Quill prevails when the strong survive is the motto of the isolated island of Quill. Children are taught that anything artistic and creative is seen as unacceptable, and only those that conform to the rules of Quill are allowed to survive and succeed. When children reach the age of thirteen they participate in The Purge and are sorted into three groups – Wanteds (who will go on to study at Quill’s university and become members of government), Necessaries (who will do the menial labor), and Unwanteds. The Unwanteds are immediately loaded on a transport and sent to the Great Lake of Boiling Oil to be killed, so they will no longer a blight on Quill’s perfect society. Alex has always known that he will be deemed an Unwanted, but he is still shocked and terrified when he hears his name called during the Purge. Meanwhile, his twin brother, Aaron, has surpassed their Necessary parents and has become a Wanted. Alex steels himself for his fate and with the rest of the Unwanteds leaves Quill forever and faces imminent death.
Except Alex doesn’t die. When they reach the Great Lake of Boiling Oil, the horrifying landscape melts away to reveal a luscious paradise where emotions and artistic abilities are honored and magic is part of the way of life. Alex and his new friends discover that Unwanteds have not been killed as everyone in Quill believes, but have taken refuge in Artimé under the protection of Mr. Marcus Today. Mr. Today is a powerful mage that has been defying High Priest Justine, the leader of Quill, for years. As Alex grows in his skills as an artist in Artimé, becoming a powerful mage in his own right, he cannot shake the feeling of longing he has for his beloved twin brother Aaron, and he vows to find a way to save him and bring him to Artimé. But to do so puts all the Unwanteds and Artimé itself at terrible risk – because if Aaron refuses to come with his twin, Quill and its mighty Quillitary will come to destroy the safe haven that Mr. Today has built.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the ones that follow it in the series. However, I did have a few issues with the world itself. As with any dystopian novel, I want the world to make sense and this world just didn’t at times. For one thing, Quill has fallen into disrepair and segregation within 50 years. The world is crumbling around them, yet the citizens of Quill have become emotionless automatons obeying every doctrine delivered by High Priest Justine. They are so indoctrinated that they see nothing wrong with sending their children off to die. Quill is a desolate wasteland falling into disrepair and Artimé is a land of plenty filled with magic and magical creatures. How do these two worlds exist side by side on a small island? Sure it’s magic, but I wanted a bit more explanation than that. That being said I really enjoyed the story. I love the characters and I enjoyed the magic of Artimé. I enjoyed the creativity of the magic and loved that that the magic spells are those created from the arts: deadly rhyming couplets, invisible paintbrushes, origami dragons, etc. I also really liked that the kids in Artimé were real kids with real emotions and problems. Alex truly loves his brother and wants to be with him despite the obstacles in his way. In order to accomplish that he makes mistakes and alienates his friends. The other kids are equally flawed and perfect as are some of the adults. The Unwanteds is a magical ride that will leave readers wanting to immediately start the next book and the next.
Lisa McMann will be speaking at Missouri River Regional Library on Wednesday, April 22nd at 7 pm.
Wilmer is extremely excited to go to the science fair weekend with his friend Ernie and his crush Roxie. He has a whole experiment planned on bacteria. Once he gets there his excitement dims. His rival Claudia his there with his cousin Vlad and Mrs. Padgett, his biology teacher who hates him, is a judge. The hotel where the science fair is being held is in the middle of nowhere and falling apart and there are these strange announcements all the time over the loudspeaker. Wilmer begins to suspect something is going on and has to figure it out before all the kids turn into zombies.
I am sure this book will find fans with younger readers. However, I thought it was pretty terrible. The story was impossible and the characters were terribly unlikable. It was really hard to get through and I almost gave up on it. Definitely not my favorite.
I haven’t read a Nancy Drew book since I was in elementary school and I am not sure they have improved with age. This is the fifth book in the Nancy Drew Diaries series. Nancy is in high school and has two best friends, George and Bess. George’s cousin Carrie Kim is running for city council on a platform of a new sports complex for the neighboring high school. Someone doesn’t want her to build the complex though and starts sending her threatening notes. Nancy goes undercover at the high school to find out who is doing it.
First of all the title and cover of this book has nothing to do with the story. Nancy never goes into the woods and even though Willow Woods would be destroyed for the new sports complex there is no sabotage. The story was pretty tedious and I ended up skimming most of the book. It is overly simple and not well written. Fans of Nancy Drew might appreciate this new series, but true mystery fans are going to look elsewhere.
The Contract is the first in a planned series of ten by Derek Jeter. It is semi-autobiographical and deals with Derek’s first contract. The contract is between Derek and his parents and it is the set of rules he has to live by in order to attain his goal of being the shortstop for the New York Yankees. His parents are very supportive of his dream, but they have realistic expectations of what he is going to have to do in order to live his dream. In this book, Derek is in 3rd grade and eager to play shortstop during summer baseball. He is disappointed when he is placed on a team where the coach’s son gets the favored spot. Coach Kozlowski not only gives Pete the shortstop position and number 13, but he also ignores Pete’s unsportsmanlike behavior and multiple errors. Derek has to work hard to live up to his contract, respect the coach and his fellow players and do well in school.
This is a better than average middle grade sports story. My one big issue with the book is the fact that the kids are all in 3rd grade. I’m not sure why it has such young characters when all the things that happen seem more like 5th-6th grade situations. All of the baseball stuff seems implausible when the characters are only 8 years old. The kids also don’t talk and act like 8 year olds either. I think the book would have worked better if the kids would have been older. However, if you take away the age of the characters, the situations seem realistic. I also liked that the book doesn’t just focus on play-by-plays of the games, but actually delves into Derek’s life off the field. I think sports fans will enjoy this one even if the readers will be much older than the characters.
Five little girls of the busiest parents in the world become pupils at Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents. Beatrice, Fay, Mildred, Annabelle and Dahlia are all mailed in their special boxes to Ms. Rapscott. The girls have no idea how to act because they have never been taught by their terribly busy parents. Beatrice shouts everything, Mildred spends all day in her pajamas watching her parents on TV, Annabelle reads the Encyclopedia Britannica, and Fay is lost in a family of double octuplets. Dahlia’s box was not properly fastened and is hopelessly lost. The girls must learn how to Get Lost on Purpose so that they can Find Their Way as well as more basic things like baths and brushing their teeth. Ms. Rapscott’s is situated in a lighthouse on the rough seas and provides the girls with comfy beds and uniforms as well as lots of birthday cake and hot cocoa. By the end of the term when they finally find Dahlia the girls have learned how to behave properly and take care of themselves just in time to be sent back home.
This is a book for the younger chapter book reader. It isn’t quite a beginning chapter book but is definitely geared towards 7 or 8 year olds. It is quirky and fun with exciting adventures and silly circumstances. The girls each have their own personalities and defining traits which makes them easy to tell apart. The illustrations are wonderful and greatly add to the story. I’m not sure if this is going to be a series or not, but the ending leaves things open for further adventures.
Prairie Fire is the second and final book in the Story of Owen. It picks up a few months after the first book. Siobhan, Owen and Sadie are joining the Oil Watch as planned despite the terrible events they experienced. Owen and Sadie are dragon slayers and Siobhan has joined as Owen’s bard. She is determined to tell his story despite the fact that her hands no longer work as they did before. She can no longer play musical instruments or compose music, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still hear the song around her.
The Oil Watch is not like they expected. Owen and Siobhan angered the Canadian government with their heroics on Manitoulin even though it endeared them to the people. So not everyone is a fan when they arrive at base. There are a lot of politics at play as the conservative government tries to suppress the new style of dragon slaying Owen is advocating. Despite the opposition they settle in to training and their first posting. They meet a lot of other dragon slayers and support staff and learn more about dragon slayer.
Dragon slaying is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach. It is hard work battling giant lizards who breath fire and acid. It is also extremely dangers as our heroes find out.
This is one of those books that when you finish you are crying horribly and throwing the book across the room. Of course, you immediately go lovingly pick it up and flip back through the story to see what you missed. When I started the book I thought it wasn’t nearly as exciting or interesting as the first one. The action is a bit slower as our heroes are going through basic training and their first posting. But that all changes during the final chapters and you are left wondering what the heck just happened to your world.
This is one of the best series I have read in a long while. The thought and detail that went into the world-building is amazing. I would actually like for E.K. Johnston to write a history of the this world as her next book. I was always fascinated by the little snippets of alternative history she provides about this world and Canada in particular. I wouldn’t even mind more books about the dragon slayers of this story just anything to stay in this world.
The fourth book in the Fairyland saga takes us away from September and Saturday and introduces a new character to love. Hawthorn is a troll baby who loves being a troll till one day when the Red Wind decides he is going to the human world as a changeling. Hawthorn becomes Thomas and looks human, but never really fits in to the human world. There are too many confusing rules to remember like “smiling is very complicated. Scowling works better but you are not allowed to do it except in private” and “I will understand everything when I am Grown-Up. A Grown-Up is a Person Taller Than Me” and “if something is good, it is off-limits”. Thomas keeps a list of the rules in Inspector Balloon, his notebook, but they don’t always help him navigate the human world. They do help when he starts school and introduces the kids in his class to Inspector Balloon though. He particularly likes Tamburlaine, a girl who doesn’t seem to fit in either. Together they figure out that they are changelings and can do magic, which ends up transporting them back to Fairyland and all kinds of mischief.
Things I learned:
“A Changeling is rough and wild, vaguely unhinged, a bit of ariddle, a bit of an explosive, and altogether maniacal when its fur is stroked the wrong way, which is always!”
“A choice is like a jigsaw puzzle. Your worries are the corner pieces, and your hopes are the edge pieces, and you are the middle pieces, all funny-shaped and stubborn. But the picture, the picture was there all along, just waiting for you to get on with it.”
“If you trample upon the rules you may be ticketed, or executed or elected to high office and given a splendid parade.”
“All children are required to attend School, which is like a party to which everyone forgot to bring punch, or hats, or fiddles, and none of the games have good prizes.”
I adore these books. I think Valente might be one of the most creative authors out there. Her way with words reminds me of Terry Pratchett in a way. A reader could spend a lot of time just pouring over her words and phrases. There is something magical and mystical and funny and ironic about the way she writes. I love all her books and will probably read everything she writes.
Alex and company have survived falling off the world, but are now stranded on the Island of Shipwrecks. Their ship has been destroyed, but they are able to bring it to the island and scavenge supplies from other wrecks. Unfortunately, they also have to deal with the constant hurricane that hangs over the island. Back on Quill, Aaron is planning yet another attack on Artime, this time with the help of the Quillitary. Alex and the rest of the stranded heroes have no idea what is happening back on Quill or just how dire the situation is about to get. Things progress in unexpected ways and both Alex and Aaron have to deal with situations they never thought possible.
I am really enjoying this series. I do wish the last two books were already out so I didn’t have to wait to find out how things are going to turn out. I feel like this book moved just a bit slower than some of the other books. The time on Shipwreck Island was not as exciting as Pirate Island or the Island of Legends. I am interested to see what happens in the next books as Alex figures out how to battle the new enemy of Gondoleery and save Aaron from the Island of Shipwrecks.
Magic has been restored and Lani and Samheed rescued. Just when the Unwanteds are taking a break, the island is attacked, which leaves them with more problems than before. But that doesn’t stop Alex from going forward with the plans to fulfill his promise to Sky and rescue her mother from the Pirate Island. The journey takes them beyond Warbler and beyond Pirate Island to the last island in the chain. The quest is not without its dangers as they discover both monsters and friends in the sea. Alex is coming to terms with his new power as Mage and trying to deal with his feelings for Sky. Aaron is also exploring his power as he discovers he is more like his brother than previously thought.
This was another exciting edition to the Unwanteds story. I really enjoy exploring all these other islands with our heroes even as I wonder about the sense in leaving Artime without its strongest fighters when danger still lurks in Quill. This book, like most of the previous ones, ends on a cliff-hanger which made me want to grab the next book immediately.
Island of Fire picks up where Island of Silence left off and things do not look good for our heroes. Artime is gone, Mr. Today is dead and the Unwanteds are in desperate straits. They have no food, no water and no magic. They are leaderless and vulnerable to attack from Quill. Alex is now the head mage, but he has no idea how to restore magic or to save his friends on Warbler Island. Mr. Today’s death left him alone and powerless with no idea how to change things. Lani and Samheed have been captured by the silent residents of Warbler. They have been collard into silence and blinded. They have no idea what is happening on Quill or why Alex has not come to rescue them. All they have is each other and the hope that they will find a way home. Alex becomes more and more isolated as his attempts to save Artime fail. He starts relying on newcomer Sky as a confident. Aaron continues to grow in power and appoints himself High Priest after killing Mr. Today and imprisoning Gunner Haluki.
These books just continue to get better and better. I love that we are now exploring the world outside Artime and meeting people from the other islands. Alex and Aaron are both maturing and dealing with events that most teens their age do not have to deal with. I enjoyed the different ways they reacted to the death of Mr. Today and the destruction of Artime. My one quibble is the fact that both Alex and Aaron are teenagers and have become the leaders of their people. You wouldn’t think adults would be interested in following a young man when there are people with a lot more experience. But of course this is a book for kids so it makes sense that the kids would become the leaders.
The first battle in the war between Artime and Quill has been fought, but the war is far from over. High Priest Justine is dead and the gates of Artime are open for all of Quill. Necessaries flock to the magical world to escape the drudgery of their lives. Artime welcomes the newcomers and allows visits between the two worlds; however, tensions still run high with the Wanteds in power. Aaron has fallen from power, but is determined to climb back up. He starts gathering new allies and preparing to keep the fight with Artime going. The battle with Quill has also made Mr. Today realize he needs to train a successor. He chooses reluctant Alex despite the fact that he is still young and learning. When two strangers wash up on Artime’s shores things get even more complicated. Who are these kids and why do they have iron chokers around there necks and why can’t they speak? Sky and Crow have escaped from another island where they were slaves. Alex, Lani, Meghan and Samheed head to Warbler Island to investigate. Unfortunately things do not go as planned and Alex is forced to choose between his friends in order to escape leaving Lani and Samheed behind. Just as they approach Artime, magic disappears leaving the Artimeans vulnerable to an attack from Quill. The book ends on a desperate cliffhanger that leaves the reader reaching for book three immediately.
The action ramps up in this darker sequel to The Unwanteds. I immediately wanted to start reading the next book as soon as I finished this one (and of course I did). Alex and Aaron are both left to explore their power and figure out how to be leaders. It is interesting how similar and different their paths are. I liked that we got off of Quill and visited another island in this world. The connections between Warbler and Quill are interesting and surprising and left me with additional questions about the creation of Quill. This series is extremely popular and deservedly so. I am thoroughly enjoying it.
Jory’s family is always on the lookout for signs. Signs can be anything and anywhere after all. Jory’s stepfather Caleb is always talking about signs and being ready. Jory’s mother believes in Caleb because he saved her from her previous life. Part of Caleb’s plan is to make sure they have as little contact with other people as possible and that the kids know they can’t trust officials or what others say. Jory has been homeschooled his whole life until this year. Caleb thinks sending Jory to school will help keep them off the radar. Jory’s mom still homeschools Kit, who came to live with them a few years ago when they found her in the pumpkin patch, and baby Ansel. Caleb finally reveals that the plan to save the family is to dig a bunker in the canyon behind the house. So every night the entire family digs and digs and digs. Because he is getting so little sleep Jory’s school work starts to suffer and he starts to question Caleb’s plans.
I am not sure what to think of this book. I really enjoyed the premise, but really disliked the ending of the book. I am kind of fascinated by survivalists and doomsday preppers. Part of me wants to be prepared too, but the other part of me thinks they are all crazy like Caleb. This is a book about family, but it is also about a family with a lot of mental illness issues. Caleb is clearly suffering from some type of PTSD from his days as a soldier. Jory’s mom doesn’t want to leave the house and suffers from migraines. Kit doesn’t speak and we have no idea what happened that led her to the pumpkin patch. Jory seems fairly normal but he is dealing with a lot. So that part was a fascinating look at a dysfunctional family. I think I would have been all for this book, but the ending soured it for me. It is just too abrupt and offers no conclusion for our characters. We don’t know what happens to any of them and we don’t find out anything about Kit’s backstory. I wanted more when I finished reading and wasn’t satisfied with the crumbs I received.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
When a man turns up dead in the cucumbers Flavia De Luce is on the case. Flavia is the youngest daughter of the de Luce family of Buckshaw. She is fascinated with poisons and determined to find out all she can about the dead man. Her quest leads her to her father’s boyhood and a mysterious suicide at his school. It also has her delving into the world of rare stamps and the study of philately. Flavia and her trusty bike Gertrude travel around the area collecting clues and putting the story together.
This was a wonderfully quirky British mystery and a delight to listen to. I loved plucky Flavia and her eccentric family. Even though she is only eleven, she is smarter than many of those around her. I particularly enjoyed how the book unfolded; the mystery was not at all obvious and the reader learned what was going on as Flavia did. I can’t wait for her next adventure.
Beth can’t wait for her 12th birthday. On that day she will finally get the famed “Elizabeth” necklace that has been passed down to every Elizabeth in her family for generations. She is also excited because her French cousins, the Troufants, are coming for her party. Her excitement changes when they arrive however. Her cousin Gabby is a snot with very little time for Beth. Beth has also had to deal with her lady’s maid leaving unexpectedly. She promoted Shannon, one of the housemaids, even though there were other maids with more experience. Then Gabby’s necklace goes missing and Shannon is accused of stealing it. Beth is determined to find out what really happened before Shannon is dismissed.
So little girls and fans of Downtown Abbey might enjoy this book, but it was a bit too simple for me and it seemed very historically inaccurate. First the mystery of the stolen necklace. I had it figured out immediately and actually couldn’t believe it took Beth as long as it did to figure out. Then there is a mystery that keeps being alluded too. Great-grandma Cicely keeps confusing the twins who started the family (Elizabeth and Katherine). It seems obvious that the two probably switched places before Elizabeth married and Katherine went to America. As for the historical inaccuracies, they made me cringe. First you have the butler basically ordering Beth around. Even I know that wouldn’t not have been done in 1914. She is the heir to the house and will one day be her boss so there is no way he would have gotten away with treating her the way he does in the book. The other things are quibbles like Shannon dressing up her uniform and the other maids sabotaging her. Plus you have the behavior of Gabby’s maid Helena, who was just horrible. I knew we were in for an interesting ride when she started giving orders to the housekeeper in front of the family. Stuff like that was just not done. I made it hard to take the book seriously and to continue reading. I think Whitby should have done a bit more research before she started writing this book. I am positive there are lots of books out there that talk about how servants behaved at the beginning of the 20th century.
Wendy has been kidnapped from America by her mother Adrie and taken to Nazi Germany in 1942. Wendy has to quickly become acclimated to life in Germany and with Adrie. Adrie is not only German but a Nazi spy as well. She is devoted to the Fuhrer and firmly believes the Nazi propaganda. Wendy is not so sure and her experiences don’t bring her any closer to Adrie’s beliefs. Wendy rescues a German Shepherd puppy from being killed for not being a mean enough police dog. She also volunteers at a Lebansborn house where children are taken to become the future of the Aryan state. At the Lebansborn, Wendy meets Johanna who is being reeducated for not giving up her religious beliefs. Wendy also becomes friends with a blind boy named Barrett whose grandfather Opa knew Wendy’s father. When Wendy decides she has to leave Germany, Opa is the one to get her out.
This was a different take than most WWII historical fiction books for kids in that it shows the German side of the war. Wendy has a tough time acclimating because she is not used to the restrictions on thought and speech that the Nazis required of the people. Part of me wishes Wendy had been Germany and come to the realization that she couldn’t live with what the Nazis were doing. I think that would have been even more powerful. As it was this was a really good book about life inside Nazi Germany.
This is a companion novel to Shooting Kabul, but you don’t have to read that book to enjoy this one. Ariana’s family owns Kabul Corner, the Afghanistan grocery store in Wong Plaza. They are crushed when a rival store opens across the plaza. Not only is Pamir Market a new store, but it is run by a rival family from Afghanistan. When both stores are vandalized, Ariana and her friends realize neither of the families did it. So Ariana, her cousin Laila, friend Miriam and frenemy Wali investigate and uncover who is really behind the sabotage.
I really enjoy books about different cultures and I haven’t read much about Afghanistan. I liked the mix of people who had immigrated years before, people born in America and recent immigrants. It gives the reader a nice mix to the story’s of the characters. I also liked the fact that the families were a nice multi-generational mix. I thought the mystery was a bit far-fetched but maybe that was just the fact that the kids solved it without adult help. It did make me want to read the first book which is about Miriam however.
Rory, Chase and Lena are students at Ever After School and known as the triumvirate. They are training to become characters in fairy tales. When a thousand kids disappear from Portland they know another tale has begun. The Pied Piper has stolen the children for the Snow Queen who has escaped her prison in the Glass Mountain. The triumvirate must travel to the arctic circle and free the kids without being taken by the Snow Queen. Along the way they meet old enemies and new friends. They must keep their wits about them and use what skills they have learned at Ever After School in order to survive.
I really enjoy fractured fairy tales and even though I started with book 3 of this series I can tell it is a fun one. It seems like there are several series with schools for fairy tale characters and it makes for a fun premise. We don’t get to spend a lot of time in the school, but I enjoyed the fact that Rumpelstiltskin was the librarian and Rapunzel was kind of the crazy seer. Rory, Chase and Lena are fun characters and their quest is full of adventure, danger and heroics. I might just have to go back and read the earlier books and of course the final book when it comes out.
Zoey is running out of her prize money and needs to think of a way to make more money so she can buy more fabric. When her Aunt Lulu drops off Draper the dog she has a brainstorm. She makes an adogable doggie outfit for Draper and decides to start a business selling it. Her brother and dad help her set up a funding project online and things go great. Zoey is also dealing with the fact that her dad has started dating and one of her friends is feeling left out. When Draper dies things seem awfully sad, but Lulu gets a new dog Buttons who everyone loves just like Draper.
This was a cute if not stellar book. Zoey goes through a lot of things that other kids her age have to deal with. Of course most middle schoolers don’t start their own businesses or win national contests. I liked the dog part of the story a lot, but the rest of it seemed to get a bit much for me; or maybe just not enough.
This is the first book of this series I have read. It is a good beginning chapter book for the kids who want to read Rick Riordan but aren’t quite ready. It is a short adventure story with lots of action and interesting characters. In this book, the Olympians are headed off to fight for the aegis (a shield). The meet Ares along the way and invite him to join their group. Nice introduction to Greek mythology and a fun story.
The Kicks are the middle school girls’s soccer team and they are headed for the championship. Devin is the seventh grade co-captain and new in town. Things get heated on the team when Devin is misquoted in the local paper. Suddenly it is is seventh graders against eighth graders and the team is not working together just when they really need to. I’m not a huge fan of sports stars writing books, mainly because the majority of them do not write well and it seems like they get published just because of their name. This book wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t anything spectacular either. There are some good lessons about friendship and teamwork in the book. There aren’t a lot of girls sports book so this does fill a need.