Saturday, June 26, 2010

So many books....

So little time. I've knocked out a portion of good books. Some I needed to read, some I just wanted to read. I got to pick out a selection of books from my new order that came in for my library and that was fun, but I easily could have picked out a bunch more! But without any more delay...the reviews.

Did you know John Grisham wrote a kids book? I didn't, but when I found out, I was very intrigued. I love mysteries, and Theodore Boone I think will interest kids. More sophisticated than Encyclopedia Brown, Theodore gives legal advice to his classmates. Coming from a set of lawyer parents and living life at the courthouse makes him uniquely qualified to help his peers. When the biggest trial ever in their small town hits center stage, Theodore is in his element. But soon, he's approached by a classmate who could change the course of things. A bit too good to be true sometimes, Theodore Boone will still hold the interest of the age group for which it's intended. A good read and a good start to a new series.

I read the latest book in the Sisters Grimm series. I hate to be sort of negative about Buckley, given the other book I read by him, which I will get to shortly, but there might be a bit of negativity here. I thought this was going to be the final installment, but *sigh* it's not. While I read it and it was fine, I'm ready for the series to be over. It felt like Buckley was trying so hard this time. The gimmick of using a master book to move through stories provides an easy way to introduce new characters and move the action. The story was fine, the action was ok, but I wish we'd reach some resolution here. We'd didn't really move the plot along much this time. Of course, I'll read the next book...I can't stop in a series when I've come this far, but I hope the next book is the last.

Do Not Pass Go by Kirkpatrick Hill is another one of our state award nominees. I'm down to two books now, and I really need to finish them. I really enjoyed Do Not Pass Go, but I think it will take a special kind of student in my kids' age group to really appreciate it. Very philosophical and with a little bit of heavy material, some students will find the book out of reach. Deet's family is a good-hearted family. Their financial situation is not the best, but his Dad works hard to provide. Working two jobs has been difficult on him and he begins to take some pills a coworker gives him in order to stay awake. A broken headlight draws the attention of the local police and Deet's dad is arrested on drug possession charges. Deet struggles with all the different feelings that would overcome a 13-year-old boy in this situation. Deet is a bit more insightful than I would expect most kids that age, and certainly more responsible, but story touches you emotionally, and I think it is a good book. It might have been better in the YA category, instead of the Intermediate, but I still enjoyed the book.

I did take a quick break from my library books to read a book just for me. Fun fluff. That's what the Kiki Lowenstein books are all about. If you love scrapbooking and you love mysteries, you'll love these books. It helps that I identify with frumpy housewife Kiki, even if I never had the pampered start to marriage that she did. A midwestern girl trying to find her way about upperclass St. Louis (where my family hailed from), Kiki is downright admirable in her fierce love for her daughter and her desire to be desired by an exciting man. In this third installment of the series, Kiki, yet again finds herself wrapped up in a murder. This one takes place at her daughter's school and lands Anya smack in the middle of all the action. I'm anxious for another book in the series...just because they are fun!

When I was at AASL in November, one of the authors I got to meet and get an autographed advanced copy of a book from, was Michael Buckley. He was very nice and gracious, and I truly have enjoyed the Sisters Grimm series. But I think Buckley's moving on to a new series that my students will really like and I'm excited about that. I did get an autographed copy of NERDS, but I never read it. I gave it away as a prize during our bookfair. I ordered a hardback copy of it for our library though, and I pulled it out of the box to read. A high tech spy game for kids, NERDS (National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society) has stuff that my 4th & 5th graders will love. Action, unrealistic technology, adventure, bad guys, and kids that are smarter than adults. I think this has the potential of becoming a popular series.

I started the book 100 Cupboards on audio. It's one that I wanted to read a while ago and never got around to it. It's interesting so far, but not so gripping that I want to pick up the book and read when I'm not listening in the car. We'll see once things get really moving with the story if I change my mind...after all, we haven't even gotten the cupboards open yet.

I also picked up the Red Blazer Girls and V is for Vampire, the first book in the Vampire Island series. I purchased this as a potential alternative to those students that really want me to carry Twilight. But I figured I better read it first in case I were to get any complaints.

I am trying to complete the summer reading program at our local library and have my son doing it too. I only have to read five books, and I have two down. I'm not sure if my books have to come from their library or not, so I have to read up on the rules. That would make sense to me to do it that way. But we'll see where I end up on this!

I'm sure I'll be back in a week or so with more reviews. Summer is wonderful!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I can tell that summer has truly arrived for me. I got three books done in the last four days!

I'm a little backlogged though as the end of the school year had me so busy. So, although it's been a little while, I haven't read a ton of stuff. Here's the list:

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell
The Long Shot by Mike Lupica
Trackers Book One by Patrick Carman
Storm Warning (39 Clues Book 9) by Linda Sue Park
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

The first two were state award nominees. I still have three of those left to read and I have one in my hands that I'm going to start tonight. Emmy was your standard "kid discovers there is magic in the world and has to overcome a bad guy" story. It was a little like a watered-down Gregor the Overlander. But it was enjoyable enough. A taste of fantasy for kids who don't like the full-on immersion into unrealistic worlds. I think kids will enjoy it, but I don't think it will become a huge hit. There's not enough spark and originality to the tale. In fact, the title gives you the basic premise...Emmy meets an incredible rat that shrinks people. Things just go from there as Emmy tries to save friends and family alike from a mean nanny.

The Long Shot was really good. I am not necessarily a sports fiction gal, but this was a little like a "Hoosiers" sort of story. Our main character, though a bit unrealistic at times as a sixth grade boy, is a likeable young man with intelligence, integrity, and basketball skills. He decides to run against the super-star of the school for class president and the story goes from there. Lupica writes with his usual flair and I think both boys and girls will enjoy the story. A bit idealistic at times, but still has you rooting for the characters throughout the story.

Trackers: Book One was interesting. I don't think it was the griping story that I really hoped/expected. The entire book sort of felt like the first scene of a play where all you get is exposition. Maybe the second book will really move the story along and add some drama, if not, the series will fall flat. I realize the book is directed at techies and supposed to be interactive, but the approach didn't work well for me. Every chapter, there would be a "video" that you could either go online and watch or turn to the back of the book and read a "transcript" of the video. It really, really broke up the story to me and I found it more annoying than anything. And I'm a techie!!

Book 9 of 39 Clues was very good. We got a good amount of questions answered and are set up rather nicely for the last book. I rather enjoyed the side of Nellie that is revealed in this book and I think Park's touch as a woman really helped pull this portion off. I can't wait for Book 10, which comes out on August 31st. Margaret Peterson Haddix wrote the 10th book, so I'm sure it will be filled with her specialties...adventure and suspense.

Finally, The Red Pyramid. Riordan is hoping to fill the void left by the end of the Percy Jackson series. I picked up The Lightning Thief almost a year before anyone else began reading it and making it popular. I have a soft spot for both Greek and Egyptian Mythology. So when I found out that Riordan was writing another series, I was both excited and skeptical. I wasn't sure that he could capture the same excitement again. During the first couple of chapters or so of the Red Pyramid, I wasn't convinced he had. By the end, though, I was devouring the book. Though slow to start, we really get engaged with our main characters of Sadie and Carter. Their mother is dead, their father goes missing, they are introduced to a strange mythological world that has come crashing into their reality. Riordan really did a wonderful job with the emotion in this book balancing out the action. And in the end, I think the book was fabulous. I really liked the way Riordan set up the premise for having a "series" with these characters (this is after all, book one of the "Kane Chronicles"). Though similar to some of the details in the Lightning Thief, Riordan I think allowed himself more flexibility this time with who could tell the story of the battle that is coming. I also appreciated the slight nod to the Lighting Thief, as well as the hint that other series could develop after the Kane Chronicles is over.

Hopefully, I'll have more to review next week. Look for reviews of Stolen Children, Gabriel's Horses, Do Not Pass Go, and more. I also see that my next big order for my library should be shipping this's always fun picking some new titles to read out of that pile!