The story unfolds almost as evidence- an investigation. A family whose parents are from Pakistan lose their belongings and residence in an apartment f...moreThe story unfolds almost as evidence- an investigation. A family whose parents are from Pakistan lose their belongings and residence in an apartment fire. A completely mysterious bit of arson as there is absolutely no motive. In multiple voices the mystery is slowly resolved with an utterly unexpected twist coming from left field at the end.
James is Kate Klise's brother, clearly there is a bit of this style in the family's collective imagination. (less)
Young Max starling has grown up with his theatrical parents- the larger than life Owners and Stars of Starling Theatrical Company and Theater. They ar...moreYoung Max starling has grown up with his theatrical parents- the larger than life Owners and Stars of Starling Theatrical Company and Theater. They are charismatic and fascinating to Max. He is a strapping 12 year old who is raised to be an independent soul- His father says, "After 12 years a boys parents have done all they can. He's ready to be independent!" To this reader the comment seems a bit self-serving and it seems Max would like a bit more parenting and a bit less independence, still he adores his father and mother. The story gets going rapidly with the Starling parents setting sail with the tide and Max standing forlornly at the harbor having well and truly missed the boat. This establishes the first lost things, William and Mary Starling who have left on an unknown boat to an unknown port. Thankfully Grammie lives across the back yard from Max and the two provide mutual comfort and support in solving the predicament of Max's wandering parents. After the initial shock and mystery the story sags a bit until Max finds his stride- after all his father has raised an independent boy. Grammie can give him lessons, she has the skills. They hire a math tutor and Max's painting lessons continue. Money is a problem though, and it is hard for a 12 year old to find work. All seems too hard when Max stumbles upon his true skill, he is a student of human nature (as actors are)and Max uses this understanding to find things and is rewarded for it! As Max is presented with and solves many minor mysteries the greater one, where are his parents? why did the boat leave early? how could they leave him?... all percolate and niggle through the story which finds a satisfying interim conclusion while posing intriguing questions for the next installment. (less)
Lots of concepts are described here in an accessible way. The narrative depicts the Russian experiment on foxes that examined the genetic changes that...moreLots of concepts are described here in an accessible way. The narrative depicts the Russian experiment on foxes that examined the genetic changes that occur in domestication. The structure of experiments is depicted, the changes- how they are selected and how they occur along with the outcomes are well explained. Some canine behaviors and communication tactics are shown. All in all, really well done description of a fascinating study that can be applied to general science literacy as well as interesting for those who are fans of dogs and foxes. (less)
Imagine that witches live undetected among us. White witches have learned to blend, black witches are wilder and live away from all others. The white...moreImagine that witches live undetected among us. White witches have learned to blend, black witches are wilder and live away from all others. The white witches consider themselves the civilized, more humane branch of the 'family'. Half Bad sets that notion on its head. Nathan is an unusual soul; he is the love child of a white witch mother and an infamous black witch father. Labeled Half Black rather than Half White the boy is watched and evaluated warily. Captured Black Witches are killed in White Witch prisons so this monitoring has a truly sinister implication for Nathan and the family that loves him. The story opens when Nathan is sixteen, he is imprisoned in a cage, shackled, routinely beaten and inexplicably being trained in fighting and physical strength. His treatment is brutal and cruel and to this reader, confusing. The only possible reason to keep Nathan this way would be to bait his father Marcus a truly Black Witch and capture him. Some say this is a treatise on racism; I am thinking perhaps it brings to mind Isaac and Ishmael and the resulting tribal enmity through the generations to the present day cruelty reported at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. It is a compelling nudge to think about the cruel means that are justified by their (hoped for) ends. This is an amazingly violent and brutal story, not for the faint of heart.(less)
Slight spoiler in notes here: Derek narrates this story of the last year of elementary school. Budgie used to Derek's friend- now he is is nemesis! Yes...moreSlight spoiler in notes here: Derek narrates this story of the last year of elementary school. Budgie used to Derek's friend- now he is is nemesis! Yes really Budgie is either very mean or just less mean to Derek. We find the lame reason reason toward the end of the book, and it explains a certain strand of bullying, but does not excuse it. Derek is a truly nice kid. His mom is a sweet lady; dad comes off as awesome but- he is deployed in Afghanistan flying a helicopter on missions. His little family misses and needs him badly. This is one of those books where the dad dies so shock and grief are here but ultimately this is a book about bullying and a kid facing it basically alone without the support of school or family. (less)
I like the realistic characters. In this ode to 4H Diggy and Pop's routine is shot to pieces when Wayne is dumped by a drunken Graf who announces that...moreI like the realistic characters. In this ode to 4H Diggy and Pop's routine is shot to pieces when Wayne is dumped by a drunken Graf who announces that Wayne is Pop's son and Pop can have him. Yes- weird, this is the first Pops has heard of his 14 year old son who Does bear a striking resemblance. And yes, Pops did 'know' Wayne's mom. The story chronicles most of a year as Wayne tries to come to terms with his mother's (a great lady) death. Graf comes to terms with his own grief. Pops faces foibles from the past and Diggy accepts a new family member. All this amid the rhythm of raising a calf for the state fair competition and all the responsibility, joys and companionship that brings with other 4Hers. (less)
A story of friendship, acceptance and courage with the grand point that greed, entitlement and excess are not sustainable. Oscar works as a magician's...moreA story of friendship, acceptance and courage with the grand point that greed, entitlement and excess are not sustainable. Oscar works as a magician's hand- in this case Oscar is to harvest and process plants for potions and keep the shop well stocked and in order. This fills his days. All is upset when lust for power kills the magician's apprentice and greed lures that magician away to another city. Alone to mind the store Oscar is overwhelmed with the task until the Healer's apprentice takes matters in hand. Oscar's integrity and generous spirit carry the story as he an Callie, the young healer face the crisis caused by the magicians who gathered wealth and power making magical trinkets for the wealthy residents of the City. When the true cost comes due it is up to the youngsters to muster the means and courage to settle the debt. (less)
Our main character is an extremely bright person who has lived an isolated life locked away in a workhouse. To pass the time he observes. He swiftly n...more Our main character is an extremely bright person who has lived an isolated life locked away in a workhouse. To pass the time he observes. He swiftly notes details in the people he sees from his cell window and creates stories (correctly) about the people passing by. Wild Boy is the name he is given when he is sold to a Victorian traveling freak show. When murder is committed at the freak show and wild boy is accused he must run and hide with a new friend Clarissa. All his powers of observation must come into play now that the stakes are life or death. (less)
Boy Nobody is a conundrum. A seventeen year old assassin who slips in an out of town sliding into his 'marks' lives, completing his mission and moving...moreBoy Nobody is a conundrum. A seventeen year old assassin who slips in an out of town sliding into his 'marks' lives, completing his mission and moving on. We are thinking right along with our young anti-hero as he lives his missions. We wonder with him about his future. We feel his angst as he reluctantly considers his minders who call themselves Mother and Dad when they are truly anything but. Our Boy has been in survival mode for five years, now, as he grows he wonders if there will ever be anything more. Mr. Zadoff neatly wraps this installment of Boy's story while still creating curiosity about the next chapter in Boy's life. (less)
Nobodies, or Nixs are essentially invisible people in this SciFi/Fantasy. They struggle through life unnoticed by the people around them. For example,...moreNobodies, or Nixs are essentially invisible people in this SciFi/Fantasy. They struggle through life unnoticed by the people around them. For example, Claire, one of the characters in the story is routinely forgotten by her parents. They like everyone else just lose focus- it has to do with how energy interacts with Claire and other nobodies. She is isolated, sad and very lonely. this makes for grim reading. Parallel with Claire's story is Nix. An assassin who lives unnoticed in a cell until an assignment is slipped under his door. No one really hears, sees or responds to her until Nix is tasked with killing Claire. The deal is when they see each other they can really See each other. This tips their world and sets the story in motion. Nix cannot kill the one person who can see him- When he realizes that he has been sent to kill an truly nice person, he starts to wonder about his assumptions of the others he has obediently murdered. The Institute is truly Evil and two teenagers are hard pressed to survive the concerted effort of the Institute to destroy them.
There are some interesting ideas here about humanity and society but the writing/ plot is uneven.(less)
Ultimately satisfying. The book opens with a young, kind of childish Will who has spent his youth in his father's castle committing hijinks and pranks...moreUltimately satisfying. The book opens with a young, kind of childish Will who has spent his youth in his father's castle committing hijinks and pranks. Now his father is off with King Richard in the crusade which leaves England at the mercy of brutish thugs who want to grasp the unguarded throne and knights castles. Will must flee as Guy of Gisborne takes over his castle and lands. On the road he is injured and extremely reluctantly nursed by the Merry Men, a band of thieves who ply part of the wilds of Sherwood Forest. The Merry Men are actually grim, led by the cruel Gilbert. If Will is to survive he must sharpen his wits and grow up. As he travels with the Men he starts to see how the farmers suffer with the royal system. He sees his father's serfs suffering and realizes that they are, in his father's absence, his! These revelations and the view of the effect of war on a country; the effect of poverty, and the many ethical and interpersonal dilemmas Will faces make this a worthy book to read and ponder.
I am an unabashed fan of Mr. Kirby's writing. The Lost Kingdom starts slower than his other other books with the formal voice of young Billy Bartram s...moreI am an unabashed fan of Mr. Kirby's writing. The Lost Kingdom starts slower than his other other books with the formal voice of young Billy Bartram son of a noted botanist and colleague of Ben Franklin. They are members of the secret American Philosophical Society, a group dedicated to the unity and preservation of the colonies. The society has decided on the eve of war with France that the legendary Kingdom of the Modoc must be found and enlisted to help the colonists against the French. To this end a Flying Ship is constructed, this steampunk marvel swiftly carries a group of scientists and visionaries on the quest for the Modoc. Once the ship takes off, so does the story. We are carried on an exciting quest as Billy comes of age facing prejudice, duplicity, family love, disappointment, violence, friendship and war. The Lost Kingdom is an adventure story that addresses the grand themes of humanity. (less)