Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann
Twelve-year-old Zita, an orphan and a housemaid, has resigned herself to a life of drudgery when a strange letter arrives, naming her the only living heir to the Brydgeborn fortune. Now the mistress of the castle, Zita soon realizes foul play led to the death of her family. And as she is guided through lessons in the art of witchcraft by the somewhat mysterious Mrs. Cantanker, Zita begins to wonder who is friend and who is foe.
Unforgettable and utterly enchanting, this stand-alone tale about family, belonging, and friendship will bewitch readers of Tahereh Mafi’s Whichwood, Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces, and Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Cinders & Sparrows is a magical page-turner by the author of The Peculiar, the acclaimed international bestseller.
Review: Not the rating I wanted to start 2021 off with! I was so disappointed with this book! It could have been great but the author did not do a good job of fostering the characters or the plot. It was over 300 pages and for a JFic that's a little much for me if there isn't something that keeps me on the edge of my seat. Oh well. Lets hope book #2 gets a better rating!
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
This was our January read for YA Book Club
It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he's figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl. This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg's mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg's entire life.
Review: Ok. So I didn't rate it as high as I thought I would. I think if I had read this when I was still in high school or even college I would have loved it. Reading it now though I really didn't like the main character! I wanted to punch him so many times. I enjoyed the way the author wrote the book. I actually got to meet the author at one of our Young Adult conventions and he was a character! I'm going to try another of his books and see if I like it any better.
Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner
Raina Petree is crushing her senior year, until her boyfriend dumps her, the drama club (basically) dumps her, the college of her dreams slips away, and her arch-nemesis triumphs. Things aren’t much better for Millie Goodwin. Her father treats her like a servant, and the all-boy Mock Trial team votes her out, even after she spent the last three years helping to build its success.
But then, an advice columnist unexpectedly helps Raina find new purpose in a pair of knitting needles and a politically active local yarn store. This leads to an unlikely meeting in the girls’ bathroom, where Raina inspires Millie to start a rival team. The two join together and recruit four other angry girls to not only take on Mock Trial, but to smash the patriarchy in the process.
Review: Yet another seven. LGBTQ friendly. Girl Power. Angry teenage girls. It's a perfect storm! I have never really wanted to sew or crochet but after reading this one I wouldn't mind giving it a try! If you want a kick-butt, girl centered, Mock Trial loving book this one is for you.
Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom's borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution--send in Guinevere to be Arthur's wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king's idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere's real name--and her true identity--is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot. To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old--including Arthur's own family--demand things continue as they have been, and the new--those drawn by the dream of Camelot--fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?
Review: I really enjoyed this book! I haven't read much Arthurian based books but I know the basics of the story. This book was a wonderful new take on the old tale! Kick-butt female characters, loveable villains, and new twists on an old story. It felt like a light read to me. I don't know why but it was nice and not to heavy a read. This is the first in a trilogy and I have already ordered the second book!
Fourteen-year-old Ozzy lives near Portland, Oregon, and is desperate for help. His scientist parents have been kidnapped after discovering a formula that enables mind control. Their work was so top secret Ozzy is afraid to go to the police, but without help, he fears he'll never find his parents. Then he stumbles across a classified ad in the local newspaper that says "Wizard for Hire. Call 555-SPEL." Ozzy has read about wizards in books like Harry Potter, but wizards couldn't actually exist today, could they? After Ozzy meets the wizard Labyrinth--aka Rin--he's even more skeptical.Sure, Rin dresses like a wizard, but the short robe and high-top tennis shoes seem unorthodox, as does Rin's habit of writing notes on his shoes and eating breakfast for every meal. Plus, Rin doesn't even cast any magic spells, which means that the unexplained coincidences that start happening around Ozzy are just that--coincidences. With the help of a robotic-talking raven invented by Ozzy's father, a kind and curious girl at school who decides to help Ozzy, and, of course, a self-proclaimed wizard who may or may not have a magical wand, Ozzy begins an unforgettable quest that will lead him closer to the answers he desperately seeks about his missing parents.
Review: I so wanted to like this book. It had great potential but it just fell flat for me. I loved the main character, Ozzy, and wanted the book to be more than it was. It's part of a trilogy but I don't think I want to read the other two. Now it wasn't a horrible book so don't read my review and decide not to read it. I'm tough on books. I expect a lot from them and this one just fell short for me. I think I just expected more from the Rin character. He let me down.
Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…
Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under. Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into. Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
Review: OMG I looooooved this book! Such a great writer. Myth, witches, and a major plot twist...what more could you want! The author did a wonderful job creating the characters. I love that it's a stand alone too! I read so many series and I was just blown away by how much I loved this stand alone! It would make a great book club book. Adults will love it too! Highly recommend reading it in the Summer or in October. Ahhhhh soooo good!!
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
"Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children--two boys and two girls--succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they'll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you're gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.
Review: I loved this book! I can't wait to read the next in the series. It's a little bit of an older book, published in 2007, but it is a wonderful adventure story. I don't know why but I enjoy reading stories about orphans. Overcoming obstacles, mystery, little sci-fi thrown in, such a great feel-good story. It would be a wonderful read-aloud too!
Power is intoxicating. Like first love, it can leave you breathless. Princess Beatrice was born with it. Princess Samantha was born with less. Some, like Nina Gonzalez, are pulled into it. And a few will claw their way in. Ahem, we're looking at you Daphne Deighton.
As America adjusts to the idea of a queen on the throne, Beatrice grapples with everything she lost when she gained the ultimate crown. Samantha is busy living up to her "party princess" persona...and maybe adding a party prince by her side. Nina is trying to avoid the palace--and Prince Jefferson--at all costs. And a dangerous secret threatens to undo all of Daphne's carefully laid "marry Prince Jefferson" plans.
A new reign has begun....
Review: Ummmm so I liked this one better than the first! Crazy right?! I really enjoy this series. Alternate American history and teen romance are becoming my jam! Discovering what and who you really love is the journey we are all on. I really love the characters McGee has created. She has done a wonderful job creating characters that are both relatable and dynamic. I look forward to (hopefully!) reading more in this series!
Red Stars: The Case of Viktor and Nadya's Notebooks by Davide Morosinotto
Twins Viktor and Nadya are twelve years old when Hitler's Germany declares war on the Soviet Union. With little notice, the city's children are evacuated on trains that are meant to take them to safety.
Shockingly, Viktor and Nadya are separated, and disaster befalls them both. As the terrible conflict rages, each embarks on a desperate race across snow and ice, struggling through the destruction in an effort to be reunited. Their chances are slim, but they never lose hope.
In an original format--using the kids' diary entries, with historical photos, maps, and drawings throughout, this fictionalized account of the Nazi siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, this heart-stopping story of danger, courage and bravery emphasizes the power of truth and what it means to be a hero.
Review: I absolutely LOVED this book! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. This author did and amazing job of telling this story. It's classified as fiction but this book HAS to be based on true events. I am going to dig into it a little more. The book is set up journal style between two siblings. It goes back and forth between the two detailing their separate and combined experiences during the Nazi invasion of Russia. I could not put it down! We don't see a lot of books like this. From the Russian's point of view of the war or through the eyes of children/teens. WWII is the time period I love to study so this book just checked off all the boxes. I think this book would be wonderful supplementary material for homeschool families when learning about WWII. I HIGHLY recommend this one!!
Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable
Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead while her best friends are all away at camp--something that's way out of Katie and her mom's budget, UNLESS Katie can figure out a way to earn the money for camp herself. But when Katie gets a job catsitting for her mysterious upstairs neighbor, life get interesting. First, Madeline has 217 cats (!) and they're not exactly . . . normal cats. Also, why is Madeline always out EXACTLY when the city's most notorious villain commits crimes?! Is it possible that Katie's upstairs neighbor is really a super villain? Can Katie wrangle a whole lot of wayward cats, save a best friendship (why is Beth barely writing back? And who's this boy she keeps talking about?!), AND crack the biggest story in the city's history? Some heroes have capes . . . Katie has cats!
Review: Such a fun fast read! 217 cats is like my dream! The art in this one is so good! I loveeee the hero/villain dynamic throughout. What makes a villain? What makes a hero? I love that we are adding more grey area into Juvenile books. Life is not black and white it's a whole lot of grey and this GF is a wonderful example of that. It also has a great friendship aspect. Growing up, changing, and discovering what your priorities are. Can read it in one sitting!
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they've never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they're surprised . . . and curious.
Their parents are all clear on one point--not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother's good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it's immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious--and dark--their family's past is.
The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn't over--and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
Review: Soooo.... I was kinda disappointed in this one. I loved her first book but haven't read any of her others. I was really excited about the synopsis. Cousins who have never met, a family split apart, an allusive grandmother. Should have made for some good reading. I don't know if it's because I've read/watched so many mysteries but it just felt kinda predictable and like if read it before. I plan to go back and read her other ones. Hopefully it's just this one that I didn't love.
Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family's sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt's promises of eternal glory. For years she's pushed away any thought of revenge against the man--now a god--responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.
The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore's decision to bind her fate to Athena's and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost--and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
Review: Found a new favorite author! This is the book I have been waiting for! This one will defiantly be up there with Sara J. Maas, Shelby Mahurin, and Leigh Bardugo. It just checked all the boxes. I was never really into Mythology. I can never get the names right or keep the houses separated but after reading this I will be digging into it. I just loved all of it. I didn't want it to end and I couldn't put it down. You have to read it. You have to!
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.
When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.
She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princesa, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge―and her Condesa.
Review: I really enjoyed this story. I was surprised that I enjoyed it so much! It is beautifully written and is fill with such imaginative writing. I really couldn't put it down. The second book has just recently come out and I can't wait to read it. Ibanez is a wonderful storyteller and I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with.
Wench by Maxine Kaplan
Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.
Review: I have mixed feelings for this one. I enjoyed the adventure aspect of it but also felt that the story wasn't fully developed. The plot was very spotty and the characters felt like they weren't fully developed. The magic aspect was all over the place and the goal for the journey was lacking. It wasn't a terrible story but it had a lot of holes in it.
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
This was the February book for YA Book Club
The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: When the king dies, his son the prince must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon or what horrors she faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome young man, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny of sitting on a throne beside him. It’s all like a dream, like something from a fairy tale.
As Ama follows Emory to the kingdom of Harding, however, she discovers that not all is as it seems. There is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows, and the greatest threats may not be behind her, but around her, now, and closing in.
Review: Ok so....This is a book that I wish I had read before selecting it for my book club. I enjoyed this story. However, it had some places that I questioned if I should have chosen it for our YA Book Club. We did have a great discussion about it! There is a lot of symbolism in this story and there are several tough topics throughout. This would be a great book to read as a family to discuss all the topics in this story.
Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen
His name is synonymous with high-stakes wilderness survival stories. Now, beloved author Gary Paulsen portrays a series of life-altering moments from his turbulent childhood as his own original survival story. If not for his summer escape from a shockingly neglectful Chicago upbringing to a North Woods homestead at age five, there never would have been a Hatchet. Without the encouragement of the librarian who handed him his first book at age thirteen, he may never have become a reader. And without his desperate teenage enlistment in the Army, he would not have discovered his true calling as a storyteller.
Review: I really enjoyed this book! I have actually never read any of Gary Paulsen's books! After reading this though I will definitely read his books. I loved that he made this a juvenile biography. I think many adults forget that there are children out there living horrible lives. There are children out there living on their own, no parental love, and just trying to survive day to day. Some children are required to grow up way to soon and I hope parents read this story to their children to show how children living in their own town can be homeless, dealing with abusive parents, or even struggling just to find a meal. Beautifully written and a good book to ugly cry to.
Halfway to Harmony by Barbara O'Connor
Walter Tipple is looking for adventure. He keeps having a dream that his big brother, Tank, appears before him and says, “Let’s you and me go see my world, little man.” But Tank went to the army and never came home, and Walter doesn’t know how to see the world without him.
Then he meets Posey, the brash new girl from next door, and an eccentric man named Banjo, who’s off on a bodacious adventure of his own. What follows is a summer of taking chances, becoming braver, and making friends―and maybe Walter can learn who he wants to be without the brother he always wanted to be like.
Review: Such a sweet book! It's very light and put me in a good mood after I finished reading it. I loved that O'Connor tackled a tough topic, loss of a sibling, realistically. I think it did a wonderful job of showing the family dynamics after the loss of sibling and how every single person is affected. Wonderful friendship portrayed between two kiddos that truly truly needed a friend.
The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
VERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom's influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.
Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to the people around her--Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde; Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen's knight; and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere--the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn't belong. She never will.
When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere's younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving--Camelot, or herself?
Review: It took me a while to get into this one. I really enjoyed it though once I really sat down and read it. I like the curves in this one. I love the characters and the twist on the original story and I think I actually like this version better! The only negative I have is that Guinevere kinda gets on my nerves sometimes (don't hate me!). I want more from/for her. I get frustrated when the author denies a character something for to long. The only other negative I have is that now I have to wait until December for the 3rd book!
Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook
When Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.
This was during South Korea's Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.
Review: I enjoyed this book but it was a very choppy read. I continued to feel like I was missing something or an event had happened that wasn't written into the story. It still just amazes me that there are countries out there that still ban books and censor what their people can read, learn, and watch. It really makes you think about what has happened in our country and what could happen in the future.
The Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.
Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
Review: The first thing I think of is that this was a swashbuckling adventure! I'm excited to read the second book! I love the world Peterson has created and the nerd in me LOVES the footnotes. The way Peterson wrote about this world reminds me a lot of Harry Potter. It is well created and filled with mystery and intrigue. I would have loved to read this as a kid!
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
This was our March book for YA Book Club
Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.
Review: This book is wonderful. So beautifully written. I loved that Stone wrote in a way that I could put myself in Justyce's shoes and try to see the world through his eyes. I loved the family dynamics. Blood does not have to mean family. Family is who you surround yourself with. I highly recommend this book! This would be a great book to read as a family to discuss.
A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Fall in love, break the curse.
It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.
Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she's instead somehow sucked into Rhen's cursed world.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.
A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.