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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Twelve-year-old Rachel is all about soccer. She can’t believe she’s made it on the team, in a offensive position. Everything is going great especially after her spectacular assist on a goal. Then she’s told she need to wear a brace for her scoliosis. She’ll be encased in a full torso plastic shell for twenty-three hours a day. Twenty-three hours. From under her arms to the top of her thighs.

How is she going to play soccer in this? No way does she want to quit. Can she cheat a bit? Not with her mother around who keeps telling her she’s lucky. It could be spinal fusion like she has. That’s only two of the challenges that Rachel faces as she struggles to keep going, through the pain, the blisters, and the beginnings of romance.

The characters in the book are well though of and come alive. Rachel and her friends are quite believable as they deal with Rachel’s dilemma. There were supporters. There were the snarky bullies. It was a positive book.

Alyson Gerber wore a brace in her youth leading credence to her debut novel. She made one feel the pain and struggles for someone who has to endure it. It’s surprising how many do. Even my mother had to wear a brace. She also had to hang upside down with weights. This was during World War II when things were hard to get. She was lucky because one of the doctors was a border in her parent’s house.

I liked that she included her struggle in the author’s notes in the back as well as some web sites.

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Staffa is a new student in Jane’s class, and, boy, is she ever strange. With her old-fashioned clothes, and her old lady way of speaking, Staffa isn’t the kind of person, eleven-year-old Jane wants to hang out with during or after school. And why is Staffa always looking at her? Ew. Worse, Staffa follows Jane home. There, Jane finds Staffa is not so bad afterall. Even her many brothers like her.

Jane is invited to meet Staffa’s mother, who’s also a bit odd what with her sweet tooth and strange stories she tells as if they’re true. And what’s with that weird box she carries everywhere? And the strange chauffeur who’s face Jane never sees?

When Jane is invited to Staffa’s home, she’s excited to go, but what she finds there, in the Kingdom of Eck, is beyond her wildest imagination. Worse, she may be trapped there forever.

This is a fun, magical fantasy with bees one can ride and cute, mouse-like people. It contains twists and turns that left me wondering who is the good and who’s bad? The first part of the story is set in Britain and, at first, you might think a regular school with two different types of girls becoming friends. After meeting the mother that changes and you catch glimpses of  another world, but what I thought wasn’t anywhere near what I got. A nice surprise.

If you like Roald Dahl, chances are you’re going to like this book too.

 

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Cameron’s dad is a real piece of work. Whenever he shows up, Cameron’s mother moves them to a new place, trying to get away. This time it’s to an old farm out in the country near a small town. As usual the move triggers nightmares, but these are different. For one, Cameron keeps imagining a young boy and he thinks he sees him during the daytime as well.

This is a spooky mystery/ghost/psychological thriller. The dogs mentioned in the title are terrifying especially if you’re already scared of dogs and I happen to be so a little. Also terrifying is the dad. Is he the good guy? Is he the bad guy?

Allan Stratton is a Michael L. Printz honor book award winner. He tells a compelling tale that sucked me in and left me breathless.

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Hannah doesn’t think much of the old Crowleigh Lodge her parents rent after their own house is in need of repair. The lodge is small and some rooms are closed off from storm damage or have been sealed off over the years. When it rains, secrets bubble out giving Hannah strange dreams of leaves.

In the church yard Hannah finds the grave of the girl who lived in Crowleigh Lodge a hundred years ago and it’s the very month that she died. As if to celebrate the anniversary, weird things begin to happen in the house. Hannah starts to wonder who killed Maise and why is she trying to contact Hannah?

This is part mystery and part ghost story. Both worked. The story lingered with me, something many books don’t. I did wish the author included an Afterward to explain what might be true in the story and what not and just to explain a few things.

I did have to wonder why anyone would rent a house with a damaged room, but that’s only the adult in me and I’m sure there are reasonable explanations.

There’s another story with Hannah, which I’d love to read, but I haven’t been able to find it. If you read this book, maybe you can find the other.

 

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Blackout! Twelve-year-old Christopher Nichols is thinking party. Celebrate the loss of contact with Earth as Perses slides behind the back side of the sun. He and his friends will celebrate the event and have fun, lots of fun. But, that’s not how it ends up. Instead, Christopher and a few others end up deep in the mines, hiding, surviving, from an unseen enemy.

Another great science-fiction story. It’s set on the planetoid Perses. There’s a good back story about how it got into Earth’s orbit and humans started mining it. There are a number of sad elements I didn’t particularly like, but then I’m the one who reads the back pages of an animal story to make sure no animals die particularly the main one.

This fast paced story has a great twist revealed midway. It’s first in a series, which made me go ‘aaaaargh’ at the end because of the cliff hanger ending. Can’t wait for the next installment.

 

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Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong has a plan. She’s going to St. Claire’s School for Girls. It’s the first step in getting wealthy. In the year 1906, however, the idea of anyone from Chinatown entering such an institution is ludicrous. The Chinese, nevermind if they were born in America or not, are second hand citizens to be despised and tormented. But Mercy is going to that school and wrangles a deal with one of the board members. She’ll have to room with the daughter someone who hates her, but she can live with that. She has a plan and she’ll follow it.Nature makes a mockery of it when the April 18th earthquake strikes and Mercy could lose everything she worked for in order to become successful.

I have read quite a number of books on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and this is one of the top ones. There’s humor, a bit of romance, trauma, and drama. It introduces a different angle by making the main character Chinese America. By happenstance I’d read a book a few weeks earlier on the plague in San Francisco and that was mentioned in the book. For those wondering, yes, the black plague really did kill a few people in San Francisco in the 1900’s.

Mercy is a strong character, not daunted by little things like trying to conduct a tea ceremony without having a clue how it’s done. Even with her own sorrows she manages to cheer others up. I found it a positive book.

There’s some historical notes by the author to give more information. While interesting there could be more so why not check out a companion book about the earthquake and Chinatown?

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Thirteen-year-old Bart spends his time trying not to be the boy on the bottom, the one bullied. He’s working on giving his first punch in boxing class. He’d like to find his father and doesn’t want anyone to know about his mother and home life. His biggest secret – he loves opera. This last one he manages to tell a school friend, the pretty Ada. She can’t keep a secret to save her life. Soon the whole school knows about Bart’s hefty mom and that he lives in public housing with drug addicts. She’s also got him signed up for the summer show. If that’s not bad enough, his mother is hospitalized.

Despite everything this is an optimistic book about an upbeat boy. His life is hard, yet he keeps going. It’s translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson who’s done a marvelous job. Not that I can compare it with the original version, but it’s beautifully written. My hat is off who can do this.

I love reading books by authors from other countries, especially children’s books. You really can a feeling for their country foreign eyes can give. This is the second book I’ve read from Norway. I’m surprised to see the same problems in the U.S. are in Norway. Somehow one gets the idea it’s better in certain other countries and it’s really not. Just different.

Another thing I liked was Bart’s love of opera. I don’t particularly care for it myself although I can listen to operettas without wanting to launch over and switch to another channel. It was refreshing to read of someone who likes a genre others, peers, would not.

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