Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe by Dan Poblocki

The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe
This is not my typical genre of choice, but being on the Texas Lone Star list for this year, I thought I should read it.

While I'm not completely satisfied with how the story is resolved, I like how the haunting develops and the story behind the monster. With extremely short chapters (sometime just a couple of pages), even reluctant readers will find this story appealing. It also has an extra plus in having a creepy cover! B rating.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

The Great Greene Heist
Jackson Greene, known for pulling some of the biggest cons at Maplewood Middle School, swears he's given up all pranks, heists and schemes forever, especially after the Mid-Day PDA caused him so many troubles. When Jackson discovers that bully Keith Sinclair plans to bribe his way into the student council presidency, he knows that he'll have to come out of retirement and pull off the "Great Greene Heist."

With the hero and his pals teaming up to win one against the school bully, this reminds me of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander. While not quite as memorable as Rylander's story, THE GREAT GREENE HEIST still entertains and will find a following. B- rating.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bride of the Water God, Volume 2 by Mi-Kyung Yun

Bride of the Water God, Volume 2Bride of the Water God, Volume 2 by Mi-Kyung Yun

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the previous volume, Soah married the water god Habaek. Now, she must learn to live with him. She still feels uneasy about her new husband and the other gods, especially when Mui outrageously flirts with her. When Soah hears that Habaek and Mui are the same person, she seeks a way to discover if this is true.

Nothing much happens in this second volume of the series, but wow, that artwork is just spectacular! I just wish the story could give me a reason to continue with the series, but unfortunately, I doubt I could stay interested long enough to see if something FINALLY does happen. C- rating. (It would have been D+, but the illustrations bumped it up!)

Things That Go Bump in the Night by Patrick Carman

Things That Go Bump in the Night (3:15 Season One)Things That Go Bump in the Night by Patrick Carman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Things That Go Bump in the Night is advertised as stories that one can listen, read, or watch in 15 minutes or less. As a follow-up to the success of Skeleton Creek and the other books in the series, Patrick Carman uses video to supplement the stories. Each short story begins with an audio introduction of about a minute, then the short story in print, and concludes with a video ending. The audios and videos are accessible via a web page with a password printed in the book. The web page indicated that they are also available via an app that I didn't try.

While reading, I was reminded of the type of spooky stories told around the campfire. The urban legend type of story of which you've heard hundreds of different variations. The stories aren't gory per se, but the implication of gore is there. Some will find the videos frightening while others will view them as stupid or silly.

As with any short story collection, some are more successful than others. Some were just plain dumb, some were creepy, and some downright scary. I'm sure it'd depend on one's phobias as to which story was the favorite. I enjoyed "Mr. Mason's Jars." In that story, Mr. Mason is an 8th-grade science teacher that no one likes. He's weird, very strict in class, and has extremely bad breath. When a new student starts acting up in class, Mr. Mason invites him to come by after school and see what is in his collection of mason jars. Everyone knows that any student that goes to see Mr. Mason after school leaves with a completely different personality. In the story/video, we find out exactly what is IN those jars and what happens to the students.

Overall, it's a decent read. At first, the concept of listening to an introduction, reading the story, and watching a video is cool, but after a while, it got old. I hated having to put the book down, go to the computer to watch/listen, and then go back to the book. I wish there were a better way?? C rating.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Marlfox by Brian Jacques

Marlfox (Redwall, #11)Marlfox by Brian Jacques

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was recently weeding books and pulled out Marlfox, because it's in bad shape and needs to be replaced. I decided to read it, because I remember one of my students recently mention that this was his favorite book in the Redwall series. I'm so glad I did.

Legend has it that marlfoxes possess magical powers and can appear and disappear at will. When several marlfoxes are spotted in Mossflower wood, the various creatures take it upon themselves to go and warn everyone at Redwall Abbey. The marlfoxes and their crew of water rats attack the Abbey and succeed in stealing the most valuable item in the Abbey -- the tapestry of Martin the Warrior. Song and Dann (both squirrels) and Dippler, a shrew, are told in a dream by Martin the Warrior that they have been given the task to find the tapestry and bring it home. Along the way the trio meet new friends, battle fierce enemies, and are met with a surprise or two. Ultimately, they must battle the marlfox and rats on their home turf -- the island at the center of the Hidden Lake.

I've been a fan of Brian Jacques ever since I was given his first two Redwall books in the early 90s. I remember when I heard him speak one time he mentioned how he wrote these books as a type of radio play for students at a school for the blind. That's why all the different animals have such distinctive dialects. I'm glad I knew that -- it made me more appreciative of the style of these stories. I know that at times, it can be difficult reading what's being said but you only have to listen to one of the full cast productions of Redwall books to know why it's perfect!

Now, to Marlfox.. I'm not sure why I liked it so much. On the surface, it seems to have the same characteristics as the other stories. Creatures of the Abbey going on a quest, sent by the warrior Martin, facing dangers and learning one's own strengths, etc. I guess one of the things that most attracted me to this one was Song. She's really the leader of the trio from Redwall. She's the one figuring out the riddle to guide their way. She's the one making the decisions on going, staying, etc. Although Dann is the one with Martin's sword, he's not the one doing the crazy heroic acts all the time. I love that the girl is strong and courageous, and the others accept her that way.

There's plenty of exciting battles in Marlfox to attract those fans of action/adventure stories. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling story about friends on a quest. Even if you haven't read other Redwall stories, you could jump right in and be just fine. Wonderful story! I give it an A!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Princess Mia by Meg Cabot

Princess Mia (The Princess Diaries, #9)Princess Mia by Meg Cabot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently learned that Meg Cabot has written an eleventh book in the Princess Diaries series to be published summer of 2015. That news was just what I needed to get me to pull out those I still had left to read in the series. I honestly don't know why I got away from them, as I just adore Mia.

In this installment, Mia has a mental breakdown after Michael ends their romantic relationship and Lilly still won't speak to her. After spending a week in bed, her parents force her to go to therapy with Dr. Knuts. She has traded princess lessons for therapy sessions, but she must still make her Grandmere happy. So, she agrees to give a speech at a Domina Rei party. While doing research for her speech, Mia comes across the diary of a Genovian princess from the 1600s. In there, she learns major news about Genovia that everyone MUST know! Only, her father and Grandmere don't want anyone else to know. What is MIa to do?

It's amazing to me that when I'm reading these books, Mia just comes alive in my head. I can totally see her and her friends. I love how things that don't seem like a huge deal to adults are the end of the world to Mia and her friends. Such Drama!! But, the drama is just so funny. It's totally over the top, but I'm not annoyed with all the angst -- I'm laughing! I like how Mia is able to take the advice of her therapist and start to overcome her depression step by little step.

Although I won't spoil it, I will say the ending was just perfect! I can't wait to read the next one. Hmm.. Do I read it soon or wait until closer to #11's release date?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Violet on the Runway by Melissa C. Walker

Violet On The RunwayViolet On The Runway by Melissa C. Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Violet is discovered by a model agent while working at the local movie theater in Chapel Hill, NC. A self-described wallflower, Violet is excited about the possibilities, but scared that this is just a joke. She's invited to New York for a weekend for a makeover and go-sees. She doesn't think it'll amount to much and is totally surprised when she books some shows for NY Fashion Week. Deciding to graduate early and move to New York City to model in the spring of what would be her senior year of high school, Violet learns that modeling is not all glamour and fun.

I almost put this one down in the middle. When Violet chose to be buddy-buddy with the popular girls at her high school, instead of backing up her two friends, I wanted to yell, "How could you?!" at her. But thinking on it, I'm sure there are many girls that would do exactly the same thing. Is it right? Of course not. Is it something that would happen? Sure. I knew then and there that something would happen to Violet in New York that would cause her to come home with her tail between her legs, begging her old friends for forgiveness. They, in turn, would forgive her in a heartbeat and everything would end up perfectly! Voila! Just like many other books or TV movies. I'd seen (or read) it all before.

But that's not what happened. Violet does choose to go to New York over her friends at home. (You knew that just by looking at the cover!) Things aren't perfect in New York, but she doesn't hit rock bottom. I like that she's disillusioned about life as a model, but becomes more realistic. As Violet learns how others treat models at a photo shoot (like they're not human), she knows that she must learn to deal with the pain it causes or become like some of the more seasoned models. Yes, you will read about the mean models who try to trick you, the models with eating disorders, and the ones with drug habits. But does Violet become one of them? Uh, not exactly. She's no angel, but I wouldn't say she's completely a mean girl either.

I know many a teen girl that dream of being discovered like Violet. It seems like a fairy tale come true. With Violet on the Runway, we get a glimpse of the reality that all may not be perfect in the modeling world. C rating.

Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger by Jon Scieszka

Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger (Frank Einstein, #2)Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger by Jon Scieszka

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this second installment of the Frank Einstein series, Frank and his best friend, Watson (and the robots) are curious about energy. From Frank's idea for an "electro-finger" invention to Grandpa's desire to find an alternative source of energy to power his house, we as the reader are introduced to many concepts about energy. Forces and motion, nonrenewable and renewable energy. Sounds like science class, right? Well Scieszka has found a way through this story to present science in a fun way. Hey, the reader may not even realize he's learning about science here.

Frank, Watson, Klink and Klank face off against ultra-rich kid T. Edison and his chimp. Edison has bought all the power sources for the city and is destroying them all, except for one -- the hydroelectric dam -- in hopes of raising the cost of electricity for the town (and his profits). When Frank discovers this evil plan, he goes all-in to find a way to ruin Edison's plans.

I wonder how many humorous references kids will get. Sure, they'll get Frank Einstein (Frankenstein), but will they get the scene where the townspeople come after him with torches and pitchforks because they are afraid of his monsters? Will any see the humor in having Frank's invention be based on an idea by Tesla, and having his square off against T. Edison and more traditional power resources? If not, it sure keeps a smile on the adults faces as they read over their kids' shoulders.

I plan on purchasing this for my middle school library. Yes, I know that MS is a bit above the intended interest level for the book, but I think it'll be a hit. It has action & adventure, it's graphic-intensive, and has a super-hero vibe. I just won't mention the science part too loudly.

(I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)