Amity Middle School Orange Book Blog

Read reviews by an avid young adult book enthusiast.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

I loved the dedication in the front of this book: "For the third and fourth graders at Bethany Community School, who inspired me to write, and whose everyday mysteries and spontaneity gave me a story to tell." I liked it because I didn’t realize that the author had taught in Bethany, CT before moving to North Adams, MA.

Mr. Terupt , a new fifth grade teacher, makes quite an impression at Snow Hill School in Connecticut. At first Peter, the class prankster and troublemaker, thinks Mr. Terupt will be a pushover. He’s new after all! He figures it will be easy to rile him.

Alexia has been bullying other students and just being plain mean for the past several years. It has always worked to intimidate kids or lie to turn her enemies against each other. Will this strategy work for her this year?

Jessica is new to the school having moved from California. She is bright, sensitive, and perceptive. How will she make friends in this new school?
Luke is the brain in the class and rises to the challenge of the first math project “Dollar Words” that Mr. Terupt assigns. Danielle is very shy. She doesn’t know how to stand up for herself. Jeffrey hates school. He doesn’t reveal much about himself to anyone. Anna’s mother’s mistake early in her life has carried into Anna’s life. She is perceived as an outcast.

Each of these unique students enters a journal entry for each month of the school year with their perceptions and reflections on how their new teacher conducts himself. Despite their very different personalities and needs, Mr. Terupt seems to effectively deal with all of them.
This is a dear story! I absolutely loved it! I look forward to reading the sequel Mr. Terupt Falls.

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

At fourteen Sage is a bold thief! His latest prize--a roast that will feed all the kids in the orphanage!  When a man trips him, the roast goes flying while Sage falls at the feet of a nobleman named Conner.
Conner has quite an evil intent.Conner already has three boys he has kidnapped or purchased.  Sage becomes the fourth.  Conner’s plan is to take the boys to his expansive lands and manor house complete with a dungeon.
The boys are terrorized to see the boy named Lattamer killed by one of Conner’s men when he is told he can go free. Conner’s master plan is to train the boys so he can pass the one most worthy off as the lost Prince Jaron.
Connor has a strict schedule of “lessons” the boys must accomplish.  Based on their success and his ability to control them, he will decide who he will pass off as the false prince whom he will control on the throne.
Sage is different from the other two boys –Tobias and Roden.  He is defiant, hard to manage, cunning and surprisingly manipulative.
Will Conner be able to mold any of these orphans into a prince who can convince the country he should rule?
What will happen to the boys who are not chosen? Will Conner’s men kill them as he did Lattamer?
Read The False Prince to find out!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Under Siege! Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg by Andrea Warren

The Civil War raged from 1861-1865. One of the most important battles was fought at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
General Pemberton commanded the confederate (Rebel) forces while Ulysses Grant commanded the Union (Yankees).

A defeat of the confederacy at Vicksburg, due to its strategic position on the Mississippi River, could turn the tide of the war in the North’s favor.
What is unique about this book is that three children, two from the South and one from the North, actually wrote memoirs of their experiences during the siege of Vicksburg.

Lucy McRae and Willie Lord were both children during the battle.  Lucy would watch the battle from her second floor porch or from Sky Parlor Hill.  Willie Lord’s father was an Episcopalian priest in Vicksburg. Residents of Vicksburg, including Lucy and Willie, spent days and nights in hastily dug caves.  Lucy was partially buried when a cave roof fell on her as she slept.
Frederick Grant was only twelve when he accompanied his famous father, Ulysses S. Grant.  Fred was present at every battle and witnessed the surrender after the 47 day siege to starve the southern army out of Vicksburg.  He was shot in the leg, suffered a horrific infection- almost losing his leg. Dysentery and typhoid fever further weakened Fred.

Andrea Warren’s book draws from primary source document research.  With abundant archival photos and paintings from 1863, this book is easily accessible to young people.


The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson

Leon Leyson’s memories of his life as a child in Poland prior to and during World War II comprise this very memorable memoir.

Born Leib Lejzon in the rural village in northeastern Poland, Leib was the youngest of five children.  His ancestors had lived in the small town for many generations for more than two hundred years.  His parents were hardworking.  His father worked in a bottle making factory.  His mother tended to the five children and the household.

Leon’s memories of his relatively carefree life before World War II reveal a very poor family with only a two room house- one living area and one bedroom where all seven family members slept- the parents and their five children.  There was no indoor plumbing in this village.  Electricity was unheard of in their town until Leon was ten when they had one light bulb which illuminated their living area.
Leon’s father moves to Krakow, Poland when the bottle factory relocates there.  He works for years to save money to move his family there.  Rumors circulate about Adolf Hitler, but no one believes he will invade Poland.  In 1939, Poland’s army capitulates after just one week.

Freedoms for Jews are taken away little by little.  Because Leon’s father has a work permit, his family is spared deportation many times.

Oscar Schindler purchases the factory.  A member of the Nazi party himself, the workers don’t know what will become of themselves under his ownership. 

Will Leon’s family’s work permits be honored? What kind of perseverance will be required of them to survive?  How does the title The Boy on the Wooden Box apply to Leon?
Read this excellent memoir to find out.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

"I register every emotion, every relationship, and every subtext. If someone is angry or sad or disappointed, I see it like a neon sign. There's no way to explain how; I just do. For a long time I thought everyone did." (Twelve-year-old Mila describing her special ability to sense and "read" nuances that others miss.)
 It's been 8 years since Mila's father Gil has seen his best friend Matthew in America. When Gil receives a phone call before their planned trip to America from Matthew's wife Suzanne that Matthew has suddenly disappeared--just left the house as if he were going to work but never shows up there--Gil decides he and Mila should continue with their plans to fly from London to upper state New York to try to help Suzanne solve her husband's disappearance.
Mila senses immediately the unhappiness in their home:
"As we walk through the house, I collect images like a camera clicking away. I can barely remember what Matthew looks like and there are no pictures of him to remind me. No picture of him and Suzanne or their wedding day, or him with Gabriel. . .First impressions? This is not a happy house."
Where has Matthew gone? Why has he left his beautiful baby Gabriel? Why didn't he take Honey, his beloved dog with him? Is he dead? Did he commit some horrible crime? Has he messed up his life so badly that he can't face living?

Partials: Book 1 in the Partial Sequence by Dan Wells

“Newborn #485GA18M died on June 30, 2076, at 6:07 in the morning. She was three days old. The average lifespan of a human child, in the time since the Break, was fifty-six hours.” (Page 1)

It has been eleven years since 2065 when The Break occurred. Few people remain. The RM virus was released by the Partials- a group of engineered beings which resemble humans. Only those humans immune to the virus are alive.
Kira is 16 years old. She has been in training as a medic on the maternity ward in the hospital. Every baby being born since The Break has died from the virus within days of its birth. At this rate Kira realizes the human race will be extinct if a cure isn’t found.
The group of people living on what was Long Island includes Kira, her boyfriend, Marcus, friends Jayden and his sister Madison as well as others. The Senate of the East Meadow community where they live has declared the Hope Act. This act is about to lower the mandatory age at which one must become pregnant to hopefully increase the likelihood of having a baby who might survive.
An opposing faction known as The Voice is rising up to fight the current government order. 
Kira hatches a plan to venture into what was Manhattan to capture one of the engineered beings known as Partials to see if something in their DNA might provide a cure for the RM virus. Her plan is filled with danger but seems like the only possible way to possibly save humanity.
Will she and her friends succeed? Read Partials to find out.

In Too Deep by Coert Voorhees

Very suspenseful!

 In Too Deep is cleverly written! It is filled with suspense. Some chapters end leaving readers on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what might happen to Annie.
Annie is a freshman in high school.  She is gifted in many ways. Her mom owns a dive shop.  Annie is a master diver. She gives lessons to people wanting to learn scuba diving.  Additionally, Annie is intrigued by diving for sunken treasures.

When a junior boy named Josh Restock comes into the shop, she is thrilled as she has been very attracted to him at school. Josh wants to learn how to scuba dive.  His cavalier attitude towards learning the seriousness of how dangerous this is for the novice diver has Annie worried.  Sure enough, her instincts are correct.  She ends up rescuing him on his first attempt.  She has to call 911 when he isn’t breathing.  Thankfully Josh survives his first attempt.
Annie, Josh, another girl from school named Katy and her brother Nate decide to go on a humanitarian trip to Mexico for Borders Unlimited which is being sponsored by one of their teachers at school, Mr. Alvarez. The trip to Cozumel off the coast of Mexico is arranged to “supposedly” help a school.

Once there, the students realize they have been tricked. The school only needs repainting. Alvarez has been less than truthful.  He wants Annie to complete a dangerous dive- 135 feet down- to attempt to find a hidden object which will be the key to finding a very precious lost treasure- the Golden Jaguar.  However, the man Alvarez trusts- Wayo- is actually using Alvarez and Annie.  Devil’s Throat, the narrow coral cave, can only be entered by someone as slender and thin as Annie.

Will Annie survive the daring dive to Devil’s Throat? Will Wayo follow the group back to California? Will Alvarez be fired? Will anyone find the Golden Jaguar?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mind Games by Kiersten White

I liked this book a lot. However, I would only recommend it to advanced readers. Why? The manner in which the book is written can be quite confusing for a less able reader.

Chapters alternate being told by two sisters. Annie, the older sister who is blind, has the ability to “see” things before they happen and her younger sister, Sofia, nicknamed Fia.
Fia has the uncanny ability to immediately tell if something is right or wrong.

Besides alternating the narrator for each chapter, the author also decided to have Annie and Sofia flashback to different times in their lives. The flashbacks are not sequential.
Their parents were killed tragically in a car accident. Their Aunt Ellen has placed them in an “academy” for specially gifted students. Sofia immediately knows the “academy” is wrong for the two of them. Annie has been promised the best doctors to help correct her blindness. She insists they stay.

What neither girl realizes is that they are being used by a very powerful man- Mr. Keane.
By making Sofia use her special gifts to predict the stock market and other things to his advantage, Mr. Keane threatens Sofia with the mistreatment or death of her blind sister if she doesn’t comply. He is playing a powerful mind game.

Mr. Keane’s demands escalate to even include murder! How will the girls ever be able to escape his hold on them? Read this mind bender to find out!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Outlaws and Lawmen: Crime and Punishment in the 1800s

Since I really knew very little about how our crime and punishment system came into being in the United States, I found this book very informative.

The first part deals with the years 1800-1834.  In the 1700’s most crimes were punished by public ridicule.  The use of stocks, where people were publically on display in village greens, was common as were hangings for more serious crimes.
The religious influence of the Quakers changed the public displays to “houses” where criminals were separated from society and each other and placed in solitary confinement to contemplate their crimes.

When huge influxes of immigrants arrived in NYC due to the potato famine in Ireland, gangs formed to avoid persecution.  By 1850, police were formed to try to control the rising violence.

By the 1860’s political corruption- buying off the police, controlling the courts, etc. had sprung up. “The appearance of the law must be upheld, especially while it’s being broken.”
Meanwhile, in the West—especially Texas--large groups of settlers needed protection. Rangers were formed. Their duty was to protect the new settlers from Native Americans and to deal with cattle thieves.

The second period of the book deals with the years 1838-1865. Many crimes in this period revolved around slavery.  The Civil War would rage for four years before some disputes would be settled.

The third part of the book deals with outlaws in the Wild West from 1867-1889.   Greed for gold, land, or cattle proved to be the real cause of crime in the West.
Primary source documents help the reader see how both outlaws and lawmen operated at that time.

This book scratches the surface on crime and punishment in the 1800’s, but does provide a vehicle for understanding the time period.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Real Courage: The Story of Harper Lee by Katherine Don

Harper Lee is best known for her first and only novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

Katherine Don has written an extensive piece on Nelle Harper Lee’s life.

She has researched Lee’s early years with her family in Monroeville, Alabama.  Harper’s close relationship with Truman Capote is evident. Anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird will realize the character of Dill is fashioned from her childhood days with Truman Capote.

The author traces Harper Lee’s years in New York City. What was interesting to me was the author’s assertion that Harper Lee was not a recluse as she aged. Rather, she was just very particular with whom she associated.

It is a rare thing in our culture to shun notoriety and publicity to maintain a low profile of true friendships.

I learned a great deal about Nelle Harper Lee from this thoroughly researched piece.

Kennedy’s Last Days by Bill O’Reilly


Bill O’ Reilly’s book entitled Kennedy’s Last Days is easily accessible for middle school readers. It gives a brief history of the Kennedy family, but the majority of the book details the 1,036 days of his Presidency.

It is chilling to see the cover of the book. There is a photo of John Kennedy seated beside his wife Jackie as their motorcade winds its way down a street in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. The next moment, a sniper’s bullet hits John Kennedy delivering a fatal blow. The assassin is Lee Harvey Oswald.

Filled with archival photos of John and Jackie Kennedy and their children Caroline and John, the text is easy to follow providing just enough detail without confusing the reader.

Students who desire more information can follow the reading of this book with Killing Kennedy, also by Bill O’Reilly. Killing Kennedy was written for an adult audience but motivated readers can easily follow it.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Malencia Vale lives with her mother and father and four brothers in Five Lakes Colony. There have been seven wars fought which have destroyed much of civilization and laid waste to the land. 

Malencia’s father has been lucky enough to have a university education and is developing new ways in which to grow crops and rejuvenate the drinking water and the soil.

At Malencia’s graduation, there is much hope that some members of her class will be chosen to participate in the grueling process known as The Testing to see if any will have the chance for an education at the university.

When Cia (Malencia’s nickname) is chosen along with three others from Five Lakes Colony, her father gives her strict advice- “TRUST NO ONE!” Her father should know as he survived The Testing himself.

The four are transported to Tosu City to begin The Testing.

Will Cia follow her father’s advice? Surely she must be able to trust Tomas her childhood friend! Will any of the four from Five Lakes Colony survive the ordeal?

Read this chilling dystopian thriller to find out.

Out of Bounds by Bob Moseley

Bob Moseley, a local author residing in Shelton, CT. has written his first young adult novel, a sports mystery.

Jason Jefferson has suffered a torn ACL- blowing out his knee. Desperately wanting to be playing football with his school team, he remains sidelined for the entire season due to this injury.

Mr. McCloud, his journalism teacher, encourages Jason to join the school newspaper. Reluctantly, Jason shows up after school and makes a stab at writing for the paper. Combining his love of football with journalism, Jason decides to focus on writing about the highly successful football season. 

When he receives a typewritten paper with the following cryptic message, “There’s something serious going on with the football team. You need to investigate.” Jason shifts into high gear trying to solve the mystery.

I thoroughly enjoyed this sports mystery. I believe it will appeal to both boys and girls as several of the characters are girls in the novel.

Soldier Dog by Sam Angus

What an interesting story!

Set in 1917 in England, Soldier Dog tells the story of the messenger dogs used during WWI.

Stanley is only fourteen-too young to join his older brother Tom and enlist to fight the Germans. Instead he is stuck at home with his dad known as Da. Lord Chorley owns the land where they reside. They raise horses for him and prize dogs.

Problems arise when Stanley accidentally lets out their prize female dog Rocket when she is in heat. Da is furious! The mixed breed pups will be of no use to them. They will be more expense than they are worth. 

Stanley nurses the pups and is horrified when Da says he will drown them. Without his brother to intervene and since his mom’s sudden death, Stanley does not stand a chance of standing up to the wrath of his father. 

Stanley makes the decision to run away and enlist by passing as an older boy.

When Stanley is chosen to be a part of a special service group which trains messenger dogs, he is paired with a large dog Bones.

Will he and Bones be sent to France? Will Stanley be able to find his brother Tom? Will the reality of war be more than a fourteen year old boy can endure?

Read Soldier Dogs to find out!

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor lives with his mom, his grandma, and his two younger sisters- Lizzie and Margaret (affectionately called Boots) in an apartment in New York City. Gregor’s father went missing nearly two years ago. He simply left the apartment one day, never returned, and disappeared without a trace.

Gregor is feeling quite sorry for himself as it will be his job to care for his two-year-old sister, Boots. As an eleven-year-old boy, Gregor would much prefer attending summer camp. Little does Gregor realize that he and Boots are in for a major adventure!

When Boots accidentally is sucked behind a dryer in the basement of their apartment where they have gone to do the laundry, Gregor knows he has no choice but to follow her. As they are both pulled into a downward current, Gregor wonders, “Could this be what happened to my father?”

Soon Boots and Gregor learn that the Underland is comprised of many facets. Giant spiders (spinners), huge cockroaches, giant rats (gnawers), and enormous bats are existing in a tenuous peace.

They recognize Gregor as Gregor the Overlander who is part of a prophecy. Gregor desperately wants to return home with his sister as he knows how completely devastated his poor mother will be when she realizes two more members of her family have disappeared.

What will it take for Gregor to return with Boots to the Overland (NYC)? Much more than he could ever have realized he was capable of doing!

Read Suzanne Collins’s first book in the Underland Chronicles to find out.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

 Gregory is the younger brother of Roderick. His tales continue as he tries to negotiate middle school. Can he possibly have more things go wrong with his life? You betcha!!
He desperately wants to be noticed by the opposite sex so he can have a date for the Valentine’s Day Dance in the gym at school. Despite advice from his four times divorced Uncle Gary who is freeloading at Gregory’s house, he still doesn’t have a date. Surprise! Surprise!
Abigail seems like a likely choice when her original date has another obligation. Rowley’s dad can transport the three of them, Rowley, Abigail and Gregory to the dance and back.
Nothing is simple for Gregory. When the night of the dance arrives, someone has the chicken pox. Will that deter this unlikely trio?
Read Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Third Wheel to find out all about Gregory’s misadventures.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

“The First rule of surviving the 4th wave is don’t trust anyone anymore. It doesn’t matter what they look like. The Others are very smart about everything. In the 4th Wave, you can’t trust that people are still people. But you can trust that your gun is still your gun.”

In Cassie’s world she has only her father and her younger brother Sammy left alive. Her mother has passed away due to what has been known as the Red plague. Each successive wave of the alien invasion of earth has brought mass death. The 3rd Wave took 3.5 billion people. The Others are truly ingenious in their design to inhabit the Earth.
When Cassie’s father and Sammy are separated, she must fend for herself. If she is lucky to find “humans alive, can she trust that they are human- even though they look like they are?

This is a fast paced book- not for the faint of heart. I would only recommend this book to mature, advanced readers. Warning- it may give you nightmares!

Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson

The Civil War in the United States was a fight to retain the union. Even after Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army, surrendered to Ulysses Grant on April 19, 1865, there were still major divisions in our nation. One such group was the band of men who wanted to kidnap President Lincoln.

In James Swanson’s book for young adult readers entitled Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, he details the plot which was originally designed to kidnap Lincoln to reveal when it changed to an assassination plot against Lincoln, his vice president, Andrew Johnson and his Secretary of State. John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor of the time period, was the mastermind behind the plot.

He and he alone shot President Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre in Washington as he was watching a play with his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. Lincoln and his wife and another couple were seated in the balcony of Ford’s Theatre in a special Presidential theater box. The guard who was supposed to be stationed outside the Presidential box had left his post after the play started to have a drink in a local bar. John Wilkes Booth was able to easily gain entrance to the box and shoot Lincoln. The gunshot to his neck lodged in his brain and led to his death many hours later. Booth escapes by jumping from the box onto the stage of Ford’s Theatre. He breaks his leg in the fall. This does not deter him. He makes his getaway despite the pain he is suffering.
Swanson details the manhunt to find all of the coconspirators as they fled from Washington.

Swanson’s award winning adult title Manhunt is a more detailed version of this title. For students who enjoy Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, they may want to read the adult title for further information.

Personally, I loved this highly accessible account of the dark days following one of the darkest days in American history.

Thimble Down by Pete Prown

Thimble Down is the name of a quaint country village where its residents reside in burrows.  This fantasy has the feel of The Hobbit.

Dorro Fox Winderiver is the book master and head of the library. Well respected by all of the residents, Dorro is also a master crime solver. He finds a mysterious boy- Wyll Underfoot- hiding in his garden shed. Who is the boy? Where did he come from? Is he a thief?

When Bing Rumple, his brother Farroot Rumple and an acquaintance of Farroot’s Bill Thistle, show up in Thimble Down with a priceless gem that Bing is wearing underneath his cape which he is boasting about, all the residents are highly suspicious of how Bing and his cronies obtained such a magnificent piece. Since Bing is such a poor excuse for a “Halfling”- swearing, gambling, and constantly being suspected of petty crimes-- Dorro knows there is a mystery which needs to be solved.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this title as I am not a fantasy lover. This is very well written with plenty of twists in the plot which kept me engaged.
Another interesting fact is that the author Pete Prown attended Amity Junior High Orange in the 70’s so he is a graduate of our school which makes this title extra special!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Incredible Transcontinental Railroad by R. Conrad Stein

What an amazing feat it was to complete the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.

Imagine the time before this great railway was completed.  If you wanted to get from the Eastern seaboard of our country to the Gold Rush in what was to become the State of California in 1849, you would either have to book passage on a boat which would go around South America and especially the treacherous rounding of Cape Horn and then through the Pacific.  The passage would take anywhere from 6 to 8 months to complete.  Or you could take the overland route across our vast country by horse and covered wagon.  This overland route would take from 4-5 months.

Once the railway was completed a passenger could travel from New York to San Francisco in a week’s time!

What is so amazing about the accomplishment of the railroad is the timing of its completion and the sheer engineering feat.

Our country was divided in 1861-1865 by the Civil War.  Once the war was over, the country united to get this completed.

The Union Pacific Railway was started in Omaha.  The Central Pacific was started in Sacramento, CA.  The two mountain ranges- the Sierra Nevadas in California and the Rockies in Colorado-- had to be conquered.

I was lucky enough to walk through the 20 foot high tunnel at Summit Peak in the Sierras this summer.  It was 1500 feet long through granite.  It was one of the 15 tunnels needed to go through mountains.  It was awe inspiring to see!

Read this highly accessible book for young teens to find out just how amazing this engineering feat proved to be.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Sixteen year old America Singer lives with her family in a society based on castes.  Her family is considered a Five.  They are artists and musically inclined.  There is little chance of changing one’s caste in the country known as Illéa.

Illéa is a country formed where the United States used to exist after several wars have occurred.  There is still unrest in Illéa due to Northern and Southern rebel groups who are still fighting.
When a letter arrives at America Singer’s house announcing a Selection, America’s mother is keen for having her daughter apply.  If America is selected to be one of the thirty-five women chosen to be part of the Selection, it will help with her family’s finances which are always a problem; it will possibly elevate America’s movement within the strict caste society.

The Selection is being conducted to help the Prince of Illéa , Prince Maxim, find his future wife.

It seems like this would be an easy decision for America to make, but what her parents don’t know is that America has had a secret boyfriend, Aspen, from a lower caste, for the past two years.

If America applies, will she make the Selection?  If she makes the list of thirty-five women selected, will she have a chance of falling in love with Prince Maxim since she has such strong feelings for her first love, Aspen? Read this dystopian romance to find out!

The Journals of Lewis & Clark

I like how this book starts with a description of primary and secondary sources.  The primary sources are from the journals kept by the men.

This is a very easy to read documentary of the historical journey that Meriwether  Lewis and William Clark made to find a passage from St. Louis to the Pacific through the mountain ranges and uncharted territory of what we now know as North and South Dakota, Idaho, Montana and Washington states.
By navigating down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River at St. Louis, they c continued following the river upstream, to where it connected to the Missouri River.  They needed the help of local Indian tribes to navigate the Bitterroot Mountains and the Rockies.
What an arduous, dangerous journey it proved to be.  Their journey spans from May to 1804 to September of 1806.

Luckily for our country, they kept journals which detailed their famous excursion.

Read this book in the series entitled Documentary U.S. History to find out just how courageous these brave men and their party of men were.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In the After by Demitria Lunetta

What an intriguing debut novel In the After by Demitria Lunetta is! Set in the future, this dystopian piece is not to be missed. The plot is fast paced. Fans of similar titles such as The Hunger Games, Ship Breaker, and Divergent will surely enjoy this new title.

Amy Harris has survived what she believes is an alien attack. Everything that has taken place before the attack is referred to as Before whereas her existence after the attack is The After. The aliens are extremely gross looking, incredibly fast, and completely unstoppable. The only way to survive is to not draw their attention. If they catch you, their only thought is to consume you. Yes, they survive by eating humans! So how do you avoid being noticed by them? You are completely silent! You never talk! You avoid the daylight when they roam for their human prey.
It helps immensely that Amy’s house has an electrified fence around it. It also helps that Amy is very smart. She observes the behavior of the aliens and learns how to survive. In one of her roaming missions to find canned food, she comes across a baby in what was a supermarket. Amy has no idea how the toddler has been able to survive on her own, but she is more than delighted to have a human with whom to interact and learn to love.

Have others also survived the aliens? If they have, where are they? How can Amy and Baby find them? Is there any hope for existence or is this the end of the world?

Warning: these creatures are merciless! They are described in detail. Some may find this too graphic.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Survivors by Will Weaver

The Survivors by Will Weaver is a sequel to The Memory Boy. My major dilemma as a reader of this realistic fiction piece was that Will Weaver wrote it in 2012 yet set the story in 2008. The entire premise of the story rests upon a world forever changed due to an environmental disaster—volcanic eruption-- that has caused the climate to change. As readers deeply enter into a story, we have to be able to suspend our disbelief and enter into the world created for us in the book. My personal problem was how to enter into the story when I lived through 2008 and this environmental disaster never took place.

Given that problem with the setting of the novel, I can’t give it a stellar rating. Here is what I can say about the title.
It is about a family from Minneapolis, Minnesota who find themselves thrust back to living off the grid in a shack previously owned by a Mr. Kurz. Since the family can’t live in their plush suburban home due to the lack of electricity, heat, food sources, etc., they are forced to survive through nature by hunting and trapping. Miles, the teenage son, is the source of knowledge for the family. He has Mr. Kurz’s journals that tell how to live off the land. He met Mr. Kurz when he volunteered in a nursing home. Sarah, Miles’ younger sister, clearly has the most attitude adjustment to make in regards to their predicament. Their parents, Nat and Artie, clearly find it difficult to make the changes that will help them all survive the bitter winter.

I think students might enjoy the book more than I did as they will probably not be as bothered by the flaw of setting this novel in 2008 when everyone knows no volcanic disaster occurred.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Endearing is how I would describe this realistic chick lit title The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen.

 Emaline lives with her dad (who adopted her when she was three), her mom Emily and two stepsisters—Margo and Amber-- in a small coastal community which comes alive during the summers as a vacation location for many. Since Emaline’s family is in the realty business, she is working during the summer following her senior year in high school as one of the go to people for anything that goes wrong in the many properties that her family’s realty company manages.
Emaline and her boyfriend of three years—Luke—have an easy going relationship that is about to see some changes as the summer season begins.

Ivy, a documentary filmmaker from New York and her intern Theo, rent Sand Dollars, one of the most exclusive properties that is managed by Emaline’s family’s business. There in the small berg called Colby, they hope to interview and film the reclusive artist named Clyde Conway. Their job proves most difficult as Clyde wants to maintain his low profile in Colby.

Will Ivy and Theo succeed in shooting their documentary? Will the people of Colby accept them? Will Emaline’s and Luke’s relationship survive the summer before they set off for college? Will the arrival of Emaline’s biological father and her stepbrother Benji cause Emaline to grow and change in unexpected ways?
Read this realistic summer chick lit title to find out!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher

Catherine Fisher has written other books that I have enjoyed including, Incarceron . I was looking forward to this new science fiction/fantasy triology which begins with Obsidian Mirror.

I found the precise very intriguing—a magical mirror that allows those with a special silver bracelet to travel through time. The protagonist, Jake Wilde, is purposely failing at his boarding school in Switzerland. When he intentionally strikes a fellow student with a sword and draws blood during a drama practice, he is sent with one of his teachers to his godfather in England. Jake believes that the godfather, renown explorer and best friend of his father, has been responsible for David Wilde’s death. Thus begins the journey to find out what really happened to Jake’s beloved father.

There are many plot twists, broken trusts, and magical creatures known as Shees. For this reason, I would only recommend this title and series to determined, mature readers. I personally felt with a better editor, Catherine Fisher’s novel would have flowed better and been less difficult to follow.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Now Is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

Fifteen-year-old Deo lives in Gutu, a small village in Zimbabwe, Africa with his older brother Innocent, his mother Amai and grandfather. Deo has always taken care of and watched over his older brother. Innocent sustained some type of damage to his brain at birth.

When government soldiers in jeeps enter their small village of Gutu, Deo’s and Innocent’s lives change forever. The entire village except for the two brothers are mercilessly brutalized and killed. Thus begins the run for their lives to a new land and hopefully a new life in South Africa.
Their journey is filled with danger. Their ability to endure the hardships and perils is compelling.

Read Now Is the Time for Running to begin to try to understand what less fortunate teenagers who live under strict dictatorships have to face in order to survive.

I believe this is a must read for teens today. I am glad to see it is a Connecticut Nutmeg Nominee for 2014.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Requiem is the final book in the Delirium triology by Lauren Oliver.

After the blitz, the United States has been divided into the Cureds (also know as zombieland due to the surgical procedure done to all teens to save them from the delirium of ever experiencing the unsettling emotiom of love) and the Invalids who have escaped the Cure and who roam the Wilds--trying to survive outside the bounds of civilization.

Alex has been reunited with Lena in the Wilds. Hana, Lena's best friend, has been given the surgical procedure and is experiencing life in a very different frame of mind. She is betrothed to Fred who will become the new mayor of Portland, Maine. Fred's father, the previous mayor, has been killed. Portland, Maine is the childhood home of both Lena and Hana.

Lauren Oliver alternates the narrator of the story by switching between the two girls for each chapter so as the reader, you can see how very difficult life in the Wilds is compared to life in Portland, for example. Yet, the fact that Hana can't really make her own decisions due to the Cure, makes the contrast between the two girls' lives even more interesting.

Fames of the first two books in the series--Delirium and Pandemonium--will be intrigued by this final volume.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz

When this historical novel begins, it is 1939 in Krakow, Poland.  Yanek Gruener is ten years old living with his loving mother and father in a nice apartment on the second floor of an apartment building.  The apartment is quite spacious for the three of them.  Imagine the conditions in the apartment when four other families (a total of sixteen people) are forced to live in the same space!  That is exactly what happens when Hitler’s army invades Poland and turns the area into a Jewish ghetto.

Despite the deplorable conditions of the Jewish ghetto, nothing could prepare Yanek for what was to come once the ghetto was liquidated. Liquidated means once all the people are sent out of the ghetto either to their deaths or to a death camp.
Yanek’s strong will to live, to survive the death camps- ten in all before the war ended in 1945- is a testament to the spirit. The title of the book has to do with the number that is tattoed onto Yanek's arm by the Nazis.

If you like to read historical fiction, this is an excellent choice! 
The reason it is such a powerful book is it is based on the survival of Jack Gruener who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith by Chandler B. Saint & George A. Krimsky

Sometimes I am stunned by what I don’t know! Making Freedom The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith educated me about a very significant person from Connecticut’s early history.

Born the son of a tribal prince in about the year of 1729 in an interior West African country, Broteer Furro, was from a cattle-herding people. His African name would be one of his memories of his homeland.

Venture Smith was the name Broteer was given as a slave. His people in Africa were invaded by an army of other Africans and forced to march nearly 400 miles to the sea. Venture was probably 8 or 9 years old at the time. They were held in the infamous “Slave Castle” (a fortress much more like a dungeon) on what is now the coast of Ghana.
Venture survived the barbaric “middle passage” on board the ship from Africa to Barbados. He was named Venture by the man who decided to keep him as the ship continued on its journey to Newport, Rhode Island.

Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith details the three slave masters he suffered under and his eventual freedom which he earned by paying for it.
His narrative was recorded by a school teacher named Elisha Niles and verified by five prominent residents of New London, Connecticut.

I especially liked this quotation from the Foreword of the book written by James O. Horton: “Venture Smith’s story is also the iconic story of a self-made man who struggled against the greatest of odds to become a successful entrepreneur. This volume tells this story through the extraordinary life of a man one cannot help but admire.”
Education yourself about one of Connecticut’s most successful black entrepreneurs by reading about Venture Smith!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.” --from Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

The bribe of the watch is what saved Jonas’s life. The Soviets had invaded Lithuania. They had taken Lina’s mother and her brother that morning. Lina’s father, the Provost of a University, was nowhere to be found. They had already taken him the night before!

Where were they being taken? Cattle cars in a rail station would be their “new home” for the next six weeks along with thousands of other Lithuanians who had also been a threat to the Soviets. Siberia and slave labor would be at their destination.

How will Lina, her beautiful mother, and her brother going to survive? Will they ever see their father again? Will they ever be able to return to their homeland?

Read this powerful historical fiction novel to find out!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi

Fans of Veronica Rossi’s book entitled Under the Never Sky will be thrilled with her second installment. The romantic love interest between Perry and Aria has all fans interested to see if they will finally be together.

Perry (Peregrine) now holds the title of Blood Lord of his tribal group the Tides. Since the Tides don’t take kindly to Dwellers, Aria is considered an outsider. The struggle to be accepted has left Aria estranged.  When Roar decides to leave the Tides to hopefully rescue Liv (Perry’s sister), Aria travels with him to another tribe called the Horns.
Meanwhile, the Aether storms continue to scorch the earth. No place seems safe. Maybe a large cave will give the Tides shelter.

Sable is the Blood Lord of the Horns. His marriage to Liv is about to take place. Have Aria and Roar come in the nick of time to stop it?
As the Aether storms rage, even the ultra-technical pod Reverie is no longer viable. Will it be possible to rescue Talon from Reverie before the Pod is ruined?

Everyone thinks survival from the Aether storms is tied to finding the elusive Still Blue. No one seems to know if the Still Blue really exists yet alone how to find it.

Read Through the Ever Night to see what happens!