Posts Categorized: Middle Grade

Book Review – The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano

September 15, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2016 1 Comment

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefanoThe Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart by Lauren DeStefano
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on September 13th 2016
Pages: 208
Genres: Fantasy
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Wither, Perfect Ruin, Burning Kingdoms

three-stars

Lionel is a wild boy, who doesn’t much like to be around other people. He’d rather be a purring cat or a wolf stalking the woods.

Marybeth is a nice girl. She doesn’t need to be told to comb her hair or brush her teeth, and she’s kind to everyone at the orphanage . . . Lionel most of all.

Different though they are, Lionel and Marybeth are best friends in a world that has forgotten about them. So when a mysterious blue spirit possesses Marybeth—and starts to take control—they know they must stop it before the real Marybeth fades away forever.

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‘Lionel already understood. He could make the chickens lay eggs and he could reason with the most stubborn of foxes. But he had learned years ago that humans were more dangerous than the things that stalked about the wilderness.’

Lionel may be a wild boy and Marybeth may be a nice girl, but these two 9-year-olds are one another’s only friends in a world where they have no one else. Lionel and Marybeth, along with six other orphans, live in the care of widowed Mrs. Mannerd who more than has her hands full. Much of their free time is spent traversing the woods surrounding the house where Lionel especially feels most at home due to the fact that he himself feels more animal than human. He likes to feed the wild animals from his hand and refuses to eat at the dinner time, preferring instead to eat beneath it. Marybeth is a perfectly normal little girl that manages to soothe the rougher edges of Lionel’s wildness. During one of their excursions in the wilderness, Lionel tells Marybeth of a blue fox that he’s currently trying to get to trust him, but to no avail. When Marybeth spots the blue creature from her bedroom window one night, she rushes to get a look at it only to find that it’s not a fox at all but something that ends up possessing and changing Marybeth.

This was such an endearing tale of friendship that will touch hearts of all ages. Lionel and Marybeth are the unlikeliest of duos, however, their friendship becomes vital to both of them. Their friendship helps Lionel to reacquaint himself with his emotions and come to terms with his loneliness at the orphanage which Marybeth also deals with similar feelings of isolation. When Marybeth is no longer Marybeth, having been inhabited by the ghost, it’s up to Lionel to take charge like he’s never had to before in order to help his friend solve the mystery of who this ghost is. The mystery and paranormal aspects were curious yet left me with more than a few questions (unlikely to be a problem with the appropriate age group) but the real story here is the friendship and the lesson in mortality.

The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart is yet another unexpectedly sinister Middle grade adventure from DeStefano. The bleak undertones are paired well with a message of hope and a mystery that will keep any reader in this age group speculating. Lauren DeStefano has definitely found her niche in the Middle Grade genre.

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The Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles de Lint [Purchase//Review]
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker [Purchase]
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman [Purchase]

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Book Review – Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

April 7, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2016 0 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Once Was a Time by Leila SalesOnce Was a Time by Leila Sales
Published by Chronicle Books on April 5th 2016
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Also by this author: This Song Will Save Your Life

two-stars

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

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“What do you do when you learn, without a doubt, that you’ve lost everyone you love and you’re trapped by time forever?”

Charlotte “Lottie” Bromley has been raised to believe in time travel. Her father is an illustrious scientist who has been tasked with learning the secrets of time travel in hopes of gaining a leg up in the war. The year is 1940 and ten-year-old Lottie and her best friend Kitty are kidnapped by Nazis in an effort to coerce the secret of time travel from her father. When a shimmering portal appears in front of Lottie, she takes advantage of an opportunity that might never present itself again, even though that means leaving Kitty behind. Lottie finds herself in a place called Wisconsin in the year 2013 clad only in her pajamas. Her only desire is to find some way to return to Kitty and hope that her and her father survived after she escaped.

Once Was a Time intrigued me from the very beginning with the portrayal of a war-ravaged England through the perspective of a ten-year-old girl. Add in a scientist researching the existence of time travel and I was more than ready for an adventurous and entertaining story. Unfortunately, that feeling was tragically short-lived. I am ready and willing to read anything to do with time travel, however, in looking at the time travel books I have read and loved, there was one similarity between them all: the characters were time traveling to a fascinating time and place. Alas, Wisconsin circa 2013 does not scream fascinating to me.

The numerous genres also made this a difficult one for me. We’re introduced to this as historical fiction upon which it’s given a dash of science fiction and mystery. As soon as you’ve got comfortable with this interesting blend, the reader is then thrust into a contemporary, coming-of-age setting where Lottie is adapting to a modern age where everything is unknown. It was an interesting switch from what you typically find in time travel books, where a modern person is forced to adapt to the past but her dealing with mean girl cliques was too much. She makes friends with these girls even though she never seems to actually care for them because of she believes she doesn’t deserve to have good friends because she left her best friend behind with the Nazis. I could understand her mindset, it just ended up being far too long and drawn out for a meager 272 pages. The pacing picked up speed and seemed to be making a comeback at the end but seemed to lose control making the ending feel avoidably rushed.

I fell in love with Leila Sales’ writing after her novel This Song Will Save Your Life. Yes, that story touched on personal experiences so of course, it would be special to me but it was so passionately written, personal experiences or no, it was an incredible story. Unfortunately, I think it set the bar astronomically high for any future read I picked up from her. That spark that made that such an incredible story seemed to be absent here and while I loved the concept of it all, it could have been so much more than it was.

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National Book Award 2015 Finalist – The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

November 12, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 2 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali BenjaminThe Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Realistic YA Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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four-stars

This stunning debut novel about grief and wonder was an instant New York Times bestseller and captured widespread critical acclaim, including selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist!

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting-things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.

‘The thing is, a person gets so few chances to really fix something, to make it right. When one of those opportunities comes along, you can’t overthink it. You’ve got to grab hold of it and cling to it with all your might, no matter how cray cray it might seem.’

When Suzy’s mom sits her down to tell her that her former best friend Franny has died in a drowning accident, the only reason she gives her is that “sometimes things just happen”. Former best friend or not, Suzy fails to accept this simplistic verdict. The duo had been friends since they were five, but Franny found a new group of girls to hang out with when they went into Middle School leaving Suzy all by herself. So in addition to basically losing Franny a second time, Suzy is struggling to come to terms with her parent’s divorce as well. Deciding that her words are of little consequence, she decides one day to no longer speak. During a school field trip, she watches a jellyfish float through its watery cage, and it suddenly comes to her that she knows exactly how Franny died.

“That’s what science is,” she explained. “It’s learning what others have discovered about the world, and then – when you bump up against a question that no one has ever answered before – figuring out how to get the answer you need.

The Thing About Jellyfish bounces back and forth in time, slowly unfolding the story on how Franny
became the former best-friend. It’s a melancholy tale and you can’t help feeling for the poor girl. She’s never stopped caring for Franny though, and once she’s gone, Suzy feels that after some time has passed she’s the only one that still seems to care about her or even consider her death to be mysterious. This quickly leads her into a scientific research adventure into jellyfish from around the world, and most especially the Irukandji jellyfish. Through Suzy’s research, we learn that the sting of an Irukandji can cause muscle cramps which could essentially lead to drowning. At only a few centimeters long and almost completely transparent, Suzy believes it’s up to her to prove that Franny’s death wasn’t something that just happened.

‘There’s no single right way to say goodbye to someone you love. But the most important thing is that you keep some part of them inside you.’

The Thing About Jellyfish is a poignant story about coming to terms with your grief while the world around you continues like nothing has changed. The protagonist may only be twelve-years-old, however, her sentimental experience is something that will be easily understood and acknowledged by readers of all ages.

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Early Review – The Marvels by Brian Selznick

September 11, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 3 Comments

Early Review – The Marvels by Brian SelznickThe Marvels by Brian Selznick
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic Press on September 15th 2015
Pages: 640
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


five-stars

Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

 Continuing his unique theme of storytelling, Selznick takes his readers on a dual adventure told in pictures and then words. The first adventure is experienced solely in pictures and begins in 1776 on a ship named the Kraken. After a massive storm, there is only a single survivor: Billy Marvel. The pictures tell of his story, how he came to be connected to the Royal Theatre in London, and how subsequent generations became well-known actors with their own story to tell. The visually impressive illustrated story continues for over 400 pages and ends with an air of mystery.

Flashing forward to the 1990s, we’re introduced to Joseph Jervis who has just run away from boarding school to go in search of his Uncle Albert. Joseph’s parents are the absent sort and he’s hoping to find a family, a place to call home. Finding his Uncle ends up being a letdown seeing as he wants to immediately send Joseph back to where he belongs and doesn’t show any interest in getting to know each other. Joseph takes comfort in his Uncle’s old house that’s filled with history and a certain story that Joseph desperately wants to uncover. While the story of Joseph is an intriguing one, what’s more intriguing is how his story and that of Billy Marvel’s, two seemingly isolated stories, could possibly be connected. The connection slowly begins to piece together, flowering into a beautifully simplistic story about love and family.

I really adored this story; it even managed to elicit some teary-eyed feels. I loved the combination of pictures/words and was most impressed that Selznick managed to make his words-only storytelling just as mentally visual as his illustrations-only story. This charmingly simplistic story won me over completely and I definitely intend on picking up all of Selznick’s other works.

Many thanks to Wendy for gifting me this lovely story.

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Early Review – Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

July 9, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 1 Comment

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert BeattySerafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Published by Disney Hyperion on July 14th 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-stars

Disney Hyperion presents an exciting new novel for children & adults: a spooky historical mystery-thriller about an unusual girl who lives secretly in the basement of the grand Biltmore Estate.

"Never go into the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul."

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There's plenty to explore in her grand home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate's maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to sneak and hide.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore's corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore's owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak's true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina's hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.

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“…our world is filled with many mysteries, things we don’t understand. Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, both dark and bright, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Biltmore Estate is large enough to have kept a secret for over a decade: deep within its basement lives a man and his daughter, named Serafina. Serafina’s father is in charge of the building’s maintenance but he would be tossed out in a heartbeat if it were discovered he also resided there. And Serafina is a whole different matter. Curious about the world around her and of her own past, she’s no longer able to keep herself confined to the basement, especially when she witnesses the murder of a young girl. Her body was never discovered and by the following morning, another child was missing. Serafina is determined to help these people find their lost children, even if it means disclosing her secret.

Beatty created a most mysterious girl with Serafina, who is described as having golden eyes and strangely enough, four toes instead of the normal five. Those differences only add to the air of mystery surrounding her and keep you wondering what it is that makes her so special. She’s a girl with a good heart and a kind soul that you can’t help but admire. Befriending the owner’s of Biltmore’s nephew, Braeden, makes this story even more charming. The two quickly hit it off, despite their obvious differences in social class, and they both team up convinced that they’re going to be able to find these children. Through her friendship, Serafina starts seeing the world through a new set of eyes, only seen before through the pages of books. She sees the good in the world but because of the man in the black cloak, she’s also uncovering the bad as well.

‘She was beginning to see how difficult it was to determine who was good and who was bad, who she could trust and who she had to watch out for. Every person was a hero in his own mind, fighting for what he thought was right, or just fighting to survive another day, but no one thought they were evil.’

Serafina possesses a definite horror but isn’t quite as terrifying as it is charming. The unique heroine is definitely the spotlight of this tale with her most uncommon story of her life and how she came to reside in the Biltmore Estate basement. While some parts of the book did seem to creep along very slowly and some aspects weren’t left sufficiently explained, it was still ultimately a satisfying supernatural tale of mystery that will no doubt delight children and adults alike.

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Waiting on Wednesday – A Pocket Full of Murder (Uncommon Magic #1) by R.J. Anderson

May 6, 2015 Bonnie Middle Grade, Waiting on Wednesday 3 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – A Pocket Full of Murder (Uncommon Magic #1) by R.J. AndersonA Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson
Series: Uncommon Magic #1
Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on September 8th 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Fantasy, Magic
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Ultraviolet, Quicksilver

A determined young girl joins forces with an adventure-loving street boy to solve a magical murder mystery—and save her father’s life—in this action-packed novel with classic mystery appeal.

In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder.

Isaveth is determined to prove his innocence. Quiz, the eccentric, eye patch–wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution. But is Quiz truly helping Isaveth out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own?

About R.J. Anderson

R. J. (Rebecca Joan) Anderson is a Canadian author of contemporary fantasy and SF for older children and teens.

Her debut novel Knife, which has sold more than 50,000 copies in the UK, was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and won the Concorde Book Award, while her teen psychological thriller Ultraviolet was shortlisted for both the Sunburst Award in Canada and the prestigious Andre Norton (Nebula) award in the US. Her eighth book, a magical mystery entitled A Pocket Full of Murder, will be released in the fall of 2015.

I read very few Middle Grade stories but this one sounded too fun to pass up. I really loved the authors Ultraviolet YA Sci-Fi series so I have high hopes for this one! Plus, have you seen that adorable cover??

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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The Stars of Summer Blog Tour

April 30, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Book Tour, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 9 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Stars of Summer Blog TourThe Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman
Series: All Four Stars #2
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 5th 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary, Foodie Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: All Four Stars

four-stars

It’s not easy being an undercover restaurant critic—especially when you’re only twelve years old!

With her first published review under her belt, Gladys Gatsby is looking forward to a quiet summer of cooking and reviewing. But her plans quickly go awry when her friend delivers Gladys’s birthday gift: a free summer at Camp Bentley. As Gladys feared, camp life is not easy: she struggles to pass her swim test and can’t keep the other campers happy while planning lunches. The worst part is she can’t seem to get away from the annoying new “celebrity” camper and sneak away for her latest assignment—finding the best hot dog in New York City. But when it turns out her hot dog assignment was a dirty trick by a jealous reviewer, Gladys’s reviewing career may be over forever.

About Tara Dairman

Tara Dairman is the author of ALL FOUR STARS, which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Mighty Girl Top Book of 2014 for Teens and Tweens. She is also a playwright and recovering world traveler. She grew up in New York and received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world's longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her husband and their trusty waffle iron.

All Four Stars series

Early Review – All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

All Four Stars (All Four Stars #1) by Tara Dairman {PurchaseMy Four Star Review!}

“Find the best hot dog in New York City.

Leave no street corner unvisited, and no dog untasted!”

Gladys Gatsby is now twelve-years-old and there isn’t anything she’s more enthusiastic about than delicious foods. Since that incident with the blowtorch (it really was only a small fire), Gladys has convinced her parents to allow her more opportunities to improve her skills in the kitchen. Gladys also continues to review for the New York Standard even though it’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with excuses to visit restaurants in the city. Her newest assignment seems to her to be a strange and difficult one: find the best hot dog in New York City. The situation becomes even more difficult when her friend Charissa gives her a summer pass to her parents day camp, Camp Bentley where she ends up in charge of the lunches which she finds to be both exciting and stressful. Will Gladys be able to continue juggling all the things she has going this summer and still manage to somehow the perfect hot dog?

Gladys is back and still just as adorable. The Stars of Summer has our heroine undertaking a monumental task with discovering the perfect hot dog. I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration through multiple cultures from Iceland to even South Africa. Hot dogs are shockingly common in far more places than just the United States! Her descriptions of the exotic foods she gets to sample will once again leave you wishing you could share in her adventure of the taste buds. And while her adventures did often feel a bit lacking in credibility (attending an awards show in New York City minus any parents? She is only twelve…) I admittedly found myself so completely lost in the cuteness of it all that it was easy enough to overlook and just sit back and enjoy. The friendships Gladys has developed since All Four Stars are incredibly touching and most notably was the inclusion of the two boy-girl friendships. With multiple secondary yet still well-developed characters, Dairman has managed to bring to life a full cast of characters this time around that will only enhance future installments in this series.

 The Stars of Summer is once again another addition to my well-loved list of foodie fiction stories. In addition to the most appetizing sounding foods, you’re treated to one of the most adorable children in fiction. In addition, there’s a light and charming sense of humor throughout. Most highly recommended.

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This post was a part of ‘The Stars of Summer‘ blog tour.
Be sure to check out the other tour stops below!

Monday, April 27: Katie/Bookish Illuminations
Tuesday, April 28: Aeicha/Word Spelunking and Emma/Awkwordly Emma
Wednesday, April 29: Sylvia/A Baked Creation
Thursday, April 30: Bonnie /For the Love of Words
Friday, May 1: Lisa/Fic Talk
Monday, May 4: Lucy/The Reading Date
Tuesday, May 5: LAUNCH DAY!
Wednesday, May 6: Dahlia/Daily Dahlia
Thursday, May 7: Karen/For What it’s Worth
Friday, May 8: Jen/Pop! Goes the Reader
Monday, May 11: Stephanie/Kitchen Frolic
Tuesday, May 12: Brenda/Log Cabin Library
Wednesday, May 13: Michael/Project Mayhem and Wendy/The Midnight Garden

Image Credits
Author Photo/Tiffany Crowder @ Crowded Studios
Blog Tour Button/Kristin Rae
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Book Review – Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

March 6, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 0 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Breadcrumbs by Anne UrsuBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Illustrator: Erin Mcguire
Published by Walden Pond Press on September 27th 2011
Pages: 312
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Fantasy, Wintery
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-half-stars

The winner of numerous awards and recipient of four starred reviews, Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs is a stunning and heartbreaking story of growing up, wrapped in a modern-day fairy tale.

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a stunningly original fairy tale of modern-day America, a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us.

In Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu tells, in her one-of-a-kind voice, a story that brings together fifty years of children's literature in a tale as modern as it is timeless. Hazel's journey to come to terms with her evolving friendship with Jack will deeply resonate with young readers.

‘There are things you do not notice until they are gone. Like the certainty that your body is a single whole, that there’s something keeping you from breaking into pieces and scattering with the winds.’

In this modern-day version of The Snow Queen, Hazel undergoes a journey in hopes of finding her best friend Jack after he disappeared when a mysterious piece of glass falls into his eye. Hazel has always felt like an outcast because she’s adopted and her parents recent split up causes her to have to attend a new school. The only upside of this new school is Jack, the only one that ever seems to truly understand Hazel and when he’s last seen walking into the woods with a woman dressed in white, his absence is palpable.

In The Snow Queen, there is a woman dressed in white that rides a sled which is clearly the inspiration behind Jadis, the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The cultural references don’t stop there though seeing as Hazel is such an avid reader and their stories have become etched into her mind. Hogwarts is referenced as well as The Wizard of Oz, The Golden Compass, A Wrinkle in Time, Coraline, Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth and more than likely a few others I didn’t catch. The first few were fun little additions but as they continued they really managed to divert my attention away from the magic of the actual story.


Illustrations by Erin McGuire

Hazel is still at the age where she views the world through the lens of her imagination, a time when life was much simpler. Narnia and Hogwarts are as real to her as anything else, unfortunately, everyone around her seems to be growing up and leaving her alone within her imagination. Hazel was such a kind-hearted soul that had difficulty understanding how she could be so different and why that was necessarily such a bad thing. It’s impossible not to have the utmost sympathy for this poor girl. This self-exploratory adventure, that muddies the difference between fantasy and reality, in finding her inner strength to be happy and content with who she is was an adventure you felt you were personally undertaking right along with her.

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Stars of Summer (All Four Stars #2) by Tara Dairman

February 25, 2015 Bonnie Middle Grade, Waiting on Wednesday 0 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Stars of Summer (All Four Stars #2) by Tara DairmanThe Stars of Summer by Tara Dairman
Series: All Four Stars #2
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 5th 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary, Foodie Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: All Four Stars, The Stars of Summer

It’s not easy being an undercover restaurant critic—especially when you’re only twelve years old!

With her first published review under her belt, Gladys Gatsby is looking forward to a quiet summer of cooking and reviewing. But her plans quickly go awry when her friend delivers Gladys’s birthday gift: a free summer at Camp Bentley. As Gladys feared, camp life is not easy: she struggles to pass her swim test and can’t keep the other campers happy while planning lunches. The worst part is she can’t seem to get away from the annoying new “celebrity” camper and sneak away for her latest assignment—finding the best hot dog in New York City. But when it turns out her hot dog assignment was a dirty trick by a jealous reviewer, Gladys’s reviewing career may be over forever.

About Tara Dairman

Tara Dairman is the author of ALL FOUR STARS, which was named an Amazon Best Book of the Month and a Mighty Girl Top Book of 2014 for Teens and Tweens. She is also a playwright and recovering world traveler. She grew up in New York and received a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. After surviving the world's longest honeymoon (two years, seventy-four countries!), she now lives in Colorado with her husband and their trusty waffle iron.

All Four Stars series

Early Review – All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

All Four Stars (All Four Stars #1) by Tara Dairman {PurchaseMy Four Star Review!}

All Four Stars was the most adorable Middle-Grade book ever. Adding in a healthy dose of foodie fiction didn’t hurt matters and I can’t wait to see what Gladys cooks up next!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

September 20, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2014 1 Comment

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma TrevayneFlights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 13th 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Steampunk
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-stars

Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Jack Foster is your typical ‘dissatisfied with life ‘ ten-year-old boy who is constantly left to fend for himself, in terms of entertainment, by his mostly absent parents. When he follows a man by the name of Lorcan Havelock through a magical doorway set in a clock tower in London, he finds himself in a strange and mysterious ‘other’ version of London. This land is known as Londinium .

‘A land of brass and steel and clockwork, of steam and airships, cogs that turned and wheels that spin. He half wondered if he was dreaming, so perfect was this place, and would wake in his bed to the sound of Mrs. Pond clattering the breakfast things in the kitchen below.’

Jack is mesmerized by this new world he’s found himself in and has no desire to try to find his way back to where he came from, figuring that his parents won’t likely miss him anyways. The air quality is poor and causes his lungs to ache but all the wonderful things made out of metal far outweigh any bad aspects in his mind. After stumbling upon a cage containing a clockwork girl named Beth, she takes him to Dr. Snailwater who tells him the truth behind the man named Lorcan.

​’​Portraits lined the walls […] All were of boys who could pass for Jack’s brothers, had he any, the oils faded and cracked, some more than others. Dozens of them.’​

Lorcan Havelock was sent to London by the ruler of Londinium, a woman only known by the name of ‘Lady’, to procure for her a perfect human boy that she can play with and love. Lorcan was her previous (and not only) son but he has grown old, while the Lady has not, and she requires a new child. Lorcan was a surprisingly terrible and unforgivable type of villain that did truly awful things. I felt the acts of violence were extreme for a Middle-Grade book (including daily hangings that go on for far too long) but Lorcan was still a small child at heart that only wished to be loved again by the Lady. Nonetheless, his actions were shocking.

​​’Most of all, the open door beside the stairs, the maddeningly incomplete glimpses of the engine in the room beyond. He ran to it, through it, engulfed by the sound. It was like nothing Jack had ever seen. The enormity of it, the clouds of steam thick enough to blanket the whole sky, sucked from the room by a shaft that led upward. Every metal part, tiny and huge, playing its well-oiled part. Spinning, hissing, churning.’

The single most lovely thing about this book was the imaginative descriptions of this parallel world. Her descriptions of clockwork dragons and magic made it easy to understand what made Jack so spellbound. The descriptions alone will keep the reader invested but upon closer examination, one would have questions abound regarding what exactly makes this world tick. It lacks a clarity and feels akin to a hazy dream, but then again this is a magical world so maybe that’s to be expected. The characters were also written in a hazy, imprecise manner and added detail into who they were (most especially the Lady) would have been well-received. While I loved the world Travayne created, I didn’t feel it fulfilled it’s potential especially with the lackluster ending.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times will appeal to fans of steampunk (or readers looking to try out the genre) and middle-grade readers will likely be mesmerized just as Jack was.

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