JANUARY

A Genuine Solution for U.S.Schools by J Franklin Horn
And Why Education Reforms Have Always Failed. Clearly argues against the problems with standardized testing and efforts at raising scores. Jay's solution is helping parents understand the importance of verbalizing in large quantities with infants. Otherwise the gaps are already in place by the beginning of school, based on socioeconomic level. A bit depressing when he goes into detail about the cheating that occurs with testing. PROF.

Visitors by ORson Scott Card
sequel to Pathfinder and Ruins. Thankfully only a trilogy. Longest 600 pages ever! So much dialog about time travel and changes and "what if". Just save the world for goodness sake. This had a fine conclusion--just painful for me to read due to over talking everything. Riggs and Umbo make sufficient personal growth. The mice don't take over (or do they?). Everyone finds true love if not passion. meh. YA for brainburn.

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
Benji and Red live on either side of Piney Woods, Benji in Buxton the Black community and Red in Chatham, the white community. Their lives become entwined in unusual ways. In typical Curtis style this is humorous and entertaining right until the end when BAM. The adventure turns serious and emotional. Wow. Cried and Cried. Excellent. 4th+

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Hmm. this smells like another celebrity try at a children's book because "how hard could it be?" I liked the idea of overcoming your fears/nightmares, and the idea of a nightmare becoming a dream. But the beginning was stilted, dark and hard to read through. The end was better. But you shouldn't have to drag through a book just to get to a satisfying end. Unless it's Uncle Tom's Cabin--totally worth it. 4th+ meh. Maybe this will work for those kids who ask for horror books.

Fluttershy and the Fine Furry Friends Fair by GM. Berrow
My Little Pony. Fluttershy's bunny Angel wants to feel good about himself so enters the sheepherding contest. Gaaah. Derivative and sweet enough to choke on. But apparently little girls just want My Little Pony book. May this be the last one I have to read. 1st+ although some difficult vocabulary like "cabaret" gaaaagh.

The Contract by Derek Jeter
Fiction a la Little House series. So based on his life and definitely his philosophy of hard work and positive attitude. Eight year old Derek decides his life goal is to be a Yankee shortstop, but most ridicule that except his perfect parents who hold him to high standards and encourage him to dream on. Lots of baseball (little league) in here, play by play, but it's a quick read. 3rd+ OK

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger
Book the Third- Finishing School continues with a break for a masquerade party for Sophronia's brother. Armed with a new steel bladed fan, she attends with her best friend Dimity. Also showing up are Soap the sootie and charming (such lovely eyes) Lord Felix Mersey. Ruh Roh. This is another winner for me. funny passages (ie: "If anyone saw Monique, a well-dressed woman of quality, dangling from the doorway, they apparently assumed everyone had difficulties in life and moved on." p204) Lots and lots of political intrigue: picklemen (is Felix one or is he??), Werewolves in rebellion, Vampires with mysterious trains, and Sophronia Temminnick in the middle of it all. Excellent. YA for romance and violence. Victorian Steampunk.

Strike: The Sylo Chronicles #3 by D.J. MacHale
This was a tough read for me although I think it will be popular with middle school boys. The brave trio of Tucker, Tori and Kent end up in a prisoner camp that is too much like the concentration camps of WWII. The descriptions of the sadistic camp master's tortures are pretty awful. Then again, the discussion of keeping hold of your moral humanity is pivotal in this book. So much tension, but it had a terrifically satisfying conclusion (bravo Mr MacHale). YA for violence. Very good.

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale
Although Miri is still young, she is sent away from the castle to become the tutor of three sisters in a far away, isolated swamp. The sisters are more concerned with survival skills than etiquette, but Miri learns more about how important they are. Using her intelligence and strong will, she saves the sisters, herself, and the kingdom. Terrific plot. I love this series. 4th+ Excellent.

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs
Dash Gibson is one of the first kids on the moon, but life there isn't all that great. When a scientist dies suddenly, Dash is convinced it was a murder, but everyone else thinks he is paranoid. Lots of trivia about what life on a space station would be like (which does tend to slow the plot a bit), but this develops into quite the twisted plot. The ending was a total surprise for me. 4th+ Very good.