Once Upon a Bookshelf – The Disappearance of Emily H.

The Disappearance of Emily H.The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Raine and her mother move around a lot. After being in 5 different schools in 3 years, Raine hopes that Yielding is a place that will stick. They move into a bright pink house that is full of mystery. The family that lived there before suffered a loss – their daughter Emily disappeared one night on her way to a sleepover. Raine is special, though. She collects memories that she finds all over town in an attempt to solve the mystery that has been plaguing the town for months.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Emily isn’t missing and she isn’t dead. Using her powers and tips from neighbors and classmates, the discovers that Emily has been living in her basement this whole time! She’s been hiding from a high school arsonist that is out to get her because she knows his secret. Raine uses her abilities to help her out but it’s not before they are both put in a terribly dangerous situation.

My favorite part of this book was the mystery. With all of the sneaking about and the small hints at Emily’s fate, it’s hard not to be involved with the case. The subtle hints about the fires and the small memories that seem like nothing can easily draw you in once you start connecting the dots.

You can never go wrong with stories about overcoming bullies, too. Jennifer (the bully) is an awful person and even though we don’t really know why, we do find her weakness and Raine and her new friend, Shirlee, take matters into their own hands to bring her down.

Despite this being a mystery/sci-fi kind of story, it also has heart. Raine is standoffish at first, trying her best to make no friends because she thinks her mom will make them move again after her next boyfriend messes things up, but by the end she’s created friendships with people that she didn’t even realize would be important to her.

The whole collecting memories thing was actually pretty cool, but I wish there would have been more of a backstory to that, other than her grandmother having that ability too. I want to know more about the origins and how and why it came about.

Overall, I rated this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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Once Upon a Bookshelf – Charlie and the Grandmothers

Charlie and the GrandmothersCharlie and the Grandmothers by Katy Towell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Charlie is afraid of everything. “He worried about flooding on a cloudless day. He worried about wildfires when the rain wouldn’t stop. He worried about things that went bump in the night and worried equally about things that didn’t.” He hadn’t slept in the 6 years that his dad died, worried something bad would happen to more people he loved. His sister, Georgie, on the other hand is quite the adventurer. After children from their town start disappearing after they go on trips to visit their grandmothers, Charlie get suspicious. Where are they all going? He doesn’t have anything to worry about though because he no longer has grandmothers. Or does he?

After a sickness grips his mother, Georgie and Charlie are sent away to visit with Grandmother Pearl and Grandmother Opal, neither of which they knew existed. Charlie’s fear is strong and that’s what ultimately keeps him safe. Georgie forgets about life before arriving at the farm which gets her into trouble.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

It turns out that the grandmothers are not who they seem. They are actually henchmen for the wicked Queen of Fear. All seems lost until Charlie realizes that his fear has been preparing him for this for the past 6 years. In order to defeat the Queen, he has to face his biggest fear – remembering the good times with his father. After realizing that he needs to focus on what he has and not take it for granted, Charlie, Georgie, and all of the kids that had been captured before them are returned to their homes.

I had high hopes for this book but I had such a hard time getting into it. I really like the premise because it reminds me a lot of a book that I’ve been writing for… 9 years. Sometimes it seemed like important moments were just glossed over and other times I got wicked bored but kept trudging through.

The illustrations are fantastic though. The author is also the illustrator, and she does a great job. Her design style for the book is eerie and creepy and I love it.

Overall, I liked this book although based on what my kids at school have said, it’s hit or miss with the younger crowd too.

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Once Upon a Bookshelf – Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy MudFuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh walk home from school together every day. When their normal path is too dangerous to walk thanks to the school bully, Chad Wilson, Marshall decides to take a detour through the woods that they know they aren’t allowed in. Tamaya has no choice but to follow – she’s not allowed to walk home alone. They find themselves lost and surrounded by the strangest fuzzy goop. Little do they know that this mystery mud is being investigated by the United State government.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The story telling in this book is amazing. I love how the author goes back and forth from the kids to the trial. You get glimpses of the problem at the beginning of the book but the gravity of the situation doesn’t really hit home until you see the effects that the fuzzy mud has had on Chad.

Speaking of Chad, I didn’t even think about the fact that Tamaya threw the mud in his face. I was so focused on Tamaya’s rash and the secret she was trying to keep for her friend that when they mentioned that Chad wasn’t at school, my heart dropped.

I’m always a sucker for a story where the bad guy doesn’t end of being so bad in the end. Chad, like a lot of kids, had to accept help for the sake of everyone and it’s clear that now he has some friends for like (whether he wants to admit it or not).

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Once Upon a Bookshelf – “Survivor’s Club: A True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz”

Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of AuschwitzSurvivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the ranks of Holocaust memoirs, this book might be my favorite one.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Young Michael wasn’t even born when WWII started. For the first 5 years of his life, he only knew fear, anger, and distrust. After being able to avoid camp life for his first few years, even his family, led by his father who had a position of “power” amongst his peers, couldn’t keep his family safe for long. When Michael was 4, he was taken to one of the most notorious concentration camps, Auschwitz. Separated from his brother and father, Micheal managed to avoid any major punishments. His mother, hating to see her son struggle (he was the youngest at the camp and was picked on mercilessly by the older kids often going without food), she hid him away in the women’s barracks. This worked out fine until she herself was sent to a new camp but luckily he still had his grandmother by his side. When the camp was freed by the Soviets 6 months after their arrival, Michael and his grandmother went back to their hometown thinking that they were the only ones in their family left alive.

What I love most about this book is that it’s based on true events but some of the details are made up. Obviously the author doesn’t know specific things about what people said or what they wore or what went on when he wasn’t around, but his voice and his storytelling sound so authentic. I can most certainly believe he remembers when he found out his mother had been moved and my heart broke, too, when he and his mother left his grandmother behind as they started their journey to the United States.

It’s also very interesting to hear the story from his perspective because in his life he had known nothing but the war. He had hatred for Germans and knew the strict rules they had to follow to stay safe. To imagine a child going through that is horrendous, but if you think about it, it’s happening today too.

The pictures provided at the end of the books are always one of my favorite things. Not only do you get to read about people, but you can also get a glimpse into their lives. See the real them.

What an amazing book. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Holocaust or even middle school students trying to wrap their heads around such an event.

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November 12th. I love it.

Friends, this was a really hard week. Really hard. But I still found things to love.

First up this week, Poke. I love it. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a Hawaiian food that is basically like sushi in a bowl and it is heavenly. I had it a few times back in December while I was in LA for Christmas and NOLA finally got a place! I took my friend Annabelle there on Thursday and she loved it too. Try it friends! It won’t disappoint!

I love it.

Next up, spending the day with people I love it. On Friday, I got off of school early so where did I go? To Diana’s house to spend some time with her and the baby, of course! I ended up spending Friday night with them which spilled into an all-day hang out sesh on Saturday. We ate a ton of food, shopped, talked about life, and we watched movies. I don’t know what I would do without this family!

I love it.

Finally, having an amazing support system. I’m not going to divulge much right now, but I’ve been struggling in life for the past few months. I made the conscious decision to reach out to my friends and family to help get me through and I am amazed by how awesome everyone has been. They have been my rocks and shoulders to lean on and they knocked some sense into me when I needed it most. I just hope that I can repay them all one day.

I love it. It’s great. Everything’s great.

I love it.

How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel

How Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the CruelHow Lunchbox Jones Saved Me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel by Jennifer Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Luke Abbott loves video games. It’s basically all he does with his free time. That is until he’s forced to sign up for the Forest Shade Middle School Robotics Team. Forest Shade Middle School has never won anything – their sports teams are terrible but is their hope for the Rallying Robo-Raccoons?

The team is comprised of a cast of characters from a kid who has pockets full of sunflower seeds, a girl who does everything with her feet, and boys that are twins but aren’t (I don’t know a better way to explain it). Oh yeah, and Lunchbox Jones. The meanest bully at school.

What I loved about this book is that you think it’s going to be a story about a kid learning to love robotics, but it’s so much more than that. There is another storyline where Luke’s brother is leaving for boot camp in a few short months and Luke is having a terrible time with it. So much so that he actually refuses to even acknowledge his brother. Throughout the story, he kid of warms up to him again and once he finally shares his feelings with hi parents, his relationship with his brother gets better.

I also loved the dialogue in the book. Luke seems like a kid that couldn’t care less about other people but it turns out that he really cares a lot. He rallies his team together and gets them to the tournament even after everyone quits. He joins forces with the kid he is most afraid of and they make it happen. He even comes to the realization that he’s friends with these kids – kids he didn’t want anything to do with in the beginning.

The title is very fitting. It takes the school bully to make Luke realize that he has friends and that his brother isn’t the traitor he thinks he is. They silently bond of robotics and ultimately lead their team to a very minuscule victory (even though it was a total loss by anyone else’s standards).

Reading this book made me wish that I had been into robotics when I was in school. It wasn’t that I thought it was weird or nerdy (I’m so nerdy it’s not funny) but it was because I didn’t think I would understand how to do it. This book made me realize that I can’t do a lot of things until I try and practice. And besides, the chances of me maiming the school principal like Luke did are pretty slim, right?

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

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November 5th. I love it

Yay, love!

First up this week, Halloween! I love it! It’s my FAVORITE holiday and this year I actually got to dress up. Well, I dressed up but really no one saw me because I was wrangled into working on the set of a movie that was being filmed on my school’s campus. But I was totally in costume as I sat in the press box for 10 hours running the scoreboard every now and then. I’m really excited about the pumpkins that I bought this year too. They are fake but carve-able so I did that on Monday. I’m still using them, too!

I love it.

Next up, The World Series. I love it. It’s the most intense week and a half of baseball all season and even though I had a hard time staying awake for all of the games, it was still fun to watch. Now the problem is that there is no more baseball until April. Boo!

I love it.

Finally, seeing Bud for the first time since JULY! I love it. Friday happened to be his birthday and our 3rd anniversary and he happened to be 4 hours away instead of 12 so I drove to Monroe to see him. I didn’t get him for long but just long enough to give him presents, have dinner at Mongolian BBQ, dessert at Dairy Queen, a movie night, and IHOP for breakfast. 4 month is an awful long time to go without seeing him but hopefully I get to see him in a few weeks.

I love it. It’s great. Everything’s great.

I love it.