Friday, May 24, 2013


Wish by Beth Bracken and Kay Fraser. Published by Capstone Young Readers. NetGalley.

I don't know how I feel about this title. The writing fit the age group and I can foresee this being a good transition novel for the girls who are growing out of Fairy Realm but aren't quite old enough for Twilight. This is exactly the publishers and authors intention in this title as well. But this is an odd sweet spot. The older readers won't want to feel like they're reading a book for young kids and the young kids won't read it if it seem too dark or makes them feel uncomfortable. On that end, I think its a better read for the younger kids. It's the pictures that throw me off more than anything. While they are ethereal and dark in the right ways for a book about evil faeries, I feel there are too many of them and they are almost too realistic or dark at parts for the younger readers. What I would love to do is test this title out with some of my third and fourth graders? For the writing itself, I thought it overused flashback or retrospection and didn't stay in the action long enough or expand moments where it could have. Again, I think this was because of the strive to hit a certain reading level. On the other hand, it was very poetic and carried a sadness to it that lent itself well to the themes and the strange magical world.

In this story, two girls are best friends but over a confrontation with a boy, Soli accidentally wishes Lucy away to the faerieground where she is held prisoner by Queen Calandra. Only Soli can enter this world to try to bring Lucy back and discover mysteries about both girls' lives while she's at it.

Questions to Readers: Has a friend ever done anything to you that made you just want to wish them away? What lines should friends never cross?

Read-alikes: the Emily Windsnap books.

Furry and Flo: The Big Hairy Secret

Furry and Flo: The Big Hairy Secret by Thomas Kingsley Troupe. Published by Capstone Young Readers. NetGalley. 

For the Beginning Chapter Book set, I really enjoyed this title. There was the use of underwear humor but at a minimum, the illustrations were cheeky and complimented the text, the action (once it started) kept pace and heightened when needed. There was plenty of mild foreshadowing that mildly hinted at things to come but not so heavy handed that all the secrets were given away early on. I enjoyed the anxious Furry and look forward to him and Flo forming a solid friendship in subsequent titles. There were a few questions I had as an adult reader about character details that I don't think will bother student readers so I was able to let them go. 

In this first title, Florence who prefers Flo, moves to yet another dingy apartment with her mother. Flo is not happy about yet another move and doesn't expect them to stay long but after discovering a boy in his underwear across the hall from her and a case of missing popsicles, Flo soon finds that there is more to this apartment complex than meets the eye. 

Intended reading level: Grades 1-3
First in series

Questions for Readers: If you were Flo, would you try to convince your mother to stay or leave the new apartment? What are your thoughts on Furry's predicament? 

Read-alikes: Notebook of Doom, Looniverse

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

To review or not review?

Having recently begun reading electronic galleys, I wonder if it is better to review something or not if you dislike it. There were two books I started, one of which I couldn't get past the first two chapters and another that I made it more than half way but thought why waste my time reading more. I feel obliged to review them as that is part of the bargain, yet I don't see the point of promoting a book I did not like reading. I suppose it is as worthwhile for people to know what is not worth purchasing as it is to know what is worth reading and adding to a library selection. On the other side, I feel beholden to the publishers who made this galley available to me for free and would hate to lose that connection based on a number of bad reviews.

Since I can't seem to decide, yet the galleys insist I share information after reading. Here is my summary of the two titles I will not be purchasing.

Outcast by Adrienne Kress: YA

Having been raised in a highly religious family, it was hard for me to buy the premise of the book. If angels appeared and started taking people away, everyone in a religious community would be thrilled and believe it to be the Rapture. They would welcome the angels and treat the people who were taken as saints and wonder what else they should be doing to be more like them. Perhaps the author addresses this later in the book, but I couldn't get passed the telling instead of showing that the author employed to try to get me to believe a premise that would never feel real to me even in paranormal fantasy.

Time Tripping Faradays by John Seven: Middle Grade

I was able to forgive some inconsistencies and suspend my disbelief slightly as I knew this was a fantasy/sci-fi book for younger children. My problem came half way through the book when I knew I had more questions noted than answers. Here are just a few of those questions - Why is the shoe business actually important to the story line? How do they speak the languages of the different time periods? How are they able to get in such close confidence with these major leaders? Why are the kids specifically given the chance to time travel? Is this schooling for them, if so why can't other kids do it? I was at page 73 and still wondering what the inciting incident was. I understood that the alchemy storyline was suppose to mean something, but I wasn't sure why I was suppose to care. Nothing seemed to have any real weight, even if you considered they might alter reality in the future, I still didn't care.

So there you first two negative reviews. I wish I could have read them all the way through to give a better overall impression but there is too little time to waste on reading a bad book when there are so many good ones out there.

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. Published 2006b by Speak.

I've already sung my praises for John Green and I'm sticking to it, but at a certain point with so much expectation, not everything can live up to such a high standard. That is a horrible way to start this review, as this book had nothing wrong with it and kept to the Green oeuvre, yet had I read it first or second I may have enjoyed it more than I did reading it third. The characters are quirky and realistic. They are flawed yet grow in just the right way over the course of the novel--not so much to be absurd. There is humor and footnotes of interesting information. All this and more, yet something didn't speak to me the way Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns did. Maybe it was the way the main character is slightly detached from reality, living in his own prodigy brain or maybe I just needed a break from this sort of teen, finding yourself novel, but it took me longer than usual to get through this one.

For plot summary: Colin Singleton is dumped by his 19th Katherine when his best friend Hassan convinces him that a road trip is the only thing that will cure him. They don't make it far when they decide to pull over and see Arch Duke Ferdinand's suppose burial place outside Gutshot, Tennessee. After meeting Lindsay, who doesn't match up with first impressions, they are asked to stay and work for her mother for $500 a week. The boys stay and Colin uses his extra time to come up with a theorem to predict future relationships based on the beginning and end of each relationship with a Katherine. If he succeeds, he will prove that he was not just a prodigy, but in fact, a genius.

Intended reading level: YA (HS)

Questions to the readers: Would you rather be the dumper or the dumpee? Why or why not? What does it mean to truly be yourself? Do you ever feel your in a situation where you are not acting like your genuine self? How do you know the difference?

Read-alikes: See other John Green titles. Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

10 Plants that Shook the World

10 Plants that Shook the World by Gillian Richardson. Published Feb. 2013 by Annick Press.

I just signed up for NetGalley and I wanted to get my hands on a book fast. This title was instantly available and I'm glad it was. Between vignettes, factoids, and history about the main foods that shaped human civilization as we know it, I was happy I was given a chance to read this book before I purchase it, which I will be doing.
The structure of the book is an opening page that introduces the main facts, such as Birth, Likes and Dislikes, of each plant. Following this is a vignette of a person's life that may have been affected by the plant in some way in some time period. There is then a history of how the plant effected the world interspersed with facts throughout. I liked the structure in a general way but I thought the vignettes were a bit superfluous. I would have been happy with an extended history or a briefing of how the plant effects us more in the current time period. I also think the sidebar of facts is always exciting, but the history gets into some pretty desolate stuff and having to break to hear about the dates of cotton inventions seems to trivialize it a bit.  I think a better use of the space for text would be a reflection on how students could combat things linked to the atrocities that happened in the future. Of course, that's asking a lot of the writer.
Those are my big two complaints about the book. Otherwise, I thought it was a great way for kids to learn how something as seemingly simple as pepper, and other plant items, can have such a huge effect on the world. It would be a really great lesson to compare to oil, the stock exchange or clothing manufacturers of today. I also left with some gained knowledge. I didn't know there was no recorded history of how to make paper out of papyrus or that a fair number of cacao laborers have never actually tasted chocolate.

Intended reading level: Grades 3-5

Questions to Readers: If you knew that the every day items you ate were destroying the planet or leading to slavery, would you change your purchasing decisions or what you ate? Why or why not? How can we ensure trade frenzies highlighted in this book don't happen in the future? What was the most interesting fact that you learned?

Read-alikes: Big Wig: A Little History of Hair

Monday, May 6, 2013

Princess Knight: Part 2

Princess Knight: Part 2 by Osamu Tezuka. Published 2011 by Vertical, Inc. Published originally in
Japan in 1953.

I was interested in finishing this short manga series by the Godfather of Manga because of it's gender bending. I wanted to see if he was ahead of his time with more than just art and manga, but unfortunately the ideals seem to still hold two hearts. While on some points its forward thinking--women get the right to vote and be equals as decreed by Prince Plastic once he is given a male heart, but on the other hand--Sapphire is not fully a person until she accepts her female-ness, allowing her to wed Prince Charming. There's a disgraceful scene where she almost marries a female character and both the other female knight and pastor freak out when they find out she is a woman and say that this cannot be done. In moments like this, it's worthwhile to remind yourself that this title was originally written in Japan in the 1950s.

The first volume was so ambiguous about whether or not it was detrimental for Sapphire to have both a male and female heart that I was really hoping there would be some sort of finale that concluded with her keeping both and the characters accepting this as normal. But I suppose that would be my 21st century re-write for this title.

As for the story as Tezuka intended it, there is still a lot of cliffhanging action, slapstick comedy, Disney-influenced character and plot points and a "happy" ending. Worth finishing off the series as its only two volumes.

Intended reading level: Grades 3-5
Second in series

Questions to Readers: 
Would you change anything about the ending? Who Sapphire ends up with? What heart she has? If so, what would you change and why? If not, why do you think Tezuka chose this ending?

Tezuka's Buddha series, Donald Duck comics or other Disney titles

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Scarlet by Marissa Meyers. Published 2013 by Feiwel and Friends.

Another fun sci-fi fairy tale twist, this time with focus on Little Red Riding Hood. But don't worry, Lihn Cinder hasn't been left out. The second book in the Lunar Chronicles opens with the story of Scarlet Benoit in France and the disappearance of her grandmother. Trying to solve the mystery of her disappearance without the help of inept police, Scarlet pairs up with a wayward member of the Wolves,  what she believes to be a vicious gang of boys and men. Meanwhile, Cinder has escaped prison and commandeered a spaceship to try to track down the true story of her past and her relationship to the evil Queen Levana.

In Meyer's second book, she flips between story lines and tells each part through a different character's perspective. We see the world through Emperor Kai's thoughts as well as Cinder and Scarlet, with some other new characters too. This switch between characters and perspectives didn't bother me. Instead, it allowed me to see what was going on through this global story and how all the pieces fit together. I felt their was a lot more action in this book than the first. For some readers this is a bonus for others this might take away from the intrigue of the story line. All in all there was a solid ending with still enough suspense and cliffhangers to constitute the next two books in the series.

Intended Reading level: YA but younger grades okay
Second in series

Questions to Readers: Would you have told the captors your secret or done what Grandma Benoit did? Why or why not? If you found out that you were secretly a queen to another planet, how would you handle the news? Did Kai make the right decision, why or why not? Would you have done anything differently, and if so, what?

Read-alikes: Sisters Red and/or Sweetly by Jackson Pearce, Alex Flynn's books: Cloaked, Beastly, Bewitched, etc., Secrets of WondLa


Requiem by Lauren Oliver. Published 2013 by Harper Collins.

I was so excited to finally finish up this trilogy from Lauren Oliver. Her writing is head and shoulders above a lot of other YA authors in my opinion. There's a lyrical richness to it and the character's emotions pull you through even the most absurd situations. The premise of the whole trilogy is that love, or amor deliriosa, is a disease and must be eradicated through brain surgery when you turn 18. The trilogy follows a Romeo and Juliet style relationship in this world where love shouldn't happen with twists, turns and intrigue along the way. The last book picks up in the Wilds with Lena faced with confronting her first love triangle. I don't want to go into too much detail in case their are readers who haven't picked up the first two books yet.

This book switches point of view in every other chapter between Lena and Hana. I appreciated this choice because I was able to go back into the world we saw in the first novel. This is a device that Oliver employed throughout each book but has changed in some small way. In the first book we were given passages from the Book of Shhh and in the second the switches were between past and present from Lena's point of view. In any trilogy, the story shifts in the second book and pulls us away from what we loved about the first, losing some readers, but the third comes back in full force and brings us full circle to where we started.

Intended Reading Level: YA-Grade 7+ (I have sixth graders that have read it, but I think it would be better appreciated by older readers)
Third book in series

Question to Readers:
Do you think the surgery was effective on Hana? Do you think she may have a relapse like Lena's mother did? What do you think will become of Portland? What do you think will happen to the rest of the republic after the end of the book? Who would you have chosen if you were Lena?

Matched Series by Ally Condy, All These Things I've Done, The Giver series