Friday, May 26, 2017

Book review - Words in Deep Blue

Title: Words in Deep Blue
Author: Cath Crowley
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett
                      We are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen

Summary (provided by publisher): A beautiful love story for fans of Jandy Nelson and Nicola Yoon: two teens find their way back to each other in a bookstore full of secrets and crushes, grief and hope—and letters hidden between the pages.
Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.
Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

My opinion: Read this one for the writing more than for the plot. It's beautifully engaging. There is grief - for people, for dreams, for the way life changes when we want nothing more than to freeze it as it is right now. There is the love of books in every form. Not just classics, but all literature that makes us feel. I defy any reader to finish this book and not want to go make notes in a novel, to spread thoughts and feelings through the universe. Read this book and enjoy each moment. Just let it be what it is without justification or explanation.

More information: Words in Deep Blue releases June 6.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pick 6: Magic

Spells, faeries, witches, giants. Magical elements seem to resonate with young readers and there are some really excellent fantasy novels being written for them. Here are six books published in the past six months that feature magic.

6 new magical novels

1. The Spell Thief by Tom Percival

2. Long Live the Queen by Gerry Swallow

3. The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell

4. Tricked by Jen Calonita

5. The Castoffs Volume 1 by MK Reed

6. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Shark Lady

Shark Lady by Jess Keating

I love that the primary message of this book seems to be "if you want something, work for it". In order to study sharks for her career, Eugenie first learns all she can about fish, works hard in school, studies in her spare time. Keating baskically tells young readers that the key to success is education. Read, learn, dedicate your time and effort. 
Apart from that, the plot is very simple, easy for even the very young to follow and well supported by truly lovely and dynamic illustrations.

More information: Shark Lady releases June 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book review - The Gravediggers Club

Title: The Gravediggers Club
Author: Robert J. Harris
Genre: historical fiction/mystery
Similar books: The Magician's Fire by Simon Nicholson
                      The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
a nice nod to a familiar story

Summary (provided by publisher): One day Arthur Conan Doyle will create the greatest detective of all -- Sherlock Holmes. But right now Artie Conan Doyle is a twelve-year-old Edinburgh schoolboy with a mystery of his own to solve.
While sneaking out to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard by night, Artie and his best friend Ham spot a ghostly lady in grey and discover the footprints of a gigantic hound. Could the two mysteries be connected?
These strange clues lead them to a series of robberies carried out by the sinister Gravediggers' Club and soon they find themselves pitted against the villainous Colonel Braxton Dash.
Will Artie survive his encounters with graveyards and ghosts in the foggy streets of nineteenth century Edinburgh -- or will his first case be his last?

My opinion: We see plenty of young Sherlock Holmes or modern Sherlock Homes. I think this is the first I've seen young Arthur Conan Doyle. All references to known material aside, it's not a bad mystery. Clues aren't always the clearest but the pacing is solid. There are a number of cultural and historical references, which will be a barrier for some young readers. What I really enjoyed was the way Harris used elements from Sherlock Holmes stories in this plot, implying that events in his early life were the inspiration for Doyle's writing. Fun for a young Holmes fan.

More information: The Gravedigger's Club releases June 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, May 22, 2017

This sock won't be tamed

Like most people who craft with socks, I occasionally find myself with random spare bits of sock lying around. This weekend, I made up my mind to do something with a few of them.

 It was my intention to make something along the lines of this pin, but I just couldn't get the face right. Eventually, I stopped trying to force my sock bits into a traditional shape and let it lead itself. The end result is something along the lines of a cross between a chicken and a penguin. I call it Glen.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book review - The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart

Title: The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart
Author: Stephanie Burgis
Genre: fantasy
Similar books: Baker's Magic by Diane Zahler
                      The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat
loads of fun

Summary (provided by publisher): A chocolate-filled, girl-powered fantasy with a heroine who learns what it means to be a strong, fearsome human (and dragon).
Aventurine is a brave young dragon ready to explore the world outside of her family's mountain cave . . . if only they'd let her leave it. Her family thinks she's too young to fly on her own, but she's determined to prove them wrong by capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.
But when that human tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she's transformed into a puny human without any sharp teeth, fire breath, or claws. Still, she's the fiercest creature in these mountains--and now she's found her true passion: chocolate. All she has to do is get to the human city to find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she'll be conquering new territory in no time . . . won't she?

My opinion: This book made me so hungry for chocolate. The descriptions of food had the perfect level of detail: enough to make our mouths water and create associations with our own food memories without becoming overly specific. Too specific would be distancing. Instead we can imagine our own idea of the most delicious hot chocolate. Its a very tactile novel, lots of sights, sounds, and sensations .We don't get just a red garment with a pattern like dragon scales but instead an image of shimmering red and orange scales . Characters are not deeply complex but do have several traits and experience growth, sufficient complexity for a middle grade novel. The elements of magic are present but not overwhelming. A true delight.

More information: The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart releases May 30.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Programming the Raspberry Pi

Programming the Raspberry Pi by Simon Monk

Having recently purchased my first Raspberry Pi, I did what any self-respecting reader would do: I looked for a book on the subject. Programming the Raspberry Pi is a great choice if you've done absolutely no programming with Python. Probably 2/3 to 3/4 of the book is focused on the basics of Python. There isn't much in the way of projects in this book. For those, look to the internet. I would not hesitate to give this book to a middle grade reader, though. While too complex for the very young, a 5th to 8th grader could easily manage the concepts presented. Be aware though: the first section of the book walks the reader through setting up your Pi board. The model it references is the Pi 2. Both the Pi 3 and Zero differ in significant ways from the Pi 2.