Posted in Children's Nonfiction

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?, by Catherine Thimmesh

scalyScaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like?
Catherine Thimmesh
2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780547991344
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

So, if we have never seen dinosaurs, how do we know what they look like? How did we come up with the vicious head and body of a T-Rex? This book explores how paleoartists have captured the images of dinosaurs we picture in our heads. We learn about how remains are found, and how they are reconstructed to give us the most accurate images of dinosaurs. We are able to explore how these images have changed over time as we have discovered new bones and fossils. When we find these remains, we can often use them to determine the muscles and the skin on each species. The biggest uncertainty these days in the imagery of dinosaurs is their colors. For the most part, scientist are still speculating what colors they may have been based on their closest relatives, as well as what their main purpose and habits were. This book has a lot of interesting information and great pictures to compliment the text. I especially liked that some pictures show a progression of how we have pictured certain species.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Rot and Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry

rot and ruinRot and Ruin
Jonathan Maberry
2010 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442402324
Genre – Apocalyptic
Age – High School
3.4 Stars

Benny lives in a town surrounded by a zombie wasteland. In this town, kids must find jobs by the time they are fifteen in order to receive full rations. After trying several different career paths, Benny decides to fall back on the family business, Zombie Bounty Hunting. When he goes outside of his protected town, otherwise known as the Rot and Ruin, her learns a lot more about how the world works. In getting to know his brother, he learns about his family, how the world turned ugly, and that the biggest dangers may not be zombies after all.

This book had quite a slow start, it took me a long time to feel really engaged. I didn’t find Benny to be likeable, and Tom was kind of a jerk. Not to mention all of his friends were a bit obnoxious. However, once Benny and Tom began to spend more time together and begin to understand each other, they became more likeable to me. I really liked the premise that the family business turns out to not be mindless zombie killing, but more of a closure service for families (not a spoiler.) I like the idea, that these zombies are people who loved and were loved. It makes them seem more human. Even though I thought that the book could have been a bit shorter, I never felt that it dragged on after the initial slowness. It was full of action and excitement! Some of the language was truly annoying. In the beginning it felt like I heard the word “zomb” every sentence, and the dialog was a bit unfortunate as well. I guess I can chalk that up to being fifteen year old boys. I liked that we got to explore all of our emotions in this genre. It was funny, and sad, and infuriating. All in all I liked this book, I am just not sure I want to read two thousand more pages of it.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Alive, by Chandler Baker

23268484Alive
Chandler Baker
2015 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN – 9781484706831
Genre – Mystery
Age – High School
3.3 Stars

Stella is finally getting the heart transplant she needs to survive, and once she does she decides to reinvent her life. What better to help her do that than a new attractive boy at school. Very quickly Stella and Levi are spending all of their time together. Everything seems to be going great except for the horrible pain she feels everyday at the same moment. Then the dizzy spells, fainting, and hallucinations begin. Oddly enough it seems that these symptoms seem to change when she is around Levi. Then he begins acting weirdly jealous and possessive, and she becomes manically obsessive. Is their relationship as good for her new heart as she thinks?

When I first read the description of this book, I thought it was another one in the sick teenager genre, and stopped after the first couple lines. I was quite surprised when I read it. It started off just as I would have thought. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. I judged it about halfway through as boring, but right at that point it started getting weird, and I was curious as to where it was going. I was glad I kept going, because the second half was worth it. First of all, Stella was horrible. She was just a crappy person, and I refuse to buy into the life is hard, so I get to be a jerk scenario. I just didn’t like her and her intense selfishness. She never really grew out of that, even in the end. I’m not even really sure how she got lucky enough to have the friends that she did. I liked all of the other characters, they seemed honest and good. I liked that it was set in Seattle, and the high school teen drama seemed realistic to me. The first half dragged on for far too long, but the pace really quickened in the second half. By the time I realized something weird was going on, there was even more weirdness! I can’t get past the fact that it felt like two completely separate books though.

Posted in Graphic Novel

El Deafo, by Cece Bell

el deafoEl Deafo
Cece Bell
2014 by Harry N. Abrams
ISBN – 9781419710209
Genre – Graphic Novel/Biography
Age – Elementary
4.3 Stars

When Cece was four years old she contracted Meningitis. After her body was healed she was left deaf from the illness. This is the story of her struggles to accept her deafness. I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations were simple, colorful, and fun. In a way, they reminded me a little bit of the cartoon Arthur, which I love! I also think it is awesome that she likens herself to a superhero. It is a great and positive way for her to think of her differences as well as to have others think of her. Just because she is deaf does not mean she isn’t great. It is a wonderful and positive message to child and adults. I think this book teaches everyone that we all have our strengths and weaknesses in life, and it is how we use those that help define who we are. I enjoyed the Author’s Note at the end as well in which Bell talks about the different ways that deaf people identify themselves. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful book that not only taught me a lesson about deafness, but also a lesson about being human.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Vivian Apple at the End of the World, by Katie Coyle

vivian appleVivian Apple at the End of the World
Katie Coyle
2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780544340114
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
3.5 Stars

It is Rapture Eve and Vivian and Harp are throwing an end of the world party. Midnight comes and goes with no noticeable difference. In the morning Vivian returns home, only to find her house empty and two holes in the ceiling of her parents room. The world is set on edge after a few thousand “Believers” were saved, and the rest continue to live with the sinful non-believers. As time goes by and circumstances fail to improve. Vivian and Harp decide to go on a road trip to try to get to the bottom of the Rapture and the Evangelical Church of America. Packing their bags and their heartache, the head out to either find out what happened to their families, or to make peace in not knowing.

I love books that include mass hysteria! The world is a strange place with illogical people that have illogical reactions to strange events. Now, I am not trying to be anti-religion, I am just saying that when our loved ones disappear, my first reaction would not be to forget about it and try to move on with my life. It also would not be to take up arms, and hurt and blame people for no reason. I would hope to attempt to band together as a society and help one another. Alas, I am not sure that is what the rest of the world would do. I liked the characters in this book. I liked that they went through such an intense process of grieving. I like the contrasting personalities throughout, including secondary characters. We learn that people and situations are not always as they seem on the surface. Major downfall: Totally unbelievable and inconsistent with reality. Lots of things – The first hurricane of the season being named Ruth, the fact that they had very little money and much less after certain events, yet they still managed gas at 13 dollars a gallon, and restaurants, and motels. Also, where were the adults, why didn’t any of them care about anything. Why did the entire country fall apart because a few thousand people out of more than 300 million disappeared? Where are the rest of the grown human beings, and what are they doing? Why were these three teenagers the only ones who are capable of or have the desire to figure out what happened and why? It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

The Body Electric, by Beth Revis

body electricThe Body Electric
Beth Revis
2014 by Scripturient Books
ISBN – 9780990662617
Genre – Science Fiction
Age – High School
3 Stars

Ella’s father was killed in a terrorist attack, and her mom is the brilliant scientist who invented the Reverie, a process that allows you to relive your best memory. Ella soon discovers that she can follow people into their memories and manipulate their dreams and fish through their minds. This is very useful information to the leader of the Unified Countries, who wants Ella to insert herself into a government representative’s reverie to find out if he is plotting with terrorists. What Ella finds is that terrorists may not be the biggest threat to her world.

I was sadly disappointed in this book. I love the Across the Universe trilogy by Revis, and was hoping for something just as wonderful. I, however, did not enjoy it nearly as much. I couldn’t read any of the characters well enough to decide if I liked them. I don’t feel as if I really had a chance to get to know any of them. I felt the book was choppy and messy. The overall ending was fairly predictable long before it happened, and by that point, I really just wanted it to be over. I loved the setting, and Revis did a great job of making us see it and feel it. I also really liked the background of how the world became the way it did. It saddens me that the setup for the story was better than the main story itself. I’m not saying this book was bad, it just wasn’t great in my opinion.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Only Ever Yours, by Louise O’Neill

only ever yoursOnly Ever Yours
Louise O’Neill
2014 by Quercus
ISBN – 9781623654542
Genre – Dystopian
Age – High School
4 Stars

In a world where girls are designed to fill a part for men, Frieda and her classmates put their priority on their appearance. For sixteen years all they have ever worked for is being the top ranked girls and fulfilling the wishes of men. In their final year the competition gets stiff, especially after meeting the “inheritants,” the men who have the luxury of picking the girl to bear their sons. Frieda has never felt like she was good enough, and has always compared herself to the other girls around her. Then, Darwin, the number one inheritant seems to take a liking to her. Can she hold her position as the most desired, or will she throw it all away under pressure?

This book is likened to a combination of The Handmaid’s Tale and Mean Girls, and I can totally see that, although it may not be as intellectually stimulating as Atwood’s classic. What makes this book particularly scary, is how close it is to reality. Women and girls in their teens are constantly tearing themselves apart and comparing themselves to the “more beautiful” instead of being confident in their own image. They are putting their entire worth into physical beauty, and in turn neglecting their emotional, mental, and intellectual well-being. I liked that this book was pointing a finger at those issues in our society. I hated every character in this book, but I hated them for exactly the reason I was supposed to, weakness and vanity. I enjoyed the play on current and ridiculously annoying television shows that promote the same principals present in the book, and giggled every time the shows made stupid points. I loved the ending, which I am not going to give away, but it was absolutely not what I expected. To be nit picky, I thought the dialog was super choppy at times, and hard to follow who was saying what, but that is my only real complaint.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Starglass by Phoebe North

15945897Starglass
Phoebe North
2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442459533
Genre – Science Fiction
Age – High School
4 Stars

Terra lives aboard Asherah, a spaceship that has been in orbit for almost 500 years. It’s destination, Zehava, a planet that may or may not be able to support humans. At sixteen years old Terra must start the job that the council has chosen for her and begin to think about who she will marry. All she really wants to do is become an artist and escape the life in which she has lost her mother, and must deal with an angry and grieving father. Everything changes when she witnesses the librarian being murdered. With just months left to go before the ship lands on their new planet, Terra gets wrapped up in a rebellion and learns that not everything is as it seems in her world.

More spaceship bound YA science fiction? Yes Please! All throughout this book, I had the sick feeling in my stomach that it was going to turn out just like “Across the Universe.” Thankfully it didn’t. Although the similarities are present, so are major plot differences. I liked the characters, and how they were always a bit more complex than it seemed on the surface. It goes to show that everyone is fighting their own battle, and we should not be quick to judge. I liked the setting, in that it was a ship that had to work hard to maintained. It wasn’t just shiny and new, and full of super neat unthinkable technology to solve every problem. It is, after all, five hundred years old. The conflict between the government and the rebels, was quite believable in any society, even today. Despite the fact that it is science fiction, North managed to not go over the top and make readers suspend every belief they have ever known. Also, there was a certain amount of Jewish culture in the book, as the founders of the mission wanted to preserve their own Jewish heritage. I am not sure how much of this was accurate, but it didn’t lay any claims to adhering to present day forms of Judaism. Although I will admit that it seemed strange that most new nothing of the Torah. I wouldn’t mind reading the prequel to this to find out a bit more about the earlier generations aboard the Asherah.

Posted in Picture Books

One Little Blueberry, by Tammi Salzano

9803310One Little Blueberry
Tammi Salzano
Illustrated by Kat Whelan
2011 by Tiger Tales
ISBN –  9781589258594
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Toddlers, Preschool
4 Stars

When one little blueberry falls to the ground different little insects watch with interest. They all want to eat it. How will they decide who gets it? This is a great counting book for toddlers. It also works for an older audience, because they can help you identify the different kinds of insects that are present. They include ladybugs, crickets, bees, and more! The illustrations are bright, clear and whimsical. Each page is full of rhythmic and rhyming text, and we also get a bit of a surprise at the end.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith

grasshopperGrasshopper Jungle
Andrew Smith
2014 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780525426035
Genre – Science Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
4.2 Stars

Austin and Robby are best friends. Austin and Shann are dating. Austin is confused about his feelings for the two of them. Austin is a historian, he writes the facts of ranging from his Polish heritage to the everyday happenings in his life. Life may have seemed mundane to the group of friends until the day that Austin and Robby got beat up. When they returned to the scene in order to fetch their shoes that were thrown on top of a building, a catastrophic set of events was thrown into motion. Things that occurred next include a glass orb containing some sort of plague being broken, six feet talk praying mantis like creatures coming to life, and the townspeople being killed left and right. The friends hatch a plan to destroy the new and destructive creatures, but will they be able to carry it out?

In a nutshell, strange, but in a good way. I loved the way that the author wrote just like how a teenage boy thinks and talks. I love the way Austin relates to other humans. I love that he is confused about his feelings towards Robby, and that he is trying to come to terms with loving both Shann and Robby in a very similar manner. Before reading this book, I did not read any reviews or synopses so I had no idea what was coming. In the beginning, this felt like a book that was strictly realistic fiction, but as it went on strange things began to happen. Sometimes those strange things didn’t even seem out of place. However, as the book went on, it was very clear that I had reached past the realm of realistic fiction! I really liked this one, I thought that Smith seamlessly weaved two very different stories together, to become one strange and unforgettable tale. I’m not sure that this would have made any sense if it had been attempted any differently. Also the ending blew my mind, in a way that equaled my surprise throughout. This could easily become a series, but I am hoping it doesn’t. I want to continue to use my imagination despite the fact that it probably wouldn’t be as odd as another book.