Saturday, April 23, 2022

Red Cicada by Gregg Luke - OPTIONAL


Red Cicada
by Gregg Luke
, 290 pages. Covenant Communications, 2022. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When a seizure at work leads to a hospital visit, Lana (29yo) resists medical attention because of her late father’s warning against x-rays. The doctor ignores Lana’s concerns and discovers a metal disk in the back of Lana’s head that she doesn’t remember being put there. All of a sudden multiple parties interested in the disk approach Lana, and she struggles to uncover the lies of the past and who to trust with her future.

I was ready to chew out Lana’s doctor for ignoring her clear protests – even knowing that the doctor’s actions were necessary to drive the plot. Despite some illogical assumptions, inconsistencies, and contradictions, Lana’s story was made exciting as she worked to figure out what was going on. It was a fine afternoon read.

The main characters are described as white. The mature content rating is for illegal activity and drug and alcohol use. The violence rating is for gun and knife use, mention of suicide, gore, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Facing the Enemy by Paige Edwards - OPTIONAL


Facing the Enemy
by Paige Edwards
, 376 pages. Covenant Communications, 2022. $17.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

At only 27 years old, Elise is facing the probable loss of her chosen career as a field agent for M16 and the possibility she’s never really considered as a future mother. When her old partner, Harry, asks for her help, she agrees to help watch after his son at the castle she grew up in, which happens to be near his new assignment in Scotland. As friend and foe scheme against them, Elise and Harry will learn new things about themselves and each other.

While mostly fun to read, there were a few things about this book that I had a hard time with. Edwards’ transitions often felt choppy, like I had to make unnatural leaps to catch up to the next scene after breaking off from the previous one, and there were a few inconsistencies that made me pause and flip back to make sure I had remembered correctly. If these problems are ignored, the story also includes fun thriller aspects and cheesy romance.

Elise is Scottish, and Harry is English. The mature content rating is for mention of drugs, alcohol use, and illegal activity. The violence rating is for gun use, knife use, and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman - OPTIONAL

The Subtle Knife (Dark Materials, #2) by Philip Pullman, 272 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Alfred A. Knopf, 2022. $22

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (Nursing mother and a woman who is naked, but huddled so nothing shows); Violence: PG-13

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Lyra, who seems to be 13-14 years old, finds herself in a new world void of adults. She runs into another teen, named Will and they band together to try and navigate their own worlds as well as the crazy world they are in that is full of soul-suckers. Soon Lyra and Will learn how to cross back and forth from their world into this adult-less world, as they look for Will's father and try to figure out Lyra's alethiometer.  

I like Philip Pullman's imaginative world and he builds empathetic characters who are loyal and easy to cheer for. There is a lot of bloody, graphic violence depicted, including soul sucking, torture, death, amputating of fingers and drawn out one-on-one combat. I would put this book at advisable, but the violence is upsetting and as the second book, it feels like a bridge without much resolve. I feel like this series probably makes a better novel, than graphic novel. The pictures are dark and atmospheric, but Lyra and Will aren't depicted very well. The major characters are all white.

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Rise To The Sun by Leah Johnson - OPTIONAL

Rise To The Sun by Leah Johnson
, 336 pages. Scholastic Press 2021. $16 

Language: R (20 + swears, 2 “F”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG (gun shots into a crowd) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Olivia and Imani are the best of friends. Olivia is going to be a senior this year. Imani just graduated and is preparing for college. Olivia talks Imani into going on a best friend “road trip” a couple of weeks before they both go back to school. Olivia falls in and out of love as easy as turning on and off a light switch. Toni and Peter are best friends and go to the Farmland Music and Arts Festival together. Toni is a couple of weeks before going off to college. Something that is the last thing she wants to do! Toni is still dealing with the loss of her father. Her father had once come to the Farmland Music Festival and later became a festival “roadie”. It is in her heart to follow in her father’s dream. Toni decides to enter a contest to perform at the festival. Olivia and Toni meet and instantly become friends. Both Olivia and Toni are forced to deal with issues that they need to face. They discover that their relationship has made things much more difficult and complicated. They also discover that they do need each other to help them deal with love, grief, and find what they are both searching for or find who they are. 

I love that setting for this book is at a music festival. It does set the mood for fun, entertaining, and magical. It is very unfortunate how such serious relationships can develop so quickly such as this. I feel that the author was able to relate this story to many of the young readers. However, I also feel the author had many opportunities to capitalize on issues were briefly touched upon in the story, such as texting and posting intimate photos on social media and a gun shooting in large crowds. These topics or story line there could have a valuable lesson to learn for our young readers. These issues are too real in our world today. Leah Johnson did have some wonderful lines that were insightful and meaningful. It caught my attention. The characters are described as have warm brown/black skin. There is a passionate kiss shared between two of the girls. 

Reviewer: Laura Trujillo, 5th grade teacher https://www.kingsenglish.com/book/9781338662238

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A Forgery of Roses Jessica Olson - HIGH

A Forgery of Roses by Jessica Olson
, 368 pages. Inkyard Press, 2022. $16 

Language: PG-13 (11 Swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13 (underage drinking, teen pregnancy); Violence: PG-13 (murder, gore) 

BUYING ADVISORY HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

17yo Myra can alter people's bodies through her magical ability as a portrait artist. But in a world where Prodigies that possess this gift are kidnapped, blackmailed, and even killed, Myra takes a big risk when the Governor's wife hires Myra to paint the most challenging portrait of all - one that would bring the Governor's dead son back to life. After arriving at the mansion, she quickly discovers the death of the son was no accident, and there is now a murderer in the house set on exposing her secret, getting revenge, and ridding the world of all other prodigies. 

 With characters steeping with mystery, and a stunning twist that will leave you speechless, this Dorian-Gray-Meets-Clue murder mystery will leave you re-reading and wanting more. I loved this book and could hardly put it down! While the story is fast paced and intriguing, it’s also easily digestible. The characters are well developed and the world building is done early on and effectively. For fans of the Hunger Games, Matched and Selection series, this fantasy-romance-thriller is sure to become a cult classic. 

Reviewer: Eliza P, HS library assistant 

Jadie in Five Dimensions by Dianne K. Salerni - ADVISABLE

Jadie in Five Dimensions by Dianne K. Salerni
, 288 pages. Holiday House, 2021. $18

Language: PG (1swear, 0 “f); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (peril, injuries, blood) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

13yo adoptee Jadie Martin acts as an agent for the "Seers", ├╝berintelligent beings from the 4th dimension. She uses the 4th dimension as a short-cut to travel anywhere on Earth, performing "course corrections" calculated to guide the world toward a brighter future. But on a seemingly mundane course correction, Jadie discovers her birth family has been the target of interdimensional harassment for over a decade, and begins to unravel the disturbing realities of the 4th dimension. Jadie must find new meaning in her dimensional abilities, uncover the secrets of the Seers, and learn what these all-powerful four-dimensional beings do to a rebellious human girl when they realize she’s interfering with their plans. 

With refreshingly diverse blended family representation, a thoughtful examination behind adoptee trauma, and grand ideas filled with middle school relevant math and science, this science fiction adventure was a delightful read. While the techno-speak can be quite heavy at times, an inquisitive mind that favors math and science will easily pick up the missing pieces and enjoy this thought-provoking book about how our choices influence ourselves, those around us, and the universe as a whole. I’d recommend this to middle school readers, but upper elementary students may find it enjoyable as well. 

Reviewer: Eliza P, HS library assistant 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor - OPTIONAL

Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor
, 358 pages. Scholastic Press, 2022. $19

Language: PG (1 swear); Mature Content: PG (kissing): Violence: PG-13 (death and injuries from magical fire) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Ingrid has always been poor, but when her father was sent to prison for stealing magic, she ended up in an orphanage, as well. She decided then and there that she was going to do something different with her life, and she made a plan to get all the things she didn’t have: wealth, magic, power and influence. During her time at school she met Linken Holt, the son of a powerful Senator and ended up working for his campaign to be president. When she is introduced to the members of the opposing campaign, she is surprised that she really likes what they stand for and she thinks she may have found a place that feels like home. Unfortunately, she is still working for the Senator and doesn’t know how to get out of the agreement she made with him. 

I always appreciate a stand alone story that has great closure, and overall this fantasy story will work for most readers. For me, I lost interest in the story, and I didn’t connect with it or the characters. I would have liked to see more depth to the story and more complex characters that didn’t always fit nicely in their boxes. The author describes her characters with a variety of skin color, genders and sexual orientation. 

 Reviewer: RB 

The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery - ADVISABLE

The Nightsilver Promise by Annaliese Avery
, 289 pgs. Scholastic, 2021. $18

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG-13 (death, fighting, bloodiness, mortal peril) 


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

In 13yo Paisley’s world, everyone’s destiny is determined by the Chief Designer and expressed by a track of stars imprinted on their wrist. When Paisley gets her star track, she’s shocked to discover that it isn’t a complete circle, meaning she’s destined to die before the next new year. The prophecy doesn’t sit well with Paisley and she’s determined to defy it. She has to stay alive to make sure her brother Dax stays safely hidden from those who would persecute him. To make matters worse, there’s a comet hurtling toward the earth that some believe to be a dragon returning to rule the world and mete out justice. Then Paisley’s mom, a renowned scientist, is attacked and kidnapped because she makes a discovery that could shatter their whole world. After a mysterious boy breaks into their house and tries to steal a family heirloom, Paisley, Dax and their mom’s assistant, Corbett, have to figure out how to save their mom and stop the Dark Dragon from achieving her plan to destroy the world. 

Avery's story has an interesting premise and compelling characters. The relationship between Paisley and her brother is sweet and relatable and the theme of choosing your own life path is good for young adults. Paisley is a strong, determined girl who knows her own mind and is a positive role model. There were some cool elements to the world building. The action was sustained and kept my interest. There were a few issues, but none of them were glaring enough to wreck the story. For example, some of the mythology wasn’t fully explored, but may be in future books. Some of the characters also weren’t fully fleshed out, particularly the villain. Some of the exposition is a little clunky, but it doesn’t get in the way too much. I liked it enough to look forward to the other books in the series. 

 Reviewer: Andrea R. https://www.kingsenglish.com/book/9781338754469

Monday, April 11, 2022

You Should Have Seen This Coming by Shani Michelle - ADVISABLE


You Should Have Seen This Coming
by Shani Michelle
, 356 pages. Swoon Reads (Macmillan), 2022. $18.

Language: R (63 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Cassie has only told Audra and Brody about her visions of the future, but all of them worrying about what may or may not happen is starting to interfere with their high school and family responsibilities. Meanwhile, Hayden is using her visions of the past to extort her classmates, which is, admittedly, not the best way to make friends. As their lives and visions intertwine, prejudices will have to be set aside to save a life – or four.

Every piece comes slowly throughout this thriller, and the disjointed visions are a brilliant way to drive the action. Michelle introduces several moving parts that mostly get explained in the end, but it’s not all cohesive enough for readers to be able to untangle the mystery independently. I still have a couple questions, but the book was fun enough to read that I’m satisfied with the time I spent with Cassie, Hayden, and their friends.

Cassie’s father is Korean, and Hayden’s skin is described as “dark brown.” The mature content rating is for mentions of drugs and alcohol, implied sexting, criminal activity (including blackmail and kidnapping), and innuendo. The violence rating is for gun use and mentions of murder and suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Remember Me by Estelle Laure - NO


Remember Me
by Estelle Laure
, 272 pages. Wednesday Books (St. Martin’s Press), 2022. $19.

Language: R (72 swears, 23 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - NO

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Waking up for school should feel like a normal day, but Blue knows that she’s missing something. She just can’t remember what. But the strange note she found in her closet must be a clue. So Blue obeys the note and boards the little blue bus on her seventeenth birthday – one leap of faith that leads to another.

The book cover and summary lead me to believe that the book was mostly about Blue and her romantic relationship. If that’s the focus, I really didn’t like Blue’s story, and I think it would have been better with a sadder ending. However, a new focus arose as I read that felt more like a story of navigating family, pain, and difficult decisions. With this shift, I feel misled, and I’m not sure how satisfied I am with the resolution. Lessons of grief and mental illness are clearly communicated, but I can get that from better books.

Blue and the maternal side of her family are Italian, but her father’s side is not described and is assumed White. Adam is described as “not just white,” and his father is a “brown dude.” Dr. Sweet is described as Black. The mature content ratings is for mention of drug and alcohol use, underage drinking, innuendo, brief description of fondling, mention of rape, discussions of sex, nudity, and oral sex. The violence rating is for mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Dreamweavers by G.Z. Schmidt - ADVISABLE

The Dreamweavers by G.Z. Schmidt
, 272 pgs. Holiday House, 2021. $18 

Language: G (0 swears); Adult Content: G (references to death, some peril); Violence: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

12yo twins Mei and Yun live with their grandpa in a small village in southern China during the Ming Dynasty (1500s.) Everyone in town is excitedly awaiting the arrival of the emperor’s son, who is coming all the way to their village to taste Grandpa’s famous mooncakes, but when the mooncakes taste horrible, Grandpas is arrested and taken to the capital to be put on trial. The twins have no choice but to go to the capital to try to save Grandpa and their village, which was mysteriously cursed at the same time as the emperor’s son arrived. Using their newly discovered magical ability and help from their new friends, the twins are able to find what they need to clear Grandpa’s name and free their village from the curse. 

This is a fun fairytale adventure with elements of Chinese culture, folklore, and history that I really liked. It was well-paced and exciting, with a series of problems the twins have to overcome using their wits and bravery. There’s just the right amount of danger without ever being scary. The main characters are good role models and there’s a powerful message of perseverance in the face of difficulties. I loved the twins’ relationship and how they balance each other and work together using their different skills and personalities. It was also a nice change to have a traditional Chinese story instead of the European stories we usually get. 

 Reviewer: Andrea R. 

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna - AVERAGE

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
, 415 pages. Delacorte Press (Random), 2020. $16

Language: G (0 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (strip search and examination, woman treated as objects); Violence: R (drowning, hanging, beheading, stabbings) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

All throughout Deka's life she has been groomed to become the perfect example of virtue, purity and humility. But when her tribe's annual purifying ritual deems her impure- her tribe and her family quickly turn against her. Soon a powerful stranger comes into her tribe and promises her an opportunity of a lifetime. Deka comes to relize that being impure isn't what it was deemed. With a purpose and a mission, Deka will have to overcome her personal trials to become what she is needed to be, a warrior. 

Forna's The Gilded Ones, was an immersive tale of prejudice, war and freedom. What I enjoyed about this novel was the diverse and exploratory characters it introduced, warrior women plus blood lusting priests but also I enjoyed the overall world building and idea of purification rituals, which I am sure Forna took inspiration from real life examples. What I didn't quite like was the overall plot, a big chunk of it just seemed like a training montage which was anti climatic. 

Kenzie Hoehne Reviewer 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt - ESSENTIAL

 Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt, 322 pages. Atheneum, 2021. $18

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

While Zada, a very old camel, makes it through a storm to a big mountain lion's cave, she thinks back over her life. She was born in Smyrna, Turkey, well cared for by her keeper, Teodor. While Zada was still young, she was given as a gift, along with all her friends, to the U.S. Army. She was transported in a boat across the Atlantic till they reached Texas. There they met many other camels. They helped the army transporting goods from Texas to California and back. Many years went by and Zada was happy. One day Zada and her best friend were set free. They stayed together and wandered by themselves. What will happen to the two camels? The story goes back and forth between West Texas and Smyrna. I learned a lot from this book. I had no idea that the army actually used camels in Texas. It was called the "Great Camel Experiment." There are still rumors that there are wild camels in Texas. This was a most amazing book. I loved it and I recommend it to everyone I talk to. The book is a great read aloud for a class. There are so many things to talk about and discuss. One of my favorite reads this year.

 Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Shelter by Christie Matheson - ADVISABLE

 Shelter by Christie Matheson, 178 pages. Random House, 2021. $17 

Content: G 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

11yo Maya, white, lives in San Francisco with her mom, dad and baby sister. Her dad has been in a bad accident and is in the hospital. Maya, her mom and sister have to move out of their cute, little house and into the homeless shelter. There they get their own room. Maya is embarrassed and feels really bad about the whole situation they are in. The story follows Maya through one whole day. She is hungry, she gets wet, she is worried, and she does not dare share her secret with anybody, not even her very best friend. Once in a while Maya thinks back to how things were before. She has a hard time concentrating, her backpack is stolen by a really mean girl. All the things Maya owns are in that backpack. 

The author did a great job handling such a sensitive subject. She gives great understanding and insight through the way Maya struggles through the day. She is doing her best to be a great student, a great daughter and a good friend. She carries the big secret and it weighs so heavy on her. Maya is strong and tough, yet tender hearted and kind. She tries to help her mom with her sister Gabby, who suffers from a multitude of severe food allergies and cerebral palsy. She tries so hard to be cheerful and kind, yet she has a hard time dealing with all the changes in her life. I admire May and I could not put the book down. 

Ellen-Anita, LMS 

Friday, April 8, 2022

So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens - HIGH

So This is Ever After by F.T. Lukens
, 341 pages. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022. $20

Language: R (85 swears, 35 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (repeated horny teenage boy thoughts, off page “bedroom activities”); Violence: R (repeated bloody violence & gore, repeated mortal peril)

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

What happens after an evil king has been vanquished and a magical law requires the newly crowned hero to bond with a soulmate or die? Arek is trying to figure out this whole "ruling" thing and try to find someone to bond his soul with before his 18th birthday in 3 months. He starts by attempting to woo his quest companions, but it doesn’t ever seem to go to plan. But what if his soulmate was in front of him the whole time? 

A rom-com fantasy with a gorgeous cover? Yes, please. I loved reading In Deeper Waters by the same author a couple of months ago and this book had everything I loved about the first (I should clarify, not a sequel, just the same author). The characters were well-developed, the romantic comedy was blended well with the fantastical setting, and queerness in this world is not strange or unusual, as it should be. Be aware there is a significant amount of language, repeated mortal peril, and bloody fantasy violence but it is a super fun fantasy adventure with great LGBTQIA representation. 

Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund - HIGH

The Sky Above Us by Natalie Lund
, 370 pages. Philmoel Books (Penguin Random House LLC), 2020. $18 

Language: R (100 + swears, 30+ “f”; Mature Content: PG-13 (alcohol & drinking); Violence: R (violence, death, suicidal ideation) 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

The morning after their senior class beach party, Cassie, Izzy, and Janie wake up to the sound of the airplane over their heads. They are feeling groggy after partying all night on the beach. They watch in disbelief along with their classmates as the plane plummets into the gulf. After the bodies are recovered, they are identified as Israel, Nate, and Shane. Izzy and Israel are twins. Ever since they were little, Izzy has always had a strong sense of Israel’s thoughts or feelings. Izzy called it “twintuition”. This was something that annoyed Israel. Izzy doesn’t “feel” that Israel is dead. Nate and Janie have always been the best of friends. Shane and Cassie were high school sweethearts. The girls, Izzy, Cassie, and Janie are determined to find out what really happened that morning. 

Interesting style of writing. The author tells the story by sharing each one of the character’s point of view. The story switches back to 31 days before the crash to the present. Each character shares events that happened leading up to the day of the crash. Izzy, Cassie, and Janie each are left putting together the pieces of friendship, truths, and unanswered questions they have regarding the guys they knew and loved. Going back to the last 31 days of their lives unfolds the ripple effects of this painful tragedy. The characters seem to all default to white, though Israel and Izzy speak Spanish to their parents. The ethnic identity is sketchy at best. 

Laura Trujillo - 5th grade teacher 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Games in a Ballroom by Jentry Flint - ADVISABLE


Games in a Ballroom
by Jentry Flint
, 272 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2022. $16.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

From Emerson’s perspective, he’s been subtly courting Olivia because he doesn’t have a title -- the one requirement of Olivia’s father for her future husband. From Olivia’s perspective, Emerson has been asking her to dance out of pity for her lack of dance partners during her second season. Emerson suggests that they discreetly play tag at subsequent balls as another excuse to interact with Olivia, but Olivia can’t afford to play any games with her heart.

The story of Emerson and Olivia is a fun one because you never know what is going to happen next. Emerson and his friends entertain themselves, and readers, with their constant antics that push society’s boundaries -- and there are a couple games I would love to play myself! Flint balances the seriousness of domestic violence with the joys of fighting for a happily ever after. 

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Threads of Magic by Alison Croggan-OPTIONAL

The Threads of Magic by Alison Croggan, 372 pgs. Candlewick Press, 2020. $19

Language:PG (10 swears, no ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (children in peril)


BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS-OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE


One afternoon, Pip makes the mistake of pickpocketing the wrong person. Finding himself in possession of the Stone Heart, an object steeped in magic, Pip realizes that not only are there people who will stop at nothing to get it back, but he has also unwittingly broken a spell.  The magic that is unleashed will start a war between the witches and rulers of the city, neither of whom truly understand the ancient power they fight to control. 


The story that is presented begins promisingly, but quickly loses its way. The magic system and character development are both vague leading the reader to believe that there may have been a previous book, or even a few chapters left off at the beginning, that would have given the story the depth needed to create a complete world.


Reviewer: AEB


Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes-ADVISABLE

Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes, 336 pgs. Aladdin, 2021. $18 

Language: G (no swears); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (fire resulting in death, vampiric activity, assault)

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH


Leo, a 111to vampire, is about to experience her birthnight, an important rite of passage for all vampires. On this night she will hunt and kill her own prey for the first time.  To succeed will  bring great honor to her family. To fail, unthinkable. Her plan is strong as she has decided to target one of the orphans at St. Frieda’s Home for Unwanted Children. Who will miss an orphan? The plan goes awry when an accidental fire causes chaos and death, but not in the way Leo intended. Now she has to contend with two angry ghosts and the possible destruction of the town all while keeping her family from discovering that she failed her birthnight.

The premise of Leo’s story is original and fun. Throughout the book Leo is someone the reader will root for even as she is attempting to murder an orphan. While a bit violent at times, the story is humorously told. However, the humor does give way to tense action packed moments to keep the reader interested. In the beginning, the author tries too hard to be amusing, which is irritating, but this inclination calms down pretty early on allowing the humor to feel more organic to the characters. The biggest detractors are the neglect Leo experiences from her family and the mistreatment by her friend Minna, which are disturbing and never appropriately resolved. All of the characters are assumed to be white.


Reviewer: AEB


The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith - OPTIONAL

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith, 448 pgs. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. $20


Language: PG-13 (19 swears, no ‘f’); Mature Content: PG-13 (under-age alcohol use); Violence: R (attempted rape, mutilple murders both on and off page, on-page mutilation of a corpse, mention of mutilation of corpses, recounting of episodes of domestic violence)


BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL


AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

 

Frances is a 17yo seamstress surviving in 1911 New York City. She is mourning the loss of her brother who was murdered and has vowed to discover what happened to him. One fateful night, everything changes when a man attacks her and ends up dead. Even though they are her scissors that are stuck in his neck, Frances can find no rational way to explain what happened. Certain she will be condemned for murder a panicked Frances is saved when two nurses suddenly show up and declare that she is seriously ill and must leave with them immediately. Stunned Frances finds herself hustled off to a sanatorium for victims of tuberculosis. Once there, in the midst of her insisting she is not infected, she is informed that she is now enrolled in Haxahaven, school for magically inclined women.


New York in the early 20th century is the setting for a magical realism story, however, characters, and the magic system are underdeveloped. While Frances is put forward as a “chosen one”, what she is capable of and what that means for the world in which this book exists is never clear. Readers will become bogged down in a book with too many causes (women’s rights, white treatment of indigenous people, rich vs poor, industrial working conditions) that are never explored with a plot twist that is obvious from the beginning. In its favor, the characters as they are presented are likable and the historical aspect is in keeping with the time with few perceived historical inaccuracies. The main characters are white except for one who is Native American.


Reviewer: AEB

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Ten Thousand Tries by Amy Makechnie - OPTIONAL

Ten Thousand Tries by Amy Makechnie, 384 pages. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), 2021. $18 


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

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Golden is a soccer-obsessed 8th grader at Mudbury Middle School. Unfortunately, he is also the smallest boy in his grade, the only boy in his family, unlikely to be voted in as team captain, and may lose his best friend if she moves away from him. Worse than all of that is his dad's terminal bout with ALS that isn't going away. 

Golden's fierce attempts to make things stay the way they are will tug at any reader's heart-strings. The way family, friends, and the community rally to support Golden and his family in their struggle is ideal and inspiring. It is a relatively long, somewhat slow narrative, especially given the age-group of its intended audience, but soccer enthusiasts and tender-hearted readers will likely enjoy this story. 

Mrs. V, third-grade teacher 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Pinball by John Chad - OPTIONAL


Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball by John Chad, 182 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL. NONFICTION. First Second (Roaring Book Press), 2022. $25.

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

BUYING ADVISORY: MS, HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Pinball developed over several centuries – perhaps its origins are rooted in lawn games played in ancient Greece! Chad shows the history of pinball from 17th century France to its near-demise in the United States in 1942 to its audience today. Through additions and adaptations, pinball has become the arcade game we know and love today.

I loved every page of this book. The illustrations bring the history of pinball alive, and, intentionally or not, this focused history still shows the developments outside of pinball in the world’s history. Being able to see how even a game is impacted by and impacts the history of countries was amazing to me. Admittedly, this is a very niche subject, but the content is good enough to bring back another wave of pinball fans!

The illustrations made a pronounced effort to depict people of all ages and skin colors. The mature content rating is for depictions of smoking and mentions of illegal activity; the violence rating is for illustrations of guns and mild violence against inanimate objects and video game characters.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen