Thursday, July 28, 2016

Two Shorter Reviews: The Seventh Wish and The Lost Compass

So, I've taken a short hiatus from the blog recently.  I spent some time in South East Alaska and boy is it beautiful!  A bit chillier than home, but I got to see some orcas, whales, sea otters and plenty of sea stars (I never knew they aren't called starfish anymore).  Even though I was away, I did get the chance to read a few books and these are two that I wanted to comment on.  

26073068Hardcover, 240 pages
Published:  June 7th, 2016 
by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genres: MG Realistic Fiction, 
Source:  Library

I remember when The Seventh Wish was released reading the controversy about some of the content of the book and how the author was even disinvited to a book signing at a school.  Having read a few of Messner's other books, I admit I was curious so I decided to read it for myself.

First line:  "I've only seen the ice flowers once."

Charlie and her older sister Abby have a tradition, each year they go down to the lake near their house and look for the ice flowers, but this year since beginning college, Abby has changed.  Because of this, Charlie spends time with her next door neighbor and her friend Drew's grandmother ice fishing.  It's on one of their fishing trips that Charlie reels in a fish that speaks to her and offers a wish in exchange for letting it go, which Charlie eagerly agrees to.  What can it hurt?  When Charlie's first wish sorta comes true, she keeps looking for her magical fish for more wishes.  At first, Charlie wishes for things for her friends, but eventually, she tries to get the fishes wishes to help her family.  As the difficulties within Charlie's family begin to surface, her reactions to them have a very authentic feel.   Charlie gets mad at her sister, feels cheated, and is jealous of all the attention her older sister is getting.  She's a kid trying to process something that she should never have to deal with, her sister's addiction to heroin.  Her feelings make sense and I appreciate that Messner doesn't take the easy way out and doesn't just make Charlie's sister all better at the end.  Heroin addiction can be a difficult subject to begin with, then imagine trying to write it geared toward middle-grade children, which I believe Kate Messner did with a unique sensitivity to this age group.  As a parent, I wish this book wasn't necessary, but there are children in my own community who could use this kind of book, so I'm delighted to know that my library ordered a copy for it's collection.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published:  May 24th, 2016 
by Harper Collins
Genres: MG Fantasy
Source:  Library

The Lost Compass is the sequel to The Fog Diver, which won the Cybils Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction award.  I recall really enjoy the fast paced action and the technological aspects that went into the nanites and creation of the fog.  The Lost Compass takes place after the crew of "slumkids" have escaped to Port Oro where they finally find someone who can help cure their beloved Mrs. E of her fogsickness.  Every good deed seems to have its price, and now the people of Port Oro want Chess to locate a Compass that can stop the fog.  With Lord Kodoc hot on his trail and driftsharks still waiting for Chess within the fog, things are more dangerous than they've ever been. Packed with lots of action, air battles and of course Chess plunging into the fog, this was definitely a perfect book to read on my vacation.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman Blog Tour

I'm really excited today to be a part of the blog tour for Stars So Sweet, the final book in Tara Dairman's All Four Stars series.  Be sure to check out all the other tour stops at the bottom of the post with links to giveaways, author interviews and reviews for Stars So Sweet.  

Blog Tour: Stars So Sweet by Tara Dairman | Review and Series GiveawayHardcover, 288 pages
Expected Publication:  July 19th, 2016 
by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genres: MG Realistic Fiction, 
Cooking & Food, Humorous Stories
In exchange for an honest review, 
an ARC was received from the publisher for free. 
Also by Tara Dairman:  All Four Stars, The Stars of Summer

 As the summer winds down and Gladys Gatsby prepares to start middle school, she is nervous about juggling schoolwork and looming deadlines from her secret job as the New York Standard’s youngest restaurant critic. When her editor pushes for a face-to-face meeting to discuss more opportunities with the paper, Gladys knows she must finally come clean to her parents. But her perfectly planned reveal is put on hold when her parents arrive home with a surprise:  her Aunt Lydia, one of the only adults who knows her secret, fresh off the plane from Paris. Gladys and Aunt Lydia try one last ruse to fool her editor at the Standard, but even with her aunt’s help, Gladys just can’t manage the drama of middle school and a secret life. It’s time for Gladys to be true to herself and honest with her friends and family, regardless of what those around her think

My Thoughts

Opening line:  "Glady Gatsby felt like a fish was flopping around in her stomach."  

It's the first day of school and time for Gladys to catch up with her best friends,  Parm and Charrisa.  Moving up to middle school means lots of changes, like having to meet new people when you no longer share any classes with your two best friends.  At the same time, Gladys has been struggling with feeling guilty and being a little dishonest for not revealing her secret job as a food critic to her parents yet, but she's really trying to come up with a plan to break it to them gently.  Things become increasingly complicated when Gladys editor wants to meet with her face to face and maybe now is the time to be honest with Fiona too.  Yet when Fiona backs her into a corner, Gladys' Aunt Lydia offers to help, despite her own string of bad luck, and Gladys finds out that Fiona has an offer for Gladys that is pretty hard to refuse.  I've always had a fondness for Gladys ever since I've met her in All Four Stars.  I will never forget the beginning of the series, or "the creme brulee incident." Ever since I've adored this "secret agent critics" passion for cooking and loved reading her reviews for the Dining section of the New York Standard.  In Stars So Sweet, Gladys was beginning to broaden her horizons joining some school clubs (Mathlete's, Chess Club, and French Club).  It's funny how Gladys believed she had everything under control, even though she keeps adding more and more things to her plate.  But where would the fun be if things didn't become overwhelming for Gladys when she overcommits herself to helping run the bake sale fundraisers for all her clubs from school, even a few she's not even a member of?   Despite the chaos erupting around her, Gladys always stays true to her passions (cooking and writing food critic reviews). I adore her creative spirit and love for fine foods.   This time around we're introduced to Salvadoran, Peruvian, and Cuban cuisines, along with some delectable references to treats like buñuelo's, soccer ball-shaped cookies and macarons. This is the kind of book that you want to read with your favorite dessert handy, cause I guarantee you'll get hungry.  Dairman has a knack for making cooking sound so fun and trying dishes from many different cultures exciting.  Her own passion for cooking really shines through, and any future foodies would be inspired as well.  Stars So Sweet wraps up everything from the series nicely, there's even a visit to Gladys former teacher,  Ms. Quincy, for some sound advice about Gladys being honest with herself, and we find out why Gladys hasn't heard from Hamilton in a long while.  Although Gladys never made it to France, I was happy to see that Aunt Lydia gets to have a more prominent role in the series.   Do I hope there will be more books in the future, most definitely, but I am also very happy with the way things ended? Yep, even the surprise that was revealed at the very end, which I didn't see coming by the way. Bittersweet to see the end of yet another beloved series, but now I have The Great Hibernation of St. Polonius on the Fjord to look forward to. 

Favorite line:  "...the longer they wandered, the more Gladys felt like a single chocolate chip drowning in a huge bowl of cookie batter." 

About the Author:

Tara’s author photo: Tiffany Crowder
Tara Dairman  is the author of the middle-grade foodie novel ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin) which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and won a 2015 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. THE STARS OF SUMMER followed in 2015, and STARS SO SWEET (6/19/16) completes the series. Tara grew up in New York and holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world’s longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her family.

Keep up with all of Tara's latest news on her:

 Website *     Twitter *    GoodReads *    Facebook  * Instagram

Purchase Tara's books at:

 STARS SO SWEET blog tour schedule:

Thursday-         July 7                     The Daily Dahlia
Friday-              July 8                    The Reading Date
Monday-           July 11                   Project Mayhem
Tuesday-           July 12                  Bookish Illuminations
Wednesday-     July 13                  Log Cabin Library
Thursday-        July 14                   Word Spelunking
Friday-             July 15                   For What It's Worth
Monday-          July 18                   A Baked Creation
Tuesday-          July 19                    Release day!
Thursday-       July 21                         Fic Talk
Friday-            July 22                  Pop Goes the Reader
Monday-         July 25                    Kitchen Frolic
Tuesday-         July 26                     Creative Spaces

Friday, July 1, 2016

Zaria Fierce and the Dragon Keeper's Golden Shoes by Keira Gillett

29983980Author: Keira Gillett 
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Keira Gillett 
Number of Pages: 300 
Date Published:  July 1st 2016

Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an ebook was provided by the author for free. 

In the first book of the Zaria Fierce trilogy, Zaria was tricked by a river troll and endangered the Stag King's son, Hart. In order to save him, Zaria and her friends Geirr, Filip, Aleks, and Christoffer traveled through various Norwegian realms to the underground kingdom of Jerndor to retrieve the Drakeland sword.   A sword so strong that it is the only thing that can cut through the bonds holding Hart, who's time is quickly running out.  Unfortunately, Zaria was once again tricked, this time into using the sword to release Koll, a fierce dragon from his chains. Once released, Koll began to gather together an army of dragons to wreck havoc.  Now Zaria not only needs to find Hart, but she must also stop a dragon invasion.   Zaria has also been battling her own demons or the trollish specter that haunted her thoughts, making her doubt herself, toying with and manipulating her emotions.  Zaria spent much of the first two books wanting to be courageous but filled with such horrible self-doubts.   Every time she gained a little ground, things would once again go horribly wrong. For instance, when she finds out that she has magical abilities, she still struggles to figure out how they work and to gain control over them. Which becomes even more important when the groups path forward is blocked by a water-wyvern.  Yet Zaria is able to fall on her friends for support and their continual encouragement give her just the confidence she needs to keep trying, to persevere. They never hold her mistakes against her and won't allow Zaria to take the blame for being tricked.   For me, it's one of my favorite parts in reading this series, well that and the unique qualities that each character brings to the story.  I also adore the wonderfully detailed world that Gillett has created, filled with all the sights and food.  Glorious details about “warm, rich cinnamon,... gooey, slightly tart apple slices with a hint of powder sugar on top to dust the lips.” Mmm, wouldn't it be fun to get lost in a world like this?  I think the Zaria Fierce series mixes together all the things that I love about reading fantasy books, there is a sense of good versus evil, strong friendships, dragons, gorgeous illustrations, a captivating world, a perfect middle-grade book for someone looking for an action packed story filled with Norse mythology.