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REVIEW: Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee

Summary


After helping with the major attack in book 2 (Supergirl at Super Hero High), Batgirl earns a place at Super Hero High. Even though she has no super powers, she is welcomed into the school community with mostly open arms. Her teachers adore her. Only one shows any resistance to her placement there – Commissioner Gordon. Her father.

Barbara/Batgirl is determined to secure her place at Super Hero High and fulfill her dream of fighting crime. Her father is equally determined to keep her home and keep her safe.

Is there any way both of them can be happy?

Review


My favorite book in this series so far! I fell in love with Barbara Gordon’s character when I read the Supergirl book in this series. I was thrilled to see that she was going to get her own story next. And the book lived up to my hopes.

Batgirl is appealing to me because she doesn’t have traditional superpowers. She’s brilliant, and she uses her intellect to create gadgets for herself and tech solutions for everyone else.

One of the things I like about this series is that the core of each book is about each girl establishing her own identity and/or overcoming some issue (confidence, loneliness, etc.) to start developing into the hero she has potential to be. Yes, there’s a villain and a plot to foil and a battle to wage and win. But those things only facilitate the character development going on. In Batgirl’s case, she is dealing with identity issues like the rest. In her case, they center around competing as a non-superpowered individual, individuating from her dad while still keeping a relationship him, over-committing, and letting herself be part of a  team. I loved every minute of the process for Batgirl!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Katana gets the next book in the series this summer!

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BOOK NEWS: February 28, 2017

The last Tuesday of the month means LOTS of great books releasing this week. Take a look:

Books for Kids


Lego Big Book of Animals – Part of the Lego Nonfiction line of books. Can’t go wrong with animal books AND Lego!
Agatha Christie – Picture book biography of author Agatha Christie (releases March 2)
Becoming Bach – Picture book biography of my favorite composer!
Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression – Picture book biography of Depression-era photographer, Dorothea Lange
Little Fox in the Forest – Two kids have a forest adventure when a real life fox runs off with the girl’s stuffed one.
You Can Read – Picture Book celebrating the adventure of reading!
I’m Batgirl – New Early Reader from the Lego Batman Movie, focusing on my favorite DC character, Batgirl
Dragon Masters: Search for the Lightning Dragon – I am a huge fan of the Branches line of books from Scholastic. They are PERFECT first chapter books for new readers. This is book 7 in this series about dragons with magic powers and the kids who care for them.
Nancy Clancy, Late Breaking News – Fancy Nancy chapter books are terrific for kids who loved the picture books, but are ready for something meatier/longer. This is book 8 in the series.
Bad Guys: Mission Unpluckable – Bad Guys, Book 2
Elle the Thumbelina Fairy – I loved these fairy stories when I was teaching. They are short, making them a quick read for young readers. The language in them, though, is pretty strong, making this a perfect recommendation for young readers who are also strong readers but may not yet be old enough for middle grade stories.
Mariana the Goldilocks Fairy
Rosalie the Rapunzel Fairy
Ruth the Red Riding Hood Fairy

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


Backstories: Darth Vadar – This is a fantastic series (started with Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman) that gives the foundational stories of major pop culture figures.
Family Game Night and other Catastrophes – Annabelle struggles to keep people at a distance so no one finds out how out of control her mother’s hoarding has gotten. Can’t wait to read this!
Frogkisser – A princess who can break curses with a kiss ventures out with some interesting friends to try to save her kingdom from her evil stepfather. Sounds like my kind of book!
Goldfish Boy – A boy with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) may be a witness in the case of a missing toddler in his neighborhood. I so want to read this one (oh, who am I kidding?! I want to read all of them)!
See You in the Cosmos – A boy keeps a running commentary on his iPod about his life and the people he meets, hoping to someday launch it into space to tell other life forms about Earth. Looking forward to reading this one!
Well That Was Awkward – Middle school story of what to do when your best friend likes your secret crush. Top of my wish list for this week!
Science Comics: Bats – This is a cool graphic novel non-fiction series. I’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series.
Tornado Terror – As a librarian I sometimes had trouble convincing kids to willingly read nonfiction. When Lauren Tarshis started publishing non-fiction books with the same accessible style as her I Survived fiction books, I didn’t have trouble any more!
What Was the Age of the Dinosaurs? – The latest book in this fantastic non-fiction series for kids. Can’t go wrong with dinosaurs!
Stranger than FanFiction – I’m looking forward to reading this Teen/YA book by actor/author Chris Colfer about a TV star and a few of his fans going on a road trip.
The Hate U Give – Sort of a “ripped from the headlines” story of a girl who witnesses her best friend get shot and killed by a police officer. The buzz for this book is tremendous! Everyone I know who got an early copy has said this is a must read.
Width of the World – Book 3 in the Vega Jane series by David Baldacchi

Books for Adults


Banana Cream Pie Murder – Book 21 in the Hannah Swendson Bakeshop series (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries have turned some of these into fun movies!)
Death by Chocolate Lab – Book one in the new Lucky Paws Petsitting mystery series!
Fatality by Firelight – Book two in the Cat Latimer mystery series. You can read my review of book one here.
Kneaded to Death – Book one in the new Bread Shop mystery series!
The Long Mirage – The latest book in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine saga
Brave Is the New Beautiful – “Finding the Courage to be the Real You.” Sounds like this would be a great small group or Sunday school resource to study.
Divided We Stand – Historic exploration of the facets of the Women’s Movement  – from both sides of the aisle, liberal and conservative.
Grace is Greater – This looks like a great discussion of God’s grace that is available to each of us!
The Modern Enneagram – I have been studying the Enneagram personality system this year. I am curious to see how this book lines up with the other things I have been reading.
Portraits of Courage – A book of paintings and stories of American military veterans by former President George W. Bush

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BLOG TOUR: Bluff by Julie Dill

Summary


Chelsea is desperate. Her dad’s nonchalance about work and money is not getting their bills paid. If she waits much longer, their power will get turned off – again – or they’ll get evicted.

Chelsea catches a poker game on TV, and an idea starts to form. She’s technically not old enough to gamble. But if she’s lucky, and no one cards her, maybe she can make enough money to not only pay their bills but also cover her cheerleading fees. And if she’s really lucky, she might have enough to live a “normal” life like her friends! Chelsea’s going to have to bluff a lot to pull this off!

BLOG TOUR!


Welcome to the Blog Tour for Bluff by Julie Dill. I am grateful to the folks at PR by the Book for inviting me to be a part of the tour and for providing an electronic  review copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

This is not a book I would have sought out on my own to read, but I am so glad I had a chance to read it. The story was completely engrossing. I was often holding my breath to see if Chelsea was going to pull things off or get caught. The suspense was really well-paced. The poker and gambling pieces were fairly easy to follow even thought I’ve never been to a casino.

The best part of the storytelling for me was how well the author made Chelsea sympathetic. Chelsea was carrying the full load of responsibility for the finances of her family. She was negotiating to keep the power on but at the same time she had no idea what happens when you put a full tank of gas in a car. She only ever put in a few dollars at a time – whatever she had to spare. When she wins at poker and goes shopping, she thinks, “Is this what it’s like to be normal?” It broke my heart. She longs to fit in with the girls at her school who buy whatever they want whenever they want it. Her best friend gives her $100 without a thought. These are things Chelsea has never experienced. Until now.

It’s easy to see how Chelsea gets sucked into gambling. The money she wins gives her a sense of freedom. But losing leaves her desperate. She gives it up for awhile but gets drawn back in whenever she has a little money in her pocket and the need for the thrill. The author does a great job of showing the addictive side to gambling!

There’s a romantic subplot that amps up the tension and adds to the things Chelsea is lying about and the number of people she is lying to. There’s also some language.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

This was a great story! For me it was a nice change of pace from my usual teen story lines. I appreciated the opportunity to consider the issue of teens and addiction from a different perspective from drinking or drugs. This would be an interesting book to read with teens and talk through. This is an author I would certainly read again! Thanks once more to PR by the Book and Julie Dill for the opportunity to be a part of the #BluffBlogTour and to read Bluff.

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REVIEW: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

Summary


Avery has always thought she was a pretty ordinary girl. Sure, she has violet eyes that draw way too much attention, so she covers them with colored contacts. And her mom’s job keeps them moving around the country at a breakneck pace. So she has few close friends and she keeps to herself so it’s less painful when they inevitably have to leave again. But otherwise, totally ordinary!

But “ordinary girls” don’t get mugged at the prom or whisked to Paris without a passport or go clubbing in Istanbul.

They also don’t get attacked at knife point at a private Prada fitting or get shot at while climbing down a fire escape. So maybe Avery’s not as ordinary as she always thought.

Review


I really enjoyed this first book in what has become The Conspiracy of Us series. It’s like The 39 Clues for young adults. There are various families that are controlling factions, there’s clue-hunting around the world, and an ancient history piece thrown in as well. The chemistry between two of the main characters as well as the knife and gun violence and kidnapping are what ages this up to the YA crowd. And it all works!

I was completely pulled into the story from the start. I still have some unanswered questions and this ended with an intriguing cliffhanger. So, book two, The Map of Fates, is now a must-read.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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REVIEW: The Pact by Jennifer Sturman

Summary


An almost wedding mystery. Rachel Benjamin and her college girlfriends made a pact, once upon a time, to save one another from bad relationships. When Emma’s deplorable fiance dies the night before the wedding, Rachel has to wonder if one of her friends followed through on The Pact.

If it wasn’t one of the girls, there aren’t many other choices. The only people at the property were wedding party members or family. Who would have taken such drastic steps to keep Emma and Richard from getting married?

Review


I read this series years ago, but didn’t remember much about it so I decided to read it again. Because I remembered so little, I was able to (unsuccessfully) try to guess at the culprit as if I was reading it for the first time.

The main characters  – the five college friends – are written well as distinct personalities. I hope the rest of the books in the series will give me a better sense of all five of them, as well as their significant others. I wanted to know more about them as I read this.

The mystery was delightfully twisty. I liked that it kept me guessing all the way through. There were plenty of possible culprits. And the motives were realistic and plausible. Rachel is an interesting sleuth. When she thinks someone did it, she goes all in! I’m looking forward to re-reading the other books in this series. This book did include some foul language.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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REVIEW: Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor

Summary


An elderly woman and three kids with their families meet up at a run down motel. Aggie has struggled to keep the motel going since her husband died. Willow’s dad is looking to buy the motel as a fresh start for their family. For Willow, it is just a reminder of all she has lost. Loretta is looking to connect with her dead “other mother” by visiting places she might have gone. Kirby is on his way to reform school – his “last chance” to get his act together, something his family seems to doubt is possible. The Sleepy Time Motel will be their home for several days that will impact all of them.

Review


I love stories that take characters from different places and throw them together to see what happens. That idea – along with the description of Aggie and the kids – were what prompted me to pick this book up in the first place. I was delighted by the story.

Willow’s story is probably my favorite from the book. She seems to endure the most change in her circumstances and I loved how things worked out. Loretta was just a delight from start to finish. Kirby’s story left me wanting more. He gets to see himself in a new way through the story. I’d love to know what happens to him.

I read Wish by Barbara O’Connor a few weeks ago. I liked both of these books which probably means I should try some more. My students enjoyed How to Steal a Dog. I might have to add that one to my list.

Rating:♥♥♥♥

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BOOK NEWS: February 21, 2017

Here are some of the new releases for this week. I hope you find something that would be perfect for you or the readers in your life!

 

Grand Canyon – If you are a classroom teacher or a parent looking for a great nonfiction author for kids, Jason Chin should be at the top of your list. I loved his coral reef and redwoods books. I am eager to see this one in person.
Great Big Boom – I adore this graphic novel series for kids. This one was at the top of my “to buy” list when I was a librarian. This is book three in the series. If you haven’t read one before, I suggest you start with book one, The Boy Who Crashed to Earth.
Sci-Fi Junior High – From James Patterson’s new publishing imprint, this is a new-kid-at-school story, set in outer space. This looks fun!
Saturdays at Sea – The fifth and final book in the Tuesdays at the Castle/Castle Glower series about a princess and a magical castle that can change its own shape and interior. This is one of those series that I have been wanting to read, but never started. With the series wrapping up, now is the time to dive in because I will be able to read the whole stack from start to finish!
Son of Neptune Graphic Novel – If I had to pick just one favorite Percy Jackson book, this would be the one. I can’t wait to see how they have adapted the story for a graphic novel format!
Twelve Angry Librarians – If I could only read one mystery series for the rest of my life, the Cat in the Stacks series would be a top contender. I love that the main character is a librarian (and a male librarian at that) and that his Maine Coon cat is an integral part of each story. I can’t wait to read this new book, 8th in the series.
Star Wars Aftermath: Empire’s End – Final book in the Aftermath trilogy. Reviews of the series online have been mixed, but I am intrigued anyway. I read that this particular book in the series includes the birth of Ben Solo, which could be interesting. If you have read these, I would love to know what you think of them!
Why I Left/Why I Stayed – Tony and Bart Campolo tell the stories of their experiences with the Christian faith, how they find themselves on different sides of the faith question, and how that impacted their relationship. This sounds fascinating to me. I’m eager to read this one.
You Are Free – While Christians know they are free in Christ, it can be hard to live like it. This book looks at how we can let the head knowledge take root in our hearts and help us to truly live in freedom.

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REVIEW: Going Geek by Charlotte Huang

Summary


Skylar is about to start her senior year at her prestigious East Coast boarding school. But already things aren’t going like she planned. Her parents are having money troubles. So instead of interning at her mom’s movie production company over the summer break, Skylar had to work at their club – as a waitress. Then her school says there’s been a housing shake up and she loses her prime spot in the best dorm with all of her friends. Then when everyone finds out about how she really spent her summer, and that she kept it all secret from them, she loses what little normalcy she has left. This was not how her senior year was supposed to go!

Review


Books (and Hallmark Channel movies)  tend to work in one of two ways. Either things start out great, hit a major snag near the three-quarters point and then resolve or everything falls apart at the start and the character has to claw his or her way back. This book fits the second scenario. Bit by bit, Skylar loses everything that was important to her. She loses her identity. And you cringe as you read it because it is painful.

But things slowly start to change. Skylar gives her new situation a chance. She opens up to new people. She discovers some things about herself. And it’s an immensely satisfying journey! I really loved Skylar’s new community – and the person she becomes when she opens herself up to them. If the author decides to write a sequel, I would totally read it! (Some language)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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REVIEW: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Summary


A fascinating look at racial identity development. Looks at a multitude of races – Black, White, Asian, Native American, Hispanic and Biracial identity.  There’s also discussion of the racial identity of Black children adopted by White parents. Examines the need for same race peer groups and mentors as well as looking at race at each age and developmental stage. This is a thorough examination of racial identity formation.

 

Review


The title of this book first caught my attention several years ago. As an elementary school teacher, I noticed this phenomenon with our older students but not usually the younger ones, and I did wonder what that was about. I wish I had read this book at the time because it would have enlightened me and changed my attitude about my observations.

This was fascinating and challenging reading. I loved the psychological aspect of this discussion of race. I had set a goal to read a book about race this year. This one was a perfect fit for me with the psychological pieces and the educational angle.

I think this is a great resource for a lot of people – teachers, school administrators, parents, professionals who work with kids, and anyone interested in improved relationships between people of different races.

The developmental pieces – how kids process race as preschoolers versus adolescents – are fascinating. And the book challenges the idea that it’s best to not mention race to kids so they won’t notice it. They already notice it! Our silence doesn’t help them process their observations in a healthy, and accepting way.

This book challenged me. It challenged my assumptions. I read things and felt myself start to get defensive. I was reading things slowly enough, though, that I noticed it and could stop and check myself and look at what preconceived notions were being challenged. This is not a book to be read quickly if you are reading it to learn and to grow in your own racial identity and in your understanding of the racial identity development of others. It’s also a very dense book. I don’t know that you could read it quickly and get much out of it. This is a book to be studied rather that a quick cover-to-cover kind of read.

I highly recommend this. This would be a terrific resource for teachers to read and discuss together. It would also be a great summer read for teachers doing professional development. There’s an extensive resource list and notes in the back matter that offer more information and other resources to investigate.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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REVIEW: Star Wars ABC-3PO by Calliope Glass and Caitlin Kennedy

Summary


A Star Wars Alphabet book. Includes references from Episodes I through VII and Star Wars Rebels. Each letter has an illustration as well as a poem. A is for Ackbar and B is for Boba Fett! The general format looks like a board book, but the pages are paper. It’s more of a picture book in a smaller size.

Review


Isn’t that cover darling?! This book is SO fun! The poems include lots of fun movie references. It can take a few tries to get the rhythm right on some of them (The poems don’t all use the same formula or rhyme scheme) but they are worth the extra effort because they are so fun. I imagine that a parent reading this at bedtime a few hundred times will know the poems by heart in no time.

The illustrations by Katie Cook are fantastic! They are really what drew me to the book in the first place. They made the book special for me. I would get her work on prints or t-shirts, I like it so much.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Fun for Star Wars fans of any age! Book two is Obi-123 which comes out today. You can see a picture below.