Will has lived her whole life on the a farm in Zimbabwe and she loves the freedom of it. She is friends with the horseboys and loves to ride her horse over the bush and explore everything Zimbabwe has to offer. Her father is the manager of the farm owned by Captain Browne. They adore Will and indulge her wildcat ways. Then her father gets sick and dies and Cynthia moves in on the Captain. She is a young, gold-digging witch of a woman who can’t stand Will. As soon as she marries the Captain she convinces him to ship Will off to a boarding school in London. Of course Will doesn’t fit in at the school. She has had a formal education, she is dirty and wild, and the other girls are horribly cruel to her. She runs away from the school and lives on the streets of London for a while until she gets her bearings again and is able to endure the school. I really enjoyed this book. I loved the first half with Will in Zimbabwe. Her life there just seems so idyllic and charming. She has the run of the place and can basically do whatever she wants. I liked her friendship with Simon and the relationship she had with her father and the Captain. I thought it was surprising how fast the Captain gave in on sending her to London. I thought Cynthia was very one-dimensional as the villain of the story and the Captain’s capitulation very stereotypical. Since most of the book took place in Zimbabwe we really didn’t get a lot about the school before Will runs away. The girls are cruel and girls can be and Will really doesn’t help her case. She doesn’t even bathe for two weeks after getting there (gross!). I am not sure she ever brushed her hair either and it had never been cut so it was a disastrous mess on her head. I know she ran wild in Africa but that seemed a bit extreme. I also couldn’t figure out how she got away with not going to school in Africa. This is never explained properly. So while I loved the story and Will in particular I did think the book had problems that detracted from my enjoyment a bit.
All Matt wants for Christmas is a Runesword so he can play the game with his friends online. What he gets is a hamster named Snuffles. Then Snuffles dies and turns into a zombie hamster. Snuffles escapes outside and starts building his zombie pet army, turning all the pets and animals in town into zombies. Of course there are people who are zombies also, but they are all outside of the town walls. Matt and his friends Charlie, Calvin and Aren devise several plans to stop Snuffles before he is discovered and Matt and his family get in trouble. All of these fail miserably. Then Charlie dies and becomes a zombie, but she isn’t like the others. She still has her personality and doesn’t want to eat brains. She is a new breed of zombie. Of course not everyone wants to find that out.
I am sure young boys will love this book. It is funny and gross and has zombies. I didn’t think it was that great, but then I am not a young boy. The story was engaging and entertaining and at least kept my interest. It was a little light on the whys though. Why did Snuffles build a zombie pet army? Why was the mayor so obnoxious yet was still the mayor? Why were there zombies in the first place?
Third book in the Clone Chronicles series; I haven’t read the first two. Fisher and his clone Two are living at his house and Two is in hiding. The evil clone Three is out there in the world somewhere and bound to wreck havoc. Fisher and Two get into trouble at school and Fisher finally fesses up about Two to his parents. Shortly after that Three launches his evil attack turning everyone grouchy and mean. Fisher and Two (now named Alex) must come up with a plan to stop Three before he takes over the world, or destroys it. Can’t say I was that impressed with this book. It is very light on the plausibility scale and the story was just too far-fetched for me. I am sure this series has fans but I am not one of them. I would probably give it to boys who like comic books and superheroes and stories that don’t rely to heavily on reality.
Jaden was adopted by his parents when he was eight years old. He is now twelve and still has issues. He doesn’t feel safe and secure enough in his home to stop hoarding food, stealing, lying and he doesn’t believe he loves his parents. When they decide to adopt a baby from Kazakhstan, Jaden has to go along and deal with his issues of trust and jealousy. In Kazakhstan, the family discovers that the baby they were promised has already been adopted and they are forced to choose another baby in minutes. Jaden doesn’t approve of the process or the fact that the baby is blank with no reactions at all to the family. He meets a toddler named Dimash who is special needs but touches his heart. As Jaden is bonding with Dimash, his parents are trying to bond with the baby and to make Jaden bond as well. Jaden has to deal with his issues and figure out if he can love his parents and new brother and get over his jealousy and security issues.
I loved Jaden’s touching story. You really feel for this little boy who doesn’t think he is capable of love (even though he does actually love his parents). He has a lot of issues that would make it difficult for his parents to love him, but they don’t seem to have any problems in that area. He is jealous of a new baby coming in to the family believing his parents want the baby because they are not happy with him. I thought Jaden’s journey of acceptance was a beautiful one. The one thing I kept questioning the entire time I was reading was the actual adoption process in Kazakhstan. The whole thing seemed so shady and borderline illegal. It seems like you shouldn’t be able to bring just any child back from another country; you should have paperwork for a specific one. And the fact that the parents were shown a parade of babies and forced to choose in minutes was really strange. As I have never adopted a child from a foreign country I don’t know what the process would be, but I have had friends who have and they were always working to get a specific child to adopt. If you can overlook the weird adoption bits and focus on Jaden’s journey this book is a wonderful one.
Mr. Bald, the farmer, dies and his son Bones is finally free to go after Fat, the fairy in the tree. Mrs. Bald can’t stop crying over her husband’s death. Fat and Bones have been enemies for a long time though it is not explained what made them such. Fat makes a potion for Bones’s pig foot stew and unfortunately Mrs. Bald eats it instead causing her to go flat. Bones tries to cut down Fat’s tree and instead cuts off the cat’s tail. There are other stories interspersed in the Fat and Bones tales. A pig loses her last foot to the pig foot stew. A spider loses some blood to one of Fat’s potions. It is a gruesome little collection of stories that I am sure will find fans among those kids who like horror.
This is a collection of poems that capture the spirit of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The voices range from young to old and from black to white. They capture the commitment of those determine to make a change in their world. While these are all fictional people it isn’t hard to believe there were those in the crowd who felt the way these characters felt. The poems are interspersed by verses by famous people who were actually at the March. This is an excellent collection of poems that really illustrate just how powerful that day was for those who were there.
When his mother is sent to jail Frankie Joe is forced to leave his home in Laredo, Texas and all his friends to move to Clearview, Illinois with a father, step-mother and four half-brothers he has never met or known about. Life in Clearview is different. He doesn’t have as much freedom; he has to go to school, do chores and report his activities to his father. Frankie Joe plans to run away and ride his bike all the way back to Texas. He needs money to take on the road so he starts a bike delivery service. As his business takes off, he starts making new friends in the people he delivers for. He does better in school and he starts becoming a part of the family.
I found this book entertaining and a quick read. Frankie Joe is a likeable character; he is enterprising and smart even if his school work doesn’t reflect it. I liked the small town part of this story and all the characters we meet. I did find some of the family members underdeveloped and a little one-dimensional, but that didn’t take away from the story. I thought all the fish-out-of-water bits were pretty realistic. However, I found it questionable that all of Frankie Joe’s friends, both in Laredo and Clearview, would be old people; he really only has one friend his age (Mandy) who is as big a misfit as he is.
Fun fast read and one I think kids will enjoy despite its problems.
Lucy is back in her third adventure. This time she is in 8th grade and wants to make it her best ever. Of course everything isn’t going the way she had hoped. Her proposal to make the school cafeteria go green is approved but she is having issues with her boyfriend Yamir. Yamir is now in high school and he is ignoring her. He doesn’t call or text or even really talk to her anymore and Lucy is getting tired of it. Then there is new boy Travis who seems to like her and does pay attention to her. Plus the 8th grade masquerade is coming up and Lucy has been roped into helping by mean girl Erica.
I think this is a good series for girls who are interested in realistic fiction, makeup and going green. Lucy is your typical teen girl with issues and problems. I like the fact that she seems more like a teen in this one instead of old-beyond her years like she has been in the other books. I’m not sure I always find her voice to be authentic but the issues she is dealing with definitely are. This is a solid addition to this series.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Poppy’s life has been turned upside down lately. She is living in the local children’s home because her grandma had a stroke. Her grandma is her whole life and Poppy just wants things to get back to normal. Then she tries to go see her grandma and witnesses an armed robbery where a store clerk is shot. Police officer Trey is the one to question her and get her story and he is concerned because she saw the man’s face. So Poppy goes to live with Trey’s mom, Marti, in a sort of witness protection program. Through Marti, Poppy is introduced to Carol and Lizzie who work at a local animal shelter and to Gunner, the most beautiful dog she has ever met. Poppy is determined to help Gunner who has some issues. She is also determined to get back home with her grandma, but things don’t always work out how we want them to.
I loved Poppy’s story. It was touching and so very realistic. Ok, so not many 12 year olds witness robberies, but lots of them live with grandparents and I am sure lots of them have grandparents with health issues. I liked the fact that not everything went Poppy’s way, but she still ending up in a good situation that worked for her. Her relationship with Gunner really made me want to adopt a dog! This is a beautiful, heart-breaking story.
I received this book from Netgalley.com.
Rufus is looking forward to the annual camping trip to White Crappie Lake with his family and his best friend Murph’s family. Then his mom goes and invites his enemy Dimitri and strange girl Lurena. Dimitri is always trying to steal Murph as his best friend and Lurena is just strange. At the campground they meet Pablo and get to talking about their pets. Rufus has a guinea pig (Fido) who thinks she is a dog and whose daughter thinks she is a squirrel (Lurena got the guinea squirrel). Fido came from a pet store called Petoria which seems to have disappeared until Pablo says he thinks he saw one. So off they go to find Petoria and another guinea pig. Turns out this one is a guinea otter?
Such a strange little book. Even though this is the third in the series I don’t think you have to have read the other two to figure it out. I think younger readers will really enjoy this story. It has a lot of humor and fun in it. I liked the mystery of what exactly Petoria is and why the animals there turn out so different. I also like that the answers are not given to us in this book.
The Arbor Dance Hall exploded in West Table, Missouri on a summer night in 1929. No one knows for sure who or what caused the explosion, but 42 people lost their lives and many others were destroyed by grief. Many years after the events, Alma DeGeer Dunahew tells the story to her grandson Alek. She lost her beloved sister in the fire and has always believed she knew who did it. No one was ever prosecuted for the explosion or the deaths. Was it because the person responsible was a powerful man in the community and those in power protected him?
I am not really sure what I think about this book. It is a very short book, but yet it took me a long time to read. It is a meandering story that floats from the present to different parts of the past and back again. It is primarily told from Alek’s point of view, but skips narrators throughout. You are never really sure what is going on or how the different view points will relate to the whole story. I was never really able to get sucked in to the tale nor relate to any of the characters. By the end of the book I really just wanted to finish it and be done. Then the last chapter departed from the rest of the book and basically just told us what happened. So strange. Definitely not my favorite.
In 1986, the Chernobyl Reactor 4 exploded and spewed radioactive material over a wide swath of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. The people were relocated from numerous towns and villages. There is controversy over how many people exposed to the radiation suffered from it. The area around Chernobyl was cordoned off and became the Exclusion Zone. Today the Exclusion Zone is a place empty of humans except for a few people who went back to their homes and scientists studying the effects of radiation on the animals and plants in the area. Some animals seem to have adapted to the radiation while others have abnormalities caused by the radiation. This book is an honest look at a couple of the studies done on animal populations in the Exclusion Zone. It is extremely readable and informative.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
When you think about the Arctic you probably see an icy expanse with polar bears hunting seals and the occasional ice breaking ship making its way through the treacherous waters. In reality the Arctic ice is melting with little hope of renewal to previous levels. This is opening up the Arctic to all kinds of things from ship traffic to oil wells. Nations around the north pole are trying to stake their claim on these new areas and resources and environmentalists and native peoples are concerned for the Arctic way of life. Arctic Thaw does a fabulous job of explaining what is happening in the Arctic and providing information on what may happen in the future. It is a well-balanced look at an area that has seen little exploration or development.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Lug isn’t like the other caveboys in his village. He doesn’t care about headstone or getting the biggest jungle llama. He really likes spending time in his art cave and drawing pictures on the cave walls. He is also concerned about the fact that it is getting colder. He is banished from the village along with Stony, a boy more interested in his frog than anything else. He meets Echo, a girl from the rival village who wants him to help her with Wooly, a young mammoth. Wooly and Lug train to be the best headstone pair so they can get back in the village. Unfortunately, the cold has sent more than mammoths south. A group of saber-tooth tigers is also on the prowl and wants to take over the village’s caves. The two villages have to work together to survive.
This was a fun book, a bit silly perhaps, but with a nice message about accepting people’s differences and not having to conform. It was a bit different to read a book about cavepeople where they spoke in modern language for the most part. It makes it more relatable for young readers anyway. I thought the story was fine, but did think it was strange when the fantasy element of talking animals was introduced. I wish that element could have been left out, but with it in I wish it would have been used consistently. In the beginning Lug and Echo are special because they can understand animals, but by the end the animals are talking to everyone.
Book 2 of the Cainsville series. So in the first one Olivia finds out she is adopted and her real parents are the serial killers Todd and Pamela Larsen. She escapes Chicago and the media frenzy and hides away in Cainsville. There she hooks up with Pamela’s lawyer Gabriel Walsh and starts investigating the killings her parents are convicted of. Crazy things happen. Book 2 picks up after the events of book 1. Olivia and Gabriel have proven that Todd and Pamela didn’t kill one of the couples, but there are still three more to investigate. This book takes a bit of a break from the Larsen case and focuses more on other concerns, mainly what the heck is Cainsville.
Olivia finds a body in her car that mysteriously disappears before anyone else sees it. She then discovers the body’s head in her bed, which also disappears. Someone is clearly messing with her. Turns out the body belongs to a young who also has Cainsville connections. Olivia and Gabriel set out to figure out what those connections are and why someone is targeting Olivia. In the mean time, Olivia has tried to reconcile with former fiance James Morgan, but decided it wasn’t going to work out. He is not taking it well and will not leave her or Gabriel alone. Olivia has moved on to hot, young thing Ricky Gallagher, heir to the biker gang Satan’s Saints. They are hot and heavy whenever and wherever they can. Of course Gabriel doesn’t approve even though he and Olivia are not like that (anyone can see it is heading that way of course). Things get complicated as they figure out more about Cainsville’s secrets and what those secrets have to do with Olivia and Gabriel.
I like the fact that this series is not dragging out the mystery. We learned a lot about Cainsville in this book; definitely not all the secrets but enough to know a little about what is going on. I am a big fan of stories about the fae so this book is really up my alley. I like all the hints throughout which made me get online and look up the words in a Welsh dictionary so I could figure out what they heck they were talking about. It seems there are factions who want Olivia’s particular skill set of seeing omens and visions. Will she go with the elders of Cainsville or the sexy Wild Hunt or with the mysterious Tristan and his unknown faction? Can’t wait to see where this book goes.
Magic in the Mix is the sequel to The Magic Half. Miri and Molly have settled in the present were everyone believes they are the middle twins in the Gill family. Only Miri and Molly remember that Molly is originally from 1935 and was rescued by Miri. When their dad tears off the back porch of the house he opens another portal to the past, specifically 1918 where the girls again see the evil Flo and meet Molly’s mom Maudie. A broken window opens another door into the past this one to 1864 and the Civil War. The girls rescue a couple of Yankee prisoners from the evil Clark, but find out they are not the only ones who can time travel when their brother Roy and Robbie end up in 1864 as well. Of course they are dressed as Yankee soldiers since they were on their way to a Civil War reenactment. It is up to Miri and Molly to rescue the boys and get back to the present time.
This was another nice book by Annie Barrows. I found it interesting that the littlest changes to the house opened up portals to different times and different openings went different times. I liked that all the kids had to think on their feet and figure out how to get out of a dangerous situation. I wish there had been more parental presence in the book. The mom and dad are barely around and barely make an impression throughout. Not a very realistic or likely story but one I am sure kids will enjoy.
I received this book from Netgalley.com.
Somebody on this bus is going to be famous, but who? That is the story of this book. Almost all the action takes place on the bus which is interesting. There are three mysteries to solve. One: who is going to be famous? Two: who lives at the empty bus stop? Three: what happened during the class of 85 graduation? During the course of the school year we get to learn about the nine middle schoolers who are on the bus. Shelly wants to be a famous singer and is very self-centered. Miranda wants to be a writer and a good friend. Spencer is worried he isn’t the genius everyone thinks he is. Jay is worried about his Poppi who is suffering from dementia. Bender is good with numbers and wants to solve the mystery of the empty bus stop. Igor wants to discover more about his dad who is in prison. Kaitlynn becomes obsessed with helping people and starts a fundraiser on the bus to help a family in need. Matthew becomes interested in physics and wins the science fair. Alice is hiding who her family is and what their connection to the mystery of the class of 85. The bus driver Mrs. B also has secrets.
The book begins with the bus crash in May and then works its way through the school year. It is an interesting way to increase the drama as the reader wants to know how they get to the bus crash. This book reminded me a bit of Because of Mr. Terupt with the alternating student chapters. However, unlike Mr. Terupt there doesn’t seem to be a lot of character growth for the kids. For the most part they all end up the same as they started. I was hoping for a little bit more. I thought the story was interesting, but the ending left a lot to be desired. The mystery of who is going to be famous was almost a throw away that negated the rest of the story. It was like oh well we couldn’t think up a good ending so it turns out Mrs. B writes a book. Really? I wanted more details about the aftermath of the bus crash and what it did to the characters, but instead everything is wrapped up in about a page. The book was much better without that ending and could have been a lot better with a stronger one.
Daralynn Oakland survived because she was grounded. She had gone fishing at Doc Lake without permission so her mom grounded her and she didn’t get on the plane that crashed and killed her dad, sister and brother. After the funeral, her mom starts doing hair at the funeral home and takes over the local hair salon. Her mom becomes more and more withdrawn as time goes by and everything seems to irritate her. The biggest irritant is Aunt Josie. Aunt Josie runs the Summer Sunset Retirement Home for Distinguished Gentlemen out of her home and is always taking care of old men with no family. Her new beau is Mr. Clem who has just opened the new crematorium in town. Daralynn and her mom are unhappy because Mr. Clem steals their idea for living funerals and they are afraid he will put the funeral home out of business.
This book contains an interesting case of characters. They are all eccentric and just a little bit different. The story is a bit over the top but it is fun and definitely keeps you interested. I thought the reveal about Mr. Clem was easy to spot and just a bit predictable but kids might not be able to spot it. I did like the glimpse into how people deal with grief in different ways. It would bring up several good discussion points for parents and kids to talk about. I think my favorite moment in the book was when Daralynn was talking about her brother and his love of peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. I had no idea anyone outside of my family ate such a thing! Guess it must be a Missouri thing.
This is the final book in the Black Jewels series. It is a collection of novellas that wrap up all the storylines. The first story, Winsol Gifts, takes place after the events of Tangled Webs. The family is planning their first real Winsol together. It is a light story that deals mainly with the family and the relationships between the characters. Shades of Honor is about Ranier and Surreal’s recovery after the events of Tangled Webs. They head to Ebon Askavi to let Lucivar get them back into shape. Unfortunately, there is a traitor in the Eyriens that Lucivar has to take care of. Family wraps up the Queen Sylvia storyline. Then we come to The High Lord’s Daughter the final story in this series. It starts with the death of Jaenelle and moves on to the death of Saeten. Then the relationship between Daemon and Surreal takes an unexpected turn when they turn to each other for comfort. There is a baby, a marriage and a new Dreams Made Flesh. Their daughter is named Jaenelle Saetien after the two people they have loved and lost. The story spans several years as we watch Jaenelle grow up and make the kind of friends the first Jaenelle made. It ends after she gets her birthrite jewels and they discover what she is.
I like Bishop’s short stories, or really novellas. They let us know what her characters are doing between books and this one covered a little bit of that territory and then took us beyond the books and showed us the end of the Jaenelle and Daemon story. I am a bit surprised about how this series ended up not as much as I could have been. Does it completely make sense? Maybe, but it does work with the previous books. People have to move on after a death and Jaenelle and Daemon were never going to be together forever that was always plainly stated. I was surprised at some of Daemon’s actions though; he waits centuries for Jaenelle as a virgin but a couple of years after her death he jumps into bed with several different women; seemed a little out of character for him. For the most part I am fairly satisfied with the ending of this series. So if this is the end of the Black Jewels I am not too sad about it. I just hope Bishop opens one of her other series back up or starts another series that will be just as engrossing as this one has been. And if this isn’t the end of the series I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
This is the second part of Cassidy’s story which started in The Shadow Queen. It begins right where the last book left off. Cassidy is still gaining the trust of her court and of Dena Nehele. She is teaching the Queens things they have forgotten and forging a bond with the land. The one bond she can’t seem to forge is with Theran. He still maintains that Cassie is not the Queen they need even though everyone else believes she is. When Kermilla comes to Grayhaven things get even worse. She is the Queen that took Cassie’s last court and she wants to make trouble for Cassie again. Theran falls for her and sets himself up against Cassie and the rest of the court which forces the court to leave Grayhaven and move south to the Shalador reserves. Theran believes Kermilla will rule Dena Nehele after Cassie’s contract ends but he can’t seem to get the support he needs. Might be because Cassie is sweet and wonderful and truly cares about the land and the people and Kermilla is a witch who spends all the money, shoplifts, berates the staff and anyone else she can and is extremely unlikeable. Since Theran isn’t waking up to the truth about Kermilla Cassie and her court have to figure out a way to do what is best for the people of Dena Nehele.
It takes a great writer to transition from one part of her world to another and Anne Bishop has done that beautifully in these Shalador books. I love how she has moved from focusing on the SaDiablo family to showing us what it is like in other courts and other parts of the world. Cassie’s story illustrates that not all successful courts have to be dark to be strong and powerful. Cassie is not a dark queen, yet she is a powerful queen and knows how to rule her land. Watching her story unfold was wonderful. I loved this book and the one before it. Anne Bishop really knows how to write characters and how to make them grow. I also love how she is able to weave her other characters into the storyline without making it seem forced or awkward.