Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Cover image for Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet a novelWhen Henry Lee was a boy in Seattle in the 1940's, he made friends with the enemy, a Japanese American girl named Keiko.  As time passes their friendship grows until Henry knows he would do anything for Keiko.  When she and her family are taken to an internment camp, Henry risks everything to see her again.  But will their love survive the test of time?

I read this book because the author was our featured speaker at the Family Literacy Symposium.  He described himself as a hopeless romantic, in touch with his feminine side.  It shows in his book.  There are heart rending moments, but they are very much tempered by examples of kindness and friendship.  The characters are so real and sympathetic and the ending is very satisfying.  I can see why this is a hot title for book groups right now.   (290 p)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Scardy Kat by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Cover image for Scaredy KatKat successfully acknowledged her gift as a medium in the first book in the series "Suddenly Supernatural" but that does not mean all her struggles are over. In this book her friend, Jac, has finally given up the cello for good, Kat's mother is spending a lot of time with a very handsome energy healer, and and there are two ghosts next door that seem to need her help.  It is all too much for the teenage psychic.

When I read the first book in the series, I wondered if the author was using the psychic arts just as a plot device or if she was, herself, a believer and practitioner.  After reading this second book I am inclined to believe she is a practitioner and is using the books to introduce her beliefs to her audience.  That doesn't make the book bad, but I think parents might want to be aware of the fact.  I liked the book about as much as I liked the first.  Maybe the characters are a little too perfect.  Jac is the perfect friend, Jac's mother is the perfect pushy mother, Kat's mother is the perfect quirky mom, and Orin is the perfect energy worker/cute mother's boyfriend. Discriminating readers might be bothered by the over idealized characters, but less sophisticated readers will just enjoy the the slightly spooky adventure. (250 p)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr

Loki’s WolvesThe small town of Blackwell, South Dakota, is dominated by the Thorsen family.  Matt Thorsen's dad is the Police Chief and his uncle is the Mayor.  It is also home to the Brekkes, who are generally second class citizens living on the wrong side of town.  The family rivalry goes back a long way, in fact, it goes back clear to the ancient battles of the Norse Gods, because the Thorsen's are decedents of Thor, and the Brekkes are decedents of Loki.  As decedents of the gods the two families have special powers, and are destined to be players in the world's final battle, Ragnarok.  If the Thorsen's and the Brekkes can learn to work together, maybe the total destruction can be avoided. But that is a big "if".

This book was written by two authors, with Armstrong writing the Thorsens and Marr writing the Brekkes.  When I first started the book, I thought, "Rick Riordan wannabe," and it does feel a lot like the Percy Jackson books. That is not necessarily a bad thing.  The interplay between Fen Brekke and Matt is interesting.  I think that when one author writes a book she tends to choose one main character.  Since this book was written by two authors, both Matt and Fen feel like main characters.  It makes their struggles and conflicts feel a little more intense.  The big drawback to this book is that it is a terrible cliffhanger.  Luckily, the second book comes out soon. (358 p.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Cover image for School spiritThis is the first in the "Suddenly Supernatual" series.  Kat's mom is a spiritual medium, so Kat has grown up familiar with the workings of the realm of ghosts.  When Kat turns 13 she begins to see ghosts herself.  At first she tries to ignore her gift, but when she finds a true friend, in the form of quirky musical prodigy, she begins to have the courage to embrace her own unusual talent. Kat, and her friend, Jac, become aware of the ghost of a former student at their school and work together to discover why the departed girl is stuck haunting the school library.

This book is for a much younger audience than either Lockwood and Company or Boneshaker. It is more a story about friendship than the supernatural, with the ghost thing as an interesting, but not at all scary, backdrop.  That said, it is a cute story about friendship, and the girls have unique and likeable personalities.  It is a good read for 3rd or 4th grade girls who like mysteries.  (316 p)

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Black Hole is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami De Cristofano

Cover image for A black hole is not a holeThis is an accessible and fun introduction to the science of black holes.  De Cristofano begins with seven questions about black holes, and then with conversational languange, and amusing illustrations, including comic-book-like word bubbles, answers them.  De Cristofano deals with a lot of ideas basic to all astronomy including the immensity of space, relativity, the life cycle of stars, and gravity as bent space. This is written on a simple level, so that early grade school science nerd kids could understand it, but it is not condescending.  Even middle school age kids could read it without rolling their eyes, and it is a good choice for tween and early teen reluctant reader boys.(74 p)