Friday, December 6, 2019



A new episode of the podcast is available now on iTunes and Spreker.

Start at the SHOW NOTES page and listen to our favorite 30 books from August and September. We found some cute new board books with interactive parts, a couple of new Christmas picture books, several non-fiction gems for all ages and novels of all sorts of genres and age levels.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring - OPTIONAL

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring, 456 pages. Imprint (Macmillan), 2019. $19.

Language: R (50+ swears, 15+“f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (preganant 12yo); Violence: G (creepy, but not violent)



Although she lied to get the position, Mavi is determined to succeed as an English teacher at a very exclusive boarding school at the tip of Argentina.  The Vaccaro school is hiding more secrets than Mavi herself.  And the danger, as the weeks go by, only increases. What are the ghostly figures some can see at night?  Who is the Tenth Girl who is missing from the first class of the re-opened school? 

Faring tries to craft a ghost story, but the intermittent story of the secondary character, Angel, adds an odd note that made me question what kind of book I was actually reading. If I could talk more about it without spoiling it, I would have even more complaints to make. The gloomy setting is merely depressing, not spooky or intriguing.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Among the Fallen by Virginia Frances Schwartz - OPTIONAL

Among the Fallen by Virginia Frances Schwartz, 289 pages. Holiday House, 2019.  $17.

Language: R (8 swears, 2 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 blunt sex talk, doctors exam described); Violence: PG-13 (rape, child abuse)



Orpha, 16yo, has almost finished her sentence at Tothill Prison in London in the 1850’s.  She has received an invitation from a Mr. Dickens to live at his new project – Urania, a home to help girls transition to a life after prison. First, however, she must avoid the pitfalls of the prison during her final days.  At once she is at Urania, can she really let go of the trauma of her life before and at the prison? Can she ever feel she deserves a better life?

I know Dickens is now kind of dismissed as one of the “old white men”, but Schwartz’s book brings him right back to the fact that he wrote about the lowest of London’s inhabitants and brought light to their dark corners.  Teachers of Dickens will love this.  Only a few students will appreciate it.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee - ESSENTIAL

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee, 283 pages. Aladdin (Simon), 2019.  $18. 

Content: G 


There’s nothing special about Mila, 12yo, as far as she’s concerned.  So why are the boys at her school acting so weird - especially the basketball team. Why are they feeling her sweater? Why do they want hugs? They are standing WAY to close to her.  The counselor doesn’t understand what she is tryong to explain, the music teacher blames Mia for the problem, and even her friends seem to not think that anything is actually wrong.  How can Mila get anyone to listen?

Dee has written her best book ever.  I am hoping that the girls at my school will recommend this to each other.  I also want the counselors to read it and the boys. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a reading – even adults who don’t work in schools.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan - ESSENTIAL

The Tyrant’s Tomb (Trials of Apollo #4) by Rick Riordan, 423 pages.  Disney, 2019.  $20.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG (mentions of Apollo’s past indiscretions); Violence: PG (battles and some blood)



Apollo and Meg have to get to San Francisco and find New Rome – not only because of their dreadful burden, but also because their enemies are congregating and New Rome will be the site of this latest battle.  Not only will all of Camp Jupiter be needed, but a group of unlikely heroes will also take the stage (Peaches!). Apollo will reach his absolute nadir has his is confronted with the absolute worst of his past behavior.  Why would any of the Gods of Olympus come to his rescue?

What an explosion of action, adventure, danger, but with Riordan’s finesse for adding the tiny details that adds so much depth to his writing.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney - OPTIONAL

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney, 368 pgs. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18.

Language: R (100+, 47 ‘f’, 18 ‘n’); Mature Content: R (racial slurs, homophobic slurs, drugs); Violence: R (military brutality, assault, rape)



Five generations of one family will search across centuries and continents in an attempt to find deliverance. Different members of the family must come to grips with oppression, slavery, and violence as they reach toward freedom that could ultimately prove to be elusive.

This is an ambitious book that takes on a great deal of history and attempts to communicate it through the stories of five members of the same family. Confusion will be predominant for the reader as the stories are not told chronologically and provide little background to the complex situations of each protagonist. The brief summary of Liberian history that is inserted at the end of the book would be better placed at the beginning or instead woven into the stories to make them resonate more strongly. The relatability of the main characters and the substance of their stories is uneven throughout the book and as none of the stories have any real resolution, readers will find themselves at times equal parts bored and unsatisfied. The stories being told are important and need to be shared; however, the author should have taken more care in how those tales were written.

Reviewer: AEB

Empress of All Seasons - ESSENTIAL

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean, 384 pgs. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018. $18.

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (in the course of battle and competition in a contest).



Each generation a new empress of Honoku is chosen through a fierce competition. In order to be the one to win the hand of the prince, each competitor must fight to survive the Palace of Illusions’ enchanted seasonal rooms. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn await full of danger and surprises. Conquer the rooms and marry the prince. Any young woman may enter, unless she is yokai, one of the supernatural creatures whom the emperor has sworn to enslave and destroy. Mari has spent her whole life training for the competition. She is well prepared and is eager to prove her worth to her village, but she harbors a secret that could destroy everything.

A wonderful story with themes of love, loyalty, and embracing differences to appreciate the worth of an individual. A fairytale with the usual elements of a prince, a maiden, and a fight between good and evil, the story is unique and enthralling. Even though there are many characters introduced throughout the course of the book, each one is fully formed and the reader will engage with each of them. In a genre overwhelmed with books that overstay their welcome through unnecessary serialization, this stand-alone novel will leave the reader, for once, wishing for a sequel.

Reviewer: AEB

Drive by Susan Strecker - NO

Drive by Susan Strecker, 298 pages. Koehler Books, 2019. $19.

Language: R (121 swears, 12 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



Piper is Planter Pierson’s daughter – and everyone knows it. Pierson Racing is a very successful NASCAR team, and Piper grew up knowing that driving and racing would be her life. Until that disaster in Tennessee. Now Piper is just trying to survive and stay as far away from that dangerous life as possible. What will it take for Piper to start living again?

The message of this story is great: living means taking risks. I also thought the ending came together very well in a way I wasn’t expecting. However, I didn’t enjoy my time reading this book as much as I wanted to because I couldn’t stand Piper – especially her self-centeredness which made it difficult to sympathize with her when things didn’t go her way. The timing was also difficult to follow, sometimes making the story feel choppy with Strecker recounting what happened to Piper rather than showing those scenes to readers. Mature Content rating for partial nudity and sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Les Miserables art by TszMei Lee - HIGH

Les Miserables (Manga Classics) art by TszMei Lee, 337 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Udon Entertainment, 2014. $20. 9781927925164

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



Jean Valjean is an ex-convict, struggling to live a good life while still being pursued by his former prison guard. On the run, Valjean takes on many different roles, including father as he adopts an abused orphan. He becomes even more desperate to live well with his new daughter dependent on him, but can Valjean ever do enough to break free from his past?

Les Miserables is a classic, and it seems to me that the majority of people have seen the musical or have heard the plot line from others but few actually read the full story by Victor Hugo -- which is nearly 1500 pages long. This manga version makes the intimidating book more approachable and plants the desire to read through the original. With such a long story being told in the manga style, putting all the details in is impossible, and I found myself with a couple questions by the end, which a friend told me are addressed by the full book. So, no, this version is not perfect, but I mourned and rejoiced with the characters and found beauty in both the story and the illustrations.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Scarlet Letter art by SunNeko Lee - HIGH

The Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics) art by SunNeko Lee, 308 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL  Udon Entertainment, 2015. $20. 9781927925348

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



As punishment for committing adultery, Hester must now wear a red “A” for the rest of her life. With her poor treatment from the townspeople for her sin and her lover staying hidden, Hester’s daughter is all that she has left -- but will they ever have a happily ever after?

I was intrigued by the idea of a manga version of this classic book, but I was also hesitant to pick it up because I hated this book in high school. However, as I read this adaptation, I discovered that I was engaged by the story and that I love Hester’s character, the epitome of strength. Being able to actually understand the story in a way that I didn’t when reading Hawthorne’s original planted the desire to go back and read the full classic again. I want to know the details that had to be left out, and I want to gain greater insights into the characters I have been reintroduced to. Hawthorne’s story deserved redemption from the poor first impression it left on me, and anyone who struggles with the original -- and even those who loved the original -- will find that Chan’s adaptation is a great supplement to the classic.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, November 4, 2019

Mistaken Reality by Traci Hunter Abramson - ADVISABLE

Mistaken Reality by Traci Hunter Abramson, 312 pages. Covenant Communications, 2019. $15.

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



A terrorist attack brings all hands on deck -- FBI, CIA, undercover agents, and even a civilian -- to find the people responsible. The civilian, Hadley, should have been able to continue with her normal life after being saved by FBI-agent JD, but she is more tangled in the dangerous web than anyone suspected. Will the terrorists be stopped so that everyone can return to their normal lives? Will “normal” even be possible?

Reading this story started our very confusing, mostly because Abramson writes from several different points of view and the pieces don’t seem to be part of the same puzzle in the beginning. Once I got all the characters straight, I loved reading how all the pieces did fit together -- impossible as it first appeared. However, sometimes I felt left out by the obvious history there is between the characters. I suspect that those relationships and stories are told in one of Abramson’s other series, but I nothing explicit says that. Reading Abramson’s other books is not necessary to enjoy this one, but I would have been a little less confused and annoyed at parts if I understood what the characters were referencing all the time. The mature content and violence ratings are for mentions of human trafficking, other illegal activities, and gun shooting.

Review: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Love Yourself by Jeremy Whitley - HIGH

Love Yourself  (Princeless Volume 9) by Jeremy Whitley, 128 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Action Lab Comics, 2019. $15.

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



The end is coming. As Adrienne fights an unexpected battle on her way to save her sister Appalonia and Devin gives his friend to the Elves as their lost princess, they uncover more secrets. With battles on every front, their only choice is to move forward separately and hope to come together victoriously.

The illustrations and story are both well done, thrusting me into a new world that I want to stay in -- even when I’m a little confused. I haven’t read all of the Princeless volumes, though I now really want to, which is why I was a little lost. Nevertheless, I loved what I was reading -- the strength of the characters and their determination to fight for what they’re passionate about, the unexpected directions of the story and the love for family and people that underlies the actions of Adrienne and her family.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen