Review: Jackaby

20312462Author: William Ritter

Age: 12 and up

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Released: 2014

Click here to read summary from Amazon.

Jackaby does have a sequel I can’t wait to read called Beastly Bones.

It was the last phrase of the summary that grabbed my attention.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in a debut novel, the first in a series, brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock??? Yes please!! I loved seeing how the author combined these two ideas in old world America. It pulled from old tales such as screaming banshees and fairies too.

Characters:

Some of the British fans may be disappointed when they just read “old world America”, which is where our story takes place. Hold on British fans, the “companion” is a spunky British girl…Abigail Rook is very Clara Oswald-ish!

One of my favorite secondary characters in this novel, is the resident ghost of Jackaby’s eccentric home. She added a lot of wit and charm to the novel.

Plot:

The story line itself has a somewhat predictable villain, but overall very enjoyable. I loved seeing how Sherlock and Dr. Who quirks were combined to make a delightful read. I feel like adding the fantasy creatures made it different enough from the two TV shows to keep it interesting.

There is some slight romance between Abigail Rook and an understanding detective from the police force. I hope to see this play out in the sequel!

Content Advisory:

Language: 2 Not a lot in this book that I remember.

Sexual: 1 I don’t remember if there was a kiss, but there was a crush going on!

Violence: 3 Good guys fight bad guys!

*Our reviews do contain affiliate links, meaning we could make a very small commission should you buy something using one of those links.

Middle Grade Reads: Tuesdays at the Castle

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School has started without a fall crisp in the air. As students load up on the buses or wait in study hall, they will need an AR book to keep them company (and to win those prizes and make a good grade.)

Don’t worry parents and students – the Girls in Plaid are here to help you out! Every week for the next few weeks, we aim to have a book for you!

Tuesday@CastleAR

Tuesdays At the Castle (Castle Glower Series #1)

Author: Jessica Day George

Level: Upper Elementary – Middle Grade

Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

Rachel’s Rambles:

The reason I read this book was because Brody said something along the lines of, “I found you on a cover! Its a book about a blond, freckled faced girl who likes maps!” So I looked at the book several times for almost six months (guessing here) and I finally read the book about a month ago…IT IS SO CUTE!

It’s light fluffy tale with espionage, adventure, and a little magic. (The castle is magic!) It defintley makes you want to keep reading and wishing you could stay at Castle Glower – and that the castle likes you so it makes your room nice and comfy…and lets you play in the bouncy room! Castle Glower should definitely be part of a theme park!!!

If fantasy tales with heart-warming characters, plotting villains, and happy endings is your thing – check this book out!

 Science Ch. 4 Week 2 copy

 Content Advisory Guide 

Language: 1 (maybe)

 Sexual: 0

 Violence: 1 (again – maybe)

Review: The Princess Bride

princess brideAuthor: William Goldman

Age: Adult/Young Adult (probably written originally for adults, but easily understandable and enjoyable for all ages)

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Comedy

Read the synopsis from Goodreads.

Have you seen the movie The Princess Bride? It doesn’t matter if your answer is yes or no, this is a book you don’t want to miss.

The Princess Bride is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read in my entire life. Goldman has a unique writing style that is completely captivating. From beginning to end, I found myself chuckling and even sometimes actually laughing out loud.

One of the reasons this book is so unique is the fact that Goldman claims it is an abridged “good parts” version of the classic by S. Morgenstern. Goldman begins the book explaining how S. Morgenstern’s book was his favorite growing up—that his father would read it to him when he was sick. When he became an adult, he read the book for himself and realized that his father had been leaving the boring parts out. Throughout “Morgenstern’s” story, Goldman adds his thoughts and explains why he “redacted” parts of the original book. (18 pages here describing possible cures for the king, 44 pages there about how the Prince acquired the animals for his personal zoo, 56 ½ pages describing Princess Noreena’s packing in preparation to visit Guilder, etc.)

But don’t worry. He sums up whatever you missed: “[F]rom a narrative point of view, in 105 pages nothing happens. Except this: ‘What with one thing and another, three years passed.’”

(In reality, there really is no book by S. Morgenstern, which completely confused me when I read this for the first time in 7th grade.)

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll be amazed at how wonderful of an adaptation it is. It is actually quite close to the book, although the book goes into the history and backstory of the main characters which allows you to understand them better. There are also some scenes that didn’t make their way into the movie, so if you’re a fan of the film, you should definitely read The Princess Bride to know the backstories.

I’ll wrap this up with some quotes I found amusing:

“Your father is dying.”
“Drat!” said the Prince. “That means I shall have to get married.”

At 8:23 there seemed every chance of a lasting alliance starting between Florin and Guilder.
At 8:24 the two nations were very close to war.

Life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.

There have been five great kisses since 1642 B.C., when Saul and Delilah Korn’s inadvertent discovery swept across Western Civilization. (Before then couples hooked thumbs.)

5 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy sword fighting, romance, torture, humor, giants, evil geniuses, pirates, princesses, etc, this is a book for you.

Content Advisory:
language: 3
I counted less than 10 curse words in the entire book (h, a, s, b)
sexual: 2
some kissing, an innuendo or two
violence/gore: 3
This is a hard one to rate. Yes, there are sword fights and torture, but none of it is explained in a very gruesome way. In fact, much of it is explained humorously.
other:
Someone contemplates suicide. Again, this is not gruesome or very detailed, but it is there.

Criss Cross: Fantasy Love

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Once upon a time, in a far away land…  

This phrase has begun tales of mystery, love, adventure, wars and worlds, and daring-do, of things beyond our wildest dreams.

The power of a book to completely remove us form our current mental state and transport us to a time and place is not to be discounted.  Nay, it can be said to be the most important and most defining quality of a fantasy story.

Fantasy stories began with the beginning of human imagination and have morphed through the ages as our surroundings changed and limits stretch. They inspire, they challenge, they transform, they can define a generation….
Sigh…

Yay fantasy!

crisscrosspoem

Review: Splintered

SplinteredAuthor: A.G. Howard

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Adventure

Age: Young Adult

Click here to view synopsis from Goodreads.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started Splintered, but it far surpassed any expectations I may have had. The world-building is fantastic, the characters are unique, and the ending is… wow.

The Wonderland that Howard creates is nothing like the one you’ve read about in Alice in Wonderland. You see, Alice was very young when these things happened to her and she did her best to describe them once she got back to the human world. But Wonderland is actually a dark place, and the characters Alice ran into weren’t exactly as she described them, and now Alyssa is figuring just how wrong Carroll’s story is.

Splintered is filled with gorgeous and unexpected twists that kept me wanting more. Crazy things are continuously happening, and new characters continue to make appearances until the end. The unbelievable situations that Alyssa finds herself in are sometimes scary and life-threatening, but ultimately entertaining as she must figure out how to surpass each obstacle in order to remove the curse off her family and get back to the real world.

The ending wrapped up nicely (i.e. not cliffhanger-y), but I was still left wanting the sequel NOW. I want to experience Wonderland with Alyssa again, and see how things go with the boys in her life.

Speaking of boys… there are two in her life, and my favorite is the non-human one. Morpheus is a dark creature of Wonderland, with an affinity for bugs (specifically moths) and hats. He has his own flair and quirks that made me love him, despite the fact that he’s also quite deceiving. The other boy in her life is Jeb, her best friend that she’s known forever, who’s always watching out for her. Jeb is an awesome guy—he’s sweet and loyal and would do anything for Alyssa—but, well, Morpheus has wings.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who loves unique story retellings and for fans of Julie Kagawa’s The Iron Fey series.

Five out of five stars.

Content Advisory:
Cursing: 2
Sexual: 3 (some innuendos throughout; talks about virginity)
Other: Alyssa eats some Wonderland food that affects her in a similar way as alcohol, and she acts in non-Alyssa ways.

Review: The False Princess

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Author: Eilis O’Neal

Genre: Fantasy

Age: Young Adult

Lexile: 860L

Synopsis (From Goodreads):

“Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia’s led a privileged life at court.  But everything changes when it’s revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection.  Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she’s ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks.  But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins – long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control – she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor’s history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.”

Rachel’s Rambles:

This was a guilty pleasure read for me over Christmas break. When I want to escape, I love a good princess story with knights and castles. The False Princess reminded me of Gail Carson Levine books…full of romance, adventure, and fantasy. While the plot was somewhat predictable, it was still interesting. Despite falling short on the 7 characteristics defining notable YA books, it was entertaining. During Christmas break I was wanting to be entertained anyways. If you liked Ella Enchanted or enjoy Arthurian tales, read this book!

This book gets a 4/7 on the motivations to read YA:

1)YA POV
2) Youth solve the problems
3) Youth are the heroes
4) Plot Twist

Content advisory: Magic involved, little violence

A 3 out of 5 stars.

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Review: The Night Circus

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Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Age: Adult (though a lot of people think it’s YA)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance

Review:

Where do I even begin with this beautiful book? It’s so eloquently written, the world fantastic, the characters like nothing else. I took my time reading this book because I didn’t want it to be over, and I didn’t want to miss a word. It was so easy to lose myself in the magical world of Le Cirque des Rêves and fall under its spell.

One of my favorite things about this book was how it switches between different characters’ POVs, and includes tidbits written in second person. The second person bits allow the reader to immerse herself in the circus with beautiful descriptions. While the rest of it is third person, it switches between following different characters. This is confusing at first, but as you get to know the characters better, it’s easier to understand. However, the fact that it jumps back and forth at different points between sixteen years is very confusing. Thankfully, everything comes together at the end, but it takes a while before things start to click. Somehow, the confusing nature ends up adding to the book rather than taking away from it by building the story.

After reading the synopsis, this wasn’t the book I was expecting to read. I expected something with more action and more interaction between Celia and Marco, but that’s not exactly what went down. The synopsis only focuses on those two characters, but the book is about so much more than just the two of them—it’s about many others whose lives are intertwined with the circus. Though it wasn’t what I was expecting, it actually exceeded my expectations.

As I said, the book doesn’t focus on only Celia and Marco, though they are essentially the heart of Le Cirque des Rêves, but it follows many people involved somehow in the circus. My favorite characters were Poppet and Widget, two twins born on the night the circus opened. They are such strange and loveable characters, and I kept finding myself wanting to read the parts with them in it.

The imagery in this book is so lovely. This is coming from someone who doesn’t like too much description because it tends to pull me out of the story, but Morgenstern does it right. One of the places where I made note of the imagery was during the lighting of the cauldron. It sounds so beautiful, and if this book is indeed made into a movie, then I anxiously await the opening of the circus.

Check out Rachel’s review of The Night Circus here.

Content Advisory:
Language: 4 (4 uses of the d word, 1 of the h word, and 1 use of the F word.)
Sexual: 4 (Some kissing throughout the book. At one point they strip and it is alluded that they had sex. Not graphic or explicit.)

Review: A Kiss in Time

5266667Author: Alex Flinn

Genre: Romance

Age: Young Adult

Readability: HL610L (Lower reading level for older students)

Synopsis: (From Goodreads)

Talia fell under a spell…Jack broke the curse.

I was told to beware the accursed spindle, but it was so enchanting, so hypnotic…

I was looking for a little adventure the day I ditched my tour group. But finding a comatose town, with a hot-looking chick asleep in it, was so not what I had in mind.

I awakened in the same place but in another time—to a stranger’s soft kiss.

I couldn’t help kissing her. Sometimes you just have to kiss someone. I didn’t know this would happen.

Now I am in dire trouble because my father, the king, says I have brought ruin upon our country. I have no choice but to run away with this commoner!

Now I’m stuck with a bratty princess and a trunk full of her jewels…The good news: My parents will freak!

Think you have dating issues? Try locking lips with a snoozing stunner who turns out to be 316 years old. Can a kiss transcend all—even time?

Rachel’s Rambles:

I have two words for this book: cute and flat. By flat, I mean the story didn’t have much depth and it was an easy read. This book is a lazy-days-on-the-beach read when you want to read a light romance that doesn’t cause you to think very much. It is also good if you are a high school/middle school teacher with a student who wants to read older material but may not be on an older reading level. For me it was a quick read, but it may be a perfect book to introduce someone into YA literature or a reluctant reader.

Like I said, it was cute and I loved Jack’s younger sister. I did not get really emotionally attached to the characters like I do in some books, but I did want them to get together. I liked how the book ended!

Content Advisory:
Language: 3
Sexual: 3
Violence/Gore: 2

– Liz (aka Rachel)

10 Adjectives for Cress

We had the wonderful surprise at ATBF to be given an ARC of CRESS! We’ll be posting an actual review (and lots of other fun Lunar Chronicles stuff!) closer to its release date (February 4, 1014), but in the meantime, here are ten adjectives that we feel describe Cress.

Cress

Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Synopsis:(From Goodreads)

Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

The Girls’ in Plaid Skirts response in 10 adjectives:

1. Dreamy

2. Enchanting

3. Mesmerizing

4. Breathtaking

5. Thrilling

6. Speechless

7. Shocking

8. Perfection

9. Enthralling

10. Captivating

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We were given the ARC of Cress for review purposes only. We were not compensated in any way and all opinions are our own. 

Review: Scarlet

Marissa Meyer

Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

Age: Young Adult

When Scarlet’s grandmother disappears, she sets out to find out what happened to her. The only person who seems to have any idea about her grandmother’s whereabouts is the new stranger in town who calls himself Wolf. As the two search for Scarlet’s grandmother, they find themselves crossing paths with Cinder, a cyborg and escaped criminal, and they must work together to stop an attack issued by the Lunar queen Levana.

The second book in the Lunar Chronicles does not disappoint. It picks up right where Cinder left off and introduces us to Scarlet, Meyer’s idea of Little Red Riding Hood. When I first read Cinder I thought it would be really weird to include other characters and really thought it would take away from the original story. It didn’t.

I love all the new characters introduced in this book: Scarlet, Wolf, and also Captain Thorne. The book switches between the stories of Cinder and Scarlet every few chapters, and it’s awesome to see how the stories and characters are connected. I loved guessing throughout the book about what would happen next and if this small piece of information is somehow connected to this big piece of information and so forth. There are lots of things happening that will keep you on your toes.

A 5 out of 5 stars for sure, and I’m anxiously waiting for Cress!

UPDATE: Check out some of our other Lunar Chronicles posts:

Review of Cinder (book 1)
Review of Cress (book 3)
Interview with Marissa Meyer Part 1 and Part 2
Looks From Books character-inspired and galaxy-inspired
Dream Cast