Monday, January 22, 2018

History's Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past by National Geographic Kids, compiled by Kitson Jazynka

Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I am looking at a book from one of my favorite publishers- National Geographic Kids. History's Mysteries is a look into the puzzles and unexplainable events from the past.

Readers will get to look at vanished civilizations, strange myths and legends, unknown mummies and many more mysteries that have stumped historians and scientists. The photographs are top notch and the layouts are eye appealing. My favorite part is the layout of the book. Each new case starts with background information and then goes into details about the found object or legend. A list of clues is given and then theories are introduced on what may be the answer to original question. 

For example, a mummy was unearthed in the 1800's. When the historian unwrapped it, he discovered that the mummified specimen had been preserved in pain. It looked as if it was screaming in agony, its mouth open and nostrils flared. What had happened and why? The "detail" part explains the real mummification process, what should have been found after unwrapping the mummy and then contrasts the norm with the screaming mummy. Clues from an autopsy are listed and historical facts given. Then we have the theories. Perhaps this was a royal prince allowed to poison himself instead of face execution. Could it be a foreigner that was murdered and hastily buried to cover the murder's tracks? Who knows? Unfortunately, that's how most of the mysteries end, with theories no answers.

So, even though there are no big revelations, the best part is reading about mysterious I'd never heard of before. This book is full of puzzles that will have a child's mind thinking and imagining. It's like being a kid Sherlock. This book was a lot of fun and I'm giving it 4 stars!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review- Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh

Welcome to YA Friday! I missed last week because I hadn't finished this book yet, but now I'm ready to go. Let's take a look at Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh.

The Story-
It is 2199 and the world is no longer divided by nations, but joined together in a new world order. In Neo Seoul, Lee Jaewon has fought his way up in the world, first escaping a brutal gang and then studying at an elite academy. His skills have won him a job at The Tower, the weapons-development hub of Neo Seoul. There he is introduced to project Amaterasu, an enhanced soldier program. He is put in charge of overseeing Tera, a girl with incredible strength and skill. She is training to be the pilot of a giant God Machine, The Extension.

Things get sticky when Jaewon begins to fall for Tera, and his friend Alex falls for his enhanced soldier, Ama.  As Jaewon questions his loyalty to the cruel and oppressive regime, events unfold to unleash the project.When rebels begin attacking Neo Seoul, the four friends are put into a difficult situation; fight as a soldiers of the Republic or as rebels.

My Thoughts-
This book is a thrill driven action ride. It mixes the giant robots like from the movie Pacific Rim with the drama of an Asian super-government. Our main character, Jaewon begins his journey as one acted upon. He is tricked out of his gang by his so called best friend, and then at the academy, he is tricked into fighting for Alex in their final test module. His work at The Tower places him into a position of power and he finally sees just how controlling the ruling government and gangs of New Seoul have become.

Enter Tera, the super soldier trained to use the God Machines. She is brutal to all she meets, but when Jaewon shows her kindness, she opens up her true self, the one that wants freedom. Together the two start doing things a bit outside the box, and when Alex and Ama fall in love, the four of them seek a new world. Now, Jaewon is making his own choices, fighting for Tera, forgiving his old friends, and seeking to escape the super soldier program.

Everything comes to an epic battle when The Tower is attacked and we get to see Tera fight in the Extension. Alex gives everything for Ama (and much to my dismay, theirs is the one ending left hanging). Jaewon gives up safety to save Tera. A great book full of action, a hint of romance and some great soul searching. 4.5 stars!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cover Love- The Book Transmitter by CJ Anovari

Cover Love time! Today I found a new release that called to my inner child. It is an Independently published middle grade entitled The Book Transmitter. I've not read the book, this is post is solely based on the cover. Because it is self-published I was unable to find out who designed the cover.

Now, here's what got me. What child doesn't want to be able to absorb a book straight into their brain? It was a dream of mine when a kid. Somehow, this book transmitter makes it happen! Instant knowledge. There's not much dimensionality with the background, so I can't give points for more than just that original drawing, but that alone would make me pick up the book. Plus, the title is cool, with a cable that mimics the one from the book below. What do you think?

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Picture Book Parade!

Today for Middle Grade Monday I am focusing on the youngest readers and hosting a Picture Book Parade! As always, don't forget to head over to MMGM Central to see all the other middle grade blogs-  Always in the Middle... by Greg Pattridge.

Everybody's Somewhere

by Cornelia Maude Spelman and illustrated by Alea Marley

This cute picture book gives kids a look at different perspectives. It is a very simplified version, but younger readers will enjoy the repeated thought that everybody is someone and somewhere.The illustrations are big and show a wide variety of people and places. I love that the font size is so large, because it makes for easy storytelling. I think that as kids study the pictures, they will gain a whole new meaning of different places and cultures, but how connected we truly are. 4 stars!

The Case of the Stinky Stench (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #2)
by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney
I absolutely ADORE this series! This second book takes kids on a refrigerator adventure as Detective Croissant teams up with Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast to discover what stinks in the fridge. The author is brilliant and his writing is so humorous. And the illustrations, wow! So lush and vivid. Just like with the first book in the series, my son grabbed this book and hijacked it to his room to read first. But this time I didn't lose track of it! Holy smokes, fruitcake never goes bad, don't ya know? 5 stars and well deserved!

Mrs. McBee Leaves Room 3
by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan and illustrated by Grace Zong

How can children learn to cope with coming to the end of a situation or club? This book answers that question. Mrs. McBee tells her class that she is retiring and will not be back at school when Summer Break is over. The kids are devastated, even the school staff is upset. How can they cope? Well, Mrs. McBee helps them all learn their own ways as they help one another and find joy in friendship. The story is enduring, with one child, seemingly sulking, but really capturing memories in art, while other children pack up the classroom and take care of books and pets. The illustrations show real personality. Jamika with her bossy attitude and William with his quiet ways. The pictures are big and bold and really make you remember what an elementary classroom feels like. 4 stars!

Click, Clack, Moo I Love You! (Farmer Brown's Barnyard Tales)
by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Little Duck celebrates Valentine's Day in this Farmer Brown tale. And people, there is GLITTER! So, Farmer Brown makes sure all his animals are safe before turning in. Meanwhile, Little Duck is decorating like mad! She has invited all the barnyard animals to celebrate with a dance, though the cows are off having their own good time. She holds a potluck, and as animals arrive at the barn, they exchange Valentine cards. (Though I noticed the mice didn't get one) As the party is in full swing, a surprise guess comes by, a fox in the hen house! Yikes! But Little Duck has things all under control with a Valentine for their new friend. The illustrations are a wonder and really shows off the personalities of the different animals. I love that the mice dance a hustle. Little Duck is all showy in her DJ attire. It is a lot of fun and kids will love to turn the pages and feel the textures. 5 stars! (Goes on sale tomorrow 1/16/18).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cover Love- Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Cover Love time! I have an intriguing YA to share the cover of today- Under Rose-Tainted Skies
by Louise Gornall. Now remember, I have no idea what the book is about, I am going by cover only.

Cover Image Rose Watercolor- Ana White
Bird cage- Ivana Forgo
Bird- Alice Daniel
Cover Design- Kristen Kettner

The first thing that grabs my eye is the beautiful rose petal watercolors at the top. It is just so fragile, yet dynamic. Then the title print in blue fading to the author's name in a lesser blue. Great fading. It looks like water dripped down and discolored some of the print. The bird cage is spectacular, not just because of how cute it looks with it's upturned hooks reminding me of a Chinese pagoda, but also because it made me do a double take. The chain is not a chain, but words! "If she can't go out, Can she let him in?" Very mysterious. Is she a prisoner? Trapped by some illness? Abused? I wanted to know!

What do you think?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

MMGM- Children of Refuge (Children of Exile #2) by Margaret Peterson Haddix plus GIVEAWAY

Welcome to Middle Grade Monday! Today I have a review and a GIVEAWAY for you. I'm taking a look at book two in the Children of Exile series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Children of Refuge. My giveaway is for the first TWO books, Children of Exile and Children of Refuge. To check out my review of the first book- CLICK HERE. To enter, fill out the rafflecopter form below. If you don't see it click, 'read more'. As always, don't forget to head over to MMGM Central to see all the other middle grade blogs-  Always in the Middle... by Greg Pattridge.

The Story-
This story focuses on Edwy, Rosi's friend from the first book. Edwy is sent by his birth father, in the dead of night, to Refuge City. He is told that once there he will be living with his older brother and sister. This is a shock to Edwy for he is used to being the oldest kid from Fredtown and he didn't know he had siblings.

Once there life is strange. Even though he has always been a rule breaker, he can't seem to understand why people live the way they do in the city. Why they aren't kinder or more helpful? He begins to fit in with his brother's friends, but only by cheating. His guilt leads him to seek out other children from Fredtowns. He is also desperate to find out what happened to Rosi, whether she was captured or not?

His findings lead to some shocking discoveries, and soon it is up to him to convince his selfish brother and sister to risk their lives for someone they don't know, and take him back to rescue Rosi.

My Thoughts-
It was very interesting to read this book from Edwy's point of view. Up until now it had all been Rosi, and Edwy was just the rule breaker that challenged the Fred's. Now, we see inside his thoughts and actions. Though still a rule breaker, we see that he truly is not cruel in his ideas and that like a small child, he likes to  protest and stir the pot. As soon as he sees injustice in Refuge City, it bugs him and he begins remembering all the things the Fred's taught him.

As he realizes that he is beginning to sound just like Rosi, his thoughts turn toward his lost friend and he begins to seek out the truth about the aliens and what had happen to all the children in Fredtowns. As readers, we are able to dive more into the inner politics of what happened during the war and see how the Enforcer aliens are trouble for one and all. The question is raised, should all of the children have been taken away or just those who had parents that would not have raised them as humanitarians?

Though engaging this book wasn't as fun as the first, probably because the mystery of Fredtowns and aliens was so huge in the first book. However, I did enjoy diving into the characters in this book, seeing how people on Earth treated each other, what had caused the war in the first place, and how the planet coped with their children being taken away for twelve years. It is a good read full of depth and I'm giving it 4.5 stars!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2) by Tara Sim

I have been waiting to post this review for several months! I got the ARC during the fall and was eager to post, but then I noticed the release date wasn't until January. So, my first YA post of 2018 is Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2) by Tara Sim. If you haven't read the first book, Timekeeper, my review is HERE.

The Story-
Timekeeper Danny Hart is back. He is enjoying his time with his clock spirit boyfriend Colton and living a peaceful life in Enfield. That all changes when word arrives that clock towers in India are being destroyed, but somehow, time is not freezing. Danny is asked by the head of the clock mechanics to investigate, meaning he must leave Colton behind. He is teamed up with a previous acquaintance, Daphne.

While Danny is gone, the Enfield clock tower is attacked, and Colton barely is able to save his tower by freezing time. He alone can leave the time bubble, so for the first time in forever, he grabs his main gear and heads out to search for Danny.

Both have separate adventures, but one thing remains the same, they both need to figure out who is destroying clock towers and why?

My Thoughts-
Great Sequel! I was super excited to receive this book and find out the next step in Danny's life. He only has a few months of peace before time is being attacked again. It is so sad to watch him leave Colton behind, but he is given one small piece of Colton's original gear pieces to carry with him.

As soon as Danny leaves, boom! The book takes on a whole nother level. Colton's tower is attacked and for the first time he is forced to leave his town and travel into the unknown. Without the power of his clock tower, Colton slowly begins to fade away, his main gear the only thing keeping him alive. He is too late to catch Danny, and so Colton begins a trip to India, hoping to find his boyfriend. As Colton travels, he begins to have memories, and soon the reader begins to find out that Colton wasn't always a tower spirit, he was a real, live person that something horrible happened too.

In India, Danny and Daphne are researching the demolished clock towers and studying the ones still standing, but someone is after them, attacking their airship and trying to stop them. We meet two new characters, Meena and Akash. They both add flavor and new heart to the story. It is really fun to see Danny talk to foreign clock spirits and learn of their clock stories. As all four kids work together, the truth glimmers to light, but not before Danny is kidnapped and Colton finally makes it to India. Yep, this book ends on a cliffhanger. So hold tight for book 3.

This is a fun, adventurous ride full of history and a new peek into the legends of the mysterious clock towers. I'm giving this one 5 stars! And can I just add, I love the cover. Look at how broken that timepiece appears!