Thursday, February 28, 2013


by Sarah Rees Brennan
384 pages
Middle School+

Kami Glass has the ultimate imaginary friend; he even talks back to her.  She has talked to Jared in her head since she was a child. While it may seem weird to everyone else, she enjoys having a best friend that is honest with her, and is hers alone.  Being half an outsider in her little town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, it's comforting to always know that she can at least talk to Jared.

Then one day, the entire town is in an uproar.  The Lynburns, the local "aristocracy", have moved back into their mansion on the edge of town. No one has seen them for years, and their reappearance has been waited for.  Kami, not truly a native of the town, shrugs off this momentous event, only noticing it to try to write a column about it in her newspaper.

Then, Kami meets Ash Lynburn.  Sunshine incarnate, he wows her, and starts to sweep her off her feet.  Not sure if she wants to be swept, Kami hesitates before getting too serious.  All the rumors she has heard about the family, she is not sure she wants to be involved with it.

And then, she meets his cousin, Jared Lynburn.  First, she is startled by the similar name to her imaginary friend.  After talking to each other, she realizes he is her imaginary friend, only not so imaginary.  Able to speak mind to mind, they have few secrets from each other, can tell what the other if feeling, and are connected deeper than they imagined.  Jared and Ash are both jealous of the other, each wanting Kami for their own.

On top of all this, strange things start happening in Sorry-in-the-Vale.  Screams are heard in the forest directly behind Kami's house.  People are getting hurt, and the village seems to connect the Lynburns to the incidents.  Caught in the middle of everything, Kami learns more about Jared and his family than she ever wanted to know.

So, this was a book I randomly picked up while looking for something else, but I'm glad I did!  A good alternative to other paranormal romances, I found it much more intriguing and interesting. What would it be like to have the voice in your head, that you shared everything with, suddenly turn real?

The one thing I did NOT like about this book- the ending!  Oh my goodness!  While it does have a climatic scene, and action, it didn't seem like enough.  There is way too much left undone or unresolved to make me feel completed as I finished the book.  I don't expect every little thread of the story to be wrapped up, but to me, the ending left a lot more questions and created more unresolved problems than it needed to.

I did really like the character interactions.  Kami has some very interesting friends, from a long-time loyal friend to a newer, not so sure about this, friend.  Plus, there are great scenes between her and Ash and Jared.  Ash likes her, and tries to kiss her, but she has the hardest time because Jared is always in the back of her head.  Also, Kami and Jared are trying to get over this "my imaginary friend that everyone told me doesn't really exist is really real" feeling and the awkwardness of having someone know everything that goes through your mind.

Overall, pretty good book, just not thrilled with the ending.  There is obviously more coming, but that ending kind of distracted me from the rest of the book.  I am eager to read the sequel, just to see what happens next!  Good book, nothing inappropriate happens (I think a kiss is the worst), but lots of tension and mystery involved too!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


by Neil Gaiman
288 pages
High School+

Tristran Thorn lives in a small English village that is only notable because it is next to the Wall, the barrier between our world and Faerie.  Only once every nine years is the Wall crossed for a mystical market.  Tristran is only notable because of his sighing over a beautiful, but distant, Victoria.  As he woos her, he promises to bring her a fallen star to prove his devotion to her.  Determined to gain that star and sin Victoria's hand, Tristran crosses the Wall.

Entering into a world that is completely new to him, Tristran is overwhelmed by everything strange and different from his sheltered life.  Once he finds the star, instead of a hunk of rock, he finds a beautiful girl.  But he isn't the only hunter of this star.  Witches, princes and more hunt the star, and now Tristran, as he journeys to find love.

So, like most people, I like the movie better than the book, but I still like the book.  The tongue-in-cheek humor reminded me of The Princess Bride, but not as philosophical or bitingly satirical.  But definitely lots of adventure, lots of fantasy, lots of twists, lots of fun!

I would definitely keep this to high school, and probably even later high school, due to an early scene in the book (Tristran's conception) that is a little too graphic for even my taste.  While not horrible, not necessarily something I want to read or that I want kids to read.

Overall, fun book.  Not quite as good as the movie, but still good.  Characters are likable, and the plot is entertaining.  The story telling voice is different than a normal fantasy, but to me, that is part of the uniqueness of the book. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


by Zack Giallongo
240 pages
Middle School+

Princess Zora is climbing the mountain to look for the lost tribe. After being chased by some really large, furry animal, losing all her supplies, and sleeping in the rough, she is ready to be welcomed by the clan.  Instead of finding a thriving village, she finds nothing but decay, death and one lone boy who claims to be the king of the tribe.

Meet Broxo, the lone survivor of a tragedy that eliminated the rest of his clan.  With no one but his pet beast Migo, he roams the mountain, fighting the undead that threaten him, and trying his best to survive.  Uncultured and alone, Zora is a strange intrusion into his solitary life.  He finds her struggling to find something to eat, takes pity on her, and leads her back to his cave.

Together, they start finding clues about what really decimated Broxo's clan. When Zora follows Broxo, the undead attack and Zora is hurt.  Broxo takes her to the only person he knows that can help, the witch, Ulith.  Slightly disturbed by her, Broxo and Zora need to discover what happened in the past, and if they can do anything to help put the undead to rest.

This was a really interesting, well told and gorgeously illustrated novel.  Through flashbacks and little quirks, you get to know the characters and be invested in their welfare.  You even have sympathy for the villain during part of the story, and you're not quite sure if this person is a villain or an ally (trying NOT to spoil the story..).

The layout is a little cluttered, occasionally making it harder to read the page.  When this happens, you get little distracted from the story.  Plus, while I like the flashbacks for the information they give on the characters, they chop up the flow of the story as well. 

Themes in the book to look for: family (both blood and acquired), loyalty, courage, strength of character, and friendship.

Over all, I really enjoyed this, and look forward to other stories with these characters, or more by this author.  Great book! I would recommend for late elementary (at the very earliest!), or more likely for middle school.  While more geared toward boys, I think girls that like fantasy will like this as well, especially if they like zombies!

Friday, February 22, 2013


by Gail Carriger
384 pages
Late High School+

Alexia Tarabotti has resigned herself to the life of a spinster.  At the age of 25, she is past the typical marrying age, plus she is half Italian.  Rather than being the blond, slender and timid, Alexia is tan, robust, and has a rather forceful personality.  On top of all of this, she is soulless, complete opposite of the vampires and werewolves now accepted into polite Society. 

When Alexia accidentally kills a vampire at a party, an investigation ensues.  And sent out to resolve the matter is Lord Conall Maccon, Scottish werewolf, and leader of the London pack.  He and Alexia have not gotten along ever since the hedgehog incident, and he is very disgruntled to find her at the center of this mess.  Try as he might, Lord Maccon can't avoid what she does to his sensibilities.

As Alexia and Lord Maccon look into the issues, more questions start arising.  What was that vampire doing at that party, in a cheap shirt and half starved?  Who continually tries to abduct Alexia?  And who or what is the wax-faced person that keeps coming after her?  As they try to resolve all this conundrums, Alexia must fend off the increasing amorous advances of a werewolf losing control as the full moon approaches...

So, this is definitely something that I would wait until late high school, or even after to recommend. Alexia and Lord Maccon get into several slightly compromising positions, plus (SPOILERS!) they get married and he seduces her in the carriage.  While not as graphic as some romances, it still gives more detail than most teenagers want.  So, keep it to late teens, or even out of high school before reading it.

Other than that, this is such a fun book.  The word play between Alexia and Lord Maccon is great, the writing if fun, and it's a very interesting and innovative world.  Set in Victorian England, it is based on the idea that werewolves and vampires are integrated into Society.  One of Alexia's good friends is a vampire, that she only visits after dark, of course.  They even have a branch of government dedicated to them. 

I also like the idea of what Alexia is: a preternatural, or someone with a complete lack of soul.  Vampires, werewolves, and ghost are most likely created in someone with an excess of soul, usually someone involved in artistic careers.  Alexia is their opposite, and can actually cancel their abilities through her touch.  So, if she touches her vampire friend, he becomes mortal again while in contact with her.  Such a great idea, and the author has fun with that!

Overall, this is a really fun book!  I have gone back a reread it several times, that's how much I have enjoyed it.  I would wait until late high school or after to recommend it, due to some sexual innuendos and scenes.  But very witty and fun, a great read for the supernatural scene!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mr. and Mrs Bunny- Detectives Extraordinaire!

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-- Detectives Extraordinaire!
By Mrs. Bunny, translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
256 pages

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny decide to leave their large, mostly empty home for a smaller home closer to town.  There, they have easy access to town with a stores, clubs and even a hat shop!  They want to buy fedoras so they can become detectives! And their first customer is Madeline.

Madeline is in fifth grade, and for graduation needs white shoes. She can't really expect her parent to help with it; they would rather spend money preparing for the summer solstice luminaries.  Madeline is the sensible one in the family, taking care of things around the house and managing the finances.  Her parents Flo and Mildred love everything, but don't have an intelligent though between the two of them.

One night, foxes come to see Flo and Mildred.  The foxes want to know where Uncle Runyon lives, who can decode the recipes left behind by Fanny Fox, the greatest fox chef ever.  When Flo and Mildred can't remember when Uncle Runyon lives, the foxes kidnapped them, and leave a note for Madeline.

Madeline must now turn to Mr. and Mrs. Bunny to help solve the mystery.  Together, they visit marmots, go to hat club, stand before the Bunny Council for various crimes, and even eat at the Olde Spaghetti Factory.  But can they find Madeline's parents before the foxes completely freak out???

This was a pretty fun book.  This would be a great book for earlier chapter book for kids.  While it has 256 pages, it goes really fast, and has the occasionally illustrations.  Definitely humorous, has a couple twists and turns.  Tongue in check humor- kids will get some, but the older the kids will get even more. Very fun! Great introduction to the mystery genre for kids!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lio: There's a Monster in My Socks

Lio: There's a Monster in My Socks
by Mark Tatulli
224 pages
Late Elementary+

Lio, with his hair sticking up, in many ways is just like many boys: likes gross things, hates chores, and is excited to get a C on his homework instead of an F.  But, in many other ways, he is definitely NOT normal: instead of a pet dog, he has a pet squid, and he likes the monsters under the bed.

Follow Lio as he creates time machines, raises Godzilla, and has science experiments go wrong!  Will aliens abduct him before he can take over the earth???

So, this made me laugh out loud as I was reading it. In a library.  Not the best place to laugh out loud.  But it was just that funny.  I really enjoyed reading it, and can think of tons of boys that would totally laugh at it.  It reminds me a little of Calvin and Hobbes, but a little more modern, not as philosophical, and still tons of fun.

Most of the panels are just a page in length, making the reading go really quick. Plus, there is not a ton of vocabulary, so this would be good for a reluctant reader.  I put it as later elementary, mostly because of some scary looking monsters and mischief that Lio gets in.

Overall, this was so much fun to read!  I would definitely give it to almost any boy, especially those into science and monsters.  Quick read, quirky humor, and great expressions.  Since there isn't a ton of text, the facial expressions really help fill that gap.  Check it out!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle
245 pages
Elementary School+

Meg hasn't been happy since her father disappeared.  She is struggling in school even though she is smart, has issues with other kids, and tries to get along with her family.  Everyone wants to pick on her quirky little brother who is brilliant, but has issues interacting with people other than Meg.  All in all, Meg is miserable, and doesn't have much hope that it will get better any time soon.

One night, when Meg can't sleep, her little brother Charles introduces her and her mother to Mrs. Whatsit, a strange, wandering old woman who speaks as strangely as she looks.  They snack on some food, and as Mrs. Whatsit is leaving, she mentions something about a tesseract.  Meg's mother pales, and tells Meg and Charles that their father was studying tesseracts before he disappeared.  Confused by this random comment, Meg tries to continue on with life.

The next day at school, Meg meets Calvin, a local boy almost as quirky as Charles.  They talk on the way, and meet Charles in the woods near their house.  Charles leads them into the woods to see Mrs Whatsit again, and meet Mrs. Who, another strange woman.  Together, they start on an adventure to find Meg's father, and join the battle of light versus dark.

This is an older book, but still great!  Has some great themes in it, and helps reach out to kids or teens that feel lonely and outcast.  Meg feels things most teens feel, and finds ways to overcome them.  The journey they go on is as much about understanding themselves as rescuing her father.

Another huge theme is light versus dark.  The enemy's influence is shown by a shadow over a world, the lose of light.  The worlds that have been overcome are signified by loss of light.  The brighter the star, the less influence this enemy has.  Inside that theme, there is definitely a Christian or religious interpretation.  Much like the Chronicles of Narnia, this book, and its sequels, can be read as simply adventure books or as metaphors for religious symbols.

With the light and dark theme, is also the theme of individual thought versus conformity. In their adventure, they come across a city that every home is exactly the same, the kids bounce the ball at the same time, and the mothers call the kids in at the exact same moment.  Everything is standardized and breaking away from the standard is punished.  The author really pushes the idea that thinking for yourself is the best thing to do.

Overall, great book with lots of interesting themes that could be discussed.  While published years ago, still has modern value and application.  Many other themes could be discussed, such as family relationships, bullying, hope, bravery, and second chances.  Very good!  I would recommend this for boys and girls, later elementary and older.  Nothing inappropriate, just probably more interesting to that age, rather than earlier.  Any scientific concepts are explained, so science is not a barrier to understanding the book.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
262 pages
Elementary School+

Ha only knows her life in Saigon, trouble though it may be.  She loves her mother and brothers, misses her father, and anxiously waits for her mango tree to bear it's fruit.  While not perfect, the only thing Ha has to wish for on her birthday is for her father to come home from the army so Mother would be happy again.

But the faraway war slowly grows closer.  Her uncle urges her mother to leave while they can, but she keeps waiting until she hears from Ha's father.  When Saigon falls, they are forced to leave with thousands of other refugees.  Ha's family board a boat bound for America, the land of hope.

Follow Ha and her family as they cross an ocean, leaving behind everything they know for a strange place called Alabama.  They must learn to eat fried chicken, not fresh, and also learn how to fit in with people that don't understand her language.  After being mocked for everything from her name to her hair, Ha is ready to return to Saigon, but that might be one wish that can never come true.

Written in poetry, this story is moving, touching and speaks to the heart of many girls.  While not all girls have to cross an ocean and flee war, they can understand Ha's frustration in school.  Kids will identify with her struggles to fit in and find friends among strangers.

Another strong theme in this book is finding strength within your family.  Ha is constantly turning to her brothers and mother, both to help them and to find refuge from the strange world around her.  It is together that they make it, not as individuals.

This is a quick, easy read with lots of white space, due to the poetry format.  While it doesn't rhyme, it still flows very well.  Ha is a strong, growing character that many children, especially those in a new surrounding, will identify with.  Good book, will definitely recommend it a lot!