Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GRAPHIC NOVEL SEQUELS: Cleopatra in Space: The Golden Lion/The Nameless City: The Stone Heart


Cleo is back at Yasiro Academy, recovering from the tragic events that occurred on planet Hykosis. She feels responsible for the death of her friend Zaid, and trains nonstop. And when she learns that the Golden Lion -- a star with immeasurable energy that could destroy them all if weaponized -- has been located, she goes alone to the snowy, icy planet Cada'duun to find it. There, she faces off with a new enemy who has been instructed to destroy the Golden Lion... and her.  

Each book in this series has gotten more intense than the last as Cleo struggles to live up to the prophecies about her.  After the tragedy of losing a friend in book 3, which Cleo blames herself for, Cleo isn't about to involve her friends in her latest escapade.  Especially since the council (most of them) didn't want her to seek out the Golden Lion (fallen star of great power) in the first place.  But this is Cleo, who acts first and thinks later, and she convinces her friend Brian to help her get to the planet where the Golden Lion is supposed to be.  But despite the warnings about snow, Cleo is not prepared for what she finds: blizzards, enormous snow spiders, and a thief (Antony) from her past. Forced to team up with Antony, Cleo fights to survive and stumbles into something unexpected.  And when the enemy shows up, she's forced to fight.  I have to admit, the ending of this one stunned me it was so unexpected.  In fact several things happen at the end that really surprised me, but which open up some rather interesting new questions about just who Cleo is and what she's supposed to do.

This is a fabulous series for young adventure readers who like a good dose of humor, courage, and the unexpected.  The relationships are fun as well as Cleo and Antony (who didn't see that coming) get to know each other better amid all the storm and strife.  Combining historical fiction and science fiction has turned out brilliantly in this thoroughly entertaining series.


Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself.

To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he's stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war?
Having really liked the first book in The Nameless City trilogy, I was eager to read this second book.  And I was not disappointed. Kai and Rat are coming to terms with their changed circumstances and the changes that seem to be in store for the city.  But unfortunately, the politics involved in the running of an empire can change quickly, and when things take a turn for the worse, Kai, his father, and Rat are forced to flee.  As the fate of the city rests on a knife's edge, Kai and Rat wonder if the formula created by the cities' founders is the answer.  But keeping it out of the hands of the new found enemy may be more than they can handle.  Like second books in most trilogies, the book ends on a cliffhanger, with many questions still to be answered.  I'm truly anxious to get my hands on the third book.  My favorite part of this series are the gorgeous illustrations, depicting Kai and Rat, young people from different cultures who found the courage to look beyond appearances.  Now it's up to them to try to prevent all out war and save the city they both love.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: This Book Stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn


Get up close and personal with a wonderful world of waste. From composting and recycling, to landfills and dumps, to how creative people are finding new ways to reuse rubbish. It's fun to talk trash when it's jam-packed with infographics, thematic spreads, wow-worthy photos, sidebars, serious stats, and fabulous facts. Also included are quizzes and activities to inspire kids to take action, be proactive, and rethink the things we throw away.


I had no idea garbage and recycling could be so fascinating.  The facts in the book are both intriguing and horrifying at the same time.  Just thinking of the amount of waste human beings produce is mind-boggling.  On the other hand, the efforts being made to lower the waste created through composting, recycling, and other programs gives hope.  The book is divided into seven chapters:

  1. The Bin and Beyond
  2. Trashing the Earth
  3. All about Recycling
  4. Food (Waste) for Thought
  5. Dirty Work
  6. The Future of Garbage
  7. Take Out the Trash
There are articles about people making a difference as well as creative uses of garbage. Infographics provide quick glimpses into junk in space, the most garbage producing nations, as well as facts about recycling and food waste.  Brief quizzes and suggestions for contributing to the effort to reduce waste are also included.  This is an important and eye-opening book for young readers.  It would also make a great text for environmental studies classes.  The illustrations are eye-catching if not always appealing (it is garbage after all).

Thursday, September 7, 2017

YA REVIEW: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.


Jack the Ripper is of course a well-known serial killer, but one who to this day remains a mystery in terms of who he was and why he did what he did.  That makes his story perfect for fictionalizing.  And Maniscalco does a fabulous job of it.  Combining the mystery of Jack the Ripper with her own interests in forensic science, Maniscalco has created a powerful tale of science, madness, and relationships gone awry.

Ever since her mother's death which lead Audrey Rose to abandon her faith in God, her curiosity has lead her to an interest in her uncle's work as a forensic scientist (an early version of a medical examiner).  But her father's rather paranoid need to protect her from every germ known to man (her mother died of scarlet fever which she caught tending Audrey Rose) means that Audrey Rose has to sneak around behind her father's back.  Things become more complicated when Audrey meets her uncle's assistant, Thomas, who she finds to be attractive but also amazingly obnoxious.  Dealing with her own complicated feelings for Thomas while avoiding detection by her father makes her efforts to help her uncle difficult.  But after Jack the Ripper's first victim is found, Audrey finds herself drawn in, compelled to help stop the monster responsible for such destruction. But a connection to her own family leaves Audrey wondering if she really wants to know the answer to the question: Who is Jack the Ripper?

The incredible details related both to the historical time period as well as early forensic science creates a book that I had a hard time putting down.  The relationships between characters also left a lot of questions about who is interested in who and who can be trusted.  And the shocking truth about Jack the Ripper's identity (the fictionalized Jack the Ripper of course) leaves both Audrey and the reader stunned to say the least. I will say that the choice of villain and the focus on forensic science means the book is quite gruesome.  I wouldn't recommend this for someone who doesn't have a strong stomach.  But those readers who enjoy a well-written mystery and enjoy shows such as CSI or NCIS, this one is a must.

I also appreciated the author's note at the end where the author explains what she fictionalized.  I learned things about the real Jack the Ripper I didn't know that make it clear that the man was very, very sick in his head.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW: Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari



Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.


Growing up is an experience that I wouldn't want to have again.  Books like this one bring back so many of those memories, both good and bad.  While I didn't have a sibling with an eating disorder, I did have a friend that I lost during those years because of changing interests.  Emily doesn't want her life to change.  She doesn't like the fact that her sister had to go to an eating disorder treatment facility.  She doesn't like the fact that her father left and now has an Alice in his life. But most of all, she doesn't want her friendship with Hazel to change.  And yet all of those things are happening.  Middle school can be a very confusing time and Maschari has captured that very well.  Emily doesn't really know where she fits at home or at school and she doesn't feel like anyone listens to her.  Her efforts to fit in with Hazel's new friends fizzle every time and Emily resents the attention her sister gets when she comes home.  After ordering a set of self-help CDs, Emily sets out to become the girl she wants to be.  But who is that exactly?  

Maschari does a great job of creating a character that is easy to relate to, one who wants to be popular and fit in with Hazel and the other field hockey girls, but who also wants to be herself.  She finds herself clinging to the old while being drawn to the new; new friends, new interests, and shifting relationships.  Emily's relationships felt genuine and reminded me of some of the relationships I've had over the years.  I have no doubt that young readers will find much to relate to as well.  The underlying themes are presented well with relationships being at the heart of it all.  Recommended for young readers who enjoy seeing themselves in what they read or those who are looking for windows into the experiences of those who are different.

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