Friday, October 24, 2014

The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan - ADVISABLE

Aslan, Austin The Islands at the End of the World, 358 p. Wendy Lamb (Random House), 2014.  $18.  Language: PG (24 swears, 0 ‘f’); Violence: PG-13 (dead bodies, gunshots, nothing graphic); Mature Content: G.  

Leilani and her father have gone to Oahu from the Big Island so that Leilani can try a new treatment for her epilepsy.  Over night, however, the world changes as all forms of electrical devices start failing.  Now The father and daughter are stuck far from home in a world that is becoming more hostile every day and disease is running through the population.  Even if they manage to escape the holding camp they have been confined in, very few boats are running and it is a long paddle home through now hostile waters.  Leilani may hold the key to the world’s problem, but only if she can make it home.

Don’t dismiss this is “another” apocalyptic novel.  I love having a book about that a place that really exists and being on a Pacific Island adds a culture that rarely makes the mainstream.  The book is tense and the situation is grim - almost over the top in description, but it holds back just enough.  In fact, the only objection I have is that he calls my favorite island treat “ice shave”, when, as a former BYU-Hawaii grad, I have called it “shave ice” all of my days.  

MS - OPTIONAL; HS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan - ADVISABLE

McGowan, Jennifer Maid of Deception, 409 p. Simon & Schuster, 2014.  $18.  Language: PG (2 swears, 0 ‘f’); Violence: OG; Mature Content: PG (talk of “ruin”)

Queen Elizabeth has declare that Beatrice, one her Maids of Honor, shall marry and so she shall - until the very second before the vows are spoken and Elizabeth bursts in and calls an ending to the ceremony.  The Queen has more duties for her spies and a married Beatrice is now not part of them.  While Beatrice is still reeling from the Queen’s and her former betrothed’s betrayals, Beatrice is finding herself drawn more to the Scottish prince, Alsdair.  Or does she approach because the Queen commands it.  Beatrice has been playing so many deep games, she is no longer sure what genuine feelings really are.  

While still containing mystery, danger, and romance, this second in the series is much better than the first, I feel.  Beatrice is a much more complicated character and there is plenty of interaction with the other Maids.

MS, HS - ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library Teacher

The Girls of Gettysburg by Bobbi Miller - OPTIONAL

Miller, Bobbi The Girls of Gettysburg, 148 p. Holiday House, 2014.  $17.  Language: PG (5 swears, 0 ‘f’); Violence: PG (death and fighting but not graphic); Mature Content: G.  

Annie Gordon as disguised herself as a boy and left her family to join the Northern Army fighting during the American Civil War.  Tillie Pierce is the daughter of a Gettysburg merchant, while Grace is the daughter of a free black family.  All three will have their lives changed by the battle that is quickly about to happen.  

By using three narrators with wildly varying perspectives, Miller paints a multi-dimensional portrait of the Gettysburg battles.  She gives us a view of the town streets and the battlefields.  While she may not be breaking too much new ground here, I think it is always important to have new voices.

EL, MS - OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Asunder by Jodi Meadows - ADVISABLE

Meadows, Jodi Asunder, 416 p. Katherine Tegen (Harper), 2013.  $18.  Violence: PG; Mature Content: PG; Language: G.  

The citizens of Heart have made lots of assumptions but Ana and her “newsoul”, making her out as inferior or not human and not worth existing.  After the disaster of the night of dragons and sylphs, however, it looks like more new souls will be born and some in the community will resort to murder to stop it.  The secrets of Heart need to be exposed, but first Ana needs to garner support and protect the other newsouls.  But if Heart entered into an evil covenant willingly, there may be no one to turn to.  

Asunder and the Incarnate series is a great next read for students who loved Hush, Hush, or Possession, or Delirium.  Ana makes a great main character - she is courageous and she knows when she needs help.  There isa some romance, but Ana would still live without it.  The answers do not come easy to any of the mysteries, so iIam looking forward to the next book.

MS, HS - ADVISABLE. Cindy, Library Teacher

Fantasy League by Mike Lupica - ESSENTIAL

Lupica, Mike Fantasy League, 293 p. Philomel (Penguin), 2014. $18.  Content: G.  

Charlie Gaines has fantasy football down pat.  If only his hometown major league football team, the L.A. Bulldogs, did as well as the teams in Charlie’s dreams.  When his best friend Anna, introduces him to her grandfather, who happens to own the Bulldogs, Charlie drops an idea in his ear that may just start the team’s turn around.  Charlie is also getting attention from Anna’s brilliant idea of turning Charlie’s football knowledge and fantasy picks into a podcast.  Charlie has to learn to juggle tension, attention, and conflict if he wants to survive his ride to fame.  

I love the many choices of well-written sports books in the market.  Lupica, Feinstein, Deuker are just three of several solid choices for upper elementary and middle school students, whether boys or girls.  I told a student about this one at Parent-Teacher conferences last night and he is first in line to check it out as soon as it is in the catalog.  

EL, MS - ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins - ADVISABLE

Hopkins, H. Joseph The Tree Lady: The true story of how one tree-loving woman changed a city forever.  PICTURE BOOK.  Beach Lane (Simon), 2013.  $17.  

In 1881, Kate Sessions was the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a science degree.  From there she moved to San Diego to teach science, but her true calling was to find drought-resistant trees and plant them and encourage others to plant them all over the city to bring green life to the desert.  When the California Exposition was coming to San Diego in 1909, Kate got the city leaders involved and the city planted thousands of trees and created Balboa Park.  

Pair this book with Wangari’s Trees of Peace for a lesson on woman's ability to create nature and change climate for the better, not just destroy it.

EL - ADVISABLE.

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer - ADVISABLE

Meyer, Carolyn Victoria Rebels, 272 p. Aladdin (Simon), 2013.  $17.  Content: G.  

Victoria is being raised to be the queen of England, though as a child she does not know it.  What she does know is that her mother is consorting with a married man, and the two of them exercise complete control over her life.  While she ors have one confident in her companion, she never feels that she can move an inch without her mother’s or Sir John’s approval.  Should Uncle King die, or when she turns 18, whichever comes first, Victoria is determined to wrest control over her life.  

Meyer’s notes at the end of the book are enlightening - I wish I had read them first.  In using the diary as a mode of writing, Meyer tries to emulate the tone of Victoria’s own diaries as she follows her from childhood until her marriage to Prince Albert. I kind of wish Meyer would abandon the diary style and just use a narrative - it doesn’t always work well to convey the action and dialogue for  a historical subject.  She does excellent research, however and brings life to time periods that most students think beneath their notice.

MS - ADVISABLE. Cindy - Library Teacher