Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Night of the Purple Moon

Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer (nanonoodle.com, 2012). Review copy provided by author.

Abby and her family have just moved to Castine Island, twenty miles off the coast of Maine, from Massachusetts.  For months scientists have been talking about a comet that will pass over the earth leaving a vast trail of space dust and spectacular colors, including a purple moon.  But no one predicts the killer bacteria that attacks human hormones, leaving all adults and older adolescents dead.  Abby, her brother Jordan, and baby sister Toucan and the other kids on the island struggle to adjust to their new life, all the while hoping for a cure before they, too, die.

This novel is like Hunger Games for the younger set--survival in a post-apocalyptic dystopia.  Middle grade readers will love the fast pace and vicarious exploration of life without adult supervision plus the suspense of getting the cure in time. Highly recommended for ages 10 & up.

The Faustian Host

The Faustian Host by Dave Becker (self-published, 2012). Review copy provided by author.

Fourteen-year-old Tony Marino's grandmother, who has taken care of him since his mother died when he was young, has just died; that's upsetting enough, but then a bizarre stranger in the cemetery makes some cryptic comments to Tony and a meteor destroys his grandmother's Florida home.  Tony finds himself whisked away to Massachusetts by his new guardians, the Browns, and testing to get into the elite Kalos Academy, a special day school for extremely gifted students. Strange events follow Tony there, though, and many of his classmates regard him as cursed. Worse, he seems to be associated with a series of unexplained natural events similar to Biblical plagues that befall the area. Tony and his small group of friends set out to discover the source of the events, leading to hair-raising adventures including a cataclysmic showdown of epic proportions in Death Valley.

Middle grade readers will enjoy this wild combination of adventure, fantasy, and supernatural elements.  There's also a bit of awkward romance as Tony crushes on the enchanting Katie, the dean's daughter. The theme of success via cooperation runs through the book, a lesson that Tony in particular needs to learn. Recommended for ages 10 & up.


Transcendence by C. J. Omolulu (New York: Walker & Co., 2012). Reviewed from e-galley provided by the publisher via netgalley.com.

When sixteen-year-old cello prodigy Cole (short for Nicole) starts having visions of the past while visiting London, she's afraid she's going crazy. She feels as though she's walked the streets before--though they're slightly different.  And at the Tower of London she practically envisions a beheading--her own! Then she passes out in the arms of the amazingly attractive Griffon and feels an intense attraction to him.  Once she's back home in San Francisco, her visions continue, sometimes triggered by a smell or a touch.  Griffon explains that the visions are from past lives and she's transitioning to becoming an Akhet, like him--someone who has lived before and will continue to do so with memories intact in order to help the world.  But before that can happen, a rogue Akhet from Cole's past threatens her life while trying to right a perceived wrong from the past.  Racing to solve this mystery, Cole puts herself and those she loves in danger.

Transcendence is a wonderful and unique blend--part mystery, part thriller, part romance, part historical--that adds up to a fabulous read.  Omolulu creates a tense situation by having Cole's past come back in bits and pieces involving many people in her current life.  The mystery from the past is particularly intriguing as Cole and her best friend Rayne research old San Francisco to figure out what happened. The scenes at the Tower of London involving Nicole's past are also well done and engrossing and make for some additional surprises.  All in all, highly recommended for ages 13 & up.  Sexual situations, mild language.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Angels, Chimps, & Tater Mitts

Angels, Chimps, & Tater Mitts by Mike Ball (2012). Review copy provided by author.

Angels, Chimps, & Tater Mitts is Mike Ball's second collection of columns previously published under the title "What I've Learned So Far."  The topics range widely, as the title suggests, and have a midwestern feel, although Ball is decidedly liberal, thank heavens. Ball writes about fishing, Michigan sports teams, his work with Lost Voices (an organization that helps kids in juvenile detention facilities), his travels, and lots of other stuff. He avoids being overly sentimental, though I admit to getting misty a few times when he was talking about some of the kids he helped and what they had to say.  I laughed long and hard over his comments about Sarah Palin.  Of course, I mainly read the book to learn exactly what a Tater Mitt could be, and I recommend that you do the same.  All of the essays are short, so this is a great book to keep in the car when you're waiting for a kid to finish baseball practice or whatever.  It's easy to pick up and put down.  I wouldn't have minded a table of contents so I could go straight to favorite topics...maybe that will be a new feature in Part III?