Thursday, April 30, 2015

Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day!

This Saturday, May 2, 2015, is being celebrated across the nation as Independent Bookstore Day!

Four hundred bookstores are getting ready to rock your world with author visits/signings, giveaways, and more.  Go to for more information or to find a participating indie store near you.

Indie bookstores are worth supporting!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Yay for YA: Curses and Smoke

What's this?  Two book reviews within a month?

Let me tell you about Curses and Smoke, by Vicky Alvear Shecter!  (I previously reviewed another of her books, Cleopatra's Moon, in 2011.)

Checkouts: 2
Typical reader: Teens interested in historical fiction and/or Pompeii
Source: The author generously donated this and another of her books to the school library!

Synopsis: Lucia is the daughter of the owner of a gladiatorial school, and is being sold off in marriage to an old man to better her father's status.  Tag is a medical slave owned by her father, and dreams of becoming a gladiator and winning his freedom.  These two childhood friends reconnect and plan to escape Pompeii and Lucia's father, while strange things are happening in nature on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius ...

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

First of all, I would like to thank the author very much for contacting me and offering to donate this and Hades Speaks! to one of my libraries.  I hope I'm not too far behind in writing this honest review.

This is a wonderfully researched novel set at the time of the unexpected, catastrophic eruption in AD 79 that destroyed, yet preserved, the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.  I enjoyed the look into the customs and culture of this ancient civilization, as shown through the novel.  The extensive author's note at the end delighted me.  Curses and Smoke taught me a lot about Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, and some aspects of ancient Roman life.  As with Cleopatra's Moon, Ms. Shecter has worked magic with what resources were available.

For the most part, I enjoyed the story.  There were times when I felt that it had too many similarities to James Cameron's Titanic, particularly in some ways the couples' escapes were thwarted.  The situations both dragged on.  Overall, though, it was a pretty good plot, with well-developed characters.

I didn't entirely hate the love polygon.  Yes, it was a polygon, not a triangle; there were a lot of relationships intertwined.  There were a few pleasant twists, however, and for those, I could accept the relationship intrigues at work.

Overall, this was an enjoyable novel.  I would recommend it to teens, or middle school students looking for a book for their historical fiction book report assignment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It's Elementary: Bamboozled on Beaver Island

Wow, I haven't written a book review since Banned Books Week, back in September.  Color me sheepish - especially since I'd promised a few authors reviews of their books.

It's spring break around here this week, so I'm only working one of my jobs this week.  (Still 40 hours over five days, but I get to sleep in most days and leave early a couple times.)  And I am actually making good on promises.

Today, let me tell you about the first book in the Holly Wild series by Michigan author Lori Taylor.

Checkouts: Just talked a student into it last week!
Typical reader: Michigan middle elementary children
Source: The author, at the Outback Art Fair last summer

Synopsis: Holly Wild wants to do something heroic.  Will she have the opportunity to do so with her friends on a trip to Beaver Island?

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

This is an illustrated novel in the vein of the ever-popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries, but significantly less "woe am I" than your average contemporary kids' fiction diary.  Sure, Holly is not necessarily popular, but she doesn't wallow in it.  This is a strong female character, with a healthy interest in adventure and science!  Holly likes squishy, icky, gross things, and can use the scientific method to figure things out.  Rejoice.

I am not big on mysteries, and I will say that I winced when I realized that there was a mystery to solve.  However, this won me over with how fun and adventurous the escapades of Holly, her grandmother, and her friends Sierra and Tierra (twins, obviously) are.  It also encourages the reader to get out and explore the natural world.

This is the first book in a series of at least three novels, all set in Michigan.  It's perfect for children in second through fourth grades.