Friday, June 21, 2013

Below by Meg McKinlay

Below by Meg McKinlay (Published 2011; First US Edition 2013 - Candlewick Press)

I just read this book today - started it this morning, and finished it this afternoon.  I saw the book on the new book display at my local library, and had to pick it up.  In the case of this book, the cover is good, and grabbed my attention and imagination.   The cover portrays the main character and her friend swimming over a town vaguely positioned below the surface - as you can see to the left.

The day 12 year old Cassie was born (several weeks too early), the old version of their town was flooded on purpose for the good of the water supply in their area (it is a town in Australia.)   Now, people are not permitted to swim or boat or do anything beyond a certain point of  the new lake.   The actual area of the town under the water is off limits.   It is so peaceful there, and Cassie loves to swim in the forbidden area.   However, there seems to be a mystery as to why no one is permitted there.  The mayor says that it is dangerous, but the old town is so far down, that it is not really a problem.   What secret is the mayor hiding?

Overall, I liked this book so much that I did not want to put it down.  It was a quick read for m)e, but it also moved at a quick pace, and I never had the urge to skip ahead to the end!   I would highly recommend this book to fourth to seventh graders (ages 9 to 12, generally)!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson (Published in 2008)

I just read this book a couple of weeks ago.

I should have read it earlier, but to be honest, I forgot about it.  I remember a co-worker reading it in 2008, but at the time, my son (the first one) was struggling for his life and then died, and then we were packing up to move 1,800 miles away.   I just did not have the time or energy just then.  And then I forgot about it.  Perhaps I forgot about it on purpose, because it was not written by my beloved L. M. Montgomery.   Nevertheless, it happened, and a couple of months ago, it was suggested to me as something I might like on GoodReads.

I have been more active again on GoodReads in the last few months because I was mostly curious about what recommendations it could produce based on what I've read.   I still don't have everything I've ever read listed there.  I am still short, a bit, on LibraryThing, where I have been a full member for over five years as I still prefer it over GoodReads any day.   I've been trying to get every book I've ever read listed on there, but that will be difficult because even though I started keeping lists of books I've read age age 11, I only counted books that were 50 or more pages in length.   Picture books I am way behind on.  I am already trying to remember.

Anyway, I borrowed this book from the library, and reluctantly started reading it.  Within the first ten pages, I had trouble putting it down.   What I liked the most were the glimpses into the short lives of Anne's parents. There was not really enough about them! (One of my only criticisms of this book.)  The saddest parts were how Anne cannot go to school very often due to the circumstances of the families she lives with.   She wanted so badly to go to school.  She wants so badly to have real family and friends.  Actually, it is fairly depressing at times - but I had to finish the book anyway to make sure everything would lead up to Matthew picking up Anne in Bright River.

The author does not try to capture L. M. Montgomery's voice, which was good, because that would have been difficult to do. The author herself does a fine job in her own voice trying to capture the story of Anne before she arrives on Prince Edward Island.

I award this book five stars, despite it being rather depressing at times!

One more note:  The most upsetting section of this book is when ALL of Mrs. Hammond's children are given away.  She does not get to keep even one of them.   That did make me want to vomit.  Perhaps I will give this book 4.5 stars instead.   

Thursday, June 13, 2013

When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour

When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour (Published in 1958.)
Juvenile/YA Fiction

I was 13 or so when I first read this book.  That is perhaps a little over the intended audience age . . . but when I discovered it, I HAD to read it.   As I have said in a previous post, I was once a meteorology major.  I liked anything weather and/or disaster-related even then.  

I also have to note that I appreciate the fact that this takes place in the Netherlands and relates what could be the story of some of my ancestors.  At age 13, I did not have much interest in family history . . . that interest was sparked around age 19 (a little maturity never hurts.)   My great-great-grandmother's family left the Netherlands - one of the island-like areas that were made, in fact, by the dikes - in the late 1880s after their land was flooded a number of times.  They were farmers and shepherds, and the flooded land did not help them make a good living.   They send my great-great grandmother Blazina with two of her siblings to relatives in Wisconsin, and then they came later with their youngest (living) child.  (Blazina's parents had at least ten babies, but several of them did not survive infancy.  A couple of them were recorded as being born still.)

So this book has given me interesting insight into the lives of my ancestors . . . except for the scenes involving helicopter, of course!  It takes place during the flooding of 1953.  The main character is 13-year-old Lisa Van Rossem.   The book opens with all of the family gathered around sharing their greatest wishes.  They go to bed, and then awaken in the night to half of their house already under water.  They must get up to the attic if they are to survive.  At some point they must get up on the roof.  Suddenly Tante Anna, who is pregnant, is swept off the roof into the water.   They now must all go out in boats and search for her.   Some of them do that while some of the men go to the dike and try to fill in the hole so the ocean will stop flooding their land!

In light of the flooding of 1953 (the failure of, in some cases, very old dikes), the Netherlands has rebuilt their levee system to be the best in the world according to this article:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowery

TitleA Summer to Die
Author: Lois Lowery
Original Publication Date: 1977
Date I First Read: 1987ish
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:  Meg and Molly's family have just moved out to the country.  Molly is popular while Meg is Meg.  Meg is into photography and such.  She becomes friends with the neighbors and is on hand when they birth their baby at home.  In the meantime, it has become obvious that Molly is terminally ill with leukemia.    Meg learns many lessons about life and death at a tender young age.  

Cover: This (above) is the paperback cover I remember seeing when I first read this book  Molly looks like a ghost already.  Either that, or it was this hardback book jacket cover (below.) 

What I Remember About the Book: I need to re-read this book!  I think I actually own a paperback copy, so I'll have to dig it out and then re-write this post.   I remember Meg being there when the neighbors had their baby, and then 



her sister dies.  

Man, I really need to re-read this book!  It's been at least 15 years since I last re-read it.   I don't know it I want to.  Ever since we had our first son, and he died, I've been really sensitive to books where children and young people die.  

And yes, this book is completely superior to Lurlene McDaniel books . . . of which I was a fan as a pre-teen and young teen.  Yes, as a youth librarian, I have continued to read most of them.  I can't see I've liked them all.  They never made me cry like A Summer to Die made me cry.  Therefore Ms. Lowery's book is definitely superior.  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Apollo's Outcasts by Allen Steele

Title: Apollo's Outcasts
Author: Allen Steele
Original Publication Date: 2012
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction and Science Fiction

Basic Summary:  Jamie Barlowe has lived on Earth since being born on the moon during the early building of the colony.  His mother was killed.  His father brought him back to Earth, but because he was born in a different state of gravity, his bones don't support him. Jamie lives in a "moblile", but feels really free in water . . .  and loves swimming.   His father is involved in some scientific community . . . and all of their lives are in danger when the president dies and there is a coup d'etat.   Jamie, his sister, and several other kids, are sent to the moon colony.   For the first time, Jamie is "normal" and can walk!  He decides to become a Ranger . . . which is very excited about.   

What I Remember About the Book: Jamie loves that he is able to walk while living on the moon.  

What I Took Away From the Book:  I found that I do like some science fiction.  This is quite accessible without being too science-fiction-y!   The families living on the moon, and the descriptions of their homes and how they live, were believable and made me want to read more.  The action was just enough without being too violent (which I appreciated.)  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney 
Published 2013
YA/Teen Fiction


This is the fifth (and maybe final) book about Janie Johnson. Overall, it sews things up for Janie/Jennie (because she decides she's going to be Jennie after all.) I also like getting Hannah's deranged view of things. Her hatred of librarians is interesting!  

I personally had several problems with this book. First of all, it takes place in the present day. Texting and Facebook play a roll. This is a major problem for me, as I read the first book ('The Face on the Milk Carton') when it first came out over 20 years ago! This book should, at least in my mind, be taking place in the mid-1990s. Yes, there could be some online activity and email, but not everything else. In my mind, Janie/Jennie should be in her mid-to-late 30s now. Instead, she was born just about 20 years ago. It just seems weird. Never mind that the face on the milk carton initiative was LONG over by the mid-1990s.

And secondly . . . 

SPOILER (sort of . . . ) 

Secondly, Janie/Jennie is way too young to get married. . . I sound like such a grown-up saying this.) It was really annoying when Janie/Jennie kept saying she was going to college to find a husband because that is the best place to find one. (This is in the first part of the book, so not giving too much away. That is just such an old fashioned thought. I didn't find mine in college!)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell

Title: Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berline Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"
Author: Michael O. Tunnell
Original Publication Date: 2010
Date I First Read: 2010
Basic Category:  Juvenile Nonfiction. 

Basic Summary:  This is the story of Gail S. Halvorson, the Chocolate Pilot.   One day, while landed to deliver supplies to Berlin in the late 1940s, Lt. Halvorson was inspired to give a group of children there at the landing strip two pieces of gum to share.  After that, he wondered how he could deliver more treats to the children of Berlin.   His fellow pilots donated some of their own candy rations, and from the plan, he would drop the candy by attaching little parachutes made of handkerchiefs.   

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   Some of the children who received chocolate have stayed in contact with Gail Halvorson over the years.  

Notes:   This is a good book for 4-6th Graders.   It is also a 2014 Caudill Award Nominee.   
Rating (1-5 stars):  4.5  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg

Title: Annie's Ghosts
Author: Steven Luxenberg
Original Publication Date: 2009
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / Genealogy

Basic Summary:  The author was surprised after his mother's death that he had an aunt.  His mother always claimed that she was an only child.   After her death, the family received a letter from the cemetery where their grandparents were buried asking if they wanted to plant flowers for them, and for a woman named Annie Cohen.   Mr. Luxenberg investigates, and interviews over a hundred people in an attempt to learn the whole story behind Annie, and why his mother kept Annie a secret.    Much of their unknown family history is also discovered (along with changes of surnames upon arrival in America.)   

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   I just finished reading this book a week ago . . . It is amazing that they wanted to hide their second daughter.   At the time her physical and mental disabilities were considered shameful, at least in their family, and in the area Annie's parents were originally from.   It made me feel very sad for them all.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Arlene on the Scene by Carol Liu with Marybeth Sidoti Caldarone

TitleArlene on the Scene
Author: Carol Liu with Marybeth Sidoti Caldarone
Original Publication Date: 2010
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category:  Juvenile Fiction (The main character is in fourth grade.)

Basic Summary:  Arlene is starting the fourth grade . . . but over the summer, she has acquired new purple leg braces.  She has a disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, which makes her legs and hands  weak.   With the braces, she can walk better.  Still she worries, so she concocts a plan to prove herself.  First, she convinces the school principal that fourth graders should be able to run for student government, not just the fifth and sixth graders . . . and then Arlene starts campaigning hard! She learns a lot about her classmates in the meantime.  

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   Arlene's speech in front of the student body just prior to the election.  

What I Took Away From the Book:  This is a book I would have loved to read when I was in third or fourth grade - maybe because Arlene is so unlike me at that age.  Not because of physically abilities, but because of her outgoing personality.  I would never imagine doing anything like she does in this book!  Go, Arlene! 

I also learned about Charot-Marie-Tooth.  It is a neuropathy disorder that is usually inherited, but sometimes it just shows up (as in the case of Arlene and her mother, and in the case of the co-author Marybeth Sidoti Caldarone and her daughter.) 
Rating (1-5 stars):  4.5  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: This World We Live In
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Original Publication Date: 2010
Date I First Read: 2010 (Reread in epub format in 2013.)
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:  This is the third book in the Last Survivors series.   Here is the author's blog for this book
Miranda, who through her diary narrated the first book, which I love, titled Life As We Knew It, is now back writing in her diary.  It had been a year since the moon was shoved closer to the earth and all h-ll broke loose.  Her mother and brothers have survived.  Her brothers go off to fish, and Matt brings him his new young wife.  And then her father shows up with his wife, new baby, and three more people who are like family now.  

What I Remember About the Book: Before I re-read it, mostly all I remembered well was the food and van Miranda and Alex found, and then the disaster near the end of the book. I don't want to give away too many spoilers.   

What I Took Away From the Book: That I will never really survive a disaster unless I have access to a good pharmacy with allergy and asthma meds in stock.  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

1)  There is a new book in this series coming out in August 2013!  It is titled The Shade of the Moon.  
2) One of the earlier "chapter" books I remember reading was also by Ms. Pfeffer.  It is titled What Do You Do When Your Mouth Won't Open?  I read this book about thirty years ago now, and it was something that I understood . . . it happened to me daily.  I chatted at home quite a lot, but outside to other people?   A very difficult task!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

5 Apps (Only Some of Which Pertain to Books)

The theme for today for the WordCounts 30-Day Blogging Challenge is 5 Favorite Apps.   I don't have a device at present that really uses apps!   I use my husband's iPod touch sometimes, and sometimes my mom's iPad.  Otherwise, I have been a big Facebook app user for six years.  Does that count?  The problem is that some apps are not for PCs (I have a laptop that I use regularly.)

 On Facebook, Words with Friends,  Farm Town (not Farmville, which always rather sucked in comparison), and now Candy Saga.

On Chrome - Angry Birds.  Yes, I first got this for my son (for free), but I admit to playing it sometimes! It's difficult!

On devices that I don't own but use occasionally - Scramble with Friends (no app for PC - annoying!).

Other apps that I would use if I could - (actually, I don't know if they have an app, but I am on the website all the time.  I have had a paid account there for over five years.)

I used to have a weather app years ago on a previous laptop.  I was a meteorology major for a year of my life - nearly twenty years ago now.

Ah . . . I do use an Adobe Digital Editions app (or is it just software?) to download books from the library in epub format and load them onto my Kobo.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Title: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Authors: Judi Barrett
Original Publication Date: 1978
Date I First Read: Summer 1980ish
Basic Category: Children's Fiction / Picture Book

Basic Summary:   The town of Chewandswallow has unusual weather with no need for grocery stores.  All of their food needs came in with the weather.  That is until things started going awry!  

What I Remember About the Book: The bacon and eggs in the tree before the weather took a turn for the worse, and after, the giant pancake (with syrup) on the school.  

What I Took Away From the Book: Weather can be really fun!  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Notes:  I have re-read this many times over the years.  I even bought a new copy for myself after the old copy from 1980ish from my cousin fell apart.  I have used this book for preschool storytimes. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Christ Crutcher

Let me just preface this by admitting the following:  I graduated from high school twenty years ago today.  In celebration, I post about a book I first read that year.  In fact, I will post a book by a well-known author who I had a chance to meet a full ten years later!  

Title:  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Authors: Christ Crutcher
Original Publication Date: 1993
Date I First Read: Summer 1993
Basic Category: Fiction / YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:   Eric and Sarah Byrnes were childhood friends because they were both different - Eric was fat and Sarah had burn scars from early childhood.   Sarah is now catatonic, and Eric is trying to help her.  And then there are the school scenes - a Contemporary American Thought class, where different classmates have different views, and Eric ends up being injured.  

What I Remember About the Book: The hypocritical views on abortion among the classmates. The classmate who was always spouting conservative Christian rhetoric in class. . .  and then his girlfriend became pregnant, and he encourage an abortion.  I was stunned by that at the time. I always thought that if you really believed in something, you should stand by those beliefs. This made me start question - more than I had already - what I personally believed.   

What I Took Away From the Book:  I loved this book the first time I read it.  I walked around thinking about it for days.  I have been afraid, honestly, to re-read this book.  What if I feel differently twenty years later?  I have an autographed copy of this book in the paperback edition from 2003.  

Meeting Mr. Crutcher and hearing him talk either in late 2003 or early 2004 was great.  He does put much of his experience as a counselor, etc,  into the books 

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 (At the time.  I am thinking about re-reading it.) 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Data, A Love Story by Amy Webb

Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet my Match by Amy Webb
Original Publication Date:  2013
Date I First Read: 2013
Category:  Nonfiction/Memoir

Summary:  Ms. Webb thought she would meet her future significant other while on international journalism assignments.  After some rather bad relationships, she decided to try online dating.   That wasn't working out so well, either, until she signed up as a man, and tried to see what men liked in the most popular profiles of women.

What I Liked About the Book:  I picked up this book because I, too, decided to joined an online dating site and create a profile.  And I found my eventual spouse quite quickly!  In fact, Ms. Webb got into online dating at the same time I did.   When she started mentioning instant messaging, I dated it as 2005, and I was correct.  I enjoyed getting another perspective on it . . .  it rather validated the idea that we did the right thing.  We aren't the only ones!

Rating (1-5 Stars): 5 Stars 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

(I just want to note that I am not being paid in any way at this time for my reviews.  I mainly get books to read from my local public library.  Occasionally I get picked to receive an Advanced Reader Copy from LibraryThing, in exchange for a review. That is it at this time.)

 The Lost Husband by Katherine Center (2013)

Sometimes I have trouble getting into fiction that is intended for "adults" that is not supposed to be full of humor.   This was was not full of humor, but indeed, I had trouble putting this book down.  At the gym I, in fact, opted to walk on the treadmill so that I could keep reading! (This was a week ago.)  

Libby Moran's husband died suddenly a few years ago in a car accident after picking up their daughter Abby.  Abby's leg was crushed at age four in the same accident, and now at age seven, she still has a small limp.  Libby worries about her quite a bit.  Her younger child, Tank, doesn't remember his father at all.  Libby moved back in with her mother after discovering the financial mess her husband had them in (he cashed in his life insurance for an investment at some point.)   She and her mother don't get along very well.  Her mother has been in search of something her whole life, but has no idea what that may be.  Libby finally receives a letter from her aunt Jean, inviting her and the children to come live and work on her goat farm.  Libby accepts, and discovers a whole new life.  

I highly recommend this book!

Rating (1 to 5 stars): 5