Wednesday, August 30, 2017

It Ain't So Awful, Falafel

Zomorod is the new girl once again for the fourth time.  It's not easy when you are starting middle school, and you're Persian, and your name is Zomorod.  That's why she's taking inspiration from The Brady Bunch; she will begin life in Newport Beach, California, as Cindy.

She's determined to real living friends and not just books, but she gets off to a rough start.  After a couple of missteps, she meets Carolyn who is interested in learning about Iran, a loyal friend, and a fellow bookworm.

Things are looking up until political unrest in Iran eventually leads to the Iranian militants taking a group of Americans hostage.  Suddenly it seems like all of America is against Cindy and her family.

Despite the anti-Iranian sentiment in America, California feels like home, but Cindy also really misses her family in Iran.  With the new regime in power, many freedoms have been stripped from women in particular.  This is not the Iran she loves.  Lucky for her, Cindy finally has some real friends who will stand by her.

Firoozeh Dumas's newest book is a semi-autobiographical look at life in the late 1970's.  This book is honest, heartfelt, and full of humor.  It's great to read a story with such loyal friends and then to discover they are real people.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Van Gogh Deception

One cold December afternoon a boy sits alonce in the National Gallery.  He can't remember who he is or how he got there.  The name written in his jacket is Arthur, so that's what his foster mother and her daughter, Camille, decide to call him.

The following day, they decide to go back to the National Gallery to see if anything jogs his memory.  He doesn't remember anything personal, but he does discover he is some kind of art expert with knowledge far beyond your average twelve-year-old.

While they are investigating his identity at the museum, Art and Camille soon realize they have become targets of kidnappers. They still aren't sure why, but they know they need to escape.  Are the police in on the plot?  Who is behind the kidnapping?  Does it have anything to do with Art's amnesia?

Now they are in a race across Washington, D.C. to uncover the truth before their enemies stop them for good.

Meanwhile, the National Gallery is in the process of purchasing a long lost Van Gogh painting.  Could this have anything to do with the people who are after Art and Camille?

This new mystery by Deron Hicks is a fast paced adventure with QR codes to link the reader to images to the works of art discussed in the story.  This book is sure to please mystery and art fans alike!

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Clayton's hero is his grandfather, Cool Papa.  He taught Clayton how to play the blues harp, and often takes him to the park to play with his blues band.  At night, while Clayton's mother is at work, Cool Papa reading to Clayton from his favorite books.  Clayton wants nothing more than to be like Cool Papa and to play a solo with the band.

One night after a concert in the park, Cool Papa falls asleep and never wakes up.  Clayton is devastated.  His main father figure and best friend is gone.

His mother has resented her father for most of her life.  If he wasn't gone serving in the military, he was on the road playing the blues.  She barely tolerated him while he was alive, and now that he's gone, she wants to get rid of all traces he ever lived with them.

Clayton is so overwhelmed with anger and frustration he decides to run away.  Over the course of a day, he journeys through the city alone facing dangers and coming to terms with his feelings.

Rita Williams-Garcia's new novel is an honest exploration of grief and family relationships.  Recommended.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Outrun the Moon

Mercy Wong wants more for herself than the life prescribed by society as a Chinese American in 1906.  She graduated from the school in Chinatown, but it only goes to 8th grade.  Mercy knows if she is ever to be a successful business woman she needs more education.  Her dreams aren't just for herself; her younger brother has weak lungs, and Mercy knows he won't survive long if he has to work in her father's laundry.

Through trickery and business acumen, Mercy manages to secure a trial spot at St. Clair's, the most prestigious girls' school in San Francisco.  She is totally out of her element amidst her wealthy white peers, but she is determined to be successful.

Then, a devastating earthquake strikes on April 18 leveling most of the city in a single blow.  Mercy and her classmates end up living in a tent encampment in the park with other survivors.  Everyone has lost something, and some people have had lost the people they loved most.

Author Stacey Lee shares the story of the San Francisco earthquake from a different perspective giving the reader window into the terrible disaster with a dose of realism when it comes to the racism and division that was common at that time.  Mercy is a strong character with a powerful spirit.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


In the present, Ella has just moved into a new home following her mother's death.  Her father is always at work, so Ella is left alone to explore her surroundings including a large dilapidated house nearby.  The house is boarded up, but Ella sees a light and a figure in the attic window.

In 1982, Mary is one of a handful of girls in foster care living in Thornhill.  The other girls seem to get along fairly well probably because they follow the whims of the resident bully.  Mary is the outcast.  Her shy and quiet ways coupled with her puppet making hobby make her the main target for physical and psychological bullying.

The two girls are connected by loneliness, living more than 30 years apart.

Amy Smy's book is told in two different time periods and formats.  Ella's story is told almost exclusively in illustrations-the only text coming from documents in the illustrations, and Mary's story is told through journal entries.  This book is an interesting mix of moods and emotions.  Mary's experiences in Thornhill are profoundly sad and, unfortunately, may mirror those of other children who fall through the cracks.  But this book is also a creepy ghost story that will leave readers with just the right amount of uneasiness.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Count All Her Bones

Me when a new April Henry book comes out:


Me when I found out this was a sequel to Girl Stolen:


If you haven't read Girl Stolen yet, just stop reading and do that first.  It won't take you long.  If you have read Girl Stolen, you are probably just as excited as I am!

Cheyenne survived a harrowing ordeal when she was kidnapped, and now her father and stepmother are more protective than ever.  She has her own live-in bodyguard and self-defense instructor, Jaydra, who goes pretty much everywhere with Cheyenne and takes every opportunity to test her self-defense skills.

Griffin is testifying against his father in the trial which doesn't sit too well with Roy and his half-brother Dwayne.  Griffin has been living with his mother's sister since the kidnapping, but it hasn't exactly been a perfect life.  He is still struggling in school because of his dyslexia, and his anxiety over the upcoming trial doesn't help.  He wants to talk to Cheyenne.  He misses her so much, but he wants to honor her wishes.

When Cheyenne told Griffin they couldn't be in contact, she thought it was for the best, but now she regrets that decision.  When he contacts her on Facebook, she is thrilled.

Meanwhile, Roy knows that if Griffin testifies, he will lose.  He and Dwayne devise a plot to get Griffin and Cheyenne out of the picture, maybe permanently.

Cheyenne is an even stronger character in this book with her newly acquired martial arts skills and some cool tech designed to aid the blind, and April Henry fans will race through this sequel to discover her fate.  Recommended!

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Celestine tries to be the perfect girl in the perfect life.  She, like most other people in their society, looks down on the flawed.  These are people who have not committed a crime but who have transgressed social mores.  The punishment for these ethical transgressions is a brand to the temple, the tongue, the hand...the location that best represents the flaw.

The flawed are untouchable; it's against the rules to help a flawed person.  But one day Celestine is on the bus with her friends when she sees a situation she can't ignore.  There are two unflawed women sitting in the flawed seats ignoring a flawed man who is obviously in distress.

Celestine knows she shouldn't get involved, but something compels her to step forward.  That decision changes the course of her life.  Will she be imprisoned, flawed, branded?

Now Celestine is re-examining her perfect life and the perfect society in which she lives.

Cecelia Ahern's series starter begins like a generic dystopia, and Celestine's change of heart is a little abrupt.  I wasn't sure this one was going to do anything for me in the beginning, but once I got past the setup chapters, I really got engaged in the story and questions of morality and integrity.  Recommended for 8th grade and up for some language and scenes of violence.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wires and Nerve

Months have passed since the events in Winter that ended Queen Levana's rule on Luna.  Cinder is now the Lunar queen, Thorn and Cress are distributing the Letamosis cure all over earth, Scarlet and Wolf are revitalizing the family farm in France, Winter is the Lunar ambassador to earth, and Iko has found a new purpose.

Queen Levana's genetically modified wolf soldiers have gone rogue without her controlling influence, and someone has to bring them in.  Enter Iko, unsung hero of the revolution and loyal friend.

Iko's success rate is high, but there are always a few soldiers who escape.  They are unified under a charismatic leader, and they have a common enemy, Iko's best friend.

I am a huge fan of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, but I was concerned about the graphic novel continuation of the story wouldn't live up to the originals.  I am pleased to say I was wrong.  I absolutely loved volume one of this planned series.  Iko is a classy and sassy hero, and the android protagonist allows the author to explore new ideas about humanity and equality.  Highly recommended!