I, FREDDY by Dietlof Reiche

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Freddy the Golden Hamster was born in captivity in a pet shop, and his great grandmother often told him of the Golden Hamster Saga—the desire of every Golden Hamster to reach Golden Hamster utopia in the Middle East.  Freddy’s brothers and sisters may be content to wait for this utopia until the Eternal Hibernation, but Freddy is determined to find happiness on his own.  He is determined to escape.  After learning a few endearing tricks from watching monkeys on the nature channel, he endears himself to little Sophie and her dad, Gregory, and finds himself on his way to a new home.  Once there, however, he realizes he has a new problem to worry about.  Gregory and Sophie are great, but Mom is his mortal enemy.  Freddy continues to use his great intellect to dodge problems, to learn to read, the escape from his cage, and to communicate with humans.

This is the first of Freddy’s adventures in the Golden Hamster Saga.  He is a funny, clever narrator and a lot of fun to read.  These books are on a 3rd-4th grade interest level.

If you liked I, Freddy, you might also like Mousenet or Babe, the Gallant Pig.

THE BONE COLLECTOR by Jeffrey Deaver

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Lincoln Rhyme was once the greatest forensic investigator the NYPD had ever seen.  That was before the accident that left him paralyzed and bedridden—only able to move one finger.   Although he once delighted in the intellectual puzzle of criminology, Lincoln Rhyme now desires only one thing:  his own death.   But when the NYPD asks for his help tracking down a serial killer with a strange fascination with human bones, Rhyme cannot resist taking a crack at the bizarre case—especially as it becomes clear that this serial killer is leaving clues specifically for Rhyme himself.  Energized by the mystery and his new partnership with the incredibly strong-willed and clever police officer Amelia Sachs who serves as his “arms and legs,” Rhyme postpones his assisted suicide and takes up the race to find the pattern behind the serial killer’s madness before he can claim another victim.

This mystery is a fast paced thriller with emphasis on the forensic aspects of detective work.  The characters are compelling and while enough information is provided for the reader to piece the mystery together, there are also enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.   Don’t read this book if you are squeamish; the serial killings are described in detail.  But if you like a good mystery thriller, I highly recommend it.  It is the first in the Lincoln Rhyme series.

If you like forensic thrillers, you might like books by Tess Gerritsen.

STITCHES by David Small

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David grew up in a house full of secrets.  Some of the secrets were well kept and known by no one.  Others, such as his grandmother’s mental instability, were known by everyone but never discussed. Although they never communicated with one another, everyone in David’s family had a habit of nonverbal self-expression.  For his brother, drumming was a language.  David’s language was illness.  As an infant he had trouble breathing.  As he became a teenager, a tumor began to grow in his neck.

But the family silence extended even to David’s medical health.  After an operation that was never fully explained to him, David had lost a vocal chord and could no longer speak.  As his teenage years continued, he struggled to sift through the family secrets and discover what actually happened to him.

If you enjoy memoirs about dysfunctional families, this is the book for you!  It’s a graphic memoir (in format), and Small’s black and white drawings help convey his story in a powerful way.

AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green

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Most people have a “type.”  “Types” are often superficial, based on a few physical characteristics, or a particular type of personality.  Former child prodigy Colin Singleton’s type is linguistic: girls with the name “Katherine.”  He has dated and been dumped by nineteen of them.  And Katherine XIX truly broke his heart.

Colin and his friend Hassan decide that a roadtrip is just what Colin needs to forget his troubles and his Katherines.  They wind up in a rural town which is like a different world from their Chicago homes.  They also meet Lindsay, a girl their age who challenges all of Colin’s preconceived notions about the type of person who reads “Celebrity Living” magazine.  As Colin and Hassan join Lindsay in interviewing the locals about their personal histories and participating in local cultural activities (like hunting wild Satanic pigs), Colin tries to analyze his love life the only way he knows how: mathematically.  Who knows; if he gets this particular Theorem right, he might be able to predict the future, or maybe find a way to get K-19 back.

(If you like John Green, check out the vlog he keeps with his brother, Hank:  http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers.)

UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld

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Every since she was a Littlie, Tally Youngblood has dreamed of her sixteenth birthday–the day she will become Pretty.  Since the government started providing the Operation to everyone at age sixteen, the social hierarchies surrounding physical attractiveness have dissolved–everyone is equally Pretty.  But until she turns sixteen, Tally is an Ugly, and so long as she’s Ugly, she’s going to have fun riding her hoverboard, playing pranks, dodging the government Wardens, and sneaking into forbidden places, like the Rusty Ruins, the remnants of civilization from before.

But on her sixteenth birthday, everything changes.  Tally’s friend Shay runs away to join an underground community of Ugly rebels in a hidden city called the Smoke.  The agents at Special Circumstances want to catch Shay and destroy the Smoke, and they need Tally.  The Specials give Tally an ultimatum: help them find the Smoke, or stay Ugly forever. Unwilling to face a life of Ugliness, Tally takes the tracking device from Special Circumstances and embarks on a dangerous journey across the wilderness, following a set of cryptic clues that Shay left behind.

Uglies is the first book in a trilogy.  It was a lot of fun to read, especially if you like dystopian/sci-fi books (as I do).  The other two books in the trilogy fell a little flat for me, but they’re still worth reading.  Or you could just read the first one.  (It kind of reminds me of The Matrix: it might be better just to watch the first one because it’s excellent, and assume that the following two involve some serious action and a major overhaul of society. . . . )

If you liked Uglies, you might also like The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn.

THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID by Jeff Kinney

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Greg’s parents always have brilliant ideas about how to make him a better person.  Like his dad making him play outside instead (forcing him to sneak over to Rowley’s house in order to play his video games!) and like his mom buying him this diary (it even says diary on the front of it).  But don’t worry.  He’s not going to get all mushy gushy and talk about his feelings or anything like that.  He’s just going to tell you what it’s like to be in sixth grade, dodging bullies and boredom and trying very hard to move up on the popularity scale.  Or at least, not to move down. . . .

The Wimpy Kid books are favorites among upper elementary schoolers (as well as certain librarians . . . ) and book six will be coming out this fall!

If you liked Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you may also be interested in How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida CowellThe Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, and the Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce.

THE FIGHTER (2010)

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Director: David O. Russell
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 116 min.

As tends to be my habit, I missed seeing this film in theaters.  But I’m glad I finally got to see it.  I really enjoyed it!

Micky Ward has always looked up to his older brother, Dicky.  Dicky was a very talented boxer, but his glory days have passed and now he, along with his mother and a mess of other relatives and pseudo-relatives, is determined to train Micky as the next great fighter.  But soon, a cocaine addiction leads Dicky into jail and Micky must decide whether loyalty to his family is getting in the way of his career.  With the help of his girlfriend, Charlene, Micky begins to win fights and make a name for himself.  But can he really succeed without Dicky’s help?

This film is based on a the lives of Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. It is rated R mostly for language and violence, as well as some “adult situations,” as they say.