Stories With Ms. Jenna

Storytimes, Programs, Booklists, and More!

January Reviews, Part 1

on January 14, 2014

One of my goals this year is to write more book reviews. My plan right now is to do round up posts twice a month of short reviews of my most recently read books published in 2014. Synopses clipped from goodreads descriptions.

Teen

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard (1/28/14)

andwestay“When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.”

This book is gorgeously written, especially because of the infused poetry. It is also very heavy and filled with issues begging to be discussed. Emily Beam is a character that I found myself caring about very much. Because this book is written in third person with literary pose and mature themes, it’s best for upper teens who enjoy strong, moving novels and have the patience to savor each word.

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi (1/28/14)

intothestill“Their love and their leadership have been tested. Now it’s time for Perry and Aria to unite the Dwellers and the Outsiders in one last desperate attempt to bring balance to their world. In this final book in her stunning Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi raises the stakes to their absolute limit and brings her epic love story to an unforgettable close.”

Fans of this series will be very satisfied with this conclusion. Like the first two books, it is action-packed and a whirlwind of emotions. Where Rossi excels above other books in the genre, is her portrayal of relationships. She has created a great romance, but also realistic parent/child relationships and moving friendships. My favorite relationship is the friendship between Aria and Roar. How refreshing to have a friendship between a male and female that never veers near love-triangle territory!

Cress by Marissa Meyer (2/4/14)

cress“In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.”

With this book, this has become one of my all-time favorite teen series. Each book is better than the last, and Cress has left me very anxious for the final book, Winter, coming in 2015. Cress is a Rapunzel-inspired character, but she hasn’t just been sitting idly in her tower- er, satellite. She has spent her time becoming a hacker, and in this book uses those skills to aid our ragtag team in the battle against Queen Levana. I enjoyed every second spent reading this book. Love the action, love the characters.

Middle Grade

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (1/28/14)

ophelia“Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.”

I thought The Midnight Dress by Foxlee was one of the most beautifully written books of 2013, so I was excited to see what she would bring to the middle grade set. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy does not disappoint. Once again, the writing is spectacular. The museum setting aids the eerie tone, and the countdown clock moves everything along at a frantic pace. The scientific-minded heroine, Ophelia, is very endearing and worth rooting for. This book will be enjoyed by a wide audience, especially those who like fairy tales or a touch of magic.

Picture Book

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson (1/7/14)

babybear“From Kadir Nelson, winner of the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Awards, comes a transcendent picture book in the tradition of Margaret Wise Brown about a lost little bear searching for home. This simple story works on so many levels: as the tale of a bear who finds his way home with the help of his animal friends; as a reassuring way to show children how to comfort themselves and find their way in everyday life; and on a more philosophical level, as a method of teaching readers that by listening to your heart and trusting yourself, you will always find a true home within yourself–and that even when it feels like you are alone, you never really are.”

It’s hard to read this and not feel completely emotionally connected to Baby Bear. In large part, this is due to the gorgeous illustrations (Baby Bear’s eyes!! So full of emotion), but also because despite his fear, he remains unfailingly polite. Some may find this book a little saccharine, and it definitely is very sweet, but I did not find it to be overly so. Is it too early to call it a Caldecott contender?

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