Shine!

Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction novel for 4-6th graders.

Piper Milly has a talent for blending in. She can’t sing or dance, she doesn’t excel at sports or hangs with the popular crowd. She’s smart, she likes astronomy and she’s happy with her small group of friends. So when her dad get’s a new job at a prestigious prep school, Piper is bummed that she has to transfer.

Chumley Prep is definitely a school for the rich and Piper definitely doesn’t fit in. Shortly after she joins the school, she finds out that a mysterious award will be awarded to the “best” student of winter break. Piper shrugs off the contest because she would never win that sort of thing, or would she?

I love Grabenstein’s books. The children are always so relateable and the books themselves are fun and easy to read. Shine! was no different. This was an inspirational read with the theme of kindness, doing good and being good.

I love when we get a group of misfit friends that band together, each with their own unique character traits. I also thought it was really smart to have Piper’s “who I want to be” diary, throughout the novel. This gave a bit of introspection to Piper’s character.

The only negative thing I can say about this book, was that you knew where it was going from the very beginning. The “tests” were obvious from the readers perspective, even if they weren’t from the characters perspective. That and the book ended so abruptly. I would have liked to have a Piper/Ainsley moment, or at least some type of epilogue.

Other than that, this was a great read and I am going to use it for my 4-6th grade STEM Book Club. While it isn’t overtly STEM, there are a lot of STEM elements and I have two good ideas for activities to go with the story. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Dark and Deepest Red

Dark and Deepest Red is Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest magical realism novel.

In the Summer of 1518, a sickness sweeps through Strasbourg, one that makes men and women dance until they drop dead. It is rumored that witchcraft may be the cause and everyone is a suspect, especially Lavinia and her family, who have a secretive past.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes are stuff to Rosella Oliva’s, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her to the boy, Emil, whose family was blamed for the sickness in 1518.

But the truth can be shadowed over time and together Rosella and Emil must uncover what really happened to Lavinia and Strabourg.

Dark and Deepest Red have all of McLemore’s signature writing style: magical realism that seems to seamlessly blend with the story, a LGBT bend, and prose that flows beautifully. And yet, this is probably my least favorite of her novels. I just couldn’t get into the story. Well, I did eventually but it took way more than half the book.

I didn’t feel as strongly for the characters as I normally do. I couldn’t quite make a connection with them. It was almost like, there wasn’t enough of them. I needed more of their stories, instead of the history.

I did like the tie in of the red shoes paired with the mysterious dancing plague of history. I thought this was pretty neat, especially after listening to the author’s notes.

This wasn’t a bad read, I enjoyed it for what it was. It just wasn’t my favorite. So I am giving this one 3 mediocre stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Secret Chapter

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman is the sixth book in the Invisible Library series.

A very fragile truce has been made between the Dragons and the Fae and somehow Irene and Kai have become the ambassadors of this truce. But when Irene’s home world is in trouble, they put their duties aside to join up with an odd mix of Fae and Dragons for a special heist.

Can Kai and Irene maintain their positions as ambassadors while negotiating with Fae, Dragons, and technology in a high ordered world? And will bargains struck, stick?

Man can Cogman churn these out! And she has a day job too. I enjoy this series a lot. Each book has it’s own incident that Kai and Irene have to deal with, while slowly introducing more long ranging issues to come.

The first two books, I could not put down; I had to finish them right away. The rest, are these lovely little reads that I can pick up and put down and enjoy whenever I want. Some people may think that this is a bad thing but I enjoyed not being pressured to finish. And it’s nice for a change, not having a book deadline; they could keep coming as long as Cogman keeps writing them. It doesn’t feel like the characters are running on a clock. I like having at least one of these series in my back pocket.

One thing I keep waiting for is for Alberich to come back. He’s like Irene’s Moriarty and I just can’t believe that he is done with her.  I also missed the Library and Vale in this one. They weren’t as prevalent in the story as they normally are; but I guess that is to be expected.

I did liked the characters introduced in this book and hope they pop up again as the stories continue.

Overall, this was a fun read and I hope they keep coming. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Scavenge the Stars

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim is the first book in a new teen series about pirates and countesses, gambling and more.

When Amaya rescues a stranger from drowning, she has no idea that the consequences would be so severe. Now she has two choices, extend her time on the debtor ship she’s been forced to serve for the past ten years or follow this stranger into the unknown on a quest for revenge.

Thirsting for vengence, Amaya chooses the latter, but the more she gets entwined in this game of revenge, the more she isn’t sure she should be playing at all. When she uncovers the truth about her past, everything changes.

Amaya thought she was fighting for herself but she may have to fight for something more.

This was an interesting book. I didn’t have much in the way of expectations going into it. Pirates cool, deception cool, and a girl kicking but and looking for revenge, cool. And overall, this was an enjoyable read but I think it might get even better moving forward. A lot was built up in the last few chapters that could lead to somewhere really neat and develop the characters further, especially Amaya and Kayo.

That was actually my biggest issue with the book. Amaya and Kayo didn’t wow me as protagonists. Amaya had more depth than Kayo but still, I liked the overall story over the characters themselves. Like I said, this may change now that we are heading into book two, where the plot is leading to bigger, far reaching problems, but we will have to see.

Ultimately, this was an entertaining read and I am glad I picked it up. This one gets 3.5 stars from me. And I’ll definitely get the next one when it comes out.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Come Tumbling Down

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire is the fifth Wayward Children novel.

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, carrying her twin sister, whom she had just killed, she never expected to return. But death isn’t permanent in the Moors and Jill favorite flavor is revenge. So when Jill steals Jacks body so that she can become a beloved Vampire, Jack turns to her old friends at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children for help.

Now a Nonsense girl, a Logic boy, an ex-mermaid and heir to the Goblin King are Jack’s only hope to getting her body back and keeping the balance before the Moors devolves into chaos.

Even though this is probably my least favorite book in the series, I loved getting another peek at Jack, Jill and the Moors. This whole series can really do no wrong for me. They are short, both sweet and dark at the same time, and super fast reads. I hope McGuire keeps them coming. I want to see all of Eleanor’s children find their way back to their doors!

In this one we see some familiar faces from the previous four books and some lose ends from the 1st and 2nd book are wrapped up. One thing I wish we would have gotten was at least one or two chapters from Jill’s perspective. In the second book, you got the feel that Jack was the protagonist but Jill still had her own perspective. It would have been nice to see this here.

I also felt that certain parts flew by a little too quickly, then again, that could just be the pace of the book. It really is one of the fastest reads.

The Moors were still dark and gritty, which I love and we get a little more insight into the doors and how the worlds intersect and come and go.

Not my favorite but I love this series so much, I can’t give it less than 4 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is an adult dystopia in the vein of The Handmaids Tale.

To talk of the Grace Year is forbidden. It is a time when 16 year old girls go away to release their magic, so that they can come back ready to be biddable wives.

In Garner County, women are considered dangerous creatures. They are not allowed to congregate, their hair must be bound with a ribbon of their station, and they must watch their every step or risk being accused of harboring their magic and luring men into unspeakable acts. This is why all sixteen-year-old girls are banished for one year to a remote island, to release their magic and return purified.

Tierney James is about to embark on her own Grace Year and she both fears it and dreams of a better future. But dreams don’t always come true and Tierney soon witnesses the girls of her year turn against each other. She begins to question the magic and wonders if the real magic is getting the girls to turn against eachother.

Will Tierney make it through her Grace Year? And if she returns home, will she be the same girl who left one year ago?

I honestly, was not expecting much when I picked up this one. Truthfully, I was afraid I would be reading another The Power and I really wasn’t ready for that. So I was pleasantly surprised that I could not put this one down. Yes, there were several twists that I saw coming from the start but they worked.

I really loved seeing how ingrained the society was in the girls, so much so that they bring these rules and rituals with them to the only place they don’t have to. Tierney’s journey toward the truth comes slowly at times and then picks up pace as the story progress.

The book does have some brutality to it, but you don’t seem much of it as it’s happen. It’s more abstract and as if you are looking back on the brutality or almost from the sidelines.

This was a much better read than I was anticipating and I am glad. I give it 4.5 stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Night Country

The Night Country by Melissa Albert is the conclusion to the Hazel Wood duology.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterlands and the dark story her grandmother wrote for her. Alice returned to the world of subways and street vendors while Finch stayed behind.

But Alice’s departure sparked a catalyst, a mass exodus of stories from the Hinterlands and now NYC is teaming with stories, some of whom still have a small measure of power. Each story is trying to make a life for themselves beyond the Hinterlands, for good or bad, Alice included.

Something is stalking the stories; killing them off and taking trophies. Alice can’t let go out her past until she uncovers the truth of these killings. Meanwhile, Finch follows his own adventure and maybe, one day, a door back home.

The Night Country was a good sequel. I don’t know if it was necessarily needed but for readers who don’t like to give up a good world, then this will be a great read.

In The Hazel Wood Alice was portrayed as this character struggling with who she was, someone trying to be good who had a dark side she had to embrace in order to understand the truth. In this one, it is kind of the opposite. Alice wants to forget her dark side, but she embraces it in order to do the right thing.

The stories in this book kept talking about how Alice didn’t know her own story, how it ended. And even Alice says that she wants Finch to be the one to tell it…. Did I miss it or did we never actually get the end of the story? That was the major thing that bugged me about this book. I felt there were a few loose ends. We never really get a resolution with the girl helping Finch, we never get Alice’s story and a few other loose ends along the way.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It was nice to get a glimpse back into the world Albert created but I missed the dark magic, the more fairy tale feel of the first book. This one just didn’t wow me quite at much. That’s why it gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-