Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman

1000990Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science
John Fleischman
2004 HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780618494781
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School
3.2 Stars

Phineas Gage lived in the mid 1800’s and worked as a railroad construction foreman in Vermont. September 13th, 1848 started out as a completely normal day, but turned interesting in an instant. An explosion went off next to him and shot a thirteen pound iron rod through his skull. It entered his face under his cheekbone  and exited at the top center of his head. Somehow Phineas managed to standup and walk away by himself, with an iron rod through his head…This book outlines the accident, his medical treatment, his (almost) full recovery, and ultimately his death twelve years later.

This book was certainly informative. It used Phineas Gage’s story to outline the evolution of brain thought and brain science. It was really interesting to learn about the two schools of thought pertaining to brains in the 1840’s. Some people thought that the brain acted as a whole, and others thought that each section of the brain controlled different aspects of our health and emotions. Although they were both correct in some respects, they were also both incredibly and humorously wrong. It is amazing to think about how far medical science has come, and how what we know now is built on centuries of research and incidents. My only complaint is that in some sections of the book the lingo was so scientific that I lost track and had to reread. I did find the pictures really helpful in adding to the text explanation of how the brain functions.

Posted in Children's Lit, Young Adult Lit

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!

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Ten, by Gretchen McNeil

Gretchen McNeil
2012 Balzer + Bray
ISBN – 9780062118783
Genre – Mystery, Suspense
Age – High School
2.9 Stars

Meg and her best friend Minnie received an invite to an exclusive weekend party from one of the most popular girls in school, so how could they turn it down? It was to be held in an amazing house on one of the San Juan Islands. They arrive in the middle of a big storm, and nothing is as it should be. For starters Jessica, the host isn’t even there, then one of the guests is mysteriously served peanuts, and has an allergic reaction and almost dies. After dinner, in attempts to watch a movie, they stumble upon a strange DVD that proclaims that revenge will be had. Spooked and tired, they all turn in early. The next morning Meg wakes up early only to discover one of the guests has hung herself, and this is only the first death. Slowly, guests start dying in mysterious and crazy ways. Is there someone else in the house with them, or could one of them be causing these deaths. Will anyone survive the two days until the ferry returns to pick them up?

I like the murder mystery plot, and it was a fast and engaging read. I am a complete sucker for finding out “who dunnit” plots. This one actually managed to have me guessing different characters throughout the entire book, which means it wasn’t entirely predictable from the start. So that being said, the characters drove me mad. First off, Meg and Min have the most ridiculous and unbelievable relationship. Min is completely nuts, and Meg just stands by as her punching bag for the past five years. Ummm, No. Also, the boy who Meg is in love with is also on the island. They are obviously digging each other, which is fine. But seriously, every time someone dies, Meg’s adrenaline begins to rush, only she is not sure if it is from fear or the overwhelming lusty feelings of being around him. So someone who is so thoughtful, selfless, and nerdy in the rest of her life just needs a little murder to turn her on? I think not. Drove me crazy! I think this would be a good book for teens who don’t want a book that is too deep, or takes a ton of dedication.

Posted in Children's Lit

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.

Posted in Picture Books

The Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen

1795615The Pout-Pout Fish
Deborah Diesen
Illustrated by Dan Hanna
2008 Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN – 9780374360962
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
4.5 Stars

The pout-pout fish is always…you guess it pouting! He encounters several friends including a squid, an octopus and more. None of them seem to be able to turn his frown upside down! Maybe he just hasn’t met that special someone yet. This book is a great read aloud. It has rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. It also introduces the youngsters to some pretty fun sea creatures, and some of their interesting habits. The pictures are really cool, and have super funny faces for all of the characters. The colors find a perfect middle ground between soft and bright, and they really make the sea look like a place of many wonders!

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy, by Albert Marrin

9414509Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy
Albert Marrin
2011 Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN – 9780375868894
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School
3.9 Stars

On March 25th, 1911 tragedy struck in a New York City Sweatshop. Fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building in which workers employed by the Triangle Waist Company were finishing up their day. One hundred and forty six workers died within a matter of minutes. This book explores issues of immigration in America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as labor issues in the workforce in the same time period.

This book does a very good job of talking not only about a specific event, but it puts it into context by describing the social, economical, and political aspects that fueled the specific event. It is able to delve fairly deeply into the issues of immigration and labor rights without becoming boring or longwinded. It is able to put our current situation into perspective, and it gave me great insight and appreciation for our current situation. I am really beginning to enjoy reading young adult nonfiction. I love the way that they so often make history an interesting story instead of a droning list of facts. This book is no exception to that trend.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare

3777732City of Glass
Cassandra Clare
2009 Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN – 9781416914303
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
4 Stars

Spoiler Alert for those who haven’t read City of Bones or City of Ashes!

Clary’s mom is still unconscious after drinking a potion that put her to sleep indefinitely. Clary has been told that the only person who knows what she took and what the antidote is, is a warlock who is residing in Idris, the city of glass, the land of the shadowhunters. Clary finds her way to the city, depite Jace’s protests. In Idris, she learns that Valentine is mounting his forces in order to overthrow The Clave build his own perfect race of shadowhunters. Clary, Jace and the whole gang must reassess who they can trust, and where they should lay their alliances as the coming battle approaches.

So far, this is my favorite book in the series, BY FAR. All of the positive aspects of the last two books, including world and character building is still present. We are able to learn more secrets about the mysterious land of Idris, and about Clary’s family and its history. In addition, we actually get a pretty exciting, suspenseful, and action packed book! Huzzah, it finally happened! One of the subplot issues in this book is Clary and Jace trying to come to terms with the fact that they are siblings but are in love. Never in my life before have I rooted for incest, but man, this one is just heart breaking. I liked that the book didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it did leave a ton of issues unresolved, so I am eager to start the next book. Comparatively to the first two, this book really stepped it up, and I am hoping Clare can continue with this trend.

Posted in Children's Lit

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.

Posted in Uncategorized, Young Adult Lit

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

12813630The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Holly Black
2013 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780316213103
Genre – Paranormal
Age – High School
3 Stars

Vampires have become something of everyday life in Tana’s world. In order to control the outbreak the authorities have created Coldtowns. These cities are filled with a mix of vampires and humans, and once you enter a coldtown, it is almost impossible to leave. After a big party, Tana wakes up and is surrounded by dead bodies. There are only three survivors, her, her ex-boyfriend, and another strange, charming, and secretive boy. So she fights to save the three of them, by taking them all to a coldtown.

So if this seems like a vague description of the book, I have two good reasons for that. Number one, my computer is freaking out and I am trying to finish this quickly, number and more importantly, I’m just not sure this book is about anything at all. Tana wakes up, Tana goes to coldtown, Tana lives in Coldtown, blah blah blah. It wasn’t terrible, but I don’t have anything great to say about any aspect of it. The characters weren’t very likeable, the plot wasn’t very engrossing, the end wasn’t amazing. I thought the story had a ton of promise, not to mention that it was hugely hyped up… That is all the time I am willing to spend on this one.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Geography Club, by Brent Hartinger

94072Geography Club
Brent Hartinger
2004 Harper Teen
ISBN – 9780060012236
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
4 Stars

Russel Middlebrook lives in a small town, and he is pretty sure he is the only gay kid in his high school. Then one evening he is searching through LGBT chat rooms, and finds someone from his school. His new online friend turns out to be the most popular guy in school! Soon he finds out that they are not alone, even one of his best friends is bisexual. The group is desperate to find a forum in which they can talk about important issues in their lives, but how can do this without letting everyone know. This new found group of friends decides to start the Geography Club. They can meet at school in relative secret, because lets face it, who would want to join a Geography Club?!?!

I like this book because it does not glorify high school, it doesn’t glorify being different in high school. Let’s face it, being a teen isn’t always easy. It is not all fun and games, and not everyone is chipper and nice all the time. But honestly, it isn’t always the end of the world either. Hartinger is able to show the hardships of being different, without being overdramatic. I like his characters, they are realistic. Everyone has their good days and their bad days, some days we are proud of ourselves and some days we are ashamed of our actions. None of his characters are unrealistically amazing all of the time. I also really like that his characters are from all walks of life. He has boy jocks, and girl jocks, brainiacs, outcasts, and your average overlooked teen. They all play a part in shaping each other’s lives and feelings about themselves. It is a very good look at the sociology of high school life!