Wednesday, August 30, 2023

YA review of Goddess Crown by Shade Lapite

Goddess Crown by Shade Lapite
Publisher:  Walker Books US
Format:  ARC Paperback
Number of pages: 288 pages
Publishing:   September 12th, 2023
Source:  Publisher

Opening Lines: "The sun wouldn't set for another few hours, but evening came quickly in the forest, and Aunty had made Kolothia promise to be back at a decent time so they could enjoy her age-day meal." 

The kingdom of Galla consists of four territories that share a balance of power but are ruled by King Osura.   When Kalothia was very young, the King executed his pregnant wife, after he suspected she was unfaithful to him. Kalothia's parents tried to speak up for the Queen, professing her innocence, but the king refused to listen, declaring them his enemies and even threatened to have them killed.  Hoping to save themselves, they fled the city and Kalothia was placed in the care of Nahir's father, Lord Godmayne of the Northern territory, who sent her away from Galla to live in a secluded forest with two primary caretakers, Aunty and Teacher.  She was also given a bodyguard, Clarit to ensure her safety.  Kalothia has spent her entire life quietly within the forest, until the day that assassins show up at her home, killing the people most important to her.  Devastated by their loss, Kalothia flees the only home she has ever known and ventures toward the capital of Galla to seek answers to who is trying to kill her and where her parents are.  Answers within the capital prove to be more difficult than she expected when she learns that the king has died, and she gets wrapped up in the turmoil of picking a new successor to the throne.  

Goddess Crown is the kind of story that grabs your attention and won't let it go until you reach that final page.  There is so much action that your riveted to see what happens next, so your flipping pages and waiting on pins and needles to see how Kalothia can escape capture and even navigate her way through the palace to avoid danger.  Such a wonderful escapism read, and I was certainly in the mood for the palace intrigue.  At 288 pages, Lapite really pacts in the action, and even leaves some room for a little romance, yep looking at you Nahir.  Overall, I quite enjoyed the world building of the story, but I kept wanting to know more about this fantasy inspired country.   Also wanting to know more about Padma, Galla's enemies whose territory borders them, and more about King Osura.  There are also quite a few lords and occasionally I had difficulty keeping them straight.  Going in I was expecting something along the lines of Children of Blood and Bone, part fantasy and mythology.  And this isn't quite that, although there is a Goddess who comes to help Kalothia from time to time.   But oh, how I did love Kalothia.  Her determination, strength, willingness to break through any barrier placed in front of her.  Also, her desire to help her country to begin to recognize women for their potential and all the skills that they bring.  To finally allow them to have a voice.  Such a wonderful story that has me eagerly awaiting a sequel. 

** A huge thank you to Walker Books US for the paperback ARC in exchange for an honest review.**

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The Unsuper Adventures of Norma by Mark Svartz

The Unsuper Adventures of Norma by Mark Svartz
Publisher:  Carpathian Press
Format:  Ebook via Netgalley
Number of pages:  188
Publishing:   August 29th, 2023
Source:  Author in exchange for an honest review

Norma lives in Superton, a town where everyone has superpowers.  Everyone, well except for Norma.  For some unknown reason she's the only one who was born "normal."  Norma has never come in first in any contest, she can't fly or win at a spelling bee.  Plus living in a town full of people with superpowers makes it really difficult to stand out.  So, Norma spends a lot of time in her bedroom with her goldfish Sushi, inventing awesome things like Smellivision Scented Glasses and The Universole Shoe.  But then on one Tuesday afternoon, everything changed.  Cam found this weird flashing red button and after he pushed it this huge swirly whirlpool appeared, and it vacuumed up all of people of Superton's superpowers.  Claire Voyant could no longer see the future, and even Pogo wasn't able to jump very high.  And then the worst thing happened, an evil alien from outer space appeared named Lord Fartron and told everyone he was going to detonate a massive stinkbomb called the Megapoot and destroy the entire universe.  Well, let's just say that the news was devastating to the people of Superton.  But you see, Norma was the only one who was kind of excited about the whole situation.  Because well, everyone was normal just like her for once.  So, while the town went through the seven stages of grief, Norma took the opportunity to finally get to know the other kids at school and they got to know her.  Norma even got an invitation to join the Order of the Secret Bones and she got involved in their plan to bring down Lord Fartron and return everyone's superpowers.  In the end Norma was instrumental in saving the town, illustrating that you don't have to have superpowers to make a difference.  

The Unsuper Adventures of Norma engages the reader in its silliness, full color illustrations and creative characters superpowers.   There's Cam the Chameleon, Claire Voyant, Flrrrrp who can mimic any sound, and Pete and RePete who can create an infinite number of versions of themselves.   Believe it or not there's even a giant talking butt who humorously flaps his cheeks when he talks and strangely enough has a fartbomb that can destroy the universe.  Yep, slightly silly but doesn't contain the butt humor or jokes that say you'd find in something like The Adventures of Captain Underpants.  Despite not being the target audience for this book, I did find that I enjoyed it.  I liked the lists that the kids created and the way that they split up into teams.  One group finding out more about Lord Fartron and the bootyburp colony he was supposed to be from, another researching the giant whirlpool, trying to find links to other places that have had their superpowers stolen and finally researching the Megapoot bomb.  I also really liked Norma who despite not having any superpowers, proved to be the most beneficial in coming up with a plan to save the town.  I loved her creative inventions and ideas.  How she finally could relate to everyone on a human level, and how she even found common likes and dislikes with her classmates.  If you want to take a peek inside, the author has a few sample pages on his website HERE  .  There's also a wonderful author interview at Smack Dab in the Middle.

Monday, August 7, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass

The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass 
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:  224 pages
Publishing:  August 29th, 2023
Source:  Edelweiss+

Opening Lines:  "Mortimer waited on the cool stone basement floor in front of mouse door number four, his fluffy orange body covering as much territory as it could." 

The Martinville History House is one hundred- and fifty-years-old.  It's also home to Mortimer, a resident tabby cat, and three ghosts, Al, Ms. Scoggin and her patron Mr. Brock.  Mortimer is the guardian of the house's remaining library cart of books, protecting them from the mice who wander in looking for food.  Each night, Mortimer gently guides the mice back outside before any of his precious books can be damaged.  Then one day, to Mortimer's dismay, Al and Ms. Scoggin take his beloved books outside, and places them inside a little free library for the community to enjoy.  Mortimer can't part with the collection, so he chooses to stay outside with the little library and continue to protect the books.  

Eleven-year-old Evan also lives in Martinville and is surprised by the mysterious appearance of the little free library overnight.  Curious, he wanders over, selecting two weathered books from the shelf and takes them home.  Evan excitedly shares the book titles with his father, who quickly excuses himself and vanishes into his office.  Evan finds his dad's reaction mysterious and begins to investigate the books closer.   The first book is titled How to Write a Mystery Novel and the second is worn and covered with tape making it difficult to make out the title.  Inside the books are circulation cards indicating they came from Martinville Library, which is strange because the town doesn't have a library.  Everyone knows it burned down quite a long time ago.  Haunted by the sudden appearance of the books Evan draws in the help of his best friend Rafe to try and determine what happened to the town's library and exactly who these books belonged to.  Along the way he might also find out why his father reacted so strangely to the books he showed him.  

The Lost Library is told in the alternating point of views of Mortimer (the cat), Al (a ghost librarian), and Evan (a boy about to graduate from fifth grade and the first patron at the new little library).  It's a gentle mystery, told in short chapters and with its alternating POV's it will quickly immerse the reader in to trying to solve the mystery of what caused the fire that destroyed the towns library twenty years ago.  Evan is defiantly one determined kid, and I enjoyed his enthusiasm in wanting to solve the mystery with his best friend, Rafe.  I also really appreciated that the authors wanted to write a story about the love of reading, books and something that is so librarian positive.  Illustrating "the power of a good book (and of course the librarian who gave it to you)."  What wonderful messaging.  Mortimer is such a lovely library cat; doesn't he just look so comfortable lounging on the top of the little free library on the cover?  Such a bibliophile too.  Truly a fun read that speaks to my own reader's little heart.      Now I feel the sudden urge to go and donate some more books to my local little free libraries to share.    

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE  

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

YA review of The Truth About Horses: A Novel Christy Cashman

The Truth About Horses by Christy Cashman 
Publisher:  SparkPress
Format:  Paperback
Number of pages:  256
Publishing:   August 15th, 2023
Serena Ippolito from Wunderkind PR

Opening Line:  "It'd be a miracle if he raced again, the vet told mom."

Fourteen-year-old Reese has always dreamed of one of her families horses winning the Black Elk race.  This year they had their hopes on Trusted Treasure, but when he his bumped and falls on the last jump, their plans to turn the horse farm around are also lost.  While still reeling over Treasure's loss in the race, a second tragedy hits the family, a massive car accident that kills Reese's mom.  It's been two years since that day, and now the farm that they lease is up for sale.  Reese's dad even has to sell off their horses, including her beloved Trusted Treasure and he takes a job in town.  Heartbroken, Reese has a falling out with her dad and now they essentially live as strangers in the same house.  Reese still keeps tabs on Trusted Treasure's whereabouts and searches all the online horse sales to try and get him back.  Each day Reese takes her bike down to the big green barn, it comforts her to be so close to a place her mom was.  It's also how she finds out that Wes has taken over the barn and started to train his own horses.  At first Reese is very leery of Wes, she doesn't think he has a clue about what he's doing.  The more that she hangs around the barn the more convinced she is that he needs her help.  Wes may have a talent for teaching horses, but Reese knows all the ins and outs about where to get the best feed and how to handle the business.  At first, Wes seems to be ignoring her, brushing off her attempts to try and work for him.  Reese assumes the worst of him, but then is surprised when she finds out that Wes is actually mute, which is by his choice.  Eventually they come to an understanding and Reese starts performing some of the chores, of which she never asked permission from her dad for.  Then the exciting news that Reese has been waiting for comes, Trusted Treasure is up for sale and she just has to get him back. 

Early on in the story Reese see's and hears a heard of horses.  The horses only appear to her and I'm not sure if they're meant to be a symptom of PTSD or not, but Reese takes it as a sign that she's on the right track.  Her dad however becomes a little concerned and she ends up seeing a therapist.  Reese isn't very open with her therapist and basically tells her what she thinks she wants to hear.  But Reese is obviously in a lot of pain.  She's also a very angry girl, who curses a lot throughout the story to basically tick off her dad.   She tries to communicate a few things to him, but he doesn't seem to listen.  Or as she points out, he isn't even looking at her anymore, and senses him not seeing her.  Which is really sad.  Her dad even starts to date around, which further angers her.  At one point he even moves in his latest girlfriend and her two boys, which is like the last straw.  You really get a sense of her emotional abandonment from her dad and how she's still reeling over the loss of her mom.  She has a lot of hardships that hit her all at once.  Reese struggles throughout the book, trying to be a good daughter but also trying to regain the things that she loves, the barn and her horse.  Working for Wes is like the bright spot of her day.  It's the place that she can freely talk, where she can spill out all her thoughts and Wes just listens.  It's really a beautiful, heart wrenching story about loss, love and trying to hold onto the important things to you.  It's also about a family healing and finding their way back together.  I'd recommend this to teens who like reading about the care of horses, riding, jumping hurdles and reading about a girl who is resilient, creative and one heck of  a problem solver.   It's a feel good story and will defiantly make you laugh and cry.