Sunday, October 2, 2022

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra - ADVISABLE


Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove
by Rati Mehrotra
, 352 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2022. $19.

Language: PG13 (17 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Adopted by the royal family when she was young, Katyani (18yo) has grown up alongside the princes. She is both sister and bodyguard, preparing to be Prince Ayan’s advisor someday. When the princes are sent to gurukul to increase their spiritual power, the queen insists that Katyani accompany them. When Katyani returns home, nothing will be the same.

Every time I thought I knew where the story was going during the first half of the book, Mehrotra pivoted the story – the surprise kept me wanting to know where we would go next. The teachers in the book focus on spiritual power and ethics, and then Mehrotra throws Katyani into a series of trials. Readers must navigate the gray spaces between right and wrong with Katyani, wanting to win the right way for the right reasons.

Katyani is described as having “tawny brown” skin, and Ayan and Bhairav are described as having “bronze” skin. They and everyone else are implied Indian. The mature content rating is for innuendo and nudity. The violence rating is for sword use, persistent murder and war, and blood and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, October 1, 2022

If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang - OPTIONAL


If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang, 352 pages. Inkyard Press, 2022. $19.

Language: R (110 swears, 21 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Alice, a year twelve student, needs to be the best at school, and she’s been mostly successful so far – she didn’t even push her rival, Henry, off the stage when they tied for Top Achiever award again. But everything changes for Alice when her parents admit they can’t afford tuition after the semester and  Alice suddenly turns invisible. Desperate, Alice turns to the only person she can think of for help: Henry.

The questionable morality of Alice’s and Henry’s actions stressed me out. On the one hand, they are the protagonists and I want them to succeed, but I also don’t believe that the ends justify the means. Liang has written a compelling story that elicits sympathy for her characters, sparks thoughts about ethics, and invites readers to think about what they really want.

Everyone is implied Asian. The text specifically says that there are Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean, and Australian-born Chinese students, and it is implied that there are also some White international students. The mature content rating is for innuendo and illegal activity as well as for mentions of child molesters, pornography, sexting, condoms, sex, drugs, and alcohol. The violence rating is for fist fighting, knife use, and some blood.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, September 30, 2022

Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta - ESSENTIAL

 Twin Cities by Jose Pimienta. 250 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. RH Graphic (Penquin Random House). 2022. $21.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Hispanic twins, Fernando and Teresa, get to decide which middle school they want to go to. Fernando decides to stay local in Mexicali, Mexico, and Teresa decides to cross the border into Calexico, California. This decision has a bigger impact on the twins than they thought and both middle schools present a different range of challenges for the twins, who find themselves becoming more separated than they thought. 

Loved the juxtaposition of the two cultures separated by a border. This book also explores what it means to be part of a family and what part heritage and culture play in one’s life. It also raises questions about where loyalties lie when there’s more than one culture vying for attention. Based on the author’s experience growing up, this is a fascinating look at a border city and the people who live on both sides. 

Michelle in the Middle 

In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather B. Moore - ADVISABLE

In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather B. Moore, 335 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2022. $27.

Language: PG (4 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Princess Louise is Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter and, as such, has many responsibilities to the crown and her country. But Louise pushes back on the norm, persuading her mother to let her practice as a sculptor, despite it being a man’s field, and secretly supporting the women’s suffrage movement, since her mother doesn’t approve.

The story told by Moore is based on a lot of research, which was really interesting when it came to the nuances of royal living but also made Princess Louise’s story less dramatic than I was expecting. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about the princess’s determination. She continued to hold onto hope when her father died, when her siblings were on opposite sides of war, and when her search for a husband took unexpected turns.

Princess Louise and her family are English, and all of their spouses were European, including German, English, and Scottish. The mature content rating is for innuendo and for mentions of scandal and prostitutes.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Stories to Keep You Alive Despite Vampires by Ben Acker - HIGH

 Stories to Keep You Alive Despite Vampires by Ben Acker, 186 pages. Simon & Schuster. 2022. $18. 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

According to the book, you are trapped in a dark and strange house with vampires and the only way to survive is to tell them stories.

This book delves into urban legends and turns some of them on their ears. The seemingly disparate stories intertwine and I ended up enjoying the wry observations from the narrator. Fun read that will keep you hooked. No idea what ethnicity the narrator is and the ethnicities vary in the stories.

Michelle in the Middle

Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth by Josh Crute and John Taesoo Kim - ESSENTIAL

 Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth by Josh Crute, illustrated by John Taesoo KimPICTURE BOOK. Page Street Books, 2018. $18. 9781624145773

BUYING ADVISORY: Pre-K, EL (K-3), EL, MS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Oliver is a huge sequoia tree, among the largest on the planet. Unfortunately, he isn't as large as Sherman. He knows what he has to do to get even bigger and tackles his task with gumption. He works hard but eventually learns a valuable lesson about no matter how hard we try, it might not be enough. Oliver learns that the most important things might have been right next to him the whole time. 

Crute has a great story of acceptance and kindness while introducing readers to the largest trees in the world. Readers will related to the feeling of being unnoticed when we anticipate we should be in the spotlight. We learn great lessons from Oliver in acceptance and understanding of something larger than just ourselves. The illustrations are captivating and readers will be enticed to learn more about sequoia trees.

Mariah Gerlach, MLS 

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone - ESSENTIAL

Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone
, 325 pages. Aladdin (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $18 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril, battles - not graphic - melting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Erkenwald is a kingdom ruled by the evil Ice Queen. She has kidnapped all of the adults, imprisoned them, and stolen their voices. Now, she just needs the voices of the children to become immortal and permanently take the power from the Sky Gods. But Eska, who was captured with her father, is rescued by Flint, an inventor from a warrior tribe (where his brother is now chief). If Eska and Flint can reunite the tribes, perhaps the children of the land can fight for their parents' freedom and defeat the queen. 

Sky Song is a stand-alone, but is similar in style to the Unmapped Chronicles. Elphinstone writes magical adventures so well, I loved her pacing - perfect for a read-aloud because something is always about to happen. Sky Song is also a story about belonging and friendship and being brave. Eska's memories were stolen, and she had to make her own tribe (of 3, 4 if you count her eagle). What a great message for our kids. 

Lisa Librarian

Vampires, Hearts, and Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston - ADVISABLE

Vampires, Hearts, and Other Dead Things by Margie Fuston, 339 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), 2021. $19.

Language: PG13 (28 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Victoria (18yo) and her dad have always loved vampires – even before one showed up on the news to show the world they exist. While her dad has always said that he’d rather be a werewolf than a vampire, Victoria would rather he be alive. Chemo has stopped working, and Victoria is determined to not give up hope while her dad still breathes. If anyone can find a vampire in New Orleans, it’s Victoria – she just needs to get there.

I was at war with myself throughout this entire book about whether I wanted vampires to be real like Victoria believed or to be a skeptic like her friend, Henry. The not knowing kept me on the edge of my seat even as I worried with Victoria about her father. Fuston discusses grief through Victoria’s denial and through several other characters who try to help her throughout the book. Emotions are complicated and intense, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad.

Victoria and her mom are described as having pink skin, her dad and Jessica are described as having an olive complexion, and Henry is part Japanese. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, mention of drugs and nudity, and innuendo. The violence rating is for mentions of vampire feedings and murder as well as for blood.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Camp Scare by Delilah S. Dawson - HIGH

 Camp Scare by Delilah S. Dawson, 278 pages. Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House). 2022. $17. 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Parker Nelson is excited to go to summer camp as a way to get away from bullies at her school. Because 7th grade was a disaster. Unfortunately, one of the mean girls from school is in her cabin. Parker tries to fit in but seems to be blacklisted by her fellow campers. The only one who listens to her is an increasingly strange camper named Jenny, and something terrible that happened at camp years ago seems to be resurfacing.

Loved the premise about a ghost camper that wants revenge, and there was some nice tension. However, Parker goes through a major pity party in practically every chapter that began to get old and it slowed the pacing.. By the end of the story, there were no likeable characters to root for, though the ending was satisfactory and anyone who has been to a summer camp can relate to the activities. Characters default to white, with nothing to note actual ethnicity and white sounding names.

Michelle in the Middle

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson - AVERAGE

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson
. 395 pages. Delacorte Press (Random), 2022. $19

Language: R (150 swears, 4 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (Underage drinking and drugs, sex mentioned); Violence: PG-13 (car wreck, domestic violence, child hit w/blood)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Brook Donavan is dead and her boyfriend has been arrested for the murder. Here's the deal: the facts don't seem to be lining up. As Alice, beauty queen of the school, and Iris, who's tutoring Alice for money, investigate the crime under the guise of studying, it becomes increasingly clear that Steve cannot be the murderer. Right? There are multiple fishy suspects and as the cops restrict their focus to Steve, it is up to Iris and Alice to solve the crime before the wrong person is sentenced for a crime they might not have committed.

Glasgow and Lawson have written a fun murder mystery that fans of Agatha Christie, and even those who haven't read her work, will enjoy. The characters refer back to Christie's works and her detective's tactics to solve crime, implementing it in their own investigation. While I wasn't a huge fan of the writing and didn't always find the characters completely believable, it was a pleasant read that both crafted a fun story and lightly explored a few heavier issues such as domestic violence or the power dynamic between the upper and lower class.

Sierra Finlinson 

The Supernatural Society by Rex Ogle - OPTIONAL

The Supernatural Society by Rex Ogle, 283 pages. Inkyard Press 2022 $17. 

Language: G (0 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G Violence: PG (monsters) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Will has just moved to a new town. He's not excited to be there, he and his mom are making a fresh start after his parents got a divorce. On his first day of school, Will notices that people in the town look like monsters, and it seems he is the only one who can see them. But, when there's a rash of missing pets in the town, including Will's own dog, Fritz. Will thinks there may be a connection between the pets and the monsters, so he teams up with Ivy (who can see the monsters, too) and her genius brother Linus to see if they can figure out what's going on. 

While Rex Ogle wrote The Supernatural Society, his narrator is a monster who claims to be the "actual" writer. The monster talks to the reader a lot - it doesn't really add anything to the story. Ogle knows the names of lots of different monsters, and often lists them in an alliterative way - I feel like this raises the vocabulary expectations of the reader. The Supernatural Society is clever, but the lists were too much, and I got really tired of the monster who wrote the book telling me what I’m thinking. I will pass on this purchase.  Will is Latinx, Ivy is Korean. her brother Linus is black.

Lisa Librarian

Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston - ADVISABLE

 Amari and the Great Game (#2) by B.B. Alston, 423 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2022. $19

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (some danger, magical fighting)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Amari is so excited for her next summer training as a Junior Agent , so she is taken by surprise when she receives a letter telling her not to come. Even when things are straightened out, things are out-of-control weird at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs – Merlin and the rest of the Council are stuck in a time freeze and magicians, like Amari are the chief suspects. The League of Magicians isn’t any better. Dylan, her sworn enemy has escaped his unescapable prison and Amari is forced into a secret battle for the Crown. She has to lie to her friends, escape Acting Prime Minister Bane and his evil Director Harlowe, while juggling way too many deathly events that she is no way prepared to prevent.

Kid readers will enjoy the next book in the series. I did not as much. Amari is thrown directly into life and death situations which she has not had any training to handle and so no possible way to succeed. The evil is on more than one side and it all feels like preparatory to book three – a typical failing of second books and second movies – all action and little heart. Amari is pictured on the cover as black; other characters are various ethnicities, but that figures very little into the story.

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw - HIGH

Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw
, 320 pages. Disney Press, 2022. $15

Language: G (0 swears,0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (child kidnapping); Violence: PG-13 (ripping dolls apart)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Sally is the happiest she’s ever been, now that she’s Jack’s new bride. She is unsure of how well she will do as queen even though Jack reassures her. After their honeymoon travels, Sally ventures into Dream Town and accidentally leaves the door open. A monster travels to the different towns causing everyone to sleep. Even her beloved Jack, the Pumpkin King, won’t wake up. Sally feels guilty for causing this problem, especially because she had wished to be alone since she felt too inadequate to be queen. She goes to Dream Town hoping for the community to help her bring the monster, the Sandman, back but no one wants to talk about him. Then she’s summoned to the Governor’s house and her world changes. 

I love the descriptions of the holiday towns. Each holiday has a completely themed town based on its holiday events and colors. Dream Town is all about cozy sleep with its lavender crops, Dream Sand Factory and Lullaby Library. I love the description of Dream Sand: a blend of stardust, moonbeams, and a pinch of yawns. Such a cozy, fun read with a bit of suspense and a nice twist!

 LynnDell Watson, Delta High School Librarian 

It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi - NO

It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi
, 432 pages. Quill Tree, 2021. $18

Language: NC-17 (100+ swears, 23 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (religious person tricked into drinking alcohol)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NOT RECOMMENDED

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Kiran hears that she sister is going to marry a man she’s only known a few months, Kiran is sure something is up. Especially because the man’s brother is Deen, the boy who ghosted Kiran 3 years ago. Now freshly graduated senior Kiran is on a mission - expose all of Deen and Faisal’s secrets, no matter the cost, no matter how long it takes, no matter whose hearts get broken.  After all, Kiran’s heart was broken, so Deen and his brother should pay.

OMG! I hate Kiran so much. Not only does she get Faisal to break his personal religious vows, but after her Kiran-created disaster happens, she gets off scot-free, no consequences, everyone forgives Kiran. Faisal is the real victim here, but by all means, let’s feel sorry for Kiran. Kiran is a despicable person and that comes through very clearly in the story. This is not a love story, it is a revenge tale. All of the people in the story are of Indian descent.

Cindy, Library Teacher 

The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar - ADVISABLE

The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar
, 438 pages. Candlewick Press, 2022. $16

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (theft, grooming for a gang); Violence: G (mild danger)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

The opening is told in the gargoyle’s point of view and the statue sees a young woman carrying her baby while running from men. As they almost capture her, she jumps into the river while holding onto her baby. Eight years later, Duck is a young girl within a group of traveling thieves. She’s trying to prove that she’s helpful and ends up as a baker’s apprentice to infiltrate the bakery and steal from inside. She continues to give bread to her thief group, the Crowns, but doubts more and more that she’s doing the right thing because she’s feeling loved by the baker. As the stakes rise, Duck will have to make some tough choices and decide who her family is and who she’s loyal to.

I like the baker;mshe’s tremendously generous and kind. I appreciate the author’s writing of Duck’s conflicts between right and wrong and in finding her sense of belonging. This is a clean read with a good message. Ethnicity is predominantly white.

LynnDell Watson; Delta HS Librarian 

Monday, September 26, 2022

How to Survive Your Murder by Danielle Valentine - AVERAGE

How to Survive Your Murder by Danielle Valentine
, 296 pages. Penguin Random House LLC, 2022. $18 

Language: R (118 swears, 16 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (teens drinking, older man with underage girl); Violence: R (bloody deaths, mutilations, gore, actions if psychotic killer mentioned) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

If Claire is embodiment of laughter, parties, and bright lipstick, Alice is her opposite in every way, spending her nights alone with homework and a horror film or two. Regardless, the two sisters are the best of friends. After Claire is murdered at a Halloween party, Alice is more than ready to testify against her sister’s killer. She knows it was him. She saw him do it. But did she? When given a chance to review to events of that night first hand, Alice will encounter facts and events that directly contradict everything she thought she knew about her sister's death. 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable novel! The character development was well-paced and believable as well as the characters likeable and the plot pacing both interesting and suspenseful. It remarkably felt similar to a scary movie, regarding the feelings of anticipation that the author manages to create with her structure and pacing within just a chapter or even paragraph! Beware, however, as there are many graphic scenes with explicit descriptions of gore and violent deaths. There is also the mature themes of underage drinking as well as an older man sleeping with young high school girls. 

 Sierra Finlinson 

The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther - HIGH

The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther
, 360 pages. Sourcebooks Fire, 2021. $10 

Language: R (22 swears, 7 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (implied sex, teens drinking,); Violence: PG (hitting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Meredith heads to Martha’s Vineyard for a family wedding; she’s with her mother and father and they’re all missing Claire, Meredith’s deceased sister. On the ferry ride to the vineyard, Mer accidentally kicks a guy in the face when she’s climbing down. Later, she’s going to talk to her grandparents at the farm on the vineyard when she sees that same guy already talking to them; his name is Wit - the stepbrother of the groom. The wedding couple want to remember and honor Claire so they’ve planned a game of Assassin and everyone will fight to win with water guns. Mer and Wit decide to help each other with info as needed during the game. As Mer learns to deal with her grief, she’s able to repair relationships and build new ones. 

I liked the cute romance in the story. The dynamics between Mer and Wit are charming. I also enjoyed the large family events that are traditional. It portrays a sense of belonging. Ethnicity of the characters is predominantly white. 

LynnDell Watson; Delta HS Librarian 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Hocus Pocus by A.W. Jantha and Gris Grimly - ADVISABLE

 Hocus Pocus by A.W. Jantha, illustrated by Gris Grimly, 231 pages. Disney Press, 2022. $25. 9781368076685 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (danger and witchcraft) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When the Sanderson Sisters were hanged in 1693 for witchcraft, they swore that they would return. Then 16yo Max lights their candle on Halloween in 1993 and awakens the sisters, who wreak havoc on the unsuspecting Salem. Max, his little sister Dani, and the babysitter, Allison, are the only ones standing in their way – with a lot of help from Binx – the soul of a boy from 1693 caught within a body of a cat. 

Gris Grimly’s illustrated version echoes the movie without trying to match it. The text is Jantha’s original novelization – fun to read and reminiscent of the movie with skillfully added details. 

Cindy Mitchell, Library Teacher, MLS 

I Guess I Live Here Now by Claire Ahn - HIGH

I Guess I Live Here Now by Claire Ahn
, 408 pages. Viking (Penguin), 2022. $17

Language: R (23 swears, 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage marijuana use); Violence: PG (arguing)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Melody, Korean American, is caught by a police officer smoking her first joint with her friend Sophie. The next day she discovers that her parents have decided that they all need to be together so she’s moving with her mom to Korea and away from New York City. Melody and her mom have a close relationship but everything in Melody’s life changes once they’re in Korea. Her father is strict and gruff, her grandparents seem cold, distant and uncaring. She does make some friends and her Dad encourages socializing, which helps ease the family tensions and the homework stress. Her relationship with Sophie is strained too and Melody wants to figure out how to pursue her dream of becoming an interior designer while mending relationships with the people she cares about and navigating two countries as her home.

I love the descriptions of each setting the main character is in. I also like the relevance of family contention and teen angst that takes place as Melody’s father tries to completely control her and she discovers her mother keeping secrets. She sees her grandfather treat her father the same way her father treats her and she wonders why he does that to her when he seems to dislike being treated like that. Great insight into Korean culture through Melody’s experiences as she visits places and tries new foods. I also liked the mix of ethnicities.

LynnDell Watson 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace - HIGH

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace
, 416 pages. Little Brown for Young Readers, 2022. $15

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (Alcohol addiction and drinking prevalent throughout, lusting, descriptions of sex) ; Violence: PG-13 (Poison and many descriptions of poisonings)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

19yo Signa Farrow was born into one of the wealthiest families imaginable. But one day, her mother dies of poison, and she is forced into bouncing around guardians, all her wanting her for one thing, her inheritance. Strangely, every guardian that Signa has been with dies mysteriously. Until Signa finds herself at Thorn Grove. It's a beautiful manor with many secrets, including a mourning ghost that only Signa can see. Signa will have to use her gifted sight to find a killer- before time runs out.

Belladonna is set in a victorian like Europe, with imagery of ballgowns, tea parties and proper manners. It's a beautiful setting, and perfect for one of mystery, intrigue and love. And although this isn't a perfect book by all means, I think the author executed what she wanted to - the message, setting and characters were thought out. What I am not a fan of, is the fluff in the middle- it didn't add anything to the plot and made it harder to get through the book.

Kenzie Hoehne