Jennifer M. (Kaydence) - Reviews

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2108: Eyes Open (Volume 1)
2108: Eyes Open (Volume 1)
Author: K. L. Glanville
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/12/2012


Summary: It is the year 2108. The world has gone through an alien invasion, but New Zealand has become the home of those that are naturals and holdouts. Naturals are those that don't want anything done to their bodies. They don't want bionic additions, tattoos, or to even wear synthetic materials. Jewel, our heroine, is a natural. We meet her as she tries to figure out how to get her dad moving so that she can get restrictions taken off of her aerokopa (just like my students trying to get their parents moving so they can get a car). She is very inquisitive, but also aware of her social status. This leads her to question things, but also to worry too much about who she is seen with. Her dad seems to want her to become friends with some Holdouts, but she doesn't understand why. She is constantly pointing out how different and weird they are. She doesn't understand their beliefs, so she thinks they are crazy (nutmeg to be exact). This same type of feeling does not occur when she randomly meets a bionic (humans that have intermixed with the aliens) out on the river. She helps him and starts to talk to him. She is worried initially that he may be a spy, but he gives her gifts and gains her trust. Who wouldn't trust a hot guy that gives you the ability to breath underwater and play with dolphins? From this bionic, she learns about the troller ship that her dad is worried about, some of the bionic technology, and she develops a bit of a crush. When she invites him to go to a costume party as her date, she may have gone a bit too far with this friendship. Is this bionic really to be trusted? When problems start occurring at the party, a dock blows up, and a kidnapping occurs, it is hard to figure out who the good and the bad guys are. What is poor Jewel to do? Perhaps curiosity really did kill the cat.

My thoughts: I'm not usually a big science fiction reader unless it is mainly a dystopian. 2108 is not really a dystopian. It is an apocalyptic type novel that has some issues, but the utopian aspect is not really there. Glanville does an excellent job of world building. You are immediately thrown into the world, but Glanville slowly unveils more and more of Jewel's life and surroundings. Some of this is done through the question sessions with Jewel and the bionic, but most of it is just as if you were seeing things through Jewel's eyes. I do believe that the world building and descriptions are the best part of this novel. The action moves quickly, but when problems occur Jewel doesn't seem to have as much of an attitude as I would have thought. She seems to lay down and fall into hopelessness quicker than I would have liked. This is not necessarily Glanville's flaw, just not what I wanted. The other aspect that I did not like about the book is that there are clear prejudices between all of the social groups/races. That's fine and builds some of the tension between characters, but I never feel like anyone learns that the other group isn't all bad. People pretty much fit the stereotypes that Jewel sees and that is a let down to me for a young adult book. I always want their to be acceptance as a large theme. I'm hoping in future books I will see that. Overall, I'm giving this 4 stars because science fiction should be based off of world building, action, and exotic characters. This book has all of those aspects. I'm just waiting for the overall lesson to be learned.


The 3rd Volume of the Great Encyclopedia of My Life (Manolito Four-Eyes)
Review Date: 6/23/2014


Summary:
Summer has finally come, but Manolito is stuck at home while all of his friends head off on vacation. To fill the time, Manolito and his little brother go to Hangman's park or the swimming pool. The summer seems to be boring until Manolito makes a new friend, Mustard. The two of them begin to play games together and when Big Ears comes back it is a little awkward trying to find time for all of Manolito's friends. He is growing a little older and now is learning how to balance things without giving up one important thing for another.

My thoughts:
I've enjoyed every part of this series. They are all entertaining with a fair amount of laughs. I especially like Manolito's voice. He is witty and intelligent while still sounding like a child. When he uses sophisticated vocabulary, he usually tells a story about how he knows things. Generally, this is a safe book to pick up and read to a child between 2nd-6th grade without worrying about content or fun. Even adults will get a kick out of Manolito's tales.


The Accidental Genius of Weasel High
The Accidental Genius of Weasel High
Author: Rick Detorie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/12/2012


Summary:
Larkin Pace is 14 and hates it. He can't do any of the things that he would love to do because he is 14. Also, he has the most useless superpower. This superpower is retaining movie information. After he sees a movie, he can tell you everything about it. The only good thing about that is his friend Brooke can also recall corny movie lines. To go along with his superpower, Larkin wants to be a famous director. The only thing that is holding him back is getting a brand new camcorder, a really expensive one at that. His dad won't give him any money, probably because his dramatic sister gets everything that she wants, so he has to find the money in other ways. His mom helps him get a job helping an older woman around the house. This ends up being an awesome gig for him. He is treated really well, shares his love of movies with her, and gets a little money in the process. She also tries to give him advice on his girlfriend problem. Larkin thinks that Brooke is his girlfriend, but she is asking if he likes someone else. Does she like someone else? She seems to be paying attention to Dalton Cooke, Larkin's nemesis. Dalton plays pranks on everyone, and is a big jerk, but girls seem to be very attracted to him. With all of this going on, his English teacher is making him chronicle his life in a spiral-bound notebook.
My thoughts:
I liked the mix between comic strips and narrative that went throughout the story, but other than that it was pretty cliché. He has the same issues that a lot of other people have without being that dynamic of a character. Usually when a young adult novel has the same coming of age issues, I am more interested because I have some connection with the character. It does not matter if it is a male character or not, Allen Zadoff usually has me hooked within the first couple of pages within either of his young adult novels. I was wondering if my lack of enthusiasm for the character was based on the partial graphic novel style of the book, but I found that I actually liked him the most in the short comic strips. The short strips are often the funniest part of the book. They are simple drawings, but always very melodramatic. I think that might be why I love them. The melodrama is part of the fun of a young adult novel. Anyways, this was a very quick read (unless you put it down for a few weeks, like I did), and would probably be handy for a reluctant reader. The mix between the graphics and narrative will draw in someone who doesn't think they like to read. It's always nice to give pictures to someone who is not into all of those words, plus the actual story is under 200 pages.


ACID
ACID
Author: Emma Pass
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 6/23/2014


Summary:
Jenna Strong has been tossed in prison by ACID (a police force that seems to know every thought, word, and action). She's so far the only girl that has ever been in prison, so she is in a men's prison where she has to fight in order to survive. Her years in prison have toughened her up and she does her best to keep control over anything thrown at her. That is until she ends up on the run. Now she wants to figure out what happened to her that got her sent to that horrible place and who she should be able to trust. With a few identity changes, a new found love, and some poor judgement calls, will she be able to survive without ACID coming back for her?

My thoughts:
I have gone back and forth on this novel for a little while. There are excellent parts to it. Pass has done an amazing job world building. The world is realistic and you never question it. I can imagine it in my head and even try to mesh known things together with the imagined. The action scenes are also done superbly. There were several times that I was on the edge of my seat flying through pages because of the heart-pumping action being described. Jenna can be extremely tough and just like a good action hero, she pulls off some unbelievable things.
On the other hand, there is not a lot of depth to anyone other than Jenna (and even her to a certain extent). Most of the characters fall into a quick category and then are not discussed again. They are there to be stage props. It is so odd to have such excellent world building skills and then have one-dimensional characters. This is definitely something Pass is going to have to improve on in the future. The other thing that annoyed me in the novel is that instantly Jenna is in love and stops being able to do anything. I'm sick of instant love, but even in those situations, why does Jenna stop being the type of heroine she was before? That's just silly. You don't give up yourself because you are attracted to someone else. It's not like you are handing them an apple, these are life and death situations she is facing. Use some sense!
Anyways, I decided that I liked the novel, but not enough that I will be picking it up again to read or gushing about it to my students. It was good and the action is worth the read, but it is not hall of fame worthy. I look forward to seeing if Pass improves with future novels.


The Adventures of Beanboy
The Adventures of Beanboy
Author: Lisa Harkrader
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 1/17/2012


The Adventures of Beanboy by Lisa Harkrader
Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547550787
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 2/14/2012
Pages: 240
Age range: 9 12 Years

Summary: Tucker MacBean is in middle school. Hes not unpopular, but hes not popular either. Honestly, he does all that he can to just be invisible, especially from the school bully Sam. Tucker rushes home everyday to make sure he takes care of his special needs brother because his mother works and goes to school. Tucker mentions that its almost like she is a ghost. Tucker and his brother love comic books. In the latest issue of his favorite comic, he notices an advertisement for a contest to develop a new sidekick for the superhero. The prize is a full college scholarship. Tucker immediately decides to enter to get his mom the scholarship so she would be home and not have to work so much, but he knows that he can not work on his sidekick drawings at home while also babysitting his brother. To solve this issue, Tucker asks to join the after school art club. His mom sets up a babysitter for his little brother, and Tucker begins art club. Then the worst thing Tucker can think of happens, he comes home and Sam is in his house watching his brother. This leads to a change in Tucker and Sam. He starts to notice the softer sides of Sam and the heroic side of himself. He saves Sam in several situations and finds his heroic heart in the process. All the while, he develops a sidekick based off of beans. The sidekicks story takes shape alongside Tucker, and at the deadline, he decides to submit the entry under his own name.

My thoughts:

This was a good book. It touched on some difficult subjects, but didnt go into depth on anything. The transformation of Tucker and Sam is really the best part of the story. Both characters have dramatic changes that bring the story alive. They are characters that you can easily relate to and they are enduring as well. Both characters you can root for. My favorite parts of the book are the little comic drawings that pop up through the novel. They are not necessary for you to understand the book, but they are fun and add another dimension. This is the kind of book that I would happily hand over to a student that is used to reading graphic novels and is uncomfortable reading novels without images. This is a good in between novel that will help ease readers into something else. I would easily pass a student that enjoyed this The Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl by Barry Lyga. That would pull them into a full novel, but it would allow a student to see connections between the two novels. Im always looking forward to ties that I can make between an easier book and a more difficult one. As a teacher, it allows me an easy view of progression through novels. All in all, I would encourage young readers, or low readers, to give this book a try.

(4 stars)


The Adventures of Shrinkman
The Adventures of Shrinkman
Author: R.L. Stine
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 5/10/2013


Summary:
Danny Martin is obsessed with Shrinkman, an itty bitty superhero. Shrinkman shrinks to help fight crime. When watching a Shrinkman movie, Danny drinks some weird flavored drink that he found. Soon after, he begins to shrink. His parents and doctors cannot figure out what is wrong with him. Was that drink to blame? Will Danny ever get back to full size? What happens if he never stops shrinking? Will he disappear forever?

My thoughts:
For those of us that have grown up with the Honey, I shrunk the... series, this fits the genre. It is a lot of fun with several laugh out loud moments. Danny is beginning to live his dream of being like his superhero idol; however, what happens when his own dog's drool can drown him? He never believed he would be fighting for his life against ants! As with all excellent R.L. Stine books, there is a good amount of tension and a lot of adventure. Somehow he manages to make the ridiculous into a topic you just can't get enough of. Readers of all ages will love The Adventures of Shrinkman and wait with abated breath for R.L. Stine's next book.


Ain't Myth-Behaving
Ain't Myth-Behaving
Author: Katie MacAlister
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 327
Review Date: 2/6/2008


I love Katie MacAlister! I think she is one of the funniest romance writers out there and I read through her books faster than almost anyone else (MaryJanice Davidson being the only exception). This is two quick love stories revolving around myths. In true Katie style, there is traveling involved with the heroines somewhat out of their element and mixing in with all that there is to offer, including some very attractive males. I enjoyed the first story much more than the second, but that was because there were more characters that I felt like I understood. All in all, this is a great "beach" read and I highly recommend it. Along with all of her other books.


The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Bk 1)
The Alchemyst (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, Bk 1)
Author: Michael Scott
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 113
Review Date: 9/12/2012
Helpful Score: 1


I was at first a little daunted by the size of this book, so I put it aside for awhile until most of my students had finished the whole series and I was left behind. When I started to read (and listen) to this book, I was not immediately intrigued. It was very slow to catch my attention and I'm still not particularly sure that I care about the characters. Here is a brief summary of the story:

Nicholas Flamel and his wife are immortal because Nicholas unknowingly purchased The Codex from someone early in his life (over 500 years before the story begins). The Codex describes many secrets from the elder race, including prophecies and alchemical recipes. Anyways, the elders want this book so that they can take over the world. They have commissioned Dr. John Dee to get the book from Nicholas. So, on a summer afternoon, Dee goes after Flamel in Flamel's bookstore. Josh, a clerk from the bookstore, and his twin sister Sophie, attempt to help Nicholas and his wife from the seemingly mad man that is trying to steal and kill them. No good act goes unpunished, so Sophie and Josh get caught up in this mess. Dee ends up with most of the book and Flamel's wife. However, Sophie and Josh could be a set of twins that are prophesied about in the Codex. The battles begin as Flamel tries to train and protect the twins, while also trying to get the book back from Dee. Flamel enlists the help of some of the good(ish) elders and destruction flows through the rest of the book. Are the twins really magical? Is the prophecy correct? How many people can actually survive their exploits? Now, you have to read it and find out.

As I mentioned, I was not really into the book. The action was intriguing. There was a lot of movement and the book never really slowed down, but I never fell in love with the characters. I don't believe that Scott made them overly interesting. The elders are described in more depth than the twins, and the twins are really the focus of the book. It made it hard for me to buy into the book when I didn't care one way or the other if the main characters made it through. Also, there is a bit of conflict within Josh that I think could have been explored further. It may have made me want to read the next one more. I will say that the best part of this book is the mixing of mythology. The elders are all basically gods from ancient times. They are intriguing and the back stories that are slipped in here and there are fun to examine.

My student's have all enjoyed this book, so it is not a total loss for me. I believe that the constant adventure pulls a reader through regardless if they feel the same about the characters as I do. The magical fighting is creative and described very well. I think my favorite part comes towards the end after a major magical battle. Scott includes a quote from the local newspaper from that town and explains the attacks. It just made me laugh to see how the truth is changed in media even in fiction. This book is best suited for children ages 11 (if they are a strong reader) to 16.


Alienation (A C.H.A.O.S. Novel)
Alienation (A C.H.A.O.S. Novel)
Author: Jon S. Lewis
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/12/2012


Summary: We catch up with Colt, Danielle, and Oz as they are getting ready to go to the CHAOS military academy. The boys are practicing obstacle courses with their jet packs when an alien wasp comes out of nowhere to attack them. Colt and Oz do some quick thinking to defend themselves, but this is the first of many odd occurrences that seem to be focused purely on Colt. Colt gets some information that leads him to believe that the director of CHAOS has hired an assassin to kill him. This is why he keeps being attacked by aliens, robots, and the like. Who can he trust? Oz is the director's son, is he in on it? Should Colt head to the CHAOS academy or will he let this keep him away from his seeming destiny? Also, Colt finds out a surprising secret that his family has kept from him. Knowing this changes everything that Colt has ever known about himself. For such a small book, there really is a ton of things that happen.

My thoughts: I've enjoyed these books and look forward to the next installment. They are extremely quick reads. Part of this is that the chapters of very short, but part of it is that the action never ceases. From beginning to end, there are heart pumping, barely escapable situations that you can't help but root Colt through. Danielle is also a lovely character. She reminds me of Velma from Scooby Doo. She knows too much for her own good, shares her wisdom, but also is a loyal, caring friend that dishes out the best advice. There is distance between Colt and Oz throughout this novel because of the plot to kill Colt, which was distracting to me. I think it was the only downside of the novel. I like Colt and Oz's friendship. I could logically see what the author was trying to do and the tension he was trying to build, but I just didn't feel it. It fell flat. I couldn't tell enough of a change in their friendship to feel anything other than an uninterested, busy teenage life. All in all, this is perfect for a quick adventure and highly recommend for our reluctant teen boy readers.


All the Truth That's In Me
All the Truth That's In Me
Author: Julie Berry
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 6/23/2014
Helpful Score: 1


Summary:
Set in what seems like Puritan times in a fictional place called Roswell Station, a young girl Judith returns after being abducted four years earlier. She has been mutilated, with her tongue cut out in order to "save" her from being forced to speak about her struggles over the last few years. Now that she is back, she has been forced to spend most of her time alone. The town seems to think that she is cursed and avoids her at all cost. Worse yet, the boy she has been in love with since childhood, Lucas, is about to get married to someone else. Then Roswell Station is attacked. In order to save Lucas, Judith makes the decision to go back to her captor and elicit help, sacrificing herself for Lucas and the town that has shunned her. In the process, the truth about the past is coming out and Judith's decisions for the future are also interrupting the present day plot.

My thoughts:
There is so much in this one little novel. For under 300 pages, there is a lot in here. There is some suspense, but a lot of learning about the society and main character. Judith is amazing. Even for a character that does not speak, the reader connects with her. She is very observant and we learn about each character through her observations. Along with her current struggles, she also dives into her past and future as well. This gives us a wide range of development opportunities for Judith and the reader is easily thrust into her life. It is such an emotional story that you can't help but leave the book with a sense of Judith in your life. She changes each reader by the time the book is finished.


And We Stay
And We Stay
Author: Jenny Hubbard
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 6/23/2014


I'm going to start out saying that I received the paper copy of this book but ran out of time to actually read it, so I purchased the audio to listen while I was heading back and forth to work. I think this may have given me a different view than others that have reviewed the book because the narration was done wonderfully well.

Summary:
Emily's boyfriend brought a gun to school, threatened her, and then shot himself in the library. Instead of giving her an opportunity to work through all of that, her parents have sent her away to boarding school in Amherst. The now angry Emily has to deal with her guilt, along with learning everything in her new school. Oddly enough, her roommate also struggles with survivor's guilt and this helps to build the relationship between the two girls. Emily also is haunted by the ghost of Emily Dickinson. Between her new friends and ghost, Emily has to find her way towards healing and building a new life.

My thoughts:
As mentioned, I really got into this story through the narration from the audio. I felt Emily was a well described character. She struggles with questions of how to move forward while also trying to figure out her new relationships. She doesn't want to let anyone too close to her because she doesn't want to get hurt as she has done before. We get to know her motivations through poetry, mostly from Emily Dickinson. She searches for answers within the poems while also suffering from flashbacks of her relationship with Paul. I loved the blend between poetry and prose. To me, it added so much more to the story and gave a depth of emotions that only Emily Dickinson could have added. While I understand that a lot of people are upset about the disconnect they felt from the main character, I think if they listened they would have a different experience.


Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, Bk 1)
Review Date: 3/7/2010


My thoughts:
Positives:

* Georgia is hilarious. I mean, she shaved off her eyebrows and went to some guy for kissing lessons without realizing that he was sorta dating her. I love how much these books make me laugh.
* The little glossary in the back of the book to help us understand the British slang is almost funnier then actions in the story. Sometimes I crave the usage of these terms. I want to start saying knickers, etc.
* Angus chases an annoying poodle. Cats are totally not supposed to scare dogs, but it's quite funny when they do.
* Georgia is a bit troublesome, but endearing in school (just like I was).
* You get to meet all of the crazy characters that show up in the future books. Like my favorite, Sven, the crazy exchange student that ends up being one of the Ace Gang's boyfriends.

Negatives:

* The Sex God doesn't sound attractive to me at all.
* I still don't know what "wet" means when used as an adjective to describe someone (who is dry).
* As Georgia gets older, she doesn't seem to change that much. I know that as everyone moves through middle school their attitude changes a lot, but hers seems to stay the same. She just seems to understand guys a little differently.


Aquifer
Aquifer
Author: Jonathan Friesen
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 6/23/2014


Summary:
Aquifer is a place where water is rare. The Deliverer has to go below ground to negotiate with Rats that harvest water in order to bring any above ground to the town. This job has been passed down from father to son for as long as Luca can remember. His father has been training him since he was young to take over the position. The only problem is that Luca sees things a little differently than those around him. In a world where there is no emotion or creativity, Luca feels something. Then his father goes missing and Luca must go below to fetch water. While on his quest, he begins to uncover and question the life that he has always known.

My thoughts:
This month I've read two stories that have dealt with water shortage. Is this a pattern? While Aquifer takes a much different view than Not a Drop to Drink, they both have very similar "Does as told, save the water" type feelings. Both are also dystopians (my favorite genre). Aquifer is reminiscent of The Giver, a book that I have taught several times. The town is free of all creativity. There is no art or literature. Emotions are nonexistent, much like the pill that has to be taken in The Giver to tap down any urges. Positions are passed down along with all of the memories that are tied to those positions. Unfortunately, Friesen did not draw me in like Lowry does. It took me awhile to get into the world that Luca live in. Part of this was I needed a little more of a set up then I was given. I feel like I needed the world building to be front loaded in this novel instead of working through it a little before everything began to make sense. Because of this, I didn't bond with Luca. That's what kept me from loving this book. Without the tie to the character, I just wasn't completely sucked in. This is a book that I may try to read again in a little while now that I have ll of the background knowledge and see if a spark happens to pull me in further. Altogether, it's a good novel, much like one that I love, but is just not ringing for me right now.


Archon: The Books of Raziel
Archon: The Books of Raziel
Author: Sabrina Benulis
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 1.7/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 9/12/2012
Helpful Score: 2


It has been a very long time since I picked up a book and could not finish it. I actually think the last one was in college. This is an extremely confusing book. In the very beginning, it is unclear who people are. It's almost like people have been given nicknames, but they are so nondescript that it is impossible to figure out if you should care about them or not. I read through some of the other reviews and noticed that a lot of people complained about it being like a young adult novel. I believe they are incorrect. This is why:
1. Young adult novels have clear plot lines that are character or action driven to keep the audience moving through the story. If a novel does not move quickly, then young adults move on to something different. This is because there are so many other options available that it is not worth struggling through a novel. Archon: The Books of Raziel is character driven, but it takes too long to know who is important and who is not. There are too many characters introduced all at once and there is no relationship between the audience and the characters within the first three chapters or so. This is honestly what drove me away from the novel.
2. Young adult novels usually have a clear cut plot structure. Archon: The Books Of Raziel has not clear hint to where the book is going until about halfway through the novel. I had already stopped caring by the time I had a general idea of what was going to happen throughout the book. It is sad that even once I figured out where the book was going that I wasn't drawn in enough to finish it.
Regardless, I was drawn in by a beautiful cover and completely let down.


The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl
Author: Barry Lyga
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 16
Review Date: 3/7/2010


I had put off reading this book for awhile for no particular reason. I'm upset that I did that. I guess I was going through a phase where I didn't want to think about how big of a geek that I am. Anyways, Lyga spins a tale combining the lives of two teenagers. Fanboy is a stereotypical comic book nerd. He has been working on a comic forever and is planning on handing it off to his hero at a comic book convention. Before the convention, he ends up becoming friends with Goth Girl. He is intrigued with her and probably has a bit of a crush. She ends up finding out about his work and finds it very well done. At the convention, the two clash with fanboy's hero and craziness ensues.

The relationship between the two characters is nice. They never seem to be overly comfortable with one another, but it is portrayed as a real high school type relationship. In high school, we all found that our friendships and relationship were so deep, but they really weren't. This is a pretty true testament to that, which is a relief compared to other YA books that place so much emphasis on a new relationship that will be happily ever after or a best friend that you have had all of your life. The plot was believable and you are rooting for the comic to take off and Fanboy to get famous. However, this is realistic and you can only imagine what happens.

Overall, I would recommend this to older middle school and high school students, especially those that are interested in comics. There are a lot of comic references that I got a kick out of because I was so familiar with them. Perhaps Neil Gaiman should get a cut of the profits because his name appears in the novel so often. What can we ladies say, he's a favorite!


At the Bottom of Everything: A Novel
At the Bottom of Everything: A Novel
Author: Ben Dolnick
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/23/2014


Summary:
This is a trail of friendship. It chronicles what happens between Adam and Thomas building a friendship, what separates the two of them, and then a journey back together. It's written as a chain of emails that build character, spiritual development, and the journey of the plot.

My thoughts:
Dolnick has a way with words. He is direct, but often poetic in his choices. While this is reminiscent of a "find yourself" type of novel, it doesn't read as cliche as those books tend to be. This is a deep character sketch of Adam as he reconnects with everything he went through as an adolescent with Thomas and learns that he needs to change his life and make-up/forgive things that happened in the past. I really enjoy the deep connection that I made with both characters. It's entertaining, but also one of those transforming of insight type novels that make you want to really think.


At War with PTSD: Battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Virtual Reality
Review Date: 9/12/2012


I got this for my father-in-law who suffers from PTSD after Vietnam, but it was short, so I decided to read it myself as well. This is like a research study report. It is easy to understand, but goes through the basic steps of a research project. Throughout the beginning, he defines and discusses PTSD with stories from soldiers that he worked with. You get a good idea of the symptoms, consequences, and challenges that people suffering with PTSD go through. This is needed as McLay sets the background for his new idea of working the Virtual Reality. He uses VR in small sessions, gradually growing longer to explore dealing with the anxiety that war-like conditions. He states endlessly that this is not a one-size fits all therapy and that it is an extremely difficult process.

Overall, I found it extremely interesting. My father-in-law also enjoyed reading it. He likes to keep up to date with new treatments. He asked the VA if this was something that would be tried any time soon, but they stated that it was not currently something that offered as therapy. So, interesting as it may be, it is still extremely limited.


Avalon
Avalon
Author: Mindee Arnett
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 6/23/2014


Summary:
Jeth and his band of teenage mercenaries run around and steal metatech, which allows people to travel faster than the speed of light. In order to keep his younger sister, Lizzie, and him out of trouble, he's been working with Hammer to hopefully buy his parents ship, the Avalon, back. He finally gets the opportunity to fly Avalon into a special part of space called the Belgrave. Once there, him and his crew find out secrets that no one wants to let out. Is this the reason his parents were executed for treason? Will he have the same fate? How will the group of teenage outlaws manage to survive when both the government and the crime bosses are after them?

My thoughts:
Okay, I was/am a huge Firefly fan. I loved the show and got this book before I had read anything about it's tie to Firefly. In my opinion, this is fan fiction. Jeth and Lizzie have direct character traits that are seen within the show. Firefly and Avalon are extremely similar. The plot line is also very similar. With that being said, I have no problem with fan fiction, if that is what this actually is. I like the space adventure. The characters have similar traits as the ones that I loved on the show. Their is a fierce loyalty amongst them, which is probably my favorite part of this story. This will keep the reader flipping pages, but you will probably guess most of the plot twists. Overall, I think it will be a favorite amongst my students, even those that have never heard of Firefly.


Awaken (Awaken, Bk 1)
Awaken (Awaken, Bk 1)
Author: Katie Kacvinsky
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 10
Review Date: 9/12/2012


Awaken takes us to a place that is very likely. Everything is digital. There is digital school (mandated, with no drop outs allowed), digital work, digital dating, even digital dancing. There is no teenage pregnancy, crime is virtually eliminated, and people rarely come out of their homes. Maddie, the protagonist of the story, is the daughter of the inventor of DS (digital school). She has had some trouble in the past, so she is on probation in her home. She is rarely allowed out, except to go to soccer practice. Her dad does not trust her, but her mom wants her to experience some of the old life. Maddie seems unhappy, but she doesn't really do anything other than chat through her flip screen anyways. What is she missing out on? Everything is normal and hooked in, until she agrees to meet someone in a real life study group. She is uncomfortable with the idea, but agrees to go. This simple choice changes everything. When Maddie meets this boy, her clean, locked up world is not good enough for her anymore. It's time for Maddie to remember what human interaction is really like.

I usually enjoy dystopian novels, so I was looking forward to reading this immediately. Even though it is set in 2060, I feel like it could be just around the corner. The book doesn't focus on a perfect governmental structure like most dystopians do. It doesn't give people the exact amount of food they need, the right kinds of clothing, etc. It is still our type of government. DS seems like any major corporation that has just been allowed to be a monopoly. My high school students are already attached to their technology. When was the last time anyone saw a teenager without an ear bud in their ears, or a phone in their hand? I think one of my students would start crying if I made her let go of her phone. Their entire lives are being controlled through these devices, and they feel like they are more connected to people than ever. This book really touched me because it is pointing out the dangers of living like this. I can't Kacvinsky enough for pointing this out. Why take everything real out of life?

The only reason I gave this a four instead of a five is because it took me awhile to read it. I was able to put the book down between chapters. There were definite stopping points where I felt like I could close the book and think of something else. Excellent books don't let you do that. I'm not even sure how to change the novel to make it more gripping. There are definitely chapters that make me want to read more right then and there, but that's not how the whole book is. Perhaps, more action in the in-between chapters could have helped me, or maybe stepping outside of Maddie and learning what is happening in other parts of the world could have pulled me in deeper. All in all, I would highly recommend this to my high school students. There is very little bad language, and only some kissing scenes, so it is relatively tame compared to a lot of young adult literature. I just think more people need to read this to focus on the message of not allowing our digital lives to take over everything worthwhile.


Awakened (House of Night, Bk 8)
Awakened (House of Night, Bk 8)
Author: Kristin Cast, P. C. Cast
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 166
Review Date: 9/12/2012
Helpful Score: 2


Welcome to House of Night #8. In this book, Zoey and Stark are back from the Otherworld. They have some battle scars and are trying to hide out, but they are alive and completely in love. With this information in hand, the nerd herd starts to plan a welcome back party. Jack, of course, is in charge of decorations. He is disappointed when Zoey and Stark push back their departure from The Isle of Women, but he understands. Meanwhile, Neferet gets Kalona back and since he failed, she has dominion over his immortal soul, or at least she thinks she does. She has him lashed by darkness and supposedly banished from her side, so the council forgives her and she returns to Tulsa. In Tulsa, Stevie Rae has to figure out what she is going to do with Rephiam. They are in love, but he is still bond to his father. Everything seems to be coming to a head, what paths are all of these well-known characters going to take?

I gave this two stars because of three main things. First, this has just as much sex in it as an adult romance novel. As a teacher, I am completely appalled by the amount of sex and the descriptions used in the sex scenes. Plus, Neferet does not seem to own clothing. I can't hand this book to a student without thinking that a parent would have the right to file a complaint against me recommending this type of book. I think the story could be told with much less intercourse involved. Second, I am tired of the word snot. We all know that when Zoey cries, she seems to get all snotty. Heath carried around tissues because of this. It seems like whenever anyone cries within the novel, which happens a ton, they are all snot tears. How many times do you have to say the same thing? Is there another way you can describe the type of tears that are falling? I feel like the authors just want to use the word snot because it has a tendency to make young adults giggle. Although, I don't think anyone needs to be giggling when something that is obviously sad just happened. Last but not least, especially from an English teacher's point of view, I miss foreshadowing. I enjoy the hints that are given in novels, but in Awakened, they don't give you subtle hints. The hints are more like freight trains running at you. Its like, "Oh, that ladder doesn't look too sturdy." Then they say that about four more times, and guess what, someone falls off the ladder. I feel like the authors believe that their audience is stupid and can't think for themselves, so they are telling you everything and not letting you infer. It makes me lose my interest and stop caring when actual events happen, since they have already been shoved down my throat.

So, you may start to wonder why I gave this a two instead of a one. The biggest reason for this is because Stevie Rae plays a very important role throughout this novel and she is my favorite character. I may not really like where her character is going, but I like her personality and jokes. The fact that I know she will be majorly important in the future books may keep me reading, but it's really hard to tell at this point in time.


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