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Review! Blaze of Embers by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz

14 Jun

Blaze of Embers
Series: The Third Book of Ore #3 (1, 2)
Cowritten by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz
313 pages – ages 9+
Published by Disney Hyperion on April 11, 2017

Synopsis- Phoebe Plumm, our young hero, is dead. That is an obvious fact. The Foundry, the company that profits off of seemingly original products (but with a sinister origin), is losing all hold on Mehk, the world of living metal. The country of Meridian is facing an inevitable war. And now the Mehkan deity has returned, prepared to unleash her fury on the Foundry and raze the human world to right the injustices to her people. Micah Tanner, Phoebe’s companion and peer, feels a bit over his head. It is up to him alone to figure out how to stop all of this from occurring, and to try to mesh these worlds seamlessly back together. And he thought school was stressful.

What I Thought- This was very good. Baity and Zelkowicz really know how to create suspense and throw the odds against their characters. The descriptions of the scenery, of the actions of the personas both Mehkan and human, of the prevailing thoughts of the main characters; they are all top-notch excellence – you really feel as if all of this is possible. As the conclusion to the Books of Ore, this book ties up all the loose ends that came through in the story. There is a great deal of action and several mini-stories going on, as several of the characters are scattered, and all of this provides for a fascinating read. There are subtle aspects to the story about doing the right thing, good versus evil, and how people can change, or how they aren’t who you thought they were. It is a thought-provoking story, especially because these themes are present but not really spotlighted. The world Baity and Zelkowicz created is one I gladly got lost in. The imagery created in their words, took me to Mehk and I enjoyed every minute of it. At the base of all of this is a truly well-written story that draws readers in and makes them think. I really enjoyed this conclusion-and, in fact, the entire series-and I wish to read more from this creative duo.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

6 Jun


Illustrated by Matthew C. Rockefeller
320 pages – ages 9+
Published by Delacorte Press on April 25, 2017

Synopsis- Sebastian was a brilliant kid, going to a school for math and science. He always planned everything out, and disliked change and trying new things. Then he met a pig in a teeny hat. And everything changed. Now he’s helping a girl find her presumed dead (but apparently still living) grandfather. That’s not so bad, except that two creepy thugs are trying to find him too. Things are starting to look interesting…

What I Thought- This book is pretty funny – the narration is very tongue-in-cheek, with humorous chapter names, and the story is full of wacky events that are somehow believable.  Sebastian and Evie are two very different characters, but they both make the book complete. Sebastian wants to stay out of trouble, but he also wants to do what’s right. Evie doesn’t want to be alone in this world, and will do anything to be get her family back. This is a really great combo! Kress’ writing style is very light-hearted, having written a book where having a character ride a llama across a zoo and having a tree grow in the middle of a building seem like completely natural things. Kress uses all the creative room in her plot line, and keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. There are neat black-and-white illustrations from Rockefeller throughout the book that really bring all of the aspects together. Kids will love to read this book! Kress has written a wonderful beginning to a new series, and I cannot wait to read the next book! I also think I will definitely check out some of the other books by Kress, considering how much I enjoyed this one.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! The Eldridge Conspiracy by Don M. Winn

1 Jun

The Eldridge Conspiracy
Series: Sir Kaye the Boy Knight 4 (1, 2, 3)
Written by Don M. Winn
Illustrated by Dave Allred
167 pages – ages 8+
Will be Published by Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC on June 16, 2017

Synopsis- There is a plot of treasonous measures being taken against the neighboring kingdom of Eldridge, and Sir Kaye the Boy Knight has uncovered the horrid conspiracy! It could lead to the invasion of his country of Knox, and even more – to the death of Eldridge’s king and Kaye’s father, Sir Henry! Kaye and his friends, Reggie and Beau, set out to do what they can to prevent it. But time is of the essence, and with an evil baron trying to get them all out of the picture, it isn’t certain they even have a chance!

What I Thought- I really enjoyed this fabulous conclusion to the Sir Kaye series. Winn knows how to bring the tension up in the series, raising the stakes in the book to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. It is interesting to see Kaye unfold as a character; he fluctuates, learning and then forgetting as he lets pride or guilt or some other emotion take control of his actions. Altogether, this makes for a maximum learning experience for both Kaye and the reader. Winn writes a good story for younger kids who have progressed from early chapter books, but aren’t quite ready for another step up – the chapters are short, with a mildly challenging age-appropriate vocabulary, and neat black-and-white illustrations throughout the story. The series is good for kids who like knights and medieval times, and show that sometimes it is hard to do what is right, but having honor is a good thing to strive for. Morals are taught in the books, as well as just plain old essential character traits. Winn has written a good series about a kid who strives to do his best even when times are hard, and a lot of things can be learned from that. I am sad to see this series come to a finish, but I look forward to seeing more come from Mr. Winn!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

WOO! I’m giving away a #CaptainUnderpants prize pack thanks to @Scholastic!

30 May

Captain Underpants – (the name elicits giggles – doesn’t it?) is the very first series I read when I was a kid. I begged my mom to pick them up for me when I saw the first three books in the series at a yard sale – The Adventures of Captain Underpants – Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets – Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (and the Subsequent Assault of the Equally Evil Lunchroom Zombie Nerds) – Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. Although Mom kind of looked at me a little funny with the Professor Poopypants one, she knows fine literature and got it for me anyway.  I read and re-read these books until they literally fell apart.  I then sought out new additions to the series and loved every one of them. I still am a strong advocate for Captain Underpants. It is a great series to get kids to start reading independently. It is a fun series that will engage all kinds of readers.

I was THRILLED to see that DreamWorks is making a Captain Underpants movie!!! The movie hits theaters on June 2nd. It is my hope that kids will see the movie and want to start reading about Captain Underpants other adventures! To celebrate this Earth shattering event, Scholastic sent me new Captain Underpants books, AND is offering a prize pack for one of you!

One randomly picked commenter from this post will receive:

The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Book 1, now in full color!)

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Official Handbook

Captain Underpants: Wacky Word Wedgies and Flushable Fill-Ins

That’s right – just comment below to be entered to win! Winner will be selected randomly and announced one week from today.

One of the giveaways is the original Captain Underpants book (with some additional content) but in full color!

The illustrations are the same but the color really makes them come alive!

The other two books are complimentary to the movie. These books feature the CGI images of Captain Underpants, Harold and George.

 

I know you all are saying”ERIK, WE NEED TO KNOW MORE!”

So check this out – Visit PilkeyPower.Scholastic.com

Follow Scholastic on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Check out the movie’s trailer!

Review! Motor Girls by Sue Macy

30 May

Motor Girls: How Women Took the Wheel and Drove Boldly Into the Twentieth Century
Written by Sue Macy, Foreword by Danica Patrick
96 pages – ages 9+
Published by National Geographic Children’s Books on February 7, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- Come along for a joy ride in this enthralling tribute to the daring women – Motor Girls, as they were called at the turn of the century – who got behind the wheel of the first cars and paved the way for change. The automobile has always symbolized freedom, and in this book we meet the first generation of female motorists who drove cars for fun, profit, and to make a statement about the evolving role of women. From the advent of the auto in the 1890s to the 1920s when the breaking down of barriers for women was in full swing, readers will be delighted to see historical photos, art, and artifacts and to discover the many ways these progressive females influenced fashion, the economy, politics, and the world around them.

What I Thought- This was a fun nonfiction story about how the motor car evolved, and how women have played a part in its history. It was neat to see how women got involved, and how the industry reacted to that. There are plenty of real images from the time periods represented, and little news clippings from the time. It features girls and women who improved or changed the view on motor cars and women in general. The information in the book is given in an entertaining way that keeps the reader engaged.  The book gives the reader a great perspective that shows many of the things history books leave out. The book is well-organized, and takes you through the years of automobiles. The foreword by Danica Patrick is a great touch of a modern “Motor Girl.” I really enjoyed reading this nonfiction piece from National Geographic.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

 

I especially appreciated this book because my little sister is a Motor Girl 😉 She races go karts and is very impressive at it! I gave the book to her after I read it. She enjoyed it also.

Josie out in front

Review! Battle for the Land’s Soul by LRW Lee

8 May

Battle for the Land’s Soul
Series: Andy Smithson Series
Written by LRW Lee
210 pages – ages 9+
Published by Woodgate Publishing on May 8, 2017 (TODAY!)

Synopsis from Publisher- Good vs Evil. Destiny Demands the Battle be Fought. But at What Cost?
It’s clear Abaddon, the evil shape shifting ruler of Hadession, Oomaldee’s northern neighbor, must be dealt with if Oomaldee’s citizens are to ever live in peace. But how? What lengths will Andy have to go to in order to wage war against a being whose power stems from evil itself? Will Abaddon plunge the land into darkness or will light triumph?

What I Thought- For those of you out there unfamiliar with the Andy Smithson series, if the rest of the books weren’t enough to convince you to give LRW Lee a try, than this book should be reason enough. Lee has written a thrilling conclusion to her marvelous series. We finish the saga of Abaddon and his reign of terror, but sadly we have to say goodbye to Andy. Throughout this series I have enjoyed seeing Andygrow and flourish as a character. We see him grow from a self-centered American teenager into the wise, just and tempered monarch of an entire country. Lee fleshes out the rest of the cast as well, and readers learn more about them as they root them on. The character development intimately connects the reader with them and connects them to the story. This book is full of action, described in an enticing way. The text forces the reader into Andy‘s mind. It is written in such a way that Lee encourages the reader to ask the same questions that Andy is facing. The setting is well-described, with a perfect combination of giving details and leaving the imagination some free range. The world of Oomaldee and its neighboring countries are fascinating, and the reader appreciates getting a chance to “see” the lands as the characters travel through them. Lee really writes a gripping story, and I could not put this book down – don’t tell my parents this, but I stayed up incredibly late into the night to finish reading it! I really enjoy reading Lee’s adventures, and discovering the life lessons hidden between the pages. There is also a lot of symbolism in the book, making it good for reading in school as well. Lee writes age-appropriate novels, sometimes with darker themes, but always in a balanced way for kids to handle. This was a marvelous end to a fabulous series, and though I’m sad to see it go, I am happy to say that Lee has ended the book and series in a fulfilling way. I cannot wait to read what Lee comes up with next!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Blog Tour! Posted by John David Anderson

30 Apr

I have ANOTHER great book to tell you about today!

From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids. In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

Posted
By John David Anderson
384 pages – ages 9+
Will Be Published by Walden Pond Press May 2, 2017 (Tuesday!)

Synopsis From Publisher- When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.
In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

What I Thought- John David Anderson really knows how to hook your attention. He also knows how to capture the facets of teenagers in middle school and spin them into wonderful characters. The plot makes for a compelling story. The book is full of realistic bits and pieces of life that is so true you don’t even stop to think about it – it flows so easily. Anderson has a way of writing backstory in a reasonable and comprehensive way. The characters are so realistic, and I could relate to several of them. It was neat seeing how the presence of another person can alter the unspoken “system” of a group of people. Anderson is a master at making things believable, and I enjoy reading his work. It was a pleasant surprise to see that he is equally able to write realistic fiction as well as superhero and fantasy books. I cannot wait to see what else Anderson comes up with!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

CRITICAL PRAISE
“Written with understated humor and fine-tuned perception, Frost’s first-person narrative offers a riveting story as well as an uncomfortably realistic picture of middle school social dynamics.” — Booklist (starred review)
“Anderson dives into the world of middle school with a clear sense of how it works and what it needs. Kids, and the rest of the world, need more books like this one.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Anderson captures the tumultuous joys and pains of middle school with honesty, creating characters with whom readers will find common ground and insight. Words have lingering and persistent power, Anderson makes clear, but so does standing up for others and making one’s voice heard.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Acute observations about social media and school life and a smart, engaging narrator make this a journey well worth taking. Readers might even want some Post-it notes to mark the good parts.” — The Horn Book

 

WHO IS THIS JOHN DAVID ANDERSON?!?!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John David Anderson is the author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org

Check out the other dates on this tour!

April 17 Librarian’s Quest
Walden Media Tumblr
April 18 Nerdy Book Club
April 19 For Those About to Mock
April 20 Teach Mentor Texts
April 21 Unleashing Readers
April 22 Next Best Book
April 23 Bluestocking Thinking
April 24 Litcoach Lou
Book Monsters
April 25 Kirsti Call
April 26 Educate-Empower-Inspire-Teach
April 27 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Ms Yingling Reads
April 28 Maria’s Melange
Novel Novice
April 29 The Hiding Spot
April 30 This Kid Reviews Books

Review! Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War by Paul B. Janeczko

26 Apr

Double Cross: Deception Techniques in War
by Paul B. Janeczko
256 pages – ages 9+
Published by Candlewick Press on April 25th, 2017 (TODAY!)

Synopsis From Publisher- “The biblical account of Gideon. The ancient story of the Trojan horse. Deceptive techniques have been used in war through the ages. But while the principles have changed very little, the technology behind fooling the enemy has evolved dramatically. Paul B. Janeczko’s fascinating chronology focuses on the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf Wars to reveal evolving attitudes toward the use and effectiveness of deceptive operations. Find out the secret plan behind the invasion of Normandy and the details of General Schwarzkopf’s “Hail Mary play” during the Gulf War, among many other strategies and maneuvers designed to pull the wool over enemies’ eyes. Back matter includes source notes, a bibliography, and an index.”

What I Thought- This is a fabulous nonfiction book. Janeczko analyzes major techniques of deception throughout history, featuring medieval strategies and deceptions all the way up to the Gulf War. I learned a lot about military strategy, and the different types of deception. It was fascinating to learn about the deceptions pulled off during WWII, because those were some grand-scale deceptions! This was a very informative nonfiction novel, with real pictures and maps, and more information in the back as well. It is neat how the book takes in depth looks at major strategies, but still keeps the reading level and content for younger kids. He will spend a chapter or two on a war and major deceptions within them, making sure to explain the topics well. There are also pages of extra information scattered throughout the book that explains miscellaneous ideas about deception. Janeczko really knows how to make nonfiction intriguing, and I cannot wait to read more of his work!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Blog Tour! Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren with Interview and GIVEAWAY!!!

11 Apr

Prisoner of Ice and Snow
By Ruth Lauren
288 pages – ages 9+
Published by on April 4, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher-She’ll do anything to break her sister out of prison–even get arrested on purpose.

When thirteen-year-old Valor is sent to jail, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s twin sister, Sasha, is serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family, and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.

Never mind that no one has escaped the prison in centuries. Valor has a master plan and resources most people could only dream about. But she didn’t count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make some unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.”

What I Thought- This is probably one of the best debuts I’ve read in a while! The world is beautifully crafted, and there is a fascinating culture created. I am a fan of how the country appears as a nod to ancient Russian culture, and how the characters adapt to that. Which is another thing I loved – the characters are clever and they can think their way out of a problem. The ever present love for Sasha keeping Valor going is a nice touch as well – you would think it’d get annoying sometimes, but it never does. Lauren knows how to spin words in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat – I read this entire book in one day. It’s not often that a debut author can do that. I cannot wait to see more books from Lauren!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Now for an exclusive interview with author Ruth Lauren!

1. Congratulations on your debut novel! I really enjoyed the action in it! How long have you been writing? Is this your first book ever written?

Thank you so much! I’m thrilled you enjoyed it. I’ve been writing for just about seven years now. PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW wasn’t the first book I’ve ever written, or even the second, or third. But it was my first fantasy book and the first with action/adventure in it. I had more fun and did less worrying (and actually less planning) than I’d done before.

2. How did you get the unique plan to have the main character be very talented, but who wants to go to a prison no one has escaped from?

I was actually watching the TV show Prison Break (which starts with a man robbing a bank in order to get arrested) with my son and I wondered what that sort of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead. The Russia inspired fantasy land part of the idea came soon after as I thought about where I could place the sisters to make their escape even more challenging.

3. As I was reading the book, I kept thinking of Russian traditions and aspects – or at least that is the imagery that popped into my head – even though I know the world you created is not that. I am wondering if you did any research for the fabulous world building you did in this book?  If you did,  how did you decide to differentiate between fact-based and artistic liberty when creating your setting: place, culture, etc.?

There is definitely a Russian feel to the book, although I did take a huge amount of artistic liberty. I never intended any of the aspects to be fact-based, but I did look at maps as inspiration for the made up place names I used. I also used mainly Russian names for characters—although I took liberties with changing their use of patronymics to matronymics (surnames based on the character’s mother’s name) to match with the matriarchal world where power is handed down from mother to daughter.

I imagined a very cold and unforgiving climate and terrain for the setting and when I looked at images on Pinterest, a lot of Russian landscape came up. I make boards for every idea that I have and I find it really helps me to visualize the world and individual scenes if can link them to a picture. For this book, I wanted a very cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison.

4. One of the things I liked was that there is no magic prevalent in the story. I often think magic is an easy fall-back for authors when they get stuck. Instead you create quick thinking and daring characters that move the plot along. Did you enjoy the challenge of creating a world where magic is not a deus ex machina?

I enjoyed writing this book and figuring out a fast moving plot immensely, but I actually think including magic might have made it more difficult to write rather than easier. I find the idea of inventing a magic system that makes sense quite daunting!

5. Your heroine, Valor, is a wonderful character that I think both boys and girls will relate to.  How did you come up with Valor? Is she based on anyone?

Thank you! And I do hope so.

Valor was the first character I really thought about within the story, with her apprenticeship to her huntswoman mother as the reason she’s so adept with her bow and with so many other physical challenges. Her character built from her skills and her interest in being outdoors, reacting quickly to situations and therefore maybe not always thinking first—especially when it comes to saying the right thing. She’s fiercely loyal and determined but that sometimes prevents her from understanding other people’s points of view when she’s launching headlong into action. She’s not really based on anyone, but there are aspects of me in her (not the brave parts) and aspects of me in Sasha too.

6. Was there something I should have asked you but didn’t?

I don’t think so. But I would like to say thank you very much for having me!

7. Is there anything in the works you would like to tell the readers about?

I’m excited to say that there is! There’ll be a sequel to PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW. It’s called SEEKER OF THE CROWN, coming from Bloomsbury in April 2018. No spoilers, but I can’t wait to go back to Demidova with Valor and Sasha for more adventures. I’m also currently outlining a middle grade sci-fi standalone set on another planet, which I hope you’ll get to read one day.

You can have a chance at winning a copy of this book!

Just click HERE for the Rafflecopter. (Only open to US/CAN addresses)

Only available for four more days!!

Review! The Great Sugar War by Benjamin Ellefson

11 Apr

The Great Sugar War
Written by Benjamin Ellefson
Illustrated by Kevin Cannon
168 pages – ages 9+
Published by Beaver’s Pond Press on December 28, 2016

Synopsis- We return to the Land of Color to follow the tale of Otto, who is the grandfather of Alvin, the main character of The Land Without Color (see my review HERE)! Otto was sailing on a new boat he got for a present, but went off course and ended up rescuing up a soldier whose ship had sank. The Land of Color is at war with the Land of Shapes, and Otto has got himself into the middle of it all. Using his ingenuity, Otto and the soldier work together to stop a new menace – the evil sugar soldiers. Now that the Lands of Color and Shapes have a common enemy, can they put aside their differences to stop them from taking over?

What I Thought- This is a nice prequel to The Land Without Color, andEllefson keeps the spirit of the first true to this book as well. I like that there is a message about eating good healthy foods, but it isn’t forced upon the readers – just subtly stated as the better option. That is good, so kids won’t be turned away from eating veggies as much. Ellefson has a great writing style, where you really connect with the characters. I also like that the character of Otto inspires ingenuity, because even if a problem arises he will look around and find a creative way out of the problem. This is a really neat series; I like how there are things that occur in it that have blatant disregard for the laws of reality – that makes it more fun! I cannot wait for the last book in this series!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

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