Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fade Out by Nova Ren Suma

book cover of Fade Out by Nova Ren Suma

Title: Fade Out
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Release date: September 17, 2009
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 272
Source: Bookstore
Reading level: MG

If this were a movie, you’d open to the first page of this book and be transported to a whole other world. Everything would be in black and white, except maybe for the girl in pink polka-dot tights, and this really great music would start to swell in the background. All of a sudden, you wouldn’t be able to help it–you’d be a part of the story, you’d be totally sucked in. You’d be in this place, filled with big lies, mysterious secrets, and a tween girl turned sleuth….

Zoom in on thirteen-year-old Dani Callanzano. It’s the summer before eighth grade, and Dani is stuck in her nothing-ever-happens town with only her favorite noir mysteries at the Little Art movie theater to keep her company.

But one day, a real-life mystery begins to unravel–at the Little Art! And it all has something to do with a girl in polka-dot tights…. Armed with a vivid imagination, a flair for the dramatic, and her knowledge of all things Rita Hayworth, Dani sets out to solve the mystery, and she learns more about herself than she ever thought she could.

After hearing such good things about Nova Ren Suma’s books I had high hopes for Fade Out.  I’m sad to say that I was a bit disappointed with this one.  The writing was good it was the story that really let me down but I won’t be giving up on Nova Ren Suma’s other books.
Fade Out is definitely a middle grade novel and I knew that going into it but I think I expected something a bit more mature than what I got.  Dani is a very immature girl.  She doesn’t have a very realistic outlook and she acts her age, that’s for sure.  Ever since her dad left her mom for another woman she doesn’t trust men and that applies to all men.  When she thinks that her friends boyfriend might be cheating on her she decides to take it upon herself to find out and prove it to her friend.  Let’s just say that Dani takes stalker to a whole new level and her motives are not exactly as pure as she wants people to think.  She really is rather selfish and it’s hard to like Dani.  She was definitely my biggest problem with the book.
The whole story in Fade Out is Dani trying to prove that her friend’s boyfriend is cheating on her.  That is literally the whole story with some films thrown in for good measure.  From the summary I expected there to be some deep dark murderous secret that Dani uncovers but no.  It’s just the fact that he’s cheating.  I was really let down by that and the story was pretty boring.  There just wasn’t enough going on to keep me interested and I found myself rushing through the story just because I wanted to be done with it.  I think that most readers my age or older will feel the same way but middle grade readers will probably enjoy this one and it’s a great read for younger teens.
Overall, Fade Out really let me down.  While I was definitely impressed with the writing, that was the only thing that impressed me.  Hopefully I find Nova Ren Suma’s other books to be more to my taste because this one just wasn’t.
What others are saying about Fade Out:
Reading Nook’s review: “It was a fun romp with a teen sleuth in a small town.”

Confessions of a Bibliovore’s review: “I truly hope that Suma writes more books like Dani Noir.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blog Tour: The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos

book cover of The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos

Title: The Planet Thieves
Author: Dan Krokos
Release date: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Starscape
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Reading level: MG

Two weeks ago, thirteen-year-old Mason Stark and seventeen of his fellow cadets from the Academy for Earth Space Command boarded the SS Egypt. The trip was supposed to be a short routine voyage to log their required spacetime for summer quarter.

But routine goes out the airlock when they’re attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last sixty years.

With the captain and crew dead, injured, or taken prisoner, Mason and the cadets are all that’s left to warn the ESC. And soon they find out exactly why the Tremist chose this ship to attack: the Egypt is carrying a weapon that could change the war forever.

Now Mason will have to lead the cadets in a daring assault to take back the ship, rescue the survivors, and recover the weapon. Before there isn’t a war left to fight.

Dan Krokos’ debut young adult novel, False Memory, threw me for a loop and had me reading late into the night.  The Planet Thieves, his debut middle grade novel, was very similar for me.  I’m pleased to say that while middle grade is not always my thing, Dan Krokos’ future middle grade novels will definitely be on my TBR!
Dan Krokos’ action packed storytelling transfers amazingly well from young adult to middle grade.  The Planet Thieves starts off strong and will have readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.  The Planet Thieves is full of twists and turns and things I never saw coming.  Also, while I know there are other space adventures like The Planet Thieves, the story was new to me and it was a really refreshing read.  It’s unique and fun and definitely something different from what’s currently out there.
The characters are pretty easy to love from the get go.  Mason is a thirteen-year-old boy so he is a bit immature but I expected that and it didn’t bother me all that much.  The other cadets are much the same way.  They are young so they can be a little irritating but with the fate of their world resting solely with them, they’re forced to mature a little quicker than most kids.  They all have secrets and they all have flaws and every one of those things is put on display in the battle to save the SS Egypt.  It was a lot more than I expected from The Planet Thieves and I loved that.  
The writing isn’t anything super spectacular but my favorite thing about it was that it wasn’t dumbed down for younger readers.  This may be a middle grade novel but there is nothing to stop older readers (such as myself) from enjoying it.  Dan Krokos has an easy writing style and it helps hook readers in addition to the awesome story.
Overall, The Planet Thieves is a must read for middle grade fans and also for readers who loved Dan Krokos’ young adult book.  Dan Krokos is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine and I look forward to continuing this series!
What others have to say about The Planet Thieves:
Awfully Big Reviews’ review: It’s kinetic and very visual, and any kid who loves science fiction or superheroes is going to adore it.”
Books Aplenty, Books Galore’s review: I absolutely recommend this book!”

Finding Wonderland’s review: THIS is the book guaranteed to reach that elusive band of “reluctant readers.””

Series: 
The Planet Thieves (#1)

Other reviews for this author:

About the author:

Dan Krokos is the author of False Memory, a young adult science fiction trilogy, and The Planet Thieves, an upcoming middle grade duology. Dan put himself through college by pumping gas for nine years, and now writes full time. When he isn’t writing, Dan enjoys watching TV, playing MMORPGs, and drinking coffee.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Blog tour: House of Secrets (House of Secrets #1) by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini

book cover of House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

Title: House of Secrets (House of Secrets #1)
Author: Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini
Release date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Pages: 496
Source: ALA
Reading level: MG

The Walker kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . but everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by Denver Kristoff, a troubled writer with a penchant for the occult.

Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Walker family’s secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world.

I’m not sure how House of Secrets, Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini’s first collabaration, compares to Ned Vizzini’s young adult titles but I can assure you that after reading this one, I’ll be checking out the rest very soon.  House of Secrets is the whole package; mystery, adventure, action, and suspense.  
I always find it a little difficult to review collaborative works but that isn’t really going to be a problem with House of Secrets.  House of Secrets doesn’t read like a typical collaboration.  The flow of the book is almost seamless.  Readers will not be able to tell that more than one person is behind this work and that was a big plus for me.  Also, while the writing is definitely geared more towards younger readers, it doesn’t come across as immature or lacking in any way.  Older readers (such as myself) can definitely still enjoy the writing in this one!
The main characters are obviously the Walker children and I loved all three of them.  Twelve-year-old Brendan, fifteen-year-old Cordelia, and eight-year-old Eleanor were clearly family but they were all such individuals.  Brendan was the gamer, Cordelia was the reader, and Eleanor, well, let’s just say, Eleanor was a little bit of everything.  (Cordelia reminded me a lot of myself so I loved her!)  I found all the siblings to be so much fun to read about.  Brendan made me laugh, Cordelia was a piece of work sometimes but amazingly smart, and Eleanor was so cute.  There were times I felt so bad for her but she never let anything get her down.  Also, this being a middle grade story, there was more parental involvement than in YA and I loved Dr. and Mrs. Walker.  They were great parents and it was so obvious they loved their kids.  Otherwise they never would have put up with some of their stunts.
As for the story, how can you go wrong with dark magic, a witch, skeleton pirates (as if regular pirates aren’t cool enough?) and the amazing setting of a rather creepy old house full of secrets?  The adventure in House of Secrets really captured me and wouldn’t let me go.  Also, like I said earlier, it is geared toward younger readers so it does read a lot quicker than YA or adult. It’s almost 500 pages but I guarantee that once you start it, you’ll finish it very quickly! 
Overall, House of Secrets really embodies everything I adore about middle grade novels.  It’s a fast read full of action and crazy adventures and readers will adore it.  I can’t wait to continue this series!
What others have to say about House of Secrets:
There’s A Book’s review – “…The House of Secrets by Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus sends readers on a thrill ride they’ll have a hard time letting go of.”

The Guardian’s review – “Marvelous stuff, with some real twists.”

Leisure Reads’ review – “Personally, I find the story a bit too savage and spiteful.”

Series:
House of Secrets (#1)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Wide-Awake Princess (Wide-Awake Princess #1) by E.D. Baker

Title: The Wide-Awake Princess (Wide-Awake Princess #1)
Author: E.D. Baker
Release date: May 11, 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 261
Source: Publisher
Reading level: MG

In this new stand-alone fairy tale, Princess Annie is the younger sister to Gwen, the princess destined to be Sleeping Beauty. When Gwennie pricks her finger and the whole castle falls asleep, only Annie is awake, and only Annie—blessed (or cursed?) with being impervious to magic—can venture out beyond the rose-covered hedge for help. She must find Gwen’s true love to kiss her awake.

But who is her true love? The irritating Digby? The happy-go-lucky Prince Andreas, who is holding a contest to find his bride? The conniving Clarence, whose sinister motives couldn’t possibly spell true love? Joined by one of her father’s guards, Liam, who happened to be out of the castle when the sleeping spell struck, Annie travels through a fairy tale land populated with characters both familiar and new as she tries to fix her sister and her family . . . and perhaps even find a true love of her own.

The Wide-Awake Princess is pretty much the perfect middle grade novel. It’s fun, it’s cute, it’s not too serious, and it’s a super quick read. It was just what I needed!
Princess Annie is the younger sister to Princess Gwendolyn, the princess who becomes Sleeping Beauty. Annie has the rare quality that no magic can touch her, good or bad. That’s why, when the curse is put on everyone in the castle, it skips over Annie and it’s up to her to find her sister’s prince. Along the way she is joined by Liam, a castle guard who was out running errands when the spell hit. The two of them set off on a journey full of fairies, witches, fairytales, and frights.
From the very first page of this book I was hooked. I was really intrigued by this Sleeping Beauty retelling and I was even more pleased when I realized that Sleeping Beauty was not the only fairy tale included in the book. As the story progresses a bunch of fairy tale characters pop up and I loved trying to catch all the different references.
Every character was a ball of laughs and I grew very attached to them throughout the story. Annie was fun, fierce, loyal, and so sweet. She was always trying to help people even if she didn’t know them. She was a very kind-hearted person. There were a few times when I wished she would put herself first above others but it just wasn’t in her nature. Liam was the same way. He was always looking out for Annie. He was kind, smart, brave, and funny. I knew he had a secret but I wasn’t able to guess what it was. Luckily it wasn’t a secret that made me change the way I felt about him. He was adorable. I wasn’t really happy with Annie’s family though. They treated her terribly! They left her out of things and they just made her feel alone. I felt terrible for the way they treated her.
The story is really fast-paced. Annie is always getting into crazy situations and readers will be on the edge of their seats trying to figure out how she’s going to get out of them. There was also a little mystery to the story that kept me guessing til the end. I never could have guessed who Princess Gwendolyn’s prince would be but I kept trying. Like I said, I also couldn’t guess Liam’s secret which really added to my enjoyment of the story. Then there was the mystery of who sent the spinning wheel that caused the curse to go into effect. All these things added up to make the book super hard to put down.
Overall, The Wide Awake Princess is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read so far. I am so glad that there is a sequel. I will be checking it out very soon and I suggest you check this one out in the mean time.
Looking for more reviews of The Wide-Awake Princess?
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Blog Tour: The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy + Giveaway!

book cover of The Hero's Guide To Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Title: The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom
Author: Christopher Healy
Release date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Pages: 419
Source: Publisher

Enter a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as “Prince Charming.” But all of this is about to change…

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom is the perfect book for all fairy tale fans.  Christopher Healy’s debut novel is a fresh take on the Princes Charming.  It’s a hilarious adventure-filled book that readers will adore.
Not all of the Princes Charming are quite so charming.  Really out of the four Prince Frederic is the only one that really fits the name.  Being charming is Frederic’s only real skill.  He’s terrified of practically everything but he can talk his way out of almost any bind.  Prince Gustav is the least charming of the four.  In fact, he’s sometimes downright rude.  He’s rather nasty at times but he does have a softer side.  He’s also rather hotheaded and he doesn’t really think things through.  Luckily he’s nearly indestructible.  Prince Liam is the only real hero of the bunch.  He’s spent his whole life saving people.  The only problem is that no one knows about it.  This time he wants recognition for his heroic deeds.  And last but not least there is Prince Duncan.  Duncan is an odd sort and because of this he has no friends.  He jumps at the chance to join the Princes Charming on their adventure and he hopes to bring along some of his seemingly endless supply of good luck.  There four get into quite a bit of trouble and it makes for some serious laughs.  And they are all so great although Prince Duncan is definitely my favorite of the four.
The story is full of adventure.  Prince Frederic sets out to find his missing fiancee and along the way he stumbles upon a plot that could ruin not only his kingdom but the kingdoms of the other Princes Charming as well.  Along the way they manage to encounter thieves, bandits, pirates, trolls, giants, dragons, and one very evil witch.  And let’s just say that they don’t always make it out of the encounters looking so charming.  The princes’ tactics are all quite hilarious and the messes they get into will have readers laughing throughout the book.
The princesses are all a bit of a mystery to me but there will be a sequel and hopefully there will be more about them in that book.  There’s a lot of potential for the princesses and I would love to read more about them.  Ella is the only one really prominently featured in this book and she is one fierce girl (who is also just plain brilliant.)  She is one girl who doesn’t need a prince to come save her.  Briar Rose, Snow White, and Rapunzel are also in the book but have much smaller roles.  There is also Prince Liam’s sister, Lila, who has a pretty big role and she has a lot of potential as well.  There girls all seem like they could be great heroines. (Except maybe Briar Rose.  She seems better suited to villainy and you’ll see why when you read the book.)
Overall, The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom is a fabulous fairy tale retelling.  This one has definitely earned a spot on my favorites shelf.

Looking for more reviews of The Hero’s Guide?
There’s A Book’s review
Emily’s Reading Room’s review

Series:
The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom (Book #1)
Untitled (Book #2) – 2013

About the author:

Christopher Healy spent years reviewing children’s books and media online and in print before setting off to write The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, his first children’s book. He lives with his wife and their two children in New Jersey. You can find him online at www.christopherhealy.com.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Is Me From Now On by Barbara Dee

Book:  This Is Me From Now On by Barbara Dee

Release date:  April 27, 2010
Number of pages:  240
Publisher:  Aladdin
From:  Author
Summary:

Unique tween girl characters populate this fresh coming of age story, This Is Me From Now On, by Barbara Dee.

*****
This Is Me From Now On was a great book.  It is a middle grade title but I am 18 and had no trouble getting into the story.  In fact, I got into it more than I have some other YA books.  It was realistic, fun, and full of fantastic characters.

Evie is tired of her boring life but she doesn’t realize it until Francesca moves in next door.  Francesca is everything that Evie is not and at first she can’t stand her.  Of course things change and Evie begins to become friends with her.  The only problem is that her two best friends, Nisha and Lily, can’t seem to handle that.

Evie was a hugely realistic character.  She was just starting seventh grade and she wanted to change herself.  I think everybody goes through that at some point and it made me really like her.  Francesca was crazy but she was exactly what Evie needed.  She added fun to both Evie’s life and the book.  She got on my nerves some but I pretty much liked her.  Nisha was my biggest problem.  She just didn’t seem like a good friend until the end of the book.  But i do know how friendships are so I can kind of understand that.

I wasn’t so sure about the plot at first but I was never bored.  It was fun and funny.  I couldn’t help laughing at some of Evie and Francesca’s antics.  They were crazy but totally believable of two seventh grade girls. =]

Overall, This Is Me From Now On is the perfect light read and just in time for summer.  If you are looking for something fun and quick this is a book for you!

First line:  Sometimes your life just needs a little jolt.

Writing:  5

Characters:  4

Plot:  4

Ending:  4

Originality:  4

Overall:  21=B

Cover:  4=B- 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mia The Magnificent by Eileen Boggess

Book: Mia The Magnificent by Eileen Boggess

Release date: January 4, 2010
Publisher: Bancroft Press
From: Publisher
Summary:
After one summer at the Little Tykes Theatre, Mia Fullerton is meek no more, but that doesn t make her life any easier not in her sophomore year at St. Hilary’s, when her best friend Lisa forces her into a dangerously big part in The Music Man. Not when her ex-boyfriend, Tim, is teaching her little brother Chris to treat women like objects. And not when she learns to drive with serious repercussions. Who is Mia? Is she an independent girl like Zoe, her acerbic goth friend from Little Tykes? She d like to be that s why she’s volunteering to be onstage for the first time, in a show populated by her first ex and childhood crush Jake, her arch-nemesis Cassie, and new girl in town Alyssa. Thats why it’s so important she overcome the bizarre driving instruction of St. Hilary’s janitor Mr. Corrigan to earn her driver s license, and therefore her freedom. Or is she the girl who misses Tim, even after the way he betrayed her? Tim is smart, funny, and likeable in a distinctly obnoxious way, and he s determined to win Mia back even if he has a funny way of doing so, dating both Cassie and Alyssa at the same time, behind both their backs. Can Mia forgive Tim? Should she instead choose Eric, Zoe’s cousin, a nicer and more respectful choice in every way? Or would either choice defeat her goals of independence? And when the worst-case scenarios rear their heads when Mia is forced into the lead in The Music Man, when her first night out on the road goes horribly, when Chris appears headed entirely to the dark side does Mia on her own have what it takes to set things right?
*****
Mia The Magnificent is not a book you judge by it’s cover. When I first saw it, I assumed it was a middle grade book and that Mia was younger. It’s actually a YA book and Mia is a sophomore in high school. Not only that, she is one of the funniest characters I have ever read about and Mia The Magnificent is a super cute book!
Mia Fullerton is finally taking charge of her life. After her summer working at the Little Tykes Theater she is a new person. Her sophomore year is going to be The Year. She is going to try out for the school musical, get her drivers license, and move on from Tim. She has it all mapped out but even the best laid plans can be changed.
Mia was one of the best main characters I have ever read about. She was so easy to relate to and she was such a normal person. She had her strengths and her weaknesses. She was cute and funny. I found myself laughing out loud at so many parts of the book. Her banter with Tim and the conversations in the drivers ed car were some of my favorite things. I haven’t laughed that hard at a book in a while.
The plot of the story was pretty good. Mia had so many things going on but it was definitely an honest account of high school life. She was so brave trying out for the play. I never could have done that. Her drivers ed class was also pretty realistic. It took me back to my drivers ed days, something I never want to look back on. The whole story was just so true and the characters were all people I wouldn’t mind reading more about.
Overall, Mia The Magnificent is a great book that I really recommend for high schoolers. It’s the third in a series but I had no problems starting with this book. I hope there are more Mia books in the future. If so, they will definitely be added to my to-read list! =]
Writing: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Plot: 8/10
Ending: 9/10
Originality: 9/10
Overall:44/50=B+
Cover: 8/10=B-
Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Am A Genius Of Unspeakable Evil And I Want To Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Book: I Am A Genius Of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Rating: 4 Stars
Release date: October 15, 2009 from Razorbill
From: Publisher
Summary:

Family Guy meets Election in this hilarious young adult debut!

Twelve-year-old Oliver Watson’s got the IQ of a grilled cheese sandwich. Or so everyone in Omaha thinks. In reality, Oliver’s a mad evil genius on his way to world domination, and he’s used his great brain to make himself the third-richest person on earth! Then Oliver’s father—and archnemesis—makes a crack about the upcoming middle school election, and Oliver takes it as a personal challenge. He’ll run, and he’ll win! Turns out, though, that overthrowing foreign dictators is actually way easier than getting kids to like you. . . Can this evil genius win the class presidency and keep his true identity a secret, all in time to impress his dad?
*****

I was pleasantly surprised with I Am A Genius. I didn’t really have high hopes for it when I started it and I am kind of ashamed of myself for that. I should never judge a book by it’s cover but I do and I did with this one. Let me tell you this, don’t. =]

Oliver Watson is not your typical seventh grader. He looks and acts like one, maybe even worse than a normal seventh grader, but underneath it all he is an evil genius. And a funny one at that. He pretends to be dumb so that people underestimate him so that he can get away with more and have nobody be suspicious. His mom is proud of him no matter how dumb he seems, but not his dad. Oliver and his dad have never gotten along and Oliver sets out to make his dad’s life a living nightmare. And how better to do that than to run for class president, and win? He knows that will just ruin his dad’s memories from high school and that couldn’t make Oliver happier.
Oliver was a seventh grade mastermind. He knew he could rig the election so that he would win but he had to at least look like he tried and he was pretty clever and cunning in the process. It was really weird being inside the mind of this evil genius who plans to take over the world and start by winning a class election. He was really pretty mean to the people around him but he was so funny I couldn’t help but like him. And there were times when I felt sorry for him but it quickly went away.
Overall, I Am A Genius was a really quick and funny book. It definitely didn’t take me long to get into it and once I was in, I didn’t want to stop reading it. And this is definitely one of those books that I think guys will love so check it out!