7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

The Keepers: The Box and The Dragonfly by Ted Sanders Review

Series: The Keepers #1
Title: The Box and the Dragonfly
Author: Ted Sanders
Publisher: Harper Collins
Page #: 544
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Even before I had finished this guy I was handing it out to kids because I knew it was great.  If you have a child that really loves Harry Potter or fantastic worlds that are set within the real world this is definitely a series to check out.  The first two books in the series have been published and it is ongoing so if they like it there will be more books in the future.

This story follows two unlikely heros who are thrust into a world they didn’t know existed and it all starts with a warehouse full of stuff.  Aisles and aisles of boxes and bins filled with doodads and thingamabobs that to the untrained eye seem kitschy and out of place.  Both our protagonists have an affinity that has laid dormant in their genes which allows them to bond with one specific item in the warehouse.  Once bonded the item changes from a paperweight into a powerful magical item.  Each item is unique and each wielder is the only one able to use that particular item.

Little do the kids know that there are very powerful creatures who want to have all of these magic items to use as they see fit.  These creatures were once the makers of such items but have since lost the ability to do so.  They are trying to round up as many as possible to fortify their own power.  The kids will have to decide which side to fight for.  The side of humans who were given these gifts, or the side of the monsters who made them.

The first book is definitely a traditional set up.  We meet the cast of characters, learn how they got their items, what their items do, and get a taste of what the bad guys can do.  What stood out to me the most was definitely the world building.  Sanders has put in time and effort to create a history for the items in his world and to create rules for his magic that helps keep it in check.  I fell in love with the world long before I started to care for the characters and their individual plights.

It was fast paced and I didn’t mind that most of the book was learning about the world since it was such an interesting world to inhabit.  I definitely see the potential for these books to be great and I went and grabbed a copy of the second book and it is on my TBR for this year.  If you have a little one that likes action and adventure this is definitely a little known series to take a look at.  If they enjoy fantastic elements in a more believable and realistic world it is also a good one, as not everyone wants to deal with an entirely new world.

I will say that the bad guys here are a bit scary so it might be best to wait to read it until you are 10+, but it was not particularly challenging so if you have a brave 8 year old they would definitely be able to understand the book.  Perhaps it is one to read together, so that any scary moments can be discussed and snuggles can be used to build comfort.

The protagonists are both genders which I always appreciate.  While the main POV character is male (as is common for the genre) I actually felt the girl had more character to her.  She definitely had a bigger personality and it was their friendship that really held the story line together.  I believed that they trusted each other, while it started as simply discussing this weird thing they had in common, I saw their friendship grow and bloom over the course of the book.  It wasn’t instant friendship and I really appreciated that.

The other big thing that I loved was that they have families!  These weren’t orphans being signed up for a magic war with no one to miss or worry about them, they had parents who loved and cared for them siblings that counted on them.  Of course the very things they loved could also be used against them.  I hope that their families become a bigger part of the stories the more this series continues.  There is a lot that a family can do in the same way that freedom from the constraints of traditional family structures allows certain things, there is great power in having generations available as a resource.

This was one of the more interesting Middle Grade books I read last year, even though it took me the whole year to finish it.  I kept putting it down to read other pressing things (like books for my book club) but it was always by my bedside and I would read a bit here and there because it was so captivating.  I couldn’t just put it down and forget about it.

Do you guys have any suggestions for books that are similar to this one?  If so please leave them down below so that I can get myself a copy and read it to add to my repertoire of great Middle Grade Fantasy.  Along those lines, are there any stories you particularly want to hear me talk about?  I am always open to suggestions for things to look into.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

Nostalgia Junkie: Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Part of my journey into recommending kids books has reunited me with some books that I really loved as a child that have fallen by the wayside.

My book club and I have a series where we read/reread some of our favorite series from childhood together (so far we have done A Series of Unfortunate Events and my favorite series from childhood Pendragon) This is going to be a similar thing but I am going to endeavor to do it on my own.

Disclaimer: some of the series that I discuss may be currently out of print so using your local used book stores, libraries, or online stores may be the best/only option for finding them if you are interested.

Book Title: Midnight for Charlie Bone
Series Title: Children of the Red King
Publisher: Orchard
Page #: 416
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

This was a book that I found at my school’s library, brought home, and loved.  It took me a while to remember the title of it when I thought back and wanted to reread it.  It definitely wasn’t the series that grabbed me but I did remember the world and some of the characters as well as my affinity for it.  I feel like I read it during a period of time that I was transitioning out of middle grade and into young adult so I didn’t continue on with the series (which may have helped my recollection of the title).  I wanted to go back and read it to see if it was worth recommending and boy was it difficult for me to find.  I did manage to find a set of the series on Amazon but if you can find it at a used book store or library I would highly recommend that over using Amazon.

Now, I reread this guy and actually found myself being sucked right back into the world.  There were a number of reviews online that discussed this series as a Harry Potter wannabe and while I agree that it was originally marketed as such (I mean, look at that cover … it evokes all of the same feelings that the HP covers did).  However, I feel like having actually read it that there are very few similarities between HP and this series.  Sure, boy goes to a school because he can do magic, sounds a lot like HP but aside from that general idea, not very much in common.  However, it might be a good one to hand over to a child who has finished HP and is looking for something new, if they are interested in magic and adventure, this one definitely falls into that vein.

So what makes this story unique?  For one, the magic users are a small minority at this school, for another, the people who run the school are the villains not the good guys, plus, the main character has a very large and extended family he can rely on to support him.  Generally Charlie is not a “chosen one” for any reason other than his family is quite affluent in the society.  Outside of that, he is a rather unspectacular boy.  He is going to this school, against his wishes, and feels alienated within the school aside from a few other outcast friends who actually seem to make more sense at the school than he himself does.  There are friends who have magic, there are friends who are just incredibly talented in various forms of art.  There are characters who are conflicted within their own wants and desires, and characters who seem fairly straight forward.  In the end it is Charlie who needs saving by his classmates and not the other way around.

While I have not yet continued reading the series, just these few differences make the components of the story incredibly different and interesting in their own right.  The characters at times felt very one note, but so did the characters in the first HP book.  So that is something to take note of.  I wouldn’t write off the book yet, because I did really enjoy the plot of the book and I would hope that they become more interesting as time progresses in the story.  Most of the focus of the first book was world building and alliance making.  It had very little to do with the growth of characters, but that is common of books meant to be in a series.

The overarching plot of the series was interesting enough to make me want to continue reading without feeling like there was no resolution for the book.  The parts of the mystery of the world we did figure out were enough to feel like something was accomplished, and the plot of the book on its own was also rewarding.  It illustrated the power of the villains while also highlighting the power of teamwork and empathy rather than the true power of the main character.  The idea of this book is to explore a fantasy world where there is no singular savior which in a way I find very refreshing as even adult fantasy novels tend to rely heavily on a chosen one trope.

This is definitely a series to grab if you have a fantasy obsessed kid and one to discuss with the first HP book as a counterpoint perhaps.  It would definitely be worth while to read as an independent reading books and felt like it was appropriate for younger readers who may not be ready to continue with some of the later HP books or a book for kids who need something easier language wise but want content similar to HP.

If there are any books or series that you remember but can’t quite remember whether you loved it or what in particular was interesting then please leave a comment down below and I will try and see if I can grab a copy to discuss.  (Personally I know that I want to read Artemis Fowl because I missed out on it as a child but am open to other suggestions as well).


5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu Review

It was not until I was a fair way into this book that I realized how many things it was attempting to do, and only upon finishing it did I understand its mastery.

Title: Somewhere Among
Author: Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Page #: 448
Genre: Middlegrade, Historical Fiction, Poetry

This is a story about an 11 year old girl with a Japanese father and an American mother.  Her mother is currently pregnant with a new little sibling, after suffering several miscarriages, and is sickly.  Ema must accompany her mother to her grandparent’s house in the Japanese countryside.  She doesn’t want to leave her friends, she doesn’t want to miss her annual vacation to visit her mother’s parents in America, she doesn’t want to have to go to a new school where she will become a spectacle, but she does, because she wants this baby.  This is her story coming to terms with the good and the bad in life, with sacrifice, valor, and selfishness.  It was beautiful.

The thing that really caught me off guard about this one, and subsequently made me buy it, was the fact that it is written in verse.  Aside from some good ol’ Shel Silverstene, Robert Frost, or Emily Dickinson selections poetry aimed at kids is a little hard to come by.  Creating a narrative through poetry sounded like a great way to introduce a lot of modern poetry to kids.  Slam poetry, urban poetry, rap, all have the potential for narrative and they are growing ever popular.  I wanted to see if this was done well, if the form would enhance the story, or if it was just a gimmick.  I am glad to say it blew me away, rather than let me down.

The second thing that hit me was just how this is a piece with so many interlocking pieces: from what it is like to be biracial, what it is like to grow up in Japan, what it is like to become an older sibling for the first time, what it is like to worry about a parent’s health, what it is like to hear about something as major as the 9/11 attacks.  It was slowly rotating and focusing on all of these things and none of them felt forgotten or lesser.  I think part of this is due to the minimalist nature of verse. When writing in verse you can’t spend too much time with any one thing, less the poems become erratic or unhinged.  There is astounding balance in this book.  For every point there is a counterpoint, and rather than clashing, they exist harmoniously with each other.  This, is for sure, a sign of the author’s talent.

The last thing I want to touch on  I didn’t realize was a part of the book until I saw some of the headings.  (Careful consideration of the cover might have clued me in, but I didn’t look too deeply into it). I had the revelation while reading this book, that the children who would read it were not born before 9/11.  Part of what Annie does in this book is attempt to capture the horror of a terror attack.  This is perhaps one of the most important thing in this book, .  She compares 9/11  to the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and boy did I love it. It showed not just the immediate reaction to something so detrimental but the long term effects.  Aside from her own experience raising biracial children in Japan she was able to set this book in a way that perfectly explained terrorism and what it does, immediately and for years to come.  It helped build empathy, and teach forgiveness; the characters in the book know what it is like to live through an event like this and their empathy for the very country who perpetrated the acts of terror that shocked them is ground breaking.  It is important that these two are linked.  Just as Ema struggles with conflicting emotions, she sees something that brings everyone together and ironically it is the same thing that tears them apart: FEAR.

This book was incredibly well written, delicately plotted, extremely poignant and just all around wonderful.  I read it in one sitting (once you really get into it, reading verse is like being carried along on a song).  If you have a kid that loves to read, likes historical novels, wants to learn about living through 9/11, likes Japanese culture, any or all of the above?  Grab this guy.  It would make an interesting independent reading book as it raises many questions and dichotomies to be discussed in an essay.  It is just good stuff.  Highly recommended.

(Sorry I was absent for a month, been dealing with some rough stuff in the real world.  This was one of the many books I read on my hiatus and hopefully I can keep doing this at least semi-regularly for the foreseeable future.)


7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz Review

Making our way through the backlist reviews, slowly but surely.  I promise that I will be posting the reviews for books I have read recently as well.  I just wanted to make sure this content was here for you all to find.

Title: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or The Three Magical Children and Their Holy  Dog
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Illuminator: Hatem Aly
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Page #: 384
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Comics, Hi-Lo

Diesel: Ignition by Tyson Hesse Review

This was a review of a middle grade graphic novel I did a few weeks back.  Part of the ongoing effort to post any back content that is relevant to the blog.

Title: Diesel: Ignition
Author: Tyson Hesse
Illustrator: Tyson Hesse
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Page #: 211
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Adventure


Adult, Books

Betwixt the Books Discuss! Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Fanfiction vs. Canon

Hey guys … so its been over a month since I’ve posted anything.  I’m having real college flashbacks where I would blink off the face of the internet for a while.  I have still be posting things on youtube so if you follow me there you will have seen my face a little but I’ve been going through a really rough patch as of late and it has led to extreme self doubt.  When I doubt myself I have a tendency to let things that I love slide, because maybe I’m not doing them properly.  Maybe I think I’m doing well when in reality I’m just shouting into an empty void.  Hopefully that isn’t the case.

In an attempt to reform my life in a way, I have started planning posts again (really I fall off the bandwagon when I stop planning… I go, oh I’ll think of something for monday … Monday comes and goes and no posts and so it goes forever).  I have a handful of content that I created while I was on hiatus here that can show up if I am at a loss for content, but I want to keep up with it.  I have been saying this all year.  I want to keep up with it and I want to let you guys know I still care.  Even when I’m in limbo, I still care.

Today, Gretchen and I managed to get together and talk about something that is super topical and super controversial around the interwebs: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Title: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
Author: J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Publisher: Little Brown UK
Page #: 343
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Young Adult

I have read the thing, she is choosing not to read it at all.  This tells you a bit about where we stand in it all. We discuss some of the issues we have seen or heard as well as some of the issues around it in general.  If you are interested in our take then please by all means check it out.

(I do apologize for the audio issues, google + has been acting super shifty so I was trying a different style of streaming and the audio was not having it.  What I was hearing was not at all what the stream was hearing but I didn’t have anyone around to tell me this.  We hope to fix this issue in the future, either by returning to our beloved Google Hangouts or by finding some other way to do it … just get better at it in general.)

I hope you guys have had a better summer than I did.  I will be back tomorrow, believe it or not, because we have penciled in a super late book club episode.  Remember when we were going to talk about Middlesex guys … we do.  It is going to happen.

Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books, YA (Young Adult)

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry (Bibliomancy for Beginners)

Alright we are caught up.  This post was supposed to come out today.  It came out today, *breathes a huge sigh of relief*  From now on we are moving forward and we are going to stay on track or so help me, I’ll have to apologize AGAIN.


Title: A Fierce and Subtle Poison
Author: Samantha Mabry
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Page #: 288
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism

Alright, there we are.  We did it.  We got caught up.  There were a million posts, but its there now, we managed it.  I will see you guys tomorrow for a new post!

Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books, YA (Young Adult)

Nostalgia Junkie: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Bibliomancy for Beginners)

Speaking of late content, we did this live stream last Sunday which was very nearly a week lately.  Not quite, but almost.  Casey joined us for this discussion which is always a good time!


Title: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page #: 399
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

I hope this episode was entertaining for you all, a bit contented I think.  Will hopefully be posting the rest as they come.

Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books, YA (Young Adult)

Invisible Fault Lines by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Bibliomancy for Beginners)

Those of you who saw my last post will know why this post is two weeks late.  We did do this hangout two weeks ago, I just never got around to posting it.  So here we are, I have it for you, if you missed the livestream:


Title: Invisible Fault Lines
Author: Kristen-Paige Madonia
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Page #: 320
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism

I wasn’t feeling well when we did this livestream but we managed to get it out to you.

Adult, Books

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell Review

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This book will be released Tuesday June 7th!


Title: The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Page #: 320
Genre: Mystery

Lisa Jewell was a name I was well acquainted with but never really picked up any of her books. I heart they were mysteries and I am very picky when it comes to the writing in mysteries so I was always wary. I saw this book on net galley and requested it because the premise appealed to me and at the very least I had heard of her so she was popular enough.

I’m not sure if it was just the fact that I had barely heard of her but I was pleasantly surprised by the way that this book felt more like a thriller than a mystery. Don’t get me wrong, I am just as picky with my thrillers, I’m just more inclined to like them I suppose. This book did read a little like soap opera at times, but I felt like the atmosphere was as far from soap opera-y as possible. That might have been a useless explanation. If you took out all of the writing and I were to regurgitate a summery of the plot you would probably say, “Gosh, sounds like day time tv.” I think the real beauty of this book was hidden in the garden itself.

I always love a book that can make the environment its own sort of character. In a way, this book did just that. The way she was able to blend the different pockets and edges of the garden into various different tonally appropriate spaces. It was a little bit weird for me to think about a garden in a way I might a winding wood in a thriller or maybe even the seedy underbelly of a metropolis but at times I almost did. Not quite, it was still a garden but it really took on a life of its own in this.

I think that’s really all I have to say on this book. It wasn’t my favorite book ever, I did enjoy it though. If the premise intrigues you I think its worth picking up I’m not sure I would hand it to someone and say they need to read it right now, but if someone asked me about good mysteries that came out this year I might mention this one in there.  I feel like this was super short, but it was just one of those books that fits nicely into its genre and doesn’t stand out all too much, which explains why she is such a popular author.  If you can find a niche and stick too it, then by all means, milk it.

Die hard fans of this blog will note the distinct lack of videos from me, and I do have to apologize for that, but I have been moving and the internet at my new place is kind of the worst.  I need to figure out a way to edit and upload my videos without it taking 300 years.  I don’t have the patience I need.  Hopefully we will get it all together soon.