Fierce Kingdom

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Release Date: July 4, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Joan and Lincoln were leaving the zoo when it happened. Four-year-old Lincoln had been playing with his “guys,” his superhero toys, in the sand when his mother said they should go. The zoo would be closing soon. She kept hearing popping noises, like fireworks. But she didn’t realize what it really was until she saw the bodies on the ground near the exit. She ran when she saw the the gunmen. She carried Lincoln and they ran to a hiding place in an empty animal enclosure.

This story is very realistic right now. These kinds of shootings happen all too often. I think it would be especially scary in a zoo, because there are so many hiding places for both the shooters and the victims.

There were other people hidden in the zoo along with Joan and Lincoln, but I don’t think they were as necessary to the story. I felt more of a connection to Joan because she was the main focus of the story. There was also the hint of the backstory of why the shooters did this. It would have been interesting to know the full story, but it was never told.
Lincoln added some comic relief to the story. He made jokes to make his mom laugh. But I would cringe when he would speak to loudly, possibly alerting the shooters to their position.

I was holding my breath for a lot of this book. It was very thrilling, but I wish there was some more explanation of why the situation happened.

Who Runs The World?

Title: Who Runs The World
Author: Virginia Bergin
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: MacMillan
Release Date: June 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Imagine a world with only women. No men. The men have been destroyed by a virus that women are immune to. The remaining men live in sanctuaries. New babies are born using IVF, but if it’s a boy, it is sent away to a sanctuary before the mother can even see it. There are four generations of women: Gramummas, Mummas, Teens, and Littler Ones. The Granmummas were teens in the time before the men were killed, so they remember the old world. Everyone else only knows the new world of only women. This world is turned upside down for River when she finds a boy one day. He tries to attack her but she subdues him and brings him back to her village. But the boy should have been killed by the virus long before now. There’s a reason he’s still alive. And now he owes River for saving his life.

The premise of this story is very good. It’s a world run by women, 60 years in the future. This is especially relevant today, when many women are losing the rights that they have spent centuries earning. Even the title is a reference to a Beyoncé song, “Who Runs The World? (Girls)”

I wish the story had more description of the new world. River narrates the story, which gives a first person perspective of what is happening. However, this often turns into a stream of consciousness that is confusing until the details of the community are told. I still had many questions about how the world was run and what it looks like. The buildings are falling apart, but why? And where do they get their money from? They eat insects rather than meat, so where did the animals go? I think there could have been a whole book just to explain the new world without men.
It’s interesting how the genders were divided up. The men were associated with violence and fitness and video games. The women don’t fight or workout or play video games at all. I’m not sure if these stereotypes would play out in real life if this happened, because plenty of girls like to work out and play video games.

This was a very intriguing story, but I wish it had some more details to completely immerse the reader into the story.

Smile


Title: Smile
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: February 1, 2010
Rating: ★★★★★

Raina is going to get braces. They have to alter the plan when she falls and knocks one of her front teeth out and the other is slammed into her head. After getting those teeth fixed, she has a root canal. Then, she gets the braces but they don’t fix her front teeth. So her orthodontist decides to remove her front teeth completely and use the braces to bring her other teeth together to fill in the gap. All this happens, and she’s only 13-years-old. Raina also has to face bullying at school, that has to do with her unusual dental situation.

This is a true story about the author. I squirmed through a lot of the book. There were some graphic descriptions (and images) of her dental problems. I can’t imagine what this was like to go through, but now she has a beautiful smile and an incredible story to share!

This book would be great for kids who are getting braces or other serious dental work done. They probably aren’t having the same amount of extensive work that Raina had, so reading about someone who had a lot more dental problems could calm them down. Also it shows a character in a book who has braces, which isn’t demonstrated much in young adult graphic novels.

 

I Have No Secrets

Title: I Have No Secrets
Author: Penny Joelson
Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: June 29, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Jemma is a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. She can’t speak or move her body to communicate. She was put up for adoption and has lived with her family since she was 2 years old. They also have two foster kids, Olivia and Finn. Sarah is Jemma’s support worker who lives with them. Since Jemma can’t speak, people tell her their secrets because they assume she can’t hear as well. But Jemma knows everything that’s happening. She even knows more than most people because she knows their secrets. Sarah’s boyfriend, Dan, tells Jemma he will never get caught for a crime, implying that he murdered her neighbour. So when Sarah disappears, Jemma is very worried that Dan has done something to her. Though Jemma knows the answers to these problems, she struggles with her silence.

This is the first novel I’ve read that is narrated by a person with a severe disability. I was so frustrated for Jemma at the beginning since she knew things but she couldn’t express them. I struggled along with Jemma through the mystery of Sarah’s disappearance.

Though Jemma lives in a foster home with two other kids, it isn’t the stereotypical foster home that is in many YA novels. Usually foster kids in YA novels are abandoned or run away. Jemma’s family is very caring to her and the other children, and they accommodate their special needs.

I enjoyed this unique, diverse book. I hope more stories about characters with limited abilities come out in the future.

The Lotterys Plus One

Title: The Lotterys Plus One
Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Middle Grade
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

The Lotterys are a very diverse family. They have two dads and two moms: PopCorn and PapaDum, and Cardamom and Mama. When they won the lottery, they decided to buy a giant house in Toronto, where they could raise their children. Some are adopted and some are their biological children. They have 7 children, each named after a type of tree. The story follows the fifth child, Sumac Lottery. She gets to travel to the Yukon with PopCorn to visit his father. But it isn’t the trip she expected. PopCorn’s father, who the kids call Grumps, burned down his house because he has dementia, so they bring him back to live with them. Their 82-year-old Scottish grandpa isn’t prepared for their diverse household, with gay parents and multicultural children. Sumac is given the task of guiding Grumps through their house and their daily activities.

The Lotterys are a very diverse family. The four parents consist of two gay couples.  Many of the children are from different cultures, like Native Canadian, Filipino, Jamaican, and Hindu. They celebrate the different holidays from these cultures. The grandfather’s old-fashioned ideas clash with this modern family in a realistic way.

Another part of the family that I liked was how they continued to use the childish sayings from the kids as they grew up. For example, Brian says “egg salad” instead of “excellent” and they call the spare room “Spare Oom.”

The illustrations in the novel were a great help for keeping the characters straight. There are 11 Lotterys plus Gramps, so I started to get them confused at first, but their distinct pictures helped me keep remember who they were.

There was also a lot of Toronto history in the story. For example, the Toronto islands used to be part of a peninsula connected to lakeshore, but they broke away. They also mention Hurricane Hazel which I learned about from my grandparents but immigrants to Canada may not be familiar with.

This is a great book for parents and young readers. I learned lots about Toronto from this book so I’m sure others could too!

Gotham Academy Volume 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy

Title: Gotham Academy Volume 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy
Author: Becky Colonna, Brenden Fletcher
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: June 17, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

Gotham Academy is in Gotham City, home of Batman. Olive returns to school after a rough summer. Her mother was locked away in a building, but it collapsed so she’s in a coma now. Olive wasn’t able to see her boyfriend, Kyle, so now they’ve drifted apart. Olive has to take Kyle’s sister, Maps, under her wing to show her around school. But Maps is only interested in finding the ghost that keeps appearing. They are supposed to stay away from the North Hall, but of course that’s where Maps wants to look for the ghost. The girls need to use the diary of Millie Jane to find the secrets of Gotham Academy.

I liked this story. There was some mystery around the ghost, but it had a typical “ghostly” reveal. But that was only part of the story. I enjoyed the plot, and it would be appropriate for middle grade readers too.

I hope the next volume has more aspects of Gotham. There were hints of the Arkam Asylum in this one, but I hope they explore more of the inmates next time.

The Child

Title: The Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

Construction workers find the a newborn’s bones while they are digging up a backyard. The remains are 30 to 40 years old. There are only bones left, so it’s hard to figure out what happened. Emma has mental health problems and she gets very nervous when she hears about the discovery that happened in the backyard of her childhood home. Angela gets hopeful when she hears about it because she wonders if it is her long lost baby that was abducted from her hospital room 40 years ago. Kate is a reporter who is intrigued by this story and throws all her energy into discovering the identity of the mysterious baby.
This book was a thrilling ride from beginning to end! There were multiple characters who were under suspicion for having something to do with the baby. Angela thinks it’s her missing baby. But at the same time Emma acts very guilty for some reason.

At first, I wondered why Emma’s narration was in first person, while Kate’s and Angela’s chapters had a third person narrator. However, by the end of the story it’s clear why this technique was used. It increased Emma’s unstable appearance to the reader.

Though I figured out what the solution was before the end, this was a really good story. I was hooked from the beginning and couldn’t put it down. Now I need to read Fiona Barton’s previous novel, The Widow.

Kristy’s Great Idea (Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novel #1)

 

Title: Kristy’s Great Idea (Baby-Sitters Club: Graphic Novel #1)
Author: Raina Telgemeier, Ann M. Martin
Genre: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Kristy Thomas, Mary-Anne Spier, and Claudia Kishi are best friends who live in Stoneycreek. They all babysit for kids their neighbourhood. One night, Kristy’s mom has trouble finding a babysitter for David Michael, Kristy’s little brother. When she has to phone multiple people before finding a solution, it gives Kristy the idea to start the Baby-Sitters Club. Kristy and her friends, along with Stacey McGill, will meet three times a week and take calls from parents who need babysitters that week. That way, parents can reach many babysitters at once. They also create a notebook where they can write their experiences with each family, so the other babysitters know what to do if they ever have to babysit them. This new club also brings Kristy closer to her family and her mom’s new boyfriend, Watson.

The drawings in this book are just like the other ones in Raina Telgemeier’s other books. It’s so cool to see some of my favourite characters come to life on the page.

This graphic novel brought back so many memories from when I originally read the Baby Sitters Club books. I loved this book and I’m excited to read the next ones!

Indian Summer

Title: Indian Summer
Author: Marcia Willett
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Mungo is a retired actor who lives in the country with his dog. He lives on the family property that belongs to his brother Archie. Archie and his wife Camilla rent out the cottages on their land. Brothers Philip and Billy are from a farming family. They live near the orchard, where Philip takes care of Billy who had a stroke. Mungo’s friend, Kit, comes to stay with him. She is dealing with a past lover who has come back into her life after his wife died. All of these old friends always think of their friend Izzy. She was a beautiful actress that everyone loved but she died young from an overdose. The other tenants of the cottages are Emma and James. James is a writer who has moved to the country to get some inspiration for his latest novel. Emma lives with her two children while her husband is away as a doctor in Afghanistan. She starts to have a relationship with one of her husband’s friends, who turns out to be more dangerous than she imagined.

There were a lot of characters and storylines. They were all connected, some much less than others. The perspective kept changing between characters. This could be confusing at times when it switched between characters in the same scene without warning.

The story kept giving hints to big scandals but it didn’t deliver. Some scenes had big cliffhangers but they were disappointing when nothing happened. I think if there were simpler plot points, the climaxes could have been bigger.

This story was well written but not as exciting as I hoped.

The Cloud Castle


Title: The Cloud Castle
Author: Thea Stilton
Genre: Children, Middle Grade
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Rating: ★★★★

Will Mystery calls the Thea Sisters for their help. There is a crack in the ceiling of the Hall of Seven Roses, which indicates trouble with the fairies. The girls and Will take a helicopter to Mount Everest to access the fairies in the clouds. Once they get there, they find Ariette, a weaver fairy, who is locked away in a tower. She has been sent there because the Queen thinks she caused their problems by telling the fairies about the real world below the clouds. The problem is that the weaver fairies, who create silver thread with their dreams, are no longer producing it. They need the silver thread to weave clouds everyday. The Thea Sisters and Will embark on a mission to clear Ariette’s name and discover the truth behind the missing silver thread. 

There were many aspects from World mythology in this story. For example, the elephant, Airavata, reminded me of Krishna from Indian mythology and the hundred handed giant is like the ones from Greek mythology. 

Multiple words on each page stand out by being illustrated. For example, words related to snow would have snow covering the tops of the letters and the word “rainbow” had a different colour for each letter. This makes these words stand out and would teach young readers what they mean. 

The mouse theme was present throughout the story. They would exclaim “Holey Cheese,” and at first I thought they spelled “holy” wrong. The same thing happened when they described something as “enormouse.” This was a clever way to incorporate the mouse theme into the story. 

This book was recommended to me by a ten-year-old because it’s her favourite book. I was surprised at how many times I laughed while reading it. I haven’t read any other books in the series but I still really enjoyed it.