unRequired Reading Blog
I have been planning to write a review of Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, since I first read it several months ago. But I kept putting it off. I think I'm afraid that I won't do justice to this amazing book.
In Seraphina's world, humans and dragons live in an uneasy truce. Fear and distrust runs high on both sides, and interaction between the two is strictly limited. Seraphina is a half-breed who will never belong in either world. In fact, dragons find the very idea of her existence disgusting, and humans would kill her if they discovered her secret. Though she lives in fear of discovery, she refuses to hide away. A talented musician, she becomes the assistant to the court composer shortly before the arrival of the dragons' leader for a state visit celebrating the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty.
The 7th and 8th Grade Cafe Book participants at Chancellor Middle School know a good book when they read one. Here are this year's favorites.
Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs
Monsters walk the streets of San Francisco and three teenaged descendants of Medusa in Greek mythology must reunite and embrace their fates to overcome them.
Starters by Lissa Price
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson
Apothecary by Maile Meloy
Cold Cereal by Adam Rex
Cafe Book is supported by a generous donation from the Carver family in memory of their mother Ruth -- middle school librarian, literacy advocate, and lover of reading.
Alina Starkov has never felt like she belonged. Orphaned and adopted by a duke, Alina meets an equally parentless boy named Mal. The two are inseparable, referred to by the duke's servants as melenchki, little ghosts, as they giggle throughout the vast house. Of course, such things cannot always stay the same.
Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, is set in an alternate version of pre-revolution Russia. In this nation, known as Ravka, the new world is starting to infringe on the old. It used to be the Grisha who maintained order. The Grisha are powerful beings who can manipulate living things, the elements, and metals as if using magic. New weaponry and a multiple-front war are changing all of that though.
There are many fantasy books that lead you to other places filled with wizards, royalty, and magical creatures. They provide an escape for their readers. But what if the characters wanted to escape? The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley, is about a princess who wants something more out of her fairy tale life—if only she can get the chance.
For ages and ages, no one had opened the book. Just as Sylvia sat weeping in boredom by the edge of the lake, pleading for something to happen, a fan of light began opening in a corner of the sky, sending flashes of color across the water. "Rawwwk! Reader!" screamed an orange bird. "Boooook open! Ooopen! Boook open!" groaned a bullfrog.
"Don't you love it, Mother? We can shut our eyes and pretend we live in a candy house. All candy. Everywhere."
The Ugly One in The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli remembered how her child loved sweets. Asa was beautiful, and her mother tried to give her all the beauty she could though they were poor.
She worked as a midwife in the village where she was accepted for her healing gifts. She took simple things in exchange for her services: some food, a bit of wool, or perhaps a lovely ribbon for Asa's hair.
The hunchbacked woman was simply good, happy knowing that her talents were used to help others. Yet her neighbor Bala knew they would be rich if she could persuade the Ugly One to drive the demons from the burgermeister's son. The Ugly One protested. She was a midwife, an herbal healer sometimes, nothing more than God wished her to be. But when she saw the boy, yellowed and dying from a tormenting demon, she believed that God had given her another path.
Intrigue, spying, resistance fighters working behind enemy lines to sabotage the Nazis—Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin, has it all. The story is true, but it reads like a spy thriller.
"In Darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me.
One: I am alive,
Two: there is no two."
In Darkness, by Nick Lake, is set in Haiti immediately after the devastating earthquake of 2010. It is the story of Shorty, a boy who has grown up in a violent slum of Port-au-Prince called The Site. But Shorty's life is somehow interwoven with the spirit of Touissant l'Ouverture, visionary leader of Haiti's slave revolution of 1791 to 1803.
Darcy Jones has been bouncing from foster home to foster home around Chicago for most of her short life. She remembers nothing from her early childhood. She has finally managed to spend more than a year with a foster parent and finally has some friends at her high school.
Little does Darcy know that there is an alternate world just like this one as well as an alternate Chicago. But in that world, the Great Chicago Fire never happened. In that world, The Shadow Society remains a deadly threat.
When a mysterious new boy at school, Conn McCrea, captures Darcy’s attention... her heart soon follows. She is about to find out though that Conn is from that alternate world, and so is she.
There's that familiar anecdote: a child gets a nice, big, expensive toy for his birthday. The parents have spent hours putting it together,. For all of their sweat, pain, and suffering they find that the child is most fascinated with the big cardboard box the toy came in.
Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel, is a clever variation on that premise. Mike, an out-of-work carpenter, has nothing for his son Cam's birthday. A strange old man approaches him with an offer. For just a handful of change, Mike can get his son an amazing gift. It may seem like an ordinary cardboard box, but whatever Cam makes out of the corrugated paper pulp comes to life.
Seventeen-year-old Alex has had a rough time lately in Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. First her parents tragically pass away in a helicopter accident, and then she is diagnosed with a brain tumor, which she dubs “the monster.” Fed up with managing the monster and all of its side effects like losing her sense of smell, she escapes to a campsite for a few days to think about her options. And then the whole world is turned upside down by an electromagnetic pulse that leaves much of the population dead or changed into flesh-eating zombies.