Thursday, December 6th 2012

Review: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

Title: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

Author: Nikki Loftin

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: August 2012

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy/Horror

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone


Synopsis can be found here.
NetGalley review

Review:

Lorelei’s school mysterious burns down and so Splendid Academy is their only choice. It helps that Splendid Academy is a new and beautiful school, a sparkling playground, prestine classrooms and free breakfast and lunch every day. It helps that the principal has taken a shine to Lorelei. But something isn’t right in this perfect school where the kids eat candy all day and create their own schedules. Something isn’t right in the way Lorelei’s teacher looks at her. And what isn’t right might just be too sweet to see.

A cute read, this book is the perfect balance of horror and fairy tale. Splendid Academy is more than meets the eye and I don’t want to say too much about it because I don’t want to spoil the fun. I liked Lorelei and Andrew, two very different children who are equally suspicious of the faculty at Splendid. I like that Andrew is not a typical good looking kid and has a sense of humor to him. Of course there are absentee parents. Dad is pretty oblivious to anything his children are doing, focusing only on his new wife, their new stepmother, Molly. Molly, while not quite evil, is not a nice person and though I tried to like her and see her as a sympathetic character, which I think the reader is supposed to be to her by the end, I just couldn’t do it.

And that brings me to the ending. I enjoyed the little bit of adventure and the ending scary scene right out of a fairy tale. But overall, the ending left me feeling a little deflated. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but personally I would have liked to see more closure on the family side of things.

This book is not for everyone. It’s pretty obvious what is going on at the school and I’ll be honest, I almost put the book down half way. The first half of the book held my attention, but then it started to drag and I was wishing it was a bit shorter.

Cute and with a fairy tale twist, this book is a fun easy read that kids will enjoy.
And then it will probably make them want to read fairy tales.

Rating: 5 Ok, decent like Diet Coke

Tuesday, October 30th 2012

Blog Tour and Review! A Thunderous Whisper by

Title: A Thunderous Whisper

Author: Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: October 2012

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Synopsis can be found here.
This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Ani is twelve, and the world around her is falling. Though she believes she is safe in her small village, she is very lonely for her father, who has gone off to war. She has no friends and her mother is a hard working woman with little time to mother Ani. Then Mathias comes along and they form a strong friendship, an important bond, which is needed during these war times. Because war comes for them and their lives are changed forever.

Thank you, Christina Diaz Gonzalez. The last few books I’ve read this month had left me in a slump. I kept going back and forth between them, not really enjoying them. But then I picked up A Thunderous Whisper. And yes! This is what I was looking for. I went home every day, excited to carefully read the next few chapters of this well written, heartwarming book.

The author’s writing is beautiful, flowing gracefully on the page. Ani is a multi-layered young girl who I couldn’t help but like. She has no friends, and is alone most of the time, except when she is working with her mother selling sardines. Her father is in the war, and there is something beautiful and heartbreaking about the author’s portrayal of Ani, sitting alone, under her tree, thinking up stories to tell her father when he comes back.

Mathias is smart, outgoing and brings Ani out of her shell, revealing her true self. He’s also friendly and loyal, seeing something special in Ani that no one else cares to find. Mathias is your best friend when you were young, someone you still think fondly about, your first real friend. All of these characters drew me in and waited for their story to unfold.

The story moves slowly, taking in the beautiful setting and its inhabitants before the bombing. And then, after and how the survivors pick up what is left and move on. 

Overall, it’s an uplifting story about friendship and family. Ani changes dramatically from the small, quiet girl at the beginning to the full and hopeful girl at the end. A book not to be missed. I’m so happy I’m on the blog tour and got to read this book!

Check out the other blogs on this blog tour and their schedule!
And thank you to Alethea at Read Now Sleep Later for organizing!

Monday, August 13th 2012

Book Review: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Title: Liar & Spy

Author: Rebecca Stead

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Publication Date: August 2012

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone


Synopsis can be found here.
NetGalley review.

Review:

So many good things about this book, I don’t know where to start.
Georges moves to Brooklyn and meets Safer, a kid who lives in his building. Together, they begin spying on the mysterious Mr. X. But as the risks grow more and more dangerous, Georges must decide what his own boundaries are, even if it means disagreeing with his only friend.

There’s so much more to this book than that though.
Safer is a wonderful character, full of intrigue, mystery and fun. Georges doesn’t understand Safer, which makes him not only untouchable but also unbelievable cool. I loved the dialogue between Safer, his sister Candy, and Georges. It solidifying them as friends. Georges’s relationships with his parents are equally warm and sweet. Dad and Mom are both loving parents, if not going through a very hard time right now. I won’t go into more detail because I don’t want to spoil anything.

Georges’s world at school is really not fun. School at that time most of the time is challenging and my heart really went out to Georges, especially in gym class. Georges, I know, I know. I hated gym class too. And any kid who wasn’t the bully can sympathize with George’s world.

The best part about this story is how heartwarming it is. Liars and Spies alike will understand it’s not just what the book is stating, but what is being left unsaid. Georges many relationships both as a spy and as a school kid are tested every day, and sometimes, as Georges finds out, people surprise you.

I loved Liar & Spy, about as much as I loved Stead’s other book When You Reach Me.
If you haven’t picked that up yet, you should.
I read Liar & Spy in one sitting, and was melancholy the rest of the day to leave Georges, Safer and Candy behind.

Rating 9 Ridiculously Awesome like Cookies and Ice Cream

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Monday, March 12th 2012

Author Interview & Book Review: The Fourth Stall Part II by Chris Rylander

Title: The Fourth Stall, Part II

Author: Chris Rylander

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Publication Date: February 2012

Genre: Middle School Fiction

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Book Two

Synopsis can be found here.
This book was given to me from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
And… they’re back!

Mac and Vince are at it again, running their business in the Fourth Stall. What can they say? They’re successful business men. You have a problem? Mac and Vince will help you solve it, all for a tiny fee.
And boy, do they have some problems to solve this time around.
Trixie Von Parkway, yes you read that right, is being terrorized by the new science teacher and has hired Mac and Vince to help her. But as they dig deeper, not everything is adding up. Thrown onto of that some suspicious lunch choices and a new school administrator out to get them and you have a fun adventure story full of twists and turns!

It is the second book in the series, but don’t worry about it. You can jump right into the adventure without worrying about catching up. You should read The Fourth Stall, but you don’t need to read it first to enjoy this latest adventure.

Mac’s voice is fantastic. I love his sense of humour, his observations and his undying trust with his best friend Vince. I love Vince. It’s so refreshing to find a story about a strong, solid friendship.  They’re a pair, in business and their undying love for The Cubs, and they have to stay strong together to dodge all the crazy obstacles that are being thrown their way.
All of the secondary characters, are fresh and hilarious. I love them all.

Best of all, this book is funny. Within the first ten pages, I was laughing out loud. (The wary customers at my local cafe probably thought I was nuts.)

Part crime thriller, film noir and Godfather all rolled into one, The Fourth Stall Part II grabs your hand and doesn’t let you go.

Buy it for your middle grade nephew, or your niece, or neighborhood kid, or yourself, or you know, anyone who can read.
You get the picture.

Rating 9 Ridiculously Awesome like Cookies and Ice Cream

 Author Interview with Chris Rylander!

Thanks Chris for stopping by!
What inspired you to become a writer?
It was mostly my love of books as a kid.  I’ve always loved movies, books, and video games.  I love taking part in stories, and so what better way to do that than to create the stories myself.
What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was GOING NOWHERE FASTER by Sean Beaudoin.  It’s a YA novel that is so funny, smart and just flat out awesome.  It’s one of those books that I just fell in love with from the first chapter and it only got better from there.
What sparked the idea for The Fourth Stall? When you were writing The Fourth Stall, did you already have a story planned for The Fourth Stall part II?
I just thought that the world of organized crime the way it’s portrayed in movies, could really coincide with the world of school, structurally.  Plus, I just thought a mob book with kids in school could be really funny and action-packed.  And, kids books with noirish voices is just a fun concept.  I actually had not even intended to write a sequel while writing the first one, so I definitely did not have that story already planned.
Mac’s luck seems to be running out! But even during tough times, Mac and Vince keep their sense of humor. What are you favorite things about Mac and Vince?
I think it’s their sense of humor, like you said.  Also how close they are.  They know what each other is thinking without needing to even say anything.  Plus, I really like how in some sense they exploit kids and like to make money off of them, but deep down they really are good guys.  They hate to see other kids suffer.
One of the best parts about this series is the relationship between Mac and Vince. Their friendship is so warm, filled with highs and lows and, most of all, trust. Did you base them on real friends of yours? (Perhaps another Cubs fan?)
Not really.  There are certainly elements of my real friends in the characters, especially with Vince, but they’re mostly fictional in the end.  My best friend and only friend who is also a Cubs fan is my wife, so I definitely know what’s it like to suffer through being a Cubs fan friend with your best friend, though.  And misery does love company, that’s why being a Cubs fan really is kind of like being a part of a national fraternity. 
How do you like your potato?
I love all forms of potato.  Preferably fresh, especially if fried, and with either bacon or chorizo and cheese.  Waffle and curly varieties are also great.  But my all-time favorite preparation is probably latkes. 
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Realistically, I’d probably be toiling away in a depressing gray cubicle.  But one of my dream jobs has always been to be a statistician for ESPN or professional sports team.  Or just get to do anything that involves compiling or analyzing sports stats.  I’m a statistics and sports freak.  Also, I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, but I doubt I’m organized enough to do that very well.
Do you have a favorite literary character?
Hmm… I’m not sure that I do.  I hate to say this, but if I HAD to pick, it might actually be Ignatius Reilly.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Playing video games, hanging out with friends and my wife, watching movies and TV, travelling, golfing, eating, pushing people to the ground at my local Target store, starting fires, collecting ants to distribute into people’s houses, you know, normal stuff.
What is one thing you would tell aspiring writers?
Don’t ever let rejections get you down.  I mean, there are people out there who hated the Harry Potter books for some reason.  No story is ever universally loved.  It’s all subjective, so never, ever let it get you down.  And, most importantly, don’t give up.  The only people who don’t find happiness in writing are the ones who quit.
The ending is quite the cliffhanger! What can you tell us about Mac’s next adventure?
Well, I don’t want to give away too much, but all I can say expect a lot of crazy things to happen.  And like usual, not everything will be as it seems.



Thanks again for stopping by!
You can visit Chris at his website here or follow him via twitter @Chris_Rylander