Monday, February 8, 2016

We Are All Made of Molecules

It's just been Stewart and his dad since his mom died almost two years ago.  Stewart is small for his age and super smart, but he's been going to Little Geniuses where he fits right in.  He has his cat Schrodinger, and life is getting back to OK.  But his dad has been dating someone at work, and now they've decided to move in together, so Stewart is leaving his home, his school, nearly everything to move across town. He's decided to make the most of it.

Ashley is at the top of the social ladder.  She got there by being pretty and mean.  She's puts all her effort into looking good and belittling her friends, and almost none into her grades.  She is mortified when her mother's boyfriend and his geeky son move in.  To make matters worse, she hasn't told anyone why her parents got divorced.  What would having a gay father do to her social standing?

Things start out OK for Stewart until gym class.  That's where he meets Jared who is big, mean, popular, and athletic.  Jared seems to have made it his mission in life to squash Stewart like a bug.  Ashley also happens to have a crush on the totally handsome Jared and willing to forgive just about any personality flaw to make a relationship work.

Susin Nielsen's book is by turns funny and heartbreaking.  It's definitely a compelling read, and Stewart's unusual take on the world is endearing and entertaining.  My struggle is with Ashley.  She is not really likable at all.  She's mean to everyone, and it's challenging to feel sympathy for her.

Additionally, Stewart is very innocent for his age, but the book also contains profanity and attempted sexual assault.  It makes it difficult to place.  Grades 8 and up.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

Adam really wants to get his OCD under control.  He tries to hide his counting compulsions and threshold issues, but he can't make them go away.  Once a week, he meets with his OCD support group.  There he feels a little more in control.  He can be concerned and supportive of the other other kids offering suggestions and keeping his criticism to himself.  The support group is also where he meets Robyn.

Robyn is a little older, a little taller, and the most beautiful girl he's ever seen.  Adam is in love.  Now his desire to improve his mental health is stronger than ever.  When their therapist suggests they all take the names of superheroes, the group readily agrees.  They have Thor, Ironman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Snookie.  Robyn chooses Robin, and Adam is elated and shocked at his boldness when he says Batman.  Now they are linked, and Batman wants to protect Robin.

But even as things start to go somewhere with Robyn, the rest of Adam's life is spinning out of control.  The conflict between his divorced parents intensifies, and his mother's hoarding is taking over every inch of the house.  To make matters worse, she has been receiving disturbing letters urging her to commit suicide.

Adam's little brother, Sweetie, has issues of his own, and Adam is often the only person who can calm him down which puts him in the position of having to choose between his mother and his half brother.

As the problems around him intensify, so does Adam's OCD, but he's trying so hard to keep it to himself, to be strong for Robyn and his mother.

Teresa Toten's book is charming and touching with a look inside the world of OCD.  While the romance story line might be a little unrealistic, the reader still roots for Adam who is a very likable character.  The plotting is excellent in this book, and readers will be hooked until the end.  Highly recommended!  Grades 8 and up.


Coney Island is not a place anyone wants to be right now.  Everyone who could get out already did.  The only people left are the ones who didn't have anywhere else to go.  And the Alpha, of course.

When they stepped out of the ocean, it was like a nightmare come to life.  They are vaguely human but with characteristics of ocean creatures.  Some have blades that slide out of their arms, some have deadly poisonous spikes, and some can kill you with a single touch.  Some of them look like beautiful fairy tale creatures come to life, and some look like monsters.

Right now they are camping out on the beach, kept mostly separate from humanity, but things are about to change.  Some of them are going to start going to high school.  This integration won't be easy.

Lyric Walker is in a unique position among the residents of Coney Island.  Her parents keep telling her to keep her head down, don't draw attention to herself.  But it doesn't take long before she is forced out of her comfort zone to spend time each day with Fathom, the Alpha prince.  He may have a nice face, but he is violent, aggressive, and there are sharpened spikes growing out of his arms that he uses as weapons.

Lyric may not want to build a friendship with Fathom, but she has no choice if she wants to protect the family secret.  As the violence and tension in the school and community increases, Lyric begins to realize she doesn't dislike the Alpha prince as much as she did in the beginning, and she finds herself caught in the middle of the hatred and terror gripping her community.

I am of two minds about Michael Buckley's series opener.  Most of the book is gripping and timely as it deals with racial issues and refugees complete with a radical demagogue.  However, the romance angle of the story did not work for me at all.  In fact I almost stopped reading a couple of times when the romance became central to the plot.  Maybe it's just me.  I've never found the "bad boy" archetype appealing.  I do think the book is worth reading in the end because it gives readers a safe place to consider issues of race and prejudice. Grades 8 and up.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Nest

Steve has had issues with anxiety for a while now.  He tries to hide it, tries to pretend he's all better now.  His parents have enough to worry about with the new baby.  The baby has so many problems.  It's just not strong, and it has to go back to the hospital over and over again.

When he has the first dream, he thinks she's an angel.  She has silvery wings and tells him she's here to help because of the baby.  Her words are logical and smooth.  She says they will fix the baby.  It will be perfect, like it was meant to be.

At first Steve wants to believe her.  These creatures will fix the baby, and everything will be fine again.  But it doesn't take long for the uncertainty to creep in.  How exactly can they fix the baby, and what is growing in the nest under the eaves of his house?

By the time he realizes the truth, it may be too late to save the baby or to save himself.

Kenneth Oppel's new book is a masterwork of slow creeping menace and horror.  That preys on the human desire to wish everything could be well and perfect.  I highly recommend this book, but warned it is very creepy, especially if you are afraid of wasps!

Pennyroyal Academy

Pennyroyal Academy is opening its doors to everyone.  For years, the academy has only trained those of noble birth to become princesses, but now anyone has a chance.  A girl with no name sees the posting and determines to join the academy.  She doesn't really know why, just that she is compelled to go.

When she arrives, she gets a name, Evie, and understanding begins to dawn on her.  Being a princess means fighting witches, the most powerful evil force in the land.  Pennyroyal Academy is accepting anyone who applies because the witches are gaining power, destroying lives and kingdom as they sweep across the land.

Evie has never fit in with her family or even met any other people.  Now she is thrown into a world of magic and shifting alliances.  While not everyone at the academy welcomes the penniless girl wearing a dress made of spiderwebs, she will make new friends.

As Evie's past is slowly revealed, the danger grows, and suspicion lurks at every corner.

M.A. Larson's series opener is a good pic for fairy tale and magic fans alike.  My only real complaint is the "training" the girls receive seems a bit dubious..

Tut: the Story of My Immortal Life

Thanks to a nearly deadly standoff with his murdering uncle a couple thousand years ago, Tut has been trapped in the body and mind of fourteen year old ever since.  Something happened in that moment when Horemheb tried to kill his nephew, and now the two are immortal.

Now Tut lives in Washington D.C. with his gods-appointed protector/babysitter Gill, the cat form of the god Horus, and an army of shabtis.  This makes for an interesting life, but things are about to crazy because Horemheb is back with the cult of Set in tow.  Horus and Set are old enemies and Tut and Horemheb are playing for opposing teams.

Now Tut has to figure out a way to defend himself from his immortal enemy and an angry god.  Plus, he's got normal stuff like an overeager partner for a project on Egyptian history and a crush on the new girl who is cute but maybe not trustworthy.

I think Percy Jackson fans will enjoy P.J. Hoover's new book, but it was a real struggle for me to finish it.  I think it kind of fall into that Twilight category of wasted immortality.  Yes, you are trapped in a teenager's body, but do you really think repeating the same few grades over and over is the best use of your time?  You could be curing disease or traveling the world, but instead you play video games and repeat the 8th grade forever.  I think I would've liked this a lot more if Tut had been magically transported to the future or been in gods induced coma or something.

I Am Princess X

It's been three years since May's best friend died in a car accident, and she still misses Libby every day.  But even without Libby life has moved on.  May's parents are divorced now, so she only spends part of the year in Seattle with her dad.

One day when she visiting one of the places she used to go with Libby, she sees a Princess X sticker.  The blue haired princess is a shock since she was Libby and May's creation, and May hasn't seen her since Libby died.  Together they created hundreds of pages of comic books, but no one else ever really saw it.  They never published it or anything, so where did the sticker come from?

Is it possible that Libby is still alive?  It seems crazy, but May can't stop her mind from going there.  The more she investigates what has become a web comic, the more she starts to believe Libby is alive and reaching out to May for help.

Is the message really from Libby, and if it is, will May be able to help her friend in time?

This is a fun mystery with comic pages mixed into the story.  I recommend Cherie Priest's novel for mystery and graphic novel fans alike!