Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson - ADVISABLE

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson
, 227 pages. Norton Young Readers, 2020. $17. 

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

After his grandmother’s death, 11yo Freddie Yates discovers his biological father might be alive and living in Wales. He convinces his two friends to go off on a harebrained scheme to find his father without telling their families where they are going. Along the way, they get mixed up with an onion eating competition, super hero costumes and dangerous art thieves. There is a lot of humor that makes this quest fun. Freddie, Ben, and Charlie make good foils for each other and the settings are delightful. I loved the ending, even though it seemed wrapped with a bow, because the super miraculous journey does seem to deliver on the miracles. A quirky, upbeat read that makes you value family and friends. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

The Bond of Friendship by Jamie Lee Rotante and Brittney Williams - OPTIONAL

The Bond of Friendship (Betty and Veronica) by Jamie Lee Rotante, illustrated by Brittney Williams
, 129 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Archie Comic Publications, 2020. $15. 9781645769859 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Betty and Veronica go to a career fair at Riverdale High and imagine all the possibilities their futures might hold. But will their futures be so divergent they won’t be friends? 

 Imagining their futures really is the entire plot. The pictures and the colors are great but it’s like having great special effects with nothing to support them. If you are a die-hard fan, then read on. Otherwise, you may want some substance with your story. 

Michelle in the Middle 

FREIHEIT! The White Rose Graphic Novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte - ESSENTIAL

FREIHEIT! The White Rose Graphic Novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte
, 112 pages. NON-FICTION. Plough Publishing House, 2021. $24 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

During World War II, a small group of university students formed the White Rose, an undercover resistance movement in Nazi Germany. Though Germans themselves, they felt duty bound to expose Nazi atrocities and wake up their fellow citizens. For that they were executed. 

 This is a must read for anyone interested in standing against tyranny or evil. Although a graphic novel, this book uses quotes from the White Rose and other authors whose thinking was quite deep, so this would be a high school lexile. In fact, the leaflets that the White Rose published are translated in their entirety at the back of the book. The art is stunning and the story both inspiring and horrific. I am grateful that the White Rose’s heroism lives on in this book. This is a story you will think about long after you finish reading. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Grow: Secrets of Our DNA by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton - ESSENTIAL

 Grow: Secrets of Our DNA by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton. NON FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2020. $18. 9781536212723

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

All living things on our Earth has DNA in its cells. DNA is different for everyone, and we grow and develop according to the information in our own DNA. Once you are born, you do not even think about growing. You just grow! All the information about you, what you will look like, the color of your eyes, how tall you will be, and much more is embedded in your DNA. 

This is the coolest book! DNA is explained in easy and understandable language. The illustrations are simple, but fantastic. I loved this book and I highly recommend it. It will help give children insight into how they grow, and why they grow the way they do. Wow! Read this, it is awesome. 

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner - ADVISABLE

The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner
, 267 pages. Henry Holt & Company (Macmillan), 2019. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Irreelle (11yo) spends her days winding through the underground tunnels and graveyard collecting bone dust for Miss Vesper’s creations. No matter how hard she tries, she is never able to live up to Miss Vesper’s expectations, not that Irreelle is surprised, she wasn’t made right after all. Miss Vesper is spending all her time creating someone better to take her place. After an unfortunate incident that causes Miss Vesper to lash out in anger, Irreelle runs to the tunnels to escape, vowing to never return. Imagine her surprise when she stumbles across another of Miss Vesper’s discarded creations, Guy, the boy she replaced. Guy is determined to leave and Irreelle wants to go with him, but wonders if she returned, would Miss Vesper forgive her. 

 I thought I was getting a scary story with a graveyard, bones, a ghost, and magic, but what I found was less creepy and more a story about friendship. The characters are unusual and the story is a bit odd, but the friendship parts work and there’s a nice ending. Unless you picked it up just for the potential scare factor, you will find this a nice middle school read. 

Reviewer: RB 

Rare & Blue: Finding Nature's Treasures by Constance Van Hoven and Alan Marks - ESSENTIAL

 Rare & Blue: Finding Nature's Treasures by Constance Van Hoven, illustrated by Alan Marks. NON FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Charlesbridge, 2020. $19. 9781623540975

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

This book was a great learning experience. It was fun to learn about animals and plants that are blue and in danger of disappearing. I loved reading about blue lobsters, Karner Blue Butterflies and blue whales. I did not know that some black bears are actually blue! I have read the book many times now, just to enjoy it and the beautiful illustrations. I loved reading about eight rare and endangered species. I had never even heard of blue bears! Now I want to plant Lupines just to see if I can get some Karner Blue Butterflies to visit my yard. The illustrations are beautiful, spectacular. I loved this book and I highly recommend it. It is important that we all know how to preserve the beauty all around us.

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Secret Soldiers by Keely Hutton - ADVISABLE

Secret Soldiers by Keely Hutton
, 309 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan), 2019. $17 

Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (war death/violence) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Tommy’s (13 yo) older brother, James, is fighting on the front line in the Great War. Tommy’s family had only received one letter from James when they were notified that he was missing. Tommy’s dad won’t talk about it and his mother fears the worst, but Tommy believes there is another explanation as to why they haven’t heard from him and decides it is up to him to find James. He is too young to join the army but lots of young men are finding a way to join and he eventually finds a way, as well, and arrives on the front line. Along the way he meets George, a street urchin just looking for his next meal or maybe his next con; Mouse, who is too shy to disagree, or even talk, with anyone; and Frederick Chamberlain, who has military and boarding school training, but his rigid personality is getting in the way of making friends. All four of them end up assigned to the same unit digging tunnels under the front line. It is cold, hard work and there is no talking allowed during their 8 hour shift in fear of being discovered by the enemy. When he isn’t digging, Tommy is showing James’s picture to other soldiers hoping someone has seen him, but it isn’t going well and Tommy begins to wonder if he will ever be able to find James and go home. 

The harsh realities of war can be hard to read, but this was mostly a story about friendship and a boy trying to find his brother. The characters were great and I found myself rooting for them, hoping they would all make it. I didn’t know much about soldiers digging under the trenches during the war and found that interesting, but there were also a few times it moved pretty slow. The ending, however, was so heartfelt that I quickly forgot those moments that dragged and was so glad I read it. 

Reviewer: R. Benson

Ghostology by Lucinda Curtle - ADVISABLE

 Ghostology: A true revelation of spirits, ghouls and hauntings by Lucinda Curtle and Dougald Steer, Yvonne Gilbert, Garry Walton, Doug Sirois. ACTIVITY BOOK. Candlewick Press, 2020. $28. 9781536209150

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Have you ever heard unexplained noises at night? footsteps across an upstairs floor when no one was there? Doors opening and closing? I would like to put together my own ghostologist field kit just for fun. The books tells of a set of trickster twins, a woman ghost screaming for help and much, much more.

Definitely a fun read! It is also a great addition to the other -ology books. Several years ago students made me aware of these books. My libraries had copies of all of -ologies and it was hard to keep them on the shelf. I was worried about my young grandson (age 8) finding Ghostoloy and being scared. It is like he had a radar zoomed in on this book. He went for it and loved it. He was not scared at all and we have already had several phone conversations about this book. I highly recommend it. What a fun book to read!  

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannie Atkins - ESSENTIAL

Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math by Jeannie Atkins, 285 pages. NON-FICTION. Atheneum (Simon), 2020. $18

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

The book, written in verse chronicles the lives of seven remarkable women. They grew up loving math and for the most part were encouraged by their families, even when some of their teachers told them math was not for girls. They kept going, even when it got hard. Math helped them put things into place and answered their questions. These girls helped put rockets into space and on the moon, discovered and proved the existence of dark matter, start a school for nurses, discovered comets and so much else.

This was such an exciting read! I loved it and could not put it down. I felt like I got to know these women and loved them for not ever giving up, even when things were hard. I know from teaching myself that it is easy for students to give up on math because it is hard and not "cool." I loved helping all my students see the beauty of math, and how math was so dependable, and how we use it in our lives, everyday. 

Ellen-Anita LMS 

Beyond Me by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu - ESSENTIAL

 Beyond Me by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu, 290 pages. Atheneum (Simon), 2020. $18

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Maya and her friend Yuka are just at the end of 5th grade when the big earthquake and Tsunami hit Japan on March 11, 2011. Maya feels scared, lost and worried. Then she learns that the worst of the quake and the tsunami hit northeast in the country. She helps in relief efforts, collecting food, clothing and other essentials with her mom. School is closed. Maya and Yuka decide to fold 1,000 paper cranes to help. Maya hears that sunflowers can help absorb radiation. She starts growing sunflowers and plans to send the seeds to the northeast. 

Maya's story is heart wrenching. Reading this I felt that I was right there with her. She is an amazing girl, and keeps going even when she is so frightened. It is very touching. I highly recommend this book. Read it out loud to your children, your students. It is amazing. I could not put it down! The book tells the story from Maya's point of view, in verse. Dates and times are added for each aftershock and tremble. 

Ellen-Anita LMS 

The Last Tree Town by Beth Turley - ADVISABLE

The Last Tree Town by Beth Turley
, 262 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $24

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

 Cassi is part Puerto Rican, but people always comment that she does not look like the rest of her family. Life can be sad and cruel, but she has good support from her family. She takes comfort in math and the Math Olympiad. There she meets Aaron, who shares stories with Cassi about all the different Tree Towns that he and his author dad have lived in. 

I liked how Cassie worked through her problems and found ways to make her happy. She forms a cute friendship with Aaron and I think she even has a crush on him and that the feeling might be mutual. She can tell him things, and he understands. He tells her things about his life and she understands. I also liked that the two main characters both liked math. The book is full of interesting, colorful and strong characters. I recommend this book. 

Ellen-Anita LMS 

Saltwater Secrets by Cindy Callaghan - ADVISABLE

 Saltwater Secrets by Cindy Callaghan, 275 pages. Aladdin, 2020. $19 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Half-sisters, Stella and Josie live on different continents, but every summer they spend with their dad at the Jersey Shore. They love the ocean, the waves, the boardwalk, all the little shops and especially their secret spot under the pier. There they have box, buried in the sand, with memories from all their summers together. It is their secret. They discover that something is killing the jellyfish and eroding the wooden supports for the pier. As they work on unraveling this mystery, they realize they might be in over their heads. Can they solve the mystery before the whole pier collapses and injure or kill a lot of people?

A fast read and fun mystery. The sisters clash a little at the beginning and summer isn't off to the start they usually have. With all the things going on, they realize they must work together if they are going to figure out who is poisoning the sea. I love mysteries and this was a fun and easy read. I liked how the Stella and Josie realize that they need to trust each other and rely on each other to work out what is going on. The story is told by Josie and Stella, in alternating sections. 

 Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden - HIGH


The Hive by Barry Lyga and Morgan Baden, 413 pages. KCP Loft (Kids Can Press), 2019. $18.

Language: R (182 swears, 32 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

The Hive can be anyone anywhere at any given time; they watch your social media accounts and hold you accountable for what you say and do online. 17yo Cassie supports Hive justice and joins a couple of mobs punishing others. But when she is condemned and runs from the mob because a mean joke went viral, Cassie finds that the system is more flawed than she can take on by herself.

When I started reading, I thought the main conflict would be internal about whether or not Cassie believed in and would support the Hive. However, things quickly took a turn for more thrilling when Cassie started being tracked by Hive mobs for punishment. The futuristic world that Cassie lives in is created by trying to find a solution for online bullying. I love the creative solutions that Lyga and Baden play with, even if this doesn’t look like the best option for us. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use, nudity, and mentions of rape; the violence rating is for blood and gore as well as gun use.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished by E. James Harrison - ADVISABLE


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
by E. James Harrison
, 270 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Living his normal life, Garrett gets a weird phone call that changes his life -- and makes him several million dollars richer. Five years ago, Garrett saved Edwin’s life. Now, Edwin is dead and has left Garrett money in his will along with the promise for more if he can accomplish the impossible: track down the information Edwin was nearly killed over. The payout is tempting, but it comes at the risk of lives.

With lives on the line, anything less than suspense and action would be a disappointment; Harrison arranges both without making the antagonist’s plot obvious, making both the protagonist and the reader puzzle out what’s going on and who’s on which side. Most loose ends are neatly tied, though a couple unanswered questions leave room for a potential sequel. Overall, I enjoyed my time reading Garrett’s story as it gave me all the excitement I was looking for when I picked it up. The violence rating is for gun use, murder, and blood and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Awesome Asian Americans by Phil Amara and Oliver Chin - ADVISABLE


Awesome Asian Americans: 20 Stars Who Made America Amazing
by Phil Amara and Oliver Chin
, 120 pages. BIOGRAPHY, SHORT STORIES. Immedium, 2020. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

In these 20 mini-biographies, Amara and Chin highlight Asian Americans who have done amazing things despite racism and other hardships. Some of these heroes are doctors, soldiers, and Olympians; others are singers, artists, and athletes. Whether you want to follow the trails they have blazed or make a path all your own, the stories of these stars will encourage and inspire.

Amara and Chin chose a wide variety of people to highlight, and the range shows just how important Asian Americans have been in building the image of America that we have, even when others told them to “go back where they came from.” The overall message of not only tolerance but love and inclusion was clear without being belabored. I was surprised by how many of the people highlighted are familiar to me, and I loved learning more about them.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Bound in Shallows by Stephanie Black - ADVISABLE


Bound in Shallows
by Stephanie Black
, 320 pages. Covenant Communications, 2020. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Looking forward to their wedding, Natalie and Gideon are doing their best to keep it as stress-free as possible, despite old family drama and new tensions with friends. With secrets and ulterior motives at every turn, eloping sounds like a much better plan -- Natalie and Gideon can’t even make it through their wedding weekend before getting the police involved.

While the context of the previous books is nice, readers can still build rapport with the characters and feel the suspense without the prequels. I love how open and trusting Natalie and Gideon are in their relationship, especially with all the crazy going on around them. Reading about a solid couple is refreshing and allows more focus on the mystery at hand rather than trying to improve relationship troubles. The mature content rating is for drug abuse and other illegal activity; the violence rating is for blood, mentions of suicide, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Universe of Wishes by Dhonielle Clayton - HIGH


A Universe of Wishes
by Dhonielle Clayton
, 416 pages. SHORT STORIES. Random House, 2020. $19.

Language: R (46 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

In fifteen short stories, these authors write compelling stories with heroes that break the molds we are used to reading. Readers are invited to stretch their imaginations with a variety of genres and characters that allow for everyone to see pieces of themselves reflected.

Jumping from story to story was a little disorienting because I would forget that each was only a short story; I want to see where the stories would continue if allowed more than one chapter. The stories I liked the least were the two connected to series I am not familiar with, but all of the stories are bewitching. The mature content rating is for innuendo, nudity, and illegal activity; the violence rating is for gun use and mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

His Accidental Bride by Carolyn Twede Frank - OPTIONAL


His Accidental Bride by Carolyn Twede Frank, 264 pages. Covenant Communication, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jumping onto a train at the last minute seems like a good idea in the moment Dorothy runs away from her no-good older brother, but now she has nothing -- not even a plan. As luck would have it, Dorothy meets a mail-order bride with cold feet who aids Dorothy in getting far away by giving Dorothy her ticket to the small town of Craig. There Dorothy hopes to start a new life in the little town, but old habits die hard and the lies pile up as she hides her past from her new friends and the man courting her.

With the funny storyline of filling in as a mail-order bride, I expected a cute, funny read. The story of Dorothy is humorous as she falls in love with a man who is her complete opposite in most ways, but the main points of conflict to overcome were handled more seriously than I had anticipated. Franks takes twists and turns I didn’t see coming, which made the story much less cheesy than I had imagined, and was still enjoyable through to the happy ending.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, December 21, 2020

Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault - HIGH


Rebel Rose (The Queen’s Council #1) by Emma Theriault
, 345 pages. Disney Hyperion (Buena Vista Books), 2020. $18.

Language: PG13 (17 swears, 0 “f” + French swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Now that Belle has married the Beast, Lio, she is ready for her adventure. They begin their tour of the continent by going to Paris to reestablish Lio’s alliance with King Louis XVI. Unfortunately, Belle and Lio soon return home instead of continuing their travels in order to protect their kingdom from the revolutionaries destroying France.

Answering the question of what happens after the “happily ever after,” this book picks up where Disney’s movie ends. Theriault brilliantly places the story into history and smooths down the rough edges of the Beast’s curse being lifted. As Belle adapts to being married to royalty, she learns to trust herself, despite all she has suffered through, encouraging readers to do the same.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Georgana’s Secret by Arlem Hawks - ADVISABLE


Georgana’s Secret by Arlem Hawks, 320 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2021. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

After her mother’s death, Georgana’s father brought her aboard his ship under pretense of her being a distant relative interested in being a ship boy. Now 18yo, Georgana is sick of the sea, sick of the Navy, and sick of being called George. Georgana struggles to find peace with the sea that has taken away so much of her life, even as it seems to breathe life into her father’s new first lieutenant.

Very little of this story went as I expected, which also made reading it more fun than I had hoped. With ample opportunity for misunderstandings and for uncovering secrets, my emotions fluctuated between excitement and anxiousness the entire time. The inevitable happy ending was satisfying and not as cheesy as it could have been, leaving me with nothing but good opinions about this book.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Ground Zero: a novel of 9/11 by Alan Gratz - ESSENTIAL

Ground Zero: a novel of 9/11 by Alan Gratz
, 336 pages. Scholistic, FEB 2021. $18 

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (deaths; describes true events of 9/11) 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

2001 - Brandon is in trouble, so he is going to work with his dad today, where he works as a chef at the restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 2019 – Reshimina is a poor village girl in Afghanistan, just trying to survive the skirmishes between the Afghan rebels and the American soldiers – the Americans who killed her older sister on her wedding day. Why are they even here? 

Wow! Wow! Gratz could have written a whole book about each of these characters separately. Instead in entwines their stories to create an even more powerful narrative. Students who weren’t yet born that day, who don’t understand the lasting scar that these events created on the American psyche, will now have a stark frame of reference. But everyone who reads this, no matter what age, will also be amazed by the power of Reshima’s story. Wow! 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS

I am Defiance by Jenni L. Walsh - ADVISABLE

I am Defiance by Jenni L. Walsh
, 320 pages. Scholastic, FEB 2021. $18. 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Brigitte enjoys the picnics, games, and other fun activity at her Hitler’s Youth group. However, as she gets older, she wonders about the deeper purpose behind the group. Does she really want to turn in her neighbors or admit that their family received suspicious fliers? Then she finds out that her parents and her older sister have bigger secrets to keep – does she remain loyal to the Fuhrer, or to her family? 

I love WWII books, I really do. And Walsh’s look through Brigitte’s eyes is just fine – a nice, skeptical look at Hitler’s propaganda machine, secrets within a family, and going to great lengths to keep those secrets. It’s just that there are other important events to look at throughout history than just WWII. Can we branch out a bit and give a wider historical and cultural perspective? 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray - OPTIONAL

The Amelia Six by Kristin L. Gray
, 250 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $18

 Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

11yo Millie (Amelia) gets a chance to spend a night in Amelia Earhart's childhood home with five other girls. They are all in awe of Amelia Earhart and of her childhood home. Little do they know that during the night they will be embroiled in a big mystery of intrigue and crime. There is a lot of things going on, including Amelia Earhart's favorite flying goggles disappearing. Who can they trust? Can the girls discover who stole them and get the goggles back before they are gone forever? 

 A cute, fast moving story; reminds me of a modern-day Nancy Drew. Kids that like mysteries will love it. I have always been fascinated by Amelia Earhart and I had to read everything I could find about her while also reading this book. It was a lot of fun. I have always loved mystery stories the very best so this was right up "my alley." 

Ellen-Anita LMS 

War Stories by Gordon Korman - ADVISABLE

 War Stories by Gordon Korman, 240 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $16 Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (battles in war) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Trevor is obsessed with war, especially in video games. He loves to hear his great-grandfather, Jacob, tell about his war stories. Jacob was considered a war hero by some at the end of WWII and Trevor could not be more proud. Jacob invites Trevor and his father on a journey to retrace the steps he took during the war. Trevor thinks this is the greatest idea ever until he realizes they are being followed and harassed along the way. He soon learns there is more to his great-grandfather's story than he thought. 

Students will be able to connect with this story because of the war video games that Trevor loves to play. It is an important story for students to read because Great-Grandfather Jacob brings war to reality and helps Trevor realize war is more than just bombing each other. The mystery and action along the way will keep students turning the pages and wanting more.

 Jessica Nelson Librarian 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Really Truly (A Pumpkin Falls Mystery #3) by Heather Vogel Frederick - ADVISABLE


Really Truly (A Pumpkin Falls Mystery #3) by Heather Vogel Frederick
, 373 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $18 

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

BUYING ADVISORY:, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Truly Lovejoy is enjoying the summer family reunion in Pumpkin Falls, until the big 4th of July race when the winner's trophy is missing - time to call out the Pumpkin Falls Private Eyes (Truly and her friends)! But before she can really get involved solving the mystery, her cousin Mackenzie makes Truly come to "Mermaid Academy" with her, where Truly discovers she might be related to an actual pirate. 

Another adventure in the small town of Pumpkin Falls, with Truly and her friends. The plot is full - community theater, mermaid academy, bookstore, pirates, treasure, friends, synchronized swimming - oh, and Truly is grounded! I do love this series, but be sure to start at the beginning! 

Lisa Librarian

Friday, December 4, 2020

Bridge of Souls by Victoria Schwab - ESSENTIAL

 


Bridge of Souls (City of Ghosts, #3) by Victoria Schwab, 300 pages. Scholastic Press, 2021.  $18. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Cassidy travels with her parents from city to city to document haunted spots and this time they are in New Orleans.  Her best friend is Jacob, a ghost, and Cassidy can travel back and forth between the Veil and real life.  Cassidy and Jacob have attracted the attention of an Emissary, a messenger from the other side, who thinks that Cassidy and Jacob belong on the dead side of the Veil.  Cassidy has to use the spiritualists and mystics of New Orleans as well as her friend Lara, another “in-betweener” to try and keep herself and Jacob in the real world. 

The City of Ghost series is the perfect amount of comfortable creepy.  Although there are dark moments with the ghosts and the heartbreaking past of New Orleans, nothing is too graphic, but it is mentioned that slaves were locked in an attic that burned in a fire. Cassidy, Lara and Jacob are loyal to each other and break up the intensity of the evil situations. Cassidy seems like a middle school age character, but I can't remember from book one or two her exact age and it's not specified in this book.  If your readers like Small Spaces, they will enjoy this book and series.  I recommend reading them in order, so you know the backstory of the characters. I hope there are many more books to come.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson     

Love and Olives by Jenna Evans Welch - ADVISABLE

 


Love and Olives (Love and Gelato, #3) by Jenna Evans Welch, 506 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $19.  

Content: Language: PG-13 (6 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Liv has plans with her perfect boyfriend for his senior trip, so she is disappointed when she finds out that her father wants her to come to him in Greece.  Liv hasn’t seen her father since she was eight, but Liv’s mother is encouraging her to visit her father and help him with a special project.  When Liv gets to Greece, she is picked up by a cute boy named Theo, who is just as excited about this special project as her dad.  Liv works with Theo and her dad as they compile a documentary about chasing Atlantis, but what Liv realizes is that her father’s search for Atlantis is actually a search for something more. 

I enjoy Welch’s writing because she does the foundational parts of the story so well—great character growth, unique settings and depth in her characters. Love and Olives is the third book in the Love and Gelato series, but this book does stand completely on its own.  My only semi-issue was the length of the book, there was a point where I thought, okay let’s get to the answers. I think middle school and high school kids who are looking for a clean romance with a bit more depth will enjoy this read.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Nemesis by S.J. Kincaid - OPTIONAL

 


The Nemesis (Diabolic, #3) by S.J. Kincaid, 405 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2020. $20. 

Content: Language: PG-13 (20 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: R.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Tyrus killed Nemesis in a powerplay in front of a live broadcast at the end of the last book.  Brought back from the brink of death, Nemesis watches as Tyrus turns into a corrupt leader who murders and controls his subjects. Nemesis can’t stand to watch the man that she once loved become the type of person he had always despised, so she conceives of a plan to kill Tyrus and give control back to the people.  

The first book in this series was awesome as Nemesis’s humanity emerged from her robotic soldier-self.  Since the first book, however, the inhumanity of the entire universe that Nemesis lives in is hard to care about.  I felt whip-lashed between what characters were good and which were bad, as none of the characters seemed to be loyal to each other or the universe.  I was unsure throughout the book what Nemesis was fighting for in the end.  All the characters seemed wishy-washy. I didn’t enjoy book two or three, and I could have just read the first book and left it as that. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Empress by S.J. Kincaid - OPTIONAL

 


The Empress (Diabolic, #2) by S.J. Kincaid, 378 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2017. $18.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS- OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Tyrus has gained control of the throne and although it’s not customary for a diabolic to be treated as an equal, he wants everyone to know that Nemesis is to be his wife. As Tyrus tries to maintain control of his government, he also wants Nemesis to be declared human, so they go in search of a holy man who can label her human.  While away from the kingdom, however, the Senator Pasus has other plans for Tyrus and the kingdom. 

I loved the first book in this series, but I had issues with this second installment.  There isn’t as much emotion and heart in the characters, which is strange because in the first book that was the best part, watching Nemesis realize that she had emotions.  The story is told in a robotic, non-emotional way, including a complete disregard for human life by the good and the bad characters.  Interesting storyline, but it was hard to care what happened to the characters. The rules and time spectrum were always changing, making the story hard to invest in, because it felt like anything could happen. The content included casual drug use, a make-out session, gladiator-like violence, gruesome killings, and a large body count. Amazing cover though!

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Teachers March! by Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace and Charly Palmer - ADVISABLE

The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History

 

 by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer.
 NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Calkins Creek (Boyds Mill), 2020. $19. 9781629794525 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Selma, Alabama, 1965 – Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reverend F. D. Reese call upon the black teachers to march from the school to courthouse to lobby for the right to vote. As professionals employed by the city, they have stayed out of the way before. But 104 teachers answer the call and show their students, present and past, that they are all somebodies. 

This little known act during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement is a hopeful note for #BlackLivesMatter protesters now. A great companion to Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter, too. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes and Laura Freeman - ADVISABLE

 Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman.BIOGRAPHY PICTURE BOOK. Atheneum (Simon), 2020. $18. 9781534462670 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Grimes takes us on an overview of Kamala Harris’ life from birth to her run for the Presidency. 

The book is quite wordy – making it almost a perfect example of a child-sized biography. Freeman’s illustrations are lush and beautiful – I can’t imagine how many hours they took to create. I bet Grimes and Atheneum are kicking themselves that they couldn’t wait just another month to get this book out with the Biden-Harris victory. Wouldn’t it be cool if they could print a tip-in page to make the story complete? 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad by Don Tate - ADVISABLE

 William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad by Don Tate. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHY. Peachtree, 2020. $19. 9781561459353 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

William’s parents escaped slavery in the late 1700s – before he was born and he was brought up in the free state of New Jersey. He didn’t attend school regularly until he was 17 and almost starved to death when he moved to Philadelphia. He worked as a clerk for a group of white abolitionists, and as blacks arrived in the city, he took down their stories in hopes of reuniting them with their families – even one of his own brothers. The Fugitive Slave Act made his job even more dangerous, but he continued on. After the Civil War he published a book of the stories fugitives told him. His life’s work gave him the name Father of the Underground Railroad. 

Tate has given us a look at another black who was an important part of the Underground Railroad. We normally connect it with the Civil War directly, but it actually was operating for decades before that. Though this is a picture book, it is a must have for any school have covers the topic. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Assignment by Liza Wiemer - HIGH


The Assignment
by Liza Wiemer
, 336 pages. Delacorte Press (Random House), 2020. $18.

Language: R (42 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

History is Logan’s favorite subject, and she adores her history teacher Mr. Bartley -- he even wrote a letter of recommendation for her college application. When Mr. Bartley gives the class an assignment to recreate a scene in history by arguing for the genocide of Jews, Logan is horrified. Logan and her best friend, Cade, do all they can to stop the assignment, but doubt creeps in when other students and teachers don’t see the problem.

First of all, I want to make it clear that I only marked this book as “optional” instead of “essential” because of the language. The internal and external struggles that Logan, Cade, and others face illustrate how easy it is to let hate continue, and Wiemer asks readers to think about hard questions: are you willing to stand for what’s right? Even when you feel alone? Even when you stand against authority? Even when change takes longer than you hoped? Examples of students fighting for change and kindness in this book range from giving interviews to the paper to dyeing hair. Find out how you can stand for right in your life and do it. The mature content rating is for underage drinking and drug use, groping, and mention of sexting; the violence rating is for domestic violence, mention of suicide, discussion of genocide and other WWII tragedies, and hate crimes.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

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  

12yo 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 17yo 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 

18yo 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  

11yo Glory Bea is excited for the Friendship Train that is making its 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