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

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   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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