Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bran Hambric The Fairfield Curse by Kaleb Nation


Six year old Bran Hambric was found inside a locked bank vault in the city of Dunce by bank manager Sewey with half a scrap of paper that stated only his name.  Under the finders keepers law of the city , Sewey and his family became his foster family.  Although, Bran doesn't remember any of his past, he still wonders about his mother and father.  At the age of fourteen, Bran comes face to face with a mysterious creature  that tries to kidnap him and drops half of a paper revealing a message from his mother.   Slowly,  Nation unfolds that Bran's mother was responsible for the creation of the Fairfield Curse and there are people out there that have been searching for Bran to complete what she started.  

I chose The Fairfield Curse after reading this on the back cover..."What if your mother was a criminal? What if her crime was magic? What if magic ran in the family?"  I was really intrigued by the idea that magic could be a crime.  Why would a mother become a criminal?  How would this affect Bran?   Add in that Bran now lives in a city where magic has been outlawed, so yeah so many questions that I wanted answered.   I knew there would be some mystery to solve and hoped to find a new and different take on magic.    I didn't anticipate that the mystery would take up such a large part of the story or that  the actual reasons behind the curse wouldn't unfold until over half the book was finished.  I also would have liked more about Bran's magical skills rather then have them be revealed inside books of magic or Missives of Magic that he finds inside a hidden library.  Because,  there are some really cool sounding magical abilities Netora the Physical, Comsar the Mental, Archon the Elemental, Illian the Illusional and Drimra the Mortal that I would have liked to explore more.   Overall, The Fairfield Curse has plenty of action and a mystery to solve, the recommended age range for the book is 9-12.  Others have made comparisons to Harry Potter, while I see the similarities there are still enough differences to make for an interesting read.     

Monday, December 2, 2013

Keeper Of The Lost Cities Exile by Shannon Messenger

Thank you to the lovely ladies at Literary Rambles 
for their signed ARC of EXILE for my review.  

From Goodreads "Sophie Foster thought she was safe. Settled into her home at Havenfield, surrounded by friends, and using her unique telepathic abilities to train Silveny--the first female alicorn ever seen in the Lost Cities--her life finally seems to be coming together. 

But Sophie's kidnappers are still out there. And when Sophie discovers new messages and clues from the mysterious Black Swan group, she’s forced to take a terrifying risk—one that puts everyone in incredible danger. 

As long buried secrets rise to the surface, it’s once again up to Sophie to uncover hidden memories—before someone close to her is lost forever." 

I absolutely loved this second book in Shannon Messengers Keeper of the Lost Cities series, maybe even more then the first.  The story was so easy to get caught up in with plenty of mystery and some added danger with the cryptic messages from The Black Swan organization that made this one that much harder to put it down.  There were even some sad and tender moments between Sophie and her adoptive parents Grady and Edaline that brought me to tears. Loved it.  I liked the addition of Silveny the alicorn (unicorn with wings).  Bringing with her all the challenges of caring for and understanding their new link.   And Dex, Keefe and Fitz  were ever present as Sophie's friends and love interests making me really curious as to where things will go in Book 3. Sophie is just such a wonderful middle grade character.    A delightful, lovely story and I'm eagerly awaiting the next in the series.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus

I really liked the way math and Gregory's father played an integral part of the plot of The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. Gregory K is the middle child in a family of math geniuses, but somehow the math gene seemed to escape him.  Coming from a fantasy and adventure reading background parents are usually absent or missing in the books that I read.  Yet, in The 14 Fibs of Gregory K, Gregory's father provides that adult role model that Gregory wants to be like. Competing in the Citywide math contest is a family tradition after all.  Gregory just doesn't have the same passion or mathematical skills as his dad and doesn't really know how to tell him. Gregory soon tells one fib after another to try and make up for his math deficiencies.  He tells his father and teacher that he's entered in the math contest, and his best friend Kelly that he is going with her to Author Camp over the summer.  To make matters worse, Gregory is failing math and unless he can get a passing grade, none of his plans can come true.  But,  Gregory's abilities are in writing poetry.  In the end, Gregory is going to have to rely on himself to solve the problems that he created and he learns a nice lesson about being honest with ourselves as well as with others. One of my favorite parts of the story is how Gregory's math teacher realizes that in order to help him "get math," he assigns Gregory to keep a math journal where he is to write about how math impacts him daily.  It kinda reminds me of Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading and My Life as a Book but this time about math.    Overall, I really enjoyed the story and learned a lot about the Fibonacci Sequence and even about Parson Mason Weems, who came up with the famous tale about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree.    My favorite poem was this one:
                                    The Truth,
                                  Follows rules.
                             I can't make things up,
                        Since numbers do not tell stories.

Many thanks to the publisher and Goodreads for my hardcover of the book for review. 

**As a side note after reading the book I received this link from a friend with some wonderful more information on the Fibonacci Sequence

Thursday, November 21, 2013

NERDS by Michael Buckley


I've been a follower of Micahel Buckley's blog I Don't Have Time for This Blog What I'm Doing When I Should be Writing at for sometime and have even read a few of the books in his The Fairy-Tale Detectives series.  I like his writing style and wanted to learn more about this particular series. 

 Jackson is the main character, he is one of the "cool kids."  A star of the football team, revered by all of his friends and well a bully to everyone else.  That is until Jackson ends up getting braces and becomes ostracized from his old gang.  Jackson isn't used to being a social outcast or misfit, even the "nerd herd" is starting to look interesting to him.  So, Jackson sets out to find out why things have changed so dramatically. He takes to following around his previous friends and finds that they aren't as cool as he thought they were, and that everyone has some quirk that makes them different.  Jackson also snoops on the nerds of the school realizing that he misses having a tight-knit group of friends and wants to see if he can find a way in.  It's on one of these reconnaissance missions that Jackson unknowingly falls into the middle of the NERDS headquarters and discovers that the team is actually a secret organization that uses their weaknesses as strengths to "monitor the globe for danger and fight for the security of the world."  Jackson becomes their newest recruit but things wont be easy, he's made a lot of enemies in this group of kids and finding a way to mend things proves tougher then he thought.  Plus there is an evil doctor set on changing the map of the world by moving pieces around like a jigsaw puzzle.  

 My Thoughts: I found NERDS to be highly entertaining.  Maybe because I just get boyish humor having seen my fair share of Nickelodeon shows.  I liked the various code names and skills that each child receives after their nerdy qualities were "upsized."  There was "Gluestick" (very sticky skin from eating to much glue), "Wheezer" (who uses an inhaler to fly), "Flinch" (with super strength and speed) and "Pufferfish" (a human lie detector that can determine danger and deceit).  I like how Buckley didn't make things easy for Jackson to be excepted into the group.  He really had to work at righting his wrongs.  I also found the "baddies" of the story entertaining, Dr. Jigsaw and Hyena (the professional freelance assassin wannabe who is a kid herself).  Having the chapters alternate between what was happening among the NERDS and the Lair of Dr. Jigsaw, until the two sides collided, kept the action going at a nice pace.  Overall, would make a great read for an eight to twelve year old who likes spy stories with plenty of action. 

My review copy was from the library.  


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu


Eleven year old Oscar lives in the basement of a shop in The Barrow with Master Caleb the magician and his apprentice Wolf.   Oscar is the hand who performs all of the menial tasks at the shop like grinding leaves, pouring vials and keeping things clean and stocked.  Oscar likes the solitude of the cellar with his cats  because he can escape from the bullying of Wolf and it feels safe and secure.  Yet, when  unforeseen circumstances call Master Caleb away to the continent  and Wolf disappears, Oscar is thrown into the position of taking charge of the shop.   However, Oscar was never taught the skills for dealing with customers by Master Caleb and now he is left trying to keep things running.  Oscar soon finds aid from Callie, the apprentice of the town healer.  They forage a deal, Callie will help Oscar learn how to relate to people and he will help her find a way to cure the children of the city who have become sick.

I picked this book to read initially based on the cover, which is beautifully illustrated.  I also liked the intrigue of the title, The Real Boy.  There are hints of Pinocchio,  magic and well I do love a good fantasy read.  It's also apparently been nominated for  the 2013 National Book Award Long list for Young People's Literature.  

I really loved reading about Oscar and Callie.  Yet, this is one of those books that is hard to review.  It's hard to find the right balance of not saying to much and reveal the plot while trying to say enough to give the full flavor of the book.   I found Ursu did a remarkable job of blending fantasy with realistic character elements making Oscar such a lovable person to read about.  I think I will add some spoilers to my Goodreads review so you can check that out here.   I was also really intrigued about the Inspiration for Oscar and you can read that here and here is also a wonderful Review from

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Starbounders by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

16248124Zachary Night is one of the new Starbounder recruits at Indigo 8 (a super top secret earthbound base for the Inter Planetary Defense League, or IPDL.)  Zachary hopes he will be able to follow in his families footsteps by training to protect the galaxy against "outerverse threats."   Yet, things go wrong during a mission and Zachary, Kaylee and Ryic end up kidnapped by thugs armed with voltage slingshots and sonic crossbows. To make matters worse they also stumble onto a plot to destroy Indigo 8 itself. Zachary and his friends will need to figure out who is behind the attack and stop it in time.  

Starbounders appears to be the first in a new series of books for authors Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson of The Familiars series.  I certainly saw some elements that will appeal to boys, intergalactic gadgets, battle scenes and alien life forms.  Just look at that cover and you can see a warp glove on Zachary's hand.  There is also plenty of adventure and action to go around. I would probably recommend this for an eight to twelve year old who enjoys reading science fiction.  I certainly had fun delving back into science fiction, it had been awhile. 

My review copy was from the Public Library.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

17349203Mom is off on a business trip, leaving father in charge.  Unfortunately, they have also run out of milk for the cereal and dads tea.  Father states he will go down to the corner market and get the milk, but the children are left waiting and waiting.  When father returns, he tells them the tale of how he encountered aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, time travel, volcanoes and a hot air balloon, all while saving the milk.   The illustrations are adorably done and really make the story.  Especially the ones of the children's expression as father tells his tale, beautifully detailed.  I think this would make for a fun read aloud, children could even be encouraged to add their own adventures to the tale, which I think the story lends itself for very well.  It's silly and improbable and funny, defiantly would make for a great gift too.  There is also another version in the UK with illustrations by Chris Riddell that would have been fun to see.  Review copy was from the public library. 

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud


Apparitions in the forms of ghosts or "visitors" have been appearing all over London.  Most often these visitors appear to linger around a "source," or their place of death.  To manage these apparitions, agencies that specialize in paranormal activity have been cropping up around the city.   Lockwood & Company is one such agency, run by Anthony Lockwood and George.  The agency is run without adult supervision, because children are more attuned to ghosts and have special psychic talents, plus adults just get in the way.  However, realizing that they need an additional field operative, Lockwood and George decide to hire Lucy.   One of their first cases is to locate the Source of a visitor within Mrs. Hope's house.  Yet, in so doing they unavoidably burn down her house and must then figure out a way to pay for the damages. Things appear to be looking up when Lucy locates a locket and the trio stumble onto a murder case.  Relief finally comes when Mr. Fairfax offers to pay for the previous damages they caused and adds a hefty sum of money if they will come to find and seal a Source within The Combe Carey Hall, a place that houses the Red Room and Screaming Staircase.   

My first introduction to Jonathan Stroud's work was The Amulet of Samarkind, which was the first book in the four part series. The stories took place in London and centered around the relationship between Bartimaeus the djinni and his young master Nathaniel.  There were wizards and magicians with a ultimate battle between good and evil. In this case though, the wizards weren't all good.  I must admit that I haven't read to many ghost stories, but I really wanted to see Stroud's take on a ghost story and I've heard that this was going to be really good.  I must say I'm glad that I waited until Halloween to start this because I really loved the book.  It was a perfect pick for a Halloween read.  The world building and characters were so easy to get into.  I liked how the story was mostly told from Lucy's point of view.  Her insecurities and questionable fields skills kept the tension of the book ratcheted up and had me vested in the outcome.  Lovely lovely creepy book that I really enjoyed reading and am looking forward to the next in the series.  I am curious whether Stroud will switch points of view in the next books to give some more background on George and Lockwood, because I think this work very well for Lucy's story in this book. Adding this one to the favorites list and will defiantly be looking for the next in the series.   
Two great reviews are Tanya and Ms Yingling

My review copy was purchased.   

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck


Ahh, Animal stories.  There is just something about them that appeals to me.   Author/Illustrator duo of Richard Peck and Kelly Murphy are back in their latest book, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail.  The last one I read  by Richard Peck was The Secrets at Sea, an adventure story about a family of mice that set forth on a ship bound for England on the Eve of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee.  Interestingly enough, the Queen's diamond jubilee is also about to take place in The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, but the two plot lines don't seem to intersect.  I chose this book, well because I really wanted to figure out what was up with that mouses tail. 

I found the beginning of the story a little slow going, mostly due to the process of building the world that these mice live in  (which is the Royal Mews right next door to Buckingham Palace).  Peck also introduces "Mouse Minor," the guy with the question mark tail and explains why he has no name.  However, once Mouse Minor commits the worst two crimes a mouse can make the story begins to move along nicely.  Things culminate with Mouse Minor fleeing the Royal Mews and attempts  to try and find the Queen to see if she can tell him who he is and what his future has in store.  I'm just not sure if most readers will wait til the middle of the book for this, but I found it was worth it.  Overall, I found the story very cute and it fits into the other stories that I've read about mice.  The illustrations in The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail are very nicely detailed but I found that I enjoyed the ones that were a full color page much better then the ones which were in blue and white tones.  
My Copy for review was from the library

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Twofer Thursday


From authors  Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams of the Goddess Girls series, comes Heroes in Training.   Greek mythology seems to still be very popular and the Goddess Girls series (also by these authors)  as well as Rick Riordan's  Percy Jackson series, seem to provide that nice introduction to mythology for children.   In Heroes in Training, Oracle Pythia has prophesied that a "band of rightful rulers called Olympians will arise.  Though their size and youth are no match for the Titans, they will be giant in heart, mind and spirit."  One of the strengths and appeal of this book was the humor.  Especially, when Zeus gets kidnapped by three half-giants and is wearing one of their helmets like a walking jail cell.  Being shorter in length then Goddess Girls,  I think this would make a great read for a reluctant reader because of its fast pace and black and white illustrations, as well as nice spins on the God's stories.  


I really enjoyed Tuesdays at the Castle.  I absolutely loved reading about a Castle that had a mind of it's own and who chooses the King.  Princess Celie showed such love and devotion to her Castle mapping out each of its rooms and when the Castle needed protecting, Celie and her siblings were there.  Now in Wednesdays in the Tower, Princess Celie is faced with a new challenge, that of a giant orange egg hidden in one of the towers.  Celie soon learns that the Castle has brought her the egg to take care of and also wants her to learn the history of Castle Glower.   As in the first book, Celie's siblings play a large role but this time in unraveling the history of the Castle.  For when the egg hatches and the Castle begins to provide clues as to what is inside, everyone will need to pull together. The only drawback in Wednesdays in the Tower is that it ends on a cliff-hanger.  Makes me wish the next was already out, but gives me something to look forward to.  Overall, a wonderful magical story that continues the charm of the first story.   

Books for review are from the Public Library.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Ambrose Beacon by Alena Gouveia


I must admit that when I looked at Goodreads and Amazon and only saw a handful of reviews for The Ambrose Beacon, I was pretty surprised.   This book is wonderfully fast-paced with well developed characters that would make a great middle grade read.    I love how the story centers around the Ambrose children, their father and uncle.  Gouveia first introduces each of the children in their every day school and home environment.  We get a feel for what they are like and the family issues that exist.  From Dinah who wants to go with Eduardo to the prom to Vaughan who is trying to stay off the school bullies radar. Each has some real life issues that they are dealing with, yet this is what made me become invested in the story.  I learned how when the children were young their mother died leaving their father (Jerry) and Uncle (Harper) to care for them and that each of the children  were endowed with certain abilities by their mother.  The same sort of abilities that Harper possesses.  Be it strength, speed, exceptional hearing, invisibility, or even the ability to change into an animal form.  I also saw the transition of the Ambrose children as they learned about their powers and what these powers mean for them.  And when  strange things begin to happen around town like wolves  and people wearing dark clothing show up, it's easy to worry about what will happen to the family.  Even though Harper begins to suspect that these dark forces are in search of "The Solas" which resides in one of the Ambrose children, even he doesn't know which one.    Hear in lies the mystery that drives a lot of the story.  I kinda suspected who it might be, but Gouveia tries to throw some curve balls at ya to keep you guessing.   There is also some fast paced action and fight scenes that highlights each of the children's abilities really well and things move along quickly.  Gouveia wraps up the story nicely, leaving room for further books but an ending that does not disappoint.  Review copy of the ebook generously provided by  and Alena Gouveia as a part of a Book Spootlight and Giveaway. A Big thank you to both.  

The Prologue of the Ambrose Beacon is also available at

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Ida B. . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan

207802Ida B tried out public school when she was five,  but her teacher refused to call her Ida B (even though everyone knows that Ida is her mother) and school has so many rules and certain things can only be done "when it's time."  Well, Ida B just isn't used to all that waiting.  She wants to be running outside and talking to her friends the trees and brook.  When Ida B becomes so distraught, her parents agree that homeschooling may just be the trick.  Ida B loves her carefree lifestyle of being homeschooled.  She even started to believe that she would "never be going back to that particular Place of Slow but Sure Body-Cramping, Mind-Numbing, Fun-Killing Torture again."  Everything was righter then right,  that is until Ida B's mother gets ill and now she has to go to the public school.  This new change makes Ida so very angry and disappointed in her parents.  She vows that she isn't going to like school one bit.  Yet, can Ida B keep this hardening of her heart forever?  
Hannigan captures the thoughts and emotions of Ida B so well.  It's so sad to see the transformation of the free spirited Ida B to the little girl who vows to not like school, her teacher, make friends or even won't like Mama or Daddy.  It's the kind of story that gives you all kinds of feelings.  Throughout I just felt myself emphasizing with Ida B when things in her life are turned upside down.  Yet, there were also fun light hearted moments too.  I really liked the character of Ida B's fourth grade teacher Ms. Washington.  I loved how she approached her everyday and tried to help Ida B acclimate to school.   Overall, I highly recommend this wonderful book for fifth or sixth graders.  My favorite line:  "After Daddy left, I was hurting something terrible, like every single part of me was cut and torn up.  But my heart hurt the most." Can't you just feel her pain?  Read for the Battle of the Books 2013, my copy was from the Library. 

 Next up is The Screaming Staircase by Johnathan Stroud.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fall Is In The Air

So temperatures are starting to drop, as well as the leaves.  Today all the Halloween books I could find were retrieved from the stacks and placed out within easy reach for the children and teachers.  So that must mean that it is also time again for All Hallows Read.   Who better to describe it then Neil Gaiman?  
I hope to read these two books this month.  I think both will fill my need for something spooky.  

My all time favorite Halloween read though is Book 4 of The Books of Elsewhere


Monday, September 23, 2013

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl


When I was a kid there were a few movies that we watched at home every year on television, The Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  For some reason they were the ones that I would even get a reprieve from my usual bedtime to stay up for.  Yet sadly, I've never read The Wizard of Oz or Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.  I know, I should bow my head in shame.  How did I miss these growing up?  I did finally read Mary Poppins, does that redeem me?  Any who...I can now add Charlie and the Chocolate Factory thanks to America's Battle of the Books ( a reading incentive program for students in 3rd through 12th grade.)  There is something nostalgic about reading this after so long.  I so love the movie with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.  I loved the scenes when they come into the room with the chocolate stream and eating the marshmallow cream.  So going into the book, I enjoyed reading the scenes in the authors own words.  Although, I must admit I noticed the changes between the two.  I am curious why those were made, some were minor ("bad nut" versus "bad egg")  but others really changed things around ("Slugworh" wanting a sample of the Everlasting Gobstoppers is in the movie but not in the book).  I guess I try to approach books and their movie as two different entities.  I also realize that not all  authors get to write their screen play and well some things just get left on the cutting floor further illustrating why reading the book first gives you an idea of what the author intended.  Overall, the wonder and fascination that I felt when I saw the movie was still captured in the book.  Not the cover I would have selected, but only one available at the library.  But there is a very nice forward by Lev Grossman.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem

Opening line: “Death stalked the spider, pre-algebra book in hand.”  I've got to admit, I really like that opening.  

Texting the Underworld is about twelve year old Conor O'Neill who lives in South Boston with his parents, younger sister and next door is his Grandpa or Grump as he is lovingly called. Conor's little Irish neighborhood is home to the frequent sounds of car alarms and the screech of owls, but Grump knows that those sounds are really the “keen” of a banshee come to weep for the person about to die.  So when red-blond headed Ashling appears to Conor foretelling that someone in the O'Neill family is going to die, he knows that he must come up with a plan to protect them.  Poor Conor though doesn't know who it is and Ashling isn't telling either.  Ashling just wants to experience as much as she can of current time before completing her task for the Lady of the Other Land.  But, how will Conor keep Ashling a secret from everyone else while making sure that no one sees her keen, because if they do they too will drop dead.  

One of the strengths of Texting the Underworld is the characters. We have Conor, who is scared of spiders and is afraid to sneak out at night with his Grandpa.  Despite his flaws he is really a likable guy and grows throughout his journey. Booraem also introduces Grumps, who I really liked the best. Grumps brings with the Irish history and traditions of the O'Neill family and fills in all the necessary gaps about the lore.   And then there is Ashling, who provides the humor as she tries to learn about modern day society via Trivial Pursuit cards no less.  Booraem doesn't hold back in Texting the Underworld  with its themes of death and going so far as to place Conor in the difficult position of determining someones fate. Overall a great story that incorporated lots of mythology from Babylonian to Irish to Scottish when delving into the afterlife.  
Review copy received as a part of authors blog tour giveaway at
a big thank you to both.  
ETA: Review copy donated to school library. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Picture Book Reviews


One of my favorite parts about volunteering for the school library is when all the new books the Librarian ordered come in. I always love perusing the covers and flipping through the pages.  So today, I have two picture books to share.
From Goodreads "Boot and Shoe were born into the same litter, and now they live in the same house.  They eat out of the same bowl, pee on the same tree, and sleep in the same bed.  But they spend their days apart- Boot on the back porch because he's a back porch kind of dog, and Shoe on the front porch because he's a front porch kind of dog.  This is exactly perfect for them.  But then a crazy neighborhood squirrel arrives....and everything goes topsy-turvy!.  Marla Frazee's Boot and Shoe are adorable.  I love the illustrations and silly humor.  There are great concepts of over, under, around and through and a nice message of how we each can like different things. 

The Second Book is about a little Goldfish who lives in a fish bowl all by himself.  On day one, he swims around his bowl and each day thereafter something new happens in his little bowl.  Eventually, Goldfish ends up with a clutter of other fish and he just wants to live in a bowl all alone.  But what Goldfish finds is that it isn't all that he thought it would be.  Great messages with cute illustrations throughout.   

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret by Wanda Coven

11492265Heidi wakes up in a grouchy, grumpy gloomy mood.  After being homeschooled with her younger brother, her mother decides it's time for Heidi to start second grade in the public school. Heidi isn't very happy about the new arrangement, even her favorite outfit of black jean skirt with striped black-and-white- striped tights isn't enough to cheer her up.    To make things worse, on Heidi's first day she gets picked on by meanie Melanie. What's a girl to do?  Heidi decides it's time to pull out her special Spell Book that has been handed down in her family and teach mean Melanie a lesson.  O.K. This is where the action ends. With a great premise of a witchy girl going to school and wonderful illustrations by Priscilla Burris whats not to love?  Oh yeah, cliffhanger ending.   I found this to be a very different approach to a chapter book for young readers and really hope it doesn't continue with each book.  I just picture unhappy little faces wondering what happens to mean Melaine.  Guess they'll have to pick up Casts a Spell to find out.  And I really recommend those who read the first have the second available, it's the kind of book that someone who is interested in early chapter books would like.    


I found Heidi Heckelbeck Has a Secret as iBooks free ebook of the week selection.  It would make a great pick for five to seven year olds.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Destiny Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice


Destiny is such an interesting subject. Whether it's destiny that brings two people together or the future that we are destined for. In Emily Elizabeth's case, her destiny was predetermined by her mother in the way that she named her after the famous poet Emily Dickinson. When your mom is an English-professor who writes greeting cards and loves poetry a nudge from her to follow in your footsteps seems obvious. Emily's mother even goes one step further by inscribing "Emily Dickinson is one of the great poets.  The same will be said of you one day."  Emily's mother also hides special dates, developmental stages and the name of Emily's father among the pages of the poetry book.  But Emily's passion lies with collecting happy endings and writing romance novels and letters to her favorite author Danielle Steele. Plus, Emily doesn't even get poetry.  So when Emily looses her special book, she is afraid that destiny is taking a terrible turn for her.  Emily, Wavey and cousin Mortie begin a desperate search through used bookstores and thrift stores to find her precious book.  Overall, I enjoyed the characters in the book.  I loved the interactions between Emily and Wavey, and cousin Mortie was hysterical.   Mortie wants to be in the military when he grows up, so he develops a plan for finding the book and puts it in Morse code.  He also performs reconnaissance as they go in search and is the overall backup. Although I could see how the story was going to end pretty early on, there was lots of humor in letters that Emily writes to Danielle Steele and in the situations that Emily, Wavey and Mortie find themselves in. The only person that I really didn't understand was Emily's mother and how she left Emily's finding her father to fate.  Not wanting to mess with or change Emily's fate by telling her his name.  A very good story that questions whether destiny is within our control or is it just up to chance.   My copy was from the public library. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

FYRE by Angie Sage


Angie Sage is the author of the Septimus Heap series which includes such books as Magyk, Flyte, Phsik, Queste, Syren, Darke, and her final book in the series, Fyre.  She has also written and illustrated numerous picture books as well as the series Araminta Spookie, for which I have read the first. For those not familiar, the series began when "the seventh son of the seventh son" (Septimus) was stolen but thought to be dead. Over many books, Septimus comes to learn about his family and some of his destiny to become an Extra Ordinary Wizard Apprentice.  There is plenty of charms, incantations and Magyk.  Yet, there is also time travel, ghosts, dragons and deep within mysterious forces and dark wizards that are trying to regain their power.  I don't think I could ever do the entire series justice in one review so, I'm going to focus more on my thoughts. Overall, I thought this would be a daunting task to bring everything together.    Being the last in the series, Fyre has a lot of history and loose ends to tie up.  That and it had been a few years between my reading each of the books.  I mean Magyk was published in May of 2005 and Darke was in 2011.  Yet, I still found it was like coming back to a familiar place.  All the characters I enjoyed were here, all be it now they were taking on more adult like roles.  Princess Jenna was soon to be crowned Queen, Beetle was now the Chief Hermetic Scribe and well Septimus is an Apprentice to ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia.  I kinda felt like I did when I read the Harry Potter Series and the Edge Chronicles, sad that it was ending but comforted by the fact that I could start it all over again if I wanted to.  Plus it seems that Angie Sage is also working on a new trilogy that will include the world of Septimus.   My review copy was from the library. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Happy Book Blog Birthday

Birthday Card Stock Photo - Image: 15018120

It's hard to believe that it is already my little blogs Book Birthday.  Just think, one year ago I decided to put you out into the world.  I've watched you grow and thanks for all the followers who continue to follow and comment on the blog.  It is really appreciated and you truly are the best!!

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani


Today I'm excited to talk about The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.  I first saw this book as a part of the Harper Collins Browse Inside feature back in June, up for offer were the first six chapters. I was captured by the cover and illustrations by Iacopo Bruno. I also really loved the premise that Chainani set up with the two schools (one for good and one for evil).  Plus there was the bonus feature of this wonderful trailer. Can't say that I've looked at to many of them, but this one catches the eye.  


Trailer for The School for Good and Evil

Within the town of Gavaldon, on the “eleventh night of the eleventh month” the School Master comes and kidnaps two children for the School for Good and Evil. Sophie is most likely girl who will end up in the School for Good. She after all has been dreaming and grooming to be a princess her entire life. With her eye for fashion and love of pink, she is a shoe in. Agatha, on the other hand seems to be destined for the School for Evil. When you grow up in a cemetery wearing all black and chase people away all the time, you really get a reputation for being evil. But good and evil are not just black and white and when Agatha and Sophie seem to be placed in the opposite schools, everything turns to a shade of gray.   

The School for Good and Evil is an interesting take on what constitutes good and evil. In the beginning, Chianani leads us to believe who is destined to be the princess and who is the witch. But Agatha and Sophie don't even know what lies within their hearts. The first quarter of the book Sophie is trying to switch schools with Agatha and Agatha is trying to find a way home to Gavaldon for them. Lots of emphasis is placed on telling the reader how unhappy Sophie is with the circumstance. Both try to convince everyone under the sun that there has been a horrible mix-up. When Agatha and Sophie manage to get into the School Master's tower, they come face to face with the Storian. Once Storian has begun the girls story, they must follow it to its end. The School Master also informs them that a princess and witch can never be friends and the only solution to their problem is to solve a riddle. “What's the one thing Evil can never have and the one thing Good can never do without?” The School for Good and Evils illustrates how beauty is not just how we look on the outside, it is also in the life we live and actions that we take.  Overall, I would say I see a little Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and a smidge of Darth Maul thrown in for good measure. A fun fairy tale retelling and Book Two is set to be published on April 15, 2014 with this new beautiful cover.  
My Review Copy was from the Library.  


Friday, August 16, 2013

The Hero's Guide to Saving your Kingdom by Christopher Healy


Doesn't everyone knows the tales of Cinderella, Rapunzel  Sleeping Beauty and Briar Rose? But, what about the names of all the Princes from those tales?  Believe me, I was struggling with that one too.  I blame it on to many Disney movies growing up. Apparently everyone has just been calling them Prince Charming for years. Now if you asked Prince Liam, Prince Frederick, Prince Duncan and Prince Gustav, they would say it's all on account of those no good bards messing up the way things really went.  After reading the story, I can certainly see their point.  I really like Healy's take on these fairy tales and how each Prince, well and Princess alike is different from the way that I am used to.  Prince Liam is in an arranged marriage to Briar Rose, except she is spoiled, mean and down right rude.  Prince Frederick has his daily routine and Ella (Cinderella) is getting rather bored of it all.  Prince Duncan and Snow White are the only ones that are married but both haven't really settled into that role.  Prince Gustav has tried to stand out among his 16 older brothers but when he is saved instead of Rapunzel, he becomes the laughing stock of his kingdom.  The Prince's are not the only ones unhappy.  If you ask the witch she let Rapunzel go.   So, when the bards begin to go missing one by one, Ella decides she is up for some adventure and plans to go and rescue him.  This was such a fun retelling of the famous fairy tales, packed with humor and defiantly works for kids and adults alike.  I was laughing aloud at the narrators interjections into the story.  Loved the titles in each chapter and I think this would make for a great read aloud.  Lucky for me the next book is already available so there is an added bonus of not having to wait to see what happens next.  Great for 8 year old and up who enjoy fractured fairy tales. My review copy was purchased.  
     Here's the cover of Book 2, Published April 30th 2013.    


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Parched by Melanie Crowder

PARCHED, just the name has ya thinking hot, dry and thirsty.  The cover also captures the tone of the book very well.  Melanie Crowder imagines a barren world in which water supplies have dried up.  What little left is being hunted down by armed thugs.  It is a sad place, one where Sarel losses her parents in a struggle to hold onto the food that they were able to find among the barren soil.   One leaving Sarel to tend to the family dogs and the little knowledge her mother left her about which roots can survive and what left is edible.  It is also a place where a young boy, Musa is kept in chains because of his ability to track down the water that is deep within the soil.   Yet, among this place the two are brought together in hopes that they can find a way to survive.  Ok, so there will be some SPOILERS down below, you've been warned, so stop now if you haven't read the book yet and really should. Parched is classified as Literary Upper Middle Grade Fiction, so right around 5th to 8th grade.  

Parched begins from the view of Nandi, Sarel's dog. (Actually it is told in alternating voices of Sarel, Musa and Nandi.).   It is one of the most heart wrenching moments of the story for me.  This is one of those books that makes you feel.  It isn't so much about the place, although it too is a sad desolate place, but it is the whole circumstance that these two children are left in.  They really have to fend for themselves among some terrible odds. Both have to learn how to trust each other and find courage to overcome those odds.  There is a lot packed into those 151 pages.  I think my only problem with Parched was that I felt to much.  Strange statement, I know, but the ending leaves me feeling sad for the two children.  Although the issue of water is resolved, I can't help thinking that it will dry up too.  Plus the thugs are still out there and eventually they could find these kids.  I guess that is part of what makes this such an engaging book is it makes you feel and think about what a world without water would be like.  

My review copy was provided by the lovely Casey and Natalie over at Literary Rambles as a part of a giveaway from the author and her publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  So a big thank you to all for the ARC of Parched.

Coming up Next:  The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes#1) by Christopher Healy.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wish List

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co, #1)The Book of Lost Things (Mister Max #1)
So these are two books that I am looking forward to.  I really loved Jonathan Stroud's series of books, Bartimaeus was such a great character.  I also really love the illustrations of Iacopo Bruno and this cover intrigues me.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Two Books by Shelby Bach in the Ever After Series

Of Giants and Ice (The Ever Afters, #1)The first book in the Ever After series by Shelby Bach was this little beauty, Of Giants and Ice.   Readers were introduced to the characters of Rory, Lena, Chase, Rory's family and learned of the after school program that is designed to assist children with finding "their tale."  This first story involved Rory's friend Lena's tale.  Not just any tale, but the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. 

  Of Witches and Wind (Ever Afters, #2)
In Book Two, Rory is feeling more confident.  She's just finished battling ice griffins after all.  Doesn't that make you a veteran or something?  Yet, the Evil Snow Queen is working against the Ever After Program and Rory quickly finds herself as a companion in a new quest. The stakes in this book are much higher then before as the entire school has been poisoned.  Rapunzel sets forth a prophecy that five characters must travel forth and in seven days time draw the water of life from the spring in order to save the school. Rory begins to have doubts whether she will be able to help to save the school and her friend Lena. Of Witches and Wind is filled with many light moments, snarky comments, puns, humor and a plot that escalates the tension just the right amount.  There are some beautiful moments between Rory and Chase where she finds that she doesn't really know everything about him.  That he has had a lifetime before she was even born.  So yeah, plenty of secrets, prophecies and a story that I really enjoyed reading. Bach has a lovely way of capturing the angst of a middle grader and at the same time developed a beautiful story about friendship.  She captures the voice of a middle grade girl with the doubts, insecurities that they may feel. My favorite quote, "Doubts can conquer a person more quickly then an army.  If you know yours, you can conquer them instead."   In the end, as Bach puts it best in her acknowledgments, "Of Witches and Wind is all about how surviving middle school is so much easier when you have great, caring, loyal friends."   My review copy was purchased and I eagerly await the next in the series.  

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon's Fury by L.R.W Lee

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon's Fury (Book One)Prologue:  Imogenia finds herself in the afterlife terminal contemplating where she is to go next.   She has narrowed her options down to Peace Paradise, and Unfinished Business.  Since her demise and her brother ending her aspirations for being Queen by putting a dagger in her back, Imogenia has been plotting  a way to get even with him.  Imogenia enlists the help of her dearly departed mother and father and sets a curse in motion on her brother (King Heraclon) and the people of Oomaldee.  The curse involves a perpetual dense fog across the land and an immortal King who must watch his kingdom grow further and further into despair.  And so the curse goes on for 500 years, that is until the King and Queen decide that their son has learned his lesson and the curse should end.  The Afterlife Council agrees but if and only if the King can find a way that doesn't break any of the rules of afterlife.  And so King Kaysan has found a descendant who will end the curse.  Yet, the King can not reveal himself to Andy or help him directly in ending the curse. But, both will have to deal with Imogenia's interference.   

During this first part, I kept picturing Beatlejuice sitting on a couch up in the afterlife waiting to go see his counselor. Which for me, made this part amusing.   Imogenia is pretty upset about how her brother treated her and I guess revenge is probably a natural reaction for her.  The story then moves into modern times of Andy.  Just your average kid who loves to play video games and is curious as a cat.  While exploring a mysterious light in the attic, Andy stumbles upon a trunk and then is transported to medieval times where he meets King Heraclon. The King feels that Andy is the one who can break the curse and set everything right. Andy will have the assistance of another boy his age (Alden) and the wisdom of the King's wizard to help him.  The first step in Andy's journey is to find a red dragon scale while avoiding the neighboring King Abbadon who has it out for Oomaldee.     

Disclaimer:  My PDF copy was provided by the author.  L.R.W. Lee approached me because I have reviewed similar types of books in the past.  She also requested that I approach the review from how I think a middle grader would enjoy the book.   

Andy seemed like the kind of character that middle graders would easily relate to.  He is trying to find his place, is insecure and trying to make the best of the situation that he is in but is making mistakes as he goes along.  Andy's mistakes stem from the fact that he doesn't really listen to his conscience, or "inneru" as L.R.W. Lee refers to it.  But, Andy learns that it is important to by the end of the story.  Throughout the book there are messages about responsibility, patience, accepting others which mingled among the plot and at other times came out through dialogue.  There is plenty of action, dragons, Mermen, a Pegasus, and the pace moves along fairly quickly.    Did I mention it also has some very humorous parts relating to passing gas?   Defiantly would appeal to a middle grader. 
My confusion with the book is more in the setting and the overlap between Medieval and modern times.  For example, Alden has neon green hair, the King is wearing modern clothing and knows alot about Andy's time. There are also inconsistencies with the curse and just how terrible it really is on the people of Oomaldee.   Things I know middle graders would over look but I tend to notice while reading.  Overall, there is a lot to really enjoy about this book.  Would put it at around 10-12, mostly because of some dragon killing scenes.  This is the first of a seven part series with Book 2 Venom of the Serpent's Cunning coming at the end of 2013. I will certainly be looking for the next book.  Thank you again to the author for the opportunity to read and review her book.  Those interested in reading the Prologue can go to the authors website at :!prologue/chbo   

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Goes on BoardI so loved Pippi when I was growing up. 
Once, I even slept with my feet on my pillow and head under the covers.  Pippi seemed to have it all, money,  is incredibly strong, lives  in Villa Vllekulla with her monkey Mr. Nilsson and a horse who lives on the porch.  Plus, Pippi was always good for an adventure. Pippi Goes on Board is separated into kind of mini stories. Pippi goes shopping, writes a letter, goes to school, the fair, and ultimately decides that she, Tommy and Annika should get shipwrecked, on purpose no less.  So you know there are defiantly going to be some antics but most of all an adventure.   In the story where Pippi goes shopping with Tommy and Annika, she decides that she wants to buy a piano. "But, Pippi, says Tommy, you can't play the piano, can you?"  and Pippi replies, "How can I tell, when I've never tried? I've never had any piano to try on.  And this much I can tell you, Tommy-to play the piano without any piano, that takes a powerful lot of practicing."  There are quotes throughout the book that demonstrate Pippi's wisdom and special way of looking at the world which makes this a wonderful summer time read for me.  I especially love how Pippi is reunited with her father at the end.  A very touching moment follows.  I would put this book for 8-11 year olds.  My review copy was purchased.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Seagulls Don't Eat Pickles: Fish Finelli Book 1 by ES Farber

Seagulls Don't Eat Pickles: Fish Finelli Book 1
Norman, known as Fish by his friends and family, has been fixing up an old boat with his pals Roger and T.J.   Roger is on the right and T.J. is the one with the pickle in his hand on the left.  Once the boat is finished, the trio plan to put on a Seagull motor boat engine then race in the Captain Kidd Classic. Fish has been saving up his money, but he is still about twenty-seven dollars shy of the fifty-four he needs for the motor.   To make matters worse, Fish enters into a bet with bully Bryce Billings that he can find the long lost treasure of none other than Captain Kidd himself.  Will he and his friends be able to pull off this feat?  

You know how on a hot summer day sometimes we stop for some ice cream? As soon as we're done eating it this feeling of "ah, refreshing" hits us.  Well, Fish Finelli kinda left me with that feeling.  Know what I mean? Seagulls Don't Eat Pickles is such a cute summertime read.  There is adventure, mischief, friendships and those illustrations by Jason Beene are so darn cute. Interspersed are some nice educational tidbits about Long Island, wild life and historical figures that seemed to enrich the story line for me.  Highly recommend for 7-10 year old boys and girls.  My review copy came from the public library.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Eva and Addie are considered to be “hybrids, “ or two souls that are housed within one body. As hybrids grow, they are supposed to “settle.” One soul takes the dominant lead and the other just fades away. But doctors have run their tests and despite the whispers surrounding them, Addie was said to be “healthy” and Eva was gone. Yet, Eva never really left Addie, they just got really good at hiding it. That is until an opportunity arrives for Eva to move again, but are the risks in their best interest?   

Kat Zhang has written a very gripping story.  I was literally on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen to Eva and Addie.  There is some really beautiful character development in What's Left of Me, the author really gets you wrapped up in these two souls making them so realistic.  Eva and Addie read like two sisters, each with their own personality and voice.  It's a feat difficult enough when your talking about the two girls, but then Zhang adds in other characters who possess the same trait, not a small feat.  I guess that's why I really became vested in what would happen to Eva and Addie as they are picked up by the government and placed into an institution. For you see, hybrids are thought to be dangerous to society and must be dealt with.  What's left of Me is full of action, suspense, mystery and left we wanting to know where Zhang is taking things next.  

What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1)
Whats Left of Me was provided by Martina Boone at Adventures in YA Publishing as a part of their One Million Visitor Blog Celebration, a big thank you for opening my eyes to more YA books.
ETA: Review copy donated to public library. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor

Lips Touch: Three Times

As a part of Adventures in YA & Childrens Publishing's Million Visitor Blog Celebration there were tons of giveaways for authors and readers alike.   I was lucky enough to win two books selected by Martina Boone,  Laini Taylor's Lips Touch Three Times and What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang (which I plan to review next.)  If you haven't checked out their blog yet you really should, there is tons of information on publishing, guest blogger's and tips on writing and workshops. Thank you again Martina.  

Lips Touch Three Times consists of three separate stories with a short graphic illustration prior to each that highlight specific plot ideas.  At first, I wanted to see the graphic illustrations placed on the cover.  Yet, there is something about the red lips that stands out and says YA to me.  

The first story is called Goblin Fruit.  It is about Kizzy, who has yearned to be "one of those girls, the kind with perfect hair and ankles that stood out in a crowd".  Instead, she comes from a family who isn't seen as "normal."  One full of old traditions and superstitions.  Kizzy should have listened more closely to her grandmother and heeded her warnings about how Goblins tempt you with their fruit.  Yet, when new boy Jack Husk comes to town, Kizzy is blinded to her fate.  Of the three stories, this one was my least favorite.  I was rooting for Kizzy the whole time, but felt more like I was watching a slasher movie and kept screaming at her "don't walk into the cemetery ".  Yet, I really felt for Kizzy and perhaps that was what the author was going for.  

The Second story is Spicy Little Curses Such As These.  It begins in Hell where an English women (Estella) and Demon are coming to an agreement regarding 22 kids in Kashmir lives in exchange for a curse being placed on a child (Anamique) that makes her voice the most beautiful thing you ever heard but if you hear it you die.  As Anamique grows, she has kept her "voice as a bird in a cage,"  that is until James finds her diary and falls madly in love with her. This was my favorite story.  I love the beautiful prose and little details that Lani Taylor added to the story.  

The Third story is Hatchling.  Of the three, it is the longest with more time spent on character development and world building.  Hatchling is about a young girl who finds out she is from another world, one her mother has been trying to protect her from for her entire life.  Yet this world has a queen who raises children as her pets and she wants the child back.   

Overall, Lani Taylor's fascination with ancient fairy tales and folklore from the British Raj and Persian religion of Zoroastrianism really stand out.  One can easily tell that she must have done lots of research into these areas but at the same time has her unique spin on them as she weaves into each story the theme of a kiss.   
ETA: Review copy donated to public library. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

East by Edith Pattou

Anyone who reads my blog can tell there are a few things that I really enjoy reading, Fantasy, Mythology and Fairy Tales.   Well there are others too, but basically give me one of the above three and I am one happy person.  I especially enjoy  when my fairy tales are written with the authors own spin on them.  East by Edith Pattou  is just that, a retelling of a Scandinavian folktale called “East of the Sun West of the Moon.”   So, picture your at an end of year book swap looking for books for your child and you hear  "this is something I know that you would like to read."    After seeing the cover, I had to agree.   


Synopsis from Goodreads, "Rose has always been different.
Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose's birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home... but she can't suppress Rose's true nature forever.
So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it-- in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family-- she readily agrees.
Rose travels on the bear's broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart-- and finds her purpose-- and realizes her journey has only just begun."
Overall, East is a beautiful story.  The beginning was a tad slower to read, the author needed this time to get into Rose's mysterious fate, which worked out O.k. for me, but I enjoyed the action more when White Bear finally comes into the story.   Rose and White Bears story are told in the alternating voices of Father, Rose's brother Neddy, the Troll Queen, White Bear and Rose herself.  I found this style worked for me for this particular story.  It gave me a good sense of the various characters and enabled various takes on the situation.  Having White Bear initially speak via poems was also a nice touch.  One of the intriguing concepts in East is the use of compasses and maps.  They played heavily once Rose went on her journey.   Rose comes off as a strong, independent young woman eager to travel to new places and meet different people.   Edith Pattou states that she decided to turn the winds in the original tale of "East of the Sun West of the Moon" into " people who represent the four different points of the compass."  These people end up being guides for Rose, with each person representing the direction and characteristics of that direction.  The other aspect of East that I appreciated was the amount of research that must have gone into the story.  There are  details about weaving, compasses, map making, historic landmarks from Norway, mythology, and the great white bear, to name a few.  All which made for a wonderful story.