Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lasky's The Last Girls of Pompeii

While this book was a bit short of a plot (we all know that eventually Vesuvius is going to blow), it is about the best book I have ever read as far as details of ordinary life in Ancient Rome. What made the book all the more effective was that Julia is going through her ordinary days, waiting for her sister's wedding, putting up with the summer heat, and all along we know that she is not going to have to worry about her slave being sold or anything else... they are all going to be toast.

Will anyone escape? This kept me riveted, and was a wonderful trip to Ancient Rome to visit with a Roman family and realize that they had many of the same worries that we have today.

AND Vesusvius.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Had to chant to myself "Kids like series. Kids like series." in order to finish Lemony Snicket's The Austere Academy (#5). I am still not getting the series. It's drab, predictable, and the children love it. I'm glad they do.

Beany Malone series makes me way happier than anything should. Great literature? No.

Still, Ellen Schreiber's Dance with a Vampire (#4) irritated me. Will it be popular with the girls who like vampire romances? Absolutely. Do I have two copies? Sure. Is it annoying? You bet. How many times do we need to hear that Raven wants to be a vampire and loves her vampire boyfriend? How many black, alt-designer outfits must she mention by name? Part of my dislike is that Raven seems to think she is original, when she is merely a lemming of another color (black). If she really wanted to be original, she would wear double knit polyester dresses and probably wouldn't drone on about how she wanted a group of friends who were just like her.

I sense personal feelings intruding on my enjoyment of the book.

Thieves Like Us-- Stephen Cole

This was great! Enjoyed completely! Five teenagers, all with special abilities (lock picking, reading body language, hacking into computer, mesmerism, breaking into security systems) work for a man who steals antiquities for clients. All five have run afoul of the law and have no families, so they are glad for his protection.

In the first book, they travel to Egypt to try to discover the secret of eternal life. The students will like the thieving aspect (it is tempered with some morality-- they are often retrieving items from people who acquired them illicitly), I liked the antiquities tie in. In Thieves 'Til We Die, the teens go to an Aztec temple to retrieve Cortes' sword. Action, suspense, a bit of crude humor but surprisingly little foul language, this series will be a hit with students who like Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider books.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Jennifer Holm's Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf

Was very much looking forward to this title, with its Conford/Danzigeresque title, loved the cover, but was temporarily put off by the format, which befits the subtitle, "A year told through stuff": IM's, notes on the refrigerator, 'articles' from teen magazines, bills, bank balances, etc. I usually hate that sort of thing, but as I kept reading, I really was able to get quite a complex story from all of this. There are a few poems to keep the reader on track, but I came away with the conclusion that this was really rather clever, and was something that reluctant readers might pick up.

This author also does the Babymouse books, which are primarily for younger readers. They are graphic novels, and while I have one at school, it's a hard sell to middle school girls.

The Creek is a wonderful suspense/mystery, and is checked out frequently by the girls who don't want to read mysteries but are big fans of Boston Jane. The Boston Jane books are great historical fiction.

Rounding up my Holm collection is Our Only May Amelia which has its fans. I am not in their number. Can't remember why.

Back again!

Haven't found anything that has made me happy, but it might be the weather. Looked through several longish fantasy books that just didn't reel me in. I've read some good ones this summer, so I should look at these again, but for now I will pass.

Lyn Gardner's Into the Woods was too Lemony Snicketesque in that the writing was high flown and the situations over-the-top and unbelievable. It might be good for die-hard Snicket fans, but it was a long book. The best part was the Mini Grey illustrations.

Avi's Traitor's Gate was reminiscent of some of the older Avi work that I've deaccessioned because no one read them. Oddly, these works were the only ones listed in the "Other books by" section in the front. Should have known. For die-hard Dickens fans. We get so many in middle school.

Trent Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society also involved an orphan and dire/mysterious circumstances in somewhat precious language, and was also very long. However, my son deemed it his 9th favorite book.

All three books certainly have something to recommend them, but they are for larger collections or perhaps older readers.