Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Crimson Skew, The--S.E. Grove

Title: The Crimson Skew
Author: S.E. Grove
Publisher: Viking, 2016
Pages: 432 p.
Source: VOYA
Compensation: None
Read: May 2016

S.E. Grove's The Crimson Skew

The Crimson Skew is the third and final book in the Mapmaker’s Trilogy, a fantasy series unlike any other. The first two books (The Glass Sentence and The Golden Specific) set up the main plot. In 1799 the world experienced what is known as the Great Disruption—all of the continents were strangely pulled out of time and put back in different eras. Nearly a century later, Sophia and Theo, two young friends searching for answers in this disjointed universe, continue on their separate journeys in this exhilarating conclusion to the trilogy. Sophia is closer than ever to finding out the truth about the disappearance of her parents. Theo is forced to fight in a war he does not believe in, while Sophia’s Uncle Shadrack is forced to work in a government he does not believe in. They all have very important roles to play in the final battle and the future of the world.


S.E. Grove has created a wonderfully unique series with multiple layers for students and teachers to explore. On the surface, this is an entertaining fantasy and adventure story for kids. Deeper, there are themes of xenophobia and racism and how people’s actions have an affect on the world on a fundamental level. The Crimson Skew and the entire trilogy are great fun books to read, as well as perfect choices for book groups and class reading.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Dying to Tell Me--Sherryl Clark

Title: Dying to Tell Me
Author: Sherryl Clark
Publisher: Kane Miller, 2011
Pages: 217 p.
Source: Purchased
Compensation: None
Read: June 2016

Sherryl Clark's Dying to Tell Me

Let me start out by saying that I did not get paid anything to write this review. I purchased the book with my own money but I did get a 25% discount for being an Usborne Books & More consultant. I chose to buy the book and review it.

Dying to Tell Me is a quick middle school read. Sasha is a cranky teenager, angry at her mother for leaving the family, angry that she has to move to the secluded country, angry that she has no friends. Her father is the new policeman so when the family moves to Manna Creek, Sasha and her younger brother are left alone to explore the tiny Australian town. Things don't go well right from the very first day-- Sasha slips running near a creek and winds up with a concussion. Someone is not happy to have a new policeman in town and tries to scare the family away. Sasha's father adopts a retired police dog to help watch over the kids while he investigates a series of art burglaries. Just when Sasha thinks things can't get weirder, she starts hearing and seeing things that no one else can. Their dog, King, winds up being more comforting than Sasha could have ever imagined.

This was a really quick read--granted I was on a bus for multiple hours--with the right amount of adventure, suspense, and mystery, with a bit of supernatural thrown in. If you're a regular reader of this blog you know how I love my Australian authors (Garth Nix, Melina Marchetta) so I had a feeling I would respond to this one. Sasha's voice as a disgruntled teenager torn between her anger at her mom and her desire to make her Dad happy is authentic. In a weird twist of coincidence, Dying to Tell Me was selected for VOYA's Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers List (February 2011)-- a list that I chaired many moons ago. This was a good entertaining read that will keep middle school readers engaged.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Golden Specific, The--S.E. Grove

Title: The Golden Specific
Author: S.E. Grove
Publisher: Viking, 2015
Pages: 501 p.
Source: Library
Compensation: None
Read: May 2016

S.E. Grove's The Golden Specific

The Golden Specific is the sequel to The Glass Sentence and is the second book in The Mapmaker's Trilogy. Make sure you've read The Glass Sentence first because this fantasy world is a bit complex. And because you'll enjoy it. While I generally try to avoid major spoilers in my reviews, any review of a second book will spoil the first, so consider yourself warned.

I think I may have even enjoyed The Golden Specific more than the first book. So much happens! Sophia and Theo have rescued Shadrack and are enjoying life in New Occident together. Theo has begun exploring with one of Shadrack's closest friends and Shadrack has been given a seat in the government, which leaves Sophia alone to continue the search for her parents. She finds a clue that will surely lead her to more information and when Theo returns from his expedition, they decide to travel together to follow up--without Shadrack's knowledge or permission. On the day they are supposed to leave, Theo gets caught up in a murder case and Shadrack is blamed. Unaware of the trouble at home, Sophia thinks Theo has abandoned her and leaves on a ship alone. Thus begins Sophia and Theo's separate adventures.

The novel is told through both Sophia and Theo's perspectives. This lets us have more information about Theo's background and why he is so untrusting. In addition to Sophia's storyline, we also get snippets from her mother's diary from right before she and her husband disappear. Sophia befriends a couple of unlikely travel companions and learns more about mapmaking and reading as she tries to retrace her mother's footsteps.

The Golden Specific is a solid fantasy novel that is entertaining and thought-provoking. Luckily for me, I had the ARC of the final book in the trilogy waiting for me when I finished this second installment. It would have been a very long wait otherwise!
 
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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Glass Sentence, The--S.E. Grove

Title: The Glass Sentence
Author: S.E. Grove
Publisher: Viking, 2014
Pages: 493 p
Source: Library
Compensation: None
Read: May 2016

S.E. Grove's The Glass Sentence

Thank you VOYA. VOYA has a tendency to send me the third in a trilogy to review... when I haven't read the first two. Sure, I grumble because I'm the type of person who has to read the first two and my time is seriously limited, but without fail I wind up loving the books and grateful for being introduced to them.

This case is no exception.

The Glass Sentence is the first book in a truly unique fantasy series for Middle School students. Sophia Tims is a young girl living in Boston in 1891. But this is not Boston in the United States because there is no United States. In 1799 time paused for everyone--people frozen in whatever they were doing--as they watched an entire year flash before their eyes. When time resumed again, the continents were all flung into different time periods. Places that were once known, were now foreign and undiscovered. After a hundred years the Eastern Seaboard became known as New Occident and developed quite differently than it would have without the Great Disruption of 1799.

Sophia lives with her Uncle Shadrack, a famous cartologer and explorer, because her explorer parents disappeared 8 years earlier on an urgent mission. When the government decides it needs to close the borders and prevent foreigners from coming in, Sophia is concerned her parents will never find their way home. When Shadrack is kidnapped, Sophia knows it's up to her to save him and embarks on her first adventure outside of the border. She's joined by Theo, a refugee from the West, who has his own secrets.

I truly enjoyed this novel. The premise was pretty unique--a world made up of different time periods--as well as the fantasy elements--maps are not just two-dimensional pieces of paper but can be made using different elements and when awoken they let the mapreader actually experience what the map shows (memory maps). I'm a big fantasy reader and I loved the world-building in this series. It's the perfect book group book--some kids might need a little help conceptualizing the different time periods--and it has much deeper issues that are relevant today of border closings and being afraid of foreigners. My 11 1/2 year old blitzed through the series after I gave him a brief description (and chose to do his school book talk on the second one) and my 9 year old just started it. It might be a bit above her with all of the time talk and memory maps, but I had no problem letting her try it.

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