Locked in Time by Lois Duncan

When I was in 7th grade I loved these spooky suspenseful Lois Duncan books and happily passed them around with my friends. I decided it’s time to reread them. As with many books and movies from my childhood that I read/watch now I can’t get over how slow they were. In this case that’s not exactly true-Duncan keeps the tension going and you can’t wait to see how it works out. But on the way there are many passages of rather lavish descriptions of (in this case) the hot weather of Louisiana, the intense fragrances of the many flowers, and the bayou. It’s hard to imagine an impatient 2018 12 year old carefully reading all that (but they should! Because it’s great.)
You don’t have to wait long for all the clues of the family’s big secret to be dropped. Nore’s creepy new stepmother is controlling and gives off a bad vibe. Nore soon figures out that something is going on with her age and that of her new stepsiblings. What I found annoying about the book was what a dull buffoon her father was. We’re supposed to believe he’s so besotted that he doesn’t listen to his daughter or believe her when she explains how her stepbrother tried to kill her and frankly that was unbelievable.

Fun to have this quick re-read. Looking forward to…Stranger with my Face!

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Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

I love me some Neal Shusterman but this one took me a while to get through. And not because it wasn’t good–because it was WAY TOO TERRIFYINGLY REAL.

The premise of this apocalyptic story is that in a region of California suddenly one day all the water is turned off–the Tap Out they end up calling it. This is told from the point of view of Alyssa and Garrett (Brother and sister), Jacqui (a tough street girl on her own), Henry (an obnoxious rich kid), and Kelton-the saving grace for everyone because he comes from a weird doomsday prepper family. Make fun of those families until you need them, right? Kelton goes to school with Alyssa and has had a crush on her, so is inclined to latch on to her and help her out. Kelton’s family is serious survivalist ready and his father has taught him that it takes just 3 days for people to become basically wild animals.  A statement which proves horribly true and if anything is actually a generous estimate.

Without water civility disappears and there are some fairly typical post apocalyptic responses-trashed stores, abandoned cars on highways, enclaves of helpful people, desperate people willing to do terrible things. If all that seems pretty typical for this type of story it is, but this story truly was terrifyingly real to me. It’s not decades in the future and it seems connected to current climate change catastrophes. I think one of the scariest things was the times it was mentioned that FEMA was unable to respond appropriately because they were busy with yet another hurricane. And that other parts of the country were probably holding bottled water drives, but really none of that mattered because people were about to kill each other over a cup of water and also die of dehydration.

I took a big break halfway through to read some other titles and then came back to this and quickly read the rest. While it was very unsettling, it was a good book and I did like it. That said, hurry up Mr. Shusterman and finish that Scythe trilogy! That’s what I really want to read!

Check, Please! #Hockey, Vol. 1

I adored this graphic novel! There was so much to love about it–the inside look at collegiate men’s hockey, the college friendships, the delightful and charming main character, Bitty, and his vlogging and talking to us frankly, and excessive baking. And not just Bitty-I really loved all the characters. I was so disappointed when I got to the end and found that i have to wait for another volume. The bonus content almost made up for that, though.

The Broken Vow (Spill Zone #2) by Scott Westerfeld

Boy was I excited when I found that #2 had come out and was immediately available for me to read. Unfortunately, though I remembered that I’d loved the first one, I couldn’t really seem to remember too much of it. And I counted on it just coming back to me as I read and it didn’t. Honestly I was pretty perplexed by everything and not caught up in the story at all. A lot of it just didn’t make sense (logically) to me.  However, I really enjoyed the ending/epilogue. Which I guess means I’ll like book #3 better than book #2?

Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant

This is part of my school collection and I wanted to give it a read to see what it was all about and who it would be good to recommend it to. I think for my 4th and 5th graders it may be a tiny bit mature–I think 6th grade would be a more ideal audience. But that stuff aside, I thought this was a lovely book. Written in free verse that is mostly more like short text so it all just flows very quickly, this was a fairly quick read. Georgia is a talented artist who lives with her dad. Her mother died very quickly 3 years ago and since then they’ve been shut off from any family. Georgia’s friendship with Tiffany, a girl who is everything Georgia is not (rich, athletic, popular, etc.) is a really nice solid center of the story. When Tiffany begins to not act like herself Georgia is worried but, realistically, not sure what to do when she realizes that Tiffany is taking pills to handle her busy schedule. (They are in 7th grade.) The other main part of the story is Georgia’s development of her artistic skill, which she inherited from her mother and thus, she feels she has to hide from dad. An anonymous gift of a membership to an art museum provides inspiration, reflection, and artistic growth for Georgia. I really liked the parts of the book where she observes and thinks about the Wythe paintings. I also liked the commentary about artists being observers. A solid thoughtful story.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

I loved this until I got to the last page. WTF, Maureen Johnson? Why is this “to be continued”?  This was a super exciting classic mystery with nods to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, with flashbacks to a crime in the 1930s meshed with a present day situation in the same location, which happens to be an eccentric and elite boarding school for brilliant teens. I mean, it’s great right? Not unlike Johnson’s Jack the Ripper boarding school awesome story. But things were rolling right along with a good level of excitement and tension, everything about to be solved when… the end. Seriously, this book could have just used 20 more pages to finish everything up and I would have given it 5 stars. Instead it’s being strung out into a trilogy, which is ridiculous. As you can tell I became quite enraged at the end.

Never Say Die (Alex Rider #11) by Anthony Horowitz

I have a Lot to Say about this book. First, let’s refresh our memories with my reaction to Alex Rider #10, the conclusion to the Alex Rider series. I read that finale when it came out in June 2011 and loved it. Here’s what I had to say. Since that time almost seven years ago I’ve often mentioned that book (“The Final Mission”) as a great example of a series ending. I loved it. It had all the things we liked about the series, it had callbacks, it had drama, and it made some dramatic but very successful choices. It had closure. It went out with a bang.   Then last week I was poking around in Titlewave and saw…Alex Rider #11. What? At first I thought it was another title like the sort of spinoff he wrote about Gregorovich. But nope. It appeared that Alex Rider was back in a new mission. I had a lot of Feelings about this, but had to get my hands on it. And had to read it.  See, here’s the thing. If you finish off a series, why, years later would you say “oops, no, not over, let’s keep going.”? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Did fans clamor for more? Did Horowitz try to write other stories but just couldn’t? Did his publisher say “we need money and these books are successful so please just write another?” And here’s the thing…I loved this one. It was fun, filled with adventure, it was just like a Mission Impossible movie on the page. But I feel like it’s very existence negates book #10 (which I really admired the author’s choices in that one.) It makes much of it seem insincere. It definitely doesn’t feel like this was the plan all along. It feels like a character in a season premiere saying “oh, it was all a dream!” (I’d make a “Who killed JR?” reference, but will you get it?) I feel a bit betrayed by the author. And yet, I know that I will read #12 because I think these books are a lot of fun to read, they are totally preposterous, and I enjoy them very much. (For the record, I think the Stormbreaker movie is a terrific family movie and wish they’d make another one!)