Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ARC Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Publication: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (May 6, 2014)

Description: Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever in this new novel from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

My Thoughts: Emily's summer plans are all thrown into disarray when her friend Sloane disappears. Emily is used to being known as Sloane's friend. Following in Sloane's wake lets her take part without having to put herself out there. Sloane is the brave one, the one who can make every day seem filled with excitement. Sloane and Emily have been friends since ninth grade.

Shortly after Sloane's disappearance, Emily gets a letter from her which gives her a list of things to do. They had exchanged such lists before. But before, the lists always ended with instructions to find the other and tell them about the adventures. Emily decides to complete Sloane's list in the hopes that it will tell her something about where Sloane went.

Emily never expected to find herself and her courage by doing so many things that scared her. From kissing a stranger to dancing all night, Emily has an action-packed summer. She also gets to know Frank Porter along the way. Frank is the All-American, class president, over-achiever from their high school. Emily didn't think he even knew her name. She also makes friends with the girl who works at the pizza place next to where she has her summer job and Frank's best buddy Collins too. The four of them spend the summer hanging out and checking off the items on Emily's list.

This was a fast-paced wonderful story about growing up and learning who you are. I loved watching Emily face her fears and learn to face the world without Sloane breaking the trail for her. It was a great story about friendships old and new. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful story.

Favorite Quote:
I knew he meant Sloane. "Yeah," I said. I thought about telling him how it sometimes felt like I was only half there, without Sloane to talk to about what I was experiencing. How it felt like someone had chopped off my arm, and then for good measure taken my ID and sense of direction. How it was like I had no idea who I was, or where I was going, coupled with the fact that there was a piece of me missing that never seemed to stop hurting, never letting me forget, always reminding me I wasn't whole. But instead, I just looked at him, somehow understanding that he knew exactly what it was like to feel these things. "I do,."
I got this ARC through Amazon Vine. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Royally Lost by Angie Stanton

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
"Ten days of this. Shoot me now. Everything her is a gabillion years old. The palace of this, the castle of that. Seriously?"

"You're jet-lagged. We'll find lots of ways to have fun."
My teaser comes from Royally Lost by Angie Stanton. I got this eARC at Edelweiss. Here is the description of this May 6 release:
Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Susane Colasanti, and Jenny Han, Angie Stanton's brand-new romance asks the question, What would it be like to fall in love with a prince?

Dragged on a family trip to Europe, Becca wants nothing more than to go home. Trapped with her emotionally distant father, overeager stepmother, and a brother who only wants to hook up with European hotties, Becca is miserable. Until she meets Nikolai.

Nikolai has everything—he's a crown prince, heir to the throne, and girls adore him. But the one thing he doesn't have is freedom . . . so he flees his kingdom and goes on his own European trip.

And when Nikolai and Becca meet, sparks fly. But Becca's family vacation ends in a matter of days. Will Nikolai and Becca be forced to say good-bye, or will they change history forever?

Monday, April 28, 2014

State of the Stack (April 28, 2014)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on the last Monday of each month. Please feel free to join in and let me know the state of your stack.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet. Yellow highlighted books are ones past their publication date that I still haven't read and reviewed. I use pink highlights for reviews due in even numbered months so that I can see at a glance how many I have for each month. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books.  


I also do this post because sometimes (frequently) review books sit on my stack for a while before I read and review them. I try to read and review books within two weeks of publication date. Sometimes I can't, though, if too many books are releasing on the same date or if the book arrives too near its publication date and my calendar is already full. 

I am very grateful to the authors and publishers who support my reading habit. 

My Review Pile

Here are the books that are on my review stack in order of their release dates which are listed in parentheses. Links go to Amazon.

Past Release Date 
The first two were offered so that I could read a whole trilogy and arrived just this past week. The most recent book is going to be a May release. The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes (5/21/2013) and The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes  (10/15/2013) are the first two books in the Echoes of Empire trilogy.

Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach was released on April 22 and I got my eARC from Orbit on April 23. I hope to read this one at the end of May or in early June. It is the third book in this series and I still have to read book 2.

Mostly May
Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris (May 6) is an Amazon Vine pick that just arrived.
Risky Game by Tracy Solheim (May 6) was sent to me by the author because I wrote nice things about an earlier book in this series.
Caged Warrior by Alan Lawrence Sitomer (May 13) was a NetGalley pick.
Mila 2.0: Renegade by Debra Driza (May 13) was a Edelweiss pick.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (May 13) came from NetGalley.
Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn (May 13) came from Macmillan.
Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel (May 13) came from Macmillan too.
The Pillars of Sand by Mark T. Barnes (May 20) came from Amazon Publishing. 
The Summer Invitation by Charlotte Silver (May 20) came from Macmillan.
I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora (May 20) also came from Macmillan.
I first got The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst (May 27) from NetGalley but also got an ARC in the mail from Harlequin MIRA.
The Cursed by Heather Graham (May 27) was a NetGalley pick.
The Girl with the Windup Heart by Kady Cross (May 27) was a NetGalley pick.
Blur by Steven James (May 27) came from NetGalley too.
Vivian Divine Is Dead by Lauren Sabel (June 3) came from Edelweiss.

June/July
The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu (June 3) came to me from Macmillan.
On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor (June 10) also came from Macmillan.
Hexed by Michelle Krys (June 10) was NetGalley find.
Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore (June 17) was also a NetGalley find.
The Quick by Lauren Owen (June 17) was a LibraryThing win.
The Body in the Woods by April Henry (June 17) came from Macmillan.
The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor (June 24) was and Edelweiss find.
The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson (July 1) also came from Edelweiss.
On the Fence by Kasie West (July 1) came from Edelweiss too.
Wild by Alex Mallory (July 8) was also an Edelweiss find.
The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (July 15) came from Macmillan.
Shipwreck Island by S. A. Bodeen (July 29) came from Macmillan too.

Way Out There
Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper (Sept. 23) was an Edelweiss find.
The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling (Oct. 1) was a NetGalley find. 

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.
  1. Sekret by Lindsey Smith
  2. Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
  3. The Chance by Robyn Carr
  4. House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
  5. Otherwise Engaged by Amanda Quick
  6. Panic by Lauren Oliver
  7. The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa
  8. The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones
  9. Project Paper Doll: The Hunt by Stacey Kade
  10. The Taking by Kimberly Derting
  11. The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke 
  12. Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
  13. A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn (May 1)
  14. Royally Lost by Angie Stanton (May 1)
  15. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (July 5)
  16. Monument 14: Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne (May 3)
  17. The Falconer by Elizabeth May (May 3)
Other Reviews Posted in April
  1. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson (April 30)
  2. Notorious by Allison Brennan (April 3)
  3. Plus One by Elizabeth Fama (April 3)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst (May 27)
  2. Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (May 6)
  3. Panic by Lauren Oliver (March 4)
  4. The Falconer by Elizabeth May (May 6)
  5. The Garden of Stones by Mark T. Barnes (May 21, 2013)
  6. The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes (Oct. 15, 2013)
  7. The Pillars of Sand by Mark T. Barnes (May 20, 2014)
  8. Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach (April 22)
  9. Risky Business by Tracy Solheim (May 6)
  10. Heaven's Queen by Rachel Bach (April 22)
  11. Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris (May 6)
Next Month's Plan

I need to keep reading all of my May releases and I need to stop accepting any more review books! May is one of the busiest months of the school and I have promised to read 14 more May releases. I have already read and scheduled reviews for 6.

How are you doing with your review books?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Stacking the YA Shelves (April 27, 2014)

Tynga of  Team Tynga's Reviews hosts this meme to spotlight the books we receive each week. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the wonderful books everyone gets.

I just got a couple of books this week for my TBR stack. I got these because I had recently seen the authors at a conference and was curious about their books.
I got Skullduggery and Snatched by Pete Hautman and Mary Logue which now completes my set. I also got Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen. I bought hardcover copies from Amazon Marketplace so that I could donate them to my media center after reading.

What did you get this week?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

ARC Review: The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Wizard's Promise
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Publication: Strange Chemistry (May 6, 2014)

Description: Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji. She dreams of the same adventures, but little does she know she is about to tumble into one of her own. Hanna is apprenticed to a taciturn fisherman called Kolur, and, during a day of storms and darkness, are swept wildly off course.

In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy, and learns that Kolur has a deadly past, she soon realises that wishing for adventures is a dangerous game - because those wishes might come true.

My Thoughts: Hanna has always wanted adventure. She has grown up with the stories of her namesake Ananna. She, however, is just an apprentice to a fisherman and a young woman who has a little magic. But when her life turns into an adventure, she finds out that adventures are better once they are over and have entered the realm of stories.

On a routine fishing trip with her master Kolur, she learns that the trip is anything but routine. Kolur has been hiding that he is a sea mage and that he once had a romance with the Queen of Jandanvar. Now this queen is planning to marry a creature from the Mists. Kolur wants to stop them as do his companion Frida and a mysterious boy from the sea named Isolfr. Hanna is angry that she was swept off on this adventure without her consent. She leaves the rest of them when they arrive at an island called Tulja where she gets work on a fishing boat and makes friends.

However, the Mists are still targeting her and her friends. Hanna has lots of adventures and lots of problems to solve as she learns more.

The story was exciting and filled with adventure. I was intrigued with the magic in the story. I also liked Hanna and was eager to see her succeed. I can't wait for the next book in the series because, while this doesn't really end on a cliffhanger, it does still leave the major problem unsolved.

Favorite Quote:
"Gods! No one will tell me anything."

"Because you're young and ignorance will better serve you. Come, before Kolur leaves us behind."
I got this eARC at NetGalley. You can get your copy here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Memes: The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

This week I am spotlighting The Wizard's Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke. I got this eARC at NetGalley. I chose it because I read a two other books by her and enjoyed them. Here is the description of this May 6 release:
Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji. She dreams of the same adventures, but little does she know she is about to tumble into one of her own. Hanna is apprenticed to a taciturn fisherman called Kolur, and, during a day of storms and darkness, are swept wildly off course.
In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy, and learns that Kolur has a deadly past, she soon realises that wishing for adventures is a dangerous game - because those wishes might come true.
Beginning:
I was picking ice berries for Mama's start-of-spring cake when a spark of magic smacked me in the side of the head.
Friday 56:
I didn't know what to make of Frida. She was probably the most interesting person I'd ever met, and if she'd wandered into the village one afternoon, I bet I would have tried to be her best friend. But out her on the cold water, with all those looks between her and Kolur, and all those secrets, she left me nervous. Unsettled.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle
Authors: Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Series: Nick and Tesla
Publication: Quirk Books (May 6, 2014)

Description: After foiling a gang of kidnappers and fending off an army of robots, 11-year-old siblings Nick and Tesla Holt could use a little rest! But as their third mystery opens, they discover there’s a spy in their midst, searching for secrets in the home of their beloved (and slightly crazy) Uncle Newt. Is it the new laboratory assistant? The exterminator? The housekeepers? Or someone completely unexpected? To expose the mystery agent, Nick and Tesla must engineer all kinds of outrageous contraptions, from code wheels and fingerprint powder to spy cameras and burglar detectors. Best of all, instructions are included throughout the story, so you can build the projects, too!

My Thoughts: Nick and Tesla are back at it again in this third story. They know that someone is spying on them and they have loads and loads of suspects. Is it their neighbor Julie Casserly? She is always fussing around her yard and some of Uncle Newt's inventions have done damage. Her garden gnome will never be the same. Or is it Mr. Jones who is Uncle Newt's neighbor on the other side. Nick is suspicious of everyone they know in town from the lone police officer to the man who delivers the mail.

Their suspicions are really roused when they come home one day to find that Uncle Newt has hired an exterminator who seems suspiciously afraid of bugs and two cleaning ladies too. Then the apprentice Uncle Newt didn't remember hiring arrives. Oli says he is from Australia but he had a strong Russian accent and doesn't seem to know very much about science.

Nick and Tesla take the opportunity to contrive a number of devices the let them spy on the suspicious people including a fingerprint finder, a "ring-a-ding-ding spy exposure system", and a hidden camera. They also make a code ring using styrofoam cups so that they can write in code to each other. There are plans in the book so that young spies and inventors can make the gadgets too.

The story is fast-paced and filled with funny incidents. Middle grade mystery readers will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
Nick and Tesla's uncle was an inspired, ingenious, innovative inventor. Unfortunately, he was also a forgetful, dreamy, not-particularly-safety-minded one. Since the kids had come to stay with him a couple of weeks earlier, his out-of-control creations had chewed up Julie's flower beds, demolished one of her garden gnomes, set her lawn on fire, and splattered her car with thirty pounds of putrid banana flambé. (Uncle Newt was convinced he could build an engine for a vacuum cleaner that ran on compost. So far, he'd only succeeded in building several extremely smelly time bombs.)
I got my copy from the publisher for review. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
"I don't know," Tesla said. "Doesn't it seem a bit too obvious? The guy might as well have a neon sign around his neck flashing Spy! Spy! Spy!"

"So you don't think he's a spy because he seems too much like a spy?"
This week my teaser comes from Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith. It is the third Nick and Tesla book. This are middle grade mysteries that also infuse a lot of science into the story. They include experiments that the reader can make (with adult supervision.)

Here is the description of this May 6 release:
After foiling a gang of kidnappers and fending off an army of robots, 11-year-old siblings Nick and Tesla Holt could use a little rest! But as their third mystery opens, they discover there’s a spy in their midst, searching for secrets in the home of their beloved (and slightly crazy) Uncle Newt. Is it the new laboratory assistant? The exterminator? The housekeepers? Or someone completely unexpected? To expose the mystery agent, Nick and Tesla must engineer all kinds of outrageous contraptions, from code wheels and fingerprint powder to spy cameras and burglar detectors. Best of all, instructions are included throughout the story, so you can build the projects, too!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stacking the YA Shelves (April 20, 2014)

Tynga of  Team Tynga's Reviews hosts this meme to spotlight the books we receive each week. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the wonderful books everyone gets.

Here is what I added to my stack over the last two weeks.
Skulk by Rosie Best was a Kindle Daily deal. It sounded like an interesting urban fantasy novel.

Doppelganger by Pete Hautman and Mary Logue is the third book in the Bloodwater Mystery series. I bought all three after hearing Mary Logue speak recently. This is the only one that arrived so far.
Stolen Songbird by Daniellle L. Jensen was chosen for my Kindle after I saw it reviewed on someone's blog. It looked like something I would enjoy.

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata was a Kindle Daily Deal this week.

Despite trying not to add Review books to my stack, I couldn't resist signing up to win a copy of The Falconer by Elizabeth May at LibraryThing half hoping I wouldn't win. However, I did and that May 6 release arrived this week too.
What did you add to your stack this week?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

ARC Review: Project Paper Doll: The Hunt by Stacey Kade

Project Paper Doll: The Hunt
Author: Stacey Kade
Series: Project Paper Doll (Book 2)
Publication: Disney Hyperion (April 22, 2014)

Description: Ariane Tucker has finally escaped GTX, the research facility that created her. While on the run, Zane Bradshaw is the only person she can trust. He knows who—and what—she is and still wants to be part of her life. But accepting Zane's help means putting him in danger. Dr. Jacobs, head of GTX, is not the only one hunting for Ariane. Two rival corporations have their sights set on taking down their competition. Permanently. To protect Zane and herself, Ariane needs allies. She needs the other hybrids. The hybrids who are way more alien and a lot less human. Can Ariane win them over before they turn on her? Or will she be forced to choose sides, to decide who lives and who dies?

My Thoughts: THE HUNT begins immediately after THE RULES. If, like me, it has been a while since you have read the first book, you might be a little lost for the first couple of pages. Ariane has escaped from GTX and Zane is with her. They have just picked up an emergency bag containing money, ID and other essentials left for her by her "father" Mark Tucker. They are on the run but really don't know where to go. Also, Ariane is concerned that letting Zane go with her only puts him in more danger than he would be in if he left her. They decide to find Zane's mother who had left the family.

Getting to Zane's mother created more problems than it solves. Ariane knows her as the one technician who was at least marginally good to her when she being experimented on in the GTX labs. New she is working with a competitor with GTX trying to socialize the three alien-human hybrids in that lab.

There are three labs and three men trying to develop the super soldier who will win some upcoming trials - Jacobs of GTX, Laughlin of Laughlin Integrated Enterprises, and Emerson St. John of Emerson Technology, Incorporated. This story concentrates on Ariane trying to get to the hybrids in Laughlin's lab and convincing them to team up to sabotage the trials and gain themselves some freedom.

This story was emotionally intense because Zane and Ariane are falling in love but both have insecurities that create misunderstandings. Neither has ever been number one in anyone's life. Ariane, raised in a lab and by a "father" who was caring for her so that his real daughter could get some medical treatment, has never been loved or formed any relationships. Zane is the disregarded second son who can never meet his father's unrealistic expectations and whose mother abandons him. Ariane's trying to ditch Zane for his own safety just looks like another case of abandonment to him.

This was an exciting and entertaining middle book in a trilogy. I can't wait to read the next one to find out how it all works out.

Favorite Quote:
He loved me. The mix of exhilaration and adrenaline was like carbonated bubble in my bloodstream, a physical representation of joy. This is what joy feels like. No wonder people lived and died for this feeling.
I got this eARC from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Memes: Project Paper Doll: The Hunt by Stacey Kade

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

This week I am spotlighting Project Paper Doll: The Hunt by Stacey Kade. I got this eARC from NetGalley. This is the sequel to The Rules which I read and reviewed earlier. This sequel will be released on April 22.

Here is the description:
Ariane Tucker has finally escaped GTX, the research facility that created her. While on the run, Zane Bradshaw is the only person she can trust. He knows who-and what-she is and still wants to be part of her life.

But accepting Zane's help means putting him in danger.

Dr. Jacobs, head of GTX, is not the only one hunting for Ariane. Two rival corporations have their sights set on taking down their competition. Permanently.

To protect Zane and herself, Ariane needs allies. She needs the other hybrids. The hybrids who are way more alien and a lot less human. Can Ariane win them over before they turn on her? Or will she be forced to choose sides, to decide who lives and who dies?
Beginning:
Until I crawled beneath the designated dumpster behind the abandoned Linens-N-Things and felt the brush of rough canvas against my fingertips, I really wasn't sure the emergency bag would be there, as my father had promised. 
Friday 56:
So now, as if the possibility of death in a formal competitive setting weren't enough, I apparently had to worry about plain old murder. That was new.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ARC Review: The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones & Ursula Jones

The Islands of Chaldea
Authors: Diana Wynne Jones, Ursula Jones
Publication: Greenwillow Books (April 22, 2014)

Description: The Islands of Chaldea is a new novel of magic and adventure by the renowned fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones, who left behind many acclaimed and beloved books upon her death in 2011, including the internationally bestselling Howl's Moving Castle and the Chrestomanci books. The Islands of Chaldea was completed by Diana Wynne Jones's sister Ursula Jones, an acclaimed novelist and actress.

Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But even though she is old enough, Aileen's magic has yet to reveal itself. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she'll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident and her magic blooms. This stand-alone novel is a perfect introduction to the novels of the beloved Diana Wynne Jones.

My Thoughts: THE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA is a fun, middle grade novel filled with a magic, adventure, and even some romance. Aileen is supposed to have magic. After all, all the women in her family did and her Aunt Beck is a particularly powerful magician. But Aileen's magic isn't showing itself. Her initiation seems to have been a failure.

Aileen is sent on a mission along with her Aunt Beck, the King's second son Ivar, his servant Ogo of Logra to find a way to break the spell which has raised a barrier between the island of Logra and the other islands of Chaldea - Skarr, Bernica and Gallis. The High King's son Alasdair and his hunting party which included Aileen's father was kidnapped to Logra just before the barrier was raised. But there is a prophecy that says a Wise Woman accompanied by a man from each of the islands will be able to break the spell.

The islands also have four guardian beasts. Skarr's is the beast of the North who shows himself as a cat. Bernica's is a parrot. Gallis' is a red dragon. Logra's is a bull with wings. As it happens, as the group travels from island to island they meet men who choose to come along each with a guardian beast. Skarr's beast shows itself to Aileen when the group is almost stranded on a deserted island and comes along for the trip. Sometimes it is invisible and sometimes it can be seen.

Our travelers have lots of adventures on the trip as they have to deal with sabotaged luggage, indifferent priests, and evil magicians on their way to Logra. Aileen discovers that she does have magic along the way when it is necessary for her to take over from her aunt after the aunt has a spell cast on her.

I liked Aileen who grew in confidence as she made the journey. I thought it was interesting that she had decided to marry Ivar someday despite the fact that he was spoiled, arrogant, cowardly, and not very bright and that she kept overlooking all of Ogo's many virtues.

This was a great middle grade story for magic lovers.

Favorite Quote:
I was glad the dress looked good, but what was going on with this voyage? We had been given contaminated clothes and poisonous medicine and a Captain who would happily have left us stranded on that island. But surely Kenig and Mavenne didn't want to lose their own son. Did they? But Donal  would love to be rid of his brother, I thought. He had never liked Ivar. And Donal had definitely been plotting something, back on Skarr.
I got this eARC from Edelweiss for review. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
"As you know,: he said to us—all of us, though I think he spoke chiefly to my aunt—"ten years ago the magicians of Logra cast a spell on our islands of Chaldea so that no one from here, however hard they try, can get to Logra." He nodded to the Priest, who was so grimly eager to speak that he was sidling in his seat.
This week my teaser comes from the eARC of The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones. She left this standalone, fantasy manuscript incomplete at her death in 2011 and the story was finished by her sister Ursula Jones. Here is the description of this April 22 release:
Aileen comes from a long line of magic makers, and her Aunt Beck is the most powerful magician on Skarr. But even though she is old enough, Aileen's magic has yet to reveal itself. When Aileen is sent over the sea on a mission for the King, she worries that she'll be useless and in the way. A powerful (but mostly invisible) cat changes all of that—and with every obstacle Aileen faces, she becomes stronger and more confident and her magic blooms. This stand-alone novel is a perfect introduction to the novels of the beloved Diana Wynne Jones. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spotlight on Books 2014

I've just returned from the annual Spotlight on Books Conference held at the lovely Sugar Lake Resort near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. I am overstuffed with ideas, memories and the delicious foods served at the conference.

My conference began on Friday afternoon when Laura Givens spoke about the new Star of the North children's choice award. She was the main instigator for this new award and serves as Chairman of the committee for it. The winner's of this year's award will be announced later this month as will the nominee's for next year's award. I am eager to have my students participate by reading this books and voting for their choices.

Laura also spoke briefly about using Twitter for her PLN which was of interest for me as the only media specialist in my district. I am constantly looking for ways to connect with other people who have the same sort of job I do.

Friday evening we had lightning rounds where various speakers had 7 minutes to tell us about a program, activity, or useful tip. We learned about a paranormal investigation at an area library because some people feel it is haunted. We learned about using Storybird to have students write books. We learned about Project Read which puts books in the hands of children who might not otherwise have books to read. We learned a way to extend the life of paperback books in our media centers. And many more things too!

Saturday morning was the time for local authors to introduce their books. Then the featured authors all had time to speak.

This year's featured authors were Mary Logue who first picture book - Sleep Like a Tiger - won a Caldecott Honor for the illustrator. Mary also writes young adult and middle grade books but is mostly known for her Claire Watkins adult mysteries set near the Mississippi River in SE Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin.

I bought Killer Librarian for my Kindle. I also have the first couple of Claire Watkins books on my Kindle.

I bought the three mysteries she wrote with her partner Pete Hautman - Snatched, Skullduggery, and Doppelganger to read myself and then donate to my elementary media center.

Michael Hall shared his amazing picture books with us and told us how his past experiences in science and as a graphic designer led him to this career. His books are filled with bright colors and clever shapes and tell amazing stories.



He read us his latest release - It's an Orange Aardvark - which will be available on April 22 and also shared the story of a red crayon which will be his next book.

We finished the afternoon by hearing Will Alexander talk about his books. Will won a National Book Award for his debut novel Goblin Secrets. He told us how his first career as an actor led to his current career as a writer. He talked about how his desire to live in a story led him to acting and to writing.
All in all, it was an amazing conference and I can't wait to attend next year.