Review: Dealing with Dragons

dealing-with-dragonsBook: Dealing with Dragons (1990)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Princess Cimorene hates the idea of being a princess. She never gets to cook or fence or learn magic. So she runs away and ends up in the clutches of the dragon, Kazul. But they soon become friends. And even when the knights and princes come to rescue her, she plots ways to stall them. However, when the wizards show up, well, that’s just asking for trouble…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The tone of this book is what makes this worth reading! I absolutely loved all the references to fairy tales. It’s so meta. For example:

“Then they gave me a loaf of bread and told me to walk through the forest and give some to anyone who asked. I did exactly what they told me, and the second beggar-woman was a fairy in disguise, but instead of saying that whenever I spoke, diamonds and roses would drop from my mouth, she said that since I was so kind, I would never have any problems with my teeth.”

“Really? Did it work?”

“Well, I haven’t had a toothache since I met her.”

“I’d much rather have good teeth than have diamonds and roses drop out of my mouth whenever I said something”

– Dealing with Dragons

2) I liked the spunky Princess Cimorene. And the (almost motherly) dragon Kazul. They make a great team! I loved all Cimorene’s plots for getting rid of the princes.

3) I particularly enjoyed the short little chapter descriptions before each chapter. They give us just enough information, but not too much to ruin the story.

4) The Stone Prince was quite entertaining. I love how he bumbles into the plot and changes everything.

5) The end section is great. (Slight SPOILER: once the dragons are trying to find a new king — End Spoiler.) I loved how everything comes together at this point in the story for Cimorene and Kazul.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The book started out great, but somewhere in the middle, I hit a bit of a slow stretch. It did take a bit of time to get through it. (Picks up at the end again, though.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – A fun fantasy. I would recommend it for anybody who like dragon stories or fairy tales with a twist.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

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Review: Genevieve’s War

genevieves-warBook: Genevieve’s War (2017)
Author: Patricia Reilly Giff
Genre: MG, Historical (WWII)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Genevieve and her brother have been visiting their grandmother in France in the summer of 1939. While her brother leaves, she chooses not to go back to the States… What she doesn’t know is that the war is going to be a long one. Including battles with her own grandmother, Meme. Little by little, Genevieve gets drawn in to helping with the French Resistance. She also soon finds an ally in Meme against the Nazi invaders. But Genevieve is not always sure who to trust.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The spunky Genevieve is a fun protagonist. I particularly liked her relationship with her grandmother, Meme. Or should I said non-relationship. Those two are at odds for most of the book.

2) I liked the intrigue. Since the story is about the French Resistance, there is plenty of intrigue. With who Genevieve should trust or not trust… including her best friend Katrin. And hiding her other friend. And then there is the mystery of the sweater!

3) When I was reading, I wanted to know the dates of when things were happening. At first, I thought this might be something to put in my “What’s Not Cool”, but after finishing the book, I’ve changed my mind. I think it’s stronger not to know the dates because (at least for me) the dates would tell me how soon D-Day was coming. The datelessness forced me to live the events of the story not knowing how much longer the people would have to hold out.

4) Events near the end made me cry. Anytime that a book makes me care about the characters… Hey, that’s a win!

5) I loved how everything came together at the end of the story. I like that not all was wrapped up. There were some bittersweet things that happened. And I liked the realism of that.

6) I thought the cover worked with the story.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The book had a slow start for me. Events that I wasn’t sure were all that important seem to drag things a bit.

2) I’m not sure I completely bought Genevieve’s reasons for staying back in France. It seemed a little far-fetched to me, especially in light of her relationship with her grandmother at that time. I wish Patricia Reilly Giff had come up with a different reason.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I would definitely recommend to anybody who wants to read more about World War II and the French Resistance.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: Every Shiny Thing

every-shiny-thingBook: Every Shiny Thing (2018)
Author: Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Lauren feels lost when her autistic brother goes away to boarding school. When Lauren’s best friend doesn’t seem to understand, Lauren starts spending more and more time with the new girl, Sierra. Sierra’s a foster kid who just wants to go back with her mom. But she’s drawn to Lauren and soon becomes the only one who knows about Lauren’s little problem: shoplifting. But Lauren isn’t stealing things to be bad. Her plan is to help others. Sierra doesn’t know quite what to do…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The dual POVs work quite nicely in this book. Lauren’s POV is written in prose, while Sierra’s is written in blank verse. At first it was jarring, but I came to like it.

2) I liked how Lauren (the rich kid) is the one with the sticky fingers, rather than Sierra (the poor kid). I love how Lauren rationalizes everything! And Sierra’s struggle about what to do. I loved how complicated everything was.

3) I enjoyed watching Sierra’s growth in the book. I think I probably liked her more than I liked Lauren (who got on my nerves sometimes). I liked the development with the foster parents: Anne and Carl.

4) Ryan isn’t in the book much, but his presence is felt in the book. He’s the brother who’s away. He’s also the reason why Lauren’s starts her own little Robin Hood campaign.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) So I loved all the restitution at the end, but I almost think Lauren got off a little easier than if it had been Sierra.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Enjoyed this story, especially Sierra’s POV.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: The Detective’s Assistant

detectives-assistantBook: The Detective’s Assistant (2015)
Author: Kate Hannigan
Genre: MG, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Nell is orphaned and is sent to live with her Aunt Kitty. Except there’s one big problem. Aunt Kitty doesn’t want Nell. Reason #1: She’s busy enough as it is as the only female detective of the famed Pickerton Agency. Reason #2: Nell’s father killed Aunt Kitty’s husband. So now it’s up to Nell to show how useful she can be to her aunt. As well, she plans to prove that the fatal shot to her Uncle Matthew (fired by her now-dead father) was an accident. And the only person who can help reveal the truth had to escape on the Underground Railroad to Canada.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love the historical connection to the Pickerton Detective Agency. I had not read much about them before this book. What’s really cool is that Aunt Kitty is based on the real life Pickerton agent: Kate Warne. (And the plot of this book includes some of her cases!)

2) The cases involving Aunt Kitty and Nell are fun to read. I love how Nell helps out! She and Aunt Kitty get to wear some fabulous disguises 🙂

3) And oh! How Lincoln is brought into the story is a history-lover’s dream. (And to top it all, there really IS a historical event that connects Lincoln to Pickerton.)

4) The bickering between Nell and Aunt Kitty is hilarious. I love how Nell keeps calling her “Aunt Kitty” even though her aunt wants to be called “Kate”. And then, when they’re in disguise, Nell always seems to slip up while Aunt Kitty always remains in character.

5) The letters between Jemma and Nell have some fun codes to decipher. I could see kids enjoying the challenge.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) On the other hand, the letters were the most unrealistic part of the book. They talk in code and yet the code would have been too easy to break. (This was the part that grown-up Maria thought a little too much.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – The historical part of this book was great. I loved Spunky Nell and all of Pickerton’s detectives. I especially enjoyed how the climax worked out and how it connects to really historical events. I would definitely recommend this book!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: Twice Magic

twice-magic.jpgBook: Twice Magic (2018)
Author: Cressida Cowell
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic plot: Xar (a Wizard) and Wish (a Warrior) are back. This time, they’re in big trouble. Xar has a witchstain that’s threatening to take over. And Wish needs to hide her powerful and magic eye. And they out to try to stop the Witchking… if they can collect all the ingredients to a special recipe that will get rid of the Witches.

Note: You can read my review for the first book in this series: The Wizards of Once.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I still really liked Xar and Wish and their quirks… how they’re not perfect. They have plenty of faults. But I also like how they grow during this story.

2) I love the voice Cressida Cowell uses for this story. It’s very similar to her How to Train Your Dragon series. One of my favourite lines: “…in a British Isles so old it did not know it was the British Isles yet.”

3) Love the fact of the “unknown narrator”. I have my theories. So does my nephew. And he may be right.

4) I really enjoyed the story told by the Giant. (But I love fairy tales!) And I thought Xar’s little snarky comments were good. But more importantly, I liked how it all comes around to the parents and the whole feud between the wizards and warriors.

5) Probably one of my favourite parts was the Giant’s last breath and how THAT connects to the whole feud theme.

6) Like the book before it, this book has its own ending. Even if it does lead us into the next book, at least it’s not a cliffhanger book. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers at the end of books.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Still not too crazy about Squeezjoos, the little baby sprite. :/

2) The opening was a little slow for me. And it took me a bit to get into the story… especially trying to figure out where everybody was since the last book. It took a bit of time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Really liked this book, especially with how things seem to be developing. I’m looking forward to reading Book 3 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: William S. and the Great Escape

william-s-great-escapeBook: William S. and the Great Escape (2009)
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Genre: MG, Historical (1930s)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: William S. Baggett and his sister decide that it’s finally time to run away from home–away from an abusive father and a stepmother who doesn’t like them. And so begins the Great Escape. What makes it even harder… They decide to bring their little brother and sister with them to the safety of their aunt’s house. Along the way, they end up at the home of a girl they don’t know. She seems nice enough, but is she telling the truth when she tells them it’s not safe for them to continue on their journey?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The “S” after William’s name stands for “Shakespeare”. And one of William’s coping mechanisms is to immerse himself in reading from his big book of Shakespeare’s plays. He even entertains his siblings with his dramatizations.

2) I liked Clarice, despite the fact that she was quite selfish at times. But she does keep things interesting. And I like how she affected the ending of the story. 🙂

3) There was a nice sense of suspense as the kids are traveling. Some good conflict added when they finally realize they don’t actually have their aunt’s address!

4) The little kids added a nice bit of conflict to the escape as well. I like that William and Jancy won’t leave without the little ones, even though they know they will just slow them down.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I had to keep reminding myself that this is supposed to be set in the 1930s. There were references to Shirley Temple and everything, but I’m not sure I was fully immersed in time period as I should have been.

2) This book has the disadvantage of having to move away from William’s POV to explain what happened. And I found that a little… awkward. I’m not sure how she could have done it, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Not as good as her other books (The Egypt Game, especially), but I did enjoy it. There’s a second book which I’m looking forward to reading… so, that’s definitely a positive.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

ARC Review: The Sound of Silence

sound-of-silenceThe Sound of Silence // by Myron Uhlberg
Release Date: May 1, 2019
Genre: MG, Memoir

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

My Thoughts: What an interesting read! I found this book fascinating. The subtitle is: Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents. And that’s pretty much the book in a nutshell. The story takes place in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s.

This is not your typical middle-grade read, however. The book is not plot-driven and is episodic in nature. Basically, it’s a slice of life. One of my favourite scenes was when he teaches his classmates how to sign.

I personally really enjoyed this book; not sure how kids will take it, though. I would probably recommend it for older kids who are interested in memoir, and also the subject of deafness and what it means to be deaf.

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5)

Review: Checked

checkedBook: Checked (2018)
Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Conor MacRae is really into hockey. Just like his dad. But then Conor’s dog Sinbad gets sick. So sick that he’s going to need chemotherapy, which will cost $7000. It will mean sacrificing some of his training, but Conor is determined to do whatever it takes to save his dog. But then there’s his dad…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I’m not really a hockey person, but I did enjoy that aspect of the story. I felt Kadohata dealt with all the hockey details in such a way that you don’t necessarily have to know the game.

2) I liked the bond between Conor and his dog Sinbad. I thought that was developed quite nicely. I really liked how responsible Conor was with regards to his dog.

3) Mr. Reynolds, the neighbour, was one of my favourite character. I almost felt he was under-utilized in the story. I loved all the interactions with Conor.

4) And then there are Conor’s friends: Jae-Won and Lucas especially. His hockey buddies.

5) And finally… Conor and his dad. What a great relationship! Conor’s dad is police officer, and I liked how that impacted the story.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times, I felt I was swimming in alphabet soup! Sometimes, Conor would bring up people that didn’t seem to really matter to the story. It was really hard to keep track of all the hockey kids and their parents. And the coaches. I wish she had combined some of these characters. Yes, I know that it’s probably more authentic to have all these people… but in a book? We need to be able to know who’s who.

2) I felt the plot slow at times. There is actually very little conflict in the story. Conor mentions his “frenemy” Ethan, but nothing ever really happens between the two. Actually, come to think of it, there’s a lot of telling (vs. showing) in this book!

3)At the beginning of the story, there’s this great fire evacuation scene. I somehow expected [SPOILER] that this story line would carry through the book. And especially affect the climax. It did not. Which made the beginning seem like it was… unnecessary.[END SPOILER]

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – Conor’s voice made this book. And, overall, I did enjoy it. Probably will never be my favourite story. I would definitely recommend it to readers who enjoy reading about sports.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Newbery Verdict: El Deafo

El Deafo // by Cece Bell (2014)

el-deafoNewbery Honor Book (2015)
Genre: MG, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Stars

Basic Plot: Cece loses most of her hearing at a young age due to illness… which means that now she needs to wear a special box to help her hear. The box makes her “different”. Who wants to be different? But as she grows up, she realizes that she has “superpowers” that other people don’t have. Introducing: El Deafo!

MY THOUGHTS…

Cece the rabbit captured my heart! I loved her. And I absolutely loved the fact that the characters in this book were rabbits! (Note: This book is based on the author’s real-life experiences.)

I found it fascinating to see the POV of this young girl who comes to terms with something that makes her so different from the other children in her school and neighborhood. How does she navigate friendships? And then there were all the little tricks she learned to cope with not being able to hear, like reading lips, etc. The book is set in the 1970s, and I thought it captured the flavour of the 1970s (and early 80s?) very nicely.

And can I just say that I love that they’re rabbits! (Yes, I do realize that I’ve told you this before. 🙂 )

NEWBERY VERDICT…

Yes! I’m so glad this book got a Newbery Honor award. I can’t compare it to the winner that year (The Crossover by Kwame Alexander) as I haven’t read that one.

YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!


Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: Copyboy

copyboyBook: Copyboy (2018)
Author: Vince Vawter
Genre: Upper MG**, Historical (1960s)
Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: This book almost defies categories. My library shelves it with the middle-grade books… even though Victor is seventeen (almost eighteen) and is getting ready for college. Is it really Lower YA??? Not sure. I guess I’ll go with my library and claim it as MG.

Basic Plot: The sequel to Paperboy… Picking up the story when Victor is seventeen years old. And he’s on a mission to fulfill a promise to his mentor, Mr. Spiro. That means taking a trip down to the mouth of the Mississippi River… except his parents aren’t sure about letting him go.

See my review of Paperboy here. (One of my favourite books, by the way!)

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It was nice to be back with Victor for this book! The stuttering was not quite as front and center as in the last book, but it was there. And while it’s good to know that Victor has (in many ways) come to terms with the stuttering, it’s still a sensitive issue for him. And I think Vawter did a nice job bringing that into the story.

2) We get to meet a lot of new people in this book. I particularly liked the glimpse into the world of the newspaper business. It’s not a huge part of the actual plot, but it’s there. I liked the General. And the part about the pennies was cool!

3) I liked meeting Phil. She was a fun character, and it’s cute how Victor’s so smitten with her. I really liked how they bounce ideas off one another, especially with how they deal with their parents.

4) I loved how Mr. Spiro is in the story (and yet he’s not). Victor’s on a mission for Mr. Spiro and keeps referencing Mr. Spiro’s wisdom.

5) The Cajun setting of New Orleans was great to read about. I love how Victor is a bit of a fish-out-of-water… yet he also drinks in the whole experience.

6) The hurricane threat adds a nice element of danger. (As does Phil’s creepy boyfriend! Especially when both the hurricane and the creepy boyfriend collide.) With regards to the hurricane, apparently, it was a real storm that hit New Orleans in 1965… Hurricane Betsy.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I did miss the actual Mr. Spiro. And I missed Mam! I’m not sure how she would have fit into this story, but I did miss her.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I did enjoy this sequel. While I don’t think it’s quite as good as the original, it’s still a good book! And if you liked the first book, you should like this sequel.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday