I loved Joe and Frances from Star Dust. Neither of them got a lot of page time (particularly Joe), but they still stood out. Frances with her calmingI loved Joe and Frances from Star Dust. Neither of them got a lot of page time (particularly Joe), but they still stood out. Frances with her calming presence and Joe's willingness to miss an opportunity to orbit the earth for his son's medical emergency. This lovely little holiday novella takes readers back to when Joe and Frances first met and is absolutely delightful. Joe is a awesome. Any guy who is willing to woo a girl through gifts of books is. Frances is quiet and reserved with definite opinions on what she doesn't want her life to be. Their courtship is sweet and earnest and absolutely delightful. ...more
I will be honest. I've been reading a lot of depressing MG books lately. They are all about the same things and the plots are starting to run together in my head. And then I read Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah, and it was like a ray of sunshine burst into my world.
Ambra Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamota has many problems, not the least of which is the terrible name her Italian mother and Japanese father saddled her with. To make things easy on herself she goes by Amber. But she can't hide how short she is and is tired of telling people yes she is really 11. She can't hide her mixed heritage either, and is tired of the questions and people asking her to say something in Japanese. (Her standard response is "sushi"). She hates that she has a boring old flip phone that doesn't even have a camera or connect to the Internet. How uncool does her mom want her to be? Most of all she hates having the hole in her life caused by her father leaving them. When her little sister, Bella, realizes she is missing out on a dad and tries to write him a letter, Amber responds creating a dad in her head to help her through her problems and make both her and Bella a little more content.
Amber's voice is so perfect. It has the exact right combination of snark and vulnerability you hear from 11 year olds. She is smart, but common sense often escapes her. She can be judgmental and impulsive and brave and scared. She is incredibly real and just jumps off the page. Amber's relationship with Bella is beautifully depicted too. They squabble and fight like any pair of siblings, but there is a deep devotion and caring underpinning their relationship that comes out in their every interaction-even the sniping ones. Bella herself is a fully realized character which is not something we see a lot in the younger siblings in MG fiction. I appreciated how the author wrote how the girls feel something is missing with their father being gone, but simultaneously showed how great a family they have anyway. They are missing something and it needs to be acknowledged that it's okay to mourn the absence of someone you think should be there for you. The family unit in the book is a strong one though. The girls have a fantastic mother, a doting grandmother, and they have each other. I am sucker for sibling stories, especially ones about sisters, so this book was a perfect fit for me.
The book has several elements going on to form the plot. There are Amber's letters to Bella, Amber starting at the upper school and not having many friends, a situation with a bully, and an art competition Amber is being forced to enter. It is a lot, but at the same time it's not, because this is Amber's story. It is about her life and these are all little pieces of who she is at the time we are glimpsing into her life. All of it works to make her voice stronger and her character more rounded. I liked the way it all came together in the end too and how much Amber grew as a person.
My one major complaint about the book is not a flaw in the writing, but in the editing and a decision made by the publisher to Americanize the language. STOP DOING THIS, PUBLISHERS. Kids are smart and British English is not going to throw them into massive confusion especially if your already dropping in Italian occasionally. Context is everyone's friend. This could have been a five star read for me, but that was a major distraction. (Though it's a testament to how much I like Amber's voice that I like the book as much as I do. I usually DNF books that do that.)
Some favorite quotes: She was nice and everything but I wasn't sure I could ever be proper friends with her because her bag was pink and so was her pencil case. I know that's really shallow and everything, but she also had a button saying "I heart Justin Bieber" on her coat, and I really don't heart him at all, so our friendship was never going to be massively deep and special. (p37)
She smiled at me with pity and confusion an went back to the conversation, so I just stared out of the window and in my head, I drew the world as it should be. For a while it made me feel better. But then I got to school. (p100)
Both of these highlight Amber's loneliness, but also capture the varied aspect's of her personality. I really like that part about drawing the world as it should be. Amber is an introvert and that's what we introverts do in our heads. All. The. Time. And it does make you feel better. But then reality happens.
I am now handing this one over to my own 11 year old who loves art and snark as much as Amber does. (And also does NOT heart Justin Bieber.) ...more
The beginning was rough going. Info dump. Depressing info dump. Yet another info dump. The characters once the story got going are sympathetic and it'The beginning was rough going. Info dump. Depressing info dump. Yet another info dump. The characters once the story got going are sympathetic and it's a good story about recovering from grief and community. Unfortunately it's the billionth MG like this I've read this year and there was nothing to set it apart from all the others. It's a grief book with whales instead of jellyfish? I got nothing.
NOTE: I would LOVE to hear from someone in the Inuit culture speak on that aspect. ...more
Fairly stereotypical middle school book. None of the characters felt real to me. They were all just caricatures. It is a short read for kids whol prefFairly stereotypical middle school book. None of the characters felt real to me. They were all just caricatures. It is a short read for kids whol prefer shorter books....more
If you are looking for a fun adventurous historical fiction for MG readers, The Detective's Assistant by Kat Hannifin is a great choice.
Synopsis (from Goodreads): Eleven-year-old Nell Warne arrives on her aunt's doorstep lugging a heavy sack of sorrows. If her Aunt Kate rejects her, it's the miserable Home for the Friendless.
Luckily, canny Nell makes herself indispensable to Aunt Kate...and not just by helping out with household chores. For Aunt Kate is the first-ever female detective employed by the legendary Pinkerton Detective Agency. And Nell has a knack for the kind of close listening and bold action that made Pinkerton detectives famous in Civil War-era America. With huge, nation-changing events simmering in the background, Nell uses skills new and old to uncover truths about her past and solve mysteries in the present.
Nell is such a fun character and she has a strong unique voice. Smart and witty, she is more than a match and the best partner for her Aunt Kate, a Pinkerton detective. Kate is an excellent character in her own right, blazing a path for herself in a world that has not always been kind. Both Nell and Kate have suffered a lot of heartache. They are both prickly and wary of each other. Watching their relationship unfold over the course of the story was fun, endearing, and touching.
The story is rich in historical details, but is not encumbered by its historical significance. Important events occur and are discussed of but their purpose is in serving the lives of the characters rather than the characters serving the events. This is an important distinction for me in historical fiction, and one I find doesn't occur as often as it should.
My one complaint about the book is that it takes quite some time to get to the point. I feel like some of the set up could have been cut down to make the book shorter.
This is a great recommendation to give to kids who like adventure and humorous narrators. ...more
This is a fairly decent book about an incident in American history not often explored. I didn't love it and it is yet another book that looks at the lThis is a fairly decent book about an incident in American history not often explored. I didn't love it and it is yet another book that looks at the lives of marginalized people from the perspective of a white person learning a lesson. And of course, they are there to show said white person's goodness in contrast to society around them. I'm getting really sick of this. ...more
This is done in the format of a living history where each twin tells parts of the story (heavily influenced by Claudia) and there are pictures, diagraThis is done in the format of a living history where each twin tells parts of the story (heavily influenced by Claudia) and there are pictures, diagrams, and copies of their parents text messages and emails. It is funny in some places and a quick read. It's good to have around for kids looking for more of the books like Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries.
One major issue I had was the whole Fembot thing. MG WRITERS AND PUBLISHERS I AM GETTING TIRED OF THIS. This book is certainly not alone in this treatment. In reading for the Cybils right now in MG Fiction, I'm seeing it over and over. Girls do not need to be demonized due to an interest in clothes and make-up. And your female character does not get to be awesome because she's "not a typical girl". Don't be so lazy. People are more complex than that. And girls are people. (Shocking, I know.) ...more
The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh is a delightful read about relationships, secrets, and starting over. It is as light and fluffy as the cover implies.
GiGi (Galileo Galilei) is starting a new private school after she and her sister DiDi (Delta Dawn) move to start over. DiDi, who dropped out of school to cut hair at a young age, is insists that the future will be better for her smart sister. GiGi spends most of her time studying and working for her future. GiGi is determined to start over entirely at her new school, insisting that her new nickname will be Leia. At this school she is going to have friends and spend her free time doing a few things other than studying. On her first day GiGi is knocked over (literally) by cute popular boy, Trip, and it looks like all her dreams are going to come true. But first she has to deal with Mace, the girl shooting daggers at her every day during lunch, and DiDi's relentless need to organize her life and push it in the direction she thinks is best.
GiGi is an independent, strong-willed, often pushy girl. She is quite good at the snarky comeback and mostly unafraid to allow her opinion to be known. She and Mace, the pretty popular girl who seems unhappy about her presence at her much table, have some snappy conversations. GiGi manages comebacks most middle school girls can only dream of managing in such situations. Sometimes she doesn't know when to hold them back. I liked that GiGi was a good balance of strengths and weaknesses. She's a good friend to those who she wants to consider her friend. She can be downright mean to those she doesn't. Even when Mace shows her vulnerable side and GiGi realizes there is far more to her than she imagined, GiGi is not giving an inch. Their relationship remains fraught until the very end of the book, and I really liked the realistic tone of this. Mace does a lot to help GiGi, but its because she is really a giving and sympathetic person and not because she and GiGi have become friends.
The other characters in the book are not as well developed. I felt that most of the interactions between the middle schoolers were realistic, but their characters just don't stand out individually. I've forgotten most of their names. Trip, the cute popular boy GiGi develops a crush on, is incredibly flat. He's nice. But that's about it. DiDi is one of those quirky southern stereotypes that causes me to grit my teeth. (GiGi is as well but to a lesser extent). DiDi had me rolling my eyes on every page she was on.
The book has a pretty major twist that I saw coming from the beginning. MG readers are probably going to have their socks knocked off by it though. I feel like that twist was wrapped up a little too fast and prettily at the end. This may be because I knew it was coming and had plenty of time to ruminate on all the consequences and complications.
I do enjoy Yeh's writing and the way she pulls readers into a story. I am looking forward to seeing what her next book is like.
In the end I had mixed feelings about the book overall, but it is an enjoyable read and a decent recommendation for kids who love contemporary school stories with themes of changing friendships and complicated life situations....more
This is a heartwarming story of friendship, family, and summer. I liked how it showed the changes that occur in friendships without having demonize aThis is a heartwarming story of friendship, family, and summer. I liked how it showed the changes that occur in friendships without having demonize a girl for liking feminine things and being into boys. I've been encountering too many of those lately. It is also a short book so a good one to give to readers who are still turned off my longer novels. ...more
I feel there is a lack of good quality MG historical fiction that is fun and adventurous, where the point isn't to teach a history lesson, but to just have a story that sweeps you up in its magic and action. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands fills this need.
Christopher Rowe is an apothecary's apprentice in post Restoration London. He works hard, but he has a kind master who teaches him well and allows him enough free time for adventures that often end in mischief and trouble. He can't complain about his life. All of that starts to fall apart when a series of murders occur in their small corner of London. Murders that seem to be targeting apothecaries. When Christopher's master becomes the next victim, Christopher's entire future is left unsure. Worse he finds himself a suspect. As time is running out, Christopher races to find the true murder and finds himself caught in a web of politic intrigue and ancient intrigues.
Christopher is a hero whose story it is easy to get swept up in. When the reader meets him, he is trying to convince his best friend Thomas it would be a good use of their time to build a cannon. I really enjoyed the bond between Christopher and Thomas and how they behaved very much like typical kids their age. They have the responsibilities of their time and social situation that influences their life, but they are happy, active, inquisitive kids looking for ways to lighten the intensity of their days. Modern kids will be able to find much to identify with there.
The mystery aspect of the story is well done. I felt like the discoveries Christopher made were realistic enough to not stretch incredulity, but made for an adventurous read at the same time. What he was able to do and accomplish fit his character well too. He is a bright boy and is fueled by a desire to regain control of his future. It is the world's best motivator.
This is a book that is heavy with male characters. There are girls in the story who are helpful and if there is going to be a sequel, I would love to see some of them have a bigger role and importance. However, given the world in which Christopher was moving and working, the roles the girls played made sense.
As I read, I was just so excited to be reading a fun historical mystery where that was the whole point. So refreshing.
This is a good quality book. The sentence level writing does shine. It is definitely an issue book though, and one that is incredibly weighed down byThis is a good quality book. The sentence level writing does shine. It is definitely an issue book though, and one that is incredibly weighed down by its own seriousness. For great drama to be truly great it needs injections of true humor and the lack of that in this causes it to drag. There are a lot of books out this year that deal with dealing with grief and guilt and this is far from being the best. (Listen, Slowly, The Penderwicks in Spring, A Nearer Moon, Lost in the Sun, All the Answers, and Gone Crazy in Alabama all deal with similar themes and do it far better in my opinion.) ...more
I don't know how I missed this when it first came out, but I'm glad to have discovered a new book that I can recommend to the kids I know who loves stI don't know how I missed this when it first came out, but I'm glad to have discovered a new book that I can recommend to the kids I know who loves stories with dragons and magic. ...more
I try to avoid books that have rape in them as a general rule of thumb. I know they are important lifelines for some peoNope. Nope. Nope. So much no.
I try to avoid books that have rape in them as a general rule of thumb. I know they are important lifelines for some people. But they do nothing good for my mental health. (And I've never experienced one. I can only imagine what it does to some who have). So all the heads up and trigger warnings on this. The rape happens off page and isn't described but there are vague flashbacks and it was still highly disturbing. That it was an incestuous rape is important to note too.
I do like what McGinnis was trying to with the idea of what makes a person mentally ill and the history of how we treated such people-and how easy it was to get someone committed-through the first part of the story. But then the book took a horrifying turn into the worst revenge plot of all time. And while how that went, ostensibly supported the ideas McGinnis was playing with it made me highly uncomfortable. And more than a little angry.
I read a galley provided by publisher on Edelweiss....more
This was such a fantastic wonderful break from all the MG books with dead parent/pets/friends I'm reading for the Cybils right now. Reading order mattThis was such a fantastic wonderful break from all the MG books with dead parent/pets/friends I'm reading for the Cybils right now. Reading order matters. I say that a lot, but I think this would be a five star read for me no matter when I read it.
The characters in this are wonderful. All of them. Anne-Marie is a prickly heroine who has every reason to be wary of romance particularly from men like Kit. I liked how her divorce was talked about in the context of the time, and how it was clear she had options other women of the time might not have due to her parents being willing to help her. Kit is, at first appearance, a careless playboy. Really is kind of a socially awkward dork though. I loved watching his true colors out more a he tried to get to Anne Marie. His interactions with her kids and his dog were some of my favorite scenes. The kids were well written and acted the ages they were (something not easily found in many romances with kids). I loved the other astronauts' wives and how instantly and without condemnation they scooped Anne-Marie up into their group and helped her.
The plot of the book mainly focuses on Anne-Marie adjusting to her new life and the romance with Kit. It is a quiet sort of story. While it has conflict, it is of the subtle sort that involves the simple hard realities of making a romantic relationship work. I far prefer these sort of stories to the melodramatic ones so it was perfect for me. I also really like the early sixties setting which is so unique for romance.
I often shy away from collaborations even when they are by two authors I really like. This is one the really worked though. Unlike many I have read, it doesn't feel broken or like two voices are fighting to be heard. It is very cohesive. I am so so so excited for the next book in the series. (THAT TEASER!)...more
Crenshaw is Katherine Applegate's most recent novel since winning the Newbery for The One and Only Ivan. It is, understandably, highly anticipated by many. It has also been greatly lauded even prior to its release. It's possible I'm just having a grumpy really off year, but the MG novels of 2015 that are getting the most acclaim and hype are leaving me cold. Crenshaw is another in a long line of these. There are a lot of good points to it, but I was mostly underwhelmed. I do think it tells a story that we need to see in children's literature more often though.
Jackson is stressed out. His parents are selling their things. There are late night conversations that turn to arguments between them. The landlord has been visiting often. There is little food in the house and the power was turned off for a few days. Jackson knows what all of this means because he has been down this road with his parents before. The last time it meant living in their van for a month and eating of road stop vending machines. He doesn't want to go back to that. And just like last time, Jackson is being visited by his imaginary friend, a giant cat named Crenshaw. Jackson feels he is way too old for an imaginary friend and old enough to be told the truth by his parents.
Showing the struggles of families who don't have enough to eat or are in danger of losing their homes is rare in MG fiction. I love that Applegate chose to tackle that with this book. There are kids who will see themselves in Jackson that have never seen themselves reflected in a book before. There are kids who may realize for the first time just how hard some of their peers may have it and learn a little empathy. Those are tremendous things, and I really loved this part of the story. I loved Jackson and his obsession with logic, his dry humor, and his love for his little sister. At times, the message seemed a little heavy handed to me, but at the core Jackson's story of struggling to love and understand his parents while he is angry at them for not doing better is a very real and poignant one.
Why am I not more excited for this book then? Unfortunately the premise itself didn't work for me. At all. I would've liked this so much better without Crenshaw. Not because I think imaginary friends are not something that will also speak to a lot of kids. I know they will. It was just awkwardly executed here. Every time Crenshaw showed up it felt so forced, and these are the parts of the book that come across as the most didactic too. It detracted from my being able to throw myself wholeheartedly into the story. There were also times I felt the humor was more for the adult audience reading it than the child audience.
This is also another in a long line of hyped books this year where I've wanted to smack the adult characters upside the head.
It's definitely a book whose cover will call to kids, and it's a good one to have around.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Feiwel and Friends, via NetGalley. Crenshaw goes on sale September 22nd....more
This is not my typical sort of read. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have read it if Genevieve Turner had not already thoroughly won my trust w3.5 stars
This is not my typical sort of read. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have read it if Genevieve Turner had not already thoroughly won my trust with her historical series.
I don't usually like the whole boss/secretary dynamic, but it works well here for a lot of reasons and is not at all creepy or uncomfortable. I liked both Benedict and Pilar. Their characters are developed well for a such a short book and I really liked how well their relationships with the people around them were also developed. It was a fun read for a night but this isn't one I can imagine coming back to for rereads. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. ...more
The cover of A Nearer Moon captured me the moment I saw it. That the book is written by Melanie Crowder whose release, Audacity, earlier this year completely captivated me guaranteed that I would want to read it. It is a brilliant work of fantasy with an amazing heart.
Luna lives in a village on stilts in a swamp. Luna has grown up on her grandmother's stories of the time when she was a child before the great trees fell creating the dam that turned their beautiful river into a swamp with foul water. Even one mouthful of the swamp's water brings on a wasting sickness with no cure. Three weeks to the day the unfortunate person swallows the water they die. When Luna's sister, who is the joy and spirit of her family, gets a mouthful of the water one day, Luna is determined to do anything to save her. Luna has never believed in magic or curses, but when the doctor in the floating city says she can do nothing to help an illness caused by magic, Luna becomes even more desperate and is willing to consider everything and offer anything for the life of her sister.
A Nearer Moon has so many aspects I adore in a good fantasy: faerie lore, strong determined characters, a community working to overcome harsh odds. At its heart and core, A Nearer Moon is a story about sisterhood. It's strength, bond, and love. Interwoven with the story of Luna and her sister is the story of twin water sprites, Perdita and Pergia. The sprites are part of the story of Luna's village too, the magical history she doesn't believe in. Sibling stories are a favorite of mine no matter what, but I particularly enjoy stories of sisters. In each case here, the sister are very different from each other, but they balance each other out. The thought of or reality of one losing the other is impossible to bear. It is a fantastical window onto a very real grief and sadness that so many experience. Luna's story in particular is a very real look at what grief can do to a family.
Luna is a brave and determined heroine. She is stubborn and unwilling to back down from a challenge. She is deeply frustrated by her mother's resignation to the situation. Many of her ideas and actions are reckless, but her motivation is so heartfelt. The sacrifices she is willing to make for Willow show a courage and devotion that is beautiful in every way. In contrast, Perdita's story is almost a cautionary tale in what can happen if you allow grief, anger, and rage to consume you. It shows how interconnected the world and everyone in it is.
I really enjoyed the way Crowder wove the two stories together and how the histories of the two sets of sisters are all tangled up together as is their hope for the future. The prose Crowder uses are perfect for the story she is telling. With few words she builds and creates a complex layered world with a fascinating history and interesting characters. The story is beautifully told and the language lyrical. The contents match the gorgeous cover. This is one of my favorite reads of the year.
I read an ARC made available by the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss. A Nearer Moon goes on sale September 8th. ...more
R.J. Anderson is one of my favorite authors. Being a voracious reader, I have a lot of authors I really like, but she is included in a special group of authors whose books I would scoop up in my arms if I was escaping my house in a disaster. They are all excellent and stand up to multiple rereads. Anderson has written books about (awesome) faerys and amazing girls in a mind boggling sci-fi duology. Her latest book, A Pocket Full of Murder, is a MG magical murder mystery and it is a perfect book for me in every way possible.
Isaveth's family has fallen on hard times since her mother's recent death. Her father, a builder, lost a major job he was counting on and has fallen into despair. Her sister had to quit school to get a job in a sweatshop factory. Just when things begin to look better for the family and her father's commission is restored, a worse tragedy befalls them. When the man who had fired then rehired Isaveth's father is found dead by means of Common Magic, Isaveth's father is arrested. Isaveth knows her father is innocent, but she's not sure how to go about proving it. As she begins to investigate, she is joined by a street boy with an eye patch named Quiz who has eyes and ears all over the city and a knack for getting at information. Together they begin to try and discover the real murderer in a case that has too many suspects and disastrous consequences for both of them if they fail.
GAHHHHHH!!!!! I don't really know where I want to start with this. I have so much love for every part of this book, and my brain just keeps doing cartwheels and squealing LOVE LOVE LOVE. Trying to calm it down and act rationally is a challenge. I even waited a few days after finishing to give myself space so I could write this. But as soon as I started thinking about the book again, I got a rush of endorphins and lost control of my critical thinking skills. I will start with what I always love most, the characters, and hope my brain calms enough to cooperate.
Isaveth is smart, courageous, and stubborn. When her family is having hard times, she pulls down her mother's book of magic recipes and concocts spells to sell on the street to give them a little extra money. She has a passionate love for dramatic crystal set (radio) shows and writes fanfiction for it on any scrap of paper she can get her hands on. She is perfecting her craft. Her imagination is vast and she's bursting with twelve year old idealism mixed with the harsh realities of the life she is living. She is desperate to free her father, and her headlong rush into investigating the crime causes her to stumble into unfortunate situations at times and make rash judgements and mistakes. This includes not listening to Quiz on the occasions when he tells her to slow down and think something through.
Quiz is no stranger to dashing into dangerous situations without thinking them through first himself though. He is also a bit of an adrenaline junkie who rides down hills at breakneck speeds and is prone to getting into sticky situations in defense of those who need defending. He is adorably awkward around Isaveth at times. When he's interacting with her sisters you can see how badly he longs for a regular family and normalcy. Together Isaveth and Quiz make a fantastic team. He can go places and get information she can't, and vice-versa. He is there to give her rides when she needs them and generally back her up when she's in a tough spot. And when the tables are turned and he is in the tough spot, she does the same for him. I have all these FEELINGS for both of them, separate and together. Feelings I will never be able to properly put into words.
The mystery is a good old fashioned mystery where there are clues that seem to lead to everywhere or nowhere, lots of suspects, and a few good twists. (Some of which I saw coming due to reasons I imagine will not be the case for the majority of the readers of this book.*) The ways in which Isaveth and Quiz find their information makes sense for the world they live in, and they are reliant on those older than them for crucial things. Isaveth's older sister plays a major part in helping them collect information. The way the mystery all came together in the end was fascinating and the resolution complex and layered, but simple to understand for the intended audience.
The world Anderson created for this book is one where society is split between nobility and those who are not. The nobility has a very specific sort of magic they use to keep the world running smoothly. Common Magic is for those not so privileged and was a hard won ability for the regular people. The city of Tarreton where Isaveth and Quiz live is divided. The common people are tired of being abused, underpaid, and unable to make decisions. Rebellion is whispered of and unrest is high. These political issues are an integral part of the story and woven into the texture of the character's lives perfectly. Religion plays a part in this as well. Isaveth's family are Moshites (very similar to real world Jewish faith) and therefore looked on as outsiders, if not dangerous dissenters. It's part of the reason her father makes such a perfect frame for murder. Anderson presents the religious and political aspects as part of everyday life important in different ways to different people and this makes the world she has built all the more realistic as a result.
I highly recommend this book to all lovers of mystery and fantasy of any age. There is something here to enjoy for everyone. I can not wait until my pre-ordered copy arrives so I can read it again. And so my daughter can read it because this is exactly the sort of book she adores.
*I saw some of the twists coming because I am a fan of the source material that was Anderson's inspiration. A HUGE fan actually. If you are completely unaware of what that source material is or anything about it, you have lots of surprises in store. I'm including this note for those of you who know what inspired this and love it as much as I do. I just want you to know that Anderson did an awesome job with that. It's a nice little treat for those of us who know and love that particular literary detective. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, but want to, ask in the comments and I'll tell you. Not spoilers. Just what the source material is.)
I read an ARC made available from the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss. A Pocket Full of Murder is on sale September 8th....more
Laura Amy Schlitz writes beautiful books. The Hired Girl like all her other books puts the reader very firmly in the story. This historical d3.5 stars
Laura Amy Schlitz writes beautiful books. The Hired Girl like all her other books puts the reader very firmly in the story. This historical details are perfectly rendered and the voice sounds exactly as it ought for a 14 year old girl in 1911. Joan is a likeable yet flawed heroine who has a yearning to learn as much as she can and escape the life of drudgery her father has planned of her. I would have loved this book so much more if it had been shorter. As true as Joan's voice is and as wonderfully authentic as the setting is, I did not want 400 pages of either. It was far too easy for me to wander away from it and not want to come back. I do like this as a contrast to Anne of Green Gables. Schlitz did an excellent job of maintaining the same sort of wonder in life voice while portraying a harsher world reality
This is one of those books that will appeal to upper MG and younger YA readers who like historical fiction. ...more
I sat on this review for almost an entire week half scared to write it because almost every person I know who's read this book has raved about it. TalI sat on this review for almost an entire week half scared to write it because almost every person I know who's read this book has raved about it. Talk about being on the outside of a popular opinion. True, due to all those five star rave reviews and Newbery buzz, I went into this with some pretty high expectations.
As I began reading Circus Mirandus, I mostly just felt underwhelmed. It is an intriguing concept, but nothing about the way it was presented gripped me. The writing is adequate but nothing to get super excited about. I was perplexed because I read so much MG fantasy and so much of it is executed far better than this. I was perplexed because there are so many really great 2015 books that this doesn't come close to touching in terms of excellence. Why the Newbery buzz?
For about 1/3 of the book I thought this was going to be a relatively enjoyable but mostly forgettable 3 star read.
Then I started to get annoyed.
I'm a character reader. When I read a book, I want to believe the characters are real. Real people. Making real decisions. That make sense in terms of who they are. If a character does something that makes sense for plot purposes, but doesn't fit who they've been presented as a person, then I start to get annoyed. If it happens over and over again with every character in the book, the book's lost me. Beasley had a very particular story she wanted to tell, and her characters are props. I think this can sometimes be an intentional commentary in a book, but it's not here. It's just poor character development. Micah is an empty vessel into which the reader can insert himself/herself. All the supporting characters are shallow stereotypes who only briefly break from their assigned niches when the plot requires moving forward. I also had a major issue with how the book divided characters into "good" and "bad". (Those weren't the terms used, but it's what it boiled down to.) And if you're already in the "bad" camp there is no hope for your redemption. I actually really enjoy when MG authors present darker themes and characters in their books. Are there people who are mean and cruel who do terrible things to people they should care about? Yes. Are there people who hold on to grudges and never change? Again, yes. But the way all of that was presented in this, the way it was tied to the plot and the magic, really rubbed me the wrong way. It all felt so forced. (Particularly given that I think we were meant to like Micah's grandfather and see him as a secondary hero, but nope nope nope. That guy was not awesome. Are people sometimes thought of as heroes or sympathetic who don't deserve it? Yes. But again, this book isn't commenting on that. We're really supposed to root for this guy. NO.)
By the end of the book I was infuriated. The flat characters and their forced actions which ended in the conclusion all of that comes to left me wanting to hurl the book into the pool I was sitting next to. (I refrained. It was a library book.) It made me really confused about the why of it all too. What is Beasley trying to say with her symbolism combined with this forced characterization? What it the thematic purpose here? It was all too frustrating for me. ...more