Monday, June 30, 2014

MMGM- Minion Blog Tour!

Visit the Blog Tour Sites! It's a good way to meet some new bloggers and to get some more information about this fantastic story!

June 25 The Next Best Book 
June 26 Jean Book Nerd
June 27 Book Egg
July 1     The Book Monsters
July 2     The Book Monsters
July 3     Read Now, Sleep Later
July 12 Mindjacked
July 18 Small Review

18599664Anderson, John David. Minion
June 24th 2014 by Walden Pond Press (Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest)
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline.

Michael was abandoned at a White Castle as a baby and raised in an orphanage near New Liberty, and is eventually adopted by his dad, who is a "mad scientist" who lives off the grid and events gadgets for evil doers. He takes very good care of Michael even though their home is a bit thread bare. Michael is friends with Zach Romano, another orphan adopted by Tony, who has New Liberty under his thumb in a Mafia-like way. The two like to hang out at the local mall and gawk awkwardly at girls, and this is how Michael meets Viola. Here's the catch-- Michael has the ability to make people do his bidding. And Zach can make spikes poke out of his flesh. So far, Mike's used his power mainly to bilk people at ATMs out of small amounts of cash so he and his dad can afford food, but he's tempted to use it to have some female company. Or, more likely, to help his dad out when The Comet, a new superhero, arrives in New Liberty and starts messing with the carefully constructed support network that Michael and his father have set up. When The Dictator, an evil villain, also arrives and puts Michael's dad in peril, Michael knows that he will have to use his powers.
Strengths: This was awesome! I have a lot of students asking for super hero/villain books, and the brilliant part about Anderson's writing is that he drops you right into the well-constructed world of New Liberty without apology AND he totally gets middle school boys. The friendship between Michael and Zach is wonderfully warm, but in a hit-you-on-the-shoulder-instead-of-hug-you way, and Michael's appreciation of Viola is pitch perfect. I really liked the depiction of his father, which shows that you don't have to be perfect to be a parent, you just have to be present and concerned. The cover also gets the perfect middle school balance between goofy and serious. I'd sort of like to know more about Michael, but the fact that Anderson's books are also (somewhat related) stand alones-- just right.
Weaknesses: I completely forgot how this ties in with the first book, but I'm sure my students could remind me!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hoop Dreams/YA Titles

Nicholson, Lorna Schultz Nicholson, Hoop Dreams (Podium sports academy #6) 
March 19th 2014 by James Lorimer & Company

Allie is a great basketball player at Podium academy, and has even been offered a scholarship to Duke. This makes up for the fact that her mother is too busy with her new boyfriend and too broke after having been ripped off by her LAST boyfriend to fly out and see Allie play a game. The family that Allie is staying with is supportive, but really caught up in their jobs. The only glimpse she sees of a supportive family is Jonathon’s, the rower she is dating. Allie loves his family, and feels she loves him, too, so she has sex with him. After that, things begin to fall apart. Jonathon gets busy with rowing and doesn’t call her often, her mother is getting remarried, she has to decide what summer job to take, and her knee injury turns out to be much more involved than previously thought, calling her entire future in to question. Distraught and on the verge of suicide, Allie is brought back from the edge by her friend Parminta, and has to decide a new direction for herself.
Strengths: I really appreciate these Lorimer hi/lo titles and am definitely buying Big Air for my library. I have lots of girls who play basketball, and some of them are struggling readers. Allie’s ethnicity is clear, but not the point of the story at all. I love the cover of this one—it would fly off the shelves.
Weaknesses: This is much too YA for middle school, with the scene where Allie and Jonathon have sex. If this had just been alluded to instead of described, I would have probably bought it, but now I just can’t. This is too bad, since I especially thought the subplot with Parminta being a lesbian and Allie thinking briefly that Parminta had a crush on her was handled very well. This is exactly the reason I try to read all the books before I purchase them!

18332925Emerson, Kevin. Exile
April 29th 2014 by Katherine Tegen Books 
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Mr. Emerson was kind enough to do an interview for my blog several years ago when his Oliver Nocturne books were coming out, so I was eager to read this title. It turned out to be enjoyable and most likely appropriate for middle school collections, but generally more young adult because of the tone and somewhat angsty quality to the romance. I don't get many requests for heavy duty band related books, but Mr. Emerson, who is a musician himself, brings in a lot of very good details in this book. Definitely a good choice for anyone interested in the mechanics of bands getting started, performing local gigs, etc., or for girls who want a romance that is more problematic than, say, Angela Darling's Crush series.


"Catherine Summer Carlson knows how to manage bands like a professional—she’s a student at the PopArts Academy at Mount Hope High, where rock legends Allegiance to North got their start. Summer knows that falling for the lead singer of her latest band is the least professional thing a manager can do. But Caleb Daniels isn’t an ordinary band boy—he’s a hot, dreamy, sweet-singing, exiled-from-his-old-band, possibly-with-a-deep-dark-side band boy. And he can do that thing. That thing when someone sings a song and it inhabits you, possesses you, and moves you like a marionette to its will.

Summer also finds herself at the center of a mystery she never saw coming. When Caleb reveals a secret about his long-lost father, one band’s past becomes another’s present, and Summer finds it harder and harder to be both band manager and girlfriend. She knows what the well-mannered Catherine side of her would do, but she also knows what her heart is telling her. Maybe it’s time to accept who she really is, even if it means becoming an exile herself. . . ."

Saturday, June 28, 2014


18525734Swain, H.A. Hungry
June 3rd 2014 by Feiwel & Friends
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Thalia Apple lives a life of privilege in a world where food has become outmoded. Her mother was one of the scientists who created Synthamil and innoculations to take the place of food, which has become nonexistent. Thalia is more of a Luddite, not wanting her Gizmo portable computer and preferring her grandmother’s old natural fiber clothing. She also isn’t keep on the One World corporation that controls all the food replacement, entertainment and, well, everything that people need. Thalia’s Synthamil proportions seem out of whack, and she seems to be hungry, which is something that the drugs should prevent. When she is out clubbing with a friend one night, she walks off and meets Basil, a less privileged boy who introduces her to the smell of food and an underground movement that is against the One World movement. Thalia has been a Dynasaur hacker for years, but that only led to twitting One World—Basil is about overthrowing it. After a demonstration, Thalia and Basil end up running away, and because everyone knows who she is, Thalia has to run pretty far. The two end up at a cult like compound run by Gaia who introduces them to food and a more natural lifestyle, but she, too, likes to have power, and Thalia uncovers some disturbing facets of life there. How can she and Basil be together and enjoy life the way it was before food was a scarcity? And is it really still scarce?
Strengths: Thalia was a great character. She was nostalgic for things she had never seen but had heard about from her grandmother, but she still embraced some of the technology of her time. The world building was convincing, and Swain gets extra bonus points for designing a fresh form of dystopia. Thalia is part Vietnamese and part African American, which makes this perfect for #WeNeedDiverseBooks. It’s an important part of her character, but not the main thrust of the story—even better. Her family was wonderfully supportive even if they were not always working on the side of right. Very thought provoking book, although I have to say that a world where I never had to cook would be okay with me.
Weaknesses: I liked the first half of the book much better than the second. Gaia’s farm was just… odd. It was every bit as evil as One World, which left me a bit confused. The ending left room for a sequel but was a bit confusing. This may be a factor of it being a more Young Adult book where the answers are not as neatly laid out as in middle grade titles.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez

18635059 Johnson, Peter. The Life and Times of Benny Alvarez
June 24th 2014 by HarperCollins
E ARC from
Also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central.

Benny has a rather complicated life that includes a lot of friends and family. There are friends Jocko and Beanie, who are in his class at school and are as interested as Benny is in words. Benny has siblings Crash (who is young, rowdy, and rather sensitive) and Irene (who has a quirky boyfriend Aldo). His older father is retired from teaching, and so around the house a lot, and his grandfather is very involved but who has suffered several strokes.A poetry unit in Benny's class takes up a lot of the time at school, especially when Benny realizes that Claudine also is very fond of poetry, and he might be very fond of her. The time at home is taken up with Crash being Crash, and the slow slippage of the grandfather into poorer and poorer health. Benny doesn't have a great outlook on life (his mother categorizes him as a "glass half empty" sort of person), but he does start to realize that a certain amount of optimism is necessary to make it through the day.
Strengths: Like The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini, this is a nice, short, relatively funny book for boys. Just walk down the shelves of any middle grade fiction collection and pick out all of those-- there aren't many, and so many more are needed. This has a great cover, lots of solid middle grade issues, slight romance, and a character who is a tiny bit ethnic (Spanish name but a fair amount of Irish ancestry as well). This will be a popular book.
Weaknesses: This was a bit light on plot-- I found myself trying to remember what was going on because the book was so anecdotal. Not sure whether students will care.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


LootWatson, Jude. Loot.
June 24th 2014 by Scholastic Press 
E ARC from

March McQuinn is used to a life on the run, since his mother is dead and his father is the infamous Alfie McQuinn, the jewel thief. While in Amsterdam, pulling a heist, Alfie dies in a graphic fall, and March knows he has to leave. Unfortunately, he gets caught, and ends up back in the states in a group home with Jules, a street performer he has met in Amsterdam and with whom he shares a bond. There, he meets the hulking Darius and the quiet Lizzy, both of whom have valuable criminal talents. Jules and Alfie are approached by Carlotta Grimstone about stealing back seven moonstones that Alfie has taken from her. This crime had a horrible impact on the lives of Alfie, March, and Jules, but March already has one of the stones, as well as a list his father left with a backpack of clues. The group realizes that a former colleague of Alfie's, Oscar, is trying to get the stones back for Carlotta as well, and try to get a jump on him. They do so with great elan, breaking into buildings, impersonating school children, and generally being great master criminals. But the stakes are high, and it's hard to know whom to trust, especially when the moonstones have a dire curse attached to them. All March really wants is a family and a home; selling the moonstones could get him the money to provide this sort of life, but will the stones also take away the family he has created for himself?
Strengths: What fun! I never know quite whether I want to be an international spy (ala Mrs. Pollifax or the Gallagher Girls) or an international terrorist and/or jewel thief. I adored Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels, and this was highly reminiscent of those. All of the characters were well drawn and sympathetic, even with the faults and eccentricities (I especially liked the New Age fence, Hamish). Darius is incidentally black, and although he balks a little at being used in roles as gardeners or delivery men in ritzy neighborhoods, nothing else is mentioned. He also isn't "into girls", and again, this is not dwelt upon. Pure adolescent fantasy, although I would also say that this whole book belongs in fantasy, due to the involvement of the moonstones and the heavy use of their magical powers in the story.
Weaknesses: This starts off with Alfie's very disturbing death; I could have done without the sound effects. While March soldiers on admirably, he could have been given just a tiny bit more time to grieve. At least in the end he meets a friend of his father's and is allowed to have a moment.

Fun fact: Jude Watson also writes as Judy Blundell.

17375787 Elston, Ashley. The Rules for Breaking
Published May 20th 2014 by Disney Hyperion

This sequel to The Rules for Disappearing was one I was waiting for, but Anna spends so much time being held hostage in really unpleasant circumstances that I didn't care much for it. I will definitely buy it, though, because it was good, and my readers love scary/problem novels. It just was a bit dark for a nice summer afternoon!

"Anna Boyd almost lost her life to get what she wanted most in the world: freedom.

But just when it seems that her family has finally escaped Witness Protection, the illusion that Anna could resume a normal life comes crashing down.

The deadly man Anna knows as Thomas is still on the loose, and now he's using her as a pawn in a dangerous game with the drug cartel determined to silence her forever. When Thomas and a mysterious masked man capture not only Anna but also her fragile younger sister and her boyfriend, Anna decides it's time to break all the rules-even if it means teaming up with the lesser of two evils.

Anna will do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves and win her life back once and for all. But her true enemies are hidden in plain sight. Before long, Anna will learn that putting her trust in anyone may be the last mistake she ever makes."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pig Park

Pig Park
Martinez, Claudia Guadalupe. Pig Park
July 1st 2014 by Cinco Puntos Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline.

Masi likes her Chicago neighborhood, but it has taken a big blow when the American Lard Company moved its business to China. Her family’s bakery business has suffered, as have all of the businesses in the area. Even Masi’s charter school is closing, and she will be bussed to a new school in the fall. A local businessman has come up with a good idea—if the teens in the area can build a pyramid in the local park (Pig Park, since it was donated by the lard company), the area can be turned into a tourist destination complete with museum, vaguely Hispanic clothing, and local businesses trying to cash in on visitors’ dollars by embracing the culture. A couple of college students are working on the project as well, and while Masi has a huge crush on Felix, she is less trusting of Belinda, his colleague. Masi’s mother, who is worn out by the struggles of the business, has decided to spend time with her parents, and is diagnosed with diabetes, and Masi begins to wonder if she will ever come home. The pyramid continues to be built, but a tragedy befalls the neighborhood.  Will Masi and her family be able to move forward, or will this tragedy spell the end for the bakery and all of Pig Park?
Strengths: This was quite a fascinating look at a small neighborhood in a big city. While cultural differences certainly played a very large part in this book, there were lots of other plots as well, which made for a satisfying mix. My favorite bit of the book was this back-and-forth on page 177 , which points out the humor as well as the variety of cultures in the book (from the E ARC):
 “I’m not wearing this [peach colored guayavera]. These are the kind of shirts old men wear to baptisms and first communions. No one is going to take a guy names Nowak seriously wearing this.”

“If they can make American Lard in China, and a guy named Wong can sell tacos and chicharrones, then you can wear this. It’s called globalization.” Belinda said.

“I’m a Chino-Latino. Get your story straight,” Pedro Wong complained.

Weaknesses: There was a lot going on in the book, and while Masi’s mother’s fight with diabetes and family problems was interesting, for middle grade I wish there had been more about evil corporate culture trying to take over the neighborhood. There is a little of it, but having it as more of a focus would have made the book a little more exciting.  I’ll still buy a copy, but being able to hand this to students as a mystery would make it a little easier to sell. (The cover is okay but not fantastic.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

V is for Villain

Secretly, I want to be a super villain. Well, okay, not so secretly. It's all well and good to be a super HERO, but really, what fun is that? Now I just have to figure out a way to be a super villain without being a bad person. Hmmm.

18453183Moore, Peter. V is For Villain
May 20th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion 

Brad's only superpower is intelligence, which pales in comparison to the abilities of his older brother, Blake. Blake is so gifted that he is a member of the Justice Force, just like the boys' father, who was killed before Brad was born. When Brad gets demoted at the superhero academy he is in and sent to the alternate program, things get interesting. He meets Layla, who is also the sibling of a superhero, as well as Javier, Boots and Peanut. It turns out that they all have some powers, just not powers that the government wants in a Justice Force member. For Brad, it turns out that his gift is actually telepathy, which is illegal. Disturbed by the glee with which his brother kills Phaetons, mutant villains, Brad is receptive to Kayla's plan to put together a group, called the Hellions, which will hurt the Justice Force financially or in other nonlethal ways. Through his activity with this group, however, he learns some big secrets not only about the Justice League and the government which encourages it, but about his own family and himself.
Strengths: Like this author's Red Moon Rising, this will be a great book for readers who like action and adventure, as well as those readers who can handle some ambiguity about good and evil. Good world building. I really liked Brad (A super villain named Brad. Snerk.), and the lurking evil behind the justice league was interesting. I know that Mr. Moore would have liked a sequel to Red Moon Rising, and this is set up for one as well, but quite honestly, I would LOVE to see more stand alone books. It's depressing when I get in a huge order of books and most of them are sequels. Book 6? I may just stop by most series at book 5.
Weaknesses: Cover is good, but title is awfully generic. While Brad's motivation for wanting to go against the Justice Force is made clear, and it's also clear that the Force isn't all it's cracked up to be, I found myself getting a little confused about whether Brad was good or evil when he got back at one powered kid who had hurt him badly. Brad isn't really a villain, but that one act seemed uncharacteristic.

Pair this with Anderson's Sidekicked and Minion, Kraatz's Cloak Society, Cody's Powerless (there's a third book coming out soon), and all of David Carroll's Quantum Prophecy books.

Monday, June 23, 2014

MMGM- Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn

18465633Smith, Greg Leitich. Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn
June 10th 2014 by Roaring Brook Press 
Copy from Deb A. Marshall at Read. Write. Tell

Aidan enjoys working at his parents' Space Coast motel, even though he wishes they lived off site so they could get away once in a while. When NASA has a space clipper launch compromised by what seems to be a UFO, Aidan's summer takes a turn for the frenetic. His friend Louis has been obsessed with UFO ever since a car accident (which he claims involved one!) that left him with a prosthetic leg, so when reporter Brita and her sidekick, xenobiologist Dr. Gleeman, set up shop at the motel, he's thrilled. The guests, including Dru Tanaka, who is at the motel with her parents, and Mrs. Fleance, long-time querulous retired resident, get involved in the mania as well. It's all Aidan's parents can do to keep up with the tourists, so they turn a blind eye to some of his suspicious behavior, but the UFO threat turns out to be much more interesting than anyone imagines, and it's up to Aidan and his friends to manage it!
Strengths: This has some VERY good twists and turns, so I don't want to give any of those away. Keep a close eye on Mrs. Fleance, though-- never underestimate a woman in a flowered bathing cap! I loved that both of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks characters on the cover have their diversity play into the story in really unusual ways. The green and black illustrations are perfect for the setting of this book. Probably the best thing about it is the FEEL of summer in a 1950s vintage motel in Florida. Like Michael Beil's Summer at Forsaken Lake, there's a palpable fondness to a childhood vacation spot that makes me wonder what sort of imagination the young Mr. Smith had!
Weaknesses: Had my OWN concerns about the sanitary aspects of keeping an alien corpse in the ice maker, but it's a good touch of grossness that will appeal to the target demographic!

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Save Rafe and Other Notebook Novels

18656050Patterson, James and Tebbets, Chris. Save Rafe (Middle School #6)
June 23rd 2014 by Little, Brown and Company
Copy graciously provided by James Patterson

Rafe finds out that the school he is supposed to attend, Airbrook Arts, is closing, and he'll have to head back to Hills Village Middle School. However, since he was expelled from the school, the principal requires him to complete a wilderness survival/character building Program. If he completes it, he MIGHT be readmitted to school. Not thrilled with the idea but realizing he has no choice, Rafe heads out to the woods, where he meets up with strict and demanding counselors, difficult and uniquely individual fellow campers, and all that living in rough circumstances in the woods can throw at him. Rafe learns that he has to get along with people in order to provide the most basic of needs for himself, and begins to learn that there is more satisfaction to be had in solving problems than in creating them. Copiously illustrated, this notebook novel uses humorous situations to teach serious lessons.
Strengths: The previous books in this series generally showed Rafe making lots of bad decisions, which became less amusing over time. Seeing him make an effort to turn his life around was more enjoyable than watching him continue down a self-destructive path, and the episodes had just as much humor in them. Enjoyed this much more than the previous books for this reason! The outdoor adventure and camping was a fun twist.
Weaknesses: The principal is shown as being rather evil and mean, which I'm sure is Rafe's perception. It's becoming a big trend to have evil principals in middle grade literature, which is a bit ill-founded, since clearly the assistant principals are in charge of graft and corruption. A nonstereotypical principal could have added some innovation to this book.

18085415Peirce, Lincoln. Big Nate in the Zone
March 11th 2014 by HarperCollins 
Copy from Westerville Public Library

Nate is in trouble, as usual. He's left his review notes at Teddy's, where they had a bad encounter with waffle syrup. He's made Artur mad (because Nate is jealous of him), and Artur quits their band, Enslave the Mollusk. This is too bad, because the band is supposed to perform at an assembly and write a song about the new Fitness Zone initiative at the middle school. This initiative has taken all the fun food out of the school and is encouraging more physical activity like Jazzercise instead of basketball. Chad likes Maya, but she is enthralled with the attentions of 7th grader Marcus until Marcus shows his true colors. Nate finds out that his own father wasn't a particularly stellar student, and Nate and his friends are able to showcase their talents at the field day.
Strengths: Finally, stuff that actually happens in middle school (unlike elections, bullying syndicates and school dances that include tuxedos)! We recently had the cafeteria choices reconfigured, and there were student complaints! I've seen field days, but not for a while. I always love Nate, because he TRIES to do the right thing, but usually fails. This perfectly describes so many middle school students!
Weaknesses: Middle school students in a bad strain credulity just a tad. I've seen them, and they are usually really, really bad.

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue: An Origami Yoda Book (Origami Yoda #5)Angleberger, Tom. Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue.
March 4th 2014 by Harry N. Abrams
Copy from the Westerville Public Library

The Origami Rebel Alliance has a horrible foe to face-- Professor Funtime and Gizmo, who are the stars of the horrifically bad test prep videos that the students have to watch. To make matters worse, these videos are accompanied by worksheets preparing students for the test, and are taking the place of classes that students actually enjoyed. Not only has the school board paid for these videos with a grant as a pilot program, but they are also debating getting the online version for all the schools for the following year. Principal Rabbski is given the Alliance's notes on their rebellion, and is soon won to the cause of providing learning experiences instead of test preparation to students. The Alliance is offered gifted classes, but turns them down because they feel that ALL students should have enjoyable learning experiences. Will Principal Rabbski, with the help of Princess Labelmaker, be able to help them with their cause?
Strengths: Again, testing can be an issue, and the use of educational programs as dictated by the school board can be... less than desirable. (And I found out something shocking-- Channel One is still around! My mother was supposed to have her classes watch their videos years ago because they gave schools televisions, but only if they agreed to watch advertising-heavy programming. Hmmm.) I loved how Principal Rabbski seemed evil at first, but ended up being very sympathetic to the cause-- that was fun, especially when her middle school year book was found!
Weaknesses: I got a bit confused by the sheer number of characters, and the pages are a bit visually busy, but this does not seem to matter to my students. Not sure Rabbski would be able to win her case, but the book was realistic in that she decides to step down as principal and go back to the classroom. I know that everyone is against standardized testing when that is the only thing that matters, but I think in moderation, having assessments that gauge where students are performing are not a terrible thing. In my building, students historically have done well, so there's never been a huge push to concentrate on tests.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wickedpedia/Uncaged (YA Titles)

PROCEED WITH CAUTION before purchasing the following titles for anything but high school libraries. While the students would no doubt love them, they were far too disturbing for me to hand to a student.

Van Etten, Chris. Wickedpedia
24 June 2014, Scholastic
E ARC from

Cole is upset over his breakup with Winnie, especially since she dumped him for dumb, soccer playing Josh AND is now doing better in GPA than he is. Cole's best friend, Gavin, commiserates with him, and the two pull a prank on Josh, editing a Wikipedia page on serial killers so that Josh gets incorrect information and fails his project, thereby disqualifying himself for soccer.  Cole and Gavin get the bright idea to make Wikipedia pages for their classmates and teachers, having them meet vague deaths, but when a soccer player is actually killed in a very gruesome way that matches the Wikipedia entry (which says he dies of a swelled head; he is murdered by someone inserting an air pump into his neck, which causes him to die of a stroke. Very graphic.), and then a teacher is killed with red pens, Cole starts to panic. Another classmate is blinded by tampered with prescription eye drops, and the killings continue. When Cole finds his own Wikipedia page, he must figure out who is doing the killing before he comes to his own horrible end.
Strengths: Van Etten is a very clever writer. The first few chapters of the book had me snortling at the witty turns of phrase (From page 9 of the E ARC "Often Gavin displayed proof that the so-called fun had been had. Examples included: a neck brace, shaved eyebrows, or the dental impression of an alpaca on his butt."). He also writes very graphically gruesome deaths.
Weaknesses: Too gruesome for me. I can't stomach human-on-human violence. I was hoping this would take some fantastic turn and become R.L. Stine-like (Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes, say), but it didn't. The ending was a bit odd, and the book description includes things that did not appear in the ARC that I had.

I just don't see how death is amusing. Just don't.

Sandford, John and Cook, Michele. Uncaged (The Singular Menace #1)
July 22nd 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC from

This one wasn't as bad; decent mystery/action novel about animals abused in medical experimentation, but there was something about the style in which this was written, or the details, that just made this seem too... skeezy for middle school. It read more like an adult mystery. I felt like I needed to take a shower after reading it. (And yep, Sandford writes rather disturbing adult novels. He should converse with Harlan Coben and get some teen feedback, perhaps.)

Or it could just be me. For example, I get a little worried when I find out my 6th graders are reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, even if it is with their mothers. Just read this one before purchasing if you have tender readers.

"Shay Remby arrives in Hollywood with $58 and a handmade knife, searching for her brother, Odin.

Odin’s a brilliant hacker but a bit of a loose cannon. He and a group of radical animal-rights activists hit a Singular Corp. research lab in Eugene, Oregon. The raid was a disaster, but Odin escaped with a set of highly encrypted flash drives and a post-surgical dog.

When Shay gets a frantic 3 a.m. phone call from Odin—talking about evidence of unspeakable experiments, and a ruthless corporation, and how he must hide—she’s concerned. When she gets a menacing visit from Singular’s security team, she knows: her brother’s a dead man walking.

What Singular doesn’t know—yet—is that 16-year-old Shay is every bit as ruthless as their security force, and she will burn Singular to the ground, if that’s what it takes to save her brother."