Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: Fallen Grace

Fallen Grace
Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I got this book from the children's section of the library and I am somewhat surprised that it was there, rather than the young adult section. The central event of the book is the rape of the two sisters, and their resulting fall into desperate poverty. Be that as it may, the book is rather cleverly plotted and the characterization is good. It is even rather suspenseful. But it is a book I read quickly, rather than savored. Good, but not a classic for me.

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Review: Regeneration

Regeneration by Linda J. Singleton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This feels like just part of a story - and I think it is part of a series, so that may actually be the case. It is interesting, but the characters didn't quite grab me as much as I would hope. It was bit more melodramatic than I like, but I think kids would enjoy that more than I do. They would also like the action more.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Mastiff

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, I admit, I am going to be a bit too hard on this book. The problem is, I have read a lot of Tamora Pierce's books and I keep coming back for more. The books hook me in. I am interested in the characters and their interactions. It is an absorbing universe.

So, I enjoyed this book tremendously - until the end. Suffice it to say that the twist in the ending just didn't ring true to me. This is the third book about these characters and the case for the twist didn't seem strong enough to justify the action. It isn't that this book was bad - it was still absorbing enough that I even read it while waiting in the doctor's office - but the ending just didn't convince me.

My recommendation: don't let this be the first Tamora Pierce book that you read - for a lot of reasons. This is the third book in this particular series, but it is not the third book in the whole saga. Some of the other series are stronger and have more satisfyingly strong endings.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Review: Winter of Fire

Winter of Fire
Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was actually slightly disappointed in this book. I liked the spunk of the main character, Elsha, but all of the other females in the book seemed to be just tacked on so that the male to female character ratio wouldn't be so overwhelmingly male. None of the other female characters had anywhere near the level of interest that the surrounding male characters did.

And, the ending seemed almost like a Deus ex machine - where everything was wrapped up almost too neatly by the people learning how to "think warm". Yes, I know that there were all of these other powers exhibited during the course of the story, and Elsha gradually learned that she was powerful in ways she hadn't known before, but that particular power seemed to just be summoned up so that the story could end with a satisfactory conclusion.

On the other hand, the book WAS good enough that I read the whole thing. I can't always say that lately.

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Review: That Scatterbrain Booky

That Scatterbrain Booky
That Scatterbrain Booky by Bernice Thurman Hunter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book for its honest depiction of the trials of family life during the depression. In its depiction of everyday life during historical times, it reminds me of Anne of Green Gables. The book is similarly episodic and filled with little vignettes of experiences.

And I enjoyed the main character, Beatrice. One minor gripe, though, is that I don't quite understand how she got the appellation "Scatterbrain". She seems to have had dyscalculia long before that was even beginning to have a ready name for the condition, but I didn't see her as especially scatterbrained.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: Birthmarked

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book and read the whole thing in only a couple of days. The biggest strength, for me, is the cast of characters - I like the complexity of many of them. The biggest negative, again for me, is that sometimes the descriptive passages got to be too long. I know some of that needs to be there to build up the suspense, but when the suspense is already built and strong, the descriptive passages actually get in the way.

Nevertheless, I have already ordered the second book from the library and I am looking forward to reading it.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: Z Is for Moose

Z Is for Moose
Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful take on alphabet books. The text is excellent; the pictures appealing. But the best part is that it is emotionally satisfying - it speaks directly to emotions of the target age group and resolves them.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Mummies in the Morning

Mummies in the Morning
Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The reason I decided to read a few of the Magic Tree House books was that, while my middle school students were preparing for a Brain Bowl competition, there was a question that came up, asking for the author of two of the books. Whereas I had never heard of them, the kids knew right away and could even name MANY of the other books in the series, even though they had probably read them 5 or 6 years ago. I figured that was a good recommendation.

Caveat: I don't read a lot of books for this age group: chapter books for moderately proficient lower middle grade kids.

The advantages of this book are several. It is the right length for a good reader to read in a short enough time that the story hangs together. It has enough facts and details to whet the appetite of interested students to learn more. It has enough suspense to keep the kids reading, but not so much as to make them anxious.

I think it is also clever psychologically. The boy is the older of the two siblings, so he is cast in a slightly protective role. But the girl is an active participant in the story, not just along for gender balance. I think this helps the book appeal to both boys and girls.

I actually prefer books for slightly older kids, ones that tackle more complex issues and matters of character, so I am not quite a fair reviewer of this kind of book. But I am impressed that my students, who are older, remember them so fondly.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a sweet book that would make a good read-aloud for middle grade students. It is a quick read and is a bit too anthropomorphized for me, but I think kids will like it.

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