Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney

The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney
by Suzanne Harper
368 pages
Middle School+

Sparrow Delaney comes from a family of mediums, people able to see or otherwise communicate with ghosts of those departed.  Not only that, but she is also the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, destined to have strong psychic abilities. Her entire family (6 sisters, mother and grandmother) are anxiously awaiting the day she first communes with the spirits.

But she wants NOTHING to do with ghosts. Ever since she was 5 years old, she has seen them.  She can talk to them, see them and even smell them.  But she does NOT want to be known as a psychic.  She only wants to be a normal teen, have normal friends and be accepted by the rest of the world.  If she sees a ghost, she has perfected the art of ignoring them until they go away. She even jumped at the chance to go to a normal school instead of the local one with all the psychic kids.

First day at the new school, Sparrow feels like things are going well.  She's made a new friend, found her locker without any issue and is even one time to classes.  There is even a cute boy, Jack, in her history class.  But a really annoying kid is sitting behind Jack, flicking his ear.  Why isn't the teacher stopping it?  Then the annoying kid winks at Sparrow and disappears.  It had been a ghost!

Sparrow is caught up in the mystery of this ghost, Luke, and what happened to him.  When she gets assigned a project with Jack, it gives her a chance to investigate what happened to Luke, how they are connected and how she can help.  But is Sparrow brave enough to acknowledge her powers?

I really enjoyed reading this book a lot!  Yes it is a ghost story, but Sparrow goes through a lot of growth and self discovery through the course of the book.  The book is really about her learning to accept herself, her abilities and learn not to fear or mistrust them.

I would recommend this to mostly girls, but occasionally boys.  Good book, even if it's not spectacular.  Humorous moments, lots of irony, and overall, fun to read.  No inappropriate language or anything else.  Pretty good book!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage: Finishing School, Book the First
by Gail Carriger
307 pages
High School+

Sophronia is a youngest daughter, completely uncultured, and hopelessly interested in how the dumbwaiter works.  Her mother despairs of her ever becoming a sophisticated woman.  Imagine the surprise of both of them when she is invited to attend a prestigious finishing school, Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

On the way to the school, Sophronia eyes are opened.  Her carriage mates inform her that this is definitely not your typical school.  Not only is the headmistress NOT the actual headmistress, but flywaymen (similar to highwaymen, but using balloons) try to steal something from them.   The pretend headmistress faints, the coachman is knocked out, so Sophronia must take control of the situation.  Rescuing herself, plus the others, they manage to elude the flywaymen and make their way to the school, minus only their luggage.

Thus begins Sophronia's unique and highly interesting education.  Instead of merely learning etiquette, manners, and how to curtsy, she is also learning stealth, poisoning, information gathering and tumbling (most unusual!). Sophronia actually enjoys her time there and finds the classes very interesting.  But what exactly were the flywaymen after?  And what will they do if they don't get it soon?

Oh my goodness, I laughed so hard in lots of places on this book!  Carriger's humor comes through, and is wonderful.  I had a hard time putting it down!  One of my favorite lines, fairly early in the books is: "Pillover is terribly bad at being bad, if you take my meaning.  Our daddy is a founding member of the Death Weasel Confederacy, and Mummy is a kitchen chemist with questionable intent, but poor Pillover can't even bring himself to murder ants with his Depraved Lens of Crispy Magnification."  This sentence had me laughing so hard people were looking at me weird.

I really enjoyed this book (if you couldn't tell!).  The characters stay true to themselves, the plot was interesting, but not overwhelming, plus it was fun to find the connections to Carriger's other books.  This one is set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate series, but has its own characters and plot lines.

Overall, I will definitely recommend this book.  Unlike Carriger's other books, this is definitely appropriate for teens of almost any age. I put high school as my recommended level for two reasons: interest (I have a hard time seeing middle school or elementary school students interested in this) and also because it might lead the teens to Carriger's other books, which I said were more late high school or college age.  The book is funny,  interesting, and is definitely building a foundation for more adventures.  I can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Timmy Failure #1: Mistakes Were Made
by Stephan Pastis
304 pages

The name is Failure, Timmy Failure.  He runs Failure, Inc., a detective agency designed to solve all local and global mysteries!  With his partner, the polar bear Total, he prowls the city on his mother's Segway, accepting cases from other kids to look into their problems.

Timmy's major competition is the Weevil Bun, I mean Evil One: Corrina Corrina.  She has a competing detective agency and is everything evil in the world! Of course Timmy is much better at solving mysteries, but she keeps taking cases away from Timmy!  Noooo!!!!

When his Segway goes missing, he knows Corrina Corrina is behind it. Now, he must plot and find a way to get it back! He must overcome a reduction in workspace (his mother's closet), group tests at school, and even the loss of his polar bear!  Timmy must get the Segway back, or face his mother's wrath.

This was a laugh-out-loud book, all the way! Timmy is hilarious, and all his conclusions, while making me cringe, were also super funny.  The only thing I worry about is kids accepting Timmy's faulty logic as reasonable.  Hopefully they realize how ridiculous he is.

I also like that while humor is definitely the focus, there are also so serious issues that Timmy must face.  His friendship with Total the polar bear is definitely tried, he has to deal with his mother and the hard times that she is going through, and he has to face the possibility of failure in school.  Timmy has all these issues he has to cope with, and the detective agency is his way of dealing with it.

Over all, great book!  This is a great recommendation for kids that like Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Has lots of illustrations, plus the humor.  Boys will definitely dig this book, and lots of fun!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


by Mark Fearing
248 pages

When Bud moves out to the New Mexico desert with his scientist father, he feels like he is moving to the middle of nowhere.  No friends, nothing ordinary, and most of all, a new school he has to attend.  And of course, on his first day, he's almost late for the bus!  Luckily, he catches it just in time.

But did  he really catch the right bus?  Instead of being full of kids, the bus is loaded with aliens!  The bus is really a spaceship picking up all the alien kids from random planets for Cosmos Academy, the best space school in the galaxy!

Bud quickly makes a new friend in Gort, an friendly alien that helps Bud blend in, make even more friends, and not eat what looks to be a pile of food but is really a fellow student.  On top of all of this, they discover the nefarious plots of the principle to use the school as a weapon. Together, they have to figure out how to get Bud home before the principle figures out that Bud is really an Earthling, the worst type of alien there is.

This was a funny example of being the new kid in town.  Bud has to go through hazing, trying to stand up to bullies, making the bullies his friend, and even trying out for the sports team!  Any kid that has been the odd one out would enjoy Bud's antics, and recognize a kindred spirit.

I also really enjoyed the attitude of trying something different if the first thing didn't work out.  Bud and Gort have to try several different things before they finally get Bud home.  This is a great example of perseverance  and persistence. I think more kids need to learn not to give up if the first thing you try doesn't go right.

Over all, really fun book, lots of great morals but told in a way that it doesn't bash you over the head with them.  Bud and Gort do get into mischief, but it would be hard to name a book that they don't get into mischief!  Great book for boys, and it's actually fairly substantial, so keeps them occupied for more than 5 minutes.  Fun read, I'll recommend it a lot!