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Results 1 - 25 of 97
1. The Wild Robot - an audiobook review

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Read by Kate Atwater
Hachette Audio, 2016

AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award Winner

I recently reviewed The Wild Robot for AudioFile Magazine.  You can read my full review and hear an audio excerpt here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/110681/the-wild-robot-by-peter-brown/]

The Wild Robot, a novel for ages 8 and up, is a departure from Peter Brown's usual offering of picture books (Creepy Carrots, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, My Teacher is a Monster - and more), but his customary excellence is just as apparent.

The link to my review is above, however, I'd like to highlight a few things.  The Wild Robot premise is unique and thought-provoking - a robot designed with AI and programmed for self-preservation and nonviolence, is marooned on an island with animals, but no humans from which to learn.  The narrator, Kate Atwater, does a stellar job (see review) and sounds a bit like Susan Sarandon. The audio book is unique in that the beginning and the closing chapters have sound effects including music and sounds of nature.

Overall, it's very well done!  If you'd prefer to check out the print version, Little Brown Books for Young Readers offers an excerpt of the print version of The Wild Robot here. [http://openbook.hbgusa.com/openbook/9780316382014]

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2. Kick Watch: Comic Book Convention Survival Guide tell you absolutely everything about going to cons

I received a nice note asking me to promote this Kickstarter for aComic Book Convention Survival Guide by Kyle Rose and Matthew Bernard. The Comic Book Convention Survival Guide combines years of convention expertise into one convenient location where it can be shared with the world. It will ensure that our readers become well informed […]

0 Comments on Kick Watch: Comic Book Convention Survival Guide tell you absolutely everything about going to cons as of 4/13/2016 10:19:00 AM
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3. A Girl Named Disaster

A Girl Named Disaster. Nancy Farmer. 1996. Scholastic. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I read A Girl Named Disaster and Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind the same week. That fact definitely influenced my thoughts on both books--fair or not. Reading is subjective, after all.

Did I enjoy reading A Girl Named Disaster? Yes and no. I didn't exactly "enjoy" it. I found it a bit slow at the beginning, and, a bit rushed at the end. There were times I definitely found it interesting, but, I never really found myself loving it.

Nancy Farmer's A Girl Named Disaster is set in Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. Nhamo has an interesting relationship to the rest of the family. She dearly, dearly loves her grandmother (Ambuya), and is in return beloved of her grandmother. (She is in fact probably the favorite granddaughter.) But the rest of her family is a different story. They seem to blame Nhamo for the circumstances of her birth. Her mother returned home from school (high school??? college???) pregnant and married to a "useless" man, a man named Proud. Neither is in her life when the novel opens. Her mother died when Nhamo was a toddler--eaten by a leopard. Her father had disappeared even before that. Nhamo is, without a doubt, a hard worker. Yes, she is slightly bitter that her tasks are more difficult and time-consuming than her slightly-older cousin's--Masvita. But she isn't hate-filled and overflowing with attitude either.

Like Shabanu, A Girl Named Disaster introduces readers to a culture where marriage happens VERY early in life for girls--twelve to fourteen, and where a woman's worth is very much tied to her ability to produce children, particularly sons. Like Shabanu, A Girl Named Disaster features a heroine who is to be sacrificed via marriage. Like Shabanu, this marriage is MOST, MOST unwelcome. Dare I say this would-be marriage sounds even more unpleasant than the one in Shabanu--and I never thought I'd say that. Like Shabanu, the heroine makes the only choice she can under the circumstances....

Nhamo runs away from home in an attempt to make it across the border to Zimbabwe. Once there, she'll pretend to be Catholic--her mother attended a Catholic school--and seek refuge with nuns. Is she actually Catholic? No. Of course not. Her ideas of who Jesus is are far from sound, to say the least. But that is not exactly the point of A Girl Named Disaster.

Her journey to Zimbabwe is....much longer than she imagined it ever could be. It is not a journey of a few days or even a few weeks. MONTHS go by with Nhamo still struggling to reach her destination. It is her fight for SURVIVAL. It is definitely nature versus Nhamo...with Nhamo receiving a bit of help from the spiritual world.

Will Nhamo's life be better--easier--in Zimbabwe? Will she find her father? Will she find her father's family? Will she find welcome with them? What will happen to her if she doesn't find them? What will become of her? What are her chances of a decent life, a good life???

A Girl Named Disaster is slightly less depressing than Shabanu. That's not fair. It's not. The ending sees Nhamo with a bit of hope and a chance at a future.

Still neither book "feels" like a children's book. And when I do think of Newbery or Newbery Honor, I tend to think CHILDREN'S BOOK more than anything else. Arranged marriages, child-adult marriages, don't really come to mind. Still exposure to diverse titles can be a good thing. And both books offer readers something to think about.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. My Name is Not Easy – Diversity Reading Challenge 2015

I have chosen to Review My Name Is Not Easy as part of the celebration of Native American Heritage during the month of November. Title: My Name is Not Easy Author: Debby Dahl Edwardson Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 2011 Themes: Alaska, Alaska Natives, Indians, Whites, … Continue reading

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5. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD By Jamie Kain // Really Quick Read With Some Great Characters..

Review by Krista... INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD By Jamie Kain Hardcover: 224 pages Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (December 8, 2015) Language: English Goodreads | Amazon  He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern

0 Comments on INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD By Jamie Kain // Really Quick Read With Some Great Characters.. as of 1/24/2016 2:15:00 AM
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6. #830 – The Island of Beyond by Elizabeth Atkinson

My calendar said today is World Read Aloud Day. As you can see, it’s wrong. This took place on February 24th. Not sure how I messed this up, but really, can’t any day be a good day to read aloud? If you know a middle grader who is unable to read, even if only for today, …

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7. Where The Rock Splits the Sky (2014)

Where The Rock Splits the Sky. Philip Webb. 2014. Scholastic. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Where The Rock Splits The Sky definitely has a unique and intriguing premise: there has been alien invasion which destroyed the moon and altered life on earth forever. Some areas are more affected than others. There is "the zone" where anything and everything can happen: no natural rules or laws apply. This "zone" is in the new-old west. Yes, this science fiction has a very western feel to it. Outlaws and sheriffs. Horses and Stagecoaches. Of course, modern technology does not work in the zone. The good news, and this novel desperately needs good news, is that the heroine discovers that ALIENS are just as vulnerable INSIDE the zone as un-invaded humans. She doesn't know why, she doesn't particularly care about the why.

Megan, Luis, and Kelly set off into the zone. Technically, Kelly is a friend they pick up in the zone after their official mission has started. But. Kelly is probably the most intriguing character in the novel. I'm not sure she's meant to be. All three join together, but, all three have their own personal agenda. Luis wants revenge, in other words, he wants to kill some aliens. Kelly is looking for answers. Twenty years of her life is missing. She wants to know if any of her family or friends have survived. And Megan, the heroine, wants to find her father. Megan is the leader of the three, she is the one most in-touch with the zone, most sensitive to its strangeness.

Where The Rock Splits the Sky is not my kind of book. I'm allergic to westerns even if there are aliens it seems. I was hoping the science-fiction would overcome that. It didn't quite work for me, but, it might work for you.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Manga Review: Limit Volume 2 by Keiko Suenobu

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

It’s been a long time since I read the first volume of Limit, but I didn’t have any trouble picking up where I left off.  Only five high school students have been left alive after a terrible bus crash in the mountains of Japan, and they are struggling to survive with hardly any supplies.  Personalities clash from the get-go, so not only are they fighting the elements, they are fighting each other.  Morishigi, a victim of bullying, has the only weapon, and she wants some pay-back for all of the humiliation she’s suffered at school.  Konno, a pretty, popular girl, mocked Morishigi mercilessly, so now she gets a taste of grief.  Forced to fight with one of her friends, a girl who is smoldering with jealousy of Konno, Ichinose hesitates to lash out at her friend when Morishigi taunts her,  ripping apart her friendship with Konno and driving Ichinose into a rage.   Yeah, these guys need a conflict mediator, so they are lucky to have Kamiya.

 

I really like the art, and the tensions between the girls makes for captivating reading.  They are all tired, hungry, and scared, and without Kamiya, it’s doubtful that they would survive until they are rescued.  If they ever are, that is.  The adults with the responsibility for their well-being are clueless to say the least, and two days after their disappearance, have yet to realize that they are missing, or that most of the girls from their class were killed in a devastating bus wreck.  The teachers experience a massive miscommunication, and the bus company just wants their bus back so they can continue charging customers for charters.  Not one person in authority takes the time to actually verify that the class made it to the camp.  Not one!

Of all of the girls, Kamiya is my current favorite.  She’s level-headed, determined to survive, and completely focused on the end goal: getting back home to her family.  While the other girls allow raw emotion to sway their decisions and actions, Kamiya always thinks things through first.  She weighs the options and all of their consequences before she does anything, and that is going to go a long way into seeing her back home safely.  I hope. 

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

In the second volume of The Limit, Mizuki has found herself in a position where her not only her social life is at risk, but her survival rests in the hands of the young women she was so desperately attempting to avoid. In the wild the strong survive, and while Alisa may not be smart or cute, she is physically strong. So she immediately takes command by gathering anything that may be used as a weapon to threaten the lives of anyone who may attempt to usurp her new found authority.

Mizuki will have to win over the trust of three people who truly despise her. Whether that means doing all the most dangerous tasks to survive or she must endure bullying, right now she understands that unity will be their only way home. Keeping that unity may be improbable, though.

The post Manga Review: Limit Volume 2 by Keiko Suenobu appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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9. Storm - a review

Napoli, Donna Jo. 2014. Storm. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Stormtold in first person, present tense prose, presents the story of the biblical flood through the eyes of 16-year-old Sebah, an unlikely stowaway aboard Noah's massive ark.

The story unfolds in chapters that correspond with the biblical timeline - 40 days of rain, 150 days for the waters to recede, 10 months until the mountains become visible, 40 days until the release of a bird, etc.
(All can be found in the 7th and 8th chapters of Genesis.)

After chronicling Sebah's three week struggle to survive the deluge with her companion Aban, the chapter titled, "Day 22," ends,

It's another creature.  Like the first, but larger.  And obviously male.  He perches in a round hole high in the side of the ship.  There is a line of such holes.  And I passed another line below as I climbed.
A whole ship of these creatures.
I think of letting go, disappearing into the sea. I let loose one hand and look down. The sea is far below. I feel the energy seep from me. It would be so easy to just give up.
...
The creature behind me nudges my dangling hand.
I reach for the male's hand, and I am half pulled, half shoved up through the hole and into the ship.

Ms. Napoli clearly put an enormous amount of thought into the logistics of preparing for a massive exodus of animals with little or no possibility of resupply for more than a year. She details the grueling work of the voyage.  While Sebah struggles to remain hidden and survive in the enclosure of the bonobos, Noah and his family have a huge responsibility to the ark's inhabitants. The animals must be secure from each other, their enclosures must be cleaned, they must be fed, they must have fresh water. Their survival is imperative. The family collects rainwater, they dry and ration supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables for the ark's herbivores, they fish to obtain fresh food for the carnivores. The family's nerves grow frayed under the stress.  They begin to argue and turn against one another.  The hidden Sebah sees much,

"Respect!" Noah claps his hands above his head, and dust flies through the dim light.  "And haven't you learned arguing gets us nowhere?"  He takes his ax back from Ham. "The bottom deck stinks.  I have to breathe shallow to stand going down there.  Everyone has to help Japheth and me clean it out.  Today! Let our wives feed and water the animals of this deck and the top —while we shovel waste.  Noah goes up the ladder with Japheth at his heels.
How you will perceive this book will depend greatly upon how you perceive the biblical story of the great flood. Arguments could be made for classification as historical fiction, alternative history, survival fiction, dystopian fiction, or fantasy. However you choose to view the book, it cannot be denied that it is a thought-provoking look at the nature of humans and animals, of loss and love, of despair and hope.

An Author's Note, Timeline from Genesis Verses, and Bibliography are included.  Visit the author's website http://www.donnajonapoli.com/ya.html#STORM to read an excerpt.

(I'm not a Russell Crowe fan, but now I think that I might want to watch the movie, Noah, just to see another perspective.)

(My copy of the book was provided by the publisher, and was an Advance Reader Copy)


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10. Robin Williams, depression and life

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The reaction to Robin Williams’ death has been unlike any celebrity death I can remember. We all knew Whitney was going to go, and Michael Jackson’s end was as expected as it was bizarre. With Williams there seem to be few mysteries. It was a battle, and he lost. Yet the shock of his tragic decision seems to have transcended our celebrity autopsy culture with its essential question: how can someone who gave so much, who had so much to give, have turned away from the light with such finality?

It’s a question we’ve all tried to answer at one point.

It’s also opened up a floodgate of frank talk about depression. As many have pointed out, there’s a difference between the blues—temporary depression we’ve all suffered from at one time or another—and the deep, clinical depression that killed Williams and Kurt and Plath and so many others.

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Depression, and its ugly twin, substance abuse, are both hazards of the creative life. My Facebook feed has been flooded with creative people discussing their own depression, sometimes with courage, sometimes with dread. Neither is the “right” response. This is a daily battle we all face, the important part is to get through, to know you are not alone, to find the light in what seems like an endless darkness. We get by in measures that are appropriate.

Joshua Hale Fialkov has a much linked to post that expresses all this much better than I can. Fialkov’s own battle is with migraines, not depression but the battle is similar.

There is never enough.  Never enough time, never enough money, never enough success, never enough praise, never enough sales.  Never enough.  That’s part of the life I’ve chosen.  We struggle to find that thing that makes us feel satisfied, that gives us joy, but, the truth is that the joy is fleeting.  The feeling of being ‘full’ only lasts for a few moments before the hunger returns.

This is the life of an artist. This is the life of anyone who aspires to be greater than they are.

This is unattainable. This is the bottom line to life, from top to bottom from the most successful man on earth to the weakest child on the playground.  Nothing you ever do will be enough.

The talking is good. I had a long talk with one of my oldest friends I don’t speak with as much as I should who had dated Williams back in the day. Some of her stories were hilarious but they are hers to tell. So many people have shared stories of Williams shopping in their comics stores or book stores (the guy liked to read!), or meeting him at charity events. All the stories are of a kind man, a giving man. I dread the day when the celebrity autopsy horror stories come out…for now keeping these kind, human moments alive helps with getting through.

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I’ve had a case of the blahs myself of late. Not being productive enough, things I let slide, the dog days of August, post Comic-Con let-down. Nothing I haven’t felt before—I’ve learned to be pretty resilient in my life. Like I said, we all have good days and bad days. Last night I got together with two industry colleagues and in a few hours of smart, funny talk about life and comics—moments where I never looked at my cell phone—everything was OK again. On to the next battle.

The communal mourning and questioning is part of the healing. I almost feel like the good from all the sharing has overwhelmed the sadness. Life is both beautiful and terrifying, but its beauties and terrors are best experienced knowing you are not alone in this glorious muddle. You are not alone. We are not alone.

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PS: Yes I forgot Popeye in my first post about Robin Williams. Which sucks because despite it being a horrible flop, it’s a sweet, wonderful movie— written by Jules Feiffer! Wacky as hell, a glorious muddle. And a role, like so many others, that Williams was born to play.

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11. Jimi & Isaac 2a: Keystone Species, by Phil Rink | Dedicated Review

Good friends Jimi and Isaac set off on an oceanic coming-of-age adventure of a lifetime.

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12. My Side of the Mountain (1959)

My Side of the Mountain. Jean Craighead George. 1959. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

I found My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George to be strangely compelling. That is, I wasn't exactly expecting it to so compelling. I don't typically like adventure-survival-living-off-the-land books or becoming-one-with-nature books. It's also written in the first-person something that either really works (for me) or really doesn't.

Sam Gribley is the hero of My Side of the Mountain. He has run away from his oh-so-crowded home. He has traveled to the Catskill Mountain wilderness. He's heard his father talk about one of his ancestors having a homestead there, a long-abandoned homestead now. He's determined to find "his" land, and live on it, alone in the wilderness. He's read up on the subject. He's confident and determined, more determined than confident, perhaps. It isn't always easy for Sam. Though sometimes things do happen to go his way. The book spans about a year. In that year, plenty happens though not all of it will prove exciting to every reader. I was surprised by how many people he met and how many friends he made.

I think what I found most compelling about this one was the narrative voice. I don't think I was swept up into the adventure so much as I found myself liking Sam.

Have you read My Side of the Mountain? I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Hatchet

Hatchet. Gary Paulsen. 1986. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I still can't say that I love this cover of Hatchet, but, avoiding the book because of the cover was a bit silly of me. So did I enjoy reading Hatchet? Yes, for the most part. Hatchet is a survivor story starring Brian Robeson. (It is a Newbery Honor book). Brian is on the way to visit his Dad after the dramatic divorce. (Brian knows something his father doesn't. This SECRET haunts him throughout the book. He's definitely not over the divorce.) But the single engine plane taking him to visit his Dad never arrives. The pilot has a heart attack, and Brian must land/crash the plane himself. He survives the crash, but will he know how to survive in the wild until he is rescued? Fortunately, his mom gave him a hatchet before the trip. And it's a hatchet he wore on the plane, on his belt, I believe? So it's the one thing he has with him that may enable him to survive until help comes...

Brian has adventures and misadventures. He manages to survive, but, never to the point where it becomes fun and amazing. These aren't adventures he'd ever choose to have.

I definitely am glad I read this one. Have you read it? What did you think?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Manga Review: Limit V 3 by Keiko Suenobu

Contains Spoilers

Review:

It’s been a while since I read the first two volumes of LIMIT, but I didn’t have any problems jumping back into the series again.  This is a survival story; a bus of high schoolers is headed to the mountains for a camping trip.  There’s a terrible accident, and the bus plunges off the road and down the mountainside.  There’s only a handful of survivors, and they are all girls.  Bickering and power struggles begin at once, and Morishige, the only one with a weapon, quickly takes charge.  Morishige has issues.  She has grudges against the other girls, and establishes herself as the leader of her battered, hungry, and terrified classmates.  When Isui changes to power dynamic by running off with Morishige’s scythe, there’s a rebellion against Morishige’s cruel leadership.

Things are pretty grim for our tiny group of survivors.  Usui has run off into the fog and hasn’t been seen since.  There’s only a little food to share, and Morishige is still trying to keep herself in control through threats and violence.  Since she doesn’t have her weapon anymore, that is only getting her so far.  She and Ichinose fight, bickering about how misguided Morishige’s behavior has been.  In a fit of rage, Morishige storms off.

In the morning, Konno goes off in search of Isui.  Weak and cold, she falls into a lake and almost drowns.  At the last minute, she’s saved!  By Hinata, who everyone thought was dead.  And boy am I glad he’s not, because I really like Hinata!  If I was stranded on a mountain with bleak prospects for rescue, I’d want to see his cheerful face.  Hinata is a force of positive thoughts and good vibes, and if anyone can make the impossible come true, I firmly believe it’s him.  Of course, his sudden resurrection doesn’t sit well with Morishige, especially after he calls her out for her previous “leadership” skills.  Morishige, getting back to her issues, has a real problem with males.  After a flashback to her dreadful homelife, one can’t help but understand where her lack of people skills stems from.  The victim of abuse, she doesn’t know how else to deal with her problems other than to strike out against them.

LIMIT is a very fast read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  It’s brutal, suspenseful, and creepy.  The dire situation isn’t bringing out the best in everyone, and in fact, the utter hopelessness is turning some of the cast into evil little monsters.  There’s very little one for all and all for one until Hinata shows up.  There’s a lot of self-destruction and back-stabbing, as well as resource hogging, because who wants to share when it means that you may not have enough to eat and starve to death?  Desperate times means really, really bad behavior! 

I love the art, which matches the tenor of the story perfectly.  It’s detailed and expressive, but also dark and brooding.  Moods change in an instant from hopeful to oh my gosh we are all going to die, and the art clearly reflects that.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

In the third volume of The Limit the survivors’ worst fears have come true. One of their members has fallen. And this death amongst them will test the limits of their unity. New fears will be born from this tragedy and instead of using their combined strength to search for a way home, their lack of trust will force them all to retreat into their own micro-cliques. The balance of power is now undone, and a new face-another survivor-will eventually turn things upside down!

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15. Book Review- Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Title: Fire and Flood
 Author: Victoria Scott
Series:  Fire and Flood #1
Published:  25 February 2014 by Chicken House
Length: 336 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Book 2 will be called Salt and Stone. I highly approve of the alliteration.
Summary :  Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place.
Review: Tella’s brother is dying. Her parents move them all out to the remote areas of the land, away from all civilisation. Still, Tella receives a blue box inviting her to the Brimstone Bleed, a competition taking place in jungle, desert, sea and mountains, the winner receiving the Cure for any illness whatsoever. Tella accepts it, and finds herself in a competition a where everyone wants to win.
 I’ve heard lots of people compare to The Hunger Games. This is accurate.  One person wins only. People die. People really want to win. Happy upbeat announcer at all stages of the game. I like the added motivation for competitors of the chance to have the chance to save a loved one.  
 The Pandoras, protector animals that have been created specially to help the competitors, are essentially  were pokemon, but a little more normal. I loved Madox, and the fact that the differing ways people treated their Pandoras said quite a lot  about them.
I didn’t really care much for the characters, apart from Cody (dying brother who is absent for most of the novel) and the twins. Tella doesn’t really do much compared to other dystopian and survival heroes, instead, love interest Guy does most of it. Not saying boys can’t do things, but for a heroine, it would be  nice if she did more than tag along.
It was fun to read in some places. Tella’s voice is funny, and the story moves through the areas quite quickly.
I’d like to know more about the world. Technology must have advanced somewhat to get Pandoras, but other than that, we don’t know how the world differs to ours. There’s hints of it towards the end, but I’d like to see more in future.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book that is quite like The Hunger Games, but with added pokemon and less strong characters.

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16. Alaska's Dog Heroes by Shelley Gill

Alaska's Dog Heroes: true stories of remarkable canines by Shelley Gill; Illustrated by Robin James Sasquatch Books. 2014 ISBN: 9781570619472 Grades 2-5 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library. <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

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17. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the Sea (1998)

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance. Jennifer Armstrong. 1998. Random House. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

Just imagine yourself in the most hostile place on earth. It's not the Sahara or the Gobi Desert. It's not the Arctic. The most hostile place on earth is the Antarctic, the location of the South Pole--what's the difference? The Arctic is mostly water--with ice on top, of course--and that ice is never more than a few feet thick. But under the South Pole lies a continent that supports glaciers up to two miles in depth. Almost the entire southern continent is covered by ice. The mammoth icecap presses down so heavily that it actually distorts the shape of the earth. The ice never melts; it clings to the bottom of the world, spawning winds, storms, and weather that affect the whole planet.

I have read Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World three or four times now. The narrative is so strong and compelling, and, yes, even inspiring. It is definitely one of my favorite nonfiction books. And nonfiction isn't something I usually take the time to reread.

Originally published in 1998, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World won the Orbis Pictus Award in 1999. The book follows "the extraordinary true story of Shackleton and the Endurance." If you are unfamiliar with this story, then you really SHOULD read this one. It is a great introduction to the subject. Chapter by chapter, the book follows Shackleton and his men on their journey to Antarctica. Almost from the start, there are indicators that their goal, their quest, will not be an easy one to achieve. After a series of mishaps--thanks to nature--it becomes a long fight to survive. 


 The story is simple and yet dramatic. I think the story would be gripping no matter who told it. But I do think that Jennifer Armstrong did a wonderful job in painting a very human picture of Shackleton and his crew. I think the ending was beautiful--very moving! This one is a book I think everyone should read.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. Searching for Sky (2014)

Searching for Sky. Jillian Cantor. 2014. Bloomsbury USA. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I would definitely recommend Jillian Cantor's Searching for Sky. I found it impossible to put down. Sky and River live together on an island, or, perhaps I should say THE ISLAND. Sky and River have been raised on the island. Sky does not remember life BEFORE the island. River, who was around four or five, does remember a few things about life in California. Both remember Helmut and Petal who died after eating mushrooms. Helmut was River's father; Petal was Sky's mother. Though these two have been raised as brother and sister, before Petal's death, she told her daughter that soon--very soon--she would start having all these feelings and desires for River, and that would be a good thing. The novel opens on Sky's sixteenth birthday. These opening chapters give readers an idea of what life is like on the island for two isolated teenagers; they have survival skills to a certain degree. But the two are rescued and returned to California. Sky's world is about to crumble. It will get worse before it gets better.

Sky does NOT want to be rescued. Sky does NOT want to live in California with other people, in a society that she thinks her mother despised. She does not like feeling ashamed and scared and confused and frustrated and angry. Life has suddenly become too much, too overwhelming. Because she has no memories of life before--she was under the age of two when she arrived on the island--she doesn't understand the most simplest, basic things that everyone takes for granted: forks, plates, toilets and sinks, pencils and paper. She'll need to learn EVERYTHING if she's to function in this strange, new world that readers are oh-so-familiar with. And that might not be the hardest part to accept: there are facts about her mother and Helmut that will challenge her incredibly.

I found Sky's story to be very compelling. I would definitely recommend this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer, by Will Summerhouse | Dedicated Review

Orion Poe is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in Maine with his grandfather who is the caretaker of a lighthouse. When a large storm rolls in one evening, Orion discovers a washed-up boat and an injured man. From this moment on, he finds himself fighting for survival on a mysterious expedition full of unexpected and non-stop adventure that is connected to the historic event of an explorer, John Franklin, who was lost in the Arctic in 1847.

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20. The Normal Heart and the resilience of the AIDS generation

By Perry N. Halkitis


On 25 May 2014 and nearly 30 years after first appearing on the stage, Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart will be aired as a film on HBO. This project, which has evolved over the course of the last three decades, documents those first few harrowing years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. The Normal Heart debuts at a time when much attention is being cast upon the early days of AIDS and the lives of gay men, who survived the physical and emotional onslaught of this disease in a society that often shunned us because we were gay and because we were afflicted with this disease.

Now a generation of gay men, my generation—the AIDS Generation—stands proudly as testament to our individual and collective resilience which has brought us all into middle age. Certainly there have been huge hurdles along the way—too many deaths to enumerate, the havoc that the complications of this disease wreaked on our bodies, the lack of support. Even today, darkness and disrespect lurks in every corner, and no one is immune. For some in our society, identifying what is wrong with us as gay men comes to easily. We are reminded of it daily as right wing zealots fight against marriage equality, as young boys take their lives. Despite these conditions, despite the inaction of our national and local politicians, and despite a large yet ever-shrinking segment of our society that continues to view us as weak and sick, we stand together as a testament to the fortitude of our bodies, minds, and spirits.

The theme of resistance or resilience permeates the words, the thoughts, and the actions of the protagonists in The Normal Heart and many depictions of the AIDS epidemic.

Taylor Kitsch as GMHC President President Burce Niles in HBO's The Normal Heart. (c) HBO via thenormalheart.hbo.com

Taylor Kitsch as GMHC President President Burce Niles in HBO’s The Normal Heart. (c) HBO via thenormalheart.hbo.com

Behavioral and psychological literature has attempted to delineate sources of resilience. Dr. Gail Wagnild posits that social supports in the form of families and communities foster resilience in individuals. I also adhere to this idea. Although the sources of resilience are still debated in the literature, there is general agreement that resilience is a means of maintaining or regaining mental health in response to adversity the ability to respond to and/or cope with stressful situations such as trauma, conditions that characterize the life of the men of the AIDS Generation.

For many of the men of the AIDs Generation, grappling with their sexuality was closely tied to the development of their resilience. In other words, resilience developed in their childhoods as young men grappling with their sexuality as stated by Christopher: “I also think that wrestling with my own sexuality and trying to navigate through that in my teenage years taught me how to just ‘keep pushing’ and to do what needed to be done.” Some, including myself, found support among our families. Even if parents were loving and supportive, this did not ameliorate the burdens experienced being raised in a heteronormative and often-discriminatory world in which men were portrayed as weak, effeminate, and sickly.

As we watch The Normal Heart, we will be reminded of those dark, confusing early days of the epidemic. And while we must celebrate the resilience of a generation of gay men to fight this disease, we must also be reminded of our obligation to create a better world for a new generation of gay men, who despite our social and medical advances, need the love and support of their community of elders as the navigate the course of their lives.

Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH is Professor of Applied Psychology and Public Health (Steinhardt School), and Population Health (Langone School of Medicine), Director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies, and Associate Dean (Global Institute of Public Health) at New York University. Dr. Halkitis’ program of research examines the intersection between the HIV epidemic, drug abuse, and mental health burden in LGBT populations, and he is well known as one of the nation’s leading experts on substance use and HIV behavioral research. He is the author of The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience. Follow him on Twitter @DrPNHalkitis.

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21. Panic, by Lauren Oliver | Book Trailer

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

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22. Searching for Sky: Jillian Cantor

Book: Searching for Sky
Author: Jillian Cantor
Pages: 288
Age Range: 12 and up

I picked up Searching for Sky to skim the first few pages, and couldn't put it down. It's not that it's action filled, but more that the premise and the narrator are irresistible. Fifteen-year-old Sky has lived for as long as she can remember (since she was 2) on a tiny Pacific island. She was raised by her mother, Petal, and her mother's partner, Helmut, along with Helmut's son, River. Since her mother and Helmut died a year earlier, Sky and River have lived alone on the island. Though they worry a little bit about survival, they are happy, and just starting to perhaps have grown-up feelings for one another. Everything changes when a boat arrives one day, and takes the two frightened teens to California. Back to a world that they didn't even really know existed. 

There are mysteries in Searching for Sky, as Sky seeks to understand what led Petal and Helmut to the island in the first place. She struggles to reconcile her own memories with the things that other people tell her are true, and begins to realize that not everything was as she thought. She is separated from River, and wants desperately to find him. These issues kept me turning the pages, wanting to understand. Wanting Sky to understand. Wanting to know what would happen to Sky and to River. But the remarkable part of Searching for Sky actually lies in Sky's reaction to the more mundane details. It's fascinating to watch as someone who has never seen civilization tries to understand things like money, lipstick, and the Internet.

I thought that Cantor did a fine job of keeping Sky in character (frequently baffled), even as certain things become more clear to the reader. This is a book that could only have been written in first person present perspective. This aspect of the book reminded me a bit of reading far-future dystopias, in which the characters come across artifacts of our current civilization, and struggle to understand them. Sky struggles to understand just about everything, right down to how to use a toilet (or "Bathroom Tree" as she calls it). For example, one of the first people Sky sees is apparently wearing sunglasses. She says:

"His eyes are hidden by small black shells, and I don't like that I can't see them, that I don't know what color they are." (Page 26)

Sometimes her reactions are humorous:

""Now, come on into the kitchen," she's saying. I follow her into a large open space with a lot of square wood boxes everywhere. "Have a seat at the table." She points to a large, round wood, and I begin to climb up on it. "No, no. On a chair," she says, pulling on another, smaller wood and showing me how she wants me to sit on it." (Page 92)

Sometimes they are profound:

"I think it disappoints her that I refuse to watch the television box with her after dinner. But the few times I've sat there with her, all I've seen are pretend faraway people talking to each other about things that have nothing to do with me. I don't understand why she's interested in them if they're not even here, if they're not even real." (Page 119)

Sky is a strong character, even though her lack of basic knowledge makes her feel foolish and vulnerable at times. I think that teen readers will find her as compelling as I did. Despite the female narrator, I have every reason to believe that teen boys would find this book intriguing, too. In fact, I'm going to put it on the small stack of books that I recommend to my husband. (The previous book I gave him was Matt de la Pena's The Living). I highly recommend Searching for Sky for teens and adults. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWkids) 
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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23. Guest Post: Brenda Beem, Author of Knockdown and Giveaway

Sandra from Brenda Beem’s Knockdown stopped by to share 5 things not to do during a Mega Tsunami. 

1.Get stuck in traffic. Sixteen year old Toni, the main character, rides her bike to the marina where her family’s sailboat, Whistler is moored. The city has been ordered to evacuate. Traffic is jammed. The police are gone. Desperate people are fleeing the city. Toni makes it to the boat because she can weave through the mess on her bike. He parents are not so lucky, and never make it.

2.Wear flip-flops. When Toni gets to the sailboat, a group of her older brother’s friends are hanging around the boat, dressed in late August shorts and flip-flops. They left football practice with nothing but what they brought to the practice that morning.

Flip-flops slide around on your feet on a rocking boat and are useless when an ice age is approaching. When stranded passengers from an Alaskan cruise ship chase them, their flip- flops are hard to run in. The teen’s break-in to boats in the marina to scrounge clothing and end up tossing their car keys to the stranded cruise passengers.

3. Forget your cell charger. Cell service goes down in the beginning of the novel because the circuits are overloaded. After the Mega tsunami, cell towers are wiped out. The crews all have their cell phones, but not their chargers. They have to share the one on the boat, and Toni’s brother’s girlfriend does not share well.

4. Forget duct tape. Oh. The things you can do with duct tape. Entire books are written about them, and Toni and the crew have a supply onboard. They enlarge clothing, adjust life vests, and even wrap the dropped sails in it to survive the tsunami. When they are finished wrapping the boat, Toni stands back and thinks the boat looks like it belongs on the Island of Misfit Toys.

The crew creates and improvises in so many ways. Besides the many things they do with duct tape, they build a fire pit on board the boat, and even make penicillin. And not from bread.

5. Leave your pet behind. Toni sees abandoned cats and dogs as she races to the marina. I hated thinking people would really leave them behind, but some would. In early versions of this novel, I had Toni rescue a dog while riding her bike. I decided to move the rescue to later in the story.

Toni and Takumi, a soccer player who nobody knows well, are instantly drawn to one another, but can never find a place to be alone. They help build a raft from the ships table and send a crew member off to rescue a small dog trapped on a giant floating tree. After the rescue, Toni and Takumi take the raft back to the tree to free up a fishing net, but then sneak off and climb into the tree’s branches. They find a cozy evergreen nook where they have a few minutes to get to know one another without everyone onboard hearing their every word.

Knockdown

By Brenda Beem

Blurb: A sail boat can tip over and come back up again. Sailors call this a knockdown.

In eighteen hours a mega tsunami will hit the Pacific Coast. It will leave in its wake massive destruction and the threat of an ice age.

Sixteen-year-old Toni, her brothers, and their friends race the clock as they sail Toni’s family boat far out to sea. They must get beyond where the wave crests, or the boat will be crushed.

Without their parents to guide them, the reluctant crew improvises. Romances bloom and tempers flare. There is no privacy. Cell phones won’t work. The engine breaks down. They are running out of time.

Even if they survive the wave, there is nowhere in this ravaged world to go. When disaster strikes, it is up to Toni to find the strength to lead the crew when her brothers cannot.

Author Bio:

YOUNG ADULT AUTHOR.

SEATTLE NATIVE.

SAILING ENTHUSIAST.

I am an only child and growing up books were my best friends. My love of literature and the Pacific Northwest continued at the University of Washington where I earned a degree in English.

I began sailing with friends when my children were small, and continue to sail the inland waters of the Puget Sound.

When I’m not with family, friends, or writing groups, I’m sailing, kayaking, or boating on the waters of the Puget Sound and Lake Washington. I also like to hike the many trails on the lake and near my cabin.

Website: http://www.brendabeem.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brenda.beem.9

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Guest Post: Brenda Beem, Author of Knockdown and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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24. Frozen in Time (2013)

Frozen in Time. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2013. Harper. 391 pages. [Source: Library]

I absolutely loved Mitchell Zuckoff's Frozen in Time. Nonfiction can be compelling and fascinating and oh-so-intense. True, most people when looking for an engaging, emotional read might tend to think of fiction, but, nonfiction can prove just as addictive, just as satisfying. Such was the case with Frozen In Time. I found this nonfiction book IMPOSSIBLE to put down!

In the first chapter, readers learn how 'obscure' Greenland became suddenly important to the world:
All of that changed on April 9, 1940, when Nazi Germany invaded Denmark. American leaders suddenly looked with fear upon the big island so close to North America. They shuddered at the thought of Hitler building air bases and ports in Greenland, from which they imagined he might strike at Allied planes and ships in the North Atlantic. Even more frightening, Greenland was then six hours by air from New York, well within the range of German bombers. Worst of all was a doomsday scenario under which the island would be used as a Nazi staging area and springboard for a blitzkrieg, or 'lightning war,' with a ground invasion of the United States and Canada.
More immediately, American officials worried that Germany would establish elaborate weather stations in Greenland. The weather in Europe is "made" in Greenland; winds and currents that flow eastward over the island give birth to storms heading toward Great Britain, Norway, and beyond. Whoever knows today's weather in Greenland knows tomorrow's weather in Europe. Allied planners feared that German weather stations in Greenland could guide Luftwaffe bombing runs over Great Britain and the Continent. The battle to control Greenland wasn't a war for territory, one American official said--it was 'a war for weather.'
Concern about Greenland also reflected the fact that some wars are lost not in the field but in the factory. If the Nazis ruled Greenland, Germany would gain control of a rare and unique resource that could help determine the outcome of the war. A mine at Greenland's southwestern coast, in a place called Ivigtut, was the world's only reliable natural source of a milky white mineral called cryolite. Cryolite, a name derived from Greek words meaning "frost stone," was essential to the production of aluminum, and aluminum was essential to the production of warplanes...At less than a mile from the water, the Ivigtut mine was vulnerable to sabotage or attack...(19-20)
That one chapter gives the reader some context for appreciating the whole. The book itself focuses on several plane crashes on Greenland in November 1942. The first plane crash was a C-53 Skytrooper. There were survivors. Radio contact was made. Other planes were sent to search for this missing plane. Unfortunately, one of the planes that went to search for the C-53 also crashed. This second plane crash was a B-17. All nine aboard survived--initially. But their continued survival was always a big question mark. After they finally make radio contact, and after several failed attempts at rescue by other means, another plane is sent to search for the B-17. The good news? They find the B-17! They are able to take two men aboard their plane and take them to safety. They plan to return the next day to rescue more of the men. The bad news? When they return the next day, it's a whole other story. They were not able to rescue more men. On their return flight, this rescue plane crashes. There are no survivors.

The whole book is about survivors and saviors and would-be saviors: lives lost and saved. Just telling the story simply makes for a harsh, intense read. The intensity of the cold and hunger and the physical pain make it so. Not to mention the emotional and psychological effects of being stranded in a very very harsh environment in the middle of winter! These men weren't arctic explorers out for glory and fame, these were soldiers and pilots who were unprepared for this kind of danger.

Half the book focuses on the past, set during the winter of 1942-1943. The other half focuses on the present, a team of men and women searching for the "Grumman Duck" the rescue plane that crashed around Thanksgiving 1942. Their hope was to find it and recover the bodies of the three aboard. Two of the men were from the Coast Guard.

While I found this one to be essentially fascinating from cover to cover, I won't lie and say that the past and present narratives were equally captivating at all times. Part of the present story was chronicling the raising awareness and raising funds, searching for big sponsors, pleading their case to anyone who would listen.

This was a wonderful read! It is not as bleak as you might expect. I would definitely recommend it!!!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Review: Knockdown by Brenda Beem

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Knockdown piqued my interest because it’s a survival story, and it takes place on a sailboat.  The mega-tsunami threatening to destroy every coastline in its path also seemed pretty interesting.  I haven’t read a post-apocalyptic story like this before, so I was game to give it a shot.  I really enjoyed it!

Toni’s at dive practice when her father sends her a text message to hurry to the marina where the family sailboat is docked. She’s worried and confused when he won’t answer his phone, and neither will the other members of her family.  She hears from teammates that disaster is headed in their direction. Mega-tsunamis are rushing toward the Pacific coastline, created after historic seismic events in Indonesia.  They have 18 hours until the tsunamis hit the Oregon coastline.  They have 18 hours to evacuate before the monster waves crush everything in their path.  Only when she gets to the boat, her parents aren’t there.  Only her twin brothers, and some of their friends, are waiting at the dock.  Toni doesn’t want to leave without her mom and dad, but they left strict instructions to head out to the ocean if they didn’t arrive by a certain time, and when they are no shows, the teens have no choice but to brave the open waters without them.

Goodness! Up until the tsunamis knockdown the sailboat, I was on the edge of my seat.  Literally.  The pacing is fantastic; it’s unrelenting and tense, and I could hardly breathe.  I didn’t understand how Toni and her small band of friends were continuing to function.  There is a raging wall of water bearing down on them, and their only hope of survival is to get far enough out to sea, seal up the boat, and hang on as the waves toss it about, flipping it over like an angry child with an unwanted toy.  Having once been caught in rough waters in a disabled boat, I could easily imagine how helpless Toni felt as their vessel was batted to and fro.

I was worried that after the tsunami raged by, the story would slow to a crawl.  That did not happen.  Though the teens survived the waves, they still had to survive the new world they found themselves in.  Coastlines all around the world were ravaged, island nations wiped clean, and most modern conveniences a thing of the past.  With the little group struggling to survive, suddenly the teens find themselves in need of water and provisions.  Worse, as the climate begins to change, sliding towards a new Ice Age, they must find ways to keep warm.

Toni is a capable narrator.  She easily conveys her feelings and fears, her dreams and hopes.  The boat is overcrowded, and tensions and personality conflicts begin to pick away at morale.  When tragedy strikes, it seems that the team will unravel into chaos, and Toni wonders how they will survive afterwards.  She worries that she’ll never see her parents again, and knows that the life she once had is long gone.  I really liked her and found it easy to relate to her.

I didn’t realize that Knockdown was the first in a series, or I might have passed on it.  I’m glad I didn’t.  The ending is satisfying, and I knew that Toni had found a temporary shelter from the destroyed world around her.  I liked the characters and I want find out what happens next, so I’ll be looking forward to Toni’s next adventures.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

A sail boat can tip over and come back up again. Sailors call this a knockdown.

In eighteen hours a mega tsunami will hit the Pacific Coast. It will leave in its wake massive destruction and the threat of an ice age.
Sixteen-year-old Toni, her brothers, and their friends race the clock as they sail Toni’s family boat far out to sea. They must get beyond where the wave crests, or the boat will be crushed.

Without their parents to guide them, the reluctant crew improvises. Romances bloom and tempers flare. There is no privacy. Cell phones won’t work. The engine breaks down. They are running out of time.

Even if they survive the wave, there is nowhere in this ravaged world to go. When disaster strikes, it is up to Toni to find the strength to lead the crew when her brothers cannot.

The post Review: Knockdown by Brenda Beem appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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