Callie never knew her father. He was a travelling musician and according to her mother he will be back any day now. Despite all the years that have pa...moreCallie never knew her father. He was a travelling musician and according to her mother he will be back any day now. Despite all the years that have passed her mother keeps waiting and refuses to leave. Even though the town is almost deserted. Even though they have no customers and no money left. Even though Callie has the dust in her lungs and the doctor is worried. While the whole dust bowl heads out West to California, Callie is stuck in Kansas waiting for a man she's never even met. She thinks she'll die there waiting for him. Until one day when everything changes. The worst duster she's ever seen buries the town and she loses her mother in the storm. Everything she thought she knew turns out to be wrong. Fairies are real, and her father is one of them. But they're not tiny, winged creatures and they're not all friendly. Her mother's refusal to leave suddenly make sense: all this time she was trying to hide and protect Callie. Now that they've found her, Callie has to run for her life in search of the mother she lost and the father she never met.
This book takes so many usually disparate threads and weaves them together wonderfully. It's historical fiction about life for those who stayed in the Dust Bowl. There are fascinating details of life in that era from riding the rails to dance marathons. It's an intriguing twist on fairy stories. The politics of this fairy court and how it interacts with the human world will provide plenty of fodder for the later books in this series. It's a novel about pouring your wishes into song. Callie learns how to do that literally and work magic through singing, but actual songs from the era are omnipresent in the story. Every chapter title is from song lyrics. After I finished the novel I spent the rest of the day listening to a Woody Guthrie Pandora station. It's about race relations and the practice of passing for white. Even as they're fleeing supernatural forces, the characters have to face problems from the mortal world that stem from race. It's about people who are navigating the rocky waters of identity. Callie's mother is a mortal white woman and her father a black fairy. The fact that she's biracial and half fairy comes into play as she encounters prejudice from humans and fairies and struggles to find a place where she feels like she belongs. It's a story about the American Dream. Callie's companion, Jack is a charming fast-talker who remains optimistic that he can reach wealth and fame despite his humble circumstances and troubled past: the kind of rags-to-riches dreamer American fiction is built on. Finally the book is just a great adventure tale as Callie and Jack flee forces natural and supernatural including one enemy that is practically a zombie.
Whether you're looking for historical fiction, fantasy, or adventure this book has something for you! Fans of the Depression Era, music, fairies, and themes of race and identity will all have particular reasons to pick up this book, but anyone looking for a good story will enjoy it. 6th grade and up.
When Jezebel first sees Tommy, she thinks he's a ghost. When she finds out the truth, it's even stranger. Tommy is a member of the Explorers' Society,...moreWhen Jezebel first sees Tommy, she thinks he's a ghost. When she finds out the truth, it's even stranger. Tommy is a member of the Explorers' Society, a group that knows how to unlock hidden portals to other worlds. But sometimes when they go to these other worlds, something dark follows them back to Earth. The Dead Gentleman is building an army and preparing to take over. After he attacks the headquarters of the Explorers' Society, Tommy and Jezebel are all that stand between humanity and the apocalypse. This book was great fun with references to many of my favorite things: Tesla, Lemuria, H.G. Wells...the list goes on. Despite being about a Dead Gentleman that destroys everything in his path, there aren't many gory details making it solid middle-grade fiction fare. However the plot doesn't hold up to close scrutiny and there were many cliched elements that left me with a sense of déjà lu. Many of the characters were two dimensional and the villains were evil incarnate putting considerable energy into destroying worlds for no discernible reason other than to cause suffering. It was a quick and entertaining read though. If you're looking for a fast-paced fantastical adventure, this is a solid choice.
The daughter of a diplomat and an artist, Delilah grew up travelling the world. She learned archery in France, acrobatics in Indonesia, how to survive...moreThe daughter of a diplomat and an artist, Delilah grew up travelling the world. She learned archery in France, acrobatics in Indonesia, how to survive in the jungles of India, and perfected her fighting technique in Japan. She's a member of several royal courts, owns a flying machine, and is a skilled escape artist. She is not someone you want to mess with. So when she winds up in a Turkish prison, she is not concerned. The question on her mind isn't how she will escape or even when she will escape. It's where did the Lieutenant in charge of her interrogation learn how to make such a fine cup of tea?
This comic has everything that I look for in an adventure: a strong protagonist, repartee, gorgeous visuals, and tea! Okay, so maybe I don't usually look for the last one in adventure tales, but I was pleasantly surprised by its presence. Delilah is a wonderful, classic action hero complete with an improbable laundry list of skills, moral ambiguity, and foolhardy confidence. I loved reading about her adventures and narrow escapes. Selim is an excellent character as well. He's a perfect foil to Delilah with his lack of adventuring skills, sensible fear in the face of danger, and fondness for quiet and tea. My favorite part was the relationship between the two. They remain travelling companions without a romantic plot and Selim realistically decides to part ways with her to return to a quiet life before realizing he's become too used to the excitement of life with Delilah. Cliff successfully twists conventions of the genre while retaining the tone of a good, old-fashioned rollicking adventure tale.
I'd give this to anyone looking for a good, light-hearted adventure. I'd say it's fine for 5th grade and up.
Everyone I've talked to that has read this book absolutely loved it. It's the story of two teens, Sam and Emily, who fall in love at first sight. The...moreEveryone I've talked to that has read this book absolutely loved it. It's the story of two teens, Sam and Emily, who fall in love at first sight. The only problem is that Sam has a tendency to leave town quickly. He has an abusive and schizophrenic father who keeps them on the run and living in dismal circumstances. Sam's younger brother is intensely involved in his drawings, but is unhealthy and usually stays silent. I can see why so many people like it. It's fast-paced and knows how to pull on the heart-strings. It reminds me of a Lifetime movie. I really wanted to like it too, but I didn't. I don't remember a single character showing any sign of having a sense of humor. The only even vaguely humorous scene was the physical comedy that ensued when one of the book's antagonists was getting his just desserts. But I couldn't share in the schadenfreude. It felt almost cruel and I didn't like how two dimensional his character was. In fact all of the characters felt flat to me. The good characters were unfailingly good and practically perfect except for circumstances beyond their control. The bad characters were bad all the way through and not portrayed with a hint of sympathy, even the father who was clearly suffering from serious mental illness. I like my characters to exist in shades of grey and my plots to have complexities that resist easy fixes. The end of this book was full of circumstances that conveniently lined up to provide everyone with what they deserved in the last couple of chapters. Even the plots of minor characters were wrapped up with a neat bow that almost always involved them finding love. If you want a clear-cut, heartwarming story of good triumphing over evil then this is the book for you. But if you prefer stories with humor and moral ambiguity, then you can skip this one.
JD comes back from Juvie with only a week left before school starts. He has a lot to do before then: make up with his girlfriend, deflect all questio...more JD comes back from Juvie with only a week left before school starts. He has a lot to do before then: make up with his girlfriend, deflect all questions about where he spent the summer, and above all else make sure that no one ever finds out what he did to get himself arrested. He's had a lot of time to plan what he's going to do, but there was one thing he wasn't expecting. While he was gone, his mom adopted a dog. Not just any dog either, but a big Rottweiler with a past as shady as JD's. His mom called the dog Jon-Jon, but JD knows the perfect name for him: Johnny Rotten.
Watching JD and Johnny learn to trust each other and struggle to make things right after their past mistakes was heartwarming. The book was far from saccharine though. JD and his friends aren't exactly model citizens and the tone of the story is true to Johnny's punk rock name. I spent most of the book eagerly flipping the pages because I wanted to find out if Johnny was going to have to be put down. I grew fond of JD as well. His voice sounded authentic and his struggles were all realistically drawn. The supporting characters are well rounded and Northrop avoids facile solutions to the complex problems that arise.
I'd give this to students looking for a realistic fiction book, especially dog lovers. It's more relationship than plot driven, but it has an edge and a humor to it that gives it appeal to a crowd beyond those looking for a sweet dog story. I'd say 7th grade and up.
Have you ever wished that you had wings? Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be able to fly away any time that you wanted, and go anywher...more Have you ever wished that you had wings? Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be able to fly away any time that you wanted, and go anywhere you wished? Frenenqer has been many places and lived in many countries, but she has never felt free. Even when her father's not there Frenenqer can feel the pressure of his expectations like a tug on her spine leading her wherever he wants her to go. So she contents herself with small rebellions like reading books and dreaming of wings while she's trapped in her bedroom in the middle of the desert. She never thought that she could escape her father until she met a Free person. Regular laws of the universe do not apply to Free people. They can shape shift into anything they want and fly all over this world and others. The moment Frenenqer meets Sangris, she knows that he will only lead to trouble and that her father would want her to turn him away. But she can't resist the temptation of his wings. For once she ignores the tug on her spine and doesn't do what her father would want, whatever the consequences may be.
This book has everything that I love in a novel: foreign countries, bookish protagonists, themes of independence and individualism, an "interestingly wicked" love interest, talking cats, and heaping helpings of sass! I don't think I could have crafted a book that was better suited to my tastes. I enjoyed hearing about all the countries Frenenqer had lived in, her best friend was charmingly quirky and supportive, and I love the way she grew over the course of the novel so that she could embrace who she is and stand up for herself. Her father was the most disturbing antagonist I've seen in a long time as he controlled his household and psychologically abused his wife and daughter. The man/cat on the other hand was absolutely delightful as he wooed Frenenqer and waited for her to be able to return his affections while patiently enduring her sarcastic barbs. He reminds me a bit of Spike in the later seasons of Buffy. I absolutely devoured this book and enjoyed myself immensely while doing so.
I'd give this to urban fantasy fans and those who enjoy books about other cultures. Fans of literary bad boys will particularly enjoy Sangris. The romance is pretty conservative and there's little violence although the scenes that describe the emotional abuse Frenenqer receives can be disturbing. I'd say it's fine for 6th grade and up.
The year is 1947, and a big change is coming to India. After years of colonial rule, the British government is withdrawing and Partitioning the count...more The year is 1947, and a big change is coming to India. After years of colonial rule, the British government is withdrawing and Partitioning the country. Soon there will be a new country, where Muslims are the majority, called Pakistan. The move was meant to create peace, but the opposite is happening. Bloody riots are becoming routine as religious tensions rise and millions of refugees flee one country for the other. In a town near the border, three people who should have never met will change each other's lives: a Muslim boy whose family is leaving for Pakistan while he dreams of attending Oxford, a Sikh girl affected by the violence who is preparing to welcome family members fleeing to India, and an English girl whose father is helping draw the line that will separate the two countries. Will they be able to put their differences aside to help each other survive, or will they fall victim to the violence that is sweeping the nation?
I knew next to nothing about the Partition before picking up this book, so I was excited to learn more about this period of history. It made a lot of current events make more sense and it was fascinating in and of itself. The Partition is still a controversial period of history as people speculate about what could have been done differently and who may be at fault. A Moment Comes takes a balanced view of the issue by switching the narration between three characters on different sides. Bradbury did a wonderful job personalizing the tragedies that occurred and showing how complicated this period of history is. I grew to care for the characters even as they made decisions I didn't agree with. I could see that difficult times were forcing them into difficult circumstances and leading to decisions that would have been unimaginable in times of peace. There was a bit of a love triangle, but it wasn't played up so much that it got in the way of the narrative.
The setting was fascinating and the characters engrossing, but the plot was pretty predictable. The plot wasn't what made me pick up the book though, so it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the novel.
The book mentions acts of violence that while historically accurate make me hesitate to give the book to anyone younger than 7th grade. I'd give it to anyone interested in learning about other cultures and fans of historical fiction.
I read this for my FYA book club, and I'm not sure that I would have picked it up on my own. As it was I had no idea what it was about when I started...moreI read this for my FYA book club, and I'm not sure that I would have picked it up on my own. As it was I had no idea what it was about when I started reading it on a plane this Thanksgiving and ended up crying like a baby in my seat. There's a lot of things I liked about this book: the footnotes, the Hamlet references, and the quirky characters Leonard meets, but overall I can't say that I really enjoyed it. Everyone is so universally cruel to Leonard. Despite all that happens in the course of the novel nothing felt really resolved to me at the end. I didn't feel as attached to Leonard as I thought I would considering all he goes through and I didn't really like any of the other characters either because of how they treat him. Still, the book tackles a difficult subject unflinchingly and it deserves some praise for that. (less)
It's senior year and Danielle can't wait for it to be over. With her frizzy red hair, quirky tastes, and OCD she sticks out like a sore thumb. Despit...more It's senior year and Danielle can't wait for it to be over. With her frizzy red hair, quirky tastes, and OCD she sticks out like a sore thumb. Despite all the trauma she endures at school, she finds it comforting to catalog her days there. She accomplishes this through a color-coded binder in which she keeps all her English essays, notes, important e-mails, and day-to-day journals. Experience school through her eyes and find out if Senior year will be the disaster she's expecting.
I loved the epistolary format as Danielle included not only letters but essays, her teacher's comments on the essays, and her own comments on her teacher's comments. I found the effect that The Big Lebowski had on her and the fact that it apparently has such a cult following amusing. I haven't read many books about someone coping with mental illness: regularly taking medication, attending therapy, social skills classes, etc. I really appreciated reading about her experiences and the perspective it provided. There were many great characters like her aunt who was always ready with words of wisdom, her friend Daniel who introduced her to The Dude, and her pen pal Justine. What really made the book though was Danielle and her frank descriptions of her life, her dreams, and her worries.
I'd give this to teens looking for a high school misfit story. Anyone who has had to attend therapy or social skills groups themselves will particularly appreciate Danielle's experiences. 7th and up.
Gunnerkrigg Court is unlike anything Antimony has seen before. Strange things are always happening, like the time when she discovered she had a second...moreGunnerkrigg Court is unlike anything Antimony has seen before. Strange things are always happening, like the time when she discovered she had a second shadow and helped it to escape, or when she went to research Greek myths in the library and ended up finding the actual Minotaur. Gunnerkrigg Court can be a dangerous place, but it was her mother's dying wish that she go there. When she discovers that her parents met at this strange institution, Antimony becomes determined to get to the bottom of its many secrets. Assuming she can survive the school year!
I loved hearing the Minotaur's side of the story: "See, when I was young, it was hard to meet people my own age, being stuck in the middle of a giant death maze and all." The book is infused with this dry humor and often satirizes the magical boarding school genre. For example, at one point when Antimony is lost she conveniently finds a sign reading "Secret Train To Large Animal Holding Cells: Very Hush Hush. You know." There are many other pleasant surprises that doubtless come from the fact that it was first published as a webcomic and so Siddell didn't have anyone telling him that he couldn't do this or that. At one point a character appears for a brief storyline who only speaks Spanish without any translation provided. Naturally my favorite character is the demon that ends up trapped in Antimony's stuffed animal and bound to her will. He's so adorably evil! Siddell plays on the inherent comedy of his situation like a virtuoso. The ever-optimistic robot comes in a close second. Then there's the shadow creature...so many characters to love!
It was a bit hard to follow the over-arching plot at times. There are so many stand-alone stories and the information about the world is given in drips and drabs. I enjoyed all the stories so much though that I didn't really mind being a bit lost on occasion.
I'd give this to fans of fantasy and humor. I'd say it's fine for 4th grade and up.
Even though New Whitby is known as a haven for vampires, Mel hardly ever sees any. The vampires stay in their part of town, and mostly only tourists g...moreEven though New Whitby is known as a haven for vampires, Mel hardly ever sees any. The vampires stay in their part of town, and mostly only tourists go there. There certainly aren't any vampires in the high school, which is why everyone is so shocked when Frances shows up in his UV protection suit. Cathy immediately falls for his sculpted good looks, but Mel recognizes him for what he is: a crazy astronaut suit full of trouble. And she's determined to keep her best friend out of harm's way. Unfortunately Cathy is just as determined to get to know the walking history book better.
I was surprised by this book. I was expecting it to be funny, and it certainly did not disappoint on that count: it cheered me up wonderfully when I was home sick. I wasn't expecting it to be so affecting though. At first Mel's sarcastic jabs at the vampires are just amusing, but as the book goes on she's forced to face her prejudice and re-examine it. The way she struggles with supporting her best friend while trying to protect her carries real emotional heft, and when she meets a human boy raised by vampires with some interesting prejudices of his own things really start to get interesting. This boy, Kit, is a great character and I appreciated that he respects Mel's independence and is quick to smile at her jokes and join in. Of course Mel's wit and willingness to speak her sassy mind are what really made the book for me.
Cathy and Frances could have been fleshed out better. It was hard for me to understand the appeal of either. Which is saying something when Cathy is described as an intelligent bibliophile with a passion for life in previous eras. If anyone was going to be able to relate to Cathy's character, it should be me. But she just felt like a placeholder for a generic vampire romance lead. I had difficulty understanding why Mel was friends with her to begin with. Frances was much the same. I've found plenty of vampire characters appealing, but I could not understand his appeal at all. He mostly seemed to exist to provide fodder for Mel.
I'd give this to fans of paranormal novels looking for a humorous twist. 8th grade and up.
There's a lot to love in this story about two quirky teens finding acceptance. Bea and her mom rent costumes and photograph themselves re-enacting sce...moreThere's a lot to love in this story about two quirky teens finding acceptance. Bea and her mom rent costumes and photograph themselves re-enacting scenes from classic movies. Bea bonds with another outcast student by communicating via a late-night radio program. Bea's often macabre sense of humor regularly had me laughing out loud right from the beginning as she told the story of how she tried to name a gerbil Goebbels. But despite enjoying all these disparate parts, I didn't really like the book overall. They didn't quite add up to a cohesive whole. I wish that a few of these ideas had been explored in more detail instead of covering so many things so briefly. The ending was also unsatisfying. If you read a lot of contemporary misfit stories and are looking for another, then it's worth picking up. But there are plenty of others in the genre that I would recommend before this one. (less)
Life on the railsea is not easy: bad tracks, traps laid by pirates, and attacks from below claim many lives. But Sham is grateful for his job aboard...more Life on the railsea is not easy: bad tracks, traps laid by pirates, and attacks from below claim many lives. But Sham is grateful for his job aboard the Medes. At least he is finally seeing the world outside his home town. Hunting giant moles can be exciting and people say that he should be proud to serve under a captain with her own Philosophy--an ivory colored creature she pursues with a passion and who has already taken her arm. Sham wants something more though and his vague sense of unease finds a focus when he discovers a picture of the impossible: a place where the great tangle of the railsea condenses into a single track. But while the captain's nemesis is certainly deadly, Sham soon discovers that secrets are the most dangerous quarry of all.
The world-building in this novel was the most creative and thorough I have read in a while. The way the environment has changed affects everything from how people earn a living to what creatures exist to the written and spoken language. Whole industries have cropped up around salvaging technology from the more prosperous past and the pollution that has seeped into the ground has created mutant creatures that thrive in the empty wastelands between cities. The captain is reminiscent of Captain Ahab, but the story isn't a simple re-working of Moby Dick. In this world there are many captains like Ahab and it's become a trend to have a 'philosophy,' a specific creature that has wronged a captain and which the captain has sworn to hunt until one or both of them dies. They often gather at pubs to tell their stories and there's a museum to chronicle the captains who have been successful in their philosophy hunts. This is only part of the story of Railsea though, and Mieville mainly includes it to lambast the idea. I am a fan of books that use slang and dialect to help set an atmosphere for a story so I loved the language in this novel and how connected it is to the world-building. There were many distinctive characters to enjoy as well and I naturally enjoyed the fact that Sham nurses a bat that becomes his companion and helps him along the way.
Mieville is a wonderful and highly opinionated author, but he doesn't always weave those opinions in seamlessly. He was far from subtle in the points he wanted to make, and it often felt preachy to me. After a lengthy book where I got attached to the characters and lost in their world the end was basically just a cheap shot about the greed of big businesses. I don't necessarily disagree with him, but making that the climax made the whole plot seem cheap and pointless. Even though I absolutely adored most of the novel, the ending left me with such a bad taste that it soured the whole novel for me.
I'd give this to science fiction fans looking for something with intricate world-building or those looking for a new take on Moby Dick. The world-building, though wonderfully imaginative, throws you in the deep end instead of slowly acclimating you. This, combined with the dialect make it difficult to get into, so I'd save it for more advanced readers. It can be violent at times, so I'd save it for 7th grade and up.