Monday, December 14, 2015

Lost in the Sun

Lisa Graff's new book is a companion story to the ever popular Umbrella Summer.  Last February Trent killed someone.  It wasn't on purpose, just a freak accident, but it has changed his whole life and the way he sees himself.  He's just so angry all the time now, and he can't really explain why.  The elementary school counselor gave him a notebook for his thoughts, but he doesn't write.  He draws--pictures of what life would be like if the accident hadn't happened or horrible ways he could die.

To make matters worse, Trent doesn't get along with his father at all.  They only seem to fight when they are together, and his new stepmother doesn't help.  They both act like Trent is a bomb ready to explode.

When school starts, he doesn't feel like he belongs anywhere, and every little injustice sets off his rage.  Trent used to love playing baseball, but now he panics every time he tries to play.

The only person who seems to see beyond the anger if Fallon Little.  Fallon is...different.  Her clothes are weird, she gets super excited about the strangest things, and she has a long scar the divides her face.  But this strange girl might be just what Trent needs.

This book is so good and an important read for anyone who struggles with anger issues and for the people in their lives.  My only criticism is that no one seems to think Trent might need professional help.  This is a kid dealing with a major trauma whose behavior changed drastically.  Anyone who is even paying a little attention should see that he needs help.  I know not everyone in Trent's situation would get the help he needs, but most people wouldn't get better without help either.  I just feel like this is a missed opportunity.

With that said, you should all go out and read this book today!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bayou Magic

It's Maddy's turn to spend the summer in Bon Temps, the Louisiana bayou, and she's not exactly jumping for joy.  Her older sisters have warned her that Grandmere is crazy, there's no TV, no internet, no life.

But as soon as she arrives, Maddy begins to relax.  She instantly connects with Grandmere and her friends in the bayou including Bear, a boy with red hair, freckles, and an adventurous spirit.  Maddy and Bear explore the bayou and its wildlife.

This is plenty of magic on its own, but Maddy quickly discovers that she is like her Grandmere, Tiny Mighty.  She has a magic gift that allows her to call the fireflies and see mermaids.

Long ago a water spirit called Mami Wata followed Maddy's ancestors on a slave ship to America.  Could Mami Wata be real?

Maddy is enjoying her time in Bon Temps until a disaster threatens the gulf, the bayou, and the plants, people, and animals who live there.  Is Maddy really Tiny Mighty like Grandmere?  Can she save her beloved bayou?

Jewell Parker Rhodes's new book is love letter to the Louisiana bayous and the gulf coast and a call to action in preserving the Louisiana wetlands especially in light of the Deep Water Horizon disaster.

Monday, December 7, 2015


Christopher believes in the Great Mission he and the other people on Perses are fulfilling.  They've left an earth with depleted resources to mine an asteroid in orbit around the sun.  Life is pretty good until the blackout.

When the sun blocks communication with earth, a raiding party attacks killing almost everyone instantly.  Now Christopher and the surviving children must find a way to stay alive, and their best hope is in the mines.

Christopher's best friend Elena wants to strike against the Landers, but Christopher disagrees.  They have no weapons.  They just need to survive until the blackout is over and then they can signal earth for rescue.

But what if the Landers don't just want to steal the ore and leave?  What if they want to destroy all the evidence they were ever on Perses in the first place?  Maybe Elena was right.  Maybe it is a fight or die situation.

Kevin Sylvester's new book was a page turning thrill ride!  My only complaint is that the kids act older than their assigned ages, but just put that out of your mind and enjoy the adventure.  You will not be able to put this one down!

Goodbye Stranger

When Bridge was little, she was nearly died after being hit by a car.  She survived, and now she and her two best friends are moving into the seventh grade, and life is starting to change.

For one thing, Emily suddenly looks more like an adult than a little kid, and she's suddenly really good at soccer.  This all means she is getting a lot of attention from different people including an older boy.

Tab is exploring her life as a feminist thanks to the Burperson, her new teacher and idol.

And Bridge has started wearing the cat ears from last year's Halloween costume every day, and she has a new friend who is...a boy.  Can boys be friends?

When Emily's relationship escalates to scandal, the three friends "no fighting" rule will be put to the test.

Plus, an unnamed girl is struggling with a betrayal on Valentine's Day and wondering if forgiveness is possible.

I really enjoyed Rebecca Stead's new book, but I do think it skews a bit older than her other books.  That's not a bad thing--just a bit of a surprise.  This book tackles issues that tweens and teens are dealing with today in relationships and with body image.  I think my favorite aspect of this book is how well the author portrays love between friends.  The characters are not afraid or embarrassed to tell each other "I love you."  We should all be more willing to be so open and honest with our friends.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Clockwork Scarab

Mina Holmes is the niece of the great detective, Sherlock, and she has done her best to be a great observer and detective like her famous uncle.  She may not be graceful or beautiful, but she is smart, scientific, and brave.

Evaline Stoker is beautiful, but she is also deadly.  She has inherited the vampire slaying gene of her family which give her incredible speed and agility.

These two young women have been recruited by Irene Adler to serve the royal family in investigating unusual crimes.

The first case is a series of dead girls who appear at first to have committed suicide, but they were really murdered.  A clockwork scarab beetle was found with each body.

This leads our two heroines down a twisting case involving Egyptian cults, street ruffians, opium, and a time traveling young man from the future.

Will our heroines be able to overcome their own weaknesses and prejudices against each other before another girl dies?  Read Colleen Gleason's series opener to find out.

There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about this books, but it wasn't quite perfect.  The time travelling alternate universe aspect seems a bit clumsy and doesn't have any kind of conclusion.  But this is still a fun read with strong female characters and a dash of steampunk thrown in.

Newt's Emerald

When the Newington Emerald, stone of immense magical power and source of the Newington luck, is stolen right from under Lady Truthful Newington's nose, there is only one possible solution.  She will go to London, dress as a young man, and investigate the crime herself.  It's Regency England after all, no lady would be allowed to investigate the emerald's disappearance let alone move about the city unescorted!

With the help of her feisty sorceress aunt and an ensorcelled mustache, Truthful clumsily begins her investigation.  When she encounters Major Harnett, a handsome but arrogant war hero, she finds an unexpected source of help.

But will it be enough to get the emerald and save England from the villain who would use its powers for evil?  Lady Truthful will not be pushed out of the investigation despite the growing danger to her person and to her heart.

I was excited to see this from Garth Nix, one of my favorite authors.  It is a perfect blend of adventure, fantasy, romance, and Regency manners.  This is truly a fun read!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Night Divided

Gerta wakes up one morning to find her city divided by a fence.  East Berlin is controlled by the Communists, and Gerta's father and brother are on the other side.  She, her mother, and her older brother are trapped.  The fence is patrolled by soldiers who will shoot to get their message across.  Eventually, the fence becomes a wall, and Gerta wonders if she will ever escape or see her father again.

Her older brother Fitz becomes increasingly frustrated with life in the East, and Gerta, too, longs for freedom.  One day after years of separation, she see her brother and her father on the wall.  It is dangerous to stop and stare, but it seems like Papa is trying to tell her something.  Does Papa want her to...dig?

With the threat of death hanging over them at every moment, Fritz and Gerta begin their plan to escape Communist rule to find freedom in the East.  Gerta will have to sacrifice food, safety, and friendship to attain her dream, but she is determined to have her freedom at any cost, even if that cost is her life.

Historical fiction is a departure for Jennifer A. Nielson, but this book is definitely a winner!  Highly recommended especially for kids who devour books about the Holocaust.  This is a good stepping stone for discussion about what happened after WWII.


Jackson loves facts.  He wants to be a scientist, an animal scientist more specifically.  That's why the reappearance of his imaginary friend is so unsettling to him.  Crenshaw is an enormous black and white cat who likes to take bubble baths and loves purple jelly beans.  But what is he doing here?  It's hard enough to deal with a talking cat, but when no one else can see the cat, you start to feel a little crazy.

Jackson wants Crenshaw to leave.  Crenshaw insists he will leave when Jackson doesn't need him anymore.  The last time Crenshaw showed up was when Jackson's family lost their house, and they had to live in the minivan for a few months.  That can't be happening again.

Surely they will find a way to stay in their apartment.  Jackson likes his neighborhood, his school, and his best friend Marisol, but sometimes life just doesn't work out the way you want it to even when you are doing the best you can.

Katherine Applegate's newest book is a bittersweet story about childhood, friendship, and the painful reality of poverty and homelessness.  Highly recommended!

The Lost Planet

Chase Garrety knows nothing when he wakes up in a field on Trucon.  Heck, he doesn't even know he's on Trucon or what his name is until someone tells him later.  He has a major head wound, and now he's recuperating in a huge with some kid named Parker who appears to be completely unsupervised except for an android named Mina.  Who is Chase, and where did he come from?

When Chase and Parker break out of their prison/home for a little fun on a nearby planet, disaster strikes.  The planet is destoryed!  Now the boys don't know where to go or what to do.

They pick up a man floating in space hoping he is alive, but Maurus has his own secrets, and the boys are now drawn into his story.  They travel to distant planets trying to outrun police, and high ranking men with evil plots all while trying to figure out who Chase really is.

Oh, and one more thing.  Chase discovers he has a special talent.  He is not a normal human boy, and that talent could lead to his doom or his salvation.

Rachel Searles's book is a fast paced sci-fi adventure!

The Hollow Boy

I love this series so much!  The third installment takes our ghost hunting trio even further into the mystery of London's hauntings.  There is a massive outbreak in Chelsea, and Lockwood is miffed that his agency isn't in on the action despite a recent spate of high profile jobs.  Even so, the agency is overworked, and Anthony, Lucy, and George are wearing a little thin.

To make matters worse, George and Anthony have hired the beautiful and annoyingly perfect Holly Munro as a secretary/office manager while Lucy was out of town.  Sure, Ms. Munro is practically perfect and they are working higher profile jobs, but Lucy just can't seem to find her way to liking the perfect Ms. Munro.

Lucy's increasing frustration is leading to problems at work, and it's not just with Holly Munro.  After using her gift of listening to resolve a major haunting, Lucy is convinced, this could be a tool for agents to use in the future.  Lockwood and George firmly disagree; they believe listening to ghosts could get Lucy killed.

On top of all this, Lucy can't deny her growing affection for Anthony Lockwood, but he seems even more closed off than ever.  Will our intrepid heroes be able to overcome their problems and get back to being the best, if the smallest, agency in London?  Will they be able to solve the Chelsea hauntings?  Read Jonathan Stroud's new book to find out!

Also, there is a hug cliffhanger at the end.  Why, Stroud, why?!  This is me reading the final sentences:

The Madman of Piney Woods

Benji loves the forest surrounding his home in Buxton, Canada.  There's pretty much no other place he'd rather be.  He can read the scattered leaves and bent branches like a book to understand what has happened there.  He's always heard stories about the Madman of Piney Woods, but he's never been sure they're true until the day he senses someone watching him.  Could it be the Madman himself?

Red has spent his life in fear of his prejudiced and often abusive grandmother.  He doesn't understand why she hates everyone including him.  He tries to take his father's advice and appreciate her as the person who gave them beloved but now dead mother.  It's not easy.

One day these two boys have a chance meeting that begins an instant friendship, and they navigate their way through a society that doesn't think Irish boys and children of former slaves should be friends.

Their friendship is put to the ultimate test when the most vulnerable member of their community is in danger.  It will take all their courage, strength, and trust to make it through the most terrifying night of both their lives.

There are parts of Christopher Paul Curtis's newest book that I really love, but it's just not my favorite of his books.  The alternating points of view go on too long before the boys have any contact with each other.  I wanted more of an intersection earlier in the story to make it feel more cohesive.  It's still a good book and definitely worth reading.  Once the boys come together, it's classic Christopher Paul Curtis filled with adventure, hope, and heartbreak.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fuzzy Mud

When Tamaya and Marshall take a "shortcut" through the woods to avoid a bully on their way home from school one day, their lives are changed forever.  Soon they are hopelessly lost, and the bully, Chad, is closing in.  To defend herself and Marshall, Tamaya scoops up a handful of strange fuzzy mud and throws it in Chad's face.

It's only later when they are home that Tamaya realizes there is something strange going on.  Her hand feels tingly and is covered in a rash that is getting worse by the minute.

This story is inter-cut with excerpts from senate hearings on a new fuel source called bioline.  It's make of tiny microorganisms to double at an alarming rate.

Now it's a race against time to see if the characters realize the truth and get help before it's too late.

Read Louis Sachar's new book for a terrifying sci-fi mystery that seems all too plausible.

Sunny Side Up

Sunny thinks going to Florida to visit her grandfather will be great!  Beaches!  Disneyworld! Right? Wrong.

Sunny is pretty bored at the retirement community where her grandfather lives until she meets Buzz, the son of the groundskeeper. Buzz introduces Sunny to comic books, and she discovers a fun new world.  They also accidentally find a way to make money to buy new comics by helping the ladies of the community find their missing cats.

There's also a giant alligator roaming around for a little extra adventure!

But Sunny still  has a lot on her mind.  Her grandpa told her he quit smoking, but she keeps finding cigarettes hidden in the apartment.  That on top of the fact that her older brother is dealing with some serious problems back home that no one wants to talk about, makes Sunny a little frustrated with keeping secrets.

Read this new graphic novel by sibling team Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm to find out if Sunny can solve all her problems to stay "sunny side up!"

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I read the first two volumes of this graphic novel series by a quartet of authors, and I really enjoyed both.  They are packed with adventure, friendship, wackiness, and references to female icons.

Our heroes are cabin-mates and best friends Jo, Mal, April, Molly, and Ripley.  It's a little easy to confuse personalities and who is talking at first, but give it some time and it will all make sense--in a crazy kind of way.  While out on one of their rule bending adventures they come across some odd three-eyed creatures and nearly drive their counselor to the edge, but their camp director, Rosie, thinks it's a good idea to give them some freedom.

Soon the girls are out solving clues and facing danger.  The camp's motto is "Friendship to the max!," and the girls are definitely dedicated to friendship and each other.  I really enjoyed this graphic about girls that's focused on friendship instead of romance, and it's nice to see female characters with more normal body types who are fully dressed.  Plus, I think "What the junk?" is going to be my new catchphrase!

There isn't an official website for the Lumberjanes yet, but here is a link to their Tumblr.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina has lived her life in secret.  She and her pa live in the basement of the massive Biltmore Estate which he helped build.  Now he works there as an electrician.  Serafina knows she must keep their secret or they will lose their home, but she isn't sure why they must live in secret in the basement.  Even though she loves her silent nighttime prowls around Biltmore, she longs for friendship.

One night she sees a terrifying man with a black cloak chasing a young girl through the house.  As she watches, the man throws the cloak over the girl and it seems to swallow her whole.  Serafina runs to tell her pa what happened, but he thinks it's just another one of her stories.

Then several more children go missing, and Serafina realizes she's the only one who knows the truth.  In the chaos of the staff and guests searching for the missing children, Serafina accidentally exposes herself to Braeden, the nephew of Biltmore's owners.

Serafina isn't sure if he will by an ally or an enemy, but it seems that Braeden is as much in need of friendship as Serafina, and he believes her story about the man in the black cloak.  Now they are on the hunt together to uncover the villain's identity before he takes any more children.  The more Serafina uncovers, the more she questions her own identity.  Is she a "creature of the night," too?  Is that why Pa keeps her a secret in the basement?

Read Robert Beatty's dark fantasy tale to find out!

Chasing Secrets

Lizzie Kennedy's life is by no means perfect.  Her mother died when she was little, so now she is in the clutches of her Aunt Prudence who only seemed concerned with making Lizzie into a proper young lady for Chicago society in 1900.  Lizzie secretly loves science and struggles to get along with the other girls at Miss Barstow's finishing school.

When a plague quarantine in Chinatown puts everyone on edge, Lizzie finds a secret in her own home.  Her family's beloved cook, Jing, has gone missing and Lizzie fears he is caught in the quarantine.  Her doctor father is away on a call and won't be back for days.  No one listens to Lizzie's pleas for help.  After Jing's disappearance Lizzie discovers his son Noah hiding in Jing's attic bedroom.  The two quickly become friends, and Lizzie's resolve to rescue Jing is strengthened.

All the important people are saying there is no plague in San Francisco, but if this is true, then why is there a quarantine?  And what does a monkey have to do with anything?  Lizzie has plenty of questions, but no one wants to listen to a girl.  At best they tell her not to "worry her pretty head" about these things.  Will Lizzie uncover the truth in time to save someone she loves?

Gennifer Choldenko's new book is a medical mystery inspired by the real life plague outbreak in 1900 in San Francisco.  It is a fascinating story with a great author's note about which parts of the story were based on real people and events.

Terrible Typhoid Mary

Susan Campbell Bartoletti's new book explores Mary Mallon's role in the typhoid frenzy at the beginning of the 20th century.  Mary's connection to the disease began when she was hired as a cook for a wealthy family on summer vacation.  Several members of the family and staff were stricken with typhoid fever, but no one knew why.

Mary's connection may never have been discovered if the owners of the house hadn't hired a man named George Soper to investigate.  It was Soper who discovered Mary was a healthy carrier of the disease.  She showed no symptoms, but her body was host for the deadly typhoid bacteria.

What followed was an epic battle of wills between Soper and Mary Mallon.  Mary's case is important because it tested the power of the New York Board of Health.  Could the government imprison people for being sick?  What about Mary who wasn't sick at all and had no skills other than cooking?

One of the best aspects of this book is the author's exploration of notoriety.  After Mary's name was reported in the press, she became a scapegoat for typhoid fever despite all the other healthy carrier's who were never imprisoned and all the people who got sick but had nothing to do with Mary Mallon. Is being sick a crime?

Skink: No Surrender

Richard's cousin has done something stupid.  Malley met a guy online, and now she's run away with him.  Fourteen year old Malley insists she's fine, but Richard is worried.  The police are on the case, but Richard knows Malley better than anyone, so when a crazy looking guy he met on the beach wants to go find her, Richard decides to join him.

Skink may look like a crazy homeless guy with mismatched eyes, and there is the fact that Richard met him hiding on the beach to catch a turtle egg poacher, but there is something about Skink that makes Richard trust him.

Even though Skink seems like a crazy homeless guy, he has resources that can get him a car and money for the hunt.  Even though Skink doesn't know Malley, he's in it for the puzzle and to punish the loser who's kidnapped Malley.  His real love seems to be the environment though, and Richard isn't sure they will survive all the crazy things Skink does to protect animals or the roadkill dinners he serves up along the way.

This book is a great mystery with one crazy character and plenty of laughs!  Plus, this could be a series opener with more Skink stories to follow!  Read Carl Hiaasen's new book for action, mystery, comedy, and, of course, environmental awareness!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Surrounded by Sharks

Davey just wants a little alone time on the family vacation in the Florida Keys, so when he wakes up earlier than everyone else, he decides to take his book and sneak out.

He quickly comes to realize this was a mistake, maybe a deadly one.  Davey gets caught in a rip tide and pulled out to sea.  No one knows where he is.  They don't even know he left the hotel room.

When the family discovers Davey missing, they aren't too worried at first.  After all, he likes to go off to read alone.  But their concern turns to worry and then panic as the hours pass and Davey is clearly not on the small island.

When Davey is already exhausted from spending hours in the sun, he sees the first one.  A blue shark is swimming in slow lazy circles around him.  That's when he really begins to panic.

In alternating chapters, Michael Northrop tells Davey's story and the story of his family and the people trying to find him.  This book definitely lives up to its name and was much more intense than I was expecting!  The last several pages flew by as I hurried to discover Davey's fate.  Recommended for adventure/survival fans and shark fans!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stella by Starlight

When Stella and her little brother, Jojo, witness the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross at night, their community is moved to action.  Everyone is afraid, but no one knows what to do.  It's 1932 in Bumblebee, North Carolina, and it seems like the KKK has always been around to remind the African American community of their place.

But things might be changing.  Three black men want to register to vote, and Stella's father is one of them.  They know it is dangerous, but they also know people like the Klan will never just give them rights.  It they want dignity and self respect, they will have to step up and demand it.

Stella is proud of her father's courage, but her mother is worried about retaliation.  When tragedy strikes, the whole community will come together including some people Stella never expected to see on her side.  Will Stella be able to overcome her own fears and find her courage?

Sharon Draper's new book explores a troubling time of segregation and transition in our nation's past and the power of one young girl's courage.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Stitching Snow

Essie has been eking out an existence on the frozen mining colony of Thanda.  She survives among the rough miners by repairing and improving drones and other equipment for the mines, but even that is not enough to protect her.  She earns extra money by cage fighting, and it doesn't hurt that the skills she's learned in those fights helps her keep any men with ideas at a distance.  Her only friends are the seven drones she's upgraded to think and work independently and Petey, the soft hearted bar owner.

Her life changes when a shuttle crash lands near her home.  She saves the pilot, a handsome off-worlder who says is looking for treasure.  The damaged ship is a more challenging puzzle for Essie than anything in the mines, so she volunteers to help him repair his ship.

A chance moment reveals Essie's secret to Dane, and she soon realizes she is the treasure he is seeking.  Eight years ago, Princess Snow disappeared from her home on Windsong.  Everyone believed she was kidnapped, and unbeknownst to her, her disappearance sparked a war that has lasted these eight years.

But Essie has more secrets than just her identity.  She wasn't kidnapped; she ran away.  Now Dane has kidnapped her for real and they are hurtling through space and back to her deadly home on Windsong.

But this will not be a straight forward journey for Essie or Dane.  As secrets come to light, the two will grow closer, and there will be no easy decisions.

The time has finally come for Essie to face the truth about her past, her future, and the gentle awakening of her heart.

R.C. Lewis's book is a sci-fi version of Snow White that is fast paced and engrossing.  But be warned, the Evil Queen in Disney's version of the story has nothing on Essie's father and step-mother in this story.  Highly recommended!

City of a Thousand Dolls

In a fantasy world reminiscent of ancient China, Nisha is one of my girls abandoned and raised in the City of a Thousand Dolls.  All families are limited to two children, and boys are considered more valuable than girls.  The City was created as a place where the girls could be trained in various pursuits and professions.

Nisha is just one of these girls, but she is different from the others.  Rather than being trained with one of the Houses, Nisha has been raised as Matron's assistant, a position that allows her to train with the other houses while she helps Matron keep the City running efficiently.  She is also Matron's secret spy, always keeping her eyes and ears open.

It is this special role that allows her to be of use when tragedy strikes.  When one of the girls is found dead, no one is completely sure if it was an accident, suicide, or even murder.  Nisha begins her own subtle investigation with the help of her friends, a group of spotted cats who've taken up residence in the city.  No one knows her secret; she and the cats can talk to each other, and they are her closest friends.

When another girl is found dead, it is clear there is a murderer in the City, and Nisha is determined to find out the killer's identity.  As she continues her investigation, political machinations put the whole City at risk.  The power hungry tar'Vey family is stepping into position to control the city and get rid of Matron.  All of this comes at a time when the city is on the cusp of what could be it's greatest triumph or its greatest disaster.  One of Nisha's closest friends has been selected by the prince to be his bride, and the day of the marriage is fast approaching.  Any misstep could spell disaster for the City and for Nisha as she closes in on the killer.  But there are more secrets than Nisha knows in the City of a Thousand Dolls.  There are some secrets everyone knows but no one admits, and there are some secrets to terrible to fathom.

Miriam Forster's novel is thrilling experience!  A fantasy murder mystery with a side of talking cats and a dash of female empowerment--it's like it was written just for me!  I absolutely loved it!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Mark of the Thief

Nic has been a slave for years, toiling away in the miles for his cruel master Sal.  Everything changes when the miners discover a forgotten tunnel rumored to contain the lost treasure of Julius Caesar himself.  The only problem is the first man sent to the cave never returned, and the second has been reduced to a babbling fool.  Nic wants nothing to do with this supposed treasure, but when General Radulf shows up demanding that Nic, because he is the smallest slave, descend to cave, he has no choice but to comply.

Once inside, Nic must battle a griffin to get a bulla once owned by Caesar.  He is supposed to deliver the bulla to Radulf, but now that he has it, he decides to keep it for himself.

Thus begins a tale of magic, treason, and political machinations. Now Nic is thrust into the midst of a vicious power struggle in the heart of Rome itself.

 Fans of Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendance Trilogy will enjoy the action and adventure in this new book.  Recommended for adventure fans and those hungry for more mythology after the Percy Jackson series.  The gods don't make an appearance in this book, but they are a powerful force in the story.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fire Wish

Zayele is happy in her remote village.  Even if she isn't particularly close to her parents, she loves her little brother and has some freedom to run and play without worrying about being proper.  Everything changes when the vizier shows up to choose a bride for the prince.

Now she is headed to Baghdad to marry a prince she's never met and likely never see her home again.  Her cousin Rahela is coming as her companion, and the two girls are locked in a tiny room in their river barge for their safety.  Zayele is desperate to escape, so when she sees something impossible outside her tiny window, she acts quickly.  No one has seen a jinni in years, not since the war started, but now Zayele has captured her own escape.

Najwa has spent her life in the cavern with the rest of the jinn learning to master her powers.  She is learning quickly and discovers by accident that she can do something no one else can do.  It's a talent that could turn the tide in the war with humans.

But a decision made in anger to leave the cavern could cost her everything.  Now she is trapped in Zayele's place pretending to be a human girl, a princess even, who is about to be married to a boy she's never met.

Will these two girls unravel the truth about their past, the war, and their hearts in time?  Read Amber Lough's book to find out!  I really enjoyed this book.  My only complaint is the romance feels a little rushed, but Lough has book two to develop things.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Port Chicago 50

Steve Sheinkin's newest book focuses on civil rights and the military.  During WWII, African American men were actively recruited by several branches of he military, but men who had hoped to defend their country in battle were soon disappointed.  And any hope that military service would further the cause of civil rights and put an end to segregation and discrimination was soon extinguished.

Barracks and training facilities were segregated.  Black and white soldiers weren't even allowed to eat together.  Often black soldiers had to wait until white soldiers had finished eating and take the leftovers.  To make matters worse, black soldiers were not assigned to combat positions.  Instead they were relegated to cleaning, cooking, or in the case of the Port Chicago 50, loading ammunition onto ships to be sent to the battle front.

Port Chicago was a naval base where many black sailors were stationed to handle ammunition.  The work was physically challenging and often dangerous.  To make matters worse, the men received almost no training on how to handle the dangerous explosives.  Plus, the officers would often ride the men to work faster because they placed bets on whose unit could work faster.

It's not a surprise that disaster finally struck, and many men were killed, injured, or left traumatized.  Shortly after the disaster that killed many of their friends and fellow sailors, 250 men refused to return to work loading ammunition because they feared for their safety.  Nothing had changed at Port Chicago, and the men were tired of risking their lives in unnecessarily dangerous conditions.  Add in the fact that only black sailors were assigned to the task, and the situation becomes a clear case of racism.

Fifty of the men were eventually charged with mutiny.  They faced a trial and possible imprisonment or death.  Add in a young Thurgood Marshall who saw this as a clear case of discrimination, and you have a fascinating court room drama about the end of segregation in the military.

Pair this book with Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone for an in depth examination of segregation in the military.  I highly recommend both titles!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Brown Girl Dreaming

What is not to love about Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse?  This is a beautiful and eloquent book about Woodson's childhood and the people and places that shaped it.

Though her early childhood is spent in Ohio, Woodson's soul is already filled with the stories and people of South Carolina.  Even after the family moves to New York. Greenville, South Carolina, is an anchor.

This book is an exploration of place, people, and what it means to become yourself.  I absolutely loved it, and you will, too!

Watch the video below to hear the author reading from the book.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Red Queen

Mare Barrow has spent her life in the Stilts.  It's a life of poverty and servitude for anyone who's Red.  Somehow part of the human race evolved to have special powers and silver blood.  The Silvers rule while the Reds are forced to enlist in endless bloody wars.

Mare knows her life will be no different until a chance encounter leads her to a job at the palace.  Now she is spared from mandatory military duty, and her family is getting a little more money.  Now, if her older brothers could just make it out of the war alive, her life might actually get better.

But the changes aren't over for Mare yet.  A horrible accident that should have killed her, reveals that she, too, has a gift.  How is it even possible for a Red to be gifted?

With rebellion stirring among the Reds, the king and queen see Mare as opportunity.  Now she lives in a world of lies.  Mare doesn't even feel like herself anymore, and she certainly doesn't know who to trust.  In this new world of vicious Silvers and revolutionary Reds, anyone can betray anyone.

Victoria Aveyard's new book is a great romantic thriller with plenty of twists and turns!  Highly recommended!

Heaven Is Paved with Oreos

Sarah is struggling with her relationship with her best friend/fake boyfriend.  She and Curtis spend so much time together that people teased them about dating, so they just decided to pretend they were.  But now that they are heading into high school, things are changing between them.  It's not just pure science anymore.

This is perfect timing for Sarah's wild Grandma Z to show up insisting she's headed to Italy on a pilgrimage, and she wants to take Sarah with her.

Things start out great, but Sarah begins to realize there is more to this trip than she realized as Grandma Z begins acting strange, even for her.

This trip will be more than an Italian adventure.  It will be a time for Sarah to learn some things about herself and her best friend/fake? boyfriend as well as some truths hidden in her family tree.

This companion novel can be read independently from the Dairy Queen series, but if you haven't read those, you totally should!  Catherine Gilbert Murdock's new book is a fun return to some favorite characters.

The Island of Dr. Libris

Billy is spending the summer in a cabin on the lake with no wi-fi and no TV.  What's a kid to do but read a couple of books from that locked bookshelf in the office.  No big deal, right?  As soon as Billy opens a book to read, he hears the characters in real life in the distance.

No, Billy isn't crazy.  He and his new friend Walter head out the island in the middle of the lake, and things really get crazy.  Characters from any book they read come to life right in front of them:  Hercules, Pollyanna, Robin Hood, even an alien villain from a comic book.

With all these characters running around, things start to get crazy, and the two boys have to figure out how to get them back in their books.  But Billy is working on another plan, one to get his parents back together.

What is causing these characters to come to life, and who is Dr. Libris?  Read Chris Grabenstein's book to find out!

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

Wow!  I really enjoyed this one!  I didn't know much about this family before reading the book, but now I feel like I know them as people.  Candace Fleming's book deftly portrays the final years of Romanov rule.

Tsar Nicholas was born to rule and raised to understand that he ruled by divine right.  Russia was divided into three groups in those days.  The aristocracy who personally owned over ninety percent of all Russia's wealth lived in opulent homes with servants and beautiful clothes never mixing with anyone else.  There was a professional class who were teachers, lawyers, doctors, clergy, etc.  Everyone else was a peasant scraping by from day to day hoping for food to eat.  Most peasants couldn't even afford shoes.

Still, many peasants still saw the Tsar as a benevolent father until his marriage to Alexandra, his German born Tsarina.  Nicholas was always weak willed, but after his marriage he bowed even more to his wife's dictates.  This, of course, included the welcoming of Rasputin a so-called holy man.

Rasputin's corrupting influence is just part of the reason Tsar Nicholas lost power.  Read this fascinating tale of murder and rebellion to get the full story including the sad end of the Romanov family.  Highly recommended!

Circus Mirandus

Micah believes everything his grandfather ever told him about Circus Mirandus:  the beautiful flying bird woman, the world's smartest elephant, The Man Who Bends Light.  It's always been Micah and his grandfather since Micah was little, but now Grandpa is dying.

When Ephraim was a boy, he visited the magical circus, and the Lighbender promised him a miracle.  He's been saving it all these years, but now it's time to call it in.  He's too sick to visit the circus himself, so Micah must go in his place.  Along with his practical friend, Jenny, Micah must find the circus to save his grandfather.

As if finding a magical hidden circus weren't hard enough, he also has to sneak around Aunt Gertrudis who does not believe in magic.  She won't even let Micah in to see Grandpa

Micah sets off on a grand adventure to save his grandfather, but he also learns some truths about himself and his family.  Can the Lightbender provide a miracle after all these years?  Read Cassie Beasley's book to find out!

Friday, August 7, 2015

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Olivia has always considered herself average:  average smart, average height, even her skin is an average brown.  The only things about her that aren't average are her ability to draw, and the fact that she's basically an orphan.  Her mother died when she was a baby, and she's never really met her father.  She's talked to him on the phone, and she writes letters all the time, but his job makes it difficult for them to meet in person.

But Olivia is not average, and the truth comes out when the school bully starts taunting her one day about being a princess.  Olivia knows it isn't true and tries to fight back, but maybe she's wrong.  The truth comes out when none other than Mia Thermopolis shows up at Olivia's middle school and explains that Olivia is actually her half sister!

This explains a lot.  Her mother wanted her to have a normal life, so her father, the crown prince of Genovia, had to keep his distance, and her aunt and uncle raised her alongside her horrible cousins.  But all her worries could be over because Olivia really is destined for an extraordinary life!

This is the first book in a new series by Meg Cabot, and all your favorite characters from The Princess Diaries are here in supporting roles.  My only complaint is this book is pretty much all set up.  I guess we have to wait for book two for Olivia's adventures to begin.

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Sixth grade isn't going so well for Ellie.  Her best friend is now obsessed with volleyball and has less time for Ellie, but Ellie has yet to find the thing she is passionate about.  She's not artistic like her divorced parents.  Her mother is a former actor turned school counselor, and her father still makes his living as a professional actor. They've tried to make Ellie into an actor, but it just isn't her thing.

Her world is in for a crazy turn when her mother comes home late one night with an odd 13 year old boy named Melvin who turns out to be her long lost grandfather.  Melvin has been working on the cure to aging his entire life, and he's finally found success with some odd consequences.  No one believes he's the real Melvin; he's just a kid.  Now that he's a kid again, the law thinks Melvin needs supervision, and all the conflict Ellie's artistic mother has had with her scientist father come home to roost.  Now Melvin is the same bossy and stubborn old man he was before but in the body of a kind of cute teenager!

As Ellie begins helping Melvin recover his formula, she discovers something about herself.  Ellie loves science, too!  Is the world ready for the cure to aging?  Read Jennifer L. Holm's new book to find out!  I really enjoyed this one--fun and thoughtful!

The Swap

Ellie is about to start 7th grade, but what should be an exciting new start is hampered by her former best friend Sassy.  Ellie and Sassy have been best friends forever, but suddenly Sassy has turned her mean girls ways on Ellie.  Ellie isn't ready to let go, but every day with Sassy is a painful examination of all her flaws.

Sassy is obsessed "The Prince" Jack Malloy who seems to have everything.  He's popular, cute, and a great athlete, but no one knows the secret anxiety Jack feels every day.  Since his mother died, his father has been less a father and more a drill sergeant.  Nothing Jack does is good enough, and any show of emotion is weakness.

Things come to a head for Ellie and Jack on the first day of school when they end up in the nurse's office together as a result of separate altercations.  There's a strange new nurse who mutters something about switching places and standing up for yourself, and the next thing you know POOF! Jack and Ellie have switched bodies!

What follows is a weekend filled with hilarious and embarrassing situations as Ellie and Jack learn to navigate each other's lives.  Jack enjoys some nurturing time with Ellie's mom, and Ellie learns she's stronger than she ever thought from Jack's crazy and supportive older brothers.  The two form an odd sort of friendship, but it's not until they learn some gumption that they will get their own lives back.

I picked up this book because it's been very popular in the library, and now that I've read it, I know why!  This book is hilarious and heartfelt.  I love the way Megan Shull allows her two protagonists to see themselves through the eyes of someone else.  I wish we could all see our problems and our strengths from a distance like Ellie and Jack.  I highly recommend this book!  Just be aware that some of the hilarity arises from gentle references to normal parts of puberty.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Kiss of Deception

Princess Lia has no intention of marrying some fusty old prince she's never met.  She refuses to tie herself to a man who won't even meet her before the wedding in a kingdom far from everyone she knows and loves.  That's why she and her maid Pauline run away just before her wedding.

The two young women flee to a picturesque seaside village where they get jobs as maids at an inn.  Lia adapts to her new life fairly quickly and enjoys the freedom of anonymity in her new simple life.

But not everyone is happy with Princess Lia's decision.  Two men are on her trail.  One is her fiance who's come to find out just who this girl is who would defy two kingdoms.  The other is an assassin.

When two handsome strangers arrive at the inn, Lia is interested, but she has no inkling of who they really are, and neither Kaden nor Rafe recognizes the other for who he is.

In a crazy love triangle complicated by political ramifications, will Lia discover the truth in time to save herself and her kingdom?

This is Mary E. Pearson's first book in the Remnant Chronicles, and if you're a fan of fantasy love triangles, you've just met your new match!


Why would anyone ever leave Serenity, New Mexico?  There's no unemployment or poverty, no crime, and no one lies.  Even better, everyone has a nice house with a pool in the backyard!  Sure, it's a small town in the middle of a desert, but Eli, and everyone else, lives a peaceful and prosperous life.

When Eli and his best friend Randy decide to go on a bike ride just outside the city limits, both their lives are upset.  Once they pass the city limits, Eli is overcome with terrible stomach cramps.  Randy isn't.  This convinces Eli to dig deeper, and he recruits his friends to help.

The more they look, the more secrets they uncover.  Just what exactly is going on in Serenity, and who can Eli and his friends trust?  Read Gordon Korman's new series opener to find the truth!  This was a fun read.  My only complaint is that there is no real ending.  This really is part one of the story.  I guess I'll just have to keep reading to find out what happen next!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Every time Charlie Laird goes to sleep, he has nightmares, but that's not even the worst of his problems.  Even though he is still struggling with his mother's death, his father has remarried Charlotte, and Charlie is sure she's a witch.  He's seen things he can't explain any other way.  Plus, she made the family move from the house they shared with Charlie's mother to the creepy old purple mansion her family has owned for generations.

Things get even worse when the witch who torments Charlie in his dreams comes into the waking world.  That's when he knows he has to do something.  Charlie goes into the nightmare world awake to face his worst nightmares and save all the children of his town.

Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller have created a nightmare world this both frightening and funny layered on to the real world where Charlie is still struggling with grief over his mother's death.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

Everyone wants to be famous, right?  Especially, if you are Prince Charming of fairy tale fame, but the princes who bear that name have a couple of complaints.  First, they did all the work rescuing princes, fighting dragons, etc, so why are the stories named after the girls?  Everyone knows Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, but have you ever heard of Liam, Gustav, Duncan, and Frederic?  Didn't think so.

Also, the princes didn't realize when they got caught up in those famous stories that they would end up married or engaged to those girls regardless of whether they liked each other.

The princes find themselves kicked out of their homes (and sometimes kingdoms), and they stumble across each other in the forest.  They also stumble across a plot from a wicked witch named Zaubera who has kidnapped the four most famous bards in the four kingdoms.  Now Cinderella has been kidnapped, too!

Who will save her if not a band of Princes Charming?

This first book in Christopher Healy is fun and exciting though it does get bogged down a bit in the middle.  Recommended for fairy tale and humor fans.

Challenger Deep

Caden Bosch is on a dangerous adventure aboard a pirate ship headed to the Marianas Trench, the deepest point on earth.  It is there he will discover the truth.  The ship is led by a ruthless captain and his mutinous parrot.

But as demanding as The Captain may be, another world tugs at Caden.  It's a world with parents, family, friends, and school.  Reality.  Caden has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and the world inside his mind is quickly becoming more real to him than the world outside.

As he descends into his journey aboard the ship, his behavior becomes increasingly erratic, and his family is finally forced to realize they can't help him.

This is a powerful story inspired by the author's experiences with his own son who does the illustrations in the book.  This is no simple movie of the week where answers and solutions are easy.  This is a complex story that weaves reality into Caden's fantasy world as he searches for healing.

This book is different from Neal Shusterman's other stories and deals with mature themes, but it is still written with his signature style and skill.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Story of Owen

"Listen!  For I sing of Owen Thorskard:  valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers.  Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival."

Owen is in training to be the next great Thorskard dragonslayer.  His Aunt Lottie is probably the most famous dragonslayer since St. George, but an accident put her out of commission.  Now it's her brother, Owen's father, who is out slaying dragons while Lottie trains Owen.

Instead of moving to one of the big cities and taking a job with a big corporation, the Throskards have moved to Trondheim, a small town in the middle of nowhere.  They now protect the people and their farms in the surrounding area.  This is all part of their plan to take dragonslaying back to its roots.

Siobahn is another part of that plan.  Dragonslayers haven't had bards for years.  Reporters have been the ones telling their stories, but reporters tell the stories in the way that best pleases them.  Lottie thinks Owen needs a bard to tell his story, and she know just the girl.  Siobahn was one of the first people Owen met at school, and their friendship continued because Owen needed a math tutor, but Siobahn is also a musical genius who doesn't need much convincing to fall into training right next to Owen.  Owen will fight the dragons and Siobahn will compose the music that tells the story.

Things are not going quite according to plan.  The Thorskards thought country dragonslaying would be easy, but there are so many sightings, and the numbers are increasing every day.  Something isn't right.  If they can't do something to stop the increasing numbers, Trondheim and the surrounding area will be completely destroyed.  Siobahn and Owen are young, but there is no time for hesitation; the time has come for battle.

E.K. Johnston's debut novel is a fun and inventive fantasy.  Highly recommended to dragon fans!

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Mad, Wicked, Folly

Victoria Darling wants nothing more than to become an artist and make decisions about her own life.  Unfortunately, she lives in England in 1909 where women have almost no rights.

After being sent home in disgrace from her boarding school in France, Vicky's parents are strict about how she will be spending her time, and it doesn't include art.  Her mother is only concerned with rebuilding her tattered reputation and getting Vicky married before she does anything else.  She even has the man picked out.  Her father is only concerned with the disgrace she has brought to her family and to his business.

When Vicky finally meets her fiance, she thinks she sees a way out of her father's stranglehold on her life.  She will marry Edmund and be free to live her own life.  It doesn't really matter that she doesn't love him; she barely knows him.  He's handsome, and he seems to enjoy her personality quirks.

In secret, Vicky begins working on a portfolio to submit to the Royal College of Art.  If she can just get proper training, the art world will take her seriously.  It doesn't matter that the RCA accepts very few women.  Vicky believes she can get in if she can show her best work.  This brings us to her other problem.  Her father has taken all her art supplies, so she'll have to be creative there as well.

In her quest to create new art, she crosses paths with the suffragettes, a group of women who are protesting to demand the vote for women.  At first, she just sees the movement as fertile ground for drawing, but the more time she spends with these women, the more she begins to question her place in society and if she will ever have any freedom.

She also begins spending time with a handsome police officer named Will.  Vicky says it's all about art, but could there be more to it than that?

I really enjoyed Sharon Biggs Waller's book about the suffragette movement in Great Britain.  This is one of my favorite time periods and one I wish it got more attention  People just aren't aware of the struggles those early women's rights activists faced.  This book is a great introduction because the reader can learn along with Vicky as she has her own personal awakening.  Highly recommended.

A Time to Dance

Veda has loved dance for as long as she can remember.  Her earliest memory is feeling the rhythm of dance while gazing at an image of the god Shiva in a temple.  She is the best Bharantanatyam dancer in her city in India.  Just when she reaches a high point in her career, winning first place in a classical dance competition, she is involved in a terrible accident.

When she wakes in the hospital, one leg has been amputated below the knee.  This would be a tragedy for anyone, but it is especially painful for a dancer.  She is lucky to meet an American doctor determined to create a prosthesis she can use to dance, and Veda slowly begins to return to herself.

This does not mean her life goes back to normal.  She still has many struggles to overcome and more loss to experience.  When she returns to formal dance training she meets Govinda, a gentle boy with beautiful eyes who helps Veda see the beauty in herself and the sacred nature of the dance she is performing.

Through her new training, Veda learns to feel to connection to God she experienced as a child and to see beyond herself to those who are also struggling.

I really enjoyed Padma Venkatraman's new book about spirituality and strength.  Highly recommended.

Monday, April 20, 2015


This is a tale that begins with a wicked king, magic, and three rejected sisters who are talented musicians, but the story doesn't end here.

When Otto is lost in the woods, he is sheltered by three strange birds who give him a gift.  The harmonica is different from any he's ever heard.  Otto's life is saved, and the new harmonica begins its journey.

Friedrich loves music and longs to become a conductor one day.  He tried attending school with the other children, but they tortured him ruthlessly because of the red birthmark on his face.  Now he goes to work with Papa at the harmonica factory.  He works part of the day and studies with the men at the factory for the rest of the day.  He dreams of going to the music academy, but his birthmark and his father's anti-Nazi feelings may cause a problem.  As the Nazis gain power in Germany, Friedrich and his family are in ever increasing danger.  One of the few comforts he has is a strange harmonica he found in an abandoned factory.

Mike and his younger brother are orphans in Pennsylvania following the deaths of their mother and grandmother.  The orphanage is a terrible place.  The children are always hungry and dirty, and their lives are devoid of joy.  Mike is a talented musician, but he is largely denied this gift in the orphanage.  He fears he and his brother will be separated, so when a chance for the two of them to be adopted together arrives, they jump at the chance.  This new life couldn't be more different than the old one.  They now live in a beautiful mansion with plenty of food, and Mike is even getting lessons on the harmonica from the butler, but life isn't all perfect even when you're rich, and Mike will do anything to project his little brother.

Ivy is thrilled to be selected to play a solo on her harmonica when her class plays on the radio, but when her father gets a new job, they must leave overnight for their new home.  At first Ivy is angry, but the new job is good for everyone.  They have a house to live in, and her father is responsible for running an entire farm while the owner is away.  Mr. Yamamoto has promised a permanent home and job if he likes the way Ivy's father runs things while he imprisoned in an internment camp.  Now that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor, it doesn't matter how American the Yamamotos are or that their son, like Ivy's brother, is off fighting in the war.  The government and many of their neighbors suspect anyone who is Japanese of being a spy.

The lives of the children are linked through one special harmonica in Pam Munoz Ryan's new novel about the power of music to strengthen and inspire.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Chip's life on Cape Cod is full of ocean waves, bird watching, and her mother's beautiful dancing.  Everything falls apart one day when Chip's mother starts developing strange symptoms.  One of her legs drags behind her and she begins falling down stairs.  The doctors aren't sure what's wrong yet, but even the symptoms are devastating for a dancer.

As the disease progresses and her mother falls further into her depression, Chirp finds solace in bird watching, and she finds an unlikely companion.  She has always avoided the family of rough boys next door.  They are often cruel and sometimes violent, so it is with reluctance that she begins to trust Joey, the youngest boy.  He is in her class at school and seems to be gentler than the older boys.  The more time she spends with Joey the more she realizes how terrible his home life is, and the two form a mutual understanding.

When Chirp's life takes a terrible turn, Joey is the only person she can turn to for comfort.

Esther Ehrlich's book is a gentle story of surviving the pain of childhood, especially when that pain is caused by adults and is out of your control.  It is also a beautiful story about friendship and trust.

Monday, April 6, 2015

National Poetry Month

I love these!  Find a poem you love this month.  I hope you find something that inspires you!

Beware the Wild

When Sterling Saucier's brother walked into the swamp, she knew nothing good would come of it.  Everyone is Sticks, Louisiana, knows swamps are dangerous.  There are all kinds of predators lurking in all swamps, but the Sticks swamp is different.  There are stories about the people it's taken and the supernatural creatures who live there.  There's is even a fence to keep the swamp back and the people out.

This is why Sterling knows Phin was past angry when he strode off into the murky swamp.  He was gone for an entire day, and then someone came out--someone not Phin.  This new creature, a beautiful girl named Lenora May, eases into Phin's life like it is nothing, and Sterling is the only one who even remembers she has a brother.  Everyone else, including her mother, only remembers her sister, Lenora May.

Sterling is determined to find out the truth and get her brother back.  She finds an unlikely ally in the handsome but reckless loner Heath.  He has his own reasons to distrust the swamp, and he seems to be the only one who believes her.

As Sterling and Heath dig into the past, they discover the history of the swamp is much more complicated than either of them could have imagined.  And saving may come at a price that is dear to them both.

Read Natalie C. Parker's southern Gothic ghost story for thrills, suspense, and a touch of romance. This was a dark, moody, and thoroughly enjoyable read.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Iron Trial

Callum Hunt knows one thing.  He must fail the test and be refused entrance into the Magisterium.  His father has told him all about the magical training school.  The Masters don't care about the welfare of their students.  They perform experiments on them and involve them in violent wars.  Plus, the school is like an underground prison.  Callum does his best to fail, but it doesn't work.

Callum is now a student at the Magesterium, an apprentice of Master Rufus, the most prestigious teacher at the school, and he's not really sure how it happened.  After a rough start, Call reluctantly starts to befriend his fellow apprentices, especially Tamara and Sean who are also working with Master Rufus.  There are some things about the school that reinforce what his father has always told him, but the longer he lives there, the more he begins to like it.  He even discovers that he is actually good at magic.

His twisted leg, broken when he was a baby, has always held him back in school, but at the Magesterium it hardly seems to matter to the other students.  But even as he starts to settle in to life in his new underground school, there is a growing uneasiness in the magical community.

The Enemy of Death was once a student at the Magesterium until he turned on everyone and began a war that ended in a great slaughter children, the old, and the sick:  The Cold Massacre.  There has been a truce for the last twelve years, but everyone knows it can't last forever.  What if the enemy returns?  What if Callum's father was right, and he's about to be forced into battle with the Enemy of Death?

This new series opener by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare is fun read.  There are some good twists and turns to the plot, but it does have heavy overtones of Harry Potter.  Potter fans will probably enjoy the familiarity of the special child sent to magic school with enigmatic teachers and secrets.  This is a solid book, and I look forward to seeing where the series goes in the next book.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Always, Abigail

Abigail is sure 6th grade is going to be awesome!  She and her two best friends, Ally and Cam (AKA Allicam) have been obsessed with the poms since they were little, and this is the year they can join.

But things don't go the way Abigail expects.  First Allicam are in one homeroom, and Abigail is in another.  Plus, they don't have any classes together.  Plus, Abigail is in Old Hawk's homeroom, the oldest and strictest teacher in school.  Plus, Abigail also has Old Hawk for language arts.  Plus, Old Hawk is making them do a friendly letter assignment all year long.  Plus, Old Hawk is assigning the partners.

Abigail's partner is Gabby Marco, the weirdest girl in school.  She can't believe how terrible her luck is.  Not only is she separated from Allicam, but she is forced to write letters to Flabby Gabby.  This girl laughs randomly and lives in a beat up trailer.  Sixth grade is not going well.

The real problem, though, is Abigail begins to see Gabby as a real person who is actually kind of fun.  She also starts to see the mean side of Allicam.  Abigail knows she should defend her new friend, but that would mean giving up her old friends and her goals for 6th grade.

Nancy Cavanaugh's new book perfectly captures the middle school struggle of changing friendships and dealing with bullies.  This book really took me back to my own middle school days.  Abigail is the perfect every girl stuck between wanting to be popular and doing the right thing.  I highly recommend this book!

The Young Elites

When Adelina was a child the blood fever swept across the land killing many and leaving others marked.  Adelina, like many other survivors is a Malfetto.  She lost her left eye to the fever, her skin bears strange markings, and her hair and eyelashes turned from brown to silvery white.

The Malfettos are are outcasts in Kenettra.  Many people believe they are demons from the underworld.  While the Malfettos are scorned, some of them have new abilities.  These young Elites each have some kind of ability to control the natural world.

Adelina has always been a Malfetto, hated and cruelly treated by her father.  When her father decides to sell her to an older man, she runs away, and for the first time, she realizes she too is an Elite.

Adelina has the power to create illusions.  She could become a powerful asset to the Daggers, a group of Elites who take her in.  But many of the Daggers are wary of Adelina's power and the growing darkness in her heart.  As she struggles to control her powers, the darkness grows within her.

Everyone wants Adelina for a purpose, and she is caught in the middle of a dangerous game with enemies on all sides.  There are many who want to use her power, but does anyone want Adelina for herself?

Marie Lu's new series opener was a thrilling read.  I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it.  This is no straight forward tale, but a story of darkness and betrayal.  Recommended for fans of anti-heroes.