Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

All Marcus wants to do is ditch school with his friends to see if they can figure out the new clue for Harajuku Fun Madness. Doing so puts them seriously in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is while the group of friends are skipping school in a post 9-11 San Francisco when terrorists attack. In the chaos that ensues Marcus and his friends are picked up by the Department of Homeland Security  and treated to a thorough questioning. Once released, Marcus very rightly feels very wronged by the very people that are supposed to be there to protect citizens. Marcus vows to make the DHS pay. One techno-geek and his friends create a network of hackers determined to expose the brutalities and injustices inflicted on the everyday people of San Francisco in the name of "Security" for all.

Doctorow masterfully describes the systems the Department of Homeland Security set up in order to track individuals and intimidate them. He creates an amazing array of technology based tools for Marcus and his friends to use to outwit the DHS out of easy to find and cheap materials, proving that sometimes an easy hack may function better than a really expensive device or system.
Readers that love technology, thrillers and the little guy fighting back will love Little Brother.

read more

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman

Upcoming from Titan Books, The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, sounds pretty amazing. Here's the description from the publisher:
A week after her mother found her sleeping on the ceiling, Amy Thomsett is delivered to her new school, Drearcliff Grange in Somerset. Although it looks like a regular boarding school, Amy learns that Drearcliff girls are special, the daughters of criminal masterminds, outlaw scientists and master magicians. Several of the pupils also have special gifts like Amy’s, and when one of the girls in her dormitory is abducted by a mysterious group in black hoods, Amy forms a secret, superpowered society called the Moth Club to rescue their friend. They soon discover that the Hooded Conspiracy runs through the school, and it's up to the Moth Club to get to the heart of it.
Perfect autumn reading, don't you think? I hope it lives up to the description!

read more

Monday, August 24, 2015

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Cassie hasn’t seen anyone in weeks. She’s lonely and scared and one of the last humans alive on earth. Everything in her life—in the world—has changed in the six months since satellites first spotted the Other’s mothership passing by Mars.

Ten days after that sighting came the first of three waves of death, each more devastating than the previous. Billions of people die, including Cassie's mother, but Cassie, her father, and her five-year-old brother somehow survivied.

Then came the fourth wave: Silencers. Aliens, impossible to identify because they look human, out to kill the few remaining human survivors. They succeed in killing Cassie’s father, and separating Cassie from her brother, Sam.

Now Cassie is desperate to find Sam, and a few other surviving teens are fighting just as hard to stay alive, to stay human, as the fifth wave begins.

read more

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Flyboys by James Bradley

Fly­boys: A True Story of Courage by James Bradley is a non-fiction book about pilots in World War II. Mr. Bradley wrote sev­eral World War II books, the most famous is Flags of Our Fathers.

Fly­boys is an inter­est­ing book about a group of young men who had no idea what they were get­ting them­selves into. They were brave men who watched their friends die and still flew day in and day out.

I espe­cially liked the begin­ning of the book where Mr. Bradley talks about the his­tory of Japan, explain­ing how it came to invade other coun­tries and their feu­dal­is­tic cul­ture. The lat­ter came into impor­tance in the Japan­ese Army which made it impos­si­ble for sol­diers to refuse even the most inhu­mane orders.

Mr. Bradley chose a strange way to tell this story. The author jumps around a lot between his­tory, per­sonal sto­ries and time­lines and it’s dif­fi­cult, at some points, to keep track or coherence.

While there are some other issues with this book, it is a solid trib­ute to the brave Fly­boys in WWII. I would love to read his full inter­view with George H. W. Bush, who came across as gen­uine, tal­ented and modest.

Article first published as  Book Review: Flyboys by James Bradley

read more

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Monster by CJ Skuse

A mythical beast that supposedly roams the land outside of an English boarding school, the mother of all snowstorms and the claustrophobic hysteria worthy of The Shining. This is Monster by CJ Skuse.

Natasha, or Nash as she's known by her friends, is attending the highly acclaimed Bathory Boarding School. Nash is competing to be Head Girl, no easy feat when you consider the competition that surrounds her - conniving, ego-centric girls that will high five you with one hand and stab you in the back with a compass with the other.

Then there's Maggie, Nash's only real friend at Bathory. Maggie has issues, in that she appears to be desperate to leave Bathory under any means necessary. This includes violating every rule possible, resulting in the girls having all of their internet and mobile phone privileges removed by the school's Matron.

Nash has bigger fish to fry, though. Her brother, Seb, has gone missing on a trip to South America, the only contact she has with her parents is on a shoddy pay phone in the school's reception area. Added to this, she's convinced she saw something in the woods one evening after her school netball game. Something big, something with yellow eyes. Her instincts tell her it's nothing, a trick of her imagination, but there's also a part of her brain that tells her it could be the fabled "Beast of Bathory," a gigantic cat-like creature that prowls the area, feeding on unsuspecting tourists and students.

read more

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Public School Superhero by James Patterson

 I was fooled. I thought that this next book was about a kid superhero called Stainlezz Steel who went about his hood defeating bad guys. the first few pages showed him bragging about defeating heavyweights super-villains.  I thought yes here is someone the kids can root for and he is a superhero of color also! Boy was I wrong.

read more

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam is a collection of letters (and a few poems) written by soldiers and nurses who served during the Vietnam War. The editor, Bernard Edelman, did a wonderful job, and I would've written this review sooner, but I picked up another book, Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam. It was written by one of the contributors to this volume. Edelman follows each letter with a paragraph about the writer of the letter. He mentioned that one writer, Lynda Van Devanter, had written a book about her nursing experience during the war. It's maybe even more amazing than this one, but I have to say both books are for mature readers.

read more

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

YOU NEED MORE SLEEP: Advice from Cats by Francesco Marciuliano

From the creator of I Could Pee on This and I Could Chew On This comes a book full of sound advice for a good life. Or a cat's life, anyhow, and don't cats seem to have good lives?

You Need More Sleep, unlike the aforementioned books, is in prose rather than poetry. It consists of an Introduction followed by chapters: "Personal Relationships" (avoid them), "Social Interaction" (avoid it), "Career Advancement" (eliminate rivals), and "You, You, YOU!" (just what you'd expect). The book actually starts sweetly with a dedication to the author's "childhood's cat Bettina, who taught me everything I know except how to lie on top of a refrigerator without falling off." The introduction urges us to "Listen to the Cats", based on their "lives of utter confidence, complete independence, and blissful indifference while people continue to drive themselves to the brink of insanity with self-doubt, neediness, and the horrifying sensation that whatever they just texted, tweeted, or emailed will be the very end of their job, relationship, or reputation."

The first piece of advice in the "Personal Relationships" section is "Always Stay At Least 30 Feet from a Loved One", which extols the virtues of personal space.

A healthy relationship is as much about being together as it is as about personal space. And the best way to accomplish the latter is by never, ever sitting still. If your partner enters the room, get up and leave. If they follow you, make for the stars. If they pursue, do a hard turn into the bedroom, bank off the dresser, double-back into the hall, careen into the home office, swipe the workstation clean, fall into a wastebasket, and go back down the stairs. Keep running until they go to work and you get the eight hours of peace alone you both need for love to bloom.

The "Social Interaction" chapter features such noteworthy headlines as "Don't Be Nice to Unpleasant People", "It's Okay to Be Shy", and "Stay Quiet Just Long Enough to Be Taken Seriously" (possibly all sound advice, actually), interspersed with such things as "Steady Eye Contact is All the Listening You'll Ever Have to Do" and "Befriend People Who Are Good at Things You're Not. Like Opening Cans."

read more

Monday, August 10, 2015

Poking a Dead Frog by Mike Sacks

Recently a childhood friend posted on Facebook that he was struggling to find the humor in Parks and Recreation, a show all his friends had told him was worth watching. After I recovered from my various levels of disbelief (You’re just now watching Parks and Recreation? You don’t find the character of Ron Swanson hilarious? Leslie Knope bothers you?), I thought about that most elemental of questions: What is Funny? The answer (other than farts, of course) may be unknowable, but Mike Sacks provides us with some of the smartest thinking about the question in his impressive Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers.

read more

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

POACHED by Stuart Gibbs

PoachedI thought BELLY UP by Stuart Gibbs was terrifically hilarious when I read it a few years ago so I decided to try another one of his books. 

Teddy is back solving mysteries at FunJungle and causing havoc in the process.  Living at a zoo evidently isn't exciting enough for Teddy.  His penchant for playing practical jokes has gotten him in some hot water in the past, but the occasion to investigate the kidnapping of the zoo's borrowed koala, Teddy takes things very seriously.

When it is revealed that Teddy is the prime suspect in Kazoo's disappearance, he knows he must take things into his own hands.  He is suddenly extremely busy dealing with Large Marge, a security guard out to get him, and handling a bully named Vance and his sidekicks who are harassing him at school and at the zoo.  Can he find the kidnapper before the koala starves?  Is it a disgruntled employee or one of the keepers hoping to strike it rich with a huge ransom?

POACHED is classic Stuart Gibbs with plenty of humor, non-stop action sequences, and amateur sleuthing.  It is perfect for middle grade readers looking for a fast, fun read.

Previously posted at

read more