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Author Archives: lharper2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Title: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Series:
Recommended for: 9th grade and up
Pages:  317
Call Number/Link:  TEEN FICTION NESS

Synopsis:  In this highly satiric exploration of the “chosen one” genre, an incredibly normal group of friends are approaching the end of high school and their parting of ways. Mikey is just trying to get through the year and hopefully ask his longtime crush to the prom. Similarly, each person in Mikey’s close-knit circle of friends is battling a myriad of highly relatable issues: jealousy, various insecurities, and dysfunctional family relationships. The beginning of each chapter also contains an update in the concurrent story line centering on the “indie kids.” These are Mikey and his pals’ extraordinary peers, those from exceptional families who are exclusively chosen whenever there is a supernatural occurrence. They’ve fought off zombies and fallen in love with vampires, and now they’re being targeted by the Immortals, a mysterious group looking for a permanent Vessel. In the end, Mikey and his friends come to grips with the ways in which they are both ordinary and extraordinary. 

I picked this book because I really liked the premise.  What DO the ordinary kids do while the chosen ones battle monsters?  Unfortunately the story fell flat for me.  Maybe it was because I listened to it as an audio book, but I found it very hard to enter the story and really care about the characters.  It’s written in kind of a stream of consciousness style that really didn’t work for me.  Each chapter starts with a brief description of what’s happening with the ‘indie’ kids followed by a chapter about the ordinary kids.  It all felt disjointed and disconnected and I got to the point where I really didn’t care what happened to the characters.  Kids who are fans of this kind of narrative (like ‘Going Bovine’) might like this and it’s gotten lots of praise from reviewers, but not from me.  Sorry.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Dystopian, Fantasy, self-esteem

 

Thieving Weasels

thieving-weaselsTitle: Thieving Weasels
Author: Billy Taylor
Series:
Recommended for: 8th grade and up
Pages: 250
Call Number/Link:  TEEN FICTION TAYLOR, B.

 

Synopsis: Cameron Smith attends an elite boarding school and has just been accepted to Princeton University alongside his beautiful girlfriend, Claire. Life for Cameron would be perfect, except that Cameron Smith is actually Skip O’Rourke, and Skip O’Rourke ran away from his grifter family four years ago…along with $100,000 of their “earnings” (because starting a new life is not cheap). But when his uncle Wonderful tracks him down, Skip’s given an ultimatum: come back to the family for one last con, or say good-bye to life as Cameron.

“One last con” is easier said than done when Skip’s family is just as merciless (and just as manipulative) as they’ve always been, and everyone around him is lying. Skip may have given up on crime, but there’s one lesson he hasn’t forgotten: always know your mark. And if you don’t know who your mark is . . . it’s probably you.

I enjoyed this book.  Ally Carter’s Heist Society books are some of my favorites and this book has some of the same feel.  It’s not quite as fanciful as the Carter books (where they talk about cons with names like Rapunzel or Big Bad Wolf with a twist).  This seems a bit grittier but still very entertaining for lovers of heist and con artist books.  Light and fun with no teen drama and angst to slow things down.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Funny

 

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The Underdogs

underdogsTitle:  The Underdogs
Author: Sara Hammel
Series:
Recommended for: 5th grade and up
Pages: 320
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION HAMMEL, S.

Synopsis: The big reveal in this mystery is not who murdered golden girl Annabel Harper at an exclusive Massachusetts tennis club—though that’s startling enough. No, there’s actually a far bigger surprise. In alternating chapters, narrator Chelsea fills readers in on all that happened the weeks before Annabel was found dead by the side of the club’s pool, and after, as a local detective examined motives and opportunities among rising teen tennis stars, rich kids, and club personnel. Annabel was a fixture at the club, where her older brother was a lifeguard, and was especially nice to Chelsea and her best friend, Evie. Beautiful and sweet, Annabel attracted a great deal of attention and jealousy. But who could have disliked her enough to murder her? As with most good cozies, the suspects are numerous and the detective is tenacious. He has to be—as Evie and Chelsea follow him around and make dangerous discoveries on their own. Meanwhile, Evie, who is teased for being overweight, discovers she has a natural gift for tennis, though her tennis pro father seems not to notice. Readers learn more about Chelsea’s mysterious and abusive past before the club’s manager adopted her. The plot is well-thought-out, and though there isn’t a great deal of character development, except in Evie’s case, there doesn’t have to be for this mystery to score. VERDICT Once they get to the end, mystery lovers will want to go back and read it all again to find the hidden clues.

I wasn’t sure about this book at first.  It took me a while to get into it.  It might be because there isn’t a lot of character development except for Chelsea and Evie.  I hung in there through the first couple of chapters to learn more about them.  It was worth it.  I really didn’t see the twist at the end coming, and that doesn’t happen very often.  I would recommend this for mystery lovers and for kids who like books with puzzles and problems to solve.  There aren’t individual puzzles, the book itself is one big puzzle.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in Juv, Mysteries

 

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The Last Boy at St. Edith’s

last boyTitle: The Last Boy at St. Edith’s
Author: Lee Gjertsen Malone
Series:
Recommended for: 5th or 6th grade and up
Pages: 260
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION MALONE, L.

Synopsis:  There used to be 27 boys at St. Edith’s Academy, but one by one they all left, leaving seventh grader Jeremy with 475 classmates—all girls. His best friends are sarcastic Claudia and prim Emily. He even lives with all girls—two sisters and his single mother. Jeremy becomes desperate to find out how his life could be different if he had even one guy friend. But to do that, he needs to go to another school. How can he get kicked out of St. Edith’s without completely damaging his chances of getting a good high school scholarship? Claudia has the answer in one word, pranks. Soon Jeremy is caught in a web of lies and pranks gone awry. Ultimately, he realizes that although he doesn’t have a single male friend at school, he has wonderful friends (who just happen to be girls) and St. Edith’s might actually be pretty great. Set in western Massachusetts, this realistic novel is grounded in the relationships between the convincingly flawed but emotionally and intellectually compelling characters. The clever dialogue is humorous yet believable. Several characters belong to a film club, and there are frequent references to films and filmmaking, which are accessible to cinema buffs and newbies alike. Short chapters and growing urgency as the pranks and stakes rise keep the plot moving quickly.

I really liked this book.  It’s funny, the characters are really well developed and it examines middles school relationships without being serious or preachy.  Jeremy’s mom is a single parent and because she works at St. Edith’s, her children get a tuition break.  Jeremy understands why his mom wants him to stay at St. Edith’s instead of going to a sketchy public school, but  the odds are definitely not in his favor.  He feels that the only way out is to get expelled.  When his pranks cause damage and injury he eventually sees who his real friends are.  This is not as goofy funny as ‘Wimpy Kid’  but the kids are funny and snarky and yet still realistic.  I would really recommend it for fans of the funny middle school ‘genre’. It rises above the rest of the pack.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

The Great and Only Barnum

barnumTitle:  The Great and Only Barnum:  The Tremendous Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum
Author:  Candace Fleming
Series:
Recommended for:  5th grade and up
Pages:  160
Call Number/Link:  J B Barnum 
Synopsis:  It is unlikely that Barnum ever actually said “There’s a sucker born every minute,” but he freely admitted to being a master of the “humbug”—a spectacle that both fooled and entertained the public. This highly readable biography uses primary sources, including Barnum’s own words, to trace the man’s roller-coaster life from his boyhood in Connecticut to his early career as the creator of the country’s most famous “museums” (comparable to sideshows) to his later role as the master of enormously successful circuses, winning and losing several fortunes along the way. Fleming captures Barnum’s exuberant personality and describes how his gift for promotion and dedication to delivering what the public wanted made him the world’s most famous showman. She also reveals the private Barnum, a man who valued culture, had deep religious beliefs, and devoted considerable time and funds to charity and public service. Fleming is admiring of Barnum, but does not dismiss his weaknesses and faults. The text is supplemented with sidebars and reproductions of period photos and illustrations, including several of Barnum’s advertisements. The bibliography includes Web sites and a selection of primary- and secondary-source books, and notes are done in paragraph format. This book goes beyond traditional biography to give students an objective and informative glimpse into the sometimes-exploitative world of 19th-century entertainment. An outstanding choice for all middle level and secondary collections.

Another biography with an awsome title.  I actually read this a while ago a just pulled it out again to re-read.  Who wouldn’t want to read a biography of Barnum?  Especially ones with pictures of sideshows, bearded ladies, and other circus performers.  It’s a great look at how we’ve changed in our definition of ‘entertainment’ and how we view those who are ‘different’.  Barnum is also the man who basically created ‘celebrity’, publicity and marketing.  He was a larger than life man who lead a larger than life existance.  Another awesome biography that’s more than just facts and figures.  It really does help bring Barnum and his world to life.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Historical

 

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Ten Days a Madwoman

TEN DAYSTitle:  Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter Nelly Bly
Author: Deborah Noyes
Series:
Recommended for: Grade 5 or 6 and up
Pages: 144
Call Number/Link:  J B Bly, N.

Synopsis:  Daring? Turbulent? Madwoman? When a book’s title includes those words, readers are bound to be inspired to open it. When the book is as well done as this one is, readers will stay through the last page. About half of the narrative is devoted to the 10 days that journalist Nellie Bly spent undercover in an asylum for mentally ill women (and women who were put there unjustly by their families). Given the high drama of these real-life events, the author’s matter-of-fact writing style keeps the narrative from veering toward sensationalism. Passages from Bly’s newspaper article about the experience are threaded into the narrative, thereby keeping her vibrant viewpoint as the dramatic center. The rest of the volume covers Bly’s other exploits, personal and professional: her venture around the world in a record-breaking 72 days, her interview with imprisoned anarchist Emma Goldman, and her own marriage at 31 to septuagenarian millionaire Robert Seaman. The illustrations are a mix of straightforward archival photos and surreal retouched photos à la Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Quirk, 2011). Because the former are captioned with historical facts and the latter are not captioned at all, it is easy to tell the difference between the actual images and the fanciful. Noyes makes history accessible and irresistible in this thrilling account of women’s lives, flagrant abuse, scandal, courage, and tenacity. The source notes are extensive, and the research is impeccable. VERDICT This excellent work is a natural fit for units on history, biography, and social studies.

I really loved this book.  I’ve started on a quest to find awesome biographies to recommend a this is a great one.  The title caught my attention but the writing and the story kept it.  Few (if any) kids today have even heard the name Nelly Bly.  Which is sad considering what a trailblazer she was for women and how much her stories influenced the world at the time.  The treatment of those in the asylum and of women in general would probably be shocking to a young person today. If we ever get a middle schooler who needs a biography (and hasn’t already picked one) this is a great one to recommend.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Juv, Non-Fiction

 

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MARTians

MArtians

Title:  MARTians

Author:  Blythe Woolston
Series:
Recommended for: 8th grade and up
Pages:  216
Call Number/Link: MARTians

Synopsis:  Last girl Zoë Zindleman, numerical ID 009-99-9999, is starting work at AllMART, where “your smile is the AllMART welcome mat.” Her living arrangements are equally bleak: she can wait for her home to be foreclosed and stripped of anything valuable now that AnnaMom has moved away, leaving Zoë behind, or move to the Warren, an abandoned strip-mall-turned-refuge for other left-behinds. With a handful of other disaffected, forgotten kids, Zoë must find her place in a world that has consumed itself beyond redemption. She may be a last girl, but her name means “life,” and Zoë isn’t ready to disappear into the AllMART abyss. Zoë wants to live.

Imagine a world run by WalMart.  Schools, government, everything is run by the corporation.  It’s a future made even eerier by it’s familiarity.  Woolston has taken consumerism to it’s logical conclusion and it leads to a world where everyone works for one of the ‘Marts).  If you have ‘potential’ you work in the store.  If you don’t (or if you question the system) you could end up on a ship harvesting plastic in and ocean garbage patch, or something worse.  The bits and pieces of details about this world that Woolston doles out are fascinating and thought provoking.  This isn’t an action packed dystopian like Divergent.  For teens who like interesting and thoughtful books with a dash of snark.  Similar to ‘Feed’ by M. T. Anderson, ‘Unwind’ by Neal Schusterman, and ‘Material Girls’ by Elaine Dimpoulos.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Dystopian, Sci-Fi

 

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