Review: Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook

 

Title: Fourth Grade Fairy

Author: Eileen Cook

Publisher: Aladdin

ISBN: 978-1416998112

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

All Willow Doyle wants is to be normal, to fit in at her new school, and to have a best friend. But there’s no way Willow will ever be normal. There isn’t anything normal about her or the Doyle family.

Willow comes from a long line of fairy godmothers and she’s expected to be one too when the time comes. (At the moment she’s merely sprite status.) Maybe that would be cool if it were like the old days when the humans — known as humdrums — knew fairy godmothers existed and the fairies didn’t have to keep their fairy status secret. Now they’re stuck helping humans who don’t even believe in them. Rather than help normals, Willow would rather be human. She’s sick of being weird.

When she’s given the chance to attend a humdrum elementary school for two weeks, this is Willow’s chance to finally experience a normal life — but will she be able to fit in? And can she find her best friend there, even if her parents discourage making friends with humans?

Review:

When I saw Eileen Cook’s  new MG series, I was eager to give it a read.  I enjoyed Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and wanted to read another of her titles.  Fourth Grade Fairy kicks off with a fun introductory volume that is sure to please younger readers with a blend of humor, angst, and suspense.  Plus, it has talking animals, and that always goes a long way in for me.

Willow is a fairy godmother in training.  She doesn’t fit in at school, and being the youngest kid in the house is a drag.  Her older sister is practically perfect, and she excels at fairy school.  Her magic has manifested right on schedule, and she never stops letting Willow know how perfect she is.  Willow is lonely and longs for a BFF (and a dog!), but she wants to have a human friend.  She is fascinated by all things human, and when her grandmother arranges for her to attend a human school for two weeks, she is over the moon.  She will have an opportunity to learn more about them, and maybe find a best friend, too!

Poor Willow!  She wants to fit in so badly, but she just doesn’t.  She wants to learn more about the Humdrums (humans) but nobody understands her interest in them.  Her sister thinks it’s a waste of time that Willow could be using to work on her fairy skills.  Her parents are all for her learning more about Humdrums, but they think that making friends with humans is a bad idea.  To make matters worse, Willow’s first day at Humdrum school is a nightmare!  How is she ever going to fit in after that debacle!

I enjoyed Fourth Grade Fairy because Willow is such a likable character.  She has normal kid fears and problems, like how she’s going to make friends and how she’s going to deal with her bossy sister.  She decides to be BFF with the most popular girl in school, and all she manages to do make one bad impression after another.  She just can’t catch a break!  When she starts hearing voices in her head, things get really messy!  Willow’s social missteps are entertaining, and I felt so badly for her each time she stumbled on her path to finding a friend.  It’s easy to understand how she would be dazzled by the cool kids, but there were times when she irritated me because she couldn’t see beyond them.  They weren’t even very nice, but she was determined to be Miranda’s BFF, even though Miranda already had a slew of admirers.

Fourth Grade Fairy is a light, humorous read with fun characters and entertaining situations, as well as an interesting world where fairy godmothers and magic cause a lot of complications for one young girl.  Oh, and did I mention the talking animals?

Grade: B+

Review material provided by publisher

Review: The Limit by Kristen Landon

 

Title: The Limit

Author: Kristen Landon

Publisher:  Aladdin

ISBN: 978-1442402713

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

An eighth grade girl was taken today . . .

With this first sentence, readers are immediately thrust into a fast-paced thriller that doesn’t let up for a moment. In a world not too far removed from our own, kids are being taken away to special workhouses if their families exceed the monthly debt limit imposed by the government. Thirteen-year-old Matt briefly wonders if he might be next, but quickly dismisses the thought. After all, his parents are financially responsible, unlike the parents of those other kids. As long as his parents remain within their limit, the government will be satisfied and leave them alone. But all it takes is one fatal visit to the store to push Matt’s family over their limit—and to change his reality forever.

Now this is a timely book, and it’s one that I don’t see getting much buzz.  I wouldn’t have known about it if it wasn’t one of those Amazon suggestions that they email out about once a week.  When I read the synopsis, it sounded like something I would like, so I was tickled when I received a review copy.  The book did not disappoint, and though some of the characters were one-dimensional, I found the story very compelling. 

A trip to the grocery store changes Matt’s life forever.  His family has never worried about money, or about going over the government limit set on their bank account.  When a shopping cart full of food and other merchandise puts them over the top, it’s Matt who has to pay the price.  In his reality, kids are detained by the Federal Debt Rehabilitation Agency to pay off the family debt. Thanks to the Federal Debt Ordinance, kids are now expected to bear the burden of paying down the financial obligations of their parents.   Think of the implications of that law if your parents didn’t want to be stuck raising you, and all they cared about was stuff – cars, appliances, vacations at five star resorts.  You would be the one footing the bill for their fiscal indiscretions!

Quicker than Matt can blink, he gets dragged off to a workhouse, where he is stuck until he turns 18, his wages going to the family debt.  Matt is one of the lucky ones whose test results earn him a room on the top floor.  Only the brightest and the best are allowed to work up there, and he is suddenly living the life of luxury, tackling homework in the morning and complex job tasks in the afternoon.  He finds all of his work engrossing and stimulating, and though he misses home, things aren’t all that bad.  Well, at least not until he hacks into the facility’s computers and learns a little more than he is supposed to know about the program, his wages, and what is really going on at the workhouse.

I enjoyed The Limit, and liked Matt a lot.  He’s a smart kid who wants to do what’s right for his family, but he wants them to do what’s right for him, too.  There are painful lessons to be learned, about conspicuous consumption and financial responsibility.  I got so caught up in the story that I didn’t want to put the book down; I needed to know what happened next!  With the current economic landscape that we all face, the plot seems very plausible, and that made it even more compelling. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by the publisher

Canterwood Crest: Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart Novel Review

 

Title: Canterwood Crest: Taking the Reins

Author: Jessica Burkhart

Publisher: Aladdin MIX

ISBN: 978-1416958406

 

May Contain Spoilers

From the back of the book:

When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she’s in trouble. She’s not exactly welcomed with open arms. One group of girls in particular is used to being the best, the brightest, and the prettiest on the team, and when Sasha shows her skills in the arena, the girls’ claws come out.

Sasha is determined to prove that she belongs at Canterwood. Will she rise to the occasion and make the advanced riding team by the end of her first semester? Or will the pressure send Sasha packing?

This was a quick, unchallenging read.  Sasha begins her academic career at exclusive Canterwood Crest, an elite school where she hopes to realize her dreams of becoming an accomplished equestrian.  The school has a highly competitive riding program, and Sasha is eager to begin working hard to hone her riding skills.  But first she has to prove that she deserves her spot on the team, and with rival Heather and her followers dogging her steps, that’s not going to be easy!

This book piqued my interest because it’s about horses.  Yeah, I am pretty one-dimensional.  I like comics, books, horses, and video games.  Simple.  Sasha gets to live a dream of mine; her parents are willing to foot the bill to send her and her horse to school.  I had to wait until I was old and gray to take riding lessons, and even now I have to scramble to keep my ponies feed.  How lovely it would be to have someone else worry about covering all of the bills for me.  Next life, maybe.

Getting back to Sasha, she and her horse, Charm, are hunter/jumpers.  This was interesting, because I ride saddleseat, and don’t really know all that much about leaping over standing obstacles.  Since my bones are brittle, it just doesn’t sound like a good idea to go barreling over fences.  Sasha and Charm are fairly good at it, and Sasha has dreams of competing on an international level. That would be exciting.  I know that competing at the World Championship show in my discipline is thrilling and I work all summer just to compete in Oklahoma.    Right off the bat I understand Sasha and share her ambitions.

Take the Reins skewed a little young for me, though, and I had some difficulty finding some of predictable plot points intriguing.  Heather and her friends set out to make Sasha’s life miserable by playing pranks on her and setting her up to get in trouble with the riding coach. Which brings up another disappointment; all of the adults are either dumb or clueless or both.  Mind games are part of any competitive sports, and riding is no different.  If you can intimidate your opponents before they even get into the ring, you have created a huge edge for yourself.  Heather loves to play mind games, and Sasha is at first taken aback by these cut-throat tactics.  Mr Conner, the riding coach, would have seen intimidation tactics in action a hundred times in the past, yet he comes across as being oblivious to, and even a little surprised by, all of the team infighting. 

I liked the book enough to place a request for the next volume at the library, but I was still a little disappointed with the cookie cutter plot.  I was hoping for more horsey stuff and less of Sasha studying to keep up in her classes.  I am still enamored with the thought of actually getting to take a horse to boarding school.  I wonder if I can take mine to the nursing home?

Grade: C+

This book was rented from my local library.  Support your library!