Richards, C.J. Lots of Bots (Robots Rule #2)
May 5th 2015 by Harcourt Brace and Company
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
George is back after The Junkyard Bot, and starting his internship at Tinker Tech. On the bright side, his friend Anne Droid is there; on the down side, so is Patricia Volt and her MeBot Cookie, with whom Jackbot falls instantly in love. George has a series of mishaps that get him assigned to help the OCD Bot clean so he stays out of trouble. Tinker Tech is launching the new MOD device, a sort of less intrusive Google Glass that utilizes contact lenses and an ear bud, but which George discovers is part of an evil plot. His Uncle Otto is distracted because Mr. Freezie has offered him a lot of money for his junk yard, and Jackbot is so besotted that he isn't very helpful. After finding his parents' car in the junk yard and uncovering the symbol for Mercury, George knows he needs to hack into Dr. Micron's computer and find out what really happened to his parents. What he finds certainly gives enough of a plot for a third book!
Strengths: In some ways, this is the perfect middle grade novel. It's goofy but has tech stuff, appeals equally to both genders, has pictures in a notebook novel style, and has an orphan main character. This is generally upbeat in spite of the lack of parents, and has a good deal of action and adventure to boot. Very fun.
Weaknesses: I didn't find Uncle Otto's transformation into a mustard yellow polyester wearing social climber very funny, and it wasn't really all that necessary. I liked his character a lot and thought he supported George well, so his mishaps in this book were just sad to me.
What I really think: Definitely buying. Will never be on the shelves. Amused me as well.
Buckley, Michael. Undertow.
May 5th 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Lyric lives in "the zone" on Coney Island, where her school is full of juvenile delinquents and there is a nearby camp of Alpha-- sea creatures that have come to land and are now trying to be integrated into US society, despite extreme prejudice against them, and efforts by protest groups as well as the governor to send them back. Lyric's father is a policeman, and he wants her to be very careful-- her mother is Sirena, and has to stay hidden most of the time. Lyric gets horrible migraines because of her mixed heritage, and when she is approached by the new school principal/CIA type guy to befriend the head of the Alpha, it is an added stress. She and her family would love to leave the Zone, since they are the only mixed Alpha family that remains, and the principal has forged documents for her mother that they badly leave. It's difficult to get away, though, especially since her best friend, Bex, is horribly abused at home and looks to Lyrics family to help her. Will the situation between humans and Alpha ever get resolved? Not right away, because this seems to be a three book series.
Strengths: This certainly drew me in and kept me reading. Lyric and her family were intriguing characters, the setting was very vivid, and there was a lot of excitement and action.
Weaknesses: This was super, super, super depressing. Is Coney Island really that bad? Lyric talks about her school even before the Alpha as being really horrible. Lyric's headaches are horrible. Bex's entire life is horrible. The Alpha are horrible, and I never felt like there was a good reason for them to come to land. They were desperately unhappy there, very violent within their own community, and the humans hated them. It was like the Little Rock Nine reenacted in Brooklyn with Merpeople who didn't really want to be integrated.
What I really think: Would have thought about purchasing-- fans of Dystopia don't mind super depressing. However, this one comes too close to the YA line for me when it discusses condoms early on in an unnecessary scene with Lyric's crush, so I think I will pass. Intriguing, though.
Lieb, Josh. Ratscalibur
5 May 2015, Razorbill
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Joey and his mother are settling in to the big city, but being down on their luck isn't nearly as difficult a situation as Joey's is when he is turned into a rat, must survive on the streets AND is chosen as the one who will help save the rats from encroaching evil. Fans of Selden's Cricket in Times Square, O'Briens' Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and especially Jacques' Redwall will enjoy this tale of inner city ratventure.
Interestingly enough, one of our teachers was recommending White's Once and Future King to students, so I'm on an Arthur kick. I don't know about this one, though. Kind of lost me at the spork in the scone, but I strongly suspect my extreme aversion to talking animals is prejudicing me against this. My students love Lieb's I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil, so this may be one of those books I Just Don't Get.