Reviews

ARC Alert: Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

Connolly, MarcyKate. Shadow Weaver. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018. Pages TBD. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-1-49264-995-3

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes; this is the first in a series

Plot Summary:

Emmeline has been a loner for as long as she can remember. Her family is disturbed by her Talent (bestowed by a comet with certain properties, properties that give newborns Talents every 25 years) for weaving shadows. Well, perhaps it isn’t the shadow weaving that others find objectionable — it might be that she claims that she can speak to her own shadow, Dar. Servants avoid Emmeline and fear her. Dar is Emmeline’s only friend; fiercely protective, Dar is Emmeline’s cheerleader, confidante, and support. When a mysterious man comes to take Emmeline away and train her talent out of her, Dar acts quickly to protect Emmeline. The next morning, the man is in a coma. Dar promises Emmeline that the coma is reversible … if Emmeline helps Dar regain her physical form. Can Emmeline help her friend? Is her friend really being honest with her, or does Dar have secrets of her own?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book has already received rave reviews from readers. I’m not quite as sold on the book. I wouldn’t actively turn kids away from it, but I wasn’t captivated. The book feels as though it is set in the past, perhaps in an Edwardian vein. Cars, phones, and other modern luxuries are absent. That said, the language feels anachronistic — people are “brought up to speed” amongst other modern turns of phrase that ring oddly. Furthermore, Dar seems evil from go, and Emmeline’s repeated moments of doubt and then “pushing” the thought of Dar’s creepiness out of her mind gets grating. Students looking for a good gothic read would perhaps be better off picking up Elizabeth and ZenobiaMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, or Doll Bones.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a at this time

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Reviews

Imagine that: MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Thank you to Netgalley and Shadow Mountain for an ARC of this book! Below is my honest review.

Morris, Chad, and Brown, Shelly. Mustaches for Maddie. Shadow Mountain, 2017. 245 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-1-62972-330-3

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Part of a series? No.

Book Summary:

Maddie is a fun, energetic girl with a great imagination. She also wants to be friends with Cassie, a super-popular girl in class. Unfortunately, Maddie’s arm has a habit of curling up weirdly, and Maddie is a little clumsier than she used to be; Cassie doesn’t like these things, so Maddie does her best to hide them. Maddie’s parents are concerned, and a visit to the doctor reveals the startling news that Maddie has a brain tumor. Readers follow Maddie as she deals with this news and what comes next … and how this will affect her standing in the social hierarchy of the classroom.

Reviewer’s Notes:

This is a really sweet book that acknowledges the scariness of cancer without turning the book into a tragedy. Maddie’s liveliness and inner strength are important elements of the plot, making this book a good pick for collections that also need stories that do not focus on the sadness of this kind of diagnosis.

Readalikes? Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

Reviews

ARC Alert (with a book birthday today!) — The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

Thank you to Disney/Hyperion and NetGalley for the ARC. Below is my honest review.

Bracken, Alexandra. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding. Disney/Hyperion, 2017. 362 pages. Hardcover $16.99, ISBN 978-1-48477-817-3

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? Appears to be — no spoilers, but the ending makes me think there’s a sequel!

Plot Summary:

Prosperity “Prosper” Oceanus Redding has had it up to here with his family’s nonsense. His evil grandmonster (grandmother, to most people) runs his hometown of Redhood, MA with an iron fist (it helps that she’s managed to remain mayor for the last ten years). His twin sister Prue (Prudence Fidelia Redding, thank you so much for the names, Pilgrim ancestors) has survived a weak heart and countless surgeries and emergencies, so for her, middle school is nothing to get worked up about. For Prosper, it’s torture. He isn’t successful, popular, or powerful — basically, he’s nothing like the rest of his family. A family dinner at the grandmonster’s house takes a turn for the sinister when Prosper’s parents call from out of the country demanding that Prosper grab his sister and run. A mysterious stranger crashes the party, rescues Prosper from his grandmother and the knife she’s trying to kill him with, and drags him to Salem, MA. The mysterious stranger is none other than Uncle Barnabas, a fellow Redding failure. He and his daughter Nell (an actual witch!) promise to save Prosper from both his grandmother and a much more sinister evil — an ancient demon by the name of Alastor who is currently residing inside of Prosper. How did the Reddings rise to power in the 1600s? Not through their work ethic! Rather, Alastor cut a deal with Honor Redding, the man from whom the town of Redhood got its name. After his rise to power, Honor enlisted a witch to help him get out of the deal, leaving Alastor to curse the family name and promise to return one day to destroy the Reddings once and for all. The time has nearly come, hence Prosper’s near-death at his grandmother’s get-together. Will Alastor succeed in destroying the Reddings, or will Prosper and his friends find a way to elude Alastor’s curse?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book has EVERYTHING. A snarky outsider narrator with a killer sense of humor? Check. A young witch whose first words readers encounter are lines from The Crucible? Check. A haunted house that is both tourist trap and actually haunted? CHECK! Family drama, mysteries, lies, and secrets? YOU GOT IT. A sassy demon? OF COURSE. A tiny black kitten that’s also a super powerful changeling who can fly? YES, FRIENDS! (Maybe I’m the only person who was looking for that? Okay.) Once I picked this one up, I couldn’t put it down. Prosper’s voice is intensely readable. This book delivers on creepiness, action, and humor. One scene can go from super creepy malefactor activities to an action-packed fight scene straight into Prosper’s deadpan reaction to the hoopla. The pace of the book is quick, but it never feels rushed. This is a great autumn read.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

I would totally hand this one to students looking for a deliciously creepy, funny, and action-packed adventure. It feels like a good fit for fans of Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand, and the Jackaby series by William Ritter.

Grade Level: 3-7

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 08/01/17

Publishers Weekly starred 07/03/17

Reviews

ARC Alert! Elizabeth and Zenobia

Miller, Jessica. Elizabeth and Zenobia. Amulet Books. 208 pages, 2017. Hardcover $14.60, ISBN 978-1-41972-724-5

Elizabeth and ZenobiaTL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Anticipated Publication: September 2017

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

When her father decides it is time to move back to his childhood home, Elizabeth and her friend Zenobia have no other choice but to go along. (Father isn’t so pleased that Zenobia is coming along since she is, after all, imaginary — well, maybe not quite imaginary, but not quite real, either.) Elizabeth is afraid of everything — ghosts, the dark, gloves without hands in them — and Zenobia loves EVERYTHING creepy or disturbing. Poisons? Check. Ghosts — oh, excuse me, Spirit Presences? Check. Edgar Allan Poe? Check. Something is … off in Witheringe House, and to Zenobia’s delight, the conditions are PERFECT for a haunting. Add to that the fact that the East Wing of the house is forbidden to the girls, the eeriness increases the longer the girls are there. As more secrets are revealed, more seances are performed, and more bizarre midnight happenings occur, it becomes clear that something is truly and deeply wrong at Witheringe House. Will Elizabeth be brave enough to uncover the truth, and will she be strong enough to vanquish the evil that lurks in the house?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

The book’s description refers to it as “middle grade gothic horror,” and that is a perfect description. That creeping weirdness so critical in a good gothic novel is here in full force. Plants that seem a little too alive, a house with many secrets, silent and seemingly ubiquitous housekeepers, and a governess contending with mysterious forces all feature here. The book moves quickly, but it’s a page-turner, meaning that readers are going to enjoy this scary story enough not to want to put it down.

It’s a great read-alike for fans of Coraline, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. (Doll Bones is also similar with regards to creepy ghost factors!) Edgar Allan Poe is mentioned several times as he has the honor of being Zenobia’s favorite author. The book also draws upon gothic classics; Witheringe House of course reminds us of the title of Wuthering Heights; the governess plot smacks of Jane Eyre; the nursery’s walls are reminiscent of “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” and the whole “don’t go in the East Wing” situation is VERY Bluebeard. There’s something here for every gothic fan!

 

Grade Level: 4-8