Sunday, January 18, 2009

Stuck In Neutral

Title: Stuck In Neutral
Author: Terry Trueman
Location: YA Trueman
Reading Level: Young Adult

Stuck In Neutral is the deeply moving tale of 14-year-old Shawn. Shawn has Cerebral Palsy and is profoundly developmentally disabled. He cannot eat or move his body without help from his parents. The worst part is that he is very intelligent and fully aware of all his surroundings but cannot communicate at all. Despite feeling guilty for being so dependant on everyone, Shawn remains happy with a positive attitude. Things become problematic when his father considers killing him to put him out of the misery he thinks he's in. Of course, Shawn cannot verbalize his feelings and tell his dad that he doesn't want to die. Stuck In Neutral won the prestigious Michael L. Printz award.

Bottom Line: Giving insight into a little-known disorder, Stuck In Neutral is a beautiful, well-written story of love and feeling helpless. It is one of the most depressing books I have read, but also one of the most profound and moving.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

Title: Theodosia and the Serpents of chaos
Author: R. L. LaFevers
Location: J LaFevers
Reading level: Juvenile

The cover of this book claims it is a sure bet for Harry Potter fans. I have not read any Harry Potter books so I can't compare the two.

Theodosia spends most of her time at her parent's workplace, a museum. That may seem boring to you, but her parents are archeologists who bring back Egyptian objects found in pyramids. They never seem to be aware of the curses on some of these artifacts so it is up to Theodosia to try to remove the curse. She has a gift for knowing what is cursed and ancient books to help her. When her mother brings home her biggest discovery, the Heart of Egypt, it disappears before Theo has a chance to learn anything about it. Will her amulets be enough protection as she tries to find out what happened to the Heart of Egypt? How can she find it again, get it back, and remove the curse that came with it?

Bottom Line: A good read, with a smart, resourceful heroine who's brave enough to sleep in a sarcophagus. Enough action, suspense and magic to keep me reading each night without a break. Be aware that the story is set in England so a few words are a bit different from the ones we use here. It's pretty easy to figure out what they mean. If you like this one keep a look out for the next book to be coming out soon - Theodosia and the staff of Osiris- I know I will.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Title: Evernight
Author: Claudia Gray
Location: YA Gray
Reading Level: Young Adult

Bianca’s life is over! Her parents decided to move her away from the few friends she had in her old town and send her to Evernight Academy. Evernight is an old, secretive boarding school in the middle of nowhere which houses a bunch of rich, attractive teens. Bianca will never fit in with that crowd and the school itself is really creepy. All is not lost because shortly after arriving, Bianca meets Lucas. Lucas is different than everyone else, he is good looking and he seems to really like her. Will Bianca and Lucas work together to survive Evernight Academy or will their personal secrets tear them apart?

The main storyline of Evernight is unoriginal and therefore too familiar. The big secret of Evernight Academy is apparent to even the most basic reader by the 3rd chapter. Claudia Gray tries to spice up the story by revealing a plot twist in the middle that involves Bianca, but it feels too contrived. The revelation ultimately makes the character of Bianca seem incredibly inconsistent. Also, the author fails to fully develop the relationship between Lucas and Bianca so it ends up feeling emotionally shallow. With all of these flaws, it is difficult for the reader to really connect with the main characters in this book which makes the story a chore to read. The 2nd book in the Evernight series, Stargazer, comes out in March. One can only hope that Gray develops the characters further and weaves a more imaginative story.

The Bottom Line: There are many YA chick-lit fantasy series out there right now and this certainly is not among the best of them. The story was so obvious it dragged, the characters were flat and the plot twist was unbelievable. If you are looking for something to read after the Twilight saga, start with House of Night or Vampire Academy, this should not be at the top of your list.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Owly: A Time To Be Brave

Title: Owly: A Time To Be Brave
Author: Andy Runton
Location: Graphic Novel J Owly Vol. 4
Reading Level: Juvenile

Every Owly book teaches a lesson without the use of words, only pictures. This volume is no exception, re-introducing us to "Owly" and "Wormy" who are best friends. Reading about fairy tales, Wormy becomes frightened at the idea of dragons, which leads to him mistaking a possum for a dragon while playing with his friends in the forest. The plot is straight-forward as Owly and Wormy seek to help the injured possum, and while doing so, learn more about the species and why it is in fact afraid of Owly, a predator in the eyes of the possum. Wormy, though afraid of the possum, has to be brave to save the day and the possum learns about friendship.

*Note: It may take you a little while to adjust to following the pictures with no words, but you'll find very quickly that a dialogue starts in your head to lead you through the story---that's how strong the illustrations are.

The Bottom Line:
If you're already an Owly fan you'll love this. If you're new to the idea of graphic novels with few words, I'd suggest starting with the first volume in the series (The Way Home & the Bittersweet Summer) where you'll understand the basis for Owly and Wormy's friendship, and why each story is a shiny, little gem that can make you smile or cry, depending on the story.

The Dead and the Gone

Title: The Dead and the Gone
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Location: YA Pfeffer
Reading Level: Young Adult

The tidal waves took the lives of Alex Morales' parents. What caused the tidal waves is at the center of this companion novel to Life As We Knew It by the same author--an asteroid hits the moon. New York City is devastated by the immediate environmental impact and Alex finds that he must deal with difficult decisions to keep himself and his two younger sisters alive. It is a life and death decision on every other page. His focus is keeping them alive. No matter what it takes.

The Bottom Line:
Courage, strength, despair, and madness are all a part of Alex's life, but the book, though grim, is thoroughly realistic, heart-wrenching, and worth every moment of time you re-read the sections that catch you and haunt your thoughts.

The Robe of Skulls

Title: The Robe of Skulls
Author: Vivian French
Location: J French
Reading Level: Juvenile

The cover of this book reminds me of Cruella from 101 Dalmations. Lady Lamorna is out to collect something too, but it's not puppies. She wants a new robe and will stop at nothing to get it. She has magic and helpers; a troll who has a problem with his head, and a beautiful girl who is not what she seems at first sight. This is a fast-moving fun book with a great cast of characters from the funny talking bat to the castle orge. They're all traveling about the Kingdom of Gorebreath trying to escape from or find another. You'll have to read it to find out why. Black and white pictures are scattered throughout the story. This isn't Disney's fairytale!

Bottom Line: Liked it, liked it, liked it. Lots of fun, quick moving, and short. Characters you want to see in a movie and repeat their lines back to a friend. In fact, I'm hoping this is made into an animated film.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Series review: Wild Animal Families

Title: Series Review: Wild Animal Families
Author: Jan Latta
Reading Level: Children
Location: J non-fiction

The pictures in these books vary in size from full page to almost wallet sized, but they are all close up and demonstrate the text. The text is a decent size and simple with the amount of text varying from a couple sentences to a paragraph. The bold faced terms are not all explained in the text, but are still simple enough that a parent can explain each as the book is being read. Some of the pictures will help with this. A glossary is included as well as facts about the animal and a map of where the animal lives naturally. Preschoolers to about 7 years old would probably enjoy the series. Titles we own in this series are: Timba the Tiger, Lisa the Lion, Ella the Elephant, Rudy the Rhinoceros.
Bottom Line: A good series to learn more about animals through personalized animal families. Plenty of good pictures.

Series Review: Baby Animals

Series Review: Baby Animals
Author: Alice Twine
Location: J non-fiction
Reading Level: Children

The titles in this series are for young children. Each book is written simply with just a couple sentences per page. Words that may be new to the child are in boldface with a picture to show it's meaning at the end of the book. The pictures are focused on the elephant (s) with just the landscape in the background. Children will enjoy the closeups of the baby elephant. Titles Indian River Library owns in this series are: Baby Elephants, Bears, Horses, Alligators, Kangaroos, and Cats of the Wild.

Bottom line: This is a good nonfiction series for young children. I like it and will be reading these books to children. If your young boy isn't interested in picture books, can't find the subject in picture books or wants something real, try these.