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review 2019-03-09 04:26
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain - John Boyne

Audience: Grades 6 & up

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy

 

 

 

Although Pierrot Fischer's father didn't die in the Great War, his mother, Emilie, always maintained it was the war that killed him.

- first sentence

 

So, I picked up this book because the cover reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which was very emotional and tragic and which I loved. I was so excited when I realized it was the same author.

 

Again, this book takes place (mostly) during World War II, and again it follows a young boy. The boy is actually half German and half French. It starts off with him living in Paris with his parents and next door to his best friend (who just happens to be Jewish). When his parents die, he is shipped to an orphanage and later sent to live with his aunt who just happens to be a housekeeper in the home of a powerful German.

 

It is important to remember that he is a young, impressionable seven-year-old boy who is desperate for a father figure. He goes through some serious changes over the 9 years the book covers and some of them are quite disturbing.

 

Overall, I liked the book. I think it's important that readers be aware of the truth behind the story and to know that the boy does some awful things. He is indoctrinated at a young age into the Nazi movement, lavished with the attention he craved and led to believe that he was in the right. But, part of him knew what he was doing was wrong and that is important too. Younger readers might have a harder time understanding the meaning of the story. That's why I recommend it to grades 6 and up (and maybe a parent should read it and discuss it with them).

 

To me, this wasn't nearly as powerful as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but it was still good - not great, but good.

 

I read it for Snakes & Ladders space #21, set in Europe.

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review 2019-03-07 04:03
The Last Gargoyle
The Last Gargoyle (Goyle, Guardian #1) - Paul Durham

Audience: Middle Grade

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy

 

 

My earliest memory is of a crib, a darkened room, and three shadows slipping through the doorway with bad intentions.

- first sentence

 

This is such a charming book with fun characters and an exciting story. The story includes Grotesques, Bone Masons, Netherkin, Shadow Men, and the Boneless King. It has danger, mystery, good & evil, and suspense. I really liked it.

 

Penhallow is a gargoyle but he wants you to call him a grotesque. He protects his building and his wards from evil. When he loses his two best friends and faces a new enemy, he feels completely alone, until Viola turns up on his roof.

 

I loved Penhallow and Viola's relationship. They are cute together and she is stronger than she seems. I also enjoyed Penhallow's way of looking at the world and talking. He calls college students, "practice adults". Here is the definition from Penhallow's glossary:

 

Practice Adults:

Nocturnal creatures who seem to serve no useful purpose other than to keep taverns and pizza delivery people in business.

 

I highly recommend this book to middle-grade readers who enjoy dark fantasy with a touch of humor.

 

I read this for Snakes and Ladders space #16. Genre: fantasy.

I'm also using it for the Goodreads HA a to z challenge. :)

 

 

 

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review 2019-02-26 00:22
The Secret Chef by Crystal King
The Secret Chef - Crystal King

The year is 1577 and Bartolomeo Scappi, the famous Vatican chef, has died. Giovanni, his nephew who has long been his apprentice, has inherited almost everything, including his recipes and the many journals where his uncle has chronicled his life. He was supposed to burn them, but he was curious about the man he loved and had taught him so much. And therein he learns that his uncle had many secrets.

 

Dangerous secrets.

 

 

This was a fantastic look into the life of a famous chef, of which little is known about. Crystal King weaves a wonderful tale around his life, some historical, much of it made up, but still a delight to read. The meals this man cooked for the Vatican and many nobles were nothing less than extravagant, but it made my mouth water.

 

The author does include a bit at the end about what is known of this chef and his life and it was appreciated.

 

While not as good as her first book, in my opinion, it was still a great read and I definitely recommend it to all historical fiction fans out there.

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review 2019-02-24 03:15
Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White & the Seven Dwarves
Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - Liesl Shurtliff

Audience: Middle Grade

Format: Hardcover/Library Copy

 

 

I was born just feet from the surface of the earth, completely unheard of for a dwarf, but it couldn't be helped.

- first sentence

 

 

The dwarf's name is Borlen and his nickname is Grump. This story is set in the same world as Rump, Jack, and Red and written by the same author, Liesl Shurtliff. I really enjoy this series and I am always happy to see a new book come out. The series takes fairy tale retellings to a new level. The characters are all part of the same larger world and I love the way Shurtliff weaves them all together.

 

Borlen is obsessed with the surface even though most dwarves are terrified of it. He always feels like a bit of an outsider. When he finally finds himself above ground, his first friend is Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.). Readers know she is the Evil Queen, but Borlen is fairly naive and thinks she is his friend (his only friend). And so, Borlen gets caught up in the Queen's plot against Snow White.

 

I loved the characters in this story and the story itself. Grump is so complicated and conflicted but also very clever. At first Snow White seems like a self-centered, spoiled brat, but later we find out she is more complex than that. The crew that Borlen is a part of consists of seven dwarves - of course, one of whom sneezes a lot - go figure.

 

I highly recommend this book to readers in grades 4 and up, especially fans of fairy tale retellings. I read this as part of the Goodreads HA A-to-Z Challenge and for space #1 in the Snakes and Ladders game (book with a female author).

 

 

 

 

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review 2019-02-17 03:33
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Pashmina - Nidhi Chanani

Audience: Grades 4-8

Format: Graphic Novel - Library Copy

 

 

Priyanka! Watch out for that tree!

- first sentence

 

Priyanka (Pri) has a lot of questions. Why did her mother leave India for the U.S.? What was it like there? Who is her father and what happened to him? But her mother doesn't want to answer any of these questions. Pri is dealing with typical teen issues, learning to drive, dealing with bullies, and trying to figure out who she is. She finds a pashmina in a suitcase in the closet and it transports her to India in her imagination. This only fuels her desire to travel to India, but will her mom let her go?

 

I enjoyed this book. Pri is a multi-dimensional character - she has flaws but is still relatable. She is trying to figure out her identity while trying to fit into two different worlds. Her journey of self-discovery is heartwarming and her determination is inspiring.

 

The magical element to the story adds another dimension. The panels are black and white until Pri puts on the pashmina when they become full of color. Indian culture is woven through the story beautifully. 

 

I highly recommend this book and it would be a great addition to any library serving elementary or middle school children. 

 

 

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