Saturday, July 26, 2014

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

StS is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

For review:
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Brian Biggs. (Frank Einstein series #1) 180 p. Amulet/ Abrams, August 19, 2014. 9781419712180.

From the back cover: Frank Einstein (A) is a kid-genius scientist and inventor. Klink (B) is a self-assembled artificial intelligence entity. And Klank (C) is a mostly self-assembled and artificial almost intelligence entity. Together they create an Antimatter Motor using the three states of matter: solid (D), liquid (E), and gas (F). Their plans to win the Midville Science Prize are all but guaranteed-until Frank's classmate and archrival T. Edison shows up!

Hm, not sure I get the multiple choice options but it's a new Scieszka and that's all I need to know.

Fly Guy Presents: Firefighters by Tedd Arnold. (Fly Guy Presents series) Scholastic Inc., July, 2014. 9780545631600.

Publisher synopsis: Come ride the fire truck with Fly Guy!
Fly Guy and Buzz are off on another exciting field trip. This time, they're visiting the fire station! There, they will learn all about firefighters, fire trucks, and fire safety. They'll even get to zoom down the fire pole and try on a firefighter helmet! Come along to learn all about firefighters in this fun nonfiction reader. Award-winning author/illustrator Tedd Arnold really brings nonfiction to life!
Memory Maze by Gordon Korman. (The Hypnotists #2) 233 p. Scholastic Inc., July, 2014. 9780545503297.
Publisher synopsis: Jax Opus knows he's not like other kids. And it isn't his skill on the basketball court or his test scores that set him apart. No, Jax is different because he can hypnotize people. In fact, he might be the best hypnotist the world has seen in a very long time.
You would think Jax would be happy about this. But really? It's ruining his life. He and his family are hiding from a master hypnotist who wants Jax out of the picture . . . forever. And the FBI is also starting to ask questions about Jax and his abilities.
Jax thinks life might be getting a little better when a very rich, very powerful man asks him to help out with something. The reward will be great. And the price -- well, the price is that Jax starts taking on the man's memories. And some of them are pretty deadly. 

Paper Airplanes by Dawn O'Porter. 272 p. Amulet/ Abrams, September 9, 2014. 9781419711848.

Publisher synopsis: Renée and Flo are the most unlikely of friends. Introspective and studious Flo and outspoken, wild, and sexually curious Renée have barely spoken in their years of going to school together in Guernsey, a small British island off the coast of France. And yet, when tragedy strikes, it is only wild child Renée, who lost her mother at a young age, who is able to comfort a grieving Flo. The girls form an intense bond that sees them through a host of deeply relatable, wince-inducing experiences—drunken snogging; a séance in which clueless friends offer to summon Renée’s mother; dating a guy for free fish and chips. But toxic mean girls and personal betrayals threaten to tear the girls’ delicate new friendship apart.

In this gripping debut, Dawn O’Porter shines an unflinchingly honest, humorous light on female friendship, lost innocence, and that moment when you are teetering on the threshold of adult life.

What's new with you?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Memes - Loot: how to steal a fortune by Jude Watson

Book Beginnings is hosted bRose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

Loot: how to steal a fortune by Jude Watson. 266 p. Scholastic Press/ Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545468022.

Publisher synopsis: On a foggy night in Amsterdam, a man falls from a rooftop to the wet pavement below. It's Alfie McQuinn, the notorious cat burglar, and he's dying. As sirens wail in the distance, Alfie manages to get out two last words to his young son, March: "Find jewels."
But March learns that his father is not talking about a stash of loot. He's talking about Jules, the twin sister March never knew he had. No sooner than the two find each other, they're picked up by the police and sent to the world's worst orphanage. It's not prison, but it feels like it.
March and Jules have no intention of staying put. They know their father's business inside and out, and they're tired of being pushed around. Just one good heist, and they'll live the life of riches and freedom most kids only dream about.
Watch out! There are wild kids on the loose and a crime spree coming . . .
First line: No thief likes a full moon.

Page 56: Darius tilted his head. He regarded March the way a lion might eye a gazelle, planning the fun of running it down before ripping its throat open.

I also love how the book is dedicated: "To bad children everywhere."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

WoW is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, in which we share the titles of books we are eagerly anticipating.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. (Heroes of Olympus #5) 528 p. Disney-Hyperion, October 7, 2014. 9781423146735.

Publisher synopsis: Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen-all of them-and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood-the blood of Olympus-in order to wake.
The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it mightbe able to stop a war between the two camps.
The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

This series is still going strong at my school. I'm wondering if this is the concluding volume.

What are you waiting on? Leave a link to yours in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. Unabridged audiobook on 10 compact discs, 12 hours. Read by Christine Lakin. Hachette Audio, September, 2013. 9781478924692. (Purchased)

Tana awakens in the bathtub the morning after a wild party at which she downed a few too many shots. The house is eerily quiet. This is because it is filled with corpses. Apparently, the party was crashed by marauding vampires and somehow, Tana escaped notice having been passed out in the aforementioned bathtub. She needs to leave. Quickly. As she searches for her stuff, she discovers her ex-boyfriend tied to a bed and a chained vampire near him. Her relationship with Aiden, the ex, is complicated and, while he has been bitten and surely infected, she cannot bring herself to leave him behind. Her relationship with Gavriel, the chained vampire is about to become very complicated since she saves him as well. From what? Apparently, there are an unknown number of vampires waiting for the sun to set to kill Gavriel.

Tana has no choice other than to load them up in her car and head to the nearest Coldtown, a walled off city where humans, possibly infected humans and vampires live quarantined from the rest of the population.

No sparkly, stalkerish vampires here (thank goodness). This is purely predator and prey, violence and blood and gore. That a romance could arise in such an unforgiving atmosphere is testament to Holly Black's storytelling. Through the narration by her kick-ass heroine, Black paints a wholly believable, terrifying world. The performance by Christine Lakin is pitch perfect. She gives Tana that slightly monotonous, tough girl tone, a charming accent to Gavriel, and an appropriately bad-boy whine/cajole to Aiden. Other characters receive individual voices as well. I was so totally swept up by this story that I actually hoped for traffic since I was listening to it in my car. And it was one where I frequently lingered in my driveway to listen longer. 

Had I been reading this with my eyes, I might have swallowed it in one big gulp. Reading with my ears, while excruciating because I couldn't hurry up the narration, allowed me to appreciate the worldbuilding, setting and character development in a way I might not have had I barreled on reading with my eyes.

This is a new favorite and one I will recommend to my more mature, thoughtful readers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan. unpged. Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic Inc., April, 2014. 9780545639125. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

Rules for reading Shaun Tan:
1. Always expect the unexpected.
2. Never skim.
3. Therefore, always leave a chunk of time to pore over the book.
4. Prepare to think.
5. You might just feel a bit uncomfortable.
6. Plan on rereading and finding something new each time that you do.

This is definitely a "never too old for picture books" picture book. There is a universality in the theme that should speak to any generation of siblings. I am the oldest of six (five girls). Were it not for the fact that I went on to birth four boys, this peculiar world might be totally alien to me. Might be. But on second thought, not really. (note rule #4)

As the oldest, I was tasked with "watching" my siblings most summers that I can remember. I remember longing for freedom, to go to camp, to go anywhere really. I remember utter fury at being yoked to this passel. Sure, we all had some fun but I truly resented having to be responsible. 

I remember racing my next younger sister around the block on bikes. She was beating me and when she looked back to see where I was, her foot slipped off the pedal and into the spoke of the front wheel. The result was that she pitched over the handle bars bringing the bike with her. I am loathe to admit that I raced right past her. Only when I "won" did I turn my bike around to check on her. Wonder why this long buried memory surfaced while contemplating my review of this book? That is the evocative power of the images. (note rule #5)

At first glance, what with the winsome little guy in the foreground sporting a weird helmet and the cheery palette, one might be lulled into thinking this a nostalgic reminiscence. Upon closer inspection, one might notice the scowl on the face of the older boy and the industrial background. Don't skip the end-pages and the jacket flaps. (note rule #2) Surreal, provocative and disorienting might be words used to describe the illustrations. (note rule #1) Any one of them would make for a great VTS (Visual Thinking Strategy) exercise or writing prompt in the classroom. (rule #3) The entire book could be used as a mentor text at any level.

This is a 2014 favorite. I highly recommend adding it to your collection. I'm going to follow rule #6 now. 

Friday Memes - Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle

Book Beginnings is hosted bRose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

Gabriel Finley & the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen. 371 p. Schwartz & Wade Books/ Random House Children's Books, August 26, 2014. 9780385371032.

Publisher synopsis: 
“Both startling and moving—a vivid, compelling fantasy that sends you off to a world you will not soon forget.” —Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth
This fast-paced, exciting, and emotionally rich fantasy novel for middle graders reads like a cross between The Phantom Tollbooth and Harry Potter.
How can 11-year-old Gabriel find his missing father, who seems to have vanished without a trace? With the help of Paladin—a young raven with whom he has a magical bond that enables them to become one creature—he flies to the foreboding land of Aviopolis, where he must face a series of difficult challenges and unanswerable riddles that could lead to his father . . . or to his death.
First Line: Ravens love riddles.

Page 56: It was only when he got to his stoop that he remembered it was his birthday. He recalled the brass key and wondered again about where he could find the lock that belonged to.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fire and Ice (Spirit Animals Book 4) by Shannon Hale

Fire and Ice (Spirit Animals Book 4) by Shannon Hale. 185 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545522465. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review)

Confession time: I must own up to reacting with a bit of yawn upon receiving an arc of Wild Born, book one of this new multi-platform, multi-author series from Scholastic. I did not rush to read it. I found the 39 Clues series to be a bit over-the-top and never read any of its spin-offs as my patrons (middle school) really never asked for them. I read and enjoyed the first book or two of the Infinity Ring series, but they don't circulate either. For some reason, my kids don't find time travel books appealing. I have a few faves that are a really hard sell. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead seems to be the lone exception.

It wasn't until the second and third books came my way for review about the same time a fifth grader came into the library looking for the series that I settled in to read book one. Click here for my review of books 1 - 3.

In Fire and Ice, the four young heroes and their adult companions journey to Arctica in the frozen north in search of the talisman of Suka, the polar bear. I mentioned in my review of the earlier installments that the action got a bit repetitive. 
Not so in Fire and Ice. This one's the best one yet. It's layered, a bit more introspective and, um, obscure. There's a fair amount of description of the seemingly barren, frigid land and the people who inhabit it are rather unique, a bit unfriendly and very difficult to read. Rollin, whose strength is reading people and situations has difficulty sussing out these folks. Some young readers may miss the violent clashes between the Greencloaks and the Devourers but I kind of enjoyed the break. In each book, one of the four seems to confront difficult choices and it's Rollin's turn to keep some secrets here.

If readers up till this point are wondering, as I was, how the Devourers seem to know or anticipate their every move, answers might be due in book five, Against the Tide by Tui T. Sutherland, due out September 30. It seems there is a traitor in the midst. I also discovered that a "special edition," Tales of the Great Beast by Brandon Mull and others is due out in October.