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  

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson

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

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

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

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe - AVERAGE

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen - ADVISABLE

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Stick With Me by Jennifer Blecher - ADVISABLE

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

Content: G (4 swears) 

 BUYING ADVISORY: EL – ADVISABLE; MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

In the Shadow of the Sun by Em Castellan - ADVISABLE

 


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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

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

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

Content: G 

 BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

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

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

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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

 


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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson

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

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

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Tudor Rose by W.H. Doyle - NO

 


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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – NOT RECOMMENDED 

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Secret Soldiers by Paul B. Janeczko - OPTIONAL


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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

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

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

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas - ADULT

 

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULTS  

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White - NO


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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: NO 

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Blue Skies by Anne Bustard - ADVISABLE

 


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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Monday, November 23, 2020

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

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

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Lisa Librarian

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

 


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

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

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

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

Lisa Librarian

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas - ADULT

 

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

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

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULT  

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

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

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas - ADULT

 


Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, #7) by Sarah J. Maas, 984 pages. Bloomsbury, 2018. $14. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: ADULT  

Aelin has been captured and is being ruthlessly tortured by the horrible evil Queen of the Fae, Maeve.  Aelin refuses to swear allegiance to Maeve because she knows it would mean to sacrifice all of the people and land that Aelin is trying to save. Meanwhile, Aelin’s friends and allies are gathering to fight against the equally horrible and powerful, Erawan, while passing off Aelin’s shapeshifting friend as Aelin, so the armies will still fight the war.  Aelin has to stay strong and her friends have to keep hope and keep fighting as the book builds to the epic climax that has been coming for seven books.  

I have read thousands of pages in this series, following Aelin from the beginning to the end and I’m satisfied with the ending-it is well done.  There are a ton of characters to keep track of and side stories within the larger story, so you have to have a pretty deep understanding of the world to follow what is going on. Much like all of Maas’ books, they are in no way appropriate for young adult readers because they have a lot of adult content.  The violence is prolonged torture, which is manipulative, graphic and upsetting.  The mature content is multiple on page sex scenes and the swear count is way above 100. I’m completely confused that this publisher is advertising this for teens.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken - ESSENTIAL

 


Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, 165 pages.  GRAPHIC NOVEL Disney Hyperion, 2020. $22.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Fourteen-year-old Sydelle lives a quiet life, until Wayland North shows up out of thin air.  Wayland is a wizard and he is trying to get information back to the royalty in an effort to thwart a war, but he is being chased by a dark wizard and Wayland’s magical cloak needs mending.  Sydelle is a weaver and is able to help Wayland and as they journey towards the capital, Sydelle starts to realize that she too might also have power. 

I am impressed that this story conveys a clear plot with characters that have depth in just 165 pages.  I totally enjoyed this read and the illustrations are bright and attractive. Sydelle and Wayland are great characters and the conflict is well defined as they journey towards a resolve. I hope this is the beginning of a whole graphic novel series by Bracken, because it is fun and entertaining.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson    

Heart of the Moors by Holly Black - HIGH

 


Heart of the Moors by Holly Black, 310 pages. Disney Press, 2019. $18. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Aurora is the queen of Perceforest and the queen of the Moors which causes a problem because the people from the Moors don’t trust the people of Perceforest and vice versa.  Aurora knows that if she can get the people to talk and learn to appreciate their differences that they would get along, but every effort she makes to help them understand each other is thwarted.  Prince Phillip is a good friend, and she has her advisor, Lord Ortolan, but someone is exaggerating the rift between the two kingdoms and trying to push them towards war.  

Holly Black creates a fantastic fantasy world once again.  I felt like I was in a movie while I read and could visualize the setting and the characters.  I enjoyed the conflict and the hint of romance while I cheered on Aurora.  Fun read and a great cover.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Umbertouched by Livia Blackburne - ADVISABLE

 


Umbertouched (Rosemarked, #2) by Livia Blackburne, 375 pages. Hyperion, 2018. $18.  

Content: Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Zivah and Dineas completed their mission to spy on the enemy, but as they return to their own people, they find that their people don’t trust them.  Zivah knows that she can get the proof she needs to stop the Amparan army and Dineas knows he needs to protect the people who are about to be attacked.  As they both try to do the right thing, they hope that they can protect each other and everything they hold dear.  

It had been awhile since I read Rosemarked, but Blackburne does a great job bridging the two books and I quickly remembered the story and people and was able to enjoy the second book. You will want to read Rosemarked first, or you won’t understand this book. I liked the balance between a well-crafted story and the development of the characters.  As their actions built up to the climax, I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen. Super satisfying read!  Content includes war violence. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Paul, Big and Small by David Glen Robb - ADVISABLE

 


Paul, Big and Small by David Glen Robb, 336 pages. Shadow Mountain, 2019. $18. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Paul is short, which garners the attention of the high school bullies.  Although Paul has tried to blend in and not be seen, his abilities at rock climbing attract some attention in a good way and he befriends a tall girl named Lily Small.  Lily gets Paul to join her and a friend named Sam on a rock-climbing team and Paul’s new friends teach him all sorts of new life lessons. This group of high schoolers, along with my favorite character Big, become good friends as they navigate the ups and downs of high school. 

Paul is a great protagonist who’s coming of age journey seems genuine. Paul has to deal with uncomfortable life circumstances, but he does it in a realistic way.  Big, Tall and Sam are endearing minor characters who have their own stories which keeps the story moving forward and creates drama.  My only semi-complaint is that the author tries to take on all the heavy topics such as bullying, cancer, mental illness, and suicide, which was a bit heavy and forced.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Imprison the Sky by A.C. Gaughen - HIGH

 


Imprison the Sky (The Elementae, #2) by A.C. Gaughen, 418 pages. Bloomsbury, 2019. $19.  

Content: Language: R (125 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: HS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH  

Aspasia is a sixteen-year-old pirate captain with the power to control the wind.  Her crew makes up a mismatch of elementae powers and she has gathered them from slave conditions throughout the kingdom.  Aspasia is also a slave, as her ship belongs to the cruel Cyrus, and if Aspasia doesn’t deliver the types of slaves that Cyrus wants, then Aspasia could lose everything she holds dear. Trying to protect her crew, find her missing family and deal with the new crewmate that is also very attractive, Aspasia has her hands full.  

This is a fun pirate adventure.  Aspasia is a kick-butt heroine, and the story has lots of action and conflict.  This is the second book in the series, and it does help to have the background information from the first book, otherwise the ending is confusing.  An enjoyable read with great characters and a very satisfying conclusion. The content includes off page sex, slavery, fighting, and death.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

Fly Back Agnes by Elizabeth Atkinson - OPTIONAL

 


Fly Back Agnes by Elizabeth Atkinson, 290 pages. Carolrhoda Book (Lerner), 2020. $18. Content: Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Twelve-year-old Agnes has an overbearing mother who wants her to move to Kansas for the summer, but Agnes isn’t interested in a summer with her mother’s new boyfriend and young son.  Agnes convinces her father (and lies to her mother) to let her move in with him while he works on his dissertation for the summer. While staying with her father, she meets some people across the bridge and tells them her name is Chloe and other lies.  Agnes/Chloe’s lies continue even when she finds true friends and they share their secrets with her.  As with all lies, eventually the truth comes out.  

If you enjoy reading a book about a girl who lies to get what she wants, even when it hurts other people, then this is the book for you.  I wanted to like Agnes, but not once does she admit that she lied. She gets caught in her lies and is quickly forgiven by everyone, like it’s no big deal. It’s hard to keep reading because her lies are so petty, at the expense of other’s real feelings.  Not a great moral to the story. The secrets that her friends share include teen pregnancy and gender identity, making it a little older than elementary.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Friday, November 20, 2020

Shuri: a Black Panther novel by Nic Stone - OPTIONAL

Shuri: a Black Panther novel by Nic Stone, 272 pages. Scholastic, 2020. $18 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Shuri has been asked by her brother, the Black Panther, the King of Wakanda, to make him a new Black Panther suit. Shuri knows that the high-tech Vibranium fabric needs the help of the Heart-Shaped herb, the herb that every king ingests to give him is super powers. There are only 5 days to Challenge Day – when anyone can try to take Wakanda’s throne. Unfortunately, the Heart-shaped herb is dying. If Shuri doesn’t move fast, there may be no herb forever. In order to find answers, Shuri and her Dora Milaj in training, K’Marah, will need to go outside Wakanda’s borders – where new friends and new dangers lurk. 

If the various Marvel books circulate well in your library, add this offering. I will probably cross my fingers for a paperback later, because they just haven’t found their audience here. The only grating note to Stone’s novel is Shuri’s mother – I don’t understand how she can see how important Shuri’s work is, and yet thwart her at every turn with her superficial orders. I would be happy with a Wakanda without the Queen Mother. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson - ADVISABLE

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson, 176 pages. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin), 2020. $18 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When ZJ was 10yo, his family started seeing the first effects of the multiple concussions his father, a tight end on a professional football team, suffered. At first the memory lapses are a bit embarassing, but now, 2 years later, the effects are debilitating – and everyone knows that Zachariah 44 will never be back on the field. 

 Set in 1999, before the devastating effects of concussions were acknowledged, Woodson takes us through the descent of one man. She is a master of unfolding the emotional tidal wave. I didn’t even mind that it is written in free verse. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Princess Before Dawn by E.D. Baker - ADVISABLE

 


Princess Before Dawn (Wide-Awake Princess, #7) by E.D. Baker, 212 pages. Bloomsbury, 2018. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Princess Annie and Liam are trying to prepare for their upcoming coronation in Liam’s kingdom of Dorinocco, but Annie’s parents are in need of Annie’s magic dispelling abilities.  Annie and Liam arrive at Treecrest to help her parents, to find the Treecrest castle overrun with unwanted guests. Annie helps disperse the witches, but the bats in the basement are more than Annie knows what to do with.  When Annie realizes they are vampires and seeks help from her friends, she is drawn into the vampire politics of a neighboring kingdom.  

I enjoyed all the books in the Wide-Awake Princess series, and this one is action packed.  Vampires are creepier than any of the villains in the past books, but they make for a suspenseful read.  The violence is PG because the vampires turn some people into vampires without permission, and it never addresses what happened to those characters. This is a great series for readers coming out of the early chapter books because they are short in length and have a lot of action but also good for middle readers who like plot-driven adventures.    

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Princess and the Pearl by E.D. Baker - ADVISABLE

 


The Princess and the Pearl (Wide Awake Princess, #6) by E.D. Baker, 226 pages. Bloomsbury, 2017. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Princess Annie’s father and her uncle both have a frightful disease in which their skin is turning blue.  The blueness makes it’s way from their feet to their heads, and if it reaches their head, then they will die.  Annie asks her friends to help her find a healer who can help, but the only one in the kingdom who can help is in a far-off island called, Skull Cove.  As the friends embark on their adventure, they are in a race against time, as well as the thwarting efforts of Liam’s brother.  

Annie and Liam are fun to follow on most any adventure, and this book is no exception.  I enjoyed the suspense of saving her father, and the creative ways in which Liam’s brother throws obstacles in their path.  A great series for newer readers with a fast plot line and likable characters, and equally unlikable villains.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Brave by James Bird - ADVISABLE

The Brave by James Bird
, 320 pages. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan), 2020. $17 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo Colin is headed to Minnesota to live with his mother – an Objiwe woman whom he has never met. Colin has OCD and it expresses as a need to count and articulate the number of letters in anything anyone says to him. The bullies at his old school harass him every day and the principal feels no need to support or defend Colin, because as he says, “boys will be boys” and “it’s only words”. So now Colin’s dad is turning him over to his mom to see if she can “deal with” him. On the reservation Colin gets to know him mom, his grandmother, and possibly find a sense of community and peace. 

I listened to the audiobook of Brave, provided by libro.fm for review. Because the narrator is an adult, I kept thinking the main character was older – at least 15. SO each time I was reminded he was only 12, I felt robbed. The boy falls deeply in love with his neighbor – and the feelings come off as way to real and intense for a 6th or 7th grader. 15 would have been perfect. That being said – if you can ignore that, the rest of the book is masterful. Colin’s interaction with his family, getting to know is now dead older brother, integrating into the community is heartfelt and lovely. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

That Time I Got Kidnapped by Tom Mitchell - OPTIONAL

That Time I Got Kidnapped by Tom Mitchell
, 320 pages. Harper, 2020. $8 (paperback) 

Language: PG (12 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: G (some danger) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

14yo Jacob Clark has won an all expenses paid trip from his London home to Hollywood to be an extra in a secret superhero movie. When he misses his connection in Chicago, though, he ends up on a bus and involved with a runaway, Jennifer. Jennifer has fled from her grandmother, having grabbed her mother’s ashes and now she is trying to evade the Cowboy, her grandmother’s fixer. Together the pair are on the run (Jacob is just nice that way) and desperate to get to LA. 

Mitchell has written an over the top road trip book. Get ready to suspend belief in order to get into this. Kids who like super silly action will enjoy. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Princess Between Worlds by E.D. Baker - ADVISABLE

Princess Between Worlds (Wide Awake Princess, #5) by E.D. Baker, 210 pages. Bloomsbury, 2016. $17. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Princess Annie and her husband Liam are married and looking to go on a honeymoon.  When a witch gives Annie and Liam some magical postcards for their wedding gift, Liam and Annie are excited to visit all the beautiful places pictured.  They quickly find out, however, that the places they are visiting all have danger in different forms and that there may have been evil intent behind the gift.  

I enjoy the Wide Awake Princess stories, and this journey was creative and enjoyable.  Annie and Liam aren’t deeply developed as characters, and the story is largely plot driven. The series will make the most sense if read in order and the cute cover will appeal to reader’s who love a good princess story.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Princess in Disguise by E.D. Baker - OPTIONAL

Princess in Disguise (Wide Awake Princess, #4) by E.D. Baker, 215 pages. Bloomsbury, 2015.  $17.  

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Princess Annie is excited for her long awaited wedding day to Liam, but everything that could possibly go wrong happens.  Annie and Liam end up on a quest to save the castle against a magical wizard, instead of celebrating their marriage.  They scour the kingdom looking for the help of the powerful fairy Moonbeam, and uncover the plot that is causing the attack on Annie’s family’s castle.  

I usually love the Wide-Awake Princess series, but half of this book was Annie and Liam going from place to place, running into characters from previous books, and it got boring fast.  The second half of the book was the best part of the story and I loved it, but I don’t know if readers will keep reading long enough to get to the good part.  The mention of characters from the other books was also distracting to this storyline because it had been awhile since I read them and couldn’t remember their story.  Overall, not the best book in the series, but I have enjoyed the series until now.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson   

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The First Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch - ADVISABLE

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch, 358 pages.  NON-FICTION $20.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

While George Washington was leading the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, he was targeted by Loyalists as a leader worth assassinating.  The events leading up to the colonies revolt against Britain, and Washington’s rise to leadership are touched on, as well as the Lifeguard Brigade which were Washington’s bodyguards.  The Revolutionary War events are alluded to, but this book mostly covers the men who were involved in the plot hatched by New York’s loyalist governor to kill Washington. 

I enjoyed this side story from the Revolutionary War and the information about the Loyalists tactics.  There are little human-interest stories woven throughout the larger plot which make the reading more interesting.  There are a lot of names to keep track of and it helps to have a working understanding of the overall story of the Revolutionary War, but if you like spy stories you will enjoy this. It’s amazing that our country survived the Revolutionary War, and this story sheds light on one of the little ways it could have turned out differently.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson     

The Missing by Michael Rosen - ADVISABLE

 

The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II by Michael Rosen, 94 pages. NON-FICTION Candlewick Press, 2020. $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

When Michael was young, he never knew what happened to all of his aunts and uncles during World War II.  He knew that they were Jewish and had lived in Poland, but he wanted to know where they went and what happened to them.  This is an explanation of Michael’s search for his family’s story.  He doesn’t have all the details that he would like, but he has a better understanding of what happened and a determination to remember them which he writes about.  

Michael Rosen mixes facts with poetry as he writes the chapter recounting his search for his family and then writes a poem that expresses his emotions and feelings about them and the war.  The poetry is beautiful and moving.  The facts and search for his family isn’t overly compelling, but it does emphasize how so many people lost their families and loved ones during the Holocaust. There is nothing in this book that an elementary age child couldn’t read, but they might need some background on the Holocaust to truly appreciate the story.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Before the Sword by Grace Lin - OPTIONAL

 

Before the Sword by Grace Lin, 374 pages. Disney Press, 2020. $17.  

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – OPTIONAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Mulan’s little sister, Xiu, is bitten by a mythical white spider. Mulan races to retrieve a healer but returns home with a healer who has magical gifts.  Mulan is drawn into a dream-like world, where the healer is a white rabbit, known as the Jade Rabbit, and they are on a quest to find two herbs that will heal Xiu from the spider’s poison. Mulan and Jade Rabbit face many obstacles, the fiercest opponent being a white fox.  Jade Rabbit tells Mulan different myths as they journey, which help Mulan to be courageous and persevere.  

I adore Mulan and with the new movie out, there is a lot of hype, so this book will probably grab attention.  That said, it is a slow read.  The beginning is exciting, but the rabbit often stops to tell a side story as the myths and magic weave together.  The reader must be patient and appreciate the art of a good story, because this is well done, but it is not for your casual reader. The stories come together, and I enjoyed the ending, but the boundaries of the mythical world are often changing and seem conveniently manipulated for Mulan’s success. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung - ESSENTIAL

The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung, 272 pages. Levine Querido (Chronicle Books), 2020. $18 
Language: G (0 swears 0 'f') Mature Content: PG (talk fo boys kissing) Violence: PG (Bullying, fighting) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

6th graders Matt and Eric are best friends, have been since 4th grade. They have a lot in common, especially in their love of comics. Matt plays the flute in the orchestra and piccolo in marching band, and as the only boy flutist, he gets his share of bullying. The worst is Kenny and his sidekick Sean. So, there's some apprehension when the band teacher announces the band is going to a competition in the spring that is a sleep away. The good news is, it's at Adventure World, the bad news . . . Sean and Kenny are in the band, too. 

Although Matt and Eric are teased by the bullies (and pegged by a girl in a comic store) for being gay - because they are such close friends - I love how that doesn't change their relationship. They defend each other and navigate middle school together despite bullies and rumors, and a crisis to their friendship. 

Lisa Librarian

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Last Life of Prince Alastor by Alexandra Bracken - ADVISABLE

 

The Last Life of Prince Alastor (Prosper Redding, #2) by Alexandra Bracken, 437 pages. Disney Hyperion, 2019. $17.  Content: Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG-13.  

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ADVISABLE  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE  

Prince Alastor has been away from his fiendish kingdom for 300 years, yet he is still surprised to find that it is nothing like he remembered.  Alastor and his human host, Prosper, are roaming among the demon kingdom in an attempt to recover Prosper’s sister, who has been kidnapped by Alastor’s sister, Pyra.  Alastor and Prosper, as different as a fiend and human can be, have to work together and along the way find that they actually make a pretty good team.  

What a creative series.  I enjoy Alastor’s sour, fiendish grumpy-ness and Prosper’s kind heart. The first book in the series was easier to understand because it took place in the human world but meeting all the disgusting creatures in the demon world was highly entertaining.  There are funny little moments throughout that made me laugh out loud.  The violence includes a stab wound, blood, a shrunken head and threats of violence.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken - ESSENTIAL

 

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (Dreadful Tale, #1) by Alexandra Bracken, 362 pages. Scholastic (Hyperion), 2017. $17 Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS – ESSENTIAL  

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Prosper is the black sheep of his highly successful Redding family.  When Grandma Redding gathers the family together to talk about their family history, something strange happens with a magical book and Prosper finds himself carried out of the home by a man claiming to be his estranged uncle.  As Prosper listens to his Uncle Barnabas, Prosper realizes that he is carrying the family curse inside of him in the form of a demon named Alastor.  Prosper has to learn how to maintain control against Alastor, figure out the family curse and also listen to some of what Alastor is trying to teach him.  

What an enjoyable read.  I was laughing out loud at times as Prosper and Alastor are hilarious. For those who like the Spiderwick Chronicles as a younger reader, this is the next level of mythical creatures. Also, if you have read The Gates by John Connelly, this felt similar to that as well.  Entertaining and creative.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord - OPTIONAL

The Map from Here to There (The Start of Me and You, #2) by Emery Lord, 353 pages. Bloomsbury, 2020. $18  

Content: Language: R (89 swears; 1 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: G

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Paige and her three best friends are preparing for college and trying to get everything in for their senior year.  Paige is excited/nervous about her relationship with her boyfriend Max, worried about college acceptance letters and nostalgic about her memories with her friends.  As the year progresses, Paige’s anxieties take over her life and she can’t seem to enjoy the journey.  Paige has to learn to be honest and communicate and also to trust those she loves.  

This book was slow and not as exciting as the first book in the series.  I felt like the first book could stand on its own, but in order to read this book you would need the background info from the first book. Paige was frustrating and hard to relate to, even though senior year does come with a lot of anxieties.  I felt like Paige's character was self-destructing for too long, even though the ending had a satisfying enough conclusion. The content includes underage drinking and sexual references. 

Reviewer, C. Peterson