Friday, February 26, 2010

Teen Review: Spacer and Rat

At my 15-year old son’s recommendation, I recently read Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard, and I thoroughly enjoyed this clever, funny, and suspenseful sci-fi tale set in the future.

Jack, an older teen, is a spacer, someone who has lived his entire life on Freedom Station, a space station in the Asteroid Belt, in the Black (as space is known). Generations of humans have lived out in the Black, on Freedom Station and other colonies, but there are still more ships full of Earthies coming, trying to escape the problems back on Earth and not really understanding the foreign culture and challenges they’re escaping to.

Jack works in a pub, where he meets all kinds of people and is familiar with all kinds of technology (“tech”). One evening after work, he meets Kit, a runaway sneaking around behind the pub:

The Earthie girl glared at him, hands on her hips, all wild, wiry white hair and eyes as bright green and iridescent as fish scales. They had to be gen mods, no way they could be natural, but Jack had never seen them in the catalog. “You don’t have to grab people.” She sounded just like a school vid, teaching the basic regs. “And don’t call me ‘rat.’”

Jack laughed. “You are a rat. True fact. Your parents dumped you here.”

“Look, spacer.” She took a step closer, her eyes narrow bright slits. Jack took a step back. He couldn’t help it. “No one dumped me on this rusty space station.”

It happened all the time. Earthie parents got out this far into the Black and ran out of supplies, ran out of credit. Ran out of caring. They knew the guards would round their kids up and shuttle them right back to Earth.

As they get to know each other better and try to protect a special bot (robot), Kit changes Jacks’ preconceived notions of her. They have to work together if they hope to achieve their goals.

I love the way this book is written, with spacer slang sprinkled throughout the dialogue that really helps to create a sense of a place and time different from our own. The characters have real depth, and the plot is exciting and fast-paced, with a nice dose of humor throughout. Spacer and Rat is a unique book about what it means to be human – a definite winner both for sci-fi fans and for anyone who enjoys a good adventure story told with heart.

183 pages, Roaring Brook Press

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: The Lightning Thief

With The Lightning Thief one of the top movies in theaters right now, I thought it would be a good time to post a review of the book by Rick Riordan that the movie is based on. We listened to audio versions of both The Lightning Thief and its sequel, The Sea of Monsters, on family road trips a couple of years ago. Both were excellent, and Jamie, my 15-year old son, just finished reading the third book in the series, The Titan's Curse, last week - he wanted to re-read the books before seeing the movie!

An edited version of this review appeared in the April 2006 issue of Family Fun magazine:

“I accidentally vaporized my pre-algebra teacher,” says 12-year old Percy at the start of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. During a two-week road trip, my husband and I and our boys, Jamie, 11, and Craig, 7, were so riveted by the audio book that we hated to get out of the car. When the story begins with this strange admission, Percy is at a school for “troubled kids,” dealing with typical pre-teen challenges as well as some increasingly odd occurrences. Things get even stranger as Percy finds that the Greek gods he’s been learning about in Latin class are alive and well in our modern world. When Zeus’ thunderbolt is stolen, Percy and his new friends – a satyr and a daughter of Athena – set off on a cross-country quest to retrieve it from the Underworld, accessed through L.A. Combining classic Greek myths, modern settings, and a hefty dose of humor, Riordan tells a compelling story of adventure and friendship. We can’t wait for the next Percy Jackson book!

And now, we can't wait to see the movie, so we can see how one of our favorite book series has been translated to the big screen!

400 pages, Hyperion Books

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's Monday 2/22! What Are You Reading?

We had a difficult week here. Jamie, 15, in in the midst of a severe flare-up of his chronic illness and has been flat on his back for over a week now. The only good aspect of this is that he's enjoyed some great books as he's been lying on the couch. Jamie loves to read, and escaping into a good adventure helps to pass the time and take his mind off his illness as he waits to feel better again.
  • After Jamie finished reading Sabriel by Garth Nix, he read a brand new teen thriller, Icecore by Matt Whyman, about a seventeen-year old boy who hacks into the security system at Fort Knox for fun and ends up in a military prison deep in the Arctic. Jamie says it was very suspenseful, with lots of exciting plot twists. I've added it to my stack of want-to-reads!
  • In preparation for seeing the new movie The Lightening Thief, Jamie read the first three books of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan this week! We had previously listened to the first two books on audio a few years ago on family vacations. This week, Jamie read The Lightening Thief, listened to The Sea of Monsters, and read The Titan's Curse. Now he wants the fourth book!
  • Finally, on my recommendation, Jamie started Everwild by Neal Shusterman, the intriguing sequel to Everlost, which he and I both loved. I just finished Everwild last week; Jamie's already half-way through and enjoying it very much.
  • Craig, 12, is still reading Nick of Time by Ted Bell, a pirate time-travel story that he says is the best book he's ever read!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Brisingr, third book in the amazing Eragon trilogy by Christopher Paolini.
  • No kids or teens books for me this week - I've been reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.
So, what are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is hosted by One Person's Journey Through a World of Books).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Middle-Grade Fiction Review: Fever 1793

Today's review is written by a special guest reviewer, my 12-year old cousin Abby. I have heard wonderful things about Laurie Halse Anderson's books but have never had the chance to read one myself, so I was glad to read Abby's review:

Fever 1793
, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a very interesting book because it tells a fictional story about the yellow fever of 1793. After reading a couple chapters of Fever 1793, I was not very interested. I was not very interested because there was not a lot of action happening. I kept reading on to about half the book, and there, there was a lot more action happening, and it was more enjoyable. Finally, after I finished Fever 1793, I was really happy because it mostly has a happy ending. I would rate this book with an eight out of ten. I would give it an eight because the beginning wasn't all that interesting, but by the end, I was hooked, and ready to read a sequel, if there was one. In conclusion, Fever 1793 was a great book, and very enjoyable.

Sounds great - I can't wait to read it myself! Thanks, Abby!

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Monday 2/15! What Are You Reading?

Happy Mardi Gras! Happy Valentine's Day! Happy Chinese New Year! Happy President's Day! All of the winter holidays hit in the same weekend this year, so we've been busy this past week. We hosted our annual Mardi Gras party on Saturday. So, not a lot of time for reading this week, but we all enjoyed some excellent books:
  • I finished Everwild, the sequel to Everlost (review) by Neil Shusterman, an exciting and creative story about kids trapped in the limbo-world between life and death. The second book was even better than the first - I can't wait for #3!
  • Jamie, 15, is still reading Sabriel by Garth Nix. He says it's very good - just the kind of fantasy novel he loves.
  • Craig, 12, is reading Nick of Time by Ted Bell, a time-travel pirate story. Craig says it's the best book he's ever read!
  • My husband, Ken, is still reading Brisingr, the third book of the Eragon trilogy by Christopher Paolini, one of Jamie's all-time favorite series.
  • I just started Rose, the prequel to the acclaimed 10-book graphic novel series Bone by Jeff Smith. I have previously read the first two books in the series. Any graphic novel fans out there? This is an excellent, well-written series with amazing illustrations.
What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays are hosted by One Person's Journey Through a World of Books)

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's Monday 2/8! What Are You Reading?

We had the second-biggest snowfall in Delaware's history here this weekend, so the kids have been spending most of their time outside! We're all in the middle of some good books, though:
  • Jamie (15) is reading Sabriel by Garth Nix and enjoying it very much.
  • Craig, 12, started Nick of Time by Ted Bell last week. He says it's one of the best books he's ever read!
  • I'm reading Everwild, book 2 of the Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman. Jamie and I both loved book 1, Everlost (review), in this series about kids caught in the interim place between death and the afterlife. It's suspenseful and imaginative, and, so far, book 2 is just as good as book 1 was!
  • My husband, Ken, is still reading Brisingr, book 3 in Christopher Paolini's wonderful trilogy that started with Eragon.
What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books)

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's Monday 2/1! What Are You Reading?

February already! Craig and I were home sick all last week, but we're both feeling better now. On the plus side, we all had plenty of reading time:
  • I read - and loved - When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, a book that recently won the Newberry Medal. It's a wonderful middle-grade novel about a thirteen-year old girl obsessed with A Wrinkle in Time who's dealing with her own strange events. Check out my review.
  • I also read a book published for adults but perfectly appropriate for older teens and young adults, Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers (recommended by Kim at Page After Page). It's a novel told entirely through the notes that a mom and 15-year old daughter leave for each other, and it's got surprising depth and emotion - I cried my eyes out!
  • Jamie, 15, finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and loved it. I want to read it next!
  • Jamie started Sabriel by Garth Nix, a Christmas gift from us, based on a recommendation from The Eclectic Reader (thanks!).
  • Craig, 12, is reading Aliens Stole My Body, the fourth and final book in one of his favorite series by Bruce Coville. He says it's really getting good toward the end!
  • My husband, Ken is reading Brisingr, the third book in the wonderful trilogy by Christopher Paolini that began with Eragon. This is one of Jamie's favorite series of all time.
So, what are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is sponsored by J. Kaye's book blog).