Archive for the ‘the girl 2012’ Category

The Girl (age 12) read 42 books last year, which is a personal record for her.  I’m so proud that she always has a book in her hand and enjoys talking about books as much as I do.  After seeing my best of 2012 list, she wanted to create her own.  When I asked her why these were her favorite books, she just said, “They were really really good.”  (These are books she read last year; not all were published last year.)

The Girl’s Top 10 of 2012


Undead by Kirsty McKay


Need by Carrie Jones

hunger games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

code name verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

the book thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

the limit

The Limit by Kristen Landon

witch & wizard

Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

the help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

judy blume

Just as Long as We’re Together/Here’s to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume

The 2012 Honorable Mentions

the lost hero

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

the lightning thief

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

zombie blondes

Zombie Blondes by Brian James


Smile by Raina Telgemeier

What were the best books you read in 2012?

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

“He’s very cunning,” Hawking said, as if admiring him.  “Perhaps brilliant, strong, dedicated, all qualities one might be proud to possess.”

“B-but…,” Carver stammered, “he’s also evil.”

Hawking turned his intense gaze on Carver.  “And no one wants to hear good things about the devil, eh?”

(from Ripper, page 201)

Ripper, my book club’s December pick, is a young adult historical/steampunk novel focused on orphan and amateur detective, Carver Young, in 1895 New York City.  The 14-year-old Carver is adopted by a not-so-retired Pinkerton detective, Albert Hawking, just as murders reminiscent of London’s Jack the Ripper begin, putting pressure on the city’s police commissioner, Teddy Roosevelt, who is working tirelessly to reform the corrupt police department.

Carver is thrust into a world he believed to be the stuff of crime novels, brought by Hawking to an underground crime lab run by the New Pinkertons, whose agents are working secretly to solve the murders in hopes of putting the agency back in the limelight.  He is tasked with finding his biological father, known to him only through the letter in his orphanage file, under the tutelage of the eccentric Hawking.  Although he is fascinated with the gadgetry of the New Pinkertons, Hawking teaches Carver how to narrow down the possibilities and to trust his gut — which comes in handy when it becomes obvious that finding his father is not only a daunting but also very dangerous task.

Stefan Petrucha uses the facts known about the London murders committed by Jack the Ripper, along with actual letters he sent to the newspapers and police, as a foundation for a chilling tale.  But Ripper is more about Carver’s evolution than finding the man responsible for the brutal slayings of city socialites.  Watching Carver mature and develop his detective skills is the highlight of the novel, along with how turn-of-the-century New York City becomes a character in itself.

However, the book was slow-moving for the most part, helped along by the fact that the big mystery becomes obvious early on.  The Girl (age 12) read this book with me, and she figured it out right away and frequently mentioned how “blah” the descriptions were.  Moreover, the murders were barely described, so they didn’t have much of an impact, and while Petrucha might have toned that down for the target audience, The Girl pointed out how she’s read YA zombie novels that were much gorier and exciting.  Petrucha picked up the pace in the last quarter of the book, which made it much easier to read and enjoy.

Overall, Ripper was just an okay book for us.  The history was interesting and the premise was intriguing, but we felt there was something missing in the execution.  The book club seemed to feel the same way.  Most members said they simply weren’t part of the target audience, but even the youngest member of the group had a hard time with its predictability and lack of excitement.  Even though the book lacked the gore one would expect when focusing on a serial killer, there was a hint of creepiness in both the asylum where Hawking lived and worked and the home of the crazy cat lady and member of the Midnight Band of Mercy.  Ripper didn’t make for a captivating mystery, but it shines as a coming-of-age story about a young boy unsure of who he is, what to make of his parentage, and how to rise above the evil attacking him and the city he loves.

Disclosure: I borrowed Ripper from the public library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

The pain was fire, a laser that scorched her brain.  A sudden metallic chattering bubbled in her ears, and her vision sheeted first red and then glare-white, and then she was stumbling, her feet tangling, and she fell.  Something wet and hot spurted from her throat and dribbled down her chin.

(from Ashes, page 26)

Ashes is the first installment in Ilsa J. Bick’s YA dystopian trilogy about a world turned upside down by an electromagnetic pulse that renders all electronic devices useless, causes countless people to drop dead on the spot, and changes many others in unthinkable ways.  The novel follows a teenage girl named Alex, who is camping in the mountains, grieving the death of her parents, and contemplating her terminal brain tumor when the EMP kills the old man she has just met in the woods, leaving her to watch over his 8-year-old granddaughter, Ellie, who is already dealing with the grief of losing her dad in Iraq.

Shortly after what she calls The Zap, as she’s trying to figure out what supplies she has, what she should do next, and how to manage Ellie and her bad attitude, Alex realizes that she suddenly has regained her sense of smell, and it’s even sharper than before.  She can smell fear and the emotions of both people and animals.  It’s not long before she smells a rotten stench, and she and Ellie stumble upon teenagers who have suddenly gone primitive.  Somehow they also were changed by The Zap, but into cannibals, wild beings focused only on eating whatever they can get their hands on.

While dodging these zombie-like cannibals and a pack of frenzied dogs, they run into Tom, a soldier not much older than Alex, and as they try to find food and shelter and piece together what is going on in the world beyond the forest, they become a family of sorts.  They can’t stay in the woods forever, but there are more sinister things waiting for them on the road, as catastrophes such as this bring out the worst in some people.

I probably wouldn’t have picked up Ashes if it wasn’t our August book club pick, but it was a quick read that had a little bit of everything — disaster, romance, and of course, action and horror, courtesy of the cannibals.  The Girl (age 12) and I read this together, and she really enjoyed it, gore and all.  (I should probably state that this book may not be appropriate for your younger reader.  There is some sex talk but nothing too graphic, a few swears, and the cannibal gore, so it just depends on what your child can handle.)  As one of my friends in the book club stated, it’s not great literature, but you can enjoy it for what it is, and considering some of the deep war novels I gravitate toward, this was a bit of light, mindless reading for me.

However, The Girl and I both grew tired of the overuse of the words “ash,” “ashes,” “ashen,” etc., and how Bick ends scenes too soon, picking up a little later in the story and making us wonder what happened during some critical moments.  We both would have preferred more details about the EMP, but all we got were the speculations and observations of various characters, though we understand (and hope) that Bick probably is saving the crucial details for the last two books.

We liked the first half of the book, when it was truly a survival story, but it seemed to fall apart toward the end, when Alex comes across the village of Rule, its cult-like Council of Five, and its creepy plan for the Saved, and she seems to lose some of the toughness that made her character so interesting early on.  She suspects all is not as it seems in this town, but she is placed in a home with other young girls not affected by The Zap and falls into a routine that involves working at a hospice.  We also questioned why books with teenage heroines seem to need a love triangle, as a shadowy Chris, who is torn between the rules of Rule and what he thinks is right, shows an interest in Alex.

Still, there was a lot to like about Ashes.  Bick does a good job developing her characters and getting readers to care about whether they survive.  The premise of the book is unique, and she paints a realistic portrait of human nature in times of distress.  The abandoned cars and dead bodies, the chaos and violence that erupt as people become desperate for food and a place to sleep that’s safe from the cannibal kids may be the result of an unbelievable situation, but I certainly could see people reacting in such a way.  It was hard to tell who they should fear more — the Changed who want to eat them or the humans who only care about themselves.

The cliffhanger ending made us definitely want to read the second book, so it’s a good thing Shadows is slated for release next month.  There were so many loose ends left dangling, and while we don’t need everything tied up neatly, we just want some answers and some resolution when it comes to certain characters.

Disclosure: I borrowed Ashes from the public library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: The Girl’s personal library
The Girl’s Rating ★★★★☆

A review by The Girl (age 12)


When his attempt to stop the Coral Queen from dumping illegally is scuttled along with the boat, Noah’s dad is in the slammer before you can say “eco-crime.” But the casino boat is back in business within days, pumping gallons of raw sewage into the waters of the Florida Keys and gradually turning the ocean into a toilet bowl. Only Noah knows what’s going on, and it’s up to him to catch the culprit in the act.

The fiendish flusher has already bamboozled the press, the prosecutors, and even the coast guard — so the odds aren’t good. But Noah has an ace up his sleeve: a plan that’s crazy enough to work. And with the help of Lice Peeking, a half-soused ex-mate of the Coral Queen; Shelly, a big-hearted bartender with even bigger biceps; and his little sister, Abbey, an unreformed childhood biter, he just might stand a chance at flushing the truth into the open and clearing his dad’s name. (publisher’s summary)

Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorite authors, and Flush is one of my favorite books. I liked Hoot, but I liked the plot of Flush more. Towards the end of the book, I couldn’t put it down because of the action, suspense, and answers.

One of my favorite quotes is:

“No, Abbey, you need to stay here in case he shows up for the boat.” More important, I didn’t want her to see Lice Peeking passed out drunk in that smelly trailer, if that’s where he was.

“If you’re not back in an hour,” my sister said, “I’m either telling Mom or calling the cops.”

“Whatever,” I said. One was just as bad as the other. (page 68)

I thought this quote was kind of funny because I think telling his mom would be better then calling the cops.

The plan to stop the Coral Queen was interesting, and the suspense killed me when I had to go to bed after finishing a good chapter. There was humor and environmental stuff mixed in with action. Noah is an interesting character because he tries to help his father stop the Coral Queen even though his father got arrested for trying to stop it the first time.

Flush is one of my favorite books because Hiaasen’s writing is smooth and flows well. He lets you get to know the characters pretty well, and he gets you thinking about issues that kids (and adults) should be aware of. I think you should read this if you’re up for a quick, interesting book.

Disclosure: Flush is from The Girl’s personal library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Public library
The Girl’s Rating ★★★☆☆

A review by The Girl (age 11)

In a world of wizards, giants, and dragons, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are the kingdom of Camelot’s only defense against the threatening forces of evil.  Fighting battles and saving those in need, the Knights of the Round Table can defeat every enemy but one — themselves!  (publisher’s summary)

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a graphic novel that retells Sir Thomas Malory’s story of King Arthur.  I really liked the illustrations because they drew you in to the story with their detail and color.  I thought the story was really interesting, and I loved the character of Merlin because he was so mysterious.  I also liked that there were maps and information about the legends of King Arthur in the back of the book.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table didn’t make my list of favorite graphic novels, but it was still pretty good.  It was hard for me to understand sometimes because I didn’t know anything about King Arthur but the story of the sword in the stone.  I think you should know more to really get this book.

Disclosure: The Girl borrowed King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table from the public library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Public library
The Girl’s Rating: ★★★☆☆

A review by The Girl (age 11)

Rapunzel’s Revenge is a graphic novel about a girl named Rapunzel with really long hair who lives with a lady named Gothel.  Rapunzel thought Gothel was her mother, until one day she gets over the wall and finds her real mom but is ripped away.  During the story, Rapunzel meets up with a man named Jack, and they work together to stop Gothel’s evil plan.

I really liked the illustrations in Rapunzel’s Revenge because they were so detailed you felt like you were in the story.  Even if you were reading a part that’s just talking or a part filled with action, it was always interesting, and you always want to know what happens next.

I thought it was interesting that this version of Rapunzel was set in the Wild West, but the one part I thought was kind of cheesy was when Rapunzel first got over the wall and almost right away found her mother.  Overall, this was one of my favorite graphic novels.

Disclosure: The Girl borrowed Rapunzel’s Revenge from the public library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: Public library
The Girl’s Rating: ★★★★★

A review of Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet by The Girl (age 11)

This is the astonishing testimonial of Wisty and Whit Allgood, a sister and brother who were torn from their family in the middle of the night, slammed into prison, and accused of being a witch and wizard.

They are not alone in their terrifying predicament.  Thousands of young people have been kidnapped.  Some have been accused; many others remain missing.  Their fate is unknown, and the worst is feared — for the ruling regime will stop at nothing to suppress life and liberty, music and books, art and magic…and the pursuit of being a normal teenager.

Most copies of this story have already been seized, shredded, or burned.  Read this rare, surviving edition and pass it along with care — before it’s too late.  (publisher’s summary)

I liked the story line of this book; it drew me in right away.  The idea of it made me want to read it immediately.  I liked how the authors switched off between Whit and Wisty’s point of view.  You really get to know the characters as if they were your friends.

The New Order really reminded me of the Nazis.

Witch & Wizard kept me on the edge of my seat.  I couldn’t wait to start the second book, The Gift, but that one has a different co-author, and I’m not liking the writing.  I don’t know if I’ll continue the series.

Disclosure: The Girl borrowed Witch & Wizard from the public library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: My daughter
Rating: ★★★★☆

Ben read it out loud: “‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.'”

Because his mom was the town librarian, Ben was used to being surrounded by quotes from books, many of which he didn’t fully understand.  But this one struck him as particularly strange.

He thought about it for a moment, came up with nothing, then said, ‘What does that mean?”

His mom smiled and shrugged.

He was sure she knew exactly what it meant, but she liked him to figure out things for himself.

(from Wonderstruck, page 22)

Wonderstruck is a hefty book (637 pages), but it’s one of those books that you can’t stop reading once you’ve started, and before you know it, you’re done.  It also helps that 460 of those pages are artwork, but these illustrations don’t just bring the story to life…they tell their own story.

In Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick deftly weaves together two stories about two children in different eras, both of whom feel lost in the world and set off on journeys to find themselves.  It is 1977 in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, where a young boy, Ben, is grieving the death of his mother and confused by nightmares about wolves.  Having never known his father, Ben feels alone in the world.  All that he has is his memories of his mother and a museum box, his own “Cabinet of Wonders” in which he stores all the little trinkets that are precious to him.  A book he discovers hidden among his mother’s things prompts him to run away to New York City, where he embarks on an adventure involving a book store and a museum.

Rose’s story takes place in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1927.  Like Ben, Rose feels alone, cooped up in her room with no one to talk to, know one who understands her.  A scrapbook of a famous actress prompts Rose to climb out her window and flee to New York City, where she goes on an adventure of her own to find the one person who will know what she needs.

The structure of Wonderstruck is what makes it a delightful book.  The written narrative tells Ben’s story, while the illustrations show Rose’s.  Selznick tells both stories simultaneously; moving between the two characters took a bit of getting used to, but soon The Girl and I were flying through the book.  It’s amazing how much detail and emotion Selznick packs into the sketches and how we were able to get to know and understand Rose through pictures alone.  We especially loved how the pictures told a story, that they weren’t simply pictures used to illustrated what had already been written.

We were both surprised by how deep Wonderstruck was, even though there were times that the writing fell a little flat and was more telling than showing.  There were parts where The Girl said, “Um…we already know that!,” and we pretty much had the entire story figured out around the halfway mark — but that didn’t stop us from really enjoying it.  There were so many things to talk about, like museums and what objects we would put into museums of our lives, loss and grief, how much we depend on speech to communicate with others and how isolated we would feel without that.  Although Wonderstruck is geared toward children, adults can get a lot out of the book, too.  I didn’t expect there to be so many layers to the two stories, and it was refreshing to take a break from the written narrative and let the illustrations take over.

Wonderstruck is our book club’s June pick, and we will be meeting tomorrow for the discussion, which will be led by The Girl (age 11).  I can’t wait to see what she has planned for us!  In the meantime, she managed to jot down a few initial thoughts about the book.  She said she’s focused more of her energy on the book club discussion, and she’ll write up something for me to include next week when I post about the meeting.

The Girl’s thoughts:

*I’m really happy I read this book.  I found it interesting; it really makes you think.

*The illustrations are wonderful.  The pencil sketches were so vivid, you thought they were going to rub off.

*Some parts were kind of cheesy because they explained something in like two paragraphs that I already figured out in the first two sentences.

*I can’t decide if I like this book better than The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

*I think people of all ages would like this book.

*I would rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Stay tuned next week for our thoughts on the book club meeting!

Disclosure: I borrowed Wonderstruck from my daughter.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: The Girl’s personal library
The Girl’s Rating: ★★★★☆

A review of Great Illustrated Classics: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, adapted by Malvina G. Vogel by The Girl (age 11)

The epic battle between man and monster reaches its greatest pitch in the famous story of FRANKENSTEIN.  In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor himself to the very brink.  How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship…and horror.  (publisher’s summary)

This is my favorite quote from the fiction thriller Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:

“The dim light of the moon shone through the window into my bedroom.  As my eyes flew open, the moonlight revealed the huge figure of the monster as he lifted up the curtains around my bed.”  (page 48)

The main character is Victor Frankenstein, who made the monster.  Victor, through most of the story, is trying to stop the monster from killing more innocent people.  The setting is various countries, like Switzerland and Russia, because Victor travels for most of the book.

I think the most interesting part of the book was when the monster was telling his story to Victor because you realize why the monster became mean.  The book grabbed my attention, and I didn’t want to put it down.  It is about 240 pages, and I finished it the same day I started it.  I liked that it includes illustrations because I found them interesting.  They give you an idea of what the monster looked like, but I still pictured him differently.  It says the monster has yellow skin, but I pictured him with green skin for some reason.

I know the writing may not be all Mary Shelley’s, but the story is, and I want to one day read the original.  I rate it this version 4 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure: Great Illustrated Classics: Frankenstein is from The Girl’s personal library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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Source: The Girl’s personal library
The Girl’s Rating: ★★★★★

The Girl (age 11) recently finished The Loser List: Revenge of the Loser by H.N. Kowitt (sequel to The Loser List) and wanted me to ask her some questions for her review.  First, a little about the book:

My name, Danny Shine, is officially OFF the Loser List in the girls’ bathroom.  But now I have a new problem: this guy, Ty Randall.

Ty is basically perfect, and he’s ruining everything — including my reputation as the best artist in the school.  So I really have no choice.  I have to get REVENGE.  (publisher’s summary)

Me: Tell us a little about this book.

The Girl: This new guy, Ty, comes to school, and he grabs everyone’s attention, including Danny’s secret crush.  And it’s about a talent show to raise money to renovate a playground, and they run into a lot of problems.  Danny doesn’t like how Ty won the art contest instead of him, and now no one pays attention to Danny anymore.

Me: Did you like Revenge of the Loser better than the first book?

The Girl: I liked the first book a little better because the plot was more interesting.  But I’d still give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I gave the first book 4.5 stars, though.

Me: How has the main character, Danny, changed since Book 1?

The Girl: He hasn’t really changed, but people are more interested in his drawings since the last book.

Me: What was your favorite scene in the book?

The Girl:  When Danny catches Ty horribly rapping about global warming in the locker room.  Ty doesn’t know he’s being watched.  It was really funny.

“Global warming u gotta prevent it
Let’s all write postcards to the Senate….”

This was the worst rap I’d ever heard! Being tone-deaf was bad enough. But now he was twitching with his thumbs turned out. I was staring so hard, I didn’t realize my backpack had slid down my arm. As I watched Ty strut, it dropped to the ground with a THUD! (pages 66-67)

Me: Do you think kids your age can relate to Danny, or is he a little over the top?

The Girl: I guess kids who like to draw and read comics could relate to him.  I do because I like to read and write comics.

Me: Do you hope there’s a Book 3?

The Girl: Yes, I’d read another one of these books.

Me: Any last thoughts?

The Girl: Yes.  This book made me laugh out loud during silent reading in class.

Me: Did you get in trouble?

The Girl: No. But other kids stared at me funny. 🙂

Disclosure: The Loser List: Revenge of the Loser is from The Girl’s personal library.

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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