Friday, November 28, 2014

Watched - C.J. Lyons

Four years ago Jessie's dad left him, his mom, and his sister Janey.  His uncle, who is a fire fighter, took them in.  Jessie's uncle also made a video of him when he was twelve and gave it to someone named King online.  King can hack into any computer or cell phone to know and hear what someone is doing.  Since that video Jessie has been at King's beck and call even when he's in school.  Jessie is taking a test when King calls.  He gets out of class only to have his phone confiscated and gets detention.  When he gets out of detention King tells him never to ignore him again or else he will harm Janey.  Jessie speeds home and finds Janey alright.  He has a moment to recover when King calls.  He pleads with King to leave Janey alone.  King says he will if Jessie will make new friends and introduce them to King.  Jessie is given the weekend to think about King's proposal.  Jessie asks about an envelope that came and Janey says it was in the mailbox.  When he opens it a t-shirt, cell phone, and a note with a phone number along with the words I can help.  Jesse thinks it's from King and talks to his uncle about King's latest proposal.  His uncle tells him he's got to do it to make money because a fire fighters salary doesn't feed four people.  He says they can go to the auto show over the weekend to look for a new friend.  Jessie feels like he has no other choice.  After dinner he calls the number and is surprised when a girl named Miranda answers.  She is really good with computers and she can help.  She was hurt by King two years ago, and has been reaching out to his victims.  Jessie is the first one who has called.  At first Jessie says he can't help, but when he thinks about all the people King has victimized and will continue to victimize he agrees to help.  They set up a plan where Jessie goes and gets a digital recorder with audio and video, and will find King at the auto show this weekend.  Miranda has narrowed down where King lives and it's not to far away from Jessie and King works for Telenet, the sponsors of the auto show.  Jessie still has his doubts and Miranda tells him to think about as they hang up.  When he gets back to the house he hears his uncle talking on the phone in the garage.  He sneaks around to the front and heads to his bedroom.  He can't sleep and early in the morning he takes a drive towards the woods past school.  He can't remember a time when he was this free.  In that moment he phones Miranda and tells her he's in.  Can they take down King and get their lives back, or will King continue to destroy innocent lives because of one video or picture?  

I enjoyed this book.  It was a good story about what happens when that one picture or video gets posted online and how your life can end up in the hands of someone else.  In this age of cell phones, computers, and tablets we should be mindful about what gets taken with the technology.  You never know who is lurking in cyberspace.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Unchained by L B Tillit

TJ has lived with his drug addicted parents most of his life though he does remember better times before things got bad.  Now his father has overdosed, his drug addicted mother sent to rehabilitation and TJ to a foster home.  As it turns out, a good foster home.  People don't give up on this kid with a tough bully exterior.  TJ has become fast friends with some of his foster family then his mom gets him back.  She is really only interested in the support money she gets supposedly for his care.  So, he is on his own.  He is recruited into a gang though never fully participates but then tragedy strikes the gang in the form of  a shoot out with a rival gang resulting in the deaths of the leaders, folks start looking to him for leadership and he runs.  The rest is the sort of happy ending we could mostly hope for.  This a Saddleback book for teens not yet able to read well.  There is a lot of action and emotion in the story.  It has won awards and it has been asked for in our library.  So, despite the sort of idealistic ending I think its worth reading, it does work as a whole, is realistic. 

The Mosquito Book by Brett Ortler

Ok so this is everything you did or didn't want to know about mosquitoes.  Future entomologists and biologists would definitely be interested in this book.  Its good, fact filled short narrative non-fiction as well, should meet common core standards easily.  I did not know that there were about 63 different species of mosquitoes in our state.  Alaska has quite a few as well.  I did not know that these blood suckers only do this so they can create more blood suckers.  I did not know their Latin genus names mean fun things like useless and unpleasant or that scientists think that perhaps they could be eradicated without hurting the ecosystem.  There is so much more.  Lots of pictures show how different each species is from the next.  The book explains the differences in breeding, breeding grounds, diseases they may carry, what their eggs look like and what research is being done.  It includes a list of repellants and how to use them and what the future holds for repellants and what really works and what attracts them to us!  All this in just 144 jam packed pages!
jdw 11/21/14

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mr. B Gone by Clive Barker

For me this was a really fun book. If you like horror among other creepy things, then you know Clive Barker!

In this book you are not reading a story, the devil trap in it it's narrating it too you! Creepy uh? But wait until you start turning your head to make sure nobody is behind you. Why is your heart beating so fast?? Is he behind you? Don't look!

The narrative really engrosses you into the story and once you pick up the book you won't stop. No matter how many times the demon inside the book tells you to, you just won't find it in you. Not only is it fun, there are moments that will break your heart, others that will warm it. But then you remember that the creature in this book it's a demon, then you would try to make yourself not to feel sorry for it.

If you like horror and you like interactions this book it's a must for you!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Book of Bad Things by Dan Poblocki

Ursula Chambers was a witch or so people of Whitechapel believed. She chased away anyone who approached her scary old house hidden mostly from sight by trees.  Seeing the witch, finding out if she really was seemed like the perfect summer challenge for friends Joey and Cassidy so with Joey's dog along they went up the stairs to the old house only to be chased away in fright.  Unfortunately Lucky grabbed a piece of trash hanging from a low window and later choked to death.  That summer ended badly.  When Cassidy returns next summer, things begin badly.  She is seeing the ghost of Lucky and perhaps other ghosts as well.  Joey won't talk to her.  But there is a new kid in the neighborhood who has also seen the ghost dog.  Talk goes to ley lined and standing stones and other supernatural things.  Joey has also been seeing Lucky but the adults won't believe him.  It takes a bit of convincing for the girls to get Joey to understand that they do believe him.  When Ursula dies, her home is cleared of mountains of trash and a few interesting items.  Anyone who took an item from the dumpster outside the home later was haunted and if they did not return the item they died and became ghostly as well.  Now the kids are seeing more, or perhaps zombies, those of their dead neighbors.  So the trio plus Hal, a teen who wisely returned his stolen item to the house start researching both how to stop the dying of more folks as the trash and stolen items become carried far and wide and and how to stop the haunted zombies.  This is a good stopping point.  What they discover and what they do is the best part of the story!  There are enough funny lines here to keep the story from being too scary for the middle school audience.  Many of us have had ghost houses or witch houses in our neighborhoods, places we were warned away from and we didn't know why.  Here is one possibility.   Enjoy.  

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

All Britt wanted to do was have a great spring break hiking in the mountains with her best friend Korbie and forget about her break-up with Calvin. When she learns that Calvin is going on the trip as a chaperone - since he’s Korbie’s older brother - she’s torn between making him pay for breaking her heart and considering a reconciliation. Before they make it to their cabin in the mountains, however, they are hit by a massive blizzard and forced to abandon their car on the side of the road. Britt and Korbie manage to find shelter with two hikers, but it’s not the salvation they’d been hoping for. Shaun and Mason need to get off the mountain, and Britt is the one to help them. She knows that they’re hiding something, and she slowly begins to realize that they might be connected to the disappearances and deaths of three women in these mountains. Now all she cares about is her own survival and the hope that resourceful Calvin would come to her rescue. It doesn’t help her situation when one of her kidnappers turns out to be the opposite of what she things. Can she trust him or not?

This novel is a romantic suspense novel. Given the whole hostage situation, that makes it a little bit of a Stockholm Syndrome novel, although I think that there is some degree of truth behind her feelings for one of the kidnappers. He does genuinely help her throughout the novel and extreme situations do tend to lead to extreme feelings (at least that’s what seems to happen in novels). Whether or not a relationship between them would work in the real world, it makes for entertaining fiction. In terms of the suspense, I figured it out halfway through the novel, but I’ve been accused of thinking too much when I read, so maybe the big reveal will be more surprising for another reader. Even knowing what was going to happen, the novel was still enjoyable. There are enough turns in their journey to keep things interesting and the reader wondering how they’ll get out of this situation.

Overall, this was a satisfying novel. There’s enough to keep you going to the end as you hope everything works out for these characters and justice is served.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Party Games A Fear Street Novel - R.L. Stine

Everyone in Shadyside knows the stories about the Fear family.  Their ancestors practiced black magic, the whole family is cursed, and the ancestors haunt the Fear Mansion on Fear Island.  The stories alone would keep most people away from the Fear family.  Rachel on the other hand has a major crush on Brendan Fear, and to her he's a popular and nerdy guy.  When he asks her to his birthday celebration on Fear Island she says yes.  Her best friend Amy and her ex-boyfriend Mac warn her not to go.  She doesn't listen and that Friday, she along with Brendan's friends and his cousins board a ferry to Fear Island.  After they get to the island the ferry operator hits his head on the dock loosing a bit of blood.  When they enter the ballroom of the house Brendan greets everyone and the party begins.  Brendan has a few game ideas for the night.  The first is an old fashioned scavenger hunt.  All the guests are given a list of items to find through out the house.  Everyone is  partnered up and Rachel gets to be with Brendan.  He leads her to an elevator taking them to the third floor to begin their search.  As the searching begins they become separated and bats come rushing out of the room at Rachel.  After the bats are gone she looks for Brendan but can't find him.  She comes upon a body hung by the neck with a note on the floor saying "Anyone for a game of hangman?"  She believes it's Brendan, but when he finds her she realizes it's a mannequin dressed in his clothing.  They hear screams and see a crowd outside a bedroom.  Inside Patti is on the floor bent in half with her legs all twisted.  There is another note saying "Twister anyone?"  As everyone tries to figure out what to do the power goes out.  They go to find flashlights, but those have been taken.  Brendan remembers they have a security room and cameras.  When they rewind the footage there are two masked men with hunting rifles breaking into the house.  When one of the guests suggests going to the boat and leaving, everyone agrees and they head to the boat.  When they get to the dock they see the boat leaving with the workers hired for the party on it.  How will they get off Fear Island, or better yet will there be anyone left alive to get off the island? 

It's been almost ten years since R.L. Stine has written a Fear Street novel.  This one comes back with everything I loved in the series when I read them in the late 1980's and the 1990's.  It had the fear of the unknown killer, stories of the Fear ancestors, the Fear Mansion and the point in the book when one of the main characters realizes the killer might be someone he/she knows.  I was also reminded of Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie while reading Party Games.  In it ten people are in a house on an island and the killer picks them off one by one.  I'm very happy R.L. Stine has decided to go back to Fear Street.  I'm hoping there will be more to come from Fear Street.

T.B. 10/26/14

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Selection Stories: The Prince & The Guard by Kiera Cass

This book contains two novellas that accompany Cass's Selection series. The two stories offer up the same situations that happen in the original novels, but from a different point of view. 

The first novella, The Prince, takes place before the series begins, although the last few chapters overlapping the beginning of the first book in the series. This book is from Prince Maxon's point of view as he prepares for the Selection. You meet Daphne, who is mentioned in one of the later books, as the first girl who had been in his life, and you see his true feelings and fears as he embarks on this journey to find a wife. Then you witness his first reaction to meeting America who is nothing like he expected.

The second novella, The Guard, is from Aspen's point of view and overlaps the second book. It shows his struggle to do his duty and keep up with his feelings for America in response to what happened to Marlee and a fellow guard, as well as her conflicted feelings for the prince. It doesn't help his situation that the rebel attacks are increasing and there's only so much he can do to keep the woman he loves safe.

Both novellas do a nice job of showing the other side of the drama. Since it does take scenes from the original novels, it can feel repetitive and it would have been nice to see more beyond the book. Since it is just a novella, though, neither story is exceptionally long. These are really just a snapshot of what else is happening in this world. A longer book would have given more opportunity for depth and further exploration of these characters' worlds. 

On top of the novellas, The Selection Stories includes a number of bonus items. There is a Q&A with the author that not only delves into the writing of the novels, but further details about how she imagines the characters' lives. There's a list of all of the girls in the Selection and a description of the castes. Then there are the family trees and family histories for America, Aspen, and Maxon. The bonus content ends with "The Official Playlist" for books One and Two of the series. These playlists offer a popular song, a lyric from the song, and scene from the book that relates to the song. It's an interesting and unique way to look at the books. All of the bonus content is worth exploring as it delves deeper into these really enjoyable novels.

For fans of the series, these are a nice treat to keep the story alive. Two more novellas are coming out (The Queen and The Favorite) and a fourth book is planned for next year.