Thursday, October 31, 2019

Captured by Alvin Townley - ADVISABLE


Captured by Alvin Townley, 256 pages.  NON-FICTION Scholastic, 2019.  $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (22 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

In the beginning of the Vietnam conflict, Jeremiah Denton’s plane was shot down and he was captured.  As a prisoner of war, he was tortured and left in solitary confinement over the course of seven and a half years.  Jerry tried to maintain order and leadership wherever he ended up in prison camps and he tried to maintain his sanity although his internment felt unending.  

Jerry’s story is noble, yet horrific.  The torture and beatings go on and on, which after a while makes for a slow read.  Jerry is an amazing person and I had no idea this type of experience happened during the Vietnam War, but because of the violent beatings it should probably stay in a high school with a more mature reader.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Cooking Class Global Feast! by Deanna F. Cook - OPTIONAL

Cooking Class Global Feast! by Deanna F. Cook, 144 pages. COOKBOOK. Storey Publishing, 2019. $30.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Your tastebuds can travel the world from your own kitchen with these international recipes. Whether a cooking novice or expert, these new foods are worth a try.

I love how well Cook appeals to her audience of kids. The pictures throughout the book are of children making these recipes from their families’ countries, and Cook gives lots of simple directions with extra mentions of how to follow those directions safely. Readers learn about cooking and baking, different cultures, and non-native fruits and vegetables. This book has the potential to expand the horizons of its readers -- and expand their palates.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron - ESSENTIAL

Maybe a Mermaid by Josephine Cameron 273 pages. Farrar Straus Giroux (MacMillan), 2019 $17.

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 


12-yo Anthoni is spending the summer at the Showboat Resort - a lakeside camp where her mother built some great memories as a child and made a True Blue Friend. Anthoni has a fool proof checklist - her mom is a super salesman and is climbing the ladder of success at her job - so Anthoni is planning to use some of the same techniques to make a forever friend. But, the resort isn't what they expected - it's run down, there are no other guests and it turns out, Anthoni's mom hasn't been entirely truthful with her. 

Living through your memories (or regrets) of the past isn't a very good way to improve your future. Cameron's characters are real, her story is poignant and nostalgic, and the writing is beautiful. I loved the bit of mystery, the show business history (the old woman who owns the resort grew up in a Vaudeville family), and the exploration of what it means to be and to have a friend. A delightful debut novel - can't wait to read what she writes next!

Lisa Librarian

Otherwood by Pete Hautman - ADVISABLE


Otherwood by Pete Hautman, 303 pages.  Candlewick Press, 2018.  $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Stuey and his best friend, Elly Rose, like to meet in the woods in their magical spot under a canopy of decaying trees.  One day while they are sitting on a rock, Elly starts to disappear, and Stuey doesn’t know how to make her stay because she has fallen into another dimension.  The fall out of Elly’s disappearance is devastating, but in Elly’s version of the world, Stuey is the one missing.  Stuey remembers his grandfather telling him about his great-grandfather disappearing in these same woods, and as Stuey starts to recover the story of the past, he hopes to align the two dimensions.  

What a creative story.  I loved the mystery of the past with Stuey’s grandfather and the idea of the two dimensions.  This story telling is great and the story felt believable.  Fun read. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo - ESSENTIAL


Beverly, Right Here (Three Rancheros, #3) by Kate DiCamillo, 241 pages.  Candlewick Press, 2019.  $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Fourteen-year-old Beverly has her cousin drive her to the edge of a new town because she is running away from her dysfunctional mother.  Beverly quickly gets a job at a restaurant and befriends an elderly woman, Iola, in a trailer park who allows Beverly to live with her.  While Beverly tries to tell herself that she can’t trust anyone, she slowly starts to trust Iola, her co-workers and a boy who works at the local convenient store.  

Once again, DiCamillo writes an empathetic character who I couldn’t help but love.  Beverly is a strong, independent fourteen-year-old who is also kind and views the world with hope.  As for content, the book references Beverly’s drunk mother and the mother’s boyfriend chases Beverly.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.    

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo - ESSENTIAL


Louisiana’s Way Home (Three Rancheros, #2) by Kate DiCamillo, 227 pages.  Candlewick Press, 2018.  $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Louisiana’s grandmother, Granny, wakes Louisiana up in the middle of the night and makes her get in the car.  Granny drives through the night, but when Granny’s tooth pain becomes too much, Louisiana must drive even though she has no experience and she is only ten years old.  Eventually Louisiana stops in a small town and locates a dentist, who removes Granny’s teeth.  Louisiana and Granny must find a way to let the local motel allow them to stay even though they don’t have much money.  Louisiana meets new people and learns things about herself that she didn’t want to know.  

I love the three friends, Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana from the novel Raymie Nightingale, so I was excited to read Louisiana’s story.  The story line tugged at my heart because Louisiana is such a lovable personality and her life isn’t easy.  In usual DiCamillo fashion, strangers help Louisiana and she works through her heartbreak.  You can read this book out of order or not read the others in the series and the story will make sense, but the characters are so endearing it is worth reading them in order.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson. 

Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling - ADVISABLE

Witch Born by Nicholas Bowling, 309 pages. Chicken House, (Scholastic Press) 2018. $19. 

Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Alyse has just lost her mother to 16th century witch hunters who burned her at the stake. Trying to avoid them herself, she is captured and locked up in London's terrible Bethlehem Royal Hospital (Bedlam) until she escapes! While her mother was a witch, Alyse may be one, too, but she'll need more than her wits to keep from getting caught - seems like both Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots are looking for her. 

So full of twists and turns, the first chapter grabbed me right away and I couldn't put it down. Bowling has done his research - the feel of old London, the sights and smells, the different classes of people, even the actors and the witch hunters were accurately represented. I loved the characters - the buffoons were the best - Vitali, Martha, even Mrs. Thomson and Dr. Dee, funny without going over the top. Sometimes historical fiction is a hard sell - Witch Born has enough action, a bit of romance and magic - I can easily recommend it.

Lisa Librarian

The Little Grey Girl by Celine Kiernan - ADVISABLE

The Little Grey Girl by Celine Kiernan 209 pages. Candlewick, 2019 $16 Language: PG (1 swear 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Now that the old queen has been defeated, Mup's mum is taking her rightful place as queen by moving the whole family including Dad and Tipper into the castle of Mup's grandmother. But bad memories and distrust haunt the staff, servants and even the ghosts, so when a strange moon, and a terrible snowstorm suddenly arrive, everyone feels it's a curse from the old queen. A mysterious grey girl's drawings are causing debilitating sadness throughout the castle, only Crow and Mup seem to be able to get to the cause of the problem, and must fight it alone. 

I was so glad to see book 2 of the Raggedy Witches! While The Little Grey Girl stands on its own, it's good to have read book 1. I loved the message of friendship and loyalty and family. Kiernan's books stay with me even after I've finished reading them, lots of great talking points for recommendations. Can't wait for final book in the trilogy.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, October 28, 2019

Dead Voices by Katherine Arden - ADVISABLE


Dead Voices (Small Spaces, #2) by Katherine Arden, 236 pages.  Putnam and Sons (Penguin), 2019. $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Ollie, Coco and Brian are three best friends who have survived weird happenings in the past, so when they end up at a ski lodge with Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mom, they aren’t surprised it’s haunted.  As Ollie and her friends start to see and hear things in the lodge it becomes clear that the hotel used to be an orphanage for girls and the headmistress is very mean.  When a reporter, Mr. Voland, shows up he starts to ghost hunt with the kids and things spookier.  

What a fun creepy story!  I like Arden’s ability to write a clean, spooky story without going overboard.  This setting was as much fun as her first book, Small Spaces, and the characters are endearing.  The violence is children who are locked in closets for misbehaving.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.        

Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez - ESSENTIAL

Strange Birds by Celia C. Pérez 350 pages. Kokila Penguin, Random House, 2019. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When Lane Disanti is forced to spend the summer with her wealthy grandmother in Florida, she makes the best of things by finding 3 friends and forming a club called The Ostentation of Others and Outsiders. Ophelia wants to be a journalist, Cat loves birds and Aster is helping her grandfather with a lifelong research project. When Cat leaves a prestigious social girl's group because of the use of a feather decorated hat, the club bands together to see if they can make a change in this community - because a hat isn't always just a hat. 

Standing up for something you believe in can be hard, but when friends stand with you, you are stronger. I loved the way these girls - loners for the most part, found each other and became fast friends. The messages of acceptance, friendship, activism, history and family were seamlessly woven together in an engaging story. I appreciated the inclusion of a bibliography and author's note. "If you care about something, there are most likely others who care as well."

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Unabomber by Bryan Denson - ADVISABLE

The Unabomber (FBI Files) by Bryan Denson, 162 pages. NON-FICTION. Roaring Book Press (Macmillan), 2019, $7.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After nearly two decades of seemingly random bombings, the demented genius known as the Unabomber was finally apprehended.  Hours of manpower went into finding the man whose bombs left three people dead and another twenty-three injured.  FBI agents engaged in a race against time with the Unabomber, whose bombs were becoming increasingly more sophisticated and deadly, and who left few clues.  

Denson weaves a reader friendly account of the manhunt that discovered who the Unabomber was and how he was apprehended.  As a journalist, Denson’s dialogue in the book comes from newspaper articles, records, and live interviews, capturing the immediacy of the search and the turning point that helped the FBI locate him.  Short, concise, and well researched, I loved this book and look forward to more books in this series.  

Michelle in the Middle

The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone - OPTIONAL


The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone, 369 pages.  Simon and Schuster, 2018.  $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (11 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Cameron Carter is excited about his summer internship with the much-loved congressman Billy Beck.  Cameron quickly befriends another intern named Ariel Lancaster, and she tells Cameron that she has information that she needs his help with.  When Ariel is killed in a car accident Cameron finds himself trying to uncover Ariel’s mystery anyway.  With the help of a secret agent, named Memo, Cameron starts to gather clues behind what Billy Beck has been trying to hide.  

This is a quick read with an interesting setting and fast-paced plot.  I wanted to be drawn in more than I was, and I didn’t feel like the mystery was that complicated, even though there are a few twists in the end.  I also didn't feel empathetic to Cameron's character.  There are some kissing scenes and deaths.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Two Men and a Car by Michael Garland - ADVISABLE

Two Men and a Car: Franklin Roosevelt, Al Capone, and a Cadillac V-8 by Michael Garland, 64 pages. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Tilbury House Publishers, 2019, $18.

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

There is a legend that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt needed a vehicle to get him to a joint session of Congress to ask for war against Japan.  The car that was pressed into service is said to have belonged to the infamous gangster, Al Capone, who had a specially made bulletproof Cadillac V-8. Since Capone was imprisoned, the car had been taken into federal custody. Whether this legend is true or not doesn’t matter, because it provides an opportunity to juxtapose two famous men during pivotal years in America’s history and how their lives took such divergent paths.  

Scarface Al Capone is still fascinating, and I loved seeing how his life and Roosevelt’s were so different.  The pictures captured the era well and I loved the timeline in the back of the book.   A fast read, this book has a lot of interesting facts, that make you want to know more about both these men.  

Michelle in the Middle

Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone - OPTIONAL


Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone, 397 pages.  Hyperion (Disney), 2018.  $18.   

Content: Language: R (28 swears; 5 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Hannah and Emory were best friends, until a couple of months ago, and now they don’t talk at all.  Hannah lives in a deeply religious home with two supportive parents but is starting to have feelings for her twenty-something teacher.  Emory is working for a scholarship in drama and spends a lot of time with her boyfriend.  When Emory’s boyfriend has a life-threatening tragedy, Emory and Hannah’s paths cross again, bringing out the secret that separated them in the first place.  

I enjoyed this story and the plot moved at a good pace, offering enough information to keep me interested.  As well done as the story is, there is a lot of content that makes it hard to recommend.  There is off page sex, on page sex, a sexual assault and an inappropriate relationship with a minor.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Matriarch by J. M. Davis - NO

Matriarch by J. M. Davis, 280 pages. Wild Rose Press, 2019. $17.

Language: R (132 swears, 18 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Working as a research assistant at the hospital to please her father is not what Layla planned to do with her life; she wanted to be a zookeeper. As a monkey speaking to her telepathically causes Layla to rethink her life choices and help get the monkey and herself permanently out of the animal testing lab, Layla suddenly finds herself with a completely different life in under a week. Whether this is all real or simply her mid-life crisis, Layla can’t help but enjoy her happiness for a moment -- before everything gets complicated.

Layla is a fun, spitfire character, but I only enjoyed about half her story. Davis failed to execute her planned story in a way that felt natural to me as the reader. The second half of the book felt choppier than the first half, and I was especially annoyed about the sudden changes in Layla’s attitude regarding “mates” and “claimed” when those roles were not explained to her or the reader. I also felt that Layla’s powers were ambiguous and inconsistent throughout the book. The book isn’t bad, and it can still be enjoyed, but I felt that it was overall poorly wrapped up. The mature content rating is for attempted rape, nudity, and sex; the violence rating is for animal attacks and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Little Book of Big Feelings by Maureen “Marzi” Wilson - ADVISABLE

The Little Book of Big Feelings by Maureen “Marzi” Wilson, 191 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL, NON-FICTION Adams Media, 2019. $15.

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Wilson honestly answers the question “how are you?” with 16 valid answers and emotions beyond the response “I’m fine.” As she takes each chapter to validate a different emotion -- what we learn from how we feel and what to do after identifying our emotions -- Wilson invites readers to start being honest with themselves when being asked how they are.

With fun scenarios and transparency, Wilson makes exploring emotions safe and interesting for readers. I like the realistic approach to being honest with yourself, if not with others, about the answer to “how are you?” because social views of how we should be tend to rule our choices. It’s time that we take back control of our lives, starting with understanding how we feel and being okay with that. We can move forward with all kinds of emotions -- emotions that actually help make life worth living.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris - OPTIONAL

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris, 352 pages. St. Martin’s Press, 2019. $20.

Language: R (14 swears, 23 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Auschwitz should have been the worst of it. Cilka should be grateful that time is behind her. But moving from one hell to another isn’t much cause to celebrate. Now in a Siberian labor camp, Cilka has to face the same choice she lives with the shame of making in Auschwitz: will she fight to live or let herself die?

I hate to say that this book was beautiful and I love it because of the true cruelty of things that were done during and after WWII, but I don’t know what else to say. Morris made the tragedy and harsh realities beautiful as she shared truth and fiction of what did and could have happened in Cilka’s suffering through back-to-back injustices. Reading and knowing that the challenges faced by Cilka and those around her were real situations faced by real people made their story both harder and more necessary to read. This is a story of strength, endurance, and love. This book is only marked “optional” because of the frequent use of the f-word, otherwise I would have marked it “advisable.” The mature content rating is for frequent mentions of rape; the violence rating is for gore from fights, mining accidents, and work in a hospital.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Batman: 100 Greatest Moments by Robert Greenberger - OPTIONAL

Batman: 100 Greatest Moments by Robert Greenberger, 304 pages. NON-FICTION. Chartwell Books (The Quarto Group), 2019. $25.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

While all Batman fans might quibble over some of Batman’s “greatest moments,” the 100 moments compiled in this book unarguably illustrate how great Batman is -- and has been for decades. This book is great for Batman fans interested in the history and evolution of Batman through the years, as Greenberger’s focus is on the non-fiction, outside-the-comic aspect of the Batman series.

Obviously, I should have read the description of the book more carefully because I was under the impression that Greenberger had compiled a graphic novel mash-up of Batman’s best moments through the years. The introduction hyped me up as it gave a summary of Batman’s evolutions, but I was overwhelmed with disappointment to see more words than pictures in the first chapter. Thankfully, Greenberger still includes pages from graphic novels to illustrate the 100 greatest moments -- they just come after the explanations and descriptions. Overall, the book is pretty cool, but I think it’s best suited for niche comic lovers and not the general, casual peruser.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Lucy the Octopus by Richy K. Chandler - ADVISABLE

Lucy the Octopus by Richy K. Chandler, 136 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018 $19.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Being cool is a big deal. As uncool as Lucy is, she doesn’t have any friends and even her family wouldn’t be upset if she forgot where she lived and didn’t come home. Despite the opinions and actions of those around her, Lucy finds ways to thrive and pursue her dreams. Others can knock her down, but Lucy is the kind of octopus who gets back up and keeps going through prejudices, bullies, and sea monsters.

While this book exaggerates the need to be cool, I think it honestly reflects how it can feel to be labeled as “uncool” in school. I love that Lucy’s experiences highlight how optimism and talent can thrive despite bullying from others and encourage readers to find success being themselves -- even if it takes longer and is harder than looking for acceptance with the “cool” crowd. Throughout life, there are many times that we might feel excluded and picked on like Lucy, and I hope that we can all be a little more like Sydney: brave enough to be someone’s first friend and not care about the construct of being “cool.” Both the story and the illustrations were amazing and made me want to keep reading through the end.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Earnest Ink by Alex Hall - OPTIONAL

Earnest Ink by Alex Hall. EBOOK. Nine Star Press, 2019. $6. 

Language: R (128 swears, 9 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

In a splintered and chaotic world, Hemingway knows to keep his head down, especially because of the magic talent that makes him famous. But Hemingway can’t sit back when his best friend, Grace, goes missing and it appears that the serial killer at large has her.

I felt that the beginning was slow, but that is forgiven in everything that comes after the set up. The characters, despite occasional magical ability, felt real as I read because there are so many facets to each personality. Everyone is complicated and dealing with the national and personal tragedies the best way they can. Now I’m trying to decide if this book is one that is more satisfying after a second read through. I was shocked by the reveal of the serial killer’s identity, and I wonder if I missed the clues given or if there were no clues to miss. Thinking back over the book, I can’t think of clues pointing me in the right direction, which would be disappointing. I hope that I just missed the clues because I liked reading this book and don’t want to be upset at Hall for denying readers the potential satisfaction in solving the mystery first. The mature content rating is for mentions of orgasm and sex; the violence rating is serial killer violence.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Colorful Family Table by Irene Godofsky Moreno - OPTIONAL

The Colorful Family Table by Irene Godofsky Moreno, 256 pages. BenBella Books, 2019. $20.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS, ADULTS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Moreno’s life has a lot to do with food as she is a health coach, recipe developer, food blogger, and food photographer. In this cookbook, she shares her ideas for healthy eating with each recipe -- recipes that are beautifully illustrated with her own photographs in such a way to make you race into the kitchen to try them yourself.

I like balance in my diet, and I often eat a little of everything. Moreno’s recipes are vegan friendly, and I have no doubt that they are delicious as is. However, they would also be easy to substitute non-vegan products into, should you feel the need. Writing-wise, I felt that Moreno became repetitive in her assurances that following the recipe would result in edible food every time a surprising ingredient was included. Recipe-wise, this book is filled with amazing things I can’t wait to try. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, October 21, 2019

Beast of Rosemead by Lucy Tempest - ADVISABLE

Beast of Rosemead by Lucy Tempest, 421 pages. Folkshore Press, 2019. $13.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Bonnie wakes up in an unfamiliar room and without any memory of how she got there, she quickly jumps to the logical conclusion that she’s been kidnapped. As she makes her way to escape, she hears the voice of her father downstairs and discovers that both she and her father are safe. However, reality does not get much better as Bonnie learns of the Beast and faeries that plague this new place she is in and threaten everyone she loves -- trouble that only involves her loved ones because of her selfish dreams.

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast was a pleasure to read because of Tempest’s combination of details from the familiar story and unique twists that adapt the story to a new magical world. My understanding of how Beauty and the Beast should go didn’t make the book predictable. In fact, my expectations for upcoming details only made the changes Tempest made more exciting as I watched the old story unfold in new circumstances. I also loved this retelling because of the fun I had while reading it, often forgetting myself enough to laugh aloud in public as well as private.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Diamond City by Francesca Flores - HIGH

Diamond City by Francesca Flores, 400 pages. Wednesday Books (Macmillan), 2020. $19.

Language: PG13 (12 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Aina kills for one of the most feared men in the city, but she knows she’s close to becoming his equal and someone who is feared for her own reputation, not her employer’s. This job is her ticket out. Killing one more person should be easy, but, as Aina thinks she’s stepping closer to her dream, she discovers that she’s been living in a nightmare.

If you pick this book up, you better have time to read it all the way through -- there are no good stopping points in Aina’s fast-paced story. Though a couple inconsistencies pulled me out the story briefly, I was enjoying myself enough to move on and lose myself again in the world Flores built. As Aina struggles with self-worth and finding purpose in life, readers can work through these issues with her, reflecting similar ponderings in their own lives. While this message is an undertone to the story, I found myself reading simply for the pleasure of a thrilling read with surprises I couldn’t predict. The mature content rating is for innuendo and mentions of sex; the violence rating is for murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Rose that Blooms in the Night by Allie Michelle - ADVISABLE

The Rose that Blooms in the Night by Allie Michelle, 199 pages. POETRY. Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2019. $15.

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Love can be found in many places and can be both devastating and rapturous. While love is most often viewed as what can be found between two people, love is also something that we need to find within ourselves for ourselves. Loving yourself will lead to more fulfilling love with others.

Michelle goes on a journey about love and loss and beauty, and readers are able to feel the truth of her words resonate inside them. I found that I connected with the poems in the first half of the book more than the second half -- I paused more often after poems to understand why the words had pierced my heart -- and Michelle’s writing was such that I had to finish, both satisfied and saddened when the last poem was read.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, October 18, 2019

Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey - AVERAGE

Library of Lost Things by Laura Taylor Namey, 384 pages. Inkyard Press, 2019. $19.

Language: R (57 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Darcy hides her real life from everyone but her closest friend, choosing instead to live in the pages of fictional stories. She’s learned to package her life nicely and keep everything separated as it should be, until things start to unravel with the threat of her eighteenth birthday and a new, responsible apartment manager. Maybe things aren’t as perfectly cut as Darcy pretends they are.

Having finished the story, I love how the title encapsulates so much of what happens between the covers of this book. We’re all a little lost, as Darcy and readers discover on their journey together. Without having experienced many of the things Darcy has to deal with in her life, I feel a kinship with her as the words that helped her were able to touch me, too. I found that this book is about learning how to deal with seemingly impossible situations and trying to understand that this life is about trying, learning, and doing better today than you did yesterday -- ideas that we all need to learn to apply in our lives. And I appreciate that Namey was able to all of this and more with real, relatable, non-excessively-dramatic conflict. The only reason I have marked this book as "optional" is because of the language.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, October 17, 2019

We Walked the Sky by Lisa Fiedler - HIGH

We Walked the Sky by Lisa Fiedler, 304 pages. Razorbill (Penguin), 2019. $18.

Language: R (25 swears, 13 “f”); Mature Content: PG (Sex off the page); Violence: PG (Abusive father)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS  - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

While Catherine's mother battles cancer, Catherine knows she can no longer stay with her abusive father without her mother.  Clutching her mother's brooch, she flees her home in search of a better life. Catherine soon becomes Victoria and begins the life of her dreams with the VanDrexel Family Circus. Fast forward 50 years to Victoria's granddaughter Callie.  Forced to begin a new school, Callie uses the wisdom of her grandmother to help her navigate the halls and social life of her new school.  Callie follows in her grandmother's footsteps as an accomplished tight rope walker, but longs to join the circus once again.

We Walked the Sky is a beautiful novel told in the present and past.  Two girls, generations apart, learn to accept a new life, embrace challenges and find family in unexpected places."      This was a very endearing novel.  Each characters was well rounded and developed. I loved how Callie would read a message or quote from her grandmother, then the next chapter would flashback and tell the story of how it came to be.  The overall message of finding family in unusual places is well written, but I feel like the author could have accomplished this without so many swears.  Despite that, students will really enjoy this book.          

Jessica Nelson Media Specialist

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Haunted by Danielle Vega - HIGH

The Haunted by Danielle Vega, 256 pages. Razorbill (Penguin), 2019. $18.      

Language: PG (34 swears, 4 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13 (Paranormal activity, violence to a baby)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS  - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Hendricks Becker-O'Malley is ready for a new start.  Her and her family have moved from Philadelphia to New York to start fresh and escape a tragic event involving Hendricks and her ex boyfriend.  The family moves to a ""fixer-upper"" the town calls the Steele House, which Hendricks soon learns through her classmates, it is said to be haunted. Not thinking much of the rumors, Hendricks continues life as the new girl in town but is soon hearing voices and seeing things.  Is she crazy? Hendricks befriends her mysterious neighbor Eddie who tells her the history of Steele House.  Determined not to let the past repeat itself, Hendricks attempts to rid the house of ghosts, but will she survive herself?

I enjoyed this haunted story of Hendricks and Eddie.  I fell into this book right from the beginning and was able to read it quickly. It had great pacing to keep my attention and very realistic teen characters.  I enjoyed the references to pop culture throughout the book which made an old fashion ghost story seem more relevant.  I also really liked the ending.  It was a good conclusion to a very catastrophic event.

Jessica Nelson Media Specialist

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up With Me by Tamaki and Valero-O'Connell - HIGH

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell, 304 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second, 2019. $18                        

Language: R (17 swears, 9 “f”); Mature Content: NC-17 (Sex off the page, abortion, sleeping with a married man); Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Frederica Riley is in love with Laura Dean, but Laura Dean keeps breaking up with her.  Freddy's friends cannot understand why she would keep going back to a girl who may be cute, popular and funny but is really thoughtless and can even be mean. Freddy decides to consult a mystic but is not too thrilled with the results of her visit.  She is also losing all of her friends in the mean time, especially her best friend Doodle. With the help of the advice columnist, Anna Vice, Freddy starts to understand what the important things in life are, and realizes a relationship with Laura Dean may not be that healthy after all."   "This novel may be important for certain students to read.  It shows how a same sex relationship can be very toxic and hurtful to be involved in.  I like how this book shows the main character Freddy going back to Laura Dean, but through the help of her friends, it shows why she shouldn't and what kind of person Laura Dean really is.  Sometimes it is hard to see this when in the relationship.

Some of this book was confusing because of the names and pictures.  The main character is named Freddy but I found myself forgetting she was actually a girl because of her name.  Her best friend is named Doodle and is a transgender character but it was hard to remember if he was a boy or a girl because of the pictures and his name. This book also talks about some heavy topics which some students may not be comfortable with. Overall, I liked the book and I feel like it has a good message that some students will really connect with.    

Jessica Nelson Media Specialist                                                                   

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. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second (Macmillan), 2019 $18  

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG13 (Kidnapping, Drowning).

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL:  AVERAGE

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, decides to investigate But the witches of 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)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS -NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

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?

Modern Seoul is combined with legend and lots of culture for a very cool scene. 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).

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

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) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS—ESSENTIAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL—HIGH

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)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS—OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

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