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Monday, April 30, 2012

Things I've Read Recently (2)

Since it was so popular last time, here are some more things I've read recently.

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

Published: May 11th, 2010 (Paperback release May 24th, 2011)
Genre: YA contemporary fiction... I think. More on that later.
Binding: Paperback
Page count: 276 in my copy
Part of a series? Nope, standalone
Amazon link. (Also the kindle edition is like 6 bucks. I'm just saying, that's a good price.)

Summary (from the back of the book because goodreads didn't do it for me): Genevieve Welsh was looking foward to a normal, relaxing summar. But her mom had another idea: Camp Frontier, a theme vacation that promises the "thrill" of living like 1890s pioneers. Gen will be thrilled if she gets out alive. She reluctantly trades in her jean shorts for petticoats and kisses Diet Coke and Cheetos good-bye, but she does manage to sneak in her cell phone. Keeping her friends (and herself) entertained, Gen sends texts with daily updates from "Little Hell on the Prairie."

But as it turns out, Camp Frontier isn't all bad. There's a cute guy named Caleb on the farm next door, and Gen's surprisingly good at churning butter. By the time her friends turn her stories into the hottest blog on the Internet, Gen's got more important things to worry about - like helping her family strategize for the frontier competition and keeping the other "pioneer" girls far away from Caleb.

Thoughts: I read this over Christmas and I can't find the notebook I used to take notes in for it, but I know I liked it a lot. It was sweet, funny, light. Very enjoyable. It's exactly what it's meant to be and that's refreshing sometimes. Also the H-word in the summary does not reflect the rest of the book. As far as I can remember, there is like no cursing. Gen is 13, I think going on 14, and both the vocabulary (swearing/language-wise) and subject matter of the book reflect that. Totally appropriate for younger readers who maybe are past some MG books but not quite ready for older YA books, but very entertaining for anything who just likes a lighter book, too. Thumbs up.

The Phantom Isles by Stephen Alter

Published: January 23rd, 2007 by Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 210 pages in my copy.
Part of a series? Nope.
Amazon link.

Summary (from goodreads): The book is called The Compleat Necromancer, and when Ming, Orion, and Courtney read an incantation from its pages, they have no way of knowing they are about to conjure up the ghosts of an entire nation. Because the ghosts that the three friends summon aren't just any ghosts. They were captured from an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean--the Ilhas dos Fantasmas--a place where the living and the dead once coexisted peacefully. Now confined to the pages of a few dozen library books in a New England town that's thousands of miles from their home, the ghosts must rely on the children and a determined librarian to free them before they are lost forever.

Thoughts: This one didn't amaze me. The writing was very backstory heavy and a bit odd. Lots of POV changes. I really liked the idea of it, but it didn't wow me and I wonder how much kids would really like it as the voice was sometimes hard to get into. I'd put it at about three roses, if I was rating it.

The One Where the Kid Nearly Jumps to His Dead and Lands in California by Mary Hershey

Published: March 1st by Razorbill
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 275 in my copy
Part of a series? Nope.
Amazon link.

Summary (from the dust jacket because the goodreads one is short): Alastair Hudson, aka "Stump," is a thirteen-year-old with an attitude, walking through life with a chip on his shoulder and a prosthetic leg.

The absolute last way Alastair wants to spend his summer is in California visiting his dad, who split town after the accident that caused Alastair's amputation back when he was eight. What's worse, his dad's remarried to a woman called Skylight, er, Skylar.

But life in California gets a little brighter when Alastair meets fifteen-year-old soap star Jesse. He's ready to do anything to impress her - even pretend he's a top-notch swimmer to compete alongside her in a major race. Now all he has to do is learn to swim in the ocean, win a battle of wills with his cantankerous coach, and confront his father over the events that led to his life-altering accident.

Thoughts: I grabbed this on a whim and really liked it. The beginning was a bit slow but only for like three pages. I thought it was awsome to have a kid with a prosthetic as a main character because, hello, we need more books like that, right? Also Alastair was freaking hilarious, especially when he was trying to be a snot to his father and stepmother because he wasn't really good at it. His humour can be very dark sometimes, but he's still absolutely hilarious. Here's an example of something that cracked me up (from like page 2):
As far as prosthetics go, it was the cheapest model on the planet. I picked it out myself. Mom and pretty much everyone else wanted me to buy a better one, but I wouldn't let them. What's the point? You can dress it up all you want, but a stump is a stump is a stump. I hated even putting it on, but Mom insisted. And she didn't think it was funny at all when I took off my leg at school, put it in my locker, and then tied a rag around my stump with fake blood on it.

I could imagine that some people might think he was unreasonable in how long he took to give his father a break but let's just say I understand him and I'd probably act similarly in his situation. So that didn't bother me. Moving on now...

One weird thing, though, is that my library has this as Junior (aka Middle Grade or down) and... it's not MG. It's YA. There's some language and mature content and what-not, and to me at least, the voice doesn't sound middle grade. Anyways, not a big deal. I liked this, would recommend it. Solid four rating.

(But is learning to swim well to impress a girl a Thing for boys??? See: Swim the Fly.)

Peace and cookies,

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