Showing posts from April, 2014

Also Known as Elvis - James Howe

Also Known as Elvis is the fourth instalment of the Misfits series* that has captured the hearts and minds of many a middle-grade reader. Each book focuses on one of the four members of the Group of Five, which consists of Bobby, Addie, Joe, and Skeezie, also known as Elvis.
My dad left a little over two years ago, when I was in fifth grade. Megan was in the second grade and Jessie was just three. I guess you could say I saw it coming, but it's kind of like hurricane warnings. You think, "Yeah, rain's getting kind of heavy, but a hurricane? Not going to happen here." And then it hits.Skeezie is having a difficult summer. His mom seems to be going crazy, his sisters are driving him nuts, he has to find a job, and all of his friends are going away on family vacations! Oh, and just to put the cherry on the sundae, his dad has decided to show up and throw the whole family into chaos.

Skeezie is delightfully constructed and feels very realistic as an early teen. Many of his…

Mister Orange - Truus Matti (Translator - Laura Watkinson)

"Imagination isn't only about things that don't really exist. Imagination is exactly what you need to make real things." [Mister Orange] gave Linus a big smile. "New things. Things that don't exist and then suddenly do, all because someone sees a possibility and invents them. It all starts with imagination. It's the first step in everything that human beings have ever made."He waved his hand around him. "Everything that you see here in the city, inside and outside, everything that you can touch and point to and hold on to, everything that you call 'real'—all of it started in somebody's head, as an idea. Without imagination, none of this would exist."
Mister Orange received the 2014 Batchelder Medal for "the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States." The c…

The Walled City - Ryan Graudin

There are three rules of survival in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife.Right now, my life depends completely on the first.Run, run, run. Based on Hong Kong's historical Kowloon Walled City, a sunless, lawless shanty-town overrun by gangs, Graudin's novel takes place in a densely populated, walled off city, run by the ruthless Brotherhood. The narrative essentially carries readers along using three intertwined narrative voices: Jin Ling, Dai Shing, and Mei Yee. Dai notices Jin's running skills one day, and asks Jin to partner with him in a scheme involving the Brotherhood. Jin, desperate to find her lost sister, agrees to the partnership, knowing that the consequences of any slip-up is death... and a painful death at that. With only 18 days left to escape the City, Dai finds himself racing against the clock, trying to outrun the ruthless forces conspiring to keep them all trapped.

When I first began to read The Walled City, I didn't realize…

Far From You - Tess Sharpe

Far From You is an exceptionally frank and raw blend of mystery and romance. Sophie is fully-constructed and filled with pain and secrets, alternating her narration between past and present and eventually leading readers to a refreshingly open ending.

"So, today's the big day," Dr. Charles says.
     I look across the desk. From her shiny pumps to her tasteful, "natural" makeup, there's not a hair out of place on her. When I met Dr. Charles, all I wanted to do was mess her up. Slip the glasses down her nose, crush one of those perfectly pressed French cuffs. Tear into that neat, orderly mask and get down to the grist, the chaos.
     Chaos has no place in recovery, Dr. Charles Says.
     But I crave it. Sometimes even more than the Oxy.

As you can see, Sophie has an addiction problem. She's in recovery at some points in the narrative. At other times she's out of recovery. But for the majority of the novel she is dealing with the death of Mina. The altern…

100 Sideways Miles - Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle (no, I haven't mis-labelled this post!) is insane. It's weird. It's bizarre. It's complex. It's totally trippy. I think Andrew Smith has one of the most disturbing brains of anyone I know. And on a totally different note, 100 Sideways Miles (see, I told you I was writing about the right book!) is completely different from anything related to Grasshopper Jungle. Or even The Marbury Lens and Passenger. In many ways, this particular novel hearkens back to the style of In the Path of Falling Objects and Ghost Medicine (i.e. it doesn't have alien insects and doesn't take place in a bizarro world of death and destruction.)

100 Sideways Miles is a beautifully crafted novel. We open on Finn Easton, an epileptic young man who sometimes wonders if he's real or just a character in his father's bestselling novel, The Lazarus Door. His best friend Cade is pretty much insane, and the beautiful Julia Bishop is only a temporary …

Hidden - Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, Greg Salsedo

Hidden is a difficult graphic novel to read, not because of any trouble with the form or style, but because of the subject matter and the incredible ability of the authors/illustrators to show a wide range of emotions in their characters, both in action and facial expression. The hope of the young protagonist juxtaposed against the horrific backdrop of war and shown in relation the obviously manufactured attempts by adult figures to hide the true dangers being Jewish during that period of time, creates an emotionally complex story that reaches out and begs to be picked up and read.

The novel opens on Elsa, a young girl who can't seem to sleep. She wanders through the darkened house only to see a light on in the living room. When she arrives there, she sees her grandmother sitting on the couch, flipping through what appear to be old letters and photos. She is obviously sad, which Elsa picks up on very quickly. Being so young, Elsa is persistent in trying to understand what her grand…

Threatened - Eliot Schrefer

I need to start out by noting that I tend to avoid books about animals that look like they're being told in an overly didactic way or overly biased tone. I wasn't sure about the cover at first glance, but a friend at Scholastic told me that I just had to read it because it wasn't one of "those" books. So, having put that out there, here is my review (and don't worry, it's a good one!)

I'd never seen a mock man until the Professor showed me one. I'd heard of them, of course--many evenings the chimpanzees would scream within the dark trees surrounding my village, their cries too strange for a person and too intimate for an animal. I still hear those shrieks, these years later. Whenever they got too lout, my mother and I would huddle on the floor of our hut, her arms wrapped tight around me. "This is why you must promise always to be home before dark, Luc," she would whisper. "If you're not, you'll become one of the kivili-chemp…

Catch a Falling Star - Kim Culbertson

Carter has been working for years in her family's cafe in Little, California. She has a comfortable life—she's a talented dancer and has no desire to leave the town in the near future. When Hollywood comes to town one day, bringing with it the gorgeous and troubled star, Adam Jakes, Carter isn't all that interested. But when her family begins to experience some hiccups due to her brother's gambling habits, Carter finds herself dating Adam for reasons other than love... at least for now.
In the movie version of my life, the shot would slow as a sleek black Range Rover turned the corner and made its way like a mirage up out main street, people stopping to shield their eyes from sunlight glinting off its perfectly washed windows.The audience would know instantly that nestled inside that air-conditioned car sat someone bigger than our small town.But this wasn't a movie.This was my life.And I still had three more hours before my shift ended. Culbertson is a talented writ…

Bookshelf Favourites of 2014 (so far)

Hello My Loyal Readers (provided I have any):

Well, we're a quarter of the way into 2014, so I figured it was about time that I put together a list of my favourite titles so far this year. Let me know what you think (click on titles for my reviews)! 

Top Picks of 2014:
The Art of Secretsby James Klise(Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn (Release: June 10, 2014)Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew SmithGuardian by Alex London (Release: May 29, 2014)House of Purple Cedar by Tim TingleIn the Shadows by Kiersten White & Jim Di Bartolo (Release: April 29, The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern (Release: May, 2014)The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier (Release: May 20, 2014)Noggin by John Corey Whaley (Release: April 8, 2014)Peanut Butter and Jellyfish by Jarrett J. Krosoczka(Release: April 8, 2014)Random by Tom Leveen (Release: August 12, 2014)Side Effects May Vary by Julie MurphyThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonWe Were Liars by e. lockhart…