Thursday, April 23, 2009

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

This is the latest book from Carl Hiaasen, author of Hoot and Flush. It's another environmental, fun mystery with great characters who have to go through some difficult times to save a species of endangered wildlife, in this case, the Florida Panther. There are some bad guys (oil company executives), some good guys (the main character Nick, his best friend Marta), and some people who seem like bad guys that aren't (Mrs. Starch, the dreaded biology teacher; Smoke, the juvenile delinquent). If you liked Hiaasen's other books, you're sure to enjoy this one, too. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fiendish Deeds by P.J. Bracegirdle

This first book in The Joy of Spooking series introduces the very original and very strange character of Joy Wells. Wise beyond her twelve years, Joy enjoys dressing in the vintage clothes of dead people, sneaking into graveyards and other haunted places in the middle of the night, and reading scary stories, especially those written by the mysteriously vanished author E.A. Peugeot. Joy lives in a dying town called Spooking, but since there is no school she and her brother are forced to go to school in the neighboring city of Darlington, where they are taunted daily and called “Spookies.” Joy is angered when she learns that Darlington plans to build a water park over a bog in Spooking. She became interested in the bog after reading one of E.A. Peugeot’s stories, “The Bawl of the Bog Fiend.” She wonders, was Peugeot onto something? Is there really a bog fiend, and did it have something to do with Peugeot’s disappearance? I like the character of Joy – she’s funny, smart, and doesn’t care what people think of her. The writing style is humorous in a dry-wit kind of way, and the villain of the story is realistically creepy. However, I don’t know how it will do as a series. I enjoyed reading it, but the ending didn’t leave me dying to know what happens next. If you’re in the mood for an environmental mystery with quirky characters, then check out this book. Review by Katie Corrigan

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was set in the 1950's, a time during which there was rampant racial discrimination, and which has been written about extensively, so I was surprised when I realized that the setting for the book is much earlier -- 1917. The author drew on her grandfather's experiences growing up in Moundville, Alabama, gleaned from pages typed by her grandmother and given to each of their grandchildren. In the book, 12-year-old Dit has been waiting for the new postmaster to arrive because he heard that the family has a son his age. Instead, when the train arrives, the first person off is a young African American girl, followed closely by her mother, then her father, who "was just as black as the rest of them." The town is aghast, and so is Dit, but not for the same reason. His dreams of having a new best friend to go fishing with, play baseball with, and go hunting with are ruined. This is the story of an unlikely friendship between a white boy and a black girl, both about two steps away from adolescence, during a time in history when relations between the races were anything but casual. Dit has a true, original voice, which you see from the very beginning of the book. "I've been wrong before. Oh, heck, if I'm being real honest, I've been wrong a lot. But I ain't never been so wrong as I was about Emma Walker. When she first came to town, I thought she was the worst piece of bad luck I'd had since falling in the outhouse on my birthday." Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Itch by Michelle D. Kwasney

This is one of those heartfelt, personal stories that leave you feeling sad when you've finished the book -- not because the ending is sad (it isn't) but because you won't get to read about the characters anymore. The main character, Delores (called Itch after a bad case of poison ivy), has lived with her grandparents since her mother ran off. When Gramps dies suddenly of a heart attack, Gram decides that she can't stand to live in Florida anymore, where everything reminds her of him, and she takes Itch with her to live in a trailer park in Ohio, to be close to their cousin Effie. Itch really misses Gramps, who gave her lots of advice, such as, "Life is like a recipe. If you got two basic ingredeients --one, somebody to care about, who cares about you in return, and, two, a place to call home, no matter how humble --you'll be good to go." Itch finds plenty of reason to think back on things her Gramps told her, when she sees signs that her new friend, Wendy, is being beaten by her mother. Of course, Itch has to decide which is most important: to try to help Wendy somehow, or to keep her secret. Itch is also crazy about words, and at the end of the book is a list of her favorite ones, which includes enigma, persnickety, and talisman. Review by Stacy Church

Sunday, April 05, 2009

One Small Step by P.B. Kerr

It's 1969 and 13-year-old Scott is living a normal life, except for the fact that his dad is a flight instructor for the Air Force, and has started letting Scott take control when they're up in the air - completely against Air Force regulations. When there's an accident and Scott's dad is knocked unconscious, Scott does such an amazing job flying and landing the plane that NASA comes to his house and tries to recruit him for the next test flight to the moon. It sound far-fetched when you outline the plot, but it's so well written that it seems believable while you're reading it. One of the many problems is that Scott's mother is completely opposed to his flying at all, and they have to concoct a cover story for her and for his school. There's lots of technical information about flying and space flight to satisfy those of you who are interested in that kind of thing, but not too much for those of us who aren't so interested. There are some pretty funny parts, like when they ask their astronaut instructor how they deal with "waste management" in space. This is definitely a good read. Review by Stacy Church