Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TTT: All Time Favorite Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Topic: All Time Favorite Authors

Keeping this at 10 was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

What are your favorite authors?

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Life in Dioramas

My Life in Dioramas by Tara Altebrando is a wonderful heart-warming MG story about change, friendship, and family told with humor and realism.

Kate has lived her entire life in Big Red, the old farmhouse her parents own. Now half way through her 7th grade year they tell her they are moving. Worse, they are moving in with her grandparents because they are in financial trouble. Kate has to leave her school, dance class, friends, and the only life she has ever known. But Kate isn't going down without a fight. She hatches a number of schemes to turn off potential buyers, everything from causing a terrible stench to having her teenage neighbor play loud music. As time goes on, Kate realizes that more might be at stake than just her house though, and as she begins to feel more desperate and lost she makes a series of dioramas illustrating her life in the home she loves.

Kate's voice is absolutely perfect for the story being told here. She is a wonderful combination of vulnerable, sarcastic, bossy, and lost. She is a typical middle schooler. The plans she comes up with to save her home border on brilliant and ridiculous. Even thought they clearly have little hope of working, she attacks them with all the enthusiasm of her dwindling childhood. The house is not the only change on Kate's horizon though. Her relationship with her best friend, Stella, is changing. Stella seems more and more interested in boys and popularity than the interests they used to share. Then there are the boys themselves. Kate doesn't want to be noticing them, but darn it if they are making themselves more noticeable.

Kate's parents are incredibly important to the story too. Kate learns a great deal about her parents through the course of the story. She is in that stage when a child is really discovering their parents have a much wider life extending beyond the life of the child. Kate's parents have made some foolish financial decision, and she is furious with them. At the same time, she can see that they are mourning these as well. And Kate's mom is suffering from depression. I really like the way this is dealt with. Kate only knows the bare minimum of what is going on, but it she overhears things and has uncomfortable conversations with her mother. I felt this was realistically dealt with and is a situation many readers will be able to identify with.

My Life in Dioramas is a great pick for MG readers who enjoy realistic fiction. It is a short read and wonderfully illustrated too.

I read ARC provided by the publisher, Running Press Kids, via the mail. My Life in Dioramas is on sale April 28th.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Omega City

Omega City is Diana Peterfreund's first MG novel. Billed on Goodreads as City of Ember meets The Goonies, my expectations were pretty high. The Goonies is one of my all time favorite movies. And this book delivered on that promise. Big time.

Gillian's father is in disgrace. He wrote a book about famous scientist Aloysius Underberg that was immediately discredited and that he couldn't back up because a broken pipe destroyed all of his research. Now the only job he has is teaching conspiracy theory nights. When Gillian discovers mysterious files on his new girlfriend's computer that have too much to do with her father's research, she knows something is terribly wrong and she begins to attempt to solve an old code that Underberg left behind. With the help of her brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and an astronomy obsessed classmate named Howard, they figure out where Underberg buried his final gift to humanity. They magnate to convince Howard's older brother, Nate, to drive them out it to it. But the plotting girlfriend is right on their heels. Trying to escape her and her goons with guns, the kids find themselves in an abandoned, ruined underground city with a limited time to find their way back out.

The characters in this book are amazing. Gillian is deeply loyal to her father, ready to fight for what he (and she) believes in, and is determined to find the truth at any cost. Eric is skeptical and wants a normal life, but he's also loyal to his family. Savannah is a math whiz who disguises her abilities in a misguided notion that her ditziness makes her more attractive to boys, but she stands by her friends and knows how to be brave. Howard is focused on NASA and astronomy to the point of true obsession. There is an implication that he is somewhere on the Autism spectrum. He is an important part of the team and the others come to appreciate him and rely on him as the story unfolds. Nate is the older brother, protector, and highly frustrated person who knows he will ultimately be held responsible if anything happens to his young charges. The five of them together are awesome. They all have abilities that make them crucial to the team and get them through their adventure.

The different relationships exhibited within the team are essential to the story too. There are two very different sibling relationships. I love a great sibling story. Gillian/Eric and Nate/Howard exhibit the finest aspects of why. They have very different relationships affected by what they are and their different age spans, but both show what loyalty, love, and understanding for a sibling you don't always like or want to be with looks like. The friendship aspect is important too. Gillian and Savannah are very different and often frustrated with each other, but they adore each other. The evolving friendship all of them have with Howard as the book progresses is incredibly well done, particularly the bond he and Gillian develop.

As far as adventure books for MG go, Omega City stands out. It is fast-paced, well plotted, surprising, and funny. Peterfreund balances humor and peril perfectly. The action never felt like it was too unrealistic either. These are all things I could see kids their age being able to do and succeed at. As science-fiction it works incredibly well too, being just believable enough to feel real but with enough out of the ordinary to spark the imagination.

I adored everything about Omega City and can not wait for the next book in the series.

I read an ARC made available by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, at ALA Midwinter. Omega City is available for purchase on April 28th.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TTT: Inspiring Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Topic: Inspiring/Meaningful/Challenging/ Quotes

"Safety is an illusion."

"Oh, that," said the king, "That isn't your honor, Costis. That's the public perception of your honor. It has noting to do with anything important, except perhaps for manipulating fools who mistake honor for its bright shiny trappings. You can always change the perceptions of fools"

"Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?"
"So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober."

"Fight with realistic hope, not to destroy all the world's wrong, but to renew its good."

"And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back-if we didn't know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and these are that day."

"If you say a word, it leaps out and becomes the truth. I love you. I believe it. I believe I am lovable. How can something as fragile as a word build a whole world?"

"Change is necessary and, deny it as we may, in the end change is always inevitable."

"Sometimes the truth has difficulty breaching the city walls of our beliefs. A lie, dressed in the correct livery, passes through far more quickly."

"If you trust in yourself...and believe in your dreams...and follow your star...you still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy."

"Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It's a feeling inside that can hardly be contained."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Roller Girl

I don't review graphic novels on the blog very often, which is in no way a reflection of their importance in the Painter home. Bit is a huge fan of graphic novels. Baby Mouse was integral in her early chapter book reading years. She owns and reads the Amulet books, anything by Raina Telgemeier, and the Zita the Spacegirl books regularly. She has declared Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson the best graphic novel she's ever read. She insisted I read it. Then she proceeded to plop it in my lap every time I sat down. And constantly asking if I read it yet. My own child was stalking me with a book. So I read it and I wholeheartedly concur. This is a fabulous book.

Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend, Nichole, to a roller derby match one night, and Astrid comes away with stars in her eyes. When she discovers there is an opportunity to go to a derby summer camp, she jumps at it. Astrid assumes Nichole will be there with her, but Nichole has already made plans to go to ballet camp. Worse, Nichole seems to want to spend more time with Astrid's worst enemy talking about make-up and boys. As the summer begins, Astrid's life seems to be spiraling out of control. She has lost her best friend and roller derby doesn't come as naturally as she assumed it would. But Astrid sticks with it, and learns just as much about friendship and teamworks as she does about skating.

Astrid's story is one of discovering passion, persevering when things get hard, learning to atone for mistakes, and friendship. It's also an empowering book. Astrid is brave and hardworking, but she is also selfish and headstrong. She steamrolls Nichole a lot and doesn't realize it. She also mocks the things Nichole is interested, not realizing this is as belittling as when she is mocked by Nichole's ballet friend. I liked the way the book highlighted the different interests of the girls without making one better or worse than the other. Yes, this book has a lot of roller derby in it, but Nichole is as strong and sympathetic a character as Astrid is and her interest in ballet is shown as important and valuable too. The feeling of fear about entering middle school, their changing relationship, and what the future holds are realistically demonstrated in both girls. But this is Astrid's story and it is through her mistakes and bold action, defeats and victories, that Jamieson tells an amazing story of the power of teamwork and forgiveness.

The way Jamieson explains roller derby is brief, through, and folds well in to the rest of the story. The art is vivid and colorful. The whole book is a treasure from start to finish. It's a must have for MG readers.