Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weasels

Weasels
by Elys Dolan

Genre: Picture book

Synopsis:  Weasels.  What do you think they do all day?

Plot world domination-that's what!

This is rollicking madcap weasel adventure is packed full of mischief and mayhem, featuring hilarious weasel antics rendered in Elys Dolan's exuberant style.  Will the weasels succeed in taking over the world?
from the book jacket

Review:  We are big fans of unexpected humor and sarcasm in our house and when we find those in books, we jump all over reading those books.  This book is reminiscent of the Scaredy Squirrel books by Melanie Watt.  Sometimes some of the humor goes over my kids' heads but it makes me enjoy reading the book.  I like when picture book authors and illustrators add in humor for parents and this book certainly does that.  My kids very much enjoyed listening to this story because the weasels did such funny, goofy things.  One of the weasels has a pet mouse and it is on every page in different places so the kids can search for the mouse.  The lead weasel and it is strikingly similar to one of the bad guys from one of the James Bond movies-Blofeld (again, humor that goes over the kids' heads but something that I love).  Each weasel had their own personality and there were so many to look at on the pages.  This book was a tad difficult to read as there were speech bubbles all over but overall this was a great book!

Rating: 4 stars

How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans

How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans
by David LaRochelle
Illustrated by Mark Fearing

Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:  They're mean.  They're green.  They're the baddest beans around.

"Green beans are good for you.  Green beans will make you big and strong."  Martha doesn't believe what her parents tell her.  And nothing will ever-EVER-make her eat them.

But when some bead-eyed, boot stomping beans bust into town and start causing trouble, Martha knows she has to take action against this gang of outlaws, cutthroats, and desperadoes.  She can think of only one way to stop the villainous veggies, and it's not pretty...or tasty.

Even the pickiest of eaters will be unable to resist this deliciously ridiculous tale of how Martha saved her parents-and the world-from green beans.
from the book jacket

Review: I loved the unique story line in this book with the green beans being the bad guys.  I think we all have kids who think that one particular food is horrible and would love to have a reprieve from eating it.  I really enjoyed how the green beans were portrayed as being the enemy and being the bad guys.  The pictures of them throughout the book are hilarious and just what we would imagine them to be as the bad guys in the story.  The story is humorous and will make kids giggle while listening to the story.  Spoiler alert: Martha ends up saving her parents from the green beans by eating all the green beans and then from then on out Martha never has to eat green beans.  I didn't like the message that you're never going to be served the food that you don't like again.  I think it would have been nice if Martha learned to like green beans or at least she learned that they are tolerable.

Rating: 4 stars

Ivy and Bean

Ivy and Bean
by Annie Barrows
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Genre: Chapter Book

Synopsis:   The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy knew they would never be friends.  But when Bean plays a trick on her sister and has to hide-quick!-Ivy comes to the rescue with her wand, some face paint, and a bucket of worms.  Will they end up in trouble?  Maybe.  Will they have fun?  Of course!

Meet Ivy and Bean, a pair of best friends who never meant to like one another.
from the book jacket

Natalie's and Noah's Review:  This was a funny story.  We liked the people in the story.  We liked this book because Ivy and Bean kept doing trouble like putting a dancing spell on Nancy (Bean's sister).  When they would do trouble it made us laugh.  I like how Bean was going to play a trick on Nancy because she wanted her sister to stop being bossy.  Nancy was trying to be Bean's mom and would boss Bean around.  Ivy looked silly because she was wearing a bathrobe with moons and stars.  We liked that this was a chapter book with pictures in it.  You should read this book because it's funny and it will make you laugh.

Becky's Review:  This was a great early chapter book.  It really held my kids' attention especially Natalie's who has difficulty with listening to chapter books without many pictures.  My kids laughed out loud while I read this book to them.  They really liked how Ivy and Bean made mischief in an nontraditional way.  I liked that Bean was not a girly girl and that she loved to get dirty, play outside and cause trouble.  Bean thought Ivy was too girly for her but then the two of them develop a friendship and have similar interests even though first appearances would make it seem like they wouldn't get along.  My kids definitely want to read the next books in the series.

Natalie's and Noah's Rating: 5 stars

Love Comes Calling

Love Comes Calling
by Siri Mitchell

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Synopsis:  When a look-alike friend asks Ellis Eton to fill in for her as a telephone operator, Ellis jumps at the chance.  For her, the job will provide not only acting practice but the funds to get Ellis a start in the movies.  She's tired of always being a disappointment to her traditional Boston family, and though she can't deny the way he makes her head spin, she knows she's not good enough for Griffin Phillips, either.  It's simple: avoid Griff's attentions, work, and get paid.  But in typical Ellis fashion, her simple plan spirals out of control when she overhears a menacing phone call...with her very own Griff as the target.
from the back of the book

Review:  I picked up this book off the new fiction section at my library thinking that it would be a nice easy read that had a good story.   But this novel certainly failed to deliver.  I really wanted to stop reading after less than 50 pages but I forced myself to keep going to see if it would get better because the ratings that I saw for this book were favorable.  I let myself stop after 110 pages.  Ellis seems like such a flighty and ditsy girl who didn't make for a great protagonist.  I read later in the author's notes that Mitchell purposely gave Ellis "impulsive, restless minds" that would be diagnosed as ADHD these days.  I didn't get this at all from the character.  Ellis just annoyed me.  Her behavior seemed so young and immature and I just didn't want to keep reading about her.

Rating: abandoned

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary (from the publisher):  Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.


Review:  I don't have the words to describe how beautiful this book was.  You should read it.

Okay, I did have a few complaints about this book, but it was such a deeply moving story with truly beautiful descriptions, and that is what I'll remember for years to come.  Well, the other thing I'll remember is that I wasn't entirely happy with the ending; while I think it was the only ending possible for Werner, that doesn't mean I have to like it.  There was also a fair amount of jumping back and forth between different characters and different times, and I found that needlessly confusing.  But, oh, I felt so connected to the characters, even though I had absolutely nothing in common with them, that their hard decisions and their losses touched a cord in me and made me cry along with them.  And the writing was just lovely, so descriptive and lyrical.

Rating: 5 stars

Ask the Passengers

Ask the Passengers
A.S. King

Ask the Passengers

Genre: Young Adult

Summary (from the publisher):  Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions--like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can't share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don't even know she's there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers' lives--and her own--for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society's definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything--and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.


Review:  This is another book where I didn't read the summary very well before bringing it home from the library, because I had no idea that Astrid's secret relationship was with another girl.  Turns out this book is a coming of age story about a girl questioning her sexuality.  I have no problem with that, but it's not a topic I'm particularly invested in or even interested in.  I thought the author did a wonderful job with Astrid's character - she was quirky, funny, sympathetic, loveable and just plain real.  But I found the other characters a bit distracting, especially since none of them were very nice to Astrid.  Her mean mother, hippie father, and uncaring jock sister were a bit too much (couldn't someone be normal?) and her friends and girlfriend also had serious flaws (wake up, Astrid, they're not very nice to you!).  The author makes a lot of interesting points about sexuality and labels, and I can see why young adults would find value and entertainment in this book.

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden
Susanna Kearsley

The Rose Garden

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Summary (from the publisher):  "Whatever time we have," he said, "it will be time enough."

Eva Ward returns to the only place she truly belongs, the old house on the Cornish coast, seeking happiness in memories of childhood summers. There she finds mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time.

But Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. As she begins to question her place in the present, she comes to realize that she too must decide where she really belongs.


Review:  This book was entertaining to read, but not spectacular.  The time travel element was reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon's books without the potential for believability or attention to historical detail that her books are known for.  I was bothered that the men from the past were completely unperturbed by the appearance of this mysterious woman from the future, and that Eva seemed to find it surprisingly normal and didn't miss modern day conveniences.  The love story between Eva and Daniel developed too quickly for me, and I would have liked more detail around their story and their emotions prior to their declarations of love.

Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Zac and Mia

Zac and Mia
by A. J. Betts

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  "When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster.  Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics."  So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia.  A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door.  Once released, the two near-strangers can't forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives.  The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.
From the book jacket

Review:  I'm having a hard time pin pointing what it was about this book that made it that I couldn't rate it higher.  This book started out well and I really enjoyed Zac's perspective.  He was an optimistic, caring and selfless boy in spite of him having leukemia.  Reading from Zac's perspective was what made me continue to read this book.  Mia, on the other hand, was not such a nice character.  She was just grumpy and unappreciative.  I can't begin to put myself in her shoes as I can't imagine what my emotions would be like if I had cancer at her age.  However, she just was too pessimistic to make me enjoy reading the chapters from her point of view.  There was a bond with Zac and Mia and it seemed to come from nowhere.  In the cancer treatment center Zac tries hard to befriend Mia but she wants to part of it.  But then all of a sudden Mia can't stop thinking about Zac.  There needed to be more development of their characters and their friendship especially considering what happens later in the book.

Rating:  3 stars

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Those Darn Squirrels!

Those Darn Squirrels!
by Adam Rubin
Illustrated by David Salmieri

Genre: Picture Book

Synopsis:  Old Man Fookwire is a grump.  The only thing he really likes is painting picture of the birds that visit his little old house near the forest.  When the time comes for the birds to fly south for the winter, Old Man Fookwire hatches a plan to keep them close by: He builds birdfeeders and fills them with yummy seeds and berries in the hopes that his beautiful birds will stick around.

But there are other hungry creatures in the nearby forest, and they have plans too.  This is a story of what happens when a grumpy old man and some mischievous squirrels match wits-with hilarious results.
From the back of the book

Review:  I just love this book because it reminds me of how much my dad hates squirrels-they scare away the birds from the birdfeeders.  The story and the illustrations are hilarious!  And I also love just how clever those squirrels are!  My kids really enjoyed the story as well and would giggle at the antics of the squirrels.  The squirrels definitely showed a lot of ingenuity in this story.  I look forward to reading the sequels to this picture book.

Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One Plus One

One Plus One
by Joyo Moyes

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis: One single mother.  Suppose your life sucks.  A lot.  Your husband has done a vanishing act.  You're trying to keep your family afloat, with two jobs and two children.  You've always been an optimist, but it isn't easy.  That's Jess Thomas's life in a nutshell, and it's about to get a whole lot more complicated.

One chaotic family.  Jess's oddball teenage stepson is being bullied, and her math-whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they can't afford to pay for.  Jess has spent her life Doing the Right Thing.  But what if, just this once, she did something that was definitely The Wrong Thing-something that might make all the difference for her family?

One quirky stranger-and a comic road trip.  Ed Nicholls is a brilliant tech millionaire whose life is falling apart when he happens upon Jess and her family stranded on the side of the road.  She's stunned to realize that her knight in shining armor is Geeky Ed-a man she considers obnoxious in the extreme.  But in perhaps his first unselfish act ever, he agrees to drive them-plus their pungent dog, Norman-to the Maths Olympiad and a prize that could change things for Jess's family forever....

One irresistible love story.  In One Plus One, opposites attract, and two fiercely independent people learn that love can be found in the unlikeliest places.
From the book jacket

Becky's Review:  I was quite excited when I picked up the latest book by Jojo Moyes since I absolutely loved the first book I read by her-Me Before You.  Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations.  The storyline was just not captivating or interesting enough.  I found myself bored while reading it and I actually stopped reading it for a while and read another book in between.  I felt compelled to finish the book but after 150 pages or so I questioned why I didn't abandon the book.  I got tired of their ride up to Scotland to the Math Olympiad.  Nothing really happened in the car except for us being reminded that Ed Nicholls had money and Jess and her family had very little money and had to pinch pennies as much as possible.  There just wasn't any action in this story, it was all about character relationships.  I liked the quirky characters in the book and I did want to see Jess get some help and have something go right in her life.

Marcie's Review:  I was quite excited when I picked up the latest book by Jojo Moyes since I absolutely loved the first book I read by her-Me Before You.  Sadly, this book did not live up to my expectations.  As Becky said, it definitely got boring in the middle, and I couldn't figure out why it took them SO LONG to drive from England to Scotland.  It seemed like it was just a plot device thrown in there only to make the characters spend more time together, and it just didn't work for me. I liked the relationships between the characters in the book, but they seemed to develop too quickly (in book time) and yet way way too slowly in the reader's time.  Not my favorite Moyes novel.

Becky's Rating: 2.5 stars

Marcie' Rating: 3 stars

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Faking Normal

Faking Normal
by Courtney Stevens

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  Alexi Littrell hasn't told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool.  Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.  

When Brodee Lennox- "the Kool-Aid Kid"-moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own.  As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up.
from the e-book

Review: I found this book to be too young adult for me.  The relationships that Alexi had with her girlfriends seemed very superficial.  Her supposed best friends really didn't seem to have Alexi's best interests at heart. They didn't seem to notice that Alexi was hurting except for one line in the book when Heather tells Alexi that she can't wait to see her real smile again.  Alexi jumps into a friendship relationship with Bodee after he moves into her house and that seemed unrealistic considering what she and her friends (plus most of the other kids in school) felt about Bodee.  Relationship development in this story just happened too fast for it to seem believable.

As for the major event of the book, the author hints at what happens but spends two thirds of the book leaving us guessing as to what exactly happened.  The author also leads us to believe that one specific character was responsible for Lexi's hurt but yet we find out later that we are wrong (hopefully that didn't spoil the book for us).  By the time we actually find out what exactly happened, I was tired of being strung along.  I didn't give up reading (but I did read another book in the midst of reading this one) because I had to know what really happened but I did end up skimming parts of the story.

Rating; 3 stars

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Blood of My Blood

Blood of My Blood
by Barry Lyga

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery

Synopsis:  Jazz Dent has never been closer to catching his father.

Jazz has been shot and left to die in New York.  His girlfriend, Connie, is in the clutches of Jazz's monstrous father, Billy-the world's most notorious serial killer.  And his best friend, Howie, is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz's own home.

Somehow, these three must rise above the horros and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy.

But then Jazz crosses a line he's never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: "Like father, lie son?  Who is the true monster?"

From New York City to the small town of Lobo's Nod, the chase is on, and this time, Jazz is the hunted, not the hunter-while Billy Dent lurks in the shadows.

And beyond Billy?  Something much, much worse.  Prepare to meet...the Crow King.
from the book jacket

Review:  It is rare when the third book in a trilogy is the best one but I have to say that this was by far my favorite book of the trilogy!  This book was less about the gruesome ways to kill people (as was my chief complaint with the second book) and more about Jazz hunting down serial killers and trying to solve the mystery of his family.  It answered all the questions that came up in the first two books and really wrapped the series up nicely.  This book also tugged at your emotions as you learned more about Jazz's family.  It's hard to say this but I did enjoy Billy Dent's (Jazz's serial killer father) twisted, dark sense of humor (don't analyze a deeper meaning of that sentence).  I love how Lyga developed all the supporting characters-Howie, Connie, G. William, etc and gave them big personalities.  But they don't overshadow Jazz and Billy.  I guessed what the twist was at the end of the book but that didn't make the book any less enjoyable for me.  The whole series was captivating and one I would recommend to people who don't mind reading some gory details and who like crime books.

Rating: 5 stars