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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

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)

 

Book Review: Boy Most Likely To

Book Review: Boy Most Likely To

Book Review: Boy Most Likely To
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Pages: 416
Source: NetGalley, Publisher

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To:
- find the liquor cabinet blindfolded
- need a liver transplant
- drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To:
- well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.

And Alice is caught in the middle.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this return to the world of My Life Next Door is a story about failing first, trying again, and having to decide whether to risk it all once more

This book is like chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth; the kind you wish would never end. It’s no secret that I loved and adored My Life Next Door and was excited to walk back into that universe. And while I didn’t quite get what I expected, Fitzpatrick delivered a fantastic book and reminded me all over again why I love her writing and these characters.

Before I get much further, let me say that this book does kind of push the YA envelope. Not so much in that it’s inappropriate, because it’s truly not, but the tone and the way it’s written made it feel more like an upper YA pushing into the New Adult region. Tim falls in that definite grey area of life; not really a kid, but not quite an adult yet either. He should be attending his last year of high school, but instead finds himself kicked out of school (yet again), kicked out of his house, and then hit with another big surprise. I often had to remind myself that he was still under 18 due to situation, but there is still plenty that the “typical” teenager will be able to relate to. And while we get dual POV, this is without a doubt Tim’s story.

Tim, under all his bad boy, messed-up exterior, is truly a good guy. He’s been handed a crap sandwich in life and up until this point he hasn’t handled it so well. He lost his himself in drugs and alcohol and no one truly thinks he’ll amount to anything. After all, he is the boy likely to do something stupid. When the book starts, we find that Tim has been clean for several months already, but still has a lot of stuff to straighten out. His father has just given him an ultimatum to get his life back on track in the next 6 months or he’ll find himself cut off completely. Tim has lived so long without anyone thinking positively of him that it’s hard for him to see it either. His “Boy Most Likely To” list broke my heart and just made me want to hug him and tell him it wasn’t true.

Of course, that’s kind of what Alice does. While she is used to seeing him as her younger brother’s screwed up friend, she slowly gets to see another side. She takes the risk allowing him to be “more” and offers him the support he’s been missing in his life. Alice isn’t the one to fix him–only Tim can do that–but she starts to show him all his positives. While their romance is a bit hidden among the other storyline, it’s still an enjoyable one. They work well together and I do wish there had been more of them falling in love/going on dates. I do hope that Fitzpatrick writes another book in this universe because I would love to see them more relaxed and without the heavy burdens they had to handle.  And, of course, it would allow me to see all the Garrett’s again; a family I love and adore maybe a little too much!

Warning: If you don’t want to be spoiled please don’t read on.

View Spoiler »

Final Verdict: Not quite the love story I was expecting, but a great read anyway. I highly recommend it, even if you haven’t read My Life Next Door.

Book Review: No Safety in Numbers (Teen Review)

Book Review: No Safety in Numbers (Teen Review)

Book Review: No Safety in Numbers (Teen Review)
No Safety In Numbers by Dayna Lorentz
Series: No Safety in Numbers #1
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: May 2012
Pages: 288

A suspenseful survival story and modern day Lord of the Flies set in a mall that looks just like yours. A biological bomb has just been discovered in the air ducts of a busy suburban mall. At first nobody knows if it's even life threatening, but then the entire complex is quarantined, people start getting sick, supplies start running low, and there's no way out. Among the hundreds of trapped shoppers are four teens. These four different narrators, each with their own stories, must cope in unique, surprising manners, changing in ways they wouldn't have predicted, trying to find solace, safety, and escape at a time when the adults are behaving badly. This is a gripping look at people and how they can—and must—change under the most dire of circumstances. And not always for the better.

 

Welcome back, Amanda, my teen reviewer.

The Basics: This was a story told from multiple points of view about what happens when a mall is put on lock down with the shoppers still inside. As people fall ill tempers run high as those inside the mall become increasingly desperate. The shoppers want out but the government is determined to keep them in.

Characters: The author did a wonderful job of creating real and relatable characters. They weren’t to over exaggerated and none of them tried to ” play hero.” The author made the situation feel more real by making the characters average and giving them flaws.

Action: this book was not short on action. Between the conflicts amount the shoppers and the desperation of those inside the mall there is not a dull moment to be found in this book.

Romance: This book is mostly devoid of romance except when two of the characters have a very short fling. The lack of romance does not in any way hurt the quality of the book as a whole though. Overall: Overall this was a well written book about the desperation of people trapped

Book Review: My Life Next Door

Book Review: My Life Next Door

Book Review: My Life Next Door
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: June 2012
Pages: 416
Source: NetGalley

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?


Short of it: This is not an action-based book and is a bit slow moving. However, it’s a fantastic book with memorable characters.

Plot: I went into this one thinking it would be a cute beach read. A nice little romance with lots of kissing and falling in love. Instead what I got was so much more. Yes, there was lots of kissing and falling in love, but for me it wasn’t the heart of the novel. In fact, I would say the heart and soul of the book is family. How different families function and how the picture perfect ones are far from perfect or the best.

The plot is rather slow moving, but in a way it was perfect. I love character-driven stories way more than plot-driven ones. However, it does sped up a bit about halfway through when a bombshell is dropped. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s massive. It challenges the boundaries of family and what is right and wrong. Samantha truly struggles with doing the right thing, especially since it means that everything in her world could crumble. It was something that no 17 year old should ever have to decide and my heart went out to her fully. While I’m not sure that ending was 100% believable (are people really that nice?), it stayed in character with how the family acted.

Character:  I liked Samantha a lot. She knew her mother’s opinions of the world were skewed and she wasn’t afraid to jump the tracks, so to speak, when the opportunity came. While I hated that she hide Jase from her mother for a while I also completely understand. It’s hard to come clean with something you know will upset your parents even when you know how wrong they are. Plus, Samantha was kind of painted as the mature, perfect child and I imagine that pressure made it harder. Overall, Samantha is a great character and one easy to relate to.

However, I do have to say the Garrett children are what truly stole the show, especially George and Patsy. Seriously, how could you not love a little girl whose first words were boob and poop? Or a little boy who knows too much trivia (and is often scared by it). I kind of wanted to hug and squish them and made me wish I had kids like them in my life.

Romance: This is what a relationship should be. There was no instant love between Jase and Samantha, but a slow building romance. Yes, it may have been a little weird that he suddenly climbs up to her roof and how she decides to just go over the next day, but oddly enough it worked for me. It was this awkward sweetness that I could see happening in real life. And even though she’s pulled into Jase and his family’s life instantly, there is still a period of getting to know each other and creating a friendship. The fact that the first kiss doesn’t come until 100 pages was perfect. Jase knew that Samantha wouldn’t be an easy girl to catch, but he was willing to give her the time and attention needed to win her over. Sure, there are still a few flaws here and there, but overall their relationship is one of the most down to earth & healthiest I’ve read in a long time.

Writing: This was the only place I had some issues. There was several spots that the wording was quite rough and I had to read them three or four time to make sure I was understanding it correctly. Granted it wasn’t a lot, but the few that happened really pulled me out of the story. However, I was reading an ARC and these areas may have been corrected since then. Overall, Fitzpatrick knows how to write a beautiful story. A fabulous debut and I look forward to what she creates next.

Librarian-Mode: I’ve seen several people say this an Anna and the French Kiss read-a-like, but I’m not sure that it fits. Sure, romance lovers will eat this up, but I think it’s better paired with Sarah Dessen or Elizabeth Scott.

 

Book Review: The Difference Between You and Me

Book Review: The Difference Between You and Me

Book Review: The Difference Between You and Me
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: March 2012
Pages: 1

Sweet, tender, and true! - Laurie Halse Anderson Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife. She wears big green fisherman's boots. She's the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily wears sweaters with faux pearl buttons. She's vice president of the student council. She has a boyfriend. These two girls have nothing in common, except the passionate

The Short of It: I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. I was hoping for a good love story, but the book is more about big corporation take-overs than romance. It’s a bit preachy, but overall a decent read.

Plot:  Teen activists? Check. Secret Romance? Check. Potential big corporation take over? Check. I had hoped, okay maybe longed for, this one to be all about romance. Instead, I got a political fight of a smaller-ish town against StarMart (a big chain store). Jesse has been doing her own manifestos for about a year encouraging her fellow classmates to embrace their weirdness and let it shine for all the world to see. It’s when she gets in trouble and ends up in Saturday school that Ester pulls her into bigger things…including taking down StarMart. While there is some romance sprinkled in, it’s more about standing up for what you believe in, even if its an unpopular opinion. While a little preachy I enjoyed the overall message.

I did feel like some of the side stories got lost in the bigger whole of the story like the romance, the family, and even her best friend. I would have loved to see those issues get a bit more page time, but I do understand that they weren’t the main story. However, some of it felt like an after thought or an easy way to move the story along, especially the stuff with Esther and her family. I may be nitpicking a little, but it was still something I thought should be mentioned.

Characters: While the book alternates between Jesse, Emily, and occasionally Esther, the book is really about Jesse. The other POVs offered insight to what the other girls were thinking, but it was Jesse who truly stood out. From her fisherman boots to her manifestos, Jesse was someone you couldn’t forget.

On the outside, Jesse looked like someone who had it all together, but she really didn’t. She was a normal girl trying to figure out who she really was. While she had some bold moves, especially with Emily and her manifesto, Jesse is huge people-pleaser. She was very cautious about upsetting/crossing lines with Emily and apologizes if she goes “too far”. Even with the activist stuff, I don’t think she was truly into it at first, but let herself be dragged into it because it would make Esther (and her mom a little) happy. By the end, though, Jesse is more comfortable with her she is and standing up for what she thinks is right. While I had hoped for a slightly different ending, I was happy with how Jesse handled things, especially with Emily.

Romance: Emily and Jesse? I get it. I honestly do. I get the falling for a girl who is absolutely 100% wrong for you, yet someone you have great chemistry with. You think about if only this or that would change it would be perfect and you hold onto the hope that it’ll happen. It’s a trap that is easy to fall into and I can’t blame Jesse at all. That being said, I disliked Emily so much. She treated Jesse like crap from beginning to end. I hated how she whined that Jesse didn’t listen to her when she didn’t listen to Jesse either. She thought that everyone should agree with her end of story.

The thing I hated the most though, was the secret part of it. Emily would talk about how Jesse made her feel alive, how she missed her, and dreamed of Jesse saying I love you, yet she wasn’t willing to take the risk with her. I understand it’s hard to shatter people’s image of you, but I felt like she was essentially just using Jesse. She had no plans to break up with her boyfriend, not really, and just wanted the 15 minute-a-week thrill Jesse gave her. Part of me wished that Emily would have a change of heart, but I suppose that just the romantic side of me talking.

On the other hand, I’m not sure Esther and Jesse quite worked either. Yes, they shared a lot of the same ideas and views, but I didn’t feel the chemistry between them as much. Could I see them ending up together? Yes, but I think it’ll be awhile before they reach that point. Of course, I’m still not sure if Esther is into girls or not. I felt like the attention that she gave Jesse had more to do with pulling someone her age into her causes than true attraction.

Writing: I don’t know why, but having Emily and Ester in first person and Jesse in third person bothered me. I would have preferred it to be the other way around, since this book was more Jesse’s story than the other two girls. However, the third person POV is still quite intimate and I didn’t notice the switch until I was about a third of the way in. Having it set up as George does, doesn’t take away from the book. While it did bug me, I doubt most people will have the same reaction.

Librarian-Mode: This one depends on what you’re looking for. Want a secret romance, try The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard or Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. If you want more LGBTQ, I would suggest Pink by Lili Wilkinson, Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, or Empress of the World by Sara Ryan.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read The Difference Between You and Me? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.

 

Book Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Book Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters

Book Review: Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters
Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: March 2012
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher

So far this year isn't going the way she planned but it is undeniably memorable. Kelsey Finkelstein is starting her freshman year of high school and she's determined to begin with a clean slate. Her arch-nemesis moved away this summer, finally giving her the chance to stand out on the soccer team and possibly catch the eye of her long-time crush. But things don't go as smoothly as Kelsey hopes and she finds herself navigating a series of increasingly hilarious situations. From mortifying pictures in the school paper to an unconventional lead role in the musical, all while avoiding her soccer captain's bad temper, Kelsey has her work cut out for her if she's going to survive freshman year.

 

 

Short of it: A cute read that would be perfect for anyone looking for a fast-paced, funny read.

Plot: Seriously, can I just say poor Kelsey? It seems a cruel fate for such a string of unfortunate events happen to one person in one school year. Of course, some are merely coincidental, like the newspaper pictures, while others are more deliberate. I wish I knew more about soccer to know if the switch of positions was a reasonable one. The change felt odd to me since her skills would essentially go to waste, but I’ve been to exactly one soccer game in my life and have nothing to base this feeling on. However, being a theatre geek I did laugh pretty hard at the closing night scenes. While nothing that big ever happened to us, we did have a few good blunders over the years. Of course, they were limited to a scene or two meaning the whole play was not lost. I’m pretty sure I would have been sobbing had I been the director (or an actor) and my production of Fiddler on the Roof turned into a comedy. And they very well may have been, but the play wasn’t all that important to Kelsey and the way she shrugged it off was pretty spot on.

I do want to mention a couple of things that kind of bothered me. I’m not stupid and I know a lot of High Schoolers (or younger) drink or smoke, but it felt as it was a “no big deal” thing here. Beyond the one incident there are no consequences and even the parents shrug it off to “Typical Teenage Behavior”. I know this is my age, or maybe my own personal background, showing, but I hate when illegal behavior is treated so nonchalantly. I know it makes the book more true to life, but it still gets under my skin when I think about it. It’s hard to teach teens not to do it when it’s constantly in their faces as something teens are just going to do.

The other part that has been nagging at me is the whole LGBTQ plot line.  Had Kelsey not repeatedly told me this character might be gay, I would have never realized it. There was one comment that made me go huh-maybe, but nothing that would have clenched it for me. I do like how Zeitlin doesn’t have them force the person out, but allows them do it on their own terms. That earns a big gold star from me. Perhaps this is simply one of those “stepping into a long time friendship” situation, but considering how it plays out it’s all just a little too convenient.

That being said, I did enjoy the plot line. It’s one full of teen angst and missteps that most teens will be able to relate to.

Character: I liked Kelsey. Yes, she’s a bit self-centered, but what teenager (or adult) isn’t? She does seem to really care for her friends and gives them the support when they need it. What really makes her relatable is how normal she is. She gets mad at her little sister, falls in loves with boys from a distance, feels betrayed a best friend, hold grudges way longer than needed, and dreams of making a splash at her new high school. Sounds like the typical, average high schooler doesn’t it? I know I felt almost all of those and more when I was Kelsey’s age.

The other nice thing is that she learns to roll with the embarrassing and less than stellar situations she ends up in. She has her freak-outs and OMG moments, but the more things happen the more she’s able to shrug it off. It’s a nice look at how horrible luck isn’t the end of the world…and in Kelsey’s case leads to a bit of good luck in the end.

Romance: Most of the romance is happening around Kelsey and not to Kelsey. There are a couple kissing scenes and several flirting scenes, but nothing that goes to relationship status. There is a potential that looks like it’ll lead to more, but the future on that one is up to the reader.

Writing: I have no issues with Zeitlin’s style. While there are moment of predictability, that could be said about any book falling in this genre. It’s more about the life experiences than the surprises. It’s great debut novel that is funny, fast paced, and full of heart.

Librarian-Mode: There are so many great pairings to put with this book. It can easily be given to anyone who likes chick-lit, especially Dessen fans. I would also give it to anyone who liked Little Black Lies by Trish Cohen, Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman, and A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker.

 

Book Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm

Book Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm

Book Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Series: A Tale Dark and Grimm #1
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: October 2010
Pages: 256

Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm (and Grimm-inspired) fairy tales. An irreverent, witty narrator leads us through encounters with witches, warlocks, dragons, and the devil himself. As the siblings roam a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind the famous tales, as well as how to take charge of their destinies and create their own happily ever after. Because once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.

When I picked up this book, I thought that because it was a middle grade novel it really wouldn’t be as grim as the title said. But I was very wrong. This novel is a set of stories that have a very Grimm feel to them. The reader follows a pair of children, Hansel and Gretel, in and out of different stories, all the while narrated by someone who warns you how horrid this book really is and that you should beware. It reminds me a bit of the Lemony Snicket books and adding that with some dark fairy tale retellings really made me read this book almost too quickly. Gidwitz did a fantastic job of weaving these stories in a chronological order and it flowed so beautifully from one story to the next with some extra narration to keep you intrigued as to what further gore might be experienced.

And although it is indeed dark and grim, I think my students in 4th and 5th grade will eat this one up. I really enjoyed it as a fan of fairy tales and hope they will too. I may end up rereading this one at some point because it was fantastically done. If you like the darker side of fairy tales, you should try this one out.

 

Book Review: The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams

Book Review: The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams

Book Review: The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams
The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: April 2010
Pages: 256
Source: Traveling ARC Tours

Abbie Adams appears to be your typical fifth grader unless you learn she's a witch. She may be able to time travel and do spells, but no one but other witches are to know. This means fixing her little brother's mishaps and doing homework the normal way. All in all, your every day typical life. That is until her father brings home a tiny little black cat as a gift for Abbie. Like Abbie he may seem normal, but he is anything but normal! I mean, who has ever heard of a cat that likes to read books, especially science ones? However, when they discover that the cat is really Thomas Edison under an evil enchantment everything becomes clear. Now if only they can turn him back into a thirteen year old boy and get him back to where he belongs. Can Abbie and her family accomplish this difficult task in time? Or will history change right before her eyes?


The Short of It:
I can’t say enough good things about this book. I don’t often dip into the Middle Grade books, but boy am I ever glad I did. Abbie and her family are so much fun and I enjoyed every minute with them. My only complaint is that I wanted more; I certainly hope Hayter brings Abbie back for future books.

Plot: To me, this is what really sold the book. When I first picked it up, I was a little uncertain what I would think, but Hayter’s plot is what made me fall in love with the book. Who would have ever thought that a simple, small black cat would have been one of the most famous inventors in history? And the ramifications of taking him out of the correct time line was something fun to explore as well. I mean, what would happen if the light bulb or audio player or anything else he thought of had never been invented? Where would we be today? I kind of shudder at the possibility. I don’t know about you but I’m kind of fond of my lamps and MP3 player! It’s an interesting topic to think of at any age. Of course, all their little witchy skills and abilities simply added icing to the story and made a topic could have easily been boring or serious into something very light hearted and fun.

Characters: Abbie may be a witch, but in every other way she is your average every day girl. She is so easy to relate to. After all, who doesn’t worry about their friends not liking them or trying to get their annoying little brother out of trouble? Of course, she also had other typical fifth grader moments in ignoring homework/spells, hating her teacher, and occasionally doing things she shouldn’t do. But she also proved she had a good heart. No matter what her little brother did she never stayed mad and didn’t seem to hold any grudges against him. She also did everything she could to keep Tom comfortable and entertained while he was trapped in his cat form. She made sure he had lots of books, calmed him when he was upset, and even risked taking him to school so he wouldn’t be bored. It was fun seeing her grow both as a person and witch during the book as she focused and faced new and dangerous situations. I have no doubt that Abbie will become a great witch as time goes by.

Romance: No romance here. After all, Abbie is only in fifth grade! She better not be thinking about dating! I will note that there is a small connection between Abbie and Tom, but it’s more friendship than anything else. And besides, he belongs in a whole different time from her!

Writing: Hayter has a nice writing style. I adore how she weaved the historical facts into the story in a fun way. Yes, she was throwing a lot of information at a reader, but it felt like it was part of the story rather than just stuck in there. After all, how else was Abbie or Tom going to learn more about his life if they didn’t do a little web searching? Beyond that, Hayter’s writing has an easy flow to it. I wouldn’t say it was so much simplistic, but it is easily approachable by kids in grade 4 and up. (Maybe even 3rd if they’re good readers.) The short chapters go fast and will be good for those readers who have a short attention span.

Librarian-Mode: So, I’ve already admitted that I don’t read much in the Middle Grade area making recommendations very hard. I’ve been trying to figure out what else to pair this with, but there is nothing else that I’ve read that fits. My gut tells me that lovers of Allie Finkle or Judy Moody would enjoy this one as well, but I’ve never read them so I’m not positive. The safest thing I can say is that this book will be perfect for those looking for a fun, light-hearted read, especially those interested in magic or history.

Book Review: Sing Me To Sleep

Book Review: Sing Me To Sleep

Book Review: Sing Me To Sleep
Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: March 2010
Pages: 320
Source: Around the World Tours

Beth has always been the unattractive girl; teased endlessly by her peer and nicknamed "The Beast".  However, everything changes when Beth lands a solo in her all-girls choir; one that wins them a spot in an international choir competition in Switzerland. And after an intensive make-over, Beth now resembles the angel she sounds like and begins gaining attention from boys, including a dreamy, Canadian singer named Derek. While their time is short together in Switzerland, the two fall in love and plan to continue the relationship once they're back home. The only problem? Not everything is as magical once they've returned. Beth soon realizes that Derek has a dark secret, one that is threatening to tear them apart. Not to mention her geeky, and now hunky, best friend, Scott, has proclaimed his undying love for Beth as well. The only question now is who makes Beth's heart sing more: the boy she's always known or the one who feels like a dream?

 

The Short of It: I’m still a little torn about how I feel about this book. On one hand it’s an interesting story and excellent writing. Morrison knows how to spin a story in a way to keep the reader captivated and interested in her characters. On the other hand, I’ve been unable get past the emotions this book inflicted (whether intentionally or not) and ultimately hurt how much I could have enjoyed the book.

Plot: The overall plot was okay. I enjoyed reading about Beth in choir and how she earned the right to be in the spotlight. It was obvious that she cared a lot about singing and had enough talent to go far. Being from a musical background myself, I did like how it was intermixed into the book and how fun it was/could be. While my own choir experiences were different, I couldn’t help but remember all the good times I myself had with my high school choir. As for the ending, I wasn’t surprised and actually saw it coming. I don’t want to ruin it for my readers, but by the way he acted I figured it was something more than a bad boy/drug behavior.

Before I move on, I do want to talk about the make-over, which is something that really, really bothered me. In fact, it’s part of the reason why I ended up not liking the book. I don’t mind the type where a little hair restyling and wardrobe change gives the illusion of a “better” girl. I do have a HUGE issue with the lengths that this makeover went to. When you get into cosmetic procedures and other surgeries, I start to cringe. What kind of message is that sending to teenage girls? (Who already have SO much to deal with when it comes to body image.) Morrison’s only saving grace is that the makeover didn’t instantly “fix” Beth. She still had doubts about how she looked and took her a while to believe she was truly beautiful. I only hope that the girls can latch onto that and not the whole ugly-duckling made swan = get everything I want.

Characters: I hate to say this, but overall I was rather indifferent to the characters. There were moments of sympathy, but there were also a lots of moments where I was to shake some sense into them. For example, I hate how Derek lied to Beth. I understand why he did, I really do, but how can you have a true relationship, friendship or dating, based on such a BIG lie? And then Beth how she sulked and pouted whenever he did his disappearing act; it literally drove me insane. On the other hand, I did admire Beth’s loyalty to stand by what she really cared about. She could have easily ditched both Derek and her choir, but she chose to stick it out.

Although, I suppose if I were to name a favorite character it would have to be Scott. He felt like the one person who was honest and true throughout the whole book. He wasn’t afraid to love Beth when she was the “Beast” and did everything he could to protect her from their cruel classmates. I loved that he was able to see past the physical appearance and care for the girl within. In fact, I think he earned even more points with me when he disapproved of the make-over because it wasn’t Beth. Ok, maybe he did a few things that were a little creepy, but they were kind of sort of adorable at the same time (like tracing her lips with his fingers).

Romance: This is where I have to be very careful not to rant. I hated, HATED the romance in this book. My hackles raised and all I wanted to do was save Beth from the abusive/controlling relationship with Derek. Yes, there were times that Derek felt like the perfect boyfriend, especially all the events in Switzerland, but once they were home it was a whole different story. It made me sick how he tried to control her life without consulting her. I know finding out his secret explains his actions, but I don’t think that it excuses him. The way he demanded her to do things, coupled with the emotional and physical outbursts felt way too abusive to my tastes. Girls should NEVER feel like this behavior is acceptable.

While Scott had his own quirks, I kept wishing that Beth would dump Derek already and go to him. He was the one who truly knew Beth’s beauty (before she was one!) and loved her for HER and nothing else. I think their relationship was the true love story and wish it had played out more than it did. Of course, their story was not the one that Morrison was trying to tell. (Again, trying to stay relatively spoiler free, but once you read the book and author note, you’ll understand that comment.)

Writing: This is where Morrison shines. She truly know how to weave a story that keeps someone reading. Even though, overall, I was rather indifferent to most of the characters, I still found moments where my heart strings were pulled. (I’ll even admit I shed a tear or two at the end.) To still pull that kind of emotion out of someone, especially when they don’t agree with things that had done or went through, is a true gift indeed. And while I may not have enjoyed this book, I am interested to read other books by Morrison.

Librarian-Mode: The romance of this book reminds me a lot of the romance in Twilight. So, the paranormal-vampire lovers looking for something more realistic may just love this. Also, this is a big tear-jerker novel and would easily fall in with those who love Lurlene McDaniel.

Have you read Sing Me To Sleep? If so, let me know what you thought!

Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials

Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials

Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials
Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: Feb. 2010
Pages: 304
Source: Library

Charlie Healey, a freshman, believes that Harmony Falls will be her reboot to life. No longer subjected to the abuse of her "best friends," she's ready to hide her past away and become someone new. But on her very first day she'll learn that you simply cannot outrun your past. Faced with a best friend turned hunk and a girl she terribly wronged, Charlie learns to blend the old with the new. She'll need to learn to conquer old demons if she ever truly plans to achieve a new start. Amidst it all, Charlie will face many challenges such as jerky boys, a prank gone wrong, and learning what boundaries are okay to cross. Will Charlie shrink back into her shell or will she finally be brave enough to do the right thing?

The Short of It: Ah, so nice to have a book I really enjoyed. This was the first book I had read by Wiseman and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a fun story about discovering who you are, correcting old wrongs, and standing up and doing what’s right. A story of friendship and life that’s worth checking out.

Plot: Ok, so I admit that the plot didn’t have a lot of originality. In fact, you may even say a lot of it was predictable, but something about it really pulled me in. Beyond the stereotypes, it is an honest story about a freshman getting a second chance as she figures out the truths to life. It’s about friendship and and learning to break out of one’s shell. Having been in Charlie’s shoes most of my life, I could easily relate to the storyline and it rang true to me. But don’t think that this book is all seriousness because there are still a lot of fun, crazy, and even drama filled moments. All around, I really do think it’s a fun plot (cliques and all)!

Characters: I think Charlie is a love her or hate her type character. Being where Charlie has been, I didn’t find her as annoying as I normally may have. I understand the power that some people can have over others, but I’m really not sure why Charlie allowed herself to be stomped on and belittled for so long. At first, I thought maybe it was just because she was weak, but I no longer think that’s the case. She obviously had enough courage to break tradition and tell someone of authority about the hazing issue. Something that had been going on for years, that no one else had really been willing to challenge and see that it changed. Not to mention the way she told off her former “best friends” during the dance. That kind of courage/strength doesn’t just appear because you’re going to a new school; I just don’t understand why she didn’t use it much, much sooner. Other than that, I really did like Charlie. She was a nerdy/smart girl, who although clueless at times, really did have a lot of substance to her.

Of course, I think her best friends, Sydney and Nidhi, really helped bring her to life. Both girls were smart and sassy and didn’t allow anyone to bulldoze over them. I kind of wish Wiseman would have fleshed them out more than she had though. For the most part, they were kind of stuck in the background (especially Nidhi) and never truly got to shine. I felt like there could have been so much more to them than being Charlie’s cheerleaders or filling the high school persona quota. It really is your classic case of secondary character who have so much potential that is never fully reached.

Romance: Without ruining anything here, I’m going to say that most of the romance is a read between-the-lines one. A lot of that high school drama of “oh he could never like me” type stuff. This is probably the area that felt the most cliquish to me. You’ve got the hunky jock who will inevitable like the sexy friend and then the boy who she grew up with who is just a “friend”. But while there is a lot of back-and-forth teasing and whatnot, nothing really happens until the last page. Like, literally, the last page. While there are couple of sweet moment here or there, don’t expect a heart-throb, sweep you off your feet romance.

Writing: Really no complaints whatsoever here. Wiseman really does weave a good story, even if it has all been done before. I was sucked into her world right away and never felt myself bored/not caring. The story flowed with ease and had me eager to see how it would turn out.

Librarian-Mode: I feel like I’ve been reading a lot and lot of chick-lit lately and have been giving the same recommendations over and over. Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials really is your typical high school drama full of peer pressure, friendship, and kicking away the norm. There are hundreds of books out there like that so I won’t go off naming them all. But if I were making a booklist I would easily throw this onto one with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Real Real, and Little Black Lies.