As Jing turns eleven, she realizes that the age is “like an age of breakthroughs – tea-drying for the first time, my first offering to the guardian, visiting a new city, getting a new hanfu…new adventure, new experiences” (30). What seems like an exciting new period of her life quickly turns into her greatest fear, though. Jing’s widowed Aunt Mei has led the family since the death of Jing’s mother, and because of low resources, she convinces Jing’s father that it is time for Jing to get married. Jing is spirited enough to fight back against the plan to sell her to a big cityRead More →

Poppy, Marcus, Azumi, Dash, and Dylan are five children who do not know anything about one another until they meet in the Shadow House. Poppy is an orphan living in a group home with other young women. She is different than the other girls and has difficulty making friends. Recently, every time Poppy looks into the mirror, there is a Girl staring back at her. Suddenly, Poppy comes across a letter addressed to her from a Great-Aunt Delphinia who invites her to come live with her on her estate. Poppy eagerly grabs her belongings, and runs out the door. Marcus, a talented musician, seems toRead More →

David Neilsen is a professional teller of spooky, horrific tales for all ages. For his first novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, he’s chosen to stick to what he’s good at. Intended for readers between the ages of 8 and 12, Neilsen offers a quirky, uniquely chilling story that provides an engaging and suspenseful read for everyone, especially if you are afraid of going to the doctor. It all starts when someone buys the abandoned house on Hardscrabble Street. It’s a house “of imagination, a blank canvas just waiting to be painted with the gleeful brushstrokes of youth” (2). The kids from theRead More →

“What do you do when your favorite teacher starts turning into a were-hyena?” (1). That’s the question raised in The Curse of the Were-Hyena by Bruce Hale, the first in the new Monstertown Mystery series. Smart, silly, and intriguing, this middle-grade novel is an all-around fun time. “Forget about homework habits and curriculum goals – this is the kind of practical stuff they should cover in back-to-school orientation” (1). Carlos and Benny are your average fourth grade best friends, “just regular, comics-nerd-type kids” with the best teacher in the whole school (61). Mr. Chu teaches in exciting and engaging ways and all of his studentsRead More →

“Nothing is quieter, or has more secrets . . . than a book that’s closed” (233), writes Avi in his newest novel, School of the Dead.  With each turn of the page, the book whispers its secrets about why Uncle Charlie is so different, why Jessica Richards walks with a limp, and how Tony Gilbert gets in to Penda School, a private school in San Francisco, so easily. Uncle Charlie may be eccentric, but he is the best friend of sixth grader Tony Gilbert, who hates fakery—especially adults who pretend to enjoy adolescent pastimes.  But Uncle Charlie loves kids’ stuff like video games, spooky stories, andRead More →

Separated from their parents while at sea, fourteen-year-old Molly McConnachie, an Irish immigrant escaping the famine in County Donegal, Ireland, has found herself in Cellar Hollow with her ten-year-old brother, Kip.  Along with their horse Galileo—who is as loyal as he is stubborn—the children make their way to Windsor Estate, where Molly has a job, but folks along the route warn them against the sourwoods.  Hester Kettle, a storyteller who plays the hurdy gurdy, is vehement about the foreboding that awaits: “They say the sourwoods changes folks. . . brings out somethin’ horrible in ‘em” (10).  Convinced this is all frightening nonsense, she and Kip,Read More →

I pretty much hate it when I am reading a series and the author reintroduces characters and themes passed the first book. I have great appreciation for an author who has confidence in her/his readers’ intelligence.  That being said; some series must be read in order, this book being a prime example. Cole Gibsen‘s Shinobi is the third book of Gibsen’s Katana series.  As engaging as this book may be, it does not stand alone. As the characters are reincarnated samurai, this book alternates between the past and present.  There were many poignant, important memories from which I was left out. In fact, it wasn’t untilRead More →

I tend to love Civil War Era novels. This may be because the absolute horror of the time tends to lend itself really well to dramatic tension.  The conflicts present in Jane Nickerson‘s The Mirk and Midnight Hour most certainly could have made for a lot of high tension drama, but, unfortunately, they fell short. Ms. Nickerson introduces a wide range of themes throughout the novel; communicating with wildlife, the Civil War, slave society, voodoo, xenophobia, blended families, love, and treachery.  A strong development of any of these would have made for a really interesting story, but none were ever completely explored. Violet is living duringRead More →

Dirk Lloyd, I mean Jamie Thomson, continues his harrowing, humorous tales of exile in Dark Lord: Schools Out. While Dirk has “acclimated” to the inane and foolish customs of the humans amongst whom he’s been exiled, he still chaffs and the confines of his magic-deprived, powerless human banishment.  His attempt to return to The Darklands has gone tragically wrong and instead of finding himself back home, somehow his minion Sooz has been transported there instead.  Tormented by the injustice of this, the Dark Lord insists that Chris, his only remaining minion, help him contact Sooz and save her from what Dirk knows will be aRead More →