After Iris, by Natasha Farrant

16101131After Iris
Natasha Farrant
Dial 2013
ISBN – 9780803739826
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – Elementary School, Middle School
3.7 Stars

Blue Gadsby was a twin. Three years ago her family was thrown into a horrible downward spiral when her twin, Iris, was killed in an accident. Her parents have been completely engrossed in their careers and absent from their children and each others lives ever since. Chaos takes on a whole new meaning when Zoran is sent in to take care of them, and a mischievous boy moves in next door. Blue is and has been trying to keep her sanity, in a terribly insane kind of life. Will her family ever be able to move forward to the future, or are they doomed to recreate their past?

This book is sweet, but at the same time it made my heart ache with the overwhelming reality of it all. It doesn’t sugar coat the difficulties that Blue is facing. It doesn’t cover up the fact that some people do not handle hard situations with grace. It is honest, and at times quite raw. I like that it is written in different formats, this allows us to see Blue’s personal point of view in her diary entries, as well as more of an observer’s point of view through her movies. The characters are believable, even if some of them are a bit colorful! Overall, this book, the characters, and the story feels like something that could happen to any number of children. What is truly great is that throughout all of the hardship, tragedy, and conflict, it is not completely overrun with negativity.

The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel

17846771The Boundless
Kenneth Oppel
2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442472884
Genre – Adventure, Historical fiction
Age – Middle School
3.4 stars

William Everett and his father James, are going on an adventure. The Boundless, is the greatest train ever built and is embarking on its maiden voyage. Will is in possession of a key that unlocks unimaginable treasures. When a group of shady characters are on to him, he must go into hiding. He joins the travelling circus that is performing for the passengers on the train. Can William make it back to his father, and save the fate of The Boundless, before luck runs out?

This book was full of action and adventure. I love the historical aspect, however imaginative it is. It was an interesting book, but I never felt fully captivated by the narrative. The characters were wild, wacky and fun. I listened to this as an audiobook, and the narrator was fantastic. He was really able to capture the attitudes and personalities of the widely varying cast. I liked that William had a passion and a talent for drawing, and was able to use it to get through his challenges. I also liked the father son relationship that was portrayed throughout the book. All in all it was fast paced, fun, and fantastical.

The Month of June

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have been unable to keep up with my reviews. So instead of feeling massively overwhelmed by the amount, I am going to toss them into one post. So please excuse the mini reviews, I will do my best to stay caught up now.

11861815Winger, by Andrew Smith
Age – High School
Genre Realistic Fiction
2.8 Stars

Ryan Dean West is fourteen years old and a junior at a boarding high school. He has recently been moved into the dorm for trouble makers after an incident the year before. He plays on the varsity Rugby team and is in love with his best friend who treats him like a little brother. The year is full of tumultuous ups and downs, and Ryan Dean must weather the storm. I was not a huge fan of this book. None of the characters were likeable. Ninety percent of it was about absolutely nothing, and then in the last twenty pages it becomes a book. It is too little, too late in my mind.

 

17288710North of Nowhere, by Liz Kessler
Age – Elementary, Middle School
Genre – Mystery
4 Stars

Mia is prepared for a great spring break with her friends. That is until her grandfather disappears and she rushes to Porthaven with her mother. Mia thinks that this will be a boring a miserable trip. Soon after arriving she makes a couple of friends who try help her uncover the mystery of her grandpa’s disappearance. This book was super sweet and fun. I liked the characters so much. They were strong but realistic. They mystery was fun, although slightly predictable for adults, the kids will feel more suspense. Great setting, and great overall read!

 

11594257Under the Never Sky, by Veronica Rossi
Age – High School
Genre – Dystopian
1 Star

Aria is exiled from her safe home under the dome. She meets an outsider, Perry, and although they seem to clash, they must learn to work together in order to survive. Together they travel through the brutal landscape and unforgiving climate in search of Perry’s nephew and Aria’s mother. I truly thought this book was terrible. The characters were obnoxious, the writing was worse. The plot was formulaic, and the narration of the audiobook left much to be desired.

 

18295852The Geography of You and Me, by Jennifer E. Smith
Age – High School
Genre – Realistic Fiction
3 Stars

During a New York City blackout, Lucy and Owen meet in a stuck elevator. They spend one great (and dark) night together, before life starts to pull them in different directions. Lucy moves to Europe, and Owen embarks on cross country travels with his father. Throughout the next year, something keeps their thoughts on each other. Will they ever find their way back to each other, or is geography too strong of a pull? This book was cute. Smith’s writing is simple and easy to read. I have yet to hate any of her characters, however, they always seem to be missing something, possibly a sense of reality! Even though this did not compare to The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I am not upset I read it.

 

17185379The Hit, by Melvin Burgess
Age – High School
Genre – Dystopian
2 Stars

The drug death is out. You take it, live the best week of your life, and then you die. Adam feels like his life has been bad enough to take it. Thus begins, the most insane week ever. On top of all this, the government is about to be overthrown and England is in complete chaos. This did not tickle my fancy. I thought the writing was quite dry, and the description didn’t have much to do with the book. The story kept taking the most bizarre turns, so much that I didn’t even want to follow anymore. I also had trouble relating to any part of any character.

 

16139598Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, by Katie Alender
Age – High School
Genre – Mystery
3 Stars

Colette is going on a class trip to Paris! The only downside is that there have been a recent slew of murders. People are being beheaded. Shortly after arriving she begins having visions of a ghost that looks strikingly similar to Marie Antoinette. She soon learns that her family was connected to the royal family before and during the revolution. This fact could have some seriously negative implications. This book was light-hearted and whimsical. It certainly wasn’t award winning or poignant. It was fairly predictable as well. However, there were important life lessons, a little overseas romance, and well, Paris. Not bad.

 

 

 

 

 

Here There Be Monsters: The Lengendary Kraken anf the Giant Squid, by HP Newquist

7899871Here There Be Monsters: The Lengendary Kraken anf the Giant Squid
HP Newquist
2010 Houghton Mifflin
ISBN – 9780547076782
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Elementary School, Middle School
4 Stars

For hundreds of years the giant sea creature known as the Kraken has been a legend. But finally we are starting to discover that this creature is more than just a myth. Scientists have been searching and researching the giant squid, and they are finally beginning to uncover some of its secrets! I though this book had quite a slow start, but once it got going it became very interesting very quickly. I have always been a fan of octopus and squid, so maybe not everyone will find this as engaging as I did. However, the younger crowd may agree with me when they read about all of the gory details and see all of the creepy pictures.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar

1391101Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Louis Sachar
1978 Follet Press
ISBN – 9780695409647
Genre – Humor
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

The builder of Wayside School made a big mistake. He built all thirty of the classrooms on top of each other instead of next to each other on one floor. All the kids in this book have class on the thirtieth floor. They are silly, and quirky, and fun, and they each have a tale that can be told about them. I remember this book fondly from when I was a kid, and decided to revisit it again. It was a bit more simplistic than I remember, but then again I think I was eight or nine. However, it was still funny, and just the right amount of depth for the audience that it is geared at. Great for reluctant readers due to short stories, and laugh out loud hilarity!

The Lost Boy, by Greg Ruth

17265276The Lost Boy
Greg Ruth
2013 Graphix
ISBN – 9780439823326
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School
3.5 Stars

Nate and his family have just moved to a new place, and while he is not happy about this, he still begins to explore. When he finds a tape player under the floorboards of his new bedroom, he enters into quite an adventure. The original owner of the tape player disappeared from town many years ago, it’s actually the town’s most famous mystery. As Nate and his new neighbor friend learn more about what happened, they find that there are some others that would also like to uncover mysteries of the past. Unfortunately these others are not the most friendly of beings!

This book was decent. I’ll be honest, it took quite an interesting and unexpected turn about halfway through. I’m not super into graphic novels, but every so often I attempt to branch out. Honestly, I really enjoyed the art. It was not simple, but not hugely detailed either. The best way I can describe it is gritty. It had a realistic yet dark feel to it, that complimented the story and theme really well. I did not feel that the characters in the book were very fleshed out or had much depth to them, which was disappointing. Still, this would be great for reluctant readers that enjoy fantasy as well as adventure.

 

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

28187The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan
2006 Disney Hyperion Books
ISBN – 9780786838653
Genre – Fantasy
Age – Middle School, High School
4 Stars

Percy has bounced from boarding school to boarding school, getting kicked out every year for bad behavior. He has always noticed strange things around him, but recently they are getting stranger. Like when he uncaps a pen that turns into a sword and kills his math teacher. He then overhears his best friend and another teacher talking about strange creatures. After he leaves his latest boarding school, while traveling with his mother, they are attacked by a minotaur who makes his mother disappear. He soon learns that he is a half-blood and the son of a Greek God. He also finds out that the powerful lightning bolt of Zeus has been stolen. In order to set his life (and the weather) back to normal he must embark on a quest to find it and return it to Zeus.

I know I am a little behind, and everyone has probably already read this one, so I finally got around to it! I really enjoyed it, the plot was good, and fun, the pace was right, the characters although fantastical were quite believable in their attitudes. There was jealousy and bullying, kindness and cruelty, and all of the other behaviors commonly found in kids aged 11-15. Percy was great. I like that he wasn’t touted as “Super Kid USA.” He is not perfect, he isn’t a whiz kid in school, and he isn’t really athletic or popular. The way in which Riordan was able to intertwine old myths with new fiction was creative and entertaining. I loved reading about all of the interesting and non-human creatures such as Grover, his half-goat best friend!

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo

16052012Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by K.G. Campbell
2013 Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763660406
Genre – Adventure, Humor
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

Flora is a cynic who loves her superhero comics. So when she witness her neighbor accidentally vacuuming a squirrel in the yard, she jumps into action! When she saves the squirrel she learns that he has super powers. Although she is very happy to have a new super hero squirrel, her mom does not share in her excitement. After each attempt her mother makes to banish the squirrel, she must find a way to save them, and maybe, just maybe the squirrel can find a way to save her as well.

Flora and Ulysses was a super fun read. It was hilarious and unexpected, and the pictures added to my laughter! Flora is not your average young girl, and she doesn’t fit into any particular mold. But she is fun, and kind, and creative. Despite her cynicism she is a good role model for young girls. There are other characters in the book that are not quite as kind as she is, however, the really help to highlight how amazing Flora can be. The book is light-hearted and just plain fun to read. Children’s books can often be very deep and heavy, and it is good to offset that kind of book with something like Flora and Ulysses, it reminds young readers, and even your older ones, how much fun you can have with a book.

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel , by Deborah Hopkinson

17061488The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel
Deborah Hopkinson
2013 Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN – The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Middle School
4.2 Stars

Eel is riddled with more issues than any young boy should have. He is an orphan, and his awful step father is trying to find him amd his brother in order to make them beg on the streets for him. He must constantly watch his back and work to hide and protect his younger brother. He works multiple jobs just to keep them afloat. During all of this “The Blue Death” breaks out in his neighborhood in London, and many people he knows become sick or worse. Everyone is convinced that this plague is spread by poisonous air, but Dr. Snow thinks differently. Dr. Snow regularly employs Eel to take care of his plethora of animals, but now he has a new task for him. Together they attempt to gather evidence that the sickness may be spread by a different method. Hopefully they prove it before many more people perish!

I heart plague historical fiction! This may be a bit morbid of me, but I just find the social and scientific aspects of these situations to be fascinating. The characters are great. Eel is a very responsible young kid, who takes care of his responsibilities admirably. Despite all of the hardships he must juggle, he still has the time and energy to be  compassionate towards others in more dire situations. Although this book is a work of fiction, it does an incredible job of sticking closely to the truth of the time. At the end of the book there is additional information about the timeline as well as specific people involved in the story. I really think that Hopkinson did a wonderful job of depicting the hysteria, and various other reactions to Cholera.

Fallout by Todd Strasser

17262252Fallout
Todd Strasser
2013 Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763655341
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Middle School
4 Stars

Nuclear war seems imminent in the summer of 1962. Everyone is talking about it, but Scott’s dad goes one step further, he builds a bomb shelter for his family. His family soon becomes the joke of the neighborhood. Everyone is convinced that Scott’s family is paranoid. That is until a nuclear bomb is actually dropped. Scott’s dad has only stocked the shelter with supplies for his family for two weeks.  As the family races to their shelter in the middle of the night, they must fight off all of the neighbors that want in as well, but a few make through the doors. Now they must all fight to survive in a too small space, with not enough food, air, or water. People tend to show their true colors in the most stressful of situations, and this is no exception.

So I have been trying to gather my thoughts on this book for a while now, and I have written several reviews and deleted all of them. I really liked this book, and I can’t figure out why. It is not highly plot driven, it is not a book that you can’t put down, and it is not incredibly suspenseful or action packed. It is however, and incredibly personal account of an extremely frightening situation. The relationships and interactions that take place in the story, are honest, they are simple and complicated all at the same time. Parts of the book are difficult to read, in an emotional sense. The families in the story are faced with a very hard situation and are forced to make tough decisions, decisions that I would hope I would be strong enough to avoid. I think one of the important lessons in this book, is to not judge others that are in a situation that you know nothing about. This book is well written, emotional, and terrifying. I hope I never have to live through anything like it.