If you've ever wanted to be a ballerina, or just wanted to read about what is required to become a ballerina, then this book is for you. It follows 14...moreIf you've ever wanted to be a ballerina, or just wanted to read about what is required to become a ballerina, then this book is for you. It follows 14 year old Cassandra, an Australian girl who gets the chance to attend an intensive four-week ballet camp in Canada. She has to deal with homesickness, although she is staying with a nice host family whose daughter Edie is her age and also in the same camp; the intense nature of the long hours of practice and many classes in jazz and modern dance as well as ballet; and also, bullying and snubbing from the Queen Bee ballet student, Melissa, an older girl who is a veteran of the camp and feels she is the best student by far. All of the girls are competing to be chosen as Clara in an upcoming Nutcracker performance, but Melissa leads the pack of veteran girls in snubbing the newbies, even stooping so far as to cyberbully Cassandra. Cassandra maintains her morals throughout, despite the strain in her friendship with Edie, who can't say no to Melissa. When the bullying becomes physical, things come to a head and Cassandra's future as a ballerina is at stake.
This book is short, part of the Orca Limelights series of performing arts novels. The characters are drawn well enough to move the story forward, but because it is a short book you learn the most about Cassandra and not much else about the side characters. It is full of realistic details about life as a ballet student, showing the hard work and competitive pressures involved, and that physical strength as well as strength of character is needed to succeed. Good middle school book or reluctant reader book. I received a free copy of this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for a review.(less)
The first in the Seven series (although they can be read in any order) takes us to Tanzania and the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, which 17 year old DJ is...moreThe first in the Seven series (although they can be read in any order) takes us to Tanzania and the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, which 17 year old DJ is planning to climb in order to fulfill his late grandfather's last wishes--he wants his ashes spread on the summit of the mountain. DJ, an athlete, strong and cocky in his physical abilities, is sure that this will be an easy task for him to accomplish. But he gets off to a rocky start when his backpack and hiking boots are stolen by street kids, and once he's on the mountain with his climbing party, he quickly comes to realize that the adage "polepole" (Swahili for "slowly") is not just a catchphrase but a necessity. Through the course of the several day climb, DJ endures not just physical hardships but also mental obstacles, as he learns to adjust his thinking and rely on others. I enjoyed this story, for the character's growth and the realistic descriptions of the countryside, language, and culture of Tanzania and for the exciting mountain-climbing scenes. However, I kept comparing this book to Peak by Roland Smith, which has a similar plotline of a young man trying to climb a mountain (in that case, Everest) as well as a similar side character-- a local native acting as porter on the climb and trying to make a record and/or prove something (in this case, the first girl porter to summit; in Peak's case, it's to be the youngest ever sherpa to summit). So unfortunately that took away some of the novelty of the book for me. But your average teen looking for an exciting and not-too-long book about a young man trying to climb a mountain is going to enjoy this book. And then they'll want to read the other 6 books in the series, which have 6 other main characters who are all linked together--they're all cousins, and grandsons of the same man, whose last will and testament gives them each a different difficult task to accomplish. I liked seeing how this book is connected to the next one by DJ's texts to his brother Steve, who is off in Spain on his task. It's a clever premise for a series, where you can pick up any one of them and not be lost.(less)
Emily’s father, a former British soldier suffering from severe PTSD, stumbles into the house one night from the woods carrying the dead body of Ashlee...moreEmily’s father, a former British soldier suffering from severe PTSD, stumbles into the house one night from the woods carrying the dead body of Ashlee, whom Emily knows from school. Emily's father, who experiences trancelike episodes of severe flashbacks to the war incident where he killed a civilian girl by mistake, is arrested for murder. He's the only suspect, as he would spend hours in the woods inside his hidden bunker, trying to escape his memories. Emily is convinced he didn’t kill Ashlee, but she doesn’t have any proof that he didn’t, nor know who did. She thinks Damon, Ashlee’s boyfriend, might know why Ashlee was in the woods that night, but he won’t say. The story is told in two points of view, Emily’s and Damon’s, as Damon is struggling to remember just what did happen that fateful night; he was in the woods with Ashlee and his other friends to play their secret Game, where they chase each other through the woods trying to catch each other and steal the dog collars they wear. But he was drunk and high and is only getting brief glimpses of his memories from that night. Emily also begins to suspect her neighbor and childhood friend Joe, who spends time in the woods taking photographs for school projects and has creepy photos of Ashlee. The tension builds as the POVs switch back and forth, and Damon begins to remember more of what happened, leading to a tense climactic scene. Language and drugs make story appropriate for high school and up. The story is told in frenzied, stream-of-consciousness narration, very vague, emotional, almost like a drug trip. This ratchets up the suspense, but I found it just an annoying style of writing, sorry. Interesting look at PTSD; the kids are sort of suffering their own version of PTSD. (less)
Interesting story. High school senior Jesse has earned the nickname "Sway" because of his influence around the school. He's the one to go to when you...moreInteresting story. High school senior Jesse has earned the nickname "Sway" because of his influence around the school. He's the one to go to when you want marijuana, or alcohol for your party, or to date a hot girl who won't give you the time of day, or to buy a term paper. Even the principal (covertly) uses his services! He deals in money and in secrets, doesn't have any friends because he won't let anyone get that close to him, and shows no emotions. But when the popular football jock Ken pays Jesse to arrange it so that he can date the pretty, straight-A student Bridget, Jesse finds himself falling in love with her, and unusually for him, caring about someone other than himself. He also becomes accidental friends with Bridget's younger brother Pete, who has cerebral palsy and an attitude about his "saintly" sister. Jesse finds himself volunteering with special needs kids to be around Bridget, and defending the weak, and generally becoming a better person in spite of his previous attitude and actions. And maybe he'll finally confront the tragic event in his family's past that has kept him from expressing emotions (and playing the guitar he loves). Jesse is a likable character, very layered, although he's almost too good to be true: a guy who does underhanded things but regrets it, who deals drugs but doesn't smoke them (except for appearances when making a buy), someone who breaks the rules but who has morals about how he does it. He's like a reluctant bad guy. I found myself liking him in spite of myself! One of my favorite scenes is how he gets his friend Joey (a girl)'s lecherous stepdad to stop bothering her. You cringe at his methods, but yet, they're practical and effective. Pete is a wonderfully well rounded character too, not a perfect kid who happens to have a handicap, but rather someone who has to work out his place in his family and learn how to stop feeling sorry for himself. Due to language and some situations (drugs, violence) I'd probably recommend this for high schoolers, not middle school. I read an advance copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley.com(less)
A cute middle-grade book about a 10 year old girl facing changes in her family, neighborhood and in her longtime friendships. Written by an Ohio autho...moreA cute middle-grade book about a 10 year old girl facing changes in her family, neighborhood and in her longtime friendships. Written by an Ohio author, the story is set in an older neighborhood in Cleveland, where Maureen "Mo" helps her single dad raise her and her younger sister, and she hopes to one day see an actual fox on her street (there's a little bit of magic realism at play in the fox stuff, which was really neat). The houses are rundown, but the neighbors all know each other and support one another. Well, except for cranky Mrs. "Starchbutt," who doesn't want anyone touching her roses or walking on her lawn. When residents start getting letters from a developer offering to buy up houses, it causes tensions to rise: if people start moving away, what will happen to their neighborhood? Will Mo's Dad finally make good on his dream to quit his blue collar job and open a restaurant? Mo's best friend spends summers living just across the street with her grandmother, but is soon going to move permanently out of town, and Mo is worried about this. And she has to put up with her little sister, who runs wild and is a constant thorn in Mo's side. A sweet story of family, the born-with-them kind and the chosen kind. Nominated for the Buckeye Children's Book Award.(less)
This is a fascinating graphic novel-style illustrated science book about being "pro-critical thinking" that I think everyone should read. It really ma...moreThis is a fascinating graphic novel-style illustrated science book about being "pro-critical thinking" that I think everyone should read. It really makes you stop and think about things, and reminds readers not to just take something someone says at face value but to do your own research and think critically before just blindly accepting what someone may say is a fact. Similar to the show Mythbusters (which the author cites in the segment on the moon landing), Cunningham explains controversial science topics and debunks the myths and conspiracy theories revolving around them. Topics covered include the "faked" moon landing (there is no evidence proving that it was a hoax), chiropractic (not so much that it's a hoax or fake, but that if practiced poorly it can lead to injuries--I'd never heard of this before and it really made me cringe), that the MMR vaccine causes autism (the original doctor who claimed this, was paid by a pharmaceutical company! And patented his own single vaccine to sell! So how trustworthy are any of his so-called studies?), homeopathy (that water can "retain the memory" of miniscule amounts of allergens put in it and diluted to next to nothing, and this can somehow cure an allergy), evolution, fracking, and climate change. He explains each scientific concept very clearly, with illustrations of course, and then the objections to it. The illustrations are cute, with posterized images of the real people included, and the author lists his sources at the end of the book.(less)
A lovely biography for kids about the life of the famous children's book author and illustrator. He was one of my favorite illustrators, and I enjoyed...moreA lovely biography for kids about the life of the famous children's book author and illustrator. He was one of my favorite illustrators, and I enjoyed learning more about his life from this book. It has cute illustrations, though they are nothing compared to Sendak's own work. I liked the sidebar sections that explained more complex topics mentioned in the text, such as the Holocaust and censorship, both simply and accurately and objectively.(less)
Wonderful sequel to Cinder. This is my favorite kind of book, a "space opera," with fun characters who engage in witty banter, evil villains with an e...moreWonderful sequel to Cinder. This is my favorite kind of book, a "space opera," with fun characters who engage in witty banter, evil villains with an evil plan (mindcontrolling aliens from the moon who want to take over Earth? Check!), a sci fi setting (future Earth, where countries have been united in various Federations and are at peace with each other, and cyborgs and androids are commonplace), action, suspense, romance, sigh....
Scarlet, the new main character, is as determined and feisty as Cinder, and I love how the two characters' storylines intertwine as the story goes on, adding new characters for more interest (I love the dashing playboy pilot Thorne, and of course, Wolf is the darkly handsome, darkly mysterious and musclebound hero every girl wants to read about :-)
I couldn't put this book down, and eagerly grabbed the sequel, Cress. Now I am longing for the fourth book to hurry up and get here!(less)
An intriguing lyrical folk tale, very much in the oral tradition (it was written to be read aloud, and one can just imagine Neil Gaiman's melodious vo...moreAn intriguing lyrical folk tale, very much in the oral tradition (it was written to be read aloud, and one can just imagine Neil Gaiman's melodious voice in one's head as you read it), set in old Scotland. A "wee" man (dwarf) asks another to guide him over the mountains to a mystical cave, that is said to contain all kinds of gold. They journey for days on foot, endure some hardships, and say little. But when they arrive, things get interesting! I don't want to give anything away. It's a spooky story of love and revenge, ach it is. Illustrated with paintings and also with primitive comics panels, complete with speech bubbles. I understand that the paintings came first, shown on a screen as Gaiman told the story, and then they added the comics when making it into a book. But I personally didn't care for the mix of media, they didn't jibe well. I would have preferred all one or the other style of illustration. But the story is great and sticks with you after you finish it. Not really a graphic novel, but I put it in that Goodreads shelf because I don't want to create a new one for the occasional "illustrated story/graphic picture book". (less)
Lovely modern day version of the archetypal Black Beauty story: horse narrates his life as he is sold to a series of owners and makes friends along th...moreLovely modern day version of the archetypal Black Beauty story: horse narrates his life as he is sold to a series of owners and makes friends along the way, learns lessons. In this case, Macadoo is a Belgian draft horse, which is a different and interesting choice for a horse story. His mother imparts lessons to him about his breed, that they were important for humans, used in clearing land and doing all sorts of work; and that his job will always be to be strong and to heal people. Yes, the story is a little heartstring-pulling and dare I say schmaltzy, but really nice. Macadoo suffers the heartbreaking first separation from his mother, and then another separation years later from the boy he has grown to love; but he also learns to stay true to his calling and love every new child who comes to care for him or to ride him. And there's a lovely happy ending. I enjoyed learning a little more about vaulting (the sport of doing gymnastics tricks while on the back of a horse running around in a circle!) and therapeutic riding stables. I liked the mules he befriends, Job and Molly, too. My only quibble, and what kept me from giving it five stars, was that the horses were pretty much all-knowing; they all understood their humans perfectly, so they were always aware of what was going to happen to them. Mac's mom knew what an auction was and knew of the historic importance of Belgians; Mac learns to recognize the constellations in the night sky! As in, their real names, not some horse-idea of the constellations. But maybe I am being too cynical. I know as a 13-year old I would have eaten this book up, and I enjoyed being able to hand it to one of my library teens as her summer reading prize recently. I would read the other book in the series, Chancey of Maury River, too. I received an Early Reviewer advance reading copy of this book from LibraryThing in exchange for my (belated) review.(less)
The story of two sisters, who are very close until the older one, Layla, starts to change her behavior and Nell learns that Layla is secretly dating h...moreThe story of two sisters, who are very close until the older one, Layla, starts to change her behavior and Nell learns that Layla is secretly dating her art teacher. And Layla insists that Nell keep the secret from everyone: from their divorced parents, even from Nell's adoring best friend Felix, whom she tells *everything.* Nell can only confide in the imagined ghosts of two boys she used to know, until they died in supposed accidents. She had been looking forward to her freshman year, finally attending Layla's high school, able to join Layla's soccer team and share in Layla's fun. Nell even tries out for the school play in hopes of meeting the utterly cute boy Sam. But the pressures of keeping Layla's secret, of lying and covering for her absences, and seeing the changes in Layla's personality, are all starting to take their toll on Nell. Will she tell?
Good book about sibling relationships, and learning to be your own person, as well as lying and secrets and the price of keeping someone else's secret. Also an interesting description of student/teacher affairs, from the student's point of view. I would recommend this for high school and up, due to content. I read an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley.(less)
A marvelous book about two young women who become friends and support each other through some trying times, when the world hasn't treated them very we...moreA marvelous book about two young women who become friends and support each other through some trying times, when the world hasn't treated them very well at all. Quincy is tough, angry, black, and facially deformed from a childhood injury inflicted by her mother's boyfriend. Biddy is overweight, white, nearly agoraphobic, overweight and afraid of all boys. Quincy and Biddy are also self-described "Speddies," Special Education kids who are now graduating and facing life on their own. Told in alternating viewpoints by both girls, this is the story of how they start out as reluctant roommates-- in a garage apartment owned by an elderly woman whom they will help in exchange for their room and board--and end up as the closest of friends. They begin cooperating in household tasks, when they realize they have complementary skills: Quincy loves to cook and can do it well, while Biddy feels the most content when she can clean a place to "sparkly." They both have a lot to get used to, just in having a clean bed to sleep in or the absence of jeers and catcalling, for they come from broken and foster homes. And as the book progresses, we learn why Biddy had to give up her baby, and what drives Quincy to lash out at everyone.
This is a wonderful look at the differently-abled, at sexual abuse and the healing process, at bullying and its effects. But mostly it has well-rounded characters who tug at your heart with their pain and their efforts to overcome it, to fit in in the world and be seen as normal. Lizabeth, the senior citizen who takes them on as boarders and home help, is also shown not as a saint but as a real woman who has a wonderful heart but makes her own mistakes in relating to the girls.
Recommended for high school readers; strong language and some descriptions of rape, though described in simplistic terms. (less)
8th grader Donovan has always been a prankster, a clown, the guy who doesn't know why he's compelled to cause a ruckus, he just has to do it. But now...more8th grader Donovan has always been a prankster, a clown, the guy who doesn't know why he's compelled to cause a ruckus, he just has to do it. But now one of his dumb pranks has backfired, causing a whole lot of damage, and Donovan's about to be in big trouble--until his name gets accidentally added not to detention but to the list of students accepted into the special academy for gifted students. Now he thinks he's got the prefect cover to hide from the Superintendent and escape punishment--if he can only manage to survive the rigorous classes and the school full of nerds. The nerds turn out to be much more normal than he'd expected, however (in their own geeky ways), and Donovan turns out to have a few gifted talents of his own. They just aren't necessarily related to science or math or biology.
GREAT book! Lots of fun. Donovan is hilarious, sweet, charming, adorably average. I loved all of the characters, and the great themes of science and intelligence in this book, that it's okay to be really smart and to love to ask questions and find things out. Also the anti-bullying themes, that no one should be ridiculed for being smart OR for being less-than-smart. And after reading this, I *so* want my own robot.(less)
For older fans of the Percy Jackson series, a new take on the Greek-gods-in-modern-day story. All of the gods are slowly dying, and Athena and her bro...moreFor older fans of the Percy Jackson series, a new take on the Greek-gods-in-modern-day story. All of the gods are slowly dying, and Athena and her brother Hermes need to find out why and how to stop it. Hermes is wasting away, looking like an anorexic teenager, while Athena, also appearing to be a teen, is painfully growing feathers in weird places like inside her mouth. (I know, gross!) They seek out Demeter, who has become a stretched out piece of thin leatherlike skin staked in the desert (I couldn't stop thinking of certain Doctor Who episodes during this scene!), who advises them to find the Oracle, Cassandra. Cassandra, the other main character of the book, is a high school senior with no memory of who she really is. She has prophetic sight, but she uses it to scam money out of her classmates. But now she starts getting horrific visions of war and death, involving herself and her boyfriend Aidan. As the chapters unfold, the plot alternates between Athena and Hermes' journey to find Cassandra and inform her of her true self (by unlocking her memories of the Trojan War), and Cass' attempts to avoid both them and the increasingly violent monsters and other gods who have also begun to come after her. "Aidan" turns out to be the god Apollo, and a very nasty Aphrodite is also involved in this tale. There are some great action/battle scenes, including an extensive one involving Poseidon and the Nereids (evil sea nymphs). But there is also a lot of lighter modern day stuff, as Cass deals with high school and her family life; there are some pop culture references that place the action squarely in the 2000's. It doesn't have the same lighthearted tone as Percy Jackson, however, as these gods are all weary and cynical, angry about dying, and the familial relationships between them are as complex as their mythological origins. Definitely for high school and up, as the language includes many profanities.(less)