Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Flyaway by Lucy Christopher

Isla and her dad wait for the migrating whooper swans to return to their area every spring.  While trying to find the flock this year Isla's father collapses and ends up in the hospital facing heart surgery.  On one of her visits Isla notices a lone whooper on the lake behind the hospital.  When she goes to see the swan it seems friendly and even races her as she runs around the lake.  Isla wants to find a way to make the swan fly away to rejoin her flock.  When she is given an assignment at school to study flight and build a model of a flying machine, Isla decides to study swans and makes herself a harness with wings attached.  Her visits to the hospital also allow her to visit Harry, a boy with cancer, who becomes her friend and partner in tracking the swan.  Isla has a lot of deal with:  her worries about whether her father will recover, Harry's health, problems at school, her grandfather who refuses to set foot in the hospital to see his son, and the lonely swan.  I get that the swans were very important to the story, but they became overpowering to me.  Isla's focus on them felt more obsessive than dedicated.  I just had a hard time getting wrapped up in the emotion of all that was happening or caring much about the characters.

Dark Eden by Patrick Carman

Will suffers from an intense fear.  He has been seeing a counselor but is making little progress.  His counselor suggests that he go with six other patients to a camp with a renowned counselor who has cured others in the past.  During his sessions, Will has managed to hack into his counselor's files and has heard recordings of the other teens who will be going along to be cured.  When they get to the remote location, Will hangs back and hides in the woods while the others enter Fort Eden.  After careful observation of the camp cook, Will sneaks into the building and finds an old bomb shelter in the basement.  His hideout also has several TV screens that allow him to see life around the camp, including what happens during the "cures" of the other teens...  This book kept me interested up until the end.  It was also quite creepy and suspenseful, something that is somewhat hard to find.  But the revelation of what is actually happening at Fort Eden had a lot of parts and I felt that some things were not clearly explained - at least to me.  Still, I'm happy to have a true horror novel to talk about with the kids at school.  And there is already a sequel in the works so that will also make them happy.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Drink, Slay, Love by Sara Beth Durst

Pearl is a teenaged vampire.  She spends her nights sparring with her boyfriend Jadrien and drinking from her favorite snack, Brad.  But Pearl's life changes when she is attacked by a unicorn.  Pearl is surprised to find that she hasn't died after being staked by the unicorn's horn.  More surprises follow when she discovers that she can now be outside during the day without turning into a pile of dust.  When Pearl's vampire Family is chosen to host a ceremony for the reigning vampire king they decide that Pearl's new ability makes her the perfect person to secure a feast for the king and all the guests.  Now Pearl has to attend high school during the day and help prepare for the king's arrival at night.  As time goes on Pearl finds that the unicorn attack has resulted in other side effects as well and she begins to think about the humans at school as more than just food.  This is a fun book!  The vampires follow traditional vampire lore but Pearl's exploits keep it lighter as she navigates through school hierarchies and her new abilities.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Ever since her dad died Jill has been cutting herself off from everyone she knows, refusing all offers of support or help. Already on edge with her mother, Jill is furious to learn that her mom has agreed to adopt a baby from a girl she met online.  Jill's mom claims that this is something she and Jill's dad had planned to do before he died but Jill feels that she is acting rashly.  When the birth mother arrives, Jill is even more suspicious.  Mandy is obviously not telling the entire truth about her situation.  She has her own set of problems and her own reasons to leave her home behind.  Jill is trying to recapture who she was before her father's death and begins by making up with her ex-boyfriend.  But she also decides to have a new friend investigate Mandy's background.  This book is told in alternating chapters by Jill and Mandy.  Wow!  I could barely write that summary because I was so anxious to get to the part about how the book impacted me.  I liked the story all the way through and enjoyed seeing Jill growing from someone I didn't like at all into a person I could feel for.  But the last 30 pages packed a wallop!  I pretty much cried throughout but there were about five specific paragraphs that really got to me.  When I finished I just sat in the sun for about ten minutes reflecting on the book, then I went back and read the last 30 pages again because I wanted to recapture that sad, exquisite feeling. 

With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo

Ollie's dad is the Reverend Everlasting Love, a preacher who travels from town to town with his wife and five daughters.  When the Loves set up a revival in Binder, Ollie knows they will be leaving in three days.  But on a trip into town she meets Jimmy and learns that his mother is in jail for killing his father.  Jimmy knows his mother didn't do it and Ollie believes him.  She petitions her father to stay in Binder longer than usual so they can try to help Jimmy and his mother.  They find that the townspeople of Binder run the gamut from kind people who open up their homes to the Loves to those who have already decided that Jimmy's family is no good.  This is a charming book that drew me in with a simple story.  Although it didn't "wow" me, it made me feel warm and happy as I was reading it, even though I wasn't sure why.

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Many people have heard about the Little Rock Nine, the nine black students who integrated a high school in Arkansas in 1957.  What is less known is that in the following year, the Little Rock school board decided to close their high schools rather than integrate.  This book is set in 1958.  Marlee is a middle schooler who finds it difficult to speak to anyone.  She meets a new girl at school named Liz who immediately clashes with the most popular girl. But rather than feeling intimidated, Liz becomes the queen herself.  With Liz as her new friend, Marlee finds herself speaking up more.  But everyone, including Marlee, is shocked when they find out that Liz is actually a black girl who is passing for white.  Marlee and Liz's friendship puts both of them in danger in a town that is so racist but Marlee can't stay silent anymore.  I was really looking forward to this book because I loved Levine's The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had.  This one didn't quite live up to her other title, but I always wonder if that's because my expectations were so high to begin with. It is still a good story with well-developed characters who exhibit a mixture of qualities both good and bad.  So, not as amazing as I wanted but still pretty darn good.

Zombie Tag by Hannah Moskowitz

Wil and his brother invented a game called zombie tag and Wil continues to play it as often as possible with his friends even though his brother died.  Wil has learned a bit about the last time there were zombies and he is certain that there is a way to raise them again.  He also feels certain that if he could bring his brother back to life, Graham wouldn't be bad and Wil and his parents could go back to to how things used to be.  When Wil finds the zombie bell at his best friend's house, he rings the bell and every dead person within five miles comes back to life.  But while Graham isn't evil, he also doesn't seem to be the Graham that Wil remembers.  Although this book seems like a sure-fire seller because of the zombie title and game, it really isn't much about zombies.  It's actually a story about dealing with grief and letting go. 

The Great Molasses Flood by Deborah Kops

This nonfiction book tells about an actual flood of molasses in Boston in 1919.  In January of that year a tank holding over two million gallons of molasses exploded.  The wave of molasses lifted houses off of their foundations, washed some people out to sea and drowned several others.  Pieces from the ruptured tank destroyed subway lines.  After the disaster the town tried to sort out who was responsible.  One theory was that the tank was poorly made by the company who put it together in a rush and the unseasonably warm weather caused the molasses to ferment resulting in an explosion.  The molasses company suggested that the tank had actually been bombed by anarchists.  A three year trial attempted to determine who was actually to blame. I like nonfiction because there's always something to learn.  Who knew there was a flood of molasses?  Although this book didn't capture me as much as some other nonfiction titles I've read, I still liked learning about this unusual disaster.  AND that the smell of molasses wasn't completely gone until 1995!

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a silverback gorilla who lives in a "domain" at a mall.  He has accepted his lot in life and spends his time making pictures with the art supplies given to him and talking with the stray dog who hides in his domain.  When attendance falls off for the daily performances of the other animals, the owner buys Ruby, a baby elephant, to bring in more crowds.  In his rush to train the elephant, the owner is not always humane and Ivan makes a promise to make Ruby's life better.  Ivan wants to honor his promise, but what can he do to make sure Ruby gets the life she deserves?  This is a really touching book with a few lol moments.  It is based on a true story, which makes it more poignant. 

The Silence of Murder by Dandi Daley Mackall

Hope's older brother Jeremy is on trial for murdering his baseball coach.  Jeremy was seen running from the scene of the crime and his bat was the murder weapon but Hope knows that Jeremy can't possibly be guilty of the crime.  The biggest problem facing Hope is the fact that Jeremy hasn't said a word for many years and won't speak up now in his own defense.  Jeremy's lawyer is trying to convince the jury that Jeremy is insane but Hope knows he is just a little strange, not actually crazy.  She decides to take matters into her own hands and begins investigating the murder herself.  But the more secrets she reveals, the more danger she finds herself facing.  I enjoyed the book and am always looking for mysteries because the kids like them.  The story lost me a little at the dramatic conclusion because I didn't feel that Hope actually made her case and the reveal of the killer was not as surprising as I thought.  I preferred the reveal of the secret of Jeremy's collection more which gives the reader more things to think about.