Monday, March 31, 2014

Bareknuckle Series

Title: Bareknuckle Series
Author: various
Publisher: Darby Creek, 2014
Pages: varies
Source: VOYA
Compensation: None

Bareknuckle is an exciting new hi/lo series perfect for reluctant reader boys. Each book tells a different story set at an underground boxing club in the 1870s. Although boys will be most interested in the very violent fighting, each book also throws in some history and moral lessons. Descriptions of the fights are very visual and auditory and suck in readers who love picturing loud cracks as bare knuckles hit broken noses. Squeamish readers might not be as thrilled, but most boys will be drawn to the fighting sections. Although the series is aimed at reluctant readers, it is exciting enough to interest voracious readers as well. In Nathan Sack’s The Big Fix readers are introduced to underground boxing when young journalist George Choogart travels to New York to uncover corruption in a post-Tammany city. The Woodrat is established as a popular fighting club. Fighter’s Alley by Heather Duffy Stone tells the story of a young boy determined to enter a high-stakes boxing tournament and try to keep it a secret from his father who is running for mayor. Slavery and immigration are backstories in Gabriel Goodman’s Lightning’s Run. Jewish immigrant Hiram and former slave Lightning join forces at the Woodrat to fight against bullies, both big and small. The Bareknuckle series would be a worthy addition to middle school libraries and libraries serving the tween (4th-6th grades) population.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

The Children of the King--Sonya Hartnett

Title: The Children of the King
Author: Sonya Hartnett
Publisher: Candlewick, 2014.
Pages: 272 p
Source: VOYA
Compensation: None
When an attack on London during World War II seems imminent, 14 year old Jeremy and 12 year old Cecily are forced to evacuate with their cold mother and leave their playful but important father behind. The children travel to an uncle's house in the country but not before picking up an "evacuee" who has also been sent to safety but without her parents. The self absorbed Cecily sees May as someone she can protect by bossing her around and begs her mother to take May to Uncle Peregrine's house as well. Once there the girls find themselves wrapped up in a peculiar mystery when they discover two odd boys hiding in a nearby castle.

The Children of the King is a satisfying deeply layered historical fiction novel. On the surface the novel is about World War II and the bombings on London. Within the novel, Uncle Peregrine tells the children a story about two young princes and the horrible things that happen to them because of their uncle, the Duke. The princes (not named in the novel) are Edward and Richard, sons of King Edward IV, locked in the Tower of London and assumed murdered, and their uncle is Duke of Gloucester who becomes King Richard III. Peregrine's story is closely related to the girls' adventure and adds a thrilling element to the novel. Students can successfully fulfill historical fiction requirements based on the WWII backdrop. Historical fiction fans' curiousity about the two princes may prompt further research. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Perfect Lies--Kiersten White

Title: Perfect Lies
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2014.
Pages: 233 p.
Source: Library
Compensation: None

I stumbled across Mind Games when I was looking for YA e-books to download from my local library system. It was a nice quick read and I enjoyed it. I had some free time one day and actually got a chance to look at my latest issue of VOYA and saw that a sequel had been released. I kind of hate planned trilogies right now… but this sequel makes sense. The story could have ended with the first one and it would have been okay, but there was definitely more story to tell. I'm glad the author decided to tell it.

Note: if you have not read the first one, this review will contain spoilers. There's just no way around it, so if you're interested but haven't gotten around to Mind Games, save this review for later!

Fia and Annie have been controlled by the Keane Foundation for so long they don't even know how to exist by themselves. At the end of Mind Games Fia pretends to kill Annie so that she could escape. Annie is taken in by another group working to overthrow the Keane Foundation while Fia works with James Keane to destroy it from the inside. The sisters have no contact with each other which makes it difficult to work together. Annie has visions of the future but that doesn't help her figure out who she can trust in the present. Fia knows she can't trust anyone and must work on pure instinct.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first. Annie is not quite so helpless. She tries to actually do something to help the situation instead of just being a victim. Fia is just as crazy as ever, but it's an understandable crazy. White introduces a new character, Mae, who becomes Fia's first real friend. The story is once again told in alternating points of view. In an added twist each chapter is a different point in time-- Fia's chapters are all within a few days of some event "Four days before" while Annie's chapters begin months before until they both converge at the end of the book. Perfect Lies ends with a satisfying conclusion that all fans of Mind Games will want to read.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Eleanor & Park--Rainbow Rowell

Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
Pages: 336 p.
Source: Library
Compensation: None

Set in 1986, way before cell phones and texting and email and instant communication, Eleanor & Park tells a heartbreaking love story. Eleanor is the new kid in school; overweight and poor, she sticks out like a sore thumb. Park is a mixed race Asian kid who just wants to fly under the radar and survive school with as little notice as possible. Their relationship begins when Eleanor needs a seat on the school bus and Park is the only one willing to move over. Unlike the majority of YA books these days, Eleanor and Park are not hit with insta-love. At first they barely tolerate each other, then they slowly bond over comic books, and then one day Park holds Eleanor's hand. They fall in love slowly and realistically. They can only see each other at school so each weekend is agonizingly long. Eleanor is so poor she doesn't even have a phone, so they can only talk once when she is babysitting for her father.

Eleanor & Park won the Printz Award (Honor) for YA literature and completely deserves it. The story takes its time so that we are truly invested in each character. Eleanor is not just poor, her stepfather is abusive and controlling and by the end of the novel we are screaming for her to get away. Park's father is a bit hard on him, but supportive and loving. His parents are everything that YA parents often are not--they are present and aware. There are loads of f-bombs and adult language but it makes sense for the story. Teens and those who really remember what it was like to be a teen in love, especially back in the 80s and 90s before instant communication, will gravitate towards this book. Don't pass it up.

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