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


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

Book Review: Falling Stars


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

Book Review: Kill the Boy Band


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

Book Review: Up From the Sea


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

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.

Book Review: The V-Word


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