The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

4.5 stars YA

I don’t read a lot of fantasy but I thought this sounded interesting, “But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race.”

What exactly would this world be like? I have to tell you after the first part of the book sets up the storyline, the rest of the book was action! Hailey’s Comet has been thrown off course leaving everyone in a panic. Evacuating Earth, they select only a few of scientists and their family to start over on new planet over 300 years away. Petra wants to be a story teller like her grandmother as she loves the stories she tells and she wants to pass them on. Yet, Petra learns that as they’re in flight, each of the participates will be listening to information that they will need to survive in their new surroundings. This new information will be vital to their success on the new planet, yet Petra knows that she will lose her grandmother’s stories if she is subjected to this vital information.

Arriving on the new planet, excitement and hope should have filled the air, yet that’s not the case. What this group thought and anticipated was not what waited for them. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as I needed to know what this new planet contained.

Like these participates, I wasn’t expecting what occurred. I felt relieved that they had finally made it yet to arrive and now what will happen? I felt a deep connection with the characters as they tried to figure things out. This was one book that I couldn’t put this book down until I finally finished it. I don’t read a lot of science fiction so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

Shape Up, Construction Trucks by Victoria Allenby

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

I have a grandson who loves construction trucks so this one was perfect for him.  With realistic pictures, this book shows a variety of vehicles in realistic settings.  From a dump truck, to a crane, to a lifting hook, to a road roller, there are just a few of the different vehicles that are included inside this book. 

Each vehicle gets a two-page spread and, on the right side, beside that picture, there are some simple words which rhyme that connect that vehicle to a shape that is found on that vehicle.  They have created a larger diagram of that shape underneath the words and they have also outlined the shape on the vehicle so the reader can make the connection to the written words.  A fun and simple book but the learning is important and if you can get them to see this now, that’s great!  I do wish there could have been a few pages that combined a multitude of shapes on one vehicle so the readers could see that.  I like how you can use this for just looking at the trucks or for higher learning.   4.5 stars

Example:  Dump Truck has a triangle on its truck bed.  “Dump truck, Dump truck, Coming through, I spy a triangle, How about you?”

Red Scare: A Graphic Novel by Liam Francis Walsh

5 stars Graphic Novel

This was an interesting graphic novel and I really enjoyed the ending.  The story revolves around Peggy who has polio and uses metal crutches to walk.  Peggy feels like a victim (why me?) and although her doctor says she’ll get better with exercise, Peggy doesn’t do them.  Peggy has a brother Skip who I feel, puts up with Peggy.  Peggy meets Cynthia one day at the doctors.  Cynthia has this powerful energy and this positive attitude which surprises Peggy.  It also motivates Peggy because Cynitha also has polio but her future is not so positive. 

Peggy helps her mom clean rooms at the local hotel.  Instead of cleaning though, Peggy pulls out a book and lies down on the floor in one of the hotel’s rooms she’s supposed to be helping her mother with and she starts reading.  Suddenly, the door opens and a guest is ushered in and Peggy hides under the bed. She escapes later when the gentleman washes up in the bathroom.  This sounds simple enough except this book takes place in 1953, when there’s talk of Communist Spies and secret missions.  And Peggy, she didn’t sneak out of the room with everything that she came in the room with.  Big problem!  When Peggy finds herself in possession of an amazing device, a device that changes everything in her life, I enjoyed how Peggy herself changed.  She became alive with energy and her whole attitude was transformed.  She has some individuals who have taken an interest in her but Peggy is more excited about how her life has changed to concern herself with them.   The illustrations in this graphic novel were fantastic and I could feel the energy on the pages as the drama unfolded.  There’s quite a bit of action taking place in this book but it’s not difficult to follow and I really enjoyed this book.  5 stars   Red Scare 

The Seventh Voyage by Jon J. Muth

3 stars Graphic Novel

 This is no children’s graphic novel.  I got to page 31 and I had to take a breather.  Seriously, I can see some middle schoolers understanding the concept of time travel and vortexes but little ones, no.  The illustrations were nicely done and if you could follow what was actually occurring, it was entertaining but it was disappointing that this was labeled for children.  

It was a bit like the Who’s on First comedy act by Abbott and Costello.   The Who, What, I Don’t Know, Why.  You remember that skit as Costello is trying to figure out the individuals playing out on the baseball field and Abbott is trying to give them to him but their names are so peculiar that Costello can’t understand.   Well, this is what is happening to Ijon. Space explorer Ijon Tichy is suddenly dealing with a major issue when his spaceship’s rudder is damaged and it needs repair.  Thinking that he can do it on his own, he soon realizes that it’ll take two individuals but he’s the only one in his spaceship.

With the damaged rudder, Ijon’s spaceship is caught in a space loop where he finds himself confronting someone new in his spaceship.  Oh, it’s his Monday self! What!?!  Just when I thought I understood this, someone else makes an appearance.  It’s his Wednesday self.  But what happened to his Monday self? 

“Well, the Monday me on Monday night became Tuesday morning, the Tuesday me, and so on.”

Folks, my head was spinning.  I tried to follow along.  Poor Ijon was as confused as I was.  He was asking his other selves who they were and how it all worked and I, I wanted them to go fix the rudder (for now, there were at least 2 individuals in the spaceship).  Perhaps then they could get rid of Tuesday, Wednesday, or whoever was with Ijon and let him finish his trip alone.

This book is definitely not for young kids unless it’s a young Sheldon Cooper.  I do think that the text boxes were easy to follow and I liked how they were done. This book does have a lot of words to read too.

Victor and Nora: a Gotham Love Story by Lauren Myracle

3 stars Graphi Novel

The cover got me on this one as I was at the library volunteering.  I’m not one for romance but the Gotham in the title swayed me and I liked the illustrations.  After reading this graphic novel, I couldn’t believe this was actually, the one and only Mr. Freeze.  I was floored!  No way!  This story was actually about Mr. Freeze and his future wife. I think that there’s a great story inside this book but the way that the story is delivered could have been better. The writing felt choppy and the story felt awkward as the characters cope with what life has given them and they find that perhaps there is more to life.  The illustrations were fantastic and they saved the book for me.

When we meet Victor, he’s visiting his younger brother again, like he does every year, at the cemetery.  Victor is proving to be quite the successful cryogenics cold tech and his work on perfecting his Accela-Freeze compound is coming along. Oh, what that compound could do, if he could just get everything perfect.  Victor is proud of his accomplishments and he conveys everything to his brother as if his brother could actually hear him from beyond.  Nora interrupts Victor’s talk when he spots her in the distance.  She’s also at the cemetery, visiting her mother’s grave, a surprise since Victor normally sees no one. 

Nora.  This girl got on my nerves.  She was a total flake.  Between her words and her actions, I didn’t know what to think of her.  The words that came out of her mouth were all over the place.  “So, come here often?” yep, that’s what you say to someone that you meet at the cemetery.  It doesn’t get better than this for a while and then, she starts to get all romantic with Victor.  What’s wrong with her?  I knew that she had a disease but I doubted that caused her to act like that.  Victor is hesitant at first (and he should be) yet he continues to hang around Nora when he should be running for the hills.  Nora does look amazing with her flowing hair, her spaghetti-strapped shirt, and her spunky attitude but is he really listening to her?  He needs to take off his glasses and really see her.  The illustrations are great!  With attention to detail, the illustrator has created some wonderful text boxes that showcase the story.  I appreciated his attention to detail and the colors that were used, provided the atmosphere that I expected for this story.  These fantastic illustrations make this a good book for me but I felt that the writing alone didn’t work for me.  3 stars    

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

5 stars Fiction

What if your “very bad day” suddenly became your worst nightmare? Frida’s drive to get a coffee and a few papers at the office ended up being a 2-hour excursion, which wouldn’t have been such a big deal, but she left her toddler at home, alone.  Luckily, her daughter was okay but Frida was turned into authorities.   For her irresponsible behavior, she must now face the consequences.  

Welcome to The School for Good Mothers, a new rehabilitation program for mothers, who need help to become better mothers.  There are many reasons why the mothers that attend this school have been listed on the roster.  When Frida joins the ranks, she finds herself amongst a variety of different women which makes this story very interesting and intense at times.  During their time at the facilities, the mothers are given rules which they must abide by or they will pay the consequences.  The mothers are also given a variety of different tests which will be graded.   They need to pass them or they will have to pay the consequences.  These mothers will be pushed physically and mentally and the tension will run high as these mothers strive to succeed and prove to themselves and others just who they are.  Frida’s 2-hour excursion cost her a year in this facility but the physical and mental cost will go beyond that time period.

I loved this book, I seriously did.  I can’t stop thinking about it and I talk to everyone about it.  I loved how all the genes of the book came together and I enjoyed how this book made me think.  As I read, I kept thinking about how wrong the idea of this school was, yet I thought perhaps we should have schools like this for other criminal offenses.   I also thought who were the people who ran these schools and put these individuals there? Do they make the rules based on personal decisions or is there a standard that everyone must abide by? There is so much going on in this book, from the father’s program, the phone privileges, the relationships, the evaluations, every part of this story and its characters, I enjoyed so much.  Getting close to the end, the tears were falling down my face; I didn’t want this story to end but I wanted to know how it was going to end.  This book was exactly what I needed and I really enjoyed it.

“You can’t just have the cow jump over the moon, Frida.  You need to have the cow consider his place in society.  If you’re telling the Red Riding Hood story, you need to talk about the kinds of woods, the kind of food in her basket.” ………” How was Little Red feeling as she made her journey in the woods? Ask those open-ended questions. Get the children thinking. You’re teaching her about being a girl.”

“Everyday, she’ll learn about girlhood from you.”  

Switch by A.S. King

4 stars YA

I am a huge A.S. King fan and I was super excited to get this new release.  The synopsis sounded strange but if you’ve read anything by her, you’d know that’s just her style.  As an amazing author, she takes me on these incredible journeys in which, I see the world in a different light. Imagine living in a world in which time has stopped, you live in a house in which a switch takes center stage yet no one knows exactly what that switch controls and you have just discovered, that you possess a new talent.  Picking up a javelin, you hurl that javelin like a trained athlete yet you haven’t had any prior experience. You’re breaking records as you throw, how can you do this?  What is happening and why?   Enter the world of Switch.

Tru, 16, is dealing with some deep issues at home and at school.  There is the time issue that the school is exploring. Working in the groups, they hope to find a solution.  At home, Tru would like her family to be back together again. I was surprised how easy the door opened up at their house and people walked in and out.  Tru also has to deal with her house shifting and her new responsibility of being on the track team.

This was one book that took me a while to read. There were times as I read that I felt that what was written in the text was not the intended message but there was something deeper behind those words.  I had to read this book over many days so I could really appreciate what was being said.  The writing was unique with the use of a backslash to break-up the text along with the usual punctuation marks. It felt poetic at times as I read, the way the text came together.  Time is the major player in the book and as I stopped, I thought how the author was addressing this issue.  It made me think about my own time and how it applies to me.  Make sure you read the Acknowledgments in the back of the book.  

This is not my favorite A.S. novel but this is definitely one of hers. I enjoy reading her novels as I’m really not sure where I will be going or where my feet will land but I know that while I’m away, my eyes will be wider and I will emerge with a different view and I will have enjoyed my journey.     

“The minute they put us in this building we’re expected to be something we aren’t. Interested / engaged / athletic / baby grown-ups with the will to be social and succeed in life.  The building acts factory / as if it can turn out capable adults, and it will. Adults like Richard/ our rifle/ normal on the outside/interiorly, needs an exterminator.  Adults like our sister / an assortment of bombs/ an anomaly to the truth. Adults like Mama and Daddy / broken and shamed for nothing but being human / having never been given human skills/….”

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

5 stars Science Fiction YA

Dang! I picked this book originally based on cover love and I’m so glad that it caught my eye.  I absolutely loved it!  I’m not normally a sci-fi reader and seeing the size of this book, I almost walked away but this book was amazing!  This was one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I tried to close the book and walk away.  I loved how the author weaved the story together and the second half of the book, was incredible,

I felt connected to Nico in this book and I enjoyed being a part of her journey.  I can’t describe Nico and her father’s bond, as I feel that the word love doesn’t define it properly. It felt greater than love. As she sat with her father reminiscing and discussing their future, they didn’t have to see eye-to-eye but they did have to respect one another.  You could tell that they appreciated each other and felt fortunate to have each other.  From Nico watching The Deliverer, to walking with Harry, to her meeting the other survivors, and following the plan, I traveled with her as she made her way. 

I did take a few side trips away from Nico where I met the other characters in the book on a more personal level.  From when Nico first described him, I pictured The Deliverer as something from The Twilight Zone. This character was brilliant. Where do you come up with this stuff?  This character was primo! I can’t go into too much detail The Deliverer but this character generated more, “What?!”  “No way!”  out of me then, anyone else.

Nico meets other survivors on her journey which amount to about a handful of individuals to remember.  Remembering how Nico lived, I had to wonder what was going through her head when she first saw them.  These individuals don’t realize how important they are to Nico and vice versa.  Everyone knows what they need to do to keep the swarm away as they’re out in the open traveling.  Letting their guard down, they would be able to hear the hum before they’re under attack, they just won’t have much time to do so. Each of them has seen what the swarm can do and they don’t want it to happen to them.  There is a bit of romance in this book with the characters but nothing dramatic or heavy. 

I was surprised how fast I read this book.  There was this momentum throughout the book, yet as I got to the second half of this book, the momentum increased as little details began to appear and everything started to come together. It was entertaining as the author began slipping these subtle details into the story, it was like I had discovered a clue.  I really hoped that I had caught all of these little details as I read the story.  It would have been nice to reread the book now that I have the whole picture in front of me but I needed to return the book to the library as someone else had a hold on the book.  I’m going to put this book on my birthday list and I hope to get my own copy because I definitely need to read this one again.  I highly recommend it, even if you don’t read sci-fi, if you like apocalyptic, fantasy, or dystopia books, this is one you should read.  5 stars  

The Institute by Stephen King

4 stars Mystery

I haven’t read a Stephen King book in a long time and I do believe, this is the first SK book that I have listened to.  I remember reading him back in the 1980’s, for he was the master of creepy.  As I listened to this book, it wasn’t like the SK that I remembered, this was a slow burn for me.  I got attached to the main character of Luke and I felt protective of him. 

I liked how there were very few characters in this book. I really enjoyed the character of Luke and his personality. He was only 12-years old yet you would never know that. I enjoyed all the little references in the book that brought back memories. It’s always fun when an author adds some fun information into the book.  I thought the audio was very good.  I was nervous about reading a SK book again but I’m glad that I did.  I should now read a Dean Koontz book as he was my other favorite thriller writer from the 80’s.   

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

4 stars YA

Courtney is one of my favorite writers and I admit I was hesitating to read a book about a zombie apocalypse and a suicidal girl.  I mean, if you think about it, it’s a sad situation really and a strange combination.  Yet, Courtney pulled it off and the book was engaging, sensitive, and entertaining.

Sloane was relieved when she was distracted from eating her breakfast.  Now, she wouldn’t get in trouble for not eating but what are they going to do with the woman that her father stabbed with the shard of glass?   As Sloane looks out their door, she sees the neighbor with the heart condition, lying on the grass, with individuals hunched over him.  As Sloane watches, she notices that his chest is being pulled open by their fingers. 

If those images don’t want you to board-up your house, I don’t know what would? I don’t know much about zombie apocalypses but I know, I’m not ready for one after reading this book.

It is now a week later and I find Sloane in a high school, barricaded with a handful of teenagers.  There are the typical teen power and relationship issues with these survivors which I’m glad the author included as it makes this drama more realistic.  The high school is a great fortress, as it has a lot of amnesties except its BIG.  Big means lots of places to keep secure and lots of places for problems.   THUD!  THUD!  Someone is pounding on a door and now, what are they going to do?

Sloane doesn’t know why she is with these teens. She has wondered this from the beginning as she doesn’t share the same feelings as the other teens. While the others want to survive and get to where other humans are, Sloane feels just the opposite.  Her feelings all started six months ago when her family started to have problems and they have only escalated.    Sloane’s character was perfect for his book. 

I enjoyed reading this book and was glad that I picked it up.