Crazy Moon by Lucia Greene. Illustrated by Shannon Sands. Book Review.

This is the second book I have reviewed by Lucia Greene. Her five star review for A Tunnel in the Pines is available here. https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/a-tunnel-in-the-pines-by-lucia-greene-book-review/

This book is written in the same easy-to-engage style. However, it is less intense and suspenseful than A Tunnel.

Madison goes to summer camp for the first time. Her cabin has a mixture of girls, nice, shy, bully, and bystander. I expected Madison to be an advocate for respect among the girls but she is preoccupied with her own experiences. When Nancy, the ostracized girl runs away, I expected a connection to the title of the book “crazy moon.” This refers to aggressive behavior of animals in breeding mode. There are tales, in my northern community, of hikers and campers attacked relentlessly by moose in heat. But Nancy spent the night safe and sound in a tiny pine hideaway.

I thought the counselor would intervene and have the girls discuss and work on the group dynamics at several points in the book, but there was no real resolution. Madison’s take away from all this was to advise Nancy not to take things so seriously.

This could have been a book on personal and social growth wherein the reader gained perspective and empathy for the bullied girl and some strategies for dealing with put downs and other anti-social remarks. This could have been, like A Tunnel in the Pines, a nail-biting emotional roller-coaster ride for the reader. It was an enjoyable read but not of  the truly high-caliber of Greene’s first book. It will appeal to girls who love riding as Madison falls for Mouse, one of the camp horses. That, too, could have been a theme to expand upon. Why is this horse so afraid? What happens to them when they no longer can be ridden.

While I love Greene’s writing style, I think this particular book had some unfulfilled potential.

 

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Julia Unbound by Catherine Egan. Book Review.

I won this book in a giveaway and didn’t realize until I received it that it was part three in a series. There was a lot of backstory that I had to figure out which made it difficult to connect with the main character. I suspect I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had read the first two books.

The writer provides extensive detail into both the landscape and the history encompassing this novel. Her world-building is complex  and rich. Thankfully there is a detailed map and the city and a list of the thirty-nine terms and characters introduced in this book. Again, someone who had read the first books would probably be familiar with most of these.

The major premise of the story focuses on Julia who, in order to save her brother, has agreed to allow a parasite to slowly infect her body and take over her brain. She has only a short time to defeat her enemy, remove a sabotaged bomb from her brother’s chest, and pull out her parasite before it  takes over her mind. She has a watchdog reporting back all her movements to her enemy and must secretly fight against him or her brother will be killed even sooner.

Julia becomes embroiled in a fight for the throne involving witches  and other powerful beings. To complicate matters, she develops a fondness for the rightful heir while being forced to support a false claim. But Julia has  a special magical skill of her own which gives her a chance to navigate through the complex and deceptive political forays.

Perhaps because the story was so detailed and I had not read the first books, I found it difficult to connect with Julia and took quite a long time to finish the novel and tackle this review. Your experience, especially if you read the first two in the series, may be different. Eden is an excellent plotter and world builder. If you enjoy complex fantasies, this series is worth looking into.

 

 

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten. Book Review.

Teresa Toten is the author of a remarkable book I have previously reviewed, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. This novel is quite different in style and substance.

Toten certainly  knows how to use plot twist in creative ways. The book veered off into unpredictable situations that built the tension of  this psychological  thriller exponentially. The first third of the book was rather slow but the last third was riveting.

Toten reveals just enough about the two main characters, Olivia and Kate, to build our curiosity and suspense as the story progresses. These girls are in their senior year and aiming for Yale University. We know that something has happened to both these girls to damage them deeply in different ways. We know that they are both keeping secrets. We know that they are both afraid. We know that something isn’t quiet right with the handsome Mr. Mark Redkin who takes an interest in them.

The author cleverly reveals snippets of Kate’s life that makes us question whether she is the hero or the villain in this drama. She uses people. Does she care for them at all? The answer is as complex as the plot itself.

My major criticism of this book would be that the dialogue clunks in places and seems artificial and flat at times. As well, there are moments when the point of view is muddied. Although this is a suspense novel, character plays a major role and believable dialogue is essential. The two brilliant girls did made some very stupid choices.

Although it doesn’t have the genius of 13B, I think this would make a great suspense movie with the right script writer and director. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read.

 

Midnight Fairy Craft & Party Book by Tracy Marsh. Book Review.

This book has more ideas than you will ever possibly use for a party. There are chapters on making dolls, wands, books, wish boxes, and even fairy wings. Marsh gives details on preparing for the party, sending out invitations, food, cake, tablecloths and napkins, and even place cards. There is a whole section on games and activities most quite physically active.

Some of the creations require a great deal of effort and some are fairly simple. Many of them are quite beautiful and worthy of becoming a permanent keepsake.

Of course you can simplify everything and change things to suit your energy level, income, and needs. I used it as inspiration for a fairy night with my five-year-old granddaughter who was sleeping over. Here are some of the decorations we did using materials we already had and a few things from the dollar store.

Any physical activities outside were out of the question since we were experiencing a heat wave and it was excruciating hot at 9 pm. Instead we played table and word games with fairy themes such as “A fairy took from my house.”  We did two rounds of took and two of left.

Our fairy door in the garden was too damp so we put one on the deck.

To see our decorations, games etc. check out this short video.

The Sherrif’s Catch by James Valla-Bardon. The Sassana Stone Pentalogy. Book Review.

This is a robust and gruesome tale of a Spanish soldier, Abel de Santiago, a gifted sharpshooter, seeking revenge for the murder of his wife. Anything and everything horrible that can happen to this man, does. If you are uncomfortable with abasement, torture, and bloody fights, you might have to take this book one small piece at a time as I did. The historical authenticity is both unnerving and fascinating . It definitely makes this reader grateful to be living in this time and this country.
The hero is resilient, determined, and completely believable as he and his brother-in-law search for the four men, former colleagues, who are responsible for the slaughter of his wife and her family. This is a truly epic vengeance novel.
I thought I knew quite a bit about England in the 1500s but seeing it through the eyes of soldiers gives a whole new perspective. If you can handle the brutality, this is definitely a page turner.
I do think the title and cover could have been more relevant to this particular novel but I realize this is the beginning of the series. I’m curious to know where the story could possibly go from here as the hero has gone through more than any human should ever have to bear.
The writing flows well. The novel has enough detail to keep the reader aware of the historical context without becoming boring. Fight scenes are detailed and suspenseful. The story is told through the eyes of the Spanish soldier having just enough linguistic flavor to make it feel authentic without becoming cumbersome.
If you like swashbuckling historical adventures, this is a series you will want to look into.

Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton. Book Review.

This  young adult book is about a middle grade student who has experienced  sudden onset severe schizophrenia. He has been moved to a new school for fresh start. His parents demand that the staff keep his medical condition secret. Adam falls in love with an intelligent and strong young lady named Maya. He is terrified that when she finds out about his illness, she will drop him.
Adam is on a trial drug because the standard medications do not work to control his  hallucinations which can be so severe that he has acted on them in the past including severe self injury. To complicate matters, his father has abandon him and his stepfather is nervous around him. Add to the fact that his mother becomes pregnant and we see that there are no simple solutions to a complicated issue.
The story was deeply introspective and this made it a little difficult to connect with the other characters who seemed flat in comparison.
This book is sure to elicit discussion and disagreement but it is also extremely informative as far as getting inside the head of a young man trying to cope with a extremely challenging condition. Adam is a likable and decent young man who deserves a better break than what life has given him. No matter how you feel about his family’s decisions with regard to Adam’s care and inclusion, you are bound to empathize and feel great compassion for this individual.

Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure by Danual Berkley. Illustrated by Amariah Rauscher. Book Review.

I knew I’d like this author the moment I read the dedication. Simple words with a powerful, important message.

Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure is a fun family picture book.  It is a gentle adventure of a family of four, mother, father, 7 year old Davy, baby Kai,  and two animated toys, one an alien and  one a teddy bear. It features a family of African descent which I don’t get to see very often. However,  families of all backgrounds will easily relate. What child doesn’t want their family to go for an adventure on a pirate ship?

During their search for gold, the family encounters  a giant fish monster which Davy handles with confidence. When a huge storm comes up and flips the boat over it transforms into a submarine. Of course they find the gold and everyone cheers. On the last page we find that this is a beautifully imaginative story created during bath time.

Rauscher’s illustration style perfectly suits the story. The pictures, which seem to be pencil and watercolor, are gentle and endearing. Every character shines with personality.

Children who love imaginative play and pirate stories will want to hear this book over and over. It is reassuring  with just a touch of suspense. I look forward to more work from this new author. Watch for an upcoming interview with Danual Berkley on this blog.

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Upside Down Babies by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds. Book Review.

 
The Illustrations in this book are engaging and adorable. The animal’s expressions are priceless.
It begins, “Once when the world jturned upside down”. We see animal babies and human babies spinning through the air wearing concerned expressions. On the next page, piglet lands in a parrot’s nest. On the following, the baby tortoise lands in an otter’s home, the lion cub lands beside a cow, and it continues. The expressions on the faces of the mothers and babies are priceless.
The foster mothers try their best but there are insurmountable odds. The cow cannot provide meat for the lion. The baby elephant can’t jump like the monther kangaroo. This sloth baby cannot keep up with the cheetah.
But then the world goes upside down again and everything returns to as it was. The families are happy to be reunited except for two. My granddaughter and I were disconcerted that the gorilla keeps the human baby and the mother keeps the gorilla baby. There seems to be no reason for this and most children will probably find it funny but there is a undertone of discomfort with the idea. However, children who don’t think too deeply on the subject will just just think it’s silly.
The follow-up to this could be a discussion of new pairings of mothers and babies. Which ones could work and what ones could never be compatible?

Silly Scientists Take a Peeky at the Solar System by Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Marianella Aguirre and Ying Hui Tan. Book Review.

This is the second in the silly scientists series wherein Lindsey Craig uses humor to teach children about nature and science. This time the aliens travels through our planetary system. The illustrations are a mixture of wacky drawings and photography from NASA.
The text is written in rhyme such as “Uranus is an ice giant that has a wonky ride. Its seasons last forever since it orbits on its side.” The beat is quite musical.
There is humor in the text as well as the illustrations. For example Jupiter’s red spot is compared to a zit.
The last two pages contain information for parents and older students on our solar system. The best part about this book is that you can also go online and listen to a catchy song with highly professional animation that reinforces learning the planets. It enriches and supplements the text.
Kids who like space and aliens will enjoy this picture book.

Laura Monster Crusher by Wesley King. Book Review.

This book is suitable for middle-grade to early young adult. This will be a favorite with readers who love fantasy and unusual female heroes.

Laura is a big girl who has been bullied since childhood about her size. Her family moves to a new town and enrolls her in a different school to give her a fresh start. Unfortunately the bullying begins again but this time two other victims befriend her. When Laura fails to stand up for one of them, her new relationship is at risk.

But the real challenge is navigating the secret world Laura can only access through a hidden elevator in her closet. She discovers she is destined to be a monster crusher and without her rising to the challenge, her family, friends, and world are in great danger. Laura, however, is neither athletic nor nimble. Night after night, for this is when she can secretly train, Laura fails to acquire the necessary skills of a monster crusher.

The danger rises to the point of crisis when her beloved blind little brother is kidnapped by the monsters. Betrayed and vastly outnumbered, Laura must pull off a miracle in order to save her family.

The affectionate relationship between Laura and her humorous little brother, her struggle with self-identity and confidence, her desire for friends, and her reluctant courage make her an endearing and interesting hero. An enjoyable read that picks up pace and increases in suspense as it progresses. Although it has a satisfying ending, the danger is still imminent and a sequel or series is possible.

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