Tag Archives: book review

Review! Beast & Crown by Joel Ross

21 Nov

Beast & Crown
By Joel Ross
384 pages – ages 9+
Published by Harper Collins on August 22, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “Boot boy Ji is tired of scrubbing soles and untangling shoelaces. He doesn’t want to bow and scrape. All he wants is freedom—for himself and his friends.

He decides to risk everything for a chance to accompany a young nobleman to the Diadem Rite, a magical ritual that chooses the heir to the Summer Crown. Ji doesn’t care about crowns or ceremonies, but he vows that this trip will grant him and his friends new lives, far away from boots and bowing. What Ji doesn’t know is that he and his friends have a dangerous part to play in the Diadem Rite. One that will change them forever.”

What I Thought- I really enjoyed this fantastical fantasy novel from Mr. Ross. I’ve read his other books, and they were great, but I will say that this is perhaps my favorite. One thing I like is that the book explores the topic of how much our life is determined by where we start – the main characters are (for the most part) servants at an estate, and they want to be able to be free. The world Ross builds is such an excellent fantasy setting – I especially like that the book borders on dystopian, just set in fantastical medieval times. The society seems wonderful at first glance, but when you look beyond the surface, you see how wretched it really is. Ross writes in a narrative tone that is very fitting for the characters and audience, perfectly suited for the intended age-range of readers. The cover art is amazing – love the art deco feel to it. Another thing I really liked was the peculiarities of the culture. It was fascinating hearing the history of the land, and about the humans’ intolerance for non-human beings. It will be fun to see how that outlook changes. In a way, the book could be seen as a call for acceptance. I had such a fun time reading this book, I read it in only two days – I can’t wait for the next book in this new series!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! Avians by Timothy Gwyn

11 Oct

Avians
By Timothy Gwyn
316 pages – ages 12+
Published by Five Rivers Publishing on August 1, 2017

Synopsis from Publisher- “Orphans. Runaways. Thieves. The Avians don’t ask questions about a girl’s past. Or her age. They need glider pilots, and the smaller the better.

Raisa is fourteen. Born to a line of powerful silk merchants, her rebellion against an arranged marriage is doomed. The Avians are her only alternative.

Mel is the young servant blamed for Raisa’s disappearance. She meets an Avian recruiter and seizes the chance to spite her employer.

When Mel and Raisa are sworn in with two other girls to form Blackbird squad, their simmering conflict undermines the whole team.

The flying is difficult, the discipline is fierce, and the older pilots don’t even bother to learn their names. The Blackbirds are starting to look like the weakest squad in years.

Then a deadly accident reveals the truth: only the best survive.”

What I Thought- This was an extremely well-written dystopian book. The book takes place on a planet (Celadon) that was inhabited after humans left Earth. It is quite fascinating. The character of Raisa is very well-developed, with aspects that both make you love her and hate her – she’s a brat, but she’s the main character, so it creates an awesome conflict. It also makes it really amazing when she starts to go through changes as a character. I also really enjoyed Chief Corvid, the leader of the entire Avian fleet – the book shows her struggles as commander, with making tough decisions and being moral support for the Avians, quite well, in a touching manner. The book is clean, with no content for kids, but I do think the book is better for an older audience, because the style of the book just lends itself to a more mature reading. For example, there is not much humor – the story’s tone reflects the dystopian feel of the book. Gwyn is able to write in a way that doesn’t make a book dark or light, but just perfect for upper middle-grade readers wanting a more serious book. I really like that. I cannot wait to read the second book when it comes out!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Book Birthday! Bruce’s Big Move by Ryan T. Higgins #BRUCESBIGMOVE

26 Sep

 

 

I’ve been helping a friend move today…

 

Let’s Celebrate a book birthday today! BRUCE’S BIG MOVE!

Bruce’s Big Move

 

Series: The Bruce Series #3 (#1, #2)
By Ryan T. Higgins
48 pages – ages 5+
Published by Disney-Hyperion September 26, 2017 [TODAY!!!]

Synopsis from Publisher- “After the events of Hotel Bruce, our favorite curmudgeonly bear shares his home with not only his four geese, but three rowdy mice besides! Fed up with their shenanigans, Bruce sets off to find a rodent-free household. But as usual, nothing goes quite according to plan…”

What I Thought- My FAVORITE grouchy bear is back!! The Mother Bruce series sets a high standard for a third book, and luckily the latest book is able to match the first two! The third book in the series captures the sweet feeling of the first and the humor of the second. It has messages of how you can’t choose family (but maybe that’s what you need!), and how love can be shown in different ways. Bruce is tired of his house always being a mess, and decides that the mice (uninvited guests who won’t leave from the second book, Hotel Bruce) are the problem, and decides to ditch them. But in the end the mice return and Bruce realizes how his life is a bit better because of them (but not too much – he is, after all, a grump!). The reader can’t help but smile as Bruce tries to find serenity but ends up with more to love. I like that Higgins appropriately keeps the humor in it low-key and subtle. The illustrations are excellent, with an excess of simple details that make the spreads engaging to the readers as they look over them while reading.

I can’t wait to see more of Bruce’s adventures with his family!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

Review! Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein

24 Sep

Dirt
By Denise Gosliner Orenstein
224 pages – ages 8-12
Published by Scholastic Press on July 25, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “Things are hard for eleven-year-old Yonder. Her mother died and her father has sunk into sadness. She doesn’t have a friend to her name . . . except for Dirt, the Shetland pony next door.

Dirt has problems of his own. He’s overweight, he’s always in trouble, and his owner is the mean Miss Enid, who doesn’t have the patience for a pony’s natural curiosity. His only friend is Yonder, the scrawny girl next door. So when Miss Enid makes the cruel decision to sell Dirt for horsemeat, Yonder knows she has to find a way to rescue him. Even if that means stealing Dirt away and sneaking him into her own house. What follows will make you worry, will make you cry, and will ultimately fill you with hope, love, and an unshakable belief in the power of friendship. Especially the four-legged kind. ”

What I Thought- I had mixed feelings about this book. The intended audience is ages 8-12 and I felt it was a tad heavy for that age. Unlike most young middle-grade stories, this one had no real solution to the problems to even say that they worked out in the end, even if it wasn’t the solution the reader was hoping for. Honestly, I think Orenstein is trying to tell a Young Adult story in a lower Middle Grade book – she has so many great aspects to the plot, but then throws in a lot of material suited for an older audience. Yonder has so many problems, it weighs the story down. Plus no one seems to notice and offer help to Yonder.  That being said, the story has so many wonderful aspects – a window into bonds between animals and kids with disabilities, kids in poor circumstances – I think if this novel was geared toward a bit older audience and given a bit more to the story, it would be spectacular. If you have a tween who likes sad stories or a teen who is looking for a quick read, this book is well worth a try.

I give this book three 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! 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! 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!

Creative Kid Thursday! Josie Reviews #PETERRIFIC!

1 Jun

Today is Creative Kid Thursday! YAAAAAAY! A day where I feature other Creative Kids. Today I have a guest reviewer – Josie! I happen to be Josie’s big brother. Josie was excited to review Peterrific as she is a big fan of Pinkalicious and was happy to see Peter get his own book.

Peterrific
By Victoria Kann
40 pages – ages 4 – 8
Series: Pinkalicious
Published by HarperCollins on May 2, 2017

Summary from the Publisher: In Peterrific, readers can follow Peter’s own adventures as he builds a tower of blocks all the way to the moon. Peter loves to build with blocks. One day, he decides to build a tower that will reach the moon, and he wants to do it all by himself. Will the moon be made of cheese? Can he catch a shooting star? As Peter climbs higher and higher into space, he discovers he doesn’t have a way down! He’ll have to figure out what to do next—all by himself.

What Josie Thought:  I really like Pincalicious and am happy that Peter gets his own book! I liked how in the story Pinkalicious is helping Peter build his tower and they are working together. I also like how Peterrific is in gold sparkly letters on the cover of the book. The inside pictures are nice. I really like the ones that show outer space and the one where Peter is looking at the moon is really cool! I think I would have liked to have seen more of Peter in space trying to get a star for his mom. I like that Peter thinks to design his tower before building it. That is smart. I hope Peter gets another book!

I give this book four out of five bookworms!

Go to the Pinkalicious website to find some Peterrific downloadable activities.

You can get a sneak peek of the inside of the book HERE

For those of you in the Philadelphia Area, Victoria Kann will be at the Doylestown Bookshop in Doylestown PA on June 3rd at 2pm for a PETERRIFIC storytime!

 

Review! Cheesus Was Here by J.C. Davis

22 May

Cheesus Was Here
By J.C. Davis
272 pages – ages 13+
Published by Sky Pony Press on April 11, 2017

Synopsis– Delaney Delgado isn’t the biggest fan of God. After all, if there was a God, why would he have let her sister die? It’s just easier to think that He doesn’t exist then to think he has a vendetta against her family. When she buys a piece of cheese-a Babybel cheese wheel!-appears at a convenience store, she thinks nothing of it. Until the Baby Jesus is revealed underneath the wrapping. Suddenly her town is full of “miracles” and hopeful tourists. Delaney is sure the miracles are fake, even as more and more keep appearing. Enlisting her best friend, she sets out to prove them wrong. But can she handle the truth?

What I Thought- This was a really good book – I like how Davis has made it so it isn’t really in favor of or against religion – just a town that is receiving “miracles” and a girl trying to disprove it with a friend that hopes to prove it. The book is rather true to teenage life. The dialogue is spot on even with a bit of cuss words but it isn’t overly done. Davis has created a small town that is full of mostly religious citizens and adds the contrast of a character that has given up on God. I was drawn to the quirky story line with the deeper human story behind it. Davis balances heartbreak wonderfully with humor to make the story incredibly emotionally full. The opposing views of the townspeople and Delaney leads for an interesting read. I had an interesting time with this book. When first cracking it open, I thought I was going to love it, but was immediately put off by the atheistic main character. After delving into the book further I found that Delaney’s perspective allowed me to look introspectively at my own beliefs. I grew to appreciate the story more than if I had never disliked the character initially. Weird, I know; but true. This was a very good book, thought provoking book. I would like to read more from Davis in the future.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!

My May 2017 Upper Bucks Free Press Article is out! Illustrating with the Papps

1 May

I write for the UBFP Newspaper!

 

I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Upper Bucks Free Press (the newspaper I write for) for the May 2017 issue! The online version was published. To see the online version of the newspaper, click HERE (see page 17).

Hope you enjoy it!

 

Illustrating with the Papps

 

by Erik Weibel

Robert and Lisa Papp are a husband-and-wife artistic duo! They work as professional book illustrators, but also tend to work on anything that involves painting. Lisa Papp has illustrated several picture books, and written a few as well. “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog”–a book she wrote and illustrated–has been nominated for several awards, including being a 2017 finalist for the Children’s Choice Book Award. Robert Papp always liked drawing, and his love of art flows through into his work. He creates art “for almost everything. And for anyone that needs his services.” He has drawn for cookbooks, advertisements, board games, and his art will even be featured on postage stamps in 2018.  I had the wonderful opportunity to interview these Bucks County artists.

When did the two of you realize that you both wanted to be professional illustrators?

Lisa: Even though Rob and I attended the same art school, we had different paths into illustration. As Rob will tell you, he was enamored with illustration in school. I was in love with fine art, and had no real interest in illustration. If you had told me then that I would be an illustrator, I would have thought you crazy. I adored fine art. I loved painting what I wanted, the way I wanted. And though I had deadlines…art shows to create work for, there was a great sense of freedom. Though Rob was focused on illustration, he also enjoyed fine art. We would paint all week preparing for shows on the weekend. When Saturday morning came, we would pack his Mercury Capri with our homemade art stands and all the framed art we had created that week and spend the afternoon at a beautiful park selling our work. Usually we did pretty well. This was the early 90’s, Rob and I were fresh out of school and it was a good time for fine art. People appreciated original paintings and were willing to buy them. It was great and I assumed that’s what I would be doing forever. But everything changes, and you have to change with it. When fine art took a hit, we had to shift.

 

So my path to illustration was a slow and winding one. When I got my first picture book, “Rudolph Shines Again”, I found a whole new joy in illustration. And today, writing my own stories, which I then get to illustrate, is everything I could dream of.

 

Rob:  I always drew. Ever since I was little. I drew Superman and Batman. Cartoon characters, Snoopy, and always drew pictures to accompany my book reports in school.  So it was no surprise that I wanted to be an “artist”, even though I didn’t know exactly what that meant.

 

In art school, that changed when I discovered exactly what an “illustrator” was.  I learned that someone actually hires you and pays you for your art. No longer did I have to create a piece of art first and then HOPE someone will buy it. 

The two of you paint in very different styles. Do you think that being involved in each other’s work has helped you grow as an artist?

Lisa: Yes, definitely. Just when I think I’ve created something impressive, I will see a piece that Rob is working on and think, “oh, I guess I’ve got to try a little harder.” It’s wonderful that we can give each other a fresh eye, and help when one of us is struggling with a piece. I feel very lucky indeed.

Rob:  In general, being around art is always inspiring, but having someone that inspires me IN THE SAME HOUSE is really neat. It takes a lot of pressure off knowing that when I have a question, the answer can be as close as the next room over. So many times when you are completely involved in a piece, you can be blinded as to what it needs. Lisa always has a great eye for what needs to be done when I can’t see it. I don’t think my art would be as good without Lisa’s help.  

 

Other than your own or each other – who’s art work do you admire and why?

Lisa: I am a big fan of Lisbeth Zwerger, an Austrian illustrator. She has a fantastic imagination and the skills to back it up! Her watercolors are pure magic. Never overworked, and I love her color palettes as well. She’s just one of those people you describe as, “born to be an artist.” I love her whimsy, and I admire her incredible skill. It’s so inspiring to page through her work, I’m always left in awe.

 

Rob: When I stated out being an illustrator for paperback books, I learned from, and was inspired by the golden age of paperback illustrators. Not many people would know their names, but they would have been exposed to their amazing art. James Bama and Robert McGinnis produced 1000’s of covers in the 1970’s and eventually became equally amazing fine artists.  Peter Caras was my illustration instructor and not only an incredible artist, but as a teacher, I can credit him directly for teaching me how to be an illustrator.

 

Of course living here in Pennsylvania, I cannot neglect the brilliance of N.C. and Andrew Wyeth.

 

Ms. Papp, when did you decide to write a book, in addition to illustrating?

Lisa: I think I like writing more than I do illustrating. At least, it comes a bit easier to me. I have always written, though I never read books growing up. Writing seems second nature to me. As I began to illustrate other people’s stories, I realized I had my own stories I wanted to tell. Picture books seemed like a good place to start.

To learn more go to  Lisapapp.com and Robertpapp.com. For more on books and reading, visit my blog at ThisKidReviewsBooks.com

 

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