Book Review: Cub

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Let me begin with a general pitch for graphic novels. I was a late adapter, and now they will always be apart of both my recreational reading and the reading I assign in my home school. Today’s middle-grade graphic novels are not the comic books of your youth. (although I’ve come around to those too!) They aren’t a cheater type book, and they aren’t abridged or easier in any way. They are a full-fledged genre of their own told in full-length stories contained in paneled, sequential, graphic format. They are NOT merely collections of comic strips. You can find nearly any genre written in graphic novel format, including fantasy, realistic fiction, historical fiction, biography, and nonfiction. *Jumps down off soapbox, and stops posting like a recipe blogger*

I was lucky enough to get a copy real copy of this book back in December to read and review. The pay isn’t great with this review gig, but the perks are incredible!

In this book, Cindy is starting seventh grade and endures all that goes along with that age group of friends. The 1970s era atmosphere is sublime. Starting with her dress on the cover, to the outdated way her Dad treats her compared to her brothers, growing up during that time was tricky for a girl. Readers will notice the stark differences in how males treat female career aspirations during that time. Luckily, Cindy has excellent mentors to guide her. Our society has changed in so many ways, but not much in others:

Reporters have huge responsibility, especially now. Our country is in turmoil: chaos in the white house, a senseless war, environmental crises, women having to fight for equal rights…

Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland

I doubt you could get a gig as a cub reporter anywhere these days as newspapers struggle to keep paid reporters on board, and so this peek into history was a refreshing throwback to the days when printed word brought the news to your home. I especially liked the examples of how an article looks in editing. So many kids think that the first draft is the only draft, and this may help young writers see that everyone needs editing. Her writing evolves as she finds her voice and learns the skills of reporting.

Between learning to write (and rewrite), Cindy struggles with typical middle-grade issues of juggling old friends, new friends, boys, and bullies. I enjoyed every bit of it.

Book Release today! January 7, 2020

Book Review: Here In The Real World

This author also wrote the book- Pax, which is now one of our family favorites, so I looked forward to reading this new novel.

Ware is a boy that tries to please his parents by agreeing to what they call “Meaningful Social Interaction” and being normal at a day camp for the Summer. It hadn’t started that way, and he has looked forward to spending his Summer in his world of imagination while staying with his Grandma. When she fell/needed surgery/rehab, they went to plan B, with all those “normal” activities.

Luckily he ends up meeting Jolene, and he ditches the Rec program to help her with her plans of growing papayas in an empty lot. It works for both of them, and he can live out some of his Knight and Code of Chivalry fantasies. His character is just so lovely I wince every time he gets his feelings hurt. His parents are stressed for sure juggling their jobs, grandmas’ care, and saving for a home. They willingly admit they don’t understand him, and although he has a supportive Uncle who tries to help, there is some push and pull as Ware attempts to be himself and please his parents.

I’d go up to 8th grade with this story for the right kind of reader. There is a lot to think about/discuss with each character’s motivations. 

Scheduled for publication February 4, 2020.

Book Review: The Night Country

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Here we are back in The Hinterland universe.

Little mouse

Scratch scratch

Hasten to your home

Lock and latch, do up the catch

And pray that you’re alone…

The Night Country

Delightfully ominous, the prose creeps up on you until you aren’t sure whether to be proud of Alice or scared for her. There is no build-up in this book. It is gory and dark, and the action begins right away. You can imagine all of the violence without effort, and it is gorily realistic in tone.
After The Hinterland becomes unbound, the ex-Stories are now refugees in New York. They range from weird and creepy to sociopaths. They don’t know what to do with themselves. The kids are more on the odd side, and I am all in for fairy tale weirdness. It isn’t a good time to be Alice at all, she doesn’t have any real friends in this world, and she’s being held responsible for everything that is coming apart. I can’t wait to see where the next book brings them all.
I’d put this book at 14 and up- and this story won’t be for everyone.
You’ll need to have read and enjoyed The Hazel Wood before you pick up this treasure. I began reading this book and had to put it down until I had a chance to breeze through The Hazel Wood for a refresher on where we left off. It’s not a stand-alone in any way. If you like Grimm’s fairy tales and want a modern take on a dark gothic world- I will encourage you to jump right in.

Publication date: January 7, 2020

Book Review: Disney's Land

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Disney’s Land tells the complete story of Disneyland from concept to the present day. This novel is one of the best histories of Disneyland that I’ve read (and there are quite a few out there.) The tone of the book is so friendly and readable that you feel as if you are listening to a friend tell the story.

One fact I hadn’t heard before reading this was that Walt was pretty bored making cartoon movies and wanted a new challenge. I also diagnosed Walt with ADHD just by reading his behavior descriptions. 🙂

There were so many challenges to create what was the first theme park anywhere, and to do it so well out of the gate was amazing. Not everything went as planned, and reading about the ins and outs of the details was fascinating.

I’m tempted to purchase the audio version of this book. The chapter containing the transcript of the live broadcast of Opening Day would be fun to hear. It sounds like Ronald Reagan wasn’t very happy that his role narrating the parade did not include a script.

Overall this book will appeal to not only Disney fanatics but to anyone interested in building a creative business from the ground up. There is a lot to learn from the process of creating Disney’s first Land.

ARC Review: When We Were Vikings

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 “there are people around the poker table of life whose hands aren’t perfect and they see what they have and fold right away. They don’t even bother playing.”

This is a story about Gert and Zelda, brother and sister orphaned at a young age, shifted to a not so great Uncle Richard, and how they navigate the world.
Twenty-one year old Zelda has fetal alcohol syndrome and lives her life by what she feels are the rules of the Vikings. Zelda is on an epic quest to be a modern-day Viking warrior. Her journey includes building a “tribe,” and experiencing new adventures (a new job at a library).
Gert has his own issues with drugs and alcohol addiction. Although he tries to do the right thing, it takes Gert and Zelda together to get out from under some trouble with a drug dealer.
Most of the reviews I’ve read paint Gert as being Zelda’s caretaker when I see it more as they are both damaged by their upbringing and are equals. I loved that in Zelda’s mind, she is a warrior and that she brings those ideals to her modern life. She is the quirky heroine I’ve wanted to read about for a long time.
PSA: I wouldn’t hand this one off to anyone under the age of fifteen, as the story contains a lot of graphic language and adult situations.

Expected publication: January 28th 2020 by Scout Press

Book Review: The Story That Cannot Be Told

If you’ve got a kid that loves folk and fairy tales, this is a story for them. If they like historical fiction, this is also for them. The alternating chapters between the story of Ileana in Romania circa 1989, and the stories that Ileana adapts as Romanian folktales to disguise their exact origins are amazing.
Living under Ceausescu was so dangerous for people who rebelled that Ileana has to leave Bucharest and go and live with her grandparents in a rural village. This is quite the change for a kid who grew up living city life under a communist regime. She is used to food shortages, secrecy, and living under the threat of torture. In the country, her grandparents are far enough away that she has a taste of a sort of “normal” childhood for a little while. During this time in the village, she comes into her own with both her storytelling and her political ideals. The novel reminded me of “The War That Saved My Life.” This is a time period (1980’s and 1990’s) that doesn’t have much for Middle-Grade kids.
Anyone studying Eastern Europe with kids could use this as a Read Aloud for many ages. You may have to explain to younger kids when the story transitions back and forth from fairy tale to the present, but the story contains typical wartime violence.
In the end, the story was so captivating that I thought maybe the fairy tale was real.

Book Review: The Strangers (Greystone Secrets, #1)

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Are you looking for a Middle-Grade mystery series? I wasn’t really- until I found this one. Now, I’m hooked and reading an advanced copy of the sequel. If you’ve read any of the many novels by this author, you’ll be expecting a twisty, turny plot, and you will not be disappointed here.
Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone are siblings living a normal life when one day they see a strange news story on TV that tells of three siblings with their exact same names that get kidnapped in Arizona. Very soon after that, their Mom announces that she is going away on business and doesn’t know when she’ll be returning.
Why would these kids have the same names as them? That is only the beginning of the puzzles, riddles, and underlying weirdness that the kids encounter as they try to piece together the truth in their circumstances. This middle-grade novel has more than a little in common with the Stranger Things series, and we were so ready for it. My fourteen-year-old son and I took turns reading it aloud, so don’t be afraid to age this one up into the YA range, although younger kids with a good attention span will enjoy it too.

Publication date April 7, 2019

Sequel- The Deceivers scheduled for publication April 7, 2020