Book Review – The Kneebone Boy

Author:  Ellen Potter

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (September 14, 2010)

Reading Level: Grades 4th to 8th

Source: ARC for review

Rating:  5 Stars – Highly recommend

Description from GoodReads:

The book’s set in a small English town and follows the Hardscrabble kids who are relocated to live with their aunt in London, where they discover they might be living next door to “a horribly misshapen boy who has figured in local legend.” It’s the story of the three Hardscrabble siblings and their search for the legendary Kneebone Boy.

There are books that are fun to read.  There are other books that are amazingly well written.  Sometimes, though, it is a struggle to find “fun to read” and “amazingly well written” between the same covers of a book.  However, as I read through Ellen Potter’s newest book The Kneebone Boy, I found myself repeating in this awestruck manner “This book is brilliant”.  Both fun and well written and bound behind a spectacular cover. (Click here to read a post from Potter about the cover of the book illustrated by Jason Chan.)

The Kneebone Boy is a tale of 3 children, siblings, living in an odd home with a somewhat eccentric father in England.  There is a mystery surrounding the disappearance of their mother which permeates their lives and influences their actions.  When they find themselves on their own in London, rather than return home, they set out to find their great-aunt.  Their journey turns out to be an adventure of a lifetime.  One that will challenge and test them on many levels, but will ultimately provide them with new understanding.

I am determined not to spoil this story so if some of the details seem vague it is for exactly this reason.  Potter is a master storyteller and has crafted this novel in a manner that reveals just what needs to be at each step of the journey.  As I read each page, I never felt that I wanted more or less than what was given to me.  Even as I arrived at the end of the book, I was pleased with the manner in which she pulled together all of the aspects of the story and provided the reader with a deeply satisfying ending.

It should be noted that The Kneebone Boy is written in a style that fans of Lemony Snickets’ Series of Unfortunate Events or Pseudonymous Bosch’s Secret Series will be familiar with. Yet, the story begins in a very different voice and style from other novels by Potter. If you are not familiar with Snickets’ or Bosch’s stories, and more accustomed with Potter’s traditional writing style, then I would suggest that you give the story a couple of chapters to acclimate yourself to the narrator’s manner. Once in the rhythm of the story you will find yourself, enjoying the interjections and information provided by the book’s narrator. I will make the argument that I truly felt as if Potter has taken her writing to a whole new level with this story. There is a richness and complexity with the story that will appeal to older Middle Grade readers and even adults who are reading along with their children.

Kudos to Ellen Potter for an amazing new book and for continuing to write outstanding literature for middle grade readers.

For more information about Ellen Potter and her books, you can check out her website here: www.ellenpotter.com

Book Review: Linger

Author:  Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 13, 2010)

Reading Level: Young Adult

Source: Advanced Reader’s Copy

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

In Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love — the light and the dark, the warm and the cold — in a way you will never forget.

I received a copy of Linger back in March and basically inhaled it in one sitting.  However, it was too early to write a review at that point.  Anyway, I am glad I saved my review though for now because I can do a back to back post.  First, a review of Linger and then follow it up with an Author Event post about Maggie’s visit to Borders/Glendale.  Maybe even a contest for that ARC I have.

Back to my review of Linger.  Last year, I accidentally happened upon Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  I was looking for a book to read and saw a display on release day and picked it up.  I read it straight through and fell in love with Grace and Sam.  Stiefvater’s writing was lyrical, heart-warming, and moving.  There was something magical about it and I wasn’t referring to the werewolves.  It was probably my favorite read of the summer of 2009, and I highly anticipated the release of Linger.

In March, I had a chance to finally find out what happened to Sam and Grace.  Linger picks up where Shiver left off.  (Please note there will definitely be spoilers for Shiver and I will attempt to keep this as spoiler free for Linger.) Sam has supposedly been cured and isn’t shifting from boy to wolf based on temperature.  This should be an exciting time for Grace and Sam.  However, this is a book 2.  I say this because book 2 is always where the author takes her beloved characters and makes them struggle, suffer, go through really crappy things.  And Stiefvater does not disappoint.  These are the things that I *hate* about book 2, in any series. There were times while reading that I wanted to throw the book and other times when I wanted to scream at Stiefvater.  Yes, I get emotional when reading about my favorite characters.  And if the characters didn’t struggle, the author wouldn’t have done her job.  Without saying much more about some of those struggles, let me just say keep the tissue box close by.

Now that you know what I *hated* about Linger.  Here is what I loved about Linger?  I loved the addition of a new wolf, Cole.  Cole is charming, sexy, and definitely a bad boy.  You will love him.  He plays well off of Isabel’s character and offers a bit of relief from the emotional rollercoaster that Sam and Grace are navigating.

What I am still up in the air about? Grace’s parents have a much more prominent role in this book than they did in Shiver.  I have mixed feelings about the transition from book 1’s lack of involvement to book 2’s extreme involvement.  I’m still not sure about this, but you will have to see what you think about it.

Finally, the ending of the story, though the cliff-hanger, was somewhat predictable.  I am not certain if the ending was the most natural progression for the story or if it was just the easiest.  Despite though having a strong idea about how the book would end (not all of the details but the conflict), I still cried.

Linger may not win over any Shiver fence-sitters, but it will definitely be a book that passionate fans will be eager to read and devour.

If you post any comments, please keep them spoiler free.

Congratulations to Maggie Stiefvater for debuting at #1 on the New York Times Best-Seller List.  Now I wonder if I can hack into her computer and download Forever?

-Aly

Book Review: Restoring Harmony

Author: Joelle Anthony

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (May 8, 2010)

Reading Level: YA (6th grade up)

Source: ARC for review

Rating: 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

When I received the Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of Restoring Harmony, I was bogged down with books to read for book club or prior books for review.  In addition, work/life was just really busy.  Some books I have a gut sense that I am going to enjoy and I don’t want to rush through them. I had that feeling about Restoring Harmony and I found myself carrying it around but not reading it because the time wasn’t right.  Finally, I had just the right time and I devoured the book in one sitting.

Let me just start with what I liked about the book…

I have discovered that I love books with short chapters.  This may be a silly thing but it makes the book feel like a super fast read even if it takes me exactly the same time to read as any other book with the same number of pages. Additionally, it means that the book will go on my list to recommend to reluctant readers.

Another reason that this will go on my list for reluctant readers is that Anthony grabs you from the beginning and keeps you hooked in until the end.  I really don’t feel that as the reader I should wade through 75 or 100 pages before the book “gets good”.  My reluctant readers won’t even hang in there for that many pages before giving up on the book.

My third reason for loving this book – I loved the characters.  Molly is a wonderful protagonist.  She is bright, tenacious, resourceful, and just plain likable.  She is sent out on a journey to contact her grandparents and convince them to return to Canada with her.  Molly embraces her mission and despite obstacles and set-backs plunges forward without giving up and without annoying the reader.  Molly isn’t the only character I loved.  There is Spill.  You really need to read the book – you will fall in love with Spill too.  He is swoon-worthy in a very good way.  I am adding him to my list of fictional crushes.

My fourth reason for loving this book – I truly appreciate books that have a sense of community in them and adults who are not all jerks.  I realize YA is written from the perspective of teens, but not all teens hate all adults.

Just a few more things…I can share Restoring Harmony with readers from sixth grade on up.  I appreciated the timeless feel to the book, and the dialogue did not annoy me.  Have you ever read a book where the voice of the characters just irritated you?  I have and it really is a turn off – not so with this book.

Finally, the writing of the book was wonderful.  Anthony does an incredible job in describing her world, the struggles of the society, the challenges facing the characters, the emotions behind the words.  There is intensity and darkness balanced with hope.

Joelle Anthony’s debut novel, Restoring Harmony, is a wonderful offering and one that I hope really gets the attention that it deserves.  I look forward to future books by this author.

Check out Joelle’s blog for more information about Restoring Harmony and to listen to some related music or check out the wonderfully done book trailer.

2010 Debut Author Challenge Update

Several months ago, I signed up for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge being hosted by the wonderful Story Siren (Krisit).  I have been terrible at posting my reviews on her site.  So in some ways you would think I had done nothing towards this challenge.  But I have and I am going to write one large update right here.  For more information about the Debut Author Challenge click here.

January

Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland  – Twelve year old Polly is a hopeless romantic who loves Pride & Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables.  As she travels about town delivering, scones and other baked goods from her parents’ bakery, she schemes about ways to play matchmaker for friends and family.  Hilarity ensues and some lessons are learned.  Read my review here.

February

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman – Edison “Eddy” Thomas is a middle school student, who loves to tinker with inventions but struggles to understand innuendos of those around him. After coming in 3rd in a school science fair, Eddy begins to tinker with another invention which leads him to some interesting lessons, new friends, and a lesson in understanding bullying.  Read my review here.

March

Under My Skin by Judith Graves – I love stories that are filled with paranormal beasties, great characters (especially kick-butt heroines), resident hotties, and humor! This one has it all.  It has probably been one of my most fun debut reads.  Fans of Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance will love this.  Read my review here.

April

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter – This middle grade debut is filled with magic, humor, history lessons, and some great fun.  Middle grade girls will especially love Abbie and her magical ways.  Read my review here.

13 to Life by Shannon Delany – Between Judith Graves and Shannon Delany, I am becoming more and more a werewolf fan.  I really enjoyed this book.  I read it in one sitting.  Love the characters, the mythology, and the overall story.  Read my review here.

May

Sea by Heidi R Kling – Fifteen year old Sienna (Sea) lost her mother in an airplane accident over the ocean.  Three years later her father decides to take her to assist with orphan victims of the tsunami.  Her journey provides her with experiences that lead her to grow emotionally and personally. Read my review here.

Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy – How many teen girls wish that they were cool, popular, and dating a hunk?  Fifteen year old, Jess learns that it isn’t all about appearances but that it really is an issue of girl empowerment and good battling evil.  Read my review here.

June

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus  – So often in Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romances, a human girl falls in love with a supernatural boy or vice a versa.  Hopcus has main characters that are equally matched with secrets of their own.  Great characters, well developed story, and I am already pining for book two. Read my review here.

July

The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1) by Jacqueline West – A haunted house, a curious 11 year old girl, talking cats, enchanted glasses, and a mystery.  This was a great read.  What a wonderful Middle Grade debut novel.  One of my favorite reads this year.  Read my review here.

The guidelines of the challenge encourage participants to read at least 12 debut novels.  I am 3/4 of the way to the minimum goal.   However, I am determined to read closer to 25 books by debut authors.  Guess I should get reading if I am going to meet that goal…

-Aly

Summertime Reading Giveaway…

Do some books remind you of a particular time of the year? Some books make me think vacation.  Others remind me of where I was or a particular time in my life.  However, some books seem like great summer reading material.  For the next few weeks, I am going to be hosting a series of book contests.  Yes, you read that right…book contests – plural.

I am kicking the Summer Reading Giveaway with a book that says summer to me but one that I don’t think has gotten as much recognition as I think it should.  I am featuring Saundra Mitchell’s Shadowed Summer.  Saundra has been wonderful and sent me a signed book plate for the book, and some additional swag including a Shadowed Summer bookmark, sticker, and a Vespertine book card.

Description from GoodReads:

Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?

My Review:

I actually read Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell back in December.   It had come to me highly recommended, and someone joked that it should be read in the middle of the winter.  So I did read it surrounded by 2 feet of snow outside.  It is one of those books that warms you up.  When I jumped into the first chapter of the book, I could feel the heat and humidity of the Louisiana summer rising off the page.

But to be fair, this is truly a summer book.  Mitchell’s Shadowed Summer is a southern gothic ghost story. From the first pages, Mitchell drew me into her world and kept me reading.  I could almost sense myself walking around this small Louisanna town in the summer with the heat and humidity rising from the ground, and the laziness of the days. Her characters – Richly developed, and come alive on the pages. There is friendship, secrets, and more. Mitchell’s background as a screenwriter lends itself to crisp writing without excessive words and pacing that never drags. If anything, I wanted to spend more time in her world and was sad to see the story end even though the length was appropriate. And even though part of me thought I knew how the book was going to end, I was still was a little surprised.

I would highly recommend this to anyone, and I do.  Mitchell has been added to my favorite author “watch list” and I can’t wait for her next book Vespertine to be released in 2011.

To Enter the Contest:

1. You must fill out the form below.

2. You must be 14 years or older to enter the contest.

3. You must submit the form prior to 11:59 p.m. PDT on Sunday, July 11, 2010

For Extra Entries:

– Leave a comment in the comment section about your favorite summer book (1 extra entry)

– Tweet it, Blog about it, or post it on your blog or Facebook page (each item will earn you 2 extra entries)

– Follow the Blog (New followers will get 1 extra entry, Current Followers will get 2 extra entries)

Good luck,

-Aly

Click Here for Entry Form

Please email me at alybee930 (at) gmail (dot) com If you have any troubles with the entry form.