Review: Powerless

Powerless
Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Childs and Deebs have created an interesting world where super powers are real and a daily part of life. Kenna’s world begins to unravel when three villains break into the supers’ secret lab looking for a fellow villain they believe the supers have kidnapped. Kenna refuses to let the villains win, but in the process she puts herself in danger. Much to her surprise, a villain saves her life and everything she’s known about her world begins to disintegrate. When her mother turns up missing right after Kenna bends the rules to learn the truth about the supers’ secret lab and experiments, Kenna must go against everything she thinks to be true and team up with villains to save her world and her sanity.

Childs and Deebs world of supers and villains is like something out of a comic, but with an almost mob-like feel. There are super families and villain families who are the power players in this world. The authors do a good job of infusing this world with a realistic, self-doubting narrator. Much like teens’ perceptions of the world, Kenna views her world as black and white: supers are good and villains are bad. It seems straightforward. But in the same way teens become adults and realize there is no definite line between good and evil, Kenna begins to realize this about her world as well.

Kenna’s character is frustratingly naive, but it works because so many teens are just so. The cliche of the bad boy with a good heart is a little tiresome, and it was fairly easy to predict that Kenna is not nearly as powerless as she’s been told her entire life. There is plenty of action and the character development is done well. With this being the first book in the series, Childs and Deebs have left the readers at a nice impasse to wait for the second book. I’m eager to see how this one plays out.

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18 May 2015

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com thought this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us! Read more here: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/#ixzz2R9UNmFll
In the last week I’ve finished
 
This week, I’m reading, planning on reading and listening to

Review: Scarlett Undercover

Scarlett Undercover
Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m torn with my rating. Basically, I gave it two stars because there were too many times during my reading when I thought Oh, C’mon! Really? The really crappy thing is that the book has a female Muslim main character and introduces several characters of color. I had such high hopes, but the diversity and the atypical mythology were not enough to overcome the issues with the writing and the plot.

I was really confused at the beginning of the book. I thought maybe I was reading a second or third book in a series because Scarlett, as narrator, seems to be working on the assumption that readers know about her history as a private detecive. Farther into the story, missing pieces are provided about Scarlett’s age and how she is running this “business”, but I wanted that information earlier.

Perhaps Latham is going for a bit of a “film noir” feel, providing the backstory in catchy asides as the initial action develops, but it didn’t come fast enough to feel organic. The other bit that fits the “film noir” piece are the truly cringe-worthy metaphors and similes Scarlett uses during narration. A grungy, middle-aged man with a cigar in his mouth MIGHT be able to get away with “her comment was as blunt as a billy club” but a barely 18 year-old black Muslim girl? No. It was not believable that this type of girl would speak or think that way. Another unbelievable element is Scarlett’s client: a nine year-old girl (Gemma) who find Scarlett’s business card in her private school bathroom. Gemma comes to Scarlett’s office alone to retain her services, and while the wad of cash she pulls out of her backpack for Scarlett’s fee rings true to how a nine year-old would attempt to pay, I kept wondering How the hell did she get there all by herself?

Finally, there are the truly incredible coincidences that pile up from page one. The “villain” happens to have body markings that match a pattern on a mysterious flask that belonged to Scarlett’s father. Scarlett’s love interest happens to have a tattoo of the same markings. Love Interest’s dad just happens to show up (they thought he was dead) and seems to be involved in this secret plot. Scarlett’s dad’s murder from years past seems to be connected to this completely random case brought to her by Gemma. Adults seem to wilt and follow Scarlett’s orders despite basic common sense: the whole scene with Delilah recanting her earlier safety admonitions to Scarlett rings false.

Having said all that, I would DEFINITELY recommend it to readers of color who are looking for themselves as narrators. The black, famale Muslim perspective is unique and the theology/mythology surrounding King Solomon provides a nice change from the white Anglo-Saxon, Christian female heroine. Overall, I was really rooting for this book, but in the end there is just too much coincidence and contrivance to overcome.

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Review: One for the Murphys

One for the Murphys
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The sobbing. It was not The Ugly Cry but fairly consistent tears for the last 30 pages or so. Hunt does an incredible job with Carley’s toughened sensitivity. There are so many times I wanted to shake her and then immediately pull her into a hug. Carley’s story of ending up in a foster home is one of neglect rather than blatant abuse. The realistically tragic part about it is that Carley, like so many kids, doesn’t realize she deserves more. She even assumes the Murphys are mocking her or trying to pull one over on her because their love and affection seems so unnatural to Carley. As Carley comes to terms with her mother’s actions and her situation, she begins to see other families’ dysfunctions and compromises. She learns the value of honesty and sharing oneself with others as a means to connection and hope.

Julie Murphy is a silent, immovable force of acceptance in this book. It’s not just the love that she gives Carley that is so important but the message she transmits with her words and actions (over and over again) that Carley IS ok. That being Carley is ok in and of itself and that there’s nothing she needs to do to earn or deserve the acceptance or love of those who are important to her. Julie’s own history provides this wisdom, and her determination to make a difference for Carley and launch her into believing in her own LIFE is bittersweet. She knows it must be done and knows that the right outcome could be even harder than the path that brought Carley into the Murphys lives.

An easy read with memorable characters, a poignant ending, and a fantastic message, One for the Murphys has something for everyone.

SIMILAR TITLES: See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles, Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff, A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

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Review: The Disappearance of Emily H.

The Disappearance of Emily H.
The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book starts off with an interesting premise – a girl who can “read” other people’s memories. Originally, I thought it would be like A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd complete with gypsy lifestyle and character searching for the answer to her gift. The story quickly takes a darker turn as Raine learns that she’s living in the house of a missing girl. As a fan of fantasy, I prefer magical realism over strict realistic fiction. Raine’s memory ability is unique in the way it manifests for her with the added bonus of being an integral part of the story without taking over the focus of the narrative.

Summy does a good job of making Raine a character with depth but who doesn’t seem too mature or wise for her age. Too many times, authors give unearned and unrealistic sagacity to 13 year-old characters. Raine’s solution to her bullying problem is still a middle school solution and her decisions to keep things from the adults in her life ring true.

The most intriguing thing about the story is its eerily realistic situation. Jennifer and the Mean Girls terrorize Raine and her friend until they become shadows of themselves. Raine and Shirlee make some ill-advised decisions in trying to deal with the bullies. Michael is a creepily dangerous guy who is flying under the town’s radar. And, thankfully, the mild romantic element of the book doesn’t take over the plot. Raine is trying to decide if she’s interested in romance as many 8th graders do.

Overall, a great story and one I would recommend to anyone looking for a light mystery.

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11 May 2015

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com thought this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us! Read more here: http://www.teachmentortexts.com/#ixzz2R9UNmFll
In the last week I’ve finished
 
This week, I’m reading, planning on reading and listening to

6 Read Alouds for Engaging Reluctant High School Readers

By the time students get to high school, pleasure reading has become, for many of them, nonexistent. I remember watching sophomores and juniors walk into my classroom and ask, “Why do you have all these books in here? I never read anymore.” As many of us have learned, somewhere between “Circle Time” read alouds in elementary school and when they walk in our doors in high school, we have managed to kill the love of reading in our students. As I’ve mentioned before in my 5 Best Read Alouds for Middle School, I think students are never to old to be read to. And more than ever, when books are dissected and analyzed and cited and thematically essayed to death in high school, we need to reintroduce our students to the LOVE OF STORY. Please keep in mind that these are merely suggestions and books that I have had success with in multiple districts. You, of course, are the best judge of whether a book and its content are appropriate for your students.

1. The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe by Dan Poblocki – Has Gabriel created a monster?

Something sinister lurks in the woods outside of Slade.

Gabe has seen it, or he thinks he has – a shadow standing at the tree line, watching Gabe’s house with faintly glowing eyes.

Despite Gabe’s misgivings, his new friend, Seth, relishes the creepy atmosphere of the forest. It’s the perfect setting for his imaginary struggle against the Hunter, a deformed child-eating creature said to leave the bones of his victims in his wake. It’s just a game, but it’s all a bit much for Gabe, who quickly loses interest as summer ends and the days grow shorter.

But then strange things start to happen. Frightening things. And Gabe knows it has to do with the dark figure watching him from the edge of the woods.

Is Seth out to teach Gabe a lesson? Or is the Hunter more than just a myth? Gabe isn’t sure which option is more horrifying, but he’s determined to learn the truth before someone gets hurt . . . or worse.

2. Blank Confession by Pete Hautman – Shayne Blank is the new kid in town–but that doesn’t stop him from getting into a lot of trouble very quickly. The other kids don’t understand him. He’s not afraid of anything. He seems too smart. And his background doesn’t add up. But when he walks into the police department to confess to a murder, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems. There’s more to Shayne–and his story–than meets the eye. As the details begin to fill in, the only thing that becomes clear is that nothing about Shayne’s story is clear at all.

3. Shattering Glass by Gail Giles* – “Simon Glass was easy to hate….I guess, really we each hated him for a different reason, but we didn’t realize it until the day we killed him.”

Fat, clumsy Simon Glass is a nerd, a loser who occupies the lowest rung on the high school social ladder. Everyone picks on him — until Rob Haynes shows up. Rob, a transfer student with charisma to spare, immediately becomes the undisputed leader of the senior class. And he has plans for Simon.
Rob enlists the help of his crew — wealthy, intellectual Young, ladies’ man Bob, and sweet, athletic Coop — in a mission: Turn sniveling Simon from total freak to would-be prom king.
But as Simon rises to the top of the social ranks, he shows a new confidence and a devious side that power-hungry Rob did not anticipate. And when Simon uncovers a dangerous secret, events darken. The result is disquieting, bone-chilling…and brutal.  *some profanity and sexual content

4. Killing Mr. Griffin – Lois Duncan – High school can be tough. But with teachers like Mr. Griffin it can seem impossible.

They only planned to scare him. But sometimes even the best-laid plans go wrong.

5. The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom – Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. His days are a dull routine of work, loneliness, and regret.

On his 83rd birthday, Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.

One by one, Eddie’s five people illuminate the unseen connections of his earthly life. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life: Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer, which comes from the most unlikely of sources, is as inspirational as a glimpse of heaven itself.

6. “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by John Green from Let It Snow with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle – A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Using these titles ans springboards, it is possible to get high school students interested in reading again. I’ve seen it. Good luck, and happy reading!