade for the past 60 years! Teddy fears that he may be the next victim since it has been 10 years since the last boy disappeared.

What could be causing these strange occurrences? Teddy is about to find out!

This book will appeal mainly to books and especially to reluctant readers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High

Rick DeTorie's new book entitled The Accidental Genius of Weasel High is sure to please nearly every kind of reader. Part comic book, part blog, this book is one with whom many kids will be able to identify.

Larkin Pace is a freshman with a dream of becoming a producer of movies. Mr. Hawley, Larkin's 9th grade English teacher, assigns a half-year long blog--a notebook blog. Since Larkin is artistic, he intersperses his entries with some comic relief.

Larkin is able to express all his emotions from the bullying by Dalton, to his missteps wth his love interest and best friend Brooke, to his views of his parents, to his intolerable older sister Kelley, and to all the normal events that happen in his life. (Larkin is small for his age which poses additional problems for him.)

The Accidental Genius of Weasel High reminded me of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid who had become a full-fledged teenager. This book is a quick read which will have readers shaking their head in agreement at times and laughing at Larkin's logic when he makes missteps. Enjoy this light read!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rot & Ruin

I can't remember who recommended the book Rot & Ruin. I wasn't impressed by the title and so I asked, "Well, what is it about?" He responded, "ZOMBIES!" I do like a lot of different types of literature, but the idea that I would like a book with zombies didn't exactly sound exciting.

However, I ended up loving the book and will enjoy the sequel Dust & Decay when it is released in August of 2011! The third book Flesh & Bone has also been released.

In this post apocalypse future, zombies inhabit uncivilized areas known as the Rot and Ruin. Benny Imura was a baby when First Night occurred starting the existence of the undead. He lives with his older half-brother Tom whom he views as a coward in a town in California. Benny is approaching his fifteenth birthday. He must find work or he will lose half his food rations. After trying many different types of jobs and enjoying none of them, he decides to travel with his brother Tom to the Rot and Ruin where Tom is a bounty hunter.This dangerous experience fills Benny with a new admiration for his brother and vicious hatred for an evil bounty hunter who is Tom's nemesis.

Rut & Ruin has a complex plot filled with loads of action. Benny has a love interest--Nix. When she is kidnapped by the evil bounty hunters, the plot thickens. Maybe this isn't a book so much about zombies, but rather about good and evil with zombies thrown into the mix.

Secret Saturdays

Justin begins to worry about his best friend Sean when he catches Sean lying to him. Justin feels this is a breach of trust between best friends. He notices changes in Sean's behavior at school and at his apartment in Red Hook. Justin shares his worry about Sean with their friend Kyle as well as Vanessa.

Why does Sean suddenly leave mysteriously with his mother early on certain Saturday mornings? Where does he go with her? Why does he feel the need to lie about where he and his mother go on these "secret Saturdays"?

This wasn't one of my favorite books. I found the friends' concern for Sean to be genuine, but the lack of action in the book weighed the story down. I included this title in my blog because I do feel that there are some readers who would like to know what living in a housing project is like. They might also enjoy the friendship that these four share.

Is It Night or Day?

Can you imagine being sent away from the only small town you have ever known by yourself. . .away from your mother and father, your grandmother, your country, your native language at the age of twelve?

In this historical fiction piece written by the daughter of a woman who was sent away by her mother and father from Germany in 1938 to America, the reader learns the story of Edith Westerfeld. Edith's older sister Betty had been sent to America to live with a foster family two years before Edith was sent to live with her father's brother, Jacob and his wife Mildred and their only daughter Dorothy.

The author does an excellent job of helping us understand the many conflicting emotions that young Edith felt as she and some other children were ferried across the Atlantic Ocean to an entirely new culture and society--one is which they would always feel as though they are outsiders.

I have read a great deal of Holocaust literature, but this is the first title that dealt with the children who were saved from extermination by the Nazis by being sent by their parents to America. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Edith's experience. If you enjoy learning about history by reading historical fiction, I believe you will also enjoy reading this book.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas (Book of Beginnings) is an action packed fantasy! Enjoy the adventure as three children who were taken from their parents to protect them from something sinister that would have happened otherwise, travel to a strange placed called Cambridge Falls. What makes this place so strange is no one seems to know anything about Cambridge Falls and yet that is where Kate, Michael, and Emma are destined to reside.

It has been ten years since Kate was taken as a four-year-old with her brother who was three and her sister who was 1. They have spent ten years shuttling between orphanages.

Now they are faced with the challenge of their lives! A witch of a Countess, screechers who are at her beck and call to kill anyone who doesn't do as she says are the major problem. Orphaned children whose parents have been kept at bay as they tried desperately to reclaim their children are pleading with Kate and the children to help free them.. Dwarves who have an idiot for their leader when his brother would be a true heroic figure are totally helpless. Gabriel, who has the strength to lead and the body to match could be the most dependable friend the children have if they can trust him. Will the children be able to find The Book of Beginnings that the Countess wants to possess? If they find it, will the Countess really let the children in her captivity return to their families? Can fourteen year old Kate really keep the promise she made to her parents when she was four years old--that she would watch over and protect them when Kate herself is in danger? Read this trilling fantasy to find out!

The Trouble with Half a Moon

Dellie has a lot to shoulder as a 7th grader. Her only brother Louis has recently died, leaving a gaping hole in the heart of her beloved family. Dellie feels responsible for his accidental death. Her parents' grieving, though normal, has left Dellie virtually a prisoner in her own home. In particular, Dellie's mother doesn't like Dellie to be outside. She harbors fears that she will lose Dellie just as she has lost Louis.

Dellie especially leans on her friend Kayla who resides in a unit on the floor above Dellie and her family. They share a special bond. When Kayla accuses Dellie of telling some of her personal secrets to classmates, their friendship sours. Dellie ends up spending time with a six year old boy named Corey whose mother is abusive. She becomes very protective of him and feeds him when he otherwise wouldn't have any food provided by his mother.

Michael, a boy in Dellie's 7th grade math class, has begun to show an interest in her. But how will she be able to see him if her mother is so protective?

Simply written and in short chapters, this is a quick read which satisfies.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy

Lamar Washington is thirteen years old and the King of the Strikers at Strikers Bowling Alley. His brother is 17 and known as Xavier the Savior of the local basketball team. Their mom died of cancer several years ago and their dad, though involved in their lives, works the night shift.

Lamar and his best friend Sergio are starting to be interested in girls. The trouble for Lamar is that he has always been a prankster so no girl takes him seriously!

The rivalry between Lamar and Xavier is paramount throughout the novel. Lamar's asthma is extreme and life theatening at times. To compete with Xaiver is near impossible for Lamar.

Billy Jenks, a hustler at the bowling alley, "befriends" Lamar so that he can use him to his avantage.

Will Lamar land the girl of his dreams or will she persist in thinking of him as a prankster? Will Billy manage to get Lamar in trouble? Will Xavier continue to bully Lamar? Read this novel by Crystal Allen to find out!
This video has a short piece about the book in the first minute or so of the video.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Death Cloud

Andrew Lane"s new series of the young Sherlock Holmes is sure to capture your interest as it did mine! The mystery is set in England and France. Death Cloud is the first book in his series entitled Sherlock Holmes, the Legend Begins. His next title is Rebel Fire and takes place in America.

Young Sherlock Holmes' father is away in India. Since Sherlock is on summer holiday from school and too young to be on his own, he is staying for the summer with his Uncle Sherrinford and Aunt Anna in their small village of Farnham, England in their home named Holmes Manor. Sherlock's brother Mycroft has a very high position in the British government in London. Mycroft has arranged for an American tutor, Amyus Crowe to work with Sherlock over the summer. Instead of teaching Sherlock Latin and Greek, however, Amyus has instead decided to work on Sherlock's thinking skills.
Sherlock meets another young boy from a lower social class. His name is Matthew Arnatt. Matt witnesses a strange event where a man is killed and mysteriously a cloud of smoke emanates from the body. When Sherlock also witnesses a similar death, both boys become allies in solving the mystery. This sets the boys on a quest to find out who the victim was, how he was killed, and why he was murdered. Amyus and his beautiful daughter help to solve the mystery.  Unfortunately for Sherlock, he is severely tested in this endeavor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Do you feel the military draft is fair? This book written by Walter Dean Myers looks at the consequences of the military draft during the Civil War. There was a clause which allowed young men to avoid being drafted if they could pay $300 to someone else who was desperate for money and didn't mind serving. It may not seem like a great deal of money to people of our time period, but for some very poor people, this was a great sum of money.
But what happens if you are drafted to serve, you don't want to serve, and you don't have $300 to pay someone else? Well, that is the situation in New York City in 1863. The Irish immigrants are being drafted to serve and don't have the money to buy their way ont. Feeling this is grossly unfair, they begin to take out their frustration on the colored people in New York. It leads to rioting in the streets.
Written in screenplay format, the author tells us the story of fifteen-year-0ld Claire--half Irish and half Afro-American. If you want a good, short historical fiction read, Riot is the perfect choice!'

Monday, May 23, 2011

Heist Society

Kat has tried to turn her life around. Coming from a family of famous thieves, it is not easy to walk away from that life and start a new one. After Kat (short for Katarina) cons her way in to a famous boarding school, Colgan, she thinks she has achieved a normal life until Porshe-gate happens. Kat is implicated in the stealing of the headmaster's mint-condition 1958 Porshe Speedster and placing it on the top of the fountain in the quad at the school.  Her pleading of innocence falls on deaf ears when a video tape of her is shown committing the dastardly deed. She is kicked out of Colgan!
To her dismay she finds that her wealthly best friend Hale was in on Porshe-gate as was her cousin Gabrille. Not to worry they tell Kat. We are doing this because we need you back in the family! Kat's father has been falsely accused of stealing five very expensive paintings from the known mobster named Arturo Taccone. Taccone will kill Kat's father if the paintings aren't returned to in him in 12 days! The plot thickens as more of Kat's relatives and friends are brought into the heist to find out who stole the paintings and how they are going to be able to manage to steal them back!

Monday, May 16, 2011


Lauren Oliver is probably best known for her first novel entitled Before I Fall. Her second title Delirium can best be described as a dystopian romance.
"It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure." . . ."Things weren't always as good as they are now. In school we learned that in the old days, people didn't realize how deadly a disease love was. For a long time they even viewed it as a good thing, something to be celebrated and pursued." Everything in this futuristic society set in Portland, Maine is dictated by the Book of Shh. . .The Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook.
Lena, short for Magdalena, is coming of the age where she will be cured. Everyone will know she has been cured by looking at the distinctive scar left on the neck from the procedure. As Lena and her best friend Hana, approach their evaluations and the dates for their procedures, they begin to realize perhaps the government is lying to them. Maybe the border and fencing around Portland is designed to keep them confined rather than to keep out the Invalids (those who haven't been cured). Perhaps the procedure prevents them for feeling any real feelings at all. Perhaps Lena's whole life has been a lie.

The Things a Brother Knows

Imagine that you have an older brother who you have always idolized. He shocks everyone when he decides to join the marines upon graduation from high school rather than attending any of the four ivy league colleges which have accepted him. He  maintains contact through letters and phone calls at first, but his communication falls off as his tour of duty progresses. Even when he has leaves, he decides not to come home. Then imagine his tour ends and he does come home, but he is not the same. He doesn't leave his room for three days. He sleeps around the clock. When he does emerge, he eats and then quickly seeks the sanctuary of his room. You know something terrible is wrong. You know that he needs help but your folks say things like, "Just give him time. He's been through a lot. It will take awhile for him to readjust."
You snoop in his room to find out what he is up to and you find maps printed out. He is planning a trip--that much is obvious. But where he is going is anyone's guess. This is the situation that Levi finds himself in when his brother Boaz returns from Iraq a changed person. Levi relies heavily on his best friends, Zim and Pearl.
This novel really affected me. I couldn't put it down. I kept wondering if Levi would be able to penetrate the protective barrier that Boaz had erected. Was there any hope that Levi would get back the brother he once idolized? Read The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I have always been curious of what leads a person to be a bystander in a bullying situation. I wondered if it was fear that motivated them, i.e. the fear that they might be the next victim of the bully. Is it feelings of inadequacy? So I was very interested to read James Preller's new novel entitled Bystander.The protagonist in this story is Eric. He has just moved into a new town on Long Island. He meets Griffin early on and realizes that he can't be trusted. Griffin is two-faced. He has the teachers thinking he is one type of kid when really he is the worst type of bully. Griffin's gang is formidable. No one challenges the way he treats others. His magnetic personality has many people fooled. Eric doesn't want to step into the middle of situations that he finds distasteful as he fears becoming Griffin's next victim. But isn't Eric's choice of nonconfrontation just the type of situation that fuels the worse in a bully? Read Bystander to find out what Eric decides to do.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

if i stay

Gayle Forman's if i stay novel really drew me in and kept my attention. If I had to classify the type of novel this is, I would say "supernatural." The story is set in Oregon on the day of a two-inch snowfall. Since the county where Mia and her family live has only one snow plow, school is cancelled for the day.

So Mia and her much younger brother Teddy and her parents decide to plan a special day eventually ending up at her Grandparents house of dinner. Since the snow melts quickly, they venture out on the road. "As usual, there is a battle for stereo dominance." They decide to listen to the news first followed by classical music. Since Mia is a cellist, she is delighted to hear the first few bars of Beethoven's Cello Sonata no. 3 playing when suddenly their car is rammed  by a four-ton pickup truck going sixty miles an hour.
Mia can still hear the radio--strange, however, since the car is entirely cut in half. She can see  that her parents have been killed immediately. She strives to find the other half of the car to see if Teddy needs help. When she looks down, she sees herself in the car. But how can this be when she is standing over the wreckage? Is she alive? Is this what it feels like to be dead?
When emergency vehicles arrive and start to work on her, she realizes that she must still be alive.
Read this intriguing story to find out what happens to Mia.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Fallen by Lauren Kate is difficult to classify. So I am giving it the classification of "supernatural."

Lucinda has been sent to a reform school after a boy she was friendly with dies mysteriously in a fire. All the other students at the reform school have had equally horrendous pasts.

When Luce meets Daniel, she is strongly drawn to him. Yet each time she tries to connect, Daniel pulls further away as if he hates her. There is something so distinctly familiar about Daniel that is almost like she has always known him.

Indeed their lives (or past lives) have crossed many, many times!

How is it that Luce survived the fire that killed her friend when he did not? Could it be that someone is watching over her?

Fans will also enjoy the second book in this series entitled
Torment. Watch this book trailer to learn more about this supernatural delight:
Listen to the author discuss her book:

The Running Dream

WOW! I loved this book!
Jessica has just run her best time in the 400 meter track and field event. She's a junior considering how this will likely positively affect her chances for a scholarship for college. But on the bus ride home from the event, an uninsured driver plows into the school bus killing one of the students, Lucy, and severely injuring Jessica--crushing her foot and the lower part of her leg.
Written in concise short chapters, this book is so accessible.
There are many levels to this story: How Jessica comes to
terms with the loss of her lower leg, how her mental and emotional state are affected by this life changing event, how her body has a hard time coming off of the strong pain medications, how her team mates rally to help her by raising monies for a special "running" prosthethic, how her parents respond to all the changes and their mounting bills, how her best friend is her pillar of support, and how a girl with cerebral palsy has a profound effect on Jessica
and her full recovery.
Watch this YouTube video showcasing the author, Wendelin Van
Draanen, and how she was moved to write this novel after having participated in the New York Marathon and seeing all the those with physical disabilities
overcome incredible odds.