Wednesday, February 24, 2021

All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat - ESSENTIAL

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat
, 280 pages. NON-FICTION Candlewick Press, 2020. $25 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

In June of 2018, 12 boys from a local soccer team and one of their coaches hike into a cave in northern Thailand. While inside, the cave floods and they are trapped. Soon, word spreads that the boys didn't come home, when a search of the village locates their bikes at the mouth of the cave a rescue effort begins, with rescuers and help coming from all over the world. But the boys aren't easy to reach, and no one is sure they are even still alive. 

I remember following this story while it was happening, and it was an amazing experience getting all the details filled in. Soontornvat's narrative is engaging and exciting. I loved the side bars describing the background of the prominent rescuers, as well as information about Thailand culture and religion. Full of captioned color photographs that bring the reader right to the cave, "All Thirteen" includes an author's note - Soontornvat happened to be in Thailand while this was all happening, index and sources.

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From by Jennifer De Leon - OPTIONAL

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From
by Jennifer De Leon
, 323 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020 $19.

Language: R (18 swears 14 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (making out); Violence: PG (racist bullying). 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

15yo Liliana Cruz is not too thrilled that she got into METCO - a desegregation project that sends inner city students of color from Boston to high performing schools in the suburbs. She doesn't want to leave her friend Jade, whose boyfriend takes a bunch of Jade's time anyway, she doesn't want to leave her school - it's underfunded but fine - and she doesn't want to make things any harder on her mom - - Liliana's dad took off, and with twin little brothers, she's needed at home. But, this is an opportunity she can't pass up, and her dad put her on the waiting list for the program a long time ago, so Liliana agrees to give it a try. Now she goes to school at Westburg High where nearly every student (and teacher) is white, and the only minority students are part of this program. It's hard to feel accepted when even the other METCO kids don't act welcoming, and some of the white kids are outright racist. 

 Liliana has a lot going on, which in some books would be layers, but it just felt like a lot. Besides the new school, her mom suffers from depression, her brothers are a handful, dad has been deported - Liliana had no idea her parents were undocumented - her best friend is distancing herself, at school Liliana is having friend issues, boyfriend issues (mom says she can't date until she's 18), teacher issues and she's trying to find herself. Her culture is also a bit murky - why set Liana up as an American born girl with Guatemalan/Salvador parents and then not go anywhere with it? A beautiful cover and a nice message, but I think I'll pass on purchasing.

Lisa Librarian

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh - OPTIONAL

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh, 408 pages. Dutton Books (Penguin Random House), 2020. $18 

Language: F (29 swears 6 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (sexual situation); Violence: F (sexual abuse). 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, NEW ADULT - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ada is starting her freshman year in college. She's further from home than she's ever been, and has to make her own decisions for the first time in her life. As she navigates this new world, her love of dancing, college life, discovering she is in a classroom full of smart black kids. She reflects on her life in flashbacks. Ada grew up with her Nigerian father whose expectations were based on his culture, rather than American. Her parents were divorced, so her visits to her drug addicted African American mother were often toxic, and staying at her grandmothers put her in danger from a young cousin who sexually abused her. 

"Every Body Looking" is a coming of age debut novel in verse beautifully constructed. I liked this format because the poetry gave us Ada's story in snippets, like memories, showing pieces of her story that reflect the grown girl without a lot a narrative needed. I would recommend this for a college reader, it feels on the older end of YA. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, February 22, 2021

Apple: (Skin to the Core) by Eric Gansworth - OPTIONAL

Apple: (Skin to the Core) A Memoir in Words and Pictures by Eric Gansworth, 340 pages. Arthur A Levine (Levine Querido), 2020. $19.00 

Language: R (3 swears 2 'f'); Mature Content: PG (teen smoking); Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, ADULT - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Eric Gansworth's grandparents were the children put in boarding schools like Carlisle and Hampton, intended to force out their culture and make them assimilate, his father rarely at home, his mother managing a large family of children. His siblings leaving for Vietnam and adult lives - shared music and stories that shaped Eric's life, and the next generation's who are struggling to return to the old ways, to preserve the fading culture. 

Gansworth's memoir of a childhood living on a reservation is told in prose and poetry and images - photographs and drawings. Although Gansworth is a teen and young man for most of the book, I would say it's more appropriate for adults; not because of the content, but it's nostalgic, thought provoking, a privileged look into Gansworth's family culture, Onondaga and Tuscarora. I loved the references to Beatles songs, made even more meaningful by the "Liner notes" at the end of the book. 

Lisa Librarian

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson - HIGH

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, 387 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2019. $9.

Language: R (57 swears, 11 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Five years ago, Sal Singh killed his girlfriend, Andie Bell, and sent a confession text right before he took his own life a couple days later. There are facts everyone in Fairview knows. But Pippa believes Sal was innocent. And she’s going to prove it.

Pippa’s story is one that reaches out to grab your eyes, making sure you are glued to every page and can only extricate yourself from the book painfully -- though it feels like a voluntary surrender at first. Jackson brilliantly focuses readers where she wants our attention, as masterful as any master-of-deception magician. All the pieces are given to readers alongside Pip as we work to solve the mystery, and, while the ending is a surprise, the solution doesn’t feel like a jarring leap but is, instead, as satisfying as snapping the key puzzle pieces in place. The mature content rating is for underage drinking; drug use; mentions of sex, masturbation, and rape; and partial nudity. The violence rating is for self-harm, mentions of suicide, and homicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, February 21, 2021

K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee - HIGH

K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee, 336 pages. Point (Scholastic Inc.), 2020. $10.

Language: PG13 (19 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Candace loves her Korean parents and their culture, but growing up as a Korean-American has made it difficult for her to know where she fits in the world. When she gets the opportunity of a lifetime, Candace goes to Korea as a trainee for a Korean entertainment company with the possibility of becoming a K-Pop idol. Candace fights for herself, for her dream, and for what’s right -- even when taking a chance risks everything.

Candace is an amazing person, strong in will and courageous of heart, and her story has inspired me to be more like her. Risks are scary, but nothing world-changing has ever come easily. Watching Candace’s growth shows readers that we can do more than we think we can and standing up for what is right is never a bad thing, even when it is the road with the most obstacles. Any time Lee decides to continue Candace’s story, I will be first in line to buy a copy and see what Candace will do next. The violence rating is for mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Six Word Story by Doug Weller - OPTIONAL

Six Word Story by Doug Weller, 88 pages. SHORT STORIES. Hebe Publications, 2021. $7.

Language: PG (2 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Weller tells several stories with only six words each, inviting every genre -- suspense, comedy, tragedy, and more. Not meant to be rushed through, Weller invites readers to think on the stories to peel back the layers to find the double meanings often hidden. Weller also includes submissions from the 2020 competition and invites readers to submit six word stories of their own for the next one!

The six word stories are intriguing as an idea, but I was disappointed by reading a whole book of them. I think I was disappointed because they didn’t feel as profound when they were side by side for comparison. Some of the stories were clever, but the majority of them were average. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mention of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Playing Cupid by S. C. Alban - OPTIONAL

Playing Cupid by S. C. Alban, 263 pages. The Parliament House, 2021. $7.

Language: R (51 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Megan has been carefully upkeeping the walls around her heart since her mother died five years ago. She keeps her distance from everyone, including her father, and is counting down the days to her early graduation -- a goal being threatened by her flakey home ec partner Jay. When Megan accidentally hits a cupid with her car, he insists that she help him match his last three marks as compensation, which is exactly what this girl set against love needs.

Megan’s story is cute, funny, and imaginative with its new spin on the roles of cupid. Also, readers can learn a lot about love and trusting themselves along with Megan. Alban’s book was hard for me to read, though, because most of the humor felt like inconsistencies in the writing and negative put-downs. The mature content rating is for mention of underage drinking and drug use; the violence rating is for mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Fight For Her by Liz Plum - OPTIONAL

Fight For Her by Liz Plum, 352 pages. Wattpad Books, 2021. $11.

Language: R (52 swears, 8 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

17yo Scarlet has a loving family, a popular boyfriend, and a great job, but she is afraid of any change that reminds her of the hole left in her heart from her brother’s death. As Scarlet starts to be truer to herself and what she wants, she risks the perfect balance of her life. Is it better to feel the pain and move forward or stay content with where she is?

As entertainment, this book does its job: high school drama, relationship issues, family secrets, gangs, cheesy lines -- there’s a little bit of everything. I was annoyed with Scarlet’s decisions most of the time, but Plum conveyed the reasons why, making Scarlet’s character arc feel realistic. I’m not going to read it again, but I don’t feel like my time was wasted on it. The mature content rating is for mentions of nudity, sex, and pornography; innuendo; underage drinking; and drug abuse. The violence rating is for boxing scenes, blood, gun use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas - ESSENTIAL

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez
by Adrianna Cuevas
, 288 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux (MacMillan), 2020. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

6th Grader Nestor Lopez has moved around all his life, his father is currently deployed, and this move was to Texas to live with his Abuela. It's always just a few months until they move again - this is his 10th first day of school and he's in 6th grade, so Nestor plans to lie low, not make friends and get by with his sketch book and his mom. But this place is different . . . Nestor has always been able to understand animals, but in Texas they are asking for help. There's a witch in the woods, and some people think it's Nestor's Abuela. 

I loved the realistic representation of a military kid, the worry about his dad, his "not unpacking all his boxes," the letters and books they exchange. The story was exciting, a good amount of magical realism with witches and a snake and talking animals, and danger! I'd love to see more of Nestor and hope there's a sequel.

Lisa Librarian

Lifting As We Climb by Evette Dionne - ADVISABLE

Lifting As We Climb: Black Women's Battle for the Ballot Box
by Evette Dionne
170 pages. NON-FICTION Viking Penguin, Random House, 2020 $20 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (discussions of lynching, torture, sexual assault) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

It wasn't just white women fighting for their rights to vote, black women fought as well, but their fight included battling not only for gender equity, for for social and racial as well. Even within the suffragette movement they had to fight for their cause, a cause still relevant today. 

 From abolitionists of the 1830's through the 2018 Governor's race in Georgia and into the future, Evette Dionne has presented a thorough Well researched with extensive bibliography and sources. Includes captioned photos and mini-biographies of the women involved, beautifully dovetailed into the powerful text.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn - HIGH

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
, 512 pages. Simon & Schuster, 2020. $19 

Language: R (66 swears, 7 “f”); Mature Content: PG (adultery, rape mentioned); Violence: PG (fighting demons) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS, MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

After her mom dies, Bree needs a complete change of scenery, so she enrolls in the pre-college program at UNC that she knows her mother didn’t want her to join. Her first night an older student from home invites Bree and her best friend Alice to a secret, illegal party near the cliffs. While the girls don’t drink and don’t join in the partying, disaster still strikes in the form of an inhuman monster – that no one but Alice seems to see. Now she’s been assigned an extremely hot mentor, Nick, who seems to be able to see the monsters too. Reluctantly – VERY reluctantly – Nick introduces Bree to the Legendborn – a line of demon hunters from the time of King Arthur. If Bree survives the trial sand is accepted, she would be the first Black member of the society. At the same time, however, she meets the Rootcrafters, a group that her mother used to belong to. They also have magic, but are against everything the Legendborn do. 

There is so much more to explain in Deonn’s tour de force. Her writing is way better than my summary. The twists you are encounter are so excellent unexpected, but really not, if you had been paying attention. I am thrilled that there is another book in the series coming. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly - ESSENTIAL

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly
, 320 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $18 

Language: PG (9 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (fighting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

It is almost time for the Queen to turn the reins of the kingdom over to Princess Sophie. The Queen, however, has other plans. Her Huntsman takes Sophie deep into the forest and carves out her heart. By some miracle, Sophie doesn’t die and when the dwarves find her, they fashion her a mechanical heart. It takes a betrayal from the palace, but Sophie finally realizes that no one is going to save her – so it is up to her to save herself and the kingdom. 

This is just a surface summary of Donnelly’s deep look into the world of Snow White. An excellent companion to Stepsister, Donnelly’s dive into the Cinderella story

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis - HIGH

Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis
, 336 pages. Inkyard (Harlequin), 2021. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears, 31 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (drinking, pot smoking, makeout session); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

16yo Jerzie James has just been handed the job of her dreams – almost. Actually, she’s been given the job as understudy to Cinny, the latest it-girl pop singer, in Stephen Sondheim’s new musical – a hip-hop, urban version of Romeo and Juliet. Now she is to spend her days at the 42nd Street Studios, watching Cinny and her hot Romeo, the newcomer Zeppelin, 19yo, just in case something goes wrong. There is an instant spark between Zeppelin and Jerzie – a spark Cinny seems to resent. And other complications and obstacles present themselves. 

You don’t have to love musical theater to enjoy this layered Romeo and Juliet remix (Spoiler – no deaths involved). It will make you wish that Roman and Jewel were really being produced, though. I will probably read this one again. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay - OPTIONAL

Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay
, 384 pages. Houghton Mifflan, 2020. $18 

Language: R (93 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

17yo River hates his life. He’s stuck on a reality show, competing to be the last person to tap out on a wilderness survival contest. A couple of days ago there was a devastating earthquake, and now River finds himself saddle with a not just one other competitor, but two others. Each competitor has ulterior motives, but it looks at those the rest of the world has disappeared and the virtual reality world seems to be manifesting their worst nightmares, they will have to be smart and support each other in order to survive. 

Reads like a high-lo offering for reluctant readers. The final twists get a little tricky to follow, and the technology glitches are a little hard to believe. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn - ADVISABLE

Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn
, 304 pages. Philomel (Penguin), 2020. $17 

Content: G (mild danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – OPTIONAL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Andrea’s little brother, Francis, has been missing for 3 years. Her parents are moving on, but Andrea can not let go. When she sneaks out of the house one night, she follows a glimmer in the woods – to a mysterious circus, full of children and of intriguing tents. Reverie: the Land of Dreams, it says. The price – just one dream or one memory. Andrea knows just what memory she wants to give, and she enters the circus, where she meets the Sandman, who is in charge, and Penny, who seems to want to be her friend. As she leans into the celebration, she can’t but think there is something important she has forgotten – something that her heart wants her to remember. 

Like the children who go to Pleasure Island in Pinocchio, the children in Reverie don’t realize they have given up something important. Circus of Stolen Dreams also reads dark, but it is a gentle way to hope that the kids who read it will think before they choose running away as the answer. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan - HIGH

I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan
, 368 pages. Albert Whitman, 2020. $19 

Language: R(90 swears, 0“f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

10 years ago, Dee and Sibby slipped off to play in the woods, only Sibby never came home. Now 17yo, Dee hangs on, still in the same town, if a different house, and hosts an anonymous podcast dedicated to telling the stories of missing people. When another little girl goes missing, attention focuses on Dee and on Sibby’s disappearance again. Everyone thinks Dee should get involved and her listeners think that the Seeker, Dee’s alterego, should also get involved. Then an email arrives – someone has seen Sibby. It was 5 years ago, but it is the first sighting ever. No one else may understand, but Dee really does want to find her friend – even if it puts her life in danger. 

Reminiscent of April Henry’s taut thrillers – plenty of tension, some red herrings, and good detective work. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery by Ally Carter - ADVISABLE

Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery (Winterborne #2) by Ally Carter, 352 pages. Houghton Mifflin, MARCH 2021. $15 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

April and the others try to keep things going at Winterborne Mansion, but Gabriel aches from Isabel’s desertion. When he disappears again, April is sure that something is wrong and that Gabriel needs their help. However, a visit from an aggressive social worker, the appearance of a man who says he’s April’s father, and a second Sentinel are highly distracting. 

 Lots of danger, lots of surprises, lots of layers – enough to be somewhat confusing at times. Carter seems to be aiming this to be a second Gallagher Girls series – I won’t give things away, but like the original, there are many layers that are just being revealed at the end this second volume. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi - OPTIONAL

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi
, 320 pages. Quill Tree (Harper), 2020. $17 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Mimi and her mother are spending the summer with her maternal grandparents in Karachi, Pakistan. In America they are poor, but in Pakistan they and are rich with a beautiful house and servants. One of those servants is Sakina, the young daughter of the cook. Sakina’s family is poor – if Abba (Dad) doesn’t go to his job, they will have no way to make money. Because Abba is sickly, Selena has to leave school in order to help him. As the girls get to know each other, the both have many questions. Eventually those questions are also for the adults in their lives. 

Faruqi gives us a peek into a very different life in a different part of the world . The girl’s alternate chapters, so we see Sakina as much as we do Mimi. The side story of Mimi’s estranged father is okay, but is really a distraction from the friendship of the girls. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage - ADVISABLE

The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage
, 384 pages. Shadow Mountain, 2020. $18 

Content: G (some danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Celia’s mother may be a librarian, but Celia hates reading – her dyslexia makes it almost impossible. Tyrus, the strange boy who secretly shelves library books, does love books. When the pair finds a box that has been in Celia’s family for generations – a box owned by Lewis Carroll, - yes, the author of the Alice books – Tyrus insists they attempt to open it. Thus starts a chain reaction, sending them tumbling into the very real Wonderland. There the pair face many challenges – because Wonderland is broken, and local lore says that only The Alice can save them.  Well, Celia is no Alice. 

Savage takes a fresh look at the Alice on Wonderland story, creating a unique continuation of Carroll's story. What if Carroll himself had visited Wonderland and what kind of changes had his visit made to the ones he left behind?

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS