Monday, July 4, 2016

5 Times Revenge by Lindsay Eland

Five Times RevengeMy name is Perk, and I must get my revenge. The school principal and his son are bullies, taking advantage of students, teachers, and Tommy, my brother with special needs. Adam and I are famous for our pranks, but this one must be epic. Adam really wants to put the principals's Shelby Cobra on the school roof, but we'll need help with whatever we do. The principal's son got Ray kicked off the wrestling team, gives Dutch wedgies and steals his homework, and treated Pearl, his ex-girlfriend, very rudely. They'll be motivated to help us. Tommy means the world to me, and I won't let anyone get away with embarrassing him. I'm sure Adam will come up with an amazing plan that fits our two main rules: No one and nothing get hurt or damaged, and we don't get caught!

I didn't expect to find a story about revenge that was also fun to read. The book wasn't amazingly written, but I found myself gently sucked into the plot. The pranks were creative and believable. From the cute girl, to the nerd, to the big lug everyone assumes is dumb, they combined their talents and stories to create an unlikely team. I guess I enjoy cheering for underdogs which really fit this situation. The author did a great job of making me detest the principal and his son, so that helped develop the emotional impact of the conflict. The love between Perk, Tommy, and Adam was evident. Emotions are powerful motivators for readers. I usually read fantasy/adventure books, so my enjoyment with reading this book should show its specialness. Give it a shot!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pack of Dorks #2: Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

Pack of Dorks: Camp DorkMy name is Lucy, and I'm proud to be a dork. I didn't really want to come to this caveman, fossil camp, but Sam dared me. However, he went off to a gymnastics camp, and my parents wouldn't let me back out. I thought things would still be okay with the rest of our pack going, but I've managed to mess everything up. My best friend, April, wants to hang out with snobby Kira, but I think she'd make a perfect girlfriend for Sheldon. I'm great at bringing people together, Sam told me so, but now everybody hates me. I've said mean things to April, lied to Jer, and people think I've stolen a bracelet, necklace, and laptop. What am I doing? Why can't April act like she used to? Everything is all mixed up. I've got to make things right, but what if it all blows up in my face? Again!

This book addresses the difficulties of friendship and growing up. The first book created the pack of dorks to help outcast kids support each other, but even dorks must change! The problems faced by Lucy are normal, but she learns there are some things beyond our control. Most readers can identify with her feelings of abandonment and wanting things to stay the same. Hopefully, readers will learn a lesson along with Lucy. The book includes a snooty girl with free insults for Lucy, although Lucy later learns that things aren't what they see. The innocence of the characters is a nice change from many of the books I normally read. The kids aren't geniuses with amazing talents or maturity. They're typical new-to-be fifth graders. I still enjoy Lucy's free-spirited grandmother who provides support and advice for Lucy. She's not afraid to speak her mind or do what makes her happy. Overall, I can recommend both books in the series to any fourth or fifth graders.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles

Still a Work in ProgressMy name is Noah, and my life used to be normal. I went to school with my best friends, and we talked about which girls might like us and stupid stuff too. But I have bigger problems. I really love my sister Emma, and I appreciate her advice about kids and school. I mean, she even taught Sam how to slow dance! I can't believe he's the first one in our group to get a date. But, I'm sick of Emma's obsession with vegan food. It's disgusting, and as a matter of fact, she doesn't eat much of it herself. My parents are careful about what they say around her, and I know they're terrified that "thing" will happen again. She says everything is okay, but what if it's not? What am I supposed to do?

This book evokes many deep emotions, and it's not light reading. Noah's middle school issues are pretty common, but his sister's problems take them a notch higher. Eating disorders have been the topics of many novels, but this situation is told from the brother's point of view. The last third of the book really spans Noah's range of feelings. He's concerned, scared, angry, and confused about what's going on. How is he supposed to feel about his sister, and shouldn't everyone else be just as miserable? How can they go on with their lives? Noah's interactions with his two best friends will sound familiar with other middle school boys. They talk about the puzzling world of girls, teachers, school, and family. And is it just me, or does the plot include an unusual number of references to farts and bad smells? I guess the focus of middle school boys can be hard to explain. This book will touch a myriad of emotions for readers, especially boys, and it will make them think. I recommend you give it shot.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Sisters of the Sword by Maya Snow

Sisters of the Sword (Sisters of the Sword, #1)My name is Kimi. My father, the Jito, was visciously murdered by his brother. My uncle then killed my brothers, so my sister and I had to find somewhere safe to hide. We've disguised ourselves as boys and are now working as servants at a dojo. We learned samurai skills from our father, but we hope to improve them enough to rise up and get revenge against our uncle. Keeping our identities a secret has become harder, since our cousin is also at the dojo. He's become a bully, and I suspect the path to our uncle will pass through my cousin.

Children vowing to kill an adult is pretty uncommon for middle grade fiction, and using female characters to do it is even rarer. It's unbelievable to think the young girls will become skilled enough to kill an experienced, ruthless samurai, but the plot is still entertaining. The first part of the book started quickly with the father's murder, but the middle portion of the plot slowed down. I was surprised with the conclusion of the book and don't understand how the conflict merits a sequel. There must be big changes in store.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793My name is Matilda. Yellow Fever is spreading throughout Philadelphia, and many of our neighbors are fleeing the city. Catching the fever will most certainly result in death. My mother, grandfather, and I are doing our best to keep the coffee house going, but fear of the fever makes people crazy. My mother orders me out of the city after she falls ill. My grandfather and I are left stranded, and the next thing I know, I wake up in a hospital with the fever, waiting to see if it will kill me too. 

Books like this are attractive, because they're based on actual people and events. The author captures the paranoia that goes with a deadly disease spreading across Philadelphia. The cause is unknown, so the medical treatments are pure guesswork. I was happy to see Maddie finally realizing blood-letting actually harms the patients! Her character displays great courage and determination against overwhelming physical and emotional obstacles. The plot has little action, but the epidemic creates a compelling problem. Lovers of historical fiction will savor this book.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1)My name is Delphine. Papa is sending my sisters and I to Oakland to spend a month with Cecile, our mama, for the next month. But Cecilie left us when Fern was just a baby, and she don't want us around. She says she never asked for us to come and won't even let us go in the kitchen for a glass of water! She sends us to Ming's for Chinese food cause she won't cook, and we have to walk to the Center every morning for breakfast. The Black Panthers run the Center, Cecilie prints posters for them too, and I'm scared we might get hurt. The Panthers protest against the police for the rights of us colored people, and we color posters for them after eating breakfast. The police don't like the Panthers, and I heard about a boy, only a couple years older than me, who was shot down right in the middle of the street! I have a bad feeling about the rally in two weeks, but I'll never forget what happens there.

This story takes place in the early sixties during the civil rights movement. It shares the frustrations and anger of minorities during that time, and it shares the frustrations and anger of daughters trying to understand a mother who abandoned them. The author describes the mother's lack of emotions toward her kids, and the resolution doesn't satisfy my frustrations toward her. I enjoyed the closeness of the girls and how they stuck up for each other. I was surprised and amused by Fern's poem at the rally. Who would have thought this little girl could steal the show at a civil rights demonstration?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer

This book is the first in a series, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Enola's mother disappears, and no one is sure if she is alive or dead. Enola's mother has left her some clues and some money, so she decides to run away and search for her mother. She doesn't want her brothers, especially Sherlock Holmes, knowing where she's gone. During her adventures, Enola reads in the newspaper about a missing boy and finds herself in the middle of the problem. The conflict and plot center around Enola's search for her mother and also the missing marquess.

The beginning of the book seemed to drag on a bit, but it became more interesting once Enola's brothers entered the story. The action picked up even more once Enola ran away and was on her own. I enjoyed how Enola tried to out-think Sherlock Holmes, so he wouldn't be able to find her. She was very creative and had great deductive thinking skills, just like her famous brother. She was also able to solve the mystery of the missing boy before him.

The series continues in book two as Enola continues the search for her mother. I assume the beginning of the second book will be better, because the author won't need to go into much detail to describe Enola's situation.