Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Teen Tuesday: Beasts of Prey by Ayana Grey

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Grey. 388 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers, September 28, 2021. 9780593405680. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Teen Tuesday features a mesmerizing debut fantasy called Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray. Sixteen-year-old Kofi lives in the city of Lkossa, which sits at the edge of the Greater Jungle, where the dreaded Shetani lives and feeds on unlucky citizens. Koffi is indentured to the Night Zoo due to a debt her now-dead father could not pay. She and her mother care for the dangerous beasts that are exhibited in the zoo. Ekon is the second son of a warrior/ hero who was slain by the Shetani years earlier. He is about to complete the final ritual before becoming a Son of the Six and warrior like his father and older brother.

Magic is outlawed in Lkossa and Koffi is brimming with it. Knowing that her life is at stake should this be discovered, she suppresses it, but the magic bursts free when those she loves are endangered. It seems that she has the power to tame the Shetani. The owner of the Night Zoo wants to add the Shetani to his menagerie, so he blackmails Koffi into hunting for it.

Ekon failed his ritual when he not only failed to kill the Shetani, but also allowed Koffi to escape. He will need to leave the temple in disgrace, but is offered a chance to redeem himself if he can capture the Shetani. He forms an uneasy alliance with Koffi and they head into the Greater Jungle where they become prey themselves.

Ms. Gray's world-building is vivid and immersive. Suspense is high from the outset and gradually ratchets up as pages fly by. Koffi and Ekon are flawed and instantly likable and Adiah, the occasional third POV, is mysterious. Fans of intricately layered fantasy might get whiplash from the plot twists. They will gobble this whole and pant for the next installment.

Beasts of Prey is due out September 28. Pre-order it! I can't wait to get it into my students' hands. Impressive debut!

Monday, August 30, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston

President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~5 hours, 18 minutes. Read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. Tantor Media, September, 2020. 9781705251638. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Middle Grade Monday features President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston. Brianna Justice has life goals. She intends on building a cupcake empire and becoming rich, but first, she needs to become president of her fifth grade class. Why? Her idol, baking celebrity, Miss Delicious credits becoming president of her own fifth grade as the secret to her success. Since Miss Delicious attended the very same school as Brianna, well, it's just meant to be! With the help of her two best friends, Brianna just knows the path to her presidency will be easy. Her plans are foiled when new girl, Jasmine Moon decides to run and seems to have some underhanded tricks up her sleeve.

I found this older title while browsing for a new audiobook in the Libby app. The story is humorous and the fifth grade drama is fairly realistic. Brianna lets her ambition get in the way of her friendship and not only makes some questionable choices, but becomes downright unlikable. Readers who enjoy school and friendship stories will enjoy this book.

Friday, August 27, 2021

What's New?

Summer break is winding down! Just a few more days to squeeze in some reading before heading back. 

For Review:

AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler. 266 p. Carolrhoda Books/ Lerner Publishing Group, September 7, 2021. 9781541599116.

Publisher synopsis: After her brother's death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school—especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family's own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers. 

Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.

Threads of Peace: How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World by Uma Krishnaswami. 326 p. A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/ Atheneum Books for Young Readers/ Simon & Schuster, August, 2021. 9781481416788.

Publisher synopsis: Mahatma Gandhi and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. both shook, and changed, the world, in their quest for peace among all people, but what threads connected these great activists together in their shared goal of social revolution?

A lawyer and activist, tiny of stature with giant ideas, in British-ruled India at the beginning of the 20th century.

A minister from Georgia with a thunderous voice and hopes for peace at the height of the civil rights movement in America.

Born more than a half-century apart, with seemingly little in common except one shared wish, both would go on to be icons of peaceful resistance and human decency. Both preached love for all human beings, regardless of race or religion. Both believed that freedom and justice were won by not one, but many. Both met their ends in the most unpeaceful of ways—assassination.

But what led them down the path of peace? How did their experiences parallel...and diverge? Threads of Peace keenly examines and celebrates these extraordinary activists’ lives, the threads that connect them, and the threads of peace they laid throughout the world, for us to pick up, and weave together.

Purchased: nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week? 

Fact Friday: River Stories by Timothy Knapman.


River Stories by Timothy Knapman. Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay & Irene Montano. unpaged. Egmont/ HarperCollins, June, 2021. 9781405292542. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Friday TMS Readers! Fact Friday features River Stories by Thomas Knapman. Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay & Irene Montano. Travel the length of five major rivers of the world in this unique picture book. The text relates interesting facts, history and even mythology. An impressive gatefold opens to reveal gorgeous illustrations that depict the course and major landmarks of these rivers, making this book a terrific "impressionistic lesson" for young geographers.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Friday Memes: Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson. 320 p. Scholastic Press, October 5, 2021. 9781338780949.


Ten-year-old Anthony Joplin has made it to double digits! Which means he’s finally big enough to play in the spades tournament every Joplin Man before him seems to have won. So while Ant’s friends are stressing about fifth grade homework and girls, he only has one thing on his mind: how he’ll measure up to his father’s expectations at the card table.

Then Ant’s best friend gets grounded, and he’s forced to find another spades partner. And Shirley, the new girl in his class, isn’t exactly what he has in mind. She doesn’t understand that trash talking is part of the game. Or why Ant’s dad doesn’t want him playing with a girl. But she’s smart and tough and pretty, and knows every card trick in the book. So Ant decides to join forces with Shirley — and keep his plans a secret.

Only it turns out secrets are another Joplin Man tradition. And his father is hiding one so big it may tear their family apart…

First Line: The house always wins.

Page 56: Jamal cackled, "little Ant, still scared to talk to girls."

     "What's with you and all the little stuff," And said. "Lay off, okay?"

     "Come on, Ant. It's just a joke. Don't be so sensitive."

     Ant couldn't help but notice how it was "just a joke" when Jamal said stuff, but Shirley was a "dumb girl" when she did the same.

How much do you love that cover? I am mesmerized!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

#tbt: East by Edith Pattou

East by Edith Pattou. 498 p. Harcourt Inc., 2003. 9780152045630. (own)

#tbt features East by Edith Pattou. East is a novel-length retelling of the Norwegian folk tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which is a variation of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. 

This intricate and layered story requires a patient reader, but is fascinating. Rose was born to a superstitious mother, who insisted to her husband that she bear 7 children to represent all the points on a compass. When one died, her mother got pregnant with Rose and insisted she would be born facing east as the child who died had. Rose always felt like an outsider growing up and now her family is falling apart. When a huge white bear shows up with a proposition-her family will become healthy and wealthy if she comes away with him, Rose accepts instantly. 

She's carried away to a castle hidden in the mountains and, while she's relatively happy living with this mysterious creature, she is homesick. The bear allows her to visit her family for one month, but makes her promise not to speak to anyone of their arrangement. She promises, and when she tells her brother about it, her mother overhears. She insists that Rose return to the castle with a magic candle, so that she can gaze upon the creature at night. 

Once Rose does so, she learns that she has failed to help the bear break a curse. He becomes prisoner of a Troll Queen and disappears.

East was published in 2003 and was named a Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults in 2004. In 2018, West, a sequel, was published. 

While the cover of the e-book is nice enough and matches the cover of West, I absolutely love the original cover, with its embossed compass rose wrapping around the cover.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Room to Dream by Kelly Yang

Room to Dream by Kelly Yang. 320 p. Front Desk Series #3. Scholastic Inc., September 21, 2021. 9781338621129.

Waiting on Wednesday features Room to Dream by Kelly Yang. This is the third installment of the Front Desk series. Both Front Desk and Three Keys are popular at my school. 

Here's the publisher's synopsis: Mia Tang is going for her dreams! 

After years of hard work, Mia Tang finally gets to go on vacation with her family — to China! A total dream come true! Mia can't wait to see all her cousins and grandparents again, especially her cousin Shen. As she roams around Beijing, witnessing some of the big changes China's going through, Mia thinks about the changes in her own life, like ...

1. Lupe's taking classes at the high school! And Mia's own plans to be a big writer are… stuck.

2. Something happened with Jason and Mia has no idea what to do about it.

3. New buildings are popping up all around the motel, and small businesses are disappearing.

Can the Calivista survive? Buckle up! Mia is more determined than ever to get through the turbulence, now that she finally has… room to dream!

Room to Dream releases on September 21.

Teen Tuesday: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~7 hours, 48 minutes. Read by Bahni Turpin. Listening Library/ Penguin Random House, June, 2021. 9781984833129. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Happy Tuesday! I'm a bit late today posting because I was working on a big house project since early this morning! Teen Tuesday features Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. Ms. Yoon's last book, The Sun is Also a Star is a TMS fan favorite. Both that book and her debut, Everything, Everything were adapted for film, both of which my students adore. Instructions for Dancing is quite cinematic as well!

Evie Thomas swore off romance ever since her parents' divorce. The fact that she caught her dad cheating has also put a serious strain on their previously close relationship. She even went so far as to purge all her favorite romance novels from her home library. While donating the books to a little free library, Evie encounters a strange, old woman who insists she take a book called, Instructions for Dancing, and also seems to put a spell on her. Evie finds that whenever she spots a couple kissing, she has visions of the beginning, middle and end of their relationship. These visions seem to confirm her new cynical views on romance and Evie wants them to stop, so she tries to track down the old woman. The only clue inside the book is an address for La Brea Dance Studio.

There, she meets X, short for Xavier, a handsome musician who is staying with his grandparents while he and his band try to make it in L.A. His grandparents own the studio. Evie doesn't find answers at the dance studio, but she does allow herself to be talked into a free dance lesson by Fifi, the fierce and opinionated dance instructor and, eventually into an amateur ballroom dance competition with X as her partner.

Will X's "say yes to everything" attitude rub off on Evie? Her sister and mother seems to have moved on after the breakup. Can Evie? This smart romance asks some deep questions and features many likable characters, witty dialogue and swoony dancing. Fans of Ms. Yoon's work will not be disappointed.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Middle Grade Monday: Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff

Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~ 4.5 hours. Narrated by Jax Jackson. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, April, 2021. 9780593346310. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Happy Monday! How did everyone in the northeast fare with all that rain from Henri? It was the perfect day to read yesterday and it looks like today will be more of the same. I finished a fantastic YA debut fantasy yesterday and plan on finishing a debut contemporary YA today.

Middle Grade Monday features Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff. Mr. Lukoff's middle grade debut is difficult to classify. This first-person narrative is part ghost story and part coming-of-age story. It's pace is leisurely, thoughtful and very relatable. First off, Bug lives in a haunted house and the family is fine with that-well, Uncle Roderick is, but Bug's mother? She's skeptical. Bug totally buys in. Now, Bug thinks Uncle Roderick's ghost might be lingering after he died of cancer. Why? What's he trying to say?

Middle school is looming and Bug's bff, Moira, wants to try make-up and make-overs to make a fresh start. Bug avoids mirrors like the plague and isn't interested in make-up or boys. Obviously, this causes friendship friction. Moira has a lot of other friends, but Bug, not so much. What is it about Bug that makes it so hard to fit in?

I'm being purposefully vague here in an effort to preserve the surprises in this satisfying tale. I'm eager to hear what my students think when I add it to our collection. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, so I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review:

What the Animals Saw by Louise Greig. Illustrated by Nicola O'Bryne. unpgd. Red Shed/ HarperCollins Publishers, June, 2021. 9781405287821.

Publisher synopsis: What if you could see through the eyes of an animal?

Dive, splash, soar and prowl through the book as you see the world through the eyes of some of the world’s most amazing animals. Take in the view as you soar like an eagle, gaze through the eyes of a prowling tiger, become part of a protective elephant herd, and much, much more.

This intimate look at the world through the eyes of some of the world's most amazing creatures will take you from the snowy lands of Antartica to the heat of an African desert. Perfect for children aged 3 years and up, this is a gentle introduction to nature which will encourage questions and open up discussions.

Discover the world of animals in a whole new light.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week?

Fact Friday and Arc Review: Revolution in Our Time: the Black Panther Party's Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon

Revolution in Our Time: the Black Panther Party's Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon. 400 p. Candlewick Press, September 28, 2021. 9781536214185. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Fact Friday features Revolution in Our Time: the Black Panther Party's Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon. Teen readers wishing to learn the history of the Black Panther Party will find an accessible narrative in these 400+ pages. Ms. Magoon provides important historical context, linking the harsh and inhumane treatment of slaves to the Jim Crow laws that severely limited the activities of Black people once slavery was outlawed, through the Civil Rights movement to the formation of the Black Panther Party in 1966 in response to police violence against Black people.

The imagery projected in the media and by law enforcement, including the FBI, was one of militancy and menace, belying the fact that the foundational tenets of the organization were to provide food, education and health care to the community. They armed themselves for protection, not intimidation. Ms. Magoon breaks up the meticulously researched narrative with side stories that highlight various leaders, many of whom were imprisoned or killed. I was riveted.

The book design is pleasing as well, with plenty of white space and black and white, well-captioned photos sized to maximize effect. 75+ pages of back matter includes more information about the key people in the movement, a timeline, a glossary, books and websites for further reading, 32 pages of source notes, an extensive bibliography, image credits, copyright acknowledgements and an index, making this a mentor text for young researchers.

Revolution in Our Time
belongs in every school and public library. Adults would do well to read it too. I'm sure that many are not aware of this history. I admit that I was, only because I read Ms. Magoon's debut, The Rock and the River, which planted the seed for this book, and Rita Williams-Garcia's 2010 novel, One Crazy Summer. 

Revolution in Our Time is not due out until September 28, so please put it on your radar. I expect it will make many year-end "Best" lists and there's lots of room on that striking cover for well-deserved awards.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

#tbt: Notes from a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko

Notes from a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko. 240 p. Puffin Books/ Penguin Young Readers, 2001. (Own)

Happy Thursday! I get to see my students two weeks from today! So far, it looks like I will be back in the library teaching my sixth grade cycle class and seeing the other grades as a "special." Fingers crossed.

#tbt features Notes from a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko. Twelve-year-old Antonia, "Ant," McPherson is a middle child stuck between two perfect sisters in a family that moves a lot with parents who do not understand her. Ant comforts herself with her elderly dog, Pistachio, her chicken-loving best friend, Harrison and by pretending she's adopted. She even writes notes to her "real" parents. And she lies. There's a lot of humor in this first-person narrative. Ant is bright and prickly and difficult to like even though she yearns to be loved and accepted.

Notes from a Liar and Her Dog was published in May of 2001 and was Ms. Choldenko's middle grade debut. It was named a School Library Journal Best Book of 2001 and was nominated for a number of state awards. Its audiobook was named an ALA Notable Recording.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros

Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros. 304 p. HarperCollins Publishers, March 15, 2022. 9780062881724.

Waiting on Wednesday features Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros. Mr. Cisneros' debut novel, Efrén Divided won the 2021 Pura Belpré Award. The cover of Falling Short was revealed late last month on Mr. Schu Reads blog. The author described his book to Mr. Schu: The front cover shows best friends, Isaac and Marco, who have big plans for sixth grade. Academically-gifted Marco (on the right) plans on finally winning his father’s approval by earning a spot on the school’s basketball team—despite being the shortest boy in middle school. On the other hand, basketball prodigy Isaac (on the left) plans on finally keeping up with his schoolwork in hopes of stopping his parents from arguing.
No pressure, right?

Both boys are going to need each to keep them from “falling short?” But will it be enough?

Falling Short will be published March 15, 2022.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Sunkissed by Kasie West

Sunkissed by Kasie West. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~ 529 minutes. Read by Phoebe Strohl. Listening Library, May, 2021.9780593399552. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.)

Teen Tuesday features Sunkissed by Kasie West. Ms. West is a favorite author among romance fans at TMS and this is a perfect summer romance to read - frothy, fluffy and fun.

Avery wasn't terribly happy about her parents' planned summer getaway to a remote family camp that had no wi-fi, until she caught her best friend kissing her ex. Now, she can't wait to get away from the drama and apology texts. Once at camp, she gets off on the wrong foot with Brooks, a swoony musician who fronts the dinner band, but has higher musical aspirations. It shouldn't matter, as employees are forbidden from fraternizing with the guests, but Avery and Brooks seem to constantly cross paths. Eventually, Avery helps Brooks with lyrics to a song he's writing and a friendship develops. 

I wondered if summer family camps like this even existed any more. It's such a Catskills throwback. Hence the Dirty Dancing comparison. And, for such a strict rule, punishable by firing, the employees seemed to have lots of down time to flaunt the edict. This will likely not bother the target audience at all. 

Phoebe Strohl's performance was well-paced and she sounded appropriately youthful. Fans of Ms. West's books will not be disappointed. I'm definitely adding this to my school library's collection.

Monday, August 16, 2021

My Summer

Happy Monday. Keeping up my reading and reviewing has been a challenge since June 3, when my husband had a massive stroke. It came out of the blue on the evening of a day he described to me as "the best day ever!" He was working on several projects, but cleaned and organized our deck. He also found a new take-out place for wings and told me not to cook that night. The last words I heard him utter were, "I'm heading upstairs." He spent evenings in his study smoking and watching television, while I spent evenings in the family room lymphedema pumping and reading with my ears. I found him struggling to get out of his recliner an hour or so later when I went in to say good night. Thank goodness son #3 happened to be home visiting. He came out early for the Memorial Day weekend and brought his computer so that he could avoid traffic back into the city. He called the ambulance and got the dogs into a bedroom before the police arrived.

The stroke was massive. He had complete paralysis on his right side as well as expressive and receptive aphasia. My vigorous, vibrant, busy, bossy, creative husband of 36 years seemed destined for a life shifting from bed to wheelchair and wheelchair to bed with little or no ability to speak. His cognition was unaffected, as was his personality. He probably diagnosed himself before anyone and immediately began resisting treatment, which eventually included the insertion of a PEG, a stomach tube. In fact, his first words, two weeks after his stroke were, "No way," when I told him I was signing for one. That did not surprise me. He was refusing most medication and food by that time. And, so I did not sign consent. He made his wishes known. I could not imagine him being happy and fulfilled just sitting in a wheelchair, unable to walk, talk or use his hands to build something. He did participate in OT and PT though, as if hedging his bets. I suppose if he had significant improvement (miracles do happen), he might've changed his mind and begun eating.

He spent a month in the hospital before being transferred to an acute rehabilitation facility eighteen miles away. His PCP hoped that their expertise would help Mark "gain some traction and hope" for recovery. I hoped too, but knew in my heart that if meaningful recovery was not possible, Mark wasn't interested. He was eventually able stand with help and could balance once helped up, for about 30 seconds. He could "walk" with maximum assistance for ten feet several times each session. After a month, insurance dictated a move to a subacute nursing facility.

By this time, he had lost a significant amount of weight, was eating very little, drinking almost nothing, but still participating in OT and PT and even Speech. On Sunday, August 1, he stopped eating entirely. He refused PT on Monday. On Tuesday, I met with the care team of nurses, social worker and PT and decided that I would bring him home on hospice care on Thursday. He had made his decision.

On Wednesday afternoon, his breathing seemed a bit labored and when I told him that he was coming home to me the following day, he smiled a bit and shook his head. I left him at 6PM to grab dinner with a friend and left instructions to call me if he took a turn for the worse. I received that call at 11 and returned to the facility to find him on oxygen and struggling to breathe using all his accessory muscles. He was restless. The nurse had just called for another order for more morphine and once that was administered, he was calmer. I held his hand. I told him he worked really hard and that it was time to rest. I told him he would be missed. I told him that I loved him over and over until those accessory breathing muscles eventually got tired and stopped. I stayed in his line of vision until the end. I hope he knew I was there. He died nine weeks to the day of his stroke.

Those nine weeks were the longest/ shortest nine weeks of my life. I was glad that six of them happened after school let out for summer break. It was getting hard to teach all day, then visit him at the hospital and then take care of the dogs and things at home. Still, I managed to keep up the blogging about books I had already read. (I haven't reread those posts though. They may be incoherent messes!) Concentrating on any new reading definitely became a challenge. Even now, eleven days after his death, I have trouble.

I'm glad he met his retirement goals and that he had seven great years of retirement. He LOVED retirement. He always had a plan for each day and truly found joy in each and every day. I comfort myself knowing that living in the purgatory of a tube-fed stroke victim would not have brought him joy and that he died on his own terms, with single-minded determination and courage.

School starts for teachers on September 1, with students returning on the second. I hope I'm ready to return. Right now, I still feel raw and lonely and anxious. I continue to struggle with concentration and completion of tasks. I either have trouble falling asleep or wake up at 2AM and can't get back to sleep. My big, beautiful house has reminders of his creativity all over it, which I love, but it's very, very quiet because his presence was so large and loud. 

I find myself wanting to ask him all kinds of questions, like, who services the generator? He has three listed in his phone contacts and I don't know which of the three he settled on. My youngest had a polyp removed that showed pre-cancerous changes and my first thought was that Mark would take care of this. His birthday was on August 10, so I've already gotten through the first significant date without him. He never got to enjoy the Father's Day gift he bought for himself. It remains in the box, unopened. 

This stuff is so hard. 

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: Root Magic by Eden Royce

Root Magic 
by Eden Royce. Unabridged downloadable audiobook. ~594 minutes. Read by Imani Parks. Walden Pond Press/ HarperCollins Publishers, January, 2021. 9780063064416. (Review of e-audiobook borrowed from public library.) 

Middle Grade Monday features Root Magic by Eden Royce. Jezabel Turner lives with her twin brother, Jay, their mother and extended family in South Carolina in 1963. They are burying Jez's beloved grandmother at the opening of this leisurely, lyrical debut novel. Gran was a respected root worker, one whom many members of the community came to for help, but who also garnered suspicion and fear. Jez's uncle, Doc carried the Gullah Geechee tradition of root work and wants to teach it to the twins. Their mother is hesitant, but changes her mind after a racist deputy unlawfully searches their property and threatens violence.

The real dangers of the Jim Crow south and the potential danger of a malevolent presence in the marsh quietly ratchet up the tension as Jez and Jay learn the ways of root. Jez is a thoughtful and charming narrator. Other characters, such as Jay, Doc and her mother brim with energy and life.

Imani Parks' performance matched the measured pace of the narrative well. I enjoyed reading this with my ears. Readers who enjoy intricately crafted suspense will love Root Magic.

Friday, August 13, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, so I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review:

Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket. 168 p. Liveright/ W.W. Norton and Company,  August 31, 2021. 9781324090625.

Publisher synopsis: A new stand-alone adventure—appropriate for all ages—by Lemony Snicket, one of the twenty-first century’s most beloved authors.

In the years since this publishing house was founded, we have worked with an array of wondrous authors who have brought illuminating clarity to our bewildering world. Now, instead, we bring you Lemony Snicket.

Over the course of his long and suspicious career, Mr. Snicket has investigated many things, including villainy, treachery, conspiracy, ennui, and various suspicious fires. In this book, he is investigating his own death.Poison for Breakfast is a different sort of book than others we have published, and from others you may have read. It is different from other books Mr. Snicket has written. It could be said to be a book of philosophy, something almost no one likes, but it is also a mystery, and many people claim to like those. Certainly Mr. Snicket didn’t relish the dreadful task of solving it, but he had no choice. It was put in front of him, right there, on his plate.

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger. 376 p. Levine Querido, November 9, 2021. 9781646140923.

Publisher synopsis: Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She’s always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he’s been cast from home. He's found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.

Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli’s best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven’t been in centuries.

And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.

Darcie Little Badger introduced herself to the world with Elatsoe. In A Snake Falls to Earth, she draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed.

Own pic

The Dove in the Belly by Jim Grimsley. 326 p. Levine Querido, May 3, 2022. 9781646141319.

Publisher synopsis: I didn't find a cover image or synopsis online, so here's the short publicity blurb from inside the book:

5 Reasons We Love This Book

  • Jim Grimsley is one of America's most gifted Southern writers
  • Award-winning, beloved author fo Dream Boys gives us his most accessible novel to dat
  • Visceral, gorgeous evocation of young gay love
  • Will truly appeal to older teens through adult readers
  • This book wins the emerging movement that blends romance with literary quality, alongside voices such as Sally Rooney, Becky Albertalli, and André Aciman
Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week?

Friday, August 6, 2021

What's New?

"Stacking the Shelves" is was a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It seems the blog is gone though, for the link no longer takes you to it. So, I will just continue to post a "What's New? post whenever I receive new books. 

For Review:

Zion Unmatched by Zion Clark and James S. Hirsch. 32 p. Candlewick Press, August, 2021. 97815362241184.

Publisher synopsis: This stunning photographic essay showcases Zion Clark’s ferocious athleticism and undaunted spirit. Cowritten by New York Times best-selling journalist James S. Hirsch, this book features striking, visually arresting images and an approachable and engaging text, including pieces of advice that have motivated Zion toward excellence and passages from Zion himself. Explore Zion’s journey from a childhood lost in the foster care system to his hard-fought rise as a high school wrestler to his current rigorous training to prepare as an elite athlete on the world stage. Included are a biography and a note from Zion.

This first in a trilogy of books to be written by world-class athlete Zion Clark.
An extraordinary, deeply inspirational photo essay follows elite wheelchair racer and wrestler and Netflix documentary star Zion Clark.

Purchased: Nothing!

What was in your mailbox this week?

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Waiting on Wednesday: Fast Pitch by Nic Stone

Fast Pitch by Nic Stone. 192 p. Crown Books for Young Readers/ Random House Children's Books, August 31, 2021. 9781984893017.

Happy Wednesday TMS Readers! Waiting on Wednesday features Fast Pitch by Nic Stone. Ms. Stone's YA books are quite popular at TMS and recently, she made her MG debut with Clean Getaway. In just a few weeks, Fast Pitch will be released! Look for it in book stores and libraries on August 31. Here's the publisher synopsis: 

Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is hyper-focused when she steps up to the plate. Nothing can stop her from leading her team to the U12 fast-pitch softball regional championship. But life has thrown some curveballs her way.
Strike one: As the sole team of all-brown faces, Shenice and the Firebirds have to work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat.

Strike two: Shenice’s focus gets shaken when her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending—and family-name-ruining—crime may have been a setup.

Strike three: Broken focus means mistakes on the field. And Shenice’s teammates are beginning to wonder if she’s captain-qualified.

It’s up to Shenice to discover the truth about her family’s past—and fast—before secrets take the Firebirds out of the game forever.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard. Unabridged e-audiobook. 16.5 hours. Read by Natalie Naudus. HarperAudio/ HarperTeen/ HarperCollins Publishers, May, 2021. 9780063087668.

Teen Tuesday features Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard. This is the beginning of a wholly new fantasy series by the author of The Red Queen series.

The realm of Allward is protected from evil and "He who waits" by spindles, which are in turn, protected by humans descended from the Cor bloodline. They are the only ones who can wield a spindleblade. Taristan, bitter at being denied his heritage, has been opening spindles with the help of a wizard. Twelve Companions of the Realm, including Cortael, Taristan's twin meet in a bloody battle in the opening pages of this sweeping fantasy. When Taristan viciously murders his twin, Andry, a squire manages to spirit Cortael's spindleblade away from the battlefield and escapes the massacre. 

Meanwhile, Corayne an-Amarat, daughter of a fierce and feared pirate, wishes for adventures on the sea of her own. She's bitterly disappointed when her mother leaves her behind. It seems that she is the last of the Cor bloodline and learns who her father was from an immortal elder named Dom, who is determined to recover Cortael's spindleblade and train Corayne to closed the spindles her uncle is opening. 

Dom's band of realm defenders is small and ragtag, comprised of a dangerous assassin, Landry, the haunted squire, Corayne, and eventually a sorceress, a forger with a price on his head and a bounty hunter with a grudge.

The world building was a bit vague and multiple points of view occasionally cause confusion. The plot was frequently interrupted by flashbacks that sometimes distracted. Still, the cast of characters were intriguing as were the political machinations. There's banter and occasional humor amidst the suspense of the action with close calls and impossible escapes. 

Sign me up for book two! New-to-me narrator, Natalie Naudus turned in a well-paced performance with voices that were unique. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Middle Grade Monday and Audiobook Review: Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs

Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs. FunJungle #7. Unabridged e-audiobook, ~7 hours, 12 minutes. Read by Gibson Frazier. Simon & Schuster Audio, May, 2021. 9781797123608. (Review of e-audio borrowed from public library.)

Happy Monday readers! I apologize for skipping Fact Friday last week. I read an amazing informational book that I can't wait to share, but just couldn't settle down to write the review it deserved. The events of the last eight-plus weeks have been a challenge to my concentration. 

Middle Grade Monday features Bear Bottom by TMS favorite, Stuart Gibbs. Theodore Roosevelt Fitzroy is back in the seventh installment of the FunJungle series. Teddy, his parents and some FunJungle employees traveled to Yellowstone with JJ McCracken and his family. They are staying at a bison ranch just outside Yellowstone National Park. JJ is friends with the owner and is thinking about buying the place. Several bison have gone missing recently, and JJ asks Teddy if he'd put his detective skills to work in order to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

As soon as Teddy starts, his investigation becomes a double investigation after Sasquatch, an enormous grizzly bear invades the ranch house and a rare and valuable necklace goes missing. Did the bear inadvertently eat the necklace while foraging for food? If so, someone needs to track Sasquatch and wait for nature to take its course.

Any new book by Stuart Gibbs is an auto-purchase for me. I don't even need to read them in order to book talk them. All I need to do is tell my students that there's a new Gibbs book in the library and it's checked out immediately with a wait list for the year. This is the reason why I didn't get to read Spy School for ages and ages. Mr. Gibbs always keeps his plots moving in unexpected, often hilarious ways. Woven into all the lighthearted fun are messages, usually about the environment.

This is the first FunJungle book that I read with my ears and I think I will read future installments with my eyes. The narrator was adequate, but didn't sound appropriately youthful to me and his female voices grated, especially Candace McCracken's. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Picture Book Review: Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and Garry Parsons

Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green. Illustrated by Garry Parsons. 32 p. Orchard Books/ Scholastic Inc. June, 2021. 9781338736182. (Review of finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

Larry the llama is a rule follower by day and a dancing fool at night, when he breaks out the rainbow boa and rhinestone-studded hat. When three friends discover his hijinks, Larry runs away. He doesn't get far before he discovers a carnival where llamas and other animals dance. He returns to his pack, where he learns his friends have secrets as well. 

Can we librarians and teachers ever have too many books that encourage young children to be themselves? No. This energetic, humorous story-in-rhyme will engage and encourage empathy. The text is well-matched with dynamic, lively art. Be prepared to read this one again and again with as much ham as possible.