03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 12/02/2014

It is 1952, the height of the polio epidemic, Franny is 11-years-old and suffering from polio. She is confined to a wheelchair and all her friends have abandoned her. She is bored and lonely and frustrated until she starts receiving notes from Fleabrain. Fleabrain is the only surviving flea on Alf the dog. He is super intellectual and a voracious reader. Fleabrain becomes Franny’s only source of entertainment during her recovery. Fleabrain also has magical powers and is able to shrink Franny or take her around the world during the night.

This was probably one of the worst books I have read in a long time. I pretty much disliked the story from the beginning. I kept waiting for the Fleabrain storyline to be part of a dream or Franny’s imagination or something. The fact that it was treated as real just made the story so very unbelievable. I think a book about a young girl suffering from polio and everything she had to deal with would have been really interesting on its own and something we haven’t really seen in middle grade fiction. However, the entire flea storyline just ruined the entire book.

30. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Tammy · Tags: ,

Edward Scissorhands # 1 by Kate Leth , 23 pages, read by Tammy, on 11/29/2014

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This beautifully illustrated comic book written by Kate Leth picks up many years after the end of the Tim Burton movie. Eli has shared her stories of the man living in the haunted mansion on the hill with her granddaughter who believes her grandmother. Unfortunately, Eli’s daughter thinks her mom was crazy. This is the first comic in a series. Don’t miss the illustrations by Drew Rausch.

28. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags: , ,

Dragon Champion Bk 1 in the Age of Fire series. by E. E. Knight, 371 pages, read by Kira, on 11/27/2014

632579In this first book of the series, we get the viewpoint of AuRon, the clutchwinner (male dragon hatchling who wins the fight after the male eggs hatch).  AuRon is a grey dragon, and unusual because he lacks scales.  This is his tale from the eggshelf, the death of his parents, his capture by humans, dwarves, elves, his escape, then journey across the mountains, his tenure/apprenticeship with NooMoahk one of oldest surviving dragons, and AuRon’s revenge on the human’s who are enslaving dragons and wiping out the other species of hominids.  This is a fast moving tale with adventure, battles, skirmishes, and an extended apprenticeship with the great black Dragon NooMoahk (I find I usually really enjoy these periods of scholarship in fantasy books).  I enjoyed learning more background about this dragon family.  I also really liked how the author depicted weaknesses that could be turned into strengths (AuRon’s lack of scales).  I also enjoyed being introduced to character’s early on in the book, and then meeting them in their changed (mostly for the better) adult forms later on.  index2LineoftheSiblings2

28. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags: , ,

The Journey - Guardians of Gahoole Bk 2 by Kathryn Lasky, 244 pages, read by Kira, on 11/23/2014

index Soren and his band of owls, search for and find the Island of Hoole with the great Ga’Hoole Tree.  This is a institution of learning similar to Hogwarts.   Here they are divided into different “chaws” or teams that learn a specific skill.  Soren and talkative Otolisa  are placed in the colliering and weather in a chaw where they learn to transport hot coals to use in the smithy.  Evenutally, a bunch of downed owls are discovered brought home to the GaHool tree among them is Soren’s sister Eglantine.  These downed owls are in some weird mental state, that is disrupted with mirrors.    I read this in disjointed bits and pieces over an extended period of time, thus I don’t have a great feel for how good of a read it really is.

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28. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan, 320 pages, read by Kira, on 11/16/2014

51LMS-eZloL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_This selkie tale (tail) is told from a couple of perspectives.  The intro shows the young boys gathering clams (or something like clams) for the dinner table and introduces us to the scary witch  on the beach Misskaella, who is the main character.  Then perspective shifts back to the young girl Misskaella as she grows up and is treated poorly by her family and the island’s populace because she is different, because she has a gift with the seals.  She takes her revenge by creating selkie brides for the male populace.  She becomes the richest most powerful person in town.  She can transform male seals into human lovers (for a time).  We feel sorry for Misskaella and then angry that she could be so cruel.  This was a very engaging read, something of a downer, though the island returns to normal at the tales end.
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27. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks, 309 pages, read by Kira, on 11/22/2014

81617This is a fast-paced urban fantasy novel with romance thrown in.  The protagonist Lily Yu is a detective investigating a murder that appears to have been committed by a werewolf. Or is someone framing the Lupi and planning to wipe them from the face of the earth.  The romance aspect was fine and didn’t annoy me too much.   I look forward to the next title in the series.

 

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19. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, 295 pages, read by Angie, on 11/19/2014

Call Hunt is probably the only kid who ever tried to fail at getting into the Magisterium. Call’s father is a mage so Call knows about magic, but his father hasn’t done any magic since Call was a baby. Call’s mom was killed in the last mage war, leaving only a note that said to kill the child. Despite all his efforts Call does get into mage school and is whisked off to be an apprentice for the most prestigious mage Master Rufus. Along with Tamara and Aaron, Call studies magic and learns to fit in at school. There are the typical school situations, Jasper the Bully, Celia the Crush, Drew the Bullied and of course the unspeakable evil who wants to destroy everything. Call is also given more information about how his mother died, what his father actually thinks of him and the truth behind his background. The last is a pretty big shocker that is definitely going to play out in future books.

I admit that I thought this book was a bit of a chore to get through. The comparisons to Harry Potter are plentiful and this book just doesn’t compare in terms of story and quality. Call is definitely no Harry. In fact, he is an obnoxious brat a lot of the time and not the easiest character to root for. A lot of the other characters just seemed one dimensional and under-developed. The world building is decent, but I thought the magic and the previous wars could have been fleshed out a bit. It is set in the modern real world, but it doesn’t really explain how magic interacts with the world. It seems that normal people don’t know about magic yet there are all these chaos animals out there and there have been a lot of mage wars. Not sure how they keep all that from the general public. This is the beginning of a five-part series; not sure I’ll read the rest but I do hope it improves.

17. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Nightmares! by Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller, Karl Kwasny (Illustrations), 368 pages, read by Angie, on 11/16/2014

Charlie Laird has been having nightmares ever since his family moved into the purple mansion. Charlie’s mom died several years ago and his dad just married Charlotte. Charlie thinks Charlotte is a witch and haunting his dreams. Every night he battles the witch in the netherworld (the land of nightmares). Because he is not sleeping well he has become crabby and mean during the day. He is driving everyone away including his dad and his little brother Jack. One night Charlie goes through a portal into the netherworld. He realizes he may never get back home unless he faces his fears. He has help from a couple of nightmares, Meduso and Dabney, and from his friends who were also having nightmares. Together they must defeat the evil president of the world and his goblin army as well as face their own nightmares so they can go home.

So whenever I see a book written by a celebrity I am usually pretty skeptical. Did the celebrity really write the thing? Was it only published because the person was famous? Is it going to be as terrible as I think it will be? So I had pretty low expectations when I started reading Nightmares! and boy was I surprised when it turned out to be an entertaining read. It think this is a book that is going to appeal to a lot of readers. It has just the right amount of scariness: not so scary it will give kids real nightmares, but scary enough to keep it interesting. I think a lot of kids will also be able to relate to Charlie as well. This is a story about dealing with your fears and facing what scares you. Everyone is scared of something.

16. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet, 314 pages, read by Kira, on 11/14/2014

Witch_and_Wizard_CoverA fantasy novel by one of the most popular (if Not the MOST popular author – I think he has the broadest appeal).  I’d had such good luck with David Baldacci, and Nora Roberts.  Well this time I struck out.  There was way more freaking out than was necessary and also too much immediate foreshadowing “my next decision was stupid, and unfortunately, so was my next”.  I would think someone like Patterson would be good at straight out telling a story, without so much dancing around with the thoughts of the main characters.  Basically two teens wake up in the middle of the night and are taken to jail, after a new order has been elected into office.  Oh, yeah, and they both apparently have major powers, which their parents explained to them, except they weren’t listening.

13. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags: ,

The Capture by Kathryn Lasky, 222 pages, read by Kira, on 11/04/2014

gallery_owl_galleryRecommended by one of our regular teen readers years ago, I now have the opportunity to read this series.  The Capture starts with the protagonist, newly-hatched owlet named, Soren, spending a few weeks in the nest, before his elder clutch-mate Klud, pushes him over the edge (reminiscent of E. E. Knights Dragon series).  From there he gets captured by an evil group of owls, who snatch baby owls, and imprisoned at the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls.  Here Soren meets Gylfie a tiny elf owl, and the two attempt to withstand the brainwashing the academy imposes.

 


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12. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Clariel: the Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix, 382 pages, read by Kira, on 11/08/2014

index2In this prequel to the Sabriel series, protagonist Clariel, is forced to move to the city of Belisaire with her parents.  Her mother is moving to the capital, because it provides better opportunities for her work as a goldsmith.  Clariel hates being cooped up in the city – and is desperate to escape.  She is subjected to having to act properly, and decide whether or not to step into the political machinations.  There is a very funny scene at her first class at the academy – the subject “drinking tea”, where all sorts of etiquette and protocols are to be observed, where the instructor struggles in vain to rein his 5 students in. Throughout the novel, Clariel struggles with doing the right thing versus escaping and gaining her own freedom.  Returning readers will be delighted that Moggett the sarcastic cat-like creature has an extended role.

 

09. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Only Thing Worse Than Witches by Lauren Magaziner, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 11/08/2014

Rupert Campbell lives in one of the only towns with witches and he is fascinated by them. Unfortunately, his mom doesn’t want him to have anything to do with witches. Rupert has the most horrible, sadistic teacher in the world Mrs. Frabbleknacker who gleefully tortures her students on a daily basis. The first time we meet Rupert he is knee deep in the town dump looking for a paperclip Mrs. Frabbleknacker hid. Rupert answers an add in the paper for a witch’s apprentice and meets Witchling Two. Witchling Two needs help passing her magic exams. She has a lot of trouble with her spells. Seems like every spell she says comes out as the rhyme of what she meant. Witchling Two is absolutely hilarious. She has very bizarre ideas about humans. She thinks they cry when they are happy and is always mixing up sayings. She also loves lollipops and is terrified of bunnies. She and Rupert set up her lair in his basement because she is not supposed to associate with humans and will get in trouble if the witch council finds out.

I absolutely adored Witchling Two and her fumbling ways. Her ability to mix up the simplest things was truly remarkable. I liked that Rupert was the sensible one of the group always trying to get Witchling to study and practice for her exams. I also really loved Mrs. Frabbleknacker and how truly evil she was. She is one of the best villains I have read in a long while. Her classes were ingenious and torturous and hilarious. I think this is a book kids are going to really enjoy. It is equal parts mystery, fantasy and humor which is a wonderful mix.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher, 304 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/27/2014

Three interwoven, spine-tingling historical thrillers from the New York Times bestselling author of Incarceron.

Suspense, mysticism, and history encircle three separate but related narratives in this fantasy novel. Today, Sulis, a teenage girl with a mysterious past, arrives in Bath with a new identity, trailed by the person she’s trying to outrun.  In 1740, Zac is apprenticed to an architect obsessed with Druidic mysteries, but has his own secret—and destructive—agenda.  In ancient England, a druid king discovers the healing waters of a magical spring, where he founds a great city, and the heart of Fisher’s story. Through each voice, the mysteries are revealed, linking Sulis, Zac, and the king through the circles of time.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale by Charles de Lint, Charles Vess (Illustrator), 272 pages, read by Angie, on 11/07/2014

Sarah Jane is the middle child of seven red-haired sisters. She has become friends with Aunt Lillian who lives in the mountains above her family’s farm. Aunt Lillian tells Sarah Jane stories about the Apple Tree Man and the King of the Cats and the fairies. Sarah Jane is drawn to Aunt Lillian’s simpler way of life. One day when she is collecting ‘sang (ginseng) she discovers a sangman badly injured. Not wanting to get involved in a fairy conflict but not wanting to let the little man die. She brings the man back to Lillian’s but doesn’t realize the chain of events she has started. She has interfered in a war between the bee fairies and the sang fairies. Soon all six of her sisters has been pulled in and Sarah Jane must figure out how to return the injured sangman and save her sisters.

This is the first Charles de Lint book I have read, but I have heard a lot of good things about his books. I enjoyed Sarah Jane’s story a lot and thought she was very well thought out. However, I kept getting her sisters confused and was never as sure about them as I was about Sarah Jane. I also wished there was more to the fairy story. I know this is a companion to The Cats of Tanglewood Forest which tells Lillian’s story and I kind of wish I had read that one first. I think it would have filled in some of the details I was missing in this one.

06. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 11/06/2014

Arianne and her family live on a horse farm in the 1960s. Arianne’s rock star father abandoned them after her little brother Robbie was born. Robbie is a thalidomide baby with physical disabilities. One night the family goes out to the field to watch the Pleiades and Arianne witnesses a white light jumping in among the horses. Then their old pony Agora becomes pregnant and gives birth to a centaur. The little pony boy, who they name Kai after Chiron, becomes the focus of the family, the stable manager Martha and the vet Dr. Herks. They all pull together to keep Kai safe and away from prying eyes even if it means they lose some of their riders and boarders. Kai is a typical centaur with a horse body and a boy torso and head. He becomes one of the family as he grows at an astonishing rate. Of course no secret this big can stay a secret forever. It is up to the family to figure out how to keep control of the story and to keep Kai safe.

This was an interesting mix of historical fiction and fantasy. I thought it was really smart to set the story in the past because there is no way they would have been been able to keep the secret in the world of today’s technology. I thought it was a great story about a family and the unconditional love they felt for each other. I don’t think I have ever read a children’s book with a thalidomide baby character so this was also a nice piece of history that kids are probably not familiar with. However, I will admit that I was a bit bored by the story. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just seemed very slow story with a lot of repetition.

05. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

Complete Nothing by Kieran Scott, 310 pages, read by Sarah, on 11/03/2014

  What happens when a goddess is banished to earth by Zeus?  Does she still have her powers?  Or will she be on her own to complete her tasks at hand?  True (Eros) was banished to earth and has to match 3 couples before she can be restored to the heavens.  This wouldn’t be so bad, except, the love of her life has been sent down, too.  And Orion has no recollection of who she is.  This fantasy book was pretty good.  I enjoyed the references to the different gods and goddesses and how they could effect True’s mission.

04. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Classics, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Paula

The Little Prince by De Saint-Exupery, Antoine, 91 pages, read by Paula, on 10/31/2014

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“In the exquisite imagery of this fairy tale, the poet-writer shares with children something of the mystic’s vision and wisdom of life”.–New York Public Library.

A beautiful tale of friendship, love and loneliness.  Sad but heartwarming.

04. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Spirit Animals Special Edition: Tales of the Great Beasts by Brandon Mull, Nick Eliopulos, Billy Merrell, Gavin Brown, Emily Seife, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 11/04/2014

Tales of the Great Beasts explores the war of the Devourer and his Conquerors. It starts with the rise of the Devourer and how he became the Reptile King. We then get chapters on each of the Fallen of the Great Beasts: Jhi the Panda, Briggan the Wolf, Uraza the Leopard and Essix the Falcon. We learn how each of these joined the fight, how the Greencloaks first started and how the war ended with the four dying and the two evil Great Beasts being imprisoned. It is a wonderful back story for the Spirit Animals series. I received this book from Netgalley.com.

03. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

A girl runs through the forest covered only in spiderwebs. She has no name but is running towards something. Her path is blocked by a cabin which turns out to be the home of a witch. She rescues a boy captured by the witch and together they set off to their destination. They are headed to Pennyroyal Academy. The girl is going to join the princess corps and the boy, Remington, plans to train as a knight. At Pennyroyal, the girl is given the name Cadet Eleven but shortens it to Evie. Evie becomes friends with a few of the other princess hopefuls in the Ironbone Corps. The girls are training to be princesses so they can go out into the world and fight the evil witches. They are walking in the footsteps of the great princesses like Pennyroyal and Snow White and Cinderella. Princesses are the only hope in stopping the evil witches and their plans to take over the world. The boys are training as knights so that they can fight the dragons.

If Evie had known what being a princess was all about she might not have come to Pennyroyal. Turns out Evie is under a memory curse and can’t recall what her life was like. All she remembers is the last few years with her family: her mother, father and sister. She tried to fly like her sister and almost killed her father and that is when she realized just how different she was from the rest of her family. She ran away because she isn’t a dragon and doesn’t want to cause her dragon family anymore pain. At Pennyroyal Evie does learn more about her background and her curse. Everything comes to a head during one of the training exercises when the truth behind her real family is revealed.

I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would. It is one book that when I finished reading it I immediately wanted another book in the series. I loved the different take on fairy tales; princesses are not born they are trained to become who they are. I really enjoyed the fact that Larson was able to so successful intertwine actual fairy tale stories with this tale. Evie is a fantastic character. She makes mistakes and isn’t the most knowledgeable but she has what every good princess is supposed to have: courage, compassion, kindness and discipline. I can’t wait to see where the next book will go and if it will answer some of the other questions that arose during this book.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

New Orleans! by Giada De Laurentiis, Francesca Gambatesa (Illustrations), 144 pages, read by Angie, on 10/29/2014

Alfie and Emilia are off to New Orleans in this adventure. They find themselves at the La Salle Royale restaurant and staying with the La Salle family. They get to experience New Orleans during the Jazz Fest and help the La Salles solve a mystery. This is again a nice offering from Giada. She really knows a lot about food and the places she writes about. It makes for interesting reading. It also makes me want to attempt to cook some of the dishes she describes.