Saturday, June 25, 2016

Miss Burton Unmasks a Prince

By Jennifer Moore

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


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


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. 

Lord Fenton's Folly

By Josi S. Kilpack

Lord Fenton is a gambler and a dandy, and he will be stripped of his wealth and position unless he rises to his responsibility—one of which is to marry. Far from being a giddy groom, Fenton chooses the unobjectionable Alice Stanbridge simply because he had known her as a young girl and his mother feels Alice would make a good wife.
Alice, however, has harbored feelings for Fenton since their first meeting years ago, and his proposal is a dream come true. Not only would a match with the most-eligible bachelor in London secure her future, but it will also give her a place of distinction and admiration. Had anyone admired Alice for anything before now?
When Alice learns that she is not only an unwanted wife, but a demanded one, however, she closes her heart. Only when Lord Fenton faces the greatest trial of his life does he begin to find love beyond the folly. Could a great love come from a beginning such as this?

The historical regency “proper” romances are one of my guilty pleasures, and I can’t help but blow through them for a shot of warm fuzzy goodness. I was especially excited about this one because of Lord Fenton’s funny cameos in Kilpack’s other regency romance “A Heart Revealed” and was looking forward to seeing the comedic Fenton meet his match (pun intended). This was an unpleasing read for me. I’m going to give a few spoilers in the following so stop reading if you don’t want to know. Usually there is some kind of moral hang up that happens preventing the romance from progressing. This is the case for Fenton, who has an issue with intimacy because of the transgressions of his father. I had a really hard time reading this because of that. I disliked reading it, and it didn’t feel like a true ‘proper’ romance because of it. As I’ve always stated however, I am highly sensitive and don’t care for anything of a sexual nature in my books. A good kiss is okay, but other than that makes me uncomfortable.

I give it a 2.75 out of 5


By Betsy Cornwell

Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her ‘mechanica’ to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: there’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.

There are literally hundreds of different retellings of Cinderella, and being the avid fairy-tale connoisseur that I am, how can I turn down a steam-punk version of the famous story? Mechanica is interesting because of the machines and world that was built to house a mechanical genius Cinderella. One of the more interesting aspects of the world building here is that there are still fairies and magic, but the mechanical is where the humans lean, and the mixture of the two is considered treasonous. While this version has all of the classic themes, like a ball, slipper, fairy godmother, and the stepmother and sisters, it has plenty of originality and a great twist ending that made this a really fun read. If you enjoy retellings as much as me, this one is worth a gander.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5 

The Immortal Nicholas

By Glenn Beck

Before he was Father Christmas he was simply a father.

Author Glenn Beck realized years ago that somewhere along the way, his four children had become more focused on Santa than the meaning of Christmas. No matter how he tried, he could not redirect their attention away from presents and elves to the manger instead.
Glenn didn’t want to be the Grinch who spoiled the magic of Kris Kringle, so he had to find a unique way to turn his kids back toward the true meaning of Christmas. He decided the best place to start was by first turning Santa himself back toward Christ.
That was when one of America’s best storytellers began to craft a tale that would change everything his kids thought they knew about Santa—the incredible story he went on to tell them that Christmas Eve spans over a thousand years and explains the meaning behind the immortality and generosity of the man named Claus.
The Immortal Nicholas has now been expanded and reimagined into this novel for adults; a novel full of drama, history, legend, and heart. From the snowy mountains of western Asia, to the deserts of Egypt, to Yemen’s elusive frankincense-bearing boswellia trees, this is an epic tale that gives the legend of Santa a long overdue Christ-centered mission.
In this novel, Glenn Beck fundamentally transforms the figure that the world now mainly associates with shopping, all while staying true to the real story of the baby who brought redemption and salvation to the entire world.

When I saw this book last Christmas I was excited to see what Glenn Beck had done with the legend of Santa Claus. I was expecting a tale of redemption, warmth, and that special feeling that comes with Christmas. I was disappointed to find that, while this book is first rate and has a long and engrossing tale to tale, it was not what I wanted out of a Christmas book. The “Santa” of the story is a man who experiences loss of every kind, and must find a way to live and keep living, for he discovers that he has become immortal. It is a tale of survival and cruelty, of family, love, and hope. As stated, it is a good novel and story, but not a feel good read. There is a lot of battle, bloodshed and cruelty in this book and it focuses a lot on the misery and difficulty of life. Of course Glenn does introduce Jesus Christ at one point and His teachings. It just fell flat for me, which was disappointing.

It gets a 3 out of 5


By Sherrilyn Kenyon

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough, and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends…until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, the teenaged Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.
Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead. But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh-eating zombies—and he’s next on the menu. As if starting high school isn’t hard enough…now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chain saw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?

I picked up the audiobook version of this popular YA series, and was impressed by the narrator. This book has plenty of snark, attitude, and supernatural beings. Nick Gautier is a kid who would do anything to please his mom, tries his best to not let the kids as his fancy prep school get him down for being poor, and is doing what he can to figure out a whole new world where he discovers zombies, werewolves, vampires, and vampire hunters exist…and maybe possibly demons and gods.
This book had plenty of teenage southern sass in it, which probably wouldn’t come across as well to someone who just read the book versus someone who listened to the audiobook. As a whole, this book was entertaining and introduced some mysteries to hook readers into figuring out just what the future holds for Nick. My biggest hang up about it was the swearing and the tone. If it weren’t for Nick’s near constant sarcasm, this book would be too dark for me. As it stands, I’ll not be reading the rest of the series. The sexual comments, liberal profanity, and demons, murdering, and the promise of even more mayhem as the series progresses turned off my desire to continue the series. However, if you like horror, demons, sassy southerners, immortals, and mysteries, you should probably pick this up. It’s a fast paced good read if you don’t mind the above mentioned content.

I give it a 3 out of 5

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ranger's Apprentice The Early Years: The Tournament at Gorlan

By John Flanagan

When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been infiltrating the Rangers in order to corrupt the Corps, the young Rangers travel north to find Prince Duncan, seeking a royal warrant to stop Morgarath before it is too late. By weakening the Ragners, the most powerful force in support of the King, Morgarath plans to steal the throne.
Yet when Halt and Crowley arrive in Gorlan, they discover just how close Morgarath has a plan to discredit the Prince and alienate him from his father. At the same time, the Baron of Gorlan has been conspiring to win the trust and admiration of the Council of Barons to further his plan. If the young Rangers are to prevent the coup from succeeding, they will have to tread a dangerous path, which leads them to a thrilling climax at the annual tournament at Gorlan, where a series of bitter duels must be fought and won.
This origin story brings readers to a time before Will was an apprentice, and lays the groundwork for the epic battles that will culminate with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge.

YES!!! I love you forever and ever Mr. Flanagan for giving me more Ranger’s Apprentice! Especially since this new series, (yes series!) is all about my man Halt. If you read The Lost Stories, you know the story called The Hibernian, which explains how Halt came to know Crowley and also how he was trained as a Ranger. This book picks up where The Hibernian leaves off, and brings us right into the rise of the evil Morgarath and his plot to take over Araluen. We’ve got sword fights, torture, revenge, chases, escapes, true love…well it’s not the Princess Bride, but it’s just as good! I love this series, and I’ll recommend it to pretty much anybody who likes a warm friendship filled adventure. Keep ‘em coming Mr. Flanagan!

It gets a 4 out of 5

Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer

By Rick Riordan

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.
One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.
When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.
Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die…

I cannot say how excited I was when I learned that Rick Riordan would be doing another series based on Norse mythology. Admittedly, I only had a basic knowledge of the Norse god family tree, but I was on tenterhooks wondering just who Magnus’s godly parent would be. After all, that’s part of the fun right? I was not disappointed in Riordan’s choice, in fact I was downright ecstatic! Not what I was expecting, but I’m excited to see where Magnus will go with that pedigree. (No spoilers I promise!) I also enjoyed the fact that Riordan tied this series into the Percy Jackson series with Annabeth being Magnus’s cousin. Nice.
If you enjoyed Percy Jackson, definitely give Magnus a go. You get a new look at the more well-known gods like Thor, Loki, and Odin, made popular by the Avengers and Thor movies. Which also get a pop culture mention that made me laugh. This book stays more true to the mythology and not the comic-ology that most people know. It’s a fun rollick around the nine realms, meeting different species like dwarves and elves. It was pretty awesome people. Just read this and try not to like it. Although, it may help to do a Wikipedia search of the basics of Norse mythology before you start. It makes it more fun to read when you have a working idea of the story behind the story.

I give it a solid 4 out of 5

The Tapestry book 4: The Maelstrom

By Henry Neff

The world is at the brink of ruin…or is it salvation? Astaroth has been weakened, and the demon Prusias is taking full advantage of the situation to create and empire of his own. His formidable armies are on the move, and Rowan is in their sights. Rowan must rely on Max McDaniels and David Menlo and hope that their combined powers can stop Prusias’s war machine before it’s too late. But even as perils loom, danger stalks their every move. Someone has marked Max for death and no one is above suspicion. Should the assassins succeed, Rowan’s fate may depend on little Mina whose abilities are prodigious but largely untested. And where is Astaroth? Has he fled this world or is he biding his time, awaiting his next opportunity?

Henry Neff created a pretty awesome world when he began The Tapestry series. It was compared to Harry Potter when it first appeared, and was one of the many ‘magical boarding school’ novels to come out after Harry Potter. What makes The Tapestry special, is that it’s a series you honestly can’t predict. It’s got mythological creatures, secret warrior guilds, gods and demons, and so many twists and turns that it makes me giddy to read them. I still don’t think I’ll ever get over the third book’s well scene. That’s all I’m saying. Creepy. As. Heck. But awesome!
Finally I was able to grab the audiobook and listen to The Maelstrom (book 4) as I commuted to work and back every day. I had forgotten how much I love this series. It also made it great that the narrator was really good. The goblin voices were spot on, as well as Prusias’s oily voice. One of the things that genuinely surprised and delighted me was how this world that was created by Neff fell to demons. The good guys didn’t win, they’ve been hanging on for dear life and fighting for it for nearly the whole series. Max and David have gone on a secret mission to discover what they can about a supposed weapon that the demon Prusias has commissioned to destroy Rowan before they go to war. It’s a break neck ride and more than once I was afraid for the lives of my favorite characters.
This story is involved, and the penultimate novel in the series, ending with a war for Rowan’s survival. It’s amazing and crazy good. My only criticism is that the 5th and final book of the series is only available in e-book format! Gah! I want it now, but have to save my pennies to buy it on my kindle. It’s one of those stories that I want to finish, but am also afraid to finish because I don’t want it to be over. I’m stretching this out as long as I can stand!

I give it a 4.25 out of 5

The One Thing

By Marci Lyn Curtis

Maggie Sanders might be blind but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal. Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory. Then Maggie’s whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she’s ever met. Ben’s life isn’t easy, but he doesn’t see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn’t have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she’s currently dreaming of is mason Milton, the magnetic lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben’s brother. But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future…before she loses everything she has grown to love.

I read this with high expectations, and was a tad let down. The interesting thing about this book, the mystery that you keep reading trying to figure out (why Maggie can see Ben and no one else) is a let-down. While you do find out why she can see Ben, it’s a superficial explanation and doesn’t really answer ‘how’. This is a story that isn’t concerned with detailing the fantasy aspect of the novel, but focuses on the moral and coming-of-age implications of the plot. I found that irritating and a cop-out. Even a one paragraph explanation of how she can see Ben would’ve made me a lot happier. With that said, I did enjoy learning a little more about blindness and how people are taught to live with it and function as normally as they can. I enjoy learning that way and was intrigued when I came across information I didn’t know. The love story was okay, but this was more of Maggie’s story of learning to live with a disability that changed her dreams and focus in life. It was pretty run of the mill for a YA novel though. Nothing really exciting or noteworthy.

I give it a 3 out of 5

Flora and Ulysses

By Kate DiCamillo

The 2014 Newbery Medal winner. Holy unanticipated occurrences! This is a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black and white by K.G. Campbell.

Tackling hard themes, Kate DiCamillo introduces little Flora, a girl with a big imagination, divorced parents, intriguing neighbors, and a super-powered squirrel she names Ulysses. Be ready to follow the meeting and friendship of Flora and Ulysses with a ready smile and a thoughtful heart. This is a story of belonging, loyalty, and learning just what really matters in life. There’s a definite reason this book won a Newbery. My only disclaimer is that the mother smokes quite heavily and also is a writer of romance novels, which comes into play in a few minor instances. I suggest this book for older kids at least 12 and up just for some of the more mature themes of divorce and relationships.

I give it a 4 out of 5

The One and Only Ivan

By Katherine Applegate

Winner of the 2013 Newberry Medal and a #1 New York Times Bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself.
Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life if the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

This is a sweet story of an artist named Ivan. Ivan happens to be a gorilla that lives in a small mall zoo. His paintings are sold to tourists and he is pretty content with his life and his friends. Bob is the mutt that stays with him sometimes, sleeping on Ivan’s belly at night. Stella is the old and wise elephant that is Ivan’s best friend. Then things start changing around the mall. A new baby elephant is sent there, and Stella makes Ivan promise to take care of her. In this short novel we come to care for and cheer for Ivan, Stella, and Bob, along with their human friends who band together to save baby Ruby, and in turn just might find a better life for themselves as well. 

4 out of 5

The Inheritance

By Louisa May Alcott

The first novel written by a 17 year old Louisa May Alcott, isn’t the best novel she’s written, but it is quite possibly one of the sweetest. Edith Adelon is a lady’s maid to young Amy Hamilton, whose father saved Edith from an Italian orphanage as a child. Edith is thrown into high society with Amy quite suddenly when the Hamilton’s cousin Ida Glenshaw comes to stay and find herself a husband. The ensuing story is one of sweet first loves, betrayal, and family. It’s a lovely little novella that can be read in a day or so, and for those who enjoy movie adaptations, I highly recommend the adaptation starring Thomas Gibson (Criminal Minds). It’s one of my go-to movies when I need a sweet romance.

It gets a 3.5 out of 5 (But the movie gets a 4 out of 5!)