Book Review: A Handful of Magic

A Handful of Magic by Stephen Elboz
A Handful of Magic
by Stephen Elboz

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Kit is full of mischief and unruly vandalism, until his misconduct results in his best friend, Prince Henry being bitten by a werewolf. As Kit works to save Henry from the werewolf’s poison, he uncovers a deadly plot to cripple all of England while children are used as slaves to work in underground mines. To save his friends, Kit must learn to use his magical abilities for good, instead of for foolish pranks.

Full of steampunk magic and mythical creatures, this book creates a world where magic is at war with new scientific discoveries like the electric light and telegraph. Kit’s father, a prominent wizard-adviser to Queen Victoria, worries that magic is becoming obsolete in the face of new scientific inventions, and Kit is determined to prove that magic is just as relevant and necessary as it ever was.

I didn’t quite like Kit and his friends at first, because of their foolishness and vandalism, but they began to grow and learn, and their good hearts and generous spirits began to show through, so in the end, I liked them all and was cheering for them through their adventures. Continue reading

Book Review: Eighteen and On Her Own

Eighteen and on Her Own by Arleta Richardson
Eighteen and on Her Own
by Arleta Richardson

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Mabel is done with high school and ready to teach her first year of school at a little country one-room schoolhouse. Her boyfriend, Russ, is pressuring her to make plans for their future wedding, but Mabel isn’t ready to commit to a formal engagement. Meanwhile, Mabel has trouble with her country students when there is a scarlet fever scare, a break-in at the schoolhouse, and a blizzard runs through the area. Another young man seems to have feelings for Mabel and she has to decide between a new love or the steady old relationship with Russ.

I just love how spunky and energetic Mabel is! She is always getting into the most ridiculous situations with her best friend, Sarah Jane. Just because she is grown-up now, doesn’t mean she isn’t still mischievous and playful, but her problems are bigger and require a deep solution now that she can’t rely on her parents and teachers to bail her out of scrapes. Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: Super Hero Girls at Metropolis High

DC Super Hero Girls by Amy Wolfram
DC Super Hero Girls: At Metropolis High
by Amy Wolfram,  Yancey Labat (Illustrator)

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Supergirl, Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Bumblebee, and Zatanna are all required to join a school club to show their school spirit. They can barely find time to attend classes between superhero crime-fighting, so how will they find time to join club activities? They find out that it’s harder than it seems to stay in a club without getting kicked out by their frustrated classmates. If they want to find a club where they can fit in and learn something new, they will have to change their thinking, especially when they are used to feeling capable and super at everything.

I enjoyed this graphic novel so much! The character development is wonderful, and I liked how the various plot lines wove around and finally resolved together. The super girls join clubs where they are either TOO good at the activity, risking revealing their powers, or they join a club where they are really terrible at the activity, and they feel stupid and incompetent.

The best part about this story is the adorable friendships between all the super girls! They are all so different, with different powers, abilities, personalities, and interests, but they love and support each other through everything, and not just in their crime-fighting missions. They really come together to inspire and encourage one another, and I loved the caring dynamic they shared. Continue reading

Book Review: Just Ella

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Just Ella
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

This story begins at the end of Cinderella’s fairy tale, when Ella is engaged to marry Prince Charming. With the wedding only two months away, Ella is forced to learn restrictive palace protocol, sit through endless embroidery lessons, and learn the boring history of the royal family. Her meetings with the Prince are awkward and silent, and her only friends are the poor serving child, Mary, and the philosophy tutor, Jed. Ella begins to wonder if she really loves the Prince at all, and if she can tolerate the confinement of the palace for the rest of her life.

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! (I really hate the cover art, and made the mistake of judging the book by its cover.) I read it all in one sitting, because I could not put it down.

Ella is fiery and energetic. She longs to do courageous deeds and have close relationships with people, but the royal protocol is so restrictive that no one can have a meaningful conversation, much less actually connect with anyone or do anything of real consequence. I loved the way she beat her wings against those cage bars and finally escaped to build her own life. Continue reading

Book Review: Explorer Academy The Double Helix

Explorer Academy by Trudi Trueit
Explorer Academy: The Double Helix (Explorer Academy #3)
by Trudi Trueit 

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Cruz and his friends on board the Orion are heading to the Mediterranean, searching for clues left behind by Cruz’s mother before she died. The evil Nebula operatives are never far behind, spying on Cruz and threatening his family. In the middle of his secret quest for his mother’s clues, Cruz still has to attend Explorer Academy classes, compete with his team in class competitions, and try to have a little fun at a student Halloween party. His thirteenth birthday is quickly approaching, and Cruz is in more danger than ever as he navigates the intricacies of the toughest adventure yet!

I loved this plot! There is plenty of action and suspense. I never knew what was going to happen next! There are several plot-lines intersecting as Cruz juggles his school responsibilities, his personal relationships, dodging the nefarious Nebula, and keeping contact with Lani, his best friend back home in Hawaii. Continue reading

Book Review: Explorer Academy Codebreaking Activity Adventure

Explorer Academy Codebreaking Activity Adventure by National Geographic Kids
Explorer Academy Codebreaking Activity Adventure
by National Geographic Kids

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Enter the Explorer Academy as a recruit and crack the codes to find clues that will lead you through the mysterious halls of the Academy. Starting with easy codes and moving into more and more complex puzzles and encryptions, this book teaches the readers how to create and decode various types of ciphers, including semaphore and Morse code.

I loved the way the puzzles and codes are presented as part of an adventure, leading the reader through doorways to various parts of the Academy. Each code that you break gives you a clue to another place in the Academy that you need to go to find the next clue, and there are detours and hazards along the way. Continue reading

Book Review: The Switch

The Switch by Anthony Horowitz
The Switch
by Anthony Horowitz 

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Tad is a spoiled rich kid, living in a massive mansion, with servants at his beck and call. Bob is a poor kid, living in a dirty caravan, working in a carnival, and surviving on the streets with thieves and pickpockets. When the two switch places in a magical swap, Tad must learn to survive on the streets, and Bob discovers that being rich isn’t always as good as it sounds.

This story was so much more than I thought it was going to be! I thought it would be your regular “Freaky Friday” body-swap thing with the pathetic rich kid having to learn how to live without his precious wealth. But wow! I was completely surprised at the turn the plot took, and the intricacies of the story. Even the smallest details took on a major significance as the truth behind Tad’s wealthy family is exposed. Continue reading

Book Review: The Prince of Whales

The Prince of Whales by R.L. Fisher
The Prince of Whales
by R.L. Fisher

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Toby is a whale who sings in his sleep. His pod complains that he keeps them up all night, and they worry that his singing will attract human whaling ships. Toby has a vision of a spiritual realm, and sets out on a quest to find his true voice. He is threatened by the evil Dream Eater, a spirit who is sucking the life out of sea creatures. Only Toby’s true voice will be powerful enough to save them from the Dream Eater and the human hunters.

I was intrigued by the idea of using music as a way of communicating spiritual and natural truths. There are some really beautiful and emotional scenes as Toby searches for meaning in his singing and discovers his true voice. There’s a lovely message about being courageous and genuine, and I loved seeing Toby going on this internal journey. Continue reading

Book Review: Falcon and the Charles Street Witch

Falcon and the Charles Street Witch by Luli Gray
Falcon and the Charles Street Witch
by Luli Gray

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Falcon’s little brother, Toody, falls out of an airplane and Falcon jumps out to save him. She is wafted along in a warm air current to land safely in New York City in the hidden garden of a witch. However, Toody is lost, and Falcon sets out on a mission to find him. She will need the help of her friend, the young dragon named Egg, and the help of a dragon who is extremely old and has lost his fire.

This book was all over the place. The plot meanders around with random magic and odd characters, all jumbled in a chaotic storyline. The characters are good, but lackluster. They have a lot of funny dialogue, but not much substance or depth. I didn’t really like how the modern world and the magic world interacted in this book. It didn’t make sense to me, so the setting felt disjointed.

Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for this book. Maybe I couldn’t enjoy it because it’s the second book in the series and I haven’t read the first book.

Non-Fiction Review: Brain Games

Brain Games by Stephanie Warren Drimmer
Brain Games: Mighty Book of Mind Benders
by Stephanie Warren Drimmer,  Gareth Moore

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

Warning: This book will melt your brain!

With puzzles, codes, optical illusions, and games, each chapter focuses on one aspect of how our brains process information, including spatial awareness, how our hearing affects our visual perception, and how our memory works (or doesn’t work).

I especially liked the chapter on Words and Language, which explores how our brains process language and reading. There are tons of word games with anagrams, alphabet codes, palindromes, crossword puzzles, and word search games.

Each chapter starts with an explanation of how the brain functions in particular areas, how the brain is mapped, and what scientists and physicians are discovering about the power of the mind. Then challenges and puzzles are introduced to show how your brain is fooling you, or how your brain is stronger and smarter than you realize. Continue reading