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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,604
26. Book review and giveaway- Delete by Kim Curran

Today, Faber Academy and I are kicking off the blog tour for Kim Curran's DELETE! It's had a bit of trouble getting out, due to the closure of Strange Chemistry, but it's coming and it's having a blog tour! 


Title:   Delete

Author:  Kim Curran
Series:    Shift #3
Published:   31 March 2015 by Xist Publishing
Length:  230 pages
Source: Strange Chemistry ARC
Other info: I reviewed Shift and Control and really enjoyed them! I’ve also had Kim over to talk about shifting in real life, and about her other book, Glaze (which I also reviewed).
Summary : The country is at war. Beset by enemies within and without. And all because of the decisions changed by one boy, Scott Tyler. In this ravaged alternative reality, Scott hardly recognises himself. He's a war hero, a leader of a unit of Shifters and maybe the only one who can prevent the country's frail defences from crumbling.
But all Scott wants to do is find a way back to the world he knew, without losing the girl he loves. With every Shift he makes, Scott edges closer towards oblivion. With no one to trust – not even himself – how much is he willing to risk to get home?

Review: This is the end of a trilogy, so this review will contain spoilers for the first two books (and you really do need to read Shift and Control before this one). Following the end of Control, Scott finds he has shifted to a world where Britain is at war, and Scott is apparently the Commandant of ARES, or at least its present form, and  everything is completely different. However, unlike most Shifters whose realities change when they shift to accomodate for that shift and they accept that shift as being the one true reality, Scott remembers the more peaceful, less treacherous world, and he wants to get back.
I really enjoyed Shift and Control, and thus I was very excited to read this. When I did get to read Delete, I read it so quickly. I think if life didn’t get in my way, it would be a one-sit-read.
You know how I said Control put the plot on a larger scale to Shift? It’s happened again. Majorly. Again.
I loved the different sides of the characters we got to know. Frankie, Aubrey, and Katie  were all changed but also still them, and Scott...woah. in this world, Scott’s personality is rather different to the one he remembers having, and I loved seeing him struggle with what he remembers, what he thinks he is, what what he has to do in this world.  So much character development.
The plot progressed well. It’s fast, but there are also quieter moments. Especially between Aubrey and Scott as  he tries to find the differences between the past Aubrey and the one now. .
I did have mixed feelings about the end. Initially I really disliked it, but after a little time, I realised how wonderful it was because Scott has learnt things and might be able to make things better and maybe it isn’t as bad an ending as I thought.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a brilliant ending to an action packed series examining decisions and their consequences.



Also, there's a tourwide giveaway happening to win all three Shift books. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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27. The Sculptor Book Review

Title: The Sculptor Author: Scott McCloud Publisher: First Second Publication Date: February 3, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1596435735 496 pp. ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley Comic book authority Scott McCloud wrote and illustrated the graphic novel The Sculptor, his first work of fiction in over 20 years. The fact that it's already in development for a film should give you a clue that it's a

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28. Picture book roundup - more funny ones!

Here are two new funny additions to add to my earlier post, Picture Book Roundup - new or coming soon!

We were reading these at work the other night.  All you could hear were laughs, chuckles, and "awww"s.


  • Dyckman, Ame. 2015. Wolfie the Bunny. New York: Little Brown.  Illustrated by Zacharia OHora.


This one had all the library staff laughing! Wolfie is the cutest little wolf in a bunny suit, but the star of this story is his sister, Dot. Doesn't anyone else realize that a wolf does not make a good brother for a bunny? Every time I read it, I find something else amusing in the illustrations.  See you at the Carrot Patch Co-op! (Bring your own shopping bag.)



  • Slater, David Michael. 2015. The Boy & the Book. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. Illustrated by Bob Kolar.

This wordless book about a book and a "rough-and-tumble" little boy will crack you up and then make you say "Awww!" It's sure to become a librarian favorite. You'll love the blue book (but "read" them all!)




Musing for the day: How does one become a wordless picture book author? ;)

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29. Review – One Step at a Time by Jane Jolly and Sally Heinrich

Inspired by a true story, One Step at a Time exposes the unfortunate reality of the global landmine crisis through the prism of a friendship between a young boy and an elephant. Writer Jane Jolly and artist Sally Heinrich handle this subject with such deftness and clarity to ensure young readers grasp the predicament facing […]

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30. Wildlife Book Review

Title: Wildlife Author: Fiona Wood Publisher: Poppy Publication Date: September 16, 2014 ISBN-13: 978-0316242097 400 pp. ARC provided by publisher Wildlife is Australian author Fiona Wood's US debut, and my love for Australian YA grows. Wildlife is a dual narration novel, with Sibylla telling one story and Lou telling another. Both live in the same dorm during a wilderness semester at

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31. My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

2015, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Lulu has her life mapped out.  First and foremost was to get as far away from the small town of Dale as fast as she could.  San Diego and higher education waited for her there.  Of course she’d miss her best friend Roni, who would stay home, and all of her escapades with Bucky, who was going to college in-state.  But life gets in the way sometimes….

Her father, who comes home between extensive traveling, has told her there are no funds to pay for school this year.  Next year would be better.  These words are poison to Lulu’s heart and soul.  She knows working Sal’s used auto parts business won’t pay enough.  But then Aunt Jezebel comes to town and changes everything.

Lu sees her future clearly now with the help of Aunt Jezebel, who is primed and ready to make illegal moonshine for a lot of money.  Her copper pipes are just waiting to distill the nectar of the hills and her metal drum is hungry for corn, sugar and yeast.  Lu has the equipment, (she’s only “borrowing” it for the summer) but she needs the know-how…and that’s when Mason makes his entrance into her money-making scheme.

His family has been known for making the best moonshine in West Virginia, and Lu will do almost anything to get him to help out her, Roni and Bucky.  It isn’t as easy as it looks though. Mason is hiding something from Lu - something dark and dangerous it could kill him in the process.  But he makes the decision to help just once and everything and everyone can’t stop the fall…


The first thing that will gravitate the reader to this book is the narrative.  Written in first person, Lu is telling the story of that summer, but where from?  It could be so many different places and the allusion to this point will keep the pages turning.  Brilliant writing!  The other strong part of this novel are the characters, including the adults in this small town.  Set in rural West Virginia, what the reader may think of as stereotypical is crushing through realistic character development while the innate culture of the state remains.  Sarah Tomps has done an outstanding job in her new novel and will should definitely be on any YA book roadmap created!  Recommended HS

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32. Made for You by Melissa Marr

2014, HarperCollins


Eva Tilling is the girl who has it all…popularity, a good-looking boyfriend, and a family who is considered the top of the social echelon in the small southern town she was born and raised in.  Like most of her friends whose families are connected, she follows traditional Southern etiquette, including who she can date or be friends with. 

Nate used to belong, but something changed…now he’s a loner and a social paraiah, known more for his drinking and partying.  His family has slowly crumbled, reflecting his reputation.  He’s known Eva Tilling since they were kids and played together, but now as upperclassmen in high school, their relationship has changed.  It’s non-existent, with only furtive glances and cold shoulders.

But this changes the day of the accident.  Eva is now in the hospital recovering from a hit and run, trying to understand who or why it happened.  She also suffers from severe brain injury and can’t remember details afterward.  Her best friend has come by often to check on her, and unexpectedly Nate shows up, spending time with her.  Eva couldn’t be happier about this.

But something else is bothering and scaring her.  When she touches people, she can see their deaths.  She’s seen her best friend in danger as well as Nate’s, but can’t see the face of the person who is behind the shadow.  Then dead bodies begin to turn up, and all of them have one thing in common:  Eva Tilling.

The Judge is in control, knowing who and when to attack and kill to get Eva’s attention.  He knows she was made just for him and no one is going to get in the way of their love, even if it may seem maniacal and twisted.  He’s leaving her breadcrumbs, waiting for her to notice and understand them.  She needs to hurry or he’ll have to find another victim with another clue…

Melissa Marr has once again delved into the dark side and written a wonderful novel that will have readers asking  who the murderer is  until the end of the book.  And that is the one perfect reason that makes any mystery book an excellent one.  Marr builds suspense by making the readers continue to question if a particular character is the one, even as innocent as they seem.  Not only are the characters in question, but also family dynamics and expectations these teens are required to follow.  Excellent YA murder mystery and recommended for high school readers. 

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33. Soppy Book Review

Title: Soppy Author & Illustrator: Philippa Rice Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing Publication Date: December 2, 2014 ISBN-13: 978-1449461065 108 pp. ARC via NetGalley "Soppy" is something that's overly sentimental and it's a word used more in the UK than the States.  So it makes sense that the writer/illustrator of Soppy, Philippa Rice, is from the UK. Soppy started out as a webcomic

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34. Book Review: Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind

 Title:  Spring Awakening (Original German title: Frühlings Erwache)
Author:  Frank Wedekind, translated by Francis J. Ziegler
Series:   N/A
Published:    Feb 2012 by Methuen Drama. Written 1890-1. First performed 1906.
Length:  192 pages
Warnings: rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion
Source: Project Gutenberg
Summary from Student edition:  Wedekind's notorious play Spring Awakening influenced a whole trend of modern drama and remains relevant to today's society, exploring the oppression and rebellion of adolescents among draconian parents and morals. This seminal work looks at the conflict between repressive adulthood and teenage sexual longings in a provincial German town. Highly controversial and with themes of sexuality, social attitudes and adolescence, the play is a popular and provocative text for study, especially at undergraduate level. 

Review: Late 1800s Germany.  Schoolboys and girls discover sexuality. It really does not go well. Among other things, Wedla Bergmann does not understand how babies are made, Moritz Stiefl is tormented by erotic dreams, and Melchior Gabor, having read about sex, now believes in nothing. In a series of scenes, we follow the teens as they try to navigate growing up.
You may have heard of the rock musical that got adapted from this play. It’s the controversial one that deals with rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion.  When the play first came out in 1906, it was criticised for sexuality, puberty, and homosexuality as well, but to be honest, that’s the least of everyone’s problems. As someone who quite enjoyed the musical and enjoys reading/seeing source material, I knew I’d have to read it someday.
I felt that some characters were quite underdeveloped. Martha’s story is only mentioned in passing, most girls don’t get any characterisation beyond fancying Melchior, and I didn’t really care for what happened to the boys other than Melchior and Moritz. We do get good characterisation for the three main characters, and we did get to know what some people were thinking in detail (see next paragraph). It could have been better though.
Giant monologues. Ugh.  I know monologues are a standard part of drama, and I don’t mind a couple. But they seem to drag on and on and on, Hanschen’s “have you prayed tonight, Desdemona” one in particular, and if I were seeing this live, I would probably want the actors to just be quiet.
The plot is mostly driven by subtle indications of what’s happening. There are not that many stage directions, and if I didn’t know the story from the musical, I’d have had to reread quite a few scenes to make sure I understood what was going on.
What I really like about this play is that while it was written to criticise the repression of the 1800s, despite 120 years passing, it’s still relevant today:  the young people are unprepared for life due to the inadequacy of adults. There’s a scene after Moritz dies in which the teachers are going to start discussing what to do about his death, but then they spend ages arguing over what window should be opened, which is the clearest example of adults failing to care for young people, a theme also seen when Wedla’s mother does not tell her about conception until it’s too late.  The young people are victims of the society that forces academic knowledge on them (if they’re boys), does not tell them about life (for almost everyone) and leaves them to discover it on their own, which leads to tragedy.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a tragedy that showcases perfectly what happens when sex-ed fails.
Links: Amazon Goodreads 


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35. Review: Soil by Jamie Kornegay

There is something about stories set in the American south, particularly those in and around the Mississippi. Whether they are classic American Southern Gothic, contemporary fiction, crime mystery or a combination the confluence of history, atmosphere and long-held beliefs makes for rich, dark, fertile storytelling. Jamie Kornegay digs into this tapestry with a debut about […]

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36. Where'd You Go, Bernadette Audiobook Review

Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette Author: Maria Semple Narrated by: Kathleen Wilhoite Publisher: Little, Brown & Company Publication Date: April 16, 2013 ISBN-13: 978-1478978947 Listening copy via public library Where'd You Go, Bernadette was a 2013 Alex Award winner, which means that it's an adult book with teen appeal. Which means it's a book that it is little edgy, a little twisty, a book

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37. Kishaz Reading Corner: A Shiver of Light by Laurell K. Hamilton

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.


About the Book

Merry Gentry, ex–private detective and full-time princess, is now the mother of triplets, a rarity in the high ranks of faerie. And not everyone is happy about it, including Taranis, King of Light and Illusion. He’s using the human courts to sue for visitation rights, claiming that one of the babies is his. To save herself and her children, Merry will use the most dangerous powers in all of faerie: a god of death, a warrior known as the Darkness, the Killing Frost, and a king of nightmares. They are her lovers, and her dearest loves, and they will face down the might of the high courts of faerie—while trying to keep the war from spreading to innocent humans in Los Angeles, who are in danger of becoming collateral damage.

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 4 stars

Here's why:

This is the long awaited ninth book in the Merry Gentry series. For the fans of the series, you should give this a read. It feels like the way Hamilton used to write and I liked it.

We finally learn more about Meredith, her kings and her babies in the latest installment to this series. What I enjoyed the most was that the sex didn't drown the story. There was enough that it complimented the flow of the overall plot which was a breath of fresh air.

We also learned a little bit more about Meredith's mettle and what makes her tick.

Would I recommend this book? Yes.



DON'T MISS THE OTHER BOOKS IN THIS SERIES

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38. Review: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is only my second Kazuo Ishiguro book following on from Never Let Me Go. For me, coming off a novel about cloning, I had no expectations about where he would go next. Much has been made about this novel being a “departure” for Ishiguro but I would argue that he has gone back to something […]

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39. Netgalley/Review Tour: Cursed by Fire by Jacquelyn Frank



Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author, Netgalley or the publisher for this honest review.


About the Book

For centuries, Dethan has been trapped in a fiery inferno for defying the gods and snatching the power of immortality. Condemned to have his battle-hardened body licked by flames only to regenerate and be consumed all over again, Dethan has lost all hope—until the Goddess of Conflict appears. She will release him from torment—if he’ll use his power and strength as a warrior to raise an army and defeat a fierce enemy faction of gods.

Free to live as a man once again, Dethan meets Selinda—heir to the throne of Hexis—and his thoughts quickly turn from the conquest of cities to the conquest of this headstrong beauty. Betrothed to a cruel, calculating powermonger, Selinda needs a champion, and so Dethan enters into another bargain: If she will share her bed—and her body—with him, Dethan will save her city from destructive forces within and without. As the lovers ignite a searing passion, Dethan will risk all—even the wrath of the Goddess of Conflict—for a chance to make Selinda his forever.

Buy the Book


Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 4.5 stars

Here's why:

I am in love with this couple. Dethan and Selinda make up one of the best pairings I've read in a while.

Scarred, yet beautiful and with a innate fierceness and love for her people made Selinda one of the most believable characters I've read about in a while. Dethan was no slouch either in that department.

Intelligence, flaws, redemption, treachery, I read this book in one day and can't wait to read the next one in the series.

Well done, Ms. Frank, well done.

Would I recommend this? That's a resounding YES!

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40. Review: Canary by Duane Swierczynski

It’s been awhile between drinks for a Duane Swierczynski novel but as always it has been worth the wait. Straight away its like jumping on a runaway train with that instant pleasure of having no idea where Duane Swierczynski is going to take you this time. After the brilliant insanity of the Charlie Hardie series […]

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41. Book Review-The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

Title:  The Bunker Diary
Author:  Kevin Brooks
Series:   N/A
Published:  7 March 2013 by Penguin
Length: 268 pages
Warnings:  many things. Highlight [start] suicide, murder, quite extreme cruelty [/end]
Source: library
Other info: The Bunker Diary won the Carnegie Medal in 2014.
Summary : Room meets Lord of the Flies, The Bunker Diary is award-winning, young adult writer Kevin Brooks's pulse-pounding exploration of what happens when your worst nightmare comes true - and how will you survive?
I can't believe I fell for it. It was still dark when I woke up this morning. As soon as my eyes opened I knew where I was. A low-ceilinged rectangular building made entirely of whitewashed concrete. There are six little rooms along the main corridor. There are no windows. No doors. The lift is the only way in or out. What's he going to do to me? What am I going to do? If I'm right, the lift will come down in five minutes.  It did. Only this time it wasn't empty . .

Review: Linus has been abducted and is now in a bunker. He doesn’t know why. More and more people come into the bunker. They have to try and survive.
It is a terrifying idea. Everyone’s scared of random abduction, of not knowing what’s going to happen to you. Also, another thing to be scared of is humanity (I’ve learnt my lesson from that Doctor Who episode-Midnight). What people will do to eachother. What people will really think of eachother.
I liked the narration. It is, as the title suggests, the diary that Linus keeps while he’s kept in the bunker.  But we don’t know everything that Linus does-it states he doesn’t write everything in case The Man Upstairs comes and finds it. I really liked that idea-knowing even less than the character we see the story through. I also liked seeing the different ways people reacted, even if I kenw it wouldn't be that good for some people.
It’s one of the books for me where the literary criticism and reader criticism collide. From a literary point of view, I understand that we don’t get much development of Bird and Anja-Linus spends less time with them, reader spends less time with them. From a reader point of view, I want to know what they’re all thinking. Even more of a clash is the ending. From a literary point of view, I understand why Brooks would have ended it there. Linus doesn’t know, so we don’t know. From a reader point of view, it’s very unsatisfying. There’s no closure. We don’t get ANY of our questions answered.
It does keep you hooked from the start- not knowing anything, only finding things out in bits, the new things that The Man Upstairs puts in their way. Also, the tension, as well as the sittuation of being trapped, is heightened by the fact that these people are going to be unpredictable, and there isn’t a sense of cohesion, and ugh human relationships.  The feelings of panic, of claustrophobia, of uncertainness are brilliantly conveyed.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a book that’s gripping throughout most of it, but is let down by the end.
Links: Amazon Goodreads 


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42. Review: Touch by Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August announced the arrival of a very special talent. Claire North maybe the pseudonym for Catherine Webb (and Kate Griffin), who has already published a number of books, but Harry August was something else entirely. It was bold, intelligent, gripping and mind-blowing. Before the real identity of the pseudonym […]

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43. Review: Resistance by John Birmingham

John Birmingham takes up where he left off at the end of Emergence. Dave is enjoying a well-earned rest after the battle of New Orleans while the rest of the world is coming to terms with the fact that monsters (Orcs, dragons, super-sized bugs, you name it) are now among us and wanting to re-subjugate their […]

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44. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos - a review

Sisson, Stephanie Roth. 2014. Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos. New York: Roaring Brook.


In simple text augmented by word bubbles, thought bubbles, and sketches, Stephanie Roth Sisson gives us the highlights of Carl Sagan's lifebut more importantly, she offers a sense of his wondrous enthusiasm for the cosmos,

It gave Carl goose bumps to think about what he had learned about the stars, planets, and the beginnings of life.  He wanted everyone to understand so that they could feel like a part of the stars as he did.
So he went on television.


This is the first book that Stephanie Roth Sisson has both written and illustrated.  The fact that she is enthralled with her subject is apparent in the artwork. Painted cartoon images (often in panels with word bubbles), depict a happy Sagan, wide-eyed and curious.  While some pages are like panel comics, others are full-bleed, double spreads depicting the vastness of the darkened skies, dotted by planets or stars.  One foldout opens vertically, reminding us of our infinitesimal existence in the cosmos.  We are so small, yet we are reminded,

The Earth and every living thing are made of star stuff.
Star Stuff is a 2015 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award Honor book for "outstanding nonfiction for children."

Substantial back matter includes Author's Note, Notes, Bibliography and Sources, Special Thanks, and Source Notes.

Preview the first eight pages of Star Stuff on the publisher's website.

Note: 
Carl Sagan graduated from Rahway High School in Rahway, NJ.  As far as I can tell, he's not mentioned anywhere on the school's website. Pity.


It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
See all of today's STEM-related posts at the STEM Friday blog.

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45. Book Review: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Book: Evil Librarian
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Cynthia doesn’t want much out of life, really. She wants the school production of Sweeney Todd to be the best ever. She wants super-cute Ryan Halsey to notice her. She wants to get through Italian class.

Now there’s something else to add to that list. She wants her best friend to stop acting like a zombie space cadet around the new librarian. Sure, he’s young and hot, but he’s still an adult and a teacher. Eww. And now Annie is swearing that she’s in love with him. Cyn knows there’s something seriously wrong with this picture. But she’s not prepared for the truth, which is that Mr. Gabriel is a demon who’s bent on sucking out the souls of the student population as part of his quest to rule hell.

That’s not good.

Luckily, she’s got some advantages in this fight. Such as, she seems to have a resistance to demon mojo. Also, super-cute Ryan Halsey is actually helping her out. Still, that’s not much help against a demon. And now there’s more than one. Uh-oh.

With a title like that, you know I had to read it. I mean, come on. I’d gone through several DNFs before this one (at least one of them throw-it-at-the-wall bad) and I was ready for a funny, entertaining paranormal romp. This fit the bill.

Cynthia is smart and self-aware, but still recognizably a teenager. The plot rattles along with good humor and a certain wink at the reader as to the unlikeliness of this whole thing. At times the light and funny tone wavers, particularly with the deaths of several teachers. These are all off-screen, but at least one was an important ally to Ryan and Cyn. Still, this is 98% rollicking fun.

In her review, Ms. Yingling mentions that for her middle-school population, Cynthia’s lusty yearning for Ryan was a little too old. Myself, I liked that a lot. It’s a nice thing to see a teenage girl frankly acknowledging her sexuality and how that feeds into romantic feelings without being branded a slut or a bad girl.

Though the story is complete (no cliffhangers!) the door is also left open a crack for a sequel, or perhaps two.

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46. Sisters Book Review

Title: Sisters Author: Raina Telgemeier Publisher: GRAPHIX Publication Date: August 26, 2014 ISBN-13: 978-0545540605 208 pp. ARC provided by publisher Raina Telgemeier made her name with the Eisner-winning Smile, a middle grade graphic novel that perfectly captured what it's like to be different when you're not entirely sure you want to be different. Raina has created another note-perfect

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47. Feathers: Not Just for Flying

As I've mentioned before, I had the great honor and opportunity to serve again as a second round judge on the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction book award panel for the Cybils Awards.  If you're not familiar with the Cybils awards, they are the Children and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards.

Our judging panel chose the following as the 2014 Cybils Award winner for best Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction book:

Congratulations to Melissa Stewart,  Sarah S. Brannen, and Charlesbridge



The judging panel's description:
Using child-friendly similes, Feathers shows that there is both beauty and purpose in nature and that, although we do not fly, we have many things in common with birds, such as the need to be safe, attractive, industrious, communicative, and well-fed. The simple, large text is suitable for reading to very young children, while the inset boxes contain more details for school-aged kids. The scrapbook-style watercolor illustrations show each feather at life size, and provide a nice jumping-off point for individual projects. Science, art, and prose work together to make this the perfect book to share with budding young artists, painters, naturalists, and scientists, and it will be appreciated by parents, teachers, and kids.


Melissa Stewart's website offers teaching resources and activities to go along with Feathers.

Be sure to check out all of the Cybils award winning books (and apps!) at [http://www.cybils.com/2015/02/the-2014-cybils-awards.html ]

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48. Echo: A Novel - a review

If this is how the year is starting out, it's going to be a banner year for middle-grade books.  First, Gordon Korman's Masterminds (more on that fantastic new thriller another day) and now Echo: A Novel.

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. 2015. Echo: A Novel. New York: Scholastic.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of Echo from Scholastic and was intrigued that it was wrapped in musical notation paper and had a smartly-boxed Hohner Blues Band harmonica tied to it.


I was happy to see an apparently music-related book, and what somewhat surprised to find that Echo begins with a fairytale, "The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger," a fairytale replete with abandoned princesses, a magical forest, a mean-spirited witch, and a prophecy,

"Your fate is not yet sealed.  Even in the darkest night, a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed."

Though brief, I became enthralled with the tale and was surprised and taken aback when I reached Part One and found myself not in the fairytale forest, but in

Trossingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, 1933, home to the world's oldest harmonica manufacturer.  I couldn't wait to find out what became of the abandoned princesses, but soon found myself wrapped up in the story of young Friedrich Schmidt, a German Jew during Hitler's ascendance to power.  This kind-hearted, young boy of a musical family was surely destined to be gathered up in the anti-Semitic wave sweeping through Germany. I became engrossed in Friedrich's story, anxiously hoping that things would work out for him and his family, and was again surprised when I reached Part Two and found myself in

Philadelphia, 1935, home of the then-famous Albert Hoxie and the Philadelphia Harmonica Band, and of the Bishop's Home for Friendless and Destitute Children, where I found myself in the company of piano-playing orphans, Mike and Frankie Flannery.  Their story was no less heart-wrenching than Friedrich's, and I found myself desperately rooting for the young boys when I suddenly arrived

in a migrant worker's community in Southern California, 1942, where young Ivy Maria Lopez was about to play her harmonica on the Colgate Family Hour radio show, but her excitement was short-lived.  I fell in with this hard-working, American family and hoped, along with Ivy, for her brother's safe return from the war.

Of course, there's more, but this is where I will leave off.

Pam Muñoz Ryan has written a positively masterful story that will take the reader from the realm of magic through the historical travails of the infirm, the oppressed, and the poor in the midst of the 20th century.  Through it all, music gathers the stories together in a symphony of hope and possibility.  In music, and in Echo, there is a magic that will fill your soul.

It may only be February, but I predict that praise for Echo will continue throughout the year.


On a library shelf near you - February 24, 2015.

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49. Book Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Book: Fairest
Author: Marissa Meyer
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Princess Levana has always been overlooked. The second daughter of the Lunar royal house, scarred and ugly, overshadowed by the glittering heir, she yearns for oh so many things. She wants her thoughts and ideas to be taken seriously by the court. She wants people to admire her the way they admire her sister Channary. Most of all, she wants Evret Hayle, the handsome royal guard, to look at her the way she looks at him - with love and longing.

She gets her chance when Evret's wife dies in childbirth, and she takes it, magically brainwashing him into marrying her. When her sister dies, leaving Levana to rule, everything she wants is within her grasp.

Really, though, it's not. Evret only loves her when she's forcing her own will onto his. Levana isn't the queen, only the queen regent, standing in until her young niece Selene is of age to take the throne. But she's gotten this far. Why stop now?

When I heard the next book in Lunar Chronicles series was coming out in January, I was delighted. Cress left us with a doozy of a cliffhanger. When I heard it was not going to be Winter, but instead Levana's story, I was bitterly disappointed and a little cynical. Ridiculously popular series tend to bring out the spinoffs and tie-ins. I wanted to read it, of course, because Meyer does write an interesting story, but I wasn't sure what I would get.

What I found most interesting was that Levana actually is, for some values of the word, a good queen. She's interested in more than flirting and glittering. She thinks carefully about the problems facing Luna as a nation, and she dreams up smart and savvy methods of solving those problems. Of course, smart and savvy do not mean good or even conscionable. One of her first breakthrough ideas is for the deliberate spread of a virus that will weaken Earth's defenses and put Luna into a position of stronger political power. This will, of course, become the horrific letumosis epidemic that haunts the other novels in the series.

The saddest part is how you can see where she went wrong. She has good aims, understandable motivations. She wants to be loved. She wants to be a good queen. She wants constant, never-ending affirmation that she is good enough. She is very young at the beginning of the novel, just fifteen, and she falls prey to the flaws that often plague that age - self-centeredness, thoughtlessness, and a tendency to blow things out of proportion. But the reason she turned out the way she does (and will), is because nobody has ever taught her that love means putting other people first, or that anyone besides herself is more than a tool or an obstacle.

As a standalone novel, this would not hold up. It isn't meant to, really. There are too many references to other characters from the series and their origins for the new reader to make sense of it. (Why, for instance, is the toddler son of her husband's friends given so much page space? Unless you know him as Jacin Clay, the hero of the last book, it makes no sense.) I also wish we'd gotten more of Evret than just the handsome love interest, because it would have made his decisions and his eventual fate more tragic. But as a peek into the workings of a powerful villain that we already know and fear, this book is fascinating.

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50. El Deafo Book Review

Title: El Deafo Author: Cece Bell Publisher: Harry N. Abrams Publication Date: September 2, 2014 ISBN-13: 978-1419712173 248 pp. ARC provided by publisher I am so happy that Cece Bell's El Deafo got some Newbery love as it was named an Honor Winner earlier this month. This graphic novel is funny, sweet, honest, touching, and true. It deserves all the accolades and awards and fans that it

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