Monday, October 26, 2020

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #3) by Jessica Townsend

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Series:  Nevermoor #3
Number of Pages:  560
Publishing:  October 27th, 2020
Source:  Edelweiss Plus

Opening Line: "On a glossy black door inside a well-lit wardrobe, a tiny circle of gold pulsed with light and at its center was a small glowing W."

Hollowpox is the third book in the Nevermoor trilogy, I highly recommend starting with the first book in the series, The Trials of Morrigan Crow.  In book two, we saw Morrigan and her friends finally being inducted into the elite Wundrous Society after having successfully completed a series of trials and proving their loyalty to Unit 919.  Although certain revelations also led some of the scholars in the society to begin to despise and fear Morrigan.  

It's the start of Unit 919's second year and they're ready to take on more responsibility.  However, just as Morrigan begins to learn more about the Wretched Arts and how to hone her skills to become an accomplished Wundersmith, a strange illness begins to target Wunimals.  Where the Wunimals were once peaceful, self-aware animals with human like characteristics, the illness reverts them to a Unnimal state, causing them to behave in a bizarre, violent fashion, attacking with a ferocity meant to kill.  As the attacks begin to  increase in frequency and the number of infected rise, fear begins to take hold,  pitting Wunimals against the high council and the citizens of Nevermore.  When someone close to Morrigan is infected, it brings a new urgency to locating a cure.   Morrigan is even willing to make a deal with her worst enemy if it means she can save her friend.

Diving back into the world of Nevermore was a bit of a slow start for me.  This was purely a me thing,  too much time having passed between reading Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow and Hollowpox.  I started to get confused by all the names and it took me a little while to get into the swing of things.  But then the various attacks in the story began to happen and with it came the realization that a pandemic or outbreak type situation was happening.  I will totally admit I was surprised by the parallels I was feeling between the story's plot and the current pandemic.  I kept wondering whether Townsend planned to include these things or was it just coincidental?  The way she captured the fear, speculation and rumors surrounding the unknown.  How there were theories circulating about what caused the infections, the need to quarantine, and how physicians were franticly searching for a cure.  Even the connections she made to the current political climate, how there were two competing governments, the free state and republic that were unable to work together for a common goal, and instead questing for power over each other.   And although things were strikingly similar to our current pandemic and political environment, somehow it didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the story.  I think everyone, including the Wunimals are waiting for a day where we can return to some form of normalcy.

Morrigan is defiantly the star of this story, although Hotel Deucalion and Fenestra are a strong second.  Who couldn't love a "living building" that adjusts to your mood, changing the interior design every day based on the guests and the hotels desires?  And a Magnificat that is part body guard and one hundred percent feisty.  Even riding on the Wunderground train system and having a cool knack like inferno?  And then there's Morrigan's training in the Wretched Arts picking up new skills and gaining confidence in her abilities.  I totally enjoyed my return to Nevermore,  the story is exciting, suspenseful and that ending has me screaming for the next book in the series. If each book was a little shorter,  I'd defiantly be re-reading Hollowpox before the next one comes out and even still I might make the time for that re-read.  

Thursday, October 8, 2020

A few Elem/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction suggestions for the Cybils Awards

There's one week until nominations for the Cybils close and so many wonderful books out there that have yet to be nominated.  I really hope you'll consider nominating your favorites in children and YA!!   We're looking for books published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2019, to October 15th, 2020 (one book nomination per Category per person).  Nominations will only stay open until October 15th, so don't delay.  Publishers and authors will begin their nominations on October 16th.        

 There are lots of different categories to choose from and you can get more information here about each category.  Plus a list of what books have been nominated thus far.   
This year I'm a round two judge for elementary/mg speculative fiction category!  Here's the category description    

With that in mind, might I make a few suggestions of books that haven't been nominated yet.  Some I've read and others I would like to read, or better yet, nominate your favorite!  For more suggetions and ideas for yet unnominated books check out Charlotte Library's   and A Library Mama's list

40551757. sy475  

36323798. sy475              45298537. sy475         44281017  

43133635. sx318           48657388          54658599. sy475   
     44575084          49228840. sx318 sy475         44887778. sx318

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

MG review of The Daring of Della Dupree by Natasha Lowe

The Daring of Della Dupree by Natasha Lowe
Format:  Hardcover
Series: Book four of the Poppy Pendle series 
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster
Number of pages:  272
Published:  July 21st, 2020
Source: Author in exchange for an honest review

Opening Lines:  "Della Dupree, Pay attention, Miss Barlow snapped.  This is the history of magic class, and you've been staring inside your pocket for the last forty-five minutes." 

Della Dupree had always disliked her name, why did her parents have to name her after the most famous witch and founder of the prestigious Ruthersfield Academy school for witchcraft?  It's a name that despite her best attempt's she's been struggling to live up to.  Then one day, while Della is working on a school project, she discovers a reference to The Book of Spells, an important book that is said to contain the personal conversations of Witch Dupree and hold valuable information about the founder of the Academy.  Unable to contain her excitement, Della races off to the library, hoping to find any details she can use for her presentation.  However, the book of spells only confirms that little is known about Ruthersfield's founders life.  Not easily dissuaded, Della then borrows an amulet from the fortune telling lab, using it to travel back in time to 1223, hoping that speaking with Witch Dupree in person will give her all the information she needs.  Unfortunately, upon her arrival in Potts Bottom,  Della's amulet is stolen and now she risks being stuck in the year 1223.

The Daring of Della Dupree is the fourth book of the Poppy Pendle series, which can be read as a stand alone.  Other titles in the series include The Power of Poppy Pendle, The Courage of Cat Campbell, and The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mable.  The books have been described as "Matilda meets The Penderwicks."  From what I can tell from the books summaries, The Poppy Pendle series seems to carry the important messages of friendship, bravery, compassion and believing in oneself.  All empowering ideals. 

The story begins with Della in present day at Ruthersfield Academy preparing for an upcoming school project where she's supposed to present on what it was like for Witch Della living in the Middle Ages.  Della Dupree is a sort of timid and insecure young witch.  She hasn't developed confidence in her magical abilities and feels like she'll never compare to Witch Dupree.  She's also a bystander while one of her classmates, Katrin is being bullied by Melanie, a notoriously mean witch.  Despite liking Katrin, and empathizing with how she must feel being teased on a daily basis, Della lacks the strength to stand up to Melanie.  

Then Della makes the decision to travel back in time to talk with her namesake, and lands in Potts Bottom during a time where witches were feared, even persecuted for having magic.  A stark contrast with how things are during present day.   Della also meets Mary, a young untrained witch.  Mary and several of the young girls from Potts Bottom are deathly afraid of their family finding out about their magic.  Being untrained, their magic is wonky, out of control and becoming harder and harder for them to conceal.  Della provides some much needed strategies to keep their magic under control so they wont be carted off to Scrubs Prison.  

Della is a very kind hearted girl, who loves animals, often taking them under her wing and nursing them back to health.  She's disturbed by the girls of Potts Bottom's plight and is the one who ultimately changes the villagers mind about witches not being bad or evil.   The story was an interesting look at the historical perceptions of witches in the middle ages from the vantage point of a young witch from present day.  I absolutely loved the ending with how Della was able to find her voice and ultimately challenges Melanie.   Included at the end of the book are recipes for Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins and Pottage, with instructions for making a Pomander Ball.  With Halloween quickly approaching, give this to someone who enjoys stories with witches, empowering messaging or a unique historical perspective of witches from the middle ages.  

**A huge thank you to Natasha Lowe for my review copy. I'm looking forward to baking those Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins soon!!**

Saturday, October 3, 2020

MG review of Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley 
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Viking Books for Young Readers
Number of pages:  320
Published:  August 25th, 2020
Source:  Author in exchange for an honest review

Opening Lines:  "The invitations went out on Tuesday afternoon, because statistically speaking, that's the best time to offer someone a weekend getaway."

Five invitations went out by courier from the renowned Barclay Hotel inviting each of its guests for a special weekend getaway.  The first invitation went to Jackie Jacobson, CEO of the PB&JJ restaurant chain, next was rancher Cowboy Buck, children's librarian Ms. Chelsea Griffin, retired detective Frank Walker and finally Fiona Fleming, an actress and part-time psychic.  One of the guests, Emma lives at the hotel and was excited to learn that there will be two "stragglers," or kids who will be coming, JJ and Penny,  Mrs. Jacobson's son and Mr. Walker's granddaughter, who were hoping to explore the legendary Barclay Hotel.  JJ envisioned a weekend of practicing his ghost hunting skills, and what better place then a hotel that is rumored to be haunted?  Penny wanted to spend the time perusing the library, as she loved to read and Emma was just happy to have some company for a change.   However, once all the guests arrive the butler informs them that they were invited to the hotel because four of them had past dealings with the owner, Mr. Barclay and one of them murdererd him.  Mr. Walker was only invited to help investigate the suspects, hoping that he could figure out who the killer was.  Rather than a getaway weekend, the guests have stumbled into a murder mystery.  

I immensely enjoyed reading Midnight at the Barclay Hotel not only does it have this atmospheric location that is based off the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, it also had an interesting murder mystery to solve by piecing together the clues to find out who had the motive and opportunity to kill Mr. Barclay.  Which is not as easy as it may seem because everyone was harboring a secret, even Penny, JJ and Emma.  As the story progresses and the guests begin to interview each other, it's determined that four of the suspects defiantly had a reason to be angry with Mr. Barclay, but was it enough to kill him?  Then additional clues come to light, pointing toward the chef and the butler, Mr. Clark as suspects complicating things further. When the guests get stranded at the Hotel because of a snow storm, the killer among them begins to get nervous that they'll get caught and tries to hide their identity.   I really loved how Bradley preserved some of the original rumors of hauntings at the Stanley Hotel, the flickering of lights, voices of children and the hedge maze.  I especially enjoyed Peggy, JJ and Emma, our amateur sleuths and ghost hunters.  JJ for his passion of ghost hunting,  with his voice recorder, EMF detector and infrared camera and Penny for her love of books.  I so loved the location of the Barclay Hotel which sounds like such a fun place to explore, with its swimming pool, hot tub, bowling alley, carousel and even a Cupcake Shoppe!  Such a fun read, reminiscent of something like Greenglass House by Kate Milford or Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, with some Agatha Christie and the board game Clue vibes.  Perfect kind of story if you enjoy old hotels, murder mysteries, ghosts and hauntings, and a story with a some pleasant twits and turns, and a little suspense but nothing too frightening.  A huge thank you to Fleur Bradley for my review copy.