Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney

The Face on the Milk Carton (Janie Johnson, #1)This book is the first in the series; I actually read the third book first! Janie is a typical sophomore in high school and sits down to have lunch with her friends. She picks up her friend's carton of milk carton and notices the face of a three-year-old girl on the side. She freezes and thinks, "I remember that dress." Is it possible that she could have been kidnapped? Janie becomes obsessed with finding out about this little girl, and memories start to pop back into her head. Smiling faces, ice cream, twin brothers, and a sister. Janie has two loving parents, but they couldn't have stolen her from another family, could they? With the help of her new boyfriend, Janie sets out to discover the truth. A missing birth certificate, a sister her parents won't talk about, and all of those memories. What IS the truth?

You really need to read the books in order, because the next one picks up where the previous book leaves off. The conflict is pretty huge, as Janie is forced to question her whole life. She loves her parents, but has it all been a lie? She doesn't want to believe she actually belongs to another family, but what if it's true? Don't they deserve to know their long-lost daughter is alive and well? As I mentioned, the series will read like one long book, so be prepared to get hooked on the adventure!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

Watch the SkyJory's family lives just outside of town, and they're a little strange. His stepfather holds frequent drills in the middle of the night, so the family will be ready for some unknown emergency. His little "sister", Kit showed up in the backyard one day and hasn't said a word in three years. The stepfather says a meteor shower is the sign he's been waiting for, so he has the family start digging a shelter into the base of the canyon. He won't tell the family what the danger might be, but he says the family needs to trust him. No one can find out what they're doing, and no one can find out about Kit. Jory makes some friends when he returns to public school, but that only makes it harder to keep secrets. Jory wonders if his stepfather is wrong; what if there is no danger coming? But what if he's right.

The plot is a bit unusual. The stepfather is certain that something is going to happen, and he's sure he sees signs of the impending disaster. He looks to the skies when he talks about it, but he won't the danger is aliens. Jory's character is put in a tough spot. He wants to be a faithful son, so he helps prepare the shelter as best he can. However, he likes going to the public school and making friends. Kit is a mysterious character, and Jory discovers a secret about her. I wish there had been more of a resolution to the book, because I'm left with many questions about the family's survival.

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean, Trivia QueenOlivia is obsessed with the television show Jeopardy, and she's excited to hear "Kid's Week" is coming up. However, a parent must complete the application to appear on the show, and that's a problem right now. Her father married her best friend's mother and moved to California. He also has a serious gambling problem and isn't very reliable. Olivia's mother just lost her job, and her new boyfriend recently moved in. Olivia is upset with how he acts like her new dad and disturbs her time watching Jeopardy. And then there's the boy living next door. Olivia feels she can't let him beat her at school, but she has no confidence when it comes to geography. She's confused when he starts being nice to her, but then he teases her on the way to school. She's confused by all of these problems, the Jeopardy audition is coming up soon, And she just has to get on that show!

This book had many common problems found in other books. New adult in the house, boy/girl relationships, and trying to impress the divorced, unreliable father. I enjoy trivia, and this book was full of it. Olivia's little brother added a humorous touch to the plot, since he was obsessed with gross trivia. Do you know why an ostrich pees on itself? I enjoyed watching Olivia's character overcome her insecurities and how she discovered the people in her life who were truly special.

The Voice on the Radio by Caroline Cooney

The Voice on the Radio (Janie Johnson, #3)This book is the third in a series, although I did not read the first two yet. Janie is still recovering mentally after discovering she was kidnapped as a young child. She loves the parents who raised her, but she's trying to accept the realization that she has another set of birth parents. Her boyfriend, Reeve, is away at college, and he's adjusting to his new life. However, he makes a big mistake. He wants to make an impression as a radio deejay, so he tells Janie's story on the air. Students and faculty at the college are drawn into his broadcasts, and they expect more. Reeve continues to share Janie's life until two things happen. Janie surprises Reeve when she visits the college, and a mysterious listener calls the station. This listener.can create even bigger problems for everyone.

You should read the first two books in the series, starting with "The Face on the Milk Carton". Reeve is an impulsive character who doesn't think about the consequences of his decisions. Meanwhile, Janie is learning to accept the fact that she has a second family that loves her, but they are all strangers to her. Obviously, it's easy to predict that she's in for a huge conflict with her boyfriend. The plot offers several different issues through Reeve, Janie, and Hannah. Be sure to read the first book in the series to learn a little bit about Hannah!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe setting is in Germany, during World War II. Liesl's brother dies on a train, as their mother delivers them to a foster home. Life is hard for Liesl, but she leans on her foster father, Hans, for comfort and support. He reads with her every night, as she wakes up with nightmares, and Liesl finds comfort in books. She receives a few as gifts, she steals a few more, but her most special book is "The Gravedigger's Handbook". She found it on the ground when her brother was buried. As the months and years go by, Liesl becomes friends with Rudy. They play together, go to school together, and steal together. Liesl's step parents do their best to keep food on the table, as work and money become scarce. Then, their lives take a dangerous turn when the family hides a Jew in the basement. The only thing worse than a Jew in your basement, living among Nazis, during World War II, is a dead Jew in your basement.

Although he never identifies himself, the Grim Reaper is the narrator of the story. As you can imagine, he provides a different point of view to German life during a huge war. Liesl has an admirable obsession with books, and she has strong compassion for others. She truly loves her new papa and worries constantly about the sick Jew in the basement. She even cares about her grumpy, grouchy, insulting mama. The book shares the story of German citizens during the war, and not all citizens are pro-Hitler Nazis. Liesl's papa is one person who did not join the Nazi party right away, and his family suffered because of that decision. The author paints a descriptive picture of Liesl's life growing up, and contrasts that with the life and death reality of a war-torn country.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

The Terrible TwoMiles Murphy is depressed. He's forced to leave his friends and the ocean behind, because his mom is moving to Yawney Valley, a city that's proud of its cows. He's determined to establish his reputation as the greatest prankster at his new school, but he's surprised by what he finds on his first day. Someone has moved the principal's car to the top of the stairs, blocking the front entrance to the building. No one knows how it got there, but the principal blames Miles. Miles is impressed by this prank by an unknown student, so he starts making his own plan that will make everyone realize he is the top prankster. He manages to get hundreds of people, including the principal, to attend a huge birthday party for a student who doesn't exist, but things don't turn out the way he expected. The unknown student asks Miles to team up with him, but Miles declares a prank war instead!

I'm guessing most readers will enjoy the pranks. It's funny how all of Mile's plans get messed up, and the other student always bests him. The principal is a funny character. He's a fifth-generation principal at the school, and his son is a bully. The principal is obsessed with rules and cows. He even gives Miles a book full of cow facts that's important to the climax of the book. There aren't any deep messages about life, but it's a fun story.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Almost HomeSugar is an intelligent and kind young girl, but her mother can't pay the mortgage on the house. Her absent father is addicted to gambling and racked up debts that cause the bank to take their home away. A stranger gives Sugar a puppy, she calls him Shush, even though Sugar's family doesn't have money to care for it. Sugar's mom takes them to Chicago where she hopes to get a cleaning job and temporary housing with a cousin. The job and housing fall through, Sugar's mom is sent to a mental hospital, and Sugar is sent to a foster home. The foster home is wonderful for Sugar, and her mom is slowly getting better. Things seem to be looking up until her dad comes back into the picture. Sugar's mom thinks the father will solve all of their problems, but their future is very uncertain.

This book addresses the topics of homelessness, foster care, and divorce. The plot shows how complicated these matters can be and how they can harm good people. Sugar's character is very sweet and kind. She is strong-willed, but her mother's issues test her limits. Foster care doesn't always get a good rap, so it was nice to see Sugar end up in a loving home. Sugar's mother was pushed to the point of a breakdown, and her faith in her husband let her down. Be careful what you wish for.