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By: Sally Matheny,
by Sally Matheny
|Photo: Operation Birthday Celebration--|
A Journey to the Manger
I stumbled upon a gem for you all while reading Vonda Skelton’s blog the other week.
She was interviewing author/illustrator, Angelika Martin, about her Christian children’s book, Operation Birthday Celebration—A Journey to the Manger. I knew I wanted to review this book when the author said, “Christian parents want creative resources that capture a child’s imagination and fuel curiosity while staying true to biblical teaching. Operation Birthday Celebration is entertaining while supporting Christian values and doctrine.” Martin initially wrote the book for her grandchildren because she “didn’t want Christmas hijacked by an elf.”
Soon, however, other families, and writing professionals, were reading her book. They highly recommended she offer it to the public. I think many Christian families will be glad to hear Martin has Operation Birthday Celebration ready to go for Christmas 2016.
So many things make this book special.
Read more »
Title: Break Me Like a Promise
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Summary: Maggie is the spoilt princess of an organ-transplant mafia family, but her life is not completely sunshine and roses. She's still struggling with her grief over her secret boyfriend's violent death, and her father is actually supporting an act of Congress that would implode their whole business model. When she accidentally opens a suspicious email and infects her computer (and by extension all the computers in the house) with nasty spyware, the only person who can help is Alejandro - and the only way he'll do it is if she pulls a few strings and gets him the kidney he so desperately needs. She agrees, never planning to keep her promise, but finds out she's not getting off the hook so easily.
First Impressions: I found Maggie supremely unlikeable in the first quarter of the book or so, but after that it improved. The ending felt very abrupt though, with some sequelitis.
Later On: Somehow I missed that this book is based on "The Frog Prince" until partway through. I think if I'd known this going in, I would have been a lot more secure in the main character and where the story was going. Yes, Maggie has it very, very rough at the start. But she still makes a promise that she never intends to keep, seemingly because it's to someone who's gross to look at. And what can you say about a character who whines about her emotional pain not being respected by a boy who is terminally ill?
If you can get past the unpleasant start, Maggie improves a lot in the course of the book. She learns to be less self-centered and comes to see the bigger picture of her family's business and where it's headed after paid organ donation is legalized. She also learns to see the human impact of what they do as well as the economic one, and works through her grief and her feeling of being stuck in a realistic way.
I worried about the portrayal of Alex, who is Latino and definitely not of Maggie's social class. For awhile there it seemed like he was going to be the Inspirational Minority or the Inspirational Sick Person. In some ways he still was, unfortunately. We got a little exposition about his family but mainly he was a guest in Maggie's world, upending her notions of the world but ultimately remaining a static character himself.
This is the second book in a series, and some of the loose threads and rushed finish can be attributed to that.
More: my review of the first book in the series, Hold Me Like a Breath
Title: Once Was a TimeAuthor:
Leila Sales Published:
In 1940's Britain, Charlotte struggles to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of wartime privations. At the same time, she doesn't have it so bad - she has her best friend, Kitty.
But when she, Kitty, and her father are kidnapped by Nazis in an effort to find out the secrets of time travel, the war comes home in a terrible way. Charlotte jumps through time to save her life, and finds herself alone in early 2000s America. Adrift and lost, she learns to adjust to her new life - but she never stops missing the time and the people she left behind.First Impressions:
Awwww, this was so sad and yet so perfect. Sniff.Later On:
Honestly I kept expecting a magic time jump back to the 40s, everything fixed. When it didn't happen by the end of the book, it made me reframe the whole story. Charlotte's memories of her family and of Kitty fade over the years, until she's become a person they wouldn't recognize (even not accounting for the clohtes and hairstyle).
But a hint that Kitty might be out there, looking for her, brings her old self back and reminds her who she really is. This is a story about the things that change and the things that don't, and one of the things that doesn't change is the kind of friendship that reminds you who you really are.More: Charlotte's Library
By: Sally Matheny,
by Sally Matheny
Oh, dear friends, I want to share with you about a wonderful book I’m reading. And, I’ll tell you later how one of you can win the book, plus a matching tote bag!
|66 Ways God Loves You Book and Tote Bag|
Jennifer Rothschild infuses her new book, 66 Ways God Loves You, with beautiful wisdom and loving thoughts.
Her passion comes from her own understanding of the Bible. “One profound, unavoidable, irreducible, soul-quaking effect—I feel the love of God. I want that for you too. God deeply loves you—He loves you with an everlasting love. So God tells you in sixty-six ways . . . in each and every book of the Bible.”
Rothschild points out God’s message of love from Genesis to Revelation. Two to three pages are devoted to each book of the Bible. The passages are scripture-infused meat, but concise enough to be read in five or ten minutes. It’s a perfect beginning or ending to your daily Bible reading.
Read more »
Title: The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Summary: With her hometown threatened by torrential rains and a failing dam, Keeley is determined to keep everybody's spirits up, to save her town, and to ride off into the sunset with her adorably perfect crush. And no matter how many people abandon her, she's going to have her happy ending.
First Impressions: Sniff! Everyone is so screwed up and flawed and messy. It felt so realistic.
Later On: Keeley's not an easy character to like at times, but she's so very real. She's the clown, the person who keeps everybody smiling. As things like her town, her school, her childhood friendships, and even her relationship with her parents are changing, she's having a difficult time realizing that a smile and a laugh are not the right expression in all circumstances. Her slow realization that sometimes you do need to be serious, you do need to accept change, and you do need to give in to the inevitability of loss (loss of home, loss of identity, loss of friendships) is wrenching,
because you see people all around her at different stages of the same journey.
The interesting thing about the love triangle was that the "other boy" wasn't wrong for her - he was wrong for her at that time. While these two class clowns could have made it in another setting, they were too much alike, trying to ignore the end of their world and laugh away the sadness.
When Keeley wants to get serious, he pulls away. That's not to say he's a bubblehead - he has his own life issues. But Vivian doesn't use these to excuse him or to bring about a happy ending for them. Keeley learns to recognize that the relationship is going nowhere and walk away on her own, without the romantic intervention of her other possibility.
I haven't read all of Vivian's books, but if they're all this thoughtful, and all her characters are this beautifully drawn, I have some catch-up to do.
More: Not Acting My Age
By: Sally Matheny,
by Sally Matheny
|Book Review: All Due Respect|
Nina Roesner, the executive director of Greater Impact Ministries, Inc. has teamed up with co-worker, Debbie Hitchcock, to write With All Due Respect:40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens.
I’ll be giving away a copy to one of you readers this week! There's something for everyone for a variety of topics are covered. A sampling of the forty chapter titles are: Communicate Respect Early Use Humor When Things Get Hot Coach Your Kids on Navigating Conflict Two of my favorites are Talk Your Kids Through Disappointment, and Deal With the Person Before the Issue. While I appreciate the one or two scriptures at the beginning of each chapter, I don’t think the overall content is “scripturally saturated” as stated in the beginning of the book. However, the content is good, and written with a Christian worldview. Each chapter opens up with a scene illustrating some type of situation or problem. The authors use the dialogue between characters as a tool to teach parents how to respond in certain situations. In some parts, the dialogue sounds like it’s coming from a Christian psychologist more than a parent, but nonetheless, it’s helpful. Each chapter closes with a prayer for the parent. This book is not a Bible study. But rather a resource for parents, specifically moms, on how to communicate effectively with their tweens and teens during life’s stressful moments. During those difficult times, if you struggle with controlling your emotions, speaking before thinking, or acting rashly, this book will challenge you to pause and pray first. Then, it gives you a springboard of ideas on how to offer guidance as you begin a healthy conversation. Every person who has subscribed to this blog, or is following it by email, will have their name entered into the drawing. If you’re already doing one of those, you don’t need to do anything at all. Otherwise, you can find the “Subscribe to” button and the “Follow by Email” section over there to your right. Thanks and I can’t wait to see who wins. I’ll announce the winner on Oct. 3, 2016. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
Another amazing and heartfelt review of my mermaid coloring book. I am SO joy filled hearing how much these lovelies are touching people all around the world. 🐳
❤️ ADORE the blue mermaid!!!!
Get your own copy of Portrait of the Mermaid HERE
Author: Alex Gino
Source: Local Library
A note: While she's called George through most of the book, Melissa is the name she's chosen for herself, so that's what I'll use in this review. Please see: How to Talk About George at AlexGino.com
Summary: Melissa knows she's a girl, even if the whole world seems to think she's a boy named George instead. She's scared to tell anybody - her mother, her brother, even her best friend - the truth that she knows in her heart. But when the chance to play Charlotte in Charlotte's Web comes her way, she realizes that this may be a way to be who she is.
First Impressions: This was so quietly sweet, and yet so comprehensive in how the world was enforcing gender on her. I keep getting the sniffles over it. I also loved how unexpected some of the reactions were.
Later On: The thing that kept running through my head was how thoroughly this is a children's book. Melissa is in the fourth grade. The class play is Charlotte's Web. There's little to no discussion of sexuality or attraction - it's this vague, misty thing that feels as far away as the moon. There's a little discussion of genitalia: she hates taking a bath and having to see "what's between her legs", and she talks briefly and vaguely about transitional surgeries and medication with her best friend. But Melissa is primarily and appropriately concerned with a child's world - her family, her friends, school woes, why nobody seems to know who she really is.
Her gender is a source of constant stress - not confusion. I think it's important to clarify that. She knows her own gender, even though everything from the bathroom pass to the play's casting call conspires to shout at her, boy boy BOY BOY BOY. It's this constant screaming that makes her miserable. When she gets the chance to be her real self, in public, with her loving and accepting best friend at her side, I swear that I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
I know that strictly because of the topic, this will be shelved in some YA sections. That's the wrong place for this book. This is a tender, beautiful, relatable book for children of all gender identities.
More: Waking Brain Cells
Interview with Alex Gino at School Library Journal
HELLOOOOOOOO!!! *Epic drum roll*
It's pretty cool, sort of an IMDB for books.
I haven't done a book review in ages, but hollah! Now I'm doing book reviews over at Compass Book Ratings!
(Go on, click the link. You know you want to.)
So, IBDB, I guess. I'm one of the new young adult fantasy reviewers,
with a possible and occasional science fiction novel thrown in. These books are rated for readability, age recommendations, and scored on violence, sex, and language. I've never seen a website like this before, so I'm pretty stoked to have joined them. Not only do you get more of a literary review on the book, but you can also see at a glance the sort of "violence" or "sex" that it might contain, which is pretty handy if you really don't feel like reading something chalkful of blood and gore. Right? Riiiiight?
Pretty cool, doncha think? So I'll be posting updates whenever I do a new review and it's up at Compass Books Ratings.
I currently have three new reviews up, that you can check out if you want. (Go on, click the links. You KNOW you want to!)The Winner's CurseDragonsongEnchanted Glass
That's all for now. I hope you all have a wonderful evening!
Title: The Taming of the Drew
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Summary: Headed out to play Kate in a summer stock theatre's production of The Taming of the Shrew, Cass runs afoul of her very own Petruchio . . . who of course turns out to be playing Petruchio in the show. Drew is a persnickety know-it-all who's just begging for a setdown - and Cass is more than up for the challenge.
First Impressions: A cute but slight retelling of Taming of the Shrew. The ending came way too fast and I didn't quite believe it.
Later On: The more I think about this book, the more I'm coming down on the "meh" side. While Drew was pretty obnoxious at times, some of the pranks Cass played could have been genuinely dangerous, such as the one that irritated his extreme allergies. (As someone with allergy-related asthma, I got really worried that he was going to wind up in the hospital.) If I were a guy who'd been having a really awful summer and found out that one girl was behind my inability to sleep because of phantom noises, my clothes all being dyed pink, and other annoyances, I wouldn't be kissing her at the end.
At least some of that emotion is probably my feelings about the source material, which with its themes of emotional and physical abuse, is one of the Shakespeare plays that make modern audiences very uncomfortable. There's some attempt to examine the complexities of putting on the play in a time of wildly different gender roles, but Strohm mostly abandons that in order to uncomplicatedly replicate the original with a gender reversal.
Still, the summer stock theater tropes (wacko director, varying stereotypes of actors) are pretty funny and Cass does have an encounter with fame that forces her to rethink who and what is worth being attracted to. If you can switch off your brain and your nitpick engine (not my strength, obviously), you could probably enjoy this novel.
Title: Two Summers
Author: Aimee Friedman
Summary: It all comes down to a phone call at the airport gate. In one universe, Summer answers it, and discovers that her unreliable father has putzed out once again, and she shouldn't board the plane to France to spend the summer with him. Unwilling to face the idea of another boring summer at home, she takes a photography class with her aunt, sees her relationship with her best friend undergo some strain, and reconnects with an old crush.
In another universe, she ignores the phone call and gets to France, looking forward to a summer of quaint villages, beautiful scenery, and her father's art. When she arrives, jet-lagged and miserable, she discovers that her father has flitted off to Berlin for several weeks. She's forced to stay with her father's business partner, Juliette, and her unfriendly daughter.
In both universes, she spends a summer of self-discovery, including truths both painful and beautiful.
First Impressions: Hmm. The interesting part was that she changed in the same ways whether she went to France or not.
Later On: I saw the twist regarding the business partner and her daughter's true identity a long way off, given what we knew of the father. I wasn't terribly surprised but I was pleased with the honest (and not entirely mature) reaction to it from almost all participants.
The French boyfriend was so amazingly charming and attractive and perfect that he bordered on smarmy, and I was waiting for him to do something scuzzy. When she dumped him without much of a second thought and went back home, I was relieved that she wouldn't be pining.
Overall, this book is a funny mix of Deep Thoughts, Life Changes, and fluff. Summer is changing drastically, coming out of her rather unpleasant mid-teen self into a person who actually has interests and compassion outside her very small world. But it's also a lot of wish fulfillment. It was a fun, quick read and might be just what you're looking for.
Title: The Star-Touched QueenAuthor:
Scorned and overlooked in her father's court because of her inauspicious horoscope at birth, Maya is set to be married off for political gain. Then Amar sweeps her away to his mysterious castle, full of magic and secrets and traps for the unwary. And Maya is very unwary.First Impressions:
Very atmospheric South Asian retelling of Cupid and Psyche.Later On:
I fell in love with the first part, which felt as if it had a lot of setup (a tense political situation, Maya's father, evil horoscopes, awful aunties, her mysterious mother, her relationship with a beloved sister) for things that ultimately never played out fully, or played out on the sidelines of the rest of the book.
After Amar married her and took her away, it all started to feel quite standard fantasy stuff, dressed up with a lot of magical and exotic-to-me surroundings but ultimately nothing I haven't seen before. If I had to grade the two sections separately, I would call the first part a 10 and the rest of it a 7 or an 8 . . . still pretty good but not quite keeping up.
On the strength of that first section, I'll be watching out for more of Chokshi's writing, in hopes that she can sustain it through the whole story next time. More: Waking Brain CellsKirkus
On Tuesday I finally threw up my hands in frustration over the proliferation of "boys don't read" articles in the last few months. Here's an excerpt from the post entitled More Boy Bashing - Here We Go Again
Can we please give boys and young men just a bit of credit for their reading habits? If we constantly push potty and other forms of low humor on them as something they'll read, aren't we just setting the bar a tad bit low?
I was thinking about this last night as my son and I were reading a portion of Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (And Others) Left Behind
, written by Jacob Berkowitz and illustrated by Steve Mack. Yes, this is a book ostensibly about poop (see that word in the title?), but it is SO MUCH MORE. The book discusses fossils, fossilization, carbon dating, history, archaeology, and the work of several different scientists. My son was drawn in more by the dinosaur connection than anything else, but since reading it he has been endlessly fascinated with the notion that you can learn about the past from things (artifacts) that are left behind, poop being one of them.
There are a number of books on low-brow topics that we hand to reluctant readers in an attempt to encourage them to read. However, the base nature of these topics and the quality of the work don't need to be mutually exclusive. (Oh, a book about poop? Must be crap!) So, in an effort to elevate some topics and/or titles perceived to be low-brow, here are some books (nonfiction all!) that will interest boys AND girls by the very nature of their FABULOUSLY INTERESTING content.
That list was filled with books on poop, toilets, underwear, and more. Why mention this in a book review? Because I've found a book (heck, a whole series!) that could easily be added to this list.Gary D. Robson
has written 20 books in the Who Pooped in the Park? series. Just take a look at this map to see some of the locations covered. I had no idea there was a book for Virginia! I'll be picking that one up for my outdoor education workshops soon.
You can learn more about the series at Gary's web site
The latest book in the series is WHO POOPED IN CENTRAL PARK? SCAT AND TRACKS FOR KIDS
. Emma, Jackson, Lily and Tony spend a day walking through Central Park, beginning at the Central Park Zoo and ending at Farmer's Gate. At the beginning of their walk they meet a worker named Lawton who tells them he can identify animals by their scat and tracks. As the kids move through the park, they stop along the way to make observations, talk to people they meet, and look at poop and tracks. It's certainly an interesting way to spend the day, and the kids are fully engaged with their explorations. Back matter includes additional information (scat and tracks) on ten of the animals observed directly or indirectly through the signs they leave behind.
While I like the story and, I was even more enamored of the informational boxes on most double-page spreads titled "The Straight Poop." These boxes, added to the text, provide readers with a wealth of information. Here's an example of what you'll find in these boxes.
Groundhogs (also called woodchucks) build long, underground tunnels with special rooms just for pooping, so you won't find much groundhog poop above the ground.
Even though this book is set in Central Park, folks in the northeast, particularly in urban areas or close to state and local parks, will find this a useful guide. Even kids who don't live in and around NYC will learn something about the myriad of animals depicted. And really, who can resist a book about poop? Certainly not me.
Title: Down With the Shine
Author: Kate Karyus Quinn
Summary: Lennie's uncles are moonshiners. Scandalous, but in an everyday way. That's what she thinks anyway. But when she steals a case of the family product for a party, in hopes of purchasing a little popularity, she finds out differently. Turns out that the quaint toast her uncles repeat every time they sell to a customer isn't just a quaint toast after all. It's the ritual for granting wishes, a gift that's passed down through the family.
And because the wishes of drunken teenagers are about what you'd expect (for her to love me, to be taller, to be more athletic, to turn everything I touch into Cheetos) they come true in nightmarish fashion. Now it's up to her and the brother of her dead best friend to find some way to reverse these wishes before it gets any worse.
First Impressions: This was kind of a mess. An enjoyable mess, but a mess.
Later On: This book was positively overstuffed. Murdered best friend, serial killer father, magical moonshine uncles, wishes with horrifying consequences. Any one of these could have been their own book. Jumbled together like this, they were just a mishmash of plot points for Lennie to ping-pong between. It still could have worked if the different threads had woven together well, but as it was, they just sort of trundled along concurrently.
SPOILER The time-rewind ending was sort of a cop-out, but also a relief because things had fallen apart so spectacularly that it was the only chance for any kind of decent ending.SSPOILER
Finally, I have to say something about Dylan, Lennie's murdered best friend who gets brought back to life by the wishes. I honestly couldn't figure out why they were such good friends. Dylan was so selfish and unpleasant when she returned from the grave that I didn't know why they hadn't left her there, and given that the tragedy of her gruesome murder underpinned so many of Lennie's other relationships with her peers, it weakened the book for me.
I have a teen in the library who is a full-on fantasy reader (and this number seems to grow larger every year!). I have just about gone through EVERY BOOK in the fantasy section with him and thought I was at a loss until....I remembered I had two at home I read over the summer that were over the top! He's going to be SO happy tomorrow! And what are these titles? Well, glad you asked!
The Novice by Taran Matharu
Fletcher never thought of himself as nothing more than the blacksmith's apprentice. He knows little about his background and has no family. But his life dramatically changes when a soldier who has survived the wars comes into town and gives Fletcher a scroll. Knowing little about it and allowing his curiosity to get the better of him, he reads the scroll and unleashes a power he never thought he possessed - one in which he has control over demons.
Usually reserved for wealthy families, demons are handed down from generation to generation but Fletcher is the unknown component because he has never had nor owned a demon and doesn't have the right pedigree. This makes him an anomaly which eventually leads him training to become a leader of an army for the Hominum Empire, fighting against the orcs.
At the military academy he finds himself in, he is also in the company of many others who are competing for top leadership positions including an elf of royal heritage, a dwarf with an upstanding family name, and human brother and sister, who believe themselves to be above all of them.
But Fletcher soon realizes there is more happening than he thought. Prejudice, long standing rivalry and dark political maneuvers take Fletcher further than he dared do by himself. He now has to trust those he thinks he can or be betrayed by those who hide their loyalty, and with whom their loyalties truly lie with.
What was so refreshing for me was to see a strong male character in a fantasy novel. Fletcher is real and brings a much needed masculinity to YA fantasy while not washing out the other secondary but critical characters, including some tough girls. Readers will be able to see literary and character influences the author uses, from The Lord of the Rings and even Pokemon (demons isn't the right word for the creatures in the novel....you'll understand when you read it). Matharu does such an excellent job at creating a novel based on elements of both low and high fantasy with characters, creatures and a setting that create personality, charm and deception. This novel truly delivers. First in a series I can't wait for!
Mark of the Thief by Jennifer Nielsen
Nic lives a hard life working in the mines as a slave for the Roman Empire. He remembers little about his family, only that his mother deserted him and his sister to the existence they both lead now. But his life is about to change with a twist of fate.
A powerful general comes to the mines in search of a bulla, or medallion, that once belonged to Julius Ceasar. Said to hold magic from the gods, this is something only heard of in legend. The general, having searched for it quite a long time, has a hunch it is hidden in these particular mines and Nic is chosen to go into a cave no one has survived to bring the bulla out.
When Nic enters the cave, he is surrounded by wealth, and has to fight for his life against a griffin to find the bulla. When he does, he mistakenly unleashes the power that begins to work within him. Without knowing it, Nic has turned himself into the most powerful Roman in the Empire.
But even with this power, his life becomes even more precarious. Not knowing who to trust, Nic is thrust into the center of a power for struggle between praetors, generals, and emperors. Now in the city of Rome, Nic has no one to help or turn to and finds himself in the arena, facing off against some of the most ruthless gladiators for the brutal pleasure of the city's citizens.
Nielsen's book is one that you may find yourself reading and finishing in one day. Fast-paced and full of twists, the reader is left with some of the confusion the main character finds himself in. Her details of ancient Rome engulf the reader through description and emotion and seamlessly connects reality with mythology. Nielsen doesn't give anything away in this first book of a series, and leaves you feeling the rush this fantasy/mythological journey takes you on.
Author: Jenna Black
Summary: When Becket follows a baby's cry into a dark alley, she unwittingly looses demons on Philadelphia. Things get grimmer and grimmer for her and for her city until finally her own best friend is within their grasp. Is it possible Becket is the only one who can end this?
First Impressions: Why do I keep requesting horror books. Whyyyyyy. And the ending was a pointless cliffhanger.
Later On: This started very promisingly, but Beckett spent most of the book in a puddle of helplessness, punctuated by moments of horrific gore. And the pointless cliffhanger ending just made me furious, since we arrived at the cliff because Becket was so busy dithering. Still, if you love blood-splashing horror, you might as well give this a try.
Title: Against All Silence Publisher: Adaptive Books Publication date: February 21, 2017
Summary: After being a key figure in the exposing of government corruption, Max Stein has spent a quiet semester abroad in Paris, studying, staying off the Internet, and looking for his long-lost mother. But just as he is about to fly back to the United States for the holidays, trouble manages to find him once again.
Max receives a call from Penny, his on-again-off-again girlfriend who is part of the expert hacking duo DoubleThink. She wants him to meet with Ada Kiesler, a high-profile whistleblower hiding out at a foreign embassy in Berlin. Max has no interest in getting drawn into another corporate conspiracy. But when airport security suddenly detains him on suspicion of cyber-terrorism, he has little choice but to get involved. Soon Max and Penny are tangling with a new group of shadowy figures who are determined to control how the world shares its information. And some figures from Max s past resurface, including his own mother, whose life has mirrored his own in more ways than he’d realized.
In this action-packed follow up to "The Silence of Six," Max and his hacker friends must fight to expose a corrupt corporation that has been systematically taking control of the Internet."
Review: I liked this book. I feel like I may have started the first book when that came out but I was unable to find it. I liked this book, oh wait I already said that! It took me a little bit to get through it. It was not a book that had me holding on to the edge of my seat the entire time. However, the ending did have me trying not to fast read through to see how it ended. Once you get past the first two hundred pages you kind of question why you had such a hard time in the first place. The only thing I can compare it to would be when I went to the Smoky Mountains this last week. On the first day there I walked up Rainbow falls trail. It was exhausting but once you got there it was worth the view and the walk down was very enjoyable. At the end you are happy you had that experience. That perfectly describes this book for me. I was really worried about Penny for a long time. Not for her, my concern was always for Max. I loved Risse, I would love to hear more about her. Maybe her own adventures. I like Risse over Penny. It’s hard not too! There are something’s in this book I question. Bits of it even remind me of George Orwell’s 1984. I would recommend you check this book out for yourself!
By: Sharon Ledwith,
Not for the fate of heart…or young ears for that matter, Elizabeth J. M. Walker’s newest book made me shoot coffee out of my nostrils (painful) with this laugh-out-loud young adult vampire read. Too funny and too short, with a dash of ‘Did she just drop the F-Bomb again?’ Filled with diverse characters and a different take on those shiny and oh-so-sexy vampires, it was a refreshing read and a great escape from the real world, which lately has been filled with bad news, chaos, and tragedies. So what’s my take on a story that’s all about the horrors of high school and surviving vampire attacks? This is what I posted on Amazon and Goodreads… 4 Star Fangs and Fun! Elizabeth J. M. Walker had me at the first bite! “This Night Sucks” is a gut-splitting, laugh-out-loud YA vampire read, sans the shiny, sexy ones. And that’s so refreshing. Walker’s tough-in-cheek dialogue and cast of eclectic characters made for one hilarious story. From the dynamics of high school cliques to what you think you know about vampires (and what you don’t), the reader is led on a merry chase to hunt down, and hopefully kill any bloodsucker that dares enter Lana and her high school friends’ world. If you’re ready for something completely different in the vampire literary circuit, then “This Night Sucks” is a too funny, too short book that will keep you reading till the wee hours of the morning. Just don’t forget to pack your wooden stake and garlic spray… Lana is a high school senior enrolled in Vampire Education – a class to teach students about the very real presence of vampires in the world. Lana and her classmates don’t really expect to meet up with any undead bloodsuckers. Vampires are a lot like other scary things that supposedly exist but you hope you’ll never come across: nudist colonies, mad cow disease, and your parents’ sex life. What is part of Lana’s everyday reality is navigating through one last year of high school while desperately trying to be less nerdy. She still loves spaceships, fantasy novels, and cat stickers, but she also recently got her braces removed, grew boobs, and is working on the makeup thing. She never expected her crush-of-a-lifetime Pete to even notice her – let alone ask her out on a date. The date is going great until Pete’s ex-girlfriend Katy shows up, all bloody and pissed off. Lana quickly realizes that Katy is not just her ordinary bitchy self – she has been turned into a vampire. After a near death experience, Lana learns that she is changing into a vampire too. Lana needs answers, and the only way to get them is to find the vampire who started the chain of events – and to find him before sunrise... Mirror World Publishing Link:
Meet the Author:
Elizabeth J. M. Walker lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. She has always loved books and writing. As a teen she discovered zines, which inspired her to publish her own litzine of odd fairy tales for over a decade. She Dreamed of Dragons is her first novel. Connect with Elizabeth J.M. Walker:
Title: Salt to the SeaAuthor
: Ruta SepetysPublished:
As Germany is losing WWII, four fates converge on the road to one of the greatest maritime disasters you've never heard of. First Impressions:
Wow, this was harrowing. Alfred's sections especially made me want brain bleach.Later On:
We hear so much about World War II, but it's often about the American homefront or the Holocaust. Sometimes you get the British homefront. If you get a perspective on Germany or Eastern Europe, it's usually a Nazi or someone struggling to deal with a Nazi in their family or close friendships.
This shines a light into the everyday life of the citizens of Nazi Germany and the occupied areas. Each character has secrets that unfold gradually and converge with others in unexpected ways, showing the many and varied effects of war on the average person - from Emilia, pregnant and alone, to Florian the unwilling hero, to Joana, just trying to survive, to Alfred, a supremely deluded and unlikeable person.
The disaster looms, more so because the reader is probably going to have little to no idea how it actually happened. Some might even be taken completely by surprise (although the human mistakes that led to it are well-documented in the story).
It's not a happy ending for everyone, (did we expect anything else from this time period and this author?) but it's a slice of history that's valuable to hear. More: UnshelvedKirkus
Spoilers, probably, but: Military History Online's page on the sinking of the Wilhem Gustloff
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publication date: November 2016
Summary: Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.
What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.
Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way,Faithful is a roadmap.
Review:I started this book because a friend of mine had been killed recently. I am having a hard time dealing with that. So I thought maybe this might help me. I will say I absolutely love the story. I love Shelby. I love who she becomes and that she is slowly learning to love things even though she doesn’t realize it at first. She is slowly releasing herself to be able to be happy once more. What I don’t like is how the time is set up in this story. Like at one point it goes we’ve been dating for 4 years. Wait, how like three chapters previously you were 18 and just started dating. I wish that the time had been placed a little better. I would like to be able to associate her age with the events that are happening at the time. That is the one thing I don’t like about this story. I love her love of dogs. Her need to rescue them. To shelter them. Then her mother. She is lucky to have such a supportive loving force in her life. Honestly this is a really great story! I am happy I chose to read it! Best decision of my life. I am torn between wanting to see how it ends and to not let it end! Back to the point of the time frame. The upside to that is we are getting a large part of her life after the accident. I love that. In a lot of books you get that where you feel unsatisfied. Where you want to know what happens in their life. You don't need to want you get it. All the heart ache she continues to go through. All of the things that continue to make her a stronger woman.
Title: My Life with the Liars
Author: Caela Carter
Summary: Zylynn has been taken by the liars, away from the loving compound where she grew up knowing that she was going to heaven and sure of all the rules. If she wants to go back home, she'll have to prove she deserves it by escaping.
But the liars are crafty. They let her have as much food as she wants, they buy her clothes that are full of color, they even make her feel as if she really is part of their family. What if their lies aren't lies? And if they aren't liars, who is?
First Impressions: This was really good! I loved how disoriented and out of place she felt, trying to make sense of her new life through the lens of her old one.
Later On: Cults are a popular topic in YA because it's so often paired with religious fundamentalism and gender-based injustices, which are pretty handy straw dolls to fire arrows of authorly rage at. Because this is more aimed at middle grade, that's not quite as front and center, but you can still see it around the edges. This book is so powerful precisely because it doesn't spend much time lovingly lingering on how unfair it all is.
The focus is on Zylynn's gradual realization that the life she knew wasn't as perfect as she was always told it was. In her flashbacks, you can tell that she was a rule-follower, terrified of the consequences. In her new life, she's still trying to follow the rules of her old one, but she's gradually starting to question the value of those rules as she learns to accept the love and generosity that her newfound family offers her.
Title: The Winner's Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Source: ARC from a friend
Summary: Kestrel has been banished to a frigid northern work camp. Drugged and beaten, she struggles to remain defiant, but finally succumbs. When she is rescued, it's going to be a long, long road back to who she used to be.
Meanwhile, Arin is fighting for the future of his country, trying to oust the Valorian invaders and rebuild what was smashed to rubble. Reunited with Kestrel, he struggles with his emotions over previous events and the betrayal that wasn't.
It's a harrowing journey for both Arin and Kestrel to freedom for the Herrani people, and to personal happiness.
First Impressions: Arrrrgh so gooooooood.
Later On: As you can probably tell from my first impressions, I'm not exactly unbiased about this series. I adored the first two books for their mix of the great fate of nations and the intimate fate of people, and how powerfully each can affect the other. The end of the second book left everything in rubble, so I was anxious to see how Rutkoski resurrected her characters.
Refreshingly, Arin and Kestrel do not fall into each others' arms when he rescues her from the work camp. There's too much pain and betrayal between them for that, and Kestrel is far too broken to focus on anything but putting herself back together.
Kestrel's memory returns in fits and starts, and some pieces remain patchy until the end (and, one suspects, will do forever). But she is still Kestrel, brilliant and crafty and occasionally ruthless, yet still impacted by her family ties and history.
Arin, for his part, is struggling between the two sides of this woman and trying to simultaneously forgive himself for his anger and to forgive her the things that she's done, as well as trying to be the ruler that he seems to have been elected.
This book, and the whole series, are deeply satisfying on both the grand-fate-of-nations and the intimate-fate-of-people fronts.
More: My review of the first book
Waking Brain Cells
While WW II was waging furiously in Europe, some countries didn't see as much action. But it didn't mean that pivotal moments didn't occur in those countries. Switzerland declared itself neutral, but Norway didn't. And there was one place in Norway that became very VERY interesting to the Nazis. It was a place so obscure and rare, they would do anything to make sure they could control it.
An interesting fact - the science behind the nuclear bomb was being explored before and during World War II. Everyone knew that whomever developed it first would win the war. And the race was on. Different physicists and scientists came up with various ways to create one and there were many elements that had to be used. One of them was called heavy water. Hydrogen has been replaced by deuterium, which made it essential for bomb making. The unfortunate thing was that heavy water was difficult to produce and there wasn't much of it.
But there was one place in Europe where heavy water was produced. The Vemork Hydroelectric Plant in Norway. Difficult to access, it was the perfect Nazi situation, making it hard to infiltrate. It was to be a huge Nazi secret that gave them the extra incentive to win the nuclear race.
One thing they didn't count on was the patriotism of the Norwegians. There were underground resistance groups that sprung up and when the Nazis found them out, they used scare and death tactics to contain them. It only bolstered them to fight back even more. Several Norwegians went to England to train with the secret intelligence service to become infiltrators, spies and saboteurs. They were to go back to Norway and create new resistance groups and sabotage any Nazi effort.
The top priority was to destroy Vemork....but could they without getting caught or putting the small town of Rjukan in jeopardy for their lives? Even worse, their mission was to take place in winter across a vast frozen area where survival would be severely tested.
Young adult non-fiction is fascinating for one very simple reason - these are the events that aren't usually written about in history books. Neal Bascomb hit it out of the park with his newest book. Narrative in nature, Bascomb tells a riveting story as well as providing images and photographs of the main players and sites. In hindsight, readers will see how one mistake could have changed the outcome of the war. This is the invisible part of WWII teens will find fascinating.
By: Sally Matheny,
by Sally Matheny
|Pumpkin Patch Blessings|Are you looking forward to autumn? I saw an eager, yellow leaf parachuting from a tree yesterday. The apples are almost ripe for picking, and soon the pumpkins will follow. In anticipation of the refreshingly cool air, I’m reviewing a children’s book, Pumpkin Patch Blessings, today. Also, someone will receive a blessing and win a free copy of the book! Pumpkin Patch Blessings, written by Kim Washburn and illustrated by Jacqueline East, is published by Zonderkidz. Soft lines and colors fill this fourteen-page, board book. Children will take delight scouring the pages for illustrations of God’s creations—plants, animals, and people. On most pages, there is a dog and a bunny. Children will enjoy searching for them throughout the book. The story centers around two children visiting a pumpkin farm. Through the story, readers” hear” the crunch of the leaves, “smell and taste” roasted corn on the cob, and “feel” the multi-textures of pumpkins. The rhyming verses recount many more sensory experiences before ending with pumpkin pies at home.
Another feature of the book I liked was the inclusion of more than one ethnic group in the book.
One additional note, two jack-o-lanterns are inserted on the last page. Nothing in the book mentions, or alludes to, Halloween or jack-o-lanterns. In fact, the whole book focuses on God’s creation. Nonetheless, two small jack-o-lanterns nestle in among the rest of the pumpkins on the last page. Some pumpkins are plain. Others have carved-out circles and shapes with light shining through.
Overall, children will enjoy this beautiful book. The rich vocabulary makes it a wonderful book for ages 4-6. The durable design and colorful illustrations provide an entertaining book for younger children as well.
Who would like to win this book? *All you have to do is tell us what part of God’s creation do you enjoy the most during the autumn season. We will announce the winner on Sept. 2!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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Title: Burn Baby BurnAuthor:
In the muggy summer of 1977, 17-year-old Nora struggles with family drama and her own choices about what to do with the rest of her life. Meanwhile, New York City is terrorized by the serial killer Son of Sam, overwhelming heat, and power outages.First Impressions:
I normally hate near-past stories but this one had a reason to happen where it did. Compelling.Later On:
One of the reasons I don't like near-past stories is because they seem like the author just wanted to write about their own teenage years without bothering to research the Youth of Today. This one is different because Medina draws on a specific time and place, and the events that go along with it, to underpin her story of a confusing, terrifying time of changes for her protagonist.
Nora is scared of becoming another of Son of Sam's victims, but she's equally frightened of her brother's violent outbursts. When the massive 1977 power outage hits New York, it affects her job and her relationships. She feels oppressed by the social mores of the day, but she also feels oppressed by her mother's specific translating needs and the pressure to be a good Latina daughter who ignores her brother's violence. The personal blends with the cultural blends with the social until everything is indistinguishable - they're all equal pressures that impact Nora's life.
I also really appreciated the way the author touched on social issues and movements of the day and didn't idealize them. She discusses feminism and the rush that Nora gets from it, but makes sure to mention that it's mostly white middle class feminism, that doesn't do much for working class Latinas and black women - a problem that still persists today.More: Bookshelves of Doom for Kirkus