Monthly Archives: May 2016

Presidential Pets

Presidential Pets Book Cover Presidential Pets
Julia Moberg
Juvenile Nonfiction
Imagine Publishing
January 1, 2012

The Wierd, wacky, little, big, scary, strange animals that have lived in the White House.



“Presidential Pets” is an excellent introduction to the history of the American presidents for children.  The hook is obviously the pet facts, but each president also has brief and easy-to-digest facts about their presidency on their pages.  The illustrations are wonderful, as well.  Highly recommended to animal and history lovers of all ages.

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

Anything You Want

Anything You Want Book Cover Anything You Want
Geoff Herbach
Sourcebooks Fire
May 3, 2016

Taco's mom always said, "Today is the best day of your life, and tomorrow will be even better." That was hard to believe the day she died of cancer and when Taco's dad had to move up north for work, but he sure did believe it when Maggie Corrigan agreed to go with him to junior prom. Taco loves Maggie-even more than the tacos that earned him his nickname. And she loves him right back.

Except, all that love? It gets Maggie pregnant. Everyone else may be freaking out, but Taco can't wait to have a real family again. He just has to figure out what it means to be dad and how to pass calculus. And then there's getting Maggie's parents to like him. Because it's would be so much easier for them to be together if he didn't have to climb the side of the Corrigan's house to see her...



I’m going to put it right out there.  I really disliked “Anything You Want.”  Had it not been for the ending this would be a one star review.

Taco, our main character, is dealing with the loss of his mom, an absent dad, an alcoholic brother, and now an unexpected pregnancy with his girlfriend.  Now, I actually read the author defending Taco as an incurable optimist.  My dislike for Taco is not due to that, or the fact that he’s not the smartest item on the menu, but because the way he is written is absolutely annoying.  There can’t be someone that clueless and still function in life.  I was legitimately concerned he was unable to even consent to sex.  He’s naive to the point that you wonder if he was raised away from society, including magazines and television.  The slang he used grated on my last nerve.

I’m going to stop myself there.  Suffice it to say, I can’t recommend “Anything You Want” to anyone.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

The Last Boy and Girl in the World

The Last Boy and Girl in the World Book Cover The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Siobhan Vivian
Juvenile Fiction
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
April 26, 2016

From the critically acclaimed author of The List comes a stunning new novel about a girl who must say goodbye to everything she knows after a storm wreaks havoc on her hometown. Aberdeen is drowning. Keeley Hewitt always has a joke to crack. Except there is nothing funny about her life right now. Her hometown of Aberdeen has always been known for flooding, but after one last terrible storm, the entire town has been told they must evacuate by the end of the summer…for good. How will she say goodbye to everything and everyone she has ever known? Most of the Aberdeen residents happily take the generous payout and look forward to starting over someplace new. But Keeley’s dad isn’t swayed by the overtures of officials or the sheriff’s threats. He refuses to evacuate their family, and Keeley goes from being the funny girl in school, to the last girl in Aberdeen. As the town empties out, two boys compete for her heart. One is a boy she’s had a crush on forever, and the other is one she thinks she could fall in love with. But the water is rising higher and higher, and Keeley is faced with losing everything she’s ever known, and the promise of things she’s only ever wished for…



2 stars for the main character

4 stars for the plot

I’m going to average out the stars to three on “The Last Boy and Girl in the World” because that is the only fair way to deal with what felt like two separate books.

The story itself is beautiful and haunting.  The feeling of love of your hometown and the shock of losing it overnight is described very well.  It also points out what can happen when greed and government corruption go up against the poor.  Add to it a flawed family that is very relatable and you have a perfect book, right? No.

Keeley, the narrator, almost ruins the entire thing.  I’ve never read a character that could be so insecure and yet think so highly of herself in terms of how she’s viewed by her friends, family, and even teachers.  Even when confronted with how they really feel she doesn’t get it.  In fact, I’m shocked she even managed to have friends.  That would have been ok if there had been a character growth arc, but there wasn’t.  She suddenly grew up in the last couple of chapters and her relationship with one character is inexplicably fixed even after not seeing one another for months.  It felt crammed in as an afterthought.

If you read the book description and “The Last Boy and Girl in the World” sounds interesting to you, then give it a shot.  The writing is good, but it just wasn’t for me.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Underage Drinking

The Art of Not Breathing

The Art of Not Breathing Book Cover The Art of Not Breathing
Sarah Alexander
April 1, 2016

Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone. Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea.



“The Art of Not Breathing” is far from your typical YA book.  In fact, I found it quite odd.  That isn’t actually a bad thing considering that our narrator, Elsie, is different from the norm herself.

This is one of those books that mentioning much of it will spoil the whole thing.  I can say the Elsie is dealing with the drowning death of her twin brother when they were eleven and a very, very broken family.  Her life is extremely painful and the author spares no feelings in describing the stark reality of everything that she is living through.

On top of her home life, she is dealing with a bullying  at school.  In fact, there is one scene that describes the most brutal bullying situation I have ever read.  It was bad enough that I had to put the book down for a bit.  One other thing that may trigger readers is that her brother has a severe eating disorder.  I applaud the author for her frank description of what it does to him, but I want to warn everyone that it is graphic.

I recommend “The Art of Breathing” to anyone looking for a good contemporary read that unflinchingly examines broken families, the lies they tell, bullying, and eating disorders.  There is romance, but if you’re looking for something lighthearted in that genre I’d suggest you look elsewhere.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Underage Drug and Alcohol Use, Bullying, Eating Disorders


OCDaniel Book Cover OCDaniel
Wesley King
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
April 12, 2016

A thirteen-year-old boy's life revolves around hiding his obsessive compulsive disorder until a girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time and he gets a mysterious note that changes everything.



I wish there were more stars to give to “OCDaniel.”  It’s a wonderful and emotional read that I think any middle or high schooler (or adult) will enjoy.

Daniel is 13 years old and has OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), but he doesn’t know what it is.  Written in the first person, he tells how his rituals affect his life and when the first symptoms began.  While OCD is the main subject, Daniel also describes feeling like an inferior sibling and being bullied for other reasons, making it a good look inside the overall hell we know as middle school.  There is a bonus mystery to be solved to add even more reason to keep turning the pages.

I’m going to get personal for a moment.  I have OCD, but it is the result of a bad accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury.  This book had me absolutely sobbing during many of the chapters.  The descriptions of the torment were almost too realistic.  OCD is bad enough as an adult, but to go through it as a kid must be horrible.  I hope those who have it, whether or not they know what it is, are able to find this book.  It has the potential to help many people.

“OCDaniel” is a book I recommend to anyone, even younger children who are able to read at a middle grade level.  It’s a fast read, making it a good choice for reluctant readers.  There are many opportunities for discussion for parents or teachers who wish to read it with their children or class.

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


Content Warning:

Brief Mention of Suicide, Bullying

Little Chickies

Little Chickies Book Cover Little Chickies
Susie Jaramillo
April 1, 2016
Board Book
25 pages

"Los Pollitos Dicen," or "Little Chickies Squeal" is one of the most popular songs in the Spanish speaking world, akin to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" in English. This English adaptation of the song is as catchy and lyrical as the Spanish version and sure to engage new audiences not familiar with the original song. The song is an homage to the demanding nature of babies and the unconditional love, care, and warmth given to them by their mommies.



“Little Chickies” is an adorable board book that introduces Spanish or English, depending on the child’s native language, in a simple and easily accessible way.  The story is told in both languages, one following the other, with the same illustrations in each version, allowing children to easily see the connections.  On top of that, there is a download available of the story being read.  Very cute and inventive!

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

A Fierce and Subtle Poison

A Fierce and Subtle Poison Book Cover A Fierce and Subtle Poison
Samantha Mabry
Young Adult Fiction
Algonquin Books
April 12, 2016

Spending the summer with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico, seventeen-year-old Lucas turns to a legendary cursed girl filled with poison when his girlfriend mysteriously disappears.



“A Fierce and Subtle Poison” is a wonderful tale of magical realism and fantasy based heavily upon the stories and superstitions found in Puerto Rico.

If you’re looking for a book with typical romance, this one is not for you.  The focus is more on the mysterious nature of a girl and a boy’s search to find himself.  I absolutely loved the look into how Puerto Ricans view the rich Americans who are taking over and destroying the natural beauty of their homeland.  For his part, Lucas, the main character, does have a love of the place and the people.  It’s nice to see hope for change.

The characters are very well-developed, and the book reads at a fast and easy pace.  It’s easy to get lost in the world and believe in magic again.  I can’t say much else without giving away some important things, but I can say the ending is satisfying and leaves room for a sequel without needing one to make the story feel complete.  It’s a really fun ride.

“A Fierce and Subtle Poison” does have some themes that might not be appropriate for younger middle graders, but anyone older who loves a good fairy tale will enjoy this book.  I highly recommend it.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Underage Alcohol Abuse, Violence, Brief Mentions Of Animal Death (Not Graphic)


Defender Book Cover Defender
Graham McNamee
Wendy Lamb Books
April 12, 2016

Seventeen-year-old Tyne and her boyfriend Stick investigate a decades-old murder after she finds the body of a girl in the basement wall of her apartment building.



“Defender” is a gritty mystery set in a downtrodden urban area of Toronto.

While I felt that the varied races of the characters and the realistic feel of the location were unique, there was something off about it all that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It didn’t all come together in a way that could have taken it from okay to great.  There were a lot of subplots occurring, and that may have been a barrier in keeping the story cohesive.

The mystery contained in the story was a good one with an ending I really appreciated.  The look into the very real problems with the foster care system and the difficulty of being able to escape poverty were eye-opening.  Many readers are sure to find characters they can relate to, which for many may be a rare occurrence.

“Defender” has its good and bad points, and I encourage those who are interested to give it a try.  There is quite a bit of  disturbing imagery, so those buying for younger or sensitive readers should keep that in mind.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Violence, Disturbing Imagery