Monday, January 16, 2017

Getting Back into the Swing of Things 2017

Hard to believe it's already the second week of 2017, especially since I spent the beginning of the month recovering from a nasty cold and it feels like everything went by in a haze.  I still have the sniffles, but things are looking up and I'm ready to recap the Cybils and look on to books coming out this year. 

Boy, was it another fun Cybils year of reading Elem./MG Speculative Fiction.  There were something like 115 books nominated and I was able to read 95.  Which roughly translates to about 30, 000 pages.  Not too shabby.  I'm always excited to see what gets nominated but really just love reading the books that were selected.  One of these years I will read all of the nominations.   I'm really happy with the semifinalist's list and can't wait to see who the final winner will be, but here are some of my personal favorites that were nominated this year: 




It should be no surprise then that some of these authors sequels will be on my 2017 list of books that I want to read.  

Middle-Grade books I'm looking forward to in 2017 Books

Dream Magic  by Joshua Khan
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publishing:  April 11th, 2017

Why I want to read Dream Magic:  Shadow Magic was one of my favorite reads from the Cybils this year and I really enjoy the world of Gehenna.  

People throughout Gehenna are disappearing, even the feared executioner Tyburn. Many of the nobles believe the kidnappings to be the work of the northern trolls, raiding south for the winter, and when Baron Sable and others head off to fight them, Castle Gloom is left guarded by only the squires.

Lily is struggling with her growing necromantic powers. The castle fills with ghosts, drawn like moths to a flame by the brightness of her magic. Zombies roam the country, some left over from those raised in SHADOW MAGIC, others awakened by Lily. Families are troubled by the returning dead, so Lily tries to incorporate them into day-to-day life, much to the resentment of the living.

Then Lily is attacked in her own castle by a mysterious sorcerer known as Dreamweaver, a young man determined to conquer Gehenna using jewel-spiders, strange crystalline creatures whose bite doesn’t kill, but sends victims to sleep. Lily soon discovers that Dreamweaver is harvesting dreams to fuel his magic.

Lily enters the realm of sleep known as the Dream Time, in an attempt to awaken all the captive dreamers. Instead she finds herself trapped within a dream, one where her family is still alive. With the help of Thorn and the ever loyal Hades, she must somehow overcome the evil Dreamweaver by using his own magic against him – and reclaim her kingdom.

Short  by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dial Books
Number of Pages:  304
Published:  January 31st, 2017

Why I want to read Short:  The cover grabbed me and I really enjoyed Sloan's Counting by 7's. 

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she'll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn't ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive - one of the adults with dwarfism who've joined the production's motley crew of Munchkins - and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia's own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn't want to fade into the background and it's a good thing because her director has more big plans for Julia!

30653902Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Number of Pages:  368
Publishing: March 21st, 2017

Why I want to read Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded:   I've read and enjoyed Jinx by the author and I love school stories and kids learning magic.  That cover is gorgeous.  

Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why 
she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.
Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her—but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?

The Great Hibernation by Tara Dairman
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House/Lamb
Publishing: September 12th, 2017

Why I want to read The Great Hibernation:   I loved Tara Dairman's All Four Stars Series and am excited to read her latest book.   

The most important tradition in tiny St. Polonius-on-the-Fjord is the annual Tasting of the Sacred Bear Liver. Each citizen over twelve must eat one bite of liver to prevent the recurrence of the Great Hibernation, when the town founder's fell asleep for months.

This year is Jean Huddy's first time to taste the liver. It doesn't go well. A few hours later, all the adults fall asleep. And no one can wake them.

The kids are left to run things, and they're having a blast. That is, until the town bullies take over the mayor's office and the police force.

Jean suspects that this "hibernation" was actually engineered by someone in town. She starts to investigate, and inspires other kids to join her in a secret plan to save St. Polonius.

Midnight Without a Moon by Linda William Jackson
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published: January 3rd, 2017

Why I want to read Midnight Without A Moon:  Each year I try to read at least one historical fiction and I've been hearing such good things about this book.  

Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. 

Dragonwatch: A Fablehaven Adventure by Brandon Mull
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Shadow Mountain 
Published: March 14th, 2017

Why I want to read Dragonwatch:  Fablehaven is my child's favorite series and I can't pass up this new installment.  

In the hidden dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost, Celebrant the Just, King of the Dragons, plots his revenge. He has long seen the sanctuaries as prisons, and he wants nothing more than to overthrow his captors and return the world to the Age of Dragons, when he and his kind ruled and reigned without borders. The time has come to break free and reclaim his power.

No one person is capable of stopping Celebrant and his dragon horde. It will take the ancient order of Dragonwatch to gather again if there is any chance of saving the world from destruction. In ancient times, Dragonwatch was a group of wizards, enchantresses, dragon slayers, and others who originally confined the majority of dragons into sanctuaries. But nearly all of the original Dragonwatch members are gone, and so the wizard Agad reaches out to Grandpa Sorenson for help.

As Kendra and Seth confront this new danger, they must draw upon all their skills, talents, and knowledge as only they have the ability to function together as a powerful dragon tamer. Together they must battle against forces with superior supernatural powers and breathtaking magical abilities.

How will the epic dragon showdown end? Will dragons overthrow humans and change the world as we know it?

2017 Must Read YA Books:

32075671The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing: February 28th, 2017

Why I want to read The Hate U Give:  I've been seeing this pop-up a lot on Twitter and the premise makes this sound like I book that I wouldn't want to miss. 

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice. 

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing: April 11th, 2017

Why I want to read The Upside:  I have an EArc from Netgalley and this is my most anticipated YA read for this year.   

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. 

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. 


Untitled or books without a cover or release date yet, but they are on my favorite authors/purchase list:  (links to Goodreads)

The Problem Children by Natalie Lloyd  A middle-grade series about seven strange siblings, all born on a different day of the week, and the neighbors who keep trying to tear their family apart. 

Impyrium #2  by Henry Neff   No description yet or title.  

Posted by John David Anderson   In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud   Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kips on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family's past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle. And to prevail they will have to rely on help from some surprising--and shadowy--allies. Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. 

Young Adult 

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff   Young assassin Mia continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from acclaimed author Jay Kristoff.

Jay Kristoff's masterful ability to create immersive universes continues to impress in this new fantasy, which continues where we left off with assassin Mia in her high-stakes quest for revenge.

Mia has found her place among the Blades, but many in the hierarchy think she hasn’t earned it. She’s no closer to avenging her family; in fact, she’s told directly that Consul Scaeva is off limits. But Mia has her own suspicions about the Red Church’s motives.

When it’s announced that Scaeva will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the gladiatorial games, Mia sells herself into bondage to enter the games. Beneath the arena floor, Mia finds new rivals and allies. But as she is forced to kill those she counted as friends on the arena sands, those she trusts begin to question her cause and she’ll be forced to fight for her life with only the assistance of a mysterious shadowy figure.

Next post I'll be looking at my bookish resolutions from last year and seeing how well I did plus making a few new ones.   Thanks for stopping by and feel free to let me know if there are any books that I just must take a look at.   
Hope you have a great week!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The 2016 Cybils Finalists for Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

Shadow Magicby Joshua Khan
Nominated by: Sussu Leclerc
13-year-old Thorn was just sold as a slave to the executioner of Gehanna, a kingdom famous for its dark magic. Lillith Shadow, also 13, has just become Gehenna’s queen when her parents and brother were mysteriously killed and must learn to rule the land of the undead. When Thorn and Lily’s path cross in Gehenna, the two join forces to find the killer of Lily’s parents, while also trying to stop an assassin targeting Lily. Shadow Magic is an action-packed fantasy filled with all manner of creepy characters (dead and alive), including an enormous, and rather helpful, bat. It’s a captivating mystery full of magic, with touches of humor and characters to cheer for. It’s perfect for those who like fantasy with a delightfully Gothic twist.
Brenda Tjaden, Log Cabin Library
The Evil Wizard Smallboneby Delia Sherman
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Lizjonesbooks
In fierce Maine winter, with werewolves on the prowl, 12-year-old Nick runs from him abusive family and finds himself at the bookstore of the Evil Wizard Smallbone. The wizard won’t let him go, but when he’s not being forced to do chores, he secretly learns magic with the help of the bookstore (it offers him just the right books). Nick’s new magical skills are put the test when the evil leader of the werewolves launches an attack on the town Smallbone is sworn to protect. While Nick’s powers have been growing, Smallbone hasn’t been getting any younger, and the werewolves are formidable foes. This is a tremendously fun, imaginative and captivating story. There are lots of enchantments (including some that go wrong), magical dueling, and a beautifully satisfying twist at the end. Though Smallbone might be an “Evil Wizard,” his bookstore and the snowy Maine landscape around it are lovely places to spend some time (if you don’t mind a few hostile werewolves….)
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Libary
The Firefly Codeby Megan Frazer Blakemore
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Sarah Sammis
The Firefly Code tells the story of five friends and one summer that irrevocably changes all of their lives. Set in the future in a fairly idyllic community protected from the ravages of the outside world, the Firefly Five have reached that age when they are beginning to question their reality and the place each of them has in it. Asking questions about ethics in science, the power of community, when it is appropriate to rebel, and what it means to live, The Firefly Code does what truly good science-fiction does best. A mystery, a friendship story, and a quest story all in one, this book will give readers a wonderful thought-provoking journey where they will meet characters they will love and think about long after they close the pages of the book.
The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Aliceby Andrew Chilton
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: E.B.
As a kid Mr. Chilton “gobbled up fantasy novels and logic puzzles.” The Goblin’s Puzzle combines these two interests in a delightful story of goblins, girls named Alice, a nameless boy, and dragons. The Boy is running for his life; the goblin, Mennofar, is a tricky sidekick; and the two Alices, one a princess and the other a commoner, are just trying to keep from being mistaken for one another—because one Alice is going to be kidnapped by the dragon, Ludwig. It’s a rollicking good read with loads of humor, a little bit of logic, and some tricky puzzles. Read it and learn why it’s “hard for a goblin and a human to be friends.”
Sherry Early, Semicolon
The Memory Thiefby Bryce Moore
Adaptive Books
Nominated by: Kristen
What if you had the opportunity to erase, add or replace memories? Benji discovers a man named Louis at the fair who can do just that. When Benji gets the power to change memories himself, he tries to “fix” his parents, who have decided to divorce. When things go horribly wrong, Benji tries to find Louis again, only to discover he is missing. Instead, he finds himself in the middle of the schemes of Louis’ old apprentice, a woman who wants to use memories for evil and selfish purposes. Benji must use his new skills as a memory thief and random abilities picked up from other people’s memories to stop her, and save his family. It’s a fascinating premise, and though there are light moments (like Benji’s memories of yoga expertise) the overall tone is suspenseful and chilling. The tension keeps growing as the pages turn, driving home the point of the saying of “be careful what you wish for”.
Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters
The Voyage to Magical Northby Claire Fayers
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth
If you want to sail on seas full of magic and monsters, looking for a legendary place that might not exist, take a Voyage to Magical North. Two kids, Brine, servant to a very unpleasant wizard, and Peter, the wizard’s apprentice, are captured by pirates and become part of a harrowing effort to reach Magical North, a place of extraordinary dangers and enchantments. Making things even more exciting (in a bad way) is the seriously evil wizard brought on board the pirate ship because he’s needed to help them get to their destination. It’s not just a story of magical voyaging, but also a more universal story of two young people moving past their intense dislike for each other to work together, and to find truths about who they are and what they are capable of. The vivid descriptions of the places and people encountered are enchanting and haunting, and the brisk pace of the adventure keeps the pages turning very nicely indeed.
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Libary
When the Sea Turned to Silverby Grace Lin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: PragmaticMom
The final installment in Grace Lin’s loosely connected trio of books based in Chinese folklore, When the Sea Turned to Silver is a beautifully told story that takes the reader on a magical journey through China from mountains to the sea. Told in Lin’s deceptively simple, evocative prose, this is a quest full of adventure and action accompanied by gorgeous, colorful illustrations. The characters come to vivid life and experience friendship, love, community, and power-both good and bad. An excellent read aloud for younger children and equally engrossing as an independent read, When the Sea Turned to Silver is sure to captivate readers of all ages.

It's been another fun year of Cybils reading and book discussions with fellow judges. 

 Each year I wonder how we seem to get through all the books nominated

but somehow we do.   I'm taking off for a bit, but soon I'll be posting my favorites of 2016 

and what I'm planning on reading in the New Year! 

I hope you'll check out the full list of Cybils finalists here.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Few Mini Reviews

  It's been a busy month of reading, shoveling snow, shopping and now preparing for the upcoming holidays.  Where did the month of December go?  Hope your holidays are delightful and wishing you a very Happy New Year!  These are some
 shorter thoughts on two books that I've read recently.

Bounce  by Megan Shull
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books

Number of Pages:  384
Published:  September 6th, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review for the purposes of the Cybils

Shortly before Christmas break, Frannie's parents tell her that they are going on a vacation, the kicker is that they aren't taking Frannie or her older brother and sister.  Instead, this year the Hudson family will have to fend for themselves.  Frustrated, Frannie wishes that she had a different family and when her wish is granted, she finds herself bouncing into other people's lives. 

Bounce has an interesting take on the body-swap storyline, with it taking place over Christmas, and Frannie bouncing into various girls lives.  She also gets placed into all these novel situations, like riding a horse, when you've never been on one before.  In many ways, Frannie gets to see things from a whole new perspective and has the most transformative changes.  In the beginning of the story, I wasn't very fond of Frannie, she whines quite a bit.  Which is very understandable given her family does treat her pretty terribly, but it took a bit for me to get into her character.  She reads much younger than she really is.  But, Frannie does seem to have a good heart and just needed some courage to stand up for herself.  My favorite parts are the girl's lives that Frannie bounces into.  Especially when she meets parents who make her feel loved and important.  Overall, a fun story with lovely messaging about developing your own inner strength. 

25688980The Rat Prince  by Bridget Hodder
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Number of Pages:  272
Published:  August 23rd, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review for the purposes of the Cybils

I'm a fan of fairy tale retellings and The Rat Prince had quite an entertaining take on the story of Cinderella.  The story is told from Prince Char, the ruler of the Northern Kingdom of rats and Cinderella's perspectives.  Yep, a rat.  At first glance, that might seem a bit of a stretch, but Hodder makes the story unique and adds some fun new details, for which I don't want to give too much away.  Cinderella (Lady Rose) has been protecting her father from her evil step-mother and step-sister, now that his mind seems to be slipping.  While our Prince is making plans to get Lady Rose to a royal ball where the next ruler of the kingdom will be selecting his wife.  The story is complicated by the fact that Prince Char has fallen in love with Lady Rose, and the Royal Prince is prone to temper tantrums making him an unsuitable match for Lady Rose.  With plenty of twists and humor, The Rat Prince will surely delight middle-grade readers who enjoy fairy tale retellings.       

Monday, December 5, 2016

MG Review: Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebel

Fortune Falls  by Jenny Goebel
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Number of Pages:  208
Published:  January 5th, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review for the purposes of the Cybils

Fortune Falls is one of those "what if" stories.  What if all of those expressions or superstitions that we use were really true?  So, if you stepped on a crack it really does break your mom's back and eating an apple a day does keep the doctor away.  To Sadie, this is just life in Fortune Falls.  At the moment Sadie is considered to be an undetermined, meaning she hasn't reached her twelfth birthday yet, so her fate to determine whether she is an Unlucky or Lucky hasn't been tested yet. Sadie is really hoping that she will be a Lucky.  Otherwise, she will be sent away to school, for the protection of everyone else.  But, Sadie has also been having an inclination that she might be headed for being chosen Unlucky, bad things have been happening around her once too often.  Going away to school would also mean that she would lose her best friend Cooper, so she will have to do something drastic to change her luck.  

This was such a fun read.  I really enjoyed looking for all of the superstitions that I read growing up and watching the humorous ways they were incorporated into the story.  The friendship between Cooper and Sadie was really sweet, especially how he tries to help her improve her luck.  I'm not sure how I felt about the luck test and the idea that if you happened to be lucky then you stayed at Flourish Academy, but if you were unlucky, then you had to go to Bane School for the Unluckies.  I really didn't want Cooper and Sadie to get separated, and was rooting for Sadie to pass her test.  Overall, a wonderful story of the hardships of being unlucky, friendship and perseverance to try to change what you feel is your destiny.    

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

MG Review of The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist

29155169The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist
Format: EARC
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of Pages:  288
Published:  November 29, 2016

Source:  Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.  

Opening Lines:  "The bracelet and the first charm appeared the day I punched Austin Jackson in the nose.  I didn't mean to slug him.  His face just got in my way."

Izzy Malone is having a rocky start to middle-school, she and the guidance counselor are already on a first name basis.  Where Izzy see's herself as outspoken and just speaking her mind, other's see her as mouthy.  Probably part of the reason that she has difficulty making friends and eats her school lunches under a tree.  Izzy is also not the kind of girl to get caught up in the latest fashion styles, preferring her combat boots and long colorful skirts.  Forget dreaming about boys, she's more concerned about getting accepted on the Dandelion Paddlers, a local rowing team.  She's already tried out once, but the team captain seems to have it out for her.  Izzy's home life has also been complicated by having a musical prodigy sister,  the fact her mother is running for mayor and her dad is even the town's chief of police.  When Izzy punches a boy at school, her parents take drastic measures and enroll her in Mrs. Whippie's home study charm school.  Either Izzy passes charm school or she won't be participating in Dandelion Hollow's Pumpkin Palooza, a race where pumpkins are hollowed out and used as boats across the pond.  If she can't participate in the race, how will she ever convince Lauren and the Paddlers that she is good enough for the team?  

I read The Charming Life of Izzy Malone over the Thanksgiving long weekend and this was such a fun entertaining story.  Izzy really isn't a typical middle schooler, but that was what I really loved about her.  She has this attitude of not caring and a style and interests uniquely her own (rowing and stargazing). Yeah, she is mouthy and outspoken, which gets her in trouble, but she is also brutally honest.  

"I have certainly heard of the Subtle Art of Shutting Up, but I can't say I've practiced it all that much. I greatly prefer the underappreciated genius of Speaking My Mind. I figure if someone doesn't like what I have to say, they shouldn't put their ears in close proximity to my mouth."

Izzy struck me as a somewhat lonely girl at first, but her affectionate wit and well charm land her friends that help her complete each task for her charm bracelet.  Lunquist really has a knack for capturing that middle-grade voice and it so reminded me of my own awkward moments growing up, truthfully I'm a bit of tomboy too. I really liked the idea of the letters going back and forth between Mrs. Whippie and Izzy and the activities were simple enough that I could see this as a fun book to read with a child and have them do some of the activities to create their own charm bracelet (write a letter to brightens someone's day, do something nice for someone, etc.).  Overall, a humorous story with lovely messages of friendship, and being yourself.  I hope to see more stories from Lundquist featuring Izzy and her friends.

You can read an excerpt from Jenny Lundquist's website.