Book Review: The Year of the Sawdust Man

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Nissa Bergen comes home from school one day to find her free-spirited mother gone and her mother’s favorite rosebushes picked clean of their beautiful purple blooms. She and her father are left to deal with the gossip of the small town and the stress of the ridicule of the kids at school. Everything seems to remind Nissa of the fun times she had with her exuberant mother. Nissa wonders if she will ever come back, but deep in her heart, she believes she won’t.

When she hears a particularly vocal gossip sharing her opinion that Nissa’s mother ran off with another man, Nissa can’t help but remember the times when her mother would leave for hours without explanation and then return smelling like sawdust. Nissa begins wondering if it’s true. Did her mother run off with a sawdust man?

Even though this book is written from a child’s perspective and on a child’s level, it is a rather serious book that deals with the difficulties that children of separated parents face. There is some inappropriate language in it, but it could be beneficial for children of separated parents and for the parents to help them understand what their children could be going through.

4 stars

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Book Review: The Peculiar

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Bartholomew is a peculiar. As peculiars, he and his sister Hattie are shunned by both faeries and humans. The only way they can survive in a world that would rather see them dead is by avoiding notice. “Don’t get yourself noticed, and you won’t get yourself hanged.” They live in a small, old apartment in the slums of Bath in the faery distract. Their mom takes as good care of them as she can, but there’s only so much she can do. Life in such poverty is dull and hard, but at least they’ve managed to survive. Their biggest problems begin when peculiars start showing up dead. Covered in mysterious red writing, their bodies begin washing up in London completely flat and empty like old leather sacks. When Bartholomew sees a strange lady in purple take away a peculiar that lives across the street from him, he can’t help but be curious. That’s when he makes his greatest mistake. He gets noticed. Then, he is plummeted him down a path that will change his life forever.

Bachmann creates a wonderful world that reveals an entirely new perspective on fairies and other magical creatures. He does an incredible job of building the characters and paints a very realistic picture of their personalities. This book is even more impressive when you realize how young the author is. A fun read with mystery, fantasy, and steampunk all rolled into one.

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Book Review: Beyond the Deep Woods

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Twig feels out of place with his wood troll family. Even though he looks quite different from the other wood trolls and has never felt like he fits in, he didn’t realize he’d been adopted until the day his mother told him he had to leave them, so he wouldn’t be captured by the sky pirates. He heads off into the deep woods on his way to his cousin’s house, but before he gets there, he does the unthinkable. Despite his mother’s constant warnings, Twig strays from the path. That’s when his adventure begins. Twig rescues and is rescued. He’s welcomed, ignored, threatened, eaten, almost killed, and, at one point, he even becomes a girl’s treasured pet until she goes through her right of passage and tries to kill him.

Beyond the Deep Woods is a thrilling tale that will constantly keep you on your toes. Twig goes from one exciting situation to the next. Stewart and Riddell present us with an action-packed story full of marvelous creatures and daring escapes. The imagination and creativity that has gone into this story is wonderful. They paint a vivid picture of an extraordinary world full of all kinds of trouble.

The only thing I would say that could be improved in this story is that there wasn’t a great sense of continuity. The characters Twig encounters in the story stay with him for a few chapters, but then he moves on, and we don’t see them again. Each section of the story could be read independently without much difficulty. However, if you are reading it as a bedtime story, it would have great places to stop each night.

There was one other issue I had with it. In one place one of the characters uses a word that I found inappropriate for a children’s book.

Overall, I found this to be an exciting and creative read. 4 Stars

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Book Review: The Rat Prince

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The Rat Prince is a delightful version of Cinderella told, in great part, from the point of view of the rats that lived with her. The prince of the rats, Prince Char, had taken get interest in Cinderella ever since her stepmother and stepsisters moved in. He did everything he could to make life easier for her, and in exchange, she befriended them and tried to get rid of the rat poison the mean cook set out for them.

When news of the ball came to the rats, Prince Char and some of his rat warriors went to the castle to check out the prince. If Cinderella married him, not only would her life improve, but she could get rid of the wicked stepmother who tried to kill Prince Char’s subjects, and their rat lives would improve as well.

Things take a dreadful turn for the worse when Prince Char and his warriors sneak into the castle and discover horrible news. Then to make matters worse, Cinderella’s “fairy godmother” chooses Prince Char and two of his loyal subjects to be coachmen. Prince Char must deal with his new human body and find a way to save all of them from the tragedy that looms. They have until midnight before the spell ends. Will they have enough time?

Bridget Hodder takes an idea that seems quite unbelievable, albeit terribly amusing, and turns it into a story that feels not only logical but completely possible (in a fairy tale world). Definitely a fun read.

4 Stars

Book Review: Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal

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Rowan is a regular boy living a regular life in a regular village until a message comes one day. He and his mother have to leave the village immediately to travel to Maris. The Keeper of the Crystal, who lives there, is dying, and it’s up to Rowan’s mother, as the Chooser, to pick the next keeper. If a new Keeper is not chosen before the old one dies, Maris will not have the protection it has depended on for so long. They will be vulnerable to attack from their vicious neighbors who stand by eagerly watching how events unfold.

Tragically, when they arrive, Rowan’s mother is poisoned, and the task of choosing is passed down to him as the next in line. He will take on this awesome responsibility but only after he finds the mysterious and almost impossible to obtain ingredients for the antidote to save his mother.

With the three candidates for Keeper assisting, he sets out on this dangerous mission. Time is running out for both his mother and Maris.

Rodda paints an enchanting image of the world of Rin and gives the story exciting moments of danger and daring as well as suspenseful and emotional moments that will have you on the edge of your seat.

4 stars

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Book Review: 100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards: Book 1 of the 100 Cupboards by [Wilson, N. D.]

Twelve-year-old Henry York wakes up in the middle of the night to discover that the plaster is falling off the walls in his room to reveal a hidden cupboard, so what does he do? He stays up all night scraping more plaster off to reveal more cupboards. These aren’t just ordinary cupboards, though. Most of them are locked, but the ones he can open lead to strange places that they couldn’t possibly lead to. The mystery deepens when two letters come to him through the doors. But that’s not all that makes it through. Evil finds a way out as well.

Henry discovers secrets that his family has been keeping for years and finds out that he’s not who he thinks he is. Only by working together can he and his family and friends survive.

Wilson does a great job of describing the typical family life. The adventure starts off a little slowly, but we have a rich account of Henry’s experiences as he gets settled in to his new life in Kansas. Suspense begins to build once the cupboard doors are opened and Henry gets a glimpse of what’s waiting inside.

4 Stars

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Book Review: Blade of the Sea: A Children’s Survival Unofficial Minecraft Book

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Trish is a simple villager from a small Minecraft village. She enjoys crafting, but longs to go on an adventure. When some villains break into the village’s sealed mine, Trish follows them to find out why. She discovers that they are looking for a map to a device that they believe will allow them to take over the world. Trish is determined to stop them.  When no one else in the village is willing to go with her, she sets out alone. She makes friends along the way, solves puzzles, fights zombies and spiders, and gains new courage.

This is a light, fun, easy read for anyone who loves adventure and Minecraft. Nethermind weaves an exciting adventure full of danger, friendship, and self-discovery.

5 Stars

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