Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Truth about Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

The Truth about Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
I listened to the audio version of this book.  I loved the voice and southern accent of the woman who read it - perfect for the story!  Twelve year old Gi Gi, who has decided to change her name to Leia when she and her sister move to a new town so she can go to a new, swanky private school has decided to remake herself  because she is tired of always studying and having no friends.  Her older sister Di Di, an 8th grade dropout who is a hairstylist, and has raised her since their mother died, wants GiGi, aka Leia, to study hard and become a scientist, but Gi Gi wants to make friends and remake her entire life.  Her first friend, Tripp, who she literally trips over when she enters the school, becomes her best friend, but as she navigates middle school and her life, she learns there are secrets in everyone's families, including hers.  I really enjoyed the story , and the recipes included too, and I think that middle school kids will enjoy it as well.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor

Everyone should read this book!  Really.  It is so important and people are so ignorant about what they eat.  Popular culture has gotten in the habit of villifying one food or product or another and blaming that one thing for the obesity epidemic in the US.  They have blamed sugar, so horribly unhealthy sugar substitutes became widely used.  Then they blamed fat and made lots of low fat food products that are high in sugar and salt and highly processed.  Gluten is a new scapegoat and vegans blame meat eating as the problem.  However, none of those are really what is making people fat.  The problem is that as farmers and the food industry have made food more plentiful, they did not pay attention to flavor or nutrition.  So we can grow lots more food faster, but it is bland and does not have the nutrients that our bodies require.  Therefore, the seasoning industry has grown, because when food is flavorless, we add more seasoning to it to make it palatable.  Then we eat more of it.  This book shows how the flavor of real foods - actual real produce and animals that are raised and fed properly - not on factory farms- indicates nutrition.  He shows how when we eat real, properly grown foods, it not only tastes better and is more nutritious, but it signals our bodies to feel full after eating the proper amounts so that we don't get overweight.  So, while Michael Pollen was correct that we should eat real food, mostly plants and nothing with ingredients we can't pronounce, that is not the whole solution to the problem.  Factory farm raised chickens are fed junky foods and they have no flavor and they are not nutritious.  There are people currently working on raising tasty, healthy chickens - but they take longer to grow and they cost more.  In France, people prefer the healthy chickens that taste like a chicken should taste and they are willing to pay twice as much for a good chicken.  In this country, most people prefer quantity over quality, which is why they are fat and unhealthy.  We need to educate people to want the real foods so that the food industry will put more effort into producing healthy and flavorful foods.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine
I listened to the audio version of this book, which was well done.  The story is well told, but the details were not fleshed out which made the whole concept rather shaky.  Ren is kidnapped at age 14 and put into a training program at the super secret FATE facility which kidnaps 14 year olds who they know are going to die soon based on google-like photos that had been taken of the future that showed gravestones of the teens who had died at age 14. The teens are told they would have died anyway so they can take part in the program or be killed.  One problem with that scenario is the fact that FATE fakes the deaths of these kids and then they have gravestones so how do we know the kids would have really died or if the gravestones shown were a result of the FATE kidnapping and faked deaths? Then the kids are trained to be killers who can feel no pain so that they can protect FIPs - Future Important People who have also been identified and they are somehow "linked" to the FIP mentally/physically so that they feel like they must protect that person.  Ren's FIP happens to be a guy her age so she goes to college with him.  There is a sort of love triangle for those readers who like them - I personally despise love triangles - because Ren has these "link" caused feelings for Gareth, her FIP, and she likes Junie, a guy she went through FATE with.  The book is fast paced and ends in a cliff-hanger.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
I totally absolutely really incredibly love this book!  Seven year old Elsa tells the story and leads us through the fantasy lands that her grandmother has created on a journey of forgiveness.  I did have a bit of a hard time with the beginning of the book, because it did not seem to make a lot of sense, but once I got into the story, I never wanted it to end.  Granny said the most fabulous things like "Only different people change the world...No one normal has ever changed a crapping thing." And Elsa was incredibly insightful noticing things like "It's easier to get people talking about things they dislike than things they like," and "The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it can make the people left behind want to stop living."  I received this book free to review from Netgalley and it is one of my most favorite books ever and I highly recommend it "because life is both complicated and simple. Which is why there are cookies."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Copper Magic by Mary Gibson

Copper Magic
While desperately missing her mother and little brother, who have left for somewhere and for reasons unknown to her, twelve year old Violet unearths an old Indian grave and finds a copper hand within it.  She is one quarter native American herself and she sees a vision when she finds the hand and is sure it is magic.  She wants the magic hand to bring her mother and brother back to her, but even magic may not be able to do that.  Set in 1906, this is a nice historical novel for middle grade kids.  I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
There are a lot of mature issues that are addressed in this book.  Thirteen year old Stewart has a genius IQ, but hardly any social skills.  I think he is meant to have an Asperger's type personality. It has been almost two years since his mother died and his father is now dating a woman and they move in with her and her daughter, fourteen year old Ashley.  Ashley is beautiful, popular, shallow and mean and since Stewart is so smart, he is moved up to her grade when he transfers to her school rather than spending hours on the bus each day to continue attending his old private school - Little Genius Academy.  Ashley is still upset over her parent's divorce, which happened around the same time Stewart's mother died, when Ashley's dad came out as gay.  She still has not told her friends about her dad.  Stewart is bullied, Ashley is nearly raped, and several other difficult issues occur.  Stewart's character seems rather immature but likeable while Ashley is not very likeable at all.  I think that teens will enjoy this book because it is intense and does include difficult issues that may make them think about things a bit differently. I listened to the audio version of this book and it was done well.

Friday, December 18, 2015

My Vida Loca by Jacqueline Jules

My Vida Loca by Jacqueline Jules
Cute, bright illustrations accompany this chapter book that is best for children ages 5 to 7.  Seven year old Sopfia has adventures that are chronicled in three stories in the book as she becomes a singing superstar with a toy microphone, helps her abuela cook arroz con leche and has some trouble while washing the family's car.  There are some Spanish words and phrases in the book and a Spanish glossary is included at the end.  I think that children will enjoy this book.  I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Little Bo Peep and Her Bad, Bad Sheep A Mother Goose Hullabaloo by A.L. Wegwerth

Little Bo Peep and Her Bad, Bad Sheep by A L Wegwerth
Bright, busy, silly illustrations make up this fractured nursery rhyme adventure.  Each page is a busy mash up of nursery rhymes as Bo Peep searches through them for her sheep.  Actual nursery rhymes are included at the end of this cute book.  I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

The Plantiful Table by Andrea Duclos

The Plantiful Table
This is a lovely vegan cookbook filled with simple and flavorful dishes. It is accompanied by nice photographs and the instructions are well-written and easy to follow. I got some good ideas from this cookbook - like making shepherd's pie using lentils instead of beef. I received this book free to review from Netgalley and I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Night Divided byJennifer A. Nielsen

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Totally amazing book!  Set in East Berlin when the Berlin wall was built overnight with no warning, it is the story of a family who was divided in two by the wall and their struggle to escape to freedom in the west as a family. The story really shows what life was like in East Berlin and is the story of the courage twelve year old Gerta who is determined to help her family to be reunited by digging a tunnel under the wall and the death zone adjacent to it.  I listened to the audio version of this book which was excellent.  The story was compelling and I did not want to stop listening until I found out what happened.  This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Unmarked (The Legion #2) by Kami Garcia

Unmarked (The Legion, #2)
This is the second book in the series and it ends in a cliffhanger. Kennedy and the other members of the Legion are now trying to fight the demon that they accidentally released in the first book. They use salt and holy water and incantations and drawings to fight the demon. I felt like this book dragged a bit compared to the first one.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Contact by Laurisa White Reyes

This young adult paranormal thriller/romance is fast paced and I think that teens will enjoy it.  Sixteen year old Mira has tried to commit suicide twice because since receiving a new vaccine, any time she touches anyone she immediately knows everything about them and she cannot stand the pain of it.  Her father is running for governor and does not have time for her and when her mother goes into a diabetic coma, things are looking bleak.  David, who she has recently met although he knew who she was from school, turns out to be a big help to her.  The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, so there could be others to follow it although there don't seem to be any yet.  I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kate Walden Directs Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata

Kate Walden Directs by Julie Mata
This is a cute book about Kate, who is in 7th grade, and has had to move away from her friends to a farm outside of town because her mother has decided to become an organic chicken farmer.  Although Kate still goes to school with her friends, she is no longer close by and her best friend becomes friends with the most popular girl in her grade and leaves Kate feeling quite left out.  Bullying and mean girlness show up in the book along with Kate making a silly movie about zombie chickens.  I think that girls in grades 4 through 7 will enjoy this book.  I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

UFiles #1: A Dark Inheritance by Chris d'Lacey

A Dark Inheritance by Chris d'Lacey
This is a fun, although a bit dark paranormal science fiction fantasy action adventure mystery story for kids in grades 4-8. Michael has discovered that he can alter reality and he becomes part of the paranormal secret detective agency that his father, unknown to others, had been part of until he disappeared three years ago.  Michael tries to figure out his powers, solve a mystery and find out what happened to his father.  Kids should enjoy this fast paced mystery. I received this book free to review from Netgalley.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Tale of Rescue by Michael J. Rosen, illustrated by Stan Fellows

The Tale of Rescue
This is a beautiful book!  The watercolor illustrations that accompany the short story about a family who gets lost in a whiteout blizzard and are rescued by a cattle dog and a herd of cows are bright and just perfect for this story.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

This is a touching and timely story that follows a harmonica through several owners from it's fabled creation to 3 children during World War II. We see how the Nazi party mistreated people in Germany, how orphans lived in the US, and how Japanese people were treated in the US during WWII as well as how Latino children were sent to segregated schools in parts of the US during that time. The three characters, 12 year old Friedrich, who lives in Germany and wants to be a composer, 11 year old Mike, an orphan in Pennsylvania, and Ivy Lopez, whose parents are migrant farm workers in California. Each child loves music and their lives are touched by the magical harmonica and are drawn together at the end of the book.  I listened to the audio book, which has music included that goes with the story and I also looked at the print version of the book, which has different fonts and colors of pages for parts of the story.  I enjoyed the book and think that young people will enjoy it as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Woof (Bowser and Birdie #1) by Spencer Quinn

Woof (Bowser and Birdie #1)
This story is told by a dog - Bowser, who has been adopted by Birdie, an 11 year old girl who lives in Louisiana with her grandmother while her mom works on an oil rig.  Her grandmother runs a bait and swamp tour shop and when her family heirloom mounted fish is stolen off of the wall of the shop, a mystery ensues and Bowser and Birdie try to find the thief, learn some family history and get in trouble with some bad guys.  A lot of details are left out because they don't matter to the dog.  This is the first book in a new series.  Children who like dogs and mystery stories should enjoy this book.

Crenshaw by Catherine Applegate

This is a touching story about ten year old Jackson and his imaginary friend, Crenshaw, a very large cat who likes to skateboard, take bubble baths, and stand on his head.  Jackson is a smart boy, who is concerned about his family's finances since they are often hungry and are preparing to sell off most of their belongings to try to pay the rent.  His parents try to hide the situation from Jackson and his five year old sister, but Jackson remembers when they lived in their van a few years earlier and he does not want to do that again.  He knows that he is too old for imaginary friends and thinks he may be going insane when Crenshaw returns, but he learns that imaginary friends are always waiting to help children through difficult times.