Monday, May 2, 2016


Billinglsey, Franny.  Chime.  NY: Penguin Speak, c2011 361 pages
National Book Award Finalist

Moving, creepy, and intense are words used to describe this book.  I found it to be a layered book, each layer being removed, though not necessarily in order. Briony Larkin uses the same technique as “The House That Jack Built”, as she finds meaning by writing things down, each sentence repeating the ones before and adding something new until she reaches a conclusion.
Her conclusion has long been that she is a witch, she has done evil things (bringing the wave upon her stepmother, causing Rose to fall out of the swing and become damaged).  Whenever something nice appears to be happening, Briony reminds herself that she is not normal and she has done evil things. 

The book takes place in England, near a place called Swampsea, on the coast, somewhere around the turn of the century.  Parts of it are earthy, mystical, and hard to determine if they are real or metaphors for real events.  For example Boggy Mun, the watery Old One who can rise out of the sea in a wave that can destroy and harm.

Along with the unveiling of Briony’s secrets and the evil she thinks she has done, the story makes us think about guilt, forgiveness, jealousy, self-doubt, mercy and love.  While it took a while for me to get into the story, I really liked it later on and liked the ending, which while maybe to pat for some, suited me fine.  “How can something as fragile as a word, build a whole world?”

Recommended for junior high and above.  Review by Mrs. Belknap

Throne of Glass

Maas, Sarah J.  Throne of Glass.  USA: Bloomsbury, c2012.  416 pages.

Celaena Sardothian has been barely surviving as a prisoner at the salt mines at Endovier. When Prince Dorian offers her a chance to win her way out, she has no other choice except to die in the mines.  Celaena was taken in as a youth and trained to be an assassin when her parents were killed in the ongoing clash with the ambitious King.  What Prince Dorian offers her is a chance to compete in tests to determine who will be the King’s champion.  At first all she can think about is a way to escape but since she is guarded at all times, she begins to think of other things, including the mysterious death of some of the other contestants.  

This is the first book in a series.  Other books are Crown of Midnight (#2), Heir of Fire (#3) Queen of Shadows (#4) and Empire of Storms (#5)

Recommended for junior high and above.  Review by Mrs. Belknap

Not If I See You First

Lindstrom, EricNot if I See You First.  NY: Little Brown, c2015. 

Parker Grant is blind.  How she came to be that way is part of the bad stuff in her life.  Another bad thing is that her dad recently died, leaving Parker at the mercy of her Aunt Celia.  Parker is an amazing girl, and she is definitely feisty and self-reliant, maybe a little too much.  When the horrible thing her former boyfriend did comes back into the light, Parker has some hard choices to make.  And she needs friends to help her make them.  Can such an independent person let others help her?  I think you’ll find Parker refreshing.  Even while you’re grieving over the things that have happened to her, you will be cheering for her “don’t pity me” attitude.  If you like running, you have something in common with Parker.

Recommended for junior high and above.  Review by Mrs. Belknap

Far Far Away

McNeal, Tom.  Far Far Away.  NY: Random House/Ember, c2013.  369 pages.  A National Book Award Finalist.  

Booklist gave this book a starred review and described it as "A masterful story of outcasts, the power of faith, and the triumph of good over evil."

Jeremy Johnson Johnson is a quiet, practical boy, worried about his father who is dysfunctional due to the disappearance of Jeremy's mother.  About to lose their home and business for lack of payments on the loan, Jeremy is trying as hard as he can to earn money.

When a copper-haired girl (Ginger) takes a bite of a Prince Cake (rumored to cause the biter to fall in love with the first person they meet) and sees Jeremy, a chain of events begins, and the events are not all good.  Jeremy has long been able to hear the voice of Jacob Grimm (yes the fairy tale guy) who is trying to complete a mysterious task in order to "pass over."  Jeremy (and Jacob by default) get involved in the disappearance of kids from the town of Never Better where Jeremy lives. The solution to that mystery is completed only after Jeremy and Ginger face grave danger.

Part mystery, part romance, part fairy tale, this is a shivery good read.

Recommended for junior high and above.  Review by Mrs. Belknap

Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking

Dionne, Erin.  Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking.  NY: Puffin Books, c2013.  248 pages.  Iowa Teen Award reading list for 2016-2017.

Can doing things wrong turn out right?  Moxie (aka Margaret Mildred Fleece) has always been pretty good about following rules but a mysterious red-headed stranger changes all that.  The stranger seems to think that Moxie can get her information about some missing items that may be related to an unsolved art theft at a Boston museum.  Moxie is worried that her grandfather's gangster connections are catching up with him and he is in an Alzheimer's care center with only a few rare days when his memory still functions.  The stranger has threatened to hurt Moxie, her family and even her friends if she doesn't get "the goods."

Moxie finally got an important summer privilege (a pass for the T) from her over-protective Mom but she has to break the attached rules almost right away in order to track down clues to the whereabouts of the stolen objects.  She and her friend, Ollie, travel all over Boston in search of the locations her grandfather worked at, hoping the objects will be there.

Her friend Ollie is obsessed with Geo-caching and that plays a role in solving the mystery.

A good mystery, filled with humor and close calls.  Recommended for junior high and above.  Review by Mrs. Belknap

Guitar Notes

Amato, Mary.  Guitar Notes.  Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda LAB, c2012. 273 pages plus song lyrics and chording notes and link to web recordings.
Iowa Teen Award reading list for 2016-2017.

Have you ever felt pressured by parents and friends to the point of panic attacks?  Do you love music?  Have you ever felt your parents did not understand you?  This might be the book for you.  Lyla Marks is a cellist of the highest quality but is beginning to have panic attacks at the thought of performing and trying out for the many things her father has lined up for her. Her playing is technically perfect, but Tripp Broody thinks that it doesn't reflect her heart.  Tripp, on the other hand, doesn't care about too much of anything since his father died suddenly, except "thrumming' on his guitar. When his mom takes the guitar away in an attempt to get Tripp to study harder and make friends,  he signs up for a band practice room every other day.  Lyla has the same room on the alternate days.   What started as a snippy note about leaving trash behind in the practice room expands into an unusual friendship with some very unexpected consequences.

The book not only contains the lyrics and guitar chord notations, but a QR code will lead you to the website where you can listen to the songs.

Recommended for junior high and above.  Review by Mrs. Belknap