Picture Book Review: Marshmallows Galore by Donna Mae

 Marshmallows Galore
by Donna Mae (Author), Brandon Fall (Illustrator)

This is one the better self-published picture books I’ve received to review so far. The story is about what one boy does when giant marshmallows rain from the sky.

Pre-schooler Monkey’s reaction: P.M. was drawn in by the cover and liked the idea (“Can we have marshmallows for breakfast tomorrow?”). However, she said she “thought it would be more fun,” and was disappointed that the main character “didn’t eat a plain marshmallow” (he is only shown eating s’mores). She also found some images confusing. For example, on one page, the main character is shown running outside holding a splashing mug of hot chocolate. Her reaction: “I thought it rained marshmallows? Not chocolate?” I explained what was happening, but she remained unconvinced.

My reaction: Overall, I think the idea is cute, and the illustrations are lively. However, inconsistencies in meter (as well as in punctuation and capitalization) keep the rhyming text from reaching its full potential. Also, though the illustrations are colorful and energetic, the level of detail feels too much in places and not enough in others, and characters’ expressions are slightly too intense for my taste.

Because of these issues, the book doesn’t quite come together for me, but is still enjoyable thanks to the fun premise.

Disclaimer: Review of free copy received directly from the author.

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YA Book Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

The Here and NowThe Here and Now is a new romantic scifi from Ann Brashares, bestselling author of the beloved Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series.

As soon as I started reading this book, I was drawn into the story. The premise is reminiscent of Terra Nova (cancelled TV show from a few years back). Basically, people from a failed future decide to go back in time to a better time on earth. However, in this book instead of going back to the time of the dinosaurs, the future people in this book decide that 2014 is the golden age that they want to return to, a time when global climate change is only just starting, and the mosquito plagues that ravage humanity haven’t yet happened (according to the book :)).

While the premise for this novel isn’t entirely original, it still felt completely fresh (and yay, T-rex doesn’t show up). The story centers on two teenagers, Prenna and Ethan. Ethan saw Prenna arriving in the present from the future, though Prenna doesn’t remember it. He is instantly besotted by her, though she disappears from his life for years, only to return in high school. Prenna meanwhile, is living in an extremely restrictive society—a society of time travelers with leaders who aren’t above browbeating and shaming their members to keep them from altering history.

For the first third of the book, I really loved the writing, the introductions of the characters and the society, and the sweet forbidden friendship between Prenna and Ethan. However once the plot really starts to get going, things quickly begin to unravel. The complex backstory is laid out in awkwardly long dialogues, the romance between the main characters jumps from slow hand-holding to something more much too quickly, and exciting plot twists feel a tad predictable. But perhaps the thing that I was most disappointed by was the fact that by the end of this book, there were more questions about the premise than answers, and I found myself unable to believe that the extremely restrictive, borderline abusive society that Prenna had grown up in made any sort of logical sense.

Even with all that said, I was conflicted about how to rate this book (on Goodreads), because it was still an extremely compelling and enjoyable read–just don’t expect everything to make sense by the end and you’ll be fine.

Disclaimer: Review of free ARC requested through NetGalley

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The Boskidlit Calendar is now on Facebook

For some time now, I’ve maintained a Boston area children’s author calendar on my blog. A few people have asked me to move it to Facebook. I’m still working out the kinks. Come check it out and let me know what you think.

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Guest Post: Divergent vs The Hunger Games by Elizabeth Eckhart

We have a guest post at Monkey Poop today. Writer Elizabeth Eckhart compares two book to film YA dystopias, The Hunger Games and Divergent. Take it away, Elizabeth.

Comparing Divergent to The Hunger Games

by Elizabeth Eckhart

Since the release of Twilight in 2008, movie studios have been scrambling to replicate the franchise’s worldwide success with a series of adaptations of popular Young Adult book series. However, most of these attempts to make lightning strike twice have fallen flat. Films like Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments pulled in relatively low numbers, despite having what most would agree are better original narratives behind them, demonstrating that there’s more to box office success than just following a YA formula.

However, one saga has served as quite the formidable adversary to the success of Twilight: the worldwide phenomenon The Hunger Games. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, A.K.A. America’s Sweetheart, the film adaptation of the popular series of novels from author Suzanne Collins has found fantastic success at the box office.

Now, a new film adaptation of a YA book is poised to enjoy the same success as The Hunger Games. Divergent is the film adaptation from the book of the same name by newcomer Veronica Roth. Both Hunger and Divergent share dystopian settings and kick-butt female protagonists in the form of Katniss and Tris. Let’s see how the two series might possibly stack up against one another.

Round One: The Setting

The setting of The Hunger Games is fascinating. A fallen America, ravaged by war, has separated into 12 distinct districts that are forced to compete in the annual Hunger Games, a bloody competition organized by the evil Capitol. The setting is both easy to understand, and easy to summarize.

The setting of Divergent shares Hunger‘s dystopian setting, but that’s where the similarities end. Divergent takes place in a demented, futuristic Chicago where society has been divided into different factions, based on the traits that they hold most dear. Hunger is the sort of speculative fiction that makes us shiver; in a world of knock-out games and reality shows devoid of empathy, the notion of televised gladiator battles doesn’t seem that far off. The setting of Divergent, however, feels like pure fantasy.

Winner: “The Hunger Games”

Round Two: The Female Leads

Divergent‘s Tris and Hunger‘s Katniss are pretty darn tied for the title of “best kick-butt female.” Tris boldly chooses to leave her faction behind and join Dauntless, a subset of society for those who value physical strength and bravery. Katniss isn’t initially picked for the Games, but bravely volunteers to spare her younger sister from a certain death. If you have a weakness for tough-as-nails, brave heroines, both series will be right up your alley.

Winner: Clear Tie

Round Three: The Swoon-Factor

Let’s face it: Hunger‘s love triangle, at times, feels downright forced. Perhaps it was the Twilight factor that even prompted Collins to include it in the first place. Katniss is torn between the meek Peeta and the revolutionary Gale, but in both the books and the films, she never seems to give a darn about either of them, really. Perhaps Collins does have a point, though, that in times of war love truly does take a back seat to the present events.

This is, however, where Divergent is the clear winner. Divergent forgets all about the obnoxious, wish-fulfillment trend of love triangles in YA media. Instead, Tris and her brave, Alpha Male instructor Four fall for one another, but are forbidden by circumstance from pursuing their love. Fans of the series will swoon at the passion between Tris and Four, whereas Hunger fans know deep down that romance is on the bottom of Katniss’ to-do list.

Winner: “Divergent”

Thanks, Elizabeth! We may have to respectfully disagree about this one as I’m a Hunger Games fan through and through. Readers, what do you think? Did Elizabeth get it right?

 

More about my guest blogger:
Elizabeth Eckhart

Elizabeth Eckhart is a Chicago born and bred entertainment writer and blogger. She especially likes YA, and hopes to see the female heroine trend continue to grow. Find her on twitter: @elizeckhart.

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YA Book Review: Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski

A fun, quick, compelling read by Sarah Mlynowski, author of Bras & Broomsticks. This book is about a homeroom class of high schoolers who end up developing telepathic powers from a bad batch of the flu shot. What happens when your boyfriend or the guy you have a crush on can read your mind? What if you could hear what your parents and teachers are really thinking? Well, what happens in this book is that tons of secrets and lies are exposed, and a heck of a lot of drama ensues.

I really enjoy Mylonowski’s friendly, clear writing style, and her characters are complex and relatable. The story is told from the perspective of a hive-mind of twenty-two telepathic teens, but the main thrust of the storyline follows only a handful of them. While some may find this confusing, I found it clever and funny in a snarky Gossip Girl kind of way.

My one big issue with this book was with the “perv” of the class BJ, who really creeped me out more than I think he was meant to. He was constantly objectifying the girls in his class and they often responded positively to this. And while this did feel very realistic, I still found it rather troubling. I also felt that this book could’ve included more (obviously) multicultural and gay characters. But on the whole, this book was still incredibly enjoyable–a guilty-pleasure kind of read, perfect for spring break, summer vacation, or, who am I kidding, any time you want to read a juicy gossip/catty argument/make-out scene kind of book.

Disclaimer: Review of ARC received free through NetGalley.

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YA Book Review: Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis
Publication date: April 1, 2014

Moon at Nine is a poignant and powerful story about a bookish, strong-willed fifteen year old girl named Farrin who falls in love with Sadira, a new girl at school who understands Farrin better than her distant peers at school or her self-involved parents. Unfortunately, they are living in 1988 Iran where being gay is against the law and punishable by death.

Farrin and Sadira’s budding romance is sweet and lovely, and their situation absolutely heart-rending, made even more so by the fact that this novel was based on a true story as related to the author. At times, however, I found myself distracted from narrative because of inconsistencies in the quality of the writing. For example, Farrin often feels younger than her age, and the dialogue at times feels very inorganic. There are also a few instances of awkward fact-insertions that are quite jarring and could’ve been more artfully woven into the text.

Nevertheless, Moon at Nine is intensely moving. I found myself rooting for Farrin and Sadira, and I tore my way through this book just trying to find out how things would unfold.

Disclaimer: Review of electronic ARC received free from publisher via NetGalley

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YA Book Recommendation: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Read it slowly, and savor every last drop. Yes, it’s as good as everyone else says. No, they aren’t overselling it.

(Fantasy/romance inspired by Ancient Greco-Roman history, so if none of those things intrigue you, perhaps this isn’t for you, but wow was it good. And I loved the cover!)

 

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MG Book Review: Dumpling Days by Grace Lin

 

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin

What a great book! The story is about a young Taiwanese-American girl named Pacy who visits Taiwan with her family.  Newbery Honor-winning author Grace Lin draws on her own family trips to perfectly capture what it feels like to be caught between worlds as a child, the fears, the joys, the laughter. It reminded me so much of visiting India as a kid, meeting relatives I saw only rarely and feeling self-conscious and inadequate due my inability to speak my mother-tongue. Grace Lin’s writing and illustrations are childlike, yet elegant in their simplicity. I couldn’t stop smiling as I read this book and even laughed out loud in parts (the garbage truck scene is hysterical). Fair warning though if you love dumplings as much as I do, you will wish this book came with a list of suggested restaurants. I really really need to try soup dumplings! (Cue stomach grumbles)

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Random Library Find: Poof! by John O’Brien

Poof! by John O’Brien

Sometimes when I’m at the library picking up one of my ILL requests, I stop by the kid’s section to look at picture books. During this particular visit, I’d picked up some Caldecott Honors and some other new picture books, but out of my 5 picks, this one was the one that really stood out to my 4 y.o..

I had them all out on her bed as a “surprise” for when she got home from school, and after rummaging through them in her room by herself, she came out and announced, “Poof! is the one I like!” (Proud Mommy moment since I hadn’t read any of the titles to her.)

The story is simple and fun, basically about two wizard parents who argue about whose turn it is to “change” the baby. Silliness ensues as they change the baby into various creatures and end up as a family of wizard ducks. Ha!

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YA Book Recommendation: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder
by Marissa Meyer

Cyborg Cinderella. What’s not to love? It takes two of my favorite genres, fairy tale retellings and sci fi, and mashes them together. Wish I hadn’t taken so long to get around to reading it!

I loved the world building (just enough detail, but not too much), loved her multicultural(?) characters (particularly the robot friend!), loved how she incorporated the cinderella story. I am in awe of how much she accomplished in only 87,000 words (according to AR Book finder).

There was one niggling plot issue I had trouble believing, but I know why she did it and wouldn’t really know how to fix it. Didn’t detract from the book though.

Requesting the sequel now from the library!

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