Reboot by Amy Tintera

178 minutes between death and life.  178 minutes, each minute making her faster and stronger; each minute making her less human; each minute stripping her of her emotions.  Reboot number 178 was dead the longest out of everyone in her facility.  She originally died when she was 12 and has been policing the streets under the command of the government.  Her job is killing and capturing insurgents, criminals, and adults who died and rose again.  The elite of her command, she cares for nothing except the chase and the capture, and she long ago gave up on the thought that she might feel human again.  Everyone knows that it’s impossible for someone with a number as high as hers.  That is until Callum, who was only dead 22 minutes, is introduced to her facility.  With a number so low as to be practically human in emotions and reflexes, 178 takes him on at first as a training challenge.  And then finds that he begins to awaken hidden feelings when she is ordered to eliminate him.


Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

“On a bright Sunday morning in the early years of the last century, a bellhop from the Hotel Excelsior knocked at the front door of 5 Thieves Alley, the home of William and Mary Starling of the Starling Theatrical Company, and their son, Maximilian. The bellhop, wearing the traditional red uniform with stripes running the length of his trouser legs and with the traditional red cap perched on his head, put a small packet into the hand of the dark-haired, hawk-nosed man who opened the door and accepted the coin offered to him for his trouble. He walked briskly off; unaware of what he had started.”

Mystery is afoot in this jaunty adventure where Maximilian Starling is all set to travel to India on a ship named the Flower of Kashmir. His parents have been invited by the Maharajah to establish a Theatrical Company in India; the Maharajah had seen them perform, it made an indelible impression on him, which then inspired him to conceive the dream of having his own Company. The Maharajah had even sent a fabulous brooch as an incentive. It’s decided that Max, at 12, is old enough to become independent. He will travel with them, bring his bicycle and embark on the education of a lifetime. One small problem: when he arrives at the docks after his last painting lesson with Joachim, his parents, along with the Flower of Kashmir, are nowhere to be found; no one’s even heard of the Flower of Kashmir.
Shaken, and worried, after questioning Captain Francis, and the local Harbormaster, he rides back to Grammie, who lives in the house behind their property, to re-group and discuss what to do next. Mystery and adventure ensure. Max’s wits are tested: lost child Angel Humphrey, lost dog Princess Jonquilletta of the Windy Isles, Gabrielle Glompf—extraordinary pastry chef with a ruined reputation, his Math Tutor Ari—so handsome he looks like a marble statue of one of the Greek Gods, the stolen Cellini spoon, and cranky Baroness Barthold. The situation turns dangerous when thugs ransack his house—looking for what? Necessity drives him to become the “solutioneer.”

Newbery medalist Cynthia Voigt’s voice is fresh and exciting, capturing perfectly the tone of an almost 13 year old boy as he struggles to make sense of the mystery of his lost parents. Mister Max, written by Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Iacopa Bruno will keep the attention of mystery, and adventure lovers alike.


The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit is a humorous and delightful read-aloud picture book by Drew Daywalt. Written with a clever and original perspective, it is playfully illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The story begins when a little boy named Duncan opens his crayon box at school one day, only to discover that all his crayons have run away, leaving him notes that explain why they have quit. They complain that some colors feel under used, while others feel over used and worn.  And others, such as the orange and yellow crayons, have started a feud and are no longer speaking, because they both believe they should be the one to color of the sun!

As Duncan reads on, he is confronted with more letters of protest, cleverly written and drawn in each crayon’s color. Unhappy because of overuse, Red feels overwhelmed, while Purple, the neat nick, complaints that Duncan sometimes does not color within the lines, and writes: "If you don't start coloring inside the lines soon, I'm going to lose it." Worn-out Grey is throwing in the towel, since he always gets big jobs like coloring in the whales and elephants, and says” “come on give me a break.”  Ms. White feels neglected, empty, and rather non-existent, complaining that if she didn't have a black outline no one would know she was there, while Black resends just being the "outliner." Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown. Poor little Beige is... tired of being called "light brown" or "dark tan" and wants his own identity. Green seems content, but he too has a complaint that his friends, Orange and Yellow are not speaking to each other, and are driving him crazy.

Stubby Blue’s complaint is that Duncan has used him so much over the last two years and he is so worn down with all Duncan's artistic endeavors that he can no longer see over the box’s edge. Pink accuses Duncan of discriminating against her because she is girly, and suggests that Duncan colors his dinosaurs and monsters with her.  Poor Peach is stripped naked, because Duncan peeled his paper off and is now naked and embarrassed to even come out of the box. When Duncan finishes reading all the letters, he comes to a brilliant conclusion.
Using humor and taking a very creative approach the author creates human personalities for each crayon color. The storyline is very entertaining and also a great tool to teach children inclusion, to think outside the box, and understand feelings and emotions. It also teaches children the meaning of stereotypes. Children will learn that not all dinosaurs are green, or fire engines red.  Do they think of pink only as a girl’s color, or can they learn to incorporate it in new ways in their drawings? This book is playful, imaginative and really unique in both content and approach. It will spark different conversations about colors and creativity, and make children think.


Reading Fantasy Out of My Interest Range

The House of Secrets
by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizinni

One of the great things about book clubs is that you expand your range beyond what you might self select.  My mini book club for this month was a pact with my grandson to read a fantasy he likes. I like mystery, history, memoir, biography, adventure, psychological or real life fiction best, or even sometimes science fiction.  But unless fantasy is Harry Potter or something so excellent, it's not for me.

The first review from an eleven-year-old came from the grandson who wanted me to order the sequel which isn't out yet, an encouraging endorsement. I was the one who recommended it to him because the fascinating author's name and the jacket endorsements by J.K Rowling caught my eye.

The House of Secrets was almost five-hundred pages (bad news) of pretty large print (good news) but even though committed, I slogged. I fell asleep on it right away at night. I kept starting other books. It was not until forced to endure an airport wait plus two nights trying to be still while sleeping on another grandchild's top bunk who needs more sleep than I do that it came alive and I rather hated it to end.

I did love the beginning. A surgeon whose reputation has been ruined with a small mistake is in financial ruin and the family is being forced to sell their home and look for something low budget. What is low budget turns into an offer too good to be true. A furnished mansion perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean on prime real estate in the San Francisco Bay area is selling for an amazing bargain. Too good to be true. Why?? Stop reading right now if you want no story spoilers.

Because here the fantasy begins with a ghost daughter of a former owner of the Kristoff House called the Wind Witch who destroys everything and starts hurting people just for starters. Of course the parents disappear and the three children are left to fend for themselves. The plot is a cliff hanger or over the cliff hanger that just goes from bad to worse. The characters are so badly hurt or perhaps dead that they will never make it. But just in time they do. And this happens again and again, so often that is is exhausting. A compelling thread is that the children find themselves trapped in the spooky novels of the original owner of the house.

As a long ago adult graduate of such fantasy I felt that I had been there, done that.  And that I could predict how it might end.  But for a young person, this story, filled with pirates and sinking houses and evil places and battling forces of fantastical characters who betray the children and each other, lives in technicolor I'm sure.

First time author Chris Columbus directed the first two Harry Potter movies and wrote scripts for the Goonies and Gremlins. Young adult author Ned Vizinni who co-authored wrote The Other Normals and others that can be found at our

We should keep our eye on this young team. The sequel to this fantasy, Battle of the Beasts, will be published March 25 of 2014 and the live YouTube review by a teen which promotes it so well and further is this. For parental advisement there is a detailed balanced evaluation on this site. For it is not reading for the faint of heart. And there is a nice review on Amazon. Oh yes, it's on Facebook of course:


Read the Book BEFORE Seeing the Movie

There are several upcoming movies scheduled for fall release that are generating quite a bit of buzz.  Here’s your guide to those that are based on books, giving you the opportunity to read them before seeing the movie.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich during WWII, who steals books even though she cannot yet read.  With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. The movie opened November 8th, and stars Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins is the second book of the Hunger Games series.  It continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and the post- apocalyptic nation of Panem.  A rebellion against the oppressive Capitol has begun, and Katniss and fellow tribute Peeta Mellark are forced to return to the arena in a special edition of the Hunger Games.   The movie opens November 22nd, and stars Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson.

The Wolf of Wall Street is the autobiographical account of Jordan Belfort, the infamous New York City stockbroker who cheated investors out of more than $200 million.  He calculated that he made thousands of dollars a minute, but spent it as fast as he could on drugs, sex and international globe-trotting. The movie opens December 25th, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the humorous short story by James Thurber about the ineffectual milquetoast who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world.  This is the second time this story has been made into a movie.  The first was in 1947 and starred Danny Kaye. This new version opens December 25th, and stars Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig.

August: Osage County, the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, is a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family who come together after the death of a family member.  Full of razor-sharp wit, reading this play is a wonderful way to understand how dialogue is used to develop character and plot.  The movie opens December 25th and stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.


The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know

There is a feeling that one must go back in time to understand the present when it comes to world affairs. This is true of the Middle East, a region that knows its share of conflict and turmoil and constantly changing regimes. Why are there protests going on right now? Why is there conflict in these countries and discontent between the people and their governments?  When mass protests in Egypt erupted at the end of June of this year and led to the ousting of its President, Mohamed Morsi, it's natural to wonder what led to such events. In Syria, when a chemical weapons attack in September led to over 1,000 deaths and the government was accused of being behind the attack, it's normal to want to know more. After all, we were about to strike on Syria after the chemical weapons attack until President Assad agreed to turn over Syria's chemical weapons. It’s important to know some background information especially if our own government continuously plays a role in the region. The Middle East dominates headlines and military strategy in the United States. It is also an area rich in culture and history.

The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know by James L. Gelvin helps to answer some questions. This non-fiction book is formatted with questions and answers and begins with the very basic question: "What is the Arab world?" The beginning of the Arab Spring is discussed, as well as political life in the countries, protests that have taken place and why, and the leading countries involved in the recent uprisings. This book is quite handy and a good start if you’re unsure where to begin and are curious about what's going on in the Middle East. It's not an overwhelming book, it's informative, neutral, and to the point.

Also recommended is Arab Spring Dreams, a collection of short essays submitted by young adults who won a writing contest. These young essayists came from all parts, from North African countries to Iran and Saudi Arabia. Many of these writers live in countries where free speech is condemned and censorship is severe so they took a risk submitting their stories and having their voices heard. These essays cover a wide range of experiences, all within the realm of civil rights and personal freedom (or lack thereof). This book reaches out to a Western audience and is really quite touching because the essays are so honest and personal.  


Teens for Rent...Welcome to Dystopian Los Angeles

When I first heard about the young adult novel Starters in a radio interview of its author Lissa Price, my attention was immediately caught by the premise of teens renting out their bodies to seniors in order to survive.  I finally had the chance to pick up Starters this month and thoroughly enjoyed this quick and exciting read!

Callie is a smart sixteen year-old living in a futuristic Los Angeles, part of a world consisting only of people under age 20 or over age 60.  Everyone in the age span in between has died as a result of the Spore Wars, the vaccine for the fatal spore illness having been reserved for the young and the old.  Those adults who did not die were removed to quarantine by the government, never to be seen again.  Having lost both parents, Callie and her seven year-old brother Tyler are two “unclaimed minors” left to survive on the streets.  They and their friend Michael, another teen, move between abandoned buildings in an effort to avoid being sent to live at a prison-like institution for parentless children.

Desperate to provide shelter and medicine for her sick brother, Callie decides to sign up with a company called Prime Destinations to rent her body out to seniors who will take control of her mind, living as youth again for a week or a month.  In return Callie is promised an enormous sum of money.  The mind connection between teen “donor” and senior renter is made possible by the insertion of a chip in the teen’s brain.

During Callie’s third rental, however, something goes awry.  She experiences periods where she is back in her own mind during the rental.  Based on what she sees and hears in her senior renter’s world, Callie begins to think that the renter plans to use her body to kill someone.  This initiates a well-paced and action-packed series of events in which Callie learns her renter’s motivations, finds out about a large-scale plot involving teens to their detriment, and decides to do what she can to try to stop it.

Starters is unique and fun teen science fiction with slightly sinister undertones and some real surprises, which will appeal to a wide range of ages, pre-teens all the way through adults.  Due to certain similar key elements – inventive details, an atmosphere of fear in a society composed of a few haves and many have-nots, a strong and compassionate teen female lead, two young men with whom she feels a romantic connection – those who enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy should definitely add Starters and its sequel, Enders, to their reading list.  As Starters is an easier read than Collins’ works, however, I think that the Young Adult Library Services Association rightly included it in their 2013 list of “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers”.  But easier does not mean boring or poorly written, far from it.  Starters is the kind of book you devour in one sitting, much like the rich in Price’s future Los Angeles enjoy the amazing “Supertruffles”.  Now go demolish a copy yourself!