book review fiction

Book (ARC) Review: HighFire

This review is for all the now-adult Artemis Fowl fans out in the world. Mr. Eoin Colfer wrote this appropriate aged book just for you 20 something readers out there.
I’m passing my ARC into the hands of my now adult sons, and I’ll update with their impressions.

Vern is an ancient dragon hiding out in the Bayou. He’s moved with the times; he even had a social media account for a while. He had to shut it down eventually because some nosy humans got too close to him. (Even dragons worry about their digital footprints!)

The dragon has a long-time handler, Waxman, who needs a break and hires a human boy, Squib, to do all the things that Vern can’t do himself in the modern world. Vern is the definition of a cranky old creature; he’s rude and likes his things just so. I love that the boy is named Squib, and the bad guy is Constable Hooke. It’s so on the nose funny.
As far as the basic plot, it’s dragon vs. all humans, and then after the dragon has a change of heart, it’s corrupt constable vs. honest townspeople with a heroesque dragon.
I feel like this book is going to be very hit or miss. The writing is excellent (those action scenes are some of the best I’ve ever read!), and even though I found the plot predictable. I wanted to love it because I have loved the Artemis Fowl books that the author also wrote.

Some of the storyline that made it Adult vs. YA was a bit over the top in crassness, but hey, if that’s your thing, I get it.
What makes it adult vs. YA? All of it. I mean, you’ve got adult behavior, (drinking, drug use) swearing, gore, straight up violence and you’ll be laughing through the whole thing.

I almost feel like he wrote it for himself, which is cool. It may be a predictable plot, but the action is nonstop, and I have to admire the author for not trying to make the story fit in some predictably sellable genre. I think that’s the main reason I enjoyed it so much. I had an idea where it was going but no idea how he was going to drive the story there. Does that make sense?

It seems like it’s set up for a sequel, too, which is good news for fans of this new world.

Highfire is scheduled for publication January 28, 2020

book review Cybils Nominee nonfiction Politics YA Non fiction

Book Review- Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump

Well, I read it. You should read it too.

It took me an extremely long time to wade through this book. It’s a page-turner, but these days it is hard to take on hearing more about Trump than I already have to as part of being an informed citizen.
Still, you may ask, is it worth the read?
The endnotes are fifty pages long. It is thorough and factual. Critics may say it’s harsh, but honestly, it contains the facts of his actions, and you can’t “spin” those.
Most of this book tells about this presidency, and you get plenty of information about Trump’s childhood environment too. Spoiler alert: people don’t change. Think about the personality of the man you observe now and paste it on a teen or child. He wasn’t likable.
The research that went into this book is incredibly detailed, and that can’t have been pleasant. I mean going all the way back to Trump’s grandfather; you can see how family culture shaped his world view. It’s a deep dive into a troubled man and his past.

Why would you want to spend your time reading any more about this man? I mean, we’re all collectively worn out from the day to day chaos that plagues this presidency. Why should you hand it to the teen in your world?

I picked this book up for myself and then ended up buying it so that my teen could read it as well. Honestly, he had no interest in it, but at this stage I feel that everyone needs to push through the exhaustion we feel, the only out of this is through, and we especially need our young people to understand the complete situation to ensure that this kind of dysfunction in the executive branch doesn’t repeat itself.
There are things we can do together to educate the voting populace before the next election. I’m a reader, so of course, my preferred method of teaching is through books.

This book may be labeled YA, but that doesn’t mean that adults can’t read it and get something out of it. It’s a plus that it isn’t some hard to read, boring nonfiction smear title. If you can get a 45 supporter to read it, I think it may plant a seed that maybe this guy isn’t out for the good of the country. At least they’ll have the facts, and you can engage in an honest debate.

book review Graphic Novel MG fiction

Book Review: This Was Our Pact

You’ve watched all of Stranger Things, then maybe you did a family re-watch of Goonies. What’s next?

You may want to try this graphic novel. Not only is it an excellent read aloud for all ages, it’ll get you out of a reading slump with a bang. I saw it on a Owlcrate video and snagged it at the library while I was picking up Cybils Awards nominees. It was a sort of send-off book for me as I embark in nearly a two month reading spree where other people choose my books. PSA: It’s not too late for you to nominate your favorite kids book published between Oct 2018- and Oct 2019. Pick me something good in the YA Speculative Fiction section.

Ok, so back to this gem.

It’s so well done, I want to hang the artwork all over my house.

From the publisher:

It’s the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, when the town gathers to float paper lanterns down the river. Legend has it that after drifting out of sight, they’ll soar off to the Milky Way and turn into brilliant stars, but could that actually be true? This year, Ben and his classmates are determined to find out where those lanterns really go, and to ensure success in their mission, they’ve made a pact with two simple rules: No one turns for home. No one looks back.

The plan is to follow the river on their bikes for as long as it takes to learn the truth, but it isn’t long before the pact is broken by all except for Ben and (much to Ben’s disappointment) Nathaniel, the one kid who just doesn’t seem to fit in.

Together, Nathaniel and Ben will travel farther than anyone has ever gone, down a winding road full of magic, wonder, and unexpected friendship*.

*And a talking bear.

I read most of this book while I was sick with a fever and feel like it was like reading a Hayao Miyazaki film. It’s so full of bite sized wisdom like:

“No one is going to force you to, but if you don’t jump in, you’ll always think back on this moment and wish that you had.”

All together suitable for all ages, spooky without being scary. Tons to talk about while reading. It checks all my boxes for the perfect October read aloud.

reading life


I’m a minimalist. I’m all about Marie Kondo and her message except that 30 book thing. I mean, books are my life. How in the world could I only choose 30 books? Until one day, I needed to clean off my shelves and realized that maybe she’s on to something.
Why not try and come up with a list of just thirty books that I would keep? One caveat: because I teach my kids at home, I would need to choose an additional thirty-odd book to use for homeschooling. I’m working on a list of must-haves for that purpose separately.
So, these are books that I would not go sell over at Half Price Books if I chose to downsize. Keep in mind, this isn’t some ideal library content list, and they are books on my shelf that I enjoy enough to want to haul around in my tiny mobile living space.

No links cause I’m not selling you these books, just sharing.

  1. The Constitution of the United States– I mean, seems like owning a copy is a good idea.
  2. The Rules of Magic– the prequel to Practical Magic, I love the descriptive witchy language.
  3. The Hobbit– The most perfect bedtime story novel length book ever.
  4. The Swiss Family Robinson– another great read aloud, what animal will they discover and want to kill next?
  5. Grimm’s Fairy Tales– Classic horror in short story form
  6. Anderson’s Fairy Tales– not quite as scary as Grimm, but close.
  7. Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone– The first book was the best.
  8. The Halloween Tree– a time travel tale I read each October
  9. The Illustrated Man– I have no tattoos, but I love this story
  10. The Knights of the Round Table– Another book best read aloud, with voices
  1. The Hunger Games– Modern classic dystopia
  2. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankenweiler– Claudia is the defintion of girl power.
  3. The Bungalow Mystery– 1950’s version. I had to include one of Nancy’s stories. I’d like to spend a year doing only Nancy Drew book reviews. I have a girl crush on Nancy too.
  4. The Jungle Book– One of my favorite old books that is better than the Disney version.
  5. The Call of the Wild– our world through a dog’s eyes- what’s not to love?
  6. The Snow Queen– I re-read this each Winter.
  7. East of the Sun and West of the Moon– You might be sensing that I enjoy Nordic tales.
  8. American Gods– Odin is scary and swoonworthy in Gaiman’s rendition.
  9. Kristin Lavransadatter-Who hasn’t felt like Kristin some time in their life?
  10. The Lord of the Rings– The book is better.
  1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer– I love the dialects.
  2. Matilda– Another girl heroine.
  3. Anne of Green Gables– Anne with an E is my spirit animal.
  4. Inkheart-Characters escaping books? I’m all in.
  5. The Singing Tree– Discovered this while newly homeschooling and studying World War 1.
  6. Alice of Wonderland– I didn’t read this until I was a grown up, can you imagine?
  7. Mary Poppins– Again, the book is better.
  8. The Wizard of Oz– So many hidden meanings. Baum was a genius.
  9. Artemis Fowl– a human boy encounters the world of fairy.
  10. Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey through Sweden– written to teach geography to kids, it’s one of my favorite re-reads.

After completing this list, the books went back on my shelves, and I couldn’t stop thinking about those few books that didn’t cut. There are books that I own and love, and I didn’t place them in the first thirty. If I kept all the books that I love, where would it end? I had to know, so Saturday morning, I was back pulling books off the shelves again.
The new pile added about twenty books that I like, and since I already own them, they would also stay. So around 50 books? That’s not terrible.
I also chose five of my antique books. I have an 1881 Shakespeare’s Tragedy that is falling apart, but I’m not tossing it. Someday one of my kids will be hauling that monster around.
And yes, I own a Kindle, so I’ll have more books when needed. 🙂

What thirty books would you keep?

book review fiction

Book Review:The Remaking

Happy Book Birthday!!

October is the perfect time of year to read this book. It is scary, scary, scary. I’d equate it with some of the older Stephen King books. I don’t watch horror movies much, the last one I watched was The Blair Witch Project and I’d put this as equal on my horror scale.

Amber is grown now, but she was a child star in a B horror movie. She never really recovered from this experience. She doesn’t act anymore or work at all really. She attends conventions and uses what little money she earns for drugs and alcohol.

The movie becomes a cult favorite and it seems to actually haunt people who see it. Her fans look possessed. She still feels the evil inside her and terrible things happen to most of the cast members.

When she gets approached to star in the remaking of the film, things get worse for everyone involved. The story jumps from Amber, to the original subjects (the ghosts or witches) and at times it got confusing as to what time the chapter was retelling, but whether it is the far past, Amber’s childhood, or the present the ghosts are actively haunting people and it is pretty terrifying.

I read an unpublished advance copy so the details could change prior to publication.

It’ll be ready for your Fall reading October 6, 2019.

book review nonfiction

Book Review: For Your Consideration Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

What I thought was going to be glorified, published fan fiction turned out to be much better than that. I usually love everything Quirk Books publishes and laughed a bit when I opened this book because I wondered where the “quirkiness” would factor in?

So if you wanted to know The Rock’s life story without googling- this book has you covered. I think the average expectation of The Rock is that he’s a decent human being, who has an excellent track record for choosing family-friendly films to showcase his toughness. I also found his Instagram through this book, and he is well worth the follow.

You’ll also get some fun extras: Which Rock character you should take to prom? A super fan’s ranking of his catchphrases and an all-Rock version of the Oscars.
I liked the guy fine before reading this.

But now, I’m a fan of his and the author who successfully pitched this love letter tome to his favorite star. I knew there would be a market for my Fall Out Boy biography if I waited long enough.

book review MG fiction

Book Review: The Ghost in Apartment 2R

This book makes me want to visit Brooklyn. That said, I’ve never been so if the author wasn’t geographically accurate, I’d never know. But it seems very real. I love a good city kid setting.

Danny gets his own room when his brother goes away to college. Or so he thinks. It turns out that his parents plan on putting it on Air BNB. Soon it’s apparent that a ghost has been staying with the family for some time and Danny needs to convince everyone that it’s real and to help him get it to move on.

I’m shoving this into the hands of all the ghost hunting kids in my world the minute I get a real copy. It’s scary and suspenseful all the while being age-appropriate. I think grade school kids will love this book.

book review nonfiction

Book Review-The Body: A Guide For Occupants

My first Bryson book was A Walk in the Woods. It was hilarious, all the while sneaking in some education. I went to read almost everything he has in print. So when I saw this title on my ARC list, I was pretty excited, even though human anatomy might be my least favorite subject.

I could hold my own now if I needed to critique a television medical drama from the knowledge I gained in reading this ginormous 400-page tome of humanness. It’s a partial history of science and part straight-up anatomy.

It’s the owner’s manual that no one has thought to hand out. Only this isn’t some hard to understand volume; it’s in plain English. I didn’t take Anatomy at school and the only text I’ve encountered while homeschooling was nowhere near as readable as this is.

If you are a science geek, you’ll devour this. If you are a Bryson fan, he’ll drag you into being interested, and if you wanted to use this as a high school science text, I’d support you. I’m probably going to make it required reading at our house.

book review MG fiction

Book Review: The Woods

Happy Book Birthday!

This one is a page-turner. My advance reading copy clocks in at 465 pages of a mystery. This is long for a middle-grade book, but I believe that kids will devour it and that this will end up being a big hit. It would make an excellent movie. I wish I had received an actual book because this is the kind of book that I would keep on my shelf to loan out.

Ok, so enough amping up, here’s the set up: Lenora (age 12) is the sole surviving member of her family after an explosion in her Texas town. Her parents and siblings are declared dead, and the police contact her Uncle Richard, who she has never met. He brings her to her ancestral family’s mansion. All we know is that Uncle Richard is some Scientist and he works in the East Wing (where she is not allowed to go). In a way, the house reminded me of a bit of the house in The Secret Garden. Lenora is also forbidden from playing in the surrounding woods.

Of course, she does go into the woods (would it be magical realism if she didn’t?) and then things happen. I won’t tell you what. This is the kind of book that you want to read quickly to find out what happens and slowly so that it doesn’t end all at once. I’d hand this to kids from the fifth grade on up through the high school.

book review YA fiction

Book Review: The End and Other Beginnings: Stories from the Future

The End and Other Beginnings is a collection of short speculative fiction stories written by Veronica Roth of Divergent and Carve the Mark fame.

I somehow missed The Carve The Mark series, and other reviewers tell me that several of these short stories are from this world. They are all based in a future world of one kind or another. I think I enjoyed it because in a word, it’s weird. I haven’t read anything like it this year in the YA sphere.

The first story, Inertia, reminded me of a Black Mirror episode in the best way. In this world, when you are close to death, you can request a visitation where you and the person of your choice relive a memory together. Although it sounds desperately sad, it wasn’t, and I could see how an experience like that would make it easier for the human brain to let go if that was it’s fate.

Many of the other stories are indeed gut-wrenching, so it isn’t a book to pick up when you are already feeling low.

All the stories involve some science fiction aspects, either technology or advanced customs that we don’t have yet. I say, however, because most of the stories include tech that we have a simpler version of already.

An exchange Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) have in the first “Thor” film has always stuck with me:

ERIK: I’m talking about science, not magic.

JANE: Well, “Magic’s just science we don’t understand yet.” Arthur C. Clarke.

ERIK: Who wrote science fiction.

JANE: A precursor to science fact!

Anyhow, back to this review. I’m thinking about buying a copy for myself and using it with my 14 yo as part of our Lit study. We’ll be reading other short stories, and this collection will add a fun new element to the older short stories that I’ve prepared already.

I would be thrilled if each story inside got finished into a novel. But, if you have a reluctant reader, this might be their gateway book. Choose one story and read it aloud. I bet the teen in question will be curious enough to pick this book up and read more on their own.

It’s available now.