Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus

I really liked the way math and Gregory's father played an integral part of the plot of The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. Gregory K is the middle child in a family of math geniuses, but somehow the math gene seemed to escape him.  Coming from a fantasy and adventure reading background parents are usually absent or missing in the books that I read.  Yet, in The 14 Fibs of Gregory K, Gregory's father provides that adult role model that Gregory wants to be like. Competing in the Citywide math contest is a family tradition after all.  Gregory just doesn't have the same passion or mathematical skills as his dad and doesn't really know how to tell him. Gregory soon tells one fib after another to try and make up for his math deficiencies.  He tells his father and teacher that he's entered in the math contest, and his best friend Kelly that he is going with her to Author Camp over the summer.  To make matters worse, Gregory is failing math and unless he can get a passing grade, none of his plans can come true.  But,  Gregory's abilities are in writing poetry.  In the end, Gregory is going to have to rely on himself to solve the problems that he created and he learns a nice lesson about being honest with ourselves as well as with others. One of my favorite parts of the story is how Gregory's math teacher realizes that in order to help him "get math," he assigns Gregory to keep a math journal where he is to write about how math impacts him daily.  It kinda reminds me of Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading and My Life as a Book but this time about math.    Overall, I really enjoyed the story and learned a lot about the Fibonacci Sequence and even about Parson Mason Weems, who came up with the famous tale about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.    My favorite poem was this one:
                                    The Truth,
                                  Follows rules.
                             I can't make things up,
                        Since numbers do not tell stories.

Many thanks to the publisher and Goodreads for my hardcover of the book for review. 

**As a side note after reading the book I received this link from a friend with some wonderful more information on the Fibonacci Sequence  http://fractalenlightenment.com/15458/fractals/understanding-the-fibonacci-sequence-and-golden-ratio

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NERDS by Michael Buckley


I've been a follower of Micahel Buckley's blog I Don't Have Time for This Blog What I'm Doing When I Should be Writing at http://michaelbuckleywrites.com/ for sometime and have even read a few of the books in his The Fairy-Tale Detectives series.  I like his writing style and wanted to learn more about this particular series. 

 Jackson is the main character, he is one of the "cool kids."  A star of the football team, revered by all of his friends and well a bully to everyone else.  That is until Jackson ends up getting braces and becomes ostracized from his old gang.  Jackson isn't used to being a social outcast or misfit, even the "nerd herd" is starting to look interesting to him.  So, Jackson sets out to find out why things have changed so dramatically. He takes to following around his previous friends and finds that they aren't as cool as he thought they were, and that everyone has some quirk that makes them different.  Jackson also snoops on the nerds of the school realizing that he misses having a tight-knit group of friends and wants to see if he can find a way in.  It's on one of these reconnaissance missions that Jackson unknowingly falls into the middle of the NERDS headquarters and discovers that the team is actually a secret organization that uses their weaknesses as strengths to "monitor the globe for danger and fight for the security of the world."  Jackson becomes their newest recruit but things wont be easy, he's made a lot of enemies in this group of kids and finding a way to mend things proves tougher then he thought.  Plus there is an evil doctor set on changing the map of the world by moving pieces around like a jigsaw puzzle.  

 My Thoughts: I found NERDS to be highly entertaining.  Maybe because I just get boyish humor having seen my fair share of Nickelodeon shows.  I liked the various code names and skills that each child receives after their nerdy qualities were "upsized."  There was "Gluestick" (very sticky skin from eating to much glue), "Wheezer" (who uses an inhaler to fly), "Flinch" (with super strength and speed) and "Pufferfish" (a human lie detector that can determine danger and deceit).  I like how Buckley didn't make things easy for Jackson to be excepted into the group.  He really had to work at righting his wrongs.  I also found the "baddies" of the story entertaining, Dr. Jigsaw and Hyena (the professional freelance assassin wannabe who is a kid herself).  Having the chapters alternate between what was happening among the NERDS and the Lair of Dr. Jigsaw, until the two sides collided, kept the action going at a nice pace.  Overall, would make a great read for an eight to twelve year old who likes spy stories with plenty of action. 

My review copy was from the library.  


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu


Eleven year old Oscar lives in the basement of a shop in The Barrow with Master Caleb the magician and his apprentice Wolf.   Oscar is the hand who performs all of the menial tasks at the shop like grinding leaves, pouring vials and keeping things clean and stocked.  Oscar likes the solitude of the cellar with his cats  because he can escape from the bullying of Wolf and it feels safe and secure.  Yet, when  unforeseen circumstances call Master Caleb away to the continent  and Wolf disappears, Oscar is thrown into the position of taking charge of the shop.   However, Oscar was never taught the skills for dealing with customers by Master Caleb and now he is left trying to keep things running.  Oscar soon finds aid from Callie, the apprentice of the town healer.  They forage a deal, Callie will help Oscar learn how to relate to people and he will help her find a way to cure the children of the city who have become sick.

I picked this book to read initially based on the cover, which is beautifully illustrated.  I also liked the intrigue of the title, The Real Boy.  There are hints of Pinocchio,  magic and well I do love a good fantasy read.  It's also apparently been nominated for  the 2013 National Book Award Long list for Young People's Literature.  

I really loved reading about Oscar and Callie.  Yet, this is one of those books that is hard to review.  It's hard to find the right balance of not saying to much and reveal the plot while trying to say enough to give the full flavor of the book.   I found Ursu did a remarkable job of blending fantasy with realistic character elements making Oscar such a lovable person to read about.  I think I will add some spoilers to my Goodreads review so you can check that out here.   I was also really intrigued about the Inspiration for Oscar and you can read that here and here is also a wonderful Review from Thebooksmugglers.com.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Starbounders by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

16248124Zachary Night is one of the new Starbounder recruits at Indigo 8 (a super top secret earthbound base for the Inter Planetary Defense League, or IPDL.)  Zachary hopes he will be able to follow in his families footsteps by training to protect the galaxy against "outerverse threats."   Yet, things go wrong during a mission and Zachary, Kaylee and Ryic end up kidnapped by thugs armed with voltage slingshots and sonic crossbows. To make matters worse they also stumble onto a plot to destroy Indigo 8 itself. Zachary and his friends will need to figure out who is behind the attack and stop it in time.  

Starbounders appears to be the first in a new series of books for authors Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson of The Familiars series.  I certainly saw some elements that will appeal to boys, intergalactic gadgets, battle scenes and alien life forms.  Just look at that cover and you can see a warp glove on Zachary's hand.  There is also plenty of adventure and action to go around. I would probably recommend this for an eight to twelve year old who enjoys reading science fiction.  I certainly had fun delving back into science fiction, it had been awhile. 

My review copy was from the Public Library.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

17349203Mom is off on a business trip, leaving father in charge.  Unfortunately, they have also run out of milk for the cereal and dads tea.  Father states he will go down to the corner market and get the milk, but the children are left waiting and waiting.  When father returns, he tells them the tale of how he encountered aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, time travel, volcanoes and a hot air balloon, all while saving the milk.   The illustrations are adorably done and really make the story.  Especially the ones of the children's expression as father tells his tale, beautifully detailed.  I think this would make for a fun read aloud, children could even be encouraged to add their own adventures to the tale, which I think the story lends itself for very well.  It's silly and improbable and funny, defiantly would make for a great gift too.  There is also another version in the UK with illustrations by Chris Riddell that would have been fun to see.  Review copy was from the public library. 

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud


Apparitions in the forms of ghosts or "visitors" have been appearing all over London.  Most often these visitors appear to linger around a "source," or their place of death.  To manage these apparitions, agencies that specialize in paranormal activity have been cropping up around the city.   Lockwood & Company is one such agency, run by Anthony Lockwood and George.  The agency is run without adult supervision, because children are more attuned to ghosts and have special psychic talents, plus adults just get in the way.  However, realizing that they need an additional field operative, Lockwood and George decide to hire Lucy.   One of their first cases is to locate the Source of a visitor within Mrs. Hope's house.  Yet, in so doing they unavoidably burn down her house and must then figure out a way to pay for the damages. Things appear to be looking up when Lucy locates a locket and the trio stumble onto a murder case.  Relief finally comes when Mr. Fairfax offers to pay for the previous damages they caused and adds a hefty sum of money if they will come to find and seal a Source within The Combe Carey Hall, a place that houses the Red Room and Screaming Staircase.   

My first introduction to Jonathan Stroud's work was The Amulet of Samarkind, which was the first book in the four part series. The stories took place in London and centered around the relationship between Bartimaeus the djinni and his young master Nathaniel.  There were wizards and magicians with a ultimate battle between good and evil. In this case though, the wizards weren't all good.  I must admit that I haven't read to many ghost stories, but I really wanted to see Stroud's take on a ghost story and I've heard that this was going to be really good.  I must say I'm glad that I waited until Halloween to start this because I really loved the book.  It was a perfect pick for a Halloween read.  The world building and characters were so easy to get into.  I liked how the story was mostly told from Lucy's point of view.  Her insecurities and questionable fields skills kept the tension of the book ratcheted up and had me vested in the outcome.  Lovely lovely creepy book that I really enjoyed reading and am looking forward to the next in the series.  I am curious whether Stroud will switch points of view in the next books to give some more background on George and Lockwood, because I think this work very well for Lucy's story in this book. Adding this one to the favorites list and will defiantly be looking for the next in the series.   
Two great reviews are Tanya @books4yourkids.com and Ms Yingling

My review copy was purchased.