Sunday, November 19, 2017

Between the Lies by Cathy MacPhail - ADVISABLE

MacPhail, Cathy Between the Lies, 280 pages.  Kelpies Teen, 2017.  $10.  Language:  PG (4 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some danger)

When Jude, fourteen, disappears from school, for some reason it Abbie, the school loner, whom she texts for support.  But when Jude doesn’t return during the city-wide candlelight vigil, it all comes out that Jude and Abbie planned the whole thing as payback to Jude’s former best friend, Andrea, who dumped Jude just days earlier.  Now Abbie looks like an idiot and now everyone trusts her less than before.  Even worse - someone is out to actively make Abbie’s life miserable, whether it’s veiled threats. or making her look more like a fool, or even framing her for something bad that happened to another student.  Abbie needs to figure out who this UNKNOWN is, or her life may really be in danger.

I have read a couple of MacPhail’s earlier works; she writes a very taut, nerve-wracking thriller.  I avoid horror movies like the plague, so even reading well-crafted horror books gives me the willies.  And MacPhail can do that in spades. 

MS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Friday, November 17, 2017

Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School - OPTIONAL

Shang, Melissa and Eva Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School, 103 pgs. Woodgate Publishing, 2017. $6.99.  Language G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.  

Mia Lee is starting middle school and  Mia is determined to try to make friends and (hopefully) be popular.  Mia is in a wheelchair because she has a form of muscular dystrophy - she can’t always hold things steady, and she has an adult aide who helps her get around the school, but otherwise Mia is just like all the other kids.  She makes these awesome stop motion videos and has joined the Video Production club, but when she wants to run for club president, her opponent is Angela - a middle school mean girl.  

The authors are sisters, Melissa has the same condition as Mia; they are writing from experience.  We don’t have enough books with diverse main characters, so this story is a welcome addition.  I like that it wasn’t about having a disability; Mia’s mother was a bit overprotective, but Mia seemed to fit in with the rest of the students despite the fact that she is in a wheelchair.  There were a lot of characters for such a short book - it was difficult to have any of them well developed, even Mia, and the story lacked depth.  I feel like I was missing something from her story.  Although Mia is in middle school, this is more appropriate for an elementary audience.  

EL - OPTIONAL  Lisa Librarian

the Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller - ADVISABLE

Keller, Tae The Science of Breakable Things, 304 pages.  Random House, MARCH 2018.  $17.  Content: G.

Middle school student Natalie has been hiding her mother’s battle with depression from even Twig, her best friend.  While she likes her science teacher, Mr. Neely, she can’t embrace his enthusiasm for their science projects, so he suggests to her that she make a team and join a local egg drop contest.  When Natalie sees that the winners earn a cash prize, she jumps on it as a way to maybe also help her mother.  So Natalie, Twig, and Dari, a boy in their class, form an alliance.  Just as easily as a dropped egg can crack, cracks form in the team and at home.  Can these cracks to repaired?

When I think about truly great books about middle school girls dealing with mental illness in parents, what comes to mind are Rocky Road by Rose Kent (2010) and Road to Tater Hill by Edith Hemingway (2009).  Keller comes close to joining those ranks.  I guess my big question is why is it always girls who are confronting these issues in tender ways?  Where are the books that show boys that they too can be a force for good?  Frustrating.

EL, MS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Apex by Mercedes Lackey - ESSENTIAL

Lackey, Mercedes Apex (Hunter #3), 295 pages.  Hyperion (Disney), 2017. $19.  Language:  PG (25 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (fantasy fighting)

The attacks by the Othersiders are growing in intensity, scope, and coordination; Elite Joy is sure that the Folk Mages are taking a stronger hand in ordering and controlling the monsters’ attacks.  But to what purpose.  And something is seriously evil about the Psi Corps leader Drift; Joy will have to think fast and get some help to keep her former boyfriend out of his clutches.  And not least, one of the Folk Lords has a personal vendetta against Joy and will expend what lives he has to in order to take her out permanently.  Not too much for a girl from the Mountains to juggle- right?

How can I love Mercedes Lackey more than I already do?  It’s just not possible!  But I do, because her books aimed at YA audiences are just as good as her classic epic fantasy for adults.  Oh Misty, keep on writing!

MS, HS - ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Edge by Roland Smith - ADVISABLE

Smith, Roland The Edge, 240 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2015, $17.99 Language: G (0 swears 0 ‘f”) Mature Content: G; Violence: PG13.

Peak Marcello, a 15-year old from New York City, who just came from a failed attempt at Mt. Everest, is called to be part of an international peace climb with participants from all over the world.  Each climber climbs with others at different locations.  While climbing in Afghanistan, Peak’s mother and several fellow climbers are kidnapped by a group of terrorists.  Peak, climbing guide Zhopa, and another climber named Ethan chase the group in the hopes of saving their fellow climbers.  They have already discovered the bodies of two other climbing guides.  As they get nearer, they discover the bodies of several more climbers.  When they finally reach the hideout of the kidnappers, they must fight to take back the remaining captives.  One of the climbers, a French girl, was the daughter of the French Ambassador to Afghanistan, and the terrorists, actually French extremists, kidnapped her for ransom money.

The book had great detail, especially the facts and details about climbing and the history of Afghanistan.  However, many of the characters could have had their stories developed better, and I feel like there was some unnecessary tragedy.

MS, HS  ADVISABLE  JB 8th Grade Student Reviewer

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner –NOT RECOMMENDED

Renner, Benjamin Rickety Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Fox, 187 pgs. First Second, 2017.  $16. Language: G (lots of Hecks) ; Mature Content: G ;Violence: G
The fox is sick of eating turnips. Everyday he tries to sneak into the henhouse on the farm and eat them. But he isn’t very brave or scary or smart and the chicken chases him off (because the dog won’t do his job). Even little birds aren’t afraid of him. One day he meets the wolf. Wolf coaches him on being scary and fox is able to steal some eggs. The goal is to raise them to be big enough that they are good to eat. But the baby chicks think fox is their mommy and things go majorly awry from there.
I like the idea behind this book (but I think its done better in the book The Perfect Nest by Catherine Friend). I absolutely 100% did not care for all the name calling, it really stood out –not very funny and too frequently: Moron, red-haired psycho, idiot, trash. I think the accidental brainwashing of the chicks was kind of creepy. The artwork is just small and kind of blurry.

EL -NO.  Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett - OPTIONAL

Bennett, Jenn  Alex, Approximately, 388 pgs.  Simon Pulse, 2017.  Content: Language: R (87 swears; 1 “F”); Mature Content: R (on page sex; underage drinking and drug use); Violence: PG-13 (bloody fist fight).  

Bailey has always considered herself a dodger, someone who avoids all confrontation and likes to not get too involved.  Bailey has moved from her mom’s house in Washington D.C. to her father’s house in California to avoid her mom’s failing marriage to her stepfather and it just so happens that her online friend “Alex” also lives in the same town as her father.  Bailey sets out to unravel the mystery of who Alex might be before she admits to Alex that she is in town, but along the way she finds herself falling for a guy at work named Porter whom she has a love/hate relationship with.  Bailey starts being real with herself and her new friends and coming to terms with the parts of her past that made her avoid confrontation.

This is a fun romance read with a little bit of predictability.  I liked the characters and the setting and their growth was fun to follow.  The characters had depth and backstories that were interesting.  There is a lot of content throughout.  

HS – OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.     

Black Moon Rising by D.J. MacHale - ESSENTIAL

MacHale, D.J., Black Moon Rising (The Library #2), 293 pgs. Random House, 2017.  $16.99.  Language: G; Mature Content: PG (tense situations, witchcraft), Violence: PG (use of a sacrificial dagger).

Middle Schools can be scary places even without supernatural forces making them even more weird and creepy.  Marcus, an agent of the library, and his two friends, Lu and Theo, have to figure out what is causing a disruption at Coppell Middle School.  There is a black moon rising on Halloween and Marcus and friends race against time and a coven of witches to thwart this new disruption.  

The second book in the library series delivers!  This book is fairly intense.  I found myself reading faster and faster to find out what was going to happen to the characters, and only just stopped myself from skipping ahead to the ending.  MacHale stirs in just enough humor to brew up a great read that has action and life threatening decisions amidst the angst of middle school.  Grab a snack, grab this book and for sure skip going to a middle school Fright Night carnival on Halloween.

MS - ESSENTIAL.  Michelle in the Middle  

Nate the Great and the Missing Birthday Snake by Sharmat - ADVISABLE

Sharmat, Andrew and Marjorie Weinman Sharmat Nate the Great and the Missing Birthday Snake, illustrated by Jody Wheeler in the style of Marc Simont. 64 pgs. CHAPTER BOOK.  Delacorte Press, 2017. $12.99. Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: G. 

Nate the Great, the young detective, gets an invitation to a birthday party for Rosamond's cousin, Lizzy. He and his dog, Sludge, arrive to meet Lizzy's four pet snakes, but one--the biggest one!--is missing. Despite his fear of snakes, Nate the Great is on the case--looking for clues, talking to experts, and eventually finding the snake before the birthday party is ruined. 

This is a great way for early elementary kids to start reading chapter books. The story is fun and the text is not too difficult. I like that the story will appeal to both boys and girls. Yes, Nate is a boy but there are girls at the heart of this story and there is clearly no gender being catered to here. This is a solid choice for this age category. 

EL (K-3)--ADVISABLE. Reviewer: TC