"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

30 September 2013

The Naturals

Barnes, Jennifer. The Naturals. Disney, 2013.

Cassie is very good at reading people.  She is chosen for an elite group that assists the FBI in solving cold cases, but soon her very life and those of her group mates are in danger, and it's hard to know whom to trust anymore.

This is yet another in a series of books about serial killers, but this one has a different twist with the group of Naturals fighting the killer. I enjoyed getting to know the different characters and watching them interact with each other.  I eagerly turned the pages to discover who the killer was, and I was genuinely surprised at the ending.  This book is excellent!

Recommended for: teens, fans of thrillers/mysteries

Red Flags: language, violence

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

27 September 2013


Falls, Kat. Inhuman. Scholastic, 2013.

A corporation that was attempting to create weapons accidentally unleashed a virus on the United States.  Now everything east of the Mississippi is wilderness and a great wall spans the United States from Canada to Mexico.  Lane's father is a Fetch; he ventures into the wilderness to obtain priceless paintings and other objects for people.  But when he doesn't return by his scheduled time, Lane has to venture over the wall to find him and complete his mission.

Wow.  This book is unbelievably suspenseful.  It's at least as good as The Hunger Games, and it's clearly going to require at least a sequel, if not several other books.  Kids who enjoyed The Hunger Games will love this book; I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't be able to keep this one on my shelves.

Recommended for: teens, fans of dystopian novels, fans of The Hunger Games

Red Flags: epic violence, descriptions of human/animal hybrids

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

25 September 2013

Asher's Fault

Wheeler, Elizabeth. Asher's Fault. Bold Strokes Books, 2013.

Asher is hiding in a bathroom, having his first kiss, when his little brother drowns.  After that, Asher has to deal with his grief, his parents' separation, and a whole lot of secrets that are being revealed.

I liked that, like Coda, this is a book about a character who happens to be LGBT, but the book isn't really about the kid coming out.  Instead, he's trying to deal with his little brother's death, his mother's grief, his jerkweasel "friend," and all the twisted secrets that come out about his family.  I liked that Asher had his old-fashioned camera and that he enjoyed using it, but didn't like taking pictures of people.  The story kept me going even though Asher's friend is irritating to the point that I wanted to punch him and Asher's dad tries to buy his love.

Recommended for: teens, fans of mysteries,

Red Flags: language

Overall Rating: 3/5

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of review.

23 September 2013


Trevayne, Emma. Coda. Running Press Kids, 2013.

Anthem and his family live in the Corp, a society where music carries addictive powers and the government tightly controls everything, even the songs people are allowed to hear.  Anthem is trying to keep his family together, caring for his ailing father, preventing his siblings from becoming music addicts, and creating music on his own with a group working very much outside of the law. But when the government begins to tighten its grip, what will Anthem sacrifice to save himself and his family?

I didn't think I'd like this book.  The author does very little world-building, so it takes a while to understand what's going on.  The ending of the story is intense, although unsurprising. I can imagine this book being very popular with teens, especially those who have read The Hunger Games and all the other dystopian novels. Also, I really appreciated the fact that the main character is bisexual, but it's not a big deal.  The book isn't about him being bisexual; it's about other things and the reader figures out that he's bisexual.

Recommended for: fans of dystopia; young adults

Red Flags: the whole book is about drug addiction; some violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

20 September 2013

Cameron and the Girls

Averett, Edward. Cameron and the Girls. Clarion Books, 2013.

Cameron has schizophrenia, but he's only in junior high, so he and his family are hoping that his disorder will disappear as he grows up. Cameron decides to quit taking his medication; soon, his head is filled with various voices. He doesn't like all the voices, but he does like one of them, and he wants to know if he can keep that voice.

I do not think this is a good book for kids. Cameron and his buddy from school don't have any redeeming qualities at all. She encourages Cameron to skip school and not take his meds, which leads to him making some very dangerous choices. She also goes off of her meds, with disastrous results. The only thing I got from this book is that most 14-year olds are probably not mature enough to make their own decisions when it comes to taking medication. Cameron frequently lies about taking his meds, both to his parents and to his doctor.

I would be hesitant to put this book in my library's collection, even though it covers an illness not frequently found in YA books, because the main character goes off his meds, has some scary adventures, and comes home relatively unscathed. It's almost as if the author is encouraging children not to take medication prescribed to them, and that's. just. dangerous.

Recommended for: teens, those interested in books about mental illness

Red Flags: Cameron is 14, so his language isn't always the best and he starting to think about girls a lot.

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

18 September 2013

The Water Castle

Blakemore, Megan. The Water Castle. Walker Children, 2013.

Ephraim's family moves to their family estate, a castle in rural Maine, and Ephraim befriends the descendant of the castle's caretakers as well as the descendant of his family's rivals.  While the trio try to discover the secrets of the fountain of youth, old rivalries are mended and relationships restored.

This book was amazing.  It's Holes meets Narnia. This story was entertaining, the ending was satisfying, and I read this entire book in one sitting.  I am so glad there's a copy of this book in my library; I plan to booktalk it this week when classes come to visit.

Recommended for: tweens, teens, reluctant readers, fans of Narnia

Red Flags: none

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

16 September 2013

The Caged Graves

Salerni, Dianne. The Caged Graves. Clarion Books, 2013.

Verity has returned to Catawissa, PA, to marry her betrothed, a person she has never met before. She finds herself getting to know her father for the first time and discovering secrets surrounding her family, including the reason why her mother's grave is not in the cemetery and is surrounded by a cage.

This book was suspenseful and entertaining. I could barely put it down, and I don't generally enjoy historical fiction.  I liked watching Verity adjust to her new community, and I really enjoyed the climax and ending of this story. This one might be difficult to get kids to pick up without book-talking it, but perhaps it could be part of a Halloween display.

Recommended for: young adults, fans of suspense fiction

Red Flags: violence - lots of chasing and people being shot at, etc.

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

13 September 2013

Warrior Princess

Beck, Kristin. Warrior Princess. Advances Press, 2013.

Kristin Beck is a transgender woman who was able to come out - to herself, to her family, and ultimately to the world - after retiring from service as a Navy SEAL. This book chronicle's Kristen's journey to become herself.

I really, really wanted this book to be good. There aren't enough good trans books in the world. However, this book is not worth the electronic space it takes up on my Kindle.

1. It is narrated in third person, presumably because someone else wrote the book and just tacked on Kristen's name to make it more appealing. It is really hard to read about a person's struggles and difficulties but not be in their head space. That kind of distance made me not care as much about the story.

2. There are many, many grammar and other writing errors. Not only is "transgender" used as a noun (it's not), but Kristen is said to have given "1000%" on several occasions. Also, this author needs to learn how to use the word "literally." Overall, the book is trying too hard, similar to the first few essays I received from my eleventh grade honors English students when I taught high school.

3. This book spends way too much time 1) introducing itself (5% of the space), 2) telling about the history of Kristen's family (another 15%), and 3) focusing on her time in the SEALs (probably 30-40% of the space). Very little of the book has anything to do with Kristen's struggle, which is what I really wanted to read about.

The moral of the story is this: don't read this book, but if you must, then check it out from the library. At least then it won't be a waste of money.

Recommended for: People who've read everything else about the trans community.

Red Flags: language, abominable grammar errors

Overall rating: 1/5 stars

11 September 2013


Higgins, M.C. Bi-Normal. Saddleback Educational Publishing, 2013.

Brett is one of the football jocks at his school.  He has everything - the run of the school, his pick of the girls, ... and a crush on a guy. Brett isn't sure what to do with himself.  He can't like guys; he likes girls, right?  He's not gay, so then what is he?

This book is better than Boyfriends with Girlfriends, but only just. Brett is an obnoxious character (Remember the closeted jock from Glee? This is his twin). The book is too short and too shallow to make much of a point. I read this book because I thought it was important, not because I cared about the main character or even learned much of anything about being bisexual. I do think there need to be more books featuring the B and T of LGBT, but this isn't one of them.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: Brett and his friends pick on the openly gay students.

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

09 September 2013

The Aviary

O'Dell, Kathleen. The Aviary. Knopf BFYR, 2011.

Clara has been kept at home so that the stress of going to school doesn't aggravate her heart condition.  She's trapped in a house with her mother, the housekeeper, an old lady, and a cage full of birds left over from the lady's husband's magic act.  But when the old lady dies, the birds begin to speak to Clara, and she begins to unravel the mysteries hidden in the house.

This book starts out slowly, but it definitely picks up and is worth reading.  I was not that interested at first; Clara's mom is uber-overprotective, which I found obnoxious, and who cares about a kid stuck in a random old house?  But when the mysteries started being revealed, I got interested.  And I was glad to see that Clara, like many characters before her, develops a backbone and is able to choose her own path instead of being trapped inside forever.

Recommended for: young adults and tweens, especially strong readers

Red Flags: none

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

06 September 2013

Zebra Forest

Gewirtz, Adina. Zebra Forest. Candlewick Press, 2013. 

Annie and Rew live with their grandmother. Their parents are gone, and their grandmother struggles to take care of herself, much less the two kids. So when prisoners escape from the nearby prison and one comes to their house to hide, Annie and Rew are at the mercy of this mysterious man.

The premise of this book was interesting enough, and the story wasn't bad, but it moved rather slowly. I enjoyed the characters and the resolution, but I think children would find this book a difficult one to stay interested in. Considering that Annie, Rew, and their grandmother are being held hostage by a convict, the book should be more suspenseful, but it really isn't.

Recommended for: middle grade, strong readers

Red Flags: none, except the whole "prisoner holding people hostage" thing

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars.

04 September 2013

The Man from Primrose Lane

Renner, James. The Man from Primrose Lane. Sarah Crichton Books, 2012.

David is a crime writer, but he hasn't written in years. His publisher encourages him to look into the disappearance of a young girl, and he gets the writing bug, which sends him on investigations, which leads to him learning more about the mysterious man from Primrose Lane, the man who always wore mittens, even in the summer.

That synopsis doesn't nearly do this book justice. It's a crime book; it's a book about writing; it's a book about loss; it's a book about time travel. There's a little bit of everything in here, and it's an engrossing read. This book has been sitting on my "to read" shelf for far too long, and I am so glad I finally picked it up. I got so interested in the story that I nearly pulled an all-nighter just to finish it. If your library doesn't have a copy, figure out how to request one, or just buy it yourself. This book is excellent!

Recommended for: adults; fans of science fiction, fans of crime fiction. (If you'd enjoy seeing a mashup between Michael Connelly and Orson Scott Card, this book is PERFECT for you.)

Red Flags: language, talk of kidnapping, rape, and molestation. This is a book for adults, not for children.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

02 September 2013

Mister Max

Voigt, Cynthia. Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things. Knopf BFYR, 2013.

Max's parents are actors, and when they receive an invitation to go to India and perform for royalty, how can they refuse?  But Max misses the boat they sail on and ends up staying with his grandmother.  While waiting to hear from his parents, Max becomes a "finder of lost things": he finds someone's child, someone's dog, someone's spoon, and someone's long lost love.  But can Max ever find his parents?

I loved Cynthia Voigt's work as a child, so I was very excited to see this new book coming out.  I was not disappointed. Voigt created some lovable characters and placed them in a fun mystery.  The reader will likely guess many of the connections before Max figures them out, but that's part of the fun of this book.  I read this entire book in one afternoon; I couldn't put it down! This book is definitely a winner; I look forward to reading any sequels that Voigt may write in this series.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens, those who enjoy mysteries, parents looking for "clean" books for their kids to read

Red Flags: none.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.