Monday, October 14, 2019

Grimoire Noir by Vera Greentea and Illustrated by Yana Bogatch –ESSENTIAL

Grimoire Noir by Vera Greentea and Illustrated by Yana Bogatch, 275 pages. First Second (Roaring Brook Press), 2019 $18  Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG13 (Kidnapping, Drowning).



Bucky is a 15 year old with a big problem. His little sister is missing and it feels like no one is doing anything about it. She can’t have gone far, the small town where they live is protected by a magical barrier, a barrier meant to keep witches, like his little sister (and his mom) inside. In fact, all of the women in the town are witches, their power manifesting in a variety of ways. So Bucky, with a bit of help from his former best friend, Chamomile. But the witches are the town don’t take kindly to becoming suspects. In the meantime the entire town is flooding, as his mother’s grief manifests as a magical rainstorm and his father doesn’t want Bucky involved in the investigation.

First off the artwork in this book is just incredible. Some of the creepiest and most beautiful I have ever seen. The characters are just luminous. This was the perfect spooky read I have always wanted. Not nightmare inducing but still very chilling. I could not put this book down. The story was interesting and full of lots of little characters and details which helped to make the whole town seem very plausible. I think teen readers will love this, and since its fairly G rated, with no swearing or mature content, it’s a great fit for a school library as well. My only complaint is that cover is so dark, this book may be passed over, going unnoticed.

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho –NOT RECOMMENDED

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, 420 pages. Putnam (Penguin), 2019 $19  Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG13 (romance); Violence: PG13 (Killing)



Jihoon is a teen with a lot of personality living in Seoul, South Korea. One night something unexpected happens, not only does he see a monster, but a girl his age fighting it. After he intervenes he meets Miyoung. She is a secret a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox devours the energy of men and in doing so can live forever. During the encounter she loses her fox bead, which is her soul, and later on uses it to save Jihoons life. Now the pair are connected, and both might perish because of it. Worst of all is that Miyoungs mother, is apt to intervene, which would result in the death of Jihoon. Will the pair be able to figure things out, will their friendship and their possible romance survive?

This book sets a very cool scene by combining modern Seoul with legend and lots of culture. The story is very interesting at first, learning about the two characters, and the other legendary creatures. But about halfway through it gets very repetitive with both characters feeling very ill and nothing much happening. I honestly didn’t even care to read the ending at that point, though things wrapped up nicely. If this book was half the length, I think I would have enjoyed it more, there just wasn’t enough world or interest to hold me for 420 pages.

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Caster by Elsie Chapman – ADVISABLE

Caster by Elsie Chapman, 336 pages. Scholastic, 2019 $18  Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG13(violent magic/injuries).



Aza has real magic, but it comes with the price both physically and environmentally. She has no choice but to use it to help earn money that her family needs. When she accidentally stumbles on an opportunity to make more than enough money, it will test the very limits of both her power and her strength. But she walks a fine line, as real magic wielders are illegal and can even result and having your arms removed or worse.

This book has an interesting concept, especially the part where the magic effects the environment, which poses an interesting question to readers. There's a huge focus on the past which is a bit of a deterrent, even though it's a motivation for the main character, because you feel like you missed reading a previous book in the series, which there isn't one. When the action picks up it's pretty interesting and fun to read. The main ending was neat and I loved it, but then it continued with a ploy for a second book, which was jarring and maddening. 

Reviewer: Stephanie MLS & Author.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - ESSENTIAL

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, 512 pgs. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. $18.

Language: G; Mature Content: PG-13 (racism); Violence: PG-13 (combat and an assassination) 



In the kingdom of Goredd, an uneasy alliance has existed between dragons and humans for decades. Dragons are able to take on human form and walk among their human counterparts in the market, at the universities, or at the royal court. As the anniversary of the treaty between the two groups approaches, celebrations are planned at the same time tensions increase.
Seraphina Dombegh has earned a place at court because of her exceptional musical talent, but lives in fear as she feels threatened by both dragons and humans. She has a secret to protect and knows that if found out, the factions would seek to harm her.
When a member of the royal family is murdered and it appears that a dragon may be responsible, Seraphina joins forces with Prince Lucian Kiggs, captain of the Queen’s Guard, to investigate the tragedy and protect the peace and her life.

An original fantasy that mixes mystery, race relations, and romance. The main characters are intriguing and Seraphina’s battle to protect her secret while coming to terms with her own identity is well narrated. Worlds within worlds are created that are complex and rich with detail. As with most books that are written as part of a series, the first in this set unloads a great deal of information setting up future plot. This can cause some confusion and disconnection for the reader, but overall, does not present too much of an obstacle.

Reviewer: AEB

Nocturna by Maya Motayne - OPTIONAL

Nocturna by Maya Motayne, 480pgs. Balzer + Bray, 2019. $19.

Language: R (100+ no ‘f’); Mature Content: PG (alcohol use); Violence: PG-13 (combat, assault, murder (off-page), mention of torture and child abuse)



Prince Alfehr returns home after three months away to take up his duties as the crown prince. He was never supposed to be king, but when his brother was assassinated, he was forced to take on the mantle. Deep in his grief he begins to dabble in dark magic in an effort to bring his brother back. Finn Voy has the ability to alter her appearance at will and uses this magical ability often to commit criminal acts that enable her to survive. When Alfie’s dark dealings collide with the illicit exploits of Finn, they unlock true evil that threatens everything and everyone. With the future of the kingdom at stake, they must find a way to work together to vanquish the darkest of powers.

An intriguing premise gets quickly bogged down in a wordy and overwrought book. What could have been an exciting journey through a land full of magic becomes tiresome as simple conversations drag on for pages and violent confrontations between good and evil rapidly become stale. It is notable that a fantasy book has Latinx characters and settings, which is important and much needed for the representation that is lacking across all genres. Readers of fantasy will be able to find enough redeeming qualities to see the book through to the end; however, patience will be a necessity.

Reviewer: AEB

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya - ADVISABLE

Each Tiny Spark Pablo Cartaya, 315 pages. Kokila (Penguin), 2019. $17.00

Content: G. 



12-year-old Emilia Rosa Torres is easily distracted. Besides her ADHD, she has a lot going on - her father is recently returned from deployment, her mother is working out of town, and her homework is tricky - especially her social studies assignment: to make a travel guide of her town Merryville. Emilia's abuela is from Cuba, so she decides to focus on the local grocery store and Spanish speaking members of the community - where they work and what brought them there. Her choices put a strain on her friendship with Clarissa, her dad just isn't the same anymore - and he won't talk about it. 

Full of lots of current issues - immigration, school boundary changes, culture differences, post deployment syndrome, and family dynamics, there's a lot going on. This is a great opportunity for the hispanic child to see herself in Emilia. Cartaya has interspersed the dialogue with Spanish, which, in context doesn't need to be translated - it contributed to the multicultural feel of this book. I would have liked to see more welding, it wasn't really that important to the plot. Includes an author's note which contains a list of resources for more information about the topics covered, and a challenge to be the spark that makes a difference.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey - ADVISABLE

The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey, 336 pages. Swoon Reads (MacMillan), 2019. $18

Language: G (0 'F'); Content: G; Violence: PG13 (kidnapping, knife violence)



After a carriage incident right outside his manor, Lord James Ellerby takes in an injured young woman who awakens with no memory of who she is or how she came to be there. The only clues to her identity or the horrific nightmares she wakes from nearly every night. The entire Ellerby family befriends Beth--as she calls herself--and begins to try and unravel the mystery of who she is. Dangerous forces are definitely at work, and the race is on to solve the mystery before somebody else gets hurt.

This is the second Anstey novel I've read and this one was far superior to the last. I really enjoyed the story (and the romance!) that unfolded in this period romantic mystery. There are great twists and turns, interesting characters, and the book is 100% clean for language and sexual content. I think this will be a big hit for mystery or romance fans.

Reviewer: TC 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Indebted by Charmayne Hafen - OPTIONAL

Indebted by Charmayne Hafen, 300 pages. Capture Books, 2018. $15.

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



Princess Wren is trapped in her own castle by her grieving father after the disappearance of her mother. But after years of acting in secret to find happiness where her father would forbid it if he knew, Wren finds word about a contest. A contest she is determined to win to show everyone that she is more than a princess.

Hafen writes as an emergent writer, with an appealing but unpolished story. Her writing finds a space between genuine and forced, especially with the Christian theme she wants to highlight. With prayers, scriptures, and discussions of belief, Hafen successfully communicates her values to readers. However, though the intent is genuine, the execution seemed forced. Dialogue was stilted, and the characters didn’t always seem to respond naturally according to the way they were written. The story isn’t bad, it just comes across as choppy, occasionally inconsistent, and a little cheesy at times. The mature content rating is for brief nudity.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Entangled by Traci Hunter Abramson, etc - ESSENTIAL

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



Seen and unseen forces threaten lives in these four different scenarios. In four fast-paced short stories, men and women race the clock, desperate to save the lives of their loved ones before it’s too late.

I had so much fun reading those stories as I tried to -- and even sometimes succeeded in -- figure out what did or would happen. While the four authors wrote such varied stories, they all wrote them very well in that I was on the edge of my seat the entire book except for the four satisfying endings that respectively separate each story from the next. I can’t pick a favorite story of the four, and I honestly believe that I can reread these stories and still enjoy them knowing the endings.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, October 7, 2019

Pizza by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson - GIFT

Pizza by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson, 187 pages. CompanionHouse Books (Fox Chapel Publishing), 2019. $20. 9781620083741

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



Through an exploration of pizza and its different forms (like calzones), Cuthbert and Wilson open the eyes of their cookbook’s users to a world beyond cheese, pepperoni, and hawaiian. Explanations of the history and variation of pizzas around the world introduce the cookbook, and their recipes illustrate their belief that, when it comes to toppings, less is more.

Reading through the introduction and explanations at the beginning, I felt that Cuthbert and Wilson gave enough information to be interesting without going into too many details and boring readers. They also do a great job at making the recipes extremely user-friendly by using both metric and non-metric measurements and temperatures as well as explaining the different names of ingredients used.  My favorite part of the cookbook is how Cuthbert and Wilson encourage those following the recipes to experiment. With all the mouth-watering recipes and pictures, it’s impossible to flip through the book without marking a couple to try. The mature content rating is for the use of alcohol in some recipes.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Northern Lights by Cathy Parker - OPTIONAL

Northern Lights by Cathy Parker, 224 pages. NON-FICTION, MEMOIR. Thomas Nelson, 2019. $18.

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



Cathy Parker was hit by love and inspiration as she watched the news about an Alaskan school starting a football program: she was going to help them get a football field. The idea seemed crazy -- even as Parker gained more help and support, the trials and challenges piled up to make the project seem impossible. But with God all things are possible, and Parker knew that He would make it all work out.

Parker gives readers lots of information as she prepares to tell her story of the Alaskan football field. While several of the stories and memories she shares are funny and highlight the miracles of everything coming together with hard work and prayer, I felt that Parker often gave too much information. I got lost in the details as Parker mentioned something that seemed like foreshadowing but ended up being irrelevant and wanted to relive entire thought processes again. The information overload made this book one that I lost my excitement about reading the longer I read, even though I had initially been excited about the story. If you can get through all the details, Parker shares a heart-warming story of hard work, generosity, and miracles.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer - ADVISABLE

The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer, illustrated by P. J. Lynch, 134 pages. Candlewick Press, 2018. $17                  

Content: G      



A little dog has just about given up hope that there is a boy or a girl out there to love him best of all. He has suffered much abuse and has given up hope, and he has lost his ability to bark. Patrick and his grandpa rescues the little dog and Patrick names him Oz. It takes many days for Oz to even come out of his cage, he is so scared. Patrick is patient with him, and very kind. He discovers that Oz has a special gift, and uses that to coax him out of the cage.  

I loved this little story about Patrick and Oz. I loved how it shows that love can overcome hardships and difficulties. The friendship and bond that developed between Patrick and Oz was so well described. I felt like I was right there with them, rooting for both of them. The illustrations in the book are beautiful and full of emotion. They add a lot to the story, they show the emotion and feelings of Oz, Patrick, mom and grandpa so well. It was a great, good-feel book.            

Ellen-Anita, Librarian           

Friday, October 4, 2019

Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman - OPTIONAL

Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman, 368 pages. Simon Pulse, 2019. $19.                        

Language: R (7 swears, 3 “f”); Mature Content: PG (off-page sex); Violence: G



Take a walk down Hungry Hearts Row and be prepared to have your appetite wet with some delicious stories. Thirteen authors come together to share tales of love and romance, betrayal, anxiety, grief and so much more. Each author uses food to weave together stories of how food connects us, heals us and defines us.  Step into a convenient store, restaurant, bakery and cafe and be prepared for your reading taste buds to tingle.  

This is a delightful book using food as the main theme for storytelling.  There are so many different genres that it was nice to pick it up each day, not knowing what to expect.  The stories can be read alone but they are related either by location or a few characters.  I enjoyed reading the different perspectives on certain characters.  The authors describe the food and smells is such detail I found myself hungry throughout the book.  I especially loved the chapter "Kings and Queens".  It has a twist in the end you won't want to miss. If you are a "foodie" this book is for you!

Jessica Nelson Media Specialist

Sleeping Beauty: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani and Jacqui Davis - ADVISABLE

Sleeping Beauty: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani, illustrated by Jacqui Davis. PICTURE BOOK. The Islamic Foundation, 2018.  $14. 9780860375975



The evil alim is angry that he wasn’t invited to the blessing of the new princess so her curses her to die. He takes his vengeance when she is older, poisoning the girl.  Her childhood friend must undertake the Hajj for the blessing of Allah to cure Zaynab.

Gilani really has come into her own in her latest of her retold fairy tales.  Its as if she has decided to add the maximum Muslim details into the story, raising it above a mere retelling. This really is the richest of the three.  I wouldn’t hesitate to add this to a fairy tale collection.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Cinderella: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani and Shireen Adams - ESSENTIAL

Cinderella: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani, illustrated by Shireen Adams.  PICTURE BOOK. The Islamic Foundation, 2010. $14. 9780860374732



Zahra’s father has remarried - a woman with two daughters.  When Zahra’s father also dies, the money disappears and Zahra becomes the servant and even loses her own name, being now called Cinderella.  

Gilani has created another retold tale using Muslom traditions.  I love that the illustrations, language, and much of the actions reflect the culture.  Skillfully done, add this to either your fairy tales collection or next to your Islam religion books. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Spacesuit by Alison Donald and Ariel Landy - ESSENTIAL

The Spacesuit: How a seamstress helped put man on the moon by Alison Donald, illustrated by Ariel Landy. PICTURE BOOK.  Maverick publishing, 2019.  $18. 9781848864153



Ellie worked as a seamstress for a large commercial fabric company.  When they decide to enter the contest for a suit that astronauts could use to walk on the moon, Ellie and the others rise to the challenge to create a suit that is safe, comfortable, and flexible.

What a great insight to even another part of the space program where the intuition and work of women contributor silently to its success.  I wish there was more back matter to support the story.  I’m still going to show this to those science teachers who talk about space and about female engineers and inventors.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Under Threat: An Album of Endangered Animals by Jenkins and Frost - ESSENTIAL

Under Threat: An Album of Endangered Animals by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Tom Frost, 63 pages. PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION. Candlewick, 2019.  $20. 9781536205435



30 animals each get 2 pages – one a gorgeous illustration looking like a postage stamp, and the other an excellent explanation of the animal and then how humans have caused them to become endangered. I would love to have two copies of this book to make a classroom set of study pages for students to use for a short project.  I love these!

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Monday, September 30, 2019

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei - ESSENTIAL

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, illustrated by Eisinger, Scott and Becker, 205 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Top Shelf, 2019. $15. 9781603094740

Language: PG (3 swears 0 'f') racial slurs; Mature Content: G;  Violence: PG.



George Takei, best know for his role in the original television series Star Trek was forced into a "relocation camp" as a child with his family during WWII. Beginning with the round up, the incarceration of the families (at 2 different camps) and concluding with Takei's career and advocacy, it is a thorough history of the outrageous treatment of Japanese-American Citizens.  

Oh how I wish this was in full color! It's just not as appealing as it should be because the inside panels don't mirror the wonderfully colored cover.  Because George and his brother were children, the perception of the experience is milder than if it were told from the viewpoint of the adults.  This is perfect for teaching a young reader.  George's dad does a lot explaining, so the political, cultural and personal situations are well taught and clear.  I cried, I was angry, I loved it. Please make this part of your library.  Everyone should read They Called Us Enemy.

Lisa Librarian

George Washington's Secret Six: The Spies Who Saved America - ADVISABLE

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spies Who Saved America by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, 164 pages.  NONFICTION Viking (Penguin), 2019.  $18.  

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



This book tells the story of six spies who helped George Washington gain the information he needed to outsmart the British Army during the Revolutionary War.  The book highlights the war stories that the spies were a part of and tries to give a background to those spies (at least as much information as can be found). There are also other spies mentioned, such as Benedict Arnold and Nathan Hale.  

This book is a fun look an intriguing part of United States history.  The men and one woman who were spies were fascinating to read about and easy to cheer on. The only reason I wouldn’t put it in elementary school, is the reader needs to have a decent understanding of the Revolutionary War to appreciate the bigger picture, but that said if you have a higher level reader, content wise there isn’t anything a 5th or 6th grader couldn’t read.  There are a lot of older pictures included and it is a fast read.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Strike Zone by Mike Lupica - ESSENTIAL

Strike Zone by Mike Lupica, 249 pages. Philomel (Penguin), 2019.  $18.

Content: G (father arrested) 



While Nick, 12, was born in America, his parents are in the country illegally.  It’s the secret he keeps from everyone except his two best friends on his baseball team.  He keeps it even from the girl he likes because her dad is a cop.  While that is on his mind the most, he is still busy this summer pitching his way up to the tournament champs so that he can win the chance to meet Michael Arroyo, his hero, another boy who started his life in America as an illegal and became a pitching champs for Nick’s beloved Yankees.

Lupica is always on point when it comes to sports novels and I love how he includes life within the pages on an equal level.  This one brings us back into the life of Michael, who was the main character in Heat.

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

Ten Blind Dates by Ashley Elston - HIGH

Ten Blind Dates by Ashley Elston. 336 pages. Hyperion (Disney Book Group), 2019. $19.

Language: R (47 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



Christmas break has never looked better than when Sophie’s parents let her stay with her grandparents instead of going to her pregnant sister’s itty bitty apartment. With the freedom to sneak away and see her boyfriend, Sophie is excited about the prospects of finally having alone time with him -- until she overhears that he is thinking about breaking up with her. Now Sophie is heartbroken and regretting her choice not to see her sister for Christmas, so her loving extended family decides to set up blind dates for her to get over her new ex -- what could be more fun?

Elston book was just fun to read -- so fun! There were no overly embarrassing or ridiculous situations like I was wary of when I started, which was a relief to Sophie as much as it was to me. I think it’s been a while since I was able to read a simply fun book that was compelling to read but didn’t cause anxiety by not knowing what was happening when I had to put it down. Elston put lovable and relatable characters in a silly situation, and readers are invited to join the delightful ride. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, nudity, and brief mentions of porn.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin - OPTIONAL

Tell Me No Lies by Adele Griffin, 352 pages.  Algonquin Young Readers (Workman), 2018.  $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (31 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  



Lizzy decides that her senior year at high school is going to be different than her previous high school experience.  Lizzy also wants to hid the fact that she has grand mal seizures.  Lizzy latches onto the new girl, Claire, and Claire helps Lizzy to see and experience a more adventurous lifestyle.  Lizzy also has a new boyfriend, Matt Ashby, but it quickly becomes apparent that Matt isn’t being completely honest with her.  As Lizzy tries to become something more than her previous nerd self, she starts to realize that everyone has their own secrets and she must find her place among them.  

This book takes place in the eighties, so there are a lot of cultural references that might confuse young readers of today.  Lizzy wasn’t easy to relate to or necessarily like because of all her insecurities and how quickly she wanted to give up everything that she had worked for.  The content includes graphic sex talk, heavy make-out sessions, underage drinking, reference to rape and a suicide.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.  

Come November by Katrin van Dam - ADVISABLE

Come November by Katrin van Dam, 384 pages. Scholastic Press, 2018. $19. 

Language: PG-13 (17 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking); Violence: PG



Marina’s mom has lost her job, again.  She is so focused on the New Worlders Society and the end of the world, that a little thing like a job doesn’t seem to matter.  However, it matters to Marina, and she is trying to find a way to make sure her and her little brother, Daniel, have enough to eat and a place to live, but she doesn’t know how long she can keep this up.  When her mom tries to convince her to go to New York with her for the NWS conference, Marina agrees, not because she believes the New Worlders, but because she is hoping to meet up with her dad. He might be the only person that can help.       

I found this story to be so engaging.  I really felt for Marina, her circumstances, and why she felt she had to take care of everything on her own.  Of course, I also wondered how far the author was going to take the “end of the world” aspect, and was surprised at how anxious I was not knowing what was going to happen.  Sometimes we just don’t know the motivation of others and the author did a great job of revealing the motivation without it seeming forced. Not all aspects of the story wrap up nicely because life isn’t like that, but there is a satisfying ending. I believe this will appeal to those students that like contemporary realistic fiction.   

Reviewer: RB

Synapse by Steven James - ADVISABLE

Synapse by Steven James, 384 pages. Thomas Nelson, 2019. $17.

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



Kestrel and her brother, Trevor, haven’t spoken in a very long time, but the tragic events unfolding lead them to start reaching out again. Jordan is an Artificial—a machine with AI capabilities—who just wants to experience being human. Nick, tracking down the perpetrators of the most recent terrorist attack, isn’t sure if he wants to let himself love another woman after his last wife left him. All thrown together by unpredictable circumstances, these people will find they need each other through the difficult week ahead of them.

Honestly, reading this book was kind of an odd experience because of all the issues and contradictions of different points of view brought up. If you want a book to make you think, this one is for you. I had to put the book down several times to ponder my own views on questions about technology and emotions, belief in God, the origin of justice, hope and lies, ethics and integrity dedicated to various forms of belief, and more. I can’t imagine the time and skill it took James to craft so many varying viewpoints and beliefs for his various characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed each new perspective and how the perspectives complemented and contradicted the others. The story itself, too, kept building and becoming more complex until I was sure it couldn’t all be resolved together. Reading this book was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting—and it was worth every page. The violence rating is for terrorism, murder, and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Child of the Dream - A Memoir of 1963 by Sharon Robinson

Child of the Dream - A Memoir of 1963 by Sharon Robinson, 233 pages. MEMOIR Scholastic Press, 2019. $17. 

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



Sharon Robinson turned 13 in 1963. Living in Connecticut, and being the daughter of baseball superstar Jackie Robinson, allowed Sharon to live a life very different from the black children who were living in Birmingham, Alabama. Because her father was involved raising funds for and helping with the Civil Rights movement she was well aware of that difference, and she was afraid for them and heartbroken when she heard about the children's marches. Her problems at school - not getting asked to dance because she's one of only 2 black girls in her grade - seem unimportant to her, but her father tells her "Don't let anyone else define your value, Sharon. You don't have to fit in. Stand out. Be the best you can be. 

While I loved the message and the story, I didn't feel the passion and concern for the children in Birmingham and the Civil Rights participants, there were just too many layers. We heard about things that happened the same way Sharon did, removed a little - even she had to do research to find out what was really happening. The writing is also awkward in places, conversations don't sound right, like Sharon is talking to a history teacher rather than her grandmother or father. There was a lot of background knowledge building, maybe too much. An interesting memoir, but not a great read about experiencing the Civil Rights Movement. Includes photographs.

Lisa Librarian

Echoes of War by Cheryl Campbell - HIGH

Echoes of War by Cheryl Campbell, 400 pages. SparkPress (BookSparks), 2019. $17.

Language: R (251 swears, 73 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



The Wardens are the army of alien invaders who started the war hundreds of years ago. While some humans are fighting to defend from the Wardens’ attacks, a large group of humans and aliens are simply trying to survive the chaos of the war raging around them. Dani is one of these survivors. She’s always looked out for herself and her dog, but, when the opportunity comes to reclaim her home from the Wardens, Dani can’t help herself from fighting against the odds.

I was intrigued by the premise but skeptical as the story started. However, as the story unfolded, I found myself lost in Dani’s struggles and vision for the future. Her seemingly reckless and determined nature made sure that there was never a boring moment, and I fell in love with her friends made along the way. This story necessitates several large time gaps where the author jumps over weeks, months, and even years at a time. Usually I am not a big fan of big time jumps, but Campbell expertly crafted the transitions is a way that the flow was smooth and the story continued to be engaging through each time jump. Campbell’s success in making me interested despite a pet peeve I usually have with books only made me more enthusiastic about reading what she had written. I have only rated this book as “optional” instead of “advisable” for purchase because of the language rating. The mature content rating is for sex, prostitution, and attempted rape; the violence rating is for war violence, death, and suicide contemplation.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

A Jewel Bright Sea by Claire O’Dell - NO

A Jewel Bright Sea by Claire O’Dell, 328 pages.  Kensington Books (Rebel Base Books), 2019. $16.

Language: R (96 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13



As a bonded servant because of her father’s debts, Anna must obey her master -- but that is not the only reason she has for going on this dangerous quest. If she is successful in getting what her master wants, Anna will finally earn her freedom. Months of following clues has gotten Anna closer, and she knows she will be successful, until another group shows interest in the thing she seeks and puts the reward of her freedom at risk.

I found the beginning confusing, something to slog through hoping that the story would get better and make more sense. It did, for a while, but I’m still a little confused about how everything worked out in the final battle of the story. I was also disappointed in the short-but-descriptive-enough sex scene that was randomly inserted in the middle of the book. Everything resolved nicely, though, in the end. The mature content rating is for that sex scene, groping, and implied rape; the violence rating is for battle gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman - OPTIONAL

The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman, 303 pags.  Swoon Reads (Macmillan), 2018.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (93 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  



Elise and her mother move to a small beach town the summer before her senior year, so that they can help Elise’s niece and sister-in-law after Elise’s brother dies as a soldier in Afghanistan.  One day while Elise is walking her dog, she saves a young man from drowning named Mati and they start to have feelings for each other.  The only problem is that Mati is from Afghanistan and that brings up a lot of prejudices from Elise’s mom.  

I enjoyed this book and I think it helps readers to empathize with people from war-torn countries and the prejudices they face.  My only complaint is the countdown to when he has to return to Afghanistan is drawn out and then the ending is tied up quickly.  The violence is a hate crime and the mature content is heavy kissing.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.   

Chasing Beverly by Ashlynn Cubbison - OPTIONAL

Chasing Beverly by Ashlynn Cubbison, 308 pages. Acorn Publishing, 2019. $24.

Language: R (84 swears, 1 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13



When business finally introduces Beverly and Gavin, both of them know that their lives -- in their companies and beyond -- have been changed. While Gavin is ready to pursue what is obviously forming between them, Beverly can’t see past her baggage and the inevitable heartbreak it will bring them both.

The story was okay. It’s an enjoyable fluff read but not something that kept me on edge needing to know what was going to happen next. As I read, I was annoyed with a lot of the chapter breaks. I can understand Cubbison purposefully interrupting things that I wanted to know more about in order to keep readers in suspense, but the problem is that she wouldn’t go back address those things until several chapters later -- if at all. I also found Gavin to be too perfect and unrealistic. Even with the cliffhanger ending and several unresolved questions, I am not going to read the sequel. The mature content rating is for sex; the violence rating is for a horrific car crash description as well as mentions of domestic violence and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford - ADVISABLE

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford, 432 pages. Inkyard Press, 2019. $14.

Language: PG (7 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13



Nor and Zadie have been prepared their entire lives for one of them to be chosen as the most beautiful girl in Varenia and the future queen of Ilara. As the day of the choosing ceremony gets closer, Nor tries to ignore her desire to leave, knowing that she will never be chosen, and Zadie has to accept everything that leaving her world behind will mean, knowing that she will probably be chosen. But, after the ceremony, when their fates are sealed, these two stubborn sisters find a way to take hold of their own fates despite being raised to be biddable beauties.

While I think the story got a little slow in the middle, the rest of Nor’s story was exciting to follow. I was eager to see how her future unraveled, especially when she and her sister, Zadie, made decisions to change everything that was expected of them -- something I wish I was brave enough to do more often in my own life. However, the resolutions near the end included enemies being taken care of too easily, so I’m both curious and wary as to where the sequel will take this story.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Life and a Glass of Milk by Vansh Sharma - OPTIONAL

Life and a Glass of Milk by Vansh Sharma, 82 pages. POETRY. Aurora House, 2019. $18.

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



Looking at life through the eyes of a 12-year-old, everything seems a little simpler. Life may not always be easy, but there is companionship and beauty all around.

The best part of this book is that it is a real example of how you can be a poet -- or any kind of writer or artistic creator -- at any age. I thought that the poems were pretty good for a 12-year-old, and the illustrations were decent, too. Sharma obviously loves to write poems, and I hope that his voice continues to develop as he continues writing. I didn’t connect with and love a lot of the poems, but they aren’t bad.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Kriss: The Gift of Wrath by Ted Naifeh - OPTIONAL

Kriss: The Gift of Wrath by Ted Naifeh, 115 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Oni Press, 2019. $15.

Language: PG-13 (10 swears, 0 “f”) ; Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13



Kriss struggles to understand what the purpose of his life is in a village that continually rejects his efforts. Listening to the voice that tells him that he comes from the northern kingdom, Kriss prepares himself to leave -- though one friend in the village isn’t ready to say goodbye.

Honestly, I’m still confused about what the story was about and where it was going, but I’m not as upset as I usually am about a book I didn’t understand. Instead, I find myself intrigued. I want to read more of Kriss’s story and see how this fits into the bigger picture of his life. As Kriss searched for answers of where he came from and where he is going, that desire was lit inside of me as well. Hopefully, we all get those answers sooner rather than later.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner - ADVISABLE

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner, 272 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2019. $21.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG



Moth has never fit in -- and her newly discovered witch heritage isn’t really helping. Now Moth feels trapped between two worlds, not knowing where she belongs or what is right.

Moth’s story is a fun afternoon read with a good message and fun illustrations. While we might not all struggle with learning how to use magical powers, fitting in and finding a place to belong in life is a struggle for everyone. As Moth makes mistakes and gathers courage to stand up for herself, she will inspire the heroine or hero in each reader to be the best they can. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen