Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald

Following up Burning Blue on the list of "books I read and always meant to review but didn't", The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald is one that I read and loved at the beginning of 2013. McDonald's books are generally a bit cutesy, or at least come across that way especially because of the covers, which I realize aren't her fault. But because of that, I wasn't sure if I'd like them or not. However, the instant I picked up The Anti-Prom, her hilarious and authentic voice caught my attention (and kept it).

The Anti-Prom is told from three points of view– popular Bliss, rebel Jolene, and studious Meg. But these girls are more than just their cliques, and are brought together by prom disasters that Bliss and Jolene want to take action about and Meg, well she just happens to have a car to help them do that. 

This book is basically like a road trip adventure except it all takes place over one night. The premise is quite similar to Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian which I really enjoyed, but this one is much funnier, although it does have its moment of sincerity, but they are balanced by a lot of entertaining adventures. It is really fun watching these different girls come together and see what kind of mess they were going to get into and how they were going to get out of it. 

Overall, I was really charmed by this book and found McDonald's writing easy and entertaining to read. I highly recommend The Anti-Prom if you're looking for something lighthearted and would definitely pick up other McDonald novels in the future, cheesy covers or not!

Release Date: April 10th, 2012  Pages: 288  Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher Publisher: Candlewick Press  Buy It: Book Depository

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin

It's kinda ridiculous for me to review this now, almost a year after I finished it, but here's the thing: it's the only book I read in 2012 that I didn't review. And that's been nagging at me ever since. So here are my very-late thoughts on Burning Blue by Paul Griffin.

Anyway I picked this one up because the concept caught my attention and I'm a sucker for a good mystery that sucks me in. Pun fully intended. This is the story of a girl who has everything, until she predictably loses it all. In this case it's because she's splashed with acid, destroying half of her perfect face. One of the guys at school, a computer hacker, decides to look into who did it to her. But what he doesn't realize is finding out the truth may be the most dangerous thing of all.

This was an intense read. I read Burning Blue on a single day, because I just had to find out what happened. I thought Griffin did an excellent job weaving the mystery and clues together, and I like the unique spin of the computer hacker element. Even a year later I can remember how quickly I turned the pages. Griffin took a concept that has been done before–beautiful popular girl loses everything– but made it fresh and authentic. It was also a bit chilling and creepy at times, especially near the end. 

Overall, a really enjoyable read and although I haven't yet, Burning Blue definitely made me want to pick up other novels by Paul Griffin. And when I do, I'll try to review them a little more promptly than this one!

Release Date: October 25th, 2012  Pages: 288  Source: Borrowed 
Publisher: Dial  Buy It: Book Depository

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Mouse House Tales by Susan Pearson (Illustrated by Amanda Shepherd)

Mouse House Tales by Susan Pearson is illustrated by Amanda Shepherd and tells two stories. In the first one, Mouse needs to build and furnish her home, and gets help from all of her animal friends. In the second she's moved in, but there's a mystery visitor making noises at night who she wants to catch. 

I really liked the classic look of the illustrations in Mouse House Tales, it definitely reminded me of picture books from when I was a kid, especially in combination with the storyline about animals working together. There was also a little tweak that I found adorable– there's a goat who won't stop offering everyone cheese. I loved this cute character and I thought he was pretty funny.

I also enjoyed the second story although it had a less-obvious conclusion, it was still pretty fun and cute and I'm always happy when lots of different animals come together. The book rhymes, and there was the ever popular seven and eleven one that seems to show up all the time even when it's unnecessary. But overall I didn't mind cause it helps the book flow and makes it a bit musical to read aloud.

Ultimately a charming story with charming illustrations, I enjoyed Mouse House Tales and I could definitely see this as the first in a series about Mouse's adventures. Wherever she goes, I hope that there is cheese!

Release Date: September 10th, 2013  Pages: 72  Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Monday, November 04, 2013

It's A Firefly Night by Dianne Ochiltree (Illustrated by Betsy Snyder)

It's a Firefly Night is written by Dianne Ochiltree and illustrated by Betsy Snyder. It depicts a young girl catching fireflies with her dad, only to let them free into the sky and watch them glow in the sky. So, first off, I'm immediately won over by any book with glitter on the cover, and I know that my five-year-old-self would be too–– but it's the contents both text and illustration-wise that ultimately stole my heart.

This is the kind of book that tells a simple story, but does it perfectly. The text is told in short rhyming stanzas of four lines, which occur once on every two page-spread. The only complaint I have about this book at all is that some of the rhymes aren't perfect. That said, the feeling it generated was so magical, I'm willing to forgive it. On the pages, the text is white, which contrasts nicely with the dark nighttime colours of the book, it's also large enough to be easy to read without overwhelming the drawings.

The story of It's a Firefly Night is easy to follow, with a sweet message about letting the fireflies go. There's also some facts at the back of the book about fireflies, which I thought was a fun addition and would make it more interesting to older readers. Finally, there's a tiny bit of counting in the book as the main character counts the fireflies, which I think is a nice component to have. 

Complimenting the lovely text by Dianne Ochiltree are gorgeous illustrations by Betsy Snyder. I adore these illustrations. They perfectly capture the magical feeling of the evening, and have some cute hidden details like a caterpillar hiding out on a leaf that would be fun for kids to notice. The way that the fireflies in the book glow is just so gorgeous, and I love the cute little dog that keeps the girl company.

Overall, It's a Firefly Night was a huge hit for me, both writing and illustration wise. I definitely hope these two collaborate again!

Release Date: May 14th, 2013  Pages: 32 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Monster Needs One More! by Natalie Marshall

Monster Needs One More! appears to be the second monster book by Natalie Marshall, following up Monster, Be Good! This time the monsters are back, and I would say they are even cuter. They are all looking for one more of something, one more cookie, one more teddy bear.

That said, like the last book, I adored the illustrations and I think they would greatly appeal to young children, but had an issue with the text. These are all monsters saying they NEED one more. They are grouchy or not-so-happy monsters, and it is only getting more (often things like candy or cookies) that cheers them up, and it's not because they are hungry, it's just because they need one more. It's a message I'm not entirely convinced by. That said, Monster Needs One More! ends with the monster needing one more kiss goodnight, which is absolutely adorable.

Although the counting aspect of Monster Needs One More! is good for helping kids learn, the book also rhymes and I think that causes it to be confusing at times, because there is always a sentence that rhymes with the number before it finishes doing the math. For example, "Another beach ball! Like the water? Can you dive? I had four. Now I have five." I think it would be easier for kids to follow if the math immediately followed the monster asking for more. 

Ultimately, Monster Needs One More! had some flaws in the writing that make me hesitant to recommend it, as adorable as the illustrations are. I definitely hope for more monsters from Natalie Marshall in the future, they are so cute!

Release Date: August 27th, 2013  Pages: 24 Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher  Publisher: Blue Apple Books  Buy It: Book Depository