Saturday, June 25, 2016

Miss Burton Unmasks a Prince

By Jennifer Moore

1812
Southern Belle Meg Burton is her parents last hope of avoiding financial ruin, and a distant cousin’s kind gesture seems an ideal solution: he will sponsor Meg for a London Season. The Pursuit of a wealthy husband was not exactly how the bookish young woman had envisioned her first trip abroad—after all, what does a girl from Charleston, South Carolina, know about being a lady? Amidst the stunning gowns and extravagant balls of the ton, Meg feels like an imposter. Thankfully, she has one friend who knows her true self—Carlo, a handsome stable hand. Despite their difference in station, love blossoms between the unlikely pair, and Meg is sure of one thing: she wants nothing to do with the insufferable European aristocracy.
Prince Rodrigo de Talavera has lost everything to Napoleon. Jaded by war, he has become bitter and miserable—until he meets Meg, an American woman whose eccentric schemes and passion for life remind him what it is to laugh and to love. If only she knew him for himself and not as Carlo the stable hand. With the shadow of deception looming over their happy acquaintance and the dangers of war drawing ever more near, can Meg and Rodrigo find the courage to put aside their pretenses and discover if they can be loved as they truly are?

Okay, this is my favorite so far from Jennifer Moore. I did like Becoming Lady Lockwood, but didn’t care so much for Lady Emma’s Campaign. This was right down my ally. Meg is a southern belle that has traveled across the sea for a London season, and she worries that she will never be up to snuff for the polite society in London. She feels homesick and out of place until she meets Carlo, the stable hand, and makes a friend. What she doesn’t realize is that Carlo lied about who he really was, and he is in fact, Prince Rodrigo from Spain. Afraid that he will lose the only friend and companion who doesn’t treat him like a trophy if he tells the truth, Rodrigo is frustrated when he starts to fall for the spirited Meg. And, like so many love stories before this one, we are left to wonder if the lies will prove too much for a love that could be once in a lifetime. While the premise is not new by a longshot, there’s a reason it’s used so often. It works. I loved reading this. Rodrigo is burdened by the war he and his sister left behind, Meg by her homesickness and feeling so out of place in a new country. I loved their story and it was a great way to indulge my need for a clean romance.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Westly: a Spider's Tale

By Brian Beus

When Westly emerges from his cocoon, not as a beautiful butterfly, but as a spider, he is rejected by the butterfly kingdom and undertakes a journey to discover who he really is. But not even the dirt eaters can offer him answers. Not the dragonfly, the centipede, the moth, or even Zug Zug, the fly. None have ever seen an eight-legged creature who can spin webs. However, Westly’s new friend the Raven has offered to help. If only the Raven could get inside the glass menagerie where Westly and the other bugs lives. Yes, yes, the Raven is sure he could change everything. But sometimes things don’t turn out the way we plan.

This is a sweet tale that reminded me a bit of “Hope for the Flowers”.  But in this tale, the caterpillar knows what he is destined to be: a butterfly, the most majestic and perfect of the animals in their kingdom. When the caterpillars all go into a cocoon, Westly does not come out a beautiful butterfly, but to his dismay he comes out a monster that he doesn’t even recognize. He runs away and falls down to the place where the crawlers live. Nobody has ever seen anything like Westly, but unlike the butterflies, they welcome him so long as he works for his keep. Westly is desperate to return to the life he thinks he deserves, as a butterfly, so when he meets a Raven claiming to know how help him, Westly is sucked into a plot the could destroy everything. Westly is a cute and short novel that I enjoyed but will not likely read again.


I give it a 3 out of 5

Switch

By Ingrid Law

Gypsy Beaumont has always been a whirly-twirly free spirit, so as her thirteenth birthday approaches, she hopes to get a magical ability that will let her fly, or dance up to the stars. Instead, she wakes up on her birthday to blurry vision…and starts seeing flashes of the future and past. But when Momma and Poppa announce that her very un-magical, downright mean Grandma Pat has Alzheimer’s and is going to move in with them, Gypsy’s savvy—along with her family’s—suddenly becomes its opposite. Now it’s savvy mayhem as Gypsy starts freezing time, and no one could have predicted what would happen on their trip to bring Grandma Pat home…not even Gypsy.

This has been a long time coming! I’m so glad that Ingrid Law is continuing the stories of the Beaumont family and the Savvy world. The special thing about her books is that they aren’t just about fantastical powers or crazy plots, they’re ultimately about finding your true self. Gypsy is a free spirit, utterly unique and a bright spot in her family, but coming up on her 13th Savvy birthday Gypsy is not only wondering what her Savvy will be, but is dealing with how others see and treat her. Trying to be ‘normal’ and have friends makes her shrink a little from who she really is, and she has a tough choice to make; be whirly-twirly self, or someone who doesn’t stand out, but is accepted in society. True to form, while tackling this question, all kinds of havoc is wreaked as Gypsy gets her Savvy and the family goes through yet another change with Grandma Pat coming to live with them. The result is another Beaumont road trip. If you’ve read Savvy and Scumble, (And if you haven’t, please please do!) you won’t be disappointed in Law’s third book.


I give it a 3.75 out of 5

Clementine Books 1-7

By Sarah Pennypacker
Clementine is having not so good of a week.

-On Monday she's sent to the principal’s office for cutting off Margaret’s hair.
- Tuesday, Margaret's mother is mad at her. 
- Wednesday, she's sent to the principal... again. 
- Thursday, Margaret stops speaking to her. 
- Friday starts with yucky eggs and gets worse. 
- And by Saturday, even her mother is mad at her.
Okay, fine. Clementine is having a DISASTROUS week.

This is such a cute and well written series. I hope there are more. Clementine is a little firecracker of a girl and is capable of getting herself into more trouble than most little girls. One of the things I love about this series is that Clementine is such a unique character that it is easy to believe she is a real little girl living out in the world somewhere. Her family is another high point with her artist mother, her father who is the maintenance man in their apartment complex, and her little brother who we never figure out his real name because Clementine is determined he’ll have a vegetable name because she got stuck with a fruit name. This series is cute, full of life and troubles, and would be a wonderful read-aloud to kids. It’s a great book because it will entertain kids and adults alike as the kids will understand and laugh at Clementine’s shenanigans and the adults will shake their heads and laugh at her parents’ reactions. This is a great series and can be read quickly with a smile.


I give the series a 4 out of 5

Beastly Bones

By William Ritter

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R.F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural.
First, members of a particularly vicious species of shapeshifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in a nearby Gad’s Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from new Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

This sequel to “Jackaby” is just as oddly cute as the first book. This book centers more on Abigail than Jackaby, however, and has a more definite young adult book feel to it. I enjoyed the first book because it was quirky and reminded me strongly of Doctor Who with the unconventional protagonist of R.F. Jackaby, who I’m convinced we will never know his actual first name (Coincidence? I think not). Abigail is fine as a narrator, but she does start to grate on my nerves a little in this one. She can be a little too contradictory in nature. She’s described as an independent thinker, but she also comes across as being slow. I understand that it can be difficult to write giving the reader more information than the characters have, but if not handled very well it makes the characters seem stupid when they aren’t. I wish the book focused a little more on the mystery of Jackaby. There are a lot of blanks to fill in with him that I would like to know about. It was rather disappointing to see this turn in plot for the series and I’m hoping that it won’t be exclusively about Abigail. She is slotted as the book’s ‘everyman’ that the reader will be able to identify with, but Jacaby is so much more interesting that it’s because of him that I’ll keep reading. While I didn’t like this sequel as much as the first, I still plan on reading the next book which is about another interesting character, the original owner of Jackaby’s house, the ghost, Jenny.


I give this a 3 out of 5

Unraveled

By Julie Daines

In the years since the fever that took both her family and her ability to walk, sixteen-year-old Bronwen has been relegated to the lonely status of cripple. But when a fortuitous encounter with a mysterious mountain witch reveals the magical possibility of regaining the use of her legs, Bronwen can’t help but envision the life she never had. Powerless to resist the promise of a second chance, Bronwen dons the enchanted but homely shoes the witch gives her and embarks on a journey that takes her from her small village in the countryside to the glittering court of the king—and from a lonely life of solitude to a life filled with attention from two very different young men. But when Bronwen’s desire to be accepted leads to compounding lies and a mountain of trouble, the power of true love is tested. Can Brownwen’s dream of being happy, whole, and loved ever be attained?

After looking at the cover for this book I was expecting some kind of twist on the Cinderella story, and that tinted my reading of the book, but in a good way. I felt like I was reading a fairy tale retelling but wasn’t quite sure which fairy tale. I liked this easy-to-read story and enjoyed the setting of Wales. Bronwen is a girl who gets the chance to see what her life could’ve been if circumstance and sickness hadn’t changed her fate. She is a cripple, and feels like she will never have the life she dreams of with a husband and family of her own one day. She knows that no man will want a crippled wife. So she sets about her daily chores trying to content herself with her home and the things she can still do. But when she is kind to a witch, she finds herself bequeathed a ratty pair of shoes that are much more than they seem. They give her healthy legs again, but at a cost. She sets out at the urging of her mother to present herself to the court. It is there that she learns how different life is for her now that others see her as ‘whole’. Throw in two different men who both care for her in different ways, and all the lies that she has told to keep her secret, Bronwen has found that life isn’t easy even when you’ve got two sturdy legs to stand on. This is a quick read that is more than just a romantic story, it’s a story about being honest and true to yourself and recognizing that strength is about more than being whole or broken.


I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Imaginary

By A.F. Harold

Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. Nobody else can see Rudger—until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives at Amanda’s door. Mr. Bunting hunts imaginaries. Rumor has it that he even eats them. And now he’s found Rudger.
Soon Rudger is alone, and running for his imaginary life. He needs to find Amanda before Mr. Bunting catches him—and before Amanda forgets him and he fades away to nothing. But how can an unreal boy stand alone in the real world?

This is a quick little read, probably focused at older elementary aged children, but I was surprised to find a dark undertone to this book. Mr. Bunting (this has to have a reference to the nursery rhyme right?) is a man who eats imaginary friends. This story is all about Rudger, an imaginary who has lost his friend and is being hunted by Mr. Bunting. It’s a bittersweet story about imagination, growing up, and knowing when to let go and when to hang on tight.


I give it a 3 out of 5- average.