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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Book Reviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,273
26. Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Genre: Mystery

Release Date: 8/4/2015

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About the Book: After her parents divorce and Zoe moves with her mom to upstate New York, the last thing she expected was to meet someone like Digby. No one really likes Digby when they first meet him-he's eccentric and annoying and only shows up when he wants something. Zoe just wants to survive her junior year with good grades and no problems so she can move back to NYC with her dad and attend a private school for her senior year. But Digby will change all of that. When you're with Digby, you can't help but get pulled into his madcap schemes and (sometimes illegal) hijinks. Digby's on a planet all his own and Zoe can't help but get pulled in as Digby tries to solve the mystery of a local missing girl and discover if it has any connection to the disappearance of his sister years before.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: The book marketing this meets that for this book is perfect-imagine Veronica Mars mixed with a John Hughes movie with a touch of Sherlock. That pretty much sums up Trouble is a Friend of Mine perfectly. There's lots of razor sharp dialogue and wit, plenty of pop-culture references, an amateur teen detective who somehow continues outsmart everyone around him, and a mystery to be solved. All that wraps up into a pretty hilarious and totally fun package and you just know going in, from the very first page, that just like Zoe, you're going to end up on Planet Digby too.

Tromly is a former screenwriter and that really comes across in her writing. The plot is very fast paced and the dialogue is snappy. It also reads like it could translate to the screen very easily (which I would love to see happen-this could be a great teen movie!) Zoe isn't the most well developed character. She's actually a bit bland, but I think part of that is purposeful for the novel as it allows the reader to jump right into Zoe's character and experience Digby for themselves. The rest of the supporting characters are funny, but a bit typical of teen novels-the cute popular boy, the mean rich girl, and the nerdy outcast. Yet all together, they do make for a pretty funny group and it works.

Digby on the other hand is such an enigma that you can't help but want to know more about him and follow along on his crazy escapades to solve whatever mystery he's surrounded himself with. The main focus of the novel is mystery and friendship and while you could read it as a romance (very slightly) that's not a main focus at all, which I really liked. This is one of those books I can hand to readers looking for a mystery and I know they'll be engaged with a great mystery without having to wade through lots of additional subplots about love triangles or family drama or forensic or paranomal elements. There's also plenty of humor and with the contemporary setting, so I think even non-mystery readers would be willing to give this one a try. And with the John Hughes comparisons, I also think Trouble is a Friend of Mine has great crossover appeal!

I had a ton of fun reading it and there were several points in the book where I was disappointed my lunch break was up and I had to stop reading because I just wanted to read one more page. The story especially picks up speed once the group goes to the school formal, and the mystery solving really takes off. Sure the situations the teens get themselves into can be far fetched, but that's part of the fun. The ending is left very open, so fingers crossed we get to hear more from Digby soon!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from book sent by publisher for review

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27. The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends

The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelly.

Best friends, Val and Lanora, meet in Central Park to plan their entrance into M.S. 10.  Lanora has plans that don't include Val.   Lanora decides to use middle school as a chance to re-invent herself.  (My hopes were on the high side.)  She intends to fill Val in on what is going on, eventually.  There is a road paved with good intentions.

Val, in the meantime, has plenty to do while she misses Lanora.  She follows the park's feral cat to a dusty antiques store, owned by an old coot and staffed by an odd young boy.  She plays soccer - constantly and well.  She joins a group of word obsessed self proclaimed outsiders.

When Lanora's plan leads her off the straight and narrow, Val tries to find a way to save her old friend.  With the Book of Dares for Lost Friends, that strange boy, a pair of feathered wings and a midnight excursion, Val tries to bring the old Lanora back.

A great cast of characters, a hint of magic, superstition and the setting of a vibrant city add up to a suspenseful middle grade read.  Readers will moan in disappointment and lean forward in hope as these kids muddle through adjusting to a new school and family drama.  Questions remain about some of the characters.  So maybe??

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28. The Minnow by Diana Sweeney

Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby.

Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings.

And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow.

A novel very unlike anything else I have read, both incredibly beautiful and incredibly sad. Tom has an innocence that is both lovely and heart-wrenching. So many tragic things befall her (losing her family in a flood is only the beginning), it's amazing that the story manages to be uplifting, in the end. Tom is a character with whom I sympathised, and I loved that she spoke to fish (it reminded me a little of Big Fish, the poignancy of it, or the surrealness, or maybe the use of fish as metaphors, or all three. That was my favourite film when I was ten. I must have watched it a hundred times). Her grandmother is the sweetest, and so is Jonah. Mrs Peck is horrendous, but Bill is most horrendous of all. The town itself is beautifully drawn and distinctly Australian, but still with a sense of being disconnected from the rest of the world (likely due to Tom's perspective).

It's authentic despite the surreal aspects, but if you come to this novel expecting standard contemporary YA, you'll be disappointed. It doesn't moralise or offer life lessons or clearly explain particular situations (many, many details remain vague, like those of the flood or how Tom came to live with Bill). The plot is not clear or neat. The voice of Tom and her journey are compelling enough. It reminded me of As Stars Fall by Christie Nieman, which was published around the same time and has a similar slow-burning moody atmosphere and surreal aspects expertly weaved into a realistic story.

The Minnow is original and unconventional and exquisitely written and heart-breaking/mending. It tackles huge, difficult events with aplomb and subtlety. This is, again, one of those novels that should hardly be limited to teenage readers. I think many adults will enjoy this, even those that don't fancy themselves as readers of YA.

The Minnow on the publisher's website

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29. A School for Brides

 Patrice Kindl's A School for Brides was the inspiration for my 5 Things That Make Me Happy post.

 Eight young women have been sent by their families to a school in Yorkshire, far from anywhere, to prepare for their eventual role as wives and mothers of gentility.  The oldest is 19, almost an old maid.  The youngest is 12.  And they despair of ever meeting dashing, well-bred, financially secure young men of the appropriate social class.

Then a young man falls off his horse and must be rescued by these young ladies.  (The old-young- gentleman-falls-off-horse-trick is well played here.) Luckily, he is well-mannered, titled and has lots of eligible friends.

Meanwhile, one of the girls is receiving ardent notes from an unknown admirer.  The Baron's daughter is threatened by the return of her feared and truly despicable governess.  And a necklace disappears!!

 That's a lot of action conveyed to the reader in a most genteel and Austen-esque manner. 

I had hoped that Robert, the extremely decorative footman, would be revealed to be the lost son of someone quite high in society.  He is a foundling, after all.  He seems happy where he is so perhaps we should just let him be.

Read the book. 'Nuff said.

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30. #BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's)

#BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers). Such a fun picture book with adorable and eye-catching illustrations. Also love the underlying positive message about collaboration and friendship. A great read for little ninjas everywhere!


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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31. Night Beach by Kirsty Eagar

Imagine there is someone you like so much that just thinking about them leaves you desperate and reckless. You crave them in a way that's not rational, not right, and you're becoming somebody you don't recognise, and certainly don't respect, but you don't even care. 
And this person you like is unattainable. 
Except for one thing . . . 
He lives downstairs.

Abbie has three obsessions. Art. The ocean. And Kane. But since Kane's been back, he's changed. There's a darkness shadowing him that only Abbie can see. And it wants her in its world.

A Gothic story about the very dark things that feed the creative process, from the winner of the 2010 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for young adult fiction.

This is a case where you can judge a book by its cover. The novel is atmospheric and spooky and the cover suits it perfectly. This novel is weird, which I love, dark and strange and interesting. Abbie is not always a likeable character, or a good decision-maker (she is obsessive to an incredibly worrying degree), and Kane, with whom she is obsessed, is often downright awful. It's paranormal, I suppose, but not your typical paranormal - there's not clear-cut romance or predictable plotlines. It is both real and unreal (and quite surreal, too, now I think about it).

It's distinctly different from both of Eagar's previous novels - Saltwater Vampires is more paranormal and more humorous, and Raw Blue is much more realistic and written in a more straightforward style. I think there are quite a number of writers from whom you can generally expect something similar with each book - whether that's the writer's doing or the publisher's is hard to tell. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good in that if you discover a book you love, then there's more where that came from in the writer's back catalogue, and it makes it easier to clearly define a writer's style. It's bad in that some writers can become predictable. What I think is obvious from Eagar's novels is that she's a writer who is constantly developing and challenging herself, and as a result each of her novels published so far is unique. So I can't necessarily say if you loved Raw Blue, you'll love Night Beach, too - the writing style is more complex, the plot is supernatural, and the central character is far less sympathetic - but I can say that Night Beach is brilliant.

My greatest disappointment with the novel (look away now if you want to avoid a spoiler, though it's not a major one) is that a dog is killed, which I didn't think was entirely necessary. There are certain things in novels that I can't stomach, and this is one of them. (Though it speaks to how involved I was in the story that I found that event so horrendous; if it were a poorly executed novel and it had felt inauthentic, it wouldn't have bothered me as much.)

This book was published three years ago, so I'm a little disappointed I didn't read it until just recently - I think I have a tendency to favour contemporary in my YA reading. If this sounds like the sort of novel you'd like (weird/dark/intense) then do not skip over it. It is beautifully written, and very compelling, and different and strange and so worth reading.

Night Beach on the publisher's website.

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32. #BookADay: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley (Dial Books For Young Readers)

‪#‎BookADay‬: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley ( Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2015). Finished this middle grade book on the weekend. It was one of those experiences where I was enjoying the book soooo much that I began reading slower when I got to the last few chapters because I DIDN'T WANT IT TO END. This would make a fantastic read aloud.

I was also lucky enough to meet Cassie at Nerd Camp in June. She's so easygoing and friendly, plus drew me a picture of an elephant butt! She says it's the only thing she knows how to draw. grin emoticon I keep her drawing in the front of my copy of her book.

More about the book - More about Cassie

p.s. If you have a copy of the book, don't forget to look under the dust jacket!!!!


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts


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33. Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

Molly has a strange life. Her mama collects herbs at dawn and makes potions, her father and brothers have gone away, and her house feels like a gypsy caravan.

Molly doesn’t want to know anything about herbs and potions. She wishes she could be more like her best friend, Ellen, who has a normal family and a normal house. But she is also secretly interested in Pim, who is inquisitive and odd and a little bit frightening.

When Molly’s mama makes a potion that has a wild and shocking effect, Molly and Pim look for a way to make things right, and Molly discovers the magic and value of her own unusual life.

This novel is The Loveliest. Sweet and splendid and magical, while still being of-this-world. Molly longs to be as normal as her friend Ellen (who gets muesli bars in her lunchbox and doesn't have a mum that wanders about the woods barefoot, collecting herbs for potions) and this is something I think young readers will definitely relate to (everyone has thought at some point "my family is the weirdest" - eventually you realise everyone's family is weird and that's okay and sometimes even great).

Molly does work out that she's pretty lucky to have her slightly odd mum, but only once something pretty terrifying happens. I don't want to give anything away (I think it's better when stories are surprising), so I'll leave it at that. Even though Pim features in the title (and Pim, with his interesting trivia and perspective of the world, is a great character), he doesn't heavily feature in the book. It's a story about friendship, but most of all it's about Molly learning to appreciate her mum and their strange life. (The fact that her father and twin brothers had mysteriously vanished in Cuba was such an odd but intriguing detail, and one that makes me hope there'll be another book about Molly, in which she finds them!)

There are so many sweet characters (apart from the incredibly horrendous neighbours, Ernest and Prudence Grimshaw), but I especially love Molly's mum, and Ellen (I would be friends with Ellen. She is so nice and sensible). The lovely little illustrations and glossary of herbs and such at the end of the book are a beautiful touch. I really quite enjoyed it, and I would've absolutely adored it when I was ten.

(How splendid is the cover? It's got lovely sparkly bits, in real life - have a look at Cait's review at Paper Fury for some lovely photos of it. Am I overusing the word lovely? That's what this book is. The Bookish Manicurist's painted a gorgeous manicure to match it. And now I'm linking to other reviews, I can't really stop myself: I love this review from a 9-year-old reader, as well as Danielle's thoughts at Alpha Reader on this book and middle-grade fiction in Aus.)

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars on the publisher's website

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34. Listening to Rupert Grint

Looking for an audio book for your last road trip of the summer?  Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) narrates the audio books editions of British author Liz Pichon’s series of Tom Gates books.

In the first book, The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, fifth-grader Tom tells a comic tale of teacher-misunderstandings, a tormented teenage sister, concert tickets, and rock bands through a diary-style narrative.

Grint’s friendly voice and child-like persona fit the story perfectly, and listening brings scenes from the early Harry Potter films to mind, when Grint himself was about the same age as Tom Gates.  (Ever wonder what Tom would think of bogie-flavored beans?)

Grint brings not only the voice of Tom Gates to life, but also Gates’ imitations of the people he knows.  Grint differentiates between them all and gives each character a personality.  Had the audio effects been less obtrusive, Grint’s performance would have shone even more, but all of the loud sounds and noises are probably just what a fifth-grade boy would want in his audio diary.

Listen here for a sample of the audio book available from Bolinda Publishing, and thank you, Ice Cream Man, for the information.

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35. TOON at last


Windmill Dragons :A Leah and Alan Adventure by David Nytra is a celebration of the imagination in detailed black and white.  Leah tells Alan a story that starts with windmills that turn into dragons.  Suddenly, Leah and Alan are fighting these monsters.   A giant chicken, St. George, a trick with a bit of string and a man-eating boat lead Alan and Leah on a wild adventure.  Just wait until you see what caused all the ruckus.
    Nytra adds an illustrated bibliography of sorts to help his readers understand some of the literary references in this wild and crazy comic book.

The Suspended Castle : a Philemon Adventure  by FRED.  OK. Philemon and his adventures make me itchy.  But if you enjoy the surreal, you will love Philemon.  Back in the 1960s, Philemon fell down a well and into a land that was shaped like an "A".  With the help of Mr. Bartholomew, Philemon got back to France.
     Now, Mr. Bartholomew is so bored, he wants to return to his life on a letter in the middle of the ocean (on a globe - you know one those spinning things?  I told you - surreal! Or maybe it was on a map.)  Thank goodness, Phil's Uncle Felix knows what to do.  You see, he just gets Phil to inflate this seashell....
     Well, Bartholomew and Phil both end up on the dot on the letter "i" and from there it just gets wilder and crazier - with owls that turn into lighthouses and whales with oars and mutinies and buccaneers who sail the skies in wooden pelican bills - or something - and of course, the suspended castle from the title.
   The artwork is colorful and suitably cartoonish.  The last two pages gives a bio of Fred (Frederic Othon Aristides) and background on his inspirations for this story. 

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36. #BookADay: THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH by Daniel Kraus (Simon & Schuster, launches Oct. 27, 2015)

Just finished THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH (Volume One: At The Edge Of Empire) by Daniel Kraus, which launches October 27, 2015 from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Whenever I start a big book (and at 642 pages, Zebulon Finch definitely qualifies), I cross my fingers and hopehopehope that the first few pages will pull me in right away. If they do, I can relax and settle in for what promises to be a satisfying long read. If they don't, then it's just going to be long.

Zebulon Finch had me from the beginning. I already knew the premise, which was what lured me to read the book in the first place: A 17-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is murdered in 1896 but is mysteriously resurrected only minutes later. The first volume follows Zebulon throughout the decades from his beginnings as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show through WWI, an experimental subject for a Harvard professor, Depression-era New York City, to being a companion to a Hollywood starlet.

What I especially enjoyed:

- The narrative voice. I felt like reading everything out loud, just to have the words roll around on my tongue. [Edited: I had included a brief sample here but have removed it because I just noticed the "not for quotation" note on the ARC cover.]

- The wry wit. Zebulon Finch, despite being dead, still has a sense of humor that comes out in his observations about the people and events around him.

- The dark edge. I'm a longtime horror fan (I have a personal autographed note from Stephen King, hand-typed with liquid paper corrections!) and was fascinated by some of the macabre and nightmarish situations, the delving into what makes us afraid. Grossed out at times and had to skim the occasional paragraph, but was still fascinated. If the story had just been about the horror bits, I would have stopped reading early on...but there was SO much more.

- How Zebulon's relationships developed, both romantic and platonic. Don't want to say much more on this aspect for fear of spoilers, but I loved how some of his most meaningful relationships became inexorably woven into his life and way of approaching the world long after those people are gone.

- Zebulon Finch, the main character. He can be selfish, hateful, tender, cynical, romantic. He is unlike any other immortal character I've ever encountered in a book....and I'd like more, please.

Which is why I'm SOOOOOO looking forward to the second volume!

Read about THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH, VOLUME ONE on the Simon & Schuster website, and more about Daniel Kraus at DanielKraus.com.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC.


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts


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37. Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eagar

He looked to the sky, praying for rain, a downpour, some sign from the heavens … But all he saw was the bloated white face of the moon smiling down on him … And the sky around it was cold and clear and black …
They made their circle of blood. And only the moon witnessed the slaughter that followed.

For Jamie Mackie, summer holidays in the coastal town of Rocky Head mean surfing, making money, and good times at the local music festival. But this year, vampires are on the festival line-up … fulfilling a pact made on the wreck of the Batavia, four hundred years ago. If their plans succeed, nobody in Rocky Head will survive to see out the new year.

Saltwater Vampires takes a real historical atrocity (the mutiny and massacre of at least 110 people following the 1629 shipwreck of the Batavia) and reimagines it as vampiric turning ritual ('Vampires did it' makes it seem less awful, somehow). The historical angle is well-executed and intriguing. Most of the story occurs in the present day, and centres around Jamie and his friends becoming embroiled in another terrible vampiric plot centred around the local music festival. It's fun and fast-paced and a little bit outlandish, but there's still a sincerity to the story and the relationships between characters.

I loved the setting - an Australian coastal town over the break between Christmas and New Year - which is antithesis of setting in traditional vampire novels (where it is perennially dark, rainy, misty and thunderous in either a) an old time-y European castle complete with bats or b) a vaguely American small town that has frequent mysterious disappearances). The vampire mythology is consistent and credible - plenty of standard vampire stuff with a few little twists. Vampires are able to see the future in mirrors, which is an absolute torment for them, hence why they don't like mirrors, and the fact that they don't need to breathe allows them to live underwater. If you like your vampires sparkly and sexy, this is probably not the book for you - the vampires are creepy and sinister and really not the kind you want to encounter during an evening stroll.

(An aside: the plan of the vampires in this novel reminded me of the plan of the leviathans in season 8 of Supernatural. Juice = Turducken. Plus, the vampirates in the same season are not entirely unlike the saltwater vampires in this novel.)

The things that appealed the most to be about the novel weren't necessarily the things that were emphasised - the story of Jamie and his friends was what the majority of the story centred around, while I really wanted to find out more about the secret vampire society and the motivations and backgrounds of each of the vampires - like further explanation of Jeronimus Cornelisz's obsession with Lucretia Jans, how people get recruited by the vampire organisation (I'm keen on being pale and running really fast and being able to eavesdrop really well, can I join?), that sort of stuff. So it reads more like a contemporary YA, with vampires and sprinklings of history thrown in.

I'd recommend Saltwater Vampires to younger YA readers (the central characters are fifteen). It's a very enjoyable vampire novel with an interesting historical aspect, that's centrally character-driven - even if you're not a big fan of paranormal fiction, it's still worth picking up.

Saltwater Vampires on the publisher's website.

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38. #BookADay: CONNECTING DOTS by Sharon Jennings (Second Story Press)

‪#‎BookADay‬: CONNECTING DOTS by Sharon Jennings (Second Story Press, 2015). Just finished this last night. Fell in love with Cassie, the main character, and how she and her relationships developed through the story. If you enjoyed Katherine Paterson's THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS (one of my faves), you should definitely check out CONNECTING DOTS. But first read HOME FREE, which was a finalist for the TD Children's Literature Award and the Governor General's Award -- I only just discovered that CONNECTING DOTS is a companion book written after, am eager to read the first book.

Synosis: "After years of being passed around to various relatives, Cassandra Jovanovich has found a home where she feels she belongs. All she wants to do is forget her past and pursue her dream of becoming an actress. But her new friend, Leanna Mets, 'the most annoying person she has ever met,' wants to know how Cassandra became an orphan, and encourages her to write her story. Cassandra’s memories reveal how the death of her grandmother and the cruelty of the other adults in her life turned her into the distrustful, secretive twelve-year-old she is. But with friendship and the courage to continue her dream of acting, Cassandra might find a way to connect the dots in her life back together."


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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39. #BookADay: EL DEAFO by Cece Bell (Abrams)

EL DEAFO by Cece Bell (Abrams, 2014). This has been on my To Read pile for a while, and I finished it on the weekend. TOTALLY lives up to all the hype. I've been a fan of autobiographical comics for a while (thanks to Rand Bellavia) and have become especially intrigued by graphic novel memoirs for young people.

Loved how the facts about how young Cece lost her hearing and coped afterward are deftly woven into engaging storytelling. Love the voice, the overall story arc, how the characters and relationships developed. Cece tells her story honestly, without self-pity, and a healthy dose of humor. Highly, HIGHLY recommended.

I hope to meet Cece in person someday.


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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40. Scorpion Petting and Book Reviews

I love this Liana Brooks quote so much I decided to illustrate it. :-)

And on the topic of helping the authors whose work you enjoy, here are some ways to help authors even if you can't afford to buy their books.

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41. Afterlight by Rebecca Lim

Since her parents died in a freak motorbike accident, Sophie Teague’s life has fallen apart.

But she’s just enrolled at a new high school, hoping for a fresh start.

That’s until Eve, a beautiful ghost in black, starts making terrifying nightly appearances, wanting Sophie to be her hands, eyes and go-to girl.

There are loose ends that Eve needs Sophie to tie up. But dealing with the dead might just involve the greatest sacrifice of all.

Dark, thrilling and unrelentingly eerie, Afterlight will take you deep into the heart of a dangerous love story, revealing the otherworldly—and deadly—pull of past wrongs that only the living can put right.

I am like 85% sure Rebecca Lim is not of this world. I don't know how she does it, but she's written a novel about a girl who follows the directives of a ghost and it's somehow believable. Authentic. Ghosts exist. There's these gate-keepers stopping them from getting at us. All of this makes perfect sense. She's got powers, is what I'm saying. I am fully convinced this all could've actually happened. I think this is due to a combination of two things: Sophie's hilarious, unpretentious narration (which reads like a friend telling you what they got up to at the weekend) and the astounding amount of geographical detail (I'd call it world-building but it's Melbourne which I'm fairly sure is not Rebecca Lim's creation - but who really knows, maybe I'm in a Rebecca Lim novel? Disappointing lack of babes/supernatural creatures makes me think this is unlikely).

I stayed up very late reading this novel and it is a very creepy novel and when I went to get a glass of water in the dark, scary night while reading the dark, scary book I was DEEPLY CONCERNED that there would be a ghost in the kitchen and/or outside the kitchen window (for some reason, outside the kitchen window is scarier, I don't know why). Fortunately there was not. But. This book: really, really spooky. (After I finished reading, I had weird, disorienting dreams. Possibly due to this book. Possibly due to the fact I usually have weird, disorienting dreams.)

I cannot believe Jordan Haig is not mentioned in the blurb because he's terrific, he's the most terrific character in the book, I can't believe it. Best love interest in a YA novel I've read in recent memory. It's a definite read-in-one-sitting book (both because it is really short and also because it is really compelling). There are some characters that I expected more development of or some resolution to their story, which makes me hope there's a sequel (for instance, Daughtry seemed underutilized - surely he could've helped out a little more?). I thought, at the very least, Claudia P (the very awful bully) would get some sort of ghostly comeuppance (or would that have been cliché? Possibly). Afterlight doesn't have the same degree of in-depth expansive development as Lim's Mercy series, but it does have the same fast-paced, punchy thrills of The Astrologer's Daughter. I'm just very excited to read whatever Lim writes next, sequel or standalone.

Read it if you like: Underbelly and/or Goosebumps; spooky stories; quick, compelling reads; paranormal romance/urban fantasy/thrillers or any combination thereof. Just read it. I reckon you'll enjoy it.

Afterlight on the publisher's website.

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42. Busy like a beaver!

I have been telling stories and having so much fun in the last two weeks that I have not had time to post here. I promised you TOON reviews and with the Eisner Awards recently announced, I must comply.
TOON will NOT be left behind. They have produced  Little Nemo's Big New Dreams, edited by Josh O'Neil, Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens.   Poor Little Nemo! He's been having incredibly active dreams since 1905 when his comic strip was first designed by Windsor McCay.

Little Nemo's Big New Dreams: A TOON GraphicEach double page spread of Big New Dreams offers a Little Nemo Slumberland adventure as envisioned by a different graphic artist.  Most are paneled but some are simply large illustrations that still manage to tell a story.  Little Nemo is clearly identified in each story but the artists' styles vary widely.

I can imagine so many different ways to use this colorful book - besides just reading the stories. 

Well, I have another telling event this evening and need to prepare so stay TOON for my next TOON review and a possible GIVEAWAY!

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43. #BookADay: KOALA HOSPITAL by Suzi Eszterhas (Owlkids Books)


Written and photographed by Suzi Eszterhas

Launches from Owlkids Books on Oct. 15, 2015
Juvenile: Age (years) from 7 - 10, Grade (CAN) from 2 - 5, Grade (US) from 2 - 5
ISBN-10: 1771471409 - ISBN-13: 978-1771471404

I picked up the f&gs for KOALA HOSPITAL at ALA at the Owlkids booth because (1) the author was there, looking so friendly and welcoming, and (2) the cover of the book was super-adorable.

I had no idea there was such a thing as a koala hospital until I read KOALA HOSPITAL. Suzi Esterhas's photos are wonderful, giving a young reader a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how koalas are rescued, treated and then released into the wild. Text is engaging and fun, plus there's an excellent section at the end about the conservation of koalas, how young readers can help wildlife in their own neighbourhood, plus a Q&A and glossary.A portion from the sales of the book is being donated to the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, Australia.

More about KOALA HOSPITAL on the BNC Catalist

More about Suzi Eszterhas on her website and Twitter.


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

0 Comments on #BookADay: KOALA HOSPITAL by Suzi Eszterhas (Owlkids Books) as of 7/11/2015 11:28:00 AM
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44. #BookADay: FAMILIES, FAMILIES, FAMILIES by Suzanne Lang & Max Lang (Random House Children's)

FAMILIES, FAMILIES, FAMILIES! by Suzanne Lang and Max Lang is a wonderful celebration of family love, no matter what the size or type. Adorable and goofy family portraits included nontraditional as well as traditional families. Published by Random House Children's Books this year.

Suzanne produces, develops and writes for children's television. Max codirected the film adaptation of The Gruffalo (!) as well as the Oscar-nominated adaptation of Room On The Broom.

Excerpt from a School Library Journal review: "The loud-and-clear message is that “if you love each other, then you are a family.” And imagine the many children who will be reassured because they have found a portrait of a family they will recognize as their own. A solid choice for most libraries."

More about the book on the publisher website.


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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45. Toon! Toon! TOON!

Bless you, TOON, for the lovely box of new graphic novels!  You publish some of the best highly illustrated kids' lit out there.

Written and Drawn by Henrietta, a TOON Book by LINIERS, is my favorite of this bunch.  "A box of colored pencils is as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow", Henrietta tells her cat, Fellini.  Henrietta sits down to write and draw the amazing story of "The Monster with Three Heads and Two Hats."  We see Henrietta's drawings and we see her reactions to her own imagination and the whole thing is fun and funny and delightful. 

Flop to the Top!, a TOON book by Eleanor Davis & Drew Weing.  Wanda is a Superstar and she knows it.  When she goes online and posts a picture with her floppy dog, Wilbur, the Internet goes crazy.  Wilbur is a HUGE hit.  Wanda is not happy for his fame.  Young readers will get a kick out of attention hog Wanda's disappointment and of Wilbur's response to fame and fortune.  The ending is super cool, too.

Check back soon for reviews of my other TOON swag.

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46. Book Review 2015-001: Urgent, Unheard Stories by Roxane Gay

Gay - Unheard StoriesBook Review: 2015-001 Urgent, Unheard Stories by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial)

This review copy was purchased at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI


It seems odd to note that it's book review number 1 on June 28, but with the site pretty much being dormant for over a year, such is the case. I'm glad this is the first book though to get the treatment this year. While Roxane Gay is pretty well known, I'd suggest she is still an Emerging Writer. This title is a Limited Edition Autographed Copy, which is the type of thing we've always liked around the EWN. And it's really a great little (64 pages plus with no ruler in hand, I'd guess maybe 4.5 x 7") book with 5 essays and 2 interviews within. It's great because it's both well written AND it is a book that causes some thinking; I'd like to think especially so for a voracious reader.

It is set up very well too, with the end pieces both explaining something of Roxane's career to date as a published author in two very different ways. The interviews fit in nicely with a large part of what Roxane seems to want to say and the title essay, second to last piece in the book, really hammers home what I believe is the point of the book--as a publisher, as a reader, search for what Jynne Dilling Martin referred to in a conversation with Roxane as "urgent, unheard stories." Between the end cap essays and this one in particular, it's got me thinking about my own reading habits and how they've changed since 2000 and the inception of the EWN--these essays have me thinking that those changes have been in the right direction, just maybe not fast and harsh enough.

The first essay, "Two Damn Books: How I Got Here and Where I Want to Go," describes aspects of the publishing industry itself through Roxane's experiences publishing her first two books. One is with a smaller, independent publisher and the other with a much larger house. Working with both she notices their structure, who else they're publishing, who they have working for them--where there is diversity and where there isn't and how much more climbing still needs to be done. The last essay, "The Books That Made Me Who I Am: I Am the Product of Endless Books," goes through some of the books that have influenced Roxane as a writer. As she notes in the essay "A list could not contain me." While she's able to come up with many titles that had an effect on her, she's well aware that there are dozens, or probably hundreds, of others that did so as well. I love that she includes children's books on her list--something I don't think many other writers have been brave enough to do when asked to make up their own list.

Beyond giving her readers something to think about in regards to who and what they are reading and why, Roxane's essays and interviews also generously gives her readers dozens of authors and titles to read as suggestions. While I've enjoyed many of the authors or books named in these essays, there are many others that I'm now looking forward to--including more of Roxane's work.

4.5 stars

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47. Welcome to Atlantis…We’ve been expecting YOU!

Sweet Treats at my Book Launch
Hey everyone! I’m fresh off a seven day book blog tour and book launch, and want to express how grateful I am for all the support and kindness I’ve received in the last two weeks from family, friends, fellow authors, readers, and my publisher! I’ve had three incredible reviews ranging from 4 to 5 stars. Not bad for a re-release! If you’ve missed any of the reviews, check them out at BOOKAHOLIC FIX, BOOK BABBLE, and AUTHOR SANDRA LOVE. Thanks again to Amber Marr of Sapphyria’s Book Promotions for helping me garner those reviews and reaching new readers.

During the midst of all the craziness of launching a book, my new publishers at Mirror World Publishing, Justine and Murandy decided I should flex my acting wings and make a cameo appearance in the book trailer Murandy produced. Um. Who? Me act? Although it was fun, I think I’ll stick to writing and let the professionals handle the next book trailer. Kudos go to Brieanne, the young actress who shared the spotlight with me!

See what you think:

Okay, you can stop laughing now. No really. Stop…or I’ll send you to Atlantis. Wink. 

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48. The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

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About the Book: Miles is not excited to be moving to Yawnee Valley-how exciting can a place be when there's a yawn right in the name? Miles was known as the best prankster in his old town, always pulling stunts on his friends. When he discovers that Yawnee Valley already has a prankster, Miles has to figure out who it is-and take the prankster down. Each one tries to one up each other, leading to more epic pranks and jokes in a hilarious prank war.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This book is sure to inspire tween pranksters everywhere! The Terrible Two is the hilarious tale of two epic pranksters had me cracking up. I listened to the audiobook, so while I'm sure the book itself is great (there are illustrations inside making a perfect book to give kids who are enjoying chapter books with illustrations) I loved the audiobook so very much. Adam Verner, the narrator, offers up a variety of voices for the characters and I laughed so much while I was listening-I especially loved his principal voice!

The pranks in this book are awesome and hysterical. These boys are not your average chalk in the eraser, whoopie cushion on the chair pranksters. They go above and beyond and their pranks are over the top that I know readers will get a kick of all their planning and pranking. The supporting characters are also very exaggerated, which adds to the humor. The principal comes from a long line of principals and he's a hapless leader. I loved the jokes about his speeches and principal lessons-I think adults would get a kick out of this book too.

The Terrible Two was a quick listen and a book I immediately went back to the library and started putting in the hands of my readers. It's perfect for readers who enjoy Jon Scieszka and when  kid asks for a funny book, I know exactly what to give them. But make sure you have your readers promise they won't pull any of the pranks they learn on you!

Full Disclosure: reviewed from audibook I checked out at my library

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49. #BookADay: MINRS by Kevin Sylvester (Simon & Schuster, Sept/2015)

Appropriately enough, I began and finished Kevin Sylvester's MiNRS underground. It was soOooOooOOoo good that I missed my subway stop. Twice.

MiNRS is Kevin's upcoming action-adventure sf book for middle grade ... though honestly, I believe older readers will enjoy it as well. The premise: A 12-year-old boy and his friends have to survive in the mining tunnels after their new space colony are attacked during an Earth communication blackout.

Love the unexpected plot twists.

Loved the action and adventure, sense of real danger. The darker bits are part of what helps set this sf middle grade apart from others.

Love the main character, Christopher, and how his character develops throughout the story. Love the fact that he's just an ordinary boy (no superpowers, etc.) who has to use resources available to him to figure things out and learn how to be a leader.

Loved the depth of the character interactions and complexity of some of the relationships.

Loved the strong female characters.

Loved the fascinating tech/science behind the asteroid mining process.

Just ***LOVED***.

Can't wait until MiNRS comes out this September from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster.

And Kevin: I want MORE, PLEASE.

Read about MiNRS on the Simon & Schuster website.

Find out more about Kevin and his work at KevinSylvesterBooks.com.


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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50. Frankie and Joely by Nova Weetman

Frankie and Joely are best friends. They love each other like no one else can. But when a summer break in the country brings fresh distractions, simmering jealousies and festering secrets, can their friendship survive? 

It’s the holidays and, together, Frankie and Joely board a train and escape the city and their mums for a week of freedom. But when Joely introduces Frankie to her country cousins, Thommo and Mack, it soon becomes clear that something other than the heat is getting under their skin. As the temperature rises and the annual New Years’ Eve party looms closer, local boy Rory stirs things up even more and secrets start to blister. Suddenly the girls’ summer getaway is not panning out how either of them imagined. Will they still be ‘Frankie and Joely’ by the end of their holiday?

I love novels about female friendship and rural Australia and hot summers, and Frankie and Joely has all of these things. The stifling heat and the dusty middle-of-nowhere town are depicted beautifully. The story is told using third-person omniscient - predominantly from the perspectives of Frankie and Joely, but also offering Mack's, Thommo's and Rory's viewpoints. This is a style of narration that is really difficult to get right, and at times, as POV changed from paragraph to paragraph, I felt at a remove from the characters. The stark differences in how Frankie and Joely view each other and themselves make their perspectives the most compelling - had the story instead been told by only one or the other, so much of the exploration of their friendship would be missing, and it wouldn't be as rich or as nuanced a story. I am always fascinated with the awful characters in stories, so more of Rory's point of view and his particular background and motivations would have been terrific; similarly, Mack and Thommo aren't POV characters for particularly much of the story, and I feel they could've contributed more.

Joely's aunt and uncle are the most sympathetic characters of the novel - there's a scene where the aunt makes scones with Joely which is one of the loveliest in the novel (and made me really want to make and eat scones. Which I might do after I finish writing this). Frankie's desire to be accepted, and her love and care for her off-the-rails mum makes her far more likeable than Joely, whose childishness is at times grating. That said, they are fifteen-year-old characters and, knowing actual fifteen-year-olds (and having been fifteen myself), they're very realistically depicted. I think the pettiness and melodramas and general complexities of intense teenage friendship are well-drawn. The girls communicate poorly and behave like idiots and treat each other badly, despite how important the friendship is to both of them, because they're both dealing with their own issues: trying to deal with family and boy dramas and attempting to work out who they are and who they want to be.

It's an easy, enjoyable contemporary Aussie YA read, which I think will appeal most to younger teenaged readers who can identify with Frankie and Joely and the intensities and difficulties of their friendship. If you liked Kate Gordon's Writing Clementine, I reckon you'll like this one, too (and vice versa).

Frankie and Joely on the publisher's website

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