Category Archives: LOL

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate‎

One and Only IvanWhen this book won the 2013 Newbery Award, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read it.  It just sounded too depressing.  Luckily, a friend read it and said it was actually funnier than it sounded, albeit sad at times, and that she thought my son would also enjoy it. I decided to get the audiobook because my son and I share 60-90 minutes of audiobook time per day in the summer driving together to my library and his day camp.  (We share a parking lot with the Y!)  This was our first audiobook of the summer, and it was a *HUGE* hit.  So much so that my son was pretty much devastated any time that his sister was in the car and requested that we “waste” any of our time listening to music.

Although Ivan and the other animals were being held captive in less than desirable conditions, their actions and stories they told one another were often funny.  The humor sprinkled throughout the story definitely helped to keep it light.  My son’s favorite new vocabulary word, and the discussion of which he often used to try to convince his sister to listen to the story with us, was me-ball.  You may be asking yourself, “What’s a me-ball?”  Why, it’s a rolled up, dried out ball of poop that gorillas like to throw, of course!  ;-)  He thought that was hilarious, and he loved the loving friendships between the animals.  The best part of the story, in my opinion, was at the end when the author’s note explained that this story was based on the true story of a gorilla named Ivan.  I think it will do a lot to help readers understand that, though the thoughts and specific stories told by the animals in this story were fictional, animals surely want (and deserve) companionship and appropriate living conditions.

Happy Reading!

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

NogginWith all of the attention The Fault in Our Stars has been receiving lately, many people are looking for read alike books.  I wouldn’t necessarily put this in the same category, since it is magical realism as opposed to contemporary realistic fiction.  (If you’re looking for another realistic contemporary read alike, you should check out Somebody Up There Hates You.)  Despite the magical realism, though, I think many TFiOS fans will find that Noggin is “close enough” in that it’s a smart and funny book that challenges your preconceived notions of the world around you.  Also, Travis Coates is a teenager who had cancer.

Because Travis Coates’ body was riddled with cancer and the treatments weren’t proving to be effective, he didn’t really have many options left.  He could continue trying every experimental treatment possible, which often left him weak and ill; he could give up fighting and try to enjoy the time he had left; or he could go rogue and let some scientists cut his head off, cryogenically freeze it, and hope they could develop the technology to successfully reanimate his head on a donor body.  Although they didn’t think they would have the technology to reanimate him before all of his friends and family were very old or gone altogether, Travis liked the idea of dying on his own terms.  Potentially living again would just be a bonus.  Imagine his surprise, then, when we wakes up and finds out that it has only been 5 years since he “died.”  He’s still 16, but everyone he knows and loves has aged 5 years, and nothing is at all as he left it.

Happy Reading!

Killer Pizza by Greg Taylor

Killer PizzaToby really wants to become a chef and often fantasizes about becoming famous like the people he watches on the Food Network. He doesn’t exactly have any cooking experience, though, and recognizes that as a major barrier to his dream. So, he decides to apply for a summer job at a new restaurant called Killer Pizza. Working in the KP kitchen is fun and, in addition to making new friends (Annabel and Strobe), Toby gets major satisfaction out of knowing that he has some natural culinary skills.  It seems that this is definitely the perfect job… until he is let in on a little secret; Killer Pizza is actually just a front for a monster hunting organization!  There’s nothing quite like hearing that MONSTERS ARE REAL and that some of them have taken up residence in your town.  And, as if learning about the monster infestation wasn’t scary enough, Toby, Annabel, and Strobe find out that they’re being recruited as MCOs (Monster Combat Officers) to help actually hunt down and kill the monsters.

This book was not quite as gruesome as The Monstrumologist, but I could see fans of that book choosing this for a light summer read.  It’s probably somewhere between R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series and his and Fear Street series.  I would definitely recommend this to fans of Cirque Du Freak because it’s a little funny, just a bit creepy, and even a little gross, but still tame enough that it didn’t give me nightmares (which is all too easy a feat).  If you’d rather have a horror story that might give you nightmares, though, you should head on over to read Ashes by Ilsa Bick.  [shudder]

Happy Reading!

The 26-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

26 story tree houseSomehow, my son and I didn’t hear about The 13-Story Tree House until after we already had our hands on this book… So, we went ahead and started this one with hopes that we would not be too confused.  The good news is that a lack of familiarity didn’t take away from our enjoyment of this story.  The bad news is that we had too little self-control to make this book last!  ;-)  We read this book in only two sittings.  Granted, there are a lot of interior illustrations; but, we also read for about twice as long as normal for each of those two sittings.  It was just so funny that we didn’t want to stop reading!  Although it’s much sillier and more fantastic than the Wimpy Kid books, I think fans of that series should definitely check this one out — and to stay tuned for news about when The 39-Story Tree House and The 59-Story Tree House will make it to the US.  (The 59-Storey Treehouse will be released in Australia on August 26th.)

Happy Reading!

Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo

SidekicksThanks to my recent stint at Batgirl at the YSS Spring Conference, I finally remembered that I need to post a review of this book!  Let me just start off by saying that I liked this book, but I was a bit put off in the beginning.  I think it’s because the cover had me expecting something that would be more accessible to tweens and younger teens but the story left me feeling uncomfortable recommending this book to someone who specifically asks for a “clean read” for their child.  Perhaps I found the beginning of the book so off-putting just because I am female and just don’t *get* it as much as if I had grown up as a guy.  But, as it stands, I thought that the first several chapters were a bit much.  I mean, does it really take several chapters to get across the point that Bright Boy was embarrassed about an erection showing through his spandex costume? I think not…

For the most part, though, I really enjoyed this book.  I especially appreciated the fact that good and evil were not as typically “black and white” as in many super hero stories.  Sometimes, heroes do very bad things; sometimes, villains are actually misguided altruists.  I loved that Phantom Justice was a campy parody of Batman, whom I think my husband takes entirely too seriously, and Dr. Chaotic reminded me quite a bit of Dr. Horrible.  If you’re looking for a funny story with action and adventure, mystery and suspense, and a hint of romance, you should give this one a try.

Happy Reading!

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

fat boy vs the cheerleadersIn honor of Teen Tech Week, I decided to review a book that I read as a digital ARC.  (If there are any teachers/librarians out there who would like to get digital ARCs, by the way, I highly recommend checking out Edelweiss and NetGalley.) Though I was reluctant to use an e-reader, I really have come around.  Though I still prefer “real” books, I am learning to appreciate my e-reader — especially when it means that I will have a better chance of receiving, and sometimes even instant access to, a review copy!

I don’t recall where I first saw the cover of this book, but I was intrigued by both the title and the cool cover.  I wanted to find out more about it and whether it might be a good fit for my library’s YA collection, but I couldn’t find any professional reviews.  So, I decided to get a digital review copy from Edelweiss and read it myself.   I am SO glad I did!  I loved the main character, Gabe/Chunk, and thought the unique way the story was told — in the form of a written statement/police interview — worked surprisingly well.

Gabe’s “friends” call him Chunk [a reference to a character from an 80s cult classic, The Goonies], and he has long accepted that moniker.  After all, he is fat.  Huge.  Beyond hope.  After his mom left, he and his dad both began to feed their feelings.  One of Gabe/Chunk’s biggest problems is his addiction to soda — but the money from the soda machine in the school cafeteria helps to fund the school pep band, so he is OK with wasting his money and drinking all the extra calories… until the day he finds out that they’ve been bamboozled.  Without public knowledge, the school board decided to take the money from the soda machine and give it to the cheerleaders for a new dance squad!  Gabe/Chunk decides that he is not only going to enlist the help of his friends to win back the money for the band, but he is going to let his grandfather [a former champion body builder] help him win back his body.  Though I admit that the description sounds like it could get a little preachy, I am pleased to report that this story was often hilarious and that Gabe/Chunk had an authentic teen voice.  I’m definitely hoping for more from this author.

Happy Reading!

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Gorgeous18-year-old Becky Randle, a recent high school graduate, works for a local grocery chain and lives in the trailer she inherited when her mom died (from complications of diabetes/being morbidly obese).  One day, Becky thinks she hears her mom’s ringtone and, while searching for the phone, unearths a phone number on a scrap of paper inside an otherwise empty jewelery box.  She wonders if the phone number has anything to do with the cryptic thing her mother said on the day she died — “[S]omething is going to happen to you. And it’s going to be magical.”  So Becky decides to take a chance and calls the number.  It’s almost too good to be true when the person on the other end of the line offers her $1000 and a plane ticket to New York City, but she has nothing to lose and decides to check it out.

Upon her arrival in NYC, she is brought to see fashion designer Tom Kelly, who offers to make her three dresses and to transform her into the most beautiful woman in the world.  Becky doesn’t believe him at first, but her best friend Rocher uses some extremely colorful language to convince her to go for it.  (Rocher’s expletive-laden exclamations were often hilarious, and one was so good that I actually pulled over and recorded it with my cell phone so I could later play it back for my husband.  AFTER the kids had gone to bed, of course!)  Anyhow… Tom comes through and works some sort of crazy magic and Becky really is transformed!  She becomes Rebecca — who is tall, thin, and gorgeous, with perfect skin and hair.  She can eat anything she wants without gaining an ounce, and this gives her loads more confidence than Becky ever had.  The only problem is that Rebecca needs to fall in love and get married within a year or everything will go back to the way it was before.

Happy Reading!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fford

The Last DragonslayerI was initially going to read this by myself, but I had to keep stopping to read things out loud to my son because he kept asking, “What’s so funny?”  After a few chapters he asked me, “Can you just start over and read that book out loud to me?  It sounds really good!”  Well, I couldn’t say no to that!  And, I must say, even though this book is cataloged as YA, it really didn’t have anything in it that made me uncomfortable reading it out loud to an 8-year-old.

15-year-old Jennifer Strange works as the manager for Kazam Mystical Arts Management.  Since wizidrical power has been dwindling for quite some time, wizards are reduced to using their power for more mundane purposes, like delivering pizzas and rewiring houses.  Jennifer spends her time and energy trying to find enough work for the Kazam employees, but demand seems to be drying up just as quick as magic.  Until, suddenly there is a magical surge and people start whispering about the possibility that Big Magic is involved.  When “precogs” start picking up on the impending demise of the last dragon, Maltcassian, everyone in the UnUnited Kingdoms starts going mad about claiming a portion of the untouched Dragonlands — and Jennifer learns that SHE will become the Last Dragonslayer.  Reluctant to believe that she will have to kill Maltcassian, since he hasn’t yet done anything to break the Dragonpact, Jennifer does her best to wield her power as Last Dragonslayer with integrity.  This book has a winning combination of a strong female character with a good moral compass and plenty of wry humor.  I can see this book being a hit for fans of Harry Potter who want a lighter fantasy read.

Happy Reading!

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

Somebody Up There Hates YouWhen people ask Richard Casey what’s wrong with him, he likes to reply that he has SUTHY syndrome.  He waits an uncomfortable beat and then explains that SUTHY stands for “Somebody Up There Hates You.”  After all, what other reason would there be for a 17-year-old to be in hospice care with a terminal cancer diagnosis?  If I hadn’t already read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, I may not have believed it was possible that Seamon could have written so much humor into this story.  Between Rich’s wry sense of humor and his bumbling romance with a girl named Sylvie [the only other teen in the hospice unit], I laughed out loud often enough that my cat gave up on falling asleep in my lap — and that never happens!  If you already read TFiOS and need something to hold you over until the movie comes out in June, you will probably enjoy this story too.

Happy Reading!

Winger by Andrew Smith

wingerRyan Dean West has a lot going on…  First of all, Ryan Dean — yes, that’s his first name — is a 14 year old junior.  Even though he attends an elite prep school, or perhaps because he attends an elite prep school, being two to three years younger than the other students in his grade causes a lot of resentment.  Aside from being called a baby all the time, he also has to deal with the fact that he landed himself in “O Hall” [the residence hall for trouble makers] and is stuck rooming with a psychopath named Chas.  Luckily, Chas is a rugby teammate and, therefore, has *some* reason not to randomly kill Ryan Dean in his sleep.  Other than Chas, Ryan Dean’s biggest problem is girls.  His age complicates dating a bit, since he would rather date people in his grade and not people his own age.  Unfortunately, though it’s pretty clear that Ryan Dean is love with his best friend, Annie, she seems to think of him as a kid.  And Megan, who clearly has the hots for him, is Chas’ girlfriend — which may end up giving Chas the excuse he needs to kill Ryan Dean for real.  Luckily, Ryan Dean has another best friend, Joey, to help him through all the craziness and to try to talk some sense into him as needed.  Although Ryan Dean occasionally feels awkward about the fact that Joey is gay — wondering, for example, if people will think he is gay by extension — he loves Joey like a brother and is [sometimes begrudgingly] grateful for his advice.

Even though the plot is not at all similar, I found that this book reminded me of I Love You, Beth Cooper.  Ryan Dean, despite being a “jock,” somehow reminded me of nerdy Dennis Cooverman.  Maybe it was his superior book smarts paired with a lack of interpersonal intelligence?  One could probably make the argument that the connection in my mind stems from the fact that Ryan Dean got progressively more banged up throughout the story (just like Dennis), but I think I made the connection before the injuries started to pile up.  I think that the overall humorous tone, realistic dialogue, and writing style were similar enough for my brain to make a link (though I feel compelled to warn readers that Winger had a very sad twist ending).  No matter the reason, nevertheless, I think Larry Doyle fans are likely to be Andrew Smith fans as well.

Happy Reading!