Thursday, August 5, 2021

Manu by Kelly Fernandez - ADVISABLE

Manu by Kelly Fernandez, 192 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphix (Scholastic). 2021. $13. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL - AVERAGE 

Manu is taken in by nuns as a baby. The nuns run a school of magic for girls, who are witchlings. Manu’s magic is pretty powerful and the headmistress believes she has the potential to help other people with it, though Manu would rather use it for pranks. When one prank goes bad, Manu’s best friend, Josefina wishes for Manu’s magic to disappear. Manu uses a dangerous spell to bring it back, but the spell brings back more than just the magic she bargained for. 

 The author draws from her Dominican Republic background and weaves Spanish words and culture into Manu’s story that makes this appealing. There are instances of demonic possession and Manu and Josephina are attracted to each other. There is a wide-open door for another book as Manu struggles to find who she really is and how she fits in. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Dennis Brutus: Poet and Political Activist by Craig Ellenport - ADVISABLE

Dennis Brutus: Poet and Political Activist (Discovering History's Heroes) by Craig Ellenport
, 133 pages. NON-FICTION/BIOGRAPHY. Aladdin (Simon), 2021. $19. 978-1534462366 

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (reference to beatings, protests, gun shots)

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Dennis Brutus was a South African poet and political activist. He was imprisoned for his work to end segregation in South African athletics, spending time in jail with symbol of Apartheid, Nelson Mandela. Later, Brutus left South Africa, but he never left the fight to end inequalities. 

This is a well-written biographical sketch of a man who did many great things, but is not well known for his efforts or his life. Written as informational text, it may be difficult for readers to connect with the story of Dennis Brutus, as it reads a bit dry despite the dramatic and important events of Brutus' life. 

 Keri, elementary school teacher 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Copycat Science by Mike Barfield - ADVISABLE

 Copycat Science by Mike Barfield, 96 pages. NON-FICTION. QED Publishing, 2020. $16. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Ten categories of STEM topics are explored through the example and examination of what many famous scientists, engineers, and mathematicians have already done throughout history to discover the way things work. Illustrated as a comic strip, each historic figure is described with a brief biography, followed by a companion page that depicts step-by-step directions to explore one of their experiments on your own. The content of this book is both engaging and educational. The wording is clear, and the experiments are all feasible for young (and old) scientists alike. Even if one were not to try any of the experiments, their descriptions add to the understanding of how great each of these people were in the development of their field.. 

My third graders found the material a bit above their comprehension level, but were fascinated by the illustrations of the experiments; they are so clear and understandable that even students this young could use the book to guide their own STEM activities. 

Keri, elementary school teacher and her third grade students 

Big Brain Book by Leanne Boucher Gill - OPTIONAL

 Big Brain Book: How it Works and All its Quirks by Leanne Boucher Gill, Phd, 224 pages. NON-FICTION. Magination Press, 2021. $25. 9781433830457 


 BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

This is, indeed, a big book about the brain and how it works. There are three sections to the book which are further separated into short chapters, each of which is written to answer a specific question about the brain. There are a multitude of text features to help guide the reader through, as well as a final short summary and a "Now What?" section to invite further exploration of the chapter topic. A well thought out, well laid out, well designed book, this is incredibly eye-catching. It is also extremely informative. It is, however, large, wordy, and likely to appeal only to a very narrow audience. It is described as being written for kids who are interested in the brain, and it has met its mark in every way. It isn't an overly easy or generally appealing book to most elementary or middle school readers, unless they have a specific reason to want to research or learn more about the brain. 

Keri, elementary school teacher 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Friendship Book, by Wendy L. Moss - OPTIONAL

The Friendship Book by Wendy L. Moss, Phd, 143 pages. NON-FICTION. Magination Press, 2021. $15. 9781433832291 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS – OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

A guide to help one understand and develop the skills, habits, and ability necessary to friendship, this book is filled with multiple examples of how others have made and kept friends. True to life situations are presented throughout the book. Related questions and answers are examined, with the hope that the reader will appreciate and apply the principles laid out in this book with success. 

This book is extremely wordy. And long. And clinical. My heart breaks for the person who picks up this book with the intent to learn something about friendship because that person is obviously seeking for something incredibly important, and will likely only exacerbate the problem by spending time alone, reading this book. The magic friendship pill or formula isn't to be found in any of these many chapters. 

Keri, elementary school teacher 

Monday, August 2, 2021

To Marry and Earl by Karen Thornell - OPTIONAL


To Marry and Earl
by Karen Thornell
, 212 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Kate has secret plans to be a spinster, for she has seen the pain of love and marriage. However, her father has plans to stop using resources to support Kate. In fact, her father is going to gain resources by selling her hand in marriage to the highest bidder. What if that bidder is a stranger? What if he’s not?

The premise of Kate’s story was exciting, but my expectations went unfulfilled. While I’m not sure what exactly I wanted, I was disappointed by the conflicts which were divided into two categories: repetitive and overly dramatic. Furthermore, I still have unresolved questions. Thornell brings up good points on the topics of forgiveness and love, but the overall story was not great.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, August 1, 2021

All These Warriors by Amy Tintera - HIGH


All These Warriors (Monsters #2)
by Amy Tintera
, 336 pages. Clarion Books, 2021. $18.

Language: R (117 swears, 8 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Seventeen-year-old Clara might only be months older from when she joined the international squad to fight scrabs, but she isn’t the same person anymore. Clara can now kill scrabs without flinching, have ten-minute long conversations with her brother, and joke around with friends that she made. If only Clara could solve the mysteries of how to defeat the scrabs and heal the wounds Julian left in her life -- then everything would be perfect.

Tintera doesn’t beat around the bush; even if it’s been a while since you read the prequel, Tintera drops readers right back into Clara’s story. I was just as engaged in and excited about Clara’s life as I was when I needed this sequel months ago because I finished All These Monsters. Clara and the other characters around her are so real and relatable that I forget they are only imaginary friends. I love Clara and her determination to succeed despite what she believes are her failures, and I love the support she gets from the family she has made for herself. I’m happy that I didn’t have to wait for another sequel to come out, but I’m devastated that the story is over. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, and partial nudity; the violence rating is for blood and gore.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Titanic (History Smashers) by Kate Messner - ESSENTIAL

 The Titanic (History Smashers) by Kate Messner, 191 pages. NON-FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Easy to read format about the Titanic with snippets of graphic novel and plenty of pictures. Younger readers and adults will find the format inviting, making Titanic facts easily accessible. Well researched, with an index and bibliography, even reluctant readers will be pulled into the tragedy of the luxury ocean liner that sank into frigid waters after hitting an iceberg. 

Michelle in the Middle 

The Elephants Come Home by Kim Tomsic and Hadley Hooper - ESSENTIAL

The Elephants Come Home by Kim Tomsic, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. PICTURE BOOK. Chronicle Books, 2021, $19. 9781452127835 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Lawrence and Francoise take in seven elephants into their preserve who have been mistreated, hunted and bullied. The elephants are angry and destructive and in danger of being put down. Though he doesn’t know anything about elephants, Lawrence sings to them and tells them stories. When Lawrence dies, the elephants seem to know and make a lengthy trek back to the Anthony home to be with Francoise, and returned for the next three years on the exact anniversary of Lawrence’s death. 

Beautifully written and touching story about friendship and kindness. Based on a true story about Lawrence Anthony and his unusual friendship with a herd of elephants. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Spark by Alice Broadway - OPTIONAL

Spark (Skin Books #2) by Alice Broadway, 320 pages. Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc), 2019. $18.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As punishment, Leora is told to go to the blanks’ community as a spy, or else put her loved ones at risk. The longer Leora lives with and learns about the blanks, though, the more she questions the history she’s been taught. Who is telling the truth of their history?

Reading Leora’s story was painful for a few reasons. First of all, it’s just as slow as the prequel. Second, Leora doesn’t feel like the heroine because she’s making poor choices that she should know better than to make. I was frustrated that she seemed to have learned nothing in the first book. Lastly, readers go through too much back and forth in not knowing what is real. While I appreciate that Broadway is illustrating how difficult it is to identify truth, the point was executed poorly.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones - ADVISABLE

 Six Feet Below Zero by Ena Jones, 283 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $19. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

A missing will, a dead body, and two orphans who don’t want to be shipped off to boarding and military schools by an evil grandmother. Rosie and Baker’s great-grandmother has been taking care of them since their parents died, until she ups and dies herself. Before she does, she makes them promise to pretend she is alive until her missing will is found. Rosie and Baker are in a fight against time, trying to protect Great-Grammy’s home from Grim Hesper, evil lawyer grandma, who wants to sell it and everything in it, while trying to find the will that will save the farm as it were. 

 Great premise. I like how Rosie and Baker hide the body in the basement freezer and try to keep people from opening it. I especially like Great-Grammy’s character, who has planned way ahead. The story was fun but predictable and dragged out too long. That said, if you want to read about two plucky kids weaving an ever bigger circle of lies, this could be your book. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Fearless by Kenny Porter and Zack Wilcox - HIGH

 Fearless by Kenny Porter, illustrated by Zack Wilcox, 188 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Graphix (Scholastic). 2021. $13. 

Content G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Kara and Alice are best friends until Alice gets accepted into a new middle school two towns away. Alice quits answering Kara’s attempts to get a hold of her. Drawing on her favorite TV show, Shinpi Rider, Kara sets off on her bike to be fearless like her TV idol and find her best friend. Kara faces adventures and misadventures along the way and discovers that friends don’t always stay the same. 

If you’ve ever had a best friend move away, then you can relate to Kara. Kara discovers things about herself and that people change and move on and that other people move into our lives. Themes of friendship, family, and adolescence make this pretty universal. 

 Michelle in the Middle 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting by Tsukiya, translated by Jenny McKeon - OPTIONAL

The Yakuza’s Guide to Babysitting by Tsukiya, translated by Jenny McKeon
, 152 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Kaiten Books, 2021. $14. 

 Language: PG-13 (27 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13; 

 BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Kirishima Tooru is a violent henchman for the Sakuragi crime family. He will do anything for his boss, but he is thrown for a little bit of a loop when his boss asks him to watch over his young daughter. Suddenly, he is playing hide and seek, drawing and coloring, and attending family day at school for this little girl, and wonder of all wonders, loving it! 

I was intrigued by the combination of humor and violence promised with the premise of a yakuza becoming a babysitter. I was a little surprised that it turned into a little slice of life storyline between the henchman and the boss's kid daughter. I found the manga surprisingly funny and heartwarming, despite the organized crime aspects. 

 Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz - ADVISABLE

The Chance to Fly
by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz
, 288 pages. Abrams Books for Young Readers (Abrams), 2021. $17. 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo Nat Beacon is an elite athlete - she is a talented wheelchair racer, but it's not her dream. She's a theater kid loves all the musicals, knows all the show tunes but, she's never actually been in a show. When Nat's family moves to the east coast, Nat sees a flyer for a youth theatre production of Wicked and auditions. She is overjoyed when she is cast in the ensemble, but when the choreographer assumes she can't dance because she's in a wheelchair, Nat and other kids in the cast work together to help her show off her theater skills. 

So much fantastic theater magic - the friendships, the show tunes, the rehearsal warm ups, blocking, tech rehearsals, on stage and off stage drama - the drama kids at your school are going to love this. Tony Award winner Ali Stroker has been there and writes from experience and from the heart. I'm so excited to recommend The Chance to Fly! 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Quack by Anna Humphrey - ESSENTIAL

Quack by Anna Humphrey, 233 pages. Albert Whitman & Company, 2020. $17

Language: PG (12 swears); Mature Content G; Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

10yo Shady Cook doesn’t talk at school. He is a selective mute who has anxiety so badly that he doesn’t even talk to his best friend, Pouya. Pouya is the class clown and is pretty sure the end of the world is coming. When a stray duck enters Shady’s life, it seems to calm him. Anxious to help their son, Shady’s parents get a special permit for the duck to be a comfort animal at school. Wearing diapers, Svenrietta is a hit for the underdogs (or underducks). 

Written in alternating points of view, the author, who raised a daughter with selective mutism, helps throw some much needed light on this form of social anxiety. Shady communicates to people at school through blackout poetry, which is a nice touch. The characters are likeable and relatable, and it’s refreshing to see a supportive family as Shady navigates the sometimes traumatic world of Carlson Elementary. 

Michelle in the Middle https://amzn.to/3x4x0KS

Lin-Manuel Miranda Raising Theater to New Heights (Trailblazers) by Kurtis Scaletta - ADVISABLE

 Lin-Manuel Miranda: Raising Theater to New Heights (Trailblazers) by Kurtis Scaletta, illustrated by David Shephard, 163 pages. NON FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 9780593124468 

Content: G

 BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Lin-Manuel was born and raised in New York City. He excelled in school and he always worked hard. He loved theater and plays and music. He even performed a rap about Alexander Hamilton in front of President Obama in the White House. From that one song grew a whole musical. It was really well received all across the country and it has made Lin-Manuel really famous. He still lives in New York city with his wife and two sons.

I loved this book! Lin-Manuel's story fascinated me and I found his story very inspiring. The story shows that if you find your passion and work hard enough your dreams can come true. I learned a lot about Lin-Manuel and also about what it takes to put on a great musical both on and off Broadway. It was all very interesting. I highly recommend this book. I love to learn about people and this series, "Trailblazers", is great. It was a fast, easy read. Much happy reading to you!

 Ellen-Anita, Librarian 

Be More Chill : The Graphic Novel by David Levithan, art by Nick Bertozzi - ADVISABLE

Be More Chill : The Graphic Novel
by David Levithan, art by Nick Bertozzi
140 pages. Hyperion. 2021. $22 

Language: PG13 (13 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: PG13 (sexual situations) Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Jeremy would like more attention - especially from Christine, a fellow actor in the school's Shakespeare play. But, he keeps a tally of all the things that make him a loser, and Christine isn't interested in him.  But then he talks to Rich after rehearsal and is introduced to a supercomputer pill that if taken will sit in Jeremy's brain and assist him.  for only $600 this pill will make Jeremy popular, and help him win Christine.

Based on the novel that became a Broadway musical, this is a unique story of a nerd turning his life around, and what happens when popularity becomes the main focus.  Illustrated in greyscale with blue accents, the style fits a high school audience best, as does the mature content.  I liked the science fiction element - a computer that takes over a characters brain.  I enjoyed it.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, July 26, 2021

Amelia Earhart: First Woman Over the Atlantic (Trailblazers) by Sally J. Morgan - ADVISABLE

 Amelia Earhart: First Woman Over the Atlantic (Trailblazers) by Sally J. Morgan, illustrated by David Shephard, 169 pages. NON FICTION. Random House, 2021. $8. 9780593124581

 Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

 AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Amelia Earhart was born in her grandmother's house and she had a wonderful childhood filled with adventure and exploring. she had a "cool" mom who didn't believe in dressing girls in fancy dresses. Instead she made her daughters loose pants so they could run, play, climb and explore. Amelia kept a scrapbook of women who inspired her. Amelia started a club called the Ninety-Nines. It was started as a club for women pilots. Today the club has thousands of members all over the world. 

 I have always loved Amelia Earhart. I have read everything I have been able to find about her, from the time I was a little girl in Norway. She was brave and inspiring. As a librarian I bought every book I could find about her to put in my library. I think this is a fascinating book with a lot of details about Amelia's life. I loved the way it was written, with interesting tidbits tucked in between the rest of the text. I highly recommend this book. Read and enjoy!

 Ellen-Anita, Librarian 

Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen and Aaron Becker - ADVISABLE

Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Aaron Becker. PICTURE BOOK. Little Brown, AUGUST 2021. $19. 9780316487672 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

A month after the events of 9/11 a very burnt tree with just a little bit of greenery was found among the rubble. Carted off to a plant nursery, it took more than a year for the tree to recover and begin to bloom again. After almost 10 years, the survivor tree was replanted at the now memorial site, exhibiting the resilience of life of all kinds. 

I had no idea I would read two books about the 9/11 Survivor tree today. I enjoyed both of them and they both support each other. I’e read a couple of other picture books about the tree – both of those told from the tree’s point of view which I did not enjoy as much (look them up on Amazon). I am going to suggest to our creative writing teacher that she use the set of four, maybe five books as the basis of a unit – I think It’d be very informative for students to evaluate them. Enough of that – this in particular is a worthy book besides its usefulness in the classroom. Coleen handles the subject gently and lovingly, infusing hope and positivity into a brutal memory. 

Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson and Gianna Meola - NO

The Spy Who Raised Me by Ted Anderson and Gianna Meola
, 176 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphic Universe Lerner, 2021. $15 

Language: PG (4 swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (graphic novel combat) 

BUYING ADVISORY: NOT RECOMMENDED 

Josie Black has always felt like a slightly underachieving teenager, never quite able to get good marks on tests, or achieve well in sports. Maybe it's because she is so tired, her mother often takes her when she travels for work, and Josie has trouble catching up, on sleep and school. But one day, she discovers that she is really a highly trained secret agent, and that her mother has been using mind control to hide this from everyone - including Josie. 

Oh, this felt like such a good idea - a teenager who is really a secret agent. However the story was constructed poorly, and the art - all in shades of red was terrible. I don't recommend The Spy Who Raised Me. 

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunny Makes a Splash by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm - ESSENTIAL

Sunny Makes a Splash
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
, 224 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Scholastic September 2021 $13 (paperback). 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

12yo Sunny made it through her first year of middle school, but now summer is in full swing and all her friends are busy or away. No one will even be in town for her 13th birthday. Luckily, on a visit with her mom's friend to the country club for a swim, Sunny sees Tony, a boy she knows from school, working the snack shack. When the pool is cleared for "adult swim" and the shack gets super busy, Sunny helps out and Tony's dad offers her a summer job! 

I love this series so much! Sunny is adorable, I enjoy the nostalgia of the 70s - the bikes, the candy, the ice cream - even the country club - reminds me of my 12yo summers at the pool. Sunny's mom is priceless (and exactly like my mom) so suspicious and worried that Tony may have nefarious plans, when he's just a really nice boy. Full color illustrations and a great story. Stands on its own, but your library absolutely needs the whole set. 

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun's Tomb by Candace Fleming - ESSENTIAL

The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun's Tomb by Candace Fleming, 304 pages. NON-FICTION Scholastic Focus September 2021 $19.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Starting with an ancient looting of the tomb, and concluding with present day theories about a curse, Candace Fleming's account of Howard Carter and his discovery and processing of Tutankhamun's tomb is both exciting and gripping. 

I loved the side notes about the deaths of those involved, and how she asked a question at the end of each, inviting the reader to decide whether or not a curse was involved. Full of captioned photographs, a bibliography and source note - budding archeologists as well as those interested in mummies and curses will not be able to put this down. A fascinating non-fiction read.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan - ADVISABLE

The Promise Witch (Wild Magic #3) by Celine Kiernan
215 pages. Candlewick Press, 2020. $16

Language: PG (2 swears); Mature Content: G. Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ever since the deposed queen/witch sent the cursed winter, the weather around the castle has been unpredictable. Now there is a terrible drought. But Mup's mam, the new queen, is trying her best to unite the people; even opening a school for children where they can learn all the magic. But Crow is doing some magic of his own, and when his song conjures a monster, his mother, Magda, returns with a touch that turns things to ash and a mission to put the old queen back on the throne. Mup is compelled to get involved. 

The final installment of the Wild Magic Trilogy is just as creepy and exciting. Wraps up nicely with some great life lessons about respecting others' talents and differences, the strength of community and trusting in your abilities. Kiernan is a talented Irish author, and I hope to see more of her books published in the US.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter - ESSENTIAL

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter,
238 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Graphix (Scholastic), 2021. $13.

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

More than anything else, 10yo Maggie wants a dog. Everyone in her family has someone - she has twin younger brothers, her parents are expecting another baby and Maggie is sure that a dog is the perfect companion. So she visits the shelter and finds the perfect dog, Maggie is in heaven - her dreams have come true. Until she starts itching and sneezing. That's right, before they can even bring the dog home, Maggie has an allergic reaction - in fact, the doctor confirms, it's not just dogs, it's any animal with fur or feathers. So much for getting a family pet. Then, when her best friend next door adopts a dog, Maggie feels personally attacked. How could she do this? Claire knew Maggie was allergic! 

Allergic is fun and angsty - in the same vein as Sisters (Telgemeier), Roller Girl (Jamieson) and Real Friends (Hale), it will find a similar audience. Maggie is realistic, funny and learning a lesson about herself. I loved the illustrations - the pictures of Maggie's itchy arms brought back memories of my own child's allergies. I loved that it wasn't a single story - besides the allergy problem it's also about building friendships, getting along with your family, and starting again in a new school. Buying a few copies, because one won't be enough. 

Lisa Librarian

Friday, July 16, 2021

Friends Forever by Shannon Hale illustrated by LeUyen Pham - ESSENTIAL

Friends Forever
 (Friends #3) by Shannon Hale illustrated by LeUyen Pham,
340 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL First Second, September 2021. $13 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (reference to kissing, creepy adult) Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Shannon is in 8th grade, where her life is even more complicated. Her relationship with her sisters is strained, expectations from her parents are high, and even though her best friend is a boy, her friends have started dating, but no one seems interested in Shannon that way. She gets braces, hates her hair, and can't seem to succeed at anything popular like the class election, or the school play. She's super worried about disappointing her parents, but loses her drive to do well in school. When everything comes crashing down, Shannon wonders if something is wrong with her. 

Friends Forever is a great culmination to an amazing trilogy. Standing alone, but better if you've followed her story, I loved how the topics matured along with Shannon. I loved the end notes, which include help for dealing with mental illness. Shannon's story is raw and at time heart breaking, perfect for middle grade readers who love drama, or need a good read they can relate to. 

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage - ADVISABLE

Nessie Quest
by Melissa Savage,
335 pages. Yearling (Penguin Random House), 2020. $8 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ada Ru's perfect summer would be spent at Disney World - but this summer, the year between 6th grade and 7th grade is going to be a disaster. Her father will be teaching at a university in Scotland, and the family is moving there - for the whole summer! At first she hates everything, the weather, the food and especially her new home - an apartment in what used to be an Abby. But then she meets 10yo Hammy Bean, the "captain" of a tour boat that takes tourists out onto the Loch looking for Nessie - the Loch Ness Monster. Soon, with another summer transplant - Dax, from New York - Ada Ru and Hammy Bean join the chase to prove to the world the monster exists. But there's a problem, Hammy Bean is Blind. 

It was fun to read the dialect aloud - Hammy was such a great character, and I really liked how he was a regular kid who just did things differently because he was blind. I loved Ada Ru's relationship with her Scottish cousin as well as the way she worries about what everyone is doing in Denver without her. A great adventure too, as you can't look for the Loch Ness Monster without going out on the water. 

Lisa Librarian

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

14 Ways to Die by Vincent Ralph - HIGH


14 Ways to Die
by Vincent Ralph
, 400 pages. Sourcebooks Fire, 2021. $10.

Language: R (45 swears, 26 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Jess’s life became a tragedy when she was seven and her mom was murdered. Ten years later, she has a shot at becoming a YouTube star and bringing attention to the murderer, now a serial killer. Her life has been consumed by this unknown killer for years; now, Jess is determined to find clues that will allow justice to punish him.

Characters that try to be detectives without the training of being a detective are difficult to read because half of me cheers them on and wants to see them succeed while the other half facepalms at unnecessary risks when they refuse to call 911 for help. If you find yourself in any of these dangerous situations, please call 911 instead of breaking laws. When I set aside that hang-up, I enjoy that fast-paced, compelling action that goes in solving a mystery. Ralph keeps readers engaged with interesting characters and unexpected connections. I finished reading with a couple questions still lingering, though I’m fairly confident they’ll be answered if I reread the story. The best parts for me were when Jess tries to find balance and life in her grief, which led to some inspiring one-liners now hanging on my wall. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, illegal activity, and innuendo; the violence rating is for mentions of murder and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, July 12, 2021

Up All Night by Laura Silverman - HIGH


Up All Night: 13 Stories Between Sunset and Sunrise
by Laura Silverman
, 352 pages. SHORT STORIES. Algonquin Young Readers, 2021. $18. LGBTQIA CENTERING ME

Language: R (111 swears, 12 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

These authors offer a variety of realistic and supernatural stories that happen through the night -- that  mysterious time when anything can happen as the rest of the world dreams. Some stories are fun and bright, and others are tragic and heavy -- either way, you’re in for an adventure.

All of these authors bring their best to these pages. While working within the confines of a short story, each author made me care about their characters and hope for the best. I celebrated the coming togethers and mourned the falling outs, riding each story with no desire to stop. Please don’t make me choose a favorite because each story had unique elements that had me wishing for the next chapter. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, innuendo, and mentions of drugs and masturbation.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Daring of Della Dupree by Natasha Lowe -- ADVISABLE

The Daring of Della Dupree by Natasha Lowe, 260 pages. Paula Wiseman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), 2020. $18. 

Content: G

BUYING ADVISORY: MS -- ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Most girls at Ruthersfield Academy would love to share a name with their famous founder, but Della Dupree's moniker only serves to show how dissimilar she is to the original Della: she's not brave or creative, she hates to stand out, and she's an average witch at best. But when she uses an off-limits amulet to travel back to the past, she realizes that she and the first Della Dupree have more in common than she ever could have imagined.

The Daring of Della Dupree is technically the fourth in a series, but it stands alone well, with only a few obvious references to earlier books.  Della is a fun character, and her growth feels natural. Although I guessed the main twist early on, it was still enjoyable to see how the story led up to it, and a number of younger readers may still be surprised. The present-day sections at the witch academy felt similar enough to the Harry Potter series to read a bit like fan fiction; those looking for something new may skim a bit, but devotees to Potter's story will find it welcoming. The parts in the past are what really shine, though, and once I reached the time travel section it was hard to put the book down. Lowe brings the past to life, the details are creative and new, and the essential characters are interesting and well-formed. A section at the end provides recipes for everything from lasagna to sweet-smelling pomander balls.

Sydney G., Library Media Specialist

Monday, July 5, 2021

Kind of Sort of Fine by Spencer Hall - HIGH


Kind of Sort of Fine
by Spencer Hall
, 288 pages. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon and Schuster), 2021. $19.

Language: R (79 swears, 2 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

After her public breakdown at the end of junior year, everyone is walking on eggshells around Hayley. She’s forced to lighten her schedule by taking TV production as an elective, and Lewis, another senior, is assigned as her partner. When Hayley overhears Lewis trying to get out of their partnership, she determines to do whatever it takes to prove that she isn’t her breakdown.

Hall has captured a rawness that invites every reader to empathize with his main characters. Though their situations are different, Hayley and Lewis both struggle with being self-conscious, as we all are all about our flaws. The truth is, we are not defined by one attribute or characteristic. We are complex people, and it is okay to be flawed. Furthermore, I like that there is a romantic subplot that sits in the background without taking over the story because the book isn’t about a romance -- it’s about who these seniors discover that they are as individuals. The mature content rating is for underage drinking, illegal activity, innuendo, and mentions of masturbation and sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd - HIGH


Don’t Hate the Player
by Alexis Nedd
, 384 pages. Bloomsbury YA, 2021. $18.

Language: R (167 swears, 12 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Only a junior in high school, Emilia and her mother have her entire life planned out -- her mother just doesn’t know about how Emilia squeezes in time to play Guardians League Online. Emilia keeps her gamer life completely separate from her student-athlete life for both safety and sanity. When Jake catches her not only playing GLO but advancing in a regional competition, Emilia’s two lives collide, and she doesn’t know which one she wants to survive the damage.

I hope everyone finds their Jake or Emilia. I love this book for how Nedd portrays their uplifting and encouraging relationship -- a positive, healthy relationship that readers can actually look up to. Both Emilia and Jake make plenty of mistakes and make their lives far more complicated than necessary, but they move forward through the hard parts together. Turns out, life becomes easier and happier when you are true to yourself. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, sexual harassment, and mention of rape and sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean - HIGH


Tokyo Ever After
by Emiko Jean
, 336 pages. Flatiron Books, 2021. $16.

Language: R (53 swears, 4 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Growing up Japanese-American, Izumi has always felt out of place. And then Izumi and her friends find out that her dad is actually the crown prince of Japan, making her a legit princess. On the trip of a lifetime, Izumi flies to Japan to see if maybe she belongs somewhere after all.

With a fun twist on The Princess Diaries story, Izumi has to learn to navigate being royal in a new country with a language and culture foreign to her. I could tell that a lot of the situations were meant to be funny, but I mostly cringed in embarrassment for her instead of laughing. Thankfully, the cringey parts became less frequent, and I was able to get into Izumi’s story the farther we dove into Japan. I loved learning with Izumi about this culture I’ve never experienced, and I rejoiced as Izumi gained the strength to define herself by putting in the work necessary to gain the family, love, and culture she wanted -- no longer allowing those around her to tell her who she is. This is a lesson I hope to carry with me. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, and mentions of sex and sexual organs.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Friday, June 25, 2021

Hood by Jenny Elder Moke - OPTIONAL


Hood
by Jenny Elder Moke
, 320 pages. Disney-Hyperion, 2020. $18.

Language: R (45 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Isabelle lives with her mother, Marien, in a convent, though Isabelle isn’t really the convent type -- as illustrated by her being arrested. When Isabelle escapes, Marien reveals the identity of Isabelle’s father: Robin Hood. Leaving the convent is scarier than she expects, but Isabelle knows she is going to need her father’s help to save her world being destroyed by King John.

Moke mixes history and fable in her continuation of the classic Robin Hood story. I had a hard time with a lot of the details included because their references were unfamiliar to me. Eventually, everything was explained, but it was frustrating to go half the book while feeling like I was missing something I should have known. Unfortunately, I also wasn’t a fan of Isabelle. She was wishy-washy in her decisions even when the best solutions were obvious. Of course I wanted Isabelle and the good guys to succeed, but I found it hard to root for Isabelle herself. The mature content rating is for innuendo; the violence rating is for blood and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge - OPTIONAL


Lie Beside Me (DCI Jonah Sheens #3)
by Gytha Lodge
, 368 pages. Random House, 2021. $17.

Language: R (129 swears, 50 “f” + British swears); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Louise wakes up with a hangover, she tries to snuggle in closer to her husband. Except that the man in her bed is not her husband -- and he’s dead. As DCI Sheens and his team do their best to piece together what happened while Louise was drunk, they have to wade through lies, red tape, and even the drama in their personal lives.

I found this book much more engaging than the prequel, though I don’t know if it’s because Lodge doesn’t skip through time as much in this one or if I simply enjoyed the mystery being worked on better. Readers get more details and involvement in the recurring characters’ lives than in the prequel as well, and I appreciate the cliffhanger ending because it leaves readers hanging on those personal crises and not an unsolved case. Unlike when I started this one, I’m looking forward to the next book. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use, illegal activity, innuendo, mention of sex, and rape. The violence rating is for blood and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Batpig: When Pigs Fly by Rob Harrell - ADVISABLE

Batpig: When Pigs Fly
by Rob Harrell,
240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Dial Book for Young Readers, (Penguin Random House), October 2021. $15 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Gary was just an average pig, hanging out with his friends Carl (a fish) and Brooklyn (a bat) when an unfortunate (fortunate?) event gave Gary superpowers! Now, in an effort to fight wrong doers, and maybe even supervillains, Gary needs the help of his buddies - he needs his secret kept, he needs a cool costume and a catchy slogan - and maybe some advice. 

We first met Batpig in Harrell's Wink, as a comic Ross used to help make sense of his condition. I loved those panels so much and was excited to see Gary's "origin story". Really funny, and there's a bunch of silly gross stuff -like sticking gum up Gary's nose - that will not only keep the readers engaged, but will leave them wanting more. I know I'll need more than 1 copy of this - hope this is going to be a series.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Double Life of Danny Day by Mike Thayer - ESSENTIAL

The Double Life of Danny Day by Mike Thayer
, 320 pages. Feiwel & Friends (MacMillan), 2021. $17 

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Bullying, Fights, Dangerous Behaviors) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Born on Feb 22 at 2:22am has some advantages for 12yo Danny Day. He lives every day twice. The first is a "discard day" because whatever happens that day is only remembered by Danny and the whole day repeats the next day. That day is a "Sticky Day" and crazy *try anything* Danny from the day before is replaced by a Danny who does well in school, is polite to adults and tries to keep his twin baby sisters out of trouble, because he knows just what is going to happen. Only Danny (and the therapist his parents got him when he was 4) know about this "double day" thing, but, moving from Texas to Idaho brings Danny all sorts of new experiences, including Braxlynn and Jaxson, a mean girl and her bully boyfriend; Noah, who might be cheating at a lunchtime video game gambling ring, and Zak - probably the only person in the world who won't think Danny is completely crazy if he shares his secret. 

Oh, the kids are going to love this! Video gaming, time bending and getting the upper hand on the mean girls and bullies? What's not to love. Couldn't put it down and am going to book talk this to the gamers - both boys and girls. A super great plot idea and well executed.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins by Sarah Miller - ADVISABLE

Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins
by Sarah Miller
310 pages. NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY Schwartz and Wade (Penguin Random House), 2021. $18 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (reference to intimacy); Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Violet and Daisy Hilton were conjoined twins who were born in the early years of the 20th century. Given up by their mother, they were adopted by the midwife who delivered them and immediately put on display. The girls spent their childhood on exhibit, eventually performing in Vaudeville as teenagers. But were the crowds there to see their talents or to see the girls, joined at the back of their spines? Exploited by their caregivers, agents and other people they should have been able to trust, Violet and Daisy knew show business, but could they survive on their own, away from the footlights? 

Sarah Miller is an amazing researcher, many of the sources (including the twins) were unreliable, so gathering all the interviews, court reports, news articles etc. and putting it together into this engaging and historically accurate biography was quite a feat. I really liked it. An interesting story to have in the high school library, but the reader interest may be limited unless its other issues are addressed: individual identity, exploitation, early 20th century entertainment, and the treatment of people who are different.  Includes photographs, source notes and an index.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen - ESSENTIAL

 Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Charlesbridge, 2021. $17. 9781580897167 

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

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

We all know about hibernation for some animals during the winter. But did you know that during the summer, some animals ESTIVATE? That’s right. Whether a few days or a few weeks, during the hot, dry summer, there are some animals which sleep away their time. 

 Stewart introduces us to several such animals and Brannen brings the illustrations to create a very interesting look at this entirely new (to me and to my middle grade science teachers) concept! My 7th grade and my Biology teachers both want to share this book next year. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas Kimberly Willis Holt - ADVISABLE

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas
Kimberly Willis Holt
320 pages. Henry Holt (MacMillan), 2021. $17 

Content: G 


BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Rylee Wilson's dad is Toby from "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town." They still live in Antler Texas, and things haven't changed much in the last 30 odd years. Everyone has gotten older, and their neighbor, Miss Myrtle Mae has recently passed away. Rylee and her best friend Twig have had a falling out, and Rylee is navigating a new friendship with Joe - who recently moved to Antler after his father, a first responder, was killed on September 11th. After Toby receives a photo of himself and Zachary Beaver from Miss Myrtle Mae's estate, Rylee and Joe embark on a search to find Beaver and see what happened to him. 

I loved the connection to 9/11, and the theme that those who weren't there have a different understanding, a different kind of memory about it. Kimberly Willis Holt is a great writer for middle grade readers, although a bit slow, this slice of small town life is a sweet story. More of a companion than a sequel, a recent reading of Zachary Beaver makes it more enjoyable, but not entirely necessary as it is indeed a different story.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, June 11, 2021

Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter - HIGH

Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter
, 349 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2021. $19. 

Language: R (100+ swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (teenage drinking and sexuality); Violence: G; 
 
BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Liz Buxbaum is a quirky high school girl who wears adorably-printed dresses and is obsessed with rom-coms and soundtracks. Liz’s long-time crush, Michael, has moved back into town and she needs her annoying next door neighbor, Wes, to help her get Michael to ask her to prom. As she spends more time with Wes, she begins to realize that he might not be so terrible. However, her lies and schemes to win over Michael are piling up and alienating her from her friends, her stepmom, and eventually, even Wes. Can Liz still get her rom-com perfect ending? 

On the surface, this appears to be a bubblegum sweet teenage rom-com, however, there is some depth to this storyline. Liz is struggling with all the major milestones that come with senior year and still grieving for her mother, who passed away when she was young. She feels like she is losing her mom all over again, now that she is moving ahead with her life. The book does a nice job of balancing the heaviness of her grief with the snappy dialogue between Liz and Wes and the fixes Liz finds herself in pursuing Michael were totally awkward and hilarious. This would be a nice addition to a high school library that teenage girls would eat up with a spoon. 

Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar - PUBLIC ONLY

American Betiya
by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
366 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), 2021. $18 

Language: R (30 swears 21 'f'); Mature Content: R (on-page sex); Violence: G. 

PUBLIC ONLY

18yo Rani was raised in a conservative family. Her parents, both immigrants from India, have high expectations for her, and she must focus on her schooling and her future. No dating, no boys - not even as friends, but when she meets Oliver at an art show, there is instant chemistry. Oliver is Rani's parent's worst nightmare, and although Rani knows their expectations, she lets Oliver know that a relationship is only possible if kept a complete secret from her family. Rajurkar's book is a look at cultures clashing, microagressions and stereotypes in a high school relationship. Rani is trying to become her own person, but as Oliver, who has a rough home life, begins to spiral and their relationship shifts, she must decide between Oliver and her family. 

I loved the representations of Indian culture, especially when Rani was with her cousin in India. This is a great "first love" teen romance, and I liked the tension involved with Rani trying to find her own way without completely cutting off her parents and their wishes.  Thoughtful and realistic, but too mature for a school library.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, June 10, 2021

IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Johnson, Council, Choi, and Ashley Seil Smith - ADVISABLE

 IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi, illustrated by Ashley Seil Smith. PICTURE BOOK. Dottir Press, 2020. $19. 9781948340083 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS, HS – ADVISABLE; ADULTS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

With poetic stanzas, the authors explore many different aspects of intersectionality. The illustrations are the right amount of exuberant and there is lots of great backmatter. Perfect for a talk about supporting each other and the back matter provides an education for parents, teachers, and students alike. My middle school teachers are looking forward to sharing it when school starts in August.

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Love and Lavender by Josi S. Kilpack - ADVISABLE


Love and Lavender
by Josi S. Kilpack
, 320 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2021. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Hazel wants to continue teaching young girls mathematics, and Duncan wants to enjoy his clerk work again without his incompetent coworker. With their current contentment threatened, Hazel and Duncan agree to marry for convenience to receive their inheritances and secure their individual futures. Futures that must wait to begin because the man granting their inheritances requires that they live as man and wife for a year first.

Communication is key to relationships, and I love how Kilpack highlights this principle. With Duncan’s need for transparency, Hazel has to become comfortable with feeling vulnerable and saying what she means. Clear communication is also addressed by Hazel’s brother, Harry, when he expresses a desire to change their relationship to an uplifting and supportive one instead of the sarcastic one they have used to cut each other down. Finally, Hazel must also learn how to interpret her emotions, or the communication between her mind and her heart. There are several references to the previous three books in the series, but this one stands well alone. The mature content rating is for discussions of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant - OPTIONAL


Tell Me When You Feel Something
by Vicki Grant
, 336 pages. Penguin Teen (Penguin Random House), 2021. $18.

Language: R (148 swears, 23 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Davida (17yo) realizes that Viv and Tim were only part of her life for a month and that she doesn’t really know them, she wants to walk away and go back to life before knowing them. But Viv’s in a coma and Tim is lying about something. Despite wanting no part of it, Davida is in the middle of it -- but no one can tell her what “it” is.

Through multiple points of view in the past and present as well as police interviews, Grant skillfully directs readers through stages of understanding. First is disorientation as readers get used to pivoting through time and points of view, second is deceit by giving just enough information to make unconscious assumptions, and third is the lightbulb where all the clues and overlooked details fall into place. The initial confusion was hard to accept, and it took me several tries of picking up and putting down the book to acclimate to how Grant chose to tell the story. Grant addresses serious topics, including feeling responsible for our dysfunctional families and the importance of support systems and values. The mature content rating is for drug use, underage drinking, innuendo, mention of genitalia, nudity, and sexual assault. The violence rating is for mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge - OPTIONAL


Watching from the Dark (DCI Jonah Sheens #2)
by Gytha Lodge
, 352 pages. Random House, 2020. $27.

Language: R (91 swears, 26 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Zoe was the friend who took care of everyone else, putting her friends’ happiness above her own. So why would someone kill her? As DCI Sheens and his team take over the investigation of her murder, they discover that webs of deception are everywhere and everyone has something to hide.

I’m impressed with the skill it took for Lodge to mislead readers while still getting her characters to the correct answer. The ending was satisfying, though I felt that the story as a whole was slow moving. Both of these aspects could stem from how detailed Lodge is for every character and every scene, with the readers never knowing which parts are the important ones because every detail seems highlighted. While technically the second in a series, this book stands well alone; I only felt like I was missing a couple details about the personal lives of the investigators, and they were easy to brush over as irrelevant to the real story unfolding. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, nudity, and mentions of sex. The violence rating is for blood, murder, and mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Traveler’s Tale (Magic Mirror #2) by Luther Tsai and Nury Vittachi - OPTIONAL


The Traveler’s Tale (Magic Mirror #2)
by Luther Tsai and Nury Vittachi
, 131 pages. Reycraft Books (Newmark Learning), 2019. $8.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Miranda (12yo) and her brother Marko (10yo) are still alone after a month of their parents and grandfather, Ye Ye, disappearing. When half a letter is delivered by some odd men from Ye Ye, they tear it open for clues of where he is and read that he’s in danger! Once again traveling through the magic mirror, Mira and Marko hope to save their grandfather.

This adventure takes Miranda, Marko, and readers into the 1200s on a journey through the desert with Marco Polo. While the information about how to survive in the desert was interesting, the actual history part about the Khans in China and about Marco Polo was dry and harder to read than the historical information in the prequel. I still like the concept and hope that the following books in the series are more like the first one.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Fly Home to Me by Chalon Linton - OPTIONAL


Fly Home to Me
by Chalon Linton
, 224 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $15.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

25yo Piper has a presentation tomorrow and needs to get through this traffic before the dry cleaner closes so she can look her best. Piper’s annoyance turns to admiration as she sees the van creating the hold up being pushed to the side of the road by one man in uniform. When Piper tries to do a kind thing for him in turn, he refuses but asks her to get a bite to eat with him instead.

On the surface, Piper’s love story is cute. However, I had a hard time enjoying the cuteness because Piper is the one with all the baggage. While her love interest has some moments of obvious imperfection, he still puts off the vibes of being flawless -- highlighted by the fact that he does little to no changing through the book as Piper struggles to overcome her insecurities to make the relationship work. This unbalanced dynamic feels like a red flag to me, which made it harder to support and like their story.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Heart of the Frontier by Brittany Larsen and more - OPTIONAL


Heart of the Frontier
by Brittany Larsen, Jen Geigle Johnson, Jennie Hansen, and Carolyn Twede Frank
, 304 pages. SHORT STORIES. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Before America had 50 states, there were territories and the Wild West was full of ranchers and cowboys. These four stories tell about characters making their lives out west and falling in love with the land as they do so. And maybe they fall in love with some cowboys, too.

I love cowboys as much as the next girl, but I found it difficult to convince myself to keep reading this book because I was given little reason to care about the characters and their woes. The fourth story was the best one, and it felt rushed where the other three seemed to drag. Overall, it’s just okay.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Sixteen Scandals by Sophie Jordan - OPTIONAL


Sixteen Scandals
by Sophie Jordan
, 256 pages. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2021. $18.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As the youngest of four daughters, Primrose knows exactly what her privileges will be now that she’s sixteen years old and making a debut -- not the least of which includes leaving the nursery. Those hopes are quickly shattered when her mother announces that Prim must wait for her last single sister to find a match before Prim can have her entrance to society. Disappointed and hurt, Prim takes matters into her own hands and sneaks out.

I recognize that the word scandal is literally in the title of this book, but I didn’t expect Prim to be as daring as she was; her story felt like a race from bad to worse decisions. While somewhat entertaining, I was embarrassed for Prim as I read her determination to make poor choices under the flimsy excuse of this one night being her only opportunity to do so. Overall, Jordan’s book is well-written and ends in a satisfying way, despite Prim being frustrating. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and innuendo.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Castle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson - OPTIONAL


Castle of Refuge (The Dericott Tales #2)
by Melanie Dickerson
, 336 pages. Thomas Nelson, 2021. $19.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As the daughter of a viscount, Audrey should have options for her future, but, after an unfortunate accident, her future dims. Audrey puts her trust in God as she runs away, knowing that He can provide for a better life, even if that life is as a servant in the castle where she could’ve been the mistress.

Audrey’s story was a slow read for me because she isn’t the one who changes. Audrey is a Mary Sue character, and Edwin is the one who has a character arc, even though more chapters are from Audrey’s point of view. The story was still cute, just slow and a little repetitive. The most annoying part for me was that Edwin’s family being falsely accused of treason was mentioned countless times with no explanation beyond that it’s been resolved. I learned after finishing the book that the treason part of the story is the main conflict of the prequel. Also, Dickerson’s book is advertised as being a retelling of the Ugly Duckling, but I saw few connections to the original story.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen