Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Scythe

In the future, humanity has cured death.  Nothing is fatal anymore--not aging, disease, or even freak accidents.  But if no one ever dies, and we continue having children, the population grows exponentially.  Thus the order of Scythes is born.  Every country in the world has scythes, and it is their duty to determine who will die and the method of the death.  If you are gleaned by a scythe, you are truly dead.  There will recovery.

Citra and Rowan have been chosen to train as apprentices.  The idea spending an eternity as a killer is distasteful to both of them, but their families will be granted immunity from gleaning during the apprenticeship, and that is a large inducement.

As they set out to learn the killing arts from Scythe Faraday, they learn his method of gleaning using statistics and compassion, but as they enter the world of the Scythedom, they also find a world of politics and machinations.  It's a dangerous world they've entered, and it seems unlikely that they can both survive.

This is another masterfully told story by one of my favorite authors.  In the hands of Neal Shusterman, what could have just been a gory power play becomes a nuanced story about corruption, mortality, and the meaning of life.  I can't wait for the next book!


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Randoms

Zeke has always been a sci-fi fan.  He knows Captain Kirk from Han Solo, and a browncoat from a stormtrooper, so he is more than excited when aliens show up and ask him to be part of the delegation that will spend a year trying to win a place for earth in the Confederation--think the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek.

The only problem is the fact that his father is dead, and his mother has cancer.  He can't leave his mom alone to suffer through her illness and possible die while he is out having adventures in space, but when the aliens promise that all disease will be cured if earth wins a spot in the Confederation, Zeke is in!

It isn't long before he realizes that as a random, he won't win many friends in the earth delegation.  The other kids are super geniuses, and they decide the best way to win is to ignore Zeke. Zeke finds his own friends among the crew of the ship that is ferrying them to the Confederation.  When the ship comes under attack from aggressive aliens, Zeke steps up to save everyone.  This only puts him in a more difficult position with the peace-loving Confederation.  It seems like they would rather die than defend themselves.

His only friends on the space station where he will be living for a year are the randoms from the other alien delegations.  He really likes Steve, a terrifyingly reptilian guy who is actually pretty laid back and Tamret, who looks like a cat-girl from his manga dreams, but he still wishes the eath kids could accept him.

As the competition between the delegations and the randoms heats up, Zeke begins to realize there is more going on than a simple test.  There is a plot much bigger than the earth trying to get into the Confederation.  Zeke may have to save the earth and the lives of all humanity!

David Liss's series opener is a sci-fi lover's dream come true with references across the genre.  It's part Ender's Game and part Ready Player One for the middle school crowd.  Highly recommended!


Framed!: A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery

Florian Bates is once again the new kid in town.  This time the Bates family has moved to Washington D.C.  Florian has been dreading the first day of school.  He's a little too smart, socially awkward, and short.  But maybe things in D.C. will be different.  He neighbor, Margaret, doesn't think he's weird!

In fact, she thinks T.O.A.S.T. is cool and wants to learn about it.  T.O.A.S.T. is the Theory of All Small Things.  It's a system Florian uses to examine the details to figure out the big picture each time he moves.

At first, they are just using T.O.A.S.T. as a game to figure out everything they can about random people and houses, but when millions of dollars of art is stolen from the museum where Florian's parents work, they may be the only ones who can solve the crime.

I really hope the subtitle on this book means there will be more in the series because this was a fun and engaging mystery.  My kids already love James Ponti's Dead City series, and I'm sure my mystery fans will love this one, too.  A great pick for middle grade mystery fans!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Neal Shusterman Is Coming!

I am so excited my students will get the opportunity to meet Neal Shusterman in February!




Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016 in Review

2016 has had it's ups and downs, but it was a great year for reading!  I love the year in review graphic that Goodreads generates at the end of the year.  I just wish they had an embed code for it.  Get on that, Goodreads team!  Anyway, click on this snip to link to the entire graphic if you are interested.

Here is the breakdown for the year:

5 stars: 32!  Wow!  Either I was super liberal in granting stars, or there were just a lot of great books this year.

4 stars:  35!  More great books!  I shall congratulate the authors for writing such great books and myself for selecting them to read. ;) 

3 stars:  41

2 stars:  6

1 star:  1

Abandoned:  1

Adventure:  9

Fantasy:  32

Historical Fiction:  12

Horror:  6

Humor:  4

Mystery:  19

Realistic Fiction:  18

Romance:  16

Sports:  2 (no big surprise there)

Here are my top 10 middle school fiction picks for the year in no particular order.  (These are books that I read in 2016, so some of them were published in 2015.) Click on the image to link to my original review.
 
(grades 8 and up)
(grades 7 and up)
 
(grades 6-8)
(grades 7 and up)
(grades 8 and up)
(grades 7 and up)
(grades 7 and up)
(grades 7 and up)
(grades 6-8)
(grades 6-8)

Now, here are my top nonfiction books for 2016!  




I hope your year of reading was as much fun as mine and that you have a great reading year in 2017, too!







Shadows of Sherwood

Robyn likes to sneak out at night and go on adventures, but one night while she is gone something terrible happens.  She returns to an empty house with only a pool of blood on the kitchen floor as a clue.  She soon discovered that her parents, along with other government officials and their families disappeared on the Night of Shadows when a man named Crown seized control of the government.

Now Robyn only has a message from her father and a couple of objects to guide her as she tries to figure out what to do next.  She and her friends begin stealing food to eat, but Robyn realizes there is a much bigger problem.  Many of the city's poor are starving because Crown has confiscated all the food and vendor licenses and blocked entry to the forest where people might scavenge for food.  They decide to steal the food and medical supplies back for the suffering people.

All along the way, she has clues from her father directing her to the Moon Lore.  She never really paid attention to this at home, but now it seems like it might play a vital role in finding her parents and saving the city from Crown.

This futuristic retelling of the Robin Hood legend from Kekla Magoon is fun and full of adventure, but the Moon Lore subplot didn't really work for me.  It just doesn't fit with the rest of the story.  Nevertheless, this is a fun read that kids will enjoy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Love and Gelato

Lina felt like her world was over when her mother died.  It's always just been the two of them, but when Hadley got sick, she started telling her daughter all about Howard, a sweet and funny guy she knew in Italy.  After the funeral, Lina found out why.  Hadley wants Lina to go live in Italy with Howard, her father.

Lina doesn't want to go, but she doesn't have many options.
Despite herself, she starts to fall in love with Italy, and Howard isn't so bad even if he does live in a cemetery.

A diary from her mother's time in Italy serves as a guide for her adventures and for discovering the truth about her parents' relationship.  Her go-to guy for all these adventures is Ren, a sweet and cute boy who lives close by.

Jenna Evans Welch's book is a fun adventure in Italy full of love and gelato with the weight of Lina's grief to make it feel more substantial.  Sarah Dessen fans will enjoy this one.  Recommended for grades 8 and up.