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: Pucker Up by Rhonda Stapleton

 

Title: Pucker Up

Author: Rhonda Stapleton

Publisher: Simon Pulse

ISBN: 978-1416974666

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In this irresistibly romantic trilogy, Felicity discovers that she’s no ordinary teen matchmaker…she’s a cupid!

Felicity can’t believe her luck. Her longtime crush is now officially her boyfriend, and just in time for prom. Felicity isn’t just smitten with Derek, she’s head-over-heels in love. So when she learns that her boss at Cupid’s Hollow used cupid magic to make Derek fall for her, Felicity is devastated. What will happen when the magic wears off?

Felicity has only two weeks to win Derek’s heart for real–no matter what it takes!

Review:

When I received this for review, I was a little apprehensive to dive into the book without having read the other Stupid Cupid novels.  That fear was unfounded, and I was immediately caught up in Felicity’s struggles to be the best cupid she can be, and to be a supportive girlfriend to Derek.  Derek also works as a cupid at Cupid’s Hollow, and Felicity is amazed at the success rate of his matches.  She is also a bit embarrassed at her own impulsive matching efforts.  Where Derek puts a lot of thought into and even refers to the cupid handbook before sending his matchmaking emails, Felicity has a more off her hip approach to her job.  When it blows up in her face, she begins questioning everything about her relationship with both her friends and with Derek.  To make matters worse, she is devastated to learn that her boss matched her up with Derek!  What will happen when the spell wears off?

I thought this was a very cute read.  Felicity is not the hardest working cupid out there, and her lackadaisical approach to her job is causing her all kinds of grief.  She had me cracking up because she over-analyzes everything.  Everything!  She is so consumed with doubts about both her job and her relationship with Derek that she starts lashing out at everyone.  I can certainly understand her apprehension!  Derek is, like, the perfect guy!  It’s almost irritating how wonderful he is!  He works hard at everything he does, and it shows in his performance.  For someone like Felicity, who is easily distracted and who looks for the easy way to do everything, Derek’s successes must have grated on her very last nerve.

Even though I haven’t read the other books in the series, I was able to understand the plot without any problems.  I liked both Felicity and the irritatingly perfect Derek, as well as Felicity’s group of friends.  I felt that I got to know Felicity very well through her rapid fire narrative, and I found her commentary amusing.  This was just the book I was in the mood for, and I enjoyed the humorous situations and Felicity’s quirks and her faults.  For a quick, light read, Pucker Up will keep you both entertained and amused.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

 

Title: Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen

Publisher: Candlewick

ISBN: 978-0763645045

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

To Mr. & Mrs. Watson, Mercy is not just a pig–she’s a porcine wonder. And to the portly and good-natured Mercy, the Watson’s are an excellent source of buttered toast, no to mention that buttery-toast feeling she gets when she snuggles in to bed with them. This is not, however so good for the Watsons’ bed. BOOM! CRACK! Welcome to the wry and endearing world of Mercy Watson.

Review:

Mercy Watson to the Rescue is a cute, and very silly story about a pig who loves buttered toast, and the people in her life.  When Mr. and Mrs. Watson get into a life or death situation, all of their hopes for rescue are pinned on their beloved pet pig, Mercy.  Mercy, being a pig, doesn’t realize the gravity (sorry for the pun!) of their perilous situation, and instead goes off searching for some buttered toast.  Through a comedy of errors, her people are rescued, but they need to thank their lucky stars more than Mercy.

This book is for readers aged 4 – 8.  There is a ton of action as Mercy trots off in search of her favorite snack, and the events occur rapidly, guaranteeing that wandering attention spans will be kept to a minimum.  The colorful illustrations are playful and eye-pleasing, and the book wouldn’t be half as fun without them.  There is so much personality packed onto every page that readers young and old alike will have a hard time putting the book down.

Grade: B

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

 

Title: Where I Belong

Author: Gwendolyn Heasley

Publisher: HarperTeen

ISBN: 978-0061978845

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Meet Corrinne. She’s living every girl’s dream in New York City—shopping sprees at Barneys, open access to the best clubs and parties, and her own horse at the country club. Her perfect life is perfectly on track. At least it was. . . .

When Corrinne’s father is laid off, her world suddenly falls apart. Instead of heading to boarding school, she’s stripped of her credit cards and shipped off to the boonies of Texas to live with her grandparents. On her own in a big public school and forced to take a job shoveling manure, Corrinne is determined to get back to the life she’s supposed to be living. She doesn’t care who she stomps on in the process. But when Corrinne makes an unlikely friend and discovers a total hottie at work, she begins to wonder if her life B.R.—before the recession—was as perfect as it seemed.

Review:

Corrinne gets an unwanted taste of reality after her father is laid off.  It’s like somebody has pulled the rug out from under her feet.  Good-bye credit card and shopping sprees at her favorite stores, and hello Grandma and Grandpa and the tiny little town of Broken Spoke, Texas.  Corrinne is seething with resentment at the sudden reversal of fortune, and it is going to take more than her grandmother’s delicious home cooking to soothe the sting of her new prospects.  She worked so hard to be accepted into Kent, an exclusive boarding school that she has wanted to attend forever.  Instead, she is going to be enrolled in Broken Spoke High School, a teeny, tiny public school where her grandmother works.  Ugh!  Life just isn’t fair!

At first, Corrinne and I had a personality clash.  I did not like the whining little princess, and I found her selfish behavior inexcusable.  OK, sure, her parents let her get away with anything, and she is clever enough to manipulate them to get her own way, but there were many times that she grated on my nerves.  It wasn’t until after she moves in with her grandparents, and goes head to head with her no-nonsense grandmother that Corrinne slowly begins to see the light.  There are so many more important things than the latest designer shoes, but when you are accustomed to getting everything your heart desires, it is often difficult to see the forest for the trees.

I liked that the focus of the story is on Corrinne and her gradual realization that having material possessions doesn’t mean as much as having good friends and a caring family.  Romance plays a backseat to her character growth.  Instead, Corrinne must come to terms with her new life.  Her grandparents don’t put up with any nonsense from her, and instead take an active interest in her life.  There are chores to do, schedules to keep, certain standards of behavior to adhere to.  I loved the conflict between Corrinne and her grandmother – here are two very stubborn and strong-willed women who clash again and again.  Corrinne doesn’t have much respect for the adults in her life, and her grandmother isn’t going to have any of that.

My favorite relationship in the book is the one between Corrinne and her younger brother Tripp.  Like most big sisters, Corrinne just doesn’t have the time or the patience to hang out with Tripp.  Tripp longs for any scrap of attention from Corrinne, and it was gratifying when she started to look at him, not as a constant nuisance, but as an individual who deserves her time and attention.

Where I Belong is a strong debut, with a compelling storyline, and I am looking forward to reading more by Gwen Heasley.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: 13th Boy Vol 6 by SangEun Lee

 

Title: 13th  Boy Vol 6

Author: SangEun Lee

Publisher:  Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759529991

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sae-Bom’s birthday turns into the happiest day…of Hee-So’s life?! After Won-Jun asks her out during Sae-Bom’s birthday party, Hee-So’s on cloud nine! But is everything really all sunshine and roses? Sae-Bom has had to grow up in the span of a day, Won-Jun is secretly troubled by Sae-Bom’s obvious distress, and Whie-Young’s magical exertions have kept him out of commission. On the five-day anniversary of Hee-So’s relationship bliss (leave it to her to celebrate even the smallest milestones!), she runs into the long-absent Whie-Young en route to school and gets dragged into cutting class with him! But when they return to find Won-Jun waiting for them back at Hee-So’s, will her cheating ways (?) lead to an explosive finale for her second chance at love?!

Review:

Any book that manages to make me feel sorry for a love-struck cactus deserves props.  A CACTUS!  Little Beatrice had me sniffing back tears.  His dreams of happiness seem so unlikely, and the impossibility of his situation tugged at my heart strings.  Until this volume I thought of Beatrice as more of comic relief, but that impression went completely out the window.  He has become an important character to me, quite possibly my favorite.  He certainly seems to have more feelings and common sense than his owner, though he is clearly given to as many flights of fancy as Hee-So.

This volume of 13th Boy solidified the series for me.  While it still has an abundance of humor and comedies of error, it has also grown into a more emotional read for me.  Hee-So can be so shallow and simpleminded that I have never felt a connection to her.  She is the type of person who will bounce back from any setback, and her enthusiasm and zeal for life will see her through any situation.  I can’t say the same for Sae-Bom, Whie-Young, or Won-Jun.  The three of them keep orbiting each other’s lives, making themselves miserable because they are unable to communicate or accept how they feel about each other.  It’s only through Hee-So that they make any progress toward understanding how they feel at all.

I love the complicated relationships and the slow exploration of feelings taking place in the book.  Just when the atmosphere starts to get overwhelming, Hee-So does something selfish or harebrained, usually with amusing results.  There are some occasions when even her happy go lucky attitude fails to smooth things over, and that’s when I find myself enjoying the series best.  The first volume was a struggle for me, but as I got to know the characters, I started to appreciate the title more.  It gets better with every volume, and it has become one of my favorites.  And a cactus made me cry.  A CACTUS!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Troublemaker Vol 2 (Graphic Novel) by Janet & Alex Evanovich

 

Title: Troublemaker Vol 2

Author: Janet & Alex Evanovich

Art: Joelle Jones

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595825735

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

There’s no smooth sailing for Alex Barnaby and Sam Hooker in the second volume of bestselling author Janet Evanovich’s graphic-novel adventure, Troublemaker. Barnaby, Hooker, Rosa, Felicia, and Beans the St. Bernard set sail to the Florida Keys in order to find the wooden body of Baron Samedi that matches their recently acquired – and stolen – wooden hand. But in the world of petro voodoo a hand for a hand and a Baron for a boat is fair play. When the Happy Hooker disappears from its mooring in the Keys, Barnaby and Hooker have to find a way back to Miami with the stolen body of Baron Samedi. Ransom notes for the Happy Hooker, a sack of snakes, and a ticked-off chicken, leave only one place safe enough to hide a body… Hooker’s mom’s house – a situation that makes the sack of snakes look like chump change.

Review:

What a fun read!  I enjoyed the second volume of Troublemaker better than the first, and I really liked the first one!  I still feel the price point is a bit high for the low page count, but at least the book is well put together, with a sturdy cover and thick, glossy pages. 

Hooker is having a really, really bad day.  Nitro has stolen his baby, the Happy Hooker, a 64 foot boat.  If Barnaby and Hooker hand over the statue of the Baron, Nitro will give the boat back.  Maybe.  That’s what he says, at any rate, but can you really trust a guy who steals your boat, sets his posse on you, and leaves an enraged chicken in your car?  Probably not…

The one-liners zip through the panels, and the action is non-stop.  Barnaby and Hooker are propelled from one situation to the next with lightning speed, and though most are comical and absurd rather than life-threatening, I enjoyed my journey with them.  They get out of scrapes with humor and good luck, rather than through brains or brawn.  The scene with the snakes shed a lot of light on their relationship for me – Hooker might be a race-car driver, defying death with every race, but it’s Barnaby who has the pluck and the courage to get them out of tense situations.  Yup, that girl will do anything for a pair of designer shoes.

The art and the snappy dialog made the book for me, yet again.  The plot is really just a feeble excuse for the gang to get together and to get into a load of trouble, but the illustrations bring the story to life.  Some of the events are rather random, but the art keeps them fresh and amusing.

If you are a Janet Evanovich fan, be aware that this is a comic book.  If you are new to comics, check both volumes of Troublemaker out of your local library and give the books a spin.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.   If you already enjoy graphic novels, this is a funny, brainless romp with bright, vivid illustrations that will keep you turning the pages.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Vol 17 by Yukiya Sakuragi

 

Title: Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Vol 17

Author: Yakiya Sakuragi

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN: 978-1421532578

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Chizuru’s friend Serina has had it with trying to raise her new puppy and returns it to Woofles. Suguri is angry but comes up with an innovative way to get Serina to see things from a new perspective! Suguri also begins channeling her doggie knowledge for other purposes…

Review:

This installment is a very mixed bag.  The series almost lost me with the continuation of the Milk/Serina story arc, where Suguri’s unconventional methods to make Serina man up and accept her responsibilities did not win me over.  I love her enthusiasm and her determination to make sure that all of the puppies in Japan are loved and well cared for, but all of the panty shots and the silly dog costume got on my nerves.  It didn’t help that I can’t stand Serina, and thought she was a waste of paper.  If the spoiled young woman can’t even take care of a puppy, I fail to see how she will ever be able to care of an infant.  I was so happy to see this particular storyline come to an end.

The rest of the volume was much more fun.  A large pet product company has approached Woofles for new product ideas.  This was much more entertaining.  With Lupin there to behave in unexpected ways, due mostly to his lack of training, the new gadgets are put through more abuse than the company could have imagined. 

This is Inubaka at it’s goofy best.  Because of the potential benefits, Show is totally onboard with Woofles’ crew coming up with some great pet product ideas, so there is a lot of pressure on everyone to brainstorm.  Only problem – most of them are sadly lacking in the creativity department.  While I wasn’t expecting much from anybody else, Teppei really disappointed me!  What a lame idea he came up with.  I know that part of brainstorming is throwing anything out on the table, but, really  Tepppei??  You couldn’t think of anything better than that??  You are supposed to be the smart one!

While I found parts of this volume a bit tedious, I am still looking forward to the next installment.  I am very, very curious to see what happens next as Woofles tries to partner up with big business.

Grade:  B-

Review copy purchased from Rightstuf.com

Review: Monkey See Monkey Zoo by Erin Soderberg

 

Title: Animal Tales: Monkey See, Monkey Zoo

Author: Erin Soderberg

Publisher:  Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1599905570

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

This is a fun MG read, with a spunky protagonist and her goofy little sidekick.  Willa lives in the Monkey Pit at the zoo.  She loves her family and friends, and she also loves her trinkets.  She climbs up to the ledge of the enclosure when humans drop little treasures, and she cherishes each new find.  Her mother isn’t so enamored, and she thinks it’s dangerous for Willa to climb up on the ledge.  She forbids her from ever doing it again!  Of course, Willa just can’t resist, and when a young human, Carter, leaves his treasure outside the enclosure, Willa escapes so she can return his backpack.

I love books with animals, and this one did not disappoint.  Willa is very clever, but sometimes she is a little too clever for her own good!  She is intensely curious about what it’s like outside of the Monkey Pit, so when she has the opportunity to go exploring, she jumps at the chance.  Literally.  What she forgets to think about is how she is going to get back home!  Ever intent on her mission, though, Willa puts that frightening thought out of her mind and instead tries to maneuver through the scary world of humans to find Carter. 

The world outside of the zoo is more dangerous than Willa could have imagined, but she bravely continues on her journey.  Along the way, she meets up with a scatterbrained chipmunk. I thought he was so cute!  True to flighty chipmunk behavior, his awful jokes and frenzied antics occasionally drive Willa nuts, but since he’s the only friendly face she’s encountered, she learns to deal with him and his silly behavior.  She probably shouldn’t have put so much faith in him, though.  He is utterly clueless, and his sense of direction is worse than hers.

Animal Tales: Monkey See, Monkey Zoo is a fun read with likeable characters who cheerfully get into so much trouble!  Reading along as they get out of it is very entertaining.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher