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Book Review: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce (2nd Read)

Image via Goodreads | 2000 cover

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: The Circle Opens, book 1
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Summary (via Goodreads):
Lady Sandrilene fa Toren knows all about unusual magic – she herself spins and weaves it like thread. But when she witnessed a boy dancing a spell, even she is confounded. To her dismay, Sandry learns that as the mage who discovered the power of the young dancer, she must be his teacher. Before lessons can begin, however, Sandry and her uncle, Duke Vedris, get news of a mysterious murderer stalking a clan of local merchants. The killer employs the strangest magic of all: the ability to reduce essence to nothingness. As the murders mount and the killer grows bolder, Sandry’s teaching takes on a grave purpose. For it becomes clear to everyone that the killings can only be stopped by the combined workings of two people: the young teacher and her even younger student.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review:
Magic Steps is just as wonderful as I remembered. It had me feeling bittersweet nostalgia and oh-so-happy. A great beginning for fans of Tamora Pierce who didn’t want the Circle of Magic stories to end. But Magic Steps remains a joy to read despite the gruesomeness of the plot.

Seeing Sandry really put to work all she has learned in the past four years was a joy to see. Strong willed and very intelligent, Lady Sandrilene fa Toren (a 14-year-old “stitch witch”) has all the makings of a great mage and leader. She’s so mature that I sometimes forget she’s just 14.

Such a thrilling book with many characters to know and love. There’s Duke Vedris, the ruler of Emelan who commands respects that’s fully earned – I’ve always enjoyed seeing his character in action. Kwaben and Oama, Sandry’s personal guards – I always love seeing kickass, loyal teams. Yazmin, a renowned dancer, who teaches Pasco to dance – she is a spitfire to love.

I like the humor Pasco’s character adds to the story. Here we have someone coming late into his magic – an anomaly in Pierce’s universe – who must quickly learn to control his newfound power and assist in a murder investigation. And he’s 12. That’s a lot for a 12-year-old boy wrap his head around. But I think coming from a family with generations of harriers made some of his actions and reactions pleasantly surprising.

However, I wish Pasco was a bit more in the foreground of the story. We get three different third-person limited points of view – the majority’s Sandry’s – and third person omniscient mixed in. A little jarring here and there for me but the way the story is woven works nonetheless.

There’s so much to love and talk about this story. Awesome universe. Interesting characters. Creative plot. Everything I love about Tamora Pierce’s remarkable stories. This was a fun re-read.

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(My) Top Favorite Stand-Alone Novels (Not A Part Of A Series)

Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris, Shelly Brown | To Be Published: October 3, 2017

My ARC Review: “Mustaches for Maddie is everything: charming, imaginative, funny, beautiful, heartwarming. Based on a true story about the authors’ daughter, Maddie, this novel will give you strength in your darkest times and prove that mustaches make everything better and funnier.”

The Green and the Gray by Timothy Zahn

Summary via Goodreads: Tree-hiding Greens and mountain-hiding Grays hide in Manhattan, alien refugees from a cataclysmic war, until two teens from opposing sides find both species have survived. On a cold October night, Roger and Caroline Whittier accept an unexpected burden at gunpoint: Melantha Green 12, the Peace Child ready to die, prevented by NYPD Detective Thomas Fierenzo.

All Things New by Lauren Miller

My ARC Review: “What Jessa is going through is unfortunately more common than not. How she thinks, feels, behaves, and perceives things is exactly what someone with panic attacks and anxiety experiences. It’s an honest and raw portrayal of teenage mental health issues and mental health in general. She is a very relatable character even if you haven’t fully experienced all that she has.”

Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

Sumamry via Goodreads: As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen’s thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.

Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

My ARC Review: “Hannah Bucchin’s debut novel, Paintbrush, was a delightful story that had me falling in love with the characters, on the edge of my seat with its plot, and feel all the feels with its touch of romance. This was a big win for me. And I look forward to reading more from her.”

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My Review:Eleanor & Park is a fantastic story of acceptance and first love. It’s a beautiful tale, so raw and open about the emotions the two title characters go through as their relationship with each other and those around them progresses and changes.”

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Summary via Goodreads: The first science fiction written by a black woman, Kindred has become a cornerstone of black American literature. This combination of slave memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction is a novel of rich literary complexity. Having just celebrated her 26th birthday in 1976 California, Dana, an African-American woman, is suddenly and inexplicably wrenched through time into antebellum Maryland. After saving a drowning white boy there, she finds herself staring into the barrel of a shotgun and is transported back to the present just in time to save her life. During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson

Summary via Goodreads: After the Russian revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian Countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.

Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly overwhelmed by her new duties—not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancé…

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

Summary via Goodreads: For nineteen-year-old Harriet Morton, life in 1912 Cambridge is as dry and dull as a biscuit. Her stuffy father and her oppressive aunt Louisa allow her only one outlet: ballet. When a Russian ballet master comes to class searching for dancers to fill the corps of his ballet company before their South American tour, Harriet’s world changes. Defying her father’s wishes and narrowly escaping the clutches of the man who wishes to marry her, Harriet sneaks off to join the ballet on their journey to the Amazon. There, in the wild, lush jungle, they perform Swan Lake in grand opera houses for the wealthy and culture-deprived rubber barons, and Harriet meets Rom Verney, the handsome and mysterious British exile who owns the most ornate opera house. Utterly enchanted by both the exotic surroundings and by Rom’s affections, Harriet is swept away by her new life, completely unaware that her father and would-be fiancé have begun to track her down… 

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Summary via Goodreads: Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate — a life and a role that she has never challenged… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister—and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.

A provocative novel that raises some important ethical issues, My Sister’s Keeper is the story of one family’s struggle for survival at all human costs and a stunning parable for all time.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Illustrated by Patricia Castelao

My Review:The One and Only Ivan surprised me. It reads like a lyrical diary but the tone and simplicity of each chapter shows that Ivan is an intelligent gorilla, as intelligent as a human (if not more, in his opinion). Anything Ivan points out, describes, compares and contrasts comes off as wise and/or humorous. A very quick read, The One and Only Ivan is a fun read for all.”


What are your favorite stand-alone novels?

As always, HAPPY READING!


Links to Images Used (In Order):

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/110979  ~  [Mustaches for Maddie]

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/216455.The_Green_and_the_Gray

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/108118  ~  [All Things New]

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32078787-once-and-for-all

https://s2.netgalley.com/catalog/book/113051  ~  [Paintbrush]

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15745753-eleanor-park

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60931.Kindred

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/714569.A_Countess_Below_Stairs

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/963274.A_Company_of_Swans

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10917.My_Sister_s_Keeper

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11594337-the-one-and-only-ivan


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My Favorite Middle Grade Books Of All Time

Royalty Free Image via pixabay.com | Edited in Paint

I don’t read middle grade a lot but there were a few novels this past year that I’ve really enjoyed. After the most recent middle grade novel I read, it got me to thinking about all the MG books I’ve ever read.

Below are middle grade books that really left an impression on me. They were the first to come to mind because of their amazing stories and wonderful characters. I highly recommend any of these books.


Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown (ARC review)

To Be Released: October 3, 2017

Image via NetGalley

Mustaches for Maddie is by far my favorite MG book of all time. I love this book. It’s delightful, fantastic, and beautiful. Definitely need to get myself a physical copy to add to me bookshelf.

Excerpt from my review:Mustaches for Maddie gets a golden mustache from me. Loved it and need to add this to my bookshelf. One of the best books of 2017 so far, one of my favorite books of 2017 and of all time, and my favorite middle grade novel. This novel is a must-read.”


The Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale

This is a series from my early days of reading that I’ve talked about before on this blog, specifically the first book, The Goose Girl. It’s such a charming series that holds a special place in my heart.

My thoughts from before on The Goose Girl: “This charming tale follows Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree who has the ability to communicate with animals. On her way to meet her betrothed, a mutiny is staged by her lady-in-waiting and the company she was traveling with. This leads to Ani becoming to the goose girl to the very king whose son she was supposed to marry. She must overcome her circumstance and harness her ability in order to reach her true destiny. This book is so pleasantly written and beautifully told. The Goose Girl is one of my favorite books that I could read over and over again.”


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Illustrated by Patricia Castelao

Image via Goodreads

I was surprised with how much I liked this book. Everything about it was just wonderful to read. The story is so well-done and well-written that it definitely deserves a place on this list.

Excerpt from my review:The One and Only Ivan surprised me. It reads like a lyrical diary but the tone and simplicity of each chapter shows that Ivan is an intelligent gorilla, as intelligent as a human (if not more, in his opinion). Anything Ivan points out, describes, compares and contrasts comes off as wise and/or humorous. A very quick read, The One and Only Ivan is a fun read for all.”


The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix

One of my favorite MG book series for sure. What really interested me about this book that the antagonists are named after the days of the week and each embodies one of the seven deadly sins. The series is one big adventure that builds upon itself. Reading it is kind of like playing an adventure video game. Very cool all in all.


What are some of your favorite middle grade novels? What MG books would you recommend I read? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

AND, AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!

 

Links to The Books of Bayern Images Sources:
The Goose Girl | Enna Burning | River Secrets | Forest Born

Links to The Keys to the Kingdom Image Sources:
Mister Monday | Grim Tuesday | Drowned Wednesday | Sir Thursday | Lady Friday | Superior Saturday | Lord Sunday


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ARC Book Review: Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown

Thank you to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review.
Save the date!
Mustaches for Maddie is set to be released October 3, 2017.

 

Image via NetGalley | Published by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Book Summary (via Goodreads):

Maddie is a normal twelve-year-old girl. Well, except for the fake mustaches she carries in her pocket. She likes to make people laugh and slapping on a mustache, especially a fuzzy pink or neon green one, always gets a smile. Maddie hopes that the class queen, Cassie, will find her mustaches as funny as she does and want to play with her at recess. She’s been self-conscious lately because her right arm only feels normal when it’s curled against her chest and she’s constantly tripping over her feet. But that’s probably just part of growing up and not something weird, right?

When Maddie’s arm continues to bother her, her parents take her to a doctor who gives them a shocking diagnosis: the cause of the abnormal behavior of her limbs is a brain tumor and she must have surgery to remove it. She’s understandably afraid as he describes the procedure, but knows she must find a way to be brave and must face her fears–all of them–at the hospital, at home and at school.

She will need all of her courage not only to face her illness, but also to face Cassie at school. Both Cassie and Maddie are auditioning for the same role in the school play, but when Cassie accuses Maddie of lying about her tumor in order to get attention, Cassie’s bossiness turns into bullying.

And as Maddie’s surgery approaches, she begins to worry more and more about the outcome. What if something goes wrong? What if the doctors don’t get all the tumor out of her brain? What will happen to her family? What will happen to her?

It will take all of Maddie’s vibrant imagination, a lot of kindness-both given and received-and of course, the perfect mustache to overcome the tough stuff ahead of her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review:
Mustaches for Maddie is everything: charming, imaginative, funny, beautiful, heartwarming. Based on a true story about the authors’ daughter, Maddie, this novel will give you strength in your darkest times and prove that mustaches make everything better and funnier.

I loved this novel from the start. Maddie is innocent, bright, kind, and has a wild imagination. She wants to be friends with everyone and make people happy, even the most popular girl in her grade who’s not exactly the friendliest. When it’s discovered that Maddie has a brain tumor, she struggles to find strength to overcome this scary monster. It may take more than mustaches to pull through.

Maddie’s voice is clear, distinct, and her personality shines through every line. Her active imagination colors every word and phrase, making the reading experience extremely enjoyable. Her perspective on life made me think about my own, especially when I was her age. I felt included in her world. Maddie is a sweet, admirable individual who anyone would feel lucky to have as a friend.

This story is the perfect middle grade novel that should be included in school curriculum. Not to over-analyze but to teach kids how we should treat each other and to understand that everyone has struggles we may be too afraid to face on our own. And, of course, that mustaches are awesome. I like that there are discussion questions included at the end to help extend and guide the important discussions this novel brings up.

Mustaches for Maddie gets a golden mustache from me. Loved it and need to add this to my bookshelf. One of the best books of 2017 so far, one of my favorite books of 2017 and of all time, and my favorite middle grade novel. This novel is a must-read.


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Blog Milestone: My 200th Post! + Book Review Blitz

This is unbelievable as I just celebrated my 100th post back in February of this year! It’s crazy to think that I’ve done another hundred posts within five months.

Thank you, all, for stopping by my blog and reading my posts and all them other good stuff. Please enjoy another short series of book reviews in celebration of this milestone. Title links lead to a Goodreads summary of each book.


Image via Goodreads

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Touch, book 1 | Published by: Hyperion | (First) Released: December 8, 2008

Young Adult Fantasy

This five-book series is really good. It’s been a long time since I read it but it’s still one of my favorites. The set-up of the first book you may find familiar – curious girl and mysterious bad boy rumored to have committed murder – but there’s more to it than what the summary provides. There’s more to our main character, Camelia, than you or she realize. All I’ll say is, Camelia has a uncanny talent for art. There’s a lot of suspense in each book – all of which builds upon each other – and the tension will have you on the edge of your seat. Not to mention all the covers are simply beautiful.

 


Image via Goodreads | Cover Reprint November 15, 2006 by Scholastic

Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce

The Circle Opens, book 1 | Published by: Scholastic Press | (First) Released: March 1, 2000

Young Adult Fantasy

It would not be a book review blitz without mentioning a book by Tamora Pierce. Magic Steps is the first book of the The Circle Opens quartet which takes places a few years later after the Circle of Magic quartet. Our four main characters – Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar – are now (I believe) teenagers and off on their own. This book focuses on Sandry and it’s my favorite of The Circle Opens books. She happens upon a boy, Pasco, performing unusual magic as he routinely dances a ritual to help the fishermen bring in a bountiful catch. Because she is the one who discovered this clearly untrained mage, she must be the one to teach him – as the rules dictate. But soon they must work together to discover who is killing a clan of merchants in Emelan. Sandry has grown and matured so much and is really coming into her own person. Her thread magic develops and strengthens in a cool way in this book. Despite a few gruesome parts, it’s a really enjoyable story.


Image via Goodreads

Another Chance To Dream by Lynn Kurland

de Piaget, book 1 | Published by: Berkley Publishing | Released: December 1, 1998

Historical Romance, Fiction

Ah, the book that (chronologically) began the wonderful de Piaget series. Rhys de Piaget must earn money, title, and land in order to be with his love, Gwen, who is betrothed to another. Like all of Lynn Kurland’s books, Another Chance To Dream is a very sweet and romantic tale. Rhys and Gwen are such lovely characters and the plot is really good. In publication or chronological order, this book can be seen as an origin story of the de Piaget series but not so far back in time as there’s a book centered on each of Rhys and Gwen’s children when they’re older.

 


If you’re new to The Bookshelf Corner and want to learn more about it, check out the About Me page. You can also follow me on Goodreads to keep up to date on the books I’m reading, as well as by checking out the side bar on the blog or the Currently Reading page. TBC is also on Twitter @bookshelfcorner.

As always, happy reading and happy writing!


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ARC Book Review: All Things New by Lauren Miller

Thank you to NetGalley and Three Saints Press for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review. All Things New is set to be released August 1, 2017.

Image via NetGalley | Published by Three Saints Press

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

Book Summary (via NetGalley):
From the author of Parallel and Free to Fall comes a novel about how it feels to be broken and what it means to be real.

Seventeen-year-old Jessa Gray has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn’t help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and noticeable scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels.

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, but her anxiety only gets worse in the wake of the accident.  That is, until she meets Marshall, a boy with a heart defect whose kindness and generous spirit slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

All Things New is a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review:
Beautiful, poignant, and honestly portrayed, All Things New is an enchanting story that gives hope for a brighter today and an even brighter tomorrow.

I underestimated how good All Things New would be – it was unbelievably fantastic!

The part before Jessa’s accident was annoying and I’m glad the author left that behind and didn’t physically drag it into the rest of the story. Jessa’s accident was heart-stopping and gave me pause. Afterwards, the story picks up and from then on it’s really difficult to stop reading (but why would you? it’s such a great book!).

What Jessa is going through is unfortunately more common than not. How she thinks, feels, behaves, and perceives things is exactly what someone with panic attacks and anxiety experiences. It’s an honest and raw portrayal of teenage mental health issues and mental health in general. She is a very relatable character even if you haven’t fully experienced all that she has.

I love Marshall – he is the bright spot in Jessa’s darkness, a bright spot we sometimes forget we have or feel we don’t have in our lives. Usually, someone with such a sunny disposition is a little off-putting for me in stories. But not Marshall. I think his heart condition, once he began to understand what it really meant, made him have a different, more positive outlook on life – sort of like Chris from the television show Parks and Recreation. Marshall is a great character. Silly, funny, kind. I’m glad that – although this is a love story – the focus wasn’t squarely on him; that he would be the end-all-fix-all – but on Jessa. And yet, I wish there was more development between Marshall and Jessa.

I am so thankful Lauren Miller wrote this story and that it will be shared with the world as it shares an important message. The story and writing is beautiful. The characters are raw and real. You will feel all the feels. 2017 has been a great year for new books so far and All Things New just made it better!