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Showing posts from August, 2013

Fallout

Fallout by Todd Strasser is an alternate history in which the Cuban Missile Crisis ends with an actual atomic bomb going off in the US. It chronicles the days a family and some of their neighbors spend in their fallout shelter following the blast. I was intrigued by the concept, but have mixed feelings about the result.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In the summer of 1962, the possibility of nuclear war is all anyone talks about. But Scott’s dad is the only one in the neighborhood who actually prepares for the worst. As the neighbors scoff, he builds a bomb shelter to hold his family and stocks it with just enough supplies to keep the four of them alive for two critical weeks. In the middle of the night in late October, when the unthinkable happens, those same neighbors force their way into the shelter before Scott’s dad can shut the door. With not enough room, not enough food, and not enough air, life inside the shelter is filthy, physically draining, and emotionally fraught. But…

Dead Ends

I'm going to be honest. I was not expecting to like Dead Ends by Erin Jade Lange as much as I did. I read it in my quest to find more books to recommend to my high school students, and found myself completely caught up in the story and characters.

Synopsis:
Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search.
A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn…

TTT: Secondary Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's TTT topic is Favorite Secondary Characters

I actually did a My Favorite Things Post on this a couple of years ago. Those names are still valid so I'm keeping them on the list (yay for copy and paste!), but there are certainly more I can add.

A friend, family member, teacher, enemy, however they may be connected to the main character there are some supporting characters that capture my attention (and love) just as much.  Some authors (Megan Whalen Turner) are crazy good at making the most minor characters seem fascinating with just a few sentences.  Sometimes, it just depends on who I connect with in a book.  I find myself wanting more of their story, to know what makes them tick.  In some cases I desperately want the author to get to work already, and deliver a novel about that character.  In some cases, I like being left with the devices of my own imagination.  Either way there some se…

The Lost Kingdom

I didn't know much about The Lost Kingdom before starting it. I never read the synopsis. I knew Matthew Kirby wrote it, and as I quite liked Icefall(my review) that was all I needed. I wish I went into more books this way. Not having any idea what the story even is, I'm always pleasantly surprised with what I get. This one is a great read from start to finish.

Synopsis:
In this extraordinary adventure story, Billy Bartram, his father, and a secret society of philosophers and scientists venture into the American wilderness in search of the lost people of the Welsh Prince Madoc, seeking aid in the coming war against the French. Traveling in a flying airship, the members of the expedition find their lives frequently endangered in the untamed American West by terrifying creatures, a party of French soldiers hot on their trail, and the constant threat of traitors and spies. Billy will face hazards greater than he can ever imagine as, together with his father, he gets caugh…

Favorite Quest/Journey Fantasies

A couple months ago when the TTT topic was Favorite Books Featuring Travel, I mentioned how I could do an entire list of just quest fantasies. I wanted the original post to be more travel diverse but said I would revisit this in a My Favorite Things post. And now I have done so.

Above World by Jenn Reece is a truly epic quest. From under the ocean, to the air, to the forests, the main characters are pretty much everywhere there is to be. Except the desert, but they tackle that in the sequel, Mirage. Add to that the sci-fi and tech elements along with tremendous world building and these are not to be missed.

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander is the first quest book I remember reading. I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and completely captivated. (And made oh so angry by the movie.)

Doll Bones by Holly Black does a top notch job of combining a fantasy quest with the reality of an uncomfortable, mostly on foot, modern day road trip.

The Drowned Vault by N.D. Wilson is an action packed, adrenaline…

The Year of Shadows

Claire Legrand is carving a name for herself in the genre of creepy MG literature. She is a pro at writing stories with appeal to children and a Gothic horror feel to them. Her latest novel, The Year of Shadows, is a perfect example of this. My split reader personalities had different responses to this book. All of them loved it, but with a qualification (a qualification you can completely ignore if you don't have a child in the intended age group).

Synopsis:
Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.
Her mother left, her neglectful father -- the maestro of a failing orchestra -- has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.
Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help -- if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.
Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends…

How to Catch a Bogle

Historical fantasy is always a lot of fun, and Catherine Jinks certainly brings the fun (along with the slightly creepy) in her new novel How to Catch a Bogle. This will appeal to kids who genuinely like historical fiction as well as fantasy. It will have to be a reader who doesn't minds sticking with a story that doesn't seem like it's going anywhere though.

Synopsis:
If ever a chill entered her soul, or the hope suddenly drained from her heart, she knew a bogle was to blame. Birdie McAdam, a ten-year-old orphan, is tougher than she looks. She's proud of her job as apprentice to Alfred the Bogler, a man who catches monsters for a living. Birdie lures the bogles out of their lairs with her sweet songs, and Alfred kills them before they kill her. On the mean streets of Victorian England, hunting bogles is actually less dangerous work than mudlarking for scraps along the vile river Thames. (See glossary!) Or so it seems—until the orphans of London start to disappe…

The Bitter Kingdom

This trilogy. My love for it is endless. I really enjoyed The Girl of Fire and Thorns (my thoughts) and absolutely fell in love while reading The Crown of Embers (my thoughts). I have been dying to get my hands on The Bitter Kingdom from the moment I finished reading The Crown of Embers and am grateful to Greenwillow for allowing me to read an advance copy. This ladies and gentleman, is how you end a trilogy. I had all the feels while reading it, and a good book hangover after.

Spoilers for the first two books are impossible to avoid. Go read those before you read this review.

Synopsis:
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she's never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as cha…

Time Fetch

Time Fetchby Amy Herrick is an entertaining read for those who enjoy tales of world's colliding, mayhem ensuing, and children having to band together to save the day. I love stories of this ilk and was delighted to receive an e-galley. It has some strong points, but unfortunately the weak points of the book began to overwhelm them for me.

Synopsis:
Edward picks up what he thinks is a rock. He doesn’t know it is a sleeping Time Fetch—and touching it will release its foragers too soon and alter the entire fabric of time and space. Soon the bell rings to end class just as it has begun. Buses race down streets, too far behind schedule to stop for passengers. Buildings and sidewalks begin to disappear as the whole fabric of the universe starts to unravel. To try to stop the foragers, Edward must depend on the help of his classmates Feenix, Danton, and Brigit—whether he likes it or not. They all have touched the Fetch, and it has drawn them together in a strange and thrilling ad…

Golden

I so wanted to like Goldenby Jessi Kirby. I read many glowing reviews and was enchanted by the concept. It is an engrossing book and I couldn't put it down, but it also made me extremely angry.

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.
Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.
Reading Julianna’s jo…

TTT: Favorite Regency Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's TTT topic is Favorite Books with X Setting. In my case X=Regency England.

 All Jane Austen really, but these two are my favorites.
Harsher than Austen, but still oh so good.
 Magical fantasy fun times in Regency England.
Julia Qunn is an auto-buy author for me. All of her books are set in Regency England and I adore them all, but this is my favorite. And as a bonus, here is the WORST Regency set novel I've read:
What is notably missing from this list? GEORGETTE HEYER Why? I've always wanted to read her books, but am a little scared. I've heard so many great things and I don't want to hate them. Also there are so many and I don't know where to begin. If anyone would like to help me with this I would love to hear your suggestions.


The Ablility

I am a lover of boarding school stories and stories with mystery and intrigue so was excited to discover The Ability by M.M. Vaughan. It has all the elements of a great spy story.

Synopsis:
No one has any confidence in twelve-year-old Christopher Lane. His teachers discount him as a liar and a thief, and his mom doesn’t have the energy to deal with him. But a mysterious visit from the Ministry of Education indicates that Chris might have some potential after all: He is invited to attend the prestigious Myers Holt Academy.
When Christopher begins at his new school, he is astounded at what he can do. It seems that age twelve is a special time for the human brain, which is capable of remarkable feats—as also evidenced by Chris’s peers Ernest and Mortimer Genver, who, at the direction of their vengeful and manipulative mother, are testing the boundaries of the human mind.
But all this experimentation has consequences, and Chris soon finds himself forced to face them—or his new l…

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand is one of those books that I added to my TBR, but felt no urgency to read. Then one day I saw it on display at the library and thought: now's as good a time as any. But soon I was swamped with other things to read and I may have returned it unread if Shelver hadn't read it and started talking about how wonderful it is. So I kept it around, renewed it twice, and finally found the time to read it two days before it was due back. Yes. It is one of those reads that had me wanting to smack myself for not reading it sooner.

Synopsis:
Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers…

Tiffany Aching Series

Aaaaannnnnd now I know why everyone who loved Pratchett before Dodger came out was less than impressed by that book. It's like a completely different person wrote these books. I waited so long to read any Discworld books because I had a strong suspicion I would be hooked. Yet I felt like I could no longer go on as a lover of fantasy, particularly British fantasy, without reading at least the four Tiffany Aching books: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith, and I Shall Wear Midnight. The Summer Series Challenge was the perfect kick in the pants I needed to get this done.

I'm going to do something a little different and not give my thoughts on each book, but instead talk about what I loved of the series as a whole.

Tiffany: I think you should be proud of not being worse than just deeply introverted and socially maladjusted. This was said by an enemy of Tiffany, an enemy trying to convince her to give up. Yet the words are not untrue. Sometimes the truth has more power,…

WoW: Jinx's Magic

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Jinx knows he can do magic. But he doesn't know why he's being stalked by a werewolf with a notebook, why the trees are starting to take back the only safe paths through the Urwald, or why the elves think Jinx and the evil Bonemaster are somehow connected.
Jinx's perilous search for answers takes him to the desert land of Samara, where, according to the wizard Simon, he just might find the ancient magic he needs to defeat the Bonemaster and unite the Urwald. But Jinx finds himself in a centuries-old conspiracy that places the Urwald in even greater danger.
In this second installment of the Jinx trilogy, Sage Blackwood's daring hero is called upon to save the Urwald. The more he learns, however, the clearer it becomes that this quest will require more than the magic of a solitary wizard's apprentic…

The Problem WIth Being Slightly Heroic

I enjoyed The Grand Plan to Fix Everything (my thoughts) by Uma Krishnaswami for the way it presented the mixing of cultures and the inevitable struggle a person living in two different ones experiences. I was delighted to learn there would be a sequel and even more delighted when I was able to read an e-galley of The Problem with Being Slightly Heroic from the publisher.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Dini is back from India—with Bollywood star Dolly in tow! But life in the States isn’t all rose petal milk shakes…Dini and Maddie, very best friends, are back in the same country at the same time! Better still, Dolly Singh, the starriest star in all of Bollywood, is in America too. Dini’s only just returned from India, and already life is shaping up to be as delicious as a rose petal milk shake. Perfect. Then why can’t she untie the knot in her stomach? Because so much can go wrong when a big star like Dolly is in town. All Dini has to do is make sure Dolly has everything she needs, …

Shorter Musings: YA Fantasy

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. Some of those are starting to pile up so I thought I would put them all together in one post.

Here are some MG Fantasy books I have read recently with my thoughts.

I downright hated the end of two of these books and they filled me with quite a bit of rage.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
Honestly if I were rating purely on liking the book this would be a 1 star for me. But I also take into consideration author craft and Johnson wrote the heck out of this book. It is well plotted and paced. Fans of The Name of the Star will find the same thriller-mystery goodness we got in that book. (Which I really enjoyed.) BUT. The end. I know there were people who found it devastating, but could go with it. I am not one of them. I suspected what she was going to do, but was still bitterly disappointed when she did it. I have some major issues with…

North of Nowhere

I love mysteries, particularly ones that appear to add in a touch of the fantastic, so I was excited to read North of Nowhereby Liz Kessler, which I received an e-galley for. I'm so glad I was able to read it as I know this will be a hit with my 4th-6th graders. It will be so much fun to book talk.


Synopsis:
The sleepy seaside village of Porthaven hides a mystery ...Mia's grandad has vanished and nobody knows why. When Mia and her mum go to support her grandma, Mia makes friends with local girl, Dee. But why does Dee seem so out of reach? Why does she claim to be facing violent storms when Mia sees only sunny skies? And can Mia solve the mystery and find her grandad before time and tide forever wash away his future? A night of storms. A lifetime of secrets. A week to find the truth.

I was able to figure out all that was going on in this story early on, almost right away. I knew who all the people were, where they were, and what was going to happen. While this stole some o…