Monthly Archives: April 2016

Almost A Full Moon

Almost a Full Moon Book Cover Almost a Full Moon
Hawksley Workman
Songs, English
Tundra Books (NY)
September 6, 2016
32

Almost a Full Moon is a warm-hearted story of family, community, food and home. A boy and his grandmother host a gathering in their small cabin in the middle of winter. Friends travel from near and far, and some new friends even turn up. The walls of the cabin are elastic and the soup pot bottomless; all are welcome. Based on the lyrics of Hawksley Workman's song from his holiday album Almost a Full Moon, this book evokes both the cold and the coziness of a winter's night: crisp clean air, sparkling snow, the light of the moon, welcoming windows, glowing candles, family and friends. The spare text is beautifully complemented with the rich illustrations of Jensine Eckwall, a new talent to Tundra. She brings beauty and a hint of magic to Workman's evocative lyrics; together, they create a world and a night that will enchant readers of all ages.

 

Review:

The story and the pictures in “Almost a Full Moon” were cute, but somehow they didn’t seem to mix together in just the right way.  It’s still a nice little book.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Ooko

Ooko Book Cover Ooko
Esme Shapiro
Penguin Random House Canada
July 5, 2016
Hardcover
40

Ooko has everything a fox could want: a stick, a leaf and a rock. Well, almost everything . . . Ooko wants someone to play with too! The foxes in town always seem to be playing with their two-legged friends, the Debbies. Maybe if he tries to look like the other foxes, one of the Debbies will play with him too. But when Ooko finally finds his very own Debbie, things don't turn out quite as he had expected!
A quirky, funny, charmingly illustrated story about finding friendship and being true to yourself.

 

Review:

“Ooko” is an adorable picture book about a fox learning the beauty of just being yourself.  The simple wording and quirky illustrations will keep children both young and old entertained.  I found myself laughing out loud at Ooko’s sense of humor and little bit of sass.  Highly recommended!

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Yitzi and the Giant Menorah

Yitzi and the Giant Menorah Book Cover Yitzi and the Giant Menorah
Richard Ungar
Tundra Books (NY)
September 6, 2016
32

On the eve of Hanukkah, the People of Chelm have received a special gift from the Mayor of Lublin. A giant menorah in which they place in the square for all the admire. Every night, the villagers meet to watch the lighting of a candle on the menorah. And every night, the villagers ponder What is the most fitting way to thank the Mayor of Lublin?

The villagers come up with idea after idea, but their gift never quite reaches the Mayor. What will they do? Finally, on the last night of Hanukkah, Yitzi has an idea to orchestrate the surprise thank you gift.

 

Review:

“Yitzi and the Giant Menorah” is absolutely gorgeous.  The illustrations may be my favorites that I have ever found in a children’s book.  It’s filled with color, and the pages can also be seen as a “hide and seek” type game to find objects contained on all of the pages.  The story is also beautiful and engaging.

It’s a whimsical story that focuses on many of the traditions of Hanukkah.  Books for Jewish children can sometimes be difficult to find.  However, it’s also a good book for those who aren’t Jewish!  Churches can use it to teach Old Testament traditions, and anyone can use it to expand cultural awareness.  An added bonus is a short summary of how Hanukkah came to be on the last page.

I’m going to be buying several copies as gifts for all ages this coming holiday season.  I only wish I could frame the artwork without needing to destroy a book.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Bob’s Burgers: Well Done

Bob's Burgers
Loren Bouchard, Jeff Drake, Rachel Hastings, Ben Dickerson,
Comics & Graphic Novels
Dynamite Entertainment
March 15, 2016
112

Satisfy your hunger for the red hot Bob's Burgers with this sizzling new collection, served well done! Written and illustrated by the fine folks at the Emmy Award-winning studio Bento Box Entertainment, these Belcher Family shenanigans are guaranteed to delight fans of all ages. Thrill to Louise's investigation into a pest control problem, Tina's fanciful pursuit of Jimmy Pesto's heart, and Gene's imaginative reimagining of a maritime classic! The Belcher parents Bob and Linda also join in on the fun, alongside dozens of your favorite cast members. Bon appetit!

 

Review:

What can I say about this collection?  Well, it’s “Bob’s Burgers: Well Done,” and the very name “Bob’s Burgers” is synonymous with good comedy.  If you’re a fan of the show, I encourage you to get this asap.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tell the Wind and Fire

Tell the Wind and Fire Book Cover Tell the Wind and Fire
Sarah Rees Brennan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group
April 5, 2016
Hardcover
368

“Sarah Rees Brennan writes with fine control and wit, and I suspect that word of this magical thriller will pass through the populace with the energy of wind, of fire.” —Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Egg and Spoon

In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Celebrated author Sarah Rees Brennan weaves a magical tale of romance and revolution, love and loss.

 

Review:

Actual rating would be 3 1/2 stars.

“Tell the Wind and Fire” is a fantasy novel based heavily on “A Tale of Two Cities,” but if you haven’t read that you won’t be lost.  I had very mixed feelings on it, ranging from being in love with certain parts to wanting to scream and throw the book at the wall in frustration.

The premise was really good and engaging.  The world-building was fantastic, and that is always something that hooks me.  Unfortunately, the plot was kind of jerked around.  Sometimes it was fast-paced and others it was slow.  Perhaps the worst aspect was that at times it felt like a good chunk of information was missing, and the reader was expected to infer what backstory led to the current events.  It wasn’t enough to ruin the story, but it was an annoyance.

The main character, Lucie, was a child born in the Dark City who ended up in the Light.  For half of the book she was fierce and relatable.  Her dialogue with one character, whose details I will keep secret due to spoilers, was absolutely amazing.  I loved their dynamic and wish the entire book had been about them. Then there was Ethan, her boyfriend.  The term “flowery prose” does not even begin to describe how she thought of him.  It felt like an entirely separate book.  Think Victorian era romance, which would have been fine had she not been a strong character literally everywhere else.  He was given flaws, some pretty serious ones, that were all but ignored in favor of her falling all over herself over his perfection.  The over-the-top relationship almost ruined the entire book.

“Tell the Wind and Fire” is worth the read for the good parts, but be sure to be prepared for some frustration.  It’s best for high school aged and up.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Mild Gore

The Midnight Watch

The Midnight Watch Book Cover The Midnight Watch
David Dyer
Fiction
Macmillan
April 5, 2016
336

As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction. Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. David Dyer's The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel--the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author's own experiences as a ship's officer and a lawyer.

 

Review:

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the story of the Titanic disaster.  I believe this can be said of many who grew up to become historians or develop a lifelong love of history.  “The Midnight Watch” is a well-researched novel about the Californian, the ship that watched as the Titanic sank.

It’s almost inexplicable why there has been so little written about the events on the ship.  The actions of her crew, or more correctly inactions, arguably changed the fate of over 1500 souls.  The author has obviously spent a good amount of time researching using primary sources and piecing together a good narrative of what most likely happened.  What I enjoyed the most was the actual sinking was a very minor part.  The aftermath and inquiries were the main focus, and that is something also rarely focused on.

An extra layer of the story is created through the use of a fictional journalist for a Boston paper named Steadman.  His pursuit of the truth provided a way to present the aftermath in a way which did not read like a dull history text.  I especially appreciated the look into how journalism worked in those days, as well as the beginnings of the women’s rights movement.  It was fascinating.  Unfortunately, the character himself was someone I found a bit unbearable.  That’s the reason for four stars as opposed to five.

The crowning jewel of “The Midnight Watch” is a short story included at the end entitled “Eight White Rockets.”  There is one section for each rocket.  It follows the Sage family, consisting of 9 children and their parents, during the sinking.  This was a real family and details of their lives are sprinkled throughout the story.  The treatment of third class passengers goes a long way toward explaining how so many children perished.  The story also tells about what was happening on the Californian during the same time frame of each rocket.  It gave me chills, and I still cannot stop thinking of those children and what might have been.

I highly recommend “The Midnight Watch” to anyone middle grade and up who has a fascination with the Titanic and wants a deeper understanding of what happened on that fateful night.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Sexual Situations, Language, Lots of Death

Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell

Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell
Liane Shaw
Second Story Press
April 5, 2016
Paperback
235

Frederick has a lot of rules for himself—like if someone calls him Freddy, he doesn't have to answer them, and he only wears shirts with buttons. But when his friend Angel—his only friend—goes missing and he is questioned by the police, he doesn't have a rule for that. Friendship is a new concept for Frederick, so when Angel asked him to keep a secret no matter what, he agreed. But do the rules of friendship apply when your friend is missing?

 

Review:

I can’t say that “Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell” is a bad book.  In fact, I enjoyed most of it quite a bit.  There were a couple of problems that kept it from being a four star book, though.

The story centers around Frederick, who has Asperger’s, and Angel, who is only his second friend.  Frederick and his wandering stream-of-consciousness voice may be difficult for some to follow, but it’s an accurate portrayal of how many with Asperger’s (or add, adhd, etc.) think.  One caveat with this is that people remember: If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.  Think of this as a general view, not necessarily a specific one.  Anyway, the situation in which he finds himself is complex for anyone, let alone someone with a different way of processing the world, and the portrayal of how he works through it is fascinating.

Angel is a mystery to him, but his observations do develop her character well.  However, there is an abrupt shift to her point-of-view that irritated me.  Here is a wonderfully refreshing story told by someone with a different way of looking at the world, and it suddenly shifted from his story to hers.  We have more than enough books about the neurotypical, and I would have liked to see this one remain Frederick’s.

Granted, there is quite a significant event that happens (one I cannot elaborate on because it is a spoiler), so I can understand why the author may have thought it important to switch to Angel, but that event could have been tackled using Frederick.  In fact, the handling of it seemed a bit rushed.  It was a good thing to include, but I believe more exploration of the aftermath would have been more beneficial.

Overall, I can neither recommend nor not recommend “Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell.”  If it seems interesting to you, give it a try.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Suggestive Dialogue, Sexual Situations

 

My Kind of Crazy

My Kind of Crazy Book Cover My Kind of Crazy
Robin Reul
Juvenile Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
April 5, 2016
336

A promposal that (literally) goes up in flames sparks a friendship that might be just crazy enough to work Hank Kirby can't catch a break. It's not that he means to screw things up all the time. It just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out a girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells "Prom" in sparklers on her lawn...and ends up nearly burning down her house. Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing and blackmails Hank into an unusual friendship. But when Hank learns about the dark secrets Peyton is hiding, their relationship may turn out to be his biggest disaster yet.

 

Review:

I really wish there were a half-star option, because “My Kind of Crazy” is a solid 4 1/2 star read.

There is a lot of heart to be found in this book.  Mental illness and the topic of not fitting in are heavily covered, but before you think “not that again”, please read on.  It is NOT handled in the typical way.  First of all, I cannot remember reading any other YA book that tackles pyromania.  That alone makes it unique. The issues are presented as serious, but there is a gentle humor in it as well.  The problems aren’t made light of, but it does make it obvious that there is humor in almost every situation, and your attitude is as important as anything else in determining the outcome.  I prom