Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Eternal City/ Justice

23383399Morris, Paula. The Eternal City
May 26th 2015 by Point / Scholastic, Inc.
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Laura is on a class trip to Rome with her high school, and is so excited to be there, since she adores studying Classics. There are some annoying kids in her group, and the teachers are a little laughable, but she's enjoying seeing the sights. That is, until most of her group falls in, ash clouds cover Rome, and she sees statues move in odd ways. Someone tries to steal a bracelet with a gray stone in it that her grandfather gave her. With her friend Morgan, classmates Jack and Dan, Danish Kasper and the odd Sofia and Mia, the group tries to see Rome, but soon realize that things are amiss, and get caught up in a struggle between the ancient gods, many of them in the form of birds, that has Rome a complete wreck. Laura doesn't want to get involved, but the gem her grandfather gave her is crucial to the fight.
Strengths: Paranormal adventure set in Rome? Yes! Ancient battle of the gods! Please! The descriptions of the city are excellent, the cast is fairly strong, and the mythology decent.
Weaknesses: While there is some action in the beginning of the book, most of it doesn't occur until about 25 pages from the end of the book. Referring to one of the teachers as POTUS (her last name is Wilson) was annoying; I'm annoyed when this term is used to refer to the actual president!
What I really think: Perhaps my expectations were too high for this, but I was disappointed. Laura's involvement in the battle isn't explained as well as I would like, she doesn't seem at all interested in being part of it, and the writing seemed... off. This is more of a young adult than a middle grade title.


18371574Salane, Jeffrey. Justice
31 March 2015, Scholastic
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there

In this sequel to Lawless, M is back, but this time she is at the Fulbright School and not the Lawless one. Joining her are her friends Merlyn and Jules (whom she wanted to be with her) as well as Cal, whom she likes but doesn’t trust. Fulbright students include the tech savvy Keyshawn and M’s roommate Vivian, and there are plenty of adults guiding their progress (like Calvin’s dad, the school principal), or getting in their way (like M’s mother, who is captured by the Fulbrights). Keyshawn’s technology plays a very large role in the book, from the performance enhancing drugs the children are given to the tech suits they wear that communicate with the drugs in their systems. There are lots of mysteries to solve, as well as lots of training, and M and her friends throw themselves into all of it, hoping to figure out which side is trying to destroy the world and which side is trying to save it!

 Keyshawn’s technology is a fascinating part of this book, even though some of it seems highly dangerous! M is drugged, has a tracker installed in her arm, and gets to wear a suit that makes up for her body’s deficiencies. She also has to deal with a wide variety of people who may be trying to save the world, if they aren’t trying to destroy it. She does receive a posthumous message from her father that is quite touching, but what is she to think about her parents’ wishes when her mother kicks her away from a helicopter while it is flying over snow covered mountains?

Besides the technology, the most fun part of this was the traveling—in trying to solve the mystery of the Mutus Liber, the team travels to Prague and London at the behest of the mysterious Mr. Doe, and spend some time getting up to no good in the heavily guarded British Library! M gets to try her hand at flying an airplane again, this time with slightly better results!

 For fans of art theft mysteries like Ally Carter’s Heist Society or readers who enjoy Horowitz’s and Gilman’s spy novels, Justice is a great blend of technology, adventure, and divided loyalties that will keep readers turning the pages to find out whether M is fighting on the side of good or evil!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

MMGM- Summer!

Summer vacation begins today! Have a lot of reading planned, although I hope that I can find better books than I struggled through this past weekend-- a lot of depressing stuff, and more quirky fantasies than I thought were possible to have been published. Sigh. Well, Armchair BEA starts on Wednesday, so that will be fun!


It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.



22914236
Dairman, Tara. The Stars of Summer 
May 5th 2015 by Putnam Juvenile

In this sequel to All Four Stars, Gladys is given a summer at camp by new friend Charissa Bentley, whose parents run the local camp. Since her friend Sandy is being sent to a sleep away camp, she hopes to be able to use the opportunity to sneak into New York and complete some of her reviewing assignments for the newspaper who mistakenly thinks she is much older. Instead, she gets sucked into working in the camp kitchen and into remedial swimming lessons with camp celebrity, a teen author who sometimes deigns to be nice to her. To complete an assignment on hot dogs (that is really the work of the evil G. Gadfly), she cajoles her parents into taking her to beaches, where they eat hotdogs and also bond as a family. When Gladys discovers Gadfly's evil plan, she works to make sure he can't complete it.
Strengths: Fun, upbeat story about a child with an interest and passion. I especially liked how the PARENTS were the ones that really grew, although Gladys does stretch herself as well. The family bonding time is a relief after the neglect of the first book, and the villains are just wicked enough to be believable. Enjoyed this quite a bit.
Weaknesses: In the first book, the first chapter was absolutely hysterical and action packed; I kept waiting for something like that in this book, but it never came. This also stretched credulity quite a bit, with two young writers. I was proofreading 8th grade papers where students didn't use any capitalization, so a best selling 12-year-old author? Hard to believe. Also had trouble believing the camp kitchen part. Students will not have this problem.
What I really think: Loved the first one, and this is a worthy second. Hope the series doesn't go beyond three, though-- I'd much rather have stand alone titles!


23399303Mackler, Carolyn. Best Friend Next Door
May 26th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
ARC from Young Adult Book Central and reviewed there.

Hannah is sad when her best friend Sophie moves to Canada, and she's not happy when the girl who moves in next door is wearing the same shirt she has on, has the same birthday, and likes peanut butter but hates pizza! In addition to missing her best friend, Hannah is upset because her step mom, Margo, who is soon adopting her, is having a baby. Emme isn't happy about moving from a warm island to a cold, landlocked place, and she's unhappy when her cat Butterball goes missing... and ends up at Hannah's house. When school starts, Hannah's year is going smoothly, but Emme is stuck with a difficult teacher as well as mean girls in her class. Eventually, Hannah and Emme become friends because they both love to swim and embrace their differences. Hannah is instrumental in telling Emme's two mothers about Emme's difficulties at school, which results in Emme being moved to another class. The two have their ups and downs, especially when they go to winter camp with Sophie, and Emme and Sophie hit it off, much to Hannah's consternation. Fifth grade is a difficult year, with lots of drama, but in the end, the girls end up even better friends.
Strengths: There's some bullying in this, but it is done in a realistic way. Mean girls in Emme's class make fun of her because she's small, but always in a joking way, quietly and behind the teacher's back. There's even an anti-bullying assembly; those are a real thing, although I doubt they do any good at all. The fact that Emme has two mothers is very matter of fact, and Hannah's difficulty in accepting the new baby is realistic for this age group. Generally upbeat, with small but significant-at-the-time problems. Nice middle grade entry from a YA author.
Weaknesses: This came very close to being TOO angsty when Hannah got upset at camp, but pulled back in time. Butterball having an illness also was almost overboard. There was enough going on without these two events.
What I really think: This is more of an elementary school book, but I may buy it for 6th graders, who are still having more friend drama than boyfriend drama. Seventh graders might even read it, but it's much too young for 8th graders.

A Handful of Stars

23399197Lord, Cynthia. A Handful of Stars 
May 26th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Lily's dog, Lucky, is her main connection to her mother, who was killed in a car accident when Lily was very young. Lucky is mostly blind, and when he runs away across the blueberry barrens, he is fortunate to be caught by Salma before he gets to the woods. He eats Salma's sandwich, and Lily feels bad. Her grandmother suggests taking a special casserole to Salma's family as an apology and thank you. Salma's family lives in a migrant worker camp while they are harvesting the blueberries, and Salma is rather tired of always being in a different place. The girls make a connection, and soon Salma is helping Lily paint bee boxes to sell to raise money for eye surgery for Lucky. The girls plan on selling them at the local blueberry festival, and also decide to sell blueberry enchilladas. Lily's former best friend, Hannah, is bound and determined to be the blueberry queen at the festival for the second year, but is helpful when Salma wants to enter the competition. There are problems along the way, but in the end, there are some innovative solutions that make everyone happy.
Strengths: The conditions under which Salma's family lives are interesting, and there aren't a whole lot of modern books (this brought to mind Blue Willow) that cover this population. Lily and Hannah's relationship was very well portrayed, and the setting of the small, close-knit community and the supportive grandparents were an endearing touch .
Weaknesses: While the overall tone of this book was as cheery as the very nice cover would indicate, the underlying feeling of Lily's sadness over her mother's death was an unnecessary detail. Lucky's plight was sad enough, and given the age of the dog, I was surprised he survived the book. Why interpolate so much sadness when it's not necessary?
What I really think: Will buy because of the cultural diversity and the dog on the cover, and will use it when the 7th graders need problem novels.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Princesses and Cookies

22718809
Cabot, Meg. From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
May 19th 2015 by Feiwel & Friends
ARC from Baker and Taylor

gallery_nrm_1418333586-royalweddingOlivia goes to a private school in New Jersey and lives with her aunt, uncle, and step cousins. She's bullied and flat out beat up by Annabelle (whose father is her guardians' lawyer), but luckily rescued by... Princess Mia! Who turns out to be her half sister! And whisks her away to a posh hotel to meet her father! The reason she hasn't met her father previously? Her mother died in an accident when she was a baby and left instructions that she wasn't to be raised as a spoiled royal. Her father has been sending her letters, as well as significant support to her family, even though they might have been misappropriating it. When the aunt and uncle consider a move out of the country, the royals step in. Olivia is thrilled on so many levels: she fangirls over Mia, loves Grandmere's poodle, gets a phone of her own finally, as well as a significant wardrobe, and feels loved instead of being an inconvenience. Her aunt and uncle raise objections to her being taken to Genovia, but mainly because they want to keep their greedy paws on the royal money.
Strengths: Olivia is biracial, and the cover shows that clearly. She does get away from the bully and finds a supportive family. This might gets younger readers interested in The Princess Diaries, which would be nice, since they are taking up an entire shelf in my library and not being read. Interestingly, Royal Wedding (June 2nd 2015 by William Morrow & Company) also introduces Oliva, but is being published as an ADULT book, which makes me worry.
Weaknesses: Stereotypical bullying. We never find out how Olivia's parents got together, or what happened. There is conversation in texts. Everything seems a bit over the top, and yet very similar to Mia's story. I'm sure there are more books forthcoming.
What I really think: Meh. I'll buy a copy, but there was nothing fresh or interesting in this. Cabot provided the interior illustrations, which are better than, say, Ruth Chew but have a very 1970s vibe to them.

23309659Freeman, Martha. The Secret Cookie Club
May 19th 2015 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Four girls meet at Moonlight Ranch Summer camp. They don't get along at first, but bond when their conselour, Hannah, helps them make cookies. When camp is over and they go their separate ways, Hannah gives them recipe boxes, and the girls promise to stay in touch. Grace, who is half Chinese-American, goes home to Boston, where her very uptight parents control everything she does. She has to work on a project with Shoshi, a girl she really dislikes, but getting a batch of cookies helps her learn to get along with the other girl and eases the tension with her mother. Emma (from a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia) is supposed to be working on a family projects, but loses the pictures and has troubles with her mother. Cookies again save the day. Olivia, whose parents run a very successful barbecue sauce company, has trouble with math and has to watch her brother's sports. Lucy, whose lawyer father spent time in jail before leaving her mother, doesn't have enough money to return to the camp the following year. Her grandmother, who is rather hippie-ish, seems to have agoraphobia, and her mother works as a waitress in Beverly Hills, although they live in their own, very small, home there. Lucy babysits triplets and manages to save them from a coyote. As the year progresses, the girls write back and forth, send cookies, and plan for the summer.
Strengths: Friend stories are always popular, and this had a little bit of variety in the characters. They all had different problems.
Weaknesses: All of the girls are very privileged. Even Lucy, who is supposedly poor, lives in a neighborhood where the cheapest single family homes run about a million dollars. The other girls-- gracious! I didn't know it was possible to buy a house for nine million dollars! Yes, I got so distracted by the descriptions of the neighborhoods that I looked them up on Zillow. Olivia has a housekeeper who makes her snacks. Lots of private schools involved. It was beyond ridiculous.
What I really think: There's an attempt at diversity, but like so many other ensemble books, the characters are basically all the same, just happen to be Jewish or African-American. Wait! We're missing the red headed girl on the cover. I'd like to see a more realistic group of friends, or at least a little economic diversity, but the camp seems QUITE posh.

Looks like there is a sequel in the offing, given the ending of the book.

22693811Birdsall, Jeanne. The Penderwicks in Spring
March 24th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Obviously, I cannot comment coherently on The Penderwicks judged on  my RANT four years ago. I knew this one was out, I requested it from my library, I tried my best to read it. I even got out the first two books in the series and tried to get students to check them out. No one would, not even for a class that required a novel with family interactions. I'm so conflicted about these. All of the people who like the same books I like think these books are great. I want desperately to like them-- the covers alone, with the silhouettes make me want to adore them.

The characters I want to slap soundly.

I'll keep the first two and see if anyone will ever read them. *Sigh* Perhaps if I didn't care so much, this would be easier!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Guy Friday- Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream

23015965Watson, Tom. Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream
May 19th 2015 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central

Stick Dog and his friends are so hot, and desperately want some fresh water. They go in search of some, and count on Poo Poo's sense of smell to help them find it. They come across children playing in a lawn sprinkler, and have a humorous tussle with it. What really intrigues them, however, are the sweet, sticky puddles that they find on the pavement after a music playing truck visits a neighborhood and people get things from a man in the truck. Since dogs can read (I knew this!), the dogs know that this is ice cream, and they decide it will make them cool and give them refreshment. They stalk the truck and plan a very brilliant heist. Other titles include Stick Dog, Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog, and Stick Dog Chases a Pizza. I am hoping that the final book in the series will involve the dogs going for Chinese food and being adopted by loving families!
Strengths: I do believe that these are becoming increasingly clever. While the dogs have had strategy in the past, this really goes above and beyond. They do, of course, get momentarily distracted by squirrels, but who doesn't?
Weaknesses: I worried that Karen's favorite ice cream flavor was light brown. Is that chocolate? And is ice cream okay for dog's to eat? They make disgusting dog ice cream, so perhaps eating that much ice cream might not be good for dogs. Not that I've ever tasted the disgusting dog ice cream...
What I really think: These are growing on me. I just want better bindings.

22208289Grabenstein, Chris. I Totally Funniest.
January 26th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company

Jamie Grimm is back (I Funny, I Even Funnier) and dreading the finals for the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic competition. He's worried he'll choke and not be able to say anything. He's worried that his bully cousin will do something to him. He's worried that the competitors will blow him away. When the competition is postponed, he has two more weeks to worry, and THEN a big storm hits the east coast and destroys his home as well as his uncle's restaurant. The good news is that the award has been increased to a million dollars, and that would certainly come in handy. He has some misunderstandings with his friends, and people keep saying that he is only getting the sympathy votes because he is in a wheelchair. Can Jamie overcome all of these obstacles and rock the competition?
Strengths: Middle grade readers love jokes, and they love pictures in books, so this will be very popular. Jamie's struggles with his disability, and other's perception of it, are not usually addressed with such frankness. The inside information about talk shows and reality competitions will appeal to readers interested in celebrity culture.
Weaknesses: I think that these are depressing. Jamie's cousin Steve is such a stereotypical bully that it's ridiculous. All the descriptions of Jamie's stage fright get wearing, and the jokes are not very funny.
What I Really Think: This isn't like giving cotton candy to kids for breakfast; it's sort of like Froot Loops or Lucky Charms. Which I was never allowed to have as a child, although we frequently had Apple Jacks, which are really no better.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Blather-- Limping towards the finish line.

Today is the last day of school. There are twelve books still out, but after mailing notices home, calling and talking to or leaving messages for parents, giving repeated notices to children and hunting them down at the end of the day, looking in their eyes and saying "You do realize that you will be with me in the library instead of going to field day, don't you?", I will still not get the books back. I like to have five or fewer books still out. I have given up keeping track of books checked out to students who leave the district.

There were about 14 books that came up missing in inventory; these were just stolen. That hurts. There's never any rhyme or reason to the titles, either. Farewell, books 8,11, and 12 of Shan's Cirque du Freak manga. We'll miss you, Arnie the Doughnut. So long Toft's The Twilight Circus. Goodbye, Gilman's The Devil's Breath. At least it was the third copy of that title. Some I will replace; others I will just mourn.

The annual Flocking of the Overheads is now, sadly, outdated. Now, it's collecting LCD remotes and the various pieces of Mimio equipment. Most of that will happen on our teacher work day tomorrow.

There are always students that I will miss, but I try not to think about it. There will be staff who leave as well. There will be new people next year. Maybe I will like them even better.

It was hard to muster enthusiasm this year, but I did come to school every day (Well, there were two days I had to take my parents to doctors, I went to Sacramento for Kidlitcon, and I accompanied the 8th graders to D.C., but I never woke up and called in sick!). I was always completely dressed, USUALLY in a skirt and not in jeans.

This is going to be a summer of regrouping. Cleaning, reading, getting a lot more sleep than usual. Then, come August, I will be back to my old level of annoying enthusiasm. I even have a theme for next year; those usually last about two weeks, but my rip off of an old Ohio tourism slogan makes me happy.

So does this:

From http://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2012/11/everything-looks-better-in-underpants.html
Many, many thanks to Deb Nance at Readerbuzz for the following picture. I'm not entirely sure I could get through the day without the thought of Dav Pilkey and Jarrett Krosoczka with underpants on their heads.

How to Speak Dolphin

23399186Rorby, Ginny. How to Speak Dolphin
May 26th 2015 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Lily is being raised by her stepfather, Don, after the death of her father in the war and her mother two years previously in a car accident. Her brother, four-year-old Adam, is severely autistic and obsessed with dolphins. There is a nanny, Suzanne, who helps with Adam, but Lily still has to do a lot, and wishes that Adam could go to a school where he could get more training. Don considers one, but is more interested in dolphin therapy after he treats a dolphin for cancer, and Adam seems to bond with Nori, the young dolphin who ends up at the Sea World-like attraction. It's hard for Lily to make friends, but she meets Zoe in the local park when she is playing hooky from school. Lily is homeschooled because she is blind and her parents are overprotective, but the two girls get along well and start to bond over the shared opinion that Nori should be sent back to the wild. They do a lot of research on dolphins, as well as on treatment programs for children on the autism spectrum, and eventually manage to convince Don that they are right.
Strengths: This is a well balanced book, giving the ups and downs of different treatment programs for autism spectrum disorders as well as the dolphin issues. No characters are portrayed as completely black and white, and they are all open to different ideas. Lily and Zoe both treat Zoe's blindness very matter-of-factly without being either overly condescending or noble. The writing is solid, and the story moves along well.
Weaknesses: Can there be any more sadness in one single book? Lily's difficulties with her brother would have been enough basis for a book without the death of BOTH of her parents or the addition of Zoe's blindness. This doesn't get maudlin or hand-wringing, but it's still a lot of issues for one book.
What I really think: I realize my dislike of this is entirely personal. I am debating buying it, because there is a weirdly large interest in marine biology among my students (in Ohio? Don't get it.), and we do have an autism unit here at my school. If I can come up with a list of students I think will read it, I will put it on my list for fall. (I do that with all my books-- if I can't assign students to books in my mind, will anyone read them?)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

22926534Jones, Kelly. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer
May 12th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

E ARC from Netgalley.com

Sophie and her parents move to her to her great uncles farm from Los Angeles when her father loses his job and her uncle dies. It's a difficult move; Sophie misses her abuela, who has passed away, as well as her extended family, and isn't too wild about the run down farm. She finds an address for a nearby company that sells "unusual chickens" and writes away for a catalog. She also finds an unusual chicken, whom she names Henrietta, who may or may not have the power to move things like the hen house! In letter to the uncle, grandmother, and the chicken company, written on an old typewriter, Sophie tries to figure out what is going on with the chickens, especially after more unusual chickens show up and a neighbor claims that they are hers. With the help of several new friends, Sophie learns how to care for chickens and decides to show her chickens and alert the area of the chicken theft attempts. In the end, she finds out some interesting things about the farm and the chickens.
Strengths: This was absolutely charming! The illustrations lend a lot to the pictures, and even though there were some sad things (job loss, death of grandmother and uncle) in the book, the story was upbeat and funny. It wasn't slap stick goofy, which makes it good for middle grade readers. I can't really explain why I liked this one so much; I just did. The diversity was nicely done as well, and the supportive community nicely described. Brava!
Weaknesses: I had my concerns that while elementary students would pick this up instantly, it might be a hard sell for middle school. This will not stop me from buying a copy and telling children "No, really. Just read this one." Luckily, most of my students know they can trust me!
What I really think: Maybe it's the warm memories of McBroom's Farm that this evoked, but I just adored this. If I had ten year olds on my gift list, I'd buy multiple copies to give away. This does have a very timeless, classic feel to it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Orphan Army

18244299Maberry, Jonathan. The Orphan Army (The Nightsiders #1)
May 19th 2015, Simon & Schuster
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Milo lives in a post apocalyptic society in a pod of other young people who train to fight against the space alien "bugs", or Dissosterin invaders that have taken over Earth. When he comes across an odd pyramid, he meets an equally odd girl who tells him that the Heart of Darkness is missing from the pyramid, and will spell disaster for them all. Barnaby, Milo's Cajun friend, warns him that the girl might be a Rougaroo-- a werewolf. It's a good guess, because there are all sorts of threats in Milo's world, including Stingers and the Huntsman, both of which are dispatched by the bugs and sent to attack Milo's encampment. The Stingers, huge robotic attack beetles, are the biggest threat, and both the wolves and the witches help Milo fight against them, since the Huntsman goal is to enslave everyone on Earth. and hopes to use the Heart of Darkness to create an endless swarm army.
Strengths: Maberry can certainly write. The prose is beautiful and evocative. The characters are well developed, and there's a good amount of action. The Stingers sound terrifying and gross. There's a good amount of diversity in the characters as well.
Weaknesses: Like this author's Rot and Ruin, this is rather long (400 pages) and a little too philosophical for the middle grade demographic. I had to take notes to keep everything straight. While the world building was okay, I felt that the back story of how the world became dystopian was lacking.
What I really think: If I had a strong core of fantasy fans, I would buy this, but I currently do not have those readers. I'll look at the rest of the series and consider. I did buy the Rot and Ruin series, and lots of readers pick it up; few finish.

22747766McIntosh, Fiona. The Whisperer
April 14th 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copy received from the publisher

Griff works at Tyren's circus, and is happy building things because it keeps him busy and far away from people... and he can hear their thoughts. When Tyren finds this out, he wants to exploit Griff's talents, but he has also recently taken on Tess and her magical creature menagerie, whom he saved from the Stalkers. Lute is the son of King Rodin, whose brother Janko is in charge of the Stalkers and who really wants to take over the kingdom. He makes an attempt, killing Rodin and attacking Lute, but Lute escapes with the help of his long time aide, Pilo. Griff also escapes, and the two boys realize that they can speak to each other-- Griff hears "the whisperer" and knows what Lute is doing. Eventually, Pilo (who is separated from Lute after an attack) finds Griff, and is convinced he is really Lute! With the help of a number of people, including Calico Grace the pirate and Bitter Olof, the dwarf, Griff and Tyren solve the mystery of their lineage. Can they manage to save the kingdom from Janko as well?
Strengths: Had a The False Prince, John Flanagan sort of feel to it, with a decent amount of adventure and some royal twists. Supporting characters were well-drawn, and both Griff and Lute were likeable. They passed out more than one would expect, but at least they weren't constantly injured like Sage. Best of all, this is a stand alone title, with the fate of all the characters neatly wrapped up in an epilogue. I was able to read this and remember it, which is not the case with all fantasy books.
Weaknesses: No new ground here, with a fairly stock setting and plot. I could foresee a lot of the events even without psychic powers.
What I really think: Since I have a hard cover copy, I'll put it in the collection, but I don't know that I would buy it. Apparently, my lack of fantasy readers has been going on for at least three years. (Given my anti-fantasy rant on The False Prince review!)
 
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