22 April 2017

The Gauntlet; Karuna Riazi

The GauntletThe Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always loved those gateway-to-another-world type books, and this one does a great job of putting together a new world and peoples in game format. The diversity of the characters doesn't feel at all forced or heavy-handed but just as another commonplace, another nice aspect. Of course, for me, the best part is that this is a one-off, not part of a series, and that the world of the Gauntlet won't be easy to replicate.

ARC provided by publisher.

19 April 2017

Saint Death; Marcus Sedgwick

Saint DeathSaint Death by Marcus Sedgwick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A difficult read. The danger that Arturo faces in his daily life, the world of Mexican narco-trafficking and gangs is perhaps a little sensationalized but it feels real. There are moments when readers will wonder how he will survive, and perhaps those moments are a little too difficult for younger teen readers to read just yet.

ARC provided by publisher.

16 April 2017

Defy the Stars; Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars (Constellation, #1)Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What could have been a standard space adventure feels different thanks to the addition of some rather sophisticated questions about robots (can they have our sense of individuality? can they develop a sense of self? how much self-determination is there if they are essentially programmed?). Abel is in some ways a younger version of Data, and his relationships with Noemi and his creator are depicted realistically enough to elevate this from dystopian-adventure. The adventure and dystopian parts aren't bad either.

ARC provided by publisher.

13 April 2017

The End of the Wild; Nicole Helget

The End of the WildThe End of the Wild by Nicole Helget
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fracking is one of those hot-button issues and it was only a matter of time until some author decided to use it as a background for a MG book. This could have been more heavy-handed but luckily, it wasn't. Instead you get the realities of the situation: families in need being offered a way out of their situation by big companies who don't mention any of the bad effects that might come from allowing the drilling to occur. The heavy-handed part comes in the form of Fern's grandfather and her school project, but when you're talking environmental issues that's to be expected.

ARC provided by publisher.

10 April 2017

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel; Kimberly Willis Holt

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise MotelBlooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel by Kimberly Willis Holt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another entry in the "quirky homelife" and "crusty-old-man-isn't-really-crusty" genres (they don't always overlap but often, they do). Stevie's coming to grips with her changed life and figuring out how to live with her grandfather - never a previous part of her life - while also grieving her lost parents isn't easy. It is, however, predictable. If only authors would be brave enough to do something a little different... but that's just me.

ARC provided by publisher.

03 April 2017

Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts; Esta Spalding

Knock About with the Fitzgerald-TroutsKnock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding
My rating: 3 of 5 star

Loved this, but if you haven't read the first book it might not make sense (and given the target reader, middle graders, that might be a problem). The Fitzgerald-Trouts are Pippi Longstocking-esque, living virtually without supervision or parents on a tropical island. Unlike Pippi, each book is one adventure, which allows for a little more world-building. Cute series and can't wait for the next book.

ARC provided by publisher.

02 April 2017

Overturned, Lamar Giles

OverturnedOverturned by Lamar Giles
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Just didn't buy much of the premise: not denying the mob isn't involved in Vegas casinos, or that a teen can't be great at poker but there are moments here, particularly those involving The Big Secret that just felt too forced. Nikki was a good character but the others were fairly one-dimensional, which isn't unusual in a mystery/adventure but this would have been far stronger with more character development.

ARC provided by publisher.

01 April 2017

The Lottery's Plus One; Emma Donoghue

The Lotterys Plus OneThe Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute. And very obviously so: Donoghue is trying very, very hard to appeal to a middle grade reader with a love of puns. The diversity is wielded with a heavy hand and doesn't feel (to this reader) at all natural. Still, this is a relatively clever update on books like The Saturdays and that's not a bad thing at all.

ARC provided by publisher.