1. CRISS CROSS by Lynn Rae Perkins. Realistic Fiction. Abandoned 11/19. Rating: 1 I’m not sure what it was about, as the first 10 minutes or so kept moving from one thing to another.
2. KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata. Realistic Fiction. Finished 11/27. Rating 3. Touching, but very sad. Two Japanese-American sisters are also very close friends, but one becomes terminally ill and spends the last third of this book in bed. Katie, the younger sister realizes Lynn is dying and has to deal with feelings of loss and guilt for her anger when the rest of the family’s attention focuses on Lynn. The book is beautiful in its message by the end of the book, however.
3. The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson. Historical Fiction. Rating 3. I expected more of the history of “one of the worst industrial disasters in American history” and less of the huge cast of characters, from the main boy and his sister (Morris and Sandra Bird) to neighbors and people in the neighborhood. The day of the disaster, Morris cuts school to visit his friend across town. The book mainly tells about his trip, almost block-by-block, and the people he encounters – many of them are pretty darn quirky.
4. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Essay (non-fiction). Rating: 4. The author has a PhD but decides to find out if an American citizen can indeed “get by” on minimum wage or below (for example, a waitress at $2.50+tips)– is there enough money for food AND rent, clothes AND gas for a car (a car?). The book is told in chapters that follow her from one job to another, each lasting a month which, she figures, is enough to give her an idea if that job is enough to support oneself. It’s not, as you’ll read of her ‘life’ as a maid, waitress, and Wal-Mart associate.
5. The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge. Finished 12/26. Rating: 4. Like Maximum Ride, this book is made of a zillion short ‘chapters’ about 2-3 pages long, so it moves quickly from scene to scene. Daniel lives on Earth but has unusual powers, which come in handy as he tries to annihilate (other) aliens on his list. Seems #1 killed his parents, and Daniel is out for one-by-one revenge – just a perfect formula for sequels. Sort of a Men in Black for teens, There is lots of action and some nasty aliens to fight.
5. The House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Finished 12/28. rating: 4 (but you have to read – and like – Shabanu, and then Haveli, if you’re going to read this) The daughter of Shabanu discovers that her mother has been in hiding in order to protect her from her cruel uncle. Muti (the girl) confides her passions in her best friend and cousin, Jameel, who lives in the United States. Or he does, until grandfather passes away and Jameel is expected to take on a role he had not planned. A story, like Staples’s others, of the mid-Eastern culture and traditions, and how they affect the lives of a young girl.
6. The Story of Edward Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. 1/4/09, rating 3.5. For adults (not ‘nasty’ stuff, just long and in need of a careful, patient reader), this is for lovers of dogs and those acquainted with the North Woods of Wisconsin. I am both of those, so I could identify with much of what and where the characters were involved. Edgar is mute, about 14(?), and is part of a family that breeds and trains dogs. His father’s life ends suddenly, perhaps at the hand of Claude, an evil brother? A few chapters and another death later, Edgar runs away with several dogs, and a long adventure of survival and “what should I do?” begins. By the end, Edgar returns but finds himself the center of attention of Claude and the local police chief; the ending was most unexpected and shocking to me. I think that kept it from being a “4-star.”
7. Blackthorn Winter by Kathryn Reiss. 1/16/09. Rate: 4. Juliana has moved with her mom and little sibs to England, where her mom plans to revive her art career with the help of Liza Pethering. She meets and develops a crush on Duncan, and is just getting used to her different life when one of the women who’s helping her mother jumpstart her career is found drowned (was she really?); turns out everybody in town has a motive, and Juliana is determined to see justice done. I enjoyed the story overall, and especially the last 1/4 of the book when Juliana closes in on the truth. There is also a second storyline about Juliana’s mysterious past; she was adopted as a small child and had no memory of her first five years — until she moved to England.
8. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 1/21/09. 4 stars because the end was not what I expected (I hadn’t looked at the very last line on the last page). In the future, two teens from each of 12 districts are forced to engage in a ‘Survivor’ type of “Game” to win food for their district. Only the winner gets the food, and the winner is the last one alive. Katniss is a hunter, and Peeta is determined to win, too. But only one of twenty-four will be allowed by the Gamemakers to survive. Fast-moving (til the last 25 or so pages) and exciting, I found it hard to put down.
9. Nation by Terry Pratchett. February 7, 2009. Rate: 4. At first, this book seems more like a realistic survival story like Island of the Blue Dolphins. But the huge tidal wave that wiped out just about evrything (and everyone) brings together a young English girl Daphne and Mau, a boy on an uncharted island. Adventures ensue as the language barrier is overcome, survivors from other nations come to the island, and the characters are faced with exploring the previously-off-limits cave of the Grandfathers and the curious four white “god stones,” while some humor is provided while teaching each other their language, differences in clothing (or lack thereof), and why spitting in homemade ‘beer’ is a good thing. The reader also gets several chances to think about why nations feel the need to conquer other ones.
10. The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Historical Fiction based on an actual boy’s life. February 8. Rate: 3. More an elementary than middle school book, I think. Helmuth grows up in the era of Hitler’s rise to power, and for awhile is taken in my his seeming love for Germany. However, Helmuth eventually sees Hitler for a cruel dictator guilty of murder many times over. He enlists the help of two friends to distribute anti-Nazi pamphlets. The book is told in alternating chapters of Helmuth in jail, awaiting the guillotine, and Helmuth the boy in the 1940s.
11. Compound by S.A.Bodeen (I was surprised it was a woman, as this seems more like a guy book). Science fiction. Fin. Feb 20. Rate 4. Good suspense, but a little too unbelievable (that there would be an underground survival area for a family, complete with animal raising area, hydroponic garden, unending water supply, and ways to do things like wash clothes. However, still good suspense, as the son of a billiionaire grows up underground, with his parents and several siblings. There is an ‘ewwww’ factor as Eli discovers a dreadful plan, but that never truly happens, as he gets more involved in uncovering the truth. THAT will keep you reading the last fourth of the book really fast.
12. Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf . Historical Fiction. Finished 3/3/09. Rate 5. A holocaust-time book but not involving Jews and concentration camps. Eva, actually a Czech girl who was adopted into a German family after being separated from her family, describes her experience in ‘training school’ and then with her new family. Lidice, Czechoslovakia, was obliterated by Hitler in retaliation (read the notes at the end to find out details); men and boys slaughtered, women taken to work camps, and a few Aryan-looking (like Eva) children were “trained” to be German. I love finding out a whole new part of history I never knew about.
13. Hidden Talents by David Lubar. Almost-realistic science fiction. Finished 3/13/09. Rate 5. One of the best young adult books I’ve read! This is a funny book about boys sent to an alternative school for disciplinary reasons. However, Martin (a real smart-mouth!) discovers some of his new friends have “hidden talents”: Torchie can start fires at will, Cheater reads peoples’ minds; Trash can move things with his mind; Flinch sees the future; Lucky finds things (do they talk to him?). The bad guy, Bloodbath, just likes to beat up everybody! With odd teachers and misfit kids in a school that is being threatened with closure, the team works together to save themselves and their teachers. At the end, I closed the book and smiled. Lots of story here, not something you just skim. HIGHLY recommended!
14. True Talents by David Lubar. Sci-fi but very realistic. 4/18/09. 5 stars. I made time to read the sequel to the previous book (above) because I liked the first one so much. This one is just as good, even though it is very different. Trash has been kidnapped by a spy-type of organization who wants to discover how his mind-over-matter ability works. The plot becomes suspenseful, but still is funny and an excellent story of friendships.
15. The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Historical fiction. Finished 4/19/09. 3 to 4 stars. It was going to get 5 stars, but the ending was just so off-the-wall unexpected and not in keeping (in my opinion) with the rest of the story! The book is about the bubonic plague in England in the 1660s, not exactly a happy story but very interesting. The author uses language beautifully; definitely meant as an adult book with its topics. I am going to look for a young adult book on the subject though.