The Forgotten Sisters is the final book in the Princess Academy trilogy. It picks up after the events of Palace of Stone. Miri and the other girls are ready to head back to Mount Eskel. Miri can’t wait to see her family and become betrothed to Peder. Just as she is about to leave she is summoned to the king and asked to go to Lesser Alva and train three royal cousins to be princesses. War is coming to Danland and the only way to prevent it is to offer the enemy king a bride. Miri heads off to the swamp expecting to find a much different situation than she does. The three sisters live in an empty stone house; they are not educated; they have no concept of what it means to be royal. Once their mother died their support dried up and they are forced to spend their days hunting for food in the swamp. Miri takes up the challenge to get the girls ready for their debut in Asland. This involves more than teaching the girls to read and write; she must also figure out a way to get their allowance back from the unscrupulous headman of the village. Unfortunately, war comes before the girls are ready and they are not safe even in the swamp backwater where they live.
Every time I read one of these books I remember how much I like Shannon Hale’s writing. I could not put this book down. I loved getting to see Miri on her own in an unfamiliar situation. The swamp offered a great background to the story as Miri learns to catch caimans and survive in the mud and the muck. I liked the royal cousins, but didn’t think they were developed as well as they could have been. Miri is really the focus of the story as she teaches the girls how to survive as princesses and she learns how to survive in the swamp. I actually loved the ending of the book and really didn’t see the twist coming. I had other ideas about the girls that ended up not being true. I thought the ending really suited the spirit of this series and wrapped up the characters’ stories really well.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
Bladud is a Druid king forced out into the wilderness because of an illness. After wondering in the wilderness he finds a healing spring that cures his illness. He builds a temple to the goddess Sulis in appreciation for her healing. He erects a circle of stones and his people return to him.
Zac is apprenticed to architect Jonathan Forrest who is going to build the King’s Circus in Bath. Forrest is obsessed with druids and designs the Circus to mimic ancient druid structures. Zac is down on his luck after his father gambled away their fortune. He resents his lack of means and being the assistant to a mad man like Forrest. He has to decide if he is loyal to his master or to his idea of who he should be.
Sulis has just moved to Bath and into one of the houses on the Circus. There was a tragedy in her past that has put her in witness protection for the last ten years. Bath offers a fresh start with new foster parents in a new city and a new name. However, she believes she is being stalked by the man from her past. She has to come to terms with the truth of her past in order to create a new future.
These three stories all revolve around the same place but are very different. I thought some of the stories worked better than others. I loved Sulis’s tale and thought the reveal about the tragedy in her past was really well done. I like how her story tied in the story of the Circus and the other two characters. I wasn’t that interested in Zac’s story mainly because I really didn’t like him as a character. I wanted more information about Forrest and less whining from Zac. Bladud’s story was the briefest with the least amount of details. The three characters each had their own style of chapters with different fonts and styles of writing. I was also occasionally thrown by the probably historically accurate spelling, punctuation and writing of the Zac chapters. I thought this was an interesting, different type of novel and quite enjoyed the uniqueness of it even if I didn’t enjoy every part as much as the whole.
This is the story of chocolate from its beginnings in South and Central America to its trip across the pond into Europe. It is the story of how chocolate went from being a bitter, ceremonial and medicinal plant to the candy we all love today. The history of chocolate is complex with ties to colonialism, slavery, the industrial revolution and climate change. I really enjoyed the history of chocolate, but was less than thrilled by all the scientific information packed into the book. This is geared towards middle grade readers who I am not sure will care about the chemical make up or how those chemicals were found to affect humans. This is a pretty long book for the age it is geared towards as well. I think it could have been paired down a bit to focus more on the historical and modern parts of chocolate’s story which would have made it a little bit more readable for its audience.
I received this book from Netgalley.com.
Glory O’Brien has just graduated from high school and doesn’t really see a future for herself. She and her dad have been stuck ever since her mom DArla committed suicide when Glory was 4 years old. The only thing Glory has is her photography, which Darla also had. She starts learning more about her mom after taking over the dark room in the basement. She finds her mom’s album entitled “Why People Take Pictures” filled with disturbing images and starts answering her mom in her own album.
Glory lives across the road from her best friend Ellie. Only she is not sure she wants Ellie to be her best friend anymore. Ellie lives on a commune run by her mother Jasmine Blue and totally takes advantage of Glory. The girls find a petrified bat and decide to drink it when it turns to dust. The bat gives the girls the ability to see the past and future when they look in someone’s eyes. They see people’s ancestors doing all kinds of things and they see people’s descendants in the future. Glory’s visions of the future all revolve around war. There is going to be a second civil war in America. This time it will not be slavery that divides the country but women’s rights. The passage of an equal pay bill will splinter the country and some states will end up taking away the rights of women completely. This will divide the country and cause a war as women basically become fugitives or breeding machines.
I am torn about this book. I really enjoyed the contemporary story of Glory trying to figure out her life. In the beginning, she only sees herself through Darla and doesn’t believe there is a future for her. Through the visions and the people she meets she starts to see herself as a different person, as someone with a future to look forward to even if it involves war. She also helps draw her dad back into the land of the living. Finally, she comes to terms with her relationship with Ellie and the commune. It was a compelling story and one I really wanted to read. However, the visions of the future just threw me off. I found it so unbelievable that I couldn’t buy into the visions or the future they represented. It was an interesting future and made for good storytelling, but it was just too far-fetched for me.
I had never read anything by Laurie Notaro before picking up this book, but I just might have to read more. She is hilarious and the situations she finds herself in are laugh out loud funny. Highlights of the book include her feud with the local post office where she was banned for wanting too many two cent stamps, being banned from the neighborhood Christmas party because she dared to mouth the words to Jingle Bells, and the dog bark translator. Really all the chapters were hilarious so it is hard to pick favorites. Read it and I dare you not to laugh!
In the heart of the forest lies a glass coffin with a horned-boy in it, a faerie prince forever asleep. He never wakes no matter how many people dance on his coffin, try to kiss him, or simply stare at him in awe. As far as the people know he has always been there and will always be there.
He is not the only unusual thing in Fairfold, a town where humans coexist with the fae. Residents know what to do to protect themselves and only shake their heads when tourists go missing. However, something in the heart of the forest is growing stronger, and the protections no longer seem to be working. Hazel and Ben have grown up in Fairfold. Ben is gifted with music, but his gift comes with a curse. Hazel wants to be a knight and fight the monsters in the forest. She made a deal with the fae, but doesn’t know how or when she will have to pay it back. Hazel is in love with Ben’s best friend Jack, a changeling whose human parents decided to keep him when they got their own son back. Jack knows more about what is happening with the fae in the forest than he lets on. One day, the horned-boy awakes and the monster at the heart of the forest makes her way into town. Hazel, Ben and Jack have to find a way to stop the monster and save the town before it is too late.
This is Holly Black at her best. It is a dark fairy tale filled with lies, secrets, heroes and curses. Hazel is the star of this story, but she has the most secrets to protect. Hazel is keeping secrets from Ben about the deal she made with the Alderking; she is keeping secrets from Jack about her true feelings; and she is unknowingly keeping secrets from herself. Hazel’s secrets have to be revealed if our heroes are going to win the day.
Fans of Holly Black’s teen books like the Modern Faerie Tale series or The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and her middle grade books Doll Bones and The Spiderwick Chronicles, will appreciate the way she is able to weave the dark elements of this story in with the more heart-warming elements. She is at her best when she is writing about strong female characters who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and those around them, but who are also aware enough to know when they need help.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
An intriguing novel-in-verse about two girls with Crohn’s Disease sharing a hospital room. Chess is new to the disease and ended up in the hospital after a party/date with her crush turned disastrous. She is not happy to have something called irritable bowel syndrome and doesn’t want to see friends or family and definitely not the crush. Shannon, on the other hand, has been living with disease for years. She is past the hiding stage and well into the angry stage. The two girls don’t seem to have anything in common, but they bond over their common enemy…Crohn’s. The girls are in beds separated by a curtain and the novel represents this with a line down the middle of the page separating their words. It is an unusual topic for a teen book but one that seems timely. I think the novel-in-verse style works really well as it gives the reader just enough information and allows the reader to be more immersed in the characters.
Siblings Zander, Kit and M.K. West have been on their own ever since their dad died while on an expedition. Their father was the famous explorer Alexander West with the Expedition Society. He was a map maker who helped map many of the New Lands when they were discovered. The New Lands opened up new resources for a world that had run out. People are no longer dependent on technology but have reverted to steam machines again. The Bureau of Newly Discovered Lands controls all the expeditions to and the wealth from the New Lands. They cleaned out the West house when the dad died and have been watching the kids. One day in the market Kit is handed a book from another explorer from his dad. He is told to keep it secret and it is a good thing because BNDL is at the house when he returns looking for it. The map is half a map to Drowned Man’s Canyon and a hidden treasure in gold. The kids head to Arizona to discover why their dad left them the map. They are helped along the way by another child of an explorer. They are followed by BNDL who wants to get their hands on the treasure. What they discover will change how they think of the world and their father.
This was a fun steampunk adventure story. I enjoyed the fact that it was all about maps and figuring out how to read them. Kit is the map expert in the group. Zander as the oldest likes to think he is the leader, but it is more Kit’s show than anything. M.K. was a delight; a tough girl who loves machines and tinkering with them. Their friend Sukey is a pilot and helps them escape the BNDL. I like the thought of undiscovered lands in our world but am not really sure how that would work. In the book it is because the Mueller Machines controlled the maps and they just didn’t show these lands, but you do wander how no one really noticed them. There is a lot of mystery about the dad and what he was really up to and whether he was part of a secret society of mapmakers. There is a lot of adventure as the kids make their way across the country pursued by BNDL and as they follow the map to the treasure. This is the beginning of a series so the ending leaves the story open for further adventures.
Sand has a fight with his father so he runs away and makes an offering at a shrine. The next thing he knows he is waking up in the sundered castle. Thirty years ago something happened at the castle that caused everything from the walls to the last apple to split. The castle was then surrounded by an impenetrable wall of thorns. Sand has no idea how he got in the castle, but once there he decides to use his skills as a blacksmith to start fixing things. He fixes everything from doors to buckets to spoons. He even puts things back to rights in the crypt beneath the chapel. Sand spends weeks alone in the castle working and trying to find enough food to get by. Then a girl appears; she is the same girl he put to rights in the crypt. Seems that Perrotte has been mended as well. She was once the daughter of the castle before she was murdered by her stepmother. Once Perrotte and Sand get past their surprise at the new circumstances, Perrotte helps Sand with the mending of the castle. They notice that the more they mend the lower the wall of thorns becomes. They are determined to find a way out of the castle and back to their lives.
This is a magical fairy tale with a twist. I really enjoyed Sand and Perrotte and how their relationship develops. Perrotte goes from being a snobby lady who looks down on humble Sand, to a warm human being who considers Sand her best friend and protector. I liked the discovery of Sand’s magic and why it came to be. I also enjoyed Perrotte’s tragic story of her past and how she came back to life. The one thing I thought was rushed was the ending though. We spend the majority of the book in the castle with Sand and Perrotte as they are working together and rebuilding the castle. Then in the last few chapters Perrotte’s stepmother comes with her army; then a peace is established; then they leave the castle. It is all very hurried and didn’t seem to fit the pace of the rest of the book. But as this is a fairy tale everyone lives happily ever after and all is well.
Tobias and Charlotte play one too many tricks on their nanny which causes their father to have to take action. He dumps them in front of Witherwood Reform School and leaves them. Witherwood is not like other schools. They seem to already know who Tobias and Charlotte are and there are many mysteries surrounding the school including its staff and students. It was built on top a mesa that was created by a meteor impact. The school has dangerous guardians on the grounds who attack intruders. The head of the school Mr. Withers has a hypnotic voice that causes the students to accept their place at the school with joy and contentment. Tobias and Charlotte want nothing more than to leave the evil school, but are soon under its spell like the other students.
This is a quirky, quirky book. Tobias and Charlotte seem like normal kids but they find themselves in anything but normal situations. Everything just keeps getting stranger and stranger the more you read of this book. This is the beginning of a series and the book reads more like a set up for that series than a series opener. There is no resolution of any kind at the end of the book and the reader is left with way more questions about what is going on then they like. Witherwood is bizarre to say the least and we don’t find out why or what purpose it is serving. I think my enjoyment of the book dipped a lot when I realized there was no good ending. The kids are in much the same position they were at the beginning of the book. I wanted more answers and don’t like the fact that I will have to wait until the next book to get them. Not sure I am interested enough to wait however.
I received this book from Netgalley.
The Boon family is moving yet again. The father has decided they are going to start making cigars and moves the family to the country. The house is a ramshackle place with the front door in the back and no porch. There is a lot of room for the big family though and the girls christen it Nine Open Arms for how wide the place is. Sisters Fing, Muulke and Jess love having their own room and not sharing with their four brothers, grandmother and father, but they don’t like that there is no running water or that there appears to be a tombstone in the cellar. They also live right across the road from the cemetery where they get their water. While their father and brothers are trying to figure out the cigar business, the girls are trying to discover the secrets of Nine Open Arms.
The story goes between the Boon family in the 1930s and the story of Nienevee and Charley Bottletop in the 1860s. The family learns about the story of the house from Oma Mei and her crocodile, a suitcase filled with pictures from which Oma Mei tells her stories. This book is translated from the Dutch original and for the most part the translation works rather well. I loved the quirkiness of the story and the timeless feel of it. I don’t think this is a book that every reader will appreciate though. I am not sure if it is the story itself or the fact that it was originally written in another language for another culture, but there were things that didn’t always come through how I imagine the author intended. Of course, since he wasn’t writing for an American reader, it might be exactly how he intended. There was just something so charming about this story that I really enjoyed even if there were hiccups in the telling of it.
Birdie is the bogler’s apprentice. She helps Alfred the bogler by luring bogles out into the open with her singing and then Alfred kills them. Bogles are monsters who like to eat children so it takes a child to lure them out. Alfred and Birdie help all kinds of people throughout Victorian London. Birdie loves what she does even if she is sometimes afraid. Alfred and Birdie don’t have a lot but they have a room and food and each other. One day they are hired by Mrs. Eames who wants to learn more about bogles. She is a scholar and is appalled that Alfred puts Birdie’s life in danger. She keeps sticking her nose in and offering all kinds of suggestions on their work. Birdie and Alfred don’t really appreciate her help until they discover Dr. Morton. Dr. Morton wants to summon bogles and gain control over them. He has been sacrificing children to obtain his demon bogle. When our heroes interfere in his plans he comes after them. Birdie, Alfred, Mrs. Eames and their friends must work together to stop the evil Dr. Morton.
I really enjoyed this book, but I am not sure I will read the rest of the series. I liked the uniqueness of the story and the characters. Birdie and Alfred were fantastic. Victorian London is sometimes a hard sell with young readers and there is a bit of vocabulary in this book that could be challenging to that age group. However, if they stick with it I think they will enjoy it.
Choosing Courage is a wonderful book filled with stories about Medal of Honor recipients. The book spans WWI through the present day. The story of how each recipient earned the Medal of Honor is told in detail. I was surprised at how many of the recipients received their Medal many years after the fact. Seems that even distinguished service and heroism could not overcome racism during our history. It was good to hear that Congress did extensive reviews and awarded the Medal of Honor to deserving minorities who were overlooked however. A common theme running through all the stories was the fact that the men and women believed they were just doing what they were supposed to do and what anyone else would have done. The fact that they were heroes and saved the lives of many of their comrades just made their selfless acts that much more heroic.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.
The cassandra sangue have been freed from the men who controlled them. They have been sent to live among the Inuits and the Simple Life Folk, but they are not adjusting as well as Meg has adjusted to life in the Courtyard. The Humans First and Last movement is still gaining support and causing even more trouble for the Others and the humans who work with and support them. Meg is trying to control her urge to cut and to find a way to help the other blood prophets survive on their own. Simon and the Others in the Courtyard are trying to find a way to protect their human pack and to put a stop to the machinations of the HFL.
I love this series. I think Anne Bishop is a master storyteller that just gets better the more she writes about her characters. The world of the Others is fantastic and unique and comes to the forefront in this book. We learn more about the Others outside of the Courtyards and just how much power they actually yield. The humans don’t seem to realize that they are are not the first to rebel against the rule of the Others and they will not be the last. To the Others in the Wild Country they are just insignificant creatures to be crushed when they become a nuisance. The only thing I don’t like about this series is waiting until the next book comes out.
I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.
The history of sneakers is an interesting one. It is kind of hard to believe that they have only been around a bit over 100 years since they are a constant part of our lives now. Sneaker Century takes the reader through the history of sneakers from the very first ones in the 1800s to modern celebrity-designed ones today. I found the history fascinating. I know almost nothing about sneaker brands other than their names so this was definitely an education for me. I learned that two brothers started a shoe company in pre-WWII Germany and outfitted some of the Olympic runners. After WWII they fought and broke up the company into Adidas and Puma. I also learned that Keds are one of the oldest sneaker brands. The history of Nike and Reebok are also covered. The one thing I wish the book had more of is pictures. It mentions specific shoes or styles of shoes but doesn’t show what those shoes looks like. I think it would have been stronger with more pictures of actual sneakers.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Running Dry is a very interesting look at the water problems facing the world. The book details the importance of water to the human population, where it comes from and how it is used. Then it deals with the issues facing us in regards to water: pollution, over-use, increasing demand, and climate change. There is a lot of good information in this highly readable book. I found the parts about how much water farms and industry are using especially interesting and was shocked by the attitudes of bottled water companies who do not think clean water is a human right but a commodity with a price. I also thought it was interesting how different countries are dealing with the water shortages they are facing. This is an excellent resource for students and those interested in the issue.
I received this book from Netgalley.
Time has stopped in Anorev. Everyone is either a robot or a child; there are no adults. There is no night or bedtime or chores or anything one would expect. Then 312 Dapper Men descend from the sky. They are here to set things right and to restart time. One of the Dapper Men enlists the help of a boy named Ayden and a robot girl named Zoe. They need to do something with the robot angel in the harbor in order to make things they way they should be. I actually wanted more from this story than I got. There isn’t a lot of explanation as to why time stopped, what happened to the adults, who the Dapper Men are, etc. The story itself is pretty sparse. The artwork is gorgeous however. It brings life to the story where the words do not. This is an interesting steampunk fairy tale fantasy but just needed a bit more.
Owen Thorskard comes from a long line of dragon slayers dating back to the Vikings. His aunt Lottie is one of the most famous dragon slayers of modern times. After Lottie is hurt battling a dragon the family moves to the rural Canadian town of Trondheim, which is thrilled to get its very own family of dragon slayers. Owen’s father, Aodhan, takes on the duties of protecting the area while Lottie and her wife Hannah train Owen. Siobhan McQuaid meets Owen his first day of school when they are both late for English. She is a musician and is soon asked to become Owen’s bard. Turns out dragon slayers used to always have a bard to tell the tales of their heroics. But modern dragon slayers are all corporate or military and the charm of the profession is no more. Lottie and Aodhan want to bring back the traditional role of dragon slayers and they want to start with Owen. Siobhan and Owen train together and Siobhan learns more than how to fight. Turns out the dragons are moving into the area in larger and larger numbers and the fear is a new hatching ground has been established. They have to find a way to stop the dragons before their area becomes just another Michigan.
I loved this book! I had never heard of it until it became one of the sixteen contenders for School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books. I am so glad I was introduced to it. It is such a fun story. It is an alternative history where dragons do exist and they feed on carbon. So as the world became more and more industrialized more and more dragons appeared. I loved all the little details we learned about the world like the fact that Michigan had to be abandoned because the auto industry drew so much dragon attention it was overrun or like the fact that Queen Victoria was the only non-dragon slayer to be inducted into the Order of St. George for moving a hatching ground and enabling travel between England and Scotland. There were lots of little things like that that made the story even more charming. But the true star of this book was Siobhan. She narrates The Story of Owen in such a charming and humorous way. Through her we learn more about the world, the history of dragons, music and dragon slaying. I also really loved that there were no romantic feelings between Owen and Siobhan. They are friends and partners and that is it. It made for a nice change of pace to other teen books. I am definitely putting this series on my to-read list.
John Brown is an interesting historical figure. Was he a terrorist, a patriot, a martyr? Albert Marrin explores these ideas in this book. He details the life of John Brown, how he came to feel so strongly against slavery and why he began his campaign to free the slaves and dissolve the union. Brown is a fascinating character who had very strong political and religious beliefs in regards to slavery. He had no qualms about committing violence in the name of what he felt was right and just and he also sacrificed the lives of some of his children in the process. Marrin does a great job on John Brown and his life. What he also does is pad this book with a lot of information that makes it less readable. There are several chapters on the history of slavery and several more chapters on the history of the Civil War. Neither are necessary in detailing Brown’s life. In fact, the chapters on Brown really only take up about half the book. I think this is going to turn kids off a bit. I know I skimmed/barely read a lot of the extra chapters because it was all stuff I knew or I didn’t think pertained to the story I was trying to read. I think this book would have been better if it had just focused on John Brown and left the rest to other books.
Patient Zero is a look at epidemics of the past and how doctors and scientists found what or who was causing them. The epidemics covered were the plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, Spanish flu, ebola and AIDS. Each chapter focused on the “patient zero” who was the first to get the disease and start spreading it. It is a pretty interesting read with lots of good historical information. However, it is not a book for research. The diseases are covered pretty thoroughly but in a more surface way than would be needed for reports or assignments. I think kids who are interested in this type of thing will really enjoy this more for pleasure reading.
My one gripe with the book is actually the illustrations. There are clip art type pictures throughout the book instead of actual photos or historical data. I thought the pictures didn’t fit with the text and actually distracted me from the seriousness of what I was reading.
I received this book from Netgalley.