The Magdalena, a reoccurring guest star in the Witchblade series, finally got her own series in 2010. The history of the character and the role of The Magdalena has been revealed in other books, mini-series, and one shots, they do not need to be read in order to understand the current story line.
Mary Magdalen was married to Jesus and pregnant when he was crucified. She gave birth to a daughter and the bloodline of Christ survived a thousand years before being discovered by the Catholic Church. Their existence threatened the Church, but they were of a holy bloodline and had some cool powers. Instead of destroying them, the Church turned them into warrior nuns. (Yes, that sounds a bit silly, but bear with me.) The women would be trained to take on the mantle of The Magdalena when needed. Only one woman at a time can fill the position and she can only be replaced upon her death. While these women were powerful they had very short life spans as the church never really protected them but sent them out alone on the most dangerous of missions. Patience, the current Magdalena, ran away from the convent as a young woman. She had felt trapped by a destiny she never wanted. Her entire life was devoted to training and being a tool for the Church. Kristof, a Knight of Malta, is sent to find the runaway, bring her back, and train her. She trusts him, returns to the Church, and accepts the role of Magdalena. Unfortunately for those who know about and control The Magdalena, Patience is not content to be a tool, an unthinking servant, or cannon fodder. She accepts her destiny and her faith, she understands that she is needed to protect mankind; she doesn't accept that every aspect of her life needs to be controlled, that she's disposable, or that she should follow blindly where led. Past Magdalenas have been murdered for following the truths their gifts showed them instead of following the Church's orders. She breaks with the church again as she believes she should actually protect the world from evil instead of protecting the Church's place in the world.
The Magdalena, Volume 1 contains the first six issues of the new series. We see Kristof once again trying to get Patience to return to the church. They both understand that if she refuses, the church will have her killed an another female relative will take her place as The Magdalena. They have strong evidence that the Antichrist has been born and is being protected by a cult called Lucifer's Children. They need Patience to kill the boy before he comes into power. She agrees to investigate but refuses to kill the boy. She believes that they are both in similar situations, raised/brainwashed into accepting a life that they didn't want. As she gets closer to her target they are beset by demons and begin to suspect that their is a traitor in the Church who is helping the Children of Lucifer.
I have long associated Image Comics with great art, more adult story lines, and scantily clad kick-butt heroines. The Magdalena, Volume 1 gives us the first two and fully clothed heroine. Patience is secure in her faith and her abilities, but she does not trust her handlers in the Church. She constantly butts heads against their expectation to serve them and her need to actually do the right thing. Marz has created an action packed story that addresses the differences between faith, destiny, service, and sacrifice and blind obedience, control, slavery, and disposable lives. While the bad guys are starkly slimy and awful, our good guys, Patience and Kristof, are more complex and well rounded. So far I'm hooked and hope to learn more about the history of Patience's family.
The story reads quickly, has lots of action, and gives you situations and ideas to really think about. This is a good start to a new series and I look forward to reading more.
The setup of the story is very similar to Mr. and Mrs. Smith; set during the Regency period, a married couple with a distant relationship are top spies for the Foreign Office's secretive Barbican Group. Adrian and Sophia are attracted to each other and in a type of tentative love, but events and secrets keep them separated as they travel the continent to protect British interests. Once the war with the French ends, the government decides to scale back on some of its operations. Consequently both agents are forced into retirement and neither one knows what to do with their "real" life.
Through thoughtlessness, assumptions, and absence each had unintentionally hurt the other. It was sweet to see two such strong and confident people be at a complete loss when it came to getting what they wanted most, which was each other. Tempers flair and the heat rises as Adrian and Sophia try to solve a murder, get their jobs back, and begin to really see and appreciate their spouse.
Lord and Lady Spy was a bit predictable that didn't diminish any of my enjoyment. I loved watching these two come to rely on the other, face their fears, and build a future. Sophia kicked butt and while Adrian was a pompous ass on occasion, you still had to like him. Even when they were angry and snapping at each other, Sophia and Adrian were likable characters and you wanted them to win.
Verdict: Short, fun, and basically delightful, Lord and Lady Spy is a book that I can see myself reading again. The predictablitliy of the book made it more like a cozy romance, you know they were going to get the HEA but are also perfectly content to enjoy the ride.
It's strange that the story of Irena Sendler and the Zegota (the Polish Council to Aid Jews) is not widely known. Under 29 year old Irena's direction, the Zegota's children's section saved the lives of 2,500 Jewish children. Irena and others would enter the ghetto under the health department's auspices saying that they were keeping track of a typhoid breakout. They would pick up infants and children and hide them in ambulances and trucks. Sometimes they had to disguise the children as packages, hide them under fake floorboards or in tool chests. A network of convents, churches, everyday citizens, and various underground resistance movements would then hide the children. Of course it would be hard for any parent to give up their children to strangers. Irena couldn't promise that their children would survive, but she was honest with the parents that they would surely die in the ghetto or in the Treblinka camp. Zegota and other organizations promised that the children would be reunited with their families after the war. Irena kept track of the children's original names and new identities on lists that were hidden in jars buried under a tree. She was eventually arrested by the Nazis, tortured for information on the children, and when she kept her silence for three months she was finally scheduled for execution. Members of Zegota were able to bribe guards to release her during her transfer. They cut it so close that Irena's name was still listed on posters as one of the rebels executed. She spent the rest of the war in hiding, helping Zegota when she could.
When the war ended in 1945, Irena returned to Warsaw to dig up the jars. The lists had remained safe and undiscovered the entire time. She handed all of her information over to the Jewish National Committee so that they could begin reuniting families. While almost all of the 2,500 rescued children had survived the war, most of their families had died at Treblinka. The Committee reunited families or relatives when they could, but many children decided to stay with their host families or leave the country. What was probably the saddest part of the story was never stated outright: everyone expected the bulk of the families to survive, nobody could imagine how bad things were going to be. Those who smuggled the children out and hid them never expected that the large majority of the children would have no one to return to.
Irena's Jars of Secrets was a well told and engaging story with warm illustrations that communicated the seriousness of the subject quite well while keeping the target age group in mind. Vaughan has included a more detailed history in the back of the book along with photographs of Irena as well as additional resources.
Verdict: A bittersweet story, but an important one. Irena's Jars of Secrets shows people of every age that extraordinary circumstances can bring out the hero in the most ordinary of people. I think this book would be a valuable addition to any public or school library. While it's definitely worth the time to read, this is a better one to pick up from the library.
"Whenever Castle Glower became bored, it would grow a new room or two."
Tuesdays at the Castle was a delightfully fun and sweet adventure story. Celia is part of a loving family that has ruled the country of Sleyne for the past ten generations. The kingdom's ruler is actually chosen by the magical Castle Glower. Apart from adding rooms on Tuesdays, the Castle expresses its opinion of people by ejecting them from the premisses, altering rooms, and generally getting its point across via architecture. When the king and queen are ambushed and presumed dead the kingdom is seen as an easy target. Crown Prince Rolf is only fourteen and he and his sisters Lilah and Celie suspect that foreign dignitaries are using the funeral as an opening to take over the country. Using their wits, friends, and the Castle itself, it's race to save the kingdom and hopefully find the truth about their missing parents and older brother.
Tuesdays at the Castle reminded me of old children's fantasies like The Horse and His Boy or Shadow Castle: adventure, fun, quirky characters, danger, and a bit of darkness but not too much, and spunky children fighting the larger battle. Celie and the family's supporters pull pranks, spy, and do anything they safely can to thwart their enemies. Through it all is their fear and love for their missing and presumed dead parents and older brother. I enjoyed the Castle's sense of humor and how the siblings rallied each other and their people. This would make a great read aloud for a classroom, a family, or before bed, and I would recommend it for kids 6 and up. Well, there is one caveat, I think some middle schoolers would enjoy the book, but I at that age they tend to look for something meatier. Tuesdays at the Castle is a fun read, but it's a bit light.
My only complaint is that the ending is a bit sudden, but I think most readers will overlook this in favor of how fun the story is. I really hope this becomes a series, I would love to read more about Castle Gower, Celie, and her family.
Alexandra is a good cop, an excellent cop, who lives in the shadow of her late mother's mental illness. She's so afraid that she'll have the same problems that she tries to forcefully tell herself that she did not just see that her new partner has wings. Aramael is a very powerful and emotionally/mentally unstable angel. Being forced to hunt and exile his own brother damaged him far more than his superiors wanted to see. He is furious that he has to go undercover to hunt this new Fallen Angel who's rampaging through the city. Undercover is not his style, working with other is definitely not his style, following his instincts and maybe a bit too much violence is more his thing. He has no idea how to pretend to be a cop and Alexandra is furious that she's been saddled with a newbie in the middle of a serial killer case. While Alex and Aramael definitely don't get along, they have this bizarre attraction that should not be there and neither of them has any wish to follow up on it.
I found the setup of Heaven to be a bit odd at first, it seemed more like a corporation, but I got past that. I liked Aramael, despite his constant state of anger, and Alexandra was a great heroine. She was capable and strong, but human and not bitchy. It seems that a lot of author's write strong women as bitches and that irritates me. In fact both Aramael and Alexandra grow as characters in this book, something you normally see in later on in a series. There were no radical changes, but we see them process and begin to accept their new situations. I found the police procedural aspect of the book to be interesting but not so in depth that my brain turned off. I found it to be a great introduction to the series. Readers learn all about the world and our two main characters while trying to catch a serial killer, so everything flowed fairly well. Occasionally I would want information faster but it didn't bother me. I have to admit that I was really frustrated when the book ended because I was going to have to wait a year to find out what happens next.
Some readers might want to try this from the library first as it's a bit different from normal angelic fiction.
Silver Shark was just the little bit of fun and entertainment that I needed to start my weekend with. The world building was well done and the book was not overly technical. The bionet concept was quickly and clearly explained. The parts of the story that took place in the bionic were almost like a dream sequence but with definite ground rules. I know some readers dislike dream sequences, but bionet interactions were limited and shouldn't prevent these readers from enjoying the story. I loved Claire and Ven and wish the story had been longer. Claire was just delightful as she experienced her new world and I sympathized with the limitations and frustration her new identity caused. Ven was an honorable and nice man and I would have loved more character development but it was understandably limited by the novella's size. I was happy that Andrews has been able to expand on The Kinsmen series and all I can say is - MORE!
Verdict: Silver Shark was a fun novella with characters I enjoyed. Readers who don't normally go for the sci-fi genre should enjoy this. It's not a heavy duty sci-fi read but a nice little treat of a story. Fans of Andrews will definitely enjoy this one.
Poor Little Owl fell out of his nest while sleeping. A squirrel sees him bounce along the forest floor and stops to check on him. Little Owl says that he's lost and asks where his mommy is. Filled with the best intentions the squirrel confidently states that he can find Little Owl's mommy, he simply needs to know what she looks like.
The super adorable owl holds his wings as far apart as possible and declares his mother "VERY BIG. Like THIS!" Clever squirrel knows just who his mother is and takes him directly to… a giant blue bear.
Little Owl says that not his mommy, his mommy has pointy ears on top of her head. The squirrel quickly takes him to… a very surprised rabbit. Little Owl keeps adding more descriptions but the squirrel never manages to find the right animal.
Oh my gosh! This book is so stinkin' cute! Kids will enjoy Squirrel's attempts to find the right mommy and will appreciate Little Owl's fear and relief. I've read this to several classes but it wasn't until the upteenth reading that I noticed a silhouette of Mommy owl hidden in the backgrounds. Once squirrel starts running around looking for the right mommy, have the kids start looking for mommy.
Kids and parents will enjoy the lovable Little Owl and Squirrel, the unflattering descriptions of his mother, and the funny little ending. Little Owl Lost would also make a great gift for younger children or mothers-to-be.
Petunia likes skunks. No, that's not exactly right. Petunia LOVES skunks!
Petunia can think of nothing better to have than her very own pet skunk. Using her toy skunk as a model, she extolls the the virtues and cuteness of skunks. They have stripes, big black eyes, and cute little noses!
She tells her parents how responsible she'll be. She'll feed it everyday, take it for walks, read stories and draw pictures with it, and clean it's litter box every hour even! Petunia is aghast when her parents say no to such a perfect pet.
When they explain that skunks stink, Petunia goes on an indignant tirade worthy of the Pigeon himself. She's wonderfully outrageous and everything she says will be very familiar to parents. She talks about how the situation stinks, how she needs a pet skunk and will die if she doesn't get one, they said no to the python and now the skunk, and even asks "Why did I have to get born into THIS family?" Petunia decides to take matters into her own hands.
"With such disappointing lunkheads for parents, naturally Petunia must leave home."
She heads for the woods and wanders around where she briefly considers being eaten by bears. During her wanderings she stumbles upon the object of her obsession. The skunk was black and white, and had a cute little nose, big black eyes, stripes… She gives a little gasp of joy and then smells "the worst smell she has ever smelled in her whole entire life."
It is not a small smell. It is not even a big smell. It is a STINK!
Petunia immediately runs home with tears flowing from her eyes. Eventually she recovers from the shock of the skunk's stink and declares them "AWESOME!" That's right, skunks are awesomely stinky. But she looks down into the eyes of her faithful toy skunk and "decides that she already has a perfectly awesome pet."
I am completely in love with Petunia. She's full of sass, energy, dramatics - she's Olivia and the Pigeon rolled into one skunk loving package! A Pet For Petunia is so wonderfully exuberant and bouncy, there's no way you can calmly read this book. Kids will love Petunia's over the top attitude and absurdly poor choice in pets. Schmid's cheerful illustrations are simple using only black, white, lavender, and the occasional yellow highlight. He captures his Petunia's vivacious attitude and skunks have never looked cuter or more snuggly!
I don't know how I missed this book but I'm so glad my coworker found it and added it to the library order. Swim! Swim! is funny and engaging picture book that kids of all ages will enjoy. Our lonely hero Lerch is simply looking for a friend. He asked the pebbles, the sunken diver, and the bubbles from the water filter to be his friend, but they just ignored him. (He even tried talking in bubble, but to no avail.)
Just when Lerch thought it was official that nobody liked him, someone popped up that really seemed to like him. The cat. It's ok that the cat thinks his name is "Lunch" instead of Lerch, he could work with that. The exchange between Lerch and the cat was really cute and is bound to have younger readers yelling warnings at the page. Just when it looks like Lerch is about to be eaten, the cat drops him and says "Meet dinner!". It seems our hero has been dropped into a new fish bowl containing Dinah. It's love and friendship at first sight (even the cat says "Awww.") and they swim around happily ever after while holding each other's fin.
Proimos' simple but energetic illustrations and exuberant story are reminiscent of Mo Willems' Elephant & Piggie series. Plus this is my type of story - a great read aloud that lets you throw in all types of sniffling and assorted dramatics. The text is simple enough that younger readers can read to their family (some words might require prompting). I would also recommend it to some of my older elementary students to read to their younger siblings.
Song of Scarabaeus was a nail biter of a book. It starts with action and kidnapping and explosions and never really lets up. Edie had no idea how to survive in the world, but she was going to give it a try. I loved how brave she was despite her fear, and she was so protective of Finn. He was also another great character. While he seemed like the typical dark and brooding hero at first, Creasy lets her personality shine through his protective facade as he begins to trust Edie.
There is a lot happening in this book: a lot of science, action, details, and plot threads. But it never gets overwhelming or confusing. My only complaint is that sometimes the programming aspect of the story got a little too detailed for my taste, but I think that's more of a personal negative. Creasy has done a wonderful job of pacing her story and her information so that everything flows wonderfully. There were twists that I never saw coming and the ending was one of the best cliff hangers ever. The one good thing about waiting so long to read this book was that the sequel was already out.
The story just shoots ahead at a breakneck speed and by the final page you're feeling just like Edie: tired, anxious, and hopeful. Song of Scarabaeus has been one of the most enjoyable sci-fi books I've read in a long time. This isn't a "light" science fiction book like Gini Koch's Kitty Katt series. Creasy has created a great world with it's own jargon, gadgets, and science. She does a wonderful job of showing and explaining the world to the reader. I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy the genre.
The Mysterious Howling reminded me a great deal of the Series of Unfortunate Events. For example the narrator would speak directly to the reader and would explain words in a very descriptive and humorous manner. However, The Mysterious Howling is not nearly as dark as the Lemony Snicket books.
Miss Penelope Lumley is a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She reminds me quite a bit of Mary Poppins (minus the magic) mixed with Anne Shirley and displays some burgeoning Nancy Drew tendencies. She has received an excellent education that has prepared her to be an equally excellent governess - at the age of fifteen. She's very straight laced but her true age occasionally peaks out in her fears, earnestness, and imagination. She wants desperately to do a good job, for her charges to love her, and to find her own place in the world. (Her love for the Silky the Pony books was a funny touch that popped up throughout the book.)
Most of the book is taken up with Penelope finding her feet and teaching Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia how to act like proper children. Lord Ashton found them running wild on his property and he decided to keep them. His new wife was not pleased and the fact that they acted like wolves didn't help at all. Everyone had ridiculous expectations for the children's improvement and that added quite a bit of humor to the story. I enjoyed that Penelope was fretting over when she could start teaching them Latin and she hadn't even gotten them so stop howling yet. Of course the children improve by leaps and bounds in some areas, but the continue with some of their "wild" behavior like adding wolf howls to their words (and Beowulf drools when he gets excited). There are little mysterious events that run throughout the book, and there is the big mystery of where the children came from. This is never really focused on until the end of the book when events cause Penelope to believe that there is someone who seems to know more about the children and wants them to remain wild.
The Mysterious Howling is a delightful book full of humor, situations, and characters that kids will enjoy. Younger readers will enjoy the the wild children while older readers will appreciate the absurdity of the adult's expectations. This would also be a wonderful read aloud for younger children. Pick it up at the store or library, this is one your family will enjoy.
eturn to Exile was an excellent mix of characters, tension, monsters, mayhem, and humor. While I didn't find it to be "scary" per se and some things were a bit predictable, it was a well paced read that I could not put down and read it in one sitting. Seriously, I stayed up until 3:oo a.m. to finish this book, I had to know how it ended.
Sky was a great kid, so full of heart even though the world seems to work against him. He is rescued by classmates who have taken it upon themselves to protect the town from monsters. These four mini MacGyvers have cobbled together body armor and effective weapons from garbage. They really don't know what they're fighting and are pretty much flying by the seat of their pants. One character, Hands, is turned onto vampire romance novels by his grandfather as a source of monster fighting techniques. (As a vampire romance reader myself, I found these bits very funny.) Sky has an older sister who just seems horrible at first, but you get to like her. (Loved Hannah and Tick in the final battle.) There are adults, who unfortunately work at Sky's school, that hate him. They're not deliciously evil teachers like Snape, they are vile and you want to beat them over the head with a chair. (Really, the more Miss Hagfish talked, the more I gasped in outrage.) Sky's monster books and bestiaries are a bit absurd but add some fun. The fight scenes in Return to Exile are great and some of the funniest I have ever read. Patten has created some great monsters and Rocco's small illustrations were a nice touch. It was at times a bit predictable, but never so much so that it ruined the story.
There were some things that could be negatives. There was a bizarre bit with the janitor and I hope it's explained in the next book, otherwise it's totally pointless and weird. Also, some of the technical talk about plasma and force fields was a bit too much for me. My brain generally turns off in those situations, but it's something I would mention to a student. Basically you could skim those few bits and be ok.
The Return to Exile is a great middle grades book and a good fit for the age group. (I'm not sure how much adult readers will like it, but the majority middle and high school audience should enjoy it.) It had some of the best fight scenes ever and I loved the mix of seriousness and humor. I would recommend this book to readers who liked the Percy Jackson or Alex Rider series. I'm looking forward to the sequel. I give it 5 out of 6 stars.
Tiago and Niniane (formerly known as Tricks) are completely different from Dragos and Pia, and the tone of Storm's Heart reflects that. I loved the light hearted tone and humor of Dragon Bound and missed it in this book. There is humor, just a bit darker, better reflecting Niniane's situation and Tiago's personality. The book was a little predictable but still a fun read.
Princess Niniane was 17 years old when she felt her father die, saw her mother murdered, and stumbled upon the bodies of her 5 year old twin brothers. She barely escaped her uncle's bloody coup and later took refuge with Dragos, the dragon leader of all the Wyr. Over roughly 200 years she found a place to belong and a family that she loved. When the opportunity comes to take back the throne and to bring her family's murderers to justice, Niniane grabs it. She doesn't want to be queen, doesn't want to give up her adopted family, but it's something she has to do for those she lost and those who have suffered. She never apologizes for the person she has become, she never dislikes herself because she isn't a typical princess. She knows she is capable of doing the job but recognizes she will need help and she's scared by all of the assassination attempts.
Tiago is older than dirt and not so much set in his ways as he doesn't know how else to be. He was never particularly close to Niniane, but he likes her and admires what she's trying to do. He is just completely lost and short on patience when it comes to handling a crying, super feminine woman who doesn't follow his orders. And that's his problem - the handling and the ordering. He figures out how to work with Niniane (though he still gets frustrated with her) and he starts to fall in love with her. He has no idea how to relate to a girly-girl who likes "froufrou" things, but he does his damnedest to protect, support, and love her.
Their relationship moves really fast. Tiago never fights it even though it's completely out of his realm of experience, but he embraces their mating. Niniane has lost so much in her life and she's the one who freaks out. Even their friends have concerns, but Tiago's solid faith sees them through.
I really liked that Harrison's hero and heroine didn't need to have a deep down change or be "fixed" to make the relationship work. A little bit more trust, understanding, and patience and the characters grew as people and made their HEA possible.
There was a little something that I didn't like. Tiago is not a smooth man, he's a primal type of guy who has spent his very long existence in one battle or another. He didn't exactly spend his many millennia perfecting his bedroom moves. So he was a bit rough around the edges (which I totally get) but some of the descriptions were a little less than sexy - not all, just some. Only complaint, take it or leave it.
Niniane stays true to herself while navigating the deadly minefield of reclaiming the throne. She was a nice character, but Tiago was just adorable and completely stole the show. Storm's Heart may be a sequel, but it has its own voice and I began to appreciate it the further into the book I got. A tad predictable but that didn't detract from my enjoyment. If you enjoyed Dragon Bound I think you'll like Storm's Heart as well.
Jane Yolen is a wonderful story teller and when I saw she had a graphic novel on NetGalley I pounced on it. The Last Dragon was great fantasy and paired with Guay's lovely, dream-like illustrations made for a great reading experience.
Yolen as written a good story sprinkled with humor, romance and adventure set in a fully realized world. I loved that Tansy was smart and curious, but not perfect by any means. Lancot was a handsome wastrel but didn't completely bail on the town when he was frightened. Their plan doesn't rely on swords and strength but on their own cleverness and bravery. Neither character wilts in the face of overwhelming odds even though they are afraid, and each is given a moment to show their courage and commitment. Tansy and Lancot were like normal people struggling with their guilt or fears while trying to do the right thing. The romance was sweet and did not overtake the main story line but definitely helped make a perfect ending. I enjoyed Yolen's use of standard fairy tail elements (a hero, three sisters, a quest, etc.) to tell a different type of story.
Guay's warm illustrations differ in painting style at times but never seem disjointed. The warm tones and detailed work round out Yolen's world and add to the momentum of the story. Because of the graphic novel format Yolen is limited in how much characterization and world building she writes because she has to allow the illustrations to tell the story also. Guay fleshes out the characters, adds subtlety to their humor and romance, and completes the world building process. She invested two years of work into The Last Dragon, and it shows, but I think Yolen's input helped Guay to bring the world of Dragonfield to life. I don't want it to sound like Yolen just churned out a story and Guay painted pretty pictures - it takes a real partnership to allow the narrative and the art to tell a complete story.
Yolen has written a good fantasy story with realistic characters. I appreciated the normalcy and bravery of the two characters. But I think Guay's artwork is the real star of the The Last Dragon. It takes a good and solid Jane Yolen story and turns it into a rich, visual experience. I give it 5 stars, this is one of my favorite graphic novels this year.
This is a lovely book with very little text but so much going on in the illustrations that the story tells itself. Gravett has created another wonderfully quirky book that children will enjoy. Some pages have been shortened to reveal a surprise on the other side. Kids love little interactive touches like this. While not a book that lets me wave my hands around and yell (my preferred story telling method) the illustrations are delightful and funny and always enjoyable.
In McGuire's world, changeling's are the offspring of a Fae and a human and aren't even second class citizens. They are completely disposable beings who should happily serve their betters (those who are full blooded fae) before they die or go insane. Toby never played by those rules. While pursuing the suspected kidnappers Toby is caught and turned into a fish. The plan was for her to die but she held on and fourteen years later the spell breaks. She tries to start a new life with no contact with the Fae. She's lost so much because of them (her family mourned her death but now believes she abandoned them).
Of course events conspire against her and she's once again working with the Fae when a good friend and enemy, Evening Winterose, is murdered. Before her death she records a curse on Toby's answering machine. Once it was heard Toby is compelled to solve the murder or literally die trying. While not as strong as her mother because of her changeling status, Toby is a blood worker, and tasting someone's blood shows her images and memories. By tasting Evening's blood she's able to see how she died but not who killed her. Unfortunately Toby also ended up making the curse even stronger.
McGuire is very hard on her heroine, Toby takes a lot of damage (both emotionally and physically) and I was kind of exhausted for her by the end of the book. Toby was a great character who has had a very hard life filled with difficult relationships. When the story first starts she's spent six months numbing herself from the loss of her fiance and daughter. She's a sympathetic character who fights to stay alive even though she's been running from life ever since her curse was broken. The author also smoothly explains all of the different types of Fae creating a well rounded world that doesn't drown the reader. Mcguire made the Fae mainly nocturnal with their spells and glamours destroyed by the rising sun. So while these creatures can be very powerful, they are limited and weakened during the day.
I loved every minute of this book! An action packed plot (though there should be a rule about how many times your heroine can get shot in one book) filled with great characters. In the end you want Toby to rebuild her life and be happy, but after she sleeps for a month.
My only complaint is that McGuire can be a tiny bit repetitive, but I was totally willing to overlook it.
You might not have noticed, but I love Oliver Jeffers. So it should come as no surprise that I actually squeed out loud when I saw Up and Down on sale at my local book store. Even funnier was that family shopping in the isle next to the new arrivals display contained not one but three of my students. The oldest girl was one of my first graders and when she saw me bouncing and squee-ing she said, "It's a new penguin book!". That's not normally how I like to meet parents for the first time, but the kids understood, and we both walked out with copies of Up and Down.
The boy and the penguin return in this vibrantly hued watercolor picture book. The boy and the penguin are best friends and the always do everything together. But one day penguin realizes that there's something he would like to do and it's really important and he needs to do it by himself. Penguin wants to fly. Penguin tries and tries, with varying degrees of failure, and every step of the way is the boy trying to help him.
Finally the boy offered to fly penguin around in his airplane. But first of all, the planes engine hadn't recover from the last flight (The Way Back Home) and secondly, penguin really felt that flying was something he had to do by himself. The boy continues to assist and after doing some reading (in a book titled "Penguins Can't Fly") they decide it's time to ask for help. While the boy is asking various birds how they fly the penguin is distracted by a poster looking for someone who is short, fat and dreaming of flying to become the next Living Cannon Ball. The Penguin is thrilled and rushes off, forgetting to tell the boy were he'd gone.
I'm a big fan of the penguin, more so than the boy, because the he is so cute and squashy and expressive. I loved that the boy was supportive of his friend even though penguin was eventually going to fly by himself. I think this is a great reminder for younger children that it's ok if their friend wants to do something by themselves - they will still be friends. (We have lots of tears over this particular argument with our kindergarten kids.) The illustrations, as usual, are fantabulous and I love the bright warm colors that Jeffers' uses. this is quite simply a lovely and sweet book - a great addition to any family library.
The boy from How To Catch a Star is back in Oliver Jeffers' second book, Lost and Found. The boy discovers a penguin at his door one day. The penguin follows him around looking sad. Deciding that he must be lost, the boy endeavors to help the him find his way home. He asked at the lost and found office, he asked some birds, he even asked his rubber duck - nobody seemed to know where the penguin belonged.
Finally the boy discovers that penguins come from the South Pole. The next challenge was getting there. Eventually the boy and the penguin build a row boat and row for many days and nights. After floating through seas filled with varying degrees of calm and danger the finally arrive at the South Pole.
"The boy was delighted, but the penguin said nothing. Suddenly it looked sad again as the boy helped it out of the boat."
As the boy rows home he feels strange to be alone again. He eventually realizes that he made a big mistake - the penguin had not been lost, it had been lonely. He begins to row back as quickly as possible, unfortunately missing that the penguin had chased after him using an umbrella as a boat. Once back at the South Pole the boy looks everywhere but cannot find his friend. He sadly sets off for home once more. Ahead of him he sees something in the water and is reunited with his friend.
"And so the boy and his friend went home together, talking of wonderful things all the way."
My love for Oliver Jeffers' books and illustrations cannot be verbalized, but I will try. The story is simple, sweet, and even my 4 year olds become emotionally invested in the book. The illustrations are spare and humorous but use beautiful colors and a water color technique that gives depth and movement to each painting. I love the expressiveness of the characters, the ridiculousness of the boy's stick legs holding up a solid body, the wonderful lollipop trees that have square shapes overlaid, and the fantastically pudgy penguin! Oh, how I love the penguin.
I LOVE THIS BOOK and everybody would have a copy. Well, if you like picture books or have kids, then you should have a copy. The watercolor illustrations and story are lovely and the penguin is so cute readers lose the power of speech and can only make squeaking sounds. (When I say "readers" I mean me and most of my first graders.) I give it 6 stars because I think is fantastic!
Since Magic Slays is so shiny and new, I'm only going to post a short review that is SPOILER FREE.
I really enjoyed this book. It's not quite as action packed as previous books. Kate's new business is struggling so she can't really turn down her first client. Unfortunately it's a delicate situation, Kate has to keep things quiet in order to preserve the client's reputation. While Kate is more comfortable with the sword, she has to use her brains this time around. People always underestimate her smarts and she connects the dots faster than anticipated. Of course she's in over her head, but she keeps it together and asks for help when she needs it.
There are an assortment of problems running through the background and I can't really go into detail about them without spoiling the story. I felt so bad for Kate for the bulk of the story. She's taking a crash course in relationships and family and it's never smooth. I will say that a lot of painful truths come to light and Kate is hurt badly. There are also positive truths that she finally allows herself to see and it makes a huge difference. What's most important is that she seems to finally have more confidence in herself and the life she is trying to build.
As the stakes get higher and enemies closer, Kate realizes that she can't just stay the course. She'll have to face parts of herself that she's previously ignored in order to protect her family and the city. These new developments not only seem very organic to the story, but the keep the series from getting stale. Characters continue to evolve and every book is fun, filled with action, and I'm never see the end coming.
This is a laugh out loud story that kids are bound to love. The poor innocent Wolf who's only guilty of not letting food go to waste, was wrongfully accused and it's time his side of the story was told! I love Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith and if you haven't read this story you should definitely share it with your family (but in moderation). This is also a good way to get younger kids (6-7 year olds) thinking about stories, comparing them, and sharing their opinions.
Absolutely delightful! Ballentine and Morris have created a well realized world and given us two wonderfully snarky partners in Wellington Books and Eliza Braun (yes, those last names are very descriptive of the characters). The witty banter and well paced action flows along nicely and never seems to get tripped up by info dumps or too detailed descriptions of the steampunk world and gadgets. Phoenix Rising is told from both Eliza and Wellington's point of view but it never gets confusing and allows for some excellent insight into each character. While I disliked a portion of the end and felt it was totally unnecessary to the story, I'm willing to overlook because Phoenix rising was otherwise throughly enjoyable. I will definitely be picking up any future sequels.
I loved this book. Loved. It. And while I realize that there are other urban fantasy books with male protagonists and using Celtic gods and mythology certainly isn't new to the genre, there's something about Hounded that struck me as refreshingly new. Hounded was a wonderful mix of action, mythology, and humor with great characters throughout. And I loved the Star Wars references. And I just plain loved Atticus - new book boyfriend!
The plot moves quickly but is not confusing. Hearne tells the reader about Atticus' past and his world at a nice pace. You aren't overwhelmed with information nor are you ready to strangle the author in order to get answers. He also efficiently introduces and explains the different Celtic deities so I wasn't subjected to pages and pages of description and background for each character. In fact I can't think of anything that tripped this story up. It was a roller coaster ride of action and fun and I pre-ordered Hexed and Hammered as soon as I finished Hounded.
Hounded is populated with great characters, a wonderful new hero, and great humor. Atticus is a witty and observant (and sexy) narrator which adds an extra layer of fun to the danger and adventure of the story. It's a twisty and fast paced read that I enjoyed from beginning to end. I really think that everyone should drop whatever you're doing and read this book now. It is too much fun to put off!
I have a new go-to-book for students looking for adventure and have already added it to my library order. I am really excited about this book and I can't wait to share it with my students. This book has everything - good story telling, likable and realistic main characters, great heroes, wonderful bad guys, lots of action, and surprises and plot twists that leave you stunned. This is one that you have to try, 5 out of 6 stars!
This is the book just begs for you to cuddle up with your child and whisper the story quietly while looking at all of the sleeping animals and trying and find the Owl in every illustration. I've added this and a few other Il Sung Na books to my son's book wish list for the grandparents. This is a lovely book and one you definitely need to try out, I give it 5 stars.
We meet our little world dominator when he's been placed in time out. Following in the footsteps of the best villains, he ominously states that "Soon....moreWe meet our little world dominator when he's been placed in time out. Following in the footsteps of the best villains, he ominously states that "Soon... The entire world will know of my big plans". He breaks out of time out, puts on his dad's "shiniest tie and fanciest shoes", climbs a mountain-like hill and shouts that he has BIG PLANS! Coming down the hill he encounters the mynah bird:
"HEY BIRD, have you heard? I got me some big plans! BIG PLANS, I say. What's it gonna be, bird? In or out?"
"I'm in!" says the mynah bird.
"Okay, then! Onward, bird!"
He manages to convince his way into the boardroom, onto a helicopter, to win a football game (because losing is NOT in the plans!), he's declared mayor, then president.
"Hi! I'm the president. I heard you got some big plans. How would you like to be assistant president?" he'll say.
"WHAT? Maybe you didn't hear exactly how big my plans are? Big Enough to be PRESIDENT president!" I'll say.
"But that's my job!" he'll say.
"Look, are you a naysayer?" I'll say. "Do you say "NAY"? I say."
"Uh... no?" he'll say.
"Then it's settled," I'll say. "You're third in charge, reporting directly to the mynah bird!"
As president president, the boy informs the states that he has BIG PLANS and assigns a few states some jobs.
"PENNSYLVANIA! Build a rocket ship!" "IDAHO! Make some space suits using the latest potato technology!" "MISSOURI! Cheer up! you're bringing me down." "The rest of you, mill about! MILL ABOUT, I say!"
They then "blast off into uncertainty!... Or the moon, whichever." Once on the moon, the boy and the bird ensure that the whole world knows of his big plans. We never do find out what the plans are, but this kid is a mover and a shaker, a very convincing talker, and did you hear? - He has BIG PLANS! There's much arm waving and shouting in the story, so it's automatically a favorite for me. I found that my older students (second grade and up) seemed to understand the story better, but everyone enjoyed it (because who doesn't enjoy yelling and arm waving?).
A little exhausting to read out loud, but so much fun. The illustrations are delightful and full of details (take a close look at the last page) and the boy lives every kid's dream - he's in charge! This book is full of awesome and it gets 6 stars!(less)
My mother-in-law was not pleased when I started roaring in the middle of the bookstore when I first found this bad boy. It was instant love, Little Di...moreMy mother-in-law was not pleased when I started roaring in the middle of the bookstore when I first found this bad boy. It was instant love, Little Dinosaur and I were meant to be together, and Christmas shopping made a handy excuse to bring him home with me. The bright colors, the simple but humorous illustrations, and the chance to roar like a dinosaur make this book a hit with everyone.
Little Dinosaur, with his mighty roars, can win at everything, no one can stand against him. Not a pile of leaves, a bowl of spaghetti, the toothbrush, or boring adults. A little bit of roaring and jumping and DINOSAUR WINS! After defeating the bath tub and the toothbrush, Dinosaur moves on to his greatest challenge - bedtime. Unfortunately he is no match for bedtime and his roars gradually quite down and turn into snores.
I'm not sure how good a bedtime book this is since I always end up running around and roaring when I read it, but it is so much fun! It is impossible not to giggle when reading this story. Little Dinosaur is just so cute, even when he's grumbly. I do find that Dinosaur vs. Bedtime works best with children in the 3-7 age range, but I have read it to 10 year olds and it was still fun. I give it 6 stars, you need this one people, go get it now!(less)
Hexed had a slightly slower start, but once the story finally took off it didn't stop until the very last page.
We catch up with Atticus about 3 weeks after the events in Hounded. He's gotten lots of visits from a variety of gods and higher powers telling him not to mess with them but if he could maybe kill this other god, that would be great. After centuries of lying low, Atticus is not enjoying the attention that being a god killer brings him. He wants to live quietly and be left alone. During a conversation with his friend and lawyer Lief, his iron necklace becomes so hot that it roasts Atticus' skin. He realizes that he's under attack and Lief scrambles to locate the attacker. No one can be seen and the since his personal wards thwarted the spell, Atticus focuses on prying the metal off of his charred skin and gently refusing to kill Thor. Lief does not take the refusal gracefully and leaves in a huff (or as much of a huff as an ancient viking vampire turned lawyer can).
After recovering, Atticus immediately contacts a local coven who he suspects of attacking him. It turns out that they were also attacked - by a dark coven who is trying to take over their part of town. On top of that a group of Bacchants has come in from Vegas also trying to take over new territory. With the witches trapped in their homes behind wards strong enough to keep the dark coven's hexes at bay, it's up to Atticus to save the day - which is something he really, really doesn't want to do.
Hexed ties up some loose ends from the first book and lays the ground work for subsequent story lines at a fairly fast pace. There was a lot going on but Hearne has a talent for keeping Hexed from becoming confusing or overwhelming. As with the real world, life doesn't stop for Atticus to solve one problem at a time, so he ends up juggling responsibilities, problems, and the occasional crisis.
Atticus remains a witty and capable reluctant hero in Hexed. There is a lot going on in this story but it moves along very quickly despite its slow start. The banter between Atticus and other characters is always entertaining and the fight scenes are filled with action-y goodness. Hexed is a fun followup book and I can't wait to meet Thor in Hammered.
The Iron Queen opens with a rather predictable chain of events that are handled quite nicely. Meghan and Ash have been banished and are returning to her home. While traveling, Meghan wonders at the year that has past since she was in Nevernever, how she will make up for lost time and move forward with her life in the mortal realm, and if Ash will do the same. For all of the questions about their future, Ash is sure of his choice. He loves Meghan and will go with her wherever she will. Of course we all know that something is going to have to happen to prevent her from returning. Enter the spider-hags. These Iron Fey were waiting for Meghan at her family's home. Under orders form the false king ,they are to capture her and take her to the Iron Kingdom. So yes, you knew what "had" to happen so the events at the start of the story are not a surprise. HOWEVER, this doesn't take away from the story. Any uncertainty about Ash from The Iron Daughter is completely erased - he truly loves Meghan and he does not regret being banished because of her. Does he miss his home? Yes, but not enough to give up his love. In the previous book, while her actions were understandable, I tended to get very frustrated with Meghan, but not so here. Meghan starts to mature and have more faith in herself. She would love nothing more than to run home to her mother, to be safe with her family and her familiar world, and in the same position, so would I. But Meghan realizes that her presence endangers her mortal family and she can't leave things half finished. She must end things with the false king. Her journey brings her back to her father Paul, a painful truth about Puck, learning to fight, strengthening her relationship with Ash, and standing up to the Courts to protect herself and her loved ones.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Iron Queen. While the opening of the book and the training period are expected and necessary to the plot, they aren't generic. You know these two events must happen for Meghan to be prepared to face the false king, but it's not boring. The "bubble period" in which Meghan trains with Ash is packed with painful revelations, the healing of her father Paul, and personal growth. This is a period of development for the characters and I appreciated it.
We also see a lot of the cultural differences between the Fey and Mortal worlds. When Meghan is hoping to protect Ash or show that she is a capable member of their party, she ends up insulting him. On his part, Ash eventually understands that Meghan sees things differently from him and that everything she does is out of love. She does not doubt him, she only wants to protect him. I'm telling you, we could have had some over the top melodrama here, but Kagawa doesn't go for the easy out and use false tension. Their actions are true to the character and "real", as it where. Ash and Meghan had the love, that's the easy part, it's the living with each other that's hard. They not only grew as characters, but their understanding of each other grew, creating two people that I was rooting for to win and get an HEA.
And Puck, my darling Puck. If I weren't married and he were real, I would totally take him home. Puck was absolutely awesome in The Iron Queen, I loved it. I finished the book thinking, "That's a fantastic ending, so awesome, and I really want Puck to find someone to love." Seriously, I want him to be happy. And then there was the false king - dude, did NOT see that one coming.
While there was a good amount of action, and some fun new characters added to the mix, what really stayed with me was the development of the characters and their relationships with each other. And the end! Aagh! How will he do it? I don't know, but I'm dyin' to find out.
Verdict: I wanted closure, and now, darn you Julie Kagawa! You have left me hanging by a thread! I am so totally excited about The Iron Knight that I just can't contain myself. The Iron Queen is not what I expected, and I loved it. I am totally in love with Meghan and Ash as a couple (sorry Team Puck, they were meant to be), and Puck is just awesome, and I so want my own Razor! Meghan grew up, made some hard choices, but they were the right ones and she stuck by them. Ash, while still a bit solemn, seemed to enjoy the emotional freedom that Meghan gave him. He was adorable in a completely deadly and stoic way. Puck also had to accept some things and make a few choices that weren't easy, but they were right. The Iron Queen was a thoroughly enjoyable ride that answered some questions, asked more, and left me completely happy and on the edge of my seat. I give it 5 stars, this needs to be read.(less)
River Marked kept me up late at night and had me missing it when I was at work. I alternated between laughs, "Aww", and "OMG!" so much that my husband asked me to go read in another room. We meet Mercy's family who obviously love and accept her, even though she is reluctant to bring their perfect and normal lives into her more dangerous one. The wedding part was just wonderful, sweet, and funny and Mercy is so in love with Adam that you just can't help but grin. As the story progresses we see Adam and Mercy not just as a couple, but as a great team with a wonderful dynamic. They fought habits created over years of being alone and tried hard to work as partners. This was especially hard for Adam who had to fight his instincts to lock his wife up in order to keep her safe. It was great getting to see the more personal side of Adam as well as his kick butt werewolf side.
loved, loved, LOVED this book! It was an action packed, fun, humorous, sexy, and wonderful nail biter of a book. You have got to read this book, but it must be read in order with the series. 6 stars, this one will never get old.
Lucy is an exuberant, melodramatic, beribboned young bear. One day, "while practicing her twirls" Lucy realized that she was being watched. She demand...moreLucy is an exuberant, melodramatic, beribboned young bear. One day, "while practicing her twirls" Lucy realized that she was being watched. She demanded that her "secret admirer" show himself, and the little boy did, with a squeak. Lucy jumped up and down and enthusiastically declared him "the cutest critter in the WHOLE forest!" The little boy just squeaks. Because, really, what would you do when faced with a bear wearing a tutu? She immediately takes him home to show off to her mother.
Lucy: "MOM! Look what I found outside! I call him Squeaker because he makes funny sounds." Little Boy: "Squeak!" Lucy: "See, isn't he the cutest? Can I keep him, PLEASE?"
Lucy doesn't believe her mother's warning that children make terrible pets. Mom relents, but only after declaring that Squeaker is Lucy's responsibility. Lucy agrees, and then she and Squeaker run off to have the BEST DAY EVER! They play together, they eat together, they even nap together. But it wasn't all wonderful. Squeaker was impossible to potty train, he ruined the furniture, and caused loads of problems (from tracking in mud to starting a food fight at a tea party).
Lucy begins to get really frustrated when Squeaker disappears. Lucy looked in all of his usual hiding spots but he was nowhere to be found. Just when she was just about to dramatically give up hope, her "sensitive nose caught a whiff of her Squeaker!" She followed Squeaker's trail until she found him... at home. But now Squeaker didn't seem like a pet anymore, he had a family that he needed to stay with. So Lucy said good-bye to her little fella. And at the end of it all, she had learned a very valuable lesson.
Lucy: "You were right, Mom. Children DO make terrible pets." Mom: "They really are the worst."
This story just begs to be read with shouting, and drama, bouncing, squeaking, and swooning onto the floor. It was made for me. Lucy is just fantastic and throws herself, 100%, into whatever she's doing. Even if it isn't a very good idea. The illustrations are fantastic. Brown used color pencils to draw on construction paper that was mounted on wood. He also uses a "wee bit of digital tweaking", though you would never be able to tell. The speech bubbles were also hand lettered by Brown. All of the illustrations have this lovely warm and layered look, and Lucy is just a fantastic and expressive character. I haven't read this to a class yet, but I know kids are going to enjoy the absurdity of a child as a pet and will be delighted with the over-the-top Lucy.
Verdict: The warm and detailed illustrations and the adorable story make this a book that children will enjoy over and over again. This book also gives parents a nice opening to discuss the responsibilities and work of taking care of a pet. Children Make Terrible Pets will become part of my family's library. Even if you don't buy it, I highly recommend checking out today and sharing it with your family. (less)