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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

There are bad things in the woods. Grabbers. Lose one of your things? It might have been taken by a grabber. Once it has something of yours, you know it’s coming back. For you.

Kestrel is twelve. She hunts and kills grabbers, usually after they’ve taken their prey. She’s been trained well by her grandmother, someone from outside the woods. Her father is a wolf trapper. Hunting is in her blood.

She might be a hunter of grabbers, but that hasn’t endeared her to the villagers who dislike her as much as they fear her mother. They want to get rid of her as bad as Kestrel wants to leave the woods, especially now that a grabber is after her.

 

Monster story. Fantasy. Adventure. I was rooting through the whole book for Kestrel as she faces grabbers and other nightmarish creatures (face painters, the briny witch, bonebirds, and her own really creepy mother). I rooted for her as she fought to get out of the woods.

The monsters in the book are well fleshed out (figuratively) . Her mother is tied to the house with strands of twisted wool that’s knotted around furniture, the floor and even through holes in soup bowls. The Briny Witch is made of floating rags and small fish dart around and through his head. What a wonderful image.

There are twists and turns in the story and surprises. All make it a good read.

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Holly is dead. Her death weighs heavy on her sister, Emily, and her parents. With Holly’s death, Bluey is gone too, and so is the world Emily made up, the land of Smockeroon. Only writing memories about the teddy bear, Bluey, helps Emily cope.

Then, one night, Emily dreams of Bluey and it’s like he’s trying to send her a message. But that’s crazy, except weird things start to happen and soon she’s not the only one seeing soft toys come to life.

 

Talking teddies are right down my alley so I had to read this book and am glad I did. Not only did I like the talking toy aspects, but I enjoyed how Ms. Saunders treated the death of the older sister, Holley, who was disabled. One could really feel the love Emily had for her sister and the heartache of children losing siblings and parents losing children. It was gently done.

I felt a kinship in Ruth, an adult, who sometimes takes care of Emily after school. She has a love for old toys too. I am not ashamed to say that I have my teddy bear family prominently displayed and, of course, there is Pawnee Kitty and Angus who live smack dab in the living area.

At times the book was laugh aloud funny. Two Barbies are nuns. Sister Pretty has a bad word written on her forehead and Sister Troop became a nun to keep Pretty company. Another humorous moment is when Ruth first sees the toys comes alive and thinks she’s gone crazy.

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Florida. 1949.
Just off lazy Highway 1, between the road and the swamp, lives ten-year-old Bones. The house floods during storms, but it’s still home for her and her parents, Nolay, who’s part Miccosukee Indian, and Honey Girl. It’s home too for her pets: the dogs, the pig, and the raccoon. Life is pretty good for Bones.
That is, until two Yankees arrive and nose around. Bone’s father chases them off, but one is found dead. And then another man is found dead and her dad looks good for both their murders.

This is a slice of Florida history I’ve not read about it; in the time before the state became a retirement destination and people flocked to vacation here in huge numbers. Ms. Ashley-Holliknger grew up in the same town in which she set the story. She even includes the same lone store, the Last Chance General Store and Gas Station. She’s written this as a tribute to the life that was, and it’s a fitting one. This book makes the community of Micco and the nearby swamp come alive.

The story is sprinkled with memorial characters from Ikibob Rooster who shepherds his harem of chickens, Mr. Speed, the young man horribly wounded in World War II, and slow Sheriff LeRoy who investigates the murders.

I really liked how the community comes together and are always helping one another out. No one might have much, but together they have a lot and make do. It makes one wish it was that way again.

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There are days in which everything goes wrong. Such is the case for Ophelia Delphinimu Fidgets. She’s a fairy. Her job title is Granter. As in granter of wishes. Except there are more granters than wishes granted due to a low supply of magic, so her chance of doing her job is pretty low. On this fateful day, there are only twelve wishes to be granted. And Ophelia is going to be able to grant a wish. She only has to find the coin used, sprinkle the magic dust on it, say the words and it’s done.
Easy.
That is, before her day goes spiraling down the drain into the worse day ever.

I love this book. I loved the whole modern take on fairies and how they granted wishes. And I’m not much of a fairy fan. The book sucked me right in and gave me a ride through poor Ophelia’s ordeal. With everything she goes through, it makes one wonder – will she ever grant the wish.

Mr. Anderson really got it right with the animals, capturing their essence in the way they talk. The geese are snappy. Sam, the dog, is wonderful. I pictured him in my head, mouth open, tongue, out, tail a’wagging, eyes bright. I am Sam. I am a hero. He’s good at everything he says, all eager, even when he hasn’t a clue what it is he’s supposed to be good at. The cat is great even if he only has a small part.

Whether you like fairies, animals, or want to read a good adventure book. This is a good one.

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There was something strange about the lady who wanted to sell a small jewelry box to Thelma Bee’s father. The sale to him wasn’t anything suspicious in itself, he owning an antique store. It was that she wanted cash quick and brought the asking price down so fast. Then it was what happened afterwards, when eleven-year-old Thelma went home. And saw the ghost in the mirror. And watched her father turn to smoke and be sucked into the box.

I will admit that I didn’t have high hopes for the book when I picked it up. It seemed like one of those formula books where the main character is a super spy, scientific genius, or the like who has to solve a great mystery. So glad the book proved me wrong. It made me realize I should not judge the book just by the blurb on the flap.

Thelma is a budding scientist and it was funny to read how she broke down the events, showing cause and effect, like when what started as her tossing her book bag on a cafeteria table, ends with a fire. That was funny.

I really didn’t know what to expect in the story, especially with the twists in it. Once I settled in the story, I expected a ghost story, which it is, but there was more to it and that made it a fun read.

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Middle School is tough in Chapel Spring, Lousiana. It’s a lot tougher if you’re the only girl with slanted eyes. It gets even rougher when twelve-year old Apple is put on the infamous Dog List. According to the boys in her grade, she’s the third ugliest girl.

At home she’s too American. At school she’s too Chinese. And she isn’t even Chinese, she’s Filipino. If she had the guitar she’s been begging her mother for, life would be so much better, Now it’s just getting worse, much worse.

By coincidence, I’d just listened to the Beatle’s White Album, the one Apple references in the book. George Harrison is her favorite Beatle. I found myself humming some of the songs when I read the titles, the ones I knew that is.

The story sucked me right in. I really felt for Apple. I got embarrassed with her and angry for her when her ‘best’ friends treated her badly. I liked how Ms. Kelly put in how the kids couldn’t tell the difference from where she was, referencing to other countries just because she looked different.

I liked the ending, when the pizza is being ordered for Apple and her friend, where the reader realizes that Apple isn’t the only one embarrassed about where she comes from. It’s subtle, but a real a-ha moment. There’s also an interesting twist at the end that I didn’t expect.

 

This book can be used for stereotyping, body shaming, and bullying.

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Scythe

You can live as long as you want. You can reset your body if you wish to be young again. You will not die a natural death. You can die. And you can come back. Unless a scythe comes to glean you.

Thunderhead

Some of the scythes enjoy the killing a little too much. Is it murder or gleaning? Thunderhead, the AI overseeing the world sees, but there is little it can do. It cannot meddle with the scythes.

 

Two books of the trilogy are out, the third one is due 2019. I cannot wait.

Scythe is a Michael Prince Honor book and I usually don’t write about those because there’s already heaps of praise on them. I like to pick out more obscure books, but this one was on the South Carolina Book Award Nominee List and I read it, and I was like, wow.

The first book, Scythe, introduces us to two apprentices, Citra and Rowan. They didn’t set out to be scythes, don’t think they are cut out for it, but that makes them good candidates. They are chosen by the same Scythe and only one will become a scythe and the other set free to go on with their life, but that’s not what happens.

I won’t say much about Thunderhead because I don’t want to give anything away, but there are a number of OMG moments that left me gobsmacked.

This is chilling take of what many may see as paradise. No disease. No death. Easy work. But what happens then?

One can use either book in school, or both, to teach about ethics.

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