Monday, June 26, 2017

The Great Owl Repaint Project part 5

This is another owl that wasnt' particularly bad in it's original form. Since I decided to repaint owls, though, I thought I'd give this one a shot as well. Especially since that one eye is a little wonky.
It's new look is inspired by the Eastern Screech Owl.
I call this one Rowan. Meet the rest of the family: Evangeline, Leif, Clara, and Beatrice.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book review - Finding Fortune

Title: Finding Fortune
Author: Delia Ray
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question by Martha Freeman
                      Jelly Bean Summer by Joyce Magnin
It will grow on you

Summary (provided by publisher): When Ren sees her mom heading out to dinner with that creep Rick Littleton, she's furious. How could her mom do that to her dad, a soldier stuck over in Afghanistan? Ren decides to run away to the school-turned-boardinghouse in the next town over. Once there, she makes friends with a boy named Hugh, who tells her that the boardinghouse is the site of a mystery. Every night, the owner, Ms. Baxter, searches for a treasure left in the building years ago. If Ms. Baxter can't find it, then the boarding house might shut down for good, and her dream of preserving the town's history by opening a pearl button museum will never come true. By the time Ren, Hugh, and other visitors help find the treasure-a bag of pearls-Ren and her mom also have found a way to forgive each other.

My opinion: At face value, this is a pretty strange concept. It shouldn't work, and at first it didn't. I found the characters initially hard to believe. They grew on me, though. As Ren learned more about the inhabitants of the boardinghouse they, and she, became more believable to me. And along with them so did the hunt for a treasure. We begin to see why opening a button museum might matter to these characters. The conclusion is emotionally and entertainingly satisfying. I wouldn't recommend it to just any kid but might be a good choice for a thinker, an observer.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pick 6: superheroes

Most kids have a fascination with superheroes. The promise of powers beyond our peers, unsurprisingly, captures the imagination. Here are six books published in the last six months that explore what it means to have super powers.

6 new superhero novels

1. Dreadnought by April Daniels

2. The Flash: Lightning Strikes Twice by Joshua Williamson

3. Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton

4. Bug Girl by Ben Harper

5. Miraculous: Tales of Lady Bug and Cat Noir by ZAG Entertainment

6. DC Superhero Girls: Summer Olympus by Shea Fontana

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book review - What Goes Up

Title: What Goes Up
Author: Katie Kennedy
Genre: sci-fi
Similar books: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
                      No True Echo by Gareth P. Jones
It just begs to be shared

Summary (provided by publisher): Rosa and Eddie are among hundreds of teens applying to NASA's mysterious Interworlds Agency. They're not exactly sure what the top-secret program entails, but they know they want in. Rosa has her brilliant parents' legacies to live up to, and Eddie has nowhere else to go--he's certainly not going to stick around and wait for his violent father to get out of jail. Even if they are selected, they have no idea what lies in store. But first they have to make it through round after round of crazy-competitive testing.
And then something happens that even NASA's scientists couldn't predict . . .
From the author of the acclaimed Learning to Swear in America comes another high-stakes adventure that's absolutely out of this world.

My opinion: I both loved and was disappointed by this book (though the love far outweighs the disappointment). The alternating point of view is strong. While the individual characters fall a little bit into cliche that familiarity of type works in the novel's favor. It helps that the ultimate aim of the novel is to explore identity and fate. Its really smart to have cliched characters questioning their roles, pushing the boundaries of what is expected of their personality types. And the actual line to line writing was tight and nearly blew me away. Some of those passages just begged to be shared, highlighted, contemplated. My disappointment was with some plot elements and a few of the characters. Those disappointments are easily overcome. A great book to read, reread, and share.

More information: What Goes Up releases July 18.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, June 19, 2017

King of the t-shirt jungle

When I wasn't able to find a gift I liked for my cousin's son, I figured it was just as easy to make something for him. He's a fan of lions, so I drew this t-shirt for him.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Book review - The Dissappearances

Title: The Disappearances
Author: Emily Bain Murphy
Genre: historical fiction/magical realism
Similar books: The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray
                      These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Rating:
slow to start
Summary (provided by publisher):  What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?
Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home--and the place where Juliet grew up.
Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together--scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream--vanish every seven years.
No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible--and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone's secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

My opinion: I wasn't particularly into this book at first. My attention wasn't really captured until nearly halfway through. I got rather caught up in theories and secrets. I really wanted to know what was causing the sensory losses. While the characters were a little light, the plot kept me going. I was a little disappointed by the final reveals. I don't know that we got enough explanation about the stone and the curse. Between that failing at the end and the slow start, it could be a hard sell for young readers.

More information: The Disappearances releases July 4.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Picture books for everyone

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka

This book may be a bit of a stretch for some young people. There is no real story. It is, as the title suggests, based on be bop in its very format with lines like "overshoes overshoes overshoes o" and my favorite "never leave your cat alone". It's all about exploring rhythm and taking artistic risks. The illustrations are highly stylized, which works well with jazz text. I highly recommend reading this book with children of all ages, though I do recommend reading through it several times yourself, practicing your delivery. 

As a side note, the PBS program Between the Lions devoted a rather excellent episode to Charlie Parker Played Be Bop if you're looking for some inspiration.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book review - What to Say Next

Title: What to Say Next
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell by Liane Shaw
                      Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer Smith
mostly delightful with a few disappointments

Summary (provided by publisher): Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.
KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they?  I don’t even understand.
DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.
When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David.  Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

My opinion: I liked the characters in this novel better than the plot. I loved the interplay between Kit and David. They both reject the label "normal", largely by necessity. David is aware that his personality quirks will forever separate him from his peers. Kit's grief is a tangible barrier from her old life. These characters have glimpsed beyond the societal facade. That part I loved. I even loved their doomed infatuation, even with it's obvious conclusion.
What I didn't love was the mystery. For the first two thirds of the book, the mystery of the car accident is seldom addressed, merely mentioned. For it to become the major plot catalyst felt a little clumsy. The revelations about the accident didn't have enough evidence supporting them.
It was still an engaging and emotionally complex novel. It just could have been much stronger.

More information: What to Say Next releases July 11.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A wild purse

I have this thing about sloths. They're kind of ugly/creepy but also completely adorable. When I spotted this bag on Amazon, I loved it. But I didn't love the price tag, especially since I knew it wouldn't be hard to replicate it. I bought a plain brown hobo bag instead.

A few customized felt appliques made it a close enough approximation of the original. It's loads of fun to carry.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Book review - The Song From Somewhere Else

Title: The Song from Somewhere Else
Author: A. F. Harrold
Genre: magical realism
Similar books: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
                      Skellig by David Almond
intriguing, though not really my thing

Summary (provided by publisher): Frank thought her summer couldn't get any worse--until big, weird, smelly Nick Underbridge rescues her from a bully, and she winds up at his house.
Frank quickly realizes there's more to Nick than meets the eye. When she's at his house, she hears the strangest, most beautiful music, music which leads her to a mysterious, hidden door. Beyond the door are amazing creatures that she never even dreamed could be real. For the first time in forever, Frank feels happy . . . and she and Nick start to become friends.
But Nick's incredible secrets are also accompanied by great danger. Frank must figure out how to help her new friend, the same way that he has helped her.
Paired with gorgeous black-and-white illustrations from Levi Pinfold, acclaimed author A. F. Harrold weaves a powerful story about unlikely friendship, strange magic, and keeping the shadows at bay.

My Opinion: An interesting blend of multiple dimensions, magical realism, and mild horror. The first word I would use to describe it is, honestly, weird. The whole atmosphere is a half step away from normal, like a David Almond novel. Harrold takes a number of normal kid experiences (bullying, the missing cat, the weird kid at school) and makes them very "other", vaguely menacing. Shadows, mystery music, government, random ladies with carriages. All of these things are given mild menace. This would be a decent choice for a kid who enjoys reading outside of the mainstream.

More information: The Song From Somewhere Else releases July 4.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Books on screen

Maximum Ride

I was not surprised that the movie version of this story deviates from the plot of the novel. Firstly, the movie takes it's plot from only the first half of the novel, the part I would argue is less interesting. And it is a significant deviation. More concerning to me is the change in the characters. Their basic personalities and the way they interact with one another in the movie are a far cry from the book. Patterson presents us with this group: Max, the strong but loving leader; Fang, the dark and brooding, secretive protector; Iggy, the playful boy with hidden depths; Nudge, the excitable talkative girl; and Gazzy and Angel, siblings who are the most child-like, the most "normal" in spite of their enhancements. We see their special abilities, but also the bond between them. They are a family, a flock. Closely connected. None of that is present in the movie. The characters are indistinct and do not form a particularly tight knit group. In fact, they fight more than anything. Even their relationship with the School, Jeb, and Ari is altered, and not in a way that strengthens the story. It's not a particularly good representation of a complex series.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Non-fiction book review: Coding Projects in Python

Coding Projects in Python

I've read a variety of coding books and websites of varying quality. This is a particularly good one. Coding books for children have a tendency to be simplified, often to the point that they are hardly useful. DK, though, has provided young readers with an in depth introduction. Explanations are clear. Loads of examples of the various coding principles. Even more importantly, the examples are more than just code. We're given concrete, applicable uses for these principles, how to use them for creating, say, a game. It's this direct application, not for a particular project (as web guides tend to have) but for a type of project. This is an excellent choice for any kid or adult looking to get started in Python.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Book review - The Road to Winter

Title: The Road to Winter
Author: Mark Smith
Genre: post-apocalypse
Similar books: Parched by Melanie Crowder
                      The Road by Cormac McCarthy
a good level of tension

Summary (provided by publisher): Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his dog Rowdy for company.
He has stayed alive for two winters—hunting and fishing and trading food, and keeping out of sight of the Wilders, an armed and dangerous gang that controls the north, led by a ruthless man named Ramage.
But Finn’s isolation is shattered when a girl runs onto the beach. Rose is a Siley—an asylum seeker—and she has escaped from Ramage, who had enslaved her and her younger sister, Kas. Rose is desperate, sick, and needs Finn’s help. Kas is still missing somewhere out in the bush.
And Ramage wants the girls back—at any cost.
Finn, Rose and Kas try their hardest to look after each other in the harsh post-apocalyptic world. They suffer setbacks, difficulties brought on by adults but also sometimes as a consequence of their own poor decisions. They’re kids—they make mistakes. They stuff up but they find a way through. There are no superheroes, no magical powers to help them out of life-threatening situations.
A novel about honor, friendship and love, and a gripping realist teen survival narrative.

My opinion: Think of this book as The Road meets The Children of Men, though appropriate for teens. The interesting thing to me is that this post-apocalyptic novel doesn't show society devolving. It has devolved. We get, instead, the attempt of the remnant to live in the aftermath. Teen fiction tends to show the down fall. This is a more adult approach. It works surprisingly well. While listings for this book make it clear that this is the first in a series, it stands fairly well. Additionally, the writing has a distinctly foreign feel but is not so foreign as to be distancing. A solid choice for teens interested in survival.

More information: The Road to Winter releases June 13.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, June 5, 2017

We're too cool for regular business card holders

My sister recently received business cards at work and was looking for something to hold them on her desk. Sure, we could have rigged up some kind of little box, but when I spied this recipe card holder it seemed like the perfect solution.
Plain white is a little boring, so this cow needed some paint. Personally, I'd have decorated the cow to look like Harry Potter, but my sister is a little more conservative. We went with a more subtle patterning.

It won't hold very many cards, but it certainly has more personality than a box.

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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book review - Finding Mighty

Title: Finding Mighty
Author: Sheela Chari
Genre: realistic fiction/mystery
Similar books: The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach
                      The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
a unique perspective

Summary (provided by publisher): Along the train lines north of New York City, twelve-year-old neighbors Myla and Peter search for the link between Myla’s necklace and the disappearance of Peter’s brother, Randall. Thrown into a world of parkour, graffiti, and diamond-smuggling, Myla and Peter encounter a band of thugs who are after the same thing as Randall. Can Myla and Peter find Randall before it’s too late, and their shared family secrets threaten to destroy them all? Drawing on urban art forms and local history, Finding Mighty is a mystery that explores the nature of art and the unbreakable bonds of family.

My opinion: Previous books that I have read which feature graffiti have talked only about artists and activists, people using graffiti to spread a strong message. They almost entirely dismiss the typical tagger, those who look to put their names in bold places. Chari takls about moth: those trying to say something and those who are out to deface. She acknowledges that you can't have one without the other. At heart though, this isn't about tagging or even parkour. It's really about family secrets and discovering true strength. Its an interseting exploration, though not my first choice for the average reader.

More information: Finding Mighty releases May 30.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book review - Wallace and Grace Take the Case

Title: Wallace and Grace Take the Case
Author: Heather Alexander
Genre: beginning chapter book
Similar books: Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger
                      Good Crooks by Mary Amato
a great beginner mystery

Summary (provided by publisher): In this charming series, perfect for newly independent readers, kids will be treated to simple whodunit mysteries as an utterly delightful owl duo put their heads together. In their first adventure, Wallace and Grace meet a rabbit who is sure he saw a ghost! But the clues lead them in a different direction. Something is spooking the garden . . . can Wallace and Grace solve this case?

My opinion: As a beginning reader, this book is by nature pretty basic. Even so, its a pretty solid mystery. Clues are easy to follow but not completely obvious. Characters have clear personality differences and distinct voices. And the illustrations cleanly support the text. A solid choice for young readers.

More Information: Wallace and Grace Take the Case releases May 23.
Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reflections on Free Comic Book Day

Saturday was Free Comic Book day, an event I attended with my brother, sister, cousin, and my cousin's two small children. Its an event that we look forward to and plan for months in advance.

For those unfamiliar, the first Saturday in May the big comic book publishers provide an assortment of specially produced titles for comic book shops to give away. Our particular store allows each customer to pick 3 comics. It's a wonderful thing. Except...There were 50 titles  available this year. Of those titles, the official list counts 20 of them appropriate for all ages. Personally, I'd put that count closer to 15 and at least a half of those are based on either a television show or video game. This means that by the time we arrived at the store mid-afternoon, my cousin's boys were able to pick 1 title from the current list (both rejected DC's Superhero Girls, no matter how much I tried to convince them that it isn't a 'girl' book). They were able to find a couple of titles left over from last year but it was pretty slim pickings. Even we adults had some trouble as we don't prefer graphic violence and heavy swearing.

On the car ride home, while the boys happily ready Angry Birds and Sonic in the back of the car, we lamented the state of super hero comics. The early comics were aimed at children. While the heroes were all adults and fought villains, found themselves in peril, the content was perfectly acceptable for young readers. Now the only super hero comics that are aimed at children feature young heroes and tend to be more humorous.  As soon as the plot takes a serious tone, the content becomes more violent and psychologically dark. 

How did we get from these:

to these:

Consider this our open letter to comic book publishers: we need good superhero comics for kids. Adventure and daring-do without sex, gore, abuse, and copious cursing. 


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book review - Spill Zone

Title: Spill Zone
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: dystopia/graphic novel
Similar books: The Castoffs by M.K. Reed
                      Brain Jack by Brian Falkner
an intriguing, if mysterious, beginning

Summary (provided by publisher): Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.
The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone's twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.
When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison's name.

My opinion: It was only a matter of time before someone wrote about what amounts to technology zombies. And if someone had to do it I'm glad it was Scott Westerfeld. He stands the best chance of doing the subject justice. This is a compelling first volume, but it is little more than the barest of introductions. At the end of the book we don't really have a clearer picture of what is going on than we did at the very beginning. All this book really achieves is to introduce us to the characters. Personally, I'll need at least one more volume before I can say for certain exactly how I feel about the series.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Book review - Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess

Title: Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
Author: Shari Green
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
                      Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
nicely done

Summary (provided by publisher): Sixth grade is coming to an end, and so is life as Macy McMillan knows it. Already a “For Sale” sign mars the front lawn of her beloved house. Soon her mother will upend their perfect little family, adding a stepfather and six-year-old twin stepsisters. To add insult to injury, what is Macy’s final sixth grade assignment? A genealogy project. Well, she’ll put it off—just like those wedding centerpieces she’s supposed to be making. Just when Macy’s mother ought to be understanding, she sends Macy next door to help eighty-six-year-old Iris Gillan, who is also getting ready to move—in her case into an assisted living facility. Iris can’t pack a single box on her own and, worse, she doesn’t know sign language. How is Macy supposed to understand her? But Iris has stories to tell, and she isn’t going to let Macy’s deafness stop her. Soon, through notes and books and cookies, a bond grows between them. And this friendship, odd and unexpected, may be just what Macy needs to face the changes in her life. Shari Green, author of Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles, writes this summer story with the lightest touch, spinning Macy out of her old life and into a new one full of warmth and promise for the future.

My opinion: Some stories are just made for the verse novel format. This is one of them. Pacing is tight and word choice is solid. Some verse novels get so caught up in artistry that the reader isn't clear on what is actually happening. That isn't the case here. I also appreciated that while Macy is deaf, its not the sum total of her character. She's your average middle grade girl who just happens to be deaf. She has social problems at school, struggles to connect with her future step family. Problems that are largely her own fault. She is not dismissed due to her handicap. Rather, she uses that as a reason to push others away. It may not be the first verse novel I'd hand to a young reader but I wouldn't hesitate to give it to a kid who's already read a couple.

More information: Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess releases May 15.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.