Cover Shot! The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café. I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share. More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents. There is an allure to a beautiful cover. Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

Supervillains.  I love them.  Especially when they are, deep in their heart, good guys.  Look at this guy.  Does he look like a devious doer of evil?  Nope!  I can hardly wait to get my hands on The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz, to see just how bad Alex really is.  Or isn’t.  In stores October 2012

 

The Cloak Society: An elite organization of supervillains graced with extraordinary powers. Ten years ago they were defeated by the Rangers of Justice and vanished without a trace. But the villains of Cloak have been biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to resurface. And twelve-year-old Alex Knight wants to be one of them.

Alex is already a junior member, and his entire universe is Cloak’s underground headquarters, hidden beneath an abandoned drive-in theater in Sterling City, Texas. While other kids his age are studying math and history, Alex is mastering his telekinetic powers and learning how to break into bank vaults. His only dream is to follow in his parents’ footsteps as one of the most feared supervillains in the world. Cloak is everything he believes in.

But on the day of his debut mission, Alex does the unthinkable: he saves the life of a young Ranger named Kirbie. Even worse . . . she becomes his friend. And the more time he spends with her, the more Alex wonders about the world outside of Cloak—and what, exactly, he’s been fighting for.

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Review: Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

 

 

   Title: Inside Out & Back Again

   Author: Thanhha Lai

   Publisher: Harper Collins

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next. 

Review:

I love books about different cultures or ways of life, and Inside Out & Back Again delivers up an emotionally enthralling account of a young Vietnamese girl’s flight from her home country to the US.  As I read Ha’s adventures, recounted in simple yet moving free verse, I wondered what it would be like to have everything familiar ripped away.  Before the fall of Saigon, life for Ha was happy and content, despite the growing hardships caused by the war.  Her father has been missing in action since she was an infant, but her family still holds out hope that he will return home one day.  She loves her family, she is doing well in school, and she is eager for her papaya tree to finally yield fruit.  Her three brothers are happy, as well, and they are excellent students with bright futures ahead of them.  Everything changes with the fall of Saigon.

Ha’s mother is trying valiantly to raise four children by herself, but life has gotten more difficult.  It’s harder to make ends meet, and the price of everything keeps climbing.  As the communists threaten Saigon, she has a family meeting and asks everyone what they should do.  Should they flee, and try to built a new life in a country without Ho Chi Min and the war?  Ha and her brother Thoi don’t want to go.  How can they leave Ha’s papaya tree and Thoi’s chicken?  The pain of leaving their most prized possessions was a bitter pill to swallow for a new life with no guarantees.  I don’t think I could have done it.  Photographs, clothing, memories; all were left behind in Vietnam.

I loved Ha and found her easy to relate to.  She has been thrust into a new life that she doesn’t want, and one that doesn’t seem to want her.  Her new neighbors in Alabama aren’t very neighborly, she can’t understand the confusing language she is immersed in, and her classmates mock and bully her.  Her teacher doesn’t understand her and doesn’t try to make her feel welcome.  Instead, Ha, a bright, curious girl, is left feeling stupid and ignorant.  As she begins to pick up the language, she wishes she did not understand the names she is called or the jokes that her peers make about her.  She is angry, justifiably, but there is no outlet for her rage.  Ha is the one who must make concessions to fit in with a group of kids who can only see how she is different from them. 

This is a quick read that follows one year in Ha’s life.  Starting in Vietnam on New Year’s, Inside Out & Back Again chronicles her flight from Saigon, life in a refuge camp, and her eventual home in Alabama.  I could not put the book down and I read it in one sitting.  Highly recommended.

Grade:  A

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by library

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Cover Shot! Pegasus by Kate O’Hearn

Cover Shot! is a regular feature here at the Café.  I love discovering new covers, and when I find them, I like to share.  More than anything else, I am consumed with the mystery that each new discovery represents.  There is an allure to a beautiful cover.  Will the story contained under the pages live up to promise of the gorgeous cover art?

I love the cover of Pegasus: The Flame of Olympus by Kate O’Hearn!   The contrast between the white of Pegasus and the girl’s red coat is so eye-catching.  I love the look on her face, and how majestic Pegasus looks, too!  Beautiful!  (can you tell I am a horse person?)

 

When Pegasus crashes onto a Manhattan roof during a terrible storm, Emily’s life changes forever. Suddenly allied with a winged horse she’d always thought was mythical, Emily is thrust into the center of a fierce battle between the Roman gods and a terrifying race of multiarmed stone warriors called the Nirads. Emily must team up with a thief named Paelen, the goddess Diana, and a boy named Joel in order to return Pegasus to Olympus and rescue the gods from a certain death.

Along the way, Emily and her companions will fight monsters, run from a government agency that is prepared to dissect Pegasus, and even fly above the Manhattan skyline—all as part of a quest to save Olympus before time runs out.

Available May 22, 2012

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Review: Storybound by Marissa Burt

 

Title: Storybound

Author: Marissa Burt

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0062020529

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When Una Fairchild stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, she thinks nothing of opening the cover and diving in. But instead of paging through a regular novel, Una suddenly finds herself Written In to the land of Story—a world filled with Heroes and Villains and fairy-tale characters.

But not everything in Story is as magical as it seems. Una must figure out why she has been Written In—and fast—before anyone else discovers her secret. Together with her new friend Peter and a talking cat named Sam, Una digs deep into Story’s shadowy past. She quickly realizes that she is tied to the world in ways she never could have imagined—and it might be up to her to save it.

Review:

I am having a fantastic winning streak of wonderful Middle-Grade novels so far in 2012.  Storybound turned out to be another winner.  The premise is fantastic, and I could not put the book down.  I was literally glued to my reading chair for an entire afternoon as I frantically turned pages, eager to see what kind of trouble Una would find herself in.

Like Harry Potter, Una has never known her parents.  She has been shuffled through the foster care system, and she currently lives with Ms. McDonough, an odd woman who speaks to her cats far more frequently than she speaks to Una.  Una is fine with that, because she finally has some time to herself after being fostered in big families where she never felt that she belonged.  She feels invisible, both at her foster home and at school.  One day when Una is reading in the library in the basement at school, she finds a mysterious book.  A book about her.  Before she even has a chance to catch her breath, she finds herself sucked into the book, trapped as a character in the story.  Now she must  find her way back out again, all without getting killed.  Whoa!

In the land of Story, Una finds must become a student at the school where the children of Story learn how to be characters in books.  All of the citizens of Story have roles in books, and they all have to behave in a manner consistent with the character they are playing.  I loved the concept of this world.  Una’s ally, Peter, is learning to be a Hero.  He takes his studies very seriously, and when Una is magically zapped into one of his practical exams, he is not very happy when she screws it up for him.  With Peter’s help, Una learns that she was Written In.  Peter is shocked, because no one has been Written In since the Tale Keepers overthrew the evil Muses and took control of Story.

I am going to gush about how much I adored Una.  She is resourceful, clever, and loyal, and she is my favorite kind of protagonist.  She meets setback after setback, but each one makes her more determined to figure out what is going on.  Something is stinky in the land of Story, and Una won’t rest until she discovers what it is.  There is something wrong with the Tale Keepers, and she doesn’t believe that the Muses were evil.  With the help of Peter and Sam, a talking cat, she  searches for the truth, even when it puts her in mortal danger.  And Una is in a lot of danger.  She doesn’t belong in Story, and she needs to get back home before someone figures out that she has been Written In.  Another thing that I love is convincing character development – Storybound has it in spades.  The Una at the end of the book is a much more mature and likeable girl than the Una at the beginning.

My only gripe about Storybound is the cliffhanger ending.  I hate those!  Aside from that complaint, this is a fantastic book with wonderful characters, creative world-building, and non-stop suspense.  Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy Storybound, as well as anyone who loves a rousing fantasy yarn.  I am counting down the days until the sequel, Story’s End, hits store shelves, though 2013 seems like a long time away!

Grade: Waffling between an A- and a B+ (Either way, I LOVED this book)

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball

 

Title: Sports Illustrated Kids Pro Files: Baseball

Publisher:  Time

ISBN: 9781603202381

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A must-have for every young baseball fan and player, "Pro Files: Baseball" showcases 15 of the big league’s hottest stars and fathers through "Sports Illustrated: Kids’" signature content: great writing, fun trivia, amazing statistics, and dynamic photography. Full color.

Review:

Even though I am not a huge sports fan, I enjoy reviewing these SI Kids books.  They are attractively packaged, engagingly written, and filled with glossy action shots.  In addition to giving tips on how to play like a pro, each featured player has an introduction which includes their stats and career highlights.  While this is nice, I appreciated the background information for each player even more.  The human interest elements made the book accessible to me, a self-admitted non-fan of baseball.  Each player also has a selection entitled Inside Information, which lists their favorite foods, movies, cartoon characters, and even video games.  That’s the stuff that I’m interested in.  It’s great to know all of Justin Verlander’s stats, but since I don’t get into the game, those are just random numbers to me.

I took this book to work to show to a co-worker, and he really liked reading through it, too.  He is a huge baseball fan, and while he questioned some of the players that were included, overall he agreed that the featured athletes were among the top of their game.  He liked the photographs, which are printed on bright, glossy paper and capture a variety of intense action shots. He agreed that the text will interest both fans and those not so enthusiastic about the game.  The tips are fun to read, too, though I doubt that I will ever be able to advance my skills to the level of Ichiro Suzuki or Dustin Pedroia.  Chris, on the other hand, insists that with practice, he will be able to pitch just like Verlander.  I remain slightly skeptical.

If you have a baseball fan at home, this would be a great purchase for them.  I bet that even reluctant readers will be cheerfully engrossed learning about the players, their backgrounds, and the secrets behind their moves. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Batman: Super-Villains Strike by Michael Teitelbaum

 

Title: Choose-Your-Own-Fate Adventure Book Batman: Super-Villains Strike

Author: Michael Teitelbaum

Publisher: Starscape

ISBN: 978-0765364814

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Batman’s instincts tell him that Catwoman, The Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy are all involved. But how could that be? They are all behind bars at Arkham Asylum. Batman knows these super-villains would never agree to work together…or would they?

Is a copycat criminal to blame? How could one person be in all these places at once? Follow the clues with Batman and then make your own choices for how the story will go. Can you help Batman solve this mystery? Will you be able to put the criminal—or criminals—behind bars and save Gotham City from chaos?

These DC Super Hero “interactive” stories will incorporate fabulous DC art along with puzzles and games to guide the reader through multiple outcomes of the story. The puzzles and games will appear at random chapter endings providing clues to help the reader decide where to go next. Familiar interactive elements, for readers otherwise absorbed with online games and other digital devices, these original concept books will add a new level of excitement and challenge for the reader.

Review:

I received this unsolicited Choose-Your-Fate Adventure Book, and since I am a big fan of both Batman and choosing your own fate, I sat down with it and put the book through its paces.  Intended for readers 7 – 10, Batman: Super-Villains Strike keeps poor Batman on his toes from the first page.  Four of the most dangerous criminals in the world are committing crimes in Gotham City, even though you, as Batman, are certain they are all still behind bars in Arkham Asylum.   Dodging one villain after another, you are desperate to catch Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mr Freeze, and The Riddler red-handed and hustle them back to their jail cells.

While I love the concept of these choose your own adventure books, I am not fond of the execution of this one in particular.  The continuity is not smooth, and there were several paths I traveled along that jerked me from one location to another with no explanation, and worse, from one villain encounter to another without regard to events in the chapter I launched off from.  Several times I was chasing after Catwoman, picked a path, and was suddenly pondering riddles from The Riddler, even though I hadn’t encountered him previously in my adventures.  I didn’t even know he was out of jail yet.  This was frustrating when it happened.

To assist me in my crime-fighting journey, there are several puzzles that I had to solve that added variety to the adventure.  Word searches, mazes, and scrambled words gave the book a more interactive feel.  I enjoyed these little brain teasers, and would have liked to see more of them.

One thing I didn’t like was having to search for chapter numbers.  I wish instead that I had been directed to a specific page number, instead of the numbered chapters.

Continuity issues aside, this book will keep younger readers occupied during wait times or trips in the car.  Just don’t be surprised if they ask you where The Riddler or Poison Ivy suddenly came from!

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: Medusa the Mean by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

 

Title:  Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean

Author: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Publisher: Aladdin

ISBN: 978-1442433793

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Medusa wants to be more like her two sisters and the other kids at Mount Olympus Academy — immortal. Is that too much to ask? As one of the few mortals at MOA, it’s hard not to get jealous when you’re surrounded by beautiful, powerful goddessgirl and godboy classmates. And it isn’t easy making friends either, especially when you have snakes for hair and one mean reputation!

Review:

I have been interested in The Goddess Girls for a while, but I was reluctant to go back and try to catch up on the series.  Medusa the Mean is the eighth installment, and when I had the opportunity to be part of a blog tour, I jumped at the chance.  I ‘m glad that I did, too.  I had no problems following along with the plot, and found this to be a very fun MG read.

Medusa has a few issues.  She wants to be popular, and she wants super hottie Poseidon to notice her.  The problem? Nobody is tripping over themselves to be her friend.  Who wants to be BFFs with a mortal girl with snakes for hair?  Her own parents don’t even seem to care for her, so it’s easy to see how Medusa developed an Olympus sized chip on her green shoulder.

I was extremely sympathetic toward Medusa.  She is one of the only mortals to attend Mount Olympus Academy, and she feels that she doesn’t fit in.  She longs to be immortal and to have powers like her sisters.  It’s hard being the only triplet  without special powers!  Medusa is so desperate to obtain immortality that she falls for gimmicks that keep getting her into trouble.

Despite her desire to have friends, Medusa is wary of her peers.  Being the object of ridicule will do that, and Medusa is often the butt of jokes and teasing.  It seems that only her snakes accept her for who she really is.  With her trust issues, she keeps rejecting the friendly overtures from the girls she longs to be friends with.  I could relate to Medusa and her social awkwardness.  It’s hard to make friends when you worry constantly that people are only setting you up for a joke.  Instead, she reacts with snarky comebacks, or worse, ignores everyone in the vicinity.  While she keeps finding fault in herself, she feels that she must also find fault in others.

Medusa the Mean is a quick, feel good read.  Though I was starting to worry that Medusa would never catch a clue, she eventfully learns that being friends is a two-way street.  She learns that if she wants people to like her, she can’t be selfish and self-absorbed.  Most importantly, she has to accept herself for who she is, and stop judging people based on their looks, instead of their personality.  I enjoyed the characters and the setting, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more books in the Goddess Girls series.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {teen} Book Scene

 

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Blog Tour–This or That with Medusa from Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean!

[Manga Maniac Café] Hi, Joan and Suzanne!  Thanks for dropping by!

[Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams] Hi, Julie! Thanks so much for hosting our Goddess Girls 8: Medusa the Mean blog tour!

Medusa insists on speaking for herself in your Character This or That. We hope that’s okay.

[Manga Maniac Café] Perfectly fine! I am not about to argue with a girl who has snakes for hair! 

Hi, Medusa!  Welcome to This or That! Would you like a cup of tea before we get started?

[Medusa] Don’t forget the cookies.  It’s a long journey from Mt Olympus.

[Manga Maniac Café] Of course!  Here you are, and let’s start This or That!

[Medusa] I guess…

[Manga Maniac Café] Water or Sand

[Medusa] With a sea monster mom and a seahog dad, I can swim like a fish. So, water! Definitely.

[Manga Maniac Café] Blue or Red

[Medusa] Hmm. Blue is pretty close to my favorite color, green. And red is the complement of green. So, neither. I choose green.

[Manga Maniac Café] Sun or Stars

[Medusa] Stars, like the ones I have in my eyes when I look at my supercrush, Poseidon.

[Manga Maniac Café] Walking or Running

[Medusa] Running. I’m a mortal at an immortal school. I’ve got to move it to keep up. At times, it’s hard for me. But that’s my little secret.

[Manga Maniac Café] Birds or Fish

[Medusa] Fish, because I can swim like one. And Poseidon is godboy of the sea. Duh. We are so perfect for each other. Why can’t he see that?

[Manga Maniac Café] Hot or Cold

[Medusa] Cold. It’s better for my pet snakes. I have a dozen on my head. Did you notice? I used to think they were a pain, but now they’re my pets. I even gave each of them names.

[Manga Maniac Café] Food or Drink

[Medusa] Drink, because it reminds me of water, which reminds me of swimming, which I’m good at.

[Manga Maniac Café] Singing or Dancing

[Medusa] Dancing. If I win a chance to be in Principal Zeus’s wedding, I’m going to dance the night away!

[Manga Maniac Café] Naughty or Nice

[Medusa] I never play nice!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you, Medusa! 


Goddess Girls: Medusa the Mean is available now!  You can order a copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

Thank you {teen} Book Scene for arranging this meeting with Joan, Suzanne, and Medusa!