Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chomping on the bit





Two sources have alerted me to some awesome soon-to-be-published books.  Over on Fuse#8, Betsy Bird mentioned titles from a librarian's preview from HarperCollins.  I am drooling.

And PW Children's gave stars to the books they reviewed in today's online edition.  Since I am receiving this e-newsletter after retirement, I won't link directly to the reviews.  I can tell you what the books are, though.

1.  Is this a dream?  I must pinch myself.  Jen Bryant teams up with Melissa Sweet to bring us a picture book biography of Peter Mark Roget, the creator of Roget's Thesaurus.  The book, The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus  is published by Eerdman's and will come out in September.  Bryant has authored some awesome non-fiction and Sweet's illustrations win me over every time.  But the subject matter, a man obsessed with words, a life-saver to writers and puzzle-solvers alike, is so mind-expanding.  Fascinating people don't just climb mountains and rescue tiger cubs.  They solve equations and explore words. 

2. Nuts to You by Lynn Rae Perkins (Greenwillow, 978-0-06-009275-7) comes out in August and it's about SQUIRRELS.  Yes!  Yes!  Squirrels are everywhere my friends.  When a squirrel is carried away by a hawk, his friends go on an adventure to find him.  Isn't that cover so pretty?

3. Gregory Maguire of Wicked fame is back with a Russian folktale styled story that features a futuristic Baba Yaga and a reversal of roles plot.  Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire will be published by Candlewick in September

4.  Last but not least is Meg Wolitzer's "debut" YA novel, Belzhar, brought to us by Dutton and due out in September.  (Wolitzer's The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman, a masterpiece about Scrabble must have been meant for a younger audience.)  A broken-hearted teen who is incapable of recovering from her failed romance is sent to a special school where she is given a journal that takes her back in her own life to before her heartbreak.

There are so many books and there is so little time.  I think I ONLY have 24 ARCs to work through, along with the one library book on my bedside bookshelf.  I will tell you about that, later.



Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham


The Luck Uglies

I finished The Luck Uglies last night and I was satisfied to see that it promises a sequel.

When the (evil, disgusting, arrogant, cruel, etc.) Earl of Longchance captures a young Bog Noblin, he invites doom and terror to the village of Drowning.  Rye, her friends, Folly and Quinn, her mother, Abby and the mysterious tattooed man, known as Harmless, must save the village.  Spells, magical beasts, potions, and incredible escape acts, most occurring in the dark of night, keep the pages turning.

I admit I skimmed.  I often skim through battles because reading about swordplay and how the characters avoid decapitation or mangling makes me itchy.  (I am not an 11-year-old boy.)  I took the time to read one such scene and it was cinematically presented - the type of action/adventure sequence that the target readership will LOVE.

I love the cover and chapter illustrations.   I thought that one or two scenes were dragged out for suspense and action's sake.    Even the villains - except for the Earl, who is beyond the pale - have their not-so-awful moments.  So, yes, I think fantasy and adventure fans, boys and girls alike, will enjoy this book.

ASIDE:  Is there a running around the rooftops meme circulating through kids' fiction right now?  This is not the first, or even the second, book that I've read this year in which city rooftops are used as escape routes or roadways.  Just wondering.



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Cracks in the Kingdom

Late on Monday night, I finished The Cracks in the Kingdom with a loud moan.  How could Jaclyn Moriarty do this to her readers?  What about the Queen of Cello?  How can Elliot and his father return?  Is Belle really having a mental breakdown?  Will Madeline's mother be ok?  And is Princess Ko as unfeeling as she appears?

I mean, really!!!!  This wild, whimsical fantasy trilogy (I hope it's a trilogy because I want answers SOON if not immediately) keeps me guessing.

This second entry into The Colors of Madeleine series returns to the Kingdom of Cello - where colors can create havoc and the entire Royal Family except for Princess Ko has been abducted.  Elliot Baranski is on the Royal Youth Alliance, an initiative supposedly designed to find ways for the Provinces of Cello to better work together.  The RYA is really dedicated to finding the Royal Family and returning them to Cello before war breaks out.

Since the Royal Family is in the World (That's us, folks.  We are the World.), Elliot needs Madeleine. 

Madeleine in turn needs her Worldly friends, Jack and Belle.  And the reader needs a neck brace from swiveling back and forth from Cello to the World to Cello to the World.

And it all gets scientific, and romantic and then, just like in the first book, A Corner of White, incredibly suspenseful.  WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!  I can't take this.  I need to know.

Who are these Wandering Hostiles who besiege the government of Cello?  Where the heck is Madeleine's father?  Why is the WSU determined to keep traffic between Cello and the World closed?  Can Elliot ever return to Cello?  Will Samuel survive? 

This review does NOT do this book,- the writing, the research, the fitting together of the smallest puzzle pieces,- justice.  Not since the Chrestomanci books of Diana Wynne-Jones have I read fantasies as intricate as this series.  Moriarty's mood is so much lighter that Wynne-Jones, (whom I miss every passing day), that it is easy not to notice how every detail is necessary to tell this story.  WOW!  Just plain wow!  Read these books.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sinner - Maggie Stiefvater



It was Leon, really, who kept me reading.  This poor guy has to drive the returning rock star to the rock star's new gig and the rock star - Mercy Falls fans know that Cole St. Clair is the rock star - keeps asking for Leon's advice and input.  And Leon is so driver-ish-ly polite and even kind.  So for Leon I kept reading.

Because I never read the Mercy Falls books, I didn't know about the passion between Cole and Isabel Culpepper, or the tragedies that befell the Mercy Falls clan.  And I am grateful for Leon because I learned to like and respect Cole and Isabel. 

Here's the story, guys.  I will only take you so far, ok?  Cole is out of rehab.  He has been offered a chance to make a new album - as long as he does it on a reality tv show based in LA.  The band, Narkotika, is defunct.  Jeremy, the bass player, is in LA with a new band.  Mercy Falls readers know what happened to the drummer, Victor, and there's no return from that, alas.

But Cole's real goal is to find and win back Isabel.  Isabel lives in LA with her mother and aunt and cousin, Sophia.  Thanks, Sophia.  I liked YOU a lot, too.

The opening of this book let's you know that there is ACTION, DANGER and DRAMA involved in the book.  The setting of a reality show just pours lighter fluid on the blaze, so to speak.   And through it all, Cole tries to convince Isabel to trust him.  And Isabel tries to remain in control of circumstances that are beyond her reach.

In my opinion, this is not Maggie's best.  But I'm not all that fond of werewolves, either.  However, I am happy and relieved that the book was lively and full of good people behaving pretty ok, mostly, and ordinary people acting like jerks sometimes, and romance and action and love - and minor characters that I wanted to meet in person.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill


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Humph! In The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore, I did not like Hazel Kaplansky much - at first. She is the smartest person she knows and makes no bones about it.  She is the kind of smart kid that makes other kids - and grown-ups - annoyed.  And she reminded me a lot of....ME!  (And, I was NEVER the smartest person I knew, but I didn't KNOW that.)

 It's 1953.  The Switzer Switch and Safe factory in town has been targeted for investigation into the possibility of Communist infiltration.  Luckily, Hazel's parents run the town cemetery.  But, their new grave-digger, Paul Jones, has all of Hazel's detective senses trembling.  She thinks of him as the Comrade and is this far from proving that he is a Russian spy.

Then Samuel Butler moves into Hazel's fifth-grade class.  Samuel is smart.  And quiet.  And he has secrets.  And he likes cemeteries and research.  Before too long, Hazel has Samuel helping her with her investigation into who the real spy in town is.

1953 was a time of wide-spread distrust, when neighbors eyed each other for signs of disloyalty, a time like....NOW, for instance.  One man used the new media sensation of TV to create panic and spread fear in his need for power and attention.  And 10-year-old Hazel swallows the propaganda whole, even while adults around her warn her to use her brains.

Hazel and Samuel have to put up with the same silly shenanigans that middle graders everywhere have to put up with - snide comments, being judged because of who their parents are or because of where they live.  As investigations into the factory continue, Hazel overhears adults acting just as mean and petty as their children.

Hazel and Samuel uncover secrets, some innocent, some painful and Hazel redeems herself with an act of courage and kindness just when Samuel needs her most.

Add this to the growing list of fine historical fiction from an author who gets better with each effort.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Mark of the Dragonfly

The Mark of the Dragonfly


I am just about finished with this book and it is rushing to its conclusion like a, pardon me if you've read the book, run-away train.  I hope Jaleigh Johnson has ever intention of writing more about Piper, Anna, Trimble, Jeyne, and green-eyed Gee.  The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson.

Piper is an orphan in the Meteor fields of Merrick (spelling?), the northern kingdom.  Her father recently died while working at King Aron's factories in Dragonfly territory to the south.  Piper can fix any machine that her fellow scrappers can find after a meteor shower.

In an attempt to find a missing friend, Piper finds a strange caravan and a frightened, confused girl who bears the mark of the Dragonfly.  She is protected by King Aron.

Anna, the girl, remembers very little.  When a strange man arrives to claim Anna, Piper decides to take Anna to the southern capital of Noveen on the 4-0-1, a cargo train.  There they meet the rest of the heroes of this book and there they embark on a series of increasingly hair-raising adventures.

Enough, I have about 70 pages to go and things just got even more hairy!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Gollywhopper Games


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I subscribe to Bookperk, a splendid e-newsletter that offers ebooks for prices between free and $4.99.  These are mostly books written for adults, sigh.  But every now and then, an awesome kids' book is offered.

I think that's where I purchased The Gollywhopper Games  by Jody Feldman.   If you enjoy books that revolve around puzzles, this book is for you.  I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein and enjoyed it.  The Gollywhopper Games is every bit as good, in my opinion.

One of the things going for Gollywhopper is that the games truly resemble reality games from TV.  Adults are monitoring every step of the way and they intervene when necessary - which only happens once.

Another thing that I enjoyed is that the book's backstory adds tension to the games.  Gil's father once worked for Golly Toy Company and left under accusations of embezzlement.  He was found innocent but his son's life has been very unpleasant ever since.

When Gil qualifies for the games and then passes the first two tests, the Golly Toy Company's president tries to get Gill to drop out.  He offers to pay Gil off! 

Gil's fellow contestants fall into typical kid lit stereotypes; the airhead beauty who just wants to be on TV; the rich kid whose parents spent thousands of dollars to ensure his place in the games; one of Gil's schoolmates who is an athlete and a hothead; and the quiet studious genius.  These are the final five players who must work together as a team and then against each other.  But each player gets a chance to shine.  I liked that a lot.

The puzzles and challenges are fun and well-described as well.

Up until now, I have felt that I don't visualize as well when I read an ebook as I do when I read a paper book.  After reading The Gollywhopper Games, I think that perhaps it is the book itself that causes the problem.  I had no problem visualizing the colorful toy factory, the hallways, or the games.

The Golly Toy Company finds out who embezzled that money.  Gil learns a lot about himself and so do his fellow contestants.  This is a book I might even read again.  High praise from me.

PS.  It appears that the world is demanding another set of Gollywhopper Games and the Golly Toy Company aims to please its customers.