Review of My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

October 8th, 2016

my_lady_jane_largeMy Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

HarperTeen, 2016. 491 pages.
Starred Review

This is the first book I’m reading as a 2016 Cybils first-round panelist for Young Adult Speculative Fiction — and it bodes well that this whole reading experience is going to be tremendously fun.

But let me say right up front that while these are Blogger awards so I am allowed to talk about what books I like — please be aware that I am only one member of the judging panel, and I will write reviews before I’ve talked with any of the other judges. So only my opinion is expressed. On top of that, this is the first book I’ve read for the Cybils this year, so I can’t even compare it with the competition yet. I hope the competition will be tough! So I will simply express that I loved this book — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a Finalist.

That said, I did love this book! The premise is exceptionally fun. It’s alternate history, during a very turbulent time in England’s history — with shapeshifting thrown in.

Here’s how the authors begin the prologue:

You may think you know the story. It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country. She was queen for nine days. Then she quite literally lost her head.

Yes, it’s a tragedy, if you consider the disengagement of one’s head from one’s body tragic. (We are merely narrators, and would hate to make assumptions as to what the reader would find tragic.)

We have a different tale to tell.

Pay attention. We’ve tweaked minor details. We’ve completely rearranged major details. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not-so-innocent, or simply because we thought a name was terrible and we liked another name better). And we’ve added a touch of magic to keep things interesting. So really anything could happen.

This is how we think Jane’s story should have gone.

Instead of Edward dying of Consumption (or The Affliction), he’s dying because he’s being poisoned by his closest advisor. The part I like best though is that instead of conflict between Protestants and Catholics, there’s conflict between Verities and Eδians (“eth-ee-uhns”).

“The Eδians were blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with the ability to switch between a human form and an animal one.” That form is fixed for any individual Eδian. King Henry VIII took a lion form and had a bad habit of eating people who brought him bad news.

But my favorite thing about this book is the character of Jane Grey. More than anything, she loves to read. Because of this, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of many different subjects. And she’s not conventional.

At the start of the book, as part of a plot to take over the throne of England, King Edward’s advisor, Lord Dudley, tells Edward he’s dying. They need to marry off Edward’s cousin Jane quickly so that she can produce an heir before he does.

So, in a few days, Jane is to be married to Lord Dudley’s son Gifford — and nobody bothers to tell Jane ahead of time that during the day, every day, Gifford is a horse.

We’ve got plots and counterplots and people changing into animals at inopportune moments. But there’s also romance and a whole lot of humor. If the sensibilities of the people involved seem a bit modern — well, the narrators make that fun.

I’ll go ahead and tell you that Jane does become Queen of England for nine days. But that’s about all that matches the history we know. What does happen is an entertaining adventure and tremendous fun.

The story is told from three perspectives — Jane, Gifford, and Edward. So I’m not sure if the three authors each took one perspective — they do sound pretty much alike. Though that’s fair because the voice is always that of the narrators. The narrators give things a modern twist throughout, with plenty of humor and perspective dashed across it all.

ladyjanies.com
epicreads.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/my_lady_jane.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

48 Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

October 7th, 2016

Yay! In a half-hour I’m going to finish my 48-Hour Book Challenge!

And when that’s done, I’m going to bed!

So — I’m going to jump the gun a little and write my Finish Line post now.

When I finish writing this, I will read until 10:50 pm. But that’s not enough time to finish another book.

Given that information, here are my stats:

Yes! I set a new record for time spent reading and reviewing during the 48-Hour Book Challenge. (I knew that living alone was good for something — I confess I even skipped taking a shower this morning. The more time to spend reading.)

My total was 31 hours and 40 minutes spent reading, reviewing and networking in the last 48 hours. (Okay, since no one else was doing the challenge, “networking” was hanging out on Facebook every now and then as a break. Take that off my totals if you don’t like it! But I think it counts.)
That was broken down as:
23 hours reading
45 minutes listening to audiobooks
1 hour 45 minutes “networking”
6 hours 10 minutes blogging/reviewing

I read 2095 pages, and finished 8 books, only 4 of which I began during the challenge. I read parts of 18 different books. (I read bits of lots of books as part of my quiet times in the morning.) I wrote reviews of all 8 books that I finished.

The books I finished were:
Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer
The Name of God Is Mercy, by Pope Francis
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave (audiobook)
Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake
Let Your Voice Be Heard, by Anita Silvey
Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Ghost, by Jason Reynolds
The Rose and the Dagger, by Renée Ahdieh

And I started the time with a vestibular migraine — and am finishing it without one!

And I just had a lovely two days off. I’m going to have to find more ways to put more reading into my life the next three months. Not only is it important for judging the Cybils — It’s a lovely way to spend my time.

I am not sure when I’ll get the reviews posted. I’m afraid that’s a lower priority than getting the books read, but I will try!

48-Hour Book Challenge Starting Line

October 5th, 2016

cybils-logo-2016-web-smAnd I’m off!

Tonight I’m starting my own personal 48-Hour Book Challenge at 10:50 pm!

I’m modeling it after the Challenges that Mother Reader did every year for 10 years, borrowing her rules and format.

The idea: In a period of 48 hours, spend as much time as I can reading and reviewing.

Networking is also allowed, and I will allow spending time posting reviews. But I want to maximize reading time.

The occasion: I’m a first-round judge for the 2016 Cybils Awards, in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction, so I want to get off to a good start! I have Thursday and Friday off this week because I worked six days last week — and I’m going to spend them reading!

And I’m so excited!

But first, it’s traditional for me to post my 48-Hour Book Challenge Theme Song:

And now, to READ!!!

It’s Cybils Time!

October 2nd, 2016

cybils-blog-header-2016

I’m a first round Cybils judge!

The Cybils are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards. This year I’m serving as a first-round panelist in the category of Young Adult Speculative Fiction.

What this means is that I’m going to need to do a LOT of reading in the next three months.

More than 100 books will likely get nominated in my category, and we hope to have at least two panelists read each book. All panelists will read books that are serious contenders for the shortlist.

So I need to read!

(And I do love it when I get to say that! Instead of feeling guilty for taking time to read, I should feel guilty when I don’t!)

The bad side is that I’m going to get even further behind on posting reviews. I currently have 66 reviews written that I haven’t posted yet. So I’m going to try to get about one per day posted most days — but that will not catch me up.

And Sonderling Sunday is going to be a much more rare feature.

So — if my posts get a little less frequent — It’s because I’m reading!

And — this coming Thursday and Friday, I’m going to hold my own personal 48-Hour Book Challenge!

By something of a fluke, I have those days off. So I’m going to brush off the spreadsheets I used for Mother Reader‘s past years’ 48-Hour Book Challenges and use her rules.

The point is to see how many hours out of a chosen consecutive 48 hours I can spend reading. I’m allowed one audiobook, and can count hours spent reviewing or posting my reviews. And I’m allowed to spend time networking — posting about my challenge. I’m going to see if I can hit a personal best. Can I top 30 hours and 30 minutes? (Do I even want to?) For that matter, can I pass 18 hours spent reading? (I might want to go easier on the non-reading activities.)

So — I’m going to get behind on posting reviews, but it will be worth it!

And you can participate! Anyone who has read a good children’s or young adult book published between October 16, 2015 and October 15, 2016 — nominate it for a Cybils Award!

Give me more great books to read!

Review of The King and the Sea, by Heinz Janisch and Wolf Erlbruch

October 1st, 2016

king_and_the_sea_largeThe King and the Sea

21 Extremely Short Stories

by Heinz Janisch
illustrated by Wolf Erlbruch
translated by Sally-Ann Spencer

Originally published in Germany in 2008 as Der König und das Meer.
Gecko Press, 2015. 48 pages.

There’s something Zen about this book. The stories remind me of the child-like logic found in Winnie-the-Pooh.

As the title indicates, this book consists of 21 extremely short stories. All of them feature the king. A few feature the sea as well. Each story takes up one double-page spread with a very simple cut-paper illustration.

I think you’ll get the idea of the book if I quote a couple of the stories:

The King and the Sea

“I am the king!” said the king.
The sea answered with a whoosh.
“Hmm.” The king cocked his head thoughtfully.
“I see,” he murmured.
And he stood there quietly, listening to the waves.

The King and the Shadow

“Why do you have to follow me around?” asked the king.
“To stop you from coming up with stupid ideas,” said the shadow.
“And to remind you there are two sides to every story.”
“So there are,” murmured the king, staring at the long dark shadow cast by his small gold crown.

The King and the Ghost

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” said the king.
“I don’t believe in kings,” said the ghost.
“Then one of us must be mistaken,” said the king.
“So it seems,” said the ghost, spiriting himself away.

The King and the Bee

“Buzz off,” said the king, shooing the bee from his flower.
“Don’t you know I’m the king?”
“And I’m the queen,” said the bee, stinging the king’s nose.

That gives you the idea. There’s something peaceful about reading these stories, which are silly, yet wise.

I don’t envision using these with a big group – they don’t provoke a big bang. However, these are perfect for one child – or one adult reading to one child – for a cozy, meditative reading experience. I can’t help but love the king.

geckopress.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/king_and_the_sea.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

September 29th, 2016

towers_falling_largeTowers Falling

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Little, Brown and Company, 2016. 228 pages.

Granted, this is a message book. But the message is timely, and the execution is carried out with a mostly light touch.

Central to the book is Dèja, a 10-year-old girl who lives with her family in an apartment in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. She’s starting 5th grade in 2016 at a new school.

The new school is the best one she’s ever attended, and she makes two good friends — a new boy from Arizona and a Muslim girl — and she loves her teacher, Miss Garcia.

But the class starts a unit talking about what happened on September 11, 2001. The school has windows looking out on the Manhattan skyline.

Dèja knows absolutely nothing about the Twin Towers. She’s confused and shocked by what her classmates tell her — as it gradually unfolds in conversation.

Dèja having a Muslim friend also plays into it, as she is very sensitive about the events as well.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Dèja pretty quickly guesses that her father’s inability to work and frequent headaches have to do with September 11. Sure enough, she snoops into his locked suitcase and learns that he was a survivor. They eventually do talk about it.

What startled me most about this book was realizing that kids today don’t have any memory at all of the Twin Towers falling. They weren’t born yet. In fact, the teacher in the book was a fifth-grade student when the towers fell and saw them fall through the school windows.

So yes, the plot is a tiny bit stilted — with a lot of the events turning on the teacher’s lesson plans. But I think it’s lovely that this book is here, a jumping off place for discussing that pivotal event and talking about what connects us as Americans.

Coincidentally, just this last week my cousin visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City. So I had just heard about and seen pictures of the striking imagery and the wonderful detail that flowers go next to the names of those whose birthday it would be.

And the story also stands as the story of a kid in a homeless shelter trying to cope, trying to make friends. It’s not a long book, but it’s a lovely contribution and will give kids much to think about and talk about.

jewellparkerrhodes.com/children
lb-kids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/towers_falling.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of I Dissent, by Debbie Levy, illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley

September 28th, 2016

i_dissent_largeI Dissent

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

by Debbie Levy
illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The story is simplified for young readers (I’d say middle to upper elementary), but strikingly told.

The introductory page uses large dramatic fonts to express not being afraid to disagree:

You could say that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life has been . . .
one disagreement after another.

Disagreement with creaky old ideas.
With unfairness.
With inequality.
Ruth has disagreed,
disapproved,
and differed.

She has objected.
She has resisted.
She has dissented.

Disagreeable? No.
Determined? Yes.

This is how Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed her life – and ours.

Although the story is told quite simply, it’s still filled with details. We learn about her childhood in 1940 in an immigrant neighborhood, her love of reading, and family travels where they saw signs that Jews weren’t allowed.

Ruth was left-handed, but was told to use her right hand and got a D in penmanship – until she protested. I like the pages where it tells what she doesn’t do well – cooking and singing. After she got married, her family agreed that it was best for her husband to do the cooking.

But the bulk of the book covers her career as a lawyer. They speak in general terms of cases she presented before the Supreme Court, and then her appointment to the Supreme Court. There are notes at the back with more information and listing specific cases.

I didn’t know before that Justice Ginsburg wears a different lace collar over her robes when she writes a majority opinion from the one she wears when she writes a dissenting opinion.

Here’s how the author summarizes some of her dissenting opinions:

I DISSENT,
Justice Ginsburg said when the court wouldn’t help women or African Americans or immigrants who had been treated unfairly at work.

I DISSENT,
when the court rejected a law meant to protect the right of all citizens to vote, no matter their skin color.

I DISSENT,
when the court said no to schools that offered African Americans a better chance to go to college.

This is an interesting story and an inspiring story. I hope many girls and boys will read this story and think about making their own mark.

The quote on the back of the book from Ruth Bader Ginsburg sums up the book well:

Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.

debbielevybooks.com
simonandschuster.com/kids

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/i_dissent.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Creeping Shadow, by Jonathan Stroud

September 22nd, 2016

creeping_shadow_largeThe Creeping Shadow

Lockwood & Co. Book Four

Disney/Hyperion, 2016. 445 pages.
Starred Review

I finished rereading Lockwood & Co. Book Three, The Hollow Boy a week before this one was scheduled to come out, so I waited for it anxiously. I had a copy preordered via Amazon, but I also put a library copy on hold just in case that would be faster. (The library was only a day behind Amazon, as it happened.)

First, I’ll say right up front that this is not the end of the series. This book, like the rest, ends with some new information that makes you anxious to read the next book. It’s not too annoying – you still have a complete story in these pages – but it does make you impatient for the next installment.

The good side of that is that there will be a next installment! This is a series I don’t want to end.

Yes, you should definitely read these books in order. There is a progression. But each book does feel complete with some adventures that tie together and culminate in a victory for our heroes. Though the new information at the end of each book always promises complications.

The basic scenario of all the books is alternate reality London, where for fifty years there has been a “Problem” with ghosts showing up and terrorizing the populace. Once people reach a certain age, they can’t see ghosts any more, so children in agencies fight the ghosts and find the Sources that keep them coming back to our world.

Most agencies have adult supervisors, but Lockwood & Co. is run by children themselves. (They don’t give Lockwood’s age directly, but I’m thinking he’s about fourteen.) They fight ghosts with weapons like silver-tipped rapiers, salt bombs, and iron chains. Agents are children with psychic talents to sense the ghosts – not everyone has them. And no one seems to be as gifted with Listening as our narrator Lucy Carlyle. She even has a skull in a jar that she talks with and keeps close.

At the start of this book, Lucy has been working on her own for a while as a consultant. She’s developed the Lucy Carlyle Formula for dealing with ghosts. “Use their name. Ask the question. Keep it simple.” She asks ghosts what they want. Sometimes they answer her. Though the way they answer is sometimes dangerous.

As the book opens, Lockwood comes back to her and asks for help on a case, the case of the Ealing Cannibal. The morning after that case, someone breaks into her apartment and steals the skull in the jar.

So this book develops differently than the previous volumes. There’s a lot of mortal danger from living people as well as from ghosts. Someone is keeping lots of powerful Sources from being destroyed. For what purpose? And can Lucy get the skull back?

Jonathan Stroud is definitely not lacking in imagination. There’s still lots of direct fighting ghosts – and he comes up with new twists such as a ghost who can only be seen in mirrors. But there is also a sense of bigger plots going on around our heroes – and a knowledge of danger because powerful people don’t want their plots discovered.

I don’t need to say more about the plot in this book. Read the books in order, and if you’ve read the first three books, I very much doubt you’ll want to stop. Yes, Book Four is just as good. Yes, it brings new twists into the story. Yes, it will be frustrating to wait for Book Five.

There is a progression in the series. We find out a little bit more about Lockwood’s background. (I love the use they find for something from his parents’ collection.) We find out a little bit more about the Problem. We find out a little bit more about the most powerful agencies in London. And along the way we get to enjoy Lockwood’s charisma, Lucy’s talent, George’s cleverness, and Holly’s efficiency. And the relationships between the four of them just get more complex. I can’t get enough of these books!

LockwoodandCo.com
jonathanstroud.com
DisneyBooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/creeping_shadow.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy ordered via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Thunder and Lightning, by Lauren Redniss

September 19th, 2016

thunder_and_lightning_largeThunder and Lightning

Weather Past, Present, Future

by Lauren Redniss

Random House, New York, 2015. 262 pages.
Starred Review

Thunder and Lightning is another Science Picture Book for Adults by the author of Radioactive.

As with Radioactive, which is a biography of Marie Curie, Thunder and Lightning is full of facts – but the most striking thing about it is the dramatic pictures.

I can’t really describe the pictures adequately, so I’m going to focus on the words here, but be aware that if this is a book you find interesting at all, you should check it out and see for yourself.

The author explores so many aspects of weather! Mainly she tells weather-related stories, but there are also many things about the science of weather. Some of the stories told include a cemetery washed out by a flood, the secret forecasting formula used by Old Farmer’s Almanac, people struck by lightning, a ship that sunk in fog, swimming from Cuba to Florida, devastating fires in Australia, a World Seed Bank in Svalbard, the ice trade on Walden Pond, and making rain in Vietnam. This perhaps gives an idea of the wide range of topics covered here, which all relate to weather.

The author relies heavily on quotes, which bring an immediacy to each story, each exploration.

Here are some things Arctic explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson had to say in 1921:

The daylight is negligible; and the moonlight, which comes to you first through clouds that are high in the sky and later through an enveloping fog, is a light which enables you to see your dog team distinctly enough, or even a black rock a hundred yards away, but it is scarcely better than no light at all upon the snow at your feet.

I think my favorite chapter, though, is Chapter 7, “Sky.” After fascinating ramblings and explorations on various topics, I turned the pages on “Sky” – and discovered 16 pages of paintings of sky. Lovely.

This book is surprising and hard to describe. Check it out and see for yourself.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/thunder_and_lightning.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – Message from Jo’s Father

September 18th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

Today, we’re continuing in the most Sonder Book of them all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, otherwise known as The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy.

sonderlinge3

Last time, we left off on page 284, Seite 360, in the middle of Chapter Twenty-One. Jo had been exploring in the library and found an interesting manuscript.

“Her heart bolted.” = Ihr Herz hämmerte.

Who knows when you might need to know how to say this sentence?
“It was crazy, impossible.”
= Das war verrückt, schier unmöglich.

“quickly scrawled” = hastig hingeworfen

“burning and blooming like a fiery garden”
= glühten und blühten wie ein wilder Garten.
(“glowed and bloomed like a wild garden”)

“Jo got down to it.”
= Jo stürzte sich in die Arbeit.

“Hours passed.”
= Stunden vergingen

“percolating coffeepot” = brodelnde Kaffeemaschine

“dense” = begriffsstutzig

I like this word:
“jewelry box” = Schmuckkassette

“translation”
= entschlüsselten Text
(“decrypted text”)

“translating rapidly and wildly”
= dekodierte den Text schnell und wie im Fieber
(“decoded the text quickly and like in a fever”)

“dishonor” = Schande

“invincible” = unbesiegbar

“positively angry” = eindeutig wütend

“doorstep” = Türschwelle

“traditional insults” = traditionelle Beleidigungen

I dare you to think of a use for this sentence:
“When I leave, may a thousand wild pigs overrun it and defile it with enthusiastic snorts.”
= Wenn ich es verlasse, warden tausend Wildschweine es überrennen und mit ihrem lauten Schnauben schänden

“defilement” = Schändung

“trampled into gruel” = zu Brei zertrampelt warden

A good phrase to know:
“hearty slurps” = lautem Schmatzen

And the translator missed a line here! In English, Fiona says “So be it,” and Jo answers “So be it.” In German, only Fiona says So sei es and the line with Jo’s response is left out completely.

And here’s a sentence with a Sonderword:
“It was clear she wasn’t impressed.”
= Sie war ganz offensichtlich nicht sonderlich beeindruckt.
(“She was completely obviously not especially impressed.”)

So, I fondly hope I leave your thoughts glühten und blühten wie ein wilder Garten. Please, enjoy some lautem Schmatzen tonight in honor of Sonderling Sunday!