Friday, June 29, 2012

The Journeys of John and Julia in Chapter One: Genesis by Aurelia

The Journeys of John and Julia in Chapter One: Genesis
By Aurelia
Published by Gerber Rigler, June 29, 2012
264 pages (paperback)
Source: NetGalley

The Journeys of John and Julia begin.
The Twenty-Two are watching.
Reality is about to change.
It all starts when Julia's parents totally mess with her summer. First Julia's dad takes off to start a whole new family. Then Julia's mom yanks Julia from cheerleader camp to spend the summer with her grandmother in the land of no signal, no mall, no best friend Kellie. Julia's only hope for human contact is geeky John Freeman, who is six months younger than she and about a million years behind her idea of cool.
If only Julia knew that her mom plans to dump her at Grandma's not just for the summer, but for a whole year. If only Julia knew that a collective of wondrous beings called The Twenty-Two are watching over her and trying to make contact. If only Julia knew that they could tell Julia every thought she never knew she had and bend her reality in any way they choose. And that she'd be with John Freeman when it happened. He'd think that was way cool. And that is just the beginning. For this seemingly mismatched pair have cracked open the door to another reality. And their enemy-to-be, the beyond evil Niem Vidalgo Oten, is about to enter the picture. (from NetGalley)

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I started out really confused as the Twenty-Two gathered. I felt like there was too much description of their outfits then action/plot progression. Plus, with 22 fantastical beings, I couldn’t keep track of who could do what, etc. But then the story moved on to Julia and then John. While not particularly endearing, I never disliked either of them. However, I did wonder why the Twenty-Two were helping Julia instead of someone else in much more need. I mean, yes, her father left and her grandpa died, but there are kids and adults in much more need of guidance. In fact, I think Julia’s mom was more in need of guidance then her.

The book continued to flip back and forth between the Twenty-Two and John & Julia. Then I couldn’t read any more. In a flashback to a conversation with her best friend, Julia remembers calling her friend a “psychitard”. Really? The author couldn’t come up with anything better than distorting the R-word? Then, later on, the author actually uses the R-word.


Now, I can handle cussing in books if that fits the situation/character, but derogatory terms about people used flippantly and ignorantly to sound cool is not ok. And in 2012 the R-word should not be used in a book. Or, if it is used in a book, it should be Character A saying the word and Character B educating A on how not-cool it is to use the R-word. If you want more information on how to Spread the Word to End the Word just follow the link and educate your friends!

So I had to stop the book. I know it was intended to show Julia’s immaturity or something like that, but there are a lot of other words/phrases that could have been used. The book was already so-so but I didn’t really want to read any more completely ridiculous sentences that are offensive to so many wonderful people around the world.

Hopefully future adventures of John & Julia will result in more mature conversations and actions. Hopefully.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Classroom: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid by Robin Mellom

The Classroom: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid
By Robin Mellom
Published by Disney-Hyperion, June 19, 2012
288 pages (hardback)
Source: NetGalley

A documentary crew has descended upon Westside Middle School to detail the life of an average seventh grader and his classmates. What they uncover, though, is far from average. Mostly, it is upper average along with moments of extreme average, highlighted by several minutes of total epicness.

Trevor Jones has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer. But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby, drops on him at the bus stop: he needs to branch out and make new friends. Oh, and he must ask a girl to the fall dance. By the end of the day.

Trevor decides that he would rather squirt hot sauce in his eyes than attend the dance. Everything changes, though, when he meets mysterious new student Molly. Trevor starts to think that going to the dance
maybe wouldn't be the worst thing ever. But with detention-wielding teachers, school gossips, and, worst of all, eighth graders conspiring against him, Trevor will have to do the one thing he wasn't prepared to do: be epic. (from NetGalley)

I really enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to adding it to the library’s collection. This is a story of mishaps, awkward encounters, fear of new schools (and bigger kids), change, friendships, and what happens when you really try to do the right thing. The Classroom: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid is told from the point of view of several different characters so it can be difficult to transition back and forth, but each character is distinct and different so it doesn’t take figure it out.

Of course I liked that there was a mix of narrative and pictures because it breaks up the text and helps one visualize that is going on (and some of the pictures are silly so it is a nice addition). However, what I liked most of all in this book that, all in all, it was positive. Sure, the characters have conflicts and there is a bully, but it would be pointless to write a book with no conflict. However, instead of the wimpy main character always getting picked on and people being really mean to each other, things do go right for Trevor (sometimes, and not like he wants/expects it). And the end of the story gives you hope that things CAN go right at school even when it seems like nothing will ever go your way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
By Seth Grahame-Smith
Published by Grand Central Pub., 2010
336 pages (hardcover)

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call "Milk Sickness."
"My baby boy..." she whispers before dying.
Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.
When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, "henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose..." Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.
While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.
Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.  (from

Those who know me know that I love Abraham Lincoln. I mean, he was awesome AND he lived in Illinois. Ok. Maybe I just don’t love Abe. Maybe I am a bit obsessed. Check out the evidence below…

My son at 6 months old celebrating President’s Day with Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt (my other favorite!).

Me on Abe’s 202nd birthday at a Butler University basketball game (Go Dawgs!). I even took a Butler shirt off a tiny bulldog I have and put it on Abe. And brought him to the game.

My son, 2 years old, dressed as Abe Lincoln for Halloween. He was able to recite the beginning of the Gettysburg Address.

This year, instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day (February 14th) I decided we should celebrate Abe’s birthday (February 12th). As a family we made stovepipe hat shaped cookies and read books about Abe Lincoln.

So, yeah, I just had to read this book. I know it is fiction, but Seth Grahame-Smith did such a great job with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that I figured Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter would be, at the very least, amusing. And me, someone who loves history and Abe Lincoln did really enjoy this book. Really! Grahame-Smith did an excellent job of mixing history with vampire slaying. There were even some points where I wondered if it all really could be true (I wish the very very very end was true!).

One of the most awesome things was that a chunk of the book is set in the Springfield, IL area as well as a few other parts of central Illinois. I mean, I have been to New Salem and Lincoln’s house in Springfield. I have visited his gravesite and worked in a museum that is actually an old house where Lincoln used to stay when visited Vermilion County. Having seen these places made the book seem more alive and realistic. I could totally envision the places Grahame-Smith described and felt like I was with Abe has he took on the evil vampires. I would definitely recommend this book. It is part history, part vampires, and part battles against evil. Seems like a good summer read to me!

Now, you may be wondering, how does the movie compare to the book. Well, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the movie yet and I am not sure if I want to because I hate seeing blood. However, I did text Mr. Koplinski (yes, teachers text each other!) since I knew our great UMS movie reviewer would go see it. Below is our conversation.
Mrs. R: Hey! Did you go see Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and is it any good? I read the book and liked it and was wondering if the movie was any good. Or if it might be too bloody for me. Keep in mind that I am not a fan of lots of blood and gore.

Mr. K: It’s bloody but so much so you can’t take it seriously. It really is a lot of fun; the way they fold history into the story. Give it a shot.

Mrs. R: The book was well written and cracked me up so I am that the movie is enjoyable!

Mr. K: Don’t take the child!!! Though next Halloween he has to go as Lincoln with an axe!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

STUDENT REVIEW - The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl (aka The Diary of Anne Frank)
By Anne Frank
Published by Random House Publishing Group, 1993
304 pages (paperback)

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annex" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

The journal of a Jewish girl in her early teens describes both the joys and torments of daily life, as well as typical adolescent thoughts, throughout two years spent in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

Yeah, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler] because they might be interested in it like I was. It was good because it is sad how they die and only one lived. The Nazi Party and their leader, Hitler, was really dangerous. I am glad the camp was saved by the Americans.
---Reviewed by Jawon B.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

STUDENT REVIEW - Witch & Wizard by James Patterson

Witch & Wizard (Witch & Wizard Series #1)
By James Patterson
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010
314 pages (paperback)


Everything is about to change. The government has seized control of every aspect of society, and this is the astonishing testimonial of Wisty and Whit Allgood, a sister and brother who were torn from their family in the middle of the night, slammed into prison, and accused of being a witch and a wizard. Thousands of young people have been kidnapped; some have been accused; many others remain missing. Their fate is unknown, and the worst is feared—for the ruling regime will stop at nothing to suppress life and liberty, music and books, art and magic . . . and the pursuit of being a normal teenager.

Yes, [I would recommend this book to a middle schooler] becaust it is a good book and it was made by a good author. I think it is a good book because this book has adventure, action, and magic AND those are the books I like to read. So that is why I think it’s a good book. I don’t think anything should change in this book.
---Reviewed by Cameron C.