Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review of Wonder - R.J. Palacio

August Pullman is an ordinary 5th grade boy with an extraordinary face - a face that scares little kids and causes others to stare and then quickly look away.  After being home schooled by his mom, he enters middle grade at a private school and slowly makes friends.  The author really captures the voices of 5th graders and others who become a part of Auggie's life.  This is a heartbreaking novel for all ages and it will bring a tear to your eye.  You can't help but root for this little boy as he faces more challenges than any person should ever have to bear.  Auggie is a wonder!  4 Elves -Highly Recommended

Friday, December 27, 2013

Eleanor & Park-Rainbow Rowell

Wow!  This book for older teens grabbed me from the moment I read the first page.  A tale of two misfits, the odds are against this couple in love, but you really want a happy ending for them.  This book is definitely for older teens, but anyone who reads it will be haunted by Eleanor & Park. 4 Elves- Highly Recommended

Just One Year-Gayle Forman

Her book, Just One Day, was told from Lulu's perspective; this book is Willem's voice.  After failing to come back to Lulu, we now find out just what happened to Willem.  For the first part of this book, his voice seems to whine - a lot - but it turns out to be a year of discovery for him.  By the end of the book, I was rooting for him and hoping he & Lulu would get back together again.  3 Elves - Recommended for teens.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Review of Counting by 7s-Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a strange child but you grow to really care about her.  When tragedy strikes, an odd assortment of people take her under their wing and become her family.  A wonderful novel about belonging and transformation.  4 Elves - highly recommended

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review of Winterling-Sarah Prineas

As the author of the Magic Thief series, Prineas has already proved that she can write wonderful fantasy for middle grade readers.  In the first book of her new series, she takes us to a wintry land and introduces us to a girl who doesn't fit in the human world.  Fer, short for Jennifer, makes her way to a new world, hoping to solve the mystery of her parents' death.  Influenced by folklore, this book has winning characters, thrilling action and a land full of wildlings.  I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Summerkin.  3 Elves - recommended

Review of The Infinite Moment of Us-Lauren Myracle

Wren has always been a model daughter, getting good grades throughout high school and never having a boyfriend to distract her from her studies or her parent's vision of her future.  But when she graduates from high school, she makes a bold decision about college and meets Charlie.  Charlie has had a tough life, unlike Wren, but slowly introduces her to her first love.  This is a sweet, touching novel but because of explicit sex scenes and some drinking, is suited for older teens.  4 Elves - highly recommended

Review of Flora & Ulysses-Kate DiCamillo

This is a great book for readers 7-12, with fun illustrations by K.G. Campbell.  Flora spends all her free time reading about a comic book superhero.  Her parents are split up and she's fairly sure that her mother loves an ugly shepherdess lamp more she loves her daughter.  Flora, a self-described cynic, finds her whole world turned around when she rescues a squirrel who has been sucked up by a vacuum cleaner.  Ulysses, the squirrel, just may be a superhero, plus he writes poetry.  Adventures galore in this lively tale! 4 Elves - highly recommended

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review of Through the Ever Night-Veronica Rossi

I really loved Under the Never Sky and was thrilled to find the sequel to be just as good.  Aria and Perry are reunited, only to be torn apart again.  As their Blood Lord, Perry must lead his tribe to safety while Aria goes on a mission to find answers about the Still Blue and find Perry's sister, Liv.  As her mission dissolves into tragedy, she finds out that she must go back to the Reverie to rescue Dwellers and Talon, Perry's beloved nephew.  They must find a way to the Still Blue to save them all.  Can't wait for the sequel, Into the Still Blue, coming out early next year.  4 Elves - Highly Recommended

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Review of The Grimm Legacy-Polly Shulman

Elizabeth had moved to a new school and has no friends.  After the death of her mother, her father has remarried, and she now has a mean stepmother and two mean step sisters.  A teacher at school recommends her for a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository and after she takes a job there, she finds friends and even a boyfriend.  But the Repository is no ordinary library and after items start disappearing, she and her friends have to use magic and their wits to retrieve them. This was a fun book, with many connections to the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales, for ages 7-12. 4 Elves-Highly Recommended

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review of Under the Never Sky-Veronica Rossi

Aria is a Dweller, living in a pod to protect the community from the hostile world outside.  Peregrine is an Outsider, with skills honed to protect him from the elements.  When Aria is forced out of the pod, her only hope for survival is Peregrine.  Together, they make their way across the dangerous planet, trying to find answers about their two different cultures.  You fall in love with these characters, as they fall in love with each other.  The world created by the author is fascinating and strangely beautiful.  3 Elves - Recommended for older teens.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review of The Disenchantments

Another suggestion by a bookstore owner and another winner.  This was a great book by Nina LaCour, and I will look for her last novel, Hold Still.  Three interesting teens in an all-girl band (The Disenchantments) with their loyal roadie/supporter, Colby.  Colby has been best friends with Bev, the lead singer, since childhood and is madly in love with her.  He and Bev have big plans for traveling all over Europe in the summer now that they've graduated from high school, but Bev has other, secret plans of her own.  As Colby drives them up to Portland for the band's final tour in a borrowed VW bus, family drama follows them and secrets are revealed.  This book is for older teens.  4 Elves - Highly Recommended

Review of The Beginning of Everything

This book was suggested by a bookstore owner and I really loved it (thanks, Kathleen!).  Robyn Schneider has created some wonderful characters - you immediately feel their joy and pain.  Ezra is a sports jock/future homecoming king when an accident changes his life.  He no longer feels like a part of the popular kids crowd and reconnects with an old friend from grade school.  When a new girl appears at his high school, he falls hard and so does she.  But, the past comes back to haunt both of them.  This novel is for older teens, but the messages are universal.  4 Elves - highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review of The Bone Season

Samantha Shannon's debut novel (the first of seven in a series) is an adult read, but older teens will also enjoy the book.  The year is 2059 and Paige, a rare type of clairvoyant, is captured in London and taken to a prison in Oxford.  The city has been kept secret and is governed by aliens.  Paige's trainer is called Warden and a curious relationship develops between them.  Shannon creates an interesting world with a complex society of clairvoyants.  You find yourself rooting for Paige and Warden to escape the prison, and the ending is open to a sequel.  3 Elves - Recommended

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Reviews of The Magic Thief: Lost & Found

Since I read these back-to-back, I thought I'd combine the reviews of these two sequels to The Magic Thief.  Once again Sarah Prineas takes us to the world of Wellmet, a city that is run by magic.  Her hero, Conn, has lost his locus stone, a magical item that helps him talk to magic and do spells, when he fought the evil Underlord Crowe and the wizard Pettivox.  So Conn has taken a journey into pyrotechnics so he can talk to the magic.  But in Lost, his explosions backfire and he destroys much of his master Nevery's home, Conn is exiled and forced to fight a sorcerer-king in a distant city.  In the next book, Found, Conn is still in exile and evil is creeping nearer to Wellmet.  Conn must fight this evil with the help of his new locus stone, more forbidden pyrotechnics and his friends who still support him.  These books are full of excitement and adventure and highly recommended. 4 Elves

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review of Throne of Glass

Sarah J. Maas's debut novel is a winner!  Her protagonist, Celaena, becomes an orphan at a young age and is trained to be an assassin.  Her job is fight against a vicious and corrupt king who has banished magic and is trying to defeat all of the kingdoms in the land.  But Celaena is captured and thrown into the Salt Mines of Endovier.  After a year of captivity, she is suddenly taken from her prison to defeat twenty-three killers and warriors in a competition to become the hated king's champion.  Knowing that she wouldn't last another year in the mines and promised her freedom after four years, she agrees to the competition.  But political intrigue and forbidden magic abound at the king's palace; Celaena must keep her wits to defeat her opponents and win her freedom.  Awaiting the sequel!  4 elves - Highly Recommended

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review of Castle of Shadows

Ellen Renner's debut novel is a charmer.  What's not to like?  Eleven-year-old Princess Charlie is scappy and hates to wear dresses; her buddy Tobias is mysterious and resourceful; her mother disappeared years ago and her father, the king, seems to have gone mad.  Will she find her mother and save her father? Full of plot twists and thrilling adventures, the ending leaves an opening for a sequel.  3Elves- Recommended

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review of Magic Below Stairs

This is a charming, short fantasy novel.  Frederick is an orphan whose luck suddenly changes, joining a household led by an eccentric wizard.  Worth reading.  3 Elves - Recommended

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review of The Apprentices - Maile Meloy

In this sequel to The Apothecary, Janie has been separated from her friend, Benjamin, and is now living in New Hampshire.  She is attending Grayson Academy while her parents are working in Wisconsin, and Janie misses her parents, Benjamin and Pip, plus Jin Lo and Benamin's father, the apothecary.  But evil has followed Janie to her new school and with Benjamin traveling in Asia with his father, she is all alone.  Soon, she is kidnapped for a formula she developed at school, and her captor is waiting for Benjamin to rescue her so he can obtain his magical formulas, too.  The ending is exciting and since one of the bad guys escapes, we can expect more action in the next book in the series.  3 Elves - Recommended

Friday, September 6, 2013

Review of A Discovery of Witches & Shadow of Night

These two novels by Deborah Harkness are for adults, but a teen who likes a challenge would enjoy both of them.  The first book starts out a bit slow, but soon you're engrossed in a world of witches, vampires, daemons and alchemy.  The historical references are fun to follow and the love story compelling.  Shadow of Night takes us into the past, with a great feeling for living in earlier times surrounded by famous characters from history (many turn out to be daemons or vampires).  I'm really looking forward to the third and final book in this series.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Review of PRINCESS OF TRELIAN - Knudsen

This sequel to DRAGON OF TRELIAN has everything: lovely headstrong princess, brave young magician, fabulous dragon and an evil mage threatening their kingdom.  It's rare that a sequel is as good as the first book, but this book succeeds where others have failed.  The ending leaves you wanting the next book in the series to be ready to read immediately.  4 Elves - Highly Recommended

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review of LOKI'S WOLVES by Armstrong & Marr

This thrilling new middle-grade series from YA authors K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr, subtitled The Blackwell Pages, is loads of fun with plenty of Norse myths, wonderful characters and some teen angst on the side.  It reminded me a bit of Percy Jackson & The Olympians, but the characters in this series are descended from Vikings and it's up to them to gather other kids to save the world.  I can't wait for the next installment and highly recommend this fast-paced book.  4 Elves - Highly Recommended

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review of Wildwood by Colin Meloy

What a wonderful book!  Colin Meloy, singer/songwriter for The Decemberists, has created such an incredible world - set just outside Portland.  Full of magic, danger and fascinating characters with fabulous illustrations, I highly recommend this fantasy.  4 Elves

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review of The Unwanteds: Island of Silence by Lisa McMann

This is the sequel to The Unwanteds, a book that I loved.  The sequel is just as interesting and creative as the first book, but there are some deaths and events that are very disturbing; it is as dark as the last few Harry Potter books but without the character investment that made those books so appealing.  Some of the imagery could give younger readers nightmares -  frankly, it gave me nightmares!  I think this book works better for 11 or 12-year-olds - worth reading but only for older readers.  3 Elves- Recommended with reservations

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review of LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green

Continuing my John Green marathon, I recently finished LOOKING FOR ALASKA.  There were some great characters and interesting philosophical questions in this book, but I wouldn't recommend it for young teens.  Because of the excessive smoking and drinking, I would say readers 16 and up would be a better audience for this work.  Recommended - three Elves

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review of PAPER TOWNS by John Green

After loving The Fault in Our Stars, I'm now catching up on John Green novels.  The main character in Paper Towns is Quentin, a nerdish, video-playing senior in high school.  Quentin has always played it safe, at least until Margo Roth Spiegelman climbs into his bedroom window one night and takes him on a wild adventure.  Suddenly, playing it safe is less appealing and after Margo disappears, Quentin needs to step up his game and try to find her.  But the Margo he thought he knew is full of surprises and he realizes he probably never really knew her, but he is learning more about himself and his friends.  Recommended - three Elves

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Garcia ( Stohl

 I don't know how I missed reading this YA novel but after reading fairly good reviews for the movie, I decided it was time to read the book.  This tale of star-crossed lovers is full of Southern eccentrics and seems to simply drip with Spanish moss.  In spite of that or maybe because of that, I really loved this book.  The characters, Ethan and Lena, drew me in from the first page.  When Lena is bullied because she's so different, you root for her as you root for any bullied kid.  But Lena finds her hidden powers and fights back, especially when she has Ethan in her corner.  The supernatural aspects of the book were different enough to feel new and unusual - also loved the Civil War elements.  Highly recommended - four Elves

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review of INSURGENT by Veronica Roth

I wanted to love this sequel; I really enjoyed DIVERGENT.  But, as with so many sequels I've read lately, it seemed to have too much fighting for the revolution and not enough about the characters.  There was some insight into Tris's motivations and family and some about Tobias/Four's relationship with his parents, but it somehow wasn't satisfying.  The big reveal at the end, bringing a nice transition into the final book, was intriguing enough to tempt me to finish the trilogy.  3 Elves - Recommended

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review of CREWEL by Gennifer Albin

In this future world, women called Spinsters work the looms to determine the weather, grow crops, determine where people live, how many children they'll have and when they die.  Adelice has talents that her parents tried to hide from the Guild, but she is discovered and becomes a Spinster.  But although Spinsters live well, they cannot have love or marriage, so Adelice looks for a way to escape.  Unfortunately, she has a special gift - one that only comes along every few generations - that makes her invaluable to the Guild.  Can she escape her destiny and find love and family? 4 Elves - Highly Recommended

Review of THE FUTURE OF US - Asher & Mackler

The year is 1996 and Emma just got her first computer.  When her best friend, Josh, gives her an America Online CD, she powers up and finds herself on Facebook fifteen years in the future.  Facebook hasn't even been invented yet, but soon she is looking for her future and Josh's every day.  When she doesn't like her future, she does things to change it, like not applying for college in a city where she will meet her future husband.  But, changing the future has consequences, as she and Josh discover.  4 Elves - Highly Recommended

Review of BORN WICKED - Jessica Spotswood

Imagine an alternate 1890s New England where witches are hunted down and society controlled by The Brotherhood.  Young girls are expected to either marry or join The Sisterhood.  Cate Cahill and her sisters are considered antisocial by the townsfolk, but Cate is hiding the fact that she and her siblings are witches.  Before her mother died, she promised to watch out for her sisters and protect them from The Brotherhood,  but that job is proving extremely difficult, especially after discovering a secret that could change their fates forever.
3 Elves - Recommended