Thursday, July 31

Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy
Robin LaFevers
(His Fair Assassin #1)

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0547628349
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: April 3, 2012
Age: Grades 10 and up
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Themes: Death, devotion, assassins, nobility, politics, betrayal, mercy

Ismae was sired by Death himself, but grew up tormented by her mother's husband. She escapes the brutality of an arranged marriage to take refuge in the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns of the gifts Death has bestowed on her. She trains to be an assassin, doing the god's bidding and delivering justice. Her most important assignment? To investigate the highest court in Brittany, where political maneuvering and intrigue have turned deadly. Completely underprepared, Ismae must determine where her true loyalties lie when her next target is the man she loves.

This book redeemed itself by the end, but holy cow, it was a bit tough to get through in some places. The whole beginning half with her unfailing devotion to the convent came off really sketchy--I was uncomfortable, I'm not going to lie (but maybe that just shows you how good the writing is?). So, in the end, I give it four stars because it ended like it should. And, I REALLY admire the writing style (so formal sounding!) and research that went into it. So well done! Just a creepy story...

Warning: Explicit Content

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, July 29

Hi, Koo!

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons
Written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0545166683
Publisher: Scholastic
Date of publication: February 25, 2010
Age: 4 - 8 years
Genre: Poetry

Themes: friendship, seasons, haiku, Japanese culture

“Tiny lights
garden full of blinking stars

Koo the panda bear plays and experiences each season, delivering 26 haikus along the way. From sweeping up leaves in autumn to warm cookies in winter, and puddle jumping in spring to kite flying in summer, Koo has a lot of fun with his friends.

Hi, Koo…haiku…get it? Jon Muth starts his book with his explanation that a haiku does not have to be 17 syllables, but should deliver sensory images in few words—and so he describes the seasons. With 26 haikus, he also creates an “alphabetical path” for the reader to follow. Overall, it is a very beautiful book—poems, illustrations, emotion…I like it very much. Even more so once you read his other books, too. I recommend them all (but go check out Zen Shorts, a Caldecott honor and fantastic book).

Monday, July 28

Three Bears in a Boat

Three Bears in a Boat
Written and illustrated by David Soman

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0803739932
Publisher: Dial
Date of publisher: May 20, 2014
Age: 3 - 7 years

Themes: sailing, adventure, honesty, family relationships

Three bears break their mothers prized blue shell, and—instead of telling her—figure they can find her a new one before she even realizes it's gone. And so begins their sailing adventure where they encounter a variety of fellow sailors, strange islands, a herd of whales, and the ever expansive sea…but no shell. When a huge storm blows in, threatening their safety, the bears wonder if they'll ever get home. What can they do?

This. This book was a surprise. It shouldn't have been, because it's David Soman, but I still was pleasantly surprised. It had just the right amount of everything a good book needs: some humor, an epic adventure, trouble—and the good morals to fix it. And, on top of all that, just BEAUTIFUL illustrations! I mean, just the way he painted the water…Go and read. It's beautiful.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Sunday, July 27

Magic Marks the Spot

Magic Marks the Spot
Caroline Carlson
(The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1)

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780062194343
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date of publication: September 10, 2013
Age: Grades 3 - 7
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: pirates, magical artifacts, adventure, betrayal, sexism

Hilary Westerfield can tread water for 37 minutes. She ties knots better than any of the sailors in her father's navy fleet. Plus, she owns a rather pointy sword. Hilary wants nothing more than to be a pirate. However, the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, or VNHLP, does not allow girls to become members. Especially little ones. So Hilary takes it upon herself to escape finishing school, find her own crew, and go after the magical treasure herself--scallywags and scourges be warned.

I laughed out loud so many times during this book, I'm sure I came off rather strange to those around me. But I couldn't help it. This book is so witty, snarky, and just plain hilarious. With a classic storytelling attitude, Carlson turns the world of piracy on its head and turns out a magnificent adventure tale. The characters are endearing, the story was unpredictable (as is the case when being hilarious), and I highly recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, July 25

Anxiously Awaited Sequels

I have some favorite series that are still incomplete (don't we all?). This list consists of the sequels that I am DYING to have. Like now.

So you can take this list one of two ways: get off your butt and read these AMAZING books right away!! can be lame and wait for the whole series is out because you might turn into a hair-pulling, author-stalker, book-caresser like me.

And they're simply in order of release, because how can I choose a favorite? (Except the Throne of Glass one. That is my favorite.)

Heir of Fire
(Throne of Glass #3)
Sarah Maas

Release: September 2, 2014 (pre-order!)

Celaena has just escaped to a foreign land, but knows the battle against evil is far from over. With an INCREDIBLE bomb of information dropped on the last page of the previous book, I must say that this is my most eagerly awaited sequel. My one pain/joy (it's rather paradoxical) is that this is not the end. And so I will be pining for this series once again by September 3rd.

See my reviews for Book 1, Book 2, and Book 0.5

The Whispering Skull
(Lockwood & Co #2)
Jonathan Stroud

Release: September 16, 2014 (pre-order!)

This will be the continuing adventures of Lockwood & Co., an intrepid band of young teens who take on ghosts, phantoms, and other dangerous spirits. The first was terrifyingly fantastic (and cliffhanger-less, so read it) so I anticipate something even better with this (Stroud other series, Bartimaeus got better with each book). Plus, I anticipate clean content (no language or sex).

See my review for Book 1

(Reckoners #2)
Brandon Sanderson

Release: January 6, 2015 (pre-order!)

The Reckoners will be continuing their fight against Epics. David may have won the last battle, but there are still tyrannical Epics to destroy. The first was so action packed, I couldn't put it down. And it had a satisfying ending, so read it. Again, it's a fantastic author and clean content, so I am rooting for this one all the way.

See my review for Book 1

(Lunar Chronicles #3.5)
Marissa Meyer

Release: January 27, 2015 (pre-order!)

With each book in the Lunar Chronicles, Meyer expertly ties together a fairytale retelling set in the future. Presumably, this will cover a sort of Snow White background story on the evil Queen Levana. It's a prequel of sorts, before Meyer officially finishes the series with Winter in November 2015 (GAH an even longer wait...). They're clean, exciting, romantic--everything! (I haven't reviewed the first three books on here because I fail... But believe me, they're GOOD.)

The Black Reckoning
(The Books of Beginning #3)

Release date: March 14, 2015 (pre-order!)

This is VERY much eagerly anticipated because SOMEONE (not cool, Stephens!) decided to end the second book with a TERRIBLE cliffhanger. Ugh. But it's a good series, targeted towards pre-teens with three siblings on an epic adventure to locate the three Books of Beginning, giving them various magical powers. The first was a little slow, but it just kept getting better. Plus, this will finish off the series. So I won't have to keep dying of a heart attack. (And sorry, no previous reviews again because I read the first two SO LONG ago. Man this has taken forever...)

So there you have it. Some super fantastic YA series that are incomplete--and therefore, so is my heart. But the sequels are coming! So prepare yourselves!

You know, this also makes a good Christmas wishlist... Any Santas out there?

Count the Monkeys

Count the Monkeys
Written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1423160656
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: June 25, 2013
Age: 3 - 7 years
Genre: Educational

Themes: animals, counting, action-oriented

A simple counting book, right? We just need to get a count of the monkeys! If only the cobra, crocodiles, bears, bees, and lumberjacks would get out of the way! How are we supposed to count the monkeys?? Maybe if we can figure out how to make those other guys leave…

This book is rather fantastic, because it is EXTREMELY interactive and hilarious! It’s a wonderful readaloud. So be prepared for your kids to hum a happy song, make a loud roar, or move in a zig-zag—all with the goal in mind to just count those darn monkeys! The illustrations definitely match the feel of the book and are pretty clever and funny. Go check it out. Don’t worry, it’s still pretty educational. There just aren’t any monkeys in it. Hehe.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, July 23

Where's My Tushy?

Where’s My Tushy?
Written by Deborah Aronson, illustrated by Ivica Stevanovic

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1467711975
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Date of publication: January 5, 2014
Age: 5 to 8 years
Genre: Poetry

Themes: posteriors, abandonment, rhyming,

Do you appreciate all that your tushy does for you? What if it left you, then what would you do? This happens in one unusual town: all the tushies escape in the middle of the night! The people don’t know what they’ll do—they can’t sit down and their pants don’t stay on—and yet the tushies are enjoying themselves on the beach. Will the townspeople be able to get their rear ends back?

It makes you wonder about the kind of person that thinks, “What would life be like if my butt abandoned me?” and then writes a book about it. In rhyme. Because that is what this is. It’s potty humor, but it is humorous nonetheless. It’s true! I laughed; I’m sorry. But little boys and girls everywhere will love this. They’ll giggle and giggle. Can’t say the same for the parent. And the illustrations? Well…have you ever wondered what a butt would look like if it had arms, legs, and a face?

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, July 22

Oldies: Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones

Greenwillow Books (1986)
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: witchcraft, curses, reputation,

Sophie, as the eldest of three sisters, knows she is doomed to fail in finding fortune and so is content to run her father's old hat shop. Upon a visit from an irate Witch of the Waste, however, Sophie is cursed into an old woman. She determines, then, to go to the Wizard Howl--known in her town to feast on young women's hearts and steal their souls--and strike a deal with his fire demon to break her curse. In return? She must break the contract that binds the demon to Howl. In her quest, though, she may discover there's more to Howl--and herself--than she realizes.

In a completely unbiased sense, this book is a rather charming story of mistaken impressions, magical maladies, and daring deeds. Who is really the hero? Or villain? How will Sophie fare in the end? Unfortunately, my review is marred by the fact that I seem to prefer the more modern style of fantasy novels; that is to say, stronger character development or complexity. This book was definitely more focused on the story. There were weird gaps or jumps in the characters development that made me confused, but were necessary to move the plot along. I was left going "wait...what?" a lot. I just didn't fall into it; I didn't completely love the land or characters. I'm just...meh.

So if you're curious, my rating is: ★★★

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, July 21

The Adventures of Beekle

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Written and illustrated by Dan Santat

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 9780316199988
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
Date of publication: April 8, 2014
Age: 3 - 7 years
Genre: Fantasy

Themes: imagination, journeys, friendship, making a friend

Born on an island far, far away, an Imaginary Friend is born and eagerly awaits the day when a real child would pick him to be a friend. Nearly all the other Friends are selected before he decides to take things into his own hands: he will find his friend himself. He does the Unimaginable and journeys across the sea to the real world. Will his friend be there?

Adorable. With a freakin' capital A. I LOVED this book! First of all: the illustrations. They're fantastical and beautiful; even the end pages are awesome. Beekle is pretty much a white blob, and yet, all of his emotions are illustrated perfectly. Second: the story is just plain cute; it makes me wish I was brave enough as a kid to just strike out and find my own friend (alas, I stayed home with books instead). I think it's a great story about the courage to find a friend. Definitely go read it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, July 17

My Double Life

My Double Life
Janette Rallison

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0399252624
Publisher: Putnam
Date of publication: May 13, 2010
Age: Grades 7 - 12
Genre: Romance

Themes: Hollywood, rock stars, family relationships, identity

All her life, Alexia has known she looks just like rock star Kara Kingsley. But when Alexia's photo goes viral online, she does not expect what comes next: a job offer to be Kara's double. With a wage that will get her into any college she wants and a chance to meet her long lost father, Alexia goes to Hollywood, whether her mom wants her to or not. Being Kara definitely has its perks, especially when Alexia starts hanging out with hunky star Grant Delray. But will she be able to stay true to herself when she's pretending to be someone else?

A fun, clean romantic comedy with an ending that wasn't totally predictable: I liked it. It's fun, light, and easy. Yes, it is still somewhat shallow with the perfect happy ending that really isn't all that realistic. But hey, that's what romantic comedies are for. Written from Alexia's perspective, it lets the reader into the story. There's some really good plot twists and unpredictable bits that keep it exciting. I gave it three stars, but I'm sure young teen girls would love it.

(And bonus! It's a cheap on Kindle: only $3)

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, July 16

Bad Bye, Good Bye

Bad Bye, Good Bye
Written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780547928524
Publisher: HMH Books
Date of publication: April 1, 2014
Age: 3 - 5 years
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: moving, changes, transition

When you have to move across the country, it's not so much a "good" bye as a "bad" bye. Toys are packed, the car is cramped, and you're sad. But maybe it can become an adventure. Maybe your new town has lots of good surprises in store.

I picked up this book because it's generating some Caldecott buzz, and rightly so! The art is inventive and wonderful, with amazing representation of motion. With a book all about moving/changes, it is a perfect fit. That being said, the story itself is a little mediocre--made more so with its being paired with such good art. It's a very brief with a basic rhyming scheme, and simply describes the moving process; very un-inventive. So if you're moving, read it to your kids. Otherwise, just admire the illustrations.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, July 15


Written by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780375870231
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Date of publication: March 11, 2014
Age: 4 - 8 years
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Themes: pets, promises, patience, sloth

There once was a young girl who really, really wanted a pet. However, her mother didn't want something that required a lot of responsibility. So she does some research, and makes a choice. The sloth comes in the express mail soon thereafter. The eager pet owner is so excited! But what happens when Sparky is no good at fetch? Or hide-and-seek? ...or much of anything?

It made me laugh out loud, which is automatic high marks right there (I am a firm believer that the adult should enjoy the book they read to their children as much as the child loves it.) It's a sloth...for a pet. The poor girl just wanted a trained seal! I enjoyed the characters staunch loyalty to her lazy pet, despite some discouragement from others. The illustrations are also FANTASTIC. You want to see what a dejected rabbit looks like?

It's adorable.The illustrations are just the right amount of whimsical with reality. It's what makes the book. (Because, to be honest, the story sort of fizzles towards the end.) So I recommend it!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, July 14

Why You Should Go to Storytime

I may be a bit biased, but there are some really good reasons for young children to go to storytime. Here are just a few of them...

A Snicker of Magic

A Snicker of Magic
Natalie Lloyd

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 9780545552707
Publisher: Scholastic
Date of publication: February 25, 2014
Age: Grades 4 and up
Genre: Fantasy, Realistic Fiction

Themes: home, family, community, magic

Felicity Pickle, with her mom and sister, has never stayed in one place for very long. So when they pull into Midnight Gulch, Felicity is surprised to feel something different. It was once a very magical place with a community full of people with fantastical talents. But there was a feud between brothers that stamped out the magic. She soon discovers it is deeply involved with her own family's history. With her very first best friend, Jonah Pickle, Felicity sets out to erase the curse that has darkened this town's magic with her own special, fantastical talent.

I checked out this book from the library and I actually regret this fact. I wish that I had purchased it so that I could underline every other sentence. It is filled with insights and sentiments that were making me smile big with fat tears in my eyes. I LOVED it. That said, it is a mushy, slow-plot book written from the perspective of a sixth-grader that somehow has the poetic skills of a trained adult author; it is not realistic. But it is beautiful. Heartwarming. Splenderifous (just read the book). And that is why I give it my highest recommendation.

"Home isn't just a house or a city or a place; home is what happens when you're brave enough to love people" (p. 302)

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Sunday, July 13

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Written and illustrated by William Joyce (and Joe Bluhm)

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 9781442457027
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Date of publication: June 19, 2012
Age: Everyone!
Genre: Fantasy, Realistic Fiction

Themes: libraries, books, reading, stories, storms

Everyone has a story. Stories with ups and downs. When a storm blew Mr. Morris Lessmore away and his words right out of his book, he was left wandering. A flying squadron of books happened by, though, and he was led to a wonderful nest of stories. He spent his days there until his own story was finished.

I may or may not be embarrassed to admit that this book brings a tear to my eye; it is so beautiful. I love it so much and I think it captures the magic of books perfectly. If you are a book lover and have not yet picked up this story, go now. Go and find it. Bring some tissues.

In the mean time, there happens to be an Academy Award winning short. So you can watch that. With some tissues. (It starts at 0:15).

Or you can download the app. Because there's that, too. I mean, it's just that good, okay?

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, July 11

The Clockwork Scarab

The Clockwork Scarab
Colleen Gleason
(Stoker & Holmes #1)

My rating: ★★

ISBN: 9781452110707
Publisher: Chronicle
Date of publication: September 17, 2013
Age: Grades 7 and up
Genre: Mystery, Steampunk

Themes: steampunk, time travel, murder mystery, Egyptian lore,

Mina Holmes is, in fact, Sherlock’s niece. And Evaline Stoker is, indeed, Bram’s sister. Detective and vampire hunter, the two must team up by request of Her Majesty to look into the mysterious deaths of several teen society girls. The one clue linking the deaths together is a strange Egyptian scarab. The two of them, however, are loath to work together. And the advances of certain gentlemen definitely do not seem to help the matter. But if Stoker & Holmes don’t pull it together quick, they just may be the next victims.

Sure, I liked it. But it was a lot of stuff to stuff into one book. A steampunk with a Holmes and a Stoker is a cool idea. Bringing in a time traveler from modern day America just didn’t make any sense (can you even do that?). And the romance…three guys, and two girls… The math doesn’t add up. Who am I supposed to root for? The characters were a tad shallow with some attempts to bring in depth, but I just couldn’t connect. I was lost with some of the descriptions. Overall, sure, pick it up if you like mysterious steampunk novels. I’m just not won over.

If you really want to, find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, July 8

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines
John Green

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 9780525476887
Publisher: Dutton
Date of publication: September 21, 2006
Age: Grades 9 and up
Genre: Romance

Themes: intelligence, probability, small town, road trip

Awards: Michael L. Printz Honor Book (2007)

Colin Singleton, a once-believed child prodigy, only dates girls named Katherine—with a "K" not a "C." But he always gets dumped. And with a spur of the moment road trip with his best friend, he’s setting out to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability. Such a theorem will predict the future of any relationship, avenging dumpees everywhere. The adventure, however, results in much more than a theorem, but a reevaluation of love itself.

I liked it. But I don't really know why. Is it because John Green can do no wrong? Perhaps. The characters were strange and a tad unbelievable. The concept behind the story was weird. The language is offensive. And yet… who else can pull it off? It was a comical novel about reinventing oneself. I don't know that I'd read it again, but I still admire John Green’s style. (Why yes I did read The Fault in our Stars first and thought it was absolute genius—read that if you haven't, for goodness' sake).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, July 7


Rainbow Rowell

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 9780525951988
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Date of publication: April 14, 2011
Age: Adult
Genre: Romance

Beth and Jennifer know that someone monitors the work email; it’s company policy. But that doesn’t stop them from divulging all their gossip and hilarious observations to each other. Lincoln is the email monitor, which is totally not what he signed up for—he thought being the “Internet Security Officer” would involve building firewalls or stopping hackers. And yet, he finds himself looking forward to Beth’s and Jennifer’s emails. In fact, he starts falling for Beth…but how could he ever possibly explain himself?

This book is just clever. Partly written as emails, part story, it’s a fun way to peek into these characters’ lives. And that's just it--they are fantastic characters. (Obviously—what else would you expect from Rainbow Rowell?) Basically, it’s just a really fun book. Not totally unbelievable or cheesy, but just enough truth to be a realistic romance. I recommend it.

Warning: Explicit Content

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Saturday, July 5


Brandon Sanderson
(Reckoners #1)

My rating:  ★★★★★

Publisher: Delacorte
Date of publication: September 24, 2013
Age: Grades 7 and up
Genre: Science Fiction

Themes: superpowers, resistance, power, revenge

Ten years ago, it happened. It was a burst in the sky that gave some humans extraordinary powers, turning them into Epics. But instead of becoming heroes, all were evil and desirous of power. David Charleston’s father was murdered in cold blood by Steelheart, the most powerful Epic in Chicago. But every Epic has a weakness, and David is the only living person to have seen Steelheart bleed. With the help of the Reckoners, the human rebel group bent on eliminating Epics, David is sure he can exact his revenge.

This book is. SO. GOOD. Is there any real need to say anything more? Well, if you don’t believe me, I’ll explain a bit more. First, the concept is original and captivating. The characters? Riveting. The word that these Epics create is perfectly conveyed through Sanderson’s writing. The ending? Bam. Go and read.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, July 3

Book Buddies!

With some of the books I've read, there are some definite similarities in plot/setting/characters. I call these perfect pairings "Book Buddies." Because they get along so well. Obviously.

Wednesday, July 2

Oldies: Nate the Great

Nate the Great
Written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont

Coward, McCann & Geoghegan (1972)
Age: 5 - 9 years
Genre: Mystery

Themes: detective, casework, missing, pancakes,

Nate the Great, lover of pancakes, is an excellent detective who prefers to work alone. This time, he is in charge of locating a lost painting created by his friend, Annie. By asking the right questions, gathering the facts, and narrowing the suspects, he just may solve this case. Perhaps even find a missing cat while he's at it (he is that good).

It's genius. It really is. First, the stories are short, simple mysteries that encourage the reader to think. The writing, though, is really what makes this book a favorite: Nate the Great is a tough, no nonsense detective. His short sentences and simple words not only fit his character, but help young kids as they're learning to read. It's just perfect! Plus it's part of a whole series, so kids can just keep following their favorite detective.

In case you're curious, my rating is: ★★★★★

Find it at your library, or on Amazon

Oldies: Olivia Sharp

And, as a bonus...
Did you know Nate the Great has a cousin?

Olivia Sharp: Agent for Secrets
Written by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, and Mitchell Sharmat
Illustrated by Denise Brunkus

Delacorte Books (1989)
Age: 6 - 10 years
Genre: Mystery

Themes: friendship, money, secrets,

Olivia lives in a penthouse in San Francisco and has two rooms: one to be herself in, the other to be an Agents of Secrets. She helps people solve their problems and keep their secrets. Today, she's helping Duncan find his lost best friend. Maybe money can solve it?

Rather disappointing for Nate the Great's cousin... She isn't actually, technically, a detective; she tries to solve problems with money or various other solutions until one of them finally works. Lame, right? It is the next level up from Nate the Great, though, with the story broken up into chapters. But still. I think there's a reason only four books were written for this series.

In case you're wondering, my rating is: ★★

If you really want to, find it at your library or on Amazon