Bleating sheep, big baddies, one mad scientist and his equally mad wife, and a prophecy are all part of what makes The Warrior Sheep Go West a ruckus...moreBleating sheep, big baddies, one mad scientist and his equally mad wife, and a prophecy are all part of what makes The Warrior Sheep Go West a ruckus of a good time. This is the second book about these rare, highly intelligent, and bad guy fighting sheep, but not having read the first book was no problem at all.
The reader is dropped right into the sheep’s English world and then quickly upended with them when they go to America. Right from there, the action and hilarious situations are non-stop. Middle grade readers will thoroughly enjoy how the five sheep just happen to be in very human situations: getting picked up in a convertible, taking a train to the Grand Canyon, hopping a bus to Vegas, and even 'relaxing' in a Vegas hotel.
The Warrior Sheep Go West is pure fun and the perfect book for readers who love a good time. Sal, Oxo, Jaycey, Wills, and Links will charm readers and animal lovers alike with their bold personalities and the ability to get into all kinds of trouble. I can only imagine that these warrior sheep have many adventures ahead of them and readers are going to love every single one of them.(less)
The Ganzfield series is an addicting, fast-paced, sexy, and hilarious YA series that I can’t get enough of. Accused is the fourth book in the series a...moreThe Ganzfield series is an addicting, fast-paced, sexy, and hilarious YA series that I can’t get enough of. Accused is the fourth book in the series and it’s just as entertaining as the last three. This one focuses a lot more on relationships and less on a big bad guy – though there’s still a bad guy, it’s not so much a he, as it is a them (and a she).
As the title alludes, Accused starts with Maddie in the midst of some legal drama. As the story progresses, there are the occasional minder gatherings, fire-starting sparks, and good ol’ Trevor being as romantic as ever. Accused is much more character-driven than the previous installments, but this allows for a great deal of character growth.
Maddie and Trevor grow individually, and as a couple. Their relationship strengthens even more – didn’t think that was even possible – as they go through hell together. The secondary characters aren’t around as much as they usually are, but we get to see a very pregnant Rachel and get glimpses of the next generation of G-positives through her very talented, yet-to-be-born baby. Seth is around a bit more and I loved it. His big brother relationship with Maddie is cute and protective, and his dry humor lightens the mood.
Accused is another wonderful installment in a perfectly executed series. Kate Kaynak has delivered yet another fresh tale with endearing and entertaining characters, a storyline that continues to thicken, and a romance that has found a way to sizzle without fail. Accused has whet my appetite for even more G-positive adventures and I’m wicked excited to see exactly where Maddie will go next and what will happen in her future.(less)
Going into Dark Parties, I expected a dark dystopian with a controlling government and an undercurrent of fear. I got that, at least somewhat; but I h...moreGoing into Dark Parties, I expected a dark dystopian with a controlling government and an undercurrent of fear. I got that, at least somewhat; but I hadn’t realized how Neva’s age and her newly minted adulthood would come into play. Many of the people living under the Protectosphere move about their day to day lives with no passion and no motivation to rebel. They do what their told, when their told. Neva doesn’t, but she isn’t the spark of a rebellion either.
I liked Neva, but I had issues connecting with her. I felt strongest about her when she was thinking about the Missing people that she writes about in her journal and remembering her Grandmother who named her. Aside from that, Neva’s strong, sure, but she’s also a bit obsessed with red-booted Braydon. I get that the guy has some sex appeal, but she wants him and a lot. All based on a kiss in the dark. It’s like that one kiss dominates her thoughts, especially since she didn’t really like Braydon before that. Her internal war between wanting Braydon and not wanting Braydon got to be a bit much.
The secondary characters like Sanna (Neva’s best friend and Braydon’s girlfriend), Braydon, and Neva’s boyfriend Ethan stood out, but not a great deal. They play their roles and play them well, but I never connected with them or with their relationships with Neva. Braydon is supposed to be all sexy and broody, but I had issues getting behind a romance between him and Neva when it was all based on that one kiss. Neva’s raging guilt pecked at her constantly too. She grows throughout the story though and her reactions towards Ethan showcase her more mature mindset. Surprisingly, it was Neva’s mother and father who struck me as complicated characters. We don’t get to know them that much, but their minimal presence bears a lot of weight in the story.
As much as I enjoyed Dark Parties, the focus on sex and procreation threw me for a loop at first. I hadn’t realized it would be such a huge part of the plot and it is. There are fewer children being born, so the government has to go to extreme measures to keep the population up. It makes sense for the plot, but I didn’t realize it would be such a huge focal point. So much so that Neva has all her friends make a vow to not have sex and give into the government’s wishes for the 16 year olds (their age of adulthood) to get pregnant.
Aside from that, I really enjoyed Dark Parties. Sara Grant has added a worthy title to the ever-growing list of dystopian young adult books. This is definitely more a utopia with dystopian elements, but still interesting and actually realistic too. It doesn’t seem like a stretch that a community would wall itself off from the rest of the world and then dictate the lives of its citizens from then on. Dark Parties feels a bit reminiscent of 1984, only with a younger audience in mind. If you’re a fan of dystopians, then be sure to check this one out.(less)
Sign Language is a bit of a cross between a middle grade novel and a young adult novel; it also has nothing to do with sign language itself. The sign...moreSign Language is a bit of a cross between a middle grade novel and a young adult novel; it also has nothing to do with sign language itself. The sign language part comes into play because at the start, the main character Abby, a twelve year old with no worries and a loving mother and father, likes to talk to her magic eight ball and ask it for a sign regarding her nonexistent – but very much hopeful – love life.
Abby’s life quickly goes from being normal, to being the façade of normal. Her father has cancer. No. Her father is dying. She knows it, he knows it, her mother and brother know it, but they all pretend and hope and act, like he’ll pull through. Abby’s insistence that no one outside her family – not even her best friend Spence – know, is heartbreaking because it is realistic. Abby doesn’t want to be that girl whose dad has cancer. She wants normal.
Even if she can’t have it.
As the story progresses, and Abby’s father comes closer and closer to death, we get to see her grow and grow up. The story takes place over a span of about 3-4 years, so it truly does start out as a middle grade novel, but moves towards a more young adult field. I still believe it is a good fit for older middle grade readers though, as it handles death and grief and loss with so much honesty and raw emotion.
Death is never easy. And it’s not easy for Abby to handle. She starts off as a young, naïve, innocent girl, but quickly transforms into a saddened, even bitter teenager. She doesn’t know how to deal with her grief because she shies away from it, almost ignoring it altogether. Her family falls apart around her and there’s nothing she can do about it, but deal.
Amy Ackley has expertly handled death and life with Sign Language. It’s clear that she has experienced such tragedy firsthand; and has infused Abby, her mother, her brother Josh, the sweet boy next door Spence, and every other character with so much life that it is impossible not to feel and grieve and hope and live with them. The grief is real, the loss extreme, but the hope, the life, the love that comes out at the end – it is truly uplifting. Sign Language is heartbreaking in its raw portrayal of a family losing a father and learning how to live in his absence. The subject matter may be a little too mature for some middle grade readers, but I think it’s suitable for more mature MG readers and has plenty to offer for YA readers as well.(less)
The Near Witch is an exquisite folklore-ish tale that has hints of the Brothers Grimm and the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Victoria Schwab’s storytelling is...moreThe Near Witch is an exquisite folklore-ish tale that has hints of the Brothers Grimm and the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Victoria Schwab’s storytelling is intriguing, invigorating, and has this ethereal quality to it. The words almost float off the page in a lyrical, melodic way.
Lexi is strong and determined, fierce and unafraid to speak her mind. She’s everything the oldest daughter with a dead father needs to be in a house with a ghost of a mother and a twinkle of a sister. Her willingness to accept the stories her father told her is what separates her from the rest of the town of Near. She’s open to her world, to the moors, and the witch stories. And she’s curious, not fearful of a stranger in the town of Near.
And boy is that stranger mysterious. Dark hair, dark clothes, and bathed in an ash-like embrace, Lexi aptly calls him Cole. The town’s fear of Cole, of his strangeness, hangs heavy in the book. It’s felt in every page, with every disappearance. Schwab’s penchant for making the story of the Near Witch tangible for all the townspeople is astounding. Her descriptions of Near and of the moors and the woods makes the setting a character all its own.
The secondary characters create an image of a tiny, isolated town with a storied past and many ghosts. Magda and Dreska Thorne are two witches that are practically shunned, but who I couldn’t get enough of. Their thinly veiled warnings and knowledge of the town is a treasure to be cultivated. The two of them command every scene they’re in, demanding the reader take notice. Their traditions and beliefs add so much to an already perfect tale.
Victoria Schwab has melded the folklore-ish town of Near with the realities of love, distrust, and a constantly creeping undertone of fear. Not only is the lyrical writing beautiful, but it is impressive and vibrant. I could hear the wind whistle through the air, the trees rustling, the twigs cracking, and I could taste the ever-growing fear of the townspeople. Countering all this is the intense connection between Lexi and Cole, as well as Lexi’s memories of her father and the stories he used to tell her. The pacing – much like the mystery of the story – builds slowly, but surely, capping off in a crescendo of frantic heartbeats and wild actions.
The Near Witch is one of those books that take you by surprise, sweeping into your consciousness and filling your head with tales of witches and mysteries and fairy tales come true. It’s a bedtime story gone wrong, with the Near Witch rolling in as fast as and as swift as the fog. It’s impossible not to feel an inkling of the childhood terror one gets at the thought of monsters under the bed. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again, so I can experience the wonderment of such a deeply enchanting and striking world. Victoria Schwab’s debut is a knockout that has left me eager to see what magic she churns out next.(less)