Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: Brutal

Title: Brutal
Author: Michael Harmon
Genre: Realistic YA

About the book (Taken from Goodreads):
With her martyr-doctor mother gone to save lives in some South American country, Poe Holly suddenly finds herself on the suburban doorstep of the father she never knew, who also happens to be a counselor at her new high school. She misses Los Angeles. She misses the guys in her punk band. Weirdly, she even misses the shouting matches she used to have with her mom.

But Poe manages to find a few friends: Theo, the cute guy in the anarchy Tshirt, and Velveeta, her oddly likeable neighbor—and a born victim who’s the butt of every prank at Benders High. But when the pranks turn deadly at the hands of invincible football star Colby Morris, Poe knows she’s got to fix the system and take down the hero.

With insightfulness, spot-on dialogue, and a swiftly paced plot, Michael Harmon tells the story of a displaced girl grappling with a truly dangerous bully.

My Review:
The best part of this book is how little Poe Holly really knows herself. Like so many teens, she has an “identity” and sees herself one way and everybody else another. Poe’s spunky and rebellious and not afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right, all admirable characteristics, and certainly what makes her likable. But she’s also very much like her mother, and takes on her own “martyrdom” the moment she steps foot into the school, shoving everyones mistakes in their faces and holding them up to her own unreachable standards. 

Poe is relentless and not always likable, but that’s what makes her the only one who can change Bender High. She takes on the system without flinching, but she’s almost as hard on her friends as she is her enemies, and in her own way, truly brutal.

Overall: Four Stars. As the title suggests, Harmon doesn’t hold back the brutality that is bulling or the damage that it causes. This book certainly has its dark moments, but push through and you’ll find a satisfying ending

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Review: One Crazy Summer

Title: One Crazy Summer
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Genre: Historic Fiction

About the book (Taken from Goodreads):
In the summer of 1968, after traveling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

My Review:
This is a story of loyalty and abandonment, of sisterhood love and rivalry. The story centers around three sisters: Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern and the summer they spend with their mother Cecile. 
"Cecile Johnson - mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner - is our mother. A statement of fact." 
Is she a good mother? No. But does that make her bad person? That’s the question Delphine is struggling to answer.
Delphine is everything her mother is not: dependable,  sensible, and unselfish. But her mother has other strengths and sides that Delphine can’t quite categorize. 

Overall: Five Stars. This book is told from Delphine’s point of view and you will fall in love with her funny and factual perspective.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Book Review: Bloomability

Title: Bloomability
Author: Sharon Creech
Genre: MG Realistic Fiction

About the book (Taken from Goodreads):
When she is whisked away to an international school in Switzerland, Dinnie Doone discovers all the "bloomabilities" that life has to offer. From Newbery Award-winning author Sharon Creech is a story about everyday joys.

My Review:
Domenica Santolina Doone or “Dinnie” is a nice, quiet, observant girl, and a striking contrast to those around her. Especially, the vibrant and garrulous Guthrie and the demanding and moody Lila. Dinnie sees the positive side of everyone except herself. Despite her insecurities and her tendency for isolation, Dinnie breaks out of her bubble, makes friends, and “blooms” into a more confident person.

Having students from all over the world attending a “American” school in Switzerland makes for a great setting, and brings multiple cultural differences into play. But I don’t feel like Creech played upon those cultural differences as much as she could have. Rather, she painted a more simplistic “warm and fuzzy” picture with Lila being the single dark spot in an otherwise perfect setting.     

Overall: Three Stars. Although I love the cultural aspects of this book, and I think it has a good message about being open to new things and people, being true to yourself, and overcoming insecurities––there wasn’t much plot. I didn’t find Dinnie’s friend Lila’s transition into becoming a nice person very realistic, nor did I feel the “Middle School” setting was portrayed realistically. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: The Saturday Boy

Title: The Saturday Boy
Author: David Fleming
Genre: MG / Realistic Fiction

About the book (Taken from Goodreads):
If I've learned anything from comic books, it's that everybody has one thing that can totally ruin their day without fail. For the wolfman it's a silver bullet. For Superman it's kryptonite. For me it was a letter.

With one letter, my dad was sent back to Afghanistan to fly Apache helicopters for the U.S. army.

Now all I have are his letters. Ninety-one of them to be exact. I keep them in his old plastic lunchbox—the one with the cool black car on it that says Knight Rider underneath. Apart from my comic books, Dad's letters are the only things I read more than once. I know which ones to read when I'm down and need a pick-me-up. I know which ones will make me feel like I can conquer the world. I also know exactly where to go when I forget Mom's birthday. No matter what, each letter always says exactly what I need to hear. But what I want to hear the most is that my dad is coming home.

My Review:

This is a bittersweet read. A well written and moving story about a kid with realistic struggles. Derek is riddled with anxiety and anger brought on by his father’s absence and a messed up relationship with his ex-best friend Budgie. His anger and actions snowball, getting him into more and more trouble.

Despite all the negatives in Derek’s life he has a clearly defined independent spirit. One grown from having supportive parents (even when far away). Parents that show an obvious interest in their son. Derek can stand on his own feet: “If people think I’m weird, that’s their problem.” And his parent’s don’t buy into labeling: “You want a label for Derek? Awesome. There it is. That’s your label.”

This book only had one oddity, and I shouldn’t even point it out, because it’s not a big deal, but I substitute taught for years and years so I’m going to anyway. Derek sounds like he’s going to school in the 1950s. Sentence diagraming? Um, he’s eleven and few teachers even teach that anymore. His teacher is old, we know she taught his father so that could explain away a few of her obsolete teaching techniques, but having her students write lines over and over on the chalkboard? Besides Edna Crabapple (Bart Simpson’s teacher) no teacher has used that method since the 1950s. Even having the students send notes to each other and shoot spit wads seems a little off. 

Overall: Five Stars! I loved this book. I can’t remember the last time I had so much empathy for a character. It would also make a great classroom read, but not for me, I cried like a baby. Seriously.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: Completely Clementine

Title: Completely Clementine (#7)
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Genre: Chapter Book, Fiction

About the book (Taken from Goodreads):
Summer is coming, and Clementine is not ready. She is not ready to start speaking to her father again, because she’s still mad at him for eating meat. Instead, she has to express her sadness by giving him drawings of animals she knows would not want to be somebody’s dinner. 

Then there is the new baby on the way. Clementine’s mom sure doesn't seem ready. She’s suddenly crazy about cleaning (Dad says she is nesting), but she doesn't even have a name picked out yet. Clementine just hopes the baby won’t be a dud.

What Clementine really isn't ready for is saying good-bye to her third grade teacher. She knows Mr. D’Matz is going to tell her all kinds of things that aren't true. Everything else may be changing around her, but that doesn't mean that Clementine has.

But which is worse, saying good-bye, or not saying good-bye?

My Review:
Like most readers my age, we compare all chapter book heroines to Ramona Quimby. Well, Clementine can hold her own. Charming, hilarious, flawed, and opinionated, Clementine has quickly become one of my favorite chapter book characters.

She’s up there with the Penderwick sisters and Marty Mcguire when it comes to getting in and out of trouble. 

Don’t miss book seven, it doesn’t miss a beat!

Overall: FOUR STARS! Girls who have outgrown Ivy & Bean and Junie B. Jones will love Clementine!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

SCBWI Conference.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
 conference is being held in Spokane. 
Don't miss it! 

To register, go to: 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Middle Grade Mystery

Ink's Top Ten Middle Grade Mystery Books.

Who doesn't love Holes? If you haven't read it. 
Read it!

Excellent read for upper MG & YA! 
Read my review HERE.

Spit out your milk hilarious! 
Reviewed HERE.

I also recommend Hiaasen's Hoot and Flush,
 All three are excellent environmental mysteries.

Oh, so creepy! Best for older MG readers and YA. 
Check out my review Here.

It's a classic!

Not your usual Cynthia Voigt book.
Reviewed HERE.

One of my favorite series! 

Excellent book for STEM girls. Read my review HERE.

A great series. 
Click here to read my review.