Reviews

ARC ALERT!! Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick

Thank you to Netgalley and First Second for the ARC! Below is my honest review.

Sedgwick, Marcus. Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter. Illustrated by Thomas Taylor. First Second, 2018. Hardcover $20.54, ISBN 978-1-25015-984-7; PLB $19.36, ISBN 978-1-54901-896-1 ; TR $12.79, ISBN 978-1-62672-026-8

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)

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

Book Summary:

Scarlett Hart’s parents were truly amazing monster hunters. Following their death, Scarlett is determined to be just as great a hunter. That’s more easily said than done, however, given that she is too young to actually be a monster hunter, and her continued attempts at catching monsters for the reward money lands her in danger of getting arrested. That and her dwindling funds make for a tough situation.

Reader’s Notes:

This is a really great first installment. It has adventure, humor, and creepiness galore. It’s a fun adventure with a female protagonist who refuses to give up. Highly recommend!

Grade Level: 5-8

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Reviews

ARC Alert! Smile and Wave: Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

Thanks to Netgalley and Charlesbridge for the advance copy of this book! Below is my honest review.

Charles, Tami. Like Vanessa. Charlesbridge, 2018. 284 pages. Hardcover $14.64, ISBN 978-1-58089-777-8

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Historical fiction

Part of a series? No

Book Summary:

Vanessa Martin watches the Miss America pageant each year with her Pop Pop and cousin TJ. It’s a ritual for them, and when they see Vanessa Williams crowned Miss America, Nessy finds herself wishing that she could be just like her. When a new music teacher announces that King Middle School will be hosting their own pageant, Nessy finds herself pressured (lovingly) into auditioning. Can Nessy use her beautiful voice and stellar academic record to win the crown, or will her missing mom and silent father hold her back from truly being herself and putting herself out there?

Reader’s Comments:

This is a wonderful book. It handles Nessy’s situation thoughtfully, and Nessy is such a compelling character to spend time with that readers will not be able to put this one down. Themes of friendship, puberty, and family secrets are familiar to middle grade books, but Charles’s novel is new and sweet. I am a little bit concerned with the details of Nessy’s weight loss and how her life improves as she slims down for the competition. She still refers to herself as big-boned, but there are repeated references to the inches of fabric that TJ needs to take in as she loses more and more weight. Other than that one detail, however, I really enjoyed this book and the voice it brings to middle grade books. The history is well-researched, and the beauty pageant rituals are described excellently. Highly recommend!

Grade Level: 5-8

Reviews

ARC Alert, and the clock is ticking down! Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Rick Riordan presents for an ARC of this book. Below is my honest review.

Chokshi, Roshani. Aruh Shah and the End of Time. Rick Riordan Presents, 2018. Hardcover $14.64, ISBN 978-1-36801-235-5

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!!! NOW IMMEDIATELY GO READ IT … well, okay, read it when it comes out! Its book birthday should be March 26th 🙂

Genre: Fantasy, and Mythology retelling!

Part of a series? Yes; this is the first of a new series!

Book Summary:

Aru Shah struggles a bit with the truth. Maaaybe she exaggerates things sometimes, but when your mom is always off at museums or dig sites or historical conventions and you live in a museum and everyone else at your new school is super rich and connected, maybe YOU would fudge the truth a bit, too. Fast-forward to Aru needing to light a cursed lamp that she’s been forbidden to light just so three bullies won’t expose her lies to the entire class. Well, turns out the lamp was cursed! The Sleeper has been released, and if Aru doesn’t stop him in 9 days, Lord Shiva will dance the world to its end. Cool.

Enter a pigeon guide, a new soul sister, and a thrilling adventure through the Otherworld, Kingdom of Death, and more. Can Aru stop the Sleeper?

Reader’s Comments:

WHAT THIS IS SO GOOD. Unsurprisingly, it’s a great pick for Percy Jackson fans, but it’s also just straight up a great book. Humor, great references (was that a Doctor Who reference I spotted?), gross jokes, and quick wit. Such a great read!

Grade Level: 3-6

Reviews

Enchanting: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Townsend, Jessica. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow. Read by Gemma Whelan. Little, Brown and Company, 2017. 665 pages/11 hours. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-0-316-50888-9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? YES GO IMMEDIATELY NOW

Genre: Fantasy

Part of a series? Yes; this is the first of the new Nevermoor Series.

Book Summary:

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Like, actually. She’s on the Cursed Children’s Registry and everything. So whenever something bad happens, people blame her. To top it all off, she’s going to die at age twelve on Eventide night. Or, wait. No. She’s going to die on her eleventh birthday, as Eventide’s arrival surprises everyone by happening a year sooner than predicted.

Morrigan is, understandably, annoyed. Perhaps a bit upset. Imagine her surprise when she receives actual bids on bid day — patrons who want to help shape her future. What future? She’ll be dead before any schooling can actually happen. Additionally, Mr. Jones (representative of Ezra Squall, one of her prospective patrons) literally disappears before she can answer him. Her birthday dinner-and-last supper is interrupted by Jupiter North, another patron, who promises to whisk her away to a land called Nevermoor and a Wundrous future. Can Morrigan outrun her curse? Could her life be full of Wunder?

Reader’s Comments:

SO AMAZING. This book has received many comparisons to Harry Potter. That is precisely why I picked this up. Or, however, a comparison I heard quite a bit was that this wasn’t reminiscent of Harry Potter itself but rather that reading this one feels like reading Harry Potter for the first time. While some of the story’s elements are familiar to those of us who love the Boy Who Lived (unloved child with a miserable life is whisked away to a magical hidden world, there’s an ages-old evil that may return to power, there is a school for special children, there’s an eccentric mentor and a wild best friend, not to mention the snooty rival!!), the way that Townsend uses those elements AND TONS OF OTHERS that are in no way Potterish is STUNNING. Morrigan’s bitingly funny, and her sarcasm is a delight. Jupiter is tons of fun, and Hawthorne sounds like the ideal best friend. The trials are interesting, and the book has twists aplenty. I definitely recommend this one to your fantasy fans.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Publishers Weekly starred, 07/31/17

School Library Connection starred, 10/01/17

School Library Journal starred, 07/01/17

Reviews

Gaming gone bad in a YA World: Warcross by Marie Lu

Lu, Marie. Warcross. Read by Nancy Wu. GP Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 353 pages/11 hours and 46 minutes. Hardcover $16.29, ISBN 978-0-399-54796-6; hardcover (library binding) $24.99, ISBN 978-0-399-54796-6

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!! For older readers

Genre: Science Fiction 

Part of a series? Yes — this is the first in a series.

Book Summary:

Emika Chen does her best to make ends meet as a bounty hunter; she pursues gamblers who owe money after betting on Warcross games. A frequent player of Warcross herself, Emi knows how to find people who are trying to stay hidden — whether they’re hiding in real life or in Warcross, the virtual reality world. When Emi tests one of her hacks and accidentally glitches herself right into the opening game of the Warcross championships, she catches the eye of Hideo Tanaka, the young founder and developer of the global sensation. Now, Emi’s part of the Warcross championships looking for someone who is bent on destroying the game. Will she be able to find the mysterious hacker? Why does everything seem more sinister with each new development?

Reader’s Notes:

This book is amazing. The VR and AR of Warcross are immediately interesting and believable. Characters discuss the ethical implications of who has access to this technology and how access affects society. Emi’s a fun character to be alongside because even though life has been hard, she’s quick thinking and resourceful. Nancy Wu does an amazing job narrating the audiobook.

Readalikes?

This feels like a blend of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. IT’S MAGICAL.

Grade Level: YA

Reviews

Weaving together the truth: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Chanani, Nidhi. Pashmina. First Second, 2017. 161 pages. Hardcover $18.84, ISBN 978-1-62672-088-6; PLB $22.06, ISBN 978-1-54900-469-8; TR $14.49, ISBN 978-1-62672-087-9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!!

Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)

Part of a series? Not at this time.

Book Summary:

Priyanka (or Pri, at school) loves art, her aunt and uncle, and her mom. She butts heads with mom occasionally, especially when she won’t talk about Priyanka’s dad. Priyanka is worried when she learns that her aunt and uncle are expecting a baby, particularly when it’s made clear that some of their weekly rituals will need to be put to an end. When the baby is born prematurely, Priyanka feels guilty and refuses to visit, instead staying home and puzzling over a gorgeous pashmina from her mother’s old suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, Priyanka is taken straight to India, and it’s more beautiful than any travel brochure. Her mother finally lets Priyanka travel to India for real, but she must go alone, as her mother refuses to ever go back. Will India be what Priyanka expects? And what kind of power does the pashmina possess?

Reader’s Notes:

This is a really beautifully done novel. Priyanka struggles a great deal with many things — bullies at school, secrets kept by her mother, a desire for family and for things to stay the way they are. The artwork itself is also gorgeous. This is a highly recommended read!

Grade Level:5-8

Awards and starred reviews:

Publishers Weekly starred, 09/18/17

School Library Journal starred, 09/01/17

Reviews

Is this the real life? WHERE FUTURES END by Parker Peevyhouse

Peevyhouse, Parker. Where Futures End. Kathy Dawson Books, 2016. 289 pages. Hardcover $15.44, ISBN 978-0-8037-4160-7

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes, for older readers

Genre: Science Fiction and Fantasy

Part of a series? No.

Book Summary:

Dylan has what he calls a vorpal, a way that he can influence how people perceive him. He also believes that he’s been to a mystical other world, and while his own brother refuses to agree that they’ve gone, Dylan is sure that there’s a way back. Indeed, there are two worlds, and as citizens of each pass across the border, each world is changed. Four other teens in future points explore their worlds as they are as magic and technology advance at hyperspeed.

Reviewer’s Notes:

This book feels so much like a young adult Cloud Atlas. It’s weird, fascinating, and gripping — it was so hard to put down. Definitely one to hand to your strange-format fans.

Grade Level: YA

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews starred, 12/01/15

School Library Journal starred, 01/01/16

Reviews

Readjustment blues: Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee

Dee, Barbara. Halfway Normal.  Aladdin, 2017. 247 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-1-48147-851-9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!!!!

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Part of a series? No.

Book Summary:

Norah’s cancer finally appears to be in remission, meaning Norah can FINALLY return to school after two long years away. That said, jumping right back into middle school is a little bit scary, especially considering that she wants to be just-Norah, not “The Girl Who …”, especially especially considering that none of the adults will say the “c-word” (cancer) and that kids only see her as the girl who got sick. When she hits it off with new kid Griffin, she’s more desperate than ever to be a “normal” kid who just happens to have had cancer. Can she blend in as she wishes, or will her teachers’ insistence on how cancer must have shaped her and her parents’ overprotectiveness give her away?

Reader’s Comments:
Norah is such a delightful character. She’s sassy, she’s worried, she’s sweet, and she’s just an all-around great seventh grader to follow through this novel. I definitely recommend this book about what happens when a student survives cancer and needs to return to school.

Grade Level: 3-6

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews starred, 06/15/17

School Library Connection starred, 11/01/17
School Library Journal starred, 08/01/17

Reviews

Scary siblings: SPIRIT HUNTERS by Ellen Oh

Oh, Ellen. Spirit Hunters. Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. 276 pages. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-0-06-243008-3; PLB $18.56, ISBN 978-1-54902-786-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!!!!!!!

Genre: Horror

Part of a series? Yes; the Spirit Hunters series is to be continued after this one

Book Summary:

Harper reluctantly moves to a new town and into a new house with her family. Her big sister won’t give her the time of day, and baby brother Michael begins to act strangely. Weird happenings and sudden migraines plague Harper, but she knows better than to mention anything to her mom. ANYTHING out of the ordinary sets her mom off … and with their new proximity to Harper’s grandma (a person that Mom has been avoiding for years), it’s all too easy to upset Mom right now. Is Michael in danger? And is there anything Harper can do about it?

Reader’s Comments:

SO SCARY. I’m terrified of ghost stories, and I almost needed to put this one down 🙂 That said, it’s a delicious story with super spooky elements, and the characters are superb.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 05/01/17 

Publishers Weekly starred, 05/08/17

Reviews

Sabotaging Summer Plans: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Zamora, Pablo. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora. Read by the author. Viking, 2017. 236 pages/5 hours and 6 minutes. Hardcover $14.59, ISBN 978-1-10199-723-9

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes!

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Arturo is ready to spend the summer working at his family’s restaurant and eating all the ice cream he can get at Two Scoops. Enter Carmen, his family friend who has suddenly gotten super cute? And Wilfrido Pipo, a cartoonishly evil land developer bent on buying the land out from under the Zamora’s restaurant. Plus, Abuela’s health is only getting worse. Arturo doesn’t want to stress her out about the restaurant, and learning about Cuban poet José Martí is a meaningful way to spend time with his abuela (and learn about poetry so he can impress Carmen), but is it really going to help? Can Arturo and Carmen work together to save the restaurant from Pipo’s gentrification?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book is AMAZING. The Zamora’s dishes are deliciously described. Cartaya captures a young teen’s voice perfectly, and Arturo is a wonderful main character. He has a lot of heart, a lot of awkwardness, and a lot of love for his family. He’s hilarious and sweet, and his friends are super supportive. This is a fantastic read.

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred, 04/01/17

Kirkus Reviews starred, 03/15/17

Publishers Weekly Annex starred, 05/15/17