Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

Assassin’s Creed goes YA with Last Descendants December 6, 2016

assassinLast Descendants: An Assassin’s Creed Novel, by Matthew J. Kirby, (Aug. 2016, Scholastic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780545855518

Recommended for ages 12+

Owen is going through some rough stuff. He and his mother live with his grandparents; they were forced to after his father was arrested for robbing a bank and died in prison. Owen believes he was innocent, but that doesn’t stop his grandparents from badmouthing his dad whenever they get a chance. His best friend, Javier, has been more distant lately, so he really feels alone until the school IT guy, Monroe, invites him to use his device called the Animus, which will help him explore memories buried in his DNA. He convinces Javier to come along and make sure things sound on the level, and Javier ends up having a shared genetic memory in the Animus with Owen. Use of the Animus sets off some kind of alarm, though, and Monroe brings the two teens to a hideout he’s established, where they meet four other teens who have used the Animus. Monroe explains that the group all have roots in one (or both) of two ancient orders: the Brotherhood of Assassins or the Templar Order. There’s a precious relic that needs to be found, and their group is the only group that can do it through a shared genetic experience. The teens find themselves in the bodies of their ancestors, transported into the 1863 New York City, on the even of the infamous Draft Riots.

This is the first book in a YA Assassin’s Creed series, based on the insanely popular video game. I’ve never played Assassin’s Creed – I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m fairly inept beyond a joystick and firing button – but I love the mythology behind the game, which my eldest has played for years. Having a YA series that follows teens descended from the Assassins and Templars, going through different eras in history? I loved it! We get a look at the Gangs of New York-era Lower East Side through an interesting fantasy perspective, with some nice groundwork about the two dueling factions in place for newbies to Assassin’s Creed (I double-checked some info with my son as I read). Being a Gangs of New York fan and a student of Lower East Side history, I was thrilled to see how Kirby worked the gangs into the main storyline. The story flows through multiple perspectives, yet he keeps everything together so readers shouldn’t be confused by whose voice they’re reading, especially appreciated when characters are in the Animus and living through their ancestors. There’s great character development, action, and he doesn’t flinch from the racism that fueled the riots. The ending leaves no doubt that there will be a sequel, and I can’t wait to read it.

I’ve liked Matthew Kirby’s writing since I devoured Icefall four years ago. He creates great characters and skilfully weaves historical fiction and fantasy. With an Assassin’s Creed movie hitting theatres in a little more than two weeks, this is a book you need front and center on your displays (and on your holiday lists – we all know someone who loves this franchise). Put this one on your purchase lists.

 

Folklore, myth, and memory: Merrow December 5, 2016

merrowMerrow, by Ananda Braxton-Smith, (NOv. 2016, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9780763679248

Recommended for ages 12+

Twelve year-old Neen Marrey lives with her Aunt Oshag on Carrick Island. Her father drowned and her mother disappeared when she was a baby; now, she and her aunt endure the town gossip – that her mother was a merrow, a mermaid, that returned to the ocean and her father drowned himself trying to reach her. Oshag dismisses the gossip as nonsense, but the myth keeps Neen going; she wants desperately to believe that her mother didn’t just desert her; that maybe even Neen herself has merrow in her, and can reconcile with her mother one day.

Merrow is beautiful and heartbreaking. Braxton-Smith spins a tale that weaves together historical fiction, Celtic folklore, and a coming of age story. Neen and Oshag are both incredibly constructed characters that come alive; characters that you come to ache for. The supporting cast are equally likable and believable, and having such a small group of characters adds to the intimacy of the novel.

This is a gorgeous novel that literary fiction readers, readers of magical realism, realistic fiction, and historical fiction alike will love. Merrow has received four starred reviews: Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal. Maybe the Printz committee will agree?

 

Advice blogging goes haywire in How to Make Out December 4, 2016

how-to-make-outHow to Make Out, by Brianna Shrum, (Sept. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1510701670

Recommended for ages 14+

Sixteen year-old Renley needs to make money fast: she’s dying to go on the math club’s got a trip to New York City, and she needs to raise $3,000. She gets part of the money from her dad and – ugh – stepmother, and she decides to raise the other part of the money by blogging life advice as a “certified expert”, calling herself SweetLifeCoach. She monetizes the site and money starts rolling in, but the questions her audience asks her get more and more uncomfortable; Renley starts acting in a very un-Renley-like manner; it seems like there’s nothing she won’t do for her audience, and her best friends are worried that she’s losing herself – especially when she finds herself in the with in-crowd when she starts dating hearthrob Seth Levine. Renley eventually finds herself facing some tough decisions, not all of which involve the math club trip.

How to Make Out wasn’t really my book. I didn’t like most of the characters in the book, particularly Renley, the main character. She was vapid and one of those kids I warn my own kids against becoming: the kid who will do anything the crowd pushes her to; in this case, because she was hooked on her own blog hype. I questioned how teens would pay to read blog posts on topics that you can easily find on the Internet, including first-hand anecdotes from other teen bloggers. Renley’s father and stepmother were one-dimensional, and a potentially interesting subplot with Renley’s absentee mother was relegated to passing references and one text message. Drew, the boy next door who’s in love with Renley, had the potential to be a solid character but ended up being a sex-obsessed teen boy who’s working out his issues in the bedroom. I wish there had been more depth to the characters.

This was a relatively quick and light read – a good beach read or, for this time of year, winter vacation read for teen romance readers.

 

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Spell Thief

The Spell Thief
By Tom Percival
December 6, 2016; Hardcover, ISBN: 9781492646648

9781492641773-pr

Book Info:
Title: The Spell Thief
Author: Tom Percival
Release Date: December 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Summary:

Join Red, Jack, Rapunzel, and Anansi in this fun fairy tale mash-up chapter book series!

Jack (of the beanstalk fame) and his magical talking chicken, Betsy, have always been great at making new friends, like their BFFs Red and Rapunzel. But when Jack spots Anansi, the new kid in town, talking to a troll in the Deep Dark Woods, he immediately becomes suspicious. Everyone knows that trolls mean trouble, and Jack will do anything to prove to the rest of his friends that Anansi is a troll spy. Even if that means using stolen magic!

Goodreads Link: http://ow.ly/rDgP3065Ww6

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://ow.ly/ud3O3065WD0

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/o76x3065WMa

IndieBound: http://ow.ly/9sfN3065WPn

About the Author:
Tom Percival studied graphic design in South Wales and has illustrated several picture books. He lives with his family in Bristol, England.

Social Media Links:
Author Website: http://tom-percival.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AllAboutTomPercival
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TomPercivalsays
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/tomp/

1
A Ship Comes In

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Jack walked through the Deep Dark Woods with his pet hen Betsy tucked under one arm. He took a deep breath of the woodland air. It smelled fresh and exciting. Today was going to be a good day—he could just tell.

He walked toward a small, wooden cottage surrounded by a well-kept wooden fence. There was a fountain in the garden, also made of wood, but instead of water, it was blowing sawdust high into the air.

spellthief_whatsquawked Betsy.

 

 

“Don’t worry, Betsy. It’s only sawdust,” replied Jack. He wasn’t surprised that his hen had just spoken to him. After all, Betsy was a magical hen. Sadly, “What?” was the only thing she could say, which made most of their conversations rather one-sided.

spellthief_2Jack wiped his feet on the wooden doormat and knocked on the door. He heard booming footsteps from inside. The door swung open with a creak and a very woody smell.

A large man stood in the doorway, covered in wood shavings and holding a lopsided wooden cup.
“Well, look who it is!” he exclaimed with a smile, “Come on through, Jack! Red and the others are all out back.”

He ushered Jack inside, where every surface, and in fact everything, seemed to be made from wood…including the carpet and the curtains.

“So, how have you been, Jack?” asked Red’s dad.

“Good, thanks,” replied Jack politely. “How about you?”

“Oh, good, Jack, very good!” exclaimed Red’s dad. “In fact, I’ve just made a breakthrough!”

“A breakthrough?” asked Jack.

“With the wooden socks!” replied Red’s dad.

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“Don’t you mean woolen?” countered Jack.

“Woolen socks?” repeated Red’s father, as if it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard, “I’m a wood-cutter, Jack, not a wool cutter!”

“Er, right…” said Jack.

“Do you want to try them on?” asked Red’s father, holding out two very solid, very wooden–looking socks.

“Um, not right now,” replied Jack. “I’d better go and catch up with Red. But thanks for the offer.”

Jack raced through the house and into the garden. The tree house towered up in front of him. Red’s dad had carved it out of one giant tree.

Jack’s friends were all sitting in the main room when he climbed in.

“Morning, all!” he called out.

Red grinned, Rapunzel did her very best curtsy, and the twins waved enthusiastically.

“Hey,” started Hansel.

“Jack!” finished Gretel.

Hansel and Gretel often finished each other’s sentences. Sometimes it could be confusing.

“Hey, Jack!” called Red. “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”

“The good news?” asked Jack hesitantly.

“The good news,” said Rapunzel, leaving a long pause, “is that there’s a ship coming into town from Far Far Away!”

spellthief_whatsquawked Betsy.

 
Jack gasped. A boat from Far Far Away! His dad might have sent him a letter…

“Yep!” added Red. “It should be arriving any minute! We’re going to have a race up to Lookout Point to watch it come in—last one there is a smelly troll!”

“So what’s the bad news?” asked Jack.

“The bad news is that Hansel’s just tied your shoelaces together!” said Rapunzel, as she and everyone else scrambled excitedly from the tree house.

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Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance at one of 2 Copies of The Spell Thief!
Runs December 4-December 16 (US & Canada only)

 

A modern twist on Cinderella: It Started With Goodbye December 1, 2016

started-with-goodbyeIt Started With Goodbye, by Christina June, (May 2017, Blink Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780310758662

Recommended for ages 12+

Tatum Elsea’s not having a great summer. Accused of a crime she didn’t commit – she was trying to get her best friend away from her sleazy boyfriend, to add insult to injury! – she’s under her step-monster’s house arrest for the entire summer, AND her best friend won’t speak to her. She’s working on pulling invasive plants as a community service during the day, and at night, quietly launching a design business to keep from going crazy. Things start looking up when she gets a few nibbles for her design business, including a flirty exchange with a musician who needs a portfolio made to submit to colleges. Her stepmother’s mother is also staying with them for the summer while Tatum’s dad is away on business, and she brings got just a little bit of fairy abuela magic with her, whether it’s a little extra money from her bunco winnings to help Tatum out, or warming up the relationships in the house. Maybe Tatum’s summer will end on a high note, after all.

This is a very sweet, very fun, modern take on Cinderella. Tatum’s stepmother isn’t really evil, she’s just really, really strict; her stepsister is a ballet dancer that’s not as uppity as Tatum thinks she is; her fairy godmother plays bunco and watches Golden Girls while dispensing real talk. There’s a music fest instead of a masked ball, and a cute take on the glass slipper. I had a great time reading this; you’ll just feel better when you’re done. It’s very clean – my conservative readers and my tweens will absolutely embrace this – and the characters are all very likable, even if they are in need of some serious loosening up in the beginning.

A fun, light romance to add to your collections or pass along to teen romance readers. There’s some fun content coming down the pike from author Christina June, including a graphic design contest, playlists, and launch party in the DC area. Keep an eye on Christina’s author page and Blink’s webpage for updates.

 

#ThankfulThursday: Showing Appreciation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rosemary Kiladitis @ 9:00 am
Tags:

What are you thankful for this week? Last week, it was Thanksgiving, and I was certainly thankful to be surrounded by my family, in a warm home. I’m grateful for a career I love – a second career, at that – and for the love of my friends and the families that come through my library doors.

Between now and the end of the year, I’m going to have a weekly #ThankfulThursday post inspired by author Marianne Richmond’s Simple Ways to Grow Gratitude. This week, I’m appreciating out loud. I have so much to be thankful for: my own little corner of the Internet here, where I get to meet new authors and books, and talk about them; I’m grateful that reading time is still cuddle time for my little one, and I’m thankful that my older kids will still sit down and watch TV and movies with me, engaging in our own amusing commentary. I’m thankful for hot coffee, comfy couches, and easy-to-understand knitting patterns.

There are so many things to be thankful for. How about you? Spread the word, let me know what you’re thankful for! Read on for more Simple Ways to Grow Gratitude, and enter a Rafflecopter contest to win your own bundle of Marianne Richmond’s books.

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Oh, no! Bad Kitty has forgotten how to cat! November 29, 2016

badkittyBad Kitty Takes the Test, by Nick Bruel, (Jan. 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626725898

Recommended for ages 7-10

Bad Kitty’s back in his 9th chapter book adventure, and this time, it’s a doozy (isn’t it always?). The Society of Cat Aptitude has decided that Kitty just isn’t cutting it as a cat, so she needs to take a Cat Aptitude Test to determine whether or not she still deserves to be considered a cat. Kitty shows up to take her required course and test, but things… are not exactly business as usual, starting with the instructor. Poor Uncle Murray shows up, thinking he’s there to renew his driver’s license – maybe he’s spent enough time with Kitty to qualify as a cat, too!

I love Bad Kitty! My sons introduced her to me back when they were little guys, and I’ve laughed along with her antics ever since. She’s the star of picture books, chapter books, 8×8″ paperback picture books, board and activity books, making her a household name. Kids come into my library asking for Bad Kitty books about as often as they do Babymouse, Goosebumps, and the Wimpy Kid; she’s kind of a big deal. Her latest adventure is filled with the usual laughs, wacky plot, and black and white art. Part Wile E. Coyote and part Bugs Bunny, this latest story puts kitty and company into a classroom with an instructor that’s working with a hidden agenda, and Uncle Murray, who has a habit of blundering into burgeoning catastrophes, is here for additional laughs.

You don’t need to have much familiarity with the series to begin enjoying the books; you can just jump on with any one of them, incuding Bad Kitty Takes the Test. Intermediate readers and reluctant readers will get their Bad Kitty fix with this latest entry into the series.

There are activity kits and coloring sheets, plus a newsletter sign-up, on the Bad Kitty website. I’ve run successful book groups using the Bad Kitty Mad Libs and comic template sheet, and with the holidays coming, you’re sure to enjoy some of the holiday activities on the site.