2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Poppy (Tales of Dimwood Forest #2) by Avi

Poppy B.C.

I vaguely remember greatly enjoying this book when I was young and decided to read it for a challenge this year. I’m glad I did as I was enchanted by the book again.

The story follows a deer mouse named Poppy. She and her boyfriend defy the local law of asking the resident owl of the neighborhood, Mr. Ocax, permission to move beyond the house they live in. As a result, her boyfriend is killed and eaten by Mr. Ocax. Immediately after, Poppy’s father decides the family has gotten too big for the abandoned house they live in and seeks to petition Mr. Ocax for permission to move to New House up the road some. When Mr. Ocax denies his permission, Poppy sets out on an adventure to find out what Mr. Ocax is hiding about New House.

I think this is a fantastic book for children, but maybe not those too young or those that would be greatly disturbed by the death of a character (especially one who was the focus of the first book in the series). This would be particularly good for young girls. It teaches lessons on believing in yourself and fighting against the bad people. There are also the standard lessons of making friends and making good on your word. Also, there is a lesson on not believing everything you are told until you find out the facts for yourself. The writing style is very fluid and the language is wonderful. There is no shortage of interesting words or vocabulary to help a youngster’s vocabulary grow.

It was honestly a delightful book that I enjoyed reading and was able to still, as an adult, feel for the characters and get pulled into the story. There is one character that is actually quite hilarious for adults to read as he has an adult’s view of young people. The old man is quite entertaining in his interactions with Poppy and other creatures throughout the book.  All-in-all a good read and would make good bedtime stories for the older children.

My rating:

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2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I read this book in middle or high school years ago. I remembered it a couple months ago and decided to buy it. I remembered enjoying it greatly back then and hoped I would still enjoy it. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed it as much this second time as I did when I was younger.

The book has an interesting premise. Several people are invited to live in the same apartment building. Unbeknownst to them, they are all heirs, or immediately related to an heir, of one Samuel Westing. After a couple months, the death of Sam Westing is announced and the heirs are invited to the Westing mansion to have the will read. The will proposes a game, the Westing game, to determine who will inherit the money. The heirs are broken up into pairs and each set given a set of clues and $10,000 that they must agree how to spend. Then the game begins. While the pairs try to determine the significance of their clues, interesting things begin to happen. Bombs going off, friendships created or lost, old secrets coming to life, rampant theft, and the secrecy of clue keeping the apartment building interesting and the heirs stirred up. I liked that at the end of the book, they tell you want happened to everyone after the game was over and where they were five years later. It’s always nice when there is an epilogue and you are not left wondering what happens to them later.

The characters are well developed and completely relateable. They are as unlikely a crew as could be imagined – a bride from China who can barely speak English, a judge, two doctors, a cleaning lady, a retired court stenographer, a high school athlete, a retired dressmaker, and a disabled child just to name a few. Each person has a distinct personality and traits that you learn more and more about through the book. One of my favorite characters was the judge. However, as you learn more and more about each person’s history, they all become more interesting.

Even though I remember who inherited, I was still surprised that I couldn’t figure out how until the reader discovered it in the book. It is a clever story line and engrossing in its puzzle like nature. It is written for young adults, but older adults will enjoy it as well. There is no vulgarity, no sex, no drugs, nothing unmoral, just a good storyline. I think it is especially good for younger adults as a way to find entertainment that is completely wholesome and interesting. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good mystery. The only downfall to it is that I will have to wait a while to re-read it so I forget how to solve the puzzle! It is quite short as well, under 250 pages, and would be great for a summer read. Check it out!

My rating:

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2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews

Anne of Greene Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I love the Anne of Green Gables series. I fell in love with it about a year and a half ago when I first read the stories on the recommendation of a friend. I loved them so much my husband bought me the box set for Christmas LOL. When I ran out of audiobooks, I found that I still had the first Anne of Greene Gables on my iPod so I just started listening to it. I forgot how good the book was. Anne is such a fun, imaginative, and energetic character. It would be so hard to not like her. She sees life in such an interesting way it is hard not to be thoughtful about how you think life compared to Anne. She is so open-minded and imaginative that it makes you begin to think things would be like in your life if you follow her example.

The story follows Anne after she is adopted by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Throughout the five or so years the books cover you see her grow from a fascinating young girl into an interesting young woman. She makes a series of amusing mistakes and gets into a lot of scrapes. She makes friends, learns about herself more, and becomes loved by the town. She read about her growing relationships with her adoptive family, her best friend, and the rivalries she develops at school. Throughout it all, Anne renames places to make them more interesting, talks about her dreams and desires, and uses her imagination to create such interesting stories it is hard not to enjoy.

The is a wonderful coming of age novel that demonstrates the value of being yourself and following your dreams. Anne is a great role model for young girls and the book is light-hearted throughout, even in the sad places thanks to Anne’s interesting thoughts and insights. I highly recommend this book to anyone, even adults. It’s one of my favorites and I think everyone could find some value in it, the least of which is wholesome, clean, and light-hearted entertainment.

My rating:

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Book News

Congratulations to the 2016 ALA Award Winners!

Article originally written by Alice at Vamos a Leer: Congratulations to the 2016 ALA Award Winners!

We are thrilled to share the news that this year’s American Library Association (ALA) awards recognized several amazing Latin@ authorsamong outstanding children’s and young adult books. These authors have played an important part in the diversification of children’s and young adult literature and we are excited to see that their contributions have been acknowledged with such prestigious awards. Never before has the ALA awards recognized such breadth and depth of Latin@ and Latin American culture in a given year!

As author Meg Medina writes, “It has been a HUGE day for Latino authors and illustrators all the way around.  A ceiling-shattering day.  A day that represents such an astounding shift in respect and perception that it brings tears to my eyes as I am typing this. For the first time, we have Latino winners and honor books in so many of the major awards – the Feldman, the Seilbert, the Printz, the Caldecott, the Odyssey, non-fiction awards and the very highest one, the Newbery.”

This year’s 2016 winner of the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature is Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson, and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. According to Latino USA, “For the first time in 94 years, a Latino author has won the John Newbery Medal for literature, considered one of the most important honors for American children’s books.” According to School Library Journal, de la Peña has said of his work, “‘Part of what I’ve been trying to do with my books is just focus on moments of grace and beauty in working class neighborhoods,’ he said. ‘This book maybe is about a kid learning to see himself as beautiful—his world as beautiful.’Last Stop on Market Street was also named an Honor Book for theRandolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children and was additionally deemed an Honor Book for the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award.

Echo, an acclaimed young adult novel written by the talented author Pam Muñoz Ryan and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., was also named as a finalist for the John Newberry Medal.

Other Latino/a winners, finalists, and honorees include: Out of Darkness, written by Ashley Hope Pérezand published by Carolrhoda Lab, was named as an Honor Book for the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults; Written and Drawn by Henrietta, published by TOON Books, and written, illustrated, and translated from the Spanish by Liniers from Argentina, was named as an Honor Book for the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States; and Echo, produced by Scholastic Audio/Paul R. Gagne, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan and narrated by Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, MacLeod Andrews and Rebecca Soler, selected as an Honor Recording for the Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta, published by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC won an Alex Award for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences.

This year’s recipient of the Pura Belpré (Author) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience was Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, written by Margarita Engle and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir was also a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Two Belpré Author Honor Books were named: The Smoking Mirror, written by David Bowles and published by IFWG Publishing, Inc.; and Mango, Abuela, and Me, written by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez, and published by Candlewick Press.

This year’s recipient of the Pura Belpre (Illustrator) Award is Drum Dream Girl, illustrated by Rafael López, written by Margarita Engle and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Three Belpré Illustrator Honor Books for illustration were selected: My Tata’s Remedies/Los remedios de mi tata, illustrated byAntonio Castro L., written by Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford and published by Cinco Puntos Press; Mango, Abuela, and Me, illustrated by Angela Dominguez, written by Meg Medina and published by Candlewick Press; and Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, illustrated and written by Duncan Tonatiuh and published by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Finally, Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by writer/illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh was again recognized when it won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children.

Congratulations to all the winners, finalists and honorees! We are so delighted to join in the chorus of acclaim and recognition that you deeply deserve!!!

2015 Pop Sugar Book Challenge · Book Reviews

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I have a friend who absolutely LOVES Alice in Wonderland. I’ve never seen the animated movie and I’ve watched snippets of the Sy-Fy Channel’s Alice movie. So when I saw the audiobook on sale in the iTunes store, I thought “Why not?”.

Let me begin by saying the audiobook I downloaded was actually done extremely well. It was made by an acting group – the Wizard Academy Press , so each character had a different voice actor. I loved the narrator and the woman who played Alice. There was music and sound effects as well. For an audiobook, it was very engaging.

I knew it was going to be a little strange going in, but I was quite surprised by how strange. Science Fiction is usually not my thing, not that this is exactly science fiction, but neither is it fantasy. I usually like fantasy, but this book was just not my cup of tea. I do give the author credit for creating a very vivid and crazy world that created a comprehensive story line though. It was well written and to most people probably quite interesting. It did grow on me some the longer I read it, especially once Alice got out of the hallway and to the White Rabbit’s house.

The story follows Alice after she falls down a rabbit hole. She goes through many adventures and meets numerous characters. She initially meets the White Rabbit, following him down the rabbit hole. Then she meets a few animals as she is swimming in the Pool of Tears. There is also the Hatter, the March Hare, the Dormouse, and the members of the pack of cards, with the King and Queen of Hearts as their leaders. Throughout it all, Alice is constantly growing and shrinking to fit the needs of the different environments and situations she ends up in.

If I were to listen or read it again, I would probably go with the written book just to make sure. However, I’m not sure I’m likely to read it again. Like I said, it wasn’t really my version of an interesting book, just strange. Also, the majority of the time I spent criticizing Alice for being idiotic in my opinion. So like I said, not my thing, but I’m sure others really enjoy this book. I don’t think I’d really let children under probably 12 or 13 read it because there are drug references, violence, and some more advanced topics, such as a philosophical discussion on time, that are scattered throughout the book.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter #6) by J. K. Rowling

When I sat and thought about it, I realized there wasn’t really a whole lot of things that actually happened in this book. There are a few hugely important events, but all in all, the majority of the story is background information and series of suspicions and small occurrences that lead to the important events. That being said, I actually really liked this book. It felt like things were happening all the time even though it was only thoughts or history being presented.

The story opens with Dumbledore escorting Harry to the Weasleys’ house. They take a detour on the way and end up visiting Professor Slughorn, a man Dumbledore is attempting to get to teach at Hogwarts that year. Through Harry’s efforts, Professor Slughorn agrees to come to the school. Harry is rather baffled why Dumbledore seems to express such importance on Slughorn going to Hogwarts, but this is later discovered by Harry. At the Weasleys’ you learn of Bill and Fleur’s engagement and upcoming wedding and the gang prepares for another year at school. When they visit Diagon Alley for supplies, they are saddened by the number of closed shops and the scared feeling from the crowd because of Voldemort’s return and current mayhem. They also visit Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, the joke shop run by Fred and George. When they return to school, Harry begins to take lessons with Dumbledore on the history of Voldemort in order to better understand his enemy. They start back at the very beginning with Voldemort’s parents and later with him in the orphanage before he comes to Hogwarts. Later, Harry discovers that Slughorn was plays a key role in an important aspect of Voldemort’s rise of power – a memory that Harry has to persuade off the new potions teacher. The leads to the discovery and belief that Voldemort created Horcruxes, objects that hold a piece of his soul that allows him to remain alive even if his body is dead. Throughout this whole time, Harry is also balancing his lessons with being the Quidditch captain, a budding relationship with Ginny, and chasing Draco Malfoy around. Harry believes Malfoy to be a Deatheater and up to something at the school. He employs Dobby and another house elf to follow Draco and figure out what he is up to. Harry believes he is behind the two near death experiences of two students, but cannot prove it. All he knows is that Draco disappears into the Room of Requirement for long periods of time. What he is truly doing is discovered at the end of the book, proving Harry right. Furthermore, Harry is accidentally given a book in potions class that has been written in and modified by someone who identifies themselves as the Half-Blood Prince. Throughout the book, Harry uses this modified potions book to excel in his potions class and get close to Slughorn. The modified book as provides new spells written in the margins that have varying effects. Hermione is convinced the book is written by a dark wizard, but Harry insists on continuing to read it and learn the new jinxes. The end result of this study is a brutal surprise that leaves Harry reeling from what he has done.

The book covers a lot of information.The majority of the time, Harry is in high emotional states, usually angry or frustrated that no one will believe him about Malfoy. There is a lot of stress from being the Quidditch captain and his growing relationship with Ginny is interesting to see. There is a funny sort of way the author describes Harry’s coming to realize his feelings for Ginny that I found rather amusing. The growing relationship between Hermione and Ron is also fraught with emotional turmoil as Ron dates Lavender. The struggle between the boys and Hermione about the Half-Blood Prince’s book gets somewhat old, but at least the boys come up with different reasons why Harry should keep reading it each time the subject is brought up. Most interesting was probably the history on Voldemort. You learn a lot about him that you didn’t know before and can see how everyone noticed something was wrong but didn’t stop him before he left Hogwarts. Also, the Horcruxes were an interesting item that helps explain a lot about Voldemort and provides for a more complex story line in the future.

Overall, I think the book was great and showed a fairly good depth of character that was missing in the earliest books. You get to see more emotion from all the characters and the result is just a deeper feeling book that pulls you in. The book didn’t feel like it dragged along in places, but kept the pace going continually through the book. Again, this is not the best book for young children, but probably middle school age or higher is my suggestion.

My rating:

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Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J. K. Rowling


I can’t say this book was a disappointment, but it definitely was not my favorite. When I finished, I thought to myself that this is an exemplary example of a transition book. It felt designed to segue between to points, before Voldemort and after Voldemort returns. There was a lot of anger, strife, and cruelty in this book, particularly related to Dolores Umbridge. The storyline did progress quite far, however when I was reading it seemed to never end. I don’t know why it seemed to last an obscenely long time, but it just felt like it.

The story opens with Harry fighting off dementors in the small London village where he lives with his aunt and uncle. The Ministry of Magic finds out about his magical defense of himself and his cousin and ends up suspending him from Hogwarts pending a formal hearing. Shortly after, Harry is collected by a few friends to be taken to a secret hideout. The hideout is Sirius’s family home and serves as the base for the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s group of ‘soldiers’ that help to fight Lord Voldemort. Harry is angered that he has been kept in the dark so long and unable to talk to Dumbledore. During his hearing, Dumbledore appears and helps Harry to get the charges dropped. Once at Hogwarts, the estrangement from Dumbledore continues. Furthermore, there is a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who is an agent of the Ministry of Magic, Dolores Umbridge. Throughout the school year, the Ministry exerts more and more power over the school, leading to Dolores Umbridge reviewing and firing teachers, handling all discipline, and eventually taking full control of the school. There is a lot of anger, fear, and abuse that goes on during this school year due to Umbridge. Throughout it all, Harry and his friends try to fight against Voldemort who finds a way to use Harry and his mind to do his bidding, even unintentionally. In order to fight Voldemort, Harry and Hermione set up a secret dark arts defense group that meets and teaches the young members how to perform jinxes and counter curses to better protect themselves. Unfortunately, they end up needing the knowledge at the end of the book, right in time to prove to the world that Voldemort is back.

Like it said, a lot happens in this book but it simply feels like a transitional book. Furthermore, there was no happiness to be found in it. In the other books, there was humor and happy moments to even out the bad, but this book was depressing all through. It does give you the inevitable doom that is prevalent throughout. At the end, you feel just as lost and just as hopeless as the others. I’ve watched the movies, and the other books do not seem much happier, but I want to keep reading just to see what happens to the characters.

You get to see a little bit more of Ginny in this book which I like. I think she and Hermione are my favorite characters. I look forward to seeing more of them in the coming books. Also, I am looking forward to seeing the relationships develop as the characters grow up and fall in love with each other. The relationships between all the characters grow and change in this book. You get to see a wide variety of emotional issues and situations that arise and how the characters travel through these tough times. The story does move along in a way that does not allow for repetition, but constant change and progress. It never really becomes stagnant. It is just really, really long and depressing.

In the end, I think this book needs to be read because it fills in a lot of history and information as well as providing the basis for the coming war. This book is definitely not for younger readers. I would say no one younger than probably 12 or 13. There is abuse, cruelty, death, and terror throughout the book and it will not be suitable for everyone.

My rating:

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