Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reading After Harry

Recovering Potter Addict

This is a completely random entry, but I had to post this blog banner when I saw it.  SO TRUE.  Oh, Harry, I have yet to find your replacement.

I only scoped out this blog for a few seconds, but it seemed pretty awesome (though the site's owner is taking a five week blog hiatus, so....backreading, anyone?)  Check it out here!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda

Book Jacket

As the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar, Bilqis SanGreal grew up knowing she wasn't normal.  Instead of hanging out at the mall or going on dates, she spends her time training as a warrior in her order's ancient battle against the Unholy.

Billi's cloistered life is blasted apart when her childhood friend, Kay, returns from Jerusalem, gorgeous and with a dangeous chip on his shoulder.  He's ready to slide back into Billi's life, but she's met someone new: amber-eyed Mike, who seems to understand her like no one else and effortlessly stakes a claim on her heart.

But the Templars are called to battle before Billi can enjoy the thrilling new twist to her life.  One of the order's ancient enemies has resurfaced, searching for a treasure that the Templars have guarded for almost a thousand years--King Solomon's cursed mirror, a source of unimaginable power.  To save the lives of millions, Billi will have to put her heart aside and made sacrifices greater than she could have imagined.


Devil's Kiss (though inaccurately named...get your characters straight, title!) has so much potential.  The Knights Templar are a mysterious organization that I have little to no knowledge of.  Making them a modern day rag tag group of men, plus Billi, sworn to fight against things that go bump in the night is an awesome idea.  If you like the supernatural but want something a little different, this is definitely a book to check out.

But.  Oh, book, you just never lived up to your potential!  The relationships between Billi and her father and between Billi and Kay were nicely strained and realistic for the first 3/4 of the novel.  But around the climax, everything sped up into "....c'mon, really!?" land.  Epic love sprang from tiny seeds, secrets were revealed, and emotions were suddenly twenty times stronger than ever before.

One nice thing I should point out:  this is so not a love triangle book.  The book jacket doesn't do the plot justice, but I promise there is very little angst.  Maybe a page, and then it turns awesome. 

I loved the mythology.  But the novel as a whole never sat well with me.  Still, it was engrossing enough that I read it in two days, so obviously it was not all bad!  I keep flipping between compliments and critiques, so your best course of action is to read it yourself and form  your own opinion.

Three out of five hungry dead.

Release Date:  September 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL CHA

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Devil's Kiss:

A Myriad of Books
Tina's Book Reviews

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

White Cat by Holly Black

Book Jacket

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers--people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands.  And since curse work is illegal, they're all criminals.  Many become mobsters and con artists.  But not Cassel.  He hasn't got magic, so he's the straight kid in a crooked family.  You just have to ignore one small detail--he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Cassel has carefully built up a facade of normalcy, blending into the crowd.  But his facade starts to crumble when he finds himself sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams of a white cat that wants to tell him something.  He's noticing other disturbing things too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers.  They are keeping secrets from him.  As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories.  To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.


This is a book that, when discussing, quickly reduces me to flailing wildly and babbling, "IT'S SO GOOD!" over and over.  Because it really is.

It's no secret that I love fantasy books.  But my favorite subgenre is urban fantasy, where magic and the supernatural is woven into everday life.  Holly Black has that mastered.  As I read about curse workers and how they fit into the United States' past and present, I was very nearly convinced that it made perfect sense and was actually true.  Brilliance!

Cassel is a fantastic protagonist.  He is incredibly smart, but his confidence sometimes causes him to make dangerously dumb moves.  He is part of a family of conmen and mobsters, and the relationships between Cassel and his grandfather, mother, and brothers are just heartbreakingly realistic.  There is love and loyalty in the family along with a scarily large amount of deception and sometimes hatred.

The plot is twisty and the surprises are often gasp-worthy.  This was the second time I read White Cat, and I was pleased to see all the clues laid out to those clever enough to notice them.  This book could easily be read as a standalone, but it will have a sequel, Red Glove, on April 5th.  In my opinion, a story that is completed but is open to successive stories is the best way to write a series, so thank you, Holly Black!

*Bonus*  For my second reading, I actually listened to the White Cat audiobook.  Jesse Eisenberg is the narrator, and he became Cassel seamlessly.  Crush on Jesse Eisenberg is now official.

Five out of five protective gloves.

Release Date:  May 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL BLA

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of White Cat:

New York Public Library
Novel Novice

Reading Rant: Spoilers

I am not the sort of reader who flips to the back of the book first to see how everything ends.  I'm the sort who will plug my ears and desperately sing "LA LA LA LA" when I overhear someone talking about a book I haven't read.

Today I checked in the sequel to a book I'm reading.  Devil's Kiss is really unique, spinning the supernatural trend into something new and unexpected.  So when its sequel, Dark Goddess, crossed my desk, I couldn't help but smile fondly at its cover.  Then, against my better judgment, I flipped it open and glanced at the book jacket.

The very first sentence gave away a hugely important event of the first book!!  AGH!  Why would a publisher do that?  I get that it's the second book, but don't people sometimes check out the jackets of the whole series before reading the first?  You don't just throw around character deaths all willy nilly.

Ugh.  I'm still excited to finish Devil's Kiss, but it won't be nearly as awesome anymore.  *le sigh*

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

Book Jacket

What does God expect of us?  Is our faith just about going to church, studying the Bible and avoiding the most serious sins--or does God expect more?  Have we embraced the whole gospel or a gospel with a hole in it?

Ten years ago, Rich Stearns came face-to-face with that question as he sat in a mud hut in Rakai, Uganda, listening to the heartbreaking story of an orphaned child.  Stearns' journey there took much more than a long flight to Africa.  It took answering God's call on his life, a call that tore him out of his corner office at one of America's most prestigious corporations--to walk with the poorest of the poor in our world.

The Hole in Our Gospel is the compelling true story of a corporate CEO who set aside worldly success for something far more significant, and discovered the full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to change his own life.  He uses his journey to demonstrate how the gospel--the whole gospel--was always meant to be a world-changing social revolution, a revolution that begins with us.


If you want to pursue the American Dream--saving money, buying bigger houses, retiring with a boat or luxury car--then don't read The Hole in Our Gospel.  Richard Stearns, the current president of World Vision, calls Christians to stop placidly sitting in church pews while half of the world lives in extreme poverty.  Poverty in the form of extreme hunger, a lack of clean water, disease, no education, and a life devoid of hope. 

If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, then...we have to follow Jesus.  He went to the poor and the diseased.  He loved them, and he healed them.  We are to do the same!  Stearns effectively stabbed me in the heart and made me realize that far too often my own gospel, my good news, has a hole.  I too often use only words as my good news, without any actions to support them and give them meaning.

As a result of reading this book, I've sponsored a child in Senegal with monthly donations.  And my fire to commit my future to missions--potentially orphanage work--has been renewed. 

Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ's compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
--Saint Teresa of Avila

Five out of five calls to action.

Release Date:  March 2009
Reading Level:  Adult Non-Fiction
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: not yet owned by Dunlap

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of The Hole in Our Gospel:

Blessed is the Kingdom
Never a Dull Moment

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just Grace by Charise Mericle Harper

Book Jacket

Here are some things you will find in this book:

1.  Crinkles the cat, at least until he disappears.
2.  Fantastic friends like Mimi and the glamorous Augustine Dupre, who is from France.
3.  A boy with some unfortunate habits.
4.  And finally, four girls named Grace, which is entirely three Graces too many.

Here are some things you will not find in this book:

1.  A lost friend.
2.  The world's largest sandwich.
3.  A new neighbor who can do handstands.

Maybe they will be in the next book.  We will have to wait and see.


Just Grace is a cute book that gives a younger spin to the "journal as a book" trend.  The added drawings and comics (especially great is the Not So Super superhero comics) are funny, but don't blend as well with the story as other books have done.  Like Happyface or Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, both of which blew me away with their awesomeness.

The story of a girl who tries to make someone feel better, but inadvertantly makes things worse, is a good one.  It's a perfectly fine book, but I have to say I didn't much care for it.  I think its biggest problem is that Grace doesn't sound like a grade schooler.  She is too clever and too observant.  If Harper would have run with that and made her a genius child, then fine.  But the language feels as though it is trying to dumb itself down, the whole of which just took me outside the story and made me too aware of the work that went into it.

Three out of five postcards.

Release Date:  April 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 2+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  BLUESTEM

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Just Grace:

Bugs and Bunnies
Mundie Kids

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Imogene's Last Stand by Candace Fleming

Book Jacket

Imogene Tripp has a passion for history.

When she was a baby, her first words were, "Four score and seven years ago."

In preschool, she finger-painted a map of the Oregon Trail.

So when the mayor wants to tear down the Liddleville Historical Society to make way for a shoelace factory, it's up to Imogene to fight for the town's past.  Will history be demolished?  Or will Imogene make history?

This spirited and funny book will inspire you do don your Paul Revere costume and join Imogene in shouting out, "The bulldozers are coming!"


Wonderful.  Imogene inspires kids and reminds adults that every person can make a difference in the world by fighting for what is important.  In this case, Imogene withstands social apathy and governmental hostility in order to make sure her beloved Historical Society isn't torn down in the name of progress.  It's a great reminder that sometimes the quiet things in life are more important than loud and "important" ones. 

Imogene and her father are fantastic characters.  The names of the the supporting characters and hilarious clues to their personalities (Officer Ditzwilliam, Mayor Butz).The president of the United States is an hopeful nod to future equality.  And Imogene's habit of quoting famous people is a lovely reminder that we are also makers of history when, at the end, she quotes herself.

Five out of five protests.

Release Date:  October 2009
Reading Level:  Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  MONARCH

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket

Book Jacket

There's dreadful news from the symphony hall—the composer is dead!

If you have ever heard an orchestra play, then you know that musicians are most certainly guilty of something. Where exactly were the violins on the night in question? Did anyone see the harp? Is the trumpet protesting a bit too boisterously?
In this perplexing murder mystery, everyone seems to have a motive, everyone has an alibi, and nearly everyone is a musical instrument. But the composer is still dead.
Perhaps you can solve the crime yourself. Join the Inspector as he interrogates all the unusual suspects. Then listen to the accompanying audio recording featuring Lemony Snicket and the music of Nathaniel Stookey performed by the San Francisco Symphony. Hear for yourself exactly what took place on that fateful, well-orchestrated evening.


I love Lemony Snicket.  His sense of humor and love of language can nearly always make me squee like a fangirl, which can be embarrassing if I'm reading in public.  His short story about an orchestral murder, The Composer is Dead, lacks none of his usual charm and whimsy.

As a former band nerd, I was sad that saxophones were not included in the story's lineup, but Snicket would probably say something quippy about how saxophones are always forgotten.  His personifications of instruments (from the giggly flutes to the flattering reed instruments to the lonely old bachelor tuba) are just spot on. 

"The Violins answered first, of course.  The violin section is divided into First Violins, who have the trickier parts to play, and the Second Violins, who are more fun at parties."

And the mystery's answer?  Is clever and heartwarming all at the same time.  Brilliant.

Five out of five dead composers.

Release Date:  March 2009
Reading Level:  Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  J SNI

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull

Book Jacket

At the end of the school year, Kendra and her brother, Seth, find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures.  Grandpa Sorenson, the caretaker, invites three specialists--a potion master, a magical relics collector, and a mystical creature trapper--to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient organization determined to infiltrate the preserve and steal a hidden artifact of great power.  Time is running out.  The Evening Star is storming the gates.  If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world.  Will Kendra learn to use her fairy gifts in time?  Will Seth stay out of trouble?  Can they overcome paralyzing fear?  Find out in book two of this best-selling children's fantasy series.


Things I liked: 

1.  The ending.  Mystical traps and labyrinths are always awesome, and Mull threw in some really creative challenges. 
2.  The ending ending.  Nice way to continue the twists right down to the very last page.
3.  The result of Kendra's fairy kisses in book one:  It was really cool to see how Kendra had changed as a result of her actions at the end of Fablehaven.  I can't wait to see her take ownership of her new powers and really go to town being awesome.

Things I disliked: 

1.  The first half of the book seemed really slow.  Except for a heart-pounding car chase, I was mostly bored.  Introducing new characters doesn't have to be so choppy!  I ended up really liking Tanu, Vanessa, and Coulter, but I disliked their classroom-like introductions.
2.  Potentially awesome plot lines dropped.  Seth and his looming death could have been made really dramatic, but the way that ended was pretty abrupt and anti-climatic.
3.  The feminism?  I can appreciate Mull's attempt at showing both chauvanistic men (or is he?) and girl powered ladies.  But...the answer to men excluding women is not women, in turn, excluding men.  An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, and all that.  Rise above, Kendra!

Three out of five terrifying cat guardians.

Release Date:  May 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL MUL

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star:

It's All About Books
Guy Gone Geek

Thursday, March 17, 2011

K-3 LEGO Club

Theme of the month:  robots!  We had robot boats, robot houses, and regular humanoid robots.  Click "read more" to see more pictures!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Book Jacket

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name.  He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is.  His memory is empty.

But he's not alone.  When the lift's doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they got to the Glade.  All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened.  Every night, for just as long, they've closed tight.  Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift.  And no one wants to be stuck in the Maze after dark.

The Gladers were expecting Thomas's arrival.  But the next day, a girl is sent up--the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade.  And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.  The Gladers have always been convinved that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home...wherever that may be.  But it's looking more and more as if the Maze is unsolvable.

And something about the girl's arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different.  Something is telling him that he just might have some answers--if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.


I was kind of leery of this book at first.  I thought it was a new Lord of the Flies (and I don't care if that is a classic, I hate it).  But as I kept reading, the mind games and mysteries slowly won me over.  So even though the Grievers were all kinds of nasty, and the setting was eerily frightening, I ended up really enjoying The Maze Runner.

Thomas is a fantastic protagonist.  Is he good?  Is he evil?  We don't know, and even better, neither does he.  Ditto for Teresa, the mysterious girl who seems to be linked to Thomas in crazy and awesome ways.  And Minho!  And Newt!  There were so many great characters.

But ultimately, my favorite thing about Dashner's dystopian story is the puzzle of their very existence.  How much are they monitored?  Why does the maze shift every night?  Is there some higher purpose to all of it?  And then ending!  Crazy!  And then the epilogue just went and made the mind games five times more insane.

I can't wait to read its sequel, The Scorch Trials, which will continue the horrific and engrossing story of Thomas and his fellow Gladers.

Four out of five code words.

Release Date:  October 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 6+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  LINCOLN

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of The Maze Runner:

Guys Lit Wire
The Spotted Mushroom

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Double Crazy Twice by Amber

My dad is working on a car.  I asked what he was going to put on the car and he said nothing.  So I thought he couldn't hear, so I asked louder, and he said, "METAL."  I said yes, I know you put metal on a car.  I asked what is going inside.  He said metal, metal, and more metal.  Okay, so my dad's making an all metal car.

So I went to my mom and asked what she was making and she said, "METAL."  I think I am going crazy, because when I went to my brother and asked what he was looking at, he said, "METAL."  Everything I hear is "METAL."  It's crazy.  So I called my friend to tell her and all she said through the whole conversation was, "METAL." 

So I woke up this morning, went downstairs, asked mom what's for breakfast, and she said, "Vacuum bottle."  What in the world is a vacuum bottle?  So then I went to my dad and asked what is he eating, and he said, "Vacuum bottle."

Oh now, I am going double crazy.  Yesterday it was "METAL" and today it is "vacuum bottle."  I think I am going to die.  So I called my doctor and you know what he said?  "Vacuum bottle metal."  So I just hung up and took my crazy little body to bed.

When I woke up, I asked my mom what we were having and she said, "Pithecanthropus."  Holy Higgenbottoms, what is that?  So I asked my dad what he was eating and he said, "Pithecanthropus."  Ok, I am officially going triple crazy.  So I called my mom's doctor and you know what he said?  "Pithecanthropus vacuum bottle metal."  So I give up on everything, all these big words.

When I wake up and another word comes along, no, I need a different way to handle this because if I don't, I am definitely going to die.  It happened again, except the word was "Italinate."  Um, not so weird.  So I guess I'm going double crazy twice.  So I called my dad's doctor and you know what he said?  "Italinate pithecanthropus vacuum bottle metal."  That's not weird, right?  So I made a plan.

I asked my mom for an "Italinate," and she looked at me like I was going mad.  I give up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ouran High School Host Club: Vol. 1 by Bisco Hatori

Book Jacket

In this screwball comedy, a poor girl at a rich kids' school ends up working for the school's swankiest club--and gets mistaken for a boy!

One day, Haruhi, a scholarship student at exclusive Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase that belongs to the "Host Club," a mysterious campus group consisting of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys.  To pay back the damages, she is forced to work for the club, and it's there that she discovers just how wealthy the members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...


I have already seen the entire season of Ouran High School Host Club already, so reading the manga is just a feel good return to a crazy and hilarious story.  (You can watch the anime on hulu for free.)

This series cracks me up.  A girl has to pretend to be a boy and work for the rich school's host club, where girls pay to spend time with gorgeous guys.  It's kind of a reverse harem, but this never becomes creepy, because the boys have a strange sense of honor.  They genuinely want to make girls happy by allowing them into their awesome presence.  They might be nice, but they definitely aren't humble.

The best part of this series is how satirical it is.  Each guy in the Host Club pretends to be a "type" that girls fangirl over, whether that is the Strong and Silent Mori or the mischieviously funny twins Kaoru and Hikaru.  It kind of makes me facepalm, because these are exactly the heroes who dominate girl's media.

But Hatori doesn't stop with satire.  Throughout the series, each of the boys slowly reveal their true personalities.  They aren't manic dream boys, though that is the front they present to their customers.  They all have insecurities and flaws.  Haruhi is the one who sees past their acts and helps them become something more than just a commodity for other people's enjoyment.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it.  Mostly this is just a really fun and hilarious manga.  In volume one we are introduced to all the characters.  There is a Christmas party, the collision of rich with poor, and two unrequited loves made...requited.

Four out of five instant coffees.

Release Date:  July 2005
Reading Level:  Grade 6+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not currently part of Dunlap Library's collection.

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Ouran High School Host Club: Vol. 1:

Anime Radius
lovelyduckie's Blog

Monday, March 14, 2011

Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty

Book Jacket

Things are looking up for Jessica Darling.  She has finally left her New Jersey hometown/hellhole for Columbia University in New York City; she's more into her boyfriends, Marcus Flutie, than ever (so what if he's at a Buddhist college in California?); and she's making new friends who just might qualify as stand-ins for her beloved best friend, Hope.

But Jessica soon realizes that her bliss might not last after she lands an internship at an uber-hip Brooklyn-based magazine.  As she and Marcus hit the rocks, will she fall for her GOPunk, neoconservative RA...or the hot grad student she's assisting on a summer project...or the oh-so-sensitive emo boy down the hall?  Will she even make it now that her parents have cut her off financially?  And what do the cryptic one-word postcards from Marcus really mean?

With hilarious insight, Jessica Darling struggles through her college years--and the summers in between--while maintaining her usual mix of wit, cynicism, and candor.


And we get to college!  Jessica has matured, and her journal proves that she is concerned with bigger things than her old high school drama (see my reviews of the first two books in the series, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings).  Hurray!  I loved seeing Jessica struggle with many of my college issues--why did I choose a liberal arts major that is insanely interesting but will not get me a job unless I go on to grad school?  (Here's a hint, Jessica, become a librarian.)

What I did not struggle with was all the guys who are interested in Jessica.  I will be the first to acknowledge that I am a prude, but come on.  She considers, and is encouraged to, sleep with a married man?  I'm sorry, but that is never okay.

I loved my college years.  So I was a little disappointed that Jessica's entire time at Columbia was reduced to just one book.  Not only that, but we only read her thoughts from summers and winter breaks, when she is mostly at home in Pineville, NJ.  I love the old characters, but I wanted to hear more about her day to day existence at school in NYC. 

I devoured this book, but I thought it could have been better.  Still, Megan McCafferty brilliantly understands what it means to grow up--the angst and the hilarity, so I have to give it

Four out of five one-word postcards.

Release Date:  April 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 10+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL MCC

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Charmed Thirds:

Liv's Book Reviews

Friday, March 11, 2011

14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy

Book Jacket

It is June of 2002, and a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya.

An American diplomat is surrounded by hundres of Maasai people.  A gift is about to be bestowed on the men, women, and children of America, and he is there to accept it.  The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary.

A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw.  Tears flow freely from American and Maasai alike as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away.

Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe.  Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still.  For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope...and friendship.


Everything about this book is wonderful.  The pictures are beautiful and realistic.  The words are simple and powerful.  The message is uplifting. 

I love to travel, and since I recently lived in Africa (though nowhere near Kenya, where this story takes place), international stories are close to my heart.  14 Cows for America proves that human understanding and generosity is stronger than any country and continental boundary.

This true story is best summarized with a quote from the back informational page.  "To heal a sorrowing heart, give something that is dear to your own."

Five out of five storytellers.

Release Date:  August 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 2+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  BLUESTEM

Found by Margaret Haddix

Book Jacket

When Jonah and his best friend, Chip, start receiving threatening notes in the mail, they are plunged headfirst into a mystery.  With the help of Jonah's sister, Katherine, they discover that the notes may be connected to the shady circumstances surrounding Jonah's and Chip's adoptions.  When they begin to investigate, they find a vast conspiracy that reahes from the far past to the distant future--one that will take them hurtling through time.  They don't know who to trust, or which shadowy faction to believe.  Can Jonah and Chip discover the secrets of their pasts before the conspiracy catches up to them?


Found is basically a prequel to what I assume will be an awesome second book.  This book lets the mystery of Jonah's adoption, and the creepy anonymous letters he gets thirteen years later, slowly seep into the reader's mind.  The possibilities are farfetched but weirdly plausible.  Like Jonah, Katherine, and Chip, we have no idea how far the rules of time can be stretched.

I loved Jonah's relationship with his sister Katherine.  They bicker and tease each other, but when life becomes dangerous, they quickly have each other's backs.  The fact that they are adopted siblings is never an issue--they are family, whatever their blood might say otherwise. 

Found is excellent throughout, but the real adventures began when questions were answered in the last few chapters, leading to a crazy, action-packed ending.  I can't wait to see what lies in store in the next book!

Four out of five Elucidators.

Release Date:  April 2008
Reading Level:  Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL HAD

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Found:

Inkweaver Review

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis

Book Jacket

What do a secret squirt watch, a pair of spring-loaded super-boots, and the incredible Kablovsky Copter have in common?

They're all inventions of...the Secret Science Alliance.

This trio of gadgeteers is hard at work in a secret lab, tinkering with technology that's definitely too cool for school!  But when an evil scientist steals their blueprints and hatches a dastardly plan, the Secret Science Alliance springs into action.  Can three young inventors, armed with their crazy creations, defeat this criminal mastermind?

Strap on your welding goggles and get ready for a high-tech adventure from comic supergenius Eleanor Davis!


The three kids who makes up the Secret Science Alliance--Julian the nerd, Ben the jock, and Greta the troublemaker--are way smarter than I could hope to be.  They make inventions in their underground labratory hideaway of the very cool Inspector Gadget type variety.

I loved how this book subtly dealt with issues of social isolation and self-doubt.  These kids are obviously super awesome, but they don't realize it.  Thankfully, their insecurities don't stop them from saving the day!

Graphic novels can be my favorite thing ever, if done well.  And Secret Science Alliance definitely is!  The pictures vary from simple intensity to complicated puzzles.  I especially liked the little touches, such as a turtle nibbling Julian's hair after he collapses to the floor with emotion.

This book has it all--smarts, drama, action, and the funny.  "If only we had invented a long-range wireless communication device we could call them with!"  "Like a cell phone?"

Five out of five glue bombs.

Release Date:  September 2009
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  BLUESTEM

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Am I... by Devyn

"It was the wrong house.  I walked in and slung my bookbag and coat on the loveseat.  I started to feel hungry, so I looked in the sweets stash, hoping to find a Boston Cream Roll, or a Twinkie, or something of that sort.  I looked in and couldn't believe my very eyes.

I saw sweet upon sweet upon sweet.  It was indescribable.  I took the entire sweet stash, laid on the loveseat, and started munching.  And munching.  And munching.  Then...all of it was gone.

Just five minutes later, a plump man with a large, bushy white beard, carrying a handful of live, freshly caught catfish and a lot of fishing gear burst through the door screaming, "OUT OUT OUT NOW OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!!" 

I scampered out the door, thinking, "Am I in the wrong neighborhood?  Am I in the wrong house?"  Then I went into the house with the address of: 6723 Grintfield Lane instead of the one labled: 6723 Mayfield Lane."

"O.K.  Miss Joel, you're free to go home.  Next, Mr. William Billius Hanters..." said Chief Thorne.

My Stupid Self by Will

It was the wrong house.  I mean, the wrong tree house.  A Persin can't live in the wrong tree.  I needed to get out.  Fast!  So I headed for the exit when Beedrill stopped me.  I braced myself, but nothing happened.  He said, "You need a pass code." 

So I touch one from another Bedrill.  I put it in and the Beedrill let me go.  It turns out he was blind.

I said, "I RICKED MY LIFE TO GET A CARD FOR A BLIND BEEDRILL!  How dumb can I get?  At least I'm out of here.  All I have to do is find my home."

2 months later...

Hey, these are my tracks.  Wait a sec.  STUPID!  STUPID!  STUPID!  I'm going in circles.  My home!

BOOM.  Craaack.  Oops.  AHHHHHHH.

Come back here, you brat!  You destroyed our home!  You can see your body in the tree!

Lookout Hill by Olivia

It was the wrong house.  I sighed as I left the old woman's driveway.  I of all people had to memorize my friend's complicated neighborhood to get around.  We were going to have a sleepover.  She was a good friend and all, but it would be easier if she knew her own address.

I had started at 11:00 knowing it would take till 5:00 to get the right house.  I pulled a grape from the bag in my basket.  I needed refreshments.  I biked up a steep hill to get a better view of my surroundings.  From there I could see the road, my neighborhood, and a deer bounding at the edges of the woods.

I shielded my eyes from the sun.  There!  It was my friend's house, tucked away at the edge of the neighborhood.  Taking another grape from the basket, I sighed with impatience.  My friend Amber's house was four blocks away!  I peddled down the hill, enjoying the wind in my face.  I crossed two roads, and shortcutted through one backyard.  As I biked into the driveway Amber came out.  "Hi, Olivia!"

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

Book Jacket

It's the craziest competition ever, when the terror of the oceans, Shark, takes on the king of the rails, Train.  Who will win?  Shark and Train face off in situations from wacky to bizarre.  Find out who triumphs at burping, bowling, Ping-Pong, piano playing, pie eating, and many more!

Who will you root for?


Eh.  Maybe it's because I have no interest in either sharks or trains, but I didn't really see the award-quality entertainment factor for this book.  The drawings are well done, and it's cute to see each combatant perform in various outrageous contests.  I particularly liked the shark's growled "Whaddaya mean, 'It's a little watery'?!" at his underwater lemondage stand.

It's a cute read, but nothing special.

Two out of five chatty cabooses.

Release Date:  April 2010
Reading Level:  All Ages
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  MONARCH

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Book Jacket

What if you had only one day to live?  What would you do?  Who would you kiss?  And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High--from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot.  Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance.  Seven chances, in fact.  Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death--and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of living.


This book has a Groundhog's Day premise, and for the first third of the book, I just wasn't sold.  Sam is the popular mean girl of high school, and the first couple days she experiences her death were just painful.  She is a horrible girl, really, treating her family, friends, and especially the less popular kids at school, like dirt.

But.  After a the third or so time experiencing her last day, Sam starts to understand and love those same people that she previously took for granted.  Watching her realize that her actions have consequences was fantastic and eye-opening when I think about my own life.  The "innocent" insults she and her friends fling around have repercussions, both small and large.

I was impressed that reliving the same day seven times never got dull.  Sometimes she stays home from school, sometimes she uses her do-over as an excuse to let loose, and sometimes she tries to stop the cycling by doing as much as she can correctly (whether it ends up good or not is another matter).

Before reading Before I Fall, I would never have thought I would sympathize with the stereotypical mean girl.  But Oliver shows the genuine friendships between Sam and her friends, as well as slowly reveals the insecurities that cause them to be mean.  The mysteries surrounding Sam's death (what exactly caused the car crash?  was she the only one who died?) are solved as Sam tries to live in last day in various ways.

It took a while, but I am now completely sold on this book.  I can't get it out of my head, which is a sure sign of a great story.

Four out of five dreams of falling.

Release Date:  March 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL OLI

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Before I Fall:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happyface by Stephen Emond

Book Jacket

Yes, I'm the cool guy.  The big shot.  The one girls geek out to.  That's me.  Happyface.

Cute girls dig him.  He has his own fan club.

But he wasn't always this awesome.  He used to be Mr. Comic Book, a resident of Lonelyland.  So when he switched schools, he slapped on a grin and went from big nerd to big shot.

Has he achieved permanent coolness?  Or will his inner dork return?

Meet Happyface.  This is his journal.


I guess you could say this is the grownup version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, if by "grownup" you mean "aweome, and far superior."  The brilliance of having the protagonist's name always remain Happyface, combined with the fact that all of his self-portraits are of a simple happy face, allows the reader to put themselves in his shoes.  By making himself a nobody, he can be anybody.

I happen to be a fan of books written as journals (if they do it well).  And Happyface takes this style to a whole different level.  Normally it is very hard to pull off story twists or surprises, since the person writing the book is letting you into their head.  But Happyface manages to pull off not one, but two huge plot twists, simply because Happyface didn't deign to tell us about it.  So good.

The cartoons and sketches that litter each page add extra depth and emotion to his story.  And what a story it is--parents fighting, sibling jealousy, girl confusion, identity crises--poor Happyface made me laugh and nearly cry.  And that is the mark of a truly excellent book, according to me.

Five out of five cartoon caricatures.

Release Date:  March 2010
Reading Level:  Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL EDM

Don't believe me?  Check out these reviews of Happyface:

The Literary Wife
The Brain Lair

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Physik by Angie Sage

Book Jacket

When Silas Heap unSeals a forgotten room in the Palace, he releases the ghost of a Queen who live five hundred years earlier.  Queen Etheldredda is as awful in death as she was in life, and she's still up to no good.  Her diabolical plan to give herself everlasting life requires Jenna's compliance, Septimus's disappearance, and the talents of her son, Marcellus Pye, a famous Alchemist and Physician.  And if Queen Etheldredda's plot involves Jenna and Septimus, then it will surely involve Nicko, Alther Mella, Marcia Overstrand, Beetle, Stanley, Sarah, Silas, Spit Fyre, Aunt Zelda, and all of the other wacky, wonderful characters that made Magyk and Flyte so memorable.

With heart-stopping action and a dash of humor, Angie Sage continues the fantastical journey of Septimus Heap.


Sage just gets better and better with each new Septimus Heap book.  Or maybe it's the fact that, like television shows, I've gotten to know and love the characters as time has gone by.  Seriously, I actually think "Yay, it's Wolf Boy!" when he appears on the page, or "Alther!  I've missed you."  If there is one thing Sage does best, I think it is developing a huge cast of supporting characters who have individual personalities and their own little side stories.

Physik is a simple story, really.  A Queen from the past does everything she can to achieve eternal life, and Septimus and Jenna must stop her.  But along the way, there is so much awesome!  Time travel, alchemy, dragon antics, ghostly taverns, and so much more.

The world of Castle and the Ramblings is one in which I would gladly set up home.  It's enchanting and delightful as ever.  Such a great series.

Four out of five named silver bullets.

Release Date:  March 2007
Reading Level:  Grade 4+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  YPL SAG

Messy Spirituality by Michael Yaconelli

Book Jacket

I guess I’m not a very good Christian . . . Do you feel like: I don’t pray enough I don’t read my Bible enough I don’t share my faith enough I don’t love God enough I’m not committed enough I’m not spiritual enough. Then this book is for you. Messy Spirituality was written for the silent majority of us who have been convinced that we just don’t do Christianity right. We spend most of our lives worried about what we don’t do instead of what we have done, focused on our imperfections instead of God’s fondness for the imperfect. Why? Because we’ve been bombarded with books, tapes, talks, seminars, and movies convincing us that real Christianity is all about perfection. Michael Yaconelli dares to suggest that imperfection, infiniteness, and messiness are, in fact, the earmarks of true Christianity; that real Christianity is messy, erratic, lopsided . . . and gloriously liberating.

What if genuine faith begins with admitting we will never have our act completely together? Maybe messy disciples are exactly the kind of imperfect people Jesus came to earth for and whose company he actually enjoyed--and still enjoys. If you want to find Jesus today, look for him in the midst of burned-out believers, moral misfits, religious incompetents . . . men and women whose lives are, well, messy.

Messy Spirituality is a strong antidote for the spiritual perfectionism in us all. Here are truths that can cut you loose from the tyranny of ought-to’s and open your eyes to the deep spirituality of being loved, shortcomings and all, by the God who meets you and transforms you in the midst of a messy and unpredictable life.


This book turns typical evangelical thought on its head in the most beautiful way.  A lot of evangelicals can tend to sound a little Pharisaical--if you aren't following all the rules exactly, then God doesn't want anything to do with you.  Thank goodness there are people like Yaconelli who remind us that God has always chosen and worked with people who are messy and imperfect.

I find it very encouraging to be reminded that my faith and devotion to Jesus is a lifelong growing experience.  God doesn't expect me to have my life figured out--we're working on that together.  It's the journey, with both the high points and especially the low, that bring me closer to Jesus and teach me to be more like him.

It took me awhile to get used to Yaconelli's writing style.  He tends to say things once and then repeat it in different ways over and over.  He likes to be repetitive.  The repetition gets his point across more clearly.  You see what I mean?  But the message is well worth reading important points five times.

Four out of five missteps.

Release Date:  March 2002
Reading Level:  Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not yet part of Dunlap's collection.

Interrupting Chicken by Devin Ezra Stein

Book Jacket

It's bedtime for the little red chicken, and Papa is going to read her a story.

"You're not going to interrupt the story tonight, are you?" asks Papa.

"Oh no, Papa.  I'll be good," says the little red chicken.

But she just can't help herself!  Whether it's Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, or Chicken Little, as soon as the story gets going...out jumps the little red chicken--right into the story--saving the characters from danger and ending the story early.

Will that chicken ever get to sleep?


If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to jump into media (TV, movies, books) and participate.  The little red chicken certainly uses this power for good!  She cracked me up with her abrupt story endings.  "Out jumped a little red chicken, and she said, 'Don't panic!  It was just an acorn.'  So Chicken Little didn't.  THE END!"  So much less drama than the original version.

I also really liked that this story is about a little girl and her dad, even if they are chickens.  There are too few father/daughter stories, and this one is an excellent start to righting that balance.

Four out of five reinvented fairy tales.

Release Date:  August 2010
Reading Level:  All Ages
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  MONARCH

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio

Book Jacket

When Grace's teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first.  And she immediately starts off her political career as a candidate in the school's mock election.  But soon she realizes that she has entered a tough race.  Her popular opponent claims to be the "best man for the job"--and seems to have captured all the male votes.  So Grace decides the only thing to do is to concentrate on being the best person.

In this timely story, author Kelly DiPucchio not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought--and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.


The second paragraph of the book jacket pretty much says what I wanted to say.  This book is completely charming, with fantastic pictures highlighting the events the book describes.  Grace is a fantastic girl who I would totally vote into presidency.  When she promises to address the bullying problem, she joins the school safety squad.  When she promises no more fish stick tacos, she volunteers to work in the cafeteria. 

The happy outcome of the school's mock election supports the idea that voting someone into office means more than just voting for the more popular contestant; it means voting for someone who will get the job done. 

I also loved how DiPucchio included historical and political facts.  The students vote after being assigned a state to represent, thereby explaining the electoral college in action.  The deciding vote goes to Wyoming, which I assume is a nod to the fact that it was the first state to allow women to vote. 

This book is all around awesome, right down to the perfect hopeful last picture.

Five out of five future female presidents.

Release Date:  February 2008
Reading Level:  All Ages
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  MONARCH

Flight of the Blue Serpent by Tony Abbott

Book Jacket

Eric and his friends are headed to Droon's far north, a forbidding wasteland of ice and snow.  There they seek the truth about a mysterious treasure--a snowflake with magical powers that fell to the earth from a strange, flying blue serpent.

The kids' journey is filled with danger, for Ko will stop at nothing to get the treasure.  And every step north brings them closer to fulfilling a terrifying prophecy that could change the future of Droon forever...


This is the book that was chosen for our March book club for 3-5 graders.  I haven't read any of the other Secrets of Droon series, which was a huge disadvantage while reading Flight of the Blue Serpent.  Despite the confusion that inevitably occurs when plopping into the middle of a series, the 33rd set of adventures were plenty entertaining.

I only got to read about a the northern part of Droon, but it was enough to convince me that Abbott has an awesome imagination!  The frozen wasteland actually made me want more snow (I know, I know, please don't hate me).  But really, if we could all bundle into furs and travel by motorized sleds, wouldn't a snowland be totally awesome?  The answer is yes.

The villians Eric and his friends face are Nesh warriors, skeletal monsters made of icicles.  They break off their various parts and throw them at people!  So cool.  And terrifying, I'm sure. 

I didn't understand all the background and mythology, but if there's one thing I've learned from reading fantasy, it is this:  Don't ignore prophecies!  They always come true, and usually in the least expected way.  Galen stopped worrying too soon, and now I might never know what happens to Eric...unless I pick up the next book.  Which honestly, I probably won't.  Maybe someone at the book club can tell me how the series ends.

A great book (and I'm assuming, series) for younger readers, but not exactly a world in which I'm willing to invest more time.

Three out of five blue snowflakes.

Release Date:  October 2008
Reading Level:  Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  J ABB