Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review: Deadly Pink, by Vivian Vande Velde

I wrote a book review over on my new blog on my new website, but those who are subscribed here, I wanted to keep you updated, so I'm copying it here.  You an also go view it on the new site 



I didn't go looking for this book.  I actually was looking for a different book at the library, when I saw this one sitting facing out in the MG section, so I looked it over.  (You know you do that, too!)  I read the blurb, thought it sounded interesting and took it home.  I'm glad I did!  It was a great read!

The question on the front cover is provocative:  Virtual reality-- or virtual suicide?  The main character, Grace, finds out her big sister has hidden herself in a virtual reality (total immersion) game she was helping design. Emily, the sister, refuses to come out, knowing full well that if she stays hooked up to the game too long, she will die.  The human brain isn't intended to stay immersed in the game that long.  So Grace is in a race against the clock and must figure out why her awesome-at-everything sister has run away into a virtual reality game, willing to fade away. So Grace goes into the game, after her sister.

Amusingly, the game the girls are playing was intended for little girls, so it's full of pink, purple, unicorns, flowers and tea parties.  The game, though, resents the changes Emily has been making to it, and is fighting back.  The little cotton-candy pink sprites that spit glitter are my favorite.

The story is very clever, well-written, and fast-paced.  If you enjoy gaming, you'll have fun seeing how the main characters use the gaming world to reach their goals.

It's a great fit for upper-middle grade, on up.  It's listed for 10-14 as the main audience and the main character is 14.  So if you are in 5th-9th grade, this book is written especially for you.  I think boys would also enjoy the book, but I think it's definitely aimed at girls, especially girl gamers.

What I liked most is that this is a story about the relationship between two sisters.  There are no boyfriends who feature in this story, though a bad breakup does play a small role in the back story, but the story is not about him.  This has no lovesick drama, no sparkling vampires. Instead, it's about a little sister and big sister coming to grips with who they are, both alone and in relation to each other.  I enjoy a good romance, but it's really nice to see girls solving problems and interacting without a guy being the focus.  (Such a storyline is so rare in fiction and movies that there's even a name for it.  It's called the Bechdel Test, to see if two female characters --who are actually named-- speak in a story without talking about a male.  A fabulous YA book that passes the test with flying colors is Code Name Verity, which I reviewed in my older blog here.)  

At ANY rate, the big sister is a smart game designer engineer who learns that running away from her problems isn't the way to deal with them, and the younger sister learns that she can do more than she thought she could, too.  Grace always thought of herself as the plain, boring one compared to her high-achieving, popular sister (can anyone relate?), but now her sister needs help and Grace rises to the occasion.  

It's really just a lovely story, and a fun one to read.  Two big thumbs up!

Now I think I'll go find some of her other books and see if I enjoy those as much as this one!

Reviews (as shown on Amazon):

  • "[Vivian Vande Velde] delivers another clever, suspenseful drama in the digital domain."—Kirkus

  • "Velde offers up a fun fantasy for the female gamer set, with echoes of the importance of being grounded in the real world in spite of the virtual world's seductive pull."—Booklist

  • "Grace's humor, wit, and sarcasm will be appreciated by teens."—School Library Journal

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I know from moving throughout my childhood that it takes time to get used to a new place.  It usually took me, and others, about 6 months for a place to start feeling like home.  And then when you moved again, you missed that place, too.  I've warned my children of this.  I've told them that the first friends they make might not be the ones they'll really be close to.  It takes time to find true friends.  And I know this.  I know it from personal, repeated experience.

But knowing and KNOWING are two different things, and I can't quite convince my heart to accept that things just have to be this way for a while.  It hurts, and I want the hurting to stop.  I feel like I am weighed down with a thousand pound anchor, deep in the middle of the ocean.  I smile when I'm around others.  I might even truly enjoy myself.  I'm finding ways to be useful and use my time well.  But when I'm walking through this house, especially when I'm alone now that the girls are in school, every step feels like one of those dark dreams where you keep hoping to wake up at any moment, but can't.  Every step contains within it an echo of the phrase, "This is not my home."  And it's a very lonely sound.

I know this will pass.  I acknowledge that with my mind, even if my heart stubbornly shakes its head in disbelief, that I might one day miss this place, too.  For now, though, I'm just missing my home.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Life in a New Place

Moving to Germany includes some really big changes, obviously.  There’s the whole different language issue.  There’s the super tiny roads business.  Hard to miss those things.  But there are a lot of very small changes that you don’t really think about until you are facing them and you think, “Huh.  That’s really different.”  

Things like:

  • The toilets:  Here, they stick out of the wall.  A German instructor assured us all they could hold any weight person, thanks to strong German construction.  They have two buttons, to conserve water.  A little button for little bathroom trips.  A big button for the other.  But sometimes one button is inside the other button and I’m still not sure which to press first.


  • The evening light:  It stays light until almost 10pm here right now.  Conversely, it’ll get dark by like 4 in the winter.  We are much further north than we were, so the sun has more extreme patterns.  I didn’t see that coming.  Fortunately, there are such things as:
  • Rolladens.  These are metal outer coverings on the windows that can totally blacken a room.  Nice.
  • Windows:  These rarely if ever have screens.  This kills me.  But the windows open two ways that’s coolT:  tilt, which opens the top inward and open, which swings them wide open into the house.  You have to let German houses breathe, because they don’t have air conditioning.
  • No AC.  That’s right. No AC.  It can get up to 90 in the summer, but only a few weeks, so they don’t bother updating all their old buildings with AC.  There are only a few places that have it.  But honestly, compared to the heat of San Antonio, I rarely have felt hot here.
  • Everything closes early.  If it’s past 6pm, too bad for you unless you live close to post.  There are some stores there that are open later and one 24 hour shopette, I hear.  But the German businesses, except the restaurants, close around 6.  The one little stoplight in this village turns off slightly after that, too, because there’s just so little traffic. 
  • Cell phone coverage—it’s awful.  They blame the thick German buildings, but I don’t care.  I just know I’m paying a lot for a premium cell plan and half the time, my calls don’t go through and I miss calls from my husband all the time.  We mostly use FB Messenger, even though there are all those posts about how evil it is.  It uses wifi, which works far better than the cell phone coverage.
  • Trash:  There are four different trash cans in our kitchen>  FOUR.  One for compost, one for paper/cardboard, one for plastics and metals and one for everything else.  If you fill up your “everything else” trashcan, you have to buy extra red bags of shame to put out by your trash or they won’t pick it up if it’s overflowing your garbage can.  And they only pick it up every other week.  One week, they’ll pick up one or two types, and then alternate.  So we have had an old chicken carcass in our fridge for a week and a half, waiting for when they will pick up the “everything else” trash, because meat can’t go in compost and it would stink and draw animals if we set it out already.
  • German washer/dryers.  I hear a lot about how efficient they are.  The washers heat their own water, so they don’t attach to a hot water pipe.  But because of that, one load of wash takes 2 and a half hours.  And they hold 1/3 less of what an American washer does. And then they tell me how efficient they are.  And I can only think, “How is spending four times the time and twice the loads efficient?”  I mean, sure, one load of German wash might take less energy.  But I have to do twice as many loads to fit in all my stuff and do laundry twice as often because you can’t fit as much stuff in them and they take twice as long to run…how is that more efficient?  We were told yesterday that within a few years, even the base here will stop offering American style washer/dryers to us.
  • German refrigerators—These are tiny.  Like, super tiny, because many Germans apparently shop every day.  (Again…this does not feel efficient to me.)  We are trying to find a home so we can get an American sized fridge to put in our kitchen, too.  

But the spaces here are tiny and with good reason. 

Germany is the size, essentially, of Montana.  Montana holds slightly less than 1 million people.  GERMANY holds…want to guess?  Make a guess.  I’ll wait.

On Rhine River cruise
Okay, ready?  Germany holds about 81 MILLION people.  In the space of Montana.  So they have to have small houses, small roads, small parking lots, etc, to fit everyone and keep so much of their beautiful green land.  And it is green and beautiful here, for sure.

More to come of the adventures in Germany!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Moving to Germany for 3-5 years

In case I hadn't mentioned it before, I wanted y'all to know that my family and I are moving to Ramstein AFB, Germany, for 3-5 years starting July 14th.

I know, right?!

 It's a big move. It's my children's first move.  My dad was Army, so I grew up moving.  My husband's dad was Air Force, and he was stationed in Germany a few times.  Actually, my husband and I met in Germany, at Patch Barracks, which is in Stuttgart.  That was when we were 16 years old-- many moons ago!  Things are entirely different feeling this time around. This time, it's about scheduling movers, arranging passports, exchanging money, having all the right documents, planning for living out of a suitcase for several months, short, it's a whole lotta work.  I hope, though, that it will all be worth it in the end!

I don't want to move, I'll be honest.  My book will be released while I'm overseas.  I'm afraid my inability to go to book festivals and conferences in and around San Antonio will hamper my ability to get the word out about my book.  But hopefully, all my sweet friends back home will tell their friends...and that's the best way for a book to sell, anyway.  Word of mouth is still so very critical to any book's future.

Speaking of the future, I'm currently working on the next book set in the world of Aluvia, which follows the little sister of my main character from FAIRY KEEPER.  Instead of focusing on fairies, the magical creature de jur is merfolk.  I love writing about mermaids and mermen!  I'll keep you posted on that one!

In the meantime, I'll be practicing my German, writing, packing, and eating as much excellent salsa as I can while we're still in San Antonio!

I'll take lots of pictures while we're there, too.

Friday, June 27, 2014

CINDER, by Marissa Meyer

Meyer, Marissa. (2013). Second ed. Cinder: Book One of the Lunar Chronicles. Square Fish.

Cinder is a mechanic cyborg, a second-class citizen in New Beijing.  A deadly plague is killing people all over the world, but not the Lunars, the formerly human-but-now-psychically-gifted race that lives on the moon.  Cinder’s job leads the prince to her in an effort solve a mystery with his robot, one that involves secret information that could change the future of their world.  The prince and Cinder begin to care for each other, but the Queen of the Lunars wishes to marry him.  Otherwise, she might just go to war with earth. With enough similarities to the fairy tale to make readers smile, this story is a tale all its own.

SUPER clever premise.  I love, love, love having a “Cinderella’ who is A) a cyborg and B) a mechanic.  I mean, wow, where was THIS Cinderella when I was a kid?  It’s a lot of fun to see all the ties to the original fairy tale, done in such a unique way.  The replacement for the pumpkin is great, as is the “new” version of the glass slipper that gets left behind.  The only complaint I have, which isn’t really a complaint, is that I figured out the Big Reveal/Big Twist that shows up at the very end…when I was 1/3 of the way through.  So it was a bit more predictable than a pure five star review would merit, BUT it’s a YA book that is also appropriate for upper middle grade, so it might be that the intended audience wouldn’t be able to guess so soon.  I’m actually going to have my 10 year old read it, because she wants to read Twilight and the Hunger Games now that she’s chewed through Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, and Cinder is far better than Twilight or the Hunger Games for her age, I think, with minimal romance, no bad language and hardly any violence.  There is a plague, but even that isn’t very gory.  

I see why these books are checked out all the time at the middle school and high school library.  It’s an easy read-I read it in one sitting—and I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.  I almost gave it 5 stars, but I really reserve the five stars for books that truly WOW me on multiple levels.  It’s hard to get five stars from me, but this one is like a 4.5 out of 5.  A solid, fun read that I would recommend to students and friends in a heartbeat.

  • "Debut author Meyer ingeniously incorporates key elements of the fairy tale into this first series entry." --Horn Book Magazine 
  • "First in the Lunar Chronicles series, this futuristic twist on Cinderella retains just enough of the original that readers will enjoy spotting the subtle similarities. But debut author Meyer’s brilliance is in sending the story into an entirely new, utterly thrilling dimension. –Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • “There’s a lot of moving parts in this fresh spin on “Cinderella,” the first in a four-book series.” –Booklist
  • “Fairy tales are becoming all the rage, with the TV shows Once Upon a Time and Grimm spinning them through a modern filter. The 26-year-old Meyer's debut novel Cinder, though, combines a classic folk tale with hints ofThe Terminator and Star Wars in the first book of The Lunar Chronicles young-adult series due out Jan. 3.”
If you like Cinder, you might also enjoy The Selection, by Kiera Cass, or The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater (links to my review of that book).  And actually, dare I say, you might enjoy my book, Fairy Keeper, when it comes out in 2015. :) 

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Smith, Andrew. (2014). Grasshopper Jungle.
Grasshopper Jungle

Summary (*there is a big spoiler here, if you have no idea what this book is about...):

Grasshopper Jungle is about a 15 year old boy named Austin, his awesome gay best friend (who Austin loves) and his girlfriend Shann, (who Austin also loves.)  It’s a story about growing up and being sexually confused.  But it’s also a science fiction horror story about giant bugs destroying most of humanity.  It’s an interesting combination that I didn’t see coming.  I got the ebook, based on a positive “get it now” kind of review at the TLA convention, but I couldn’t remember WHY they said it was so good, and I didn't read any jacket flap due to the ebook situation.  And it reads, very much, like Catcher in the Rye.  Until the science fiction moment happens.  And the horror. 


Grasshopper Jungle is getting all kinds of attention from librarians and book reviewers.  I expect it will win many awards.  I just finished it and while I didn’t love it personally, I can see why the writing style is so arresting to people, and why there is a buzz about it.  

Speaking of buzzing, I will warn you that if you have a phobia of insects, this might not be the book for you.  Don’t do as I did—read a blurb or something first.  I thought this was a contemporary realistic book, even though on page 2, it mentions human-sized insects.  I thought the narrator was unreliable or perhaps exaggerating.  No.

“Grasshopper Jungle is a rollicking tale that is simultaneously creepy and hilarious. It’s propulsive plot would be delightful enough on its own, but Smith’s ability to blend teenage drama into a bug invasion is a literary joy to behold… Smith may have intended this novel for young adults, but his technique reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s in “Slaughterhouse Five,” in the best sense.” New York Times Book Review

And I bet it'll be one of the most challenged books this year, too.  It's like Andrew Smith decided to include everything possible except call Jesus Christ a liar in order to get banned.  Of course, I'm sure that wasn't his motivation, but the end result will be the same.

Homosexual attraction?  Check. Boys kissing?  Check.  Guy thinking about sex all the time?  Check.  Thinking about a threesome all the time? Check.  Thinking about having sex with the girlfriend, friend’s mom, random town woman?  Check.  Sexual intercourse? Check.  Teens smoking? Check. Having weird science fiction human-sized insects burst out of human bodies mid-way through the book, tearing people's heads off?  Check.  End of humanity as we know it?  Check.  More cusswords than you can shake a stick at?  Check.  

It's Catcher in the Rye meets Aliens.

To be clear, none of those things listed above are the reason I didn't love the book.  I liked it.  I just wanted a different ending.  It's just a personal preference, as are all book reviews in the end.  

The writing style is unique and interesting, but if you don’t like science fiction or horror, or if you have a issues with curse words or words related to sex and sexual attraction, then this won’t be the book for you. 

By the way, apparently, Sony Pictures has acquired it. 

It's funny, profane, wildly bizarre and yet, when you get down to it, it's still a rawly honest portrayal of a 15 year old boy in a small town in extraordinary circumstances.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Running List of Book Reviews

Here's a listing of all the book reviews I've done on this blog.  I'll try to keep this list updated, so there's a one-stop place for you to shop for my book reviews! (Please note that there are other posts on my blog that are not related to book reviews and, obviously, they are not included here.) You can also search via tags/labels to see all of one kind of genre or category.

October 2014 (We moved to Germany this summer and I started a new website* (books marked with * are in the Book Review blog at in the Tween and Teen section, so sorry for the big lapse!)
Noggin, by John Corey Whaley*
Hook's Revenge, by Heidi Schulz*
Deadly Pink, by Vivian Vande Velde

June 2014
Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith

May 2014
Sure Signs of Crazy, by Karen Harrington
One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake
The Demon Notebook, by Erika McGann
April 2014
November 2013
In Our Mother’s House, by Patricia Polacco
Does My Head Look Big in This? By Randa Abdel-Fatt
The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Ella Lyon
Tea with Milk, by Allen Say
Peach Heaven, by Yangsook Choi
October 2013
Crossing Bok Chitto, by Tim Tingle
Code Talker, by Joseph Bruchac
Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith
September 2013
The Firefly Letters, by Margarita Engle
The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson
I Have a Dream, by Martin Luther King Jr and Ill by Kadir Nelson
The Frank Show, by David Mackintosh
A Time of Miracles, by Anne-Laure Bondoux 
August 2013
Koala Lou, by Mem Fox
July 2013
The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater
Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson
The Game of Silence, by Louis Erdrich
Nory Ryan’s Song, by Patricia…
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly
What to do About Alice?  By Barbara Kerley
Balloons Over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet
Jazz, by Walter Dean Myers
Swamp Angel, by Anne Isaacs
Gluskabe and the Four Winds, by Joseph Bruchac
Millions of Cats, by Wanda G
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
May 2013
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
February 2013
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
Unravel Me, by Tahereh Mafi
January 2013
My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fizpatrick
Born Wicked, by Jessica Spotswood
Fallen, the series by Lauren Kate
Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Powerless, by  Matthew Cody
Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall
Leviathan “Steampunk Surprise” by Scott Westerfield
Recent YA and MG I've Read: (3 short reviews in one post)
     Six Rules of Maybe, by Deb Caletti
     What I saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell
      The Farwalker’s Quest, by Joni Sensel

Everworld, Gateway to the Gods, by K.A. Applegate

Saturday, May 17, 2014

SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY, by Karen Harrington

Sure Signs of CrazyHarrington, Karen.  (2013). Sure Signs of Crazy. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

In this upper middle grade contemporary fiction, Sarah Nelson is 12 and lives with her dad, mainly on account of her mother trying to kill her when she was two. Sarah’s twin did die that day and since that time, her father has drunk more than he should to deal with his grief. A  teacher suggests the class write real, hand-written letters to someone, even if that someone is a character in a book.  Sarah begins writing Atticus Finch, who is the kind of dad she wished she had. Sarah determines to figure out what happened with her mother in case she might end up crazy like her, too, and spends the summer growing up, making new friends, having her first crush and learning what it means to be brave.

Karen Harrington writes a beautifully poignant, but rawly honest story.  The topic is tough, but it is handled with grace and the particular voice created for Sarah is strong and clear.  It’s not a plot-heavy driven book, but I appreciate a book with introspection and reflection.  It feels like a very literary novel for upper middle grade students.  Hopefully, the many references to To Kill a Mockingbird will encourage readers to one day pick up that masterpiece. Sarah’s interest for words and her continual explanation of new terms was delightful to someone who also loves language, but might be less so to children looking for a fast-moving plot. I would recommend it for only for older middle grade students and up due to the intense nature of the material, though it is not graphic.

Professional Reviews, excerpts:

Voice of Youth Advocates  ( December 01, 2013) 
When Sarah's sixth-grade teacher challenges the class to "write to someone" over the summer, Sarah takes him up on the idea, writing letters to Atticus Finch, the father she wishes she had. As her twelfth birthday approaches, Sarah is ready for a change. …Sarah's first person narrative is clear, strong, humorous, and honest, despite the complexity of the challenges she faces. Readers who enjoy realistic fiction and exploring the complexities of human relationships will enjoy Sarah's compelling quest for hope.
Publishers Weekly,  (May 27, 2013)
In her middle-grade debut, Harrington revisits the family from her adult novel, Janeology, as she goes behind the scenes of a tabloid-headline story. Ten years ago, Sarah Nelson's mother, Jane, attempted to drown Sarah and her twin brother, Simon, who didn't survive. Now 12, Sarah has moved from town to town with her sad, alcoholic father, trying to escape media attention while her mother resides in a mental institution. …Over one watershed summer, Sarah tries to learn about being a woman from her 20-year-old neighbor, Charlotte; develops her first crush-on Charlotte's 19-year-old brother, who shares her love of words; and struggles to figure out how to live as her mother's daughter. Harrington skillfully portrays watchful, contemplative Sarah's coming of age. Ages 9-up.
Horn Book Magazine, excerpt ( November 08, 2013 ) 
The book is never maudlin, even at the breath-catching climax when Sarah goes to see her mother. And if there are a few too many plot points and the protagonists voice sounds less like a just-turned-twelve-year-olds and more like a highly self-aware (and impossibly resilient) grownup, it’s well worth looking past in order to appreciate the extraordinary heart of the story.
Booklist ( August 01, 2013) 
*Starred Review* For the opening of her middle-grade debut, Harrington cuts right to the heart of her narrator's grim situation: You've never met anyone like me. Unless, of course, you've met someone who survived her mother trying to drown her and now lives with an alcoholic father. ...Don't think this will be a hard sell to readers, though, for Harrington has created a protagonist who is, in her own way, as clear-eyed, tough-minded, and inspiring as any dystopian hero…Harrington doesn't leave out humor she has fun with Sarah's romantic illusions but makes it clear that it's Sarah's courage and urge to communicate that will push her beyond her traumatic childhood.
Personal Response:

Despite the sadness inherent in this book because of events that happen long before the first chapter begins, I really loved it.  Sarah really does not invoke pity —she’s tough and smart and savvy.  She’s someone I enjoyed getting to know and rooting for. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

An Exciting Announcement!

Hi friends!

I'm excited to announce that my upper-middle-grade novel FAIRY KEEPER is under contract with Curiosity Quills and I'm anticipating its release in early 2015! More info here:

~About the story~

Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses.  In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects. Still, most people in Aluvia believe the fairy keeper mark is a gift.  Fourteen-year-old Sierra considers it a curse, one that binds her to a dark alchemist father who steals her fairies’ mind-altering nectar for his illegal elixirs and poisons.  But when her fairy queen and all the other queens go missing, more than just the life of her fairy is in the balance if Sierra doesn’t find her.  On her journey, Sierra discovers a magical secret lost since ancient times.  The magic waiting for her has the power to transform the world, but only if she can first embrace her destiny as a fairy keeper.

The cover hasn't been created yet, but you know I'll post it as soon as I get it! It'll be down the road a bit, but I'll keep you updated!

Monday, May 12, 2014

ONE CAME HOME, by Amy Timberlake

Timberlake, Amy.  (2013). One Came Home. New York: Alfred  A. Knopf.

The book can summarized in the first brilliant paragraph: “So it comes to this, I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, 1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister’s first funeral and I knew it wasn’t her last—which is why I left.  That’s the long and short of it” (1).   Thirteen-year-old Georgie Burkhardt’s sister Abigail runs away and a body, too destroyed to be actually recognized,  is later found wearing Abigail’s dress.  Georgie sets off to find out what happened, because she doesn't believe her beloved big sister has died.  Abigail’s former boyfriend Billy accompanies Georgie on her determined journey, which ends up being quite an adventure.  While some sadness does occur, it does not leave you weeping in your pillow.

Amy Timberlake does an amazing job with Georgie’s voice.  Set in 1871 in Wisconsin, the book is centered around the largest recorded nesting of passenger pigeons.  The meticulous research of the author is evident in the way the pigeons, now extinct, come to life on the page.  Abigail is a mysterious figure in many ways, as we can tell that Georgie obviously idolized her and didn’t fully understand her need for an education.  Georgie’s narration is as sharp as her shooting and honestly reflects that cusp young adulthood when first crushes can be so very crushing and people are determining who they will really be in life. 

The plot moves quickly and smoothly.  Several times, the lines just jumped out and demanded to be reread and savored.  Someone else had dog-eared the same section that caught my eye.  It made me smile (though I shouldn't smile at anyone bending pages in library books—there’s probably a special punishment for librarians who aren’t horrified by that) to think that I was sharing the same enjoyment of these words with some unknown person who had checked this book out before me.  It captures the entire problem of the book perfectly.
But let me describe my particular state: I saw the two of you kiss.  I told Mr. Olmstead. Mr. Olmstead threw over Agatha. THEN Agatha ran off. There’s a direct correlation between my telling and Agatha’s leaving.  If my sister is dead, I bear responsibility. If you think I’m going to accept a piecemeal body as evidence of my sister’s death, you do not know me at all (36).

The reader will get to know Georgie quite well and, if you are like me, you’ll enjoy her company even if she is stubborn and frustrating at times.  She’s very believable. The ending is lovely.

School Library Journal:  Gr 5-8-Thirteen-year-old Georgie Burkhardt can shoot better than anyone in Placid, Wisconsin. She can handle accounts and serve customers in her family's general store. What she can't do is accept that the unrecognizable body wearing her older sister's blue-green gown is Agatha. Determined to discover what happened after Agatha abruptly left town with a group of pigeoners, Georgie sets out to follow her route. In return for the loan of a mule, she reluctantly allows Billy McCabe, one of Agatha's suitors, to accompany her. The journey includes a menacing cougar and ruthless counterfeiters, but Georgie's narration offers more than action-packed adventure. She unravels the tangle of events that led to Agatha's sudden departure and acknowledges her own role. By turns humorous and reflective, Georgie's unique and honest voice includes confusion about her feelings for Billy and doubts about her ability to kill even in desperate circumstances. Timberlake seamlessly integrates information about two significant events that occurred in Wisconsin in 1871: the largest recorded nesting of passenger pigeons in spring and devastating firestorms in fall. Georgie's physical and emotional odyssey that occurs between those two events will linger in readers' minds.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato╬▒(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.

Booklist:To find out what really happened to her purportedly dead sister, sharpshooting 13-year-old Georgie Burkhardt and her sister’s one-time suitor Billy McCabe follow the trail of pigeon hunters and discover far worse going on near Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871. Georgie tells her story in a first-person narrative that rings true to the time and place. She is smart, determined, and not a little blind to the machinations of adults around her, including Billy, who has been sent by Georgie’s storekeeper grandfather to follow her and keep her safe. She does notice that Billy is well made, but this is no love story; it’s a story of acceptance, by Georgie, her family, and her small town. Timberlake weaves in the largest passenger pigeon nesting ever seen in North America, drought and fatal fires along Lake Michigan that year, a currency crisis that spawned counterfeiters, and advice on prairie travel from an actual handbook from the times. Historical fiction and mystery combine to make this a compelling adventure, and an afterword helps disentangle facts from fiction. Grades 6-9. --Kathleen Isaacs --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Awards:  A Newbery Honor Book, ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book, Winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Juvenile Novel

Personal Response:
I was really impressed by this book and it brought to mind The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.  Both are beautifully told historical stories, with interesting and strong middle grade female leads.  One Came Home is pretty firmly upper-middle-grade, as it is a fairly intense book and deals with the possible gruesome death of a sibling.