Book review: Mars One, by Jonathan Maberry

Maberry, Jonathan.  Mars One.  Simon & Schuster, 2017.  ISBN 978-4814-6161-0.  $17.99.  448 pages.  Ages 12 and up.  Q9P8

A not-so-very futuristic novel where a group of candidates are chosen to colonize Mars.  When you pick up the book you think the novel is going to be about colonizing Mars, but it’s about the pressures faced by the people who have been chosen to go.  The training they endure and how much training they have to go through, from psychological to physical.  The book story highlights the “reality” the characters portray to their doting fans, and the moral question of whether we should colonize a planet when we cannot take care of the one we have.  The book also explores the psychological duress created by leaving loved ones behind and the pressure to be the first human to take a step on Mars.  What I like most about this book is also what I liked least: I picked up the book thinking the story would take place on Mars, when we only get to take the first step.

Google Mars One and there seems to be an actual project, or a very believable mock-up of this very idea.  I’m not sure which came first, the actual project, or the book.

Verdict:  Loved the detail behind the training, and what life would be like while traveling to another planet, that combined with the complexity of the social media world we live in and how it literally finances projects like this, makes this an eye-opening story.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

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Book review: Lemons, by Melissa Savage

Savage, Melissa. Lemons. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781524700126. 3 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

Lemons follows a girl named Lemonade from her home in San Francisco to Willow Creek, California. As she settles into her new home with her grandfather, whom she doesn’t know, she finds new adventures. There are fifty-three chapters in the book and each chapter is three to five pages long. With short chapters, children won’t feel overwhelmed by the length of the book. The author uses advanced vocabulary and describes things in detail, which adds depth to the story. The author is a child and family therapist who writes issue-driven books for young people, coupled with cryptozoology and the mystery of Big Foot. Lemons reflects the author’s knowledge of social work and how the system works. This book is realistic for children who have lost their parents and are moved by a social worker to another place to live.

Verdict: I highly recommend this book for children who love adventure and Big Foot. My daughter is a social work major and loves Big Foot. This book combines the two in an intriguing story that will keep the interest of readers.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny, by Rebecca Chace, illustrated by Kacey Schwartz

Chace, Rebecca. June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny. Illustrated by Kacey Schwartz. Balzer + Bray, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780062464989. 352 pages. Ages 8-12. P6 Q5

June’s parents died when she was three, leaving her with a lot of money. When she turns twelve, her fortune is lost. June is forced to leave New York and has to live in South Dakota. Along her journey, she learns to appreciate family. The book is not realistic. A child would not be living on her own, with only a housekeeper at the age of twelve. There are many things in the story that are not realistic. That being said, once I got into the story, it held my attention. I liked how the author emphasized family and friends. This chapter book has a table of contents and 26 short chapters.

Verdict: While the book is not realistic, I think it is easy to read and children will like the adventure that June has. Children who collect pennies will find the facts about pennies interesting. I recommend this book for libraries.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Girl I Used to Be, by April Henry

Henry, April. The Girl I Used to Be. Henry Holt and Company, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9781627793322. 229 pgs. Ages 12+. P8Q7.

Seventeen year old Ariel Benson, now known as Olivia Reinhart grew up knowing that her father stabbed her mother to death, abandoned her (Olivia/Ariel) in a Walmart in Oregon, and then disappeared. After becoming an emancipated teen, forensic evidence is discovered that means that her father was actually killed too, at the same time as her mother. Now she is secretly back in her hometown trying to find out what happened fourteen years before. Olivia experiences flashbacks as her investigation develops, and she learns uncomfortable information about her parents and their friends. I found the book to be fast paced and engaging, and felt that Olivia was an intelligent and feisty main character. The book was fairly short, which will appeal to teen readers who get bogged down in long novels, but I though the story and language could have been fleshed out a bit more- I was left wanting to know more about Olivia’s personality and character.

VERDICT: Fans of mysteries and thrillers will like this book, and those who struggle to finish books might well make it through this one.

September 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Crooked Sixpence, by Jennifer Bell (two reviews)

Bell, Jennifer. The Crooked Sixpence. (The Uncommoners, #1) Crown Books, 2017. ISBN 9780553498431. 309 pgs. $16.99. Ages 8-12. P7Q6

Ivy and Seb Sparrow find themselves caught up in a strange adventure after their grandmother ends up in the hospital, and their parents are away for work. The grandma’s house is broken into and searched, and the two children are threatened by some very strange people. They find themselves in the underground city of Ludinor, associating with unusual people (including some who are dead), using “normal” objects like clocks and feathers in very unusual, magical ways, and running for their lives. The tone is dark and spooky, Ivy is a feisty and intelligent main character, and the storyline is not predictable, though it does wander quite a bit. VERDICT: Young readers who like a touch of horror in their fantasy books might enjoy The Crooked Sixpence.

September 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

 

 

 

Bell, Jennifer.  The Crooked Sixpence. Illustrated by Karl James Mountford. “Advanced Reader’s Copy.” (The Uncommoners series, #1) Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017.  $16.99. ISBN 978-0-553-49844-8.  320 pages.  Ages 8-12.  Q8P8

Another magical world hidden in England!  This world is beneath our “common” feet in the underground city of Lundinor.  Uncommon people roam here and freely use uncommon objects.  The magic of the book does not come from the people themselves, though there are uncommon uncommon people (the heroine, Ivy, is one of them). The magic is in the common objects that become uncommon in this world.  A bicycle bell can communicate and has feelings.  This fast paced book contains an extreme degree of imagination and thrilling action as Ivy tries to solve the mystery around her family’s past and their most magical uncommon object.

Verdict:  The author has a wonderful imagination and a gift to tell stories!   Anyone who enjoys reading fantasy novels, and is is willing to try another magical world, should read this book!

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: The Warden’s Daughter, by Jerry Spinelli (two reviews)

Spinelli, Jerry, The Warden’s Daughter. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780375831997. 343 pgs. Ages 9-12. P8Q8.

I enjoyed this lively book, set in 1959. Cammie is the spunky daughter of a jail warden, and she grows up living in an apartment above the gates of the county jail. Her mother died tragically when Cammie was very young, so most of the adult women she associates with are inmates of the jail. Through the course of the book, we get to know some of them including the shoplifter Boo Boo, a lively woman who dreams of food and romance, and most importantly, Eloda, who was an arsonist and who works as housekeeper for Cammie and her father. Cammie, who is almost thirteen, longs for a mother figure in her life, and she tries to make Eloda fill that role. She is angry and confused, and very real. Despite the unhappy emotions, I enjoyed Cammie’s humor, and the fact that she learns and grows over the summer when the story takes place. Cammie learns that people aren’t always what they seem to be, and understanding the context of a person’s story is important in really knowing them. The book looks at friendship, the father-daughter relationship, and the struggles of growing up.

VERDICT: I think the 19-13 year old crowd will enjoy this book and will identify with Cammie.

September 2017 review by Carol Schramm.

 

Spinelli, Jerry.  The Warden’s Daughter. “Advanced Reader’s Copy.” Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers,  2017.  ISBN 978-0-375-83199-7.  $16.99.  352 pages.  Ages 9-12. Q8P7

Narrated by Cammie, who lives in a prison where her father is the warden, the story delves into her thoughts and insecurities at the time of her most difficult struggle with the loss of her mom and the void left in her life as she tries to mature without the guidance and advice of a mother.  I really liked how the author captured the inner turmoil of an 11 year old girl, who carries the burden of losing her mother in a tragic accident when she was a baby.  While in a seemingly cold and friendless environment, Cammie is able to forge friendships with some unlikely inmates, who are obviously dealing with their own issues.  Since the setting is in 1959, interracial friendships are notable and uncommon, but Cammie finds it easier to make friends with prisoners and black children than with her own classmates.  Unbeknownst to Cammie, her almost non-existent father is aware of all of Cammie’s trials and seems to know when to come to her rescue and when to let Cammie figure things out for herself.

Verdict:  A great book to delve into the inner insecurities of an 11 year old self-made outcast.  The father being uncommonly perceptive is a little off-putting.   Unfortunately, I think the audience is fairly limited, as this really isn’t a fun book to read, yet worth reading.

Book review: Snowize & Snitch, Highly Effective Defective Detectives, by Karen Briner

Briner, Karen. Snowize & Snitch, Highly Effective Defective Detectives. Holiday House, 2016. $16.95. ISBN 9780823435678. 283 pgs. Ages 8-12. P8Q7.

Ever Indigo Nikita Stein is a student at the School for Children of Gifted Parents, where the other students tease her about the gap between her teeth, her name (they call her Einstein), and her poor performance on tests. She has lived with Doc since her parents disappeared nine years before, but now he is missing too! Ever, a strong and intelligent young woman, embarks on a quest to find Doc and figure out what has happened. She joins forces with Harry Snowize, a has-been spy, his partner Snitch, an African giant pouched rat, Melschman, an angry robotic refrigerator to eventually find answers to her many questions, including the whereabouts of her parents. They travel the globe and encounter some wonderfully wicked foes.

VERDICT: I enjoyed this humorous, fast paced book, and would recommend it to middle grade readers who want something entertaining to read.

September 2017 review by Carol Schramm.