Thursday, December 29, 2011

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

Waterfall (River of Time, #1)
Rating: **
Genre: Historical fiction, sci fi, romance
Series: First of a trilogy
Pages: 369
For Gabi and Lia, it's shaping up to be yet another boring of summer of uncovering artifacts in ancient Italian burial mounds. Their mother is an archaeologist. They do that every summer. But when they decide to explore the tomb for themselves instead of watching their mom do it from afar, Gabi is swept back seven hundred years to medieval battlefield. Lia is nowhere to be found.
Waterfall avoided some of the more annoying quirks of time travel romances. Gabi is fluent in both Italian and Latin, so there's no need for everybody in Medieval Italy to magically and conveniently start speaking twenty-first century English. She doesn't cower behind knight in shining armor whenever the Bad Guys come out to play. Half the time she's the one wielding the sword.
Waterfall is a very good time travel novel, but a deplorable romance. It's obvious why Marcello (aka Sir Shiny Armor) likes Gabi. How many fourteenth century woman have the spunk to repel down a castle wall with a sword in hand, pretend to be nobility, and back-talk a man, all in effort to find and save her little sister?
But I can't see why Gabi would be willing to spend fifteen seconds of her life fantasizing over this guy. He's described as being hot and treats her with all the courtesy that befits the lady she's pretending to be. But that means nothing to me. I have to see heroic feats of bravery or heartmelting acts of kindness before I bat an eyelash.
The climax happens about a hundred pages before the end of the book. Twenty of those are necessary. The rest is an extended victory party.
Then there's the title. There is no waterfall or even a waterfall metaphor in the entire story.
Waterfall is a good read for anybody who enjoys strong protagonists, action, historical detail, and hot guys on horses (with a disappointing lack of other positive qualities).

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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Secret Journal of Brett Colton by Kay Lynn Mangum

 808    821
Rating: ****
Genre: Realistic fiction, religious, Mormon literature
Series: No sequel, but there's a companion book containing two guest apperances.
     Kathy can't stand her brother Brett, even though he died when he was seventeen and she was two. Her family talks about him as if he were a touchdown scoring martyr. He stared in his school play and became the first sophmore to play quarterback for varsity. Now it's Kathy's sophmore year. She's forced to tutor Jason West, the second sophmore to play quarterback for varsity. In addition to being an obnoxious jock, Jason is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), which happens to be the church Brett investigated before his death.
     On Kathy's sixteenth birthday, she finds a journal Brett kept for her. As Kathy reads the entries between trying to raise her grade in theater class and sorting out her feelings for Jason, she can't help but grow closer to Brett.
     Mangum's characters are unique. Brett and Jason aren't your stereotypical dumb jocks, Kathy is more than a quiet, book-loving girl. Brett's entries tie in with and add drama to whatever Kathy happens to be doing at the moment.
     Though is one of those young adult books that can appeal to a wide age range. I first read it in fourth grade, but I can see adults enjoying it. Though set and published in Utah, The Secret Journal of Brett Colton is applicable to the lives of people everywhere.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Sweet Venom (Medusa Girls #1)
Rating: *****
Genre: Mythology, fantasy, action
Pages: 345
Series: A sequel is set for release in fall 2012.
Gretchen is a huntress descended from the legendary Medusa. The only family she's ever known is her mentor, Ursula, who trained her to hunt monsters on the dark streets of San Francisco before she vanished without explanation.
Grace is a vegetarian and computer geek trying to fit in at her elite private school in a strange new city. She understands that San Francisco, being a big city, will have its share of weirdos, but that doesn't explain why she keeps running into monsters. Or a girl who could be her twin.
Greer is occupied with shoe shopping, pleasing her busy parents, and co-chairing the Immaculate Heart Alumnae Tea. She simply doesn't have time for those two girls who look eerily similar to her, aside from their woeful lack of fashion sense. Besides, monster hunting could get her clothes dirty.
But like it or not, the three of them are triplets, destined to work together to save the world.
Before I started reading, I thought it would be confusing to shift between three first person narrators, expecially because they all have similar names. But Gretchen, Grace, and Greer have such different personalities, styles, food preferences, and even language. I was never lost. Aside from Greer not appearing until chapter fifteen (well, look who decided to show up), I didn't have any problems with this book.
I loved the language, the unique characters, and the interesting but not distracting subplots, but the thing that stuck out to me is how Childs really gets teenage life. She understands that we have whiteboards instead of blackboards, powerpoint presentations are a good time to have naps, and that most schools don't have a popularity pyramid like they do in movies.
With its mythological background, Sweet Venom is a great read for anybody suffering from Percy Jackson withdrawal.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

EPIC by Conor Kostick

Rating: ***1/2
Genre: Sci fi, fantasy, adventure, dystopian
Series: Two sequels
Pages: 396
     Erik's life isn't too different from many of ours': eat, sleep, work, video games. But in Erik's world, your success in life depends on your success in Epic, a virtual reality game slightly similar to World of Warcraft. If you play well, you can live in a nice house and go to college. If you don't, you live in a tiny farm house with no future, like Erik.
     But when Erik's character dies and takes his hard earned money with it, he doesn't feel like playing by the rules anymore. When he creates his new character, he spends all his points on beauty instead of strength or weapons. That would be a pretty stupid decision if it didn't cause somebody to walk up to his character and hand over a priceless jewel. Instead of fighting easy monsters for meager money, Erik convinces his friends to help him with an impossible quest that surprises them by paying off. Big time. But when Erik makes a shocking discovery, he begins to wonder if the world might be better off without Epic.
     I like the idea of the book, but the characters bugged me, particularly Erik. He not a very interesting character and I thought the story could have been told just as well from any of his friends' point of view. At least they have one or two distinguishing characteristics. I recommend Epic to readers of sci fi and dystopian fiction, as well as people who wonder why books can't be as interesting as video games.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Rating: ***1/2
Genre: Fantasy
Series: One companion book
Pages: 352
     Mibs's family is not what you would call normal. On their thirteenth birthday, they wake up with a magical talent called a savvy. Mibs can't wait for her savvy-until an accident leaves her dad in a coma. Luckily, her savvy seems to hold the key to making him better, and it's a simple matter of sneaking aboard a bus headed toward the hospital. But everything goes wrong. The bus heads in the wrong direction, there are other stowaways who suspect something is up with Mibs, one of them is a cute boy, and she may even be wrong about her savvy.
     I didn't have high expectations when I picked up this book. The cover and idea were interesting enough, but I thought writing a 352 page book about a bus ride would be a stretch. 
     I was surprised. The characters are unique, the pace is steady, and, best of all, everything goes wrong, but the characters keep on going.

Just One Wish by Janette Rallison

Rating: *****
Genre: Realistic fiction, humor
Pages: 271
Annika's little brother, Jeremy, is dying from cancer. When he wishes for his favorite TV star to visit him before his operation, she will not say no. Annika patches together an insane plan that will involve breaking a few traffic laws, ugly hair nets, a live python, and one very handsome actor.
What I liked most about this book is Rallison's creativity. She doesn't write about a cat when she needs an animal, she'll use a python. Once again, she has created a character who's not too stupid, not too smart. None of Annika's ideas-no matter how well thought out-works the way she would hope. Either solutions come with a twist, or she's forced to replan. I would recommend this book to anybody who likes humor, practical solutions, and romance (there's a hunky actor. What did you expect?).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Twins by Caroline B. Cooney

     Warning: This is a scary (but completely clean) book. You might not want to read this if you are afraid of rats, drowning, or ice.
Rating: ****
Genre: horror, realistic fiction, and the slightest dash of paranormal
Pages: 183
     Mary Lee has always been close with her sister, Madrigal. After all, they're twins. But when Mary Lee is sent away to boarding school, she becomes withdrawn and depressed. Madrigal becomes the most well known girl in school and even scores a boyfriend. Mary Lee wishes she could live Madrigal's life.
     When a bizarre twist of fate gives Mary Lee her wish, she discovers things she never wanted to know about Madrigal. Something is definitely up with her boyfriend, and why does everyone at school seem to be afraid of her?
     The beginning was a little boring for me, since it summarizes several months in the first two chapters. But the final chapters had me on the clutching the book and muttering, "Get out of the car, Mary Lee. Get out of the car now." This is a horror book, yes, but it all comes together with a good theme.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn

Rating: *** 1/2
Genre: Romance, historical fiction
Pages: 207
Series: Crimson Thread is part of a multipe author series of fairytale retellings
     This retelling of the fairytale Rumplestiltskin is set New York, 1880. Bridget O'Malley has just arrived from Ireland with her family. All of them are struggling to find and keep jobs when Bridget lands a position as a seamstress in a rich Wellington household. That's not even the best part-she finds herself falling love with James, heir to the Wellington fortune. When the Wellington family business is in jeopardy, she manages to save it with a lot of help of Ray Stalls, her neighbor. But is it right to love James when Ray has done so much for her?
     This isn't a serious, dramatic, life changing book. It's one of the nice, happy ending paperbacks you read to escape from everyday life. And it fulfilled that purpose perfectly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright

 Stars: ****
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 122
Series: The book has one sequel, Christmas Jars Reunion
    Christmas is looking grim for newspaper writer Hope Jensen.  In addition to her mother's death, she comes home on Christmas Eve to find her apartment has been robbed. But as she waits for the police, Hope discovers a jar filled with coins somebody left for her. After talking to other jar recipients, she finds the family behind it and wants to turn them into the story of the century. She knows they want to remain anonymous, so she pretends to be a high school student doing a report on their family business. But as the Maxwells welcome her into their family, she wonders if it's right to expose the acts of kindness they've kept secret for so many years.
     Christmas Jars is a short, heartwarming novel with a good message you won't forget soon. Plus, it makes a great Christmas gift.

I So Don't Do Mysteries by Barrie Summy

Stars: ***1/2
Genre: Mystery, ghosts
Pages: 264
Series: There are currently three sequels
     Sherry's plans for spring break include hanging out with her friends, playing video games, and getting Josh, her crush, to notice her. She isn't happy when her dad and new stepmother decide to send her to San Diego while they enjoy their honeymoon. But things change when her mother's ghost shows up. She needs Sherry's help solving a mystery at the San Diego Zoo. Who is messing with the rhinos? Is it a worker at the ostrich farm next door? Or a chef at a restaurant that specializes in exotic foods? And what is she supposed to do when Josh shows up?
     I So Don't Do Mysteries is fun, light read, and a well written mystery.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Genre: Fantasy, action, some romance
Pages: 344
     Shut up in a tower by her wicked aunt, Ben (short for Benevolence) discovers an enchanted room and begins her secret trainging in the magical arts. But while Ben is busy cloning herself and walking through walls, a neighboring kingdom is trying to conquer  her beloved home. What's worse, it's looking more and more like their only hope is a pudgy, imperfect princess who can't even do needlework correctly.
     Princess Ben is a page turner. That's all I can say about it. The only thing I didn't like about this book was the word choice. She doesn't just see a castle, she espies a castle. But aside from that, it's a pretty decent book. Not only is there magic, but lots of the fiery tounged court dialouge I love in princess novels.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Lady Grace Mysteries by Grace Cavendish


Rating of series as a whole: ****
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction, action
Average number of pages: Around 200
Series: There are currently twelve books, but it's an alphabetical series so there will eventually be twenty-six. Hmm...what will they do for x and z?
     Lady Grace Cavendish is Maid of Honor to Queen Elizabeth I, but she doesn't always act like a proper lady. She has little interest in finding a husband, makes friends with a laundry maid and an acrobat, climbs trees when nobody is looking, and occasionally shoots flaming arrows at pirate ships. It's all part of her job as Lady Pursuivant, aka the queen's personal detective.
     What I like most about these books is Grace's personality. She's not a typical lady or a stereotypical tomboy. She's comfortable living in a world of needlepoint projects, but she would rather be writing in her journal (Oh, yes, the books are written in diary format). And then there's her attitude towards boys. She has a guy friend and is actually engaged in the first book (though it obviously doesn't work out) but she doesn't really care about boys-even the handsome actor she meets in book six.
     The Lady Grace Mysteries are short, captivating books I'd suggest for fans of historical fiction, mystery, action, people who don't like complicated books, and avid readers who want a light read between reading more complex books.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman

Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Genre: Realistic fiction, humor
Pages: 317
     Gil's dad used to work for The Golly Toy and Game Company before he was fired thanks to a misunderstanding. Now the entire town is against Gil's family and he wants nothing more than to move. But without his dad's job, the only way they could get enough money is for Gil to win the Gollywhopper Games, hosted by his least favorite toy company. To win, he'll have to get past complicated word puzzles, multiple choice questions, cheating contestants, complicated physical challanges, a company owner who doesn't want him there, and one very large toy gorilla.
     The Gollywhopper Games is a fun, humorous light read. I read most of it in one day, but I'm a fast reader and that was a very boring day. If you're looking for a fun read, pick this one up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History by Phillip Hoose

Rating: ****** (No, that's not a mistake)
Genre: Historical nonfiction
Pages: 264
     Every day of the school year, teenagers sit through history classes, learning about adults who shaped history. Sure, they might throw in the story of a young person here and there, when the story fits the topic. They might mention a few teenaged soldiers or the girls who went on strike for better working conditions in factories. In America, they'll certainly mention Sacagawea, who met Lewis and Clark when she was only sixteen. But for the most part, the younger side of history is nonexistent. When I ask my friends what they think about this, they respond, "Well, teenagers haven't done anything important."
     We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History, written by Phillip Hoose, proves them wrong. The book starts of with the story of Columbus' cabin boy and finishes with the young activists of the nineties. Every single story is true. Some of these youth, like Frederick Douglas and John Quincy Adams, became famous as adults. Some, such as Jennie Curtis, a young strike leader, vanished into history. Still others died as teenagers, like Samuel Maverick, a seventeen-year-old killed in the Boston Massacre.
     I like this book because it's the only one I've seen that talks about young people in history. And since the stories are real, it makes more of an impact on the reader than the average novel.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Rating: ****
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 346
Bella is an Italian immigrant, confused by the noisy, jostling streets of New York, trying to make enough money in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to bring her family over the Atlantic.
Yetta is a Russian Jewish immigrant, angered by the horrible working conditions in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, trying to get the other girls to join the labor union.
Jane is the daughter of a rich American businessman, living a pointless existence of tea parties and dress fittings, wishing for a freer, more meaningful life.
Soon the three will meet. They find friendship and a cause to fight for. But as the cover hints, they'll also be caught in a deadly fire that changes the course of history, both their own and that of America.
Uprising keeps the reader in constant suspense through fire metaphors, foreshadowing, and shifting points of view. It's told from three perspectives with a slight emphasis on Bella, though I found myself liking Yetta the most. But playing favorites is a risky game when you know only one can live to become the "Mrs. Livingston" in the prologue, relating the tragic tale of her friend's deaths to another mysterious woman named Harriet. That gave me something to torture myself over.
"It has to be Yetta, she has the most reason to live with the strike and all."
"But Bella is the most sympathetic, they can't kill her off."
"I could spare Jane, nothing really happens in her life, Bella and Yetta tell most of the story. But she's the logical choice since she doesn't even work in the factory, she works with Harriet. Never mind that she's the one to talk with a Mr. Livingston when he finally decides to grace us with a cameo appearance, just enough to taunt us, and she's not in a relationship."
"But than again, neither is Yetta, not really, they could make it work. And Bella's crush isn't that serious. It's actually the strongest relationship in the book, not that there's a lot of competition, but that makes us more attached to her, so she can't die."
Or can she?
Bella...Jane...Yetta...Livingston...Harriet....Bella. Yetta. Jane. Aaaargh! I can't take it anymore! Just bring it to an end already, give me a reason the dislike whoever dies, just make it stop. Maybe I'll take a little peak at the last chapter just to see the name...crap. Mrs. Livingston again? What happens to the rest of them?
Ahem. Anyways, Uprising surges with fire, rebellion, and injustice. The injustice with the stark contrast of wealth and poverty in 1911, I mean. Not the fact that good people sometimes die, though that's in there too. Story's nicely woven with chilling foreshadowing and metaphors comparing the labor unions to tinder-wait, haven't I already mentioned this? Oh, yes, right before the prolouge. Great. Now I'm back in that mindset.
Just read the book. I know it sounds horrible, but that just means it's well written. Besides, you can't go wrong with Margaret Peterson Haddix.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Rating: 3 1/2 stars
Genre: Fantasy
Series: This is the first of a series. The second book came out a while ago, but it is unknown how many books there will eventually be.
Pages: 240
     Desi has always wished her life was more glamorous. She is thrilled to find out that she has the rare magical ability to take on the appearance Of any princess in the world when she applies the magical 'royal rouge'. A secret agency called Facade employs her to stand in for princesses who need a day off. But Desi soon discovers that being a princess isn't all fancy parties and tiaras. For example, what is she supposed to do when Princess Elsa's old boyfriend, Prince Karl, tries to break up with her? Fortunately, Desi that she is able to not only pose as a princess, but help them fix the problems in their lives, too. Unfortunately, Desi's own life is working out to well, especially when she breaks some of Facade's most important rules...
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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman by Adrienne Kress

Rating: ****1/2
Genre: Adventure and fantasy, but mostly humor
Series: This book has a companion novel, Timothy and the Dragon's Gate
Pages: 308
Also published as Alex and the Wigpowder Treasure
    Mr. Underwood, is not a normal teacher. In addition to teaching his students fencing in P.E., he's the heir to a long-lost pirate treasure. Unfortunately, Mr. Underwood has been kidnapped by pirates and Alex has to go rescue him herself, since the police aren't being very helpful. Along the way, she meets many interesting people, including the Extremely Ginormous Octopus, a hotel owner obsessed with mind reading, a talking refrigerator, and a few very evil little old ladies.
     The plot is good, but what really makes it interesting is the writing style. While some writers would simply say, "Alex's parents died in a car crash when she was a baby. She lived with her uncle in an apartment above his shop," Kress says:
     "...Alex lived with her uncle. This was because, when she was very young, he had become her legal guardian after Alex's parents had perished while spelunking in Iceland. Together they lived alone above his shop. The shop was very special because it was on the side of a bridge. It was also very special because it was very useful. A useful shop is a shop that sells something like fruit and vegetables, because you need fruit and vegetables to stay healthy and therefore they are necessary. Whereas a nonuseful shop is a shop that sells things like antiques or jewelry, which are both lovely things, but are definitely not something you need to stay healthy, no matter what people tell you.
     Alex's uncle's shop was useul because Alex's uncle sold doorknobs, and what could be more necessary than that? If you didn't have doorknobs you would find yourself trapped and unable to get into your own home, and you'd have to sleep outside on the street. Then your home itself would become useless. Which would be horrible." -pg. 6
     If you're looking for a funny book, read this one. You won't regret it.

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The Invisible Detective: The Paranormal Puppet Show by Justin Richards

    Paranormal Puppet Show     
     Rating: ****
     Genre: Mystery, historical fiction, sci fi, paranormal
     Series: There are eight books. This is the first one
      Also published as Double Life.
     London, 1930's: The Invisible Detective is brilliant at locating missing children and pets, but nobody knows who he is...except for the four children who solve crimes in his name. But Arthur "Art" Drake, Meg, Johnny, and Flinch are facing their strangest case yet. A magician, two assistants, and an eerie collection of "paranormal puppets" move into town around the time an important politician goes missing. And could the puppets possibly be moving around in the night?
     London, Today: Arthur Drake ducks into an antique shop to get away from the rain and finds the Invisible  Detective's casebook. Strangely, his name and address are written in the book-and in his own handwriting. And why does he find he can remember things about the Invisible Detective that the casebook doesn't mention?

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My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

Rating: *****
Genre: Fantasy, romance, humor, adventure, and a dash of mystery
Pages: 320
Series: There is currently one sequel, My Unfair Godmother, but more might follow.
Savannah isn't exactly happy after her older sister steals her boyfriend. But never fear, Chrysanthemum Everstar, world's worst fairy godmother, is here to save the day! Well, sort of. Chrissy didn't do so well in fairy godmother school. Hence the 'fair'. Savannah is her extra credit project.
After Chrissy messes up Savannah's first two wishes (what part of sweet, handsome prince do you not understand?) she finds Tristan, a boy from Savannah's school who fits the wish pretty well. He's handsome and sweet, but he's not a prince. Solution? Send him back into medieval times until be becomes a prince! Together, Savannah and Tristan have to defeat a cyclops, dragon, wizard, the mysterious Black Knight, and one very angry goat before they can go home.
What I liked best about this book was how realisticaly intelligent the characters are. Too often in books, we see either complete idiots or brilliant protagonists who solve impossible puzzles in seconds. In My Fair Godmother, Savannah thinks and talks through all of her decisions. She comes up with creative plans, but as with real life, they don't always work seamlessly. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they work out, though not in the way they planned for. For example, when Savannah and Tristan have to fight the dragon, they know right away that they can't use swords and come out alive. Solution? Let's feed it gunpowder! Oh. But gunpowder doesn't exist yes. Let's invent it!
 As failproof as that idea seems, it doesn't turn out exactly...well, I'll let you read it.

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Warriors by Erin Hunter

View Image   View Image

   Rating of the series as a whole: ****1/2
  Genre: Fantasy, animal fiction
  Series: Lots and lots of books. The first one is called Into the Wild
     To be honest, Rusty's life is really boring. Aside from sleeping, eating, and chatting with the cat next door,  he doesn't do much. Then he dares to venture into the mysterious woods behind his home-and gets attacked by a wild cat. Fortunately, the wild cat, Graypaw, decides to forgive Rusty for trespassing. He introduces Rusty to some of his friends who are part of a proud band of forest cats called ThunderClan. Rusty accepts their offer to join ThunderClan, a once in several generations opportunity for a tame kitty. As he tries to prove his loyalty to his new clanmates, he begins to notice several suspicious things. A cat turns up dead the same day Rusty arrives, one of his new friends is hiding a dangerous secret, and one of the Clan's most respected cats is lying.  He wants to solve the mystery and warn his clanmates, but who would take the word of a former housecat?
     This is one of my favorite series. It has quests, prophecies, battles, cats with magical powers, and even forbidden romances (but since all the characters are cats, it doesn't get very mushy).  If you're looking for something to keep you busy, read it. There are thirty something books out right now, and new ones come quickly because they are written by multiple authors working together. The first set of six books focuses on Rusty's adventures. The next ones are about his children and grandchildren.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Boy Who Saved Baseball by John H. Ritter


   Rating: *****
   Genres: Sports, realistic fiction
       Pages: 216
I am not a baseball fan. When my parents drag me to one of my brothers' games, I bring a book. But that didn't stop me from loving The Boy Who Saved Baseball. Dillontown has always been a dusty old town in the middle of the California desert, completely unremarkable aside from the way town life revolves around baseball. But as soon as Doc, the baseball field's owner, sells his land to developers, Dillontown will become just another urban sprawl. None of the kids want their beloved baseball field cleared, so Tom tries to talk Doc out of selling. Doc agrees  to keep Dillontown as it is-if the baseball team can win their next game. That would be a good plan, except
1: The other team has a lot more practice
2: And better equipment
3: Dillontown's team sucks (especially Tom)
4: Everybody blames Tom for the impossible odds
5: The game is in exactly one week
That means Tom has seven days to put together a brilliant training program, convince a reclusive former baseball star to coach his team, work up the courage to talk to his crush, and defy an ancient Death and Doom prophecy hinting they might lose the game.
I have to admit that when my parents first popped in the audiobook, I thought, so what if their old baseball field gets the bulldozer? They can build a new, not-so-broken one. But as the book went on, I was able to see what made Dillontown so special, why the rugged, barren landscape mattered. And, most importantly, why a team of ten kids are willing to fight so hard for their town and field.
 Tom is a shy, quiet protagonist. There were times when I was so preoccupied with Crux, a mysterious stranger who rides into town (literally) and brings his superb baseball skills with him, that I almost forgot Tom existed.
If I can be so completely drawn into a book about a sport I don't particularly care about, I think you will enjoy it, too. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Billionaire's Curse

   Rating: ***1/2
   Genre: Realistic fiction, fantasy
   Pages: 352
   Series: First of a trilogy. Are all series trilogies nowadays?
  Gerald is a normal Australian boy who enjoys drawing, rock climbing, and staring at a special girl in his history class. But everything changes when his parents get him from school to fly halfway around the world to a great aunt he never met. It turns out that Great Aunt Geraldine (his parents name him Gerald to suck up to her) was very, very, very, rich and left most of her fortune to Gerald. This makes Gerald's parents very happy. They get on Gerald's new yacht to go to Gerald's new island in the Caribbean and leave him in the care of his new creepy butler. Even worse, it seems that Geraldine was murdered, and she left him a mystery to solve. Now Gerald and his new British friends, Sam and Ruby, are racing across England through mansions and secret underground tunnels. They only have a few days to solve a mystery involving the world's largest diamond, Gerald's strange magical powers, and a strange, skinny man with a knife.
     What I love most about this book is how the author was able to mix in a dash of magic without making the story revolve around fantasy. I also enjoyed the action and comedy. Who knew Ruby's gymnastics skills could come in handy while sneaking into a mansion?

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Distant Waves: A Novel of the Titanic by Suzanne Weyn


Rating: *****
Genre: ghosts, romance, historical fiction, sci fi
Pages: 330
     Jane, an aspiring newspaper writer, lives in a boring small town with her mother and four sisters. Sure, it's a small town populated almost entirely by supposed psychics and mediums, but a small town nonetheless. When her oldest sister, Mimi, decides to take a "short trip" to New York City, Jane is more than happy to join her. There Jane encounters two very interesting people: Tesla, a mad scientist working on a time machine, and Thad, his cute assistant.
    As the title suggests, Jane, her sisters, Tesla, and Thad all end up on the Titanic. Jane is trying to enjoy luxurious ship with Thad and ignore her psychic sister Amelie's prediction that the Titanic won't complete the voyage. But when tragedy strikes, more than one of Jane's loved ones will be out of time.
    This is one of my all time favorite books. I love how the author was able to mix so many genres and make it work. I also like the amount of historical details. Jane's small town is based on a real community and many of the details about Tesla are true. I would recommend this book to almost everybody, as it has something everyone can enjoy.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation by Matt Myklusch

      Rating: ***1/2
      Genre: sci fi
      Pages: 480    
      Also published as The Accidental Hero. Why do they change titles like that? It's so annoying.
     Jack, it was just another dreary day in the orphanage until two visitors showed up. The first is a robot zombie that tries to kill him. The next one if Agent Jazen Knight, an android from a secret island country called the Imagine Nation. Jazen tells Jack he has superpowers and whisks him off to the Imagine Nation.
     The Imagine Nation is a very diverse place. It is populated by aliens, robots, superheroes, knights, and ninjas, among other things. As different as they may be, they all have one thing in common: they think Jack is an evil alien-in-disguise intent on destroying earth.
    Well, all might not be the most accurate word. There are five or six people who think he's just an innocent twelve-year-old boy. Luckily, some of these people are the Imagine Nation's leaders, so Jack gets to live and practice his newfound powers. Jack meets some friends, makes some enemies, blasts a few aliens, and tries to convince everybody that he isn't an evil supervillain. But something doesn't seem quite right about the Imagine Nation. Jack is forced to take matters into his own hands and discovers a life changing secret.
     Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation is an interesting book with a shocking twist ending. I wish I could tell you, but you'll have to read it yourself.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

     Book Rating: *****
     Clean rating: *****
     Genre: romance, sci fi
     Series: First of a trilogy
     Pages: 400
     Sometimes prologues reveal things about the story to come. But this one just draws us deeper into the mystery. It mysteriously describes a young, innocent prisoner who is sentenced to walk through a foreboding black door. Though the door is not attached to anything, the prisoner simply vanishes into midair.
     Abby is having a successful, if somewhat boring, senior year. She has college applications in the mail, two great friends by her side, a cute boyfriend, and a school play to direct. On weekends, she rocks out at concerts by Zero Hour, the hottest new boy band. Then one day, a mysterious, good-looking boy walks into the auditorium during rehearsal. His name is Dante and he claims to be a foreign exchange student from Italy.
     Strange things seem to happen when Dante is around, aside from the entire female population of Abby's high school swooning. Time seems to slow down, speed up, and bend back on itself. Abby starts to get strange glimpses of the future. Who is  Dante, really? Why won't he reveal anything about his past? Why does he disappear so often? And what's up with the strange gloves he always wears?
     The Hourglass  Door is not just a romance. There's plenty of other action and mystery. Dante is an intriguing character who draws you into the story and keeps you guessing.

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MATCHED by Ally Condie

Book rating: *****
Clean rating: *****
Genre: dystopian, romance
Series: First of a trilogy
Pages: 384
     In Cassia's world, everything is supposed to be perfect. The Society makes all the choices for you: where you live, what you eat, what your job is, who you marry, and even when you die.
     At Cassia's Matching ceremony she'll find out who her perfect mate is. Usually your match lives thousands of miles away, but Cassia's turns out to be none other than her best friend, Xander.
    Then Cassia takes a look at Xander's file and receives a surprise. Xander's picture is replaced by Ky. Cassia has known Ky for years, but never gave much thought to this quiet boy with a mysterious past. But now she's intrigued and the two of them quickly becoming friends. And then something more. She knows this is forbidden, but she can't help the ways she feels about his looks (gorgeous), the secret messages (not exactly within the rules), and the poetry (very, very, forbidden) that he writes. Soon, Cassia begins discovers things the society doesn't want her to know, and she'll have to pay the price.
      Unlike many romance novels, MATCHED doesn't have overly flowery dialouge, though the many metaphors and symbols were starting to annoy me. The obstacle to their love is society, not parents or pride. Another bonus is that Ky is a likable character. With many romance novels, I can't see why the girl bothered to fall in love with the guy in the first place. Lastly, MATCHED is one of those books that keeps you up till two in the morning because you need to know what happens next.

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