The Infinite Sea

The Infinite Sea: The Second Book of the Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. Putnam, 2014. ISBN: 9780399162428. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

infinite sea

Warning: Do not even try reading this book unless you read the first one because you’ll be hopelessly lost. In fact many readers may want to reread The Fifth Wave in order to jump right into this one. Second books of a trilogy are particularly tricky. The author needs to build a bridge without giving too much away or making things drag. Well there’s no drag here, just plenty of violence, evil aliens and action. After all, space invaders who have pretty much wiped out 7 billion humans aren’t going to play nice no matter what. I understand the numerous complaints about the book not focusing as much on Cassie and Evan. There’s too much going on that WILL grab the reader for this to bother most who do get into the book. By the end, you’re likely to feel a bit like a wrung out sponge and have plenty of questions you’re dying to have answered in the final installment and that, after all, is what a good middle book should do for readers.

There’s lots of violence in this that might turn off some YA readers, but it’s completely appropriate given the plot. It’s a great addition to both school and public libraries. If you haven’t laid your hands on the first book, do so and give yourself a double-decker dystopian treat.

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Filed under Fantasy, Grade 10-12

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

Cover ArtTiny Creatures: The World of Microbes.  Written by Nicola Davies.  Illustrated by Emily Sutton.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.  This picture book gives children a first look at microbes: what they are, where they’re found and what they do.   Young science enthusiasts will learn that microbes are living organisms and an integral part of the natural world.  They will discover the benefits of microbes and their sometimes negative impact on human health.

The author does an excellent job of taking what could be a complex topic and making it easy-to-understand.  The illustrations are rendered in natural, muted tones.

 

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Filed under Grade K-3, Picture Book, Preschool

Families Around the World

Families Around the World. Written by Margriet Ruurs. Illustrated by Jessica Rae Gordon. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This picture book offers a great introduction to diverse cultures around the world.  The author considers fourteen families of various compositions, from Canada to South Korea.  Young readers will learn about their diets, beliefs and the various activities the families participate in.

The illustrations are bright colored and charming in their simplicity.

The author includes a brief glossary, in addition to an activity section, that details how to make a passport and an acrostic poem, and how to locate countries on a map.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Preschool

The Summers

The Summers by Iva-Marie Palmer, Alloy/Skyscape 2014. ISBN: 9781477827307. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

Summers

She’s not Katie Sommers any more and she, like her dad and her three sisters, is still really hurting from the loss of her mom three years ago. Her mother’s death (never really explained and I think that would have helped the plot a lot), meant a disruption in their annual pilgrimage from New Jersey to their Cape Cod cottage. Older sister Eliza is getting married at the end of the summer and convinced everyone that doing so on the beach by their cottage would be a good thing.

When Kate, Eliza and their two younger sisters arrive, they realize just how hard coming back is, so much so that they have a very difficult time getting through the door. Kate hopes that things will be different in one really good and important way. She’s had a crush on next door neighbor Ryan Landry for years, despite the fact that he and Eliza were a summer item every time the Sommers family came to the cape. With Eliza getting married, Kate hopes that she can spark something between her and Ryan.

The moment they see each other, she feels the electricity. It seems that Ryan has as well. Unfortunately, Kate’s still intimidated by the ghost of Eliza’s annual thing with Ryan and she lets it get to her so badly that she acts like an idiot, not once, but several times. Frankly, her behavior was at times borderline annoying as a result.

However, as the wedding approaches and Kate starts realizing that Ryan is a lot more than a summer fling, you begin to see all the ways that each family member has gotten stuck in the grieving process. Kate’s too self-absorbed, Eliza too controlling and Dad is too lost and detached. They’re a hurting unit that is out of touch with the intensity of pain caused by Mom’s death.

It takes a blow-up between Kate and Eliza as well as some serious soul searching on everyone’s part for that elusive light to appear at the end of the tunnel.

While not a perfect read, this was enjoyable and will offer something to teens who are struggling with loss or who are at the beginning of figuring out their first real relationship. There are several sex scenes in the book, but they shouldn’t be a deal breaker in terms of adding this to a school or public library.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12

Evil Librarian

Cover ArtEvil Librarian. By Michelle Knudsen. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Evil Librarian is a tantalizing novel published just in time for the Halloween holiday.  (Although fans of suspense and fantasy will enjoy it during other times of year as well!)

This thrilling novel is a good choice for the right audience: mature teens who will not be offended by sexual references and adult language.   The genre is a delightful mix of comedy, suspense and fantasy.

The author is very creative when it comes to developing her characters.  I love the fact that main character, Cynthia, is not as susceptible to the influence of the new librarian (a demon) because she is a “super-roach,” with a natural immunity to his influence.  However, in order to save her best friend Annie, and the rest of the student body, Cynthia has to take on the Evil Librarian, before he devours the souls of everyone in the school.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Grade 10-12, Supernatural

How to Lead A Life of Crime

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller (Penguin Young Readers Group – Razorbill), 2013. ISBN: 978-1595145185. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS

how to lead

Imagine Blade Runner meeting Harry Potter and then getting locked up with characters from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and you’d have the flavor of this one. Flick’s been living on the street and surviving by becoming an accomplished pickpocket. He’s pretty much numbed out after years of being beaten by his ultra-successful father, who looks perfect to the rest of the world, but is a monster at home after he’s consumed a certain amount of scotch. After Flick left, Dad turned on his younger brother and hit him one too many times, killing him. It was covered up, but Flick knows it was murder and would do anything to get a chance for revenge. In the mean time, he’s fallen in love with an exotic street girl named Joi who’s taken it upon herself to rescue as many homeless kids as possible. Even though Flick loves her, he forces himself to leave because his need for revenge is stronger than his feelings for her.

When he’s approached by Lucien Mandel who wants to recruit him for the ultra elite and secret Mandel Academy, Flick starts to blow him off, but Lucien makes him an offer he can’t refuse. If he agrees and makes it to graduation, He’ll get a file full of proof his father killed his brother.

The Academy will remind many of the training Katniss and her competitors went through in preparation for the Hunger Games, but it runs full semesters, there’s a top student known as a Dux and the lowest in each class, while supposedly are allowed to go home after they fail out, end up with a far grimmer fate. As Flick gets to know the other students and begins to realize how completely corrupt the whole process is, Lucien ups the ante and all of a sudden Flick is in direct competition for the top spot with the love of his life, Joi, but he can hard;y recognize the cold, hardened and ruthless girl who has no problem taking down and terrorizing even the most ruthless students.

How this all plays out is not only full-out screech, but replete with a bunch of twists that kept me up well into the wee hours so I could finish it. Violent, profane and addictive, it’s a YA Edgar Nominee and a great suggestion for mature teens.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Grade 10-12

The Chance You Won’t Return

The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi, Candlewick Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780763662929. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

the chance you

Figuring out normal teen stuff is complicated enough for most kids, but what do you do when there’s a boatload of stuff the guidebooks never mention overwhelming you? That’s what Alex Winchester is facing. Her dad works for the post office. Her mom works at a dentist’s office, but does she any more? It wasn’t that long ago when Alex’s baby sister was born too prematurely to breathe on her own. She died shortly after birth, setting in motion events that leave Alex way over her head.

Add in that every time she gets behind the wheel of the aging Volvo used for driver’s education, she loses it and can’t breathe or remember which does what. This panic results in her tearing up the end of the football field and becoming a hallway laughingstock at school. That would be bad enough, but there’s something even scarier happening at home. Her mother is becoming Amelia Earhart.

Alex can’t deal with her feelings of being overwhelmed. The more she reads about Amelia Earhart’s life, the more frightened she is that her mom is slipping away into doing something drastic. Worst of all, Alex can’t tell anyone about how crazy her life has become. When Jim, a high school senior who drove through the corner of his parent’s house the year before and was exiled to his grandparents’ farm recognizes a kindred spirit, he offers to take her practice driving. Their driving sessions become a lot more, something Alex desperately needs, but even then, she can’t tell him what’s going on at home because she’s too afraid.

It takes some personal melting down on her part to allow cracks in attempt at controlling her messed-up world to form before she and the rest of her family begin the healing process.

This is a sad book that ends on a hopeful note. It’s one geared for mature teens, particularly those who are wrestling with grief or family mental health issues. It’s a worthy addition for both school and public libraries.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Vault of Dreamers

Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien, Roaring Brook Press, 2014. ISBN: 9781596439382. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

vault of dreamers

Rosie is one of 100 gifted kids, plucked from every economic strata to have a shot at finishing in the top 50 slots at an elite school for the talented and creative. She’s a film maker and it was her amazing video of her little sister back home by the railroad car they live in where the train was abandoned in the Arizona desert that got her into the school. Every moment of the students’ day is filmed live for a cosmic reality show and the viewer reactions are what gives kids their rank. Rosie’s not really a celebrity type, so her rank is near the bottom. She’d love to climb into the top 50, but her personality isn’t competitive. Then she intervenes when she sees one of the cooks hit Linus, a kitchen worker in the eye. Sparks fly, both of indignation and attraction. Rosie and Linus kiss and her rating jumps. When some of the students in her media class suggest ways to bump her rating, she goes along, but it’s her idea to film the very last ranked kids in the class that sparks a groundswell of support that squeaks her into the 50th spot.

It doesn’t take Rosie long to start breaking rules. She cheeks her sleeping pill and wanders around at night. At first it’s because she wants to experience the rain up on the roof, but when she starts seeing odd stuff happening—other girls sleeping pods being wheeled off in the night and film images mysteriously erased from her camera that she begins to suspect things are a lot more sinister than she ever believed.

I don’t want to post any spoilers, but what she and Linus uncover is uber creepy and there are some real toe-curling passages near the end. I will say that the closer I got to finishing the book, the more I began to suspect the ending would be anything like neatly wrapped up because there simply weren’t enough pages left. I was right, but you’ll have to read the book yourself to understand why. If you are okay with unsettling endings that keep you thinking long after you close the cover, then this is your kind of book. There should be a sequel, but if not, feel free to write your own epilogue in your head. One lingering question: What the heck happened to Linus???

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash

Cover ArtHello, I’m Johnny Cash. Written by G. Neri. Illustrated by A.G. Ford. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This aptly titled picture book uses free verse to tell the story of the life and times of the great Johnny Cash.  The author shares the difficulties Johnny experienced as a child – detailing his family’s struggles with poverty and alcoholism.  The reader learns how the tragic death of his brother Jack impacted Johnny throughout his life, and how his deeply held religious beliefs, love for music and  June Carter Cash, helped him to overcome his personal problems.

Key features include: “Historical Events in Johnny’s Lifetime”, a discography and a bibliography.

A.G. Ford’s  illustrations are truly outstanding.  The dark, soulful eyes of Johnny Cash peer out from the cover of the book, making this picture book a difficult one to resist.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Poetry

What A Boy Wants

What A Boy Wants by Nyrae Dawn, Self-published, 2012. ISBN: 9781475222449. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

what a boy

Sebastian Hawkins, AKA The Hook-up Doctor, knows plenty about relationships. After all his mother has been married four or five times and there have been plenty of other guys in between. His cynicism is necessary, he believes, because watching her has convinced him that falling in love is a recipe for disaster and heartbreak. He’s fine with casual hook-ups where both parties know going in that it’s just for the night.

He’s been blogging under the Hook-up Doctor line for a while and even takes on girls who are willing to pay him $100 if he’ll help them get the guy they’re after. He’s had great success, but when he gets an email from PA Rocks, everything is about to change. He takes her on as a client and suddenly, his best girl friend, Aspen, starts acting odd, almost as though she’s following the Hook-up Doctor’s advice. Sebastian gets a job at the same pizza joint where Aspen works and Matt, the guy who trains him, sets his teeth on edge, but he’s not sure of all the reasons why. Could it have something to do with Matt hinting that he’s interested in Aspen?

It isn’t long before Sebastian’s as confused about Aspen as his mom has been in most of her relationships. When the two of them go off to a beachfront house for the weekend with best friends Jaden and Pris to celebrate Pris’ birthday, he realizes he’s broken his own rule and is head over heels in love with her. He’s scared and exhilarated, but when he comes home and discovers his mom broke up with Roger, the guy who seemed like he might finally be the one who will stick around and treat his mom right, he freaks and breaks things off with Aspen.

How he realizes the magnitude of his mistake and fixes things will have teens who like a good, smart and slightly edgy love story, turning pages pretty fast. Nyrae Dawn does an excellent job of writing about teens who have faults, but are appealing and this is a very good example of it.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12