Category Archives: Children

Book Review: Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published Sept 25th, 2018
218 Pages

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.- Goodreads

Although I purchased a copy of Katherine Arden’s book The Bear and the Nightingale, this is my first read by her and man it was fantastic.

The entire time I was reading this book, I was thinking of the movie Jeepers Creepers. The scarecrows, the school bus breaking down everything . . . well mostly everything reminded me of this movie.

But to the book. It was creepy. Real creepy. Arden sets the stage for a horror movie but still is able to keep it PG. How? Talent.

Ollie is an interesting girl because she is really talented but also in mourning. So she doesn’t do anything outside of reading. Not like in most instances this is an issue but in the case of Ollie it is a bit because she was an interactive girl and then closed up. I don’t blame her.

But the best part of the book other than the creepiness is the story within the story. I wanted more of it because it integrated with the main story so well and when they came together in real time, it wasn’t awkward and most importantly it wasn’t forced. Thank GOD! It wasn’t forced.

I loved the pace of novel. It moved at the right speed to keep you so into the story. It wasn’t fluffed with un-needed backstory nor was it fluffed with questions. I didn’t feel as if I was missing something and another important thing is I didn’t feel like I need something. Everything was there and the book concluded with an actual conclusion; not a cliff hanger that will make you think there will be a book two.

Honestly, Ollie’s story is done. May not the mini story or the creepy scarecrows but Ollie herself does not need a book two.

This is a short review because I really do not have anything to say other than a fantastic read that made me go down memory lane about a movie, I use to watch with my dad.

Overall,

4 Pickles

 

Book Review: The Golden Fountain by Zuheb Alep

Troubador Publishing Ltd
Published Feb. 28, 2018
320 Pages

The Golden Fountain is the story of a twelve-year old Benjamin, a rebellious boy whose fierce desire to become a leader is threatened by the children disappearing around his city. The citizens of the city has long suffered their children’s disappearance, but the fact that they were never discovered leads Benjamin to finally decide one thing; he would creep on-board a ship carrying eight thousands soldiers to rescue them around the world. 

This story is set parallel in a world to our own, with magical creatures such as talking snow-cats bred for war, winged humans with elemental powers, birds as large as a horse and ferocious witches. 

This world is more than magical, with the balance of light and darkness about to break. Only Benjamin can prevent that with his unbreakable sword and a unique compass. Fall into a story completed with many themes, mostly about love and worst of all … death.- Goodreads

Jumping right into this review, I was disappointed in this read and I was for several reasons.

  1. The book starts off strong and with the promise of magic and prophecy. But after a few chapters it doesn’t deliever.
    1. The opening chapter begins off Benjamin recalling a dream that is pretty much a premonition. But once this happens the author proceeds to stretch any mention of this or any form of prophecy, magic for some time.
  2.  Benjamin, although his intentions are pure, he has a narrow mind to what he wants and how he wants it. He doesn’t think things through and for the most part has a fairly easy journey. Yes, there are some complications but the journey is fairly smooth, which is surprising for a boy under the age of 16.
  3. It is very hard to tell the difference in where the story is taking place and what time period. Yes, it is in a parallel world and there are modern aspects or details in the story but it doesn’t flow where you 1: feel confident about the setting and 2: get confused by how its a fairly modern world i.e. cars but balloon travel is needed.
  4. The book was drawn out and utterly slow.

Despite these issues with the book, I felt that the the premise or what I believe the author was reaching for was strong enough to warrent me to finish the book. I think that the book would have been stronger if there was more going on and if Benjamin developed better and/or had a better sense of being a good hero was opposed to just wanting to do what is right at any cost.

Based on this, I give this book an overall score of

2 Pickles

Book Review: Shadow Warrior: Based on the True Story of a Fearless Ninja and Her Network of Female Spies by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Celia Krampien (Illustrator)

Annick Press
Published Sept. 12, 2017
64 Pages

It’s 1558, and warlords across Japan are battling for territory and control. Into this setting, Tanya Lloyd Kyi weaves the stories of three people: Mochizuki Chiyome, a young woman determined to become a ninja whose plans are thwarted by an arranged marriage; Takeda Shingen (The Tiger), a fierce warlord seeking a new weapon to outsmart his enemies; and Aki, an orphaned tavern girl whose destiny is changed by a mysterious woman.

As their stories intersect, the three characters become key players in an elaborate network of undercover female ninjas who will eventually shift the balance of power in Japan. Based on the true story of Mochizuki Chiyome and her all-female spy network.- Goodreads

*Short Review*

I really enjoyed this. I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up this book but the amount of history and story placed in this quick read was amazing. From the beginning, you are pulled in and you don’t want to leave.

This book is detailed without being dragged out and its colorful and complicated without feeling the author is trying to do too much. My only issue with this read, is I wish it was longer.

I loved how the author moved easily between three different point of views/three different stories. But I wanted to know more about each of them. Not necessarily their past, but what they were doing presently, what happened when the world started changing. I know that this book is meant for children, specifically middle schoolers but this read opened my curiosity to Mochizuki and what women did during this time.

It really is a good starting point for anyone that is mildly interested in badass women.

4 Pickles

Book Review: Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

HarperCollins
Published July 25, 2017
288 Pages

“Harper doesn’t trust her new how from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of deja vu but she can’t remember why.

She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in the hours, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?”- Goodreads

Before I give my thoughts on this book, I need to explain why I picked it up. I don’t follow Ms. Ellen Oh on Twitter but someone I follow does and she happened to liked a tweet that caught my attention.

Just based off that my curious its was peaked. So I requested the book from the library that same day. I didn’t have a lot of thought or even a pressing need to read this book. I just wanted to see what the fuss was about. But let me tell you once I started this book, I did not put it down until well after 1 a.m. This book was fantastic from beginning to end.

Harper is what I would picture of a child having to deal with something paranormal when you family doesn’t believe you and also sent you away for help. It was such a realistic viewpoint of not a disobedient loner child but of a little girl, who loves her family but is struggling to deal with her own past and keeping it all together. I’ve always wondered what if the child that can see things, no one else can see, actually said something to her family as opposed to hiding it and dealing with it on her own. For anyone that has ever wanted to know that, this book is the answered.

It touches on a lot of subjects such as family and doing what you feel is best for that family. It touches upon family ancestry and the divide that can cause. It touches upon racism and diversity without it feeling as if the author is trying to hard. This book flowed extremely easy with these topics and of course the paranormal aspect of it.

But what I liked most about Harper, herself, was her ability to face her fears. It’s cliche I know but she literally faces the worst head on and keeps pushing through until she has done what she set out to do. She wasn’t bratty, mean or even desperate. She was a little girl that wanted to be with her family and make some friends in a new town.

Beyond all of this, what sold me was how freaking creepy this book was. Whatever resource Ms. Ellen Oh used as a reference to help her write this book was on point. Every scene, every time Harper felt something or saw something, it was so visual it was as if I was watching a movie. As a grown woman, there were things in this book that creeped me out and I loved every moment of it. Harper stood tall and faced all of that and I have nothing but respect for her.

The pace was great. The down time didn’t even feel like down time because there was so much going on emotional as well as physically. The imagery was pure talent actually the entire book was and I hope and pray that there will be a book two.

5 Pickles.

Book Review: The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold, Levi Pinfold (Illustrator)

Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Published Nov. 10, 2016
216 Pages

Frank doesn’t know how to feel when Nick Underbridge rescues her from bullies one afternoon. No one likes Nick. He’s big, he’s weird and he smells – or so everyone in Frank’s class thinks.

And yet, there’s something nice about Nick’s house. There’s strange music playing there, and it feels light and good and makes Frank feel happy for the first time in forever.

But there’s more to Nick, and to his house, than meets the eye, and soon Frank realises she isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Or the only one who needs help …-Goodreads

This will be a short review and mainly because I am not sure how I feel about this book. To begin this book was not what you think it is. Although I would consider this a coming of age story it isn’t a typical coming of age story. Frank is a difficult character to love. I say that because there was no real personality to her. She was a very shy girl that was being bullied and cared  a lot about her reputation. But beyond that there was not a lot to her. I couldn’t say she was strong, noisy a bit but she was truthful as much as she could has been. She was very unsure of herself but there was some growth, especially towards the end, which is why I consider this a coming of age story.

However, what shifted in this book was the magical element. It came out of nowhere…nothing lead up to it. I liked that aspect of the book. But I didn’t feel that the magic was the best route for this book. I am not the author, obviously, therefore, I had no right to say that but something was off, maybe misplaced about Nick and his secrets. Maybe it was Frank and the lack of life she brought to the book. I am not exactly sure.

But the entire book felt monotone and it was slow; even when thing were happening. I love this author but this was not the strongest book.

Overall,

2 Pickles

Book Review: The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers Published Jan. 3 2017 352 Pages
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published Jan. 3 2017
352 Pages

Cammie O’Reilly is the warden’s daughter that lives in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. Although her father is active in her life, she is missing her mother. A mother, who saved her only daughter from harm. 

Known as Cannonball, Cammie is about to turn 13 years old and is looking for a mother figure within a shoplifter and a reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. Going through the motions while her best friend begins playing with makeup, Cammie has no idea everything she has ever known or thought of is about to change in the most dramatic way. 

Short Review*

I had issues with this book. The first being Cammie. This is a difficult time in her life and she is learning to find herself, HOWEVER, she is a spoiled brat that is completely selfish and treated one of her mother figures like crap just because she didn’t get her way.  Let me give you an example, you have a housekeeper that you like but you do not like when you are told to do something by them because they are a housekeeper. So you proceed to call her out on it and remind her who she works for. That is Cammie. I get she is a child but she is a child that thinks everything out before she does it. Things like this happen all the time in the book and I was frustrated with it.

The book overall was lackluster. I understand that it is a coming of age book, but almost nothing happens a majority of the time. The tone rarely changes; so everything starts to sound the same. I didn’t appreciate how the main characters was viewed. The book is set for 1959 until the end; so there are things that are to be expected but there were some things that cannot be overlooked such as the view of a black woman.

Beyond that, I felt that Cammie a an adult had no real remorse for what happen, for the life she affected and for the things that was done. I felt a sense of entitlement even after everything was said and done.

I did not enjoy the pace of the novel and I think because of the issues within the book, I lost the purpose of the story.

Overall,

2 Pickles

Book Review: Artie Conan Doyle and the Gravediggers’ Club by Robert J. Harris

Kelpies TBP: June 15, 2017
Kelpies
TBP: June 15, 2017

Artie Conan Doyle is 12 years old and while in the future he will write the great Sherlock Holmes for now he has to deal with the mystery before him. When sneaking out with his best friend, Ham, to explore Greyfriars Kirkyard, the two spot a woman in grey walking through a cemetery and footprints of enormous hound.

Not one to look past questions, Artie, with the reluctance of Ham, follow clues to discover a series robberies that will lead to a villain that Artie may not be able to defeat.

Jumping right in, I would recommend this read to children who have not been introduced to Sherlock Holmes. It is a really creative spin to focus on the author as a child. Yes, it has been done with Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) but only to a certain extent.

What I liked about this book is how the author was able to show the reader glimpse of Sherlock, without actually mentioning it. I enjoyed the personal struggle Artie goes through, although it is not the full focus it is a starting point in the book and a good one I might add. It shows, for a lack of better term, a human emotion/reaction other than curiosity and the need to solve something. I appreciated that.  I also loved how the story was told through Artie and not by his friend Ham or some random voice. It was a better read because of that.

The pace of the novel was acceptable. At one point, it did feel like the book was going nowhere but with the turning point(s) it added more depth to the novel. Character development was non-existing but I didn’t have an issue with this. The way the author wrote this book, there wasn’t any real need for it. Did some things change? Yes. Did any characters change? Kind of. One character, side character, a fairly key character experienced a significant change but it didn’t really apply to the mystery.

Overall, I would recommend this to my nieces and any child that wants a good mystery. As an adult I am glad I found this series.

4 Pickles

 

Book Review: The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Algonquin Young Readers Published April 25, 2015 240 Pages
Algonquin Young Readers
Published April 25, 2015
240 Pages

Corinne La Mer doesn’t fear anything; not even Jumbies in the forbidden woods. Jumbies are simply made up stories that parents use to keep their children out the woods, but Corinne knows better. 

But when Corinne notices yellow eyes staring at her at the edge of the woods. She begins to doubt her fearlessness. And when a beautiful stranger shows up at the marketplace and then her home with her father, Corinne knows that danger is near. 

Using her courage, the help of her friends and a ancient magic, she had no idea she possessed, Corinne must save her home and everyone in it. 

I really have a hard time finding good fantasy books for children (maybe YA) written by African-Americans. So, I jumped on this one purely based on the author and I wasn’t disappointed. This book was written extremely well that I would even recommend it for YA readers.

Firstly, characters. You knew from beginning and end that these were children. However, you didn’t feel the immaturity, even when the kids were acting a fool with each other. Corinne and her friends had a sense of wisdom about them that I didn’t feel was out of place. It fit them. They were kids but not reckless children trying to prove a point.

I loved how the author seamlessly tied mythology into the story without feeling like a history lesson. It was part of the culture, part of everyone’s lives and I loved how relevant it was in the beginning and end of the story. Also the author added something in there regarding history and I liked it. I was very surprised but thought it was perfect.

I enjoyed the pace of novel. However, at a certain point, the constant movement hit a plateau and I was stuck wondering if this was going to be end of my enjoyable ride. But it wasn’t. The pace began to build after this point and it did well til its descent at the end. Speaking of the end, it was great but it was a hard reality to swallow. I liked how the author did not shy away from the outcome because it is true. In real life and in every fantasy story, where the hero proves to be different it happens.

Would I consider this story horror? No, there is nothing exactly scary about it (even from a kids perspective) but it is deeper than just a fantasy story. You see how much a myth or a fable affects communities/cultures no matter what the generation is.

Overall,

4 Pickles