Monday, March 21, 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax by Sara Pennypacker -- When Peter's father goes off to war, Peter must go live with his grandfather, and Pax, Peter's pet fox, must be returned to the wild. Peter immediately regrets this course of action, and determines to run away and find Pax. Pax is also determined to return to his boy. But the journey will not be easy for either of them...

I knew this story was going to make me cry, and it did. The writing is strong and the characters are well-developed, the pacing is good . . . this has all of the elements of an award-winning book and an instant classic. If you can handle the emotions inherent in this sort of animal story, this is a must-read.

(Reviewed from a finished copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill -- Em used to be sweet and naive, and maybe a little self-centered. Her biggest worry was how to make her best friend James see her as more than a friend. That was then -- now, she's trying to save the world.

This is a fast-paced YA dystopia with a time travel element. I was impressed at the plotting and the pacing. The time travel wasn't exhaustively explained, but we get enough information to buy in to it, and the plot moves along quickly and keeps the reader engaged. I also liked the characters, and thought the author did a good job of showing the development from their past selves to their future selves. I have some problems with the ending, but I won't get into that here and spoil it for you (though, if you've read it, I'd love to discuss). Bottom line: if this type of story appeals to you at all, you should read this book.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Marvels is another tour de force by Brian Selznick, who has pioneered this particular format of illustrated novel. In the first half of the book, through illustrations, we follow the story of a theatrical family in London. The second half of the book, in text, is the story of a troubled young boy in the 1990s who runs away from school and ends up with his curmudgeonly uncle, who lives in a most extraordinary house. The two stories come together in magical and surprising ways.

I enjoyed this book more than Wonderstruck but not as much as Hugo Cabret. I've seen the three books referred to as a series, or companion novels, but they are really tied together only by format, as there is no overlap in characters or plot that I can see. I found the story intriguing, and now I have another place on the list of attractions to visit next time I go to London!

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Playing Juliet by Joanne Wetzel

Playing Juliet by JoAnne Stewart Wetzel -- For as long as she's been involved with the Oakfield Children's Theatre, Beth has dreamed of someday playing the role of Juliet. She knows she's not ready yet, but with a few more years of experience, she thinks she might have a chance. But she may not get a few more years of experience, because it's rumored that the theatre will have to close. Can Beth and her friends find a way to save the theatre -- or will her dream role remain only a dream?

This was a fun light read in a setting that I, as a theatre nerd, appreciated. I felt that Beth's Shakespeare knowledge was a bit beyond her years (it's a rare 12-year-old indeed who can grasp the complexities of Shakespeare's language without help), but that didn't take me out of the story. Young readers who enjoy books with a theatrical setting will eat this one up.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

See How They Run by Ally Carter

See How They Run by Ally Carter is the second book in the Embassy Row series. I wasn't too impressed with the first one, so I'm not sure why I picked this one up. The lure of a free galley, I suppose, and then the need for a fast-paced, light read. It was a mistake, though: the main character's histrionics wore on my nerves. So, learn a lesson from my experience, and pass this one up if the first book didn't do anything for you. On the other hand, fans of the first book will probably enjoy this one, too.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox -- An evil enchantress is stealing the souls of children, and logical Kat and her siblings must figure out how to stop her. This is a lovely, creepy tale set during WWII. I really enjoyed it (though, in my current reading slump, it took me much longer to finish it than usual). Recommended to readers who like historical fiction with some fantastical and gothic elements.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)