Month: February 2016

Firefly Hollow

Posted February 29, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Middle Grade / 2 Comments

Firefly HollowFirefly Hollow by Alison McGhee
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
on August 18th 2015
Pages: 291
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers Goodreads

Firefly. Cricket. Vole. Peter. Can four creatures from four very different Nations help one another find their ways in the world that can feel oh-so-big? Delve into this lush, unforgettable tale in the tradition of Charlotte’s Web and The Rats of NIMH, from the author of the New York Times bestselling Someday.
Firefly doesn’t merely want to fly, she wants to touch the moon. Cricket doesn’t merely want to sing about baseball, he wants to catch. When these two little creatures with big dreams wander out of Firefly Hollow, refusing to listen to their elders, they find themselves face-to-face with the one creature they were always told to stay away from…a giant.
But Peter is a Miniature Giant. They’ve always been told that a Miniature Giant is nothing but a Future Giant, but this one just isn’t quite as big or as scary as the other Giants. Peter has a dream of his own, as well as memories to escape. He is overwhelmed with sadness, and a summer with his new unlikely friends Firefly and Cricket might be just what he needs. Can these friends’ dreams help them overcome the past?
Firefly Hollow is nothing short of enchanting, reminding us all that the very best friend is the one who wants you to achieve your dreams. Full-color tip-in illustrations and dozens of black-and-white drawing provide added glow.

This story is so cute and I think my friends and family are truly tired of hearing me say this! I loved this book so much I sent a copy to my nephews back home. It’s the perfect story for night-time reading, I suggested my brother read them a chapter a night.

Why I love it: The cover is what initially drew my attention,  when I opened the book, I saw the illustrations and I knew I had to own it. After reading the inside cover I was running to the cashier to make my purchase. The story itself is just so darn cute. Firefly lives in the Firefly Nation with Elder and the other fireflies. Suddenly her Air Safety classes are just not enough for her and she decided to leave. When she meets Cricket and Vole, they become great friends and they begin to dream big. Cricket wants to play baseball and be the first cricket catcher, Firefly wants to touch the moon and Vole wants to sail in his boat. Peter, the miniature giant, is having a hard time and as it turns out, Firefly and Cricket are just what he needs to make it though.

Who Should Read it? Gosh, I really think every young kid should read this book. But more importantly this is the perfect book for any child going though the loss of someone special. Firefly’s Elder, the firefly who raised her passes away. They don’t really dwell on it, there isn’t a funeral or anything but it is the reason Firefly leaves Firefly Hollow and meets Cricket. The character Peter is also grieving the loss of his friend, again the author doesn’t really talk about what happened, just that he passed away and Peter is sad. Together Peter and Firefly grieve and become great friends. Other that the mentions of death, this story is really for any kid who loves bugs and has a great imagination. The author paints a very vivid picture, so much so I was imagining the bugs in my backyard attending Blinking Class and Temperature Class with Firefly and Cricket!

Overall I loved this book and I can’t stop talking about it, I can’t wait for my nephews to read it so we can talk about the lives of bugs!

Check out these beautiful illustrations!

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five-stars

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Serafina and the Black Cloak

Posted February 16, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Middle Grade / 0 Comments

Serafina and the Black CloakSerafina and the Black Cloak (Serafina, #1) by Robert Beatty
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
on July 14th 2015
Pages: 293
Published by Disney•Hyperion Goodreads

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.
But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

As the resident rat catcher, Serafina tends to wander around the Biltmore Manor at night more than during the day. The first scenes of the book start with her witnessing a man in a black cloak dragging a girl down into the depths of the basement. The entire time she pleads for her life, and tries to break free. Then, the girl just disappears into the man in the black cloak. Serafina knows she isn’t crazy, but she also knows what she saw.

Soon more children from the Biltmore estate go missing and Serafina knows she has to solve the mystery. Before she knows it, she has become friends (her very first real friend) with Braeden, the estate owners nephew. There is no doubt about it though, the man in the black cloak is coming after Braeden and Serafina must catch him before Braeden gets hurt. With Braeden’s help Serafina discovers who the man in the black cloak is and she goes after him.

I loved how creepy and mysterious this book is. I was surprised to learn the Biltmore Manor is real, and it’s not that far from where I live. Serafina is one brave girl and she will not stop until the man in the black cloak is put away.

When this book first came out, I saw this book trailer everywhere, it really sets the tone for the book!

 

Have you read Serafina and the Black Cloak? If so, let’s chat!

four-stars

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Passenger

Posted February 10, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

PassengerPassenger (Passenger, #1) by Alexandra Bracken
Format: ARC
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
on January 5th 2016
Pages: 486
Published by Disney-Hyperion Source: Author
Goodreads

Passage, n.i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.ii. A journey by water; a voyage.iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.
Alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here

Let me start by saying I waited for this book for what seemed like forever! It was on my list of books to grab at BEA last year, and when I didn’t get it I was pretty sad. Then I heard Alexandra Bracken was going to be at Y’ALL Fest (which is a mere 8 hr drive) I knew I had to go in hopes of getting this ARC…and I GOT ONE! I only had to stand in line for four hours but it was totally worth it!

I have to admit, the beginning moved more slowly than I usually like in a book. Etta is lives in current day New York as is preparing for a big concert, as she plays her piece, she is drawn to a noise only she can hear. When she investigates the noise, she is suddenly transported back in time. She finds herself onboard a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in 1776, she’s in strange clothing and dripping wet with no recollection of how she got there.

It is on the ship she meets Nicholas, a teen about her age but from a completely different time. When it comes to Nicholas though, I kept going back and forth: I like him, I hate him…nope I like him, he means well…uh no he doesn’t…back and forth. I’ve decided I like him. (I think).

While on the ship, Etta learns she comes from a magical family that can time travel. Can you imagine? How cool would that be!? She also learns that she’s been kidnapped by a man called Cyrus (who I think of as The Grandfather) an old man who is the head of the family, the leader if you will.

Now that Etta knows who she is and what she has to do, the adventure really begins! Together her and Nicholas must find the only remaining astrolabe, the magical object used to create new portals, if Etta doesn’t find the astrolabe and return it to Cyrus someone Etta loves will die.

I’m telling you…this is the good stuff! Etta travels from Bhutan 1910, New York in 1776, 1940’s London, 1685 Angkor, Paris 1880 and Damascus in 1599. Each place she visits she gets closer and closer to the astrolabe and each place she visits she encounters people who want the astrolabe for themselves.

Now this book is well over 400 pages so it’s not a quick read, and the beginning is slow to get started but don’t discount Passenger just yet. Once you get started and the time traveling really begins, you won’t want to put it down!

four-stars

 

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Star in the Forest

Posted February 8, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Middle Grade / 0 Comments

Star in the ForestStar in the Forest by Laura Resau
Format: Paperback
Genres: Middle Grade
on March 9th 2010
Pages: 149
Published by Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers Goodreads

Zitlally's family is undocumented, and her father has just been arrested for speeding and deported back to Mexico. As her family waits for him to return—they’ve paid a coyote to guide him back across the border—they receive news that he and the coyote’s other charges have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom. Meanwhile, Zitlally and a new friend find a dog in the forest near their trailer park. They name it Star for the star-shaped patch over its eye. As time goes on, Zitlally starts to realize that Star is her father’s “spirit animal,” and that as long as Star is safe, her father will be also. But what will happen to Zitlally’s dad when Star disappears?
“A vibrant, large-hearted story.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred (on Red Glass)

 

I thought some aspects of this book were cute. The growing friendship between Zitlally and her best friend Crystal is one that will last a life time. Even though they’ve lived next door to each other, they’ve never really been friends in the traditional way. When Zitlally finds a stray dog (she names Star) in the ‘forest’ tied to an old car, she feeds him, brings him water and even gives him a bath. Star becomes an outlet for both girls and they begin visiting Star everyday until they discover he is gone. To make matters worse, when Zitlally comes home that night, she finds out her Papa, who was supposed to be on his way back home, has been kidnapped and the only way to get him back is to pay ten-thousand dollars, which of course they don’t have. Zitlally and Crystal begin to think that if they find Star, Zitlallys Papa will be returned home.

All in all I liked this story, I did have some explaining to do after my daughter read it, some topics in this story are not all that easy to explain to a middle grade reader. I would strongly recommend this book to a middle grade reader above the age of 9, not every parent is up for explaining deportation and broken glass and needles in the public park, though it may be perfect for anyone who might need to explain deportation to a young child.

three-stars

 

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The Truth

Posted February 2, 2016 by Ashley in Book Review, Young Adult / 3 Comments

The TruthThe Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston
Format: ARC
Genres: Young Adult
on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 240
Published by Sourcebooks Fire Source: Publisher
Goodreads

Lie, torture, kill—there's nothing Chris and Derek wouldn't do for their younger brothers…
When Chris wakes up tied to a chair in a dark basement, he knows that he's trapped—and why. He shot and killed Derek's little brother. He had his reasons, but no matter how far Derek goes to uncover the truth about that night, Chris's story won't change. It can't. There is far too much at stake…
Derek is desperate to prove his brother didn't deserve to die. And if kidnapping his brother's killer is the only way to the truth, than he'll go to extremes. But Chris's truth is far more dangerous than Derek could have imagined, and knowing could cost both their lives…

When the story starts, Chris finds himself duct taped to a chair in a strange room with Derek, a high school drop out just out of juvie. Chris only knows who Derek is because he killed Derek’s brother in a robbery gone bad. Now Derek wants answers only Chris can give him, if he doesn’t tell the truth, Derek will cut off his fingers with a pair garden shears. After hours of interrogation, Derek finally concludes Chris is leaving something out and he escalates the situation to the next level, putting someone Chris loves in danger.

I liked the format of this book, I found it easy to follow and interesting enough to keep my attention. Told from Chris’s point of view both as the story is happening and as he walks Derek through the events of the past that led up to his brother’s death. A fast paced quick read that could totally be an episode of Criminal Minds!

three-stars

 

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