Good Books and the Random Movie

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31 January 2008

How I Live Now

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff is about an invasion of England.

Daisy moves from NYC to the English country to live with her cousins. Her father has gotten remarried and she does not get along with her stepmother.

After she gets to England, terrorist attacks start to happen all over the world. Soon England has now power. And when the electricity fails, most of the system fails.

I read this book because I enjoyed John Marsden's Tomorrow Series so much. But How I Live Now did not measure up well. It is told completely from the inside of Daisy's head. No actual dialog. No real depth.

All though this book won the Printz Award for Excellence, if you want a book about a fictional war, read the John Marsden series.

Rosoff, Meg. (2004). How I Live Now. New York: Random House.

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30 January 2008

Shock Point

Shock Point by April Henry is a mystery about a girl who knows too much.

Cassie Streng has just moved to Portland, Oregon with her mother and her new stepfather, Rick. Rick is a psychiatrist involved in a drug trial for a new teen drug to modify behavior.

But Cassie soon finds out that three of her classmates, all of whom committed suicide, were his patients. They were all on the experimental drug. And her family moved right after the last death.

She has to do something to stop more kids from dying. But before she can say anything about it, a white van shows up and kidnaps her. Her stepfather has convinced her mother to send her to a school for troubled kids. He claims he found drugs in her room.

Only the school is not a school - it is a prison. It is in Mexico where the laws are more fluid. She has to find a way to escape, find her way back to Oregon, and stop the drug trials.

Henry, April. (2006). Shock Point. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.

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28 January 2008

The Misadventures of Maude March (Maude March #1)

In The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis, Sallie and her sister Maude are orphaned for a second time.

They had been living with their Aunt Ruthie since their parents died of the fever. Now Aunt Ruthie has been killed and they have no other family that they know of.

At first they are taken in by the minister and his family. But soon they begin to feel like hired hands - without the pay. And when Maude is almost forced to married an old man, they decide it is time to make their way west. They may have an uncle in Independence, Missouri - three weeks ride west.

Disguised as boys they head out on the minister's mule and cart-horse. Sallie thinks she knows how to be a range rider from the dime-novels she has been reading. Maude thinks they will be okay as long as they get there before the snow.

Along the way they meet up with Joe Hardin, the notorious star in Sallie's books. Between his reputation and Maude's - who is now wanted as a horse-thief - the adventure begins. It become difficult to tell which version of the story is more exciting - the one that happens or what the newspapers report on Mad Maude March.

Couloumbis, Audrey. (2005). The Misadventures of Maude March. New York: Yearling.



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27 January 2008

Snakehead (Alex Rider #7)

Snakehead is Anthony Horowitz's latest Alex Rider book.

Alex is just back from his previous mission and has once again vowed never to take on another. He finds himself in Australia and the intelligence agency there, ASIS, convinces him to take on another. They do this by assigning Alex's godfather to the mission. A godfather he did not know existed, but who knew his parents.

All Alex has to do is provide cover. They will be travelling as father and son - refugees paying their way illegally into Australia.

It should be an easy assignment. But, of course, it is not that simple. And once again Alex will come in contact with members of the notorious group Scorpia - the same group that killed his parents.

Horowitz, Anthony. (2007). Snakehead. New York: Philomel Books.

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Alex Rider Series

The Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz are the James Bond of YA. Alex has been recruited by MI6, England's version of the CIA. The difference between the sky kids books of the CHERUBS, other than the single agents, are the cool Bond-like gadgets that Alex gets to use.

In Stormbreaker Alex is introduced to the world of British espionage. He is recruited to follow in the footsteps of his father and his uncle. His job is to find the hidden virus in a new computer game - software that would make anyone who played it ill.

In Point Blanc Alex infiltrates a private school in the Alps.

In Skeleton Key Alex battles the Chinese Triads.

In Eagle Strike it is a pop singer gone bad.

In Scorpia he goes up against the group that killed his parents.

And in Ark Angel he has to stop the sabotage of the first outer space hotel.

The latest Alex Rider book is Snakehead where he once again battles Scorpia.

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24 January 2008

The Seer (Truesight Trilogy #2)

The Seer by David Stahler Jr. is the second book in the Truesight Trilogy.

In Truesight, Jacob gains sight around his 13th birthday. The colony sees this as a mutation and tries to fix it. Instead of agreeing to the surgery to remove his sight, Jacob flees. He follows the path of his friend Delaney who left a couple of weeks before him.

Now his is wandering in the plains toward a signal that he thinks will lead him to Delaney. The first person he sees, his first Seer, is a man named Xander. Then he comes across a group of kids near his age.

Someone he comes across is bound to help him find Delaney. But what will Jacob think of the world of Seers? Are they as corrupt as the Truesight leaders led him to believe?

Stahler, David Jr. (2007). The Seer. New York: EOS.

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22 January 2008

Strange Relations

Strange Relations by Sonia Levitin is a Jewish YA novel. It won the Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Teen Reader category.

Marne lives with her parents in Hermosa Beach (Los Angels). Her mother has to spend the summer in Paris for her job and her father works long hours at the hospital. She cannot stay home alone. So she goes to Hawaii to visit her aunt Carole.

But her aunt is not Carole any more. She is Chaya. She is married to Yitz, and they have seven kids. They are Chabad Jews.

Marne doesn't know much about Judaism. Her family is not observant at all. She is approaching the visit as a cultural exchange.

This is a delightful book. Marne learns and grows so much over the summer.

Levitin, Sonia. (2007). Strange Relations. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

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21 January 2008

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Emmuska Orczy is a great book - even 100+ years after it was first published. Originally it was part of a fourteen book series, but now it is treated as a stand alone novel. Obviously Baroness Orczy was prolific, but this is currently her most well know work.

The year is 1792. France is in the grip of the Revolution. The nobility are being beheaded as quickly as they can be caught by the republicans. But the Scarlet Pimpernel (named after the flower) is know to swoop in and rescue members of the nobility and whisk them back to England where they will be safe. The Scarlet Pimpernel's identity is known only to those sworn to help him, but rumors of his bravery and daring abound.

First published in 1905, The Scarlet Pimpernel can only be described as a swashbuckling adventure story written in a wonderfully descriptive style. I highly recommend. I am only sad that no libraries around here have the whole series!

Ozczy, Baroness Emmuska. (2007). The Scarlet Pimpernel. New York: Bantam Classics.

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17 January 2008

Cut

Patricia McCormick's book Cut is an engaging and powerful read. It is in the same vein as Speak, Twisted, or So Much To Tell You.

Callie isn't speaking to anyone. She is fifteen and she has been admitted to Sea Pines, a residential treatment facility. Residents call it Sick Minds.

Group therapy happens twice per day and Callie also sees a therapist daily. And after a while she wants to be able to speak again. Partly because someone else who cuts herself has been admitted. This new resident helps trigger thoughts that lead Callie to understand why she cuts.

McCormick, Patricia. (2000). Cut. Asheville, NC: Front Street.

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16 January 2008

Fever 1793

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson is about yellow fever in Philadelphia.

Matilda Cook lives with her mother and grandfather in a coffee house in Philly. In August of 1793 yellow fever struck, killing nearly 5000 people - 10% of the city's population.

Those who could, fled the city for the open air of the country. Matilda and her grandfather left when her mother got sick. But due to her grandfather's cough, not related to the fever, people were afraid to give them passage out of the city.

Matilda ends up back at the coffee house. She doesn't know where her mother or their cook, Eliza, have gone. The city is running out of food, as farmers are not willing to brave the city to deliver goods.

Fever is an easy to read history of the yellow fever - the worst epidemic to hit the US in history.

Anderson, Laurie Halse. (2000). Fever 1793. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

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13 January 2008

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret is one of the many good books by Judy Blume.

Margaret and her parents are moving from NYC to New Jersey. Not only does Margaret have to start a new school and make new friends, but she in on a mission to find out about religion.

Her mother is Christian and her father Jewish, both of whom are anti-religion. Margaret starts a year long study of the religions around her to see if she can find God in any of them.

Blume, Judy. (1970). Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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12 January 2008

Scot Harvath Series by Brad Thor

The books by Brad Thor featuring Scot Harvath are about impossible to put down.

Harvath is an former Olympic downhill skier, ex-Navy SEAL and an ex-Secret Service agent. The is now in a position that is part of Home Land Security. But he only answers to his direct boss, Gary Lawlor, and the president.

In The Lions of Lucerne Scot is working as a Secret Service agent on the presidential detail. During a plot to kidnap the president, Scot saves not only the president, but his daughter.

In Path of the Assassin Scot battles a terrorist group calling itself the Hand of God.

In State of the Union Manhattan is taken over and Scot must find a way to stop the terrorists before they can detonate suitcase-sized nuclear weapons.

In Blowback an ancient weapon is discovered and Scot must act to stop it before it is used against the US.

In Takedown, the terrorists capture Manhattan. It is up to Scot to save the tiny island and everyone on it.

And in the latest installment, The First Commandment, the president broke the first commandment when negotiating with terrorist - don't. The release of suspected terrorists leads to revenge killings against everyone Scot loves. He must find out not only who is doing it, but why the president has forbidden him from trying to find out.

Thor, Brad. (2007). The First Commandment. New York: Atria Books.

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09 January 2008

Virtual War (Virtual War Chronicles, book 1)

Virtual War by Gloria Skurzynki is about the destructive nature of war, but not in the usual way.

The book takes place in the future, around the end of our century. Most of the Earth is uninhabitable. The 2 million people remaining live in domed cities. Along with a small nuclear war, the world was destroyed by many plague-like diseases.

Now the three federations of cities will go to war over an island chain that is free from contamination. However, the war will be a virtual one. Three kids have been chosen to represent the Western Hemisphere Alliance. All three genetically altered to be up to the task.

Corgan has the best reflexes of any human. Sharla can break codes in her sleep. And Brig is a strategical double genius. Together they will have to defeat the other two alliances to win the islands for their own.

Skurzynski, Gloria. (1997). Virtual War. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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Man vs. Beast (CHERUB #6)

The 6th mission in the CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore is Man vs. Beast.

James, Lauren and Kyle are sent to infiltrate an animal rights group. The group Zebra 84 is a non-violent group working to stop animal testing. But during the last couple of years, a splinter group - Animal Liberation Front - has formed. It is a violent group, using the methods used on the animals on the people running the companies.

At the end of this mission, it will be surprising if the CHERUB agents involved still eat meat!

Muchamore, Robert. (2007). Man vs. Beast. New York: Simon Pulse.

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07 January 2008

Divine Madness (CHERUB #5)

Mission 5 of the CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore is Divine Madness.

James, Lauren, and Dana join a ASIS agent down under to investigate the connection between the terrorist group Help Earth and a religious cult.

The Survivors cult was started in the 1970s by Joel Ragen, a vending machine salesman. Now the cult is thousands strong, in many countries. The main base of the order surrounds Regan's home in the middle of nowhere Australia. The Survivors have constructed an "ark" - a fortress to protect them through the prophesied nuclear war - complete with underground bunkers and enough of an arsenal to fight off any who try to invade.

The CHERUB mission is to infiltrate and find information liking the cult to the eco-terrorists.

Muchamore, Robert. (2006). Divine Madness. New York: Simon Pulse.

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06 January 2008

The Killing (CHERUB #4)

Mission 4 of Robert Muchamore's CHERUB series is The Killing.

James and Dave, the CHERUB James worked with in his last mission, are assigned to infiltrate a crime ring. And ex-CHERUB turned police captain has requested help. She has been tyring to clean up the neighborhood, but there is one man who has been escaping the law for almost 30 years.

James and Dave pose as brothers. Dave, 17, is now old enough to live on his own and James is living with him as long as he stays out of trouble. If he gets into trouble his "social worker" aka mission handler, will send him back to foster care.

Once the boys become friendly with the family in question, they realize that the crime might extend to police corruption.
Muchamore, Robert. (2005). The Killing. New York: Simon Pulse.

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04 January 2008

Maximum Security (CHERUB #3)

The third mission of the CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore is Maximum Security.

James is assigned to infiltrate a maximum security prison in Arizona. The US is allowing MI-5 to attempt to gather information on an FBI-most-wanted arms dealer through her son.

Jane Oxford has been stealing weapons for the last 30 years. Most of the weapons are stolen from the US military. For the first few years, they didn't even miss the arms. Jane began during the Vietnam War when so much was being moved, most missing shipments were written off as paperwork errors. But now she has stolen a shipment of the latest hand-held missiles that was supposed to go to Britain.

Lauren joins her brother on the mission, just hours after passing basic training. She will be driving the get-away car when James, fellow CHERUB Dave, and Curtis Oxford break out of Arizona Max prison.

Muchamore, Robert. (2005). Maximum Security. New York: Simon Pulse.

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02 January 2008

The Dealer (CHERUB #2)

The Dealer is the second book in Robert Muchamore's CHERUB series.

James is on his second mission along with 3 other CHERUBs and two handlers. They are to pose as a family to infiltrate a drug cartel south of London.

Each CHERUB is to befriend a child of the gang leader. He has been running his drug ring for over twenty years and MI-5 is the last hope to find enough evidence to arrest him.

Muchamore, Robert. (2004). Mission 2: The Dealer. New York: Simon Pulse.

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01 January 2008

The Recruit (CHERUB #1)

CHERUB is a group within the MI-5 made up of kids ages 10-18. The idea is that regardless of the level of technology developed to spy with, kids are always overlooked.

Mission 1: The Recruit by Robert Muchamore is an introduction to the group as seen through the eyes of James Onion. James and his sister Lauren live with their mum in London. But soon they find themselves in a home for children. Lauren is sent to her evil father's house and James is left without anyone.

Then one morning James wakes up in a strange room. There are clothes laid out for him so he gets dressed and tries to find out where he is. Everyone there is dressed like him except with different colored shirts. This is James opportunity to join CHERUB, if he passes the tests.

CHERUB was founded after the group of French children used to spy on Germans during WWII. England adopted the idea and began its own version after the war. Now only children without families are chosen, and only those who show potential. CHERUBs are only used in situations that MI-5 deems safe for them to be used.

The Recruit follows James through his introduction to CHERUB, his basic training, and his first mission.

Muchamore, Robert. (2004). Mission 1: The Recruit. New York: Simon Pulse.

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