Sunday, November 28, 2010


When Tom Harriman dies, the nation mourns a hero. When Tom Harriman dies, Billy also mourns a hero-but that hero happens to be his father. His dad worked for the president, and was always there to keep things under control. After his plane crashes, Billy knows something is wrong. Heroes don't just die in accidents.

Billy insists on pretending that he is moving on after this horrible family tragedy, but in reality he is searching for answers. He believes that his father's accident was no mistake. While he continues to look, Billy himself is beginning to change. He is faster, stronger, more confident. What he doesn't realize is his father's deepest secret, he was an actual superhero, is going to be revealed to him. He will know because his superhero powers are now being passed on to Billy.

I enjoyed this quick read by Mike Lupica. It is a daring thing to branch away from his usual topic of sports (although they are referenced quite a lot during the story) into one of superheroes. It is not my favorite superhero book, but the idea of powers being passed on (see Thirteen Days to Midnight) is an interesting one. It seemed like this book wrapped up way to quickly, with a large realization at the end that wasn't explored as much as it should have been. I hope that there is more about Billy and his new life in a follow-up book. I believe this is a good opportunity for fans of Lupica's other works to read a fantasy story.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harriet the Spy

A classic from when I was a lot younger, Harriet the Spy is a book that could be truly called timeless. It is the story of Harriet, an 11-year-old girl who lives in the city. An only child, her best companions are books and her wish is to grow up and be  a writer. To practice, she is an observer. She watches everyone: her parents, the kids at school, and people on her 'spy route' that she walks daily. She records everything in her notebook.

Harriet's notebook is found by her classmates who subsequently read it. They are shocked and hurt by the observations she has recorded, which confuses Harriet. She doesn't understand why her writing has hurt everyone so much, why they think her comments about them come off as petty. They create a united front against her, and seek revenge. This makes Harriet, an already lonely observer, feel even more alone.

Don't judge this book because it is older, or on the Disney movie made on the general idea of it. The book is a classic, one that could not be outdated. It deals with the feelings that many people have when they try to understand the world they face. I remember reading this book, and even though sad things happened for Harriet, a part of me wanted to be her. Any book that can feel that real should be read by many.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Shiver-The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series

I am sad to say that there are books that I dig my heels in and say, "No, I'm not going to read that. I will never read that." Usually it is because of the impression I get from the cover, or the things I have read about it from other people. Well, I need to learn that these often become my favorite, or at least well-liked books, in my library.

This book is a perfect example. The first in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series is the beautifully written story of Grace and Sam, two that are destined to be together. Sam saved Grace when a wolf-pack attacked her when she was just a child. He checked on her every winter after that. Grace saw him, but never knew who he was, because she only saw him when he was a wolf.

 Sam is a werewolf, but the moon doesn't cause him to change form. Instead, heat and cold force him from human to animal. During the winter he is trapped in his wolf body. Soon, the time he stays there will become longer and longer, until he doesn't change back to a person.

This is the story of how they meet as people and fall in love. It is propelled by beautiful description, unique but believable characters, and storyline that may sound like one you've heard before-but definitely is not.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chelsey & the Green-Haired Kid

Every since she was a toddler, Chelsey has been confined to a wheelchair. Now 13, she strives for independence and uses the community bus service to get around. Because she doesn't fit into the bleachers at the high school to watch the basketball game with the rest of the fans, she has to sit behind them. This creates an unusual vantage point-not of the game, but of a murder. No one believes her, so she teams up with Jack, a misunderstood teenager with green hair, to try and figure out what happened. They discover that the murder goes deep into the town and the drug underworld.

I like this book for a few reasons. 1-It is a very quick read. The suspense in the story motivates the reader to continue until the end of the story. There is some predictability, but even the use of a drug ring in a small, Midwestern town is an interesting twist. 2-The author is from Iowa City, and the setting in the story is definitely influenced by this. One of the best scenes takes place on a steep hill that could only be the hill in downtown Iowa City. 3-Chelsey's disability is not a hindrance, or even a big deal. She deals with her chair in a matter-of-fact way, never pitying herself, instead being mature and realistic about it. Overall, this is a good, fun, mystery.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beautiful Creatures

Ethan is tired of living in the small Southern town of Gaitlin, a place her rarely gets away from, and is counting the days until graduation when he can be long gone. The loss of his mom still pains him every day. Life is boringly normal, except for his dreams- dreams that are more like visions. The drowning girl and his unsuccessful attempts to save her. Waking up covered in mud, drenched in river water.

When Lena Duchannes shows up in town, Ethan is even more bewildered. Why is the girl from his dreams here? How can she be the niece of the local nut? Life seems to spinning out of control, and when he discovers the true secret behind the new girl, it spins a million times faster.

Some people are totally turned off when they hear about this book-it sounds like any other cursed paranormal romance that is out there. But it isn't. It is so much more.  For starters, as unbelievable as the story may be, the characters seem one-hundred percent real. They do things that you could see yourself doing, sadness seeps through their their thoughts, happiness glows. The setting acts as another character all together. The small Southern town captures the secrets of those who live there, young and old, and pulls you under.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Enemy

Your 16th birthday is a dreaded day in dystopian London. After the sickness came, every adult became ill. Some died. Some remained sick, confused, and hungry--and they'll feed on you. Children are fighting to survive, and hear of safe places where kids are living together. The gang that has been living in the grocery store, Waitrose, have decided that there has to be a better place-a place where there isn't the constant fear of who is next to be snatched. The group teams up with the Morrison group (from another store) to travel to Buckingham Palace where there is rumor of a large group of kids working to live together. On the way, some are lost.

This book is gross at times, and is not for the fainthearted. It is a zombie book (well, not technically since the 'Grown-Ups' aren't dead and coming back to life, in the true definition of zombies). There are some pretty gory places, and many more intense ones. Action-packed, thrilling, but still thought provoking. There is also sadness when the one child you really like, or can really connect to, dies. When children who have had all the adults they have trusted ripped away from them must lose their friends, too. And it leaves you wondering at the end...who is the real enemy?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mike Lupica

For the athletes who recognize that sports is life, Mike Lupica's books are for you. Lupica is an author of some very popular realistic fiction books and sports journalist for ESPN and other news outlets. His experience in the sports world definitely shows in his writing which rings realistic with each description, whether it is about baseball, football, or basketball. While showing the importance of athletics in each character's life, Lupica also weaves the life the characters live outside of the game they love into the story. He creates a whole person, not allowing his characters to be defined by sports, or any one thing. Summarized below are some of Lupica's most popular works. I will mention that The Big Field is my favorite.

The Big Field

For Hutch, shortstop has always been home. It's where his father once played professionally, before injuries relegated him to watching games on TV instead of playing them. And it's where Hutch himself has always played and starred. Until now. The arrival of Darryl "D-Will" Williams, the top shortstop prospect from Florida since A-Rod, means Hutch is displaced, in more ways than one. Second base feels like second fiddle, and when he sees his father giving fielding tips to D-Will—the same father who can't be bothered to show up to watch his son play—Hutch feels betrayed. With the summer league championship on the line, just how far is Hutch willing to bend to be a good teammate?

Twelve-year-old Michael Arroyo lives in the shadows of Yankee Stadium, home of his heroes, but a place that might as well be on a different continent since he can't afford to see the inside. He also lives in the shadows of his Bronx neighborhood, hiding from the bill collectors and the officials who would separate him from his seventeen-year-old brother if they knew the two boys were living on their own. Baseball is Michael's only salvation, along with his dream of playing in the Little League World Series-until a rival accuses Michael of being older than the league limit. With no parents and a birth certificate that is stuck in his native Cuba, the shadows in Michael's life grow darker. But that is when heroes emerge, and for Michael, heroes don't come any bigger than the Yankees.

Travel Team
Twelve-year-old Danny Walker may be the smallest kid on the basketball court—but don't tell him that. Because no one plays with more heart or court sense. But none of that matters when he is cut from his local travel team, the very same team his father led to national prominence as a boy. Danny's father, still smarting from his own troubles, knows Danny isn't the only kid who was cut for the wrong reason, and together, this washed-up former player and a bunch of never-say-die kids prove that the heart simply cannot be measured.

Miracle on 49th Street
Josh Cameron has it all: a World Championship ring with the Boston Celtics, an MVP award, a clean-cut image, and the adoration of millions. What he doesn't have is family. Until the day 12-year-old smartaleck Molly Parker confronts him in a parking lot and claims to be his daughter—the only daughter of Jen Parker, Josh's college sweetheart and the still the only girl he's ever loved. Trouble is, Jen Parker died last year, and now Molly has tracked down the father she never knew, the one her mother never wanted her to know about. Josh Cameron cares about two things only: himself, and basketball. The last thing this superstar wants or needs is a 12-year-old daughter. Yet this isn't just any 12-year-old. Mr. World Champion has finally met his match.

Million-Dollar Throw
What would you do with a million dollars, if you were thirteen? Nate Brodie is nicknamed "Brady" not only for his arm, but also because he's the biggest Tom Brady fan. He's even saved up to buy an autographed football. And when he does, he wins the chance for something he's never dreamed of—to throw a pass through a target at a Patriots game for one million dollars.
Nate should be excited. But things have been tough lately. His dad lost his job and his family is losing their home. It's no secret that a million dollars would go a long way. So all Nate feels is pressure, and just when he needs it most, his golden arm begins to fail him. Even worse, his best friend Abby is going blind, slowly losing her ability to do the one thing she loves most—paint. Yet Abby never complains, and she is Nate's inspiration. He knows she'll be there when he makes the throw of a lifetime.

Black Duck

 In this historical fiction novel, a  boy named David goes after the impossible news story. Desperate to prove himself as a true reporter, he seeks to interview Mr. Rueben Hart about the times of prohibition and if he was involved. Hart refuses him, but finally concedes when David asks the key question He wants to know what happened with the boat the Black Duck?"

Long after it has happened, Hart recalls his story to David. It is not one of just alcohol prohibition (when the selling, creating, and consuming of alcohol was illegal in the United States in the late 1920s and early 1930s). It is also the story of Ruben and his friend Jeddy, who happen to find a dead mobster on the beach near their New England hometown. And of the Black Duck, a rum-running boat that has never been caught by the authorities, and its mysterious crew. This is a tale that will make you think about the strict line drawn between right and wrong, and what you truly believe.

While I am not one to classify myself as a historical fiction fan, the book Black Duck is still one of my favorites. It isn't drug down by facts; they are embedded naturally into the story. The action is intense, the characters believable, the story touching and memorable.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan is weird. That's probably why I like it so much. This collection of short stories is all over the map. Sometimes they are hilarious, like the kids of the neighborhood who all get advice from a water buffalo. Sometimes they are heartbreaking, but still satisfying, like when the area dogs get revenge on the owner who beat one of their own to death.

My favorite story in the collection is about Eric, the foreign exchange student. Sounds like a pretty normal thing, until you see Eric, who lives in the pantry. The greatest concern for the family is if Eric is happy where he is, and I love how their question is answered.

While the stories themselves make this anthology a good read, the pictures make it breathtaking. Together, they tell a story with a normal setting that isn't so normal.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Heroes of the Negro Leagues

Information about Negro League players are accompanied by striking watercolor portraits in this book honoring baseball at its finest. Each page is dedicated to a specific player influential to the league, and gives wonderful and precise facts about the person as a player and an individual.

Originally designed to be baseball cards for these amazing players that never had the opportunity to be immortalized with a piece of stale gum, these glimpses give wonderful insight to the lives of players in the Negro Leagues. It includes many well known, as well as some unknown, players. Some of my personal favorites include Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, and of course Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks.

Thirteen Days to Midnight

Jacob has finally found a foster parent he truly cares about when he is killed in a horrible car crash. Right before he dies, Mr. Fielding whispers his last words to Jacob, "You are indestructible." A week later, Jacob writes these same words on the arm cast of a new friend, Ophelia. Soon after, she survives a horrible skateboarding crash without a scratch.

Soon, Jacob and his friends begin to realize there is much more to those three words, a superpower that can be passed from Jacob to others to keep them safe and alive. After discovering this, Jacob, Ophelia (Oh), and Milo (his best friend) begin to fulfill their superhero fantasies. They soon realize they could actually be superheroes, saving others with this power. But how do they decide who to save? What happens when they realize they can't keep death waiting forever.

This suspenseful and scary book full of twists and turns will keep readers on the edge of their seats and biting their nails at the same time. The moral debate that this book raises about who deserves to live over others alone makes it a great read. Highly recommended to those who like fantasy and horror books, Thirteen Days To Midnight by Patrick Carman.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Maze Runner

Once every 30 days the elevator delivers another boy to the Glade. Thomas was expected the day he came. The fact that he remembers nothing of his life but his name was also expected, all the Gladers, the boys who live there, have the same experience. Stuck in an area surrounded by stone walls that only open during the day, they are just struggling to survive. They think the key to escape is solving the maze, the puzzle beyond the walls. Runner leave every day to try, but no one wants to be left in the maze at night.

The girl who arrives in the lift the next day is a shock. The message she delivers before entering a coma is even more confusing to the Gladers, but it especially effects Thomas who starts to wonder if he is the key to finding the answers they so desperately seek. If he could just remember...

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is a science fiction book that keeps the reader guessing and surprised. The book seems to be Lord of the Flies meets Hunger Games. Driven by great visual descriptions, suspense, and a "keep you on your toes" plot makes many readers eager to read the next two books in the trilogy.