Thursday, January 31, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
 by Ransom Riggs
352 pages
Middle School+

Jacob grew up listening to the strange and sometimes scary stories his grandfather told him.  Based on strange, obviously doctored, photos, Jacob never takes these stories seriously.  Jacob thinks his grandpa is paranoid, a bit loopy, and just telling stories.

One day, his grandpa is having a bad day, and Jacob goes over to help him calm down.  When he gets there, the back door is open, and his grandpa is missing.  As he goes to look in the woods, he finds his grandpa, dying.  Just after his grandpa speaks his last words, Jacob looks up after hearing a rustling.  In the shadows is a strange monster, which snarls and runs away.

Disturbed by both his grandfather's death in his arms and the vision of the monster, Jacob has issues trying to live a normal life.  Nightmares trouble his sleep, and his grandpa's final words haunt him.  In order to try to calm these feelings, Jacob and his father travel back to Wales, the place of his grandpa's childhood. Hopefully there he can figure out what really happened in his grandpa's past.

First, can I just say wow!  Oh, I so enjoyed reading this! I had the hardest time trying to decide what category this fit in, so I decided to put it into all that might apply.  It's a little bit mystery, little creepy, slightly historic, fantasy elements, and lots of great stuff!

One of the things that I really liked about this book is the ending.  Lots of excitement and action!  But more than that, it is an ending!  It concludes this part of the story!  There are some things that will still come, and obviously at least one sequel, but it felt like a conclusion, rather than a cliff-hanger.  So many books right now are ending with cliff-hangers or end abruptly, not really wrapping things up.  This book made me feel like enough was finished up, but still left possibilities for the future! Nice way to end a book.  I want to read the next book, but still felt completion when I finished reading the book.

Just as a side note- this is the first book that I read on my Nook that I got for Christmas!  To me, there wasn't much difference between reading it on a Nook or the actual book.  The biggest difference is one that would really make a difference only to this book.   The pictures that are normally full size and have lots of detail are harder to see on the Nook.  Most teen and adult novels aren't going to have illustrations that are pivotal to the story, so it won't be a big deal.  For children's books, even novels, that have illustrations, a simple Nook might not be the best way to read it.  I need to try Diary of a Wimpy Kid on it, and see if the illustrations still come through well.

Overall, I loved this book!  The story line is great.  Lots of twists and turns.  The unfolding of the story was beautifully done.  I definitely recommend this for teens, and adults!  Not necessarily something I want to read after dark or while home alone, but that only added to the beauty of the book.  Love it!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Edited by Kazu Kibuishi
128 pages

This is a collection of short stories, told in the graphic novel format.  The underlying theme: what's in the box?  Each story has a different box with something different inside.  we see everything from wax dolls and magic boxes, to aliens and visits from the dead!  Endless variety awaits any who dare to open the box!

Kind of like non-fiction, it's hard to write a good desciption for a set of short stories!  The editor of this set is Kazu Kibuishi, the same creator of the Amulet graphic novels which I loved!  We do get a story by him, but there is also a lot of other variety.  I liked all the stories, which is kind of rare to like everything in the collection, but I did like some more than others. 

I did like this for the exposure to different styles of graphic novels.  Some of the styles were similar to others graphic novels I had read, but there were new ones too.  I will probably look up a couple of these other authors, such as Jason Caffoe and Stuart Livingston.  I really liked the one called "Whatzit," and think kids will like that one a lot!

Overall, this would be a great way to introduce new readers to the genre.  This is as super simple as some graphic novels, but later elementary aged kids would be fine.  Since the stories are shorter, would be useful to have discussions about each one as a group, since reading time would be short.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

YA Author Visit- We have the POWER!

So, all my blogshpere friends- we have the power! The power to decide where some authors are coming to visit! There is a tour of five amazing authors, that the people get to decide where they will come!  These authors include:
Marie Lu
Marissa Meyer
Beth Revis
Victoria Schwab
Megan Shepherd

We get to vote, and say which city they visit!  Here is a link to go vote!  Of course, I want them to come to Salt Lake City, Utah, but you can vote for whatever location you want to (vote for Salt Lake! Vote for Salt Lake!)

Anyways, go!  Vote!  Bring authors to your city!

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different

Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different
by Karen Blumenthal
320 pages
High School

This is a YALSA Best of the Best 2013 Challenge book!

Steve Jobs created Apple, thought up the iPod, and changed the way computer companies run.  His name in known throughout the world, but how much does the world really know about him?

Did you know that he became a vegetarian, even to the point that his diet was carrot salad with lemon juice? Did you know that although brilliant, he was not universally liked.  While a great motivator, he was also very difficult to get along with.  Jobs had something that others called a "reality distortion field": whenever he was around, people believed they could achieve anything!

Follow Jobs life from childhood until his death in this in depth glimpse of his life.  From founding Apple, to being fired from it, this book covers all of it!

So, this was a lot more intriguing than I thought it would turn out to be.  Once I got into it, I had a lot of fun reading it.  But, it is not something that I think I would read again (unless for a specific reason, like a report).  I had fun with it, but there are other things I would rather read.

Overall, pretty good book.  I will recommend it to teens, especially those that come in looking for a biography for an assignment.  Had lots of tech stuff, so techie geeks would probably like it a lot!  It does have a little language (or at least implied language), plus Jobs is not necessarily the best role model. I would stick to high school aged teens for this, because of the maturity of the content, plus although Jobs did some amazing things, his life was seriously messed up at times.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bigfoot Boy: Into the Woods

Bigfoot Boy: Into the Woods
by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks
100 pages
Late Elementary+

Rufus is super bored.  His parents have left him at his grandma's place, next to the woods.  All she wants to do is drink prune juice, watch her soaps, and doze of in her chair.  Rufus waits until granny is asleep, and bolts out the back door, into the woods.

As he is leaving, he sees a neighbor girl wandering out there, too.  When he finally finds her, he has to admit he's lost.  While she takes him back, she is definitely NOT impressed with him.  He tries again, only to end up wandering deeper and deeper in the woods.  Looking for garbage to pick up (to impress the girl), he finds a strange, carved piece of wood.  On one side is carved some letters, which, when read out loud, turn Rufus into BIGFOOT!

Rufus has to find his way out of the forest, turn back into a human, and watch out for some strange, wolf-y shadows as well.  Can he do it?

So, this was a pretty fun, short graphic novel.  Rufus is a pretty typical ten year old boy, at least until he turns into Bigfoot!  The artwork reminded me a little of Brain Camp, but is a different artist.  Artwork is colorful, but has lots of black.  Not to the point where it is gloomy, but to help the reader get the idea of a dark forest.

The interplay between Rufus and the girl (Penny) is funny, especially since Rufus has a crush on Penny's older sister!  It's also interesting to see the personality of the squirrel.... Overall, though, the characters a fairly flat and static. 

This book was okay, but not great. It's probably something mid- to late elementary school boys would love, though.  Rufus is funny, has some crazy things happen to him, and finds some new friends.  I'll recommend it, but maybe not as heavily as some others.  Quick, fun read, even if it is fairly simple.  Has some potential for further books- it's tagged as #1, so more should be coming!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


by Julie Cross
352 pages
High School+

While Jackson Meyer may look and feel like an ordinary teen, he is anything but normal.  Jackson can travel back in time.  While nothing like the movies and he can't go back very far, he thinks it's amazing. Nothing changes in his current time line, and he always has to return to "home base," his natural time line.  Together with his friend Adam, he is studying his ability to see what his limits are.  All Jackson has to do is keep it secret from his dad and his girlfriend, Holly.

Then one day, something completely unexpected happens.  Men storm into Holly's room while Jackson is staying there, and shot Holly.  In the stress of the moment, Jackson jumps and time travels, but in doing so, changes where his "home base" is.  All the emotion makes him do something he has never done before.  Instead of living as a college student in 2009, Jackson must assume the role of his high school self from 2007.  Not sure of how to get home, and how to change what happened to Holly, Jackson is confused and panicking.

Things get even worse when he starts being followed by the same people that shot Holly.  How can they be back in 2007 unless they are time travellers as well?  Jackson has to figure out what is going on, and fast, so he protect himself and those he loves.

Way fun book!  Fast paced, lots of action, twists and turns! Definitely action filled! 

I loved how it started giving details about how the time travelling works- does it spin off alternative realities?  Does what happen in one time-line affect another?  It gave the reader a lot to think about and learn, just as Jackson was learning about it too.  Instead of having the narrator explain it, it naturally explains stuff.

I also really ended up liking Jackson a lot.  He has to deal with some tough situations, and it's interesting to see his thought process and why he does what he does.  While outwardly a "tough guy," things that have happened to him make him approachable and very easy to like.  Great character- I'm looking forward to see what happens to him and if he can have a happy ending.

Great book!  I'm very excited to read the next (which comes out soon!).  I said for high school age mostly for complexity, but also because of the relationship between Jackson and Holly.  While it never gives details, it is obvious that they are sleeping together.  Also, a little violent in places.  But I really enjoyed it and those things supported the story instead of being unnecessary.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

By Steve Sheinkin
272 pages
Middle School+

Part of the YALSA Best of the Best 2013 Challenge!

Meet Robert Oppenheimer-physicist, nerd, and loyal American.  Or is he?  This book follows Oppenheimer and others as they set out to create one of the strongest weapons the world has ever seen- the atomic bomb.  

This book is full of spies, intrigue, and history.  While the basic physics of how the bombs work is explained, it doesn't go deep into, something for which I was very grateful! If you like history, war, spies, or science, this is the book for you!

I actually enjoyed this a lot.  If you have seen from some of my other posts, I'm not a history buff, and don't often care to read tons of historic novels, especially non-fiction ones.  But, I am finding that I like teen targeted non-fiction much better than text books or adult focused books.  This book reminded me of Truce by Jim Murphy, another non-fiction book.  That one is shorted, but the flow was similar.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was getting to get to know some of the people involved in the process and how they felt about things.  That insight made the event a lot more realistic and approachable for me.  By knowing some of the people involved, it helped me relate more, and understand better motivations and why they did what they did.  

Another thing I appreciated in the book was organization.  Events followed, for the most part, in sequential order so it was easier to follow.  While there were several people involved, the author used clues to help remind us the role each person was playing.  The narration progressed logically, and helped show how events tied together. This book helped me understand not just about the creation of the atomic bomb, but also how it was influencing the war, how the idea came about, how it was developed and deployed, as well as the results of its use.  I understand more about history because I read this book.

Overall, this was a pretty good book.  I liked the story telling pace and order: it kept various events in sequence so it was easy to see cause and effect.  It gave background on individuals, plus tied their lives into the story as a whole.  While the ending is kind of sad and sobering, it fits since that is how they all felt.  I will recommend this, definitely!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Around the World; Three Remarkable Journeys

Around the World; Three Remarkable Journeys
by Matt Phelan
240 pages
Late Elementary

Inspired by Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, three individuals decide to take on their own journeys to explore the world. Meet a miner, a reporter and sea captain- each with different goals in life, but each one wanting to to repeat the amazing feat!

Thomas Stevens works in a mine, but wants something different in his life.  Instead of staying the darkness, he ventures out, buys a bicycle (the kind with the huge front wheel) and rides across the United States. Instead of stopping there, he gets sponsored to continue his ride around the world.  Taking a boat to England, he rides across Great Britain, Europe and even Asia.  Coming home, he had ridden a bicycle 13,500 miles.

While Phineas Fogg from Around the World in 80 Days completes the journey on time, Nellie Bly wants to beat this record.  After being rejected one year, the newspaper she writes for sends her on her journey.  Taking only one bag, she travels day and night, even meeting Jules Verne himself!  After delays in several places, can she make it back in time?

The last story tells of an old retired sailor who repairs a small sailboat, and decides to sail around the world.  Taking only the most basic of supplies, he sets off on his own.  Weathering storms and sickness, he travels the seas, sometimes facing days without any other human contact.  Can he survive the deadly seas?

So I found this book to be very interesting! While listed in the fiction area, it is based in facts, citing several resources where the the information had been found. I think because the story is retold and embellished, it counts as fiction, even though it is based on facts.

These people existed and did these amazing things!  Even in our day, many people have never traveled around the world, even though it is so much easier now.  These people were determined and accomplished feats many people never do.

This book is a great example of how literature and other arts can affect the world.  While I'm sure some people would want to travel, this book inspired people to do things they normally wouldn't do.  It is so interesting to me to see books change the world.

Overall, inspiring book!  The pictures were pretty good, but not brilliant.  The information what very interesting, and the stories well told.  Because there were three stories, each one went fast, and it was a quick read.  Great book to recommend for history or adventure lovers!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

After The Snow

After the Snow
by S. D. Crockett
304 pages
Middle School+

One of the YALSA 2013 Best of Best Challenge!

Long before Willo was born, the snow began.  And every winter grew longer. And the seas stopped working.  His world is all about surviving the cold, and using what is left of the summer to prepare for the cold to come. He and his family trap animals, sell the fur and make due with what they got.

Then one day his family is taken from him.  As he is out checking his snares, he hears screaming and shouting from his home.  He cautiously come back to see what is happening.  By the time he gets there, every one is gone.  But as he is gathering some things from his home, a shadow passes by- scavengers coming back to get what the others left.  Willo hides for the night, cold in the attic, until he knows it is safe to come out once more.

With limited supplies, Willo sets out to find a new place to survive.  As he is climbing the mountain, he passes a home with one little girl and one little boy left in it.  He says hi, then leaves them.  That night, in his little safe haven, he thinks about them all through the night.  He can't get them out of his mind.  But how is he supposed to take care of them, when he can barely survive by himself?

Just to get it out in the open- not one I will recommend (except to maybe a very limited audience).  It took me about 60 pages to get to the point where I even slightly wanted to read more.  It starts that slowly.  That first part is all in his head about his dog spirit, and how it's telling him to do this or that.  Not very fun, entertaining, or even building up tension for a story.  Just took me forever to get into this book.

Second, the narration style is stream of conscious, or Willo's thought process, and it is spelled like he says it- "cos" instead of because, lots of "ain't" and missing of proper grammar.  Not that I'm a grammar perfectionist, but it annoyed me to no end.  Because of the stream of conscious story telling, the story can jump around a little, and felt very choppy. One moment he would be thinking about one thing, and then all of a sudden, you would be remembering something, or changing the topic.  While that is how some people (including myself, often) think, this is not the best story telling method.  I have read other stories that use this style, and work, but this one did not draw me into it.

In addition to the strange story telling method, the story itself seemed to jump at times.  It would give us lots of detail in one area, and then weeks or months would go by in a sentence.  The flow was very inconsistent, and that inconsistency seemed to flow over to the characters as well.  One minute Willo can't wait to get out of the town, and then the next, he's settling in for the winter.  You lose an important character for chapters, only to have them come back later. I did not like the flow of the story, just as much as I did not like the flow of the narrative.

I will have to say the concept of the book is interesting.  I ended up liking Willo by the end, despite the weird narrative.  He grew considerably, just not necessarily at the times I thought he would have.

Overall, not one I will recommend tons.  Maybe to a boy, who loves the outdoors, who talks/thinks in that manner.  But not to most people.  Alright storyline, but the telling and the narrative completely distracted me from it.  Some people might like it, but not me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March
by Cynthia Levinson
192 pages
Late Elementary+

This review is part of the YALSA 2013 Best of the Best Challenge!

Meet Audrey, Wash, James and Arnetta, four African-American children living in Birmingham during the 1960's.  Each had a different life, different situations, and became involved in civil movements in different ways.  They lived through rampant racism and segregation, not being able to even sit at the same counter at the diner!

Follow their accounts of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, plus national trends.  Each has a different view of why they joined the march, what lead up to the event, and even where they were during it. They decided it was time to help change come about, instead of just waiting for it to happen.

This was a great subject, and it was so interesting to see their accounts of what happened.  I really liked how each was slightly different, their motivations to join were different, and their experiences varied.  It was a very strong portrayal of the Children's March, and it helped me understand more about the order of what happened during the Civil Rights movement.

I did like that they used the perspective of children in this.  Children and teens played such an important part in this event, it makes sense to tell the story from their point of view.  Helps children to identify with a historic event, instead of it being so distant and unapproachable.

To me, the storytelling felt a little choppy, jumping from one topic to another.  There were lots of names to remember, making it complicated. Admittedly, that is how history really is, with lots of people involved, but the storytelling seemed messy.  Not only were there lots of people and perspectives, but it also jumped around in time frames, as well.

Overall, this was a pretty good book.  I'm not a history buff, so it wasn't exactly what I would choose to read, but it was still entertaining.  I do wish the story order had made a little more sense, or the telling frame would have been better.  But it did redeem itself in using such a unique perspective, plus a great topic.  I will recommend it to kids interested in history, but not many others.

Monday, January 7, 2013


by Raina Telgemeier
224 pages
Middle School+

Raina is a typical twelve year old girl: she has friends, goes to girl scouts and had annoying younger siblings.  One night as she is running across the street to her home, she trips, falls and knocks out her two front teeth!  This starts a series of orthodontic and other dental experts to fix her teeth.  She becomes the dreaded "brace face!"

Along with dealing with several surgeries, she has to deal with becoming a teenager.  Friends change, bodies change, middle school has it challenges, and braces hurt.  Raina has to survive an earthquake, has a crush on a basketball player, and even gets her ears pierced.

Pretty typical adolescent story, tells of Raina's changes from little kid to teenager.  While the braces are an obvious focus, this book deals with a lot of the other issues faced by pre-teens, including first kisses, puberty, family relationships, dealing with scary things (like earthquakes!), and peer pressure.  A lot of pre-teens and teens would sympathize with her various plights.

This is a great book for dealing with all these issues, while not being completely overt about it.    The author based it on her own life, which gives it great authenticity and makes the story believable.  Based in the late 80's to early 90's, it's not totally "modern," but still had many elements that kids will identify with! I loved seeing a TV screen shot of a game Raina was playing and recognizing the game!

Overall, pretty good book.  While I listed it for Middle School aged kids, late elementary would possibly enjoy it as well, especially those starting to deal with these issues.  I would recommend this for many readers.  Great for girls wanting realistic books, but not snarky, preppy girl books or romance.  Will definitely remember it to recommend to people!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Eon and Eona

Eon and Eona
By Alison Goodman
576 pages
High School+

Eon is training to be a Dragoneye- a conduit of power for one of the twelve dragons.  Each year, 12 boys are chosen to train and present themselves as candidates.  The problem is, Eon is not a boy; Eon is a girl, really Eona, crippled by a wagon, but with spiritual gifts that allow her to see the dragons.  A female Dragoneye is unheard of: if she is found out, she will be killed.

Chosen by the dragons in remarkable fashion, Eon is trained in palace. Here she learns of intrigue and plots extending beyond just the Imperial court.  Even the Imperial Prince is involved deeply in this. She must decide where her loyalties lie, who her allies really are, and where she fits in all this mess.

On top of all of this, while her dragon manifested strongly at the Dragoneye trials, her connection seems to be growing weaker every day.  She must master channeling the dragon's power to help save the land.

So, the story telling style and plot were fantastic.  Lots of twists, turns and such.  The narrative voice was great, and the book kept me interested.  While sometimes, it got a little too focused on the intrigue, it evened out and eventually was a good balance of plot/action and intrigue.  The world is vivid, and I LOVE the dragons and how they are intertwined with the world! Great setting, interesting characters, and unique plot lines.

Some things that weren't necessarily as good: Boys are NOT going to be into this book because of all the "girl issues" present in this book.  It might even make some girls uncomfortable! And this includes talking about her monthly cycles, woman body functions vs men's, and more.  Not only this, but it talks about eunuchs, cross-dressers, and other gender issues.  This is definitely a slightly more mature book.

Another thing was how much Eona tried to deceive herself and denied her feminine side.  While I understand this book is about her hiding the fact that she is a girl, it seemed like she was hating the fact that she was a girl and would rather be a boy.  Since this book is obviously aimed more at girls, I would hope that it would be more friendly to girls, not so down on them.  Eventually she does come to accept, and even be happy that she is a girl, but so much of the books are spent without that more positive outlook.

Overall, I will be choosy about how I recommend this too.  As an adult, I was able to handle the more mature aspects, but most kids/teens would be made very uncomfortable about them.  Older teens, specifically girls, would be better for this book.  But, I do want to check out some of the author's other works, and see if the writing is just as good!