Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Seventh grader Alan Cole is a quiet boy who refuses to make a friend. If he makes a friend, something bad will happen to them, mainly through Alan’s bullying older brother, Nathan, who torments his younger brother. And now Nathan has something new, a Cole Vrs Cole competition to see who is the best Cole. It’s not Alan and he doesn’t want to compete except Nathan has found out his deepest secret and no way can Alan let that be known.

The two of them have to compete seven tasks, one of which is to stand up to their demanding, emotionally abusive father. As Alan sets out to do them all, it takes asking people for help along the way.

What a ride. I thought Nathan was bad and then I met the father. A double whammy. It’s easy to understand why Alan is how he is. There are no easy resolutions here, and as Alan grows, the author explains it all in such a smooth way, it makes sense. Mr. Bell shows clearly how one person can damage an entire family. As I read it, I thought of the words: The sins of the father. Because it is the father here who is destroying the family. It’s nicely explained how he, the dad, got to be the way he was too.

I enjoyed the characters. There’s Zack who just does his own thing. He says whatever, does whatever, and things work out even if people call him a loser. There’s Madison Wilson Truman, who’s a guy, and a bit chubby, and has his own dealings with his parents. He also sits at the loser table, or unsteady table as Alan calls it. I also enjoyed Talia who wants to be class president. She’s a force to be reckoned with.


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Thirteen-year-old Miranda’s defied the odds and became one of the six kids from around the world, out of thousands, who qualified to be one of the astronauts to Mars. In nine plus years, she and the others will take the nine month journey to another planet. If she survives that long and with attempts being made on her life, that may be debatable.

Miranda won her position by using her mind and her abilities. Her robot, Ruby, is a main reason. But there are those who believe the United States pushed to have her included over someone else. One of those groups fires upon the ship taking her to the mission center in Antarctica. From there, things get even scarier.

This was a page turner to the end. I was kept wondering who was after Miranda. And was it just Miranda they were after? Clues made it possible to do some guessing, but when the revelation came, I was blindsided. Didn’t expect it.

The book is set in the future, after a major conflict between the U.S. and it’s allies and Russian and it’s allies. Ms. Slivensky doesn’t go into details and she doesn’t have to, the story is about the afterwards and about the space mission. In the Author’s Notes, she, who runs planetarium shows, explains the research that went into the book. It made me appreciate the book even more.

If I have a complaint about the book, it’s that I wish there was more of Ruby, the robot. I thought she/it was really neat.

This would be a great book for anyone who wants to be an astronaut or an engineer.

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Upon the news of her father’s death, young Amelia is sent to America. She’ll be the care of her cousin Basil, a man she’d never heard of, much less met. Another cousin, an unpleasant, sullen woman who never takes off her hat, accompanies Amelia on the ship voyage. Except she promptly disappears leaving Amelia along on deck of the ship where anything can happen and does.

This is a Victorian mystery with subterfuge and kidnappings. Here, things are never as they seem. Think you got the mystery figured out? Think again. There are twists and turns to make you dizzy. Ms. Wallace made the Victorian era come alive with her descriptive text. You could even nearly smell it. There are good characters in here. My favorite, Choppers, the cat.

This book sort of reminded of a Horatio Alger, Jr. Story although those are much easier to figure out.

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Lorrie Hollander’s summer camp experience ends with a call to the office. Her tuition hasn’t been paid. Mad at her absentminded aunt for not paying, Lorrie returns home, without her horse, vowing to finally wrest the trust out of Aunt Gigi’s hands. She doesn’t need more surprises like this one.

She gets another when she finds out there is no more money. Lorrie can’t find anything about the trust her mother set up when she and boyfriend Nigel, moved to England leaving her two daughters, Lorrie and Susannah, behind.


This was one of those stories I didn’t want to end. Twists and turns kept one guessing what was going to happen and I did not see the twist at the end. The characters were all defined and three dimensional. I just with there’d been more of Aunt Gigi who’s not seen except in pivotal moments. I liked Brian’s character, Susannah’s druggie boyfriend. I would have liked more closure with him such as did he do what Lorrie suspected him of doing.  I highly recommend this.


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Crow Darlingston is dead. Kind of dead. His mind works great, but the rest of him isn’t doing so well. Ask the maggots who live in his body.

Ever since he died, his mother has kept him inside. It’s the smell, you know. And other things like ears falling off. Plus there’s the maggots.

Despite this, Crow manages to get a friend, a live one. A human friend and now he’s got a chance to change his life.

This book is not about zombies. I first thought it did, but its doesn’t. I found it a totally original story, one woven with quite a bit of imagination. I liked how it incorporated magic and enjoyed the the funny moments. Despite Crow being dead, Ms. Gale made me feel empathy for the character. I thought Melody, Crow’s friend, showed too much of that, but then you find out that she really believes in magic like elves and faeries.

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The rock group Scar Boys reflect on their rise to success after a band member, Johnny, has been hit by a car. It’s a rough time and only gets worse when secrets within the band grow. But there are good times too as the band gets more popular. The festering secrets, though, may tear it all apart.

This is a sequel to Scar Boys, but it can read as a stand alone. This is a realistic portrayal of teens struggling to live with what life has dealt them. Such as how Cheyenne and her family has a secret that pushes her away from the band members and how Johnny deals with a loss.

Even though the clues were all there, I was still blindsided with the climax of the story. I had to go back and check and wonder how I missed the clues. Reading through the second time was just as good as the first time.

I really liked how it ended and how everything is explained, why things happened, even though one really know the real ‘why’.

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Have a worry? Something bothering you? Type it in the Worry Web Site and your classmates will answer. It’s anonymous, but you can guess who wrote what. Samantha always goes on about her father. Holly wants a wicked stepmother. A wicked one will be easier to dislike. Greg has a crush on a girl. Whatever the worry, Mr. Speed, their teacher, hopes to lend a hand.

This is told in a collection of connected short stories. Each chapter is in first person by a different person. All, but one story is by Ms. Wilson. The odd one out was written by a twelve-year-old girl who won a competition. You can’t even tell which one it is, it’s so good. And how cool is that? I thought that was the neatest thing when I read about it.

These stories are all ones that kids can relate to and I love that there is no miracle solution to any of the worries. Just like in real life, things don’t solve that easily.

Jacqueline Wilson is a British author who writes middle grades and young adult fiction. I was on a binge, reading her books like the ‘The Illustrated Mum’ and ‘Candy Floss’, and The Lottie Project. I’d recommend all of them.

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