Saturday, November 28, 2020

Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen - ADVISABLE

Nyxia Unleashed (Nyxia #2) by Scott Reintgen
, 393 pages. Crown (Random House), 2018. $ 

Language: PG-13 (40 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Emmett and some of the others have made it to the surface of Eden – ready to mine Nyxia for Babel, just like they contracted. But almost as soon as they arrive, the teens realize that Babel told them even more lies. Now they are caught between Babel and the Adamites, or Imago as the natives call themselves. And the Imago have a world-shattering secret that they have been keeping from Babel. 

Reintgen ramps up the tension on Eden and includes plenty of new story threads to make it all interesting without becoming confusing. Emmett is a very likable character, and some of the others become multi-dimensional. A great science fiction book. It’d even make a good mini-series if it were picked up for tv production. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, November 27, 2020

On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Watts - ADVISABLE

 

On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Watts, 193 pages. Candlewick Press, 2019. $17.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (8 swears); Mature Content; PG; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Twelve-year-old Ellen had to call her grumpy Aunt Pearl to come and help Ellen’s mother who is suffering from depression ever since Ellen’s father left for World War II.  Pearl quickly whisks Ellen and her mom to Snowden Mountain, where Pearl lives a simple life in the mountains. Ellen is disappointed in the sub-par school and feels lonely while her mom isn’t talking.  While out exploring in the woods, Ellen meets Russell, a brash boy who knows the wildlife but doesn’t know how to read.  They develop a quirky, but endearing friendship and Ellen starts to see that everyone struggles in their own way.   

In this coming-of-age story, Ellen has hard obstacles, but they feel real and she is easy to empathize with.  I loved the peaceful setting of Snowden Mountain, and at times the setting felt like Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow or Echo Mountain.  The cover looks young, but the content includes child and domestic abuse as well as alcoholism.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo - HIGH

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
, 238 pages. Seal Press, 2019. $17

Language: R (16 swears, 8 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Once you’ve read Oluo’s book once, you need to read it again, and then again. Then you should find a white friend to discuss this with. Not a black friend – because you should do your own work in trying to become a better white person. Oluo weaves her own experiences into her honest look at roadblocks and problems that thrown in the face of every non-white person. Teachers should look into using this as a textbook for a civics class or even as a framework for a history class. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe - AVERAGE

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe
, 336 pages. Balzer + Bray (Harper), 2020. $19 

Language: R (100+ swears, 16 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12th grader Henri Haltiwanger is about to get everything we wants – admission to Columbia University. But when he blows his admissions interview, he may need to rethink his trajectory. The son of Haitian immigrants, Henri earned his way into the Fine Arts Technical Education (FATE) Academy with his brain, his family lives in a lovely uptown apartment building because his dad is the super, and he makes money to contribute to the household through his dog-walking business. Then Corinne Troy, a classmate who also lives in his building blackmails him to help her become more socially engaged. As they spend more time together, their interest sparks. Corinne even helps him rethink his need to go to Columbia above all others. But in a moment of desperation, Henri makes a choice that may lose him everything. 

I love that Henri is the focus. Henri and Corinne’s interaction is as charming as the title implies. While this is definitely for those who want something romantic, there is depth here to enjoy well beyond the romance. It is about the choices we make, about who we open up to, about trying to find out where our dreams will lead us. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen - ADVISABLE

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
, 384 pages. Crown (Random), 2017. $10 (paperback). 

Language: PG-13 (39 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (fighting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

10 teenagers have been chosen to go on the trip of a life time – across space to the planet Eden. The brilliant, wealthy Marcus DeFoe is financing the entire trip, because of a miracle substance that originates on the planet – a substance that can become anything. And its worth $50,000/month per person for them to mine it. What Emmett, 15, and the others winners don’t know is that they have to win their way down to Eden. At times the competition is brutal, and always dangerous. With only one month to go, Defoe turns the competition on its head – another group has also trained for the trip – and all of them must compete again. 

I hope your students like science fiction, because this is an excellent one! A great cast of multi-cultural characters with different personalities and motivations. An exciting, at times breath-taking read with tons of actions, questions, and you will beg for #2. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Stick With Me by Jennifer Blecher - ADVISABLE

Stick With Me by Jennifer Blecher, 256 pages. Greenwillow (Harper), 2020. $17 

Content: G (4 swears) 

 BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE; MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Izzy and Phoebe used to be best friends, but now Phoebe hangs out with the school’s queen bee. Wren, also 12yo, is on her way to being an Olympic ice skater, but her little sister has cancer and their family is headed to Boston for Hannah to have surgery, which means Wren can’t get the training she needs before sectionals. Wren’s family is renting Izzy’s house, while Izzy’s family stays above the garage for the week. The two girls make tentative inroads into friendship, but both girls are signed up for theater camp for the week – not only is Phoebe there, but so is Daphne, and the two are ready to make Izzy miserable – and maybe use Wren to help along their schemes. 

 I was so glad that Izzy didn’t have a psychosis – she’s just a girl who is trying to figure out life and friendship. Despite their misunderstandings, the two girls become friends – and they find a very clever way to put the mean girls in their place and give Izzy the courage that comes from true friendship. An excellent paperback choice. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

In the Shadow of the Sun by Em Castellan - ADVISABLE

 


In the Shadow of the Sun (In the Shadow of the Sun, #1) by Em Castellan, 340 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2020. $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (5 swears); Mature Content: PG-13 (off page sex); Violence: PG-13 (fighting and death).  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Henriette is seventeen years old and as an alliance between England and France, she has been sworn to the French king’s younger brother, Phillipe.  Henriette has magic and has hidden it her whole life.  Her type of magic makes her a Source, giving her the ability to feed magic to a magician.  Henriette quickly finds out that King Louis is a magician, which he has kept secret, and when he uses her as his Source they have powerful magic.  When Sources turn up murdered throughout the city, Louis and Henriette band together to try and solve the mystery.  

France in 1661, magic, romance, friendship and a mystery make for a great adventure.  Henriette is a great protagonist, and I enjoyed the family drama of Louis and Phillipe.  It says this is the beginning of a series, but I felt like it could stand alone, and I was satisfied with the ending.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

How to Pack For the End of the World by Michelle Falkoff - ADVISABLE

How to Pack For the End of the World by Michelle Falkoff
, 320 pages. HarperTeen, 2020. 

Content: G 

 BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Under protest, Amina, a 10th grader, is off to the Gardner Academy as a scholarship student. Her parents say she needs a change of scenery – and hopefully of attitude. Amina forms an informal group with four other students – they call the group Eucalyptus and they are dedicated to learning survival skills – maybe for the end of the world, but definitely for life. As they navigate school and their club, someone is targeting the group members one at a time with harassment – harassment specific to each of them. How can they uncover the bully? 

The games that the students create for each other are very interesting – and the reveal of the harasser was eye-opening. A bit like Alt Ed Catherine Atkins, but the group forms voluntarily. Also reminds me of John Green’s realistic novels. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Maurice and His Dictionary by Cary Fagan and Enzo Lord Mariano - ADVISABLE

Maurice and His Dictionary: A True Story
 by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Enzo Lord Mariano
. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Owl Kids, 2020. $20. 9781771473231 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL – OPTIONAL; MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Maurice has lived most of his life in Belgium, but when the Nazis invade, they escape and eventually end up in an internment camp in Jamaica. Maurice is determined to become a lawyer, so he finds teachers willing to help him in the camp – spending a lot of time each night with a dictionary to improve his English. Eventually he gets permission to immigrate to Canada to fulfill his dream. 

Based on the life of the author’s father, Mariano illustrated this like a graphic novel. It is very text heavy, so not suitable for lower elementary grades. It is a great addition to a Holocaust picture book collection, though, adding more dimension. The dictionary does not play a very prominent part in the narrative, so I don’t really understand the title. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus - OPTIONAL

 


A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus, 340 pages. NON-FICTION Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2020. $25. 

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Dita is a young girl when the Nazis start to take over Europe.  She grew up in Prague and had a happy childhood as an only child to a middle-class Jewish family.  As they are moved throughout the war from their home to the ghetto and on to Auschwitz, Dita recounts her memories from that time. By the time the war ended, Dita was sixteen years old, and shortly after that her mother died from complications of being at Auschwitz and Dita was an orphan.  Dita marries and they move to Israel and have a family.  

This memoir encompasses Dita’s whole life with little memories from different times throughout.  It is a slow read and very detailed.  My greatest confusion is that at no time does it mention her as a librarian, which is the subheading.  The Librarian of Auschwitz is based on her life, but this book doesn’t mention anything about it.  The content includes a clinical, yet graphic, explanation of sex.  She comments on her own maturation. There is a gruesome and very graphic explanation of the latrine situation at the labor camp and she describes a bombing victim’s wounds.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne K. Salerni - ADVISABLE

Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts by Dianne K. Salerni, 240 pages. Holiday House, 2020. $18 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

There are three kinds of ghosts – Unawares, Friendlies, and Vengefuls – if a Vengeful invades your house, you’d better just vacate and tear it down immediately! 13yo Eleanor Roosevelt lives with her stuffy grandmother in their New York house with a couple of Unaware ancestors. When her cousin Alice, 14yo, is sent to live with their older, preganant, Aunt Bye, a new ghost erupts in that house – a ghost which is diagnosed by Nellie Bly herself as a Friendly. But Eleanor and Alice feel that something is wrong, and Alice, for one, is determined to find the root of the problem and banish the ghost for good. With the help of their other cousin, Franklin, the girls might be successful – if they can avoid the very real danger. 

A solid ghost story offering. I don’t think that the historical characters add anything to the story – only adults will really know who the characters are – and only adults will probably do any research to understand the futures of all of them. But the girls have spunk and I enjoyed the alternate history. I hope that there may be more books with the two girls ghost-hunting together. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tudor Rose by W.H. Doyle - NO

 


Tudor Rose (Tudor Rose, #1) by W.H. Doyle, 256 pages. Month9books, 2020. $16. 

Content: Language: R (50 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – NOT RECOMMENDED 

Eighteen-year-old Rose finds herself a servant (even though they are sisters-in-law) of sorts to her best friend, Sybille.  They leave their small country town to join Queen Elizabeth’s court, through Sybille’s impending marriage to a courtier. There they find that Sybille’s soon-to-be sister-in-law is a mean girl and isn’t interested in Sybille marrying into their family.  As Queen Elizabeth catches the two girls in a  physical fight, Queen Elizabeth issues a challenge for them to plan the best party to earn a position on Elizabeth's progress.  All three girls compete to gain the favor of the queen.  

I really disliked this book.  First, the characters aren’t likable at all.  In the beginning I thought I liked Rose, but even she makes daft decisions (getting into a tub in a dark room where she knows someone is watching, for who knows what reason-it’s as weird as it sounds). Second, the writing is sub-par and lacks transitions.  Even if the plot is an interesting idea, there seems to be too much implied or foreshadowed throughout, so you feel like you are missing half the story.  Third, the ending is so FRUSTRATING.  I get that Doyle is trying to make a series, but he missed the mark with the ending.  I just slogged through this novel, to have no resolve whatsoever in the end.  Not a good read.  The content includes heartbreaking cruelty (a bear fight), a purity test, crass sexual references, and a tongue is cut off. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Secret Soldiers by Paul B. Janeczko - OPTIONAL


Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis by Paul B. Janeczko, 295 pages. NON-FICTION Candlewick Press, 2019. $20. 

Content: Language: PG-13 (5 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

The Twenty-Third Special Troops were an unusual array of professionals with skill sets unlike your typical soldiers.  The troop consisted of some actors, artists and sound engineers and they used their skills to portray a large group of troops to the Nazis.  This account shares all of the different battles that the Twenty-Third had a hand in diverting attention from the fighting men. There are also side stories that highlight some individuals from the troop.  

I love all the hidden stories from World War II and this special troop's made is a far-out idea work.  I have heard of this troop before, but this book goes into the details of their involvement in the war, from battle to battle.  There are pictures throughout the book that help you visualize the craziness of their plans. I enjoyed the overall idea, but once their strategies were explained, it got slow and repetitive as the author details each movement within the war.  The violence is war violence, including descriptions of dead bodies.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thoughts and Prayers: a novel in three parts by Bryan Bliss - HIGH

Thoughts and Prayers: a novel in three parts by Bryan Bliss
, 448 pages. Greenwillow (Harper), 2020. 

Language: R (100+ swears, 65 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

One year ago, the high school coach ordered three students to hide under the stairs as her then sacrificed himself to stop a shooter. Each of those students are still dealing with the aftermath of watching that coach die. One has moved away, one hasn’t been back to school since that day, and the other is still dealing with the repercussions of her reaction having become a target of right wing media. 

 While Bliss gives us the glimmer of hope at the end of each story, he shows that for many kids touched by school violence, it is a rough road back. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas - ADULT

 

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5) by Sarah J. Maas, 689 pages. Bloomsbury, 2016. $19.  

Content: Language: R (100+ swears); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULTS  

Aelin and her love, Rowan are still leading a band of fae, humans and witches against one of the darkest evils in their land, Erawan.  Maeve is the fae queen, who also has a hold on some of the men helping Aelin to fight for her kingdom, and her evil knows no bounds.  Manon is a witch who has broken from her grandmother’s coven and she is brought to Aelin injured but willing to help the cause.  As the troops gather, Aelin has to learn to control the power within her and sift through the past to find the answers that might save them all.  

I’m five books into this deeply developed fantasy and the main storyline is intriguing enough to keep reading.  I love the minor characters and care about their stories as much as Aelin’s, so the author is good at character development. My complaints are that five books in, and a year between each book, makes it hard to remember who is who and what has happened, and the author doesn’t bridge the books at all or provide a character list. Also, there are a lot of names to keep track of-places, characters, kingdoms, powers and unless you read this series back to back you have to accept the fact that you are going to be confused some of the time. The ending is a total cliff hanger and super unsatisfying and right at the build up of the battle, the story line is slow with a visit to the past.  This book is advertised for young adults, but the content is on page sex, a very high swear count and bloody battles.  The characters are nineteen and older and this is book fits more in the new adult genre.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White - NO


Bright We Burn (And I Darken, #3) by Kiersten White, 389 pages. Delacorte Press, 2018. $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (14 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: R.  

BUYING ADVISORY: NO 

Lada is a ruthless “prince” who wants to rule her beloved country and will stop at nothing to free her people.  Mehmed is the emperor and feels like he must control Lada in order to have peace in his kingdom.  Radu is Lada’s brother, but is in love with Mehmed, so his loyalties are constantly split.  All three characters have sacrificed their relationship and love for each other, all in an attempt to control and rule the land.  

This book is ridiculously depressing. At no point in the three-book series, did any of the character rise above the violence and manipulation or show any character growth.  Hundreds of pages of reading and the only semi satisfying moment in the book is the epilogue. I usually love Kiersten White’s writing, but I strongly disliked this series. The complete disregard for human life is upsetting and not justified and Radu is the most likable character of the three, but he constantly changes allegiance. I don’t recommend this series, especially for young adults.  It felt very adult.  The content includes disgusting and gruesome torture and death with a high body count and off page sex.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Blue Skies by Anne Bustard - ADVISABLE

 


Blue Skies by Anne Bustard, 218 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $18. 

Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G: Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Eleven-year-old Glory Bea is excited for the Friendship Train that is making it’s way across America to Texas because there is an advertised surprise coming on the train.  Glory Bea is convinced that the Friendship Train surprise will be her father who was “lost” on Omaha Beach.  As Glory Bea prepares for her father’s return, she is upset that her father’s best friend from the war is courting her mother and hopes that the train comes soon.  

Although the storyline is predictable, Glory Bea is an endearing character.  Her grandparents, mother, friends and even her father’s war buddy all support her throughout the book. Even though I could see the end coming, I cried like a baby. A feel-good read for your middle readers.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Monday, November 23, 2020

Elizabeth Warren's Big, Bold Plans by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Susanna Chapman - ADVISABLE

Elizabeth Warren's Big, Bold Plans by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Susanna Chapman
PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. $18. 9781534475809 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Senator Elizabeth Warren grew up in a middle class family, and wanted to become a teacher. But, when her father suffered a heart attack when Elizabeth was 12, she saw what was like to be poor, and to worry about losing your home when you can't pay bills. She became a teacher, a lawyer, a US Senator, and in 2019, campaigned for President of the United States! Always looking for ways to help people, Elizabeth Warren is full of big, bold plans. 

I loved this book about making plans and then following through - even if your plans change. Susana Chapman's illustrations are great, active and colorful - I loved how Warren aged from little girl to woman. Another great addition to my picture book biographies.

Lisa Librarian

Lift As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and R. Gregory Christie - ADVISABLE

 


Lift As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and R. Gregory Christie,
PICTURE BOOK, BIOGRAPHY Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster), 2020. $18. 9781534406230 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ella Baker asked herself "What do I hope to accomplish?" And then she did - Ella spent her life working against racial injustice and empowering African Americans. She fought for justice, equal pay, voting rights. She helped form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and worked from the bottom up, helping people solve their own problems. She listened to and helped the students involved in the sit-ins, bringing them comfort in jail. Her motto: Lift as you climb. 

I love picture book biographies - especially those that introduces remarkable women who helped create change and made a difference. Includes a nice author's note, a description of the organizations Baker was involved in (YNCL, WPA, NAACP etc.) a timeline and a bibliography.

Lisa Librarian

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas - ADULT

 

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6) by Sarah J. Maas, 665 pages. Bloomsbury, 2017. $19. 

Content: Language: R (80 swears); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULT  

Chaol Westfall goes to Antica in the hopes of rallying  troops for the war against Maeve and Erawan.  He is also hoping that he can be healed of his paralysis by the well-known healers of Antica.  The royalty isn’t pleased to see Chaol and they aren’t anxious to join the war, but with the help of Nesryn, Chaol’s Captain of the Guard, the two are hoping to help the Antica people see the threat that will make it’s way to their country if they don’t get involved.  What Chaol doesn’t expect is to get involved with his healer, Yrene Towers.  

This is a side story to the larger epic story of the Throne of Glass.  I enjoyed Chaol and Yrene’s stories because lately most of the Throne of Glass series feels like a ton of characters and a lot of war strategy and battles. It was nice to concentrate more on specific characters and they have good chemistry.  At the same time, this book is frustrating because the end of book five is a major cliff hanger, so this just felt like a drawn-out diversion from the main story. This series, including this book, should not be advertised to young adults.  The characters don’t act in any way like teenagers, even if some of their ages are eighteen.  Most of the characters are hundreds of years old fae, etc.  The content includes on page sex, violence and other sexual references.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson