Sep 30, 2014

Ten Timid Ghosts

Ten Timid Ghosts by Jennifer O'Connell is a fantastic counting book with a great rhythmic text that can be sung.  My students loved the story line which consists of a witch moving into a haunted house and then scaring the ghosts one at a time so they'll leave.  At the end the ghosts scare the witch and then hand out candy to the trick or treaters. 

I recommend this book for kids from 3-8

Sep 20, 2014

Captive (The Blackcoat Rebelion)

Captive by Aimee Carter is the second book in the Blackcoat Rebellion series.  This series follows Kitty who lives in a world where your rank determines how you live.  She was "masked" to look like Lila a member of the royal family.  In the first book we saw her transformation and learned about the rebellion.  In Captive, Kitty again finds herself being used as a pawn as others try to gain or maintain control.  After she's caught in a compromising position she is sent elsewhere and has to fight to find who is working in her interest while everyone is trying to use her.

I really enjoyed this book.  I'm very skeptical when it comes to sequels in dystopian series because so many of them are bad.  This book however didn't fall into that trap.  The story continued and the new location and characters meshed with the old story and there were surprises and mysteries.  The book kept me guessing, interested and I finished it quickly which is notable because I'm in a mood lately where I hate everything and take a while to finish books. 

I love Kitty and it's nice to see a girl who has learning disabilities (dyslexia which makes her unable to read) not let them hold her back and succeed despite the challenges they face  Her dyslexia is a part of her not the defining characteristic.  The romance was not heavy handed and worked nicely and the other relationships continued in a believable manner.  The author does a good job at making multifaceted small characters.  I can't wait for the next book in the series to find out if Kitty turns from a pawn into a queen. 

This is the second book in a series and it should not be read out of order.  The book starts right after the second finished but they

Appropriateness:  This is a series that teen dystopian fans will enjoy.  It is quite violent with battle and mild torture scenes along with people being killed right and left by the bad guys to keep everyone else in control.  There is also a sex scene in this book which takes all of three paragraphs and is very vague.  So vague that I'd be just fine with my fifth grader reading it.  There is no drug or alcohol use (aside from people being drugged instead of shot).  I recommend this book to readers 13+ and it would be fine for younger fans of books like The Hunger games (and a good discussion piece on how violence and the fear of violence can be used to control groups of people).

Review copy provided by Amazon Vine

Sep 18, 2014

The Jewel

The Jewel by Amy Ewing follows Violet who has spent her last several years training to be a surrogate for the royalty in her society.  Royalty can't have children so poor girls are tested to see if they have certain powers to manipulate matter and if they test positive they move to a training academy.  Violet is one of the highest ranked girls of her year and is bought by one of the most powerful royals and finds herself wrapped up in a controversy she couldn't even imagine.

I have mixed feelings on this one.  In some ways it wasn't good at all, the romance was laughable and unneeded and the world building was incomplete and implausible.  Even though all of that I found myself really enjoying Violet and her story.  The plotting was fast paced and the side characters interesting and I just really wanted to know what happened next and finished it in a weekend.  Unfortunately the story had no ending and I'll have to decide if I'm willing to read another book to find out what will happen to Violet (I don't care about what happens with the romance, it was a waste of print but at least was minimal). 

Appropriateness:  There is some minimal sexual content in this book, a sex scene that's very tame.  There's also a bit of wine drinking.  It's nothing that I'd really find inappropriate for older middle school or high school aged readers but I wouldn't hand this book to readers on the bottom edge of YA (and the pregnancy plot would probably turn them off anyway).  I recommend this book to female fans of dystopian romance 13+

Review copy provided by Amazon Prime

Sep 15, 2014

Oh No!

Oh No! by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann tells the story of a group of animals that fall into a large hole one at a time. 

The repetitive text makes this book a fantastic read aloud (I have my students say Oh No with high low tones each time it comes up).  The kids love this story and ask to hear it over and over.

I recommend this book to kids 3-8 and it's a great one for classroom libraries (and music teacher collections).

Sep 10, 2014

Tuesdays at the Castle

Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George is third book in the Tuesdays at The Castle Series.  This series follows the plucky Celie who lives in a magical castle.  In this book the castle as transported Celie, her friends and siblings and her pet griffin to the land where the castle originated.  They have to find out how to save the castle and get home.

I adore this series and this book did not disappoint.  Celie was strong and her griffin was wonderful and the castle remained the character that it has been in other books.  I rushed through the book and can't wait to find out what happens on Fridays.

Appropriateness:  This is a fantastic series that I'd recommend to elementary and middle school aged readers either as a read aloud or to read independently (for fourth grade and up).  It's non-violent and without romance.

Review copy provided by Amazon Vine

Sep 5, 2014

Zac and Mia

Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts tells the story of two teens with cancer.  Zac has been fighting leukemia and is in isolation in the hospital when the unrully Mia moves in next door.  The two form an unlikely friendship when Mia reaches out months after their hospital stay.

This was a great story.  A nice change from the typical sob fest with overdramatic romance that we've seen lately with other similar stories.  Zac and Mia were both flawed characters and needed each other.  I didn't fly through the book but I did find myself interested throughout and I was very happy with the way it ended.

I recommend this book to readers 14+.  There is a bit of sexual content in the beginning of the book but nothing explicit.  Mia spends the majority of the story making bad decision after bad decision, the book does a good job of showing why her decisions are wrong.

Review copy provided by Amazon Vine

Aug 20, 2014

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska by John Green follows Miles who is a new student at boarding school.  An outcast at his past school Miles quickly falls in with a crowd of kids who spend most of their time smoking and drinking while planning pranks on their enemies the rich kids at schools they call the weekend warriors.  Alaska, a girl in his group is Miles' obsession, and we see her struggle until the unforseen happens.

I just couldn't take this book.  It was so well regarded and I've enjoyed other books by John Green but something about the setting and characters didn't work for me.  It takes place in apparently the worst boarding school ever.  Where there's little to no supervision aside from one teacher who runs after those who are obviously misbehaving (and rarely catches them).  The kids smoke (and smoke and smoke, smoking is almost a subplot it's used so much) and drink and hang out in rooms of the opposite sex with no oversight at all which I find totally unrealistic for a school that's housing minors.  The characters seem to be caricatures of the troubled and lonely and the main character doesn't even think twice before taking a cigarette or drinking.

Appropriateness:  This is certainly not a book for young teens.  There are fairly graphic descriptions of sexual acts.  The characters drink and smoke and do drugs as a major plot point in the book.  I would recommend it to teens 16+
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