Thursday, April 24, 2014

THE UNFAIREST OF THEM ALL by Shannon Hale

Ever After High: The Unfairest of Them All

Legacy Day did not quite go the way everyone planned and now the fallout is apparent - Royals and Rebels food fighting in the castleteria, fairy tale characters wrestling with their destiny and their personal desires, and one of the core characters in danger of banishment forever. Will Raven's choices on Legacy Day drive a wedge between the Royals and Rebels so deep that it cannot be fixed, or can students from both sides pull together for one of their own?

I enjoyed this chapter in the Ever After high series even more than I enjoyed the first one! While the main characters, Raven and Apple, wrestle with the implications of Raven's Legacy Day choice for their individual stories, they are also dealing with the repercussions on their school lives. How can Apple be a leader if she doesn't know what is going to happen to her storied path to become queen? Is Raven responsible for all the horrible things happening at Ever After High? While the girls wrestle with their personal choices and questions, they also get to work together on something bigger and more important than individual destiny. The world building and character development grow nicely in this story that will satisfy fans of the first book.

5 out of 5 stars
AR reading level of 5.1

Book three, A Wonderlandiful World releases August 26, 2014


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

KILLER PHYSIQUE by G. A. McKevett

Killer Physique

Savannah, Dirk, Ryan and John attend a movie premiere to meet a friend of Ryan and John only to find him dead shortly thereafter. The autopsy and CSI reports show no signs of foul play, but everyone involved has a feeling they are missing something. The Moonlight Magnolia team dig into another murder while also watching love bloom between Savannah's brother and her assistant. Also, Dirk meets his birth parents for the first time. Savannah's life is never dull!

I discovered this series in an airport book store many years ago, and I have followed it faithfully every since. There are lots of side-stories going on in this volume, but they didn't diminish the mystery. The fact that the case wasn't really a case for half the book - because they weren't sure if it was murder - was a nice twist on the usual formula. Savannah and Dirk are still in the honeymoon phase of their relationship - not so much so that Savannah cuts him any slack when he cleaning skills leave a lot to be desired, but there are a lot of lovey-dovey moments between them that changes the tone of this book from that in earlier books in the series.

4 out of 5 stars

* I received an advanced reader copy this book from the publisher, Kensington, for free in the hope that I would review it honestly on my blog. Regardless, I only review books I enjoyed. I don’t believe in passing on negative reviews. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

ALSO KNOWN AS by Robin Benway

Also Known As

Maggie Silver is a master safe-cracker in a family of spies. She is also a high school student. She is sent undercover to get information from the father of one of her classmates - information that could expose her family and other spies working to keep the world safe. She has no idea how cute the classmate is, or how quickly she might fall for him. Can Maggie maintain her cover and get the information without getting her heart broken?

I loved this book! I laughed out loud so many times and even had to read some passages to my husband because they were so great. Maggie has a fantastic voice - sassy, sarcastic, confident - but she also has a sweetness about her as she has her first boyfriend and a fierceness when it comes to standing up for herself and her ability to do her job to those who doubt her. The core characters - Maggie, her friend Roux, and her boyfriend Jesse - are fantastic together. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Going Rogue (pictured below)!

5 out of 5 stars
AR reading level of 4.2, interest level of Middle Grade + (6th grade and older). There's underage drinking, prescription drug use, language, and other references that make this a better fit for teen readers than my elementary students. Personally, I would recommend this more for high school than middle school readers. Adults who enjoy middle grade fiction, should check this one out - it was great fun to read!



Going Rogue (Also Known As Series #2)

Monday, April 21, 2014

ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT EERIE by Gordon McAlpine

Once Upon a Midnight Eerie: Book #2

Edgar and Allan are on a movie set to star in a show about their ancestor, Edgar Alan Poe. While there, they meet Em and Milly Dickinson, descendants of Emily Dickinson. Together the two sets of twins go on a midnight cemetery tour and search for lost treasure and try to solve a centuries-old murder. But that's nothing compared to the people hunting down Edgar and Allan in order to kill them once and for all.

Another enjoyable book about these fascinating twins! I loved the addition of the twin girls to the story; they were a great complement to the boys. Ghost story is mild; mystery was satisfying. There was less in this book about the over-arching story of threats to the boys, with more focus on the immediate mystery. The contacts from the afterlife continue in this volume, which are amusing. My son introduced me to this series, and I am happy to continue it on my own!

4 out of 5 stars
This book just released this month so there is no AR reading level at the time of this writing.

* I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher for free in the hope that I would review it honestly on my blog. Regardless, I only review books I enjoy. I don’t believe in passing on negative reviews. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

THE TELL-TALE START by Gordon McAlpine

The Tell-Tale Start

Edgar and Allan Poe are identical twins who are exceptional - exceptionally clever and exceptionally connected, even moreso than most twins. They are also descendants of the famous writer, Edgar Alan Poe. When their cat goes missing, the boys and the aunt and uncle who have raised them will travel across the country to retrieve the cat, not knowing they are heading right for a trap.

This was a lot of fun. The characters were really interesting, especially the twins. There's a lot of teaser info sprinkled throughout the story, giving readers information the boys don't have. There are also notes from the original Edgar Alan Poe from the afterlife as he tries to help the boys which adds a quirky tone to the story. This story felt a lot like the Genius Files to me as the family was traveling across the country without really knowing what they were getting into. Fans of that series might enjoy this series. There are plenty of references to the works of the original Poe which may lead readers to checking out Poe's works.

4 out of 5 stars
AR reading level of 5.8

Thursday, April 17, 2014

THE DEEPER LIFE by Daniel Henderson

Deeper Life, The: Satisfying the 8 Vital Longings of Your Soul

Thought provoking stories and self-discovery questions help readers find purpose and satisfaction in life. The longings referenced in the subtitle include a longing to know who God is, a longing to know who we are, and a longing to find out why we are here. The book provides space to record thoughts and answers to the questions so that readers can clarify their values, passions and purposes, all with a goal of improving quality of life. For example, there are exercises to help a reader determine his or her theology and identity. There are examples from the author's own life and work with other people. There are other books and systems for examining your life that are similar to this one - ways to help you discover your purpose or develop a personal mission statement. This one is well-organized and easy to use and relate to. I think this would be good to use for a Sunday school class or a church or business small group.

Just in time for Easter! If your Lenten season or Easter preparations have left you looking for "more" in your spiritual life, considering reading The Deeper Life.

4 out of 5 stars

* I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, for free in the hope that I would review it honestly on my blog. Regardless, I only review books I enjoyed. I don’t believe in passing on negative reviews. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PRINCESS LABELMAKER TO THE RESCUE by Tom Angleberger

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue!: An Origami Yoda Book (B&N Exclusive Edition)

The origami rebels are back after their small triumph in Jabba the Puppett. Now they are waiting for Principal Rabski to follow through on her promise to do something. Princess Labelmaker shares a case file with Principal Rabski. Will it convice her to help end the torturous "Fun Time" test prep? Or will it just give her the evidence she needs to bust the members of the Rebel Alliance?

What a great continuation of this fun series! Timely, too, in the world of Common Core Standards and standardized testing and boycotts and rebellions.  Some of the case files are a little "random" and don't tie as tightly to the overall story as others, but they are enjoyable on their own as character development and fun school stories. There is a nice resolution of the Fun Time issue - but is it temporary? There are hints at more adventures yet to come. Book 6 is showing an August or September release, depending on what internet source you check - and that may be the final chapter in the series. You can read more about the series at the author's site here.

There is one chapter that may lead to some family discussions as kids read this book - a kid in the group is teased by some outsiders because he wears a pink shirt for picture day. The other kids call him "gay" and his friends wrestle with how to respond and wonder if they should care if he is gay. I loved how the friends responded to this situation, and I think there are some great discussion points for families and school settings about bullying that can come from the reading of this chapter.

4 out of 5 stars
AR reading level of 4.9