Elisa is now queen of Joya d’Arena. She finds that ruling a country is very different than running a rebellion. Her rule is not as stable as she had hoped however. Invierno still wants her and her living godstone. Her advisors and court are working against her. She must become a strong queen, but she isn’t sure how. She must find the source of her power, but she doesn’t know where to look. This is a story about strength: finding it, keeping it and using it.
Elisa must outwit her opponents and survive her enemies. She must travel to the south to find the source of magic in her world. It is a journey fraught with danger and awakening. The group is pursued by assassins, but Elisa also comes to realize some things about herself. She believes that finding the source of the magic will help her connect with her godstone and rule like she is supposed to. She also starts to acknowledge her feelings for her royal guard Hector. This is a time when Elisa comes to terms with who she can trust and who is working against her.
I love all the political intrigue and court politics that Carson brings into these books. She expertly weaves it into the plot and the adventure. I love the relationship that develops between Elisa and Hector. It is sweet and heart-wrenching and makes you cheer for them. I loved the ending as well…not because of what happened but because of Elisa’s reaction to it. She is finally the kind of queen she needs to be and the kind of queen who will save her land.
There is something about this books that really sucks you in. I love the story of Elisa the reluctant princess with the godstone in her belly who becomes the symbol of a revolution and its leader. This is a coming of age story; a story about a girl who becomes the woman she was meant to be. It is not an easy journey for Elisa, but she endures, she perseveres and she triumphs.
I love the fact that Elisa is not your typical heroine. For one thing she is fat. There is never a fat princess main character in teen books. She is fat and she really doesn’t care in this book. She likes food and she eats it. She isn’t really happy with her body but she doesn’t bemoan the fact that she is fat. She is who she is. Sure she eventually slims down, but that is because of the lifestyle she comes to lead. She is forced to become a different person than the pampered princess who she started out as. I think her journey is amazing. She grows so much in this book. You can see the changes in her and those around her as her circumstances change.
I like that Carson is also not afraid to make hard decisions in her writing. She kills main characters, she makes people have questionable motives, she makes us as readers ask questions, and she makes her central plot all about religion. This may turn some people off, but it is essential to the story. This is a book that revolves around a religion. Elisa is the bearer of the godstone which means she is connected to God. Even though the plot is religious it doesn’t get heavy handed or preachy. It is just part of the plot which I appreciate.
I also appreciate that even though this is part of a planned trilogy this book can stand on its own. It ends in a good place and really doesn’t need more books if you don’t want to read more about this world. However, the rest of the series is just as amazing and you won’t want to miss it. Rae Carson has created a world and a heroine you can truly root for. She is as badass as Katniss with just a little bit more emotional depth. She is proactive and smart and brave and you believe she can lead a rebellion or become a queen.
Another wonderful novella telling the backstory of Hector in the Fire and Thorns world. Hector is a page for King Alejandro and wants to be a Kings Guard. Alejandro pulls him out of the trials to undertake a mission for him. Hector and two others, Lucio and Fernando, must find the Queen’s cousin and bring her back. Of course things don’t go quite as planned, but it does highlight Hector’s leadership abilities even at the age of 15. It is great to learn more about this pivotal character in this fantastic world Rae Carson has created.
Wonderful novella from the Fire and Thorns world. The events in this book take place before The Girl of Fire and Thorns. Alodia and Elisa head to a wedding. Once there they come across the shadow cats. Seems these jaguars have been terrorizing the area. The people believe the upcoming wedding may be to blame for the shadow cats and the blight on the land. When a young girl goes missing Alodia takes off to find her. She discovers what’s really happening and takes care of it. All ends well. The main point of this book is to show that Elisa can take charge and is more than a useless bearer of the godstone.
This novella tells Mara’s backstory and how she joined the rebellion. When her village is attacked by Inviernos, Mara must escape and help any survivors she can. Turns out all the survivors are children and they must cross the Shattered Mountain to find the rebellion in the desert. It is a treacherous journey and the group has very little in the way of supplies. This story highlighted Mara’s strength and explained how she came to be the way she is in the Fire and Thorns series.
This is a lovely little love story in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone universe. Zuzanna and Mik are probably the best part of the second book in the series. This is the story of how they finally came together and it is a meeting they will tell their grandkids. I loved the scavenger hunt aspect and how they both loved each other from afar but were too afraid to do anything about it.
This is Rafe’s camp story. Rafe and Georgia are sent to Camp Wannamorra for the summer. Georgia is part of the advanced academic side and Rafe is part of the trying to catch up side. Rafe is put into a cabin with the camp losers who are constantly picked on and bullied. Rafe and his camp mates have to take on Duelin and his gang. Most of the time they don’t come out on top and the counselors don’t seem to see a problem with the bullying. There is a lot of humor that will appeal to middle school boys. Rafe has a huge imagination which adds even more humor to the book. This isn’t really my type of book, but I do see why this series is popular. Rafe is a fun kid who will definitely appeal to reluctant readers and your average boy.
Robbie Darko wants to be a great magician. Last year’s talent show didn’t go so well so he wants to make sure this year is amazing. He tests out tricks on his family and they mostly go well. But then Grandma Melvyn moves in and takes over his room. She is old and crabby and doesn’t seem to like anyone until she starts teaching him magic. Turns out Melvyn used to be a big time magician until her partner died. Robbie and Melvyn become really close and get the big act for the talent show ready to go. It is everything Robbie hoped it would be and more.
Robbie is obsessed with magic and he is really good at it. I thought he made a different character than what you see in a lot of middle grade novels. His family is pretty typical for this type of book though. Overworked or absentee parents (or both) and a strange sibling. I really wanted more of Grandma Melvyn’s story since I found her fascinating. Robbie spends a lot of the book talking to the reader, which I found a bit distracting, but I am sure kids will enjoy.
Alexandriaville has been without a public library for 12 years. Luigi Lemoncello is a famous inventor of games and puzzles who grew up in Alexandriaville. He has turned the old bank into the most amazing library ever and in order to celebrate its opening he holds a contest for 12-year-olds. The winning 12 12-year-olds get to attend a lock-in at the library. It turns out to be more than a lock-in though. The library is full of games and puzzles the kids have to solve in order to find the way out of the library. The winners get to be Lemoncello’s spokesperson.
This book is a librarian’s dream book full of puzzles that require library knowledge to solve. The kids learn about the dewey decimal system and how the library is set up. The games are tricky using books and rebuses and library cards. The library itself is more wondrous than any library could ever be. I love how the characters are constantly referencing book titles; you could create a pretty good reading list from the titles listed in these pages. My only complaint was the characters. They are all pretty stereotypical with little depth. I think this is a book kids will gravitate towards though…who doesn’t love puzzles!
Eugene Allen was a butler in the White House for eight (8) presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. He was a witness to some of the biggest historical events of the 20th century. He lived a fascinating life and his story deserves to be told. However, it is not really told in this book. Unfortunately, this book is more the story of how Wil Haygood found out about Allen and how he wrote his article about him at the time of Obama’s election. We get snippets of Allen’s life, but the full story is not told here. The first half of this audiobook is Haygood’s story really. It is about his instincts about the election, his meeting Allen and its aftermath. The second half is a history of African Americans in cinema, which while fascinating really doesn’t fit in this story. The only link is the fact that a movie called The Butler was made about Eugene Allen’s life.
I found Eugene Allen to be a fascinating character and I am sure he has tons of stories to tell about his years in the White House. I think it is a missed opportunity on the part of the author not to tell more of those stories and a more complete story of Allen’s life.
Everyone you know is fighting a great battle.
Time to step up. Time to step in. Time to say yes.
Bo’s dad is the commander of the Air Force Base they live on. Bo is in sixth grade and has a new teacher this year. Ms. Loupe is an Air Force brat so she knows all about life on the base. Her entire family is in the military including her brother Marc who is stationed in Afghanistan. Ms. Loupe is unlike any teacher the class has had before. She comes from a theater background and starts teaching them improv from day one. She has a TAPED SPACE where anything can happen and she brings in a ugly green couch for a prop. Gari is Bo’s cousin. She is forced to leave her home in Seattle and move in with Bo’s family when her mom, an Army nurse, is deployed to Iraq.
Marc is reported missing from his squad and when he is found he is gravely injured. This puts Ms. Loupe off her game and makes her step back from her class. In order to get Ms. Loupe back and to show how much they care for her, Bo, Gari and the rest of Class 208 enact Operation Yes. The plan is to get 100,000 LGM (little green men) and deploy them throughout the school. Each LGM can be purchased for a $1 donation and all proceeds will go to help wounded soldiers. Soon the students have started a nation-wide campaign and written a play about the soldiers. But best of all they have brought Ms. Loupe back to herself.
I didn’t think I would like this book as much as I did. The second reading was just as good as the first. It seems like such a simple story about kids on a military base, but it ended up being more than that. It was about hope and learning to accept the life you are given and making something of that life. It is about learning to say yes and what happens when you do. It is about being present in the lives of others and how your presence can affect others lives. I thought the kids were fantastic and very realistic. Their reactions were exactly like I would expect kids to react. I would definitely recommend this one to kids.
Alexander Baddenfield is the last of the Baddenfields. Each member of the family has died in some very unpleasant way at a young age. At age 12, Alexander is sure he is going to end up the same way despite the fact that he has been protected and coddled by his man Winterbottom (a Winterbottom has always taken care of the Baddenfields). So he concocts a plan to implant the nine lives of his cat into himself. He finds a mad scientist to do the operation and it is successful. Alexander now feels invincible and quickly wastes his lives by touching the third rail, being thrown head first into a wall during a car crash (he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt), being swallowed by his python, being gored by a bull repeatedly and drowning. When he is down to his last life he finally starts to take precautions, or goes completely off the deep end depending on your point of view. However, a simple allergic reaction finally gets him in the end.
This book had the feel of Lemony Snicket or Roald Dahl, but didn’t quite live up to its ancestors. Alexander really has no redeeming qualities, not even in the end, that would make you want to cheer for him. The true hero of the book is Winterbottom, but he seems so one note that you don’t want to cheer for him either. The book is a quick read, but not necessarily a fun one. The first half is a family history of the Baddenfields and how they died. The second half is all about how Alexander keeps dying. Some of the deaths are fully fleshed out and described and others are not. I found it a little uneven and repetitive.
This short book was very entertaining to listen too. Betty White narrates the audiobook herself and is as funny as ever. She talks about a lot of things from her career to her love of pets to the people she has met. All stories are told with humor and the Betty White whit. It does seem a little random the way she jumps from topic to topic, but it is Betty White so all is forgiven.
A Tangle of Knots illustrates just how connected we are to the people around us. This book takes a seemingly unconnected set of people and shows just how much their lives are tied together. You have an old man looking for a suitcase he lost years ago. A woman who takes care of orphans and finds them homes. An older woman who has lost her voice and her words. A young girl looking for her talent. A boy who thinks he’s worthless and can’t seem to do anything to stop. A young adventurer who loves monsters and cake. A woman hanging onto her past glory. But most of all you have a young baker who wants to bake the perfect cake for everyone. These lives might not seem to be connected but they all end up living at the Lost Luggage Emporium and becoming a family.
The world of A Tangle of Knots is one in which everyone has a Talent. It might be a talent for baking or knitting or spitting or floating. You never know what you talent is and some of them are more useful than others. The Talents aren’t really explained very well they are just part of the world and the story. The other mystery in the book is the large man in the gray suit who appears to each of the characters throughout the book. He seems to show up just when things are happening and helps set the characters on their path. Who is he? What does he know? That isn’t really answered.
If you are looking for a fully developed world and a straight-forward story this book isn’t for you. If you enjoy just going along for the ride and enjoy a little magical mystery I think you will enjoy this tale.
Hitler loved art and it was one of his goals to return many of the masters to Germany and to set up one of the best museums in the world. In order to do that he pillaged and plundered Europe. This book covers Paris and its stolen art and is based on an article written in France. I knew about the Nazi’s agenda to steal art, but I didn’t realize how systematic it was. Hitler and Goering were determined to find and send to Germany as much art as possible, most of which was taken from wealthy Parisian Jews. As in other areas during WWII, there was a lot of collaboration from the Paris art dealers. In fact the Paris art world was booming during this period. Art was going for outrageous prices (both high and low) and dealers were becoming really wealthy. None of the activities during the war really surprised me. What surprised me most was what happened after the war when the owners tried to get their possessions back. Barely half of the art stolen by the Nazis has been found and returned. There was a great deal of effort immediately after the war, but there was also a lot of stonewalling and dead ends. If the art ended up in Eastern Europe, it became the spoils of war or reparations for the Soviet Union. Most of that art has never been seen. If it ended up in Switzerland, a supposed neutral country, there was no recourse to get it back. Swiss law was such that it was almost impossible to claim stolen goods there even if you knew where they were. I think what really surprised me was the French museums and the auction houses. There are some 2000 pieces in French museums that are Nazi contraband and have never been claimed; however, the museums have made almost no effort to find the owners. The auctions houses are even worse. Places like Christie’s and Sotheby’s have sold stolen art repeatedly with little or no investigation into their provenances.
Of course all this information is from The Lost Museum. While I found the information really interesting, the book was not. It was not well written or easily readable. Part of this may be the translation, but that does not explain how boring it was in parts. I found myself skimming probably half of the book just to get through it. There are paragraphs long lists of paintings. The author also gives biographies of the Jews whose art was stolen, but spends very little time on the actual story of the theft. Instead of a laundry list of paintings, I would have preferred more on the actual story about the journey the art took and what happened to it after the war. There is some of this but not enough.
The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. It was built during the Civil War and actually sank twice before completely a mission successfully. On February 17, 1864 the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic off the Charleston Harbor. Unfortunately, the Hunley never made it back to shore nor was it ever seen again. The Hunley was found buried in the mud in 1995. It took several years and lots of work before the Hunley revealed its secrets. Scientists still don’t know exactly why the Hunley sank with all eight crewmen aboard. However, the crew have now been put to rest while the investigation into the Hunley continues.
Jayne, Gingersnap, and her brother Rob are orphans living alone. Rob is old enough now to take Jayne in, but it is the 1944 and Rob is about to ship out to the Pacific. Jayne goes to live with their landlady, but isn’t happy there. Before he left, Rob showed Jayne a book in French that he believed to be from their grandmother. When she receives a telegram saying Rob is missing, Jayne decides to head to Brooklyn and find her grandmother. She does make it to Brooklyn and Elise’s bakery, but it turns out Elise isn’t her grandma. She stays anyway and makes it her home.
I found this story a little thin with lots of holes. There is an unidentified ghost who helps Jayne out. Elise isn’t really Elise she is Madeline, but goes by Elise who was really Jayne’s grandma. This is one book I wish was a little longer so the story could have been explored a little more.
Eleanor and Park is the story of two teenagers in 1986 Omaha. They are both different and don’t quite fit in. They bond over comic books and music. Each day on the bus they become closer and closer without even speaking. Then one day they realize they can’t get enough of each other. It is first love in all its intensity. They are everything to each other and don’t need anyone or anything else.
I couldn’t get enough of this book. Eleanor and Park are both so intense in their own ways. Their love for each other is so all consuming. It is that first love where you don’t think you can go on without the other, where nothing else matters but being with that person. It is the first love where you don’t think anything else will ever compare. Their feelings were palpable and actually made me cringe at times because they were so intense. Her relationship with Park is a very good contrast to her horrible home life with a mother who has emotionally abandoned her children and an abusive step-father. I think I held my breath during the last few chapters of the book when everything came to a head. The ending left me wanting more and just a little bit heartbroken, but hopeful for the future.
The Year of Billy Miller is the story of Billy’s second grade year; his interactions with his teacher, his sister and his parents. Even though this is a longer book, it is still geared towards those beginning readers in second and third grade. The language is simple and easy to read and the stories are relatable to younger readers. I liked Billy and his family and thought all the stories were nice, realistic tales.
The Doctor: Donna, come on, think: Earth, there must have been some sort of warning. Was there anything happening back in your day, like… electrical storms, freak weather, patterns in the… sky?
Donna Noble: Well, how should I know? Um, no. I don’t- I don’t think so. No.
The Doctor: [disappointed] Oh, OK, nevermind.
Donna Noble: Although, there were the bees disappearing.
The Doctor: [dismissive] The bees disappearing.
The Doctor: [sarcastic] The *bees* disappearing.
The Doctor: [revelational] The bees disappearing!
Of course the bees are disappearing, any fan of Dr. Who knows that. In fact it is true that honeybees at least have been disappearing. Colonies have collapsed and scientists have been trying to work out why. They have explored changing habitats, overwork, diet, mites, fungus, pesticides, and cell phones. Luckily cell phones have been cleared, but the others have all been found to contribute to colony declines. I didn’t realize how important bees were to our way of life. They are the main pollinators for not just flowers but many of the foods we rely on. This book is a wake up call to the role bees play in our lives and what we should do to protect them.