The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
2014 by Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763665661
Genre – Magical, Fantasy, Realistic
Age – High School
The History of the Roux family is strange and mysterious. It is also full of magic and wonder, but it isn’t always happy, especially not in love. It begins with her great grandmother, and slowly traces its way through the women of the family all the way down to Ava.
I really think it would be unfair to give you more to this story than that. I opened this book with no information, and was pleased that I did. As the story is passed down through the generations we learn that nothing has ever been normal and probably nothing ever will. This isn’t a story that is action packed, this isn’t a story with a gripping plot. It is a story with amazing characters, and beautiful writing. That is all it needs, and anything else would detract from the wonder of it all. Seriously just read this book
Zombie Baseball Beatdown
2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780316220781
Genre – Humor, Zombies
Age – Middle School
It was an ordinary day of baseball and being bullied for Rabi, Joe, and Miguel when the zombie apocalypse began. Rabi gets attacked by the baseball coach and gathers his friends to help him save their small town. The three friends soon learn that the zombies may have come from the meat packing plant, who tried to sweep a tainted meat scandal under the rug. Will the three be able to uncover the full story, and keep the world from a major catastrophe?
This book is so much more than just zombies, baseballs, and beatdowns! How could you want more, you ask? Well on top of humor, and action we actually get a dose of some serious social commentary. Bacigalupi manages to talk about racism, food safely, and immigration. It is nice to see a book for this age group have more than one layer! My one big issue with this is that it seems to be packing a little bit too much into such a small book, and the themes and plot can be overwhelming at times. However if you can take it in small pieces, you may just find yourself cheering in the scenes with Zombie Cows!
The Girl of Fire and Thorns
2011 by Greenwillow
ISBN – 9780062026484
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
Elisa has been chosen to bear the Godstone, this is an honor bestowed upon only one person per century, and this honor comes with great responsibility to do something remarkable. She feels as if she hasn’t done anything remarkable yet, when at 16 she becomes the secret wife of a dashing king. It is when she leaves her home, and the shadow of her older sister that she learns more about what her Godstone means. She also learns why it is so important, to her friends as well as her enemies.
I will go ahead and say, a friend has been desperately trying to convince me to read this for over a year. When I realized that I had no books in hand and none on the way, I finally caved and got it read. I have to say, I should have listened to her. I really enjoyed the many layers of this book. Elisa is such a powerful main female character. I like that she is not confident in the beginning, but as she grows, learns, and meets new people she becomes more confident. Her strength improves based on what she is been through. I really love that she portrays someone who is strong, because she has no other choice. It feels truer to me than someone who is strong just because. Based on the description of the book, I didn’t think I was going to like the fantasy setting, but I was wrong. I loved the descriptions of the land, the food, and the culture. I loved that it was a solid believable world. I also really appreciated the fact that not everything was over the top make believe. There is only so much in one book that I can let go. The story was also good, it kept me intrigued, however, I think I would have kept with this one even if the story wasn’t great. I am so glad all three books are already out and I won’t have to wait years!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442426702
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
Instead of telling her crushes how she feels, Lara Jean writes them letters. Instead of sending them she puts them in a hatbox from her mother, and keeps them to herself. Every time she writes these letters (5 in all) her feelings for the boy seem to go away. Then, one of the boys approaches her and tells her that he got the letter. She realizes that all of the letters have been mailed out, including one to her sister’s ex-boyfriend and next door neighbor, who she may still have feelings for. Now she must find a way to push her feelings aside, when another boy receives her letter. Could he be the way to forget her feelings for her neighbor?
Another quintessential realistic fiction book. When I started reading this I really didn’t like Lara Jean, she seemed like an eleven year old instead of sixteen. The more of the book I read, the more I realized that she acted just like a sixteen year old, and many of the other books I have read have overly matured teenage girls. So then, I just started disliking Lara Jean for other reasons. *SPOILER ALERT* This book overall felt like a stretch from reality to me, or maybe it was a happily ever after dream, and in book two she will wake up and have reality hit her in the face. Lara Jean’s whole family was so functional amidst the complete disfunctionality that surrounds them all. There was no big pivotal moment when everyone learned something, there was no character maturation, there just wasn’t much of anything except a sixteen year old whining that too many boys like her, and not being able to decide.
Counting by 7s
Holly Goldberg Sloan
ISBN – 9780803738553
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – Elementary, Middle School
Willow Chance is an intensely smart 12 year old. She loves her garden, and counting by 7s. She has been to see several doctors and counselors to address her social awkwardness. One day when Willow comes home, she finds that both of her adopted parents have been killed in a car accident. What are the chances of losing two sets of parents. Through this tragedy she makes friends, and strives to become a part of a community, something she has always struggled with.
This is a beautiful coming of age story about a girl who is too intelligent for her own good. Willow is someone that may be a bit different from most people, but she has some uncanny ability to be relatable to many different people. Every one has had terrible things happen to them, and Willow could truly teach us a lesson on how to handle it gracefully, not flawlessly. I loved all of the characters in this book. They were all so real, with genuine personalities, emotions, and reactions. The all struggled to get by in the world in their own way. If there was a downside, it was that it was so loveable. I just wanted it to be wrapped up with a sweet little bow, and make me smile. I wanted nothing bad to happen to anyone, and I wanted no one bad to enter the scene. It was too sweet, and too cute. There didn’t seem to be much conflict after the initial pages and shock of a horrible event.
Recently I was offered a job as a Youth Services Library Associate for the Timberland Regional Library in Shelton. My first day there is November 18th. I will still be trying to post regularly (I’m pretending I do that now!!) However, I will also be adding some different features depending on what my new official job duties are. For instance, I may be posting about programs and story times on top of the regular book reviews. I’ll probably have much less time to read with the additional hours, but I will try to stay a presence on this page. Wish me luck, and thanks for reading!
Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
2014 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN – 9780544233515
Genre – Picture Book, Nonfiction
Age – Early Elementary
This wonderful and colorful book goes straight to the source to find out what is up with some of the oddest features of animals. Each page asks an animal about one of its well know features. For instance, the mandrill is asked why his nose is so colorful, and the puffer fish is asked if he is about to explode. Each animal gives a short response as to why they are the way they are. As usual, Steve Jenkins has put forth some incredible illustrations. They are bright, they are fun, and they are super interesting. The facts are also all of these things. This is a great way to introduce kids to the idea that all living creatures have traits that help us survive.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
2014 by Schwartz & Wade
ISBN – 9780375867828
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School
The Romanov Dynasty had been ruling Russia for three hundred years when the newest Czar Nicholas took the throne. He was unlike any Czar before him, and didn’t seem quite suited to be a ruler. This is the story of the end of the long reining Romanov dynasty, and the fall of the Russia we used to know. This is a story of revolution, poverty, peasants, heartbreak, and death. Even if you know the details of how the Romanovs’ fell, this story will leave you feeling like you are in suspense.
This is my first Candace Fleming book, but it won’t be my last. She writes nonfiction with the excitement and interest of fiction. She makes history a great, albeit sad story (the way it is and should be.) Not only was it exciting to read, but it explained some of the beginnings and happenings in WWI make more sense to me. I learned a ton about the Romanov Dynasty that I didn’t know, and I learned so much about the Russian revolution as well. Amazingly enough, this in turn made me understand a bit about how present day Russia melded into its current state. I would recommend this to just about anyone, even though I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!
2014 Putnam Juvenile
ISBN – 9780399167775
Genre – Historical/Fiction
Age – High School
Small Town Massachusetts, present day: Suddenly several girls at a prestigious private high school begin showing signs of a mysterious illness. Some girls have tics and Tourette’s like symptoms, while others begin losing their hair. No one can seem to figure out what seems to be the cause. That is until they realize their close proximity to where the Salem Witch Trials were held. Is history repeating itself, or could this really be a massively contagious new and terrifying disease?
Parts of this book were excellent, like 5 star, can’t put the book down, late for work, excellent. Luckily it never lasted long enough to make me late for work. Here is what worked in my mind: Interchanging between present day illness and the Salem witch trial hysteria. Real life tie ins with the case of Le Roy New York, in which a group of girls started exhibiting symptoms similar to the book. What didn’t work for me: The characters, the characters, and the characters. I didn’t relate to any of them, I didn’t even have an iota of sadness that any of them were suffering. I just also didn’t believe them. They were painted as if they only wanted attention, not as if anything was actually wrong. They were so fake, I couldn’t even pretend to like them, and it ruined what could have been a great read. It made the book shallow, when it could have been deep, and it made me laugh when I should have felt bad.