JULY

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
Sheinkin does it again. His historical books real like novels. His portrayal of Jim Thorpe, the Indian Schools, and early football is dramatic yet balanced. He never rants, but simply puts forth the facts. Often awful. And heroic. He even at one point says that if it were a Hollywood movie it would end here at the end of the Indian/Army game with Ike Eisenhower and Thorpe shaking hands. But sadly it goes on. Thorpe's life didn't end particularly well. This is good. 4th+

If you Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
Short but very moving. Jeremiah and Ellie have whatever that magic chemistry is where they know they are soulmates. Even though Miah is black and Ellie is white and Jewish. Their families are on the upper end of society, but as different as could be. They meet in an exclusive private high school where neither is really comfortable. Lots of racial thinking in this one, but not angry. There is also a lot of familial tension with divorce and a mother who has just disappeared twice, but promises not again. This is a great discussion book. 6th+ Excellent.

Paradise Valley by C J Box
Apparently the third in a series about Cassie Dewell, Bakken County chief investigator. She's trying to bring down serial killer Lizard King who murders truck stop prostitutes, but it's seemingly impossible. In this case they've set a trap for him, but it doesn't go as planned and gets personal as a friend of her son disappears at the same time. Set in North Dakota at first but moves to Montana where Box does such a good job making us feel like we are there. Good. Adult. sociopathic violence and sex.

Garvey's Choice by Nikki Grimes
Written in Tanka-five line verse. Garvey prefers reading and chess to sports which is disappointing to his father. He comforts himself with food and music. This is terrific. Great language and good story.
"Summer Lost and Found: Stories are breadcrumbs.
Just follow the trail of books
and you will find me
lost among the galaxies
of scorched stars and ships to Mars."

House of Robots: Robot Revolution by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
book 3. Somehow the house robots are all misbehaving and Sammy can't get his mother to pay attention long enough to fix things. Plus he and Triple T (Trip) can't get their science project to work at all. This was OK. It didn't move me. There's an obnoxious know-it-all kid as part of the thread of the story, but that doesn't seem resolved to me. 3rd+

Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski
Poor third child Nory just doesn't fit in with her high acheiving family and headmaster father. But her aunt takes her in so that she can attend an UDM class at a (gasp) public school. She has to learn that her wonky magic is just who she is. Seemed a bit preachy to me. The end of the story was pretty good, but I didn't think it all went together well. 3rd + CCBA nominee.

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
book one of ? OK as a stand alone although not as satisfying an ending as I would have liked. Nyxia is a wondrous substance on a planet we have called Eden populated by Adamites-humanoid but more powerful beings. Babel, a mysterious and powerful company has chosen 12 teens to go there for more Nyxia since "the Adamites revere youth". but Babel lies. a lot. This was pretty good with some great twists. Reminded me of Ender's Game a lot. YA for exceptional violence and some romance. Now we wait for books 2 and 3. This has some positive allusions to Christian theology that are missing in most YA stuff.

Daughter of the Pirate King. by Tricia Levenseller
This has some humor, lots of action, some romance and banter, and a strong female lead. It is pretty violent though. Our princess Alosa doesn't hesitate to kill other pirates that she deems evil. I can't help but compare with Bloody Jack which is my favorite of the pirate stories. This one had just a tad too much realistic violence and evil (sadistic men). It would be better for 8th, but it's OK. Very good

Raven King by Maggie Steifvater
Did this as an audio book--almost 12 hours worth. It took me a while to get back into the story and the characters. The mystical magical part is just too heavy handed for me. And I'll have to say I was disappointed with the conclusion. Doing it as an audio book did emphasize the writer's style: repetition of structure (It all began with...) or repetition of phrases three times to good effect. It just didn't grab me. But it's not as bad as Gone, etc. YA for weirdness.

Stolen Magic by Shannon Hale
follows Two Castles but can stand alone. Our trio of Dragon, actress, and Ogre help solve the mystery of a stolen artifact that was preventing an exploding volcano. Lots of twists in this one as well as our heroine having to stand on her own. Good. 4th+

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry
I have to get my adult reading in sometime! I had forgotten how Victorian this is. Thomas and Charlotte Pitt are now in the Special Service, not simply the police force. Love the descriptions of ladies teas and men's clubs. The dress code and repartee are excellent. The conclusion of this one was a total and satisfying wrap up. ADULT

Panda-monium by Stuart Gibbs
Once again, Ted has to solve an animal mystery at Funjungle. After negotiations with China, Summer's father has managed to acquire LiPing for his amusement park/zoo. But en route, the panda is kidnapped! Great plot and same characters. There is the side story of why the dolphins have suddently started to depants people, including Teddy. I like these books a lot. 3rd+ Excellent.

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
Maria Merian 1660s wanted to know how caterpillars created silk and where they came from. Most thought they spontaneously generated. Mary Anning searched for fossils and discovered the first of several dinosaurs in the 1800s. Maria mitchell learned astronomy from her father and discovered a new comet. This is written in verse and presents some of the difficulties women faced in their time. Well written although not as strong as some. 4th+ unique subject.

The Infinity Year of Avalon James by Dana Middleton
Avalon and Atticus have been best friends forever. And this year, when they turn 11, is their year to get a gift of magic. It could be for the year, or just for the one time you really need it. Will Ava need her magic to overcome her nemesis, or to reunite her family torn apart by prison time. Or does she have magic in her great spelling abilities? Lots going on here, and the biggest conflict and resolution are finely written. 4th+ Excellent.

It Ain't so Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Zomorod chooses Cindy as an American name immediately to try to fit in better. She's from Iran and is new to Newport Beach, CA, in 1977. Of course things go from hard to impossible when Khomeini takes over in Iran and then US hostages are taken. This has some great moments of humor and everyday teen stuff, but by the end develops into a deep conflict. The story revolves around the quote from Streetcar, " I've always depended on the kindness of strangers." Excellent. 4th+

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt
I went through three devices to finish this one in one sitting. Charlotte (new name) finds herself with a new name, new family and a scary backstory. She is 13 and pulled from the group home she keeps returning to for a surprising new start. This has a great plot and the foster care background makes this a real heartwrencher for me. The middle school dynamics are great too. I really liked this one.5th+

Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
The concept is interesting-there are suddenly spheres hidden all over the world that give you powers--be more beautiful, sleep better, be taller, run faster. But it takes two of matching colors to work. Sully is a small time dealer who has been ripped off by Hollister, the big time collector. (hmm-Ready Player ONe?) but teams up with Hunter who is desperate to make good. Romance with kisses. Only friend Mandy questions whether there isn't some price to pay down the line. The twist and conflict at the end is not as smoothly written as I'd like. YA for violence. OK but not my fav.

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
YA romance story. 17 year old Caymen lives with her single mom over a doll store in a posh vacation village. She's been taught that rich people can't be trusted and is soon tested by pretty boy Xander Spence, the Prince of Hotels. They hit is off in the usual ways but she can't overcome her distrust. He's pretty touchy about trust too since those around him put so much pressure on him. This is innocuous but sweet. Kissing but no sex. Good for 6th grade. Well written, but not five stars.