Thursday, April 26, 2018

MG Supernatural Mystery Review: Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge illustrated by Joseph Kuefler

35887583Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge illustrated by Joseph Kuefler
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher: Balazar & Bray
Number of pages:  320
Publishing:  May 1st, 2018
In exchange for an honest review a copy of the book was received from the publisher.

Opening Line:  "They say if a sparrow taps at your window during the night, it's a sure sign death is near."  

Twelve-year-old Evangeline Clement has always dreamed of following in her Gran and mothers footsteps to become a haunt huntress.  In Evangeline's family haunt huntress skills are usually passed from mother to daughter and manifest on their thirteenth birthday after finding their animal familiar and when their special powers are revealed.  Those who don't express the skill are a "middling,"  without powers.   Despite a few mishaps in the past, Evangeline feels she's ready to tackle a banshee, nixies or even a Johnny revenant.  Afterall, Gran's the best haunt huntress there is and Evangeline should know cause she's been training with her for years.  If only her animal familiar and powers would emerge, she knows she could earn her silver talisman from the Council.  But when Gran agrees to a job in New Orleans to help Mrs. Midsomer, who has taken ill with an unexplained medical condition and Gran is injured herself, Evangeline has to step in and take charge.  Complicating things is a Rougarou lurking in their mists, a fierce creature whose bite on the next full moon will change you into a werewolf, is Evangeline prepared for the challenge?

I really enjoyed the setting of the Louisiana bayou, the atmosphere of the swamps thick with cypress trees, and "foggy mist, croaking frogs, and bugs chirping."  References to golden catfish, hush puppies, and especially the beignets from Cafe Du Monde.  Definitely a sense of place and the magic of the South.   The first part of the book centers on Evangeline's first assignment to banish a banshee.  It introduces the concept of a haunt huntress, some of the typical supernatural creatures that Gran and Evangeline hunt, and the tools of the trade, everything from powdered beetles to dried fish eyes.  In New Orleans, Gran and Evangeline meet Mr. and Mrs. Midsomer, and their son Julian.  At first, Evangeline and Julian don't hit it off.  Julian can be rather blunt and asks lots of questions.  He likes things orderly, regimented, and he's happiest when he keeps to a strict schedule.  He's also very intelligent, logical and so has doubts that Evangeline and Gran can figure out what is ailing his mother.  To Julian, a swamp witch or haunt huntress is nothing more than a "smoke detective or faith healer."  Despite Julian initially appearing rude to Evangeline, she is determined to do her job and because of her tenaciousness, she even manages to win him over.    

The city of New Orleans makes the perfect backdrop for the legendary Rougarou.    In the story, the identity of the alpha is part of the mystery, little hints to possible suspects are given, but the reader is left guessing as to which character it truly is.  There are also revelations from Evangeline's families past that might hold the key to destroying the Rougarou.  Going in I didn't know the story would include werewolves.  Aside from a few movies I've watched, it's the first book on the topic I've read.  I actually found myself enjoying the setting and even the magical elements of New Orleans.  There's a special trip to Papa Urbain's shop to purchase a gris-gris bag and a prediction from the voodoo priest that two people are about to die adding to the supernatural mystery and suspense.  Most of all I enjoyed Evangeline and her silver-tipped gator-skinned boots, she's smart, feisty, eager to prove that she's not a "middling" and make her Gran proud.  At the end of the book, there is a glossary of monsters, ghosts and assorted supernatural entities included in the story.           

Favorite Line:  "It's when we start to believe our doubts that we fail at the things at which we should succeed."  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

MG Historical Fiction Review: The Mad Wolf's Daughter by Diane Magras

36441547The Mad Wolf's Daughter by Diane Magras
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Kathy Dawson Books
Number of pages:  288
Published:  March 6th, 2018
Source: Library

Opening Line:  "The fog drew back upon the dark sea and revealed a gleaming point like a ship's bow, which seemed to nod at the girl brooding by the glowing bonfire."  

Drest, her father, The Mad Wolf of the North and brothers Gobin, Nutkin, Uwen and the twins Wulfric and Thornskill were gathered around a fire only to be ambushed when Drest's family doesn't heed her warning about what appears to her to be an approaching ship.  While the invaders are battling her siblings, Drest's father orders her to run and hide.  At first, she listens but Drest finds it too difficult not to do anything when she witnesses them being captured.  She then races along the shore trying in vain to catch up with the ship they're being held on, only to have it set sail carrying her family away.  While clambering across the rocks, Drest spots a young knight (Emerick) being pushed over a ravine, he appears to be badly injured and trapped at the bottom.  Drest rescues the knight and hopes to exchange him for her families release or at least interrogate him for where they were taken.  It takes some time, but Emerick agrees to lead Drest to Faintree Castle, where they're being held and due to be hanged in five days.  Armed with her hostage, Drest and Emerick begin their adventure across the Scottish countryside but each new village and person they encounter leads to more obstacles to overcome and Drest is learning more about her family than she ever knew before.   

The Mad Wolf's Daughter was a book I found out about through The MG Book Village, a group of authors and teachers sharing their enthusiasm for all things middle-grade online.  The Mad Wolf's Daughter was selected for June's MG at Heart Book Club discussion and seeing as it was in the library I decided to get an early start.  So far I've read and loved some of their other selections, LOVE SUGAR MAGIC by Anna Meriano and THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET by Karina Yan Glaser, and am still trying to get a copy of  THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson in time for April's discussion.  I really enjoy how they strive to pick "diverse protagonists, authors, and formats, with a focus on recent books, usually from debut authors." 

The Mad Wolf's Daughter reminds me a bit of Disney's Brave, maybe it's that they both take place in medieval Scotland, or that the main characters have a tomboyish quality that I would've identified with back in middle school.  And I know I would've loved Drest's short hair and that she is a member of her families Warband rather than a princess like Merida.  She's also so wonderfully smart, resourceful and very determined.  There's a feistiness to her that I appreciate.  Family is really important to Drest and why she doesn't hesitate to embark on their rescue when they're captured.  Drest's family has a strong code that they live by, with the protection of matrons and maidens being one of their most important ones.  Drest takes this to heart when she jumps into a battle to save a young boy being bullied by six boys or intervenes when a witch is about to be burned by a mob of villagers.  At first, her actions may seem a bit rash and impulsive, but she leaps into action because it means her actions are living up to the responsibilities of the family code, and she believes it would make her family proud.  

 Later in the story, Drest faces a personal challenge of having to reconcile her father and brothers actions with what she learns from the villagers that she encounters along her adventure, and how their actions may have been contrary to what she's been taught.    It's difficult to not feel welcomed into the village and hard to distinguish which side of the story is correct.  She wants to believe in her family first, but when a bandit begins to stalk them and leads them to the town of Birrensgate, everything she thought she knew is shattered.  A tough choice between believing in your family and looking at all of the facts.  Over the course of the story, Drest grows and develops into this fearless heroine with responsibilities and duties that she doesn't shirk or run away from, she becomes a friend to Emerick and a legend around the countryside.  

I adored Emerick and Tig, the two characters aiding Drest on her adventure.  This was one of my favorite parts of the story, the transition of Emerick being Drest's prisoner to becoming her friend.  They're such a fun pair.  I particularly enjoyed this dialogue between them.   

"He glanced at her face and stared "God's bones, you're a lass."  "You say that as if I'm a three-headed goose.  Have you never seen a lass before?"  "I've seen many, but never one like you.  What was your mother?  A banshee?"  Drest scowled.  "I don't know who my mother was.  But if you insult her again I'll drop you."    

There is an author note at the back of the book which provides detailed information about medieval Scotland including Feudalism, Village Life, War-bands, Women, Healing, Castles, Swords, the Landscape, and even an explanation of the origins of the characters names.  It was fascinating to read about the role of matrons and maidens in Scotland, and the way in which Magras tied all the information back to the story, like how Drest's using a sword wouldn't have been typical but that many other young girls might have used a longbow during this time period.   The Mad Wolf's Daughter has it all, historical time period, action, fantasy adventure and lovely moments of reflection, family, and friendship.   

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Realistic Fiction Review of Sophie Washington: Hurricane by Tonya Ellis

Sophie Washington: Hurricane by [Ellis, Tonya Duncan]Sophie Washington:  Hurricane by Tonya Ellis
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Number of Pages: 100
Date Published: January 13th, 2018
Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an ebook was provided by the author for free. 

  • Sophie Washington lives in Houston, Texas with her younger brother, Cole, her dog Bertram, and parents.  Sophie's father is a dentist and the children attend Xavier Academy, a local private school.  The story starts off slowly with a bit of lightning, rain, and thunder.  Then the family learns that a Category 4 hurricane is headed toward Corpus Cristi, where Sophie's grandmother lives, and they become concerned for her safety.  When they are unable to reach her by phone, Sophie's father sets out to make sure that she is alright.  Upon Sophie's father's return, the weather conditions and reports of flooding in the Houston area have also worsened, so everyone heads to the safety of her father's office. Unfortunately, Bertram gets separated in the process and despite an initial search for him, the family must leave him behind.  Once at the dentist's office, Sophie and her family get an unexpected visitor, Valentina, a girl from Sophie's school, her younger brother and abuela who's home and car were flooded leaving them nowhere else to turn.   As the two families weather out the storm at Sophie's father's office they develop a closer bond.   

  • Sophie Washington: Hurricane is an early chapter book aimed at children eight to eleven years old.  This is the fifth book in the series and the only one that I've read so far.  Other books in the Sophie Washington series include Sophie Washington: The Gamer, The Snitch, and Queen of the Bee.   While each book seems to be able to be read on its own, I'd probably recommend starting with an earlier book.  At the beginning of the story, Ellis introduces Sophie's friends who attend the private school with her, and Valentina, the girl who perhaps Sophie is a bit jealous of because her friends seem to "follow her around like zombies."  Initially, Sophie isn't a very likable character, internally she fumes that Valentina is being "fake" and "a phony," and can't understand why her friends don't see it.   She's surly and moans about her younger brother, her friends who're suddenly interested in cheerleading and the healthy food choices her parents force on her as snacks.  However, Sophie's attitude softens considerably when Valentina and her family show up at her father's office after losing everything in the flood.  Sophie then realizes that she misjudged Valentina, that she knows nothing about her home environment or money situation.  When Sophie also learns from Valentina's grandmother that her parents were deported by immigration and it's been two years since she's seen them, she not only see's Valentina in a new light but develops a plan to help Sophie recover some of the things she's lost in the flood.  

  • Hurricane briefly touches on the complications that follow a natural disaster,  the fear, and struggles for children of immigrant families who face deportation and how it's important to not judge a person because you never know what is going on in their life.  The story is just the right length for an early chapter book, with language that matches the target audience.  Sophie and Valentina's families were portrayed as caring and very involved in their lives.  I also thought the sibling's relationships were realistic, they had their moments of bickering in the car demanding each other to "scoot over,"  but in the end, they still care for one another.   Included in the story are full-page black and white illustrations similar in design to the cover.  While the illustrations do portray the characters and events of the story, even matching some of the tension of the impending storm, I would've enjoyed them more if they were in color like the cover.  Overall, this was an enjoyable story with positive messaging and a realistic portrayal of what can happen following a hurricane.      

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

MG Fantasy/Adventure Review: Aleks Mickelsen and the Call of the White Raven by Keira Gillett, illustrated by Eoghan Kerrigan

38129874Aleks Mickelsen and the Call of the White Raven by Keira Gillett, illustrated by Eoghan Kerrigan
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Amazon Publishing
Number of Pages: 286
Date Published: April 6th, 2018

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

 Aleks Mickelsen is a changeling or fairy who's been happily living as a human boy.  With less than two weeks left until his sixteenth birthday, Aleks faces the decision of whether or not to leave his fey abilities behind and become a human forever.   At the end of the previous book in the series, Aleks and his friends had just found out from his sister Nori that Fritjof (a very mean dragon who's been hiding his tracks by erasing the fey's memories of his return) is trying to escape from the Under Realm.  Since then Aleks and his friends have been searching for the Lost Well or entrance to Niffleheim,  but Aleks' navigational skills have been failing and once again they're hopelessly lost.   

The story picks up with Aleks being woken up by Airi, the white raven who formed a special bond with him in the previous book.  Airi snatches the stargazer (the instrument that has frozen time back home) out of Filip's hand and then takes off leading everyone on a wild aerobatic race across the skies to recover it.  Miraculously, Airi ends up leading them to the Lost Well.   It's long been held that whoever finds the Lost Well and puts their claim to it will rule over the four fey courts.  If her wish is granted,  Nori hopes to be the one to reunite the courts.  Yet, the Lost Well might have plans of its own as to who the next ruler of the fey should be.  

Aleks Mickelsen and the Call of the White Raven has plenty of action and adventure, and I love the way in which these characters and their relationships have developed across the series.  The story really starts to take off as Aleks and his friends make their way toward the Autumn Court.  First, they are attacked by Saskia of the Winter Court and then walk into the middle of a coup attempt to overtake the Autumn thrown by Nori and Aleks aunt and uncle, Cornelia and Ytorm.  To avoid being seen they try to sneak into the Great Fox Hall, only to be captured by Aleks cousins Isak and Eskil,  who plan to force them to reveal the location of the Lost Well or face having their friends killed.    As a part of bargaining for their release, Aleks agrees to compete in "The Trials," a competition in which he is placed in an Oubliette or underground dungeon, with the only exit being through the ceiling.  He only has twenty-four hours to free himself, rescue his three friends and return to the Great Fox Hall, with a riddle as his only clue to his friend's whereabouts. 

The Trials reminded of the second task that Harry faced in The Goblet of Fire when his friends were being held underwater by the Merpeople.  In Aleks case, he needed to find the places that his friends are being held using the clues he was given by Isak and Eskil, which is no easy feat.  In one case he also needed to decipher the runes outside of a door in order to open it.  This was my favorite scene in the story, mostly because my kiddo and I have been exploring Norse runes lately, including the Helm of Awe or Ægishjálmr, so it was fun to see them mentioned here.  Gillett's books always include lots of action and strong themes of friendship which I really adore.  While this book is focused on Aleks conflicting feelings about whether he wants to be fey or human and how his return to Neiffleheim has raised many problems for him, not least of which that all changelings are to be killed on sight, there are still many lovely scenes including all of the other characters from earlier novels.  There are even budding romantic interests developing between Aleks and Saskia, Filip and Zaria, maybe even with Christoffer and Nori that was sweet and reminiscent of middle school crushes.  

Aleks Mickelsen and the Call of the White Raven is also filled with these beautifully detailed black and white illustrations by Eoghan Kerrigan at the beginning of each chapter heading.  I love the combination of the text and art and how it not only develops the new characters added to the story but also highlights specific events coming up in the chapter.  Each one is so intricately detailed, with the illustration of Airi the white raven being my favorite.  Be aware that this ends on a gripping moment that will have you clambering for more, I know I can't wait for the release of Aleks Mickelsen and the Eighth Fox Throne War coming toward the end of this year.  

Monday, April 9, 2018

MG Fantasy/Time Travel Review: Clemmie's War by Rosie Boyes

37777748Clemmie's War by Rosie Boyes
Format:  Ebook
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Number of pages:  470
Published:  December 1st, 2017
In exchange for an honest review a copy was received from the author. 

Opening Line: "H-h-how did I die?' the girl asked as a cold tremor wracked her body."  

Clemmie's War centers on ten-year-old Clementine Beaumont, a young girl who awakens in a cold stark white room with a man gently stitching up a gash on her head.  The only thing she can remember is that her name is Clemmie.  Dr. Nicholas Rose, the man doing the stitching, explains that she's in Heartsease, a transitional place between life and death and that the amnesia she is experiencing is only temporary.  In the meantime, he suggests Clemmie stay at Chalk House, a home Dr. Rose runs for dead children.  In return, he plans to try and piece together the circumstances surrounding her death.  

The premise of Clemmie's War is what sparked my interest in reading this, "a girl with amnesia living in an enchanted home for dead children.  Who when her memory returns plans to wage war on those who killed her."  Intriguing right?  I'm thinking paranormal, maybe a little murder mystery, brings to mind questions like how did Clemmie die?  Who killed her and why?  In the first few pages, Boyes quickly sets the scene with the details of Clemmie waking up in what appears to be an operating room or doctors office to find that she has died.  It kinda makes you pause for a moment, especially when Clemmie is looking down at her own dead body on the table.  It's creepy, but not scary.  And very sad when you learn that Clemmie died of unnatural causes with injuries inflicted by another person.  Which is how Clemmie now finds herself in the care of Dr. Rose.  Naturally, Clemmie's frightened, confused and struggling to understand what has happened to her.  As is the reader.  Because of her amnesia, the important details about her past take some time to uncover, but one thing is clear someone killed her.  Most of the stories I've been reading lately involve strong, fierce kids who solve their own problems.  Adults aren't even in the picture or at least not usually a central character, helping or guiding the story along in the way that Dr. Rose does.  However, in Clemmie's War, it's necessary that he help her piece together her past and I actually grew quite fond of Dr. Rose and his love of toffee's.  Seriously this man loves his toffee's.  He was kind, very eager to help Clemmie, and most importantly to keep her safe while her memory returned.  He's Clemmie's first introduction to the world of Heartsease and Chalk House and it was really sweet how Clemmie became a part of this extended family of dead kids.  

The story incorporates many different themes including the afterlife, time travel, and an alternate, but parallel time period.  When Clemmie died she stepped into a future with computers and refrigerators, leaving the Great Seaboard War 0f 1943 behind.  Slowly, she begins to have glimpses of her memories from the past and the vague details of witnessing a spy planning to aid an invading army.   It isn't until Dr. Rose takes her to the present day town of Meonwara that Clemmie is able to piece together her story and the link of her arrival in Heartsease to the reason for many of the strange occurrences that have been happening.  The sudden tremors that have been wracking Chalk House, the spontaneous appearance of Sprigs or little fairies and flowers that magically appear in the hallway. Clemmie's arrival in Heartsease resulted in a time-rift altering the past requiring great effort and ingenuity to repair.  

Harry Jewel, Clemmie's grandfather is the villain of the story and an evil man.  He follows  Clemmie to Heartsease on a mission to question anyone who's come in contact with her about her whereabouts all while plotting to retrieve something she stole from him.  There are lots of twists and turns surrounding his arrival, leading Dr. Rose and the inhabitants of Chalk House to develop their own plans to keep Harry Jewel from capturing Clemmie.  They play this game of cat and mouse stalking each other, developing battle plans for going to war, with elaborate traps, rigging Harry's car with tracking devices and they have him arrested to thwart his plans.  However, nothing compares to when Clemmie fully regains her memory and she makes her own plans to exact revenge on those who killed her.   

Overall, this was on the longer side, 470 pages, but the chapters were fairly short making it a fairly quick read and the characters and premise were interesting and unique.  Aside from the very beginning of the story, it's easy to forget that all the characters are dead and instead you get wrapped in all the plotting and scheming against Harry Jewel.  Clemmie is one determined little girl and I was very happy with the way that the story resolved.  I also really liked the positive message of how the people we love leave a lasting impression on us.  Not to be missed is the authors note where she shares that each of the characters was named after a flower. 

Favorite Line:  "Everyone we loved, and lost, have left a footprint in our hearts.  And when they call out to remind us of their love, each ripple, each chord, will pull on our heart-strings.  It can be a feather-light tickle, or a tug so hard it can make us cry.  But either way, you are not alone."    

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Guest Post & Excerpt from Keira Gillett: Top Ten Reasons Why Being a Self-Published Author is Better than Being a Fairy Overlord

Today I have the wonderful pleasure of having Keira Gillett, author of the Zaria Fierce Trilogy visit my blog with her guest post and an excerpt from her latest book.  Thank you so much for dropping by Keira!    I can't wait to read The Call of the White Raven and a huge congratulations on its release!  

Greetings Log Cabin Library fans! Thank you Brenda for having me back. I can’t wait to share with you all about Aleks Mickelsen and the Call of the White Raven, the fifth book in my Zaria Fierce Series. It comes out April 6, 2018, and I thought I’d celebrate by opining (as monologing is for evil fairy overlords, and I’m universally loved, so opining it is) on all the ways being a self-published author is the best. 

Top Ten Reasons Why Being a Self-Published Author is Better than Being a Fairy Overlord
  1. I can be an absolute monster and all my readers will love me for it. A fairy overlord can't say the same about their subjects. So that in and of itself is why being me is best.
  2. My position as supreme author overlord can't be usurped. Bwuahahahahaha! Unlike rulers in Niffleheim, who have to constantly watch their backs or risk being assassinated, when my characters revolt I get to keep my head, if not my plot. So the real question is who will be the last fox left standing? I know I’ll still be around.
  3. I have magical writing powers that can turn the world of my creating into reality. Grimkell, Cornelia, and Ytorm can only dream about turning the world around them to their deliciously wicked reality. My powers can’t be defeated!
  4. My days – when not writing or working – are spent back and forth with Eoghan Kerrigan over the ridiculously amazing and utterly gorgeous artwork in the book, or chatting with Michele Carpenter about what the voices should sound like for new characters. A fairy overlord only gets to lord over fairies and brownies and that eventually gets pretty gnarly. So again, I win!
  5. I might not get to turn into a fox, but my doggie looks like one. He might not be able to talk, but he’s super cuddly and sweet. He’s the best writing companion. I don’t know of a single overlord fairy with a pet, let alone one that loves them.
  6. While I send my characters on dangerous quests all around Niffleheim, I get to cackle like a madman from the safety my couch, wearing thick, comfy socks with my little foxy baby by my side giving me all the cuddles an author can ask for.
  7. Along the same lines, I can take breaks, get up and stretch, read a book, take my doggie on a walk, watch a Kdrama (Goblin is pretty great!), but Aleks and the others can't. They have to go straight through the story to the end and hope they don't run into a dragon.
  8. I will never have to wonder what my dessert is made out of because it's always going to have chocolate in it (chocolate covered peanut clusters, brownies with homemade chocolate frosting, chocolate chip cookies, and peanut butter pie with Oreo crust. Yum!)
  9. Aleks might get grumpy with me, but he's happier with me at the helm than his family! Even if he has to face unimaginable and unbeatable trials. Will he overcome and rise above the challenges thrown at him by me and his aunt and uncle? Or will he fail miserably and cause his friends to be trapped in a life of servitude? *evil grin*
  10. I get to interact with all my lovely readers and geek out with them. They’ll join my Fierceling Tribe and we will rule the world. That’s much bigger than Niffleheim. So it’s clear I have bigger, bolder, better plans at domination – another point for me!
Score: Self-Published Author 10; Fairy Overlord 0
I’m the clear winner, don’t you agree? Plus I have an Oskar Pie. :D

Aleks Mickelsen and the Call of the White Raven

Book Five in the Zaria Fierce Series “Whose white raven is this?” Aleks Mickelsen is a changeling with diminishing magical powers and a complete nuisance for a new a pet. For the first time in his life, he’s lost. He led his friends to the wrong place. They might joke about there being worse things to face than disorientation, but comparing what Aleks did to the Wild Hunt breathing down their necks (even if the comparison is somewhat favorable) isn’t all that comforting. Hopefully, Aleks can get his head on straight and get them all back on track to fighting Fritjof, otherwise, chaos is going to win.


Aleks awoke to the sensation of something digging painfully into his side. At least it wasn’t a knock to the head by the bird. He shifted, trying to get comfortable and disturbed whatever was lodged beneath him. It skittered away with a faint tinkling sound. He kept his eyes closed in the effort to not wake up, but now that he was aware, he was cold. He shivered and half-sat, trying to find where he’d kicked his sleeping bag. Groping blindly, he found nothing on top of his legs. With a mental sigh, he shifted his focus to the side and touched something cold, solid, and damp. Jerking his hand back, Aleks reluctantly pried one eyelid open and looked around. Darkness pressed in on him. He couldn’t see anything – not even his hand, which he waved in front of his face. He rubbed his arms and lay back down, determined to ignore the cool dampness seeping into his bones. Curling into a ball, he closed his eyes to sleep, but the digging sensation which had woken him had returned, and he couldn’t get comfortable. With a sigh of disgust, he rolled over and sent a bunch of things skittering. The sound was like a cascade of beans in a rainstick – loud and swift. Unnatural. He bolted upright and searched the dark. “Geirr? Henrik? Did you hear that?” he asked. They had to be awake after that racket. Even Filip’s snores had stopped from within the other tent. He strained in the dark to hear if anything else was moving. The quiet that followed was unbroken, and utterly unsettling. “Something’s wrong,” he said, trying to warn his friends without making any sudden movements. Nobody answered, worrying him. He swung his hands along the ground and knocked into something. It toppled over with a dull metallic thunk. The stargazer? He checked his pocket. Still there. “Guys, wake up,” he said. “Hello?” “Hello?” a new voice echoed. It was vaguely familiar. He felt like he should recognize it, but couldn’t draw upon a face. He squinted in the direction of the voice, trying to make out who it was. A fairy, most likely. They’d been found. He knew it would happen. Filip wasn’t exactly a subtle sleeper. Maybe they had his friends already. That would explain the silence. Perhaps Zaria’s wish from the first trip down here was still in effect. If so, he’d only be caught if he initiated contact. What to do? Should he say something? Something pitter-pattered on the floor, scuttling closer. The sound drew to mind horrible images of a critter somewhere between a snake and a spider. A shudder of revulsion swept through him. The pitter-patter came again, and he tensed. “Who’s there?” he demanded. Knowing was better than this awful waiting.

About the Author: Keira Gillett

When she’s not working or writing, Keira Gillett loves to play tabletop games. Nearly every week Keira gets together with her friends to play. It’s no wonder she invented a game of her own for her Zaria Fierce Series. You can find the rules to this game within the second book and make your own version of it through a tutorial on her website. She’d loved to hear from you! Why not send her a picture of you and a friend playing the game?

 Find Keira at:   

 Website *     Twitter *    GoodReads *    Facebook  * Pinterest

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

MG Historical Fiction Review: The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

35879383The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet
Format:  ARC paperback
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Number of pages:  448  (hardcover)
Publishing:  April 10th, 2018
Source:  In exchange for an honest review an ARC was received from the publisher.  

Opening Line:  "Gusta Neubronner hadn't expected to be on a bus in Maine when she lost her father."

11-year-old Gusta and her father have just boarded a bus traveling from Portland to Maine when her father suddenly disappears.  A few seconds later, two men board the bus looking for him, Gusta's father is a well known foreign-born labor organizer and "fugitive."  Gusta stays silent and sticks with the original plan to make the trip to Maine her father had arranged, but now all on her own.   

When Gusta arrives in Maine, she finds a note inside her mittens from her mother to Mrs. Hooper, her estranged grandmother,  telling her to sell Gusta's French horn to pay for her room and board.    Gusta hastily discards the note because her French horn is her most prized possession, something she could never part with.  With nowhere else to go, she heads toward Mrs. Hooper's Home for State Children, the orphanage her grandmother runs.  Here she meets Grandma Gladys, Aunt Marion, Josie and a rambunctious group of boys.  Being family initially sets Gusta apart from the other kids at the home, but Gusta works very hard to be brave and not let her sadness over her father's disappearance overwhelm her, to put on a happy face to fit in.  

Gusta soon meets her shy cousin Bess and Uncle who's been homebound since his hand was mangled during an accident at the Mill.  Without a union to intervene, he's been unable to get the operation he needs to repair the damage.  Starting school brings numerous new challenges for Gusta, mainly in the way of Molly, a fellow student.  Molly's been orchestrating the formation of a "Real American's Club," and is a real stickler that everyone follows the classes Seven-Points for a Healthy Living project.  Lately, her two main targets have been Gusta and George Thibodeau,  whose father runs the rival dairy farm of Molly's father.  Gusta wants to show she's a good student, but when an unexpected vision test reveals she needs eyeglasses, which she can't pay for, she takes a job working for the local German optometrist tending to his homing pigeons to pay off what she owes.  Gusta has also been keeping two secrets.  The first is the real reason she can't provide a U.S. birth certificate for her school project.  And the second involves a story told to her by her mother of an ancestor who was a sea captain and how he hid a magical wish inside a box on a shelf which Gusta is determined to find if it's inside her grandmother's house.  The only highlight of Gusta's time in Maine is when the local high school band teacher, Mrs. Kendall recognizes her musical talent playing the French Horn and asks her to join the band, but Gusta quickly realizes that if she sold her horn it might be enough money to pay for her Uncle's operation and how could she refuse to help out her cousin Bess?   

Although I'm not typically a historical fiction reader, The Orphan Band of Springdale had so many of the elements that typically pique my interest, a girl who plays a musical instrument, set during the early parts of WWII and hints of a secret magical wish.  What I was surprised with was the messaging that included wealth inequality, foreigner's being seen as "other," and how some German's during this time period were the subject of suspicion and discrimination.  Other subjects included the importance of unions in the US to protect people like Gusta's Uncle and mention of how the rising tensions and the War in Europe led to the enactment of the Smith Act or Alien Registration Act.  Nesbet wonderfully utilizes her character of  Molly as a springboard to show how Molly's claims of patriotism, nationalism, and trying to protect the people of Springdale by calling out Gusta and George as being "unamerican" are misguided, judgemental and wrong.  How past events such as the ones in the story correlate to events sadly occurring even today.   It's an interesting look at this time period from a child's perspective and captures the feeling and emotions of wanting to fit in, the loneliness of being without your family, fear for your father's safety in a place where you're seen as "foreign,"  while at the same time being hopeful and filled with lots of heart.  Highly recommend, I can just imagine all the classroom discussions that could be had, please have a teachers guide.   But not to be missed is the author's note where Nesbet explains the inspiration for the story and the research she performed to get the local and historical details of Gusta's town just right.       

Favorite Line:  "A plan was what would tell your feet where to go and your hands what to do when you got there."