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Monday, February 20, 2017

Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

Ordinary MagicIn a world where using magic is normal, and no one would dream of things like cooking, doing dishes, or opening doors without casting a spell, Abby Hale learns that she is an “ord,” or an Ordinary, who can’t do magic. Ords are seen as unlucky and even dangerous, since they can’t do magic and magic doesn’t work on them. Abby is sent to a special school for Ords so that she can learn how to do things the non-magic way with other non-magical people. While at Ordinary school, Abby and her friends run across scheming goblins, treasure-hunting kidnappers, and have to learn how to be extra-ordinary students.

This is a fun spin on magic school books – instead of going to Hogwarts to learn magic, Abby and her classmates go to Margaret Green School to learn history, self-defense, and how to do dishes. I liked Abby and her friends, and it was super fun to watch them try to figure out how to be non-magical people in a magical world.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Danger Down the Nile by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Danger Down the NileMeet the Kidds, the four children of Tom Kidd, a world famous treasure hunter and oceanographer.  In book two of four in the Treasure Hunters series,the four kids, Storm, Tom, Bickford and Rebecca are on a submarine looking for their mom and dad.  Mom is being held captive and dad is missing.  The kids do what they do best.  They look in Africa, Egypt, and China to find what and who they need. 

While they are homeschooled in math, science, languages, music lessons, martial arts and acting lessons, these worldly kids also have special talents. Storm memorizes anything that she sees.  Tommy is open minded and optimistic.  Bickford, "Bick",  and Rebecca, "Beck", the twins, are brave as lions when Guy Dubonnet Merck, their arch villain is around.  You should see how they use snack cakes as weapons!  Twinkies to the rescue!

Readers of the Geronimo Stilton series and the Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths will find that the fast paced, plot driven adventure story will ring funny. 

Monday, February 06, 2017

Runs With Courage by Joan M. Wolf

Runs with CourageFour Winds is a Lakota girl who lives on a reservation in the 1870's.  It has been decided by the tribe elders to send her away with white people to a school that educates Lakota girls.  What she doesn't know is that her tribe made a deal with the whites to receive food in exchange for letting them take Four Winds to their school.  She later learns about this and decides to make great sacrifices to endure the hardships of the school to make sure her people survive.

This story focuses on maintaining your culture even while being forced to accept a new one.  During the 1870s, the government was at war with indigenous people and ended up nearly wiping out entire Native American cultures.   This story is definitely one that shows the darker side of American history from a perspective of a young girl that could have lived through it.  It is a must read for anyone learning about the history of the United States and the Native Americans.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas

A Patron Saint for Junior BridesmaidsThirteen-year-old Mary Margaret Miller gets the news that she is going to be a junior bridesmaid in her cousin Eden's upcoming wedding.  She's excited to be included but also uses the news to her advantage because she just punched a boy named Brett Helzinski at school.  Typically Mary is a good kid and her mother forgives her because she has enough on her plate with Mary's father already working in North Dakota after the family's Minnesota hardware store had to close.

Mary and her eight-year-old brother Luke are shipped off to their Grandma's for the summer, which is also where Eden, Aunt Maggie and Uncle Will live, so that their parents can find a house for them to live in and their mom can find a job.  Mary gets to help Grandma plan the wedding, which is becoming a big event, even though Eden, who has social anxiety, would prefer just a small one.  Mary does a great job of supporting Eden in her junior bridesmaid duties, all the while dealing with her guilt of hitting Brett and having to move to a whole new state to live with her family.

It's nice to have a book which features a very close knit family, even though Grandma can be a bully at times (just my opinion).  Mary is your typical early teen who is dealing with the troubles of growing up.  The Catholic faith is portrayed throughout the book as the family is very devote but not over the top.  Mary has to deal with her anger about Brett and her family business going under through most of the book, but she also learns that it is always better to forgive then to keep being mad. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Haunted House Project by Tricia Clasen

The Haunted House ProjectI truly loved this book, but I'm going to warn you to get some tissues because it had me close to tears several times.

Thirteen year old Andie's world fell apart the day she lost her mother in a terrible car accident.  Paige, her big sister, takes on extra shifts at her waitress job in order to help make ends meet because their father can't hold a job due to his drinking and gambling which he fell into as a way to deal with his grief.  The three of them become completely lost without Mom, who was the glue that held the family together.

Then Andie gets an idea to help save her family when she pairs up with the class nerd, Isaiah, for a science project.  They decide to study paranormal activity as Andie has always been a fan of ghost stories.  Andie decides to convince her family that her mother's ghost is still around watching them and she doesn't like what she sees.  Andie starts to see small glimpses of the family she had when her mom was around and she wants more.  Meanwhile, her supposed friends start making fun of her for spending time with Isaiah, and she starts to pull away from them.  She starts to learn who her true friends are and what's really important to her in life, like saving her family.

The Haunted House Project is full of emotions.  The skillful writing of Tricia Clasen allows the reader to experience the pain and grief that accompanies loss as well as how hard it can be to be a middle schooler.  As I said before, the story had me close to tears several times and made me angry with several of the adults in the book.  The amount of effort Andie puts forth to keep her mother's memory alive not only for herself but her family as well, makes you want to cheer her on but also take her into your arms and just hug her for a long time.  The message in this book will teach you to appreciate what you have and remember that your loved ones matter more than anything else in the world.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

The Dog, RayTwelve year old Daisy dies in a car accident and goes directly to the Job Center where souls are put into bodies that need them.  Daisy takes a wrong turn on her way to the soul placement room and winds up in a dog's body.  However inside the dog's body, she still has all her memories of being a human girl.  Daisy is adopted by a family with a selfish boy who doesn't really take care of her.  She escapes that home and teams up with Jack, an elderly homeless man and Pip, a young homeless teen.  Pip instantly bonds with Daisy, who he now names Ray.  While the life isn't easy, finding food and shelter, Ray knows she is loved.  Pip was a foster care child whose mother died and he is out to find his father who doesn't know he exists.   This journey has them meet many people, some nice and some not, but ultimately it's a journey to find a home.

This is a short and easy to read book.  It is interesting as it is told through the perspective of a dog, who shows it's not always easy to be a dog.  The book is a story of death and reincarnation, but also of love, friendship and second chances.  It's worth the read. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

The Sleepover by Jen Malone

The SleepoverMeghan is excited to go to her friend, Anna Marie's sleepover.  Her parents are the overprotective type (her cell phone is a ladybug with only two phone numbers on it, 9-1-1 and home) and she has never made it the whole night anywhere without having to come home.  But she's planning on having an epic time with best friends Paige and Anna Marie, even though Anna Marie's quirky going-to-be stepsister, Veronica is going to join them.

Veronica has bought Anna Marie a hypnotist as a birthday gift.  The girls remember her visiting...and then they wake up the next morning.  The basement is a disaster, there are baby chicks in the bathtub, and oh yeah, Anna Marie is missing!  With the help of Anna Marie's bratty brother, Max and her next door neighbor, Jake (who Meghan has a HUGE crush on), the girls try to piece the night together and find their missing friend before her mom finds out.

I really liked the plot of this book.  It's the tween's version of The Hangover.  It's funny and mysterious all at the same time.  Such a fun read.  Brought back some good memories of sleepovers with my friends.  This will definitely be on my suggestion list the next time someone asks for a good read at the library!

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