Tuesday, October 18, 2016

MG Fantasy Review: The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

22694936The Girl Who Could Not Dream  by Sarah Beth Durst
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Clarion Books
Number of Pages:  384
Published:  November 3rd, 2015

Source:  Library

Sophie and her  parents live inside a bookstore where they sell books and bottled dreams.  Dreams and nightmares that Sophie and her family collect in dreamcatchers they make.  Sophie shares her dreamcatchers with Madison, Lucy, and new boy Nathan, to collect their nightmares.   The dreamcatchers then are converted into a liquid dream or nightmare which people in the store can buy.  Sophie is unique because she is unable to have a dream or nightmare, but she has always been curious.  So curious that when she was little,  she stole one of the bottles off the shelf and by drinking it found herself inside someone else's nightmare.  While exploring,  Sophie found Monster, not the creepy under the bed kind, but one who was just as lonely as she was.  Inadvertently, she brought him back into the world with her.  Sophie didn't know she had the ability to bring dreams to life, and Monster was just the friend that she had been looking for.  The two are inseparable.  Yet, Sophie and Monster have also received the attention of the Night Watchmen, a set of people who want to get rid of Monster and end their families dream trade.  The mysterious Mr. Nightmare has also turned up at the family store requesting bottled nightmares and he even steals the dreamcatchers that Sophie has been giving to Madison, Lucy, and Nathan.   Then someone breaks into the store and Sophie's parents disappear  causing her and Ethan to go on a reconnaissance mission to Mr. Nightmare's house to try and find them.  What they uncover is just as disturbing as Mr. Nightmare.  

I really enjoyed reading The Girl Who Could Not Dream.  The plot of bottled dreams and nightmare's and the way that they can be distilled into a liquid that you can drink.  Kinda reminds me of the Pensieve in Harry Potter.  Though in this case, Sophie has the ability to physically go inside and take things out of her dreams and bring them to life.  Makes for some amusing (pink ninja bunnies and a unicorn) and creepy things (big spider woman and a monster without a face).  I was also surprised by how much I liked Sophie's parents.  The way they interacted was refreshing and how honest they were with her. So different from the usual uninvolved/absent parents that I normally read.  It really added to the tension when Sophie discovers them missing later on.  This passage was one of my favorites, "You can't send me away when you're going to talk about important things that have to do with me, Sophie protested."  "Sure we can," Dad said.  "That's what parents do all the time."  Mom patted her shoulder.  "We were just more subtle about it when you were younger."  I can't go forgetting Monster, who really seems more like an overgrown housecat than a Monster, and his protectiveness over Sophie is adorable.  I do wish that we could give some of these characters a name, instead of just calling him Monster.  I also wished that Monster didn't seem so cartoonish on the cover when he really comes off as sweet, lovable and humorous in the story.   I can easily see this being made into a series that children between the ages of 10 and 12 would enjoy. 

*The Girl Who could Not Dream  has been nominated for the Cybils award and my review reflects my personal opinion, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.*

Monday, October 10, 2016

MG: Humor/Fairy-tale Retelling: Of Mice and Magic (Hamster Princess #2) by Ursula Vernon

25776235Of Mice and Magic (Hamster Princess #2)  by Ursula Vernon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Dial Books
Number of Pages: 225
Published:  March 15th, 2016 

Source:  Library

I had the pleasure of reading the first installment of the Hamster Princess series,  Harriet the Invincible last year. Princess Harriet turned out not to be your typical princess.  In the first book, Harriet found out that an evil fairy had placed a curse on her so that on her twelveth birthday she would prick her finger causing everyone in the castle to fall hopelessly asleep.  Instead of being distraught, Harriet found this news exciting, because until she pricks her finger, she would also be invincible and she was determined to use this invincibility to her advantage by having grand adventures.   In of Mice and Magic, the second book in the Hamster Princess series, Princess Harriet no longer has her invincibility and life has become very dull and boring, that is until she meets a shrew on the side of the road who tells her about a curse on twelve mice princesses who are forced to dance their nights away wearing down their shoes and angering their father the king.  Eager for some more adventure, Harriet rides off on her trusty quail to help break the curse.   I've really been enjoying Ursula Vernon's fairy-tale retellings with Harriet and the clever twists that she brings to them.  In this particular book, the mice king offers half his kingdom and one of his daughter's in marriage, which isn't exactly what Harriet is after, instead she plans to teach the king a little lesson by showing him just what girls/heroes can do.   Vernon's books are always nicely illustrated with just the right mix of text to illustrations and I like that you can pick up and read any of the books in this series in any order you want.  Plus they're darn funny.  I'm looking forward to the next installment, Ratpunzel. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Cybils Nomination are open

Cybils 2016

Each Fall I look forward to cooler temperatures and my reading for The Cybils.  Book nominations opened on Saturday and already I'm busy making library holds.   This year I'm once again a first-round panelist in Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction. 

Here's the category description from the wonderful chair Charlotte Taylor, Along with the expected spells and space rockets and aliens, this is the category for books with talking animals, time-travel, ghosts, and paranormal abilities, and all the other books that might not have obvious magic on every page, and which are set here on Earth, but which push past the boundaries of daily life into what is almost certainly impossible."

So if you know of books that have great kid appeal, for that Elementary/Middle-Grade reader between the ages of eight to twelve, published in the U.S. or Canada between Oct 16, 2015, and Oct 15th, 2016 , please nominate here.  

Oh, and here are a few suggestions of books that I've read, ones that I would really like to, or one's that just haven't been nominated yet either. 

27833683  28595036     13612965

29502645  25614515

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

MG Fantasy/Paranormal: Curse of the Boggin (The Library #1) by D.J. MacHale

29358359Curse of the Boggin (The Library #1)  by D.J. MacHale
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 256
Published:  September 6th, 2016 

Source:  Library

First line: “It was under the bed.”

Thirteen-year-old Marcus has a knack for landing himself in detention at school, most of the time he has the best of intentions, but all these detentions are causing friction with his adoptive parents. While Marcus is serving his first day of his latest sentence, some weird things begin to happen. For one, a man wearing pajamas and a bathrobe begins to follow him around, and then there is the bull charging at him in the hallway at school. There is also this mysterious message that keeps appearing telling him to “surrender the key,” but Marcus has no idea what it means. Is he seeing things, is someone playing a trick on him? Then the man in the bathrobe tries to offer him a key, and the key passes right through his hand, Marcus knows what he is experiencing must have something to do with ghosts, but what? Marcus begins to explore who this man was and finds that the man's name is Michael and he is deceased.  Michael's wife seems to have known Marcus' biological parents and she has been holding onto a key that his father wanted Marcus to have.   The key opens a door into a Library filled with unfinished stories and one of those stories is Marcus' to finish. But, Marcus isn't the only one who wants the key to the library, there is a Boggin who will do anything to get the key and destroy the library.  

I love creepy books and Curse of the Boggin is a great example of one for that middle-grade reader that is slightly spooky with a bit of a mystery. Think things hiding under the bed, a creepy Boggin that can look like your best friend, controls the weather and creates illusions just to scare you.  Marcus does get some help from his two best friends, Lu and Theo, as well as Everett, the head ghost librarian.   I'm a huge fan of old-fashioned brass keys and liked that this one open's up into a library. The library is probably my favorite part of the whole story and the way that it is filled with these stories needing to be finished and how it is the ghosts who are writing them down.  There are so many possibilities and the Curse of the Boggin does allude to some unfinished stories for Marcus' friends.  I also liked how McHale stated in the foreword that he planned for each book in series to be read independently of the others, but with our three main characters being present in each book.   Overall, this was a great introduction to the series, it has its creepy moments and I'll be curious to see what kinds of villains McHale will cook up next.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

TTT: Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten Tuesday is Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR.  

September releases:

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
releases today!  I'm fairly certain it is going to be on a lot of lists.  

Insert Coin to Continue by John David Anderson
released September 20th, 2016

When Ms. Yingling raves about a book I instantly take note.  Plus I really enjoyed  The Dungeoneers and Ms. Bixby's last Day.  

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
released September 6th, 2016

A twist on Sherlock Holmes taking place in Harlem, New York were two kids solve mysteries in their neighborhood.  



Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

released September 2nd, 2016

Historical fiction set in East Berlin, sounds very interesting.  

The Boy with 17 Senses by Sheila Grau
released September 13th, 2016

This is a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk set on a distant planet with a boy who has synesthesia.  I'm really curious about the premise and enjoyed Grau's  Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions series.  

October releases:

A Tale of Camelot:  Mice of the Round Table by Julie Leung
releases October 4th, 2016

I'm intrigued by the cover and premise.  I do enjoy animal stories and this reminds me a bit of  Tale of Desperauex and Brain Jacques' Redwall mixed in with the retelling of Camelot.  

Mabel Jones and the Doomsday Book (Mabel Jones #3) by Will Mabbitt
releases October 4th, 2016

Mabel is just so adorable in her pj's and bunny slippers, swinging a cutlass. These are always a fun read filled with lots of action, and I really enjoy the illustrations by Ross Collins.


Impyrium by Henry H. Neff
releases October 11th, 2016

Sounds like an interesting world, maybe some intrigue.  Saw a review from fellow blogger Shannon O'Donnell and thought I would add it to the TBR list.  

November releases: 

Fantastic Beasts and Were to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
releases November 19th 2016

Pretty much going into the ever growing collection of  books by J.K. Rowling.  


Lodestar (Keeper of the Lost Cities Book #5) by Shannon Messenger
releases November 1st, 2016

Continuing on with the series.  Isn't that cover gorgeous?  Really want to see what happens next.  

So, I'm a little light on what's releasing in November, anyone know of any titles that I must keep my eye out for? What made it on your list?  Feel free to leave your link in the comments. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

MG Fantasy/Paranormal Review: The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud

23922381The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4)  by Jonathan Stroud
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Number of Pages: 464
Published:  September 13th, 2016 

Source:  Purchased

Genre:  Fantasy, Paranormal

First lines:  "I knew at once, when I slipped into the moonlit office and eased the door shut behind me, that I was in the presence of the dead."

**There may be spoilers, so be forewarned**

Jonathan Stroud has been my go-to author when I want something atmospheric and spooky with just a dash of suspense. I absolutely love the way he writes his snarky characters, like Bartimaeus from his other series and the ghost skull in the jar (I'm still hoping for a name for this guy someday).   I'm always eagerly awaiting the release of the next book, and they are my favorite books to read, especially with Halloween approaching. The Hollow Boy was the most recent book in the series and found the crew of Lockwood & Co. fracturing. Lockwood had hired a new agent, Holly Munro and things were changing. New secrets were being revealed by our mysterious skull and Lockwood began opening up about his past, and let Lucy and George into the room that he normally kept locked up tight. We learned about the circumstance behind Lockwood's sister's death.  Lucy began to understand her abilities better, starting to connect with the ghosts and speak with them. Which leads us to Lucy getting a glimpse of how she might be the cause of someone's death, so at the end of the book she decides to leave the agency.

The Creeping Shadow begins as Lucy is seeking jobs as a freelance, for hire operative. Which introduces a whole bunch of new characters, mostly fellow operatives from the rival ghost hunting team of Fittes and the Rotwell agency.  There are also some interesting power struggles going on between these two agencies.  Lucy is still reaching out to ghosts to speak to them, risky because they are ghosts which can be unpredictable, but at least her heart is in the right place. The disembodied talking head in a jar is still present and the bantering between the two is just adorable. Yeah, I said it, adorable.   In the Creeping Shadow, we see this bond that Lucy and the skull have formed strengthening. 

"Its nostrils dilated; I heard a dismissive sniff.  Like you care a bean what I think."  I looked around the moonlit kitchen, silent, seemingly innocuous, but drenched in evil. "Dear old skull.  I do care, and I'm asking you as a ...as a..."  "I detect hesitation, " the skull said.  "As a friend?"  I scowled.  "Well, no. Obviously not."  "As a respected colleague, then?"  "Even that would be stretching it.  No, I'm asking you as someone who genuinely values your opinion, despite your wicked nature, your vicious temperament, and my better judgment." The face regarded  me.  "Ooh, okay...I see you're going for the virtues of simple honesty here, rather than the honeyed words of flattery.  Correct?"  "Yes."  "Well, go boil your backside in a bucket.  It's not good enough.  You're not getting a word of wisdom out of me."  

 Despite being successful as an independent contractor, Lucy began to realize how lonely she is, how much she missed being at Lockwood & CO.  How much she misses Lockwood.  Skull does fill her day with their bantering and the two seem to depend on each other, but it isn't enough.  I've grown fond of Skull's character, his snide comments, bantering and it amuses me that even he shreaks at the presence of a phantom.  I also enjoyed that skull was taking a more active role in assisting Lucy during her cases and they kinda work well as a team,  he even proposes that they form their own agency, Skull and Caryle.  Now wouldn't that be something?   Then Lockwood shows up at Lucy's door wanting to hire her for a case for the Fittes Agency, they need someone with her adept listening skills, which she hesitantly agrees to just this one case.  The team successfully find and remove a source at Solomon Guppy's house, but Lucy also uncovers that DARPC might not  be cremating the remains of the sources they receive, but instead releasing them.   When Lockwood and Lucy start spending time together,  skull also shows his jealousy of Lockwood and his contempt for Holly, you kinda wonder what he would do to Lockwood if he ever made it out of that jar. Skull's affection toward Lucy would be really sweet if he wasn't a ghost skull in a jar. There was this one moment where I also started to get an eerie feeling, especially since Stroud seemed to be setting up these awkward, butterfly-inducing moments between Lucy and Lockwood and I couldn't help thinking that one of them was going to get hurt, darn that ghost glimpse of a possible future.  Happily, everyone kept all their fingers and toes at the end of the book.  Once back to her freelance work, Lucy finds her apartment is broken into and skull is stolen, she returns to Lockwood for his help and protection.  Lucy and Lockwood make an attempt to rescue skull, but end up finding themselves in the middle of a black market dealing in dangerous sources and uncover possible shady workings at the Rotwell Institute.   There were so many developments and surprises in this book and I'm trying really hard to minimize the spoilers, but that Spirit Cape and glasses add a whole new dynamic to the story and might just be the answer to what will happen as operatives move into adulthood and they lose their psychic abilities.  I'm so hooked on this series if you couldn't already tell, and really can't wait for the next one.  Why isn't this being made into a movie already?  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Cybils are coming: Judges announced today

Cybils 2016
Today's the day, judges for the Cybils were announced and  I'm very pleased to have been selected  for the first round of Elementary/Middle-Gradee Speculative Fiction.  Here's a link to all the  Cybils judges for all categories  Fall for means, warm sweaters, hot coffee, a library card with no hold limits, book's and reading, reading, reading.   I hope everyone is getting their nominations ready for the opening on October 1st!   Rules for nominating are here.

                                           2016 ElementaryMiddle-Gradee Speculative Fiction Judges: 

First Round

Sherry Early

Kristen Harvey
The Book Monsters thebookmonsters.com

Brandy Painter
Random Musings of a Bibliophile http://randommusingsofabibliophile.blogspot.com/

Charlotte Taylor

Brenda Tjaden

Second Round

Mark Buxton

Monica Edinger

Heidi Grange

Rosemary Kiladitis

Tasha Saecker
Waking Brain Cells wakingbraincells.com