Thursday, March 26, 2015

Secret Hum of a Daisy, by Tracy Holczar

At least the cover is pretty!
I'd been hearing some very positive buzz about Tracy Holczar's middle-grade novel, The Secret Hum of a Daisy, so I interloaned it from another library so I could read it and see if it was something OPL would want for its new Tween Collection. 

Grace, 12, and her mother moved around a lot. Every couple months, they'd pack up and hit the road to find a new home. Grace's mom always seemed to be looking for something, but what this was Grace didn't know. Then Mom drowns, and Grace is sent to live with a grandmother she's never met (Backstory: Mom was supposedly kicked out of the house when she became pregnant with Grace, and she never looked back). Shortly after arriving at her grandmother's place, Grace discovers a series of clues her mother left for her, which, when solved, helps her learn the truth about her family history and discover things about herself (Backstory: each time they moved, Mom would set up a scavenger hunt to help Grace acclimate to her new surroundings).

Sounds like a really great feel-good story about family and growing up, all wrapped up in a mystery, doesn't it? That's what I was expecting after reading all those glowing reviews.

Well...

Unfortunately, I couldn't even get into the story, much less finish it. The plot kind of drags, and the characters I met weren't very likable. Grace was whiny and negative and, when she spoke, she didn't sound like a 12-year-old girl (rather, she sounded like a middle-aged woman trying to write the part of a 12-year-old girl). Grandmother was simply awful: Cold, filled with unreasonable rules, and just plain mean...like something out of an old VC Andrews novel. Mom, for what little I learned of her, sounded like a candidate for the nuthouse. Totally bi-polar. Side characters I met were never really fleshed out beyond a single dimension. 

Maybe the characters improve. Maybe there's that A-ha moment where Grandma bakes Grace a batch of warm chocolate-chip cookies with love in every bite and the two hug and become a loving little family. Maybe the story picks up and gets really exciting. Maybe this becomes one of those books you want to hug when you finish it.

Maybe.

Sadly, I will never find out (and don't much care if I do), because I couldn't get far enough into the book to learn whether or not those things happened. So the recommendation is not to be. 

I DO, however, want a chocolate chip cookie!--AJB

Monday, March 23, 2015

Song of the Sea (new in Teen DVD)

NEW! In Teen DVD: Song of the Sea

Six years earlier, the night Ben's sister Saoirse (pronounces seer-sha) was born, their mother vanished into the sea, sending the children's father into a deep, self-absorbed depression. For this upheaval of his happy family life, Ben blames Saoirse and doesn't even try to disguise his constant anger toward her.

Then on her 6th birthday, Saoirse steals a seashell flute from Ben's room. When she plays it, something is awakened...and that something leads the girl into the ocean. Here we learn Saoirse isn't exactly human. She's a selkie, a mythological being that is part girl, part seal. Her father finds her washed up on the shore, wrapped in a magical fur coat and clutching the seashell flute.

For the children's protection, their father sends them to live with their strict grandmother in a distant city. A city as far from the seaside as one can get. Wanting to get back home to his beloved dog, who was left behind in the move, Ben runs away...and Saoirse follows. 

Not long after, the children are kidnapped by a mysterious trio and taken to a secret cave. Here they learn the truth: A terrible Owl Witch has been turning the world's magical creatures to stone, and only the selkie's song can restore everything to as it should be. Problem is, Saoirse is mute. She can't even speak, let alone sing.

Time is running out, and the children must rescue the world of magic before it's too late--for magic and for Saoirse.

What follows is an epic adventure about family, love, and self-discovery. Ben and Saoirse learn to work together and, in doing so, learn to care about each other and become a family. Each also learns things about themself they never believed they were capable of.

Song of the Sea is gorgeous film. It's full of unique mythology (unique as in not Greek/Percy Jackson mythology), and the quest, full of narrow escapes, will keep you wondering until the end. The animation isn't as complex or detailed as that of a Disney film, but it's beautiful in its simplicity. It's a movie worth watching. --AJB

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Like Manadrin by Kirsten Hubbard

Grace Carpenter is the ultimate "Good Girl," but she has secretly idolized the wild, free-spirited Mandarin Ramsey since she was 6 years old.  Now at 14, Grace is paired with Mandarin, 17, for a school assignment. Grace is thrilled with this arrangement. Mandarin adopts Grace and brings the younger girl into her exciting world of secret parties, skinny-dipping, and plans to someday run away to California. At first, Grace is thrilled. But then she begins to see a dark and destructive side to her new friend. Mandarin seems like she's on a one-way collision course with a tragic ending. And it no one can save her. Not even Grace.

Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin reminded me a lot of John Green's books. Particularly Looking for Alaska, where a previously sheltered teen is charmed by a wild classmate and drawn into her world--only to have things end badly. The character of Mandarin reminded me a lot of Alaska. Both girls are from broken homes, both had a tragic childhood, and both are spontaneous, bad-girl types destined for an unhappy ending.

Like Mandarin was fantastic! Like with Green's books, characters, setting, and plot are exquisitely detailed. You, the reader, will be instantly drawn into the story and will experience every emotion right along with the characters. I absolutely recommend this one!

Like Mandarin is currently located on our New Book shelf. For similar books, try Wanderlove, also by Kirsten Hubbard and The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour. --AJB

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Beauty, by Lisa Daily

What if you woke up one morning and, suddenly, had everything you ever wanted? You'll find out in Beauty, by Lisa Daily (one of our "New" books). 

Molly has never been pretty or popular. Not even close. Between the frizzy hair and zits, she's the epitome of adolescent awkwardness. Worse, she's snubbed by mean girls, teased by her brother, and the guy she likes doesn't know she exists (of course).  Even Molly's own mother (a former beauty queen) thinks she needs help in the looks department. Or seems to. Everything comes to a head at the local fair. Feeling like her life is over, Molly wanders to the deserted edges of the carnival and encounters Dharma, a strange artist who offers to sketch Molly's portrait...with one condition: Molly must not look at the drawing (not even peek) until she gets home.

The next day, Molly awakens to discover she's become the most beautiful girl in the school. Maybe even the town. Suddenly, Molly has everything she's ever wanted: Adoration, admiration, popularity, and a date with the cutest guy in school.

Life is perfect!

Or is it?

Molly learns that having ultimate beauty and popularity aren't everything she thought it would be. Her best friend wants nothing to do with her, her beloved dog doesn't recognize her, and she's not sure if people genuinely like her for herself or only because she's beautiful. It's a nightmare!

But unless she can find Dharma and get her to un-do whatever magic spell she cast, Molly will be forever stuck in a life that isn't her own.


Beauty is predictable (it reminded me a lot of Tom Hanks' movie Big), and even a bit cliche, but enjoyable just the same. There are valuable lessons here too: Be careful what you wish for...Don't judge on appearances... etc...  Molly is one of those characters who does a lot of maturing over the course of the story, beginning things as a whiny, self-absorbed brat and emerging as a well-rounded and confident young lady. I enjoyed watching her growth. And I cheered for her happy ending.

Beauty is not the most deep book you'll read this month, but it'll keep you reading. Besides, sometimes you need something light and fluffy to balance out all that heavy reading you have to do for school. --AJB

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard

Travis has always wondered about his dead-before-he-was-born dad. In search of answers, he decides to run away from his mom's house in California and make it own his own out to his grandmother's in rural Minnesota. In the first couple of days he discovers a human head in the basement- no worries it's made out of cheese, that his dad may have been involved in a major bank robbery, and that his plunder may still be out there for someone to find. Along with the kids next door Trav embarks on a summer and an adventure of a lifetime.

Murder, mystery, friendship, even a little romance mixed in. Turn Left at the Cow sounds great, right? Well then I will have to be the bearer of bad news. This book was bad. Like eww, get that away from me right now bad. When I picked this book up I thought the title sounded cute, even a little goofy and ignored the "blah" cover art. By the end of the first chapter I knew I wasn't going to make it to the end. I continued to read because the mystery still intrigued me. However, after fifty (or so) pages in I just couldn't do it anymore. I swear this book mocked me as I walked by.

The summary and title easily drew me. Again, I thought the general idea of the plot sounded good. However, the characters lacked depth and I just wasn't able to relate to them (and I don't think many teens will once they start reading). I also felt that there were a lot of details missing, if these had been there maybe the story would have been flowed better. All in all if you are looking for a good adventure story ignore this one and ask a teen librarian for a recommendation. We would love to help!

--JAC

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Since spring and summer is right around the corner and the weather being warmer made me want to read more some love stories. Love, Lucy is a great example of a love story. April Lindner introduces to Lucy Sommersworth, a girl who has spent most of her struggling with her own desires to pursue acting, and her father's wish for her to have a more practical career (e.g. business). As a compromise to her father, Lucy agrees to follow in his footsteps, in exchange for a trip to Italy. But it's on that trip to Italy, that Lucy meets Jesse and begins to realize that life isn't what she expected. After she returns home, she quickly finds that her summer romance is continuing to influence her life. 

Italy is the place to experience the streets, the people, the food, and the culture and one thing I could relate to Lucy is the need to get lost in a foreign country. I love just going where the path takes you, especially when traveling to foreign counties. It really is a serene and beautiful as Lucy described it. I truly felt how realistic the experience was for Lucy, it was like April Lindner actually experienced it herself and went through the same emotions as she did, and I love this authenticity in writing.   *JK*

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cold In Summer, by Tracy Barrett

A lost little girl....

A town that's been drowned beneath a lake....

A hundred-year-old mystery....

Fresh from our New Tween Collection comes Cold In Summer, by Tracy Barrett, a fantastic mystery/ghost-story that is so good you'll be reading it under the blankets with a flashlight long after you've gone to bed!

Ariadne's family has just moved from their sunny Florida neighborhood to a small, rural community in Tennessee. Ariadne's family seems to be adapting just fine, but Ariadne, 12, feels very lonely. She misses her best friend, Sarah, and everything about "home." There's nothing in this new place for her.

Then Ariadne encounters May Butler in the woods near the local lake. Despite May's old-fashioned clothes, cryptic way of speaking in riddles, and odd habit of seeming to vanish at a moment's notice, there's something about May that makes Ariadne think this girl could become a friend. 

But not everything is as it seems.

There's a local legend about a young girl who vanished mysteriously just before the local dam was built a hundred years earlier, flooding the valley and drowning the town that once existed there. This missing girl's name was also May Butler. Could Ariadne's new friend be distantly related to the missing girl?

Or is the May Butler of the past and the May Butler of the present the same person?

This is a mystery only Ariadne can solve.

Pay no attention to the drab cover (Rule: Don't Judge!). Cold In Summer is a fantastic middle-grade story! Readers will be drawn in immediately and enjoy piecing together the clues to solve the mystery as it unfolds. Check it out today!

p.s. If you liked Cold In Summer, try Wait Till Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn. --AJB