Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

As the youngest in her family, Dory really wants attention, and more than anything she wants her brother and sister to play with her. But she’s too much of a baby for them, so she’s left to her own devices—including her wild imagination and untiring energy. Her siblings may roll their eyes at her childish games, but Dory has lots of things to do: outsmarting the monsters all over the house, escaping from prison (aka time-out), and exacting revenge on her sister’s favorite doll. And when they really need her, daring Dory will prove her bravery, and finally get exactly what she has been looking for. With plenty of pictures bursting with charm and character, this hilarious book about an irresistible rascal is the new must-read for the chapter book set.

dory

 

This early chapter book may just be my new favourite.  Sibling dynamics are hilariously explored, and reflected my childhood growing up with two younger siblings.  Even though I am the oldest, I sympathized with Dory ‘Rascal’ as she longed to play with her older siblings.  When Dory’s siblings brush her off and try to scare her with Mrs. Gobble Gracker (an imaginary 507 year old baby thief), her wonderful cast of make-believe characters (including her leprechaun fairy godmother) come to life.   Dory is one big ball of energy, and I too, would be exhausted after an afternoon with her.

Her adventures are illustrated with black and white drawings throughout the book. They truly add to the hilarity. Just looking at the faces of Dory’s siblings (p.144) as she retrieves a ball from the toilet makes me want to gag! Kids will love it!   In the end, the story’s message is sweet and heartwarming.  All children no matter the birth order, have a special role in the family. I definitely will be recommending this book to early chapter book readers, especially fans of Junie B. Jones. Can’t wait for installment #2!

More reviews:

“…this inventive child is irresistible…Charming, funny, true to life.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Time spent with Dory is time well spent.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review

To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

to all the boys photo

My first Jenny Han read comes compliments of PLA. I eyed the gorgeous cover, and scooped it up immediately. I connected with the narrator Lara Jean, right from the first page. I too am a keeper of all things and love to bake, knit, scrapbook and go antiquing. Like Lara Jean, I also would pour my emotions into my writing, opting for poems/songs instead of letters. I’m not sure how I would have reacted to someone sending my past loves these notes, but I thought Lara Jean handled it exceptionally well.  Her character was well written, and felt authentic. Her sisterly bond with Margot and Kitty were a nice addition to some of the typical high school stories.  It is a unique and interesting dynamic, and I’m glad it’s portrayed realistically, including the frequent fights and makeups!

In terms of romance, there is a bit of a love triangle… but really, Lara Jean’s real love interest becomes blatantly obvious and makes the storyline a tad predictable.  However, the ending to their complicated love story is anything but. I was expecting everything to wrap up beautifully, so I embraced the messier ending, and was able to imagine my own conclusion. I know many readers disagree with me, but I really hope it remains a standalone novel as the story felt complete as is. UPDATE-Found out book #2 P.S. I Still Love You is in the works for 2015. BUMMER.

I encourage you to add this contemporary high school romance to your reader radar. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available April 15, 2014.

Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

In an extraordinary debut novel, an escaped fugitive upends everything two siblings think they know about their family, their past, and themselves.

zebr

Zebra Forest is a short, beautifully written story about family, secrets, love and forgiveness for mature middle grade readers.  Eleven year old Annie, and her nine year old brother Rew live with their depressed grandmother in a cluttered house among the birches and oaks of the ‘Zebra Forest’.  Although Annie was expecting a dull, unadventurous summer, her life was turned upside down when an escaped prisoner from the nearby prison holds them hostage.

This book is for readers that love character driven stories. Early on, it becomes evident that Annie and Rew are extremely resilient kids forced to grow up and take care of themselves as their grandma becomes less and less stable and reliable.  Throw in heavy family issues and a surprise they never saw coming, it is no wonder they turned to literature (specifically Treasure Island) as a means of comfort and escape.  Obviously, as a librarian, I loved this connection to the power of reading and storytelling.

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

paper valentine

Yovanoff’s book covers always grab my attention. Paper Valentine is no exception.

A while back I read The Replacement, which is set around Halloween. By complete coincidence, I read Paper Valentine over Valentine’s Day. I found both books to have some similarities:

-Sibling relationships (Ariel is a big part of the story—Hannah is very protective of her younger sister)

-Underlying message— No one is perfect. We have to learn to be happy in our own skin and not care what others think.

-Stand alone title. Not a series!

-Genre-hard to classify. It includes a mix of different elements: romance, paranormal, mystery, thriller.

While the storyline centres on the murders, it is also a book about a girl coping with her best friend’s death. Although never referred to as ‘anorexia’, it is clear that Lillian died from the eating disorder. How Hannah describes the appearance of Lillian’s ghost and the smell of her breath is truly disturbing. Hannah’s guilt is prominent throughout, and only in the end can she finally let go.

I thought Hannah made an interesting main protagonist. She loves putting her own spin on her clothes and aims to stand out from the rest of the crowd.  Although she feels guilty for her role (or lack thereof) in Lillian’s death, she puts on a smile and pretends she’s happy. I liked how her love interest, Finny challenges her to be real and accept those emotions.

Although I didn’t see the end twist coming, I figured by the number of pages left that something was around the corner. However, I had big questions surrounding the killer’s motive. Why kill young girls? To demonstrate power? For a thrill? It’s a HUGE leap from shoplifting to murder. I didn’t get it. I also didn’t quite grasp the reason for all the dead birds and the constant mentioning of heat. I definitely thought it was so sort of eerie foreshadowing.

Overall, I think Yovanoff did a great job at weaving together an interesting murder mystery. The book tackled plenty of issues to keep readers hooked and guessing. The Ouija boards and séances really upped the creepy factor.

 

 

Review: Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope. Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope. Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.

slammed

I’ve been following this trend with ‘new adult’ fiction, and one of the most mentioned books is Slammed. ‘New adult’ often refers to books with content in between teen and adult. My curiosity peaked, I checked out the book.

While I’d really like to write my review as a slam, it’s been way too long of a day for me to even attempt that. Instead, I will give you a one word review – AMAZING. This captivating book has plenty of powerful messages on life, love, and family. It evoked so many emotions, especially the twists I didn’t see coming! I completely devoured the book in less than a day.

I really love words and poetry so this book was a perfect fit. In high school, my teacher actually encouraged me to submit my poems in contests, and two of them ended up getting published in the Canadian Anthology of Verse. Poems are often very private and personal, so I was proud of Lake when she ‘pushed her boundaries’ and performed her slam at the club. Once you read the book, you’ll understand just how clever all the slams are. For a taste, here is a sample of one of Layken’s slams:

I got schooled this year
by
a
Boy.

a boy that I’m seriously,
deeply, madly, incredibly,
and undeniably
in love
with.
And he taught me the most
important thing of all
To put the emphasis
On life.

Regardless of the reader’s age, this book is suitable for anyone with a love of words.  If you enjoyed Slammed, you’ll be happy to know that it is the first in the series. Point of Retreat continues Layken and Will’s relationship.  I haven’t decided if I’ll read it yet because I was really satisfied and happy with the ending of Slammed. Layken and Will both experienced so much hardship and grief that I want to continue imagining them living on as it ended in book one. Most of all, I hope and imagine Layken takes into consideration her mom’s long list of advice. The advice served as a great reminder to us all, especially: “Don’t take life too seriously. Punch it in the face when it needs a good hit. Laugh at it”.

Now go borrow or buy a copy of this fabulous book right now. I’m not kidding– GO! You won’t regret it!

Book Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff is one of the most fascinating, original stories I’ve read in a long time. I found it so fitting that I read this book over Halloween since the story also takes place around the same creepy time. Around Halloween you begin thinking about all the ugly, twisted things in the world, and this story delivers all that and more! 

From Goodreads:Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world. Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

🙂 THE GOOD

-Descriptions. The descriptions of the town (Gentry) and the twisted, dark underworld (Mayhem) were definitely the strongest elements of the book. In an eerie, fantasy based novel, the descriptions have to be strong for the reader to visualize and imagine the world in which the story is set.  Yovanoff did a fantastic job at setting the mood and backdrop.

-Storyline. The storyline is so intriguing and there is a fun genre mix of fantasy, thriller and romance that will appeal to a wide audience of readers.

-Sibling relationship. Although ‘replacement’ babies usually die at a young age, Mackie has made it to high school-largely due to his sister’s care and love. I really enjoyed that Emma is so prominent in his life.

-Take home message.  Despite all the dark and dreary elements, the main message of the book is that everyone wants and needs love—even if you aren’t human.

-Not a series. YAY- finally a good stand alone book. It seems like every book these days is being turned into a money grabbing series.

 

 😦 THE BAD

-Huh? Throughout the book, Mackie is described as being hypersensitive to loud noises, yet he can attend heavy metal rock concerts and be totally not bothered? 

-Lack of curiosity. I just don’t see how the whole town of Gentry could live with an oppressive cloud over their head and do nothing about it.  How can they just accept that babies go missing every couple of years? Also, I find it overly bizarre that Mackie himself lacks any real curiosity about what and who he truly is. Early on, he recognizes he is different, but instead of really questioning it, he tries his hardest to blend in and appear ‘normal’. Maybe it’s because he wants to be human so badly, but I just don’t buy it.

 

                                               I LOVE the cover- screams creepy!

Warning: Just so readers are aware- the book includes:  teen drinking, profanity, and sexuality.

Check out the youtube book trailer if you dare…

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