Friday, August 30, 2013

Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking

Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking
by Alan Katz
drawings by Edward Koren
160 pages

This collection of poems reminded me a lot of Shel Silverstein.  Same type of humor and lots of play on words.  It also has little illustrations that go with each poem!  Very fun!

Not a lot to write about, though!  Good book!  If kids like humor, they'll like this! Super fun book, I'll recommend it to kids, definitely!

 This was one of my favorites.  Enjoy!

"What a Gas!" (from Poems I Wrote When No One Was Looking) by Alan Katz

My two brothers,
Mom and Dad, and I
went to the Museum of Fine Arts.
We had spicy food right before we arrived-
now it's the Museum of Five Farts.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield
by John Bemelmans Marciano
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
144 pages
Late Elementary+

The Baddenfields are the worst people around.  Alexander's ancestors have done horrible things: blamed Abe Lincoln for chopping down a tree, spiked Rip Van Winkle's drink so he would sleep, and even tried to kill the last remaining black pygmy rhinoceroses!  As last of the Baddenfields, Alexander has to live up to his family name!

And Alexander has a fantastic idea: why must only cats have nine lives?  He wants nine lives too!  He searches everywhere for a doctor that will transfer a cat's lives to him.  After going through the best doctors in the world, he finally finds Kranstenenif, a crazy scientist who specializes in grafting different animals together, like a rabbittortoise (a hare wearing the shell of a turtle).  When he hears of Alexander's strange request, he is ecstatic! He knows just the organ to transfer.  After a successful operation, Alexander now has eight lives (one being spent in the operation) to use doing what he does best: being bad.

After trying all the foods he couldn't eat before (he might be allergic), he comes up with a great idea: let's see if the third rail on the subway really is fatal!  After that, he kind of drowns, really drowns, flies through the air, and even enters a bull fight.  But it's never enough for him.  Alexander must be as bad as possible.

So, first of all, I won this as an advanced uncorrected proof on Goodreads.  Yay for winning books!  I was very excited to get this and to read it!

Next, I laughed so hard while reading this.  Alexander is pretty much the most spoiled, rotten little kid you can imagine.  But what happens to him is pretty funny.  The humor is kind of grim (spoiler, he does lose all his lives), so while funny, it's a certain type of funny that will appeal to some but not others.  It's kind of grim and graphic, since Alexander dies 9 times, so I will be careful who I recommend it to.

The background for the story was really well built.  The reader gets a look at Baddenfield genealogy, but it's not boring like a back-story can be occasionally.  But it's necessary for understanding the story and why Alexander is the way he is, plus what Winterbottom serves Alexander the way he does.   Good use of introducing the story.

I also liked the illustrations.  Totally adds to the story, and breaks up some heavy seeming text blocks.  They really help the reader increase their understanding of the characters and get a good sense of the humor of the story. 

Overall, this was a fun book, great humor, great characters and back-story, and good balance with the illustrations.  Will appeal to the kids that like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, or other books like that.  Kind of grim, so I will be careful who I recommend to, probably mostly boys that want a funny, scary book.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


by Chris Wooding and Cassandra Diaz
176 pages

Seifer Tombchewer is a darkling: a flying being that loves skullball (think flying soccer but more violent), likes his family alright, but sometimes wonders if there is more beyond his little village.  Reading books is frowned upon by his father who loves sports, but it's how Seifer satisfies his curiosity.  Dreaming of more, he practices his skullball skills, and visits his grandpa to read some more books.

Then one day he wakes up in a palace with a splitting headache.  Abducted by spies, he is the spitting image of Prince Talon of the Pandemonium tribe, who is missing.  There to replace Talon, Seifer must learn how to act princely enough to fool not just the prince's family and allies, but also his enemies.  The hardest one to fool: Talon's huge cat who tries to swallow Seifer every time they meet.

Thrust into the middle of intrigue, Seifer must figure out who to trust, make new friends, and also discover his hidden enemies.  Responsible for the safety of the kingdom, he needs to figure out how to win the wars they are already fighting without plunging them into more.  And above all, no one can know who he really is.  Driven by his own moral compass, which Talon apparently never had, Seifer must become a prince to save the realm.

I really enjoyed this book!  It reminds me of some of the anime series, without being horribly dark or sickeningly cute.  It has some great humor, but balances it with serious thought.  Think Avatar: The Last Airbender, but abducted devil prince.  Kind of similar types of humor.  While Seifer always means well, sometimes his methods infuriate those around him and even seem unconventional, but are strangely effective.

Again, the writer and artist have worked together really well to obtain a great balance of story telling through art versus text.  The art often makes me laugh, but also reveals a lot of how the characters are feeling.  Some of the symbolism in the art is perfectly done, and I just loved it.

Overall, I enjoyed the artwork/text balance, the humor was great, the story line was really good, and the characters are believable.  Seifer is often doing things that I can see someone doing in a similar situation.  There are strange moments of humor throughout the book (like the prince's parents dying while working on a goat cannon).  Boys would get a kick out of it, but girls will love it too.  Read it!

Saturday, August 24, 2013


by Veronica Roth
496 pages
High School+

Long ago, the vices of men destroyed the world.  To prevent that from ever happening again, the factions were formed to bring out the best in people. At the age of sixteen you decide which faction you want to live in: Amity, Candor, Erudite, Abnegation or Dauntless become your family.  While some stay within the one they are raised in, others choose to change factions, leave their family, and start a new life.

Beatrice Prior grew up in Abnegation, always striving to be selfless and serve others.  While her parents and brother are great examples of this, she struggles to have the right frame of mind.  When her birthday comes, and she finally get to attend the choosing ceremony, instead of staying with her family, she leaves and joins Dauntless, the brave faction. On top of this, her brother, less than a year older than her and choosing his own faction, leaves to become an Erudite.

Life in the Dauntless compound is so wildly different than Beatrice could ever have imagined.  Guns and fighting classes are just the beginning.  Now known as Tris, she struggles to adapt but also hides a secret: when tested to see which faction she should belong to, her results were very abnormal.  She is Divergent, not really conforming to any one faction and able to think outside the traditions of any of the factions.  She thinks for herself, and that is dangerous.  If people learned about her secret, it could be very dangerous for her, and them.

So, I actually read this months ago, and decided to reread it since the third book is coming soon (October!) plus they are making a movie from it.  Looking back at my blog, I couldn't believe I hadn't blogged it back when I first read it.  I enjoyed it then, and I enjoyed it again, so great book!  Even knowing what happened the second time through, I had a good time reading.

Once again, truth and secrecy is a big theme in the distopian world.  Apparently the world goes to pieces because of secret plans the government doesn't want you to know about.  Even revamped governments get it wrong.  But even between individuals, truth can effect relationships.

Another big theme is bravery.  Dauntless is based on bravery but over the course of Dauntless history, the meaning of bravery has changed.  Tris sees what it has become, but isn't quite sure if she likes what she sees.  She has to discover what it means for her to be brave, personally.

Overall, great book.  I would definitely say high school or mature middle school aged, mostly because of lots of violence in the book.  While there is a little romance, it never really gets beyond kissing.  Great book, eager to see how everything gets tied up at the end!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tiger's Voyage (Tiger's Curse Series #3)

Tiger's Voyage (Tiger's Curse Series #3)
by Colleen Houck
560 pages
High School+

Kelsey, Kishan, and Mr. Kadam have finally rescued Ren from the villainous Lokesh, but there is one big problem: Ren doesn't remember Kelsey.  While everything should be right with the world, Kelsey's world is continuing to crumble.  Not only does Ren not remember her, her very presence cause him physical illness.

While Kelsey tries to cope with this new development, the search for the treasures of the goddess Durga continues.  To break the next part of the curse, not only will they have to dive in the ocean, a new skill for all of them, they will also have to face five dragons, each with their own trial to overcome.  While this might be the best treasure yet, this might also be the hardest trial they have faced so far.

So, my feelings about this book are mixed, just like Tiger's Quest.  I still like the adventure part, but the love triangle is still driving me crazy!  Was I just a super level headed teenager/young adult?  Her reactions to things just seem over the top.  Yes, she is getting confused by everything going on, but oh my goodness, she is super dramatic.

I did LOVE the dragons!  One of the things I love about dragons in general is how different each culture sees them, and even within each culture, dragons can have varied personalities and traits.  This book lives up to that.  While each of the five dragons has some traits typical to dragons (loves treasure, magical abilities), Houck did a great job of having each be different from the last.

Overall, good book, I'm sure teen girls understand and sympathize Kelsey more than I do.  I will read the next, to see what happens, but that doesn't mean I will enjoy all the drama that the love triangle creates.  Fun dragons, fun adventure, but a little too heavy for me with the love triangle business.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


by Kean Soo
160 pages
Late Elementary

Portia is smart but lonely.  With only his mother at home, and that only sometimes, no friends at school, and bullies on every side, she doesn't really enjoy life.  Even her teachers pick on her, even though she's the smartest in the class.

Then one night, when she can't sleep, she wanders downstairs and outside.  Strange noises in the woods lead her to a big purple monster, sitting the woods.  While initially scared of him, Portia quickly befriends him- she takes him home, feeds him and even teaches him how to swish through the leaves.

While at school, she sees the bullies picking on a boy, Jason.  For the first time, she stands up to the bullies for him.  Together, they get in trouble, and while waiting for the principle, the monster shows up through the window.  Instead of being scared, Jason is excited to see something so cool.  He even takes the monster home with him, feeds him cup o'noodles, and shows him TV.  Together, Jason and Portia name the monster: Jellaby.

Curious about Jellaby, Jason and Portia learn more about him and about each other.  But where did Jellaby come from?  And can Portia really trust Jason?

This was a cute, fun little book.  The color of the artwork is fairly mono-chromatic, but has little hints and bursts here and there of other colors, making it interesting.  Again, it's another good balance between text story-telling and artwork story-telling.  There's enough text, but there's also a lot told through the art.  Great balance.

Great book for talking about loneliness, friendship, and getting over being shy.  While there are fun moments, there are also some very serious themes.  I love that Portia and Jason don't get along terrifically at first.  Jellaby gets them together, but they have to work out their differences themselves.

Great book!  Very fun, but has great messages under the fun.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Saga of Rex

The Saga of Rex
by Michel Gagne
200 pages

On a world somewhere in the galaxy, the Shepherd Guardian initiates the ceremony: the gathering and trial of specimens from across the universe.  Of all the creatures brought from around the universes, only one will be chosen.

Little Rex the fox hardly expects his day to be different from any other day.  After chasing a little animal, he is swept up into an adventure that he can't begin to imagine.  He is carried away by some mystical force, meets a blue ball that morphs into a blue fox, and then set on some strange terrain he knows nothing about.

Thus begins Rex's adventures.  He sees strange lands, meets even stranger creatures and proves what he is made of.  His relentless curiosity aids him as he explores these unknown places.

I loved this book!  The beginning is a little wordy, but most of the story is told without words, and even the first part could be understood without the words.  The illustrations are a great balance between detail but not so much that it overwhelms the story; instead the illustrations enrich the story! While you can skim along, and get a general understanding of the plot, you can also take you time, enjoy the pictures and find fun little details in the story.  I loved watching Rex's expressions and feeling what he felt through them.

Overall, great book.  Girl or boy friendly, and a great twist on science fiction, without being too heavy on the science fiction.  Great book for teaching inference skills, but also good for teaching what sets Rex apart.  Definitely on my recommend list!

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Reaper of St. George Street AND Lost Souls of Savannah

The Reaper of St. George Street and Lost Souls of Savannah
written and illustrated by Andre R. Frattino
280 pages, 176 pages
Late Elementary+

In St. Augustine, Florida, the ghosts abound.  They lurk around every corner, invade the houses, and hunt the humans.  Locals know to be careful of them, but new comers aren't always safe.

Meet William, here for college and definitely NOT a believer in ghosts.  His wallet is stolen the first day, he has to put up with a super nerdy roommate, and meets a super cute girl.  Typical week for a freshman.  But one of his classes isn't exactly what he signed up for: instead of a freshman literature class, he ends up with the local paranormal expert.  They make a deal: if William can still say he doesn't believe in ghosts at the end of the semester, then the professor will give him an A+.  Determined to earn that A, he dives headlong into the studies.  But everything is not what it seems.

These were really interesting books! The artwork is just black and white, but seems detailed and active!  Great artwork, great details that helps tell the story, instead of hindering it.

I also liked that there was notes and references in the back.  The author, Frattino, actually did the research and used tales local to those specific locations to create his books.  That is awesome!  I love authors that take the time to do research for things like this, and that share their findings.  Brownie points for Frattino!

I read the second book before I read the first book, but that didn't hinder me or feel awkward.  It was actually interesting as I read the first book to see the connections and characters that carry over to the second.  I did like the second more than the first, mostly because the first seemed to drag just a little.  I wanted to go faster than the story was letting me.  But the first was pretty good.

Overall, really enjoyed both of these.  They will appeal to both boys and girls, anyone that likes the slightly creepy ghost story.  I liked it, and will recommend it to people!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Stars, A New Way to See Them

The Stars, A New Way to See Them
by H. A. Rey
160 pages

Ever looked up at night and wondered about the stars?  There are many constellations, but how do you find them?  What time of year can you see which constellations?

This book has amazing charts and detailed tools to find each constellation in the sky.  By finding the Big Dipper, the easiest of all, you are led to the rest of the constellations' locations. Easy to understand, but lots of depth for people that want a little more.

This is a great book.  I had it as a kid,and used it all the time to look at the stars.  Not only does it have the constellation charts, but also a lot of science thrown in as well. Such a great book that is simple enough for kids to use it, and it has enough that teens and even adults could continue to use it.  And I love that the author also writes Curious George!  Great book!  I highly recommend to everyone!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tiger's Quest (Tiger's Curse #2)

Tiger's Quest (Tiger's Curse #2)
by Colleen Houck
496 pages
High School

After her latest adventure in India, Kelsey decides she needs some time away from not just from the danger, but from Ren and his attention.  Still unsure of her feelings for Ren and Kishan, Kelsey goes to college, takes martial arts classes, and even starts trying to date other guys.  But just as she is starting to feel like she is getting a handle on her life, Ren follows her back to Oregon, moves in next door, and even enrolls in some college classes.  Ren insists on a second chance with Kelsey, and is willing to take things as slow as she wants to go.

While she spends time working things out with Ren, Kishan decides to show up too.  Kelsey finally make peace with her feelings with Ren, enjoys  spending time with Kishan, and feels in control of her life again.  Just in time for kidnappers to come after them.  Although Kishan and Kelsey escape, Ren is captured and taken to the mysterious man Kelsey saw in her vision.  Torn up about being separated from Ren, Kelsey travels back to India to try to figure out how to rescue Ren.

Back in India, Kelsey, Kishan and Mr. Kadam must figure out the second prophecy.  They figure the best chance of rescuing Ren comes from getting the next gift and treasure from the goddess Durga.  If they can find these treasures, then they might have a chance at getting Ren back.

So, while I am slightly addicted to the series, it also bothers me.  To me, there are two main parts to the series is the adventure story (with the mythology, treasure, and rescuing Ren) and the love story.  I really like the adventure part of the story.  It's fun, interesting to see part of a culture and mythology that I'm not as familiar with, and intriguing.  I even like the new twist on the supernatural theme: were-tigers!  Pretty cool.

But, even though I really like that part, the romance part of the story drives me batty.  Kelsey is still taking forever to figure out what she wants, is continually doubting herself and putting herself down.  Kelsey drives me crazy.

If you like romance and romantic tension, read this.  The adventure is great, but I'm really not sure if it is worth it.  I think I will finish the series, partly to figure out what happens, but also for the adventure.  Next book (I've already started it) has dragons, and sounds really interesting.  Maybe I'll just skim over the parts that Kelsey is doing her thing...

Overall, good book, just a little heavy on the romance.  I wish Kelsey was a little more sure of herself, but her feelings fit with how a lot of girls tend to feel. This book does have a really interesting twist at the end (spoilers!), so it will be interesting to see how that all works out.  Good book, I'll keep reading the series, but there are a couple things that annoy me.  Again, I'll recommend mostly to girls- I see boys having a really hard time getting into this story because of Kelsey's point of view on things.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


So, apparently I decided to take a little vacation in July.  I went camping, saw family, worked, and got my crafty groove going!  But, that all meant that I didn't read tons in July.  I did read a couple graphic novels, which I will soon post about, plus the sequel to Tiger's Curse, called Tiger's Quest and will soon blog about that too. 

Just so everyone knows, I haven't abandoned you!  Just took a short break, but soon to be back, better than ever!

And a couple quick questions: anything that you guys want me to review?  Any suggestions, books that you either really liked or have heard a lot about but haven't gotten too?  Any book lists you want? I would love to heard about what you want me to review!