Flying Lessons

29 Jan

24561496Flying Lessons and Other Stories

Edited by: Ellen Oh
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Compilation Copyright 2017 by We Need Diverse Books

How often do you actually stop and read the book’s Forward first?  Sometimes I do but often I may or may not come back to it.  How much does it really add, when I just want to dive into the book?!  But for some reason, maybe because it was short or maybe because it started with “Dear Reader,” I started with the Forward that editor Ellen Oh wrote.  In two short pages, I saw her with a mangy kitten and, … well, you read it.  Suffice it to say that this short little story set the tone for me.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories visits little pockets of society or groups and shares a piece of the American pie.  Matt de la Pena, Newberry award winning author, tells the story of a young man wanting to play basketball at the highest levels. And learning to listen to advice that a quiet man gives.  I know Tim Federle’s Secret Samantha personally. And, I certainly know the feeling of sneaking into the library to get away from life.

At the ALA Midwinter Convention in Atlanta, I heard several of the authors talk about this book.  I chanted a Choctaw phrase with the rest of the audience.  I knew that the organization We Need Diverse Books was behind this anthology, but I didn’t really know what that meant.  Apparently it means that there are many, many stories out there to tell and listen to and to share.  After all, we all need something to look forward to.

Recommended: Grades 4 & up



It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

23 Jan

itstartedwithgoodbyeIt Started with Goodbye
By: Christina June
Publisher: BLINK
Date: 2017

Tatum is a rising high school senior.  She lives with her father who travels the world, her stepmother that she calls by first name and her stepsister that she has never talked to other than courtesy words.  And Tatum is under arrest.

To have her misdemeanor dismissed, Tatum is grounded for the summer except when she does her hours of volunteer work and goes to her babysitting job.  Completely grounded.  Chores in the house and hours in her room.  Then her step-grandmother arrives and things start to change.

Christina June has a talent for taking a beloved fairy tale – in this case, Cinderella, and making it real.  From the very beginning, you can hear Tatum’s voice and it sounds just like a teenager.  The whine, the resentment, the hope, and the love all jump around for attention.  Is Tatum the perfect young lady?  No.  She breaks the rules.  But she’s not mean. After all, she is Cinderella.  I’ll leave it as an exercise for the readers to discover what her glass slipper actually is.

I met Christina June at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference this past weekend.  She was on a panel of Young Adult (YA) writers talking about strong, female protagonists.  This is a wonderful story with a strong female teenager.  Does the story wrap up too neatly?  Well, yes; because it should.

Recommended:  Grades 6 & Up


Need by Joelle Charbonneau

12 Nov


by Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher:  HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November, 2015

What is the difference between want and need?  That’s only the first question in this exciting psychological thriller for young adults.  Teenagers in a midwest high school receive invitations to a special website called “Need”.  Students place their request for a “need”,  complete some inconsequential action as directed and their “need” is fulfilled.  But how inconsequential are these little acts? Very quickly, things escalate beyond their control and teenagers start dying.

Kaylee knows that it’s too good to be true but she can’t help but ask for what she needs.  Can Kaylee find a way out and save others along the way?  Or is it too late?  Will her need be met?

This is a psychological thriller, a mystery, and something you need to read.  Joelle Charbonneau also wrote The Testing series, which I highly recommend.

Recommended: Grades 7 & up


Relic by Heather Terrell

22 Oct

Series: The Books of Eva

Author: Heather Terrell
Publisher: SoHo Teen
Publication Date:  October, 2013

Audiobook: Blackstone Audio
Narrator: Angela Brazil

Eva lives in the Aerie in New North, a frozen tundra, after a world-wide catastrophe happened with major flood killing the majority of the world 200 years before.  Eva is a maiden following the ways of the Lex.

Eva loses her twin brother and decides with only months to go to take on the Testing.  The Testing sends young people (males and Eva) to the frozen tundra to survive in the ice and find relics of the past to prove that the New North ways are best.  Fiction is not allowed and the name of the pre-disaster false god is Apple.

This book is packaged as a Hunger Games-type dystopia, but its really not.  There is a hidden conspiracy.  But Eva was not forced or encouraged to do the Testing.  And I throughout the book, I wondered at Eva’s physical abilities capable of making this journey in just a few short months.  Clearly she’s smart, if misguided.  And clearly she has rebelled in small, insignificant ways in the past.  I got tired of hearing about the god Apple.  I would have preferred any other name rather than make it out like all of society has this one singular tech device.  Coke and Tylenol make the bad list too.

Even with those complaints, the book does move.  There is an element of romance, though its subsumed in the frantic concerns for what she finds.  And there is the question of who to trust and why.  I’m curious about the second book, but I haven’t sought it out yet either.

I borrowed this book from our library in an MP3 version to listen to on the way to work.  I thought Angela Brazil had a great voice and really brought the characters to life.

Recommended: Grades 6 – 8.


Whippoorwill by Joseph Monninger

26 Aug

By Joseph Monninger

Publisher Houghton Mifflin, New York
Publication Date: 2015

A whipporwill is a small brown bird that calls all night but is very hard to see.  According to the book, a whipporwill is also a person who loads their yards with rusting cars and broken equipment.

16 year old Claire sees the dog Wally chained up in the neighbor’s yard like another piece of rusting junk.  Like any real teenager, it’s hard to get involved.  Ignoring the dog is more than she stand and chooses not to look the other way.  She checks out a book and studies about how to train the dog.  And all Wally wants is someone to notice him.

Danny lives with father in the house owning Wally.  At first, he seems to torment Wally.  Still he can’t stand that look on Claire’s face.  Slowly Danny and Claire get to know each other and to know Wally.  But life is hard for Danny.  And Wally may be just another way to hurt someone.  Something has to give.

Recommended: Grades 7 & up


Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

22 Jul

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February, 2015
Audiobook Narration: Amanda Dolan

Mare Barrow is a Red – meaning her blood is red.  At 17, she lives in poverty, facing conscription to the army at the age of 18.  Only those Reds who have an apprenticeship avoid automatic conscription.  But Mare is an indifferent student and a petty thief and expects to join her brothers on the front line.  Her best friend has an apprenticeship until his master dies unexpectly and suddenly he is about to be conscripted.  Now Mare has to be clever to protect her friend.  But the Grand Plans fail, Mare’ sister is hurt, the family is desolate.  And Mare meets a young man who ends up getting her a job at the Palace working for the Silvers.  The Silver’s blood is silver but more anyone with silver blood has a strange power.  Powers follow families: one family sparks flames, another reads minds, another controls metals.  And in a freak accident, it turns out that Mare is freak of nature – a Red with Silver powers.

Now everyone wants a piece of Mare – the Queen, the Red Rebellion, and both of the princes.

“Anyone can betray anyone.”

I listened to the audiobook read by Amanda Dolan.  I loved her voice.  So many YA audiobooks have a high pitched female voice but this was lower, pleasant and fit with the tone.  The book was performed well and the book itself was fun to “read.”

Recommended: Grades 6 & up

Calamity – The Epic Ending

5 Jul

Calamity, Book 3: The Reckoners series

By Brandon Sanderson

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: February, 2016

Our house really enjoys Brandon Sanderson books and we have both young adult and adult books around.  My rising senior son read the book first and I only had one question.  Did this book actually end the series?  (I have some bad experiences with books that I thought ended a series but then they kept popping up new ones.). The answer is “Yes”. 

In the first book, Steelheart, Sanderson introduces us to David and a world living under Calamity.  In this book, David still makes interesting metaphors and is still in love with FireFight (read the 2nd book).  But the momentous understanding of the end of the second book and the lose of his mentor, Prof, is huge.  How does it play out in Calamity?  Well things are not quite as they seem.  Can Prof be brought back to himself or will he continue to rampage?  What is the right way to handle things and what is David risking?

It’s a roller coaster ride in Atlanta or in post-Calamity, Ildithia, that is nothing like the Atlanta I live in.  How will David handle things? Will they lose more people? Will they recover Prof?  And, how does he handle the Epic named Calamity?

Recommended: Grades 7 & up