Saturday, April 30, 2016

Newbery Award Books Mini Reviews - March Reads

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom3.5 out of 5 Robots!

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
Release: April 1, 2008
Hardcover: 169 Pages
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in reconcentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps. So she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her.

Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war? Acclaimed poet Margarita Engle has created another breathtaking portrait of Cuba.
(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
Oooh, boy.  This is a tough book to review.  At face value, it is a very good book.  It is written from several different perspectives in prose.  It highlights Cuba's struggles for independence from a ground level.  It was very eye opening.  I have NO idea about this part of Cuba's history, especially the concentration camps.  I especially enjoyed that there were different narrators for each perspective.  That being said, this book is a hard read.  There is a lot of suffering and death.  It was hard for me to read as an adult.  I think it would be a bit much for 8-12 year olds.  I was thoroughly depressed after listening this book.


Heart of a Samurai4 out of 5 Robots!

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
Release: August 1, 2010
Hardcover: 305 Pages
Publisher: Henry N. Abrams
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
In 1841, a Japanese fishing vessel sinks. Its crew is forced to swim to a small, unknown island, where they are rescued by a passing American ship. Japan’s borders remain closed to all Western nations, so the crew sets off to America, learning English on the way.
Manjiro, a fourteen-year-old boy, is curious and eager to learn everything he can about this new culture. Eventually the captain adopts Manjiro and takes him to his home in New England. The boy lives for some time in New England, and then heads to San Francisco to pan for gold. After many years, he makes it back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider. With his hard-won knowledge of the West, Manjiro is in a unique position to persuade the shogun to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
I liked this book and the narrator quite a bit.  It was interesting to see everything through Manjiro's eyes and to see how he ends up shaping Japanese history.  I didn't actually know Manjiro was a real person until after reading the book.  I also think this would interest boys who only like to read "boy" stories.  There is a lot of high seas adventure and what not.  The only thing I would make note of is that Manjiro spends a lot of time on a whaling ship and this story does not shy away from the brutal practice of whaling.  Manjiro has his reservations, but does participate.  The book is very matter of fact and doesn't take a side on it.  But, for anyone who is sensitive to animals being killed, I would be warned.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab [Joint Review!]

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)4.5 out of 5 Robots!

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #2
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release: February 23, 2016
Hardcover: 512 Pages
Publisher: Tor Books
My Copy: Purchased
Reviewer: Julia and Shannon

Book Summary:
It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift – back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games – an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries – a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Julia and Shannon's Thoughts:

1. What was your first thought upon finishing this book?

Julia: The end of Gathering of Shadows left me feeling a little ripped off. I LOVED the book, the ending isn't bad, but Kell is (sort of) wise and has been through a lot, seen a lot - and he falls for something stupid. I just, it isn't in his character... Cliff hanger ending, so I was sad I didn't have the next book! Need it!
Shannon: I agree.  I was 100% on board with this book and thought it was a great follow up to the first book, but was a little dumbfounded that Kell would fall for something so stupid at the end. I wish I had the second book so I could find out what happens!

2. What did you like?  What did you dislike?

Julia: The whole fighting/tournament thing is fun because you meet a lot of new characters with different talents... also! The chemistry between Alucard and Rhy. ...And the evolution of friendship between Lilah and Alucard. I disliked the easy ending and Lilah's crappy decision to do things that aren't very nice. Lol. But I liked them in the same breath...  
Shannon: I pretty liked everything.  The tournament thing is an interesting diversion from the main plot.  I liked the introduction of the new characters and how they were related to the other characters.  Besides the ending, there wasn't' much I disliked.  Kell and Rhy are definitely mopier, but I thought it was in keeping with what they went through.  

3. How did you feel about the direction of the characters?

Julia: I enjoyed it. Everyone is evolving. I'm satisfied with where this story is going... Though during the tournament I didn't quite understand why Lilah felt the need to push her own buttons when she doesn't fully understand her power. I know she likes taking risks, but she usually takes "smart" ones.
Shannon: Everyone starts coming apart at the seams a little.  Kell's thoughts are darker and he feels the weight of his decisions heavily.  Rhy's naivety is gone and he also feels the weight of Kell's decisions. Lilah becomes even more dangerous and selfish.  She is truly not a nice girl.  But it all works for me.  I loved that things were not just glossed over or people's feelings were easily fixed.

4. How did this sequel compare to the first book?

Julia: It is a great addition!! I don't even have much else to say, I was into it just like I was the first. 
Shannon:  I liked it almost as much as the first!  I mean, people do things that upset me, but I take that as a good thing.  I know some people don't like Kell being so mopey, but I think it was fitting.  

5. Who is your favorite character and why?

Julia: Alucard! He is a little mysterious... And his scenes interacting with any character is intriguing.
Shannon: I still have a total soft spot for Kell.  And I love Rhy too.  But Alucard was definitely fun addition.  A total rogue.  And his connection with Rhy was surprising.  I want to see how that turns out.

6. What is your rating?  Would you recommend this book?
Julia: 4 Stars. Recommend it to just about anyone!
Shannon: I give it 4.5.  I recommend this book to EVERYONE.  

Books in the Series:
1. A Darker Shade of Magic
2. A Gathering of Shadows
3. A Conjuring of Light (2017)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tell Me Tuesday #49

Tell me Tuesday is a weekly feature that where you talk about what you are currently reading and what you have on deck!  Let's begin, shall we?


Julia and I are still working on this one.  It's not that we don't enjoy it (we do!), but we are both crazy busy right now and reading has definitely taken a backseat.

The Mirror King (The Orphan Queen, #2)

This audiobook is part of my Newbery challenge. I'm just starting it today.  I'm looking for something a little more lighthearted that the previous Newbery book I listened to, The Surrender Tree.  Plus, animals, yay!
 The Underneath

Kaylee (age 5) and I are still working on this one.  No time for me to read as also been translating into no time for bedtime stories too:
Liz Learns a Lesson (Critter Club, #3)
Who knows if I will be able to actually get to this by next week, but I have this from the library to read so I need to get to it soon!
Riders (Riders, #1)



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