Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows

Ivy and Bean (Ivy and Bean, #1)Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bean knows nice is another name for boring and that is just what she thinks Ivy is. So when her mother tells her to go play with the "nice" girl across the street, Bean doesn't want any part of it. Bean is sure Ivy would never like the fun things she did - climbing trees, stomping in puddles and smashing rocks to find gold. Until one day Bean goes a little too far and has to escape her older sister. It's Ivy to the rescue! A bit of face paint and a few worms later, Bean quickly realizes Ivy just might be a more interesting than she had expected.
This is a wonderful start to a very engaging young reader series. It is the next step after Junie B. Jones but not quite Wimpy Kid Diaries - humorous, easy to read without the gross, farting joke quality. Ivy & Bean are two friends any girl would love to have in their circle. I would recommend this to young girl readers who have read all the Junie B's and are ready for a bit more of a reading challenge. Recommended Ages 8 - 10.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: How To Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton

How to Train a TrainHow to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever wanted your own pet train? Well, here is the best guide on how to pick, find and train you very own pet train. Once you find your pet train, you can take it anywhere. Don't forget your train may take some time to adjust to its new life, so a warm bath or a good bedtime story will help it along. Once it is settle, you can begin to teach it a few tricks - like sit and rollover. If you are looking for a guide on how to train a train - this book is it!
Fun story with beautiful, eye-catching illustrations, you can't beat this book for a good picture-book read. It is a must read for all those train lovers out there, and a great read for anyone who is looking for something a little different. Recommended for ages 5+

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Guest Review by Super Librarian of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

From Goodreads: “Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave. One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself. I’m normally not a big fan of vampire books, but I decided to give this one a try based on the description alone. I’m glad I did because it definitely offered a unique and interesting vision of vampires. The world building was really well done. It was fascinating to learn Coldtowns were formed to see how the world reacted to the vampirism outbreak. Vampires were feared but romanticized at the same time. The structure of the novel added to the excellent world building. Chapters alternated between present day action and shorter chapters that flashed back to characters’ experiences in the past. This showed not only their personal experiences but also how the world changed as vampirism spread. The vampires in this book were scary and attractive at the same time. Before, I never really understood the attraction to vampires (I mean, I was on Team Jacob while reading the Twilight series), but this book helped me understand the attraction a little more. I think it has one of the best kissing scenes I’ve ever read! Tana has a love interest, but there is no love triangle, which is refreshing for a change. This was my first time reading Holly Black, and I will definitely seek out more of her books! As far as I know, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a standalone novel. The plot was nicely wrapped up at the end, but I wouldn’t mind reading more books set in this world. If you’re looking for a good read with a creepy, chilling atmosphere with action and a bit of romance, give this one a try! Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co, #1)The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is there something strange around your neighborhood? Or a ghostly figure laying in your bed? Who you gonna call? Lockwood & Co. that’s who. London is in the midst of an epidemic - an epidemic of ghosts. England is now full of ghosts, specters and haunts of every sort and type (called Visitors.) To deal with the epidemic, psychic agencies that hunted ghost and eliminated them have sprouted up everywhere. Lockwood & Co. located at 35 Portland Row, London is such an agency: Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlyle, and George Cubbins. Each has their own special ability which allows them to detect and dispel ghosts. When Lockwood & Co. are asked to rid the most haunted private home in England of its many and deadly ghost, they cannot refuse. But this just might be the last Visitor Lockwood & Co. ever meet.
Jonathan Stroud has delighted again with The Screaming Staircase. I love a good ghost story. The Screaming Staircase is a good ghost story. While Stroud keeps the story mild enough I would have no problem recommending this book to children under the age of 13, the strong and likable character of Lucy and the mysterious Lockwood make up for any lack of gore and scare hard-edged gothic fans might miss. The England of Lockwood & Co., one overrun with ghosts, keeps the reader's interest. While we don't find out exactly what caused the Problem (maybe later in the series?), the many and varied manifestations of the Vistors and the ways they are dealt with make up for us lacking this knowledge.
I would recommend this book to adults and children 10+.

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Review: Ten Birds Meet a Monster by Cybele Young

Ten Birds Meet a MonsterTen Birds Meet a Monster by Cybèle Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ten birds meet a scary monster in their wanderings. Can they create their own creature scary enough to chase the monster away?
Cybele Young uses pen and ink drawings to tell the delightful tale of ten little birds who are making their way in the world when they come across a "scary monster." Using discard pieces of clothing, the birds come up with their own monsters to try to get rid of the one standing in their path. Young's use of such names as Vicious Polka-dactyl and Gnashing Grapplesaurus brings to mind Roald Dahl's works. Adults will be able to surmise the scary monster is just a shadow but this won't stop children from enjoying the build-up of the birds' creatures until the end.
Recommended for ages 4 - 6.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan

The Mighty LaloucheThe Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lalouche was a humble postman living in Paris, France around 150 years ago. He was not very tall and very skinny but, he was nimble, fast and strong. Lalouche loved being a postman until the day he was told he was being let go because the postal service had bought a fleet of electric cars. What was a small, bony postman to do? Then Lalouche saw an ad from the Bastille Boxing Club asking "Are you nimble? Are you fast? Are you strong?" Well, he was nimble; and he was fast; and he was strong, so Lalouche answered the ad. The Mighty Lalouche was born!
The Mighty Lalouche tells the tale of how one small, bony postman became a boxing sensation. Given the wrestling mania of today, I found this historic tale to be entertaining. I was a little confused because the boxers also used their feet and one even stood on Lalouche in the ring. An author's note at the end explains la boxe francaise, or French boxing allowed fighters to use their feet similar to our kickboxing today. (Although standing on your opponent was an no-no.) The note also talks about the electric car used in the illustrations for the story. It was a real electric car but a race car, not one used for carrying the mail. I think this is a good book for young boys interested in boxing/wrestling or anytime you want to read a story book and throw some history in there too.
I recommend it for children ages 4 - 6.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: Dead Letter Office - The Parish Mail Series by Kira Snyder

Dead Letter OfficeDead Letter Office by Kira Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CJ (Celia Jane) Macarty knew her life was never going to be the same the day she saw the two Navy officers in dress uniform got out of their car. Since that day when the officers notified her and her mother that her father was killed in Afghanistan, CJ's life has turned upside-down. She and her mother have moved from California to New Orleans to be closer to her father's family, a family CJ has never met. Now she is burying her father and starting at a new high school all in the same week. When CJ escapes the crowd at her grandparents' house after the funeral, she finds an unusual tree in a clearing growing behind the house. On the tree is a hollow which has been sanded and stained until it resembles a mailbox. When CJ finds an antique letter with the words "Help me, C.J.M" written on it inside the hollow, it sets her on a path which takes her from the French Quarter to the bayou in the hopes of solving a long dead murder.
This is an "Active Fiction" book written similar to the Choose-Your-Own Adventure series in which you make a choice to tell the story. I am not a fan of these types of stories but found this one easier to maneuver through. There were not too many choices to the story so it was easy to follow and remember what had happened in the storyline. I went back and redid my choices the second time around and found the story still very likable.
I also found the characters of Tilly and Celia to be likable too. I was not as engaged by Luc or Donovan but hope to see them develop more in the next story.
I would recommend this book for ages 10+, especially those who are looking for this type of choose your own story.

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach KeeperThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The day Paxton Osgood mailed the invitations to the Walls of Water Women’s Society Club gala, it began to rain so hard the rivers flooded and the mail couldn’t be delivered. When the invitations were finally delivered, they went to the wrong addresses. Following their delivery into the right hands, an unusual number of people went to the doctor complaining of infected paper cuts because the envelopes had become super sealed due to the moisture in the air. It was almost as if someone, or something, did not want Paxton’s gala celebrating the 75th year of the Women’s Society Club to happen. Neither does Willa Jackson. Or at least she doesn’t want it to happen with her. Willa’s grandmother had been one of the founding members of the Club, but that was before her family had lost their fortune and prestige in the town. To make matters worse, the gala was to be held at the Blue Ridge Madam, the stately mansion on the hill that Willa’s family had built and lost. Now Willa runs the Au Natural Sporting Goods and Café and that is good enough for her. But past secrets and long buried truths are about to come to light that will change Willa’s and Paxton’s lives forever.

When first presented with this book to read, I resisted based solely on the cover. I know – don’t judge a book by its cover, but I admit, sometimes I do. I was ready for a book along the lines of a Debbie Macomber or Barbara Delinsky, something sappy with a “great” tragedy but happily ever after ending. Not really my cup-of-tea. What I found was a book I loved. I was instantly hooked when the invitations caused so much trouble and the author started talking about “signs.” The characters and their world kept me going to the end. This book gives you a little bit of everything (mystery, romance, humor, etc.) without trying too hard to do it all (if that makes sense.) I felt myself falling love with Walls of Water and its inhabitants. It is a place I would love to visit, or even better, live there. Alas it is imaginary … but still. The main thing which kept me reading, however, was the magic in the story. Not witches and wizards magic, but magic you can believe just might exist. To top it off, the friendship between Willa’s grandmother and Paxton’s grandmother brought tears to my eyes because we all want that friend, the one who says “She’s still here. I’m still here… as long as we are, we’ll always be friends.” I am recommending this book to everyone.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Book Review - The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)The Diviners by Libba Bray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Naughty John, Naughty John does his work with his apron on." It is the year 1926: Prohibition is in full swing, the streets run with gin and speakeasies are everywhere. Evangeline O'Neill, or Evie to her friends, embraces the life of the flapper with her whole being - bobbed hair, drinking gin and good times. Evie hides a secret from the world however. She can divine - when she touches an object she can see into the owner's past. When a "party trick" goes too far, Evie finally wears out her parents' patience and is shipped off to live with her Uncle Will as punishment. To Evie this is not punishment, this is freedom. Uncle Will lives in New York City - Manhattan to be exact. She plans to spend her days shopping and her nights going to Broadway shows and dancing at the Cotton Club. What Evie doesn't plan for is the serial killer who is stalking New York, leaving chilling occult sigils branded on his victims. Now Evie must use her gift to help find the killer before he kills again.
I loved this book. At first glance it looks very long but once I started, it was a fast paced read that took no time at all (mainly because I did not want to put it down.) I enjoyed the setting of 1920's New York with all the references to speakeasies and Ziegfeld Follies. I also appreciated the several different character story lines that weave through the plot. While they don't exactly come completely together, you know that eventually (maybe the next book) they will be ganging up to fight the evil and right the wrongs. Not all the secrets were revealed in this book and not all the ends were tied up so it does leave you wanting the next one.
I would recommend this book for ages 13+ due to some of the more gruesome murder scenes.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Ruby Redfort: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child

Look Into My Eyes (Ruby Redfort, #1)Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On a cold October morning, a 2 year-old girl decided to forget toddler talk, brush up her language skills and set her sights on detective work. Why? Because that toddler was Ruby Redfort: girl genius, code breaker extraordinaire, and, most importantly, girl detective. Ruby, now 13 years old, is living up to her 2 year-old dreams. She is well on her way to being a secret agent recruited by Spectrum, a secret agency (a very secret agency) that works outside of the government but not against it. Ruby lives by a set of rules of her own making. RULE #1 YOU CAN NEVER BE COMPLETELY SURE WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN NEXT. So when a mysterious caller ask Ruby try to find them she is intrigued. Using her wits and code cracking skills Ruby is on her way to “break-ins, daring rescues and life-or- death situations.”
Inspired by a character introduced to readers in the Clarice Bean series, Ruby Redfort is the Nancy Drew of today. Along with her best friend, Clancy Crew, she follows the clues and foils the bad guys. While at times it seems the plot is trying a little too hard to follow the model of the rich, smart, crime fighting teen, Ruby is still a likable character. The dialog keeps the pace moving in the story to help it over the few humps along the way. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants an alternative to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys or the Boxcar Children Mysteries or someone who just wants a fun read.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review - Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses (Olivia)Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the girls, and even some of the boys, are all dressing as princesses with pink, ruffly skirts and sparkly wands. Olivia wants to be something different, she just doesn't know what. She tries the French fashion look. When all the girls, and some of the boys, try out for the fairy princess ballerina, Olivia goes for a more stark, modern style. But nothing feels quite right. What is a little pig to do? Knowing Olivia, she will figure it out.
I just want to say I think every little girl, and even some of the boys, should read and/or be read this book. It is a wonderful look at individuality. Olivia is a great celebration of the individual in all of us. When she looks at all the pink fairy princesses she asks the question "Why not an Indian princess or a princess from Thailand or an African princess or a princess from China?" And you have to hand it to Olivia - why be a princess when you can be a queen?

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Monday, January 14, 2013

As I look at everyone's 2013 reading resolutions it occurs to me that while I read more in 2012, I posted less. So my reading resolution is a little bit different than most. I am going to read more but make sure I post more too. My reading goal is going up from 150 books to 200 for 2013. I am also pledging to review and/or post once a week on the teen and children's books I read. I am hoping I can keep that resolution.