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Review! Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

9 Oct

Spirit Hunters
By Ellen Oh
288 pages – ages 9+
Published by HarperCollins on July 25, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?”

What I Thought- I loved this book. Ms. Oh is able to instill the perfect amount of terror, love, hope, and suspense all into one story. I absolutely loved (and hated) reading about Harper’s troubles. I hated them because they were so awful for Harper, but I also loved them because they were just so darn excellent! There is some instances in the book that touch on tough topics, such as an old woman saying racist remarks to Harper and her mother, who are Korean, but I also like how the book addresses it but doesn’t dwell. There is a lot of paranormal thriller aspects but written with a younger audience in mind.  Although I am an “older” kid – I really liked it. I definitely think it was interesting how Harper realizes that her life is more convoluted than she originally thought. I especially like how the plot thickens as she realizes these things. I think kids who like a chilling story that isn’t too scary will like this book; it puts a chill on your spine, but doesn’t give you nightmares. I really hope this is a series in bloom!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! The Shanghai Incident by Bryan Methods

18 Sep

The Shanghai Incident
Series: Master Diplexito and Mr. Scant 2 (#1)
By Bryan Methods
248 pages – ages 9+
Will be published by Carolrhoda Books on October 1, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “The pursuit of an international crime syndicate sends British vigilante butler Mr. Scant and his protégé Oliver Diplexito on a globe-hopping trip. After defeating a sinister secret society in Oliver’s home country of England, the unlikely pair has arrived in Paris, searching for Mr. Scant’s missing niece. What they discover are hints of a conspiracy that leads them all the way to Shanghai, China. Each clue they find only leads to more questions. That is, until Mr. Scant, Oliver, and their allies realize they’re the only hope of stopping a plot against China’s child emperor.”

What I Thought- I really liked the first book in the series, and Methods’ second book most definitely lives up to the precedent set with his debut. I love how it is all set in a believable time, where the history seems to be fairly accurate, just fitting more into the steampunk theme – but also quite subtly. The book has a lot of action, and I was so caught up in the thrill of it all that I read the book in its entirety in the span of a few hours (maybe five or six). Methods has a way of writing that showcases the thoughts of a clever young boy who understands that he has much to learn. I also like how all of the characters stay true to who they were established as being in the first book. I find that sometimes a debut author will change a personality drastically to show growth in their second book, but Methods keeps it simple  – very small changes that are noticed and appreciated by the reader. As a side note, the cover is phenomenal, just as the first – and I especially like the fabulous old-time feel – perfect for the book! This book is a great sequel, and I cannot wait to read the third book in the series!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

6 Sep

Chester and Gus
By Cammie McGovern
272 pages – ages 9+
Published by HarperCollins on April 4, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “Chester has always wanted to become a service dog. When he fails his certification test, though, it seems like that dream will never come true—until a family adopts him. They want him to be a companion for their ten-year-old son, Gus, who has autism. But Gus acts so differently than anyone Chester has ever met. He never wants to pet Chester, and sometimes he doesn’t even want Chester in the room. Chester’s not sure how to help Gus since this isn’t exactly the job he trained for—but he’s determined to figure it out. Because after all, Gus is now his person.”

What I Thought- I enjoyed this book – it really brought a lot of insight into not only the background behind service dogs, but also into the lives of lower-functioning autistic kids. One thing I thought was really interesting was how McGovern explains how dogs communicate with people – I don’t want to spoil the book, but it is a central aspect, and you will love it too! The book is told from a service dog’s, point of view. Chester is a sweet dog, trained to want to help people, and he will go above and beyond to help others. I do like how McGovern has Chester, who is surprisingly a figure one can easily relate to, compare and contrast Gus for us. Chester shows us ways that he is similar to Gus (not liking loud noises, for example), and is also able to succinctly explain Gus’ other behaviors as well. This will ultimately give readers more of an understanding about lower-functioning autistic kids. As the reader learns more about Gus and why he is the way he is – Chester clears up misconceptions. Chester sees Gus for who he is and is totally accepting. The unconditional love between a dog and his human is explained beautifully. The book is well-written, flows nicely and doesn’t drag at all. I think kids will benefit from reading about two lives we don’t normally get an inside look on. Maybe it will help us all to see the world a bit more like Chester and appreciate those who are beautifully different from ourselves.  I highly recommend this book!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg

29 Aug

The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match
Series: The Great Shelby Holmes (see my review of Book #1)
By Elizabeth Eulberg
240 pages – ages 9+
Will be published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on September 12, 2017

Synopsis From Publisher- “Being friends with a super sleuth isn’t easy, especially when she’s nine years old and four feet tall, and full of attitude. But for eleven-year-old aspiring writer John Watson, being friends with Shelby Holmes is just the adventure he’s looking for.

In the few weeks since moving to Harlem with his mom, Shelby has been training John in the art of observation-a skill that comes in handy on the first day of school. John’s new teacher, Mr. Crosby, is acting suspiciously, and Shelby knows this is a mystery worth investigating. But as Shelby and John dig deeper, they discover that there may be someone unexpected involved–someone who may have Shelby beat.”

What I Thought- This was a really good sequel to the first book tin the series. I am a fan of how Eulberg explores more aspects of Shelby’s character, showing more of her relationship with her classmates. We get to know more about John, as well, and we see a lot of aspects of their friendship that are fleshed out. Eulberg crafts a fresh take on old Sherlock Holmes tales, with bits and pieces based off of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and honestly, I cannot wait until she more references – I can only imagine what she will think up for Shelby! I really enjoyed this book and like that it is introducing the greatness of the mighty Sherlock to a new generation to enjoy. The story and characters are believable, and they remind me of instances in real life; kids will appreciate that. The mystery is fun, and I like how Eulberg adds in a lot of little details, and especially seeing how they seem to be needed later on – a mark of a great mystery! I sincerely recommend this book!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

24 Aug

Orphan Island
By Laurel Snyder
288 pages – ages 9+
Published by Walden Pond Press on May 30, 2017

Synopsis From Publisher- “On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?”

What I Thought- I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s not quite about responsibility, or growing up, but it is not not about them either. It’s odd. While the writing was good, it just didn’t resonate with me. I thought the plot dragged a bit, but I also loved the specific details about life on the island. As a reader, it was an odd relationship. There were times when I felt I was about to get totally immersed in the story but never got fully engaged. The story is very whimsical, and has a basic almost-utopia feel to it, and you really do begin to feel raw emotion as things twist about, but then it would get lost. I just couldn’t get into it. I think there was too much left unresolved. Overall, this is a well-written book with interesting characters, just not one I was head-over-heels for. That certainly doesn’t mean others won’t be.

I give this book three out of five bookworms.

Review! Guys Read: Heroes & Villains; edited by Jon Scieszka

21 Aug

Guys Read: Heroes & Villains
Written by Various Authors
Edited by Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by Jeff Stokely
288 pages – ages 9+
Published by Walden Pond Press on April 4, 2017

Synopsis From Publisher-Heroes and Villains, the seventh volume in Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read Library of Great Reading, is chock-full of adventure featuring an array of characters—with and without capes.

Featuring ten all-new, original stories that run the gamut from fantasy to comics to contemporary adventure to nonfiction, and featuring eleven of the most acclaimed, exciting writers for kids working today, this collection is the perfect book for you, whether you use your powers for good—or evil.

Authors include Laurie Halse Anderson, Cathy Camper and Raúl Gonzalez, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Christopher Healy, Deborah Hopkinson, Ingrid Law, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Lemony Snicket, and Eugene Yelchin, with illustrations by Jeff Stokely.”

What I Thought- I love the Guys Read books. Originally started off as one book of short stories to get boys reading, there is now a series of topics, such as comedy and thriller. This is a nice addition, with various authors contributing to the idea of what makes someone a hero or a villain. There is a lot of things to ponder and reflect on within these 288 pages. The authors wrote stories that challenge our precepts and concepts of what it means to be a hero or a villain. I really enjoyed Lemony Snicket’s story for that, along with Jack Gantos’, although I was a fan of all of the stories. Guys Read is a wonderful idea, and I am eternally grateful for Mr. Scieszka’s mission to get guys into reading. This book carries on that tradition with excellent stories guaranteed to excite guys (or even girls, for that matter)!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! The Summer of Bad Ideas by Kiera Stewart

4 Aug

The Summer of Bad Ideas
By Kiera Stewart
304 pages – ages 9+
Published by HarperCollins on May 2, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “In this funny, big-hearted friendship story, perfect for fans of Wendy Mass and Linda Urban, twelve-year-old Edie and her impossibly cool cousin, Rae, set out to complete a mysterious list of “Good Ideas for Summertime” that their eccentric late grandmother wrote back when she was their age.

But good ideas? Most of them seem like bad ideas. Reckless. Foolish. Ridiculous. Still, by accomplishing everything on the list, rule-abiding Edie feels certain that she can become the effortlessly brave adventurer she dreams of being, just like her daring cousin and bold grandmother. For this one summer at least, bad ideas are the best shot she has at becoming who she wants to be.

Bad Idea Number One: It’s time for a new set of rules.

What I Thought- I think this was a neat realistic fiction story. There are so many believable details, it was fun to read about the characters and town life. I like the development of Edie as she becomes a little more adventurous, like her grandmother, as the story goes on. The story was well-written and speaks to a young middle grade audience well. At times I found the story a bit inspiring in the way Edie seeks to become a bit more outgoing. The plot is simple, predictable at times, yet satisfying. This book is a nice bridge for kids going from smaller novels to larger reads. The story flows well and gives the reader enough to remain engaged from start to finish. The characters are realistic, and I could see a lot of them acting like some of my friends. Overall, it was a fun book.

I give this book four out of five bookworms.

Review! The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson

28 Jul

The World’s Greatest Detective
By Caroline Carlson
373 pages – ages 9+
Published by on HarperCollins on May 16, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Detectives’ Row is full of talented investigators, but Toby Montrose isn’t one of them. He’s only an assistant at his uncle’s detective agency, and he’s not sure he’s even very good at that. Toby’s friend Ivy is the best sleuth around—or at least she thinks so. They both see their chance to prove themselves when the famed Hugh Abernathy announces a contest to choose the World’s Greatest Detective. But when what was supposed to be a game turns into a real-life murder mystery, can Toby and Ivy crack the case?”

What I Thought- This was a really great novel! It’s written by the author of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series (which I love), and this book is just as great! The world that Carlson creates is reminiscent of the great era of mystery writers, keeping in that older time when automobiles were still new. It is surely a period for interesting detectives, as there is little to no “easy way out” to find the answer (ie, hacking into security cameras, DNA testing, etc.). Carlson creates characters that keep you wanting to read more. They are perfectly imperfect enough that you want to follow them and find out how they get out of troublesome situations. I liked that the story eases kids to the murder mystery genre in a totally acceptable read. I also love that she shows flaws in her main characters – the two kids are both good and bad detectives – making the kids feel alright if their guesses are wrong. Carlson’s writing strengths shine in this book. She can write with a wackiness a subtle type of humor that brightens tense situations. I really hope there is a second book!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

26 Jul

Lucky Broken Girl
By Ruth Behar
256 pages – ages 9+
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on April 11, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English—and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen—a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger and she comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.”

What I Thought- Reading this book was an emotional experience. Behar tackles the subjects of immigration, racism and the frustration of being isolated due to an accident in a compelling story. I loved the concept of this book and the fact the main character  was an immigrant. I really enjoy stories that inject flavors of other cultures in the text. We do get glimpses of Irish, Mexican, Cuban and Indian characters, all whom help Ruthie navigate her struggles in the story. Although there are moments of hope and redemption, I found the story was rather gloomy. The constant pessimism from Ruthie wore me down. I found myself not really understanding what Ruthie was thinking and who she is but rather reacting to her actions in the story. I really think this book could be amazing with a bit more understanding of the character’s feelings. Still, I think kids in situations similar to Ruthie’s – hospitalized kids or those isolated because of cultural differences, will connect with the story. The book would best be described as a fictionalized memoir, because Behar explains that the story is based on her real life experience, but that she changed some of the facts to things she wished had happened. All of that was explained in her Author’s Note at the end of the book. When I realized that it was based on the author’s own trauma, I appreciated the story even more, as it added realism to the story for me. I wish the note was at the beginning of the story, I think I would have connected to it even more.  Having said this, I wouldn’t hesitate to try another book from Behar. I recommend this book to fans of recovery stories that contain a great life lesson within the pages!

I give this book four out of five bookworms.

Muffy Turns One: The Mini Tour – COVER REVEAL!

20 Jul
Today I get to kick off blog tour celebrating the one year birthday of a great story about a little dog and her great adventure. Since I am the first stop on this mini tour, I get to reveal the cover!
Muffy and the Dog Catcher (The Muffy Series Book 1)
Written and illustrated by Devra Robitaille
 66 pages – ages 7+
Published by The Hologram Library, July 20, 2016
 

Synopsis (from the publisher) – Muffy is a happy and curious Goldendoodle puppy who lives on a farm. One day she chases a silly grasshopper and gets lost. She finds herself alone and hungry, on the point of collapse, but luck is on her side and she is adopted by a wonderful family, the Gabriels, who have a very orderly and devoted pack of dogs. Muffy becomes part of her new family, and is accepted by Radar and Oliver and the gang, but she still pines for her sister, Riff, and misses the farm. One of her new friends, Wise Dog, introduces her to a very unusual Dog Catcher who has a special talent.

Muffy’s courageous journey is full of laughter and adventure as she tries to unite her two families.

 
 The cover is in the same style as the other illustrations in the book. The whimsical illustration style adds depth to the story. I found Robitalle’s story-telling to be thoughtful and entertaining. The story is so much more than a lost puppy story. There are shades of lessons on the struggles of growing up, what family truly is and also diversity. It is a rich and well crafted book that packs a lot in the 65 pages of text! 
Want to learn more?

Muffy turns one!…the mini-tour

Be sure to check out all the stops!

Cover reveal for Muffy’s new artwork

July 20th 2017

This Kid Reviews Books

Character Interview with Pete, the Dog Catcher

July 21st 2017

​Something to Chew On

Interview with Devra Robitaille

​July 27th 2017

Reading With Your Kids

Visit the Hologram Library Website by clicking HERE!

Check out the book’s trailer –

 

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