Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George

Thursdays with the Crown
by Jessica Day George
224 pages, 2014
Elementary +

After Celie helped heal the Castle in Wednesdays in the Tower, she is suddenly transported somewhere new with Rufus her griffin, her siblings, and their friends.  Surrounded by forest, they have to start exploring in order to discover where the Castle has taken them.

After most the others have left, Celie is shocked the see some griffins racing around the tower.  Wild griffins!  As she runs after them, more discoveries await her.  Can she finish healing the Castle and make it back home in one piece?

Wizards, magic, griffins, adventure!  What more could you want from a book!  I think I liked this one more than than the second book!  Fast paced, lots of action and discover. Really fun read! Jessica Day George continues to be on my go-to list for recommendations!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
288 pages, 2013
Middle School+

When the captain of the basketball team and the president of the robotics club are best friends, things are always messy! Meet Charlie and Nate, friends even though they move in completely different circles.  But when the cheerleaders, including Charlie's ex-girlfriend, and Nate's robotics team start competing for funding, Charlie is caught in the middle.  On top of all of that, his home life sucks right now- his dad is gone with work all the time, his mom lives in another state with her boyfriend, and holidays are likely to be a mess.

When the cheerleaders and robotics team finally join forces to enter a robot death match, Charlie's life finally seems to be falling into place!  Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong!

Really fun book!  Lots of humor, great glimpse into teen life and all the different influences.  A little out there at times, but really fun.  Definitely a recommend to middle school and high school!  Especially those that like robot death matches!

Winterling by Sarah Prineas

by Sarah Prineas
248 pages, 2012
Late Elementary+

Jennifer, or Fer as she likes to be known as, has never quite fit in.  School in the city gives her headaches, the other girls have never really liked her, her quilt-patched jacket makes her look strange and she would much rather just be out in the forest away from them all anyways.

One rainy night, Fer is drawn to a pool in the forest.  The flat surface reflects the trees around her, the bushes, and even a glimpse of the moon through the clouds.  But the moon is wrong- crescent in one sky but full in the other.  Shadowy figures move from the reflection into around her until they resolve into wolves.  Wolves hunting a young boy she finds in the bushes next to the pool.  After she fights off the wolves, she wonders where everyone came from.  No one lives in that forest and wolves haven't been seen there for years and years.

After rescuing Puck from the wolves, she decides to follow him to the other world through the pool.  This begins her adventures.  Dark powers have taken hold, and winter is staying much longer than it should.  Fer must discover the source of the wrongness she feels in the land and find a solution to bring spring not only to the world on the other side of the pool, but to her own land as well.

Pretty good book about a girl finding her own way in the world, discovering who she really is and deciding what she wants in life.  Magic and faeries, coming of age story.

So overall, great book for later elementary kids.  No love story elements, no language, and really nothing that scary.  Lots of action, Fer is a smart strong girl who isn't afraid to act or to refuse to act when pressured into a wrong situation.  Definitely one I will recommend around!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Will and Whit

Will & Whit
by LauraLee Gulledge
192 pages, 2013
Middle School+

Three things you should know about 17 year old Willhemena, or Will for short: she lives with her aunt (who's decently hip), loves to make lamps out of whatever is lying around in the antique shop they run, and she's afraid of the dark.  Ever since her parents died almost a year ago, she has struggled to keep her cool in the dark.  Shadows make her uneasy and darkness freaks her out.

When Hurricane Whitney comes along, and threatens to leave the lights out for several days, Will starts to get really nervous.  All her usual distractions- making lamps, music, reading- won't be available at night to keep the darkness at bay.  How can she survive for several days without anything to light her way?

So, I really enjoyed this!  Cover is kind of deceiving- while there is plenty of romance and crushes in the book, Whit is a storm, not a person.  But I really like that twist, and how much she interacts with the storm and how much it makes Will grow.  While you see Will interact with several of her friends, strangers, and her aunt, the interaction between her and the storm is what causes her to push boundaries within her other relationships.  While the cover might be misleading, the title is very appropriate.

Several issues are addressed in this book including dealing with the death of a loved one, friendships, betrayals, disappointment, heartbreak, daring to do something new, and facing your fears.  I really like how much it addresses!  Teens rarely have to face one thing at a time; usually they face several issues which all influence each other and keep building and building until something breaks or explodes!  Will is like this- she is trying to deal with all these issues that build on each other until something has to change.

Overall, I just really enjoyed this book.  Lots of things happening so the reader never gets bored, great illustrations that show depth and movement (I loved the shadows and watching how they reflected emotions), and a great story line.  I especially loved a Doctor Who tribute on the last page!  Definitely something to recommend.  Great book with loads of emotion, could help teens face their fears or grief.  This is how I like my realistic fiction!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

A Dance of Cloaks 
by David Dalglish
388 pages, 2010
High School+

Thieves versus nobles, guild versus guild!  Within the city, the Spider Guild or thieves and assassins reigns.  At the head of the guild is Thren Felhorn- best of the best.  As his guild and control of other guilds grows, he challenges the power and influence of the Trifect, an alliance of the strongest noble houses.  Warily, all the parties watch each other for threats and maneuvers.

In the middle of all of this is Aaron, Thren's son and heir.  Trained to be a ruthless assassin, at the age of eight he kills his older brother.  5 years later, still training and learning guild ways, his father gives him an assignment- kill a young girl who has just seen her father die.  After chasing her down through the chaos after the father's assassination, he find her praying behind some garbage.  Watching and seeing a different side of life, he is unable to take her life.

But, the consequences of his actions must be faced.  Aaron is disgraced in the eyes of his father, the girl must still be killed by another, and the world must know to not cross Thren and the Spider Guild.  But Aaron's heart is not matching what he has been taught.  Can he survive without his father?  Or will that be his last mistake?

So, first of all, I was unable to finish this book.  Not because it was back, not because it uninteresting, but because of the language and violence.  Lots of language, lots of violence, and fairly graphic violence.  I've read other books with language and violence, but this one was just filled with it.  I'm pretty sure every page had multiple instances of swearing.  Granted, if you are talking about a thieves guild assassinating people and fighting, you'll get violence, but I really didn't need to know what it felt like to have your eye stabbed.  Fantasy violence I can handle, this was just a little to graphic for my tastes.

Besides that, the book was very interesting.  Characters with potential, lots of plots and twists.   I do feel like I wasn't getting to know any character except the main character that well.  And the narration didn't follow him all the time, so you only have limited glimpses of him.  Admittedly, I didn't get more than half way through the book, but the reader was introduced to so many plots and characters that I didn't feel like I had gotten deep into the story or the characters.

Overall, interesting premise, and if I had spent more time with the book (finished reading it plus there are sequels!) I might have gotten over the lack of depth that I perceived.  If you like intrigue, thieves, street thugs, noble houses, plots and violence, then you would like it. If you don't like violence or bad language, don't read it.  Definitely not appropriate for younger kids, high school aged at the earliest.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hidden by Dauvillier, Lizano and Salsedo

by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo
80 pages, 2014

When grandma was a little Jewish girl, she lived in Paris.  But life wasn't all sweetness and roses- she lived in the time of World War II- when Jews were discriminated against, families were torn apart, and children were hidden in closets.  But Grandma Dounia has never told her story.  Until she tells it to her granddaughter in the middle of the night.

What a gentle way to discuss the horrors of the Holocaust with a young child.  The reader can see how deeply it affected Dounia as a child (at one point she can't talk for a few days), you see the emotions that fill her and how the horrors around her change her life.  But you don't see the horrors.  The reader sees the changes that come- people treating them differently, police taking people away, how different her mother is once she is returned.  It addresses all the issues that the Jews faced during WWII, but at the same time shows it in a manner appropriate for children.

Great read- worth looking at.  Should be appropriate for most children, but might invoke more questions about the events of the Holocaust.  Great way to tell this story.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson
416 pages, 2013
High School

What would happen if super heroes used their powers to rule and oppress instead of help others? Imagine if Superman wanted to run the city, not save the city! That is the world that David lives in. 

At the age of eight, David sees his father and everyone else in the bank killed by Steelheart, an Epic- someone with super powers. Nobody knows what can harm Steelheart, no one has seen him bleed and survived to tell, except for David. Seeking revenge for his father's death, David joins the Reckoners, a underground group out to upset the tyranny of the Epics. But despite all their research and David's notes, they still can't figure out how to harm Steelheart. Yet someone has to try.

I really enjoyed this book. While it seemed to take me a while, it read really face. Great pace, lots of action, but also lots of emotion behind the action. Sanderson has created a great balance between the action/fighting/getaway scenes and the emotion that drives people. That creates an interest in the character, a need to know what happens next, plus a connection between character and reader. Excellent balance of these various elements. 

I will definitely be recommending this book to people. I'll say teenager, high school ages, mostly because of violence in it- lots of gun fights, injuries, high speed chases, that sort of thing. Not really swearing (at least what we consider swearing- they have their own made up stuff) or anything inappropriate. Great read if you like action movies!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gone a while....

So, to any of my loyal readers out there, I've been gone a while.  Like more than 6 months without a post.  EEK!

Part of it was health issues: figured out that I can't have gluten.  Weird....  But it's been a lot of adjustments and just having energy to focus on reading and blogging hasn't been there lately.  Plus summer time is always so busy that it just wasn't the right time to start back up.

But I'm back!  Woo hoo!  Let's get this going! Any requests?  Book types you want more in?  Specific titles you want me to read and review?  Let me know!

InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves
260 pages, 2007
Late Elementary to Middle School

Joey Harker's day started just fine.  His social sciences teacher is testing them on finding directions in the city, and he finally feels like he's got a handle on it.  He knows where he is, he's got a cute girl on his team, and even stood up the the bully.

And then he walked around the wrong corner and Walked into another dimension.  And then another.  Joey has the strange ability to walk through dimensions like most people walk to the park.  As he starts travelling, he starts meeting people that are strange versions of himself, humanoid and otherwise.  The more people he meets, the deeper involved in the bigger struggle he becomes.

When I first saw this I thought "How did I not know that Gaiman wrote something else???" I was super excited to read it and see what crazy world he came up with this time.  And Mr. Gaiman did not disappoint.

This was great! I had a hard time putting down.  The reader becomes quickly attached to Joey as the underdog, and you want to cheer for him.  He's the kid that is always trying to work hard and do the right thing, but it turns out wrong.  Many people will be able to relate to him.

I also liked the variety of Joey-like characters- so many different variations, but still have connections to him.  Very believable that they could be a Joey from another universe.

Overall- exciting, action-packed read.  Great characters, interesting multiple-universe structure, and fun to read.  Definitely will recommend to people, especially boys.


by Brandon Sanderson
643 pages, 2006
High School

Today we have something new!  I asked someone I know to do a review of a book he's read recently.  Here's what I got!

Review by Simeon!
Vin’s world is grey and black as the ash continues to fall every single day. The world is always dangerous for a street urchin in one of the largest cities, Luthedal, the seat of the Lord Ruler. She has been living with a street gang with a leader that only uses her as his ‘good luck charm’. However, street gangs and thieves are the least of her problems as rumors spread of a ‘survivor of hathsin’ and a mysterious man shows up to the street gang’s hideout. He uses her ‘luck’ to subdue all of the thieves. Curious, she decides to join them. However, things are stirring as Vin is learns of a daring, almost suicidal, plan that this mysterious man is doing. Can she trust this man enough to both learn her powers and to carry out this plan?
Where to begin with this book?
The characters feel real. Vin starts off not trusting other people. She is only staying with the crew master because he views her as something ‘useful’ and very much a loner. Then she meets Kelsier, where he introduces her to a whole new world, a world where people trust each other. Then Vin begins to change, very slow at first, then quicker until she seems a complete different person at the end of the book, a person that could trust her friends. Also, the banter between the friends is something that will leave you laughing well after you have read it. So, I like to repeat what I have said earlier, the characters feel real.
Also, the magic system is simple! Okay, maybe not as simple, but it was well defined, you know what’s going to happen and how it happens. It has advantages, and disadvantages, and there are ways to get around it. It doesn’t make the characters indestructible, or unbeatable (believe me, Vin gets beat on again and again throughout the whole series) however, it gives them that extra edge in battle that allows them to take on their opponents.
I will say one thing about Mistborn. It is dark. Imagine our world, where the sun is a blazing hot orb that would beat about the world in a wave of heat so suffocating that all life would eventually shrivel up to its relentless heat. Where mountains belch out ash day in and day out, making the sky an ugly grey black color. Ash falling constantly, there is no green plants. The fields are covered in black from the ash, the buildings, black as ash fall upon it day in and day out. The plant life, sick, and near death, struggling to survive in a hostile world. The humans… if noble born, always sneaking around each other in intrigue and sabotage, the workers, or more commonly known as the skaa. Are treated only a little bit better than slaves at best, at worst they are the slaves. Thieves fill the back ways of the most powerful city constantly trying to scrape off a living, stealing from the rich. This is the daily life in Mistborn. Yet despite all of this, the characters try to make it a better world of it. They try to fix it.

I would recommend this book to most people if they were into adventure, dark world’s settings, slightly humor, and a around good book. However, I must make a quick note, I would not recommend this book if people are a little squeamish, there is lots of blood and some rather grotesque killing involve.

That One Spooky Night

That One Spooky Night
Written by Dan Bar-el
Illustrated by David Huyck
80 pages, 2012

Creepy crawlies and things that go BUMP in the night...  If you like being scared, then this is the book for you!

This collection of three short stories is scary and makes you think about what is behind those masks at Halloween time.  Is that little girl just dressed up as a witch, or is she really one?  What is under all those bubbles in your bubble bath?  And be careful who invites you over for a party....

Fun, cute collection of stories.  Nothing super scary, perfect for the younger elementary aged kids.  Great illustrations, just enough text to drive the story, but not so much it's cluttered.  Lots of action oriented frames.  Overall, fun quick read!  Great for short attention spans since it's divided into the short sections.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
by James L. Swanson
336 pages
High School

In the fall of 1963, the world was shocked by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the youngest president ever of the United States.  After narrowly winning the election a few years earlier, he had grown in maturity and handled several tense situations that could have been catastrophic otherwise.  

Learn not only about this young president and what he accomplished before being killed, but also about the sniper, what drove him, and what happened the day of the assassination. 

Sometimes I find it difficult to write summaries of non-fiction.  There's not really a plot to highlight most of the time, and not really twists and turns to follow.  That being said, this book kind of does have a plot, even if the ending is not a surprise.

Told in more of a narrative style, not just laying out facts, it made it much easier to read than a lot of other non-fiction.  I enjoyed learning about JFK's background, highlights of his presidential time, and how he reacted to various situations.  Somehow, there is this huge gap in my U.S. history education after World War I through the 1980's.  This has help fill in some of those details, and it was much easier to read than a lot of the adult books would be.

Overall, this was an excellent book.  It had lots of facts, background into situation so that the reader can understand not just President Kennedy's background, but also that of the shooter.  There are also a lot of photos and diagrams to help the reader understand exactly how events played out.  Due to the depth and seriousness of the subject, I would recommend mostly for high school aged, unless a kid is super interested in history.  Great book about the topic!

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

In the Shadow of Blackbirds
by Cat Winters
400 pages
High School

In the fall of 1918, Mary Shelly Black's life is coming apart.  Her father has been arrested for sympathizing with the Germans, she must move from Portland to San Diego to live with her aunt, the flu is everywhere, and her childhood friend Stephen has gone off to war.  Even worse, she hasn't heard from him in weeks.  At least his family is in San Diego and she can get some answers about what's going on with his life.  Only issue with that: she has to talk Stephen's half-brother Julius, a 'spirit photographer', who she wants nothing to do with.

Once in San Diego, life isn't improving much.  Julius wants her to pose for him again since the first photo, taken years ago, turned out so well.  He has grown famous from photographing people's passed on loved ones, giving comfort to those grieving.  But Mary Shelly hardly wants to talk to him, let alone pose for him again.  She only wants to know what is happened to Stephen, where the package is that he left for her, and if he is alright.  When word comes of his death in the war, she is devastated, running outside into a lightning storm to be struck.

As she is struck, strange things start happening.  She ends up in a tree, looking down at her body, ends up returning to it, but the weird things are just beginning.  Her dead uncle's compass now points at her, she can taste emotions, and more.  Most of all, she can communicate with Stephen, but his madness is threatening to overcome her. What happened to him?  Why are the blackbirds attacking him?  And are there really spirits in all of Julius's photographs?

First of all, wow, what a book!  Along the same line as "The Diviners" by Libba Bray, but much faster moving than that book.  Excellent ghost story with history and romance thrown all together.  Had a lot of fun reading it, even if I couldn't read it late at night in the dark...

Some major themes in the book: importance of families, loyalty (to family, to country, to justice), and action verses inaction.  I'm sure there are others, but that's what hit me in this reading.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book.  I enjoyed it a lot, it had a fast pace, lots of mystery, and a good portion of the paranormal without it being cheesy.  High school age for the gruesomeness of some of the war imagery, plus scene between Mary Shelly and a ghost (alrighty then...).   Good book, will look forward to other books by this author!