Book reviews, School libraries

Tag: Fiction (Page 1 of 72)

Book List: Books to Read if You Loved Harry Potter

Books to Read if you Loved Harry Potter

It has to be the question I get most as a teacher librarian. What should I read after Harry Potter? After students discover their love for Harry Potter and have re read it a few times, worked their way through all the accompanying companion books, information books about how the movies were made, History of Magic, short stories, screen plays and novelty books (the ones with working wands have to be the top favourites), they finally reach a point of wanting something similar but different.

What to read if you liked Harry Potter is also something I deal with for older students. The Harry Potter books might have been the only books they have read. Or maybe the enjoyed the movies, don’t want to read the books but would be open to reading something similar. Having a few titles on hand to suggest is always handing. But searching the web, there must be a million suggestions for Harry Potter readalikes out there. Or, maybe you are a parent with a child who wants to read Harry Potter but you’d like to steer them towards something similar.

There are lots of lists with suggestions out there, so I am not going to recommend the usual suspects, like the Percy Jackson series. While these are perfect for Harry Potter lovers, you’ve probably already seen them in reading suggestion lists, so I am going to chose some of my favourite and more obscure recommendations, as well as books by Australian authors.

Middle Grade Readers

Rise of the Dragons – Angie Sage

I adored The Magyk series by Angie Sage and it remains a perennial favourite with our library’s young readers, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her newest fantasy series, Rise of the Dragons. With the promise of game cards and a matching online game, Rise of the Dragons promised to be an exciting release. The new world Sage has created and her daring plot of intrigue, dragon battles and family bonds is both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It is sure to be a hit with our middle-grade readers. After all, everything is better with dragons.

The other books in the series have different authors.

I would also highly recommend Angie Sage’s Magyk series for Harry Potter fans.

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Book Review: Can You See Me?

 

Can You See Me? A Book About Feeling Small

– Gokce Irten –

Kids Can Press

Published 7 September 2021

♥♥♥♥

 

Can You See Me is a beautiful picture book that introduces perspective to young readers, as well as conveying a lovely message about fitting into a big world full of small worlds.

The artwork is stunning and works perfectly to convey the concept of size and perspective. Photographs, mixed media and collage work together. There might be a photograph of a building net to a drawing of a orangutang. Zooming in and out on consecutive pages is used to great effect. I love how you might assume an illustration is one thing, but zooming out on the next page reveals something else entirely. Continue reading

Book Review: The Endless Skies

 

The Endless Skies

– Shannon Price –

Tor Teen

Published 17 August 2021

♥♥♥♥

 

If you are looking for a unique fantasy novel, then check out The Endless Skies by Shannon Price. The Endless Skies invites readers into a world where shapeshifting warriors who live on a city that floats in the sky and a community of shapeshifting magical beings protect themselves from the humans who seek to destroy all they know.

You might assume Endless Skies is all about Rowan from the book’s synopsis, but Endless Skies is actually written from three characters’ perspectives. Rowan is a narrator and she is joined by her sister and her best friend. Rowan is a warrior-elect. She has completed years of rigorous training and is about to be sworn in by the king to become an official warrior. Shirene is Rowan’s older sister. She is a sentinel and has just been named as the King’s Hand – a prestigious position of respect and authority. Rowan’s friend Callen is a warrior. He has long hidden his true feelings about Rowan from her, but now he fears it might be too late. On the eve of Rowan’s warrior oath-taking ceremony, the warriors learn of a deadly disease that is targeting the children of Heliana. Teams of warriors are called and sent down to the human world to look for a cure before the prince falls ill, which could be the literal downfall of Heliana. Left behind by her friend and sister, Rowan learns there is far more at stake than what the citizens are being told about the disease and the long-held feud between the Leonodai and humans.

There is a very unique world in The Endless Skies and yet with so much action and so much going on in the book, I feel like I only saw snippets. There are four magical shapeshifting communities, the Leonodai being our main focus in this book. There was also a fifth, but they were wiped out by humans. Rowan is a Leonodai and can change from female human form to a winged lioness. Cool magic enables her weapons and armour to change with her. Her community values loyalty over all and Rowan, Shirene and Callen have committed themselves to serving their city and their king. Their city, Heliana floats above the ocean, protected from the human’s reach and they in turn protect the other shapeshifting communities. While the Leonodai fight with blades, arrows and axes, the humans fight with guns, bullets and late, planes and battleships, which gives a unique mix of modern (or at least the 20th century, the human world has a very WW1 timeline feeling to it) and ancient warfare and a great mix between reality and magic, that we don’t often see in fantasy novels.

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Book Review: Provenance

 

Provenance

– Carla Laureano –

Tyndale House Publishers

Published 3 August 2021

♥♥♥♥

 

I always enjoy the work of Carla Laureano. I adored her The Supper Club series (food – yum!) and now she has created another fantastic Christian contemporary romance. Provenance is set in a small (very cold) Colorado town. The snow storms and mountainous setting are the perfect backdrop to this story about discovering your past and falling in love.

When Kendall Green learns that she is the beneficiary of a grandmother she never knew, only desperation for some cash to keep her interior design business and home in California afloat, prompts her to respond. She’s not sure she wants anything from the grandmother who let her grow up in foster care, moving from home to home and when Kendall learns that her inheritance are 5 historic Victorian homes, she is half devastated and half delighted. She is ready to sell to the highest bidder when the young mayor of the town, delightfully handsome Gabriel Brandt, asks her to consider another option to help save the town’s history and community from circling developers. Staying gives Kendall the chance to learn the truth about her mother, her grandmother and the reason she was abandoned when she was a child, but it also means growing closer to Gabriel, and with her life in California, Kendall’s not sure that’s a risk she should take.

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Book Review: Forestborn

 

Forestborn

– Elayne Audrey Becker –

Forestborn #1

Tor Teen

Published 31 August 2021

♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

I don’t read fantasy novels all that often, but when I do I usually adore them. Forestborn was no different. It is an incredible quest novel. Our three main characters must travel together through perilous terrain, facing the things that haunt them and the pain from their past to find the rarest of magical powers to save the people they love. There is royalty, magic, very cool unique magical creatures, haters-to-lovers romance and a fantastic twist that I just didn’t see coming.

The magic in this book is unique, which I liked, as were the many magical creatures that pop up throughout the story. Rora is a shifter. As is her brother. Over time, Rora has shifted into her three different animal forms, mouse, hawk and lynx. Her brother has yet to shift into his third form. After their parents were killed along with all the other shifters in their village, the two siblings survived on their own in the magical forest, before finally finding refuge in Teylan. Now, Rora works for the king, but she and her brother have never really been accepted by the humans that surround them. When a magical plague that is killing humans gets worse and Rora’s best friend Prince Findley falls ill, Rora, her brother and the elder Prince Weslyn journey into the magical forest to find stardust in the hope it will cure the disease.

 

What begins as a simple but dangerous quest morphs into a much bigger plot, with a nice twist. War looms and there are biggest politics and more at stake than we readers and the characters realise at the start of the book.

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Book Review: One Kid’s Trash

 

One Kid’s Trash

– Jamie Sumner –

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Published 31 August 2021

♥♥♥♥

 

If you are looking for a middle grade novel about starting middle school, trying to fit in, making friends, and dealing with bullying, then One Kid’s Trash is the book for you. The inclusion of garbology as a mini superpower for our main character makes this realistic novel both unique and the perfect addition to your middle grade novel collection.

When Hugo’s parents drag him away from his school and friends so his dad can start a new career (as a ski lift operator!) it’s just one more thing Hugo has to deal with. Like being short. And the short jokes and bullying that come with being short. Not to mention his mother’s constant worrying about his health. Starting middle school is hard enough without having to start at a new school and make new friends and avoid new bullies. Hugo’s got his cousin Vij to show him around, but he knows he’s just doing it out of family obligation and when Vij reveals Hugo’s skills in garbology – the science of understanding someone from the contents of their rubbish bin – he knows  it’s only a matter of time until he before he becomes the laughing stock of the school.

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Book Review: Love and the Silver Lining

Love and the Silver Lining – Tammy L. Gray – State of Grace #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 3 August 2021

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Darcy Malone’s dreams of mission work are dashed on her eve of fulfilling them: The Guatemalan school she was to teach at has closed. Devastated because she’s already quit her job and given up her apartment, she also loses the perfect escape from the aftermath of her parents’ divorce. Stuck in her worst-case scenario, Darcy takes an unexpected offer to move in with Bryson Katsaros’s little sister, despite the years of distrust that’s grown between her and Bryson, the lead singer in her best friend Cameron’s band. As she meets those close to him, Darcy realizes that Bryson is more than she believed.

Struck with the need to find a purpose, Darcy jumps at the chance to care for and train a group of dogs, with the aim of finding each a home before their bereaved owner returns them to animal control. But it’s Darcy herself who will encounter a surprising rescue in the form of unexpected love, forgiveness, and the power of letting go.

My thoughts

Love and the Silver Lining is the extremely enjoyable second book in the State of Grace series. I adored this book – even more than the first book. While they form part of a series and there are character and setting cross overs, you can read both books as standalones.

I think this was exactly the book I needed. It was light and heartwarming and so addictive. I really struggled to put it down to return to work and sleep. It was funny and heartbreaking and had so much story that made it just a delight to read.

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Book Review: Like Other Girls

Like Other Girls – Britta Lundin – Disney-Hyperion – Published 3 August 2021

♥♥♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

My thoughts

What does it mean to be a girl? For Mara, growing up in a small, traditional town, being a girl means she has strict guidelines for how a girl looks and behaves and it’s everything Mara is not and hates. Like Other Girls is a novel about accepting yourself, accepting others and learning that there is no one right way to be a girl or to stand up for that right to be a girl in your own way.

This is not a book where the girl joins the football team and is accepted by the team. Just the opposite happens in Like Other Girls. When Mara joins the football team her relationship with her brother (the team captain) which was already unsteady, deteriorates even more. She has a massive fight with her best friend Quinn who initially encouraged her to join the team but who is now one of her greatest opponents. And her mother is no longer speaking to her or attending football games. That’s not to mention all the other responses from the other guys on the team, the coach or the other teams. When four other girls join the football team, Mara is determined that she won’t be cast as similar to them. She deserves to be there while they do not. But the reaction from the team and the sheer determination from the girls starts to prove to Mara that being a girl doesn’t have just one definition.

Alongside the story of rights, sexual harassment and equality, this is also a sexual orientation discovery story. Mara knows she is gay and has a plan for how she is going to come out – when she’s in college and far away from her conservative town. She could never be like Carly who is openly out and champions for LGBT+ rights. When Mara meets Jupiter and Jupiter hires her to do some work on her farm, Mara sees someone who is comfortable in their skin and clothes and who they are, someone in an LGBT+ relationship and Mara envies every bit of that comfort.
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Book Review: A Dragonbird in the Fern

A Dragonbird In The Fern – Laura Rueckert – Flux – Published 3 August 2021

♥♥♥♥♥

 

 

Synopsis

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.

Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed this fantasy novel that features political scheming, vengeful ghosts and emphasises the importance of how we communicate. It’s a unique fantasy novel and I liked how refreshing it was. No epic fantasy battles, but plenty of tantalising romance, politics, betrayal, and a touch of magic.

Princess Jiara’s life is utterly changed when her older sister is murdered. Jiara knows they have just months to find her sister’s killer before her sister, left to wander the earth, becomes increasingly violent. In the midst of this her sister’s intended arrives. Raffar, King of Farnskag, makes a proposition – he will marry Jiara instead and seal their countries’ alliance. The Queen and Jiara agree and Jiara is thrust into a new world. She travels with Raffar to Farnskag, but she must rely on a translator as neither she nor her new husband speak the other’s language.

As Jiara travels to Farnskag we learn a little more about her, her relationship with her sister and what she had planned for her future. When her friend and one of her translators has to leave the party, we learn Jiara is a caring person. We also learn how much she struggles with reading and learning. While they never use the word, Jiara has the signs of being dyslexic. It weighs heavily on her mind, especially when she arrives in Farnskag and begins learning their language. Unable to communicate with her new husband, Jiara relies on her translator for everything.

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Book Review: The Right Side of Reckless

The Right Side of Reckless – Whitney D. Grandison –  Inkyard Press – Published 13 July 2021

♥♥♥/♥

 

Synopsis

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him into the path of the one girl who is off-limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…

My thoughts

I wrote two different reviews for this book. One when I was only a quarter of the way through the story and the other one after I had finished reading the book. One review was entirely disparaging and the other was far more positive. I’m going to give a review that sits somewhere in between. I was ready to give up on this book at the quarter mark. I am glad I didn’t as my feelings changed widely between the first and last portion of this book.

When I started this book, after reading just a few chapters I wished I had done some more research before requesting and reading this book. I judged it on its cover and synopsis alone, which sounded great, but as soon as I started reading I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy this book. Or at least, that’s what I thought to begin with. The characters seemed two dimensional. The writing needed a really good edit and everything is told instead of shown. I wasn’t even a quarter into the book and I was already sick of Regan putting up with rubbish from her boyfriend and Guillermo reads like a bad boy who isn’t actually bad, he just went along with his friends who did the bad stuff and now he is being misjudged and he’s actually a good guy, so he just needs to prove it, so no character development needed. At this point I jumped online to do a bit of research about the publisher and author and found that reviewers suggested that the author’s first book suffered from all the same points. The author is also a Wattpad star and while I love that people are getting published in this way, it doesn’t mean these stories should be published without some really thorough editing. I’m going to give some passages to my writing class so they can practice editing and rewriting to show not tell. It should be pretty easy for them to spot the areas that need improvement.

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