Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover

By Reviewer Rachel
Title: Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover
Author: Ally Carter
Primary Audience/age group: 11 and up
Genre: Adventure
# Of pages: 263
Publisher: Disney Pr
Year of Release: 2009
Part of a Series? Yes, 3 of _?_ Gallagher Girls Series
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend? Yes but with Reservations

Description: At the end of summer vacation, Cammie goes to Boston to watch Macey’s father accept the vice president of the United States’ nomination. During their visit in Boston, Cammie and Macey are attacked, the intentions of their attackers being to kidnap them. However, the girls get away by using their spy training. As the new school year begins, Cammie and her friends unfold secrets pertaining to the attack and they find that they have to asked the question: Who is after Macey?

Review: The book was not what I expected. Unlike the first two Gallagher books, Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover lacks humor and replaces it with suspense. By the end of the book, instead of having a smile on my face and laughing hysterically, I felt sort of sad. The book was well written, and in itself was good. However, it focuses on the heartbreaking parts of a spy’s life, and forgets the whole funny “teenager girl spy drama”.

Rating: 3 for sexual content.

Positive: The most positive thing in this book is the importance of friendship. Bex, Liz, Macy and Cammie stay together no matter what. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for each other and they prove it.

Spiritual Elements: None.

Violence: a person gets shot and the girls find themselves in a few fights.

Language: One "oh my gosh"… but other then that no.

Sexual Content: The girls get a little boy crazy. Cammie longs for another kiss from Zach and is angry when he doesn’t give her one when they have to hide in a collapsible bunk together… um akwaaaaaard. Cammie also “overhears” a guy and girl kissing. The girls describe guys as hot and once they use the word sexy. There is a kiss but it isn’t very descriptive.

Other: Cammie still has a tendency to break the rules.

Recommendation: Like I said this was not what I expected and I was a little disappointed, but Ally Carter kept it clean. There are a few things in the book that are borderline. I did not like Cammie’s obsession with Zach. I also didn’t like the feel of the book. It wasn’t really that funny it was more on the gloomy side. But in all, it was mostly a clean book.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Last Treasure

By Teen Reviewer Sarah
Title: The Last Treasure
Author: Janet S. Anderson
Primary Audience/age group: Ages 9-12
Genre: Mystery, Father/Son
# Of pages: 256
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Year of Release: 2003
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 5 View Scale
Recommend? Yes

Description: (from School Library Journal) Since his death in 1881, the spirit of John Matthew Smith has been taking an annual walk around the Square of homes he built for his large family. He has whipped up whirlwinds, even downing an oak, in an effort to get his many descendants to patch up quarrels, reunite, and introduce the youngest branches of the family tree to one another. He had hidden three treasures, two of which were found by the family when desperately needed.

Now it is time for the youngest relatives to find the third. Sending dreams to two Smith teens who have never met, he ensures their return to Smiths Mills. Facing a counterpane of mystery, Ellsworth and Jess must join forces to find the third treasure - the last treasure.

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed this simple yet complex book and shared it with my family by reading it during lunchtimes. They liked to follow along with the Smith Family Tree chart and the map of the Square. The author does a great job of providing a clean, suspenseful, and engrossing story for all ages to enjoy!

Rating: 5

Positive: The modern Smith family enjoys happiness only after they learn to work together for the treasure, looking past their differences and quarrels.

Spiritual Elements: The prequel mentions that the ‘ghost’ of John Matthew Smith is restless. And at the end, when the Smiths are united again, he is content. Ellsworth often explains that he takes the actions he does because it ‘feels right’, like he’s supposed to. The family’s anger or happiness towards each other is displayed in the Square, in brittle grass or flourishing flowers.

Ellsworth’s aunt is a Quaker and has various plaques in her house with Quaker sayings. There are mentions of her attending Meeting and finding peace there.

Violence: None

Language: None that I noticed

Sexual Content: None

Other: None

Recommendation: Although the pace is a bit slow for today’s teen – it often seems like Ellsworth will never figure the treasure out! Yet, I enjoyed the slow pace, the author’s style, and the great characters. No concerns, and great for the whole family!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Red Moon at Sharpsburg

By reviewer Greta Marlow
Title: Red Moon at Sharpsburg
Author: Rosemary Wells
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: Historical Fiction
# Of pages: 236
Publisher: Viking/Scholastic
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 4 (View Scale)
Recommend: Yes, but not enthusiastically

Description: (from book cover) “When the Civil War breaks out in the year 1861, everything changes: schools close, families flee, and young men head off to battle. India Moody’s mama and pa send her for tutoring with their neighbor Emory Trimble, a brilliant young scientist who teaches the eager India chemistry and biology rather than the scriptures and handwriting young ladies are expected to learn. But as the powerful Union army advances toward northern Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, India and her family realize they may be caught in the crossfire. When India’s ailing pa returns to the front, India must summon courage she didn’t know she had to plunge into one of the war’s most tragic and terrifying events: the Battle of Sharpsburg. As she struggles for survival, India gets an education in love and loss, the senseless devastation of war, and the triumph of hope in the face of despair.”

Review: I had really anticipated reading this book, since I love historical fiction for young adults. (And it has such a beautiful cover!) To tell the truth, I was a little disappointed. The history is good, in that it portrays the difficulties civilians in the South faced during the Civil War. The book also has a strong female protagonist, and the plot is interesting. However, I thought Wells sort of hammered readers over the head with the ideas of the need for medical advancement and the limited role of women at that time. And I must confess – having the story told in present tense drove me NUTS! It bothered me so much I am having trouble keeping that from influencing my evaluation of other elements of the story.

Rating: 4, for some violence and “disregard for authority”

Yes, but not enthusiastically

Positive: India is a strong character who survives the horrors of war without being mentally beaten down. At the end of the book, she risks her freedom to help a soldier who, according to the rules of war, is her enemy.

Spiritual Elements: There is a thread of religious consciousness running throughout the book, as can be seen in the titles of several chapters. Several of the secondary characters are very religious, some sincerely and some hypocritically. There was one couple in particular who exemplify the Christian principles of forgiveness and mercy. I was a bit unsettled, though, by India’s attitude toward God. She is angry at God, which I can understand, given the events of the war – I am sure many people’s faith faltered under the pressure of the suffering they faced. But she also had an irreverent attitude that bothered me some; she always seemed to think scripture had little relevance and preferred instead to study Latin poetry and chemistry. As her mother tells her at one point, “This is making you godless, India.”

Violence: The story is set in the Civil War, so of course there is violence. However, most of the actual violence happens off stage, and what we see through India’s eyes are the after-effects. Even that is not described in graphic detail, even when India walks across the Sharpsburg battlefield littered with bodies. But there are some gruesome things; for example, soldiers with their faces blown off and a soldier who has had his leg amputated at the hip and been left by his fellows to die in his own filth. One secondary character (who also happens to be one of the very religious ones) commits murder in order to save the lives of several people.

Language: There are a very few instances of mild profanity.

Sexual Content: Nothing is overt. India and her tutor Emory fall in love and share a couple of very brief kisses. There are a couple of implied references to rape as a threat women face in wartime, but they are pretty subtle.

Other: The book has a couple of subplots that focus on what would have been very progressive ideas at the time of the Civil War. First, Emory is convinced that doctors are practicing outdated medicine that makes their patients worse rather than better. As a result, there is quite a bit of information about 19th-century medical practices. Also, the idea of a woman’s “sphere” is important, since India is not interested in the normal feminine behaviors, but instead wants to study science and has as her great ambition to attend a college that she has heard admits women. Everyone (except Emory) tells her she can’t do it, but she is determined.

Rating: 4, for some violence and “disregard for authority”

Recommendation: Yes, but not enthusiastically

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Extras (Uglies Book 4)

By Reviewer Shawna
Title: Extras (Uglies)
Author: Scott Westerfield
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult, 15+
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages: 448
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 4 of 4
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes but with reservations

Read Reviews of Uglies (Book 1), Pretties (Book 2) and Specials (Book 3)

Description: From Amazon: “It's a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict roles and rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. "Tech-heads" flaunt their latest gadgets, "kickers" spread gossip and trends, and "surge monkeys" are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it's all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol. Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.

As if being fifteen doesn't s*ck enough, Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An extra. But Aya doesn't care; she just wants to lie low with her drone, Moggle. And maybe kick a good story for herself.

Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. Aya wants desperately to kick their story, to show everyone how intensely cool the Sly Girls are. But doing so would propel her out of extra-land and into the world of fame, celebrity...and extreme danger. A world she's not prepared for.”

Review: My preference is always for sequels that continue with the same characters that I’ve grown to love. But, even with the new heroine, Aya, the story is still engaging. Westerfield gives you just enough of the same setting to draw you back into the story once again but continues the plot down a different path. Aya is living in the world that Tally left. Tally gave people a choice, yet the choices Aya seems to want to make are shallow at best. Aya has to learn for herself that the benefits of beauty and popularity aren’t always what they seem.

Rating: 3 for teenage alcohol use

Positive: All Aya seems to care about is fame, otherwise known as face rank in the book, but there are several opposing characters that allow her to see fame isn’t everything.

Spiritual Elements: One mention of fate

Violence: The violence is very mild.

Language: No strong language other than the word cr*p used about 10 times.

Sexual Content: Three fairly mild kisses

Other: There are about three mentions of alcohol being present at parties, one in which Aya, who is 15, drinks a glass of champagne.

Aya lies in order to aid herself in becoming famous but reaps the consequences of her actions.

Recommendation: Again, my biggest concern is teenage alcohol use. Compared to books 2 (Pretties) and 3 (Specials), the alcohol use is fairly tame. And if you’ve allowed your child to read the other books, this one would certainly not be a problem. If underage drinking is a big concern with your teen, this series may not be the best choice. However, Extras is the tamest overall of the four book series.

I’m not sure why I didn’t mention these in the other reviews, maybe the themes really only hit me while reading this book. It seems as though the main female characters only change for the better once they are in a relationship with a young man. This may be something you would want to discuss with your daughter. Also, as with a lot of sci-fi books and movies, evolution is briefly mentioned in the books and is apart of the setting.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

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