Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: House Arrest by K.A. Holt

House ArrestHouse Arrest by K.A. Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*spoilers at end*

Timothy has been put on house arrest for a year and has to keep a journal to prove to a judge that he has learned from his mistake. What was his mistake? Stealing a wallet and using someone’s credit card to pay for his little brother’s monthly medication. Levi isn't even a year old and he has a trach to help him breathe, but it also means constant care. Nurses, medical supplies, dr visits—they all cost a lot. And ever since Timothy’s dad left, it's been up to his mom to do it all, so Timothy wanted to help. Now he's stuck in his house for twelve months and he's angry.

Through his journal, Timothy talks to his probation officer, James, and psychologist, Mrs. B. He relates, through verse, what he and his mom deal with on a daily basis. As a twelve year old, Timothy is often left in charge because his mom has to work and they don't have a nurse that day. So Timothy does things like suction Levi’s tube, change ties, teach his brother sign language, and generally keep him happy and alive.

Timothy works so hard to grow and learn and keep himself in control, and does an amazing job, despite the odds. Despite being a twelve year old boy who feels like it is his responsibility to make sure his brother has the medical care he needs. Despite seeing because his mother give every little part of herself to keep it all together as she breaks apart at the seams. Despite his father leaving their family without a word. Despite being responsible for his brother when there is no nurse that day and his mom HAS to go to work. The world is against this kid—that’s what it feels like.

Then things start to go up. His probation officer and his psychologist are amazing and helpful and caring. His neighbors jump in and help with food and clothing and comfort. They all help carry his family when they need it. So you start to believe that it's all going to be okay and things truly are looking great.

But when Timothy makes a choice between violating his parole and keeping his baby brother alive, he makes the right choice and gets Levi to the hospital—and also lands himself in juvie. No one evaluates the situation and sees that this kid was doing right and he had grown so much in the previous almost year. No one who is capable of making a decision sees this or tries to change it. And although he does save his brother, and his brother goes to get help, all the work Timothy did to make it happen doesn't even seem to count.

I'm angry at this book. I am so incredibly upset. Which is good because books should make you feel. And three days after finishing it, I’m still seething. I liked this book more than I expected and I felt cheated —not so much for myself, but for Timothy. He was cheated. And it's not fair. Which I realize is life. Usually I am okay with endings that aren't happily-ever-after. But this one rubbed me the wrong way. I had thought things would get better, not perfect, but improved. And they did, right before it was completely ripped away from him. And that was it.

I still recommend this book. I will share it with my book club this year because I think we’ll have a lot to discuss. It's completely appropriate in all ways, but still deals with heavy themes: divorce, very sick relatives, asking for help, growth, ideas of what is morally right vs what is technically right in the eyes of the law, family. There is a lot to discuss.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: Awkward

Awkward (Awkward, #1)Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Awkward has been a favorite in my classroom all year and I'm just getting to it in preparation for book club next year. I'm so glad I read it. It has a cast of diverse characters as two clubs, Art Club and Science Club, battle it out for a spot at the school's club fair. Penelope (Peppi) is in Art Club and on her first day at school, she did the most terrible thing to this kid who tried to help her and she's trying to say she's sorry--still trying. As she finally begins to be friends with the boy, Jaime, she realizes he's in Science Club. How can they be friends if their friends hate one another?

Peppi isn't a flawless character, which I appreciate. She makes a lot of mistakes and her friends make a lot of mistakes. Luckily, they learn a lot from their mistakes and also how to save their club.

The teachers are also lovely. I loved the Science teacher. She's very strict, orderly, and possibly a ninja in a previous career? There are many rumors surrounding her and how terrifying she is--even though she isn't and helps out our main character multiple times.

A second book recently came out about another student in Art Club and it looks fabulous. I'd love to hear about all these characters eventually and hope this becomes a longer series.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't express how much I love Perry T. Cook! In All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Perry is an eleven year old boy who has spent his entire life living in a prison. He was born there, and through the help of a progressive warden, has been allowed to stay with his mother who was incarcerated shortly before his birth. Perry goes to a regular school, has rules, completes chores, and has a family within the prison walls. When the DA discovers the set up at Blue River Prison, he doesn't like it and takes Perry out of there immediately--to live with him and his family. Although the DA, Tom, has promised to help Perry in any way he can, it doesn't take Perry long to figure out that if he wants to be back with his mom, he'll have to rely on himself.

The characters in this book are amazingly well written. Not only is Perry a thoughtful, inquisitive kid, but he's learning how to stand up for himself. He has many people who are on his side and willing to help. But he needs to learn how to speak out now, speak up for what is right.

We also get hear from his mother's perspective throughout. Her chapters are short and spread out. They allow us to see Blue River Prison from the inside, even when Perry isn't there anymore. We see the loving mother of a boy. A mother who does everything she possibly can to protect and fight for her boy.

One character who really intrigued me was the DA, Tom. Although he is painted as the villain, he's not truly one. He's a man who really believes that he is doing the right thing and trying to correct a wrong. Only he is very misguided in his attempts.

I strongly urge you to read this book. It has made its way onto my Book Club list for next year and will also be book talked!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Musings: Prequels, Novellas and Side Stories

You know that feeling when you've finished a series and you want another book.  You NEED another book.  You must have more information about these people and you have to remind yourself that they don't really exist. It takes time, but you move on and come to terms with how things ended (or you've invented something to help you get through the ending so that you know in your heart where it led your characters in the end).

There you are, sitting at home, minding your own business and WHAM!  You find out that the author has written another book.  A prequel, or a series of novellas about some of the side characters.  Or a whole other line of stories about a side character or characters that never even existed in the first series but are now connected.

Now you must decide if you allow yourself to trek down that slippery slope.  Can you take your emotions that are wrapped around the original series and unwind them gently and allow new information into your understanding of that world?  Do you really need to know about that minor character who you kind of like, but enjoy not knowing everything about them?  Maybe.

I don't read most books that are added onto a series.  I've learned that I'm usually disappointed.  Not necessarily because they're bad, but because I've moved on.  I've come to terms with the way the series ended and I don't feel the need to bring all that out again.  I don't want it ruined.

How do you feel about stories published about the side characters or prequels?  Do you clamber over other readers to get your hands on them, or do you keep a respectful distance?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is told from multiple perspectives throughout the book. The omniscient quality of the narrator allows us to know the "secrets" right away--there isn't a whole lot to unravel. However there is still a question of how things will unfold and if the characters themselves will understand the truth and what that will mean for them--and if they'll figure it out in time.

Luna is our main character, sacrificed as the youngest baby in the Protectorate, and now being raised by Xan (a witch), Glerk (a swamp monster), and Fyrian (a tiny dragon, who is more of a sibling than a guardian). Every year Xan rescues a baby left in the bog and flies him or her to a town and a loving family. Only when she rescues Luna, she falls in love with her and accidently feeds her too much moon, enmagicking her. But Luna's magic is so intense that it becomes dangerous and Xan must encase the magic deep within her. And now, as she nears thirteen, Luna's magic is slowly returning.

During this time we also see both heroes and villains from the Protectorate as they try to make sense of all the terrible suffering that happens in their village. Over the course of thirteen years we witness the lives of the people of the Protectorate through Antain's eyes. Antain begins as an elder in training, but we can see right away that this won't go very well for him because he questions the decisions and traditions of the elders that lead to the misery surrounding his town.

One of the issues I had with The Girl Who Drank the Moon was the constant change of perspective. The omniscience meant that we knew a lot, but we knew a lot because we saw the same moments in time from different perspectives--and sometimes not just two. It made the story seem to stretch out instead of move forward. It also made it more difficult for me to really relate to Luna. We don't even really get anything from her perspective until we're a good ways into the book because it takes awhile for her to grow up.

And that's when the story really started. I felt like a lot of it was background building and it was long and arduous building. It could have been shorter.

I would only recommend this to middle grade readers who are already comfortable with fantasy books. I feel like even good readers who don't have much basis in fantasy might be thrown off by it. Overall, it was an okay book and once the story gets going, it's compelling--it just might take a while for that to kick in.

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