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review 2018-04-05 04:43
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Girl Who Drank the Moon - Kelly Barnhill

 

Yes. There is a witch in the woods. There has always been a witch.

- Opening lines

 

Magical babies are dangerous babies, Glerk tried to remind himself, day after day. When he wasn't cradling Luna. Or singing to Luna. Or whispering poetry into her ear as she slept.

-Chapter 5

 

A story can tell the truth, she knew, but a story can also lie. Stories can bend and twist and obfuscate. Controlling stories is power indeed.

- Chapter 38

 

Knowledge is powerful, but it is a terrible power when it is hoarded and hidden.

- Chapter 38

 

The village has always known about the witch, and about the sacrifice. Once a year, the Council of Elders takes the youngest baby and leaves it in the woods to appease the witch. But... the witch (Xan) has no idea why they leave the baby, so she takes it to the village across the forest and gives it to a loving home. Except for Luna... The witch accidentally feeds Luna moonlight (instead of the starlight she usually feeds the babies). The moonlight makes Luna magical. Luna grows up with Xan, Glerk (the swamp monster), and Fyrian (a Perfectly Tiny Dragon who thinks he is a Simply Enormous Dragon).

 

With characters like Xan, Glerk, Fyrian, and Luna, how could this story fail? The characters are amazing and the world is magical. People have been recommending this book to me all year, but I kept putting it off. I don't know why, but the cover just didn't appeal to me. Once I started reading it, I loved it. 

 

Recommended to: Grades 5 & up. Fans of magical stories or fairy tales.

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review 2018-03-18 03:42
Moving Target
Moving Target - Christina Diaz Gonzalez

There should have been some sort of warning.

- First Sentence

 

"Everything is part of the same painting," as my dad liked to say. "But we are each the artist of our own life. We choose what colors to use."

- Chapter 1

 

 

Cassie is an eighth grader living with her father in Rome, having an ordinary, boring life (except for the fact that she is an American girl living in Rome). One day, Cassie's father comes to school and yanks her into the car, speeding through the city, blabbering about how much he loves her, how he is going to fix things, and how he should have told her when she was younger. He finally tells Cassie that the Hastati are after her. Cassie has no idea what that means and she thinks he might be crazy, but then a motorcycle pulls up and the rider starts shooting at them. When her dad gets shot, Cassie takes him to the hospital, but he insists she must run to find Brother Gregorio for help. Cassie is terrified and runs to the only place she thinks might be safe, her friend Simone's house. But when the danger follows her even there, Cassie and Simone must find Brother Gregorio and find out what all of this means.

 

 In her dad's notebook, Cassie finds this message:

The Guardian will be bound for life once the spearhead is used.

It turns out the Hastati are a two thousand year old organization entrusted with one important duty - protect the spear (The Spear of Destiny). The spear can shape destiny, but only certain people can use the power - and Cassie is the last of that bloodline.

I was just an average girl. Things like this were not supposed to happen to people like me. The palette of my life's painting was gray or maybe a boring variety of beige, not psychedelic neon.

 

Well, this book starts off running and doesn't slow down. Cassie is constantly trying to figure out who to trust and how to keep Simone and herself safe. They are racing to find the spear, but they aren't the only ones. They must figure out baffling clues at every turn and stay ahead of the two factions fighting each other for control of the spear.

 

This is an edge of your seat adventure that will keep readers guessing until the end. I highly recommend it to kids in grades 4-8 who enjoy mysterious adventure stories with strong female heroines.

 

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review 2018-03-16 01:03
The War that Saved my Life
The War that Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

 

In the end it was the combination of the two, the end of my little war against Jamie, and the start of the big war, Hitler's war, that set me free.

- Chapter 1

 

She was not a nice person, but she cleaned up the floor. She was not a nice person, but she bandaged my foot in a white piece of cloth, and gave us two of her own shirts to wear. Miss Smith was not a nice person, but the bed she put us in was soft and clean, with smooth thin blankets and warm thicker ones.

- Chapter 7

 

Huh, I thought. Imagine dressing up tables. Imagine wasting cloth to dress up tables.

- Chapeter 18

 

I wanted Mam to be like Susan. I didn't really trust Susan not to be like Mam.

- Chapter 26

 

Ada was born with a club foot, and because of this, her mom doesn't let her leave the house. But that isn't the worst of it. Ada's mom (Mam) punishes her by putting her in a kitchen cabinet -- sometimes overnight. Mam calls Ada rubbish and tells her no one wants her with her ugly foot. Ada "escapes" this abuse by going somewhere else in her head. 

 

When Ada finds out her younger brother Jamie is to be evacuated with the other kids from his school, she is determined to go with them. The journey takes them to a small village where families have agreed to take in the evacuated children. Ada and Jamie end up living with Susan Smith, an old, grumpy spinster who doesn't really want them.

 

Ada is a heart-wrenching character. She has been taking care of her brother all his life, but no one takes care of her. She has suffered unimaginable abuse from the woman who should love her the most. She doesn't know how to accept love and kindness, and she doesn't even think she deserves it. Her mother has told her that her foot is messed up because Ada did something wrong.

 

Susan has her own issues. She recently lost her best friend and suffers from severe depression. Having Ada and Jamie around gives her something else to think about and an important responsibility - a reason to get up every day and engage with others.

 

Wow. This book is powerful. It is set in England during World War II. I loved watching Ada's development and bonding with Susan and others in the village. Despite everything Ada has been through (or maybe because of it), she is stubborn and courageous. She is also slow to trust and filled with self-doubt. The last chapter had me in tears.

 

I recommend this book to kids in grades 4-8 and their adults. I think it will touch their hearts in a major way.

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review 2018-03-10 02:09
Games of State (Op-Center #3)
Games of State (Tom Clancy's Op-Center, #3) - Tom Clancy,Jeff Rovin,Steve Pieczenik

The demons of hate are reemerging in the newly united Germany and finding root in various countries around the world linked through the shadowy recesses of the Internet and fueled by a businessman looking both for profit and triumph of bigotry, yet Op-Center must find a way to prevent chaos from exploding around the world.  Games of State is the third installment of Op-Center that bears the name of its creator Tom Clancy, yet is written by Jeff Rovin.  From Germany to the streets of the U.S. to southern France, the action and thrill are palpable as the race to prevent the rise of a new wave of hate.

 

Gerard Dominique, a French billionaire financier and computer game mogul, is uniting hate groups throughout Europe and the United States to destabilize numerous countries and allow France to once again lead Europe.  Part of his plan is to use hate filled video games downloaded onto the Internet and well time hate crimes in various locations to bring about political and societal chaos.  Yet the unplanned actions of other hate leaders resulting in a kidnapped young American woman needing to be rescued, the hate-filled enticement towards the son of Op-Center’s Striker team leader over the Internet, the unexpected meeting of Op-Center head Paul Hood with his former fiancée now a Dominique employee, and Dominique’s own hubris results in his plans failing to materialize.

 

Released in 1996, Games of State brought together many political and cultural threads to create the backdrop of very riveting political thriller with action-packed sequences as well.  However well the set up and the ideas were, the use of formulaic tropes that are standard in one-hour TV dramas and paperbacks undermined the potential of a book.  What was most disheartening was the ease in which I was able to see which newly introduced characters would result in instantly being important in a 100 or 200 pages just when they were needed, these and other plot twists decreases the enjoyment of the book.  Though one can argue that my complaints are to be expected in this type of book, I would argue that one doesn’t mind if the tropes are written well.

 

Games of State had an intriguing plot idea, but was undermined by poor writing decisions that turned what could have been a good page-turner into an okay read.  Though the book’s execution was poor, it was a better read than the previous Op-Center installment, Mirror Image, even with my rating being the same for the both of them.

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review 2018-02-13 04:40
The Nerdy Dozen
The Nerdy Dozen #1 - Jeff Miller

 

The enemy fighter jets surged past Neil Andertol, soaring over desolate, sandy terrain.

- opening line

 

 

So, another 6-8 grade Sunshine State nominated book. I wasn't planning on reading this one because I didn't think I would like it. That's what I get for judging a book by its cover. Anyway, one of the 4th-grade students was really enjoying it and she asked me to read it with her. It's actually pretty good and I can't wait to talk to her about it tomorrow. Though I finished it and she is probably around halfway through.

 

Neil loves video games, like most 13-year old boys these days. He especially enjoys one called Chameleon. Chameleon, it turns out is a training tool used by the Air Force to teach pilots to fly an actual plane called the Chameleon that is capable of seeming invisible. Neil and a bunch of other kids get recruited by the Air Force to find a lost plane and save the day. I know, I know. Big suspension of disbelief here, but kids love that sort of thing.

 

Anyway, Neil ends up meeting a few people in real life that he only previously knew online. So, there are expected surprises there. And the kids make a couple of decisions that mess up something that Major Jones had planned, resulting in more unlikely situations. At least the kids don't make some half-assed decision based on their guts and end up being right over the Major who is an adult and should know better than them.

 

This is a fast-moving story that kids will devour. And now that there are 3 books in the series, it will keep the kids reading.

 

Good for 4th - 8th graders who enjoy video games, strong female characters, soldiers, edge of your seat adventures... it has something for everyone.

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