Monday, February 27, 2017

10 Things I Can See From Here

10 Things I Can See From Here
by Carrie Mac
Publication Date: February 28, 2017

Maeve deals with extreme anxiety, and it doesn't help that her mom is traveling to Haiti and sending Maeve to live with her father for six months. Her father who is a recovering alcoholic, and whose wife is seven months pregnant and planning a home birth - Maeve can't even begin to list all of the possible problems with that situation! Maeve's life seems to be spiraling out of control little by little, getting derailed by things that might not necessarily throw anyone else off track.

When Maeve meets Salix, she's nervous, but ready for her first real relationship with a girl. But then again, Salix is another person for Maeve for worry about while she struggles to balance her family's other problems.

This book was very engaging and easy to read - I finished it in two sitings because I couldn't put it down. Even now, the characters keep popping into my mind. They are all very realistic and well-rounded. No one is "good"" or "bad" - everyone is flawed, and Mac addresses this wonderfully. I especially loved that Maeve's family is supportive of her orientation, which is nice (and unfortunately rare) to see represented in young adult fiction. 

My only problem with this book is something of a backhanded compliment - it ended too soon. I would have loved to see more of the characters, but also I feel like the serious, important part of the story is yet to come. It is said over and over that Maeve is only staying with her father for six months, but she is embarking on her first serious relationship and growing closer to her family and neighbors, especially when compared with the isolated life she and her mother seemed to lead in another town. I think this novel had great character development, but they weren't necessarily thrown into the fire as I would have liked to see.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet

I've read a lot of E.B. White's work, but I didn't know much about him. This book was an incredibly enjoyable way to learn about him, and is probably my favorite biography read so far.

I loved this book because it really pulls the reader in. It goes beyond words on a page; it is presented as a scrapbook of E.B. White's life. Snippets of letters and White's early work are beautifully laid out on the pages. Sweet adds a lot of color and character with bright illustrations, giving readers visual insight into the author's life.

Some quotes I could especially relate to:

- "'There is a secret joy in discovering a blunder in the public prints,' Andy wrote. 'Almost every person has a little proofreader in him'" (44).

- "To a writer, a child is an alibi. If I should never write anything worth reading, I can always explain that by pointing to my child" (50).

- "A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell" (102, also from The Elements of Style).

Monday, February 20, 2017

Harry and Clare's Amazing Staycation

Harry and Clare's Amazing Staycation
by Ted Staunton, illustrated by Mika Song

This beautiful picture book came just in time for spring break! Their family is not going out of town for vacation, so Harry and Clare have to find their own fun. When the rain keeps them indoors, they rely on their imaginations even more.

Clare, being older, takes the lead on these imaginary trips, leaving Harry to do the grunt work. She bosses Harry around all week, until he decides to take the matter into his own hands and show Clare that he's more than just her sidekick!

I love the realism the book is framed on - that not all families can or will go out of town on school breaks. Instead of whining about this fact, Harry and Clare set themselves up for adventure. I think this will inspire a lot of children to find fun in what's around them.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lola Zola Desert Detective

Lola Zola Desert Detective is the third book in the Lola Zola series, written by Marcy Winograd and Jackie Hirtz.

Lola Zola and her friends have their lemonade business, of course, always! Wise investor Ruby Rhubarb has taken the girls under her wing and into her social life, inviting Lola, Melanie, and Samantha along to attend Saturday night bingo. It seems like the whole town is taken by the bingo host Barton Beasley - everyone except that one table of ladies. Melanie and Samantha just think he's silly, like a cartoon character. Lola only has eyes for Buck, her crush for quite some time now. And Ruby Rhubarb is still pining after her dear Harry, who died not long ago.

Lola is glad her friends don't like Mr. Beasley, because she doesn't trust him. See, Mr. Beasley is peddling windmill sales by stressing how patriotic it is for a town to provide its own energy - a good idea in theory, but Mr. Beasley makes it seem slimy somehow. Lola is worried when her townspeople start buying stock in the hopes of getting their investments back and striking it rich in the process.

But when Ruby Rhubarb falls for the Windmill King himself, and not just his hoax, Lola can't keep quiet anymore. Everyone knows Ruby Rhubarb's husband left her a fortune. And everyone knows - or knew - that Ruby Rhubarb could never love someone like she did Harry. With the Windmill King pushing for a quick wedding, Lola and her friends don't have much time to show everyone what scam Mr. Beasley is really trying to pull.

With a lot of help from her friends, and maybe a little - but just a little - help from her hunky crush Buck, will Lola be able to expose the Windmill King's fraud and give the people of Mirage their money back?

- - -

In this book, Lola (and the writers) are really hitting their stride. I feel like this is where it becomes clear that Lola Zola is indeed a series - the characters are familiar, like old friends. The adventures are new, but you know what might be around the corner because you know the characters' personalities - you know Lola's going to get into trouble, but you know she's got a solid crew behind her, ready to help out. The setting really gets developed in this book, but not in a boring way, like being toured through the town. Winograd and Hirtz utilize vibrant description to really show the readers what it's like to live in the desert town of Mirage, and I think future books will benefit from this development.

See my reviews of the first two Lola Zola books here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle is a fantastic middle grade book that will captivate all readers. There are gorgeous illustrations, an engaging story, and riddles, codes, and clues to involve the reader in the tale far beyond the words on the page.

The Warren Hotel is in the middle of nowhere, and Warren has spent his entire twelve years there, just like all of the Warrens before him. The Warren used to be an upscale place to stay, booked months in advance. When Warren's father died five years ago, the hotel was left in the care of Uncle Rupert, at least until Warren the 13th came of age to care for the hotel on his own.

Until then, Warren the 13th basically acts as the sole caretaker, since Uncle Rupert is too lazy to do more than nap. Uncle Rupert's new wife, Aunt Annaconda, acts sweet to her husband, but openly despises Warren, banishing him to the top floor because she hates children.

A mysterious-looking guest comes to stay, and Aunt Annaconda is convinced the guest is searching for the All-Seeing Eye, a mysterious treasure hidden at the Warren Hotel. Warren thinks the All-Seeing Eye is a legend, but has to admit something strange is going on when more guests check into the long-empty hotel. Once Warren finds the code-laden diary of Warren the 2nd, he's roped into the quest as well.

Aren't these illustrations breathtaking?!

I loved this book because there was so much involving me in the story. The illustrations were breathtaking, and accompanied the action perfectly. The book’s layout is also engaging, such as the chapter headings reading differently at the top of each page, sections from others’ points of view being white text on black pages, and there being maps to search and codes to break to help Warren.

While I loved reading this book alone, I really look forward to reading it with my son when he’s older. I think this is a great read-aloud book for that in-between age when they might not want to ask you to read, but really want to hear a story. There’s so much that can be explored by two, making it perfect for a parent to share with their child. It is, of course, more than appropriate for a kid to read on their own.

The second Warren installment, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, comes out on March 21st, giving you time to grab your copy of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye and be ready for Warren’s next adventure!

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Quirk Books, but the review is my own.