September 30th, 2016

Book Review/Tour: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Book Review/Tour: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: September 27th 2016
Pages: 384

1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning villa≥ and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Their adventures take them on a chase through France to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned. They're taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. And as their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

I can’t say enough good things about The Inquisitor’s Tale. This has been one of the first books in weeks that I devoured and didn’t want to let go of. The basic format reminds me a lot of Canterbury Tales where multiple people are telling the story of these three children and a holy dog. A journey that leaps off the page from the very start.

The story does have a very central theme of religion to it, but it’s secondary to the story of friendship. A peasant, monk and Jew from medieval times are quite the unlikely group. However, it’s not long before the trio find comfort in each other. Yes, it’s their mystical powers and crazy circumstances that bring them together initial, but their friendship becomes deeply rooted in a very short time. Their gifts work beautiful in tandem with each other as they learn how to solve situations and problems head on together.

I also love how there are a few twist and turns in the story. There are moments where you have to question almost everything. When you have to look beyond the surface to discover the truth. Who is good? Who is bad? And who can they truly trust? William, Jacob, & Jeanne have a lot to overcome, but at the same time it was nice to see that they didn’t have to completely lose their aura of innocence and kindness to accomplish it. They weren’t hardened souls by the end of the story, instead they were 3 children (& a holy dog) that have lived through a frolicking adventure with endless possibilities for their future.

I suppose if I had to complain about anything, it would be that the ending felt a bit preachy. Religion really came to the forefront at that point. It kind of made me go “eh” a little, but I completely understand the reasons behind it. It also perfect fit the times and the story as a whole, so it’s kind of a nitpicky point but one I figured I’d still mention.

One last thing I’ll mention is that Gidwitz put a lot of research into this book. I love the author’s not where he talks about where the ideas came from and what was based on truth and what was not. Also, the annotated bibliography is great. I do think this may spur kids to want to learn more about this era and the titles listed will be helpful on that journey.

As a side note, I did read this as an ARC & most of the illuminations were not put it. What I did see I loved and I plan to grab a finished copy ASAP to check them out.

 

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BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:
Monday, 9/26: Green Bean Teen Queen (Review)
Monday, 9/26: MundieKids (Review)
Tuesday, 9/27: Books 4 Your Kids (Review)
Tuesday, 9/27: Novel Novice (Guest Post)
Wednesday, 9/28: Read Write Reflect (Review)
Wednesday, 9/28: The Reading Nook (Guest Post)
Thursday, 9/29: Imagination Soup (Review)
Thursday, 9/29: Middle Grade Mafioso (Guest Post)
Friday, 9/30: All The Wonders (Podcast)

 

August 20th, 2016

Book Review/Tour: Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom

Book Review/Tour: Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom
Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom by David Neilsen
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: August 9th 2016
Pages: 240

When the mysterious Dr. Fell moves into the abandoned house that had once been the neighborhood kids' hangout, he immediately builds a playground to win them over. But as the ever-changing play space becomes bigger and more elaborate, the children and their parents fall deeper under the doctor's spell.   Only Jerry, Nancy, and Gail are immune to the lure of his extravagant wonderland. And they alone notice that when the injuries begin to pile up on the jungle gym, somehow Dr. Fell is able to heal each one with miraculous speed. Now the three children must find a way to uncover the doctor's secret power without being captivated by his trickery.

Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom is the perfect book to give to kids who are interested in the creepy or just want a good mystery. Instantly, they’ll be trying to figure out what is going on. Howe did a gigantic playground in the shape of a ship appear overnight? Why is almost everyone in the town in love with Dr. Fell? What is up with his weird purple waiting room with all the cat pictures? And most importantly, what really happens when kids go for a doctor visit with Dr. Fell?

Only Jerry, Gail, & Nancy notice something weird is going on since Dr. Fell has moved into town. They seem to be immune to his spell-at least for now. None of them is quite sure why, or even how they’ll be able to take him down, especially since all the adults think he’s the best man ever. Can they really find out what Dr. Fell is up to before he ruins their town?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There really isn’t much I can complain at all. The town is crazy from the beginning.  I mean, who would be sad that their kids could no longer play in a run-down, abandoned place anymore? But I do think that made it easier to believe that the town fell in love over-night. It isn’t until the story goes on that you know that something must be going on.

While I love how the story tied up/how the town was saved, I do wish there had been a bit more of a hint what was going on. There are some clues, but I think most kids will miss them completely. However, I know that tons of people like to be surprised, but I’m one of those who likes to figure it out. There are a couple of things I’m not sure quite work with the explanation, but I don’t think it’ll bother the kids at all. This will definitely be a story that they love and pass on to friends.

We hope you’re enjoying the blog tour for David Neilsen’s Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom! In case you missed yesterday’s post, head over to Kid Lit Reviews to check it out. The tour continues tomorrow on Word Spelunking.

April 12th, 2016

Book Review: Falling Stars

Book Review: Falling Stars
Falling Stars by Ashlyne Huff Revelette
Publisher: Clovercroft Publishing
Release Date: May 1st 2015
Pages: 272

At 12 years old, Lily Black was the biggest name in country music. She hobnobbed with Faith Hill and opened for the Dixie Chicks while riding around in her own custom tour bus. But tastes are fickle, and she soon found herself going from epically famous to a total nobody in a few short months. Fast forward five years: while Lily was once the star (and the stage name), real life Lilah Carson was content to leave the music industry behind forever and live life as a dutiful preacher s daughter in Mobile, Alabama, until a second chance made her realize her love of performing wasn t dead, just dormant. Determined to make it in Nashville again, Lilah sets off to find her old manager. Armed with only her Bible, innate talent, and trusty best friend, what seems like the perfect plan suddenly begins to crumble. It turns out some people are not who you think they are. Backstabbing, cheating, and a tragic illness all stand in her way as she strives for success. This is certainly not the Nashville she left behind. Does Lilah have what it takes to make it again? Or was she really just a one hit wonder?"

This is one of those books where I’m a bit torn on how I feel about it. The story was good enough to entice me to finish the book. I don’t know if I’d call it a page-turner, but I was interested in seeing what would happen next to Lilah/Lily and where the adventure would end up going. The whole Nashville music storyline is what held my attention the most. I was rooting for her to find her footing again in the music world and reclaim her stardom. I loved her relationships with some of the writers, especially Clint. Their relationship seemed so organic and he easily became a big brother and an excellent listener.

What didn’t interest me so much? The love stories. I felt like Lilah was in love with someone new at the drop of the hat. Two of the three were certainly insta-loves. Seriously, she falls in love with the first guy as they’re walking into the studio and almost instantly jumped into a relationship/love. I will admit there’s was quite a bit of chemistry there and he seemed like he was a good guy…well, until he wasn’t. The one she actually ends up with, I felt almost zero chemistry between them. I don’t know if it was because, again, it happened super fast and I was just over it, but basically I was just like “oh look, another guy.”

Let’s not even talk about the ex that she get’s back with. That whole situation just made me want to scream. First, if someone cheated on you, wouldn’t you verify it with the source? Like if someone cheated on me, I’d be at their door yelling at them. I wouldn’t just take the word of a friend, no matter how good the friend was. Also, yes, so it was a lie, but I don’t know that I would have instantly jumped back into a relationship with that person. Obviously, there were still feelings, but, man, I would totally need time to wrap my head around what happened. I would be hanging out/making out with them less than 24 hours later. Also, he was just whiney and selfish and I just wanted to scream at Lilah to grow a backbone. It was obvious, by this point, that she was horrible at relationships.

I also don’t like how the whole JoBeth thing played out. It was obvious from the start she was a bad friend, but I would have like more resolution. I know the next book is supposed to be about her, but I would have liked a little more information about the aftermath in this book. It wasn’t absolutely needed, but it would have been nice.

Now, storyline aside, it was easy to tell this was an independant book. There were some mistakes and several spots where the pacing was totally off. There was one transition, I believe between her singing the national anthem and then moving to Nashville, that totally threw me. It was such a sudden jump that it took be a bit to figure out what was going on. This is certainly not the worst independent book I’ve read, but it could have used just a bit more clean up.

I will also say, this book is being sold as YA, however, I completely disagree. Yes, Lilah is only 17/18, but it just doesn’t have the feel of a YA book. In fact, I know very few teens who I would be able to hand this one to. If anything, I would say it’s New Adult, but I know that term isn’t as widely known/accepted as YA or Adult.

Final Verdict: A middle of the road book that will appeal to country music fans. While it has its flaws, the overall story is engaging.

April 5th, 2016

Book Review: Kill the Boy Band

Book Review: Kill the Boy Band
Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That's why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying. We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him-his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets. We were not planning on what happened next. We swear. From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make-or break-the people we call "celebrities."

This is one of those books I wanted to like so much. When I heard about it, I was super excited, but the reality is the book just doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it’s highly problematic.

Before I truly dive into what I had issues with, I want to mention that Moldavsky does weave an interesting murder-mystery tale. I was intrigued by the basic plot and it held my attention enough to finish the book. However, whatever potential it had was lost in passages that upset me.

I’m not going to go into the fat shaming because Sarah over at Women Write About Comics did a good job of that already. Anything I would have pointed out, she already has. I will admit that the tackle scene did not bother me as much as everyone else. Mainly, it’s because by this point, I was already outraged by the fandom passages, which I’ll talk about in a moment. However, the passage that did get me was this:

Her appearance was one of Apple’s main hang-ups. That was what she saw in the mirror everyday and the conclusion she always jump to when things didn’t go right in her life. And, I’m certain, it was always a reason she chose Rupert P. —-  out of all the Ruperts —to love the most. I had a theory that choosing which boy to love in a boy band has a lot about a person…..I think April loved Rupert P. because she couldn’t even envision herself being loved by one of the cute boys. She loved him because he was the only one who she thought could possibly love her back.

I think that boy bands don’t worry about having a snaggle-tooth of an ugly member in their otherwise perfect row of teeth — boys — because they know that there are girls like Apple out there. Girls who really don’t like themselves enough to aim higher.  (p 82-83)

No, just no. No. No. No. And I know, there’s a spark to truth in girls thinking they can’t aim higher, but this is because society continuously tells girls like Apple they’re not good enough. Can we please just stop pushing this ideology? Please and thank you.

All right, so fat shaming. Check. Making fandoms look like crazies? HUGE CHECK. I’ll be honest, this is where the book lost me. I know people will come at me and say BUT IT’S A SATIRE, but it didn’t work well as one for me. There are too many moments that speak of reality and what is actually happening in the world of social media that are quite scary. For example, threatening tweets. Here’s the passage about the type of things that Isabel sends:

Isabel’s infamous tweets range from the cartoonish and impossible:

I’m going to pull ur tongue out of ur mouth wrap it around ur neck n strangle u w it so hard ur eyes will pop out. i will pee in the sockets.

To the quaint:

get your funcking hands off him bitch I will cut u. # RupertLIsMine  (knife emojis)

To the cryptically disturbing:

I watch u in ur sleep. (p 24-25)

To me, these are too real. I know people who get tweets like this–or worse. There is nothing funny about them. It’s scary and disturbing and wrong. I suppose if you didn’t know social media well enough you would think they were over the top, but they’re not and they’re many people’s reality. And while the main character does seem to condom those tweets, that type of attitude is basically what Isabel is all about.

The picture of fandoms that Moldavsky paints wildly varies depending on where you are in the book. At one point we get this

There was no point being a fan these days if you weren’t willing to go the extra mile for your idols. It wasn’t enough anymore to send them fanmail and kiss the posters above our beds. These days you weren’t a true fan until you engaged in Twitter death threats and endless stan wars. The fandom landscape was peppered with land mines, and there was no other way to navigate it but to walk until you hit one. You come out the other side a little crazier, yeah, but you’re also stronger. You are a true believer. You’ll do anything for the object of your affection. (p 32)

And then no more than 30 pages later we get this

Other people may have seen fangirls as crazy teenage girls obsessed with a fad, but they couldn’t understand the small but important joy you can get from indulging in these fandoms. They didn’t understand that a new gif of Rupert K. grinning at you could be the difference between a crap day and a beautiful one. They didn’t get the friendship that forms, the community of people who shared in your same joy. Maybe it was obsession, but it was also happiness; an escape from the suckiness of everyday life.  (pg 63)

So, which is it? Are they crazy obsessed teenagers or just a community that finds joy together? I suppose you could argue for both, but that second quote? Man, that’s what fandom is all about. That quote really hits at the heart of what they’re are and why people love and cling to them. When I saw that passage, I had hope that Moldavsky was going to give me something good. Instead, she goes back to painting them all as crazy. In fact, when a plea is sent out to the fangirls by one of the Ruperts to help find the missing Rupert, the girls start climbing the scaffold and busting into the hotel. I suppose you could argue that the over-the-top is where the whole satire/humor comes in, but to me it felt more like shaming than anything else.

There are many other passages that I could point out and use, but I fear they would make this review even longer than it is. And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other issues with race, sexual assault, and homophobia that are being pushed aside because it’s a “satire”. I know this will be a controversial review, but I just can’t support or recommend a book that is this problematic.

Final Verdict: Kill the Boy Band tried, oh did it try, but sadly it failed miserably in my eyes.

March 8th, 2016

Book Review: Up From the Sea

Book Review: Up From the Sea
Up From the Sea by Leza Lowitz
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: January 12th 2016
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

A powerful novel-in-verse about how one teen boy survives the March 2011 tsunami that devastates his coastal Japanese village. On that fateful day, Kai loses nearly everyone and everything he cares about. When he’s offered a trip to New York to meet kids whose lives were changed by 9/11, Kai realizes he also has a chance to look for his estranged American father. Visiting Ground Zero on its tenth anniversary, Kai learns that the only way to make something good come out of the disaster back home is to return there and help rebuild his town.
Heartrending yet hopeful, Up from the Sea is a story about loss, survival, and starting anew.
Fans of Jame Richards’s Three Rivers Rising and teens who read Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust as middle graders will embrace this moving story. An author’s note includes numerous sources detailing actual events portrayed in the story.
“The fast-paced writing progresses the plot perfectly to fit with the subject…Fans of Ellen Hopkins’s work will enjoy the immediacy of this novel-in-verse.” - School and Library Journal
From the Hardcover edition.

This is one of those novels that instantly transports you. You’re there with Kai as the quake hits and as he runs to get to higher ground to escape the tsunami. As the water keeps rising, you see the waves break apart the bridge he and his classmates had run to. And your heart will break as you realize he has, by some miracle survived, but lost so much as well.

While this books takes place in a coastal city in Japan, I feel like the emotions that Kai go through will resonate with everyone no matter where you live. The basic plot may be about the aftermath of a tsunami, but the heart of the story is truly Kai. It’s about his losses, his gains, growing up, and finding joy among the pain. Yes, he is often selfish and self-absorbed, but, at 17, he really is still a kid/teen. Up until this point, his biggest concerns were about finishing high school or what he fought with his mom about. Now, he has to learn how to get one without almost everyone that he loves. I loved that Lowitz didn’t hold back on the depression/survivor’s guilt as it’s an emotion that so many go through. Part of me does wish there had been just a tad bit more on it, but I understand it wasn’t the main focus as well.

I will admit that I found the dad side plot was a bit distracting. For the most part, it felt unneeded. Yes, it made it so that Kai wasn’t an orphan, but it felt out of place. The only really usefulness was to show that Kai had found where he belonged/didn’t want to leave after all, but there were other ways that could have been done. And maybe this will be the start of a real relationship between he and his father, but the whole thing just felt a tad forced.

The 9/11 connection always felt a bit out of place, but I liked this one more than I didn’t. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy that victims of one disaster helping other survivors heal. It’s one of those feel good, humanity still exists plots that I’m okay with. (This sentiment also applies to the lost soccer ball as well.)

Final Verdict: A powerful verse novel that is great for teens for all ages. It’s gives a look into the aftermath of the 2011 Japan tsunami that may otherwise been unknown.

February 25th, 2016

Book Review: The V-Word

Book Review: The V-Word
The V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex by Amber J. Keyser
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Beyond Words
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Pages: 208

Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like?

In The V-Word seventeen writers (including Christa Desir, Justina Ireland, Sara Ryan, Carrie Mesrobian, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, and Jamia Wilson) pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like.

Funny, hot, meaningful, cringe-worthy, gross, forgettable, magnificent, empowering, and transformative, the stories in The V-Word are never preachy, but provide a map for teens to chart their own course through the steamy waters of sex. With The V-Word girls can finally take control, learn what’s on the horizon, and eliminate the fear and mystery surrounding this important milestone.

Overall, this is a great collection of short stories about first times. The stories run the gamut from super awkward to not-so-bad first experiences. None of them were exactly awesome first experiences, but several came out pretty good. I like the open honesty that all the women shared. Most didn’t pull punches, which was refreshing to see. After all, the biggest problem with sex is that we don’t talk about it openly enough, but we treat it as if it’s something that should be swept under a rug. Our teens need this open honesty to see that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to talk about how they’re feeling.

I truly appreciate that Keyser made sure there were essays from all parts of life, especially when it came to be sexual orientation and identity. I loved that there were stories from lesbian, bisexual, and even a transgendered woman. Not only that, there were varying walks of life. There were people who were religious, who had been sexually abused, who waited for marriage, and who fell into it all by accident. It was also nice to see a range of ages, the youngest being 13 and the oldest at 23.

The best part is that Keyser spends 20 pages or so breaking issues down and giving more resources for teen to follow-up with. She covers topics like knowing your body, masturbation, sexual assault, age of consent, and talking to parents. It’s like a quick mini road map that teens can use to guide them to valid resources both in print and online.

Final Verdict: A solid collection of stories about first experiences that should be put into teen hands. This is easily one I’ll put on my library shelves.

February 23rd, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week topic is Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently (last yearish) That Weren’t My Typical Genre/Type of Book. Since I don’t know that I have a “genre” anymore per say I’m going to change this one a little to books I picked up to keep my RA skills sharp. None of these are outside my comfort zone, but I wouldn’t have picked them up if I weren’t trying to keep my bag-of-tricks well rounded

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche

Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them. Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time. Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little. After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind. Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first--herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before.... Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
One by Sarah Crossan

Grace and Tippi. Tippi and Grace. Two sisters. Two hearts. Two dreams. Two lives. But one body.
Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins, joined at the waist, defying the odds of survival for sixteen years. They share everything, and they are everything to each other. They would never imagine being apart. For them, that would be the real tragedy.
But something is happening to them. Something they hoped would never happen. And Grace doesn’t want to admit it. Not even to Tippi.
How long can they hide from the truth—how long before they must face the most impossible choice of their lives?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different—light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can't take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame. 
Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt Albinos in Mwanza because Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To survive, Habo must not only run, but find a way to love and accept himself.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 1 (Tokyo Ghoul, #1) by Sui Ishida, Joe Yamazaki

Shy Ken Kaneki is thrilled to go on a date with the beautiful Rize. But it turns out that she’s only interested in his body—eating it, that is. When a morally questionable rescue transforms him into the first half-human half-Ghoul hybrid, Ken is drawn into the dark and violent world of Ghouls, which exists alongside our own.

 
Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Jackson Greene has reformed. No, really he has. He became famous for the Shakedown at Shimmering Hills, and everyone still talks about the Blitz at the Fitz.... But after the disaster of the Mid-Day PDA, he swore off scheming and conning for good.

Then Keith Sinclair -- loser of the Blitz -- announces he's running for school president, against Jackson's former best friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby hasn't talked to Jackson since the PDA, and he knows she won't welcome his involvement. But he also knows Keith has "connections" to the principal, which could win him the election whatever the vote count.

So Jackson assembles a crack team to ensure the election is done right: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess and cheerleader. Charlie de la Cruz, point man. Together they devise a plan that will bring Keith down once and for all. Yet as Jackson draws closer to Gaby again, he realizes the election isn't the only thing he wants to win.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) by Geoff Rodkey

Twelve-year-old fraternal twins, Claudia and Reese, couldn't be more different...except in their determination to come out on top in a vicious prank war! But when the competition escalates into an all-out battle that's fought from the cafeteria of their New York City private school all the way to the fictional universe of an online video game, the twins have to decide if their efforts to destroy each other are worth the price.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
Assassination Classroom, Vol. 1 by Yūsei Matsui, Tetsuichiro Miyaki

The students in Class 3-E of Kunugigaoka Junior High have a new teacher: an alien octopus with bizarre powers and unlimited strength, who's just destroyed the moon and is threatening to destroy the earth - unless they can kill him first!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

Samantha Donaldson's family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, mathematics, and complex puzzles, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women's spy group La Dame Blanche, she's torn—while this could be an unbelievable adventure, how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes she can't refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known only as Velvet. Deep undercover in the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Sam must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she must fight a forbidden attraction to the enemy—a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Sam find Velvet before it's too late . . . for them both?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
My Neighbor Seki, 1 by Takuma Morishige

Toshinari Seki takes goofing off to new heights. Every day, on or around his school desk, he masterfully creates his own little worlds of wonder, often hidden to most of his classmates. Unfortunately for Rumi Yokoi, his neighbor at the back of their homeroom, his many games, dioramas, and projects are often way too interesting to ignore; even when they are hurting her grades.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book I Enjoyed Recently That Weren’t My Typical Genre
Bounders by Monica Tesler

Thirteen years ago, Earth Force—a space-military agency—discovered a connection between brain structure and space travel. Now they’ve brought together the first team of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as high-level astronauts.

Twelve-year-old Jasper is part of this team being sent out into space. After being bullied back on Earth, Jasper is thrilled to have something new and different to do with other kids who are more like him. While learning all about the new technologies and taking classes in mobility—otherwise known as flying with jetpacks—Jasper befriends the four other students in his pod and finally feels like he has found his place in the world.

But then Jasper and his new friends learn that they haven’t been told everything about Earth Force. They weren’t brought to space for astronaut training, but to learn a new, highly classified brain-sync technology that allows them to manipulate matter and quantum bound, or teleport. And it isn’t long before they find out this new technology was actually stolen from an alien society.

When Jasper and his friends discover the truth about why Earth Force needs them, they are faced with a choice: rebel against the academy that brought them together, or fulfill their duty and protect the planet at all costs.

February 17th, 2016

RELEASES I’M EXCITED FOR: FEB 16TH – 29TH

Here are some February releases I’m excited for. (All covers link to goodreads)

9780062360496_1354d 9780547235561_eacae 9780553539639_d1d05 9781481431842_aed15 9780545867474_5a0ba9780545907170_321a6 9780553497786_55808 9781595147677_c182e 9780807581407_d74b4 258611402567372425813245

February 16th, 2016

Book Review: Burning Midnight

Book Review: Burning Midnight
Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.

No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

The start to this one is a bit slow. In fact, it took a good 20-25 pages until I fully understood what spheres were and why they were so important. Admittedly, this was slightly my fault since I didn’t re-read the description to refresh my memory before starting the book, but it also shouldn’t take so long to be introduced to the world. I almost wished that I had a little guide on  spheres, how they worked, and how many there were.

Once I grasped what was happening, I did enjoy the world. I thought it was an interesting concept, especially considering human nature. Who wouldn’t pay a couple hundred here and there for simple things like whiter teeth or ease of sleeping. People pay that now for different medications or gimmicks that aren’t always a sure bet. Of course, the super powerful spheres that increases intelligence or looks are rare and expensive.  Only those with lots of money could afford them. Maybe if you were a lucky hunter, you might who would find a pair to burn, but basically it was the rich get richer situation, which was fully realistic.

I will say the pacing was a bit off for me. There were times where the book moved along at a good speed, but then other times when it dragged. I loved the earlier hunting scenes with Hunter and Sully, but the scenes when they’re searching the water towers felt a bit too slow for me. I understand that McIntosh needed to show that it took a while, but I was quite bored. On the other hand, once they find the Gold, things seems to kick into super high speed. This is also where you have to start suspending belief. Almost nothing that happens after finding the Gold seems truly believable or possible. However, if you allow yourself to just roll with it, it’s a fun adventure.

The only part that I can’t quite get over is the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but it felt extremely too easy. I could buy into what the spheres actually were, but how they solved it all seemed almost like a cop-out. It tied up way too nicely in a bow for my taste. I guess I wanted more than what I got.

I’m a little torn on how I feel about the love aspect. There is a nice build up between Hunter and Sully, but it also have the feel of insta-love. For most of the book, there a pretty big distrust between them, especially when a deal goes awry. However, they do actually spend a lot of time hunting together, so when you figure in that it’s probably been at least a couple of months it does sort of work. I think it was the out-of the blue declarations that didn’t work for me. Most of the book, Hunter keeps Sully at arm’s length and then suddenly she’s proclaiming how he’s the best thing ever in her life. It was a bit cheesy, but I know know of teens who will probably eat it up.

All that being said, this was a fast sci-fi read. I read it in one day, and while flawed, I couldn’t put it down. I would easily give these to my teens who are just starting in sci-fi or who are looking for an adventure book. It’s a bit on the big side for reluctant readers, but one I do think they’d enjoy.  It would also be a good pairing for 5th Wave, although there aren’t nearly as many mind games or heavy strategy in this one.

Final Verdict: A great new YA sci-fi book. While it does have some flaws, it’s a quick read filled with tons of adventure.

February 2nd, 2016

Releases I’m Excited For: Feb 1st – 15th

Here are some February releases I’m excited for. (All covers link to goodreads)

9781481438711_bfc14 41X9DwAT+8L 9781481447379_6e815 9781481432696_3be56  9781481432047_525d7 9780553534108_b455a 9780553512816_2cc3d 9780062382863_af3d3  9780062366153_69fe5 9780062363787_43c69 9780062360243_9e867 9780062347879_f0560 9780062094223_ccd96