Girls of Paper and Fire

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan is young adult novel published by James Patterson’s publishing imprint.

Every year eight girls are chosen as paper girls, consorts selected to serve the daemon king. Their only job is to serve the king and obey; the paper girls, once chosen, will live in the palace for the rest of their lives.

Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest members of society. Paper caste’s have no daemon blood in them, they are perfectly human. The Silver caste is the middle class and their appearances may take on some aspects of a daemon. Finally, the Moon caste has control of all of Ikhara. They are powerful and fully daemon.

Seven years ago, the Moon caste guards took Lei’s mother and now they have returned for her–the golden eyed paper girl, a prize for the king. But Lei refuses to give in to her role as a paper girl and over the course of her training at the palace, Lei does the unthinkable… she falls in love.

Now Lei will give everything to fight the daemon king and protect those she loves. But what will she have to give up in order to do it? And will the price be something she is willing to pay?

I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t overly keen to start this one. It’s one I’ve had on my TBR list but I kept putting it off knowing that there would be a fair amount of sexual violence. And there certainly is a fair bit of it. Nothing overly graphic, the majority of the sexual violence happens behind the scenes but we all know it’s happening.

As much as I wasn’t overly keen on the consort plot, I did like the rebellion behind the scenes. I do wish this was built up a little bit more because I feel like this might be a story where a book two was intended but it may not happen. We’ll see.

There was also a nice balance between the paper girls themselves. There was a sense of comradery but also jealousy and wariness. This was well done without too much cattiness.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me. An interesting read but maybe not one for me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an adult historical fiction book by Jamie Ford.

It is 1986 and Henry Lee stands amid the crowd as the Panama Hotel finally gives up its secrets. Located near the heart of what was once Seattle’s Japantown, the hotel is finally reopening after being boarded up for decades. Piled high within the hotel’s basement is the belongings of many Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the belongs are displayed, Henry begins to remember the last time he stood in front of the Panama Hotel, forty years earlier.

So begins a narrative, alternating between past and present, that will reveal Henry’s childhood during a time of upheaval as WWII rages. Cultures clash and fear prevails as the reader witnesses history replay itself through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy.

How has the past shaped the man Henry is today? And what part can a young Japanese American girl have to play in it?

It took me about a quarter of the book to really get into this story. I found the beginning to be quite slow and I wasn’t really sure where the story was heading–a note: I never read the synopsis’ for my book club books; I just dive in. But I’m glad I stuck with it because this was really such a wonderful read.

This book talks about a period of time in American history that many people don’t know about, don’t know much about or don’t want to talk about. When first and second generation Japanese American families were forced to leave their homes and relocate to internment camps, where they were forced to live throughout WWII. And in the case of this book, we see a whole city’s worth of Japanese American’s having to give up their homes.

A few years ago, I read the juvenile fiction book Paper Wishes, which followed a Japanese family who was sent to one of these internment camps and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet just brought me back to that book and even though it was a middle grade read, it was great remembering a book that took place inside of the internment camps.

The relationship between Henry and Keiko was so pure and to see what they went through was heartbreaking. I also loved how we got a glimpse of the 1940’s Jazz scene through Sheldon and the long lost Oscar Holden record.

This book gets 4.5 stars from me. Starts out slow, but worth sticking with.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Afterlife of Holly Chase

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand is a YA fictional take on a classic Christmas Story.

On Christmas Eve, Holly Chase was visited by three ghosts with the hopes of getting her to change her ways. They failed and she died. Now Holly is doomed to work for the very company that tried to save her–Project Scrooge.

Every year, Project Scrooge chooses a new “Scrooge” to try and save. And as the Ghost of Christmas Past, it is Holly’s job to get to know the Scrooge and find out which memories from their past would have the biggest impact in helping them to change their future.

For the past five years, Holly has done her job and helped to save the Scrooge. But this year something is different. The Scrooge is young, seventeen, the same age as Holly. There is just something about this Scrooge that Holly cannot resist. She feels drawn to him in a way she’s never connected to any other Scrooge before.

Can Holly put aside her selfish ways and help this Scrooge before it is too late?

This was a pretty neat take on A Christmas Carol. I wanted something Christmas-y for the holidays that would still be fun and this definitely succeeded. It was just really neat to see the blend of science and magic to make this story happen. I also liked that Holly was one of those characters you were rooting for but you also had to hate, just a little. And you could see begin to change as the story went on… but realistically so. It wasn’t a major 180, but you could see she definitely was going to try to be better.

One of the really great things about this one was, just when I thought I knew where it was heading, it’d go someplace else. That being said, there were some pretty predictable moments but the end was enough of a twist that I enjoyed it.

Overall, this was a neat little read that was unique and fun for the holiday. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Mortal Word

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman is the fifth book in The Invisible Library series.

An unprecedented event is about to occur and as usual, everything could come down to Irene. The Library has been chosen as mediators between the Dragons and the Fae, in the hopes of starting a path toward peace. But when one of the dragons from the peace party is murdered, what looked like peace could actually end up in war.

Now Irene, Val and Kai must locate the murderer all while navigating dangerous egos and tricky politics. Can Irene muster her wit to save these peace talks and keep the library neutral?

I just love this series. The first three books were definitely my favorites but these past two have still been great. I think it is this world Cogman has created. It is full of magic and action, competing personalities and literally anything can happen. Irene is full of ingenuity and has just enough snark and realistic reactions, that she just makes for a fun character.

I do wish we got a little more of Val and Kai in The Mortal Word. For a “mission” that would totally be up Val’s ally, I thought Irene really did all the heavy lifting. But we did get a very long awaited for moment that was perfect in its hinted simplicity behind the scenes and some teasing of whats to come.

This is a series that I think could go on and on. There’s enough side plots that could be explored and the politics between the three factions of power will always be around for the added drama.

This one get 4 stars from me! Keep ’em coming Cogman, I’m a fan!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Christmas on the Island

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan is the third book in the Summer Seaside Kitchen series.

In Scotland, on the remote Island of Mure, Christmas is a festive, cozy time of year. It’s a time for family and friends and for reflecting on the good things in life. Well… that is if you hadn’t gotten accidentally pregnant by your skittish boyfriend who has some serious emotional issues. Will Flora get up the nerve to tell Joel? And what will his reaction be?

Also on Mure, Saif, a doctor and refugee from Syria is trying to enjoy his first Christmas with his boys after their reunion earlier in the year. But things have been even harder for Saif ever since he and Lorena ruined their friendship with their emotional confessions. Saif’s wife is still missing and the whole family is struggling to adapt to life on the island.

Will Christmas on Mure be a disaster or will this little community come together to enjoy the holiday?

Oh Mure. Oh Jenny Colgan. I tend to read Colgan’s books when I am looking for something light and in general, I like my light reads to tie up in nice neat little bows. But these books almost always leave me just a smidgen wanting. And Christmas on the Island was pretty much the same. A lovely, light little read that takes us back to the characters we fell in love with in the first two books, but with new and old problems rearing their heads.

All I have to say is poor everyone in this book! I felt so bad for ALL the characters. We really need the next one to give everyone perfectly happy endings. Please. Now that I think about it, this wasn’t really a light happy read… don’t let the “Christmas” in the title fool you. It was actually quite depressing even if there were sunny moments and it ended on a fairly happy-ish note.

The more I think back on this book the more I am reconsidering my four star rating. I think I am actually going to go with a 3.5 because I just needed a little bit more from it. But I do hope we get at least one more

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

The End of the Wild

The End of the Wild by Nicole Helget is a fictional, 4-6th grade middle school book on edible plants, fracking and family struggles.

Eleven-year-old Fern, lives with her stepfather and her two brothers in a small, rundown house, on the edge of a poor town. Near their home is a grove of woods, where she and her family hunts and forages for food. The woods are Fern’s life and she often goes their when things get tough–empty pantries, past due notices, letters from lawyers and child services.

When a fracking company moves into town, Fern finds out that they want to cut down her woods and put in a wastewater pond. Fern is devastated but also conflicted because the company will bring jobs to her neighborhood and could help keep her family together.

Fern is determined to save the woods but she also wants to keep her family together. What can she do when being tugged in two very different directions.

I decided to try this book for my STEM book club and I think it is going to be a good choice. The End of the Wild can help start a conversation on fracking, what it is and the controversies currently revolving around it.

I don’t know of anyone who will actually go out and actually make the recipes in this book, but they were need to see and added a neat creative element to the book. I liked that Fern was taught to provide for her family and you can definitely see how, even though she had to grow up quick, she is still just a kid.

A warning that I will be giving my book club kids, there is a dog who gets hurt in the book. This happens on page 150-158 in the hard cover version of the book, and does include somewhat of a graphic description. **SPOILER ALERT** although the dog does die, there is closer and new life springs from the death. **END SPOILER** Normally, I’d shy away from include books with hurt animals but this was handled well, so I think it will be OK.

Overall, this is going to make a great STEM book because not only can we discuss fracking and foraging, we can also talk about environmental sciences in general and other social issues like fostering, poverty and more. Now, I just have to find an “easy” STEM project to go along with it. This one gets 5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

STEM Book Club: Nick & Tesla

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder is a middle grade read for 4th-6th graders.

Nick and Tesla are extremely smart 11-year-old twins who like inventing and find trouble fairly easily. When they are shipped off to spend the summer with their eccentric Uncle Newt–an inventor and goofball–they expect to be bored out of theirs minds but find they are anything but.

When Nick and Tesla lose their rocket and the pendant their parents gave them, the twins are determined to get it back. Little do they know they are about to embark on a mission that includes dangerous dogs, Christmas light alarm systems, kidnappings and other makeshift contraptions. As the plot thickens will Nick and Tesla be able to use their inventor smarts to save the day?’

This is our December book for our STEM book club. First we start of with discussion. Here’s what I used as a guide:

  1. What is this book about? What themes do we find throughout? 
  2. Where did this book get its name? Why do you think the title is: “High-Voltage Danger Lab?”   
  3. Who was Nikola Tesla and why do you think the author named his main characters after him? 
  4. (Page 31) – “My laboratory is your laboratory. Go nuts!” What would you do if given free rein in this sort of situation? Jump right in like Tesla or proceed with caution like Nick? 
  5. Uncle Newt created an invention to compost garbage. What was it? What is composting and how do you think we could do it better than Uncle Newt? 
  6. (Page 63) – Why do you think being told “no” only makes us want to do the “thing” more?  
  7. What method would you use to distract the dogs? Any ideas other than what Nick, Tesla and their friends created. 
  8. This book contains quite a bit of foreshadowing. What is foreshadowing? Give some examples from the book. 
  9. What is going on with Nick and Tesla’s parents? Where do you think the book series is going?  
  10.  This book is technically a mystery. What traits make up an effective mystery? 

Then we get into our STEM activity:

Semi-Invisible Nighttime Van Tracker (page126) 

 Today we are going to experiment with a different kind of invisible ink. However, here are three ways you can create invisible ink at home! 

How-To-Invisible-Ink-Infographic-610x922

 The Science: 

 Black lights are not that different from any other type of light. The difference is that black lights emit most of their light waves just outside the range humans can perceive, in the Ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum. When a UV light wave hits an object containing substances known as phosphors, those phosphors will naturally fluoresce, and glow. Phosphors are present in many daily use objects like Vaseline, tooth whiteners, bank notes, laundry detergent etc. Oh, and highlighters! 

 Both lemon juice and Baking Soda/milk are mildly acidic and acid weakens paper. The acid remains in the paper after the juice or milk has dried. When the paper is held near, heat the acidic parts of the paper burn or turn brown before the rest of the paper does.

**Adult supervision required**

Source:

https://www.instructables.com/id/How-To-Make-Invisible-Ink-3/

https://www.muminthemadhouse.com/after-school-fun-lets-be-a-spy-leave-secret-message/

https://www.kidzworld.com/article/3844-making-invisible-ink-appear

How’d it go:

Miraculously, I was right on time with my scheduling today. We finished exactly on time, which almost never happens. I did have to alter my STEM activity though. After several, failed individual attempts to heat up my lemon juice ink, I nixed it and decided to use grape juice to reveal our baking soda messages. This worked well but made for too quick of an experiment and the kids were left somewhat wanting. Otherwise, everything went great.

That’s all for now!

-M-