Monday, November 23, 2015

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey takes you on a dangerous action packed roller coaster where nothing is as it seems. The story follows a 16 year old girl named Cassie Sullivan who is trying to survive the unknown, or as they are called “Others”. Aliens perhaps? It is unclear to Cassie as it is to the rest of the human population.  The Others wipe out majority of the population, in the process taking control of the planet. They do this in waves. First wave takes out the electronics killing many. The second is a massive tsunami, the result is obvious. The third wave kills the remaining with disease where only the strong survive. The fourth wave makes it clear “not all humans are humans”. All that Cassie knows is that she may be the last survivor and must do exactly that, survive. And find her younger brother who has been taken to a refugee camp which is the fifth wave’s aim, to capture all the children. Along the way Cassie meets a boy named Evan Walker. He will help her in saving her younger brother as well as be her lustful eye candy of the book. The Others are out for human blood, and when disguised as humans Cassie Sullivan realizes that she can not trust anyone. 


Friday, November 20, 2015

The Nest - Kenneth Oppel

Ten days after Steve's new baby brother is brought home "angels" appear to Steve in a dream and offer to help the baby.  There is something wrong with the baby, but nobody can figure out what it is.  On a Sunday as his parents and his sister Nicole are outside enjoying the day.   Wasps circle around the drinks they have, and one stings Steve.  His dad takes him to the hospital and Steve had a mild to moderate allergic reaction to the sting.  He's prescribed EpiPens and the doctor recommends desensitization shots so he doesn't have to rely on the EpiPens.  That night he dreams of a cave-like area where the "angels" come to him again.  The "angels" say they can fix the mistake in the DNA of the baby.  They say it will be fixed soon, and then Steve wakes up.  It takes him three days to tell his mom about the dreams.  She says he has the most interesting dreams.  While Vanessa, their babysitter, is watching them she spies a wasp on the table biting the wood.  Steve and Vanessa follow the wasp back to the nest which is on the outside of the house above the baby's room.  At dinner Steve tells his parents about the wasp nest and his dad says he'll call someone out to take care of it.  After dinner he and his dad talk about the baby.  His dad tells him the baby has a very rare disease affecting the baby's DNA, and the baby could be low-functioning later in life.  After he falls asleep he dreams of the "angels" again.  They tell him his baby brother will be good as new with no defects.  The next night while his parents are out with the baby at a specialist and Vanessa had taken Nicole to a friends house someone comes and pounds on the door.  This frightens Steve and he tries to see if his neighbor sees/hears anything.  His neighbor is running the lawn mower so they are no help.  Once the person leaves Steve finds a sickle left on the front doorstep.  After his parents come back home and he tells them what happened.  They contemplate calling the cops, but decide not to.  His dad puts the sickle away in a safe place.  Later that night he dreams of the "angels" again and he tells them the baby need a heart operation, and that should make everything right.  The "angels" tell him that they are working on replacing the baby.  Steve doesn't understand, the baby is in his crib.  The "angles" tell him they are replacing him all together, and he is growing in the nest outside of his house.  The next night he dreams about the wasps and the queen shows him the larva that will become is new baby brother.  The next day Steve decides to take care of the nest on his own.  He grabs a ladder and climbs up with a broom.  He takes a swipe at it and the wasps come out.  They gather on the broom and land on him.  He drops the broom and climbs down the ladder slowly as not to agitate the wasps.  When he gets to the bottom all the wasps are back in the nest.  His parents are furious when they get home.  A neighbor called them because they had seen Steve on the ladder.  He then tells them about his dreams, and they suggest he talk to Dr. Brown about all of this. Steve goes the next day and talks to Dr. Brown.  He talks to him about how the summer has been and the dreams of the wasps he's been having.  They have a good session and Steve agrees to come back in a few weeks.  Three days go by with out the wasp dreams.  After he goes to bed on the fourth night he dreams of the wasps again.  He is in the nest where the new baby is out of the larva stage and is pupating. He and the queen argue about which one is the real baby.  She then tells him the wasps will take care of the sick baby once this one is done pupating.  All Steve has to do is say yes.  Yes will make everything right, and Steve's baby brother will be healthy.  Steve eventually says yes, but when he wakes up he regrets it.  What will happen to Steve now he's said yes to helping the wasps?

I enjoyed this book and it felt like a horror movie while I was reading it.  This book reminded me of the horror movie The Unborn, which came out in 2009.  In it Casey is having dreams of a boy.   The boy turns out to be the spirit of her twin brother who died in the womb.  The ghost is trying to use Casey to be born into the world.  This is similar to the wasps using the nest to make a new baby to replace the sick one.  


Thursday, November 05, 2015

Star Wars Princess Leia by Mark Ward

This comic book is aimed for not just fans of Star Wars, but any little girl looking for strong female to look up to. The comic is about girl power and fighting for what matters, even if the odds are against you. 

This comic book comes into play after Star Wars A New Hope. After the Death Star has been destroyed, the rebels have to regroup and start over. Among those is Princess Leia who finds herself without a home planet after the Empire destroyed Alderaan. However, as the only remaining royal of that planet, the Empire would like to see her destroyed, along with whatever other people from that planet remain. Leia, though, is not the type to just sit back and do nothing. She makes it her mission, along with an outspoken pilot (who also happens to be female), to find the remaining people of Alderaan and get them some place safe. It's not an easy task, especially with a bounty on her head and traitors in their mist, but Leia will not give up on her people. 

The pace of the comic is perfect with the right amount of ups and downs. We obviously know that she's going to get out of the tricky situation, but there's enough suspense to wonder how it will all work out. With the title character being female and her main companion also female, this comic becomes very empowering to girls. These are both strong women who won't back down. At the same time, being Star Wars it will appeal to all fans - male and female. In no way is it "girlie". This is Leia showing girls are just as tough as the boys and she shouldn't be forced to sit back and let others do the hard stuff. The comic is even more than that. It's about how all lives matter. It even touches on racism and fighting for what matters.

You might not expect much from a comic other than an engaging story, but this comic pulls through with more. It has a message and hope and a strong female character - one that you don't see a lot of in comics. This comic is very successful and enjoyable.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Whippoorwill by Joseph Monniger

What does neglect and abuse do to a human boy, to a dog?  Can such hurt be undone or not?  This fast read takes a look at the issue.   Its an ok story that held my attention.

Clair and Danny have lived next door since forever, but were never friends.  They both are in single family homes without mothers.  But Danny lives with an angry and sometimes abusive father while Clair's father is more stable and loving.  The fathers grew up together as well though were never friends.  Recently a dog has been tied to a pole outside, sometimes fed, sometimes kicked, always whining and trying to get away from the pole.  

Clair gets up the nerve to start befriending the dog, Wally, then training him and walking him when Danny's father angrily says to take him he wants to get rid of him. Clair and Danny form a friendship over Wally, training him and caring for him.  Though Danny had been treating the dog badly, he cleaned him up for Clair got a new leash, fed him better.  The possibility of a deeper kind of a relationship might exist for Clair despite warnings about the unstable family.

Then one horrible night everything falls apart, Danny and his father argue, father is injured and has his son charged.  For a while Clair cares for the dog Wally as no one is next door to do so.  But, when Elwood arrives home he demands the dog and injures the dog.  Clair's father and his friends do a great  rescue.

We know the outcome for Wally and it is heartwarming, even might make dog lovers a bit teary but the outcome for Danny is far from certain and I think just as important to the book as the dog story.

The Fall by James Preller

A person would have to be fairly heartless to read this story and not shed a tear or two.  
Here's quotes from the story that says a lot. Many good decent people look within and find ourselves wanting.  We can't help but wondering. We feel like failures. We can't know what goes on inside someone's head, or the circumstances of of her life, or exactly why anyone does the things she does.  We have to live with the unknowing.

Sam was just one of a group of kids who posted mean stuff on Morgan's facebook page.  He wasn't the worst by far, still he did nothing to stop what was happening.  And, Morgan might have been a friend under very different circumstances.  But she threw herself off the town water tower, a suicide.  
Now Sam has to live with himself and what he did and did not do.  This is the story of Sam's struggle in the aftermath of Morgan's suicide.  I was deeply touched by this story and recommend it.  
Joyce 10/24

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Lost Girl - R.L. Stine

In Shadyside back in 1950 Beth's father Angelo Palmieri was finally going to open his own riding stable.  As she's out walking Beth runs into Aaron Dooley, nephew to Martin Dooley.  He tries to force himself on her and all of the sudden he can't breath.  Beth has powers no one knows about that she used to fend him off.  He accuses her of being a witch, and she just turns and heads back home.  As the whole family gathers for the opening Martin Dooley shows up.  Martin gave Beth's father his first job as a stable boy.  He tells Angelo opening a stable isn't a good idea, and Beth should go out with his nephew because he can teach her things.  Angelo punches him and Martin threatens that he'll be back.  Two days later men Martin Dooley hired come and knock her dad out.  Beth runs and tries to escape.  She then sees the men drag her father to Dooley Stables through the Fear Street Woods.  The men cover Angelo in honey and oats and feed him to the horses, which hadn't been fed for days.  Beth runs from them and enters a cave, and with the darkness closing in around she thinks is this what it feels like to die?  Fast forward sixty-five years to present day Shadyside.  Michael Frost is grocery shopping and sees a beautiful girl with straight black hair there too.  He sees her take ham and turkey.  He runs after her and finds her outside petting his dog.  She tells him her name is Mindy and she's new in town.  The next day Michael sees her in school at the end of lunch.  She is lost and can't find the art room.  Michael shows her where it is and she tells him her name is Lizzy Walker.  Later on in the day Michael, Gabe, and Diego are talking about having a snowmobile party.  Michael's dad runs a snowmobile business and lets he and his friends ride them for free as long as they are available.  Lizzy shows up lost again and while Michael shows her to the gym she pricks his finger and hers and says now we're bloods.  At the end of school he and Pepper are working on the yearbook.  She accuses him of fainting over Lizzy and thinks there is something going on between Lizzy and Michael.  Michael says how could there be she's only been in school a few days.  Later that night Lizzy shows up at Michael's house lost again.  Lizzy is a block over from where she should be, and Michael's parents insist Lizzy stay and eat.  Michael tells her about the snowmobile party they are having on Saturday.  Lizzy invites herself and Michael reluctantly tells her she can come.  Pepper shows up to work on homework with Michael and sees Lizzy eating at the dinner table.  As Lizzy leaves she says she'll see Michael tomorrow.  Pepper is jealous and isn't happy about Lizzy joining them tomorrow.  Michael defends himself by telling Pepper she is new and town and this is a good way to get to know people.  On Saturday as everyone is out riding they see a person walk out of the trees and Michael hits him on accident.  Lizzy screams at Michael that he killed the guy.  Michael  can't understand why he couldn't turn to avoid hitting him.  When they all get a good look at him Lizzy recognizes him and says his name is Angel.  She tells them he's from her old school and got into major trouble.  They all start to leave, but Michael says they have to go back.  When they return to where Angel was hit he's nowhere to be found.  They are relieved he is still alive, but Lizzy warns  Angel is a psychopath and knows who they are.  They could be in a lot of trouble.   During school on Monday the art class is out in the graveyard doing rubbings.  Michael sees two graves that look like husband and wife, but Lizzy says they are father and daughter.  In the fog Michael sees a figure rise up and it is Angel.  When Michael reaches the place where Angel was, he has disappeared.   After school everyone is at Michael's house talking about what to do.  Lizzy starts to faint and Michael goes and hugs her to keep her upright.  Pepper is not happy with this and tells Michael they need to break up.  Later that night with his thoughts on Lizzy, Michael's phone rings.  There is a raspy voice on the end says you killed me and left me in the snow, now it's my turn.  The voice then asks Michael who he should start with to pay for what they had done.  The voice says how about the cute girl with the  black hair and big, dark eyes?  When Michael asks what he is going to do to Lizzy the caller hangs up.  Who will survive, and will Michael and the others find out who Angel really is? 

This book felt like it could have been one of the original Fear Street books that came out when I was in middle school and high school over 25 years ago.  It had all the elements that were present in the original books.   Even at the climax of the story when the reveal happens felt like the original Fear Streets books.  I really enjoyed reading this latest installment of the Fear Street revival.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Not since Westing Game by Ellen Raskin have I read such a wonderful twisty mystery adventure for middle school and really on up.  Just as Winter holiday is beginning, a usually quiet time for Milo and his parents who run an inn at a historic mansion, one by one a group of very unique folks begin to arrive at the inn.  The include an elderly professor who likes loud socks, two girls with  brightly dyed hair, one red and one blue and an elderly woman who knits along with a Mr. Vinge who is somewhat secretive.  Milo's parents spring into action, bringing in their usual help and laying in supplies for what will not be a quiet vacation for Milo.  Along with the help comes a girl Milo calls Meddy who is an expert at role playing games and who teaches Milo.  From the beginning I wondered about this girl, there are hints that something is off.  Right away there are mysterious goings on such as shadowy figures among the trees on the mansion grounds, someone or several someones trying to be silent padding in and out of rooms, some occupied by guests and some not.
Things go missing as well only to turn up somewhere else.  There is a mysterious map, a recurring theme of a gate seen on a knitting bag, and most especially on the giant very green stained glass window in the house.  There is an impression that each of the visitors has a specific reason for being at the house at this particular time.  The name Doc Holystone, a notorious smuggler, keeps coming up as the original name of the house.  With Meddy's prodding Milo suggests that each guest tell a story to help pass the long evening hours.  And so they do and each story told also tells why the person is there.  They are looking for a smuggler's treasure, anything about the artist who made the stained glass windows, the heritage of a young man once orphaned and adopted and now loved by two young women and maybe other things?  Mostly folks find what they are after though perhaps not the way they expected.  Incorporated into this story is Milo's story.  He is an Asian orphan adopted by Americans who longs to know his heritage, just as the young man Owen, who does learn some of his.
The other characters are diverse as well, old, young, educated and perhaps not and so on.  This makes the book an excellent choice for diversity in books lists.  Since Milo's story is part of the whole story the book should have broad appeal that many diverse books for which the diversity is the story do not.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The White Rose by Amy Ewing

This novel is the sequel to The Jewel. The action, suspense, and revelations all come together to make for an enthralling story that'll make you eager for the final novel.

Lucien's plans to help Violet escape were complicated when she tried to save Raven instead of herself. Things then became even further complicated when Violet is caught with Ash, the royal companion, which lead to the two of them being captured and threatened with death. When some unlikely allies show up, everyone manages to escape the confines, but face new challenges that might prevent them for obtaining their freedom. Along the way, Violet and her friends learn of a secret society known as the Black Keys, all working together to bring down the royalty and fight for those who are oppressed. Violet also learns that these Auguries which gave her power are only one form of power that she has. It is believed that she's strong enough to use her new found magic to break down the walls separating people and help them destroy the people in power. Everyone works together to build their army, but when the game starts to change, success becomes even more important to Violet than ever.

This is an excellent sequel. It starts off with wonderful amount of suspense as Violet and her friends try to escape the Jewel. You have a feeling that they'll all survive since it's only the second book in a trilogy - at least until the middle of the book - but the worry that something horrible will happen is fairly present in their escape. The novel slows down a bit when Violet learns the true nature of her power. Then it's all about getting ready for the next stage of their attack. There are a few more peaks of excitement but it's pretty steady until the last chapter when a bomb is dropped and another cliffhanger that has you salivating for the next book (not out until next year). Characters grow in this novel so that you fall in love with all of them and hope for the best. 

After reading this novel I'm even more invested in seeing where things go. It's going to be awful waiting another year. I hope it will be a solid payout, but if the first two novels are any indication, it will be worth the wait.