Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

station elevenTJ Burns — February 27, 2017

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I love well-written dystopian novels and I love solving mysteries, so Station Eleven is right down my ally. The biggest mystery throughout was figuring out how all the players fit together. One-third through, I made a mind map and a timeline to sort things out. Putting together the pieces of the puzzle was as entertaining as it was intriguing, and it took away a bit of the sting from the heavier, more deprestation eleven2ssing subject matter.

I was enraptured from beginning to end by the captivating subject matter, the puzzles to solve, and the diverse and interesting characters.

Published September 9th 2014 by Knopf

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Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl by Susan Lubner

Lizzy and the Good Luck GirlTJ Burns — July 23, 2018

Nice! I read this book with my 11-year-old daughter and this evaluation will include both of our opinions. We both were fully emerged into the lives of Lizzy, Charlotte, and Joss. We loved the main characters with all their imperfections, along with the diverse, colorful adults, and of course the temperamental and endearing animal cast! We couldn’t wait to get back to the book, night after night, to see how the characters develop and evolve. We liked the little quirks the characters had, and appreciated that they were not perfect, but also that they were willing to learn from their mistakes, and from each other.

I can highly recommend this book to middle grade and young adult readers.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Fantastic Library Rescue and Other Major Plot Twists (Ruby Starr #2) by Deborah Lytton

ruby starr2TJ Burns — June 1, 2018

Another fun-packed Ruby Starr adventure for my 10-year-old daughter and me to read, discuss, and get excited about. The Fantastic Library Rescue and Other Major Plot Twists picks up where Ruby Starr left off. I absolutely love that Ruby and her nemesis from book one, Charlotte, are now good friends — their relationship’s development from rivalry into friendship beautifully illustrates what I have been trying to convince my daughter for years — that first impressions aren’t always accurate, that people have more depth than can first be perceived, and most importantly that people — in this case both Ruby and Charlotte — can grow and develop, learn from their mistakes, and change for the better.

Ruby is just my kind of character — a book person! With every new Ruby Starr book, daughter is becoming more and more a “book-person.” Ruby is an endearing character, with all her flaws, and weaknesses, but also with her openness to try new things, her courage in facing disappointments, and her great big heart! We felt for Ruby when things were not going as she had hoped, we pained with her when she thought she had deeply hurt her friend Will, and we cheered for her as she attempted and succeeded in turning disappointments into successes. Yay, Ruby! Keep ’em coming, Deborah — we’re ready now for the third book!

I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Published May 1st 2018 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

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Ruby Starr by Deborah Lytton

Ruby Starr
TJ Burns – May 10, 2018

 

Ruby Starr is a fun, entertaining, and amusing read! I read this book with my 10-year-old daughter and she loved it! Ruby is just my kind of character — a book person! My daughter is not yet “a book-person,” but with Ruby’s and my help, she’s gradually becoming one! Yay! We’ve already started The Fantastic Library Rescue and Other Major Plot Twists, Ruby Starr’s sequel, at my daughter’s request.

Ruby is an endearing character, with all her flaws, and weaknesses, but also with her openness to try new things, her courage in facing disappointments, and her great big heart! We felt for Ruby when things were not going as she had hoped, we pained with her when she felt she was losing her best friend, and we cheered for her as she attempted and succeeded in turning disappointments into successes. Yay, Ruby! Keep ’em coming, Deborah — we’ll be ready for the third book very soon!

I received a copy of this book from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Ghosts of Greenglass House (Greenglass House, #2) by Kate Milford

ghosts of greenglass houseTJ Burns — March 3, 2018

My 10-year-old daughter and I loved Ghosts of Greenglass House even more than the first book in this series, Greenglass House, which we absolutely loved! We were glad, along with Milo and his parents, to welcome back Georgie and Clem and especially Meddie. We also enjoyed meeting a whole slew of new and interesting characters and delving deeply into their histories and motivations.

New mysteries engaged and enthralled us and, as with the first book, we enjoyed guessing, second-guessing, and guessing again.

On the philosophical level, I valued how the lines in these stories are blurred between what is considered “right” and “wrong,” “good” and “bad,” “crazy” and “normal.” These unclear, blurry lines force the young reader to take a critical look at who is making the value judgements and what their interests are. Can thieves, smugglers, and ghosts be “the good guys”? Can customs agents be “the bad guys”? Can some thieves act honorably, while others act dishonorably? Can the same question be asked of customs agents? Who is “crazy” and what does it mean to be “normal,” and who gets to decide?

I enjoyed reading and discussing this book with my daughter to gauge her interpretations and analyze her reactions. She clearly didn’t delve as deeply into such philosophical topics as I did, but she also didn’t feel upset by such inconsistencies and had no problem identifying with and liking characters in which “society” may deem as “criminals” or “undesirables.”

As an educator and a parent, I also especially loved how Milo, like in the first book, takes on an alter-ego to engage in activities he himself feels too shy to attempt, to take on tasks that he feels incapable of accomplishing, and to use skills and talents that he doesn’t feel he has. Since a different set of skills and talents are needed in his current challenge, he creates a new alter-ego to respond to the new obstacles and challenges that present themselves. I think this is a fantastic idea and can engage young readers to look inside themselves to see what skills, talents, ideas, and abilities they actually have, but never never thought that they did.

I can highly recommend this creative series and am looking forward to reading a new Greenglass House adventure as soon as possible!

I received a copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Published October 3rd 2017 by Clarion

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Greenglass House (Greenglass House #1) by Kate Milford

greenglass houseTJ Burns — February 3, 2018

Wow! Fantastic! Fun, mysterious, suspenseful. And man, I did not see that twist coming. Boom! Intriguing & entertaining characters, original setting, clever premise, creative puzzles — fun for young and old!

I read this book with my 10-year-0ld daughter, and we could not wait to continue it each evening! We’ve already started the sequel, Ghosts of the Greenglass House, which promises to be equally enthralling!

Published August 26th 2014 by Clarion Books

 

 

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Ink, Iron, and Glass (Ink, Iron, and Glass #1) by Gwendolyn Clare

Ink Iron and GlassTJ Burns — December 2017

Wow! Yes! This is my kind of book! Intelligent, clever, creative, and action-packed story line; intriguing and diverse characters, who experience personal growth; interesting, clever, and at times witty dialogue; surprises and unexpected twists – everything I look for in a YA fantasy!

 

Expected publication: February 20th 2018 by Macmillan/Imprint


I received a copy of this book from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase4

TJ Burns — December 7, 2017

Wheeeeeeeee-uuuuuuuuuh! Boom-chuckaluckla-boom! That was an exciting ride! Yeee-ha!

The humorous, chuckle-out-loud interaction and dynamics between the three main characters is refreshing, entertaining, and endearing — all at once!

I guessed the who-dunnit shortly before Lockwood and long before he revealeThe Screaming Staircase1d it to Lucy and George, but that didn’t distract from the story’s suspense in the least. I simply applauded my brilliance and chalked it off to a great-minds-think-alike kind of a thing. Besides there were more than enough – correct that – loads and loads of surprises to keep me oThe Screaming Staircase2n the edge of my seat and cause me to jump up and scream periodically!

Within minutes of finishing The Screaming Staircase, I bought and started reading The Whispering Skull, the second book in the series. I haven’t gotten this excited about a series since Harry Potter! Yipee!

I received a copy of this book from Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

like vanessaTJ Burns — February 2018

Heart-wrenching, moving, and inspirational all at once. Who’d have ever thought I’d get involved in the story about a beauty pageant contestant? But this book has so much to offer. Vanessa’s aspirations go so much deeper than beauty pageants. Vanessa dearly wants to be loved and to be considered beautiful. Her quest to achieve beauty leads her to the discovery that the beauty is inside herself — and it has been there all along.

Vanessa is so genuine, so honest, in her thoughts (although she sometimes holds back in her words and actions). She has such “heart.” I could immediately identify with Vanessa, though her world and mine are entirely different.

Very well written, at times heart-wrenching, and extremely emotionally involving throughout, I can highly recommend Like Vanessa for anyone (age 12 and older) when it comes out in March of 2018.

I received a copy of this book from Charlesbridge via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: March 13th 2018 by Charlesbridge

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Artemis by Andy Weir

artemis2TJ Burns — August 2017

5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Fantastic read! Something for all of my senses! Intelligent, scientific, thought-provoking contents; action-packed, suspenseful, clever story-line; less-than-perfect, but approachable, understandable, and intriguing characters; witty, laugh-out-loud dialogues; all wrapped together into one exciting ride!

Jazz is an intriguing anti-hero. Not only does she have the most awesome name and nickname, both of which I gave to my own daughter, but her quick-witted, humorous, spontaneous, flippant, don’t-give-a-shit-what-anyone-thinks attitude is both entertaining and endearing.

Jazz, who wallows in self-pity, but puts up a don’t-give-a-damn front for everyone to see (and even convinces herself of its validity), and whose relationship with right and wrong and moral values is shady (to put it politely), and who is the self-proclaimed perpetual maker of bad life choices, and who the entire community sees as case-in-point for squandered potential, is the most unlikely of unlikely heroes… all the more reason to love her in all her imperfections.
Artemis
From beginning to end, I was captivated. Jazz and her personality move the story along at a mega-quick pace, and although there are some detailed scientific explanations, they serve to stimulate the brain cells rather than bog the story down. I didn’t look up the mechanical terms or check the accuracy of the chemistry involved… but for now, I’ll just take Weir’s word for it, and save the fact checking for a rainy day ;).

Five big fat stars for Artemis from TJ Burns!

I received a copy of this book from Crown Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: November 14th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)

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Emily and the Spellstone by Michael Rubens

emily and the spellstoneTJ Burns — September 23, 2017

5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Laugh-out-loud, smart, creative, action-packed, middle-grade adventure!

Emily and the Spellstone claims to be a middle grade novel, but there is wit enough to capture and captivate an older audience as well.

I read this with my 10-year-old daughter and we were constantly rolling over laughing like crazy! Throughout the day we would quote both Emily and Gorgo — each clever in his/her own right. Emily’s matter-of-fact, reluctant to become involved in any kind of adventure, slightly sarcastic, slightly critical, slightly negative, but ready-to-step-up-when-needed personality combined with Gorgo’s bubbly, entertaining, over-the-top hilarious, morally dubious, but inherently helpful personality (or do you say demon-ality?) bring to life a wonderful, creative, witty, entertaining, original adventure!

I received a copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Published June 13th 2017 by Clarion Books

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