Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Geared Towards: Ages 14+
Published By: Candlewick
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-4490-1

If you enjoy reading a good thriller, ripe with horror and delight, then look no further. For the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness will fit that bill perfectly with its unique and terrifying storyline.

In the first book of the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go, you learn that the world can be a very scary place, and no matter how much you think you know you may never be right. Set in a world of "noise", Todd has never known silence- not in the sense that you or I have. Cursed with a disease from the Spackle, an alien race, a person's thoughts are no longer his and his alone. It's a dark and dangerous world, nothing like the settlers envisioned when they first came to this new planet. Yet it's the only world Todd has ever known. It's not a fun place necessarily, but it's home.

And then a day comes that Todd must question everything he's ever been taught or thought true. In that day, Todd discovers the most horrifying thing of all- silence. Unlike anything he's ever known, Todd hears a silence so pure it could be almost maddening if it weren't for the fact that it is so amazing. Delving deep in to his search to discover the root of the quiet, Todd quickly finds out that much of what he's grown to think of as truth is infact complete and utter lies.

With his world crumbling down all around him, Todd finds himself wrapped up in a deadly game of cat and mouse. With his new found friend, Viola, at his side Todd does what any sane person would do, he runs. Initially the plan was just to get out and away, but rumor along the way says there's a town by the name of Haven where there is a cure for the "noise" and where they will be safe. If they can just get there...

Book 2, The Ask and the Answer, picks up right where it's predecessor left off. The trouble is, when they get to Haven it is anything but. For unfortunately they weren't fast enough. Choosing the path of least resistance, the town of Haven has given itself over to the invading army of Prentisstown. With its officials and leaders overthrown, the new law in town is the frightful Mayor Prentiss. Having promoted himself from Mayor to President, Mr. Prentiss has also renamed Haven to New Prentisstown. Sadly New Prentisstown does not appear to be any more serene or safe than the old. Quite to Todd and Viola's dismay, it may even be worse.

In old Prentisstown you knew what you were getting, but here there's a feigned attitude of normalcy despite the government being overthrown, the segregation of sexes, and the general air of doom. Having managed to overcome so much opposition on the road, Todd and Viola are not prepared for what's about to happen them.

Ripped apart almost immediately, the two are thrust into separate areas of the town not knowing what has become of the other. This is most especially difficult for Todd because when they arrived in town he was carrying his bloodied companion as her body struggled to withstand the damage caused to it by a bullet from Davy Prentiss' [the mayor's son's] gun. Todd is promptly detained and tortured; meanwhile, Viola is whisked away to a House of Healing where her wound can be properly taken care of.

Days pass and neither have any indication as to what has happened to the other, only the empty promises from Mayor Prentiss that neither has nor will be harmed. Consistently pushing to gain Viola's confidence, the President tries to persuade her to his side. When the settler ships land, she will be his way in- his way to assure he stays in control. Viola doesn't trust him though, knows he's a devilish liar. And still something about the way he presents himself, something about the words he speaks make everything that much more believable.

In the House of Healing where she was first taken, Viola discovers there is a plot brewing to upset the current regime. Not wanting to dine with the dragon but likewise not wanting to do anything that could have ill repercussions for Todd, wherever the Mayor might be keeping him, Viola treads lightly. Walking a high rope of uncertainty, she knows she has no other choice. Both sides present what could be a somewhat dependable story if only she didn't know so much already.

Caught up in the pain of his loss and the helplessness of his confinement, Todd struggles to understand how he is to free himself, save Viola- if she's not already dead, and all the while make it out alive. Escape is all but impossible with his guard dog Davy always breathing down his neck. And then, when he least expects it, Todd sees his chance. The question is, could it be a trap?

Just like the first installment of Todd's story, this book was an incredible and addicting read. Wrought with torment, anguish, and pain the character's came alive as their distressing tales were told and weaved together with just enough love and hope sprinkled in for good measure. Of course, since this is only the second book in a trilogy, we are left with yet another nail biting cliff hanger ending. The positive to this though is that book 3 is already out in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. We'll get it here in the States and Canada in September!!! That gives you just enough time to pick up your own copy of books 1 and 2 in the Chaos Walking series, before heading out for a copy of book 3, Monsters of Men when it hits the shelves. I can hardly wait!!!

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Want to read my complete and original review of The Knife of Never Letting Go? Click here.

P.S. On a side note... I found that "Resistance" and "Uprising", both by MUSE, were the perfect songs to listen to while writing this review. Each seems, to me anyhow, to be perfectly suited "soundtrack" songs for this book. ;)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann

Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann
Illustrated By: Kathleen Rietz
Geared Towards: Ages 4-8
Published By: Trudy Corporation & the Smithsonian Institution
Publication Date: December 2009

I never knew this line of books existed, but after reading Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann I know I simply must look into finding more books published by this company. Halfmann is a amazing author, and I have been a huge fan since I first had the opportunity to read and review her earlier title, Little Skink's Tail, published by the incredible Sylvan Dell. But back to Soundprint's Smithsonian's Backyard, and more specifically Little Black Ant on Park Street.

If you have a young child who is interested in the how's and why's of nature, then I highly recommend this book. Accompanied by colorful and very realistic illustrations, this story documents the journey of a solitary little black ant as she goes through the day to day activities that comprise the life of one so small. Halfmann does a fantastic job of describing the design and function of an anthill and the hierarchy within. And in a language young children can easily understand, she explains how ants travel; search for food; and work as part of a group for the greater good.

Who knew an ant's life would actually offer up some good life lessons that even we as human beings can learn from? Well, it's true. The tiny black ant displays an attitude of dedication, intelligence, independence yet with ties to a group oneness, and a strength of ingenuity. When life gets difficult or a job seems too big to tackle, the seemingly insignificant ant doesn't get upset, she simply finds a solution. Whether it is asking for help or keeping her head down and staying on the path, she gets what she needs to get done and finds fulfillment within the act and end results.

It's a lesson I know I can use to take to heart. If a tiny little ant can accomplish so much simply by dedicating herself, how much more can I, as a person, accomplish if I set my mind to it? How great can my life be if I really apply myself?

Yes, this book definitely provides some wonderful life and scientific lessons, but it also provides something more basic- pure entertainment. Watching as the little ant on Park Street goes through her day was both educational and full of heart. Coming from someone who generally can not stand ants, I'd have to say I really found myself drawn in to this book. Without a doubt, Halfmann has written another winner with Little Black Ant on Park Street. It's been my privilege to have this review opportunity.

Thank you!

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

"Smithsonian's Backyard... is a world of wonder for children intrigued by the wildlife outside their windows. These entertaining stories answer many questions children have about the habits and habitats of the animals in our own backyards. The series excites children about reading and learning, using interactive storybooks, audiobooks and stuffed animal toys. This title was developed under the direct supervision of curators for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another FREE Online Book Offer: The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

Here is another great online offer. The Poison Diaries isn't even in stores yet, but Harper Collins has posted it in it's entirety online. Interested readers should check it out soon though as I don't know for how long it will be available.

Browse Inside this book
Get this for your site

FREE Online Read: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Browse Inside this book
Get this for your site

I read this book a couple of years ago; it was really pretty cute. I haven't had the chance to read any of the others in this series, but hopefully will one of these days. Enjoy the freebie! =)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Leap of Faith by Sabine S. Goldman

A Leap of Faith by Sabine S. Goldman
Geared Towards: Ages 9-12
Published By: Strategic Book Publishing
Publication Date: July 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60693-954-3

We live in a world full of endless possibilities and opportunities. Countless events take place every moment just outside our view, but just because we do not see these things happen does not make them any less real. What if just outside our realm of knowledge and understanding there was another whole world of life? What if legends and tales of days gone by were true? What if faeries, or rather Pixies, actually were to co-exist alongside our human world?

According to Sabine S. Goldman's, A Leap of Faith, such a reality is not so far fetched. Pixies do exist and take up residence in many places within our human realm. And one place in particular that they call home is Windhill Tree.

Life in the Windhill Tree should be blissful; but Faith, a fiery sixteen year old Pixie, has never felt like she fit in. Compared to the other Pixies in her home, Faith both looks and acts differently. Unlike others of her kind, her heart desires to explore, and explore she does. But when Faith's father finds out that her love of exploration has been taking her beyond her community's borders to observe the humans he is furious. Not only is interacting with humans incredibly dangerous, it's also expressly forbidden by the Pixie code.

After being found out by her father, Faith can't stand to sit around and see her punishment come to pass. She has been told that her lightening ceremony is to be canceled, but a Pixie who goes without her lighting ceremony is doomed. It is at this time only that a Pixie will gain her powers, including the ability to always fly. If she is to be denied her chance at a full Pixie life, Faith can't begin to imagine what she will do. Her interest in humans has always been hard to ignore, but certainly just watching from the sidelines can't warrant this kind of punishment.

It doesn't take long for Faith to realize the gravity of her misjudgement. Deep in thought on her favorite red mushroom with white polka dots, she never notices the humans getting closer. And before she can even realize what has happened, Faith finds herself caught up in the hand of a human girl. This particular girl, Sam, is one Faith has watched diligently over time. Something about her in particular has always drawn Faith's attention, yet now with no space between them Faith understands how serious her miscalculations might have been.

Faith's journey doesn't end here; however, I don't want to give away any more of the story or else you won't have any reason to read it for yourself. And that, my fellow bookworms, would be completely unfair to both you and the author. Sabine S. Goldman has done a fabulous job creating Faith's world and telling her story. Perfect for any young adult whether this reader has a pre-existing interest in the world Pixies and/or faeries or not.

I found the story to be quite endearing, and Faith's lone spirit is an aspect I know many young readers can relate to. Feeling outcast and alone is, sadly, an all too common complaint in today's society, but as readers will discover it does not have to be that way. You are never alone, no matter how different you are. Friends come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and from all walks of life. And if it takes a tiny Pixie to get this point across so be it!

I had one small complaint in regards to the story development, but it's hard to be too specific without giving anything important away. I guess the easiest way to explain would be to simply say that I found part of the story's progression about 9/10ths of the way through to be somewhat unbelievable. Based on information given earlier in the book it just didn't fit. The way some of the character's responded to certain events seemed all too easy, like the progression was rushed in order to draw the story to a close. I don't know. Maybe I'm way off base and reading too much in to things. I guess I'll leave that up to you, the other readers, to decide.

Despite this minor criticism, I must say it was an absolute pleasure to discover and read this little gem. Infact, my deepest thanks go out to Sabine for allowing me this review opportunity. THANK YOU!! Looking forward to seeing what twists and turns A Leap of Faith- A New Beginning, Ms. Goldman's next installment takes.

OUR RATING: 4 hearts

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jeri Smith-Ready's SHADE

I love Jeri Smith-Ready's adult/young adult books. She's amazing. Now she's got a new teen fiction debut, Shade; I just can not wait to read it!

Book Preview from Jeri Smith-Ready's website (found here)

Love ties them together.
Death can't tear them apart.

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plan for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan’s violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn't help that Aura’s new friend Zachary is so understanding—and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart…and clues to the secret of the Shift.

Look for the sequel, SHIFT, coming May 2011!!

Check out the book trailer and the soundtrack she envisioned going along with it. :)

Click the below link to listen to the soundtrack.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Please forgive the mess as I redecorate and reorganize. I'm having some difficulties with the new template, and don't appear tech savvy enough to get over the hump. Please be patient as I take the time to figure out what needs to be done to get me past this snafu. Thanks!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows

Ivy & Bean: Doomed to Dance by Annie Barrows
Illustrated By: Sophie Blackall
Geared Towards: Ages 6-10
Published By: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: November 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8118-6266-0

When you were a young girl, did you ever want to run away? Were you ever so thoroughly convinced that a broken limb or a horrible sickness might be the preferred option when up against something you really truly didn't want any part of? Did you ever convince your parents you wanted to participate in something that you all too soon discovered wasn't what you'd expected? Did you ever beg out only to be denied?

All of these and more are true for Ivy and Bean the characters of Annie Barrows' early chapter book Ivy & Bean Doomed to Dance.

Ivy and Bean are the best of friends, and these best friends are now cast as the unseemly "friendly squids" for their ballet recital. This is not at all what either of the girls signed up for. Who know ballet would be so awful? It was supposed to be fun like it was portrayed in The Royal Book of the Ballet. In the story of Giselle there was dancing, the kicking off of heads, stabbing, and death. It was a ballet about an out and out brawl, far more entertaining than Wedding Beneath the Sea.

When the girls first got their bright idea to sign up for ballet, each had had to talk her parents into letting her go, and it wasn't an easy sell. Both Ivy and Bean had had to promise they wouldn't whine or complain, nor would they give up. But being stuck playing the part of a squid certainly warranted a small bit of whining, right? Mom and dad will surely understand and allow them to drop out of dance class. Wrong! Quitting is not an option.

If they are to have a chance at outsmarting Madame Joy and making it out of the recital alive and without looking ridiculous as squid they're going to have to really start brainstorming. There are several options available to them. They could break an arm, get sick, or even run away. None of these options are ideal, but Ivy and Bean are prepared to do what it takes to get out dancing in Madame Joy's stupid ballet recital if it's the last thing they do.

I had heard of the Ivy and Bean books before, but this isn't a series my daughter had yet started on so neither had I. I have to say that I thought the storyline was really pretty cute, and I enjoyed how the author seemed to understand her characters. Reading as a parent it was very easy for me to see how true to form they really were. Little girls are indecisive and constantly changing their minds on what they like and don't like, want to do and don't want to do. They're bossy and don't like to be told what to do. They embarrass easily, and they are very curious young creatures. It's true that girls can be very mysterious, even from a young age, and as such it's hard to always figure them out. Ivy and Bean are no different.

There was never any question in my mind that this book told a great, engaging story that any little girl would enjoy reading. I will admit though that when it started out I was a little taken aback by the dark tone of the discussion Ivy and Bean were having about ballet and Giselle in particular. Seemed that bloody toes, murder, and suicide were all a bit much for a book geared at such a young age group. The story quickly turned from this towards a more lighthearted direction, and I understand why the author chose to incorporate these earlier aspects into her story. I just can't see handing the book over to my own 6 year old (who reads at a 4-5th grade level) to read just yet. I don't doubt that she'd enjoy the story and probably wouldn't even think too much of this initial bit, but I don't know...

All things considered I'd certainly recommend the book; I'd just do so with a slight warning as I've already done here. As a whole I think Ive & Bean: Doomed to Dance will be a real crowd pleaser among 1st to 4th grade girls. The story itself, told through eleven short chapters, is something they'll be able to relate to and laugh over. Plus the illustrations, done by Sophie Blackall, do a wonderful job of visually cataloging Ivy and Bean's adventure.

**Thanks to Chronicle Books for giving me this review opportunity.**

OUR GRADE: 4 hearts

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated By: Angela Barrett
Geared Towards: Ages 7-11
Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: February 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3674-6

Laura Amy Schlitz, acclaimed author and Newbery Medal Winner, has recently released her new illustrated fiction title, The Night Fairy. Flory, a night fairy, must learn how to survive when the tables are turned and she suddenly finds herself without a wings. A fairy without wings? Nonsense! Unfortunately though, this is not the case.

As the author explains early on, fairies do not make good parents. So it is not uncommon at all for a young fairy to be left on her own to make her way through the big, amazing, and oh so very dangerous world. This normally would not be a problem, but for Flory the trouble comes when a little brown bat mistakes her for a moth. It only takes the creature a moment to realize the error of his ways; however, even by then the damage is already done.

Flory, barely as tall as a single acorn, finds herself, a night fairy, wingless and alone. Uncertain as to what else she might do, Flory quietly locates a shelter [a giant's bird house] for herself and begins to brainstorm. To be a night fairy is to see and experience such undeniable beauty and awe. Still, without wings the dark of night is very dangerous and difficult to navigate.

It's a bittersweet day when Flory determines that despite her heritage, it is now the day that offers her the most likely rewards and benefits- such as food, safety, and survival. With that, Flory renounces her night fairy name, and begins to live as a day fairy. But even the sunlight hours are full of obstacles and dangers galore. Flory must learn to not only live as a day fairy but to survive as one as well.

Flory doesn't cater to anyone and quickly comes to the realization that someone as small as herself must learn to demand respect if she's going to get anywhere in life. And a wild temperment is just what the doctor prescribed. Bold and brazen, Flory steps out of the dark and in to the light as a day fairy. Determined to survive, she wastes no time in making the necessary demands of those creatures around her, most specifically Skuggle the squirrel.

Despite the fact that he is more than double her size, Skuggle is an easy pawn. His tiny squirrel brain thinks almost always of food. And a hungry squirrel can easily be bought and coerced into doing exactly what one wants. It's not always easy, but soon Flory has Skuggle wrapped around her little finger and is able to travel the garden as she pleases.

As she grows, Flory begins to discover she knows more and more magic. All the same, and even with a friend of size on her side, Flory must still be consciencious of her surroundings and never forget for a moment where she comes from.

The Night Fairy is compact little book, but the story it contains within its pages is anything but simple. Full of drama and adventure this is the kind of fantasy that leaves the reader envisioning a sequel. The well thought out story combined with the beautiful watercolor illustrations make this short tale almost classical in style. It won't take you long to read it, and I guarantee you it won't just be because of the size. Schlitz's storytelling ability leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat as you root for Flory and her friend(s). You don't want the story to end, but as far as this particular installment is concerned you are left feeling satisfied and content. For the author leaves no strings untied, and does a wonderful job of bringing her story full circle.

This delightful little tale of fancy is one I look forward to sharing with my own daughters. So thank you, Candlewick, for the review copy and opportunity. It's been a real pleasure!

OUR GRADE: 4 hearts

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rose's Garden by Peter H. Reynolds

Rose's Garden by Peter H. Reynolds
Geared Towards: Ages 3 and Up
Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: October 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4641-7

Rose's Garden is an imaginative tale with a beautiful and inspirational sentiment. Written in dedication to Rose Fitzgerarld Kennedy herself, this story is meant to show the resplendent joy that a little hope, faith, and love can bring about.

Rose is a wee girl, traveling the world in her giant tea pot. As she travels from one exotic land to another Rose slowly fills her incredible ship with seeds to remind her of each and every place. After a time her grand tea pot is overflowing with seeds, and with no further room Rose sets her sights on a place where her amazing journey can come to a halt.

Once she finds a place to dock, Rose sets out to discover just the right spot for her glorious garden. It doesn't take long before she stumbles on to an ugly, abandoned lot just perfect for what she has in mind. Upon returning to her ship, however, Rose is dismayed to find that birds have swooped in and selfishly eaten all but a small handful of her prized seeds.

Most people would find such a thing so depressing that all hope would be lost, but Rose is not most people. Unwilling to let a trivial detail such as this get her down, she scoops up the few remaining seeds and heads back to nestle them gently in the dirt. But time and the elements seem to be against Rose. Despite everything she does, her garden just won't grow.

As word of her dream spreads, Rose suddenly discovers that she is not alone in wanting to make the world a more beautiful place around her. Children of all ages and color begin coming to her from around the community to share in her faith of a more beautiful tomorrow. Bringing with them colored paper flowers in all brilliant shades and designs, Rose's garden slowly begins to sprout forth before her eyes. It's not quite what she had initially envisioned, yet it's absolutely perfect.

This lovely little picture book tells an endearing story ripe with originality and lots of heart. It's a story that not only inspires you to take in all the beauty around you, but to go after it without holding anything back. Life's an adventure but it can be amazing if you just allow yourself to dream big and never let go of your faith.

OUR GRADE: 5 hearts

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Alyssa and the Spider by Alan St. Jean

Alyssa and the Spider by Alan St. Jean
Illustrated By: Libby Carruth Krock
Geared Towards: Ages 4-10
Published By: Oren Village
Publication Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9777272-5-4

Little sis Alyssa wants to play with her big brother Ralphie while he's home for the Summer from school. Ralphie, however, just wants to be a boy. He wants to watch tv, eat snacks, and just relax. He's not asking much, but Alyssa just won't take "no" for an answer. And as Ralphie sends her off on her own to play he settles in for a nice afternoon of movie watching. Little does he know that soon his most dreaded nightmare could very well become his very reality.

Rousing him from his afternoon break, Alyssa cries out for help. She's found a really big spider in her room, and only her big brother can help. Stuck between his own fear and his love for his baby sister, Ralphie must decide how best he can help Alyssa. Ralphie knows he can go up against a normal spider, but what if it's not a normal spider? His imagination gets the best of him, and suddenly Ralphie doesn't care about tv or snacks anymore. All he cares about is saving his sister. Life without her would be quieter for sure yet it would in no way be better.

Pick up your copy of Alyssa and the Spider by Alan St Jean today and see what happens. Will Ralphie save his kid sister or will the nasty spider prevail? Told in a lilting rhyme, this is a story that is bound to interest any young child. Combine that with the brilliant watercolor and pencil illustrations by Libby Carruth Krock, and you've got yourself a real winner!

P.S. Watch for the print book that includes a special audio edition of the story narrated by the author himself. It's really fun and perfect to download to your child's iPod or to listen to in the car. Listen for the page turn ques and your child can even follow along with the book for pictures.

P.P.S. Watch for an author blog/interview with Alan St. Jean coming soon here at Ready Set Read Reviews!

OUR GRADE: 5 hearts

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Shines My Shoes: A Novel by Gennifer Choldenko
Geared Towards: Ages 10 and up
Published By: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3460-9

Set in 1935 on Alcatraz island, Al Capone Shines My Shoes is the story of Moose Flanagan your average 12-year-old boy living in a very non-average place. How, you may wonder, did Moose come to live on Alcatraz of all places? It's not exactly like it's a kiddie park or something. Quite the contrary infact, as Alcatraz is an island prison filled with a few hundred of the country's meanest, nastiest, and dirtiest criminals. It's a place criminals fear and dread. And as has already been established, it's also Moose's home.

Moose's dad is one of the Alcatraz prison guards, and as such he and his family take room and board there on the island. Really it's not all that bad. With other staff families living onsite as well, Moose has several friends to play with. They enjoy games of baseball in the parade grounds, and there's plenty of places to roam. All in all, it's not too bad at all.

That is until the day that Moose decides to try and take his sister Natalie's well being in to his own hands. Always a compassionate brother wanting the best for his sister, Moose sends a message to Al Capone, one of the baddest and most notorious inmates Alcatraz has, asking him a favor. What Moose wants for his sister is not something he himself has the power to get. He hopes, however, that maybe with a little pull from someone with Capone's stature his wish can become a reality. For you see, Moose loves his sister dearly and she him, but that doesn't change the fact that something is wrong with Natalie. And what she needs most of all, besides the love and support of her family, is the opportunity to get in to a proper boarding school specializing in working with children with Natalie's problems. The one school in particular that Moose wants more than anything for his sister to be admitted to is the Esther P. Marinoff school in San Francisco. It's a place where hopefully with time she can be made normal, and with it only being a ferry ride away from Alcatraz Moose knows if she gains admitance he'll still be able to visit her. Could be that it's a win win situation.

Then the fateful day came- the day the most infamous gangster in America replied personally to Moose and his request. Perhaps it wasn't something he honestly expected to happen. Perhaps he didn't think it all the way through. But whatever the case, Al Capone sends Moose a note via the laundry letting him know his request has been filled. It's a great day for Moose! Until he finds out with every favor comes a returned request.

Terrified of having Natalie loose her new found place at the prestigious boarding school or worse yet his dad lose his job, Moose doesn't know what he should do. Having received yet another note, this one saying only two words "Your turn." Moose sets off on the ride of his life. On a small island containing many of the world's most egregious criminals, Moose is left wondering how long it will be before his time runs out. Will he be able to fulfill Capone's request, or will he be left watching his back for the rest of his life?

Readers who have read Choldenko's previous release Al Capone Does My Shirts would obviously be encouraged to pick up a copy of this sequel. However, even if you haven't read the original installment, I highly recommend this book. It's full of mystery and surprise, and despite it's unique setting, it's a story I think many kids could relate to. In relatable terms we'd probably be talking more along the lines of school yard bullies (etc) and not high profile gangsters, but at the end of the day I think both are more similar than you might think. Never mind how interesting this book was just in the details of life on the island. Having never been there to experience it firsthand I wouldn't know how true to life it was, but it seems pretty reasonable to believe there were kids just like Moose living on the island during its heyday. What a life that must have been!

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rumer & Qix: The Race to Terra Incognita

Rumer & Qix: The Race to Terra Incognita by Kathleen S. Wilson
Geared Towards: YA
Published By: BookSurge
Publication Date: May 2009
ISBN: 978-1439230657

We live in a beautiful world comprised of living breathing nature, intermixed with man-made technology and creations. It's civilization at it's finest. Or is it? In today's eco-conscious society many believe we, as the presiding and dominant species of our planet, have a responsibility to clean up our acts before we overrun the Earth with pollution and devastation. The fear is that one day, if we are to do nothing, we will eventually see our man-made waste and advancements completely overrun the majestic environment our Creator has given us. In short, the world as we know it could be detrementally changed forever if we don't step in and take corrective action now before it's too late.

Such is not too different a scenario than Kathleen S. Wilson portrays in her new young adult eco-fantasy adventure Rumer & Qix: The Race to Terra Incognita. It's the 31st century and everything has evolved way beyond the greatest imagination of Mirra's predecessors. Nature is extinct, and left in its place is a synthetic world. Living within a man-made Mirrasphere, complete with an intricate collection of SynAir controls; computer controlled sunlight and evening stars; faux flora and fauna; and more, this is the life all Mirrans know. But a shift is beginning on the horizon, and everything the world of Mirra thought it knew it about to change.

What if there was real life outside of the Mirrasphere? What if it was the real, genuine article- nature- reemerging after so many centuries? Well, that's what random Indie reports would have you believe. A brilliant green blade of grass here. An incredibly fantastic butterfly there. The reports are scattered, but more and more the networks are reporting strange, unexplainable nature sightings across the globe.

As an apprentice reporter for the Global Quotidien news, Rumer is only 16 but her interest is piqued. Raised by her godfather after the mysterious death of her parents when she was just eight years old, Rumer already has a taste for investigating the unexplainable. Her job though is not all the fun she'd dreamt of. Relegated to reporting on the mundane and strictly forbidden to look into any of the amazing indie run nature sightings, Rumer decides she won't be held back. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and one she can't in good conscience ignore.

Credible reports are pouring in by the day, and with so many unique occurrances it only stands to reason there's more than meets the eye. So, with her animet, Qix, by her side Rumer sets out to discover the truth behind the supposed resurgence of nature long since believed to be extinct. Why is it appearing now? Better yet, where is it coming from and how?

With a little help from some otherworldly sources, Rumer sets out to break the world's biggest story yet. If there really is an explaination she will find it. And if, along the way, she should happen to discover the world's greatest mysteries, than so be it.

For someone who typically veers away from the fantasy genre, I must say The Race to Terra Incognita was an all too enjoyable fantasy thrill ride. Who knew that ecological issues could be so entertaining? In a world not so completely dissimilar from our own in many ways, a story is breaking loose about how mankind has destroyed it's ecosystem and left in it's place an all too disheartening replacement. Readers, no matter their previous personal stand on ecological issues, can't help but think twice about this world we ourselves live in. Certainly we're not dealing with anywhere near the extremes the characters of this story were, yet one can't help but admit it does provide some interesting food for thought. We are but a step away from our future.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Flawed Dogs: The Novel by Berkeley Breathed

Flawed Dogs: The Novel by Berkeley Breathed
Geared Towards: Ages 8-12
Published By: Philomel Books
Publication Date: September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-25218-1

Prospective readers will take one look at the cover of Flawed Dogs: The Novel and they won't be able to turn away. The comical yet endearing illustration, created by none other than the author, Berkeley Breathed, himself is a true rendering of what readers can expect to find between the book's covers- humor, heart, hurt, and heroics.

When our story begins we find "Little Buddy", a bedraggled Dachshund, being carried to and deposited inside a dog fight ring. Complete with his soup ladle leg, it is obvious this poor little dog has seen more than his fair share of horror. Rather than compete with his opponent, a large vicious looking pit bull terrier, "Little Buddy" decides to give up the fight and simply lies down. His lackluster attitude spurs plenty of jesting and jeering but he doesn't care. Because once upon a time, a long time ago, "Little Buddy" had a great life. It is that life that he begins to reminisce and dream about...

Sam the Lion started life destined to be a prize winning Westminster show dog, but along the way his plans took a turn for the extraordinary. Freed from the clutches of the horrible Mrs. Nutbush, Sam takes after his rescuer, a young girl named Heidy. An orphan herself, Heidy understands all too well what it's like having no one to lean on and no one to trust in. So despite her initial misgivings about taking him along, Heidy allows herself the pleasure of wisking the tiny dog away with her. It's a match made in Heaven. Heidy finally has someone to love and play with, and Sam has a warm and loving place to call home. And then everything comes crashing down around them.

A jealous canine rival, Cassius, determined not to be outdone by the fabulous Düüglitz Dachshund comes up with a plan that'll not only sully Sam in Heidy's eyes but also in the eyes of everyone else they live with. It's a dastardly plan; however, Cassius knows it will guarantee a place in the spotlight for himself. For you see, the large poodle knows Sam has nothing on him in the area of size or strength, yet with Sam in the house there's no room in Heidy's heart for another. Removing Sam from the picture not only clears the way in to Heidy's heart for Cassius, it also ensures there will be one less opponent for him to try to beat at the highly competitive Westminster Dog Show.

Nevertheless, Sam is a fighter. He may fall, but he will always get back up. He may break, but he will aways mend. He may lose hope for a time, but in the end he will always charge forward ready to get back on top.

It's a complicated tale full of up's and down's. It's also a breath of fresh air. Flawed Dogs offers a uniquely marvelous story that will fill young readers with a need to keep going until that very last page. With a story so cute and entertaining, it's no wonder Berkeley Breathed is a Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times best selling author. I myself will definitely be checking out some of his other works.

OUR RATING: 5 hearts