Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall Reading 2014 The Missing Pieces of Me

The Missing Pieces of Me
The book was very well written and it was very easy to care for the main character. Unfortunately I cared too much, and the book made me cry several times. Weezie is a child in a situation that happens all too often in real life - her mother has had some hard luck and resents Weezie's father, so it seems to be taken out on Weezie. She has a younger sister, Ruth Ann, that her mom lavishes attention on - taking her to the beauty shop to have her hair done and play with makeup, talking about entering her in beauty pageants, etc. Weezie never gets that sort of attention. If she decides to pick flowers for her mom and Ruth Ann helps a little, Ruth Ann gets thanked and hugged and then Weezie gets fussed at for something or ignored. Her little brother Jackson also gets attention and Weezie has to babysit them both while her mom is at work in the evenings. When she decides to track down the father she has never met, she finds out some surprising things about him, about her mom, about family in general.

It is a good book, but it just made me so sad and frustrated for all those kids out there living that kind of life. It was almost like reading an Oprah's Book Club pick for kids. Crying over the story reminded me of why I prefer fantasy rather than realistic fiction.

If you enjoy realism and want to see a young girl learning to stand up for herself, then you should read this story (but keep the tissues close by, just in case).

I read an e-galley provided by Amazon for review purposes.

Fall Reading 2014 Superstars of History: The Good, the Bad, and the Brainy


I enjoy Basher' s style of illustration. his characters have recognizable features so that we can identify them, but also look enough alike that they form an iconic group like Lego mini figures. The book covers the Ancient World, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Revolution and the Enlightenment, and the Modern Era. Famous figures from each time period are along a timeline so that it is easy compare where they fall in history. Then each individual is shown in a full-page illustration and a full-page infographic. The illustrations are full of symbols that relate to the character - knives in the back for Julius Caesar, the Mona Lisa behind DaVinci, etc. (I can imagine having a class of world history students analyzing each illustration and seeing how many of the elements they could identify.) The information on the facing page includes a brief biographical write-up,  a timeline of major dates and events, names of contemporary rivals or friends, a description of their legacy to the world, and a major question associated with them or their era. A glossary and index are also included.

This would be a wonderful coffee table book (not in the sense that it is a glossy artsy book). Family and friends could flip through it and learn interesting facts about the history celebrities that catch their fancy. It would be equally at home in a library or classroom for students to browse. Perhaps they will find someone that captures their imagination and makes them want to know more. At the very least they will come away from this book knowing that history is not dull and boring!

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published August 26, 2014. We have now added a copy to the library.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fall Reading 2014 Kinda Like Brothers


Jarrett has plenty of things to deal with in his life. He is the son of a single mother. He's never even met his father. His mom is a foster mother and they are always being awakened in the middle of the night to take in another child that needs a temporary placement. He struggles with school and is attending the summer school session in the hope of passing the standardized test to move from 6th grade up to 7th. If he doesn't pass the test, he will have to repeat 6th grade while all his friends move on without him. His best friend is out of town for three weeks. That should be enough for any kid to handle - especially a kid growing up in a slightly rough area of Newark.

But then his mother gets two new foster kids - a small girl named Treasure and her older brother Kevon. Jarrett is used to his mother taking in babies and toddlers, but Kevon is actually older than Jarrett. He has to share a room with this stranger, giving up the lower half of his bunk bed. Then he has to watch as Kevon does everything better than he does - basketball, stepping (like the show "Stomp"), and being popular with the girls. How can he concentrate on summer school, or the movie trailer that he and his friend Ennis are filming, when he has Kevon in his space all the time? And what really happened that caused the kids to be in foster care? Where is their father? What is Kevon hiding?

If you've never experienced the foster care system with its home visits, paperwork, and sad stories, then this could be an eye-opener for you. Jarrett's mom is one of the foster parents that genuinely wants to help the kids she takes in to her home - and it's tough to let them go back to their families and worry about their safety. Plus, it illustrates the tension of balancing the care of the foster kids with caring for one's own child. The story also gives you a sense of what it is like to be a young African American male reaching his teenage years in a big city. The author's time working with families and children has given her plenty of details that she can work into the story for a very realistic effect. You can hear the author, Coe Booth on NPR or find out more author info on the Scholastic website.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Calvin Powell has donated a copy of the book to our library.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fall Reading 2014 The Yeti Files #1: Meet the Bigfeet


Cryptids seem to be taking over the bookstores lately. There are the Roland Smith books like ChupacabraThe Crypto Keepers,The Abominables, and now The Yeti Files. Luckily for the yetis in question, the "scientist" who is trying to prove their existence isn't very bright. He can't keep up with anything or read a map and he has his dog, Noodles, drive the van. Blizz Richards is our yeti narrator and he explains that the main point of being a cryptid is to "keep magic and mystery in the minds of humans" - they are not supposed to allow themselves to be photographed or give any other proof of their existence. His cousin Brian was unfortunate enough to be caught on film by George Vanquist (the goofy scientist) and soon his photo was everywhere. Brian was so embarrassed that he disappeared and the family hasn't heard from him. Blizz decides it is time to track down Brian and bring him home for a big family reunion. But Vanquist is still out to prove that the yetis are real and he is determined to get more photos and evidence. Can the yeti clan pull off their reunion without becoming an Internet sensation? 

I recommend this for readers who are making their way into chapter books, but don't want something overwhelming. The characters are funny. The illustrations show everything from cool tree forts to caves to crazy maps. And there's a pretty good chance that the good guys (or good yetis) will win.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. We just added this title to the library through our Scholastic Book Fair.

Fall Reading 2014 Zac and Mia


Where was Zac when I was in high school? Okay, so he's a fictional character, and he lives on the other side of the planet, but still... He's funny, sweet, cares about others, athletic (when he's not having chemo or radiation treatments), works with wood to build furniture, and plays Clue with his mom. What's not to love? I loved the part of the book where he realizes a cute girl is in the hospital room next door and he sends his mom out to buy him a hat, so he can hide his bald, puffy head (treatments caused hair loss, plus steroids caused swelling). He tells her to get a cool hat like something Ryan Reynolds would wear. She comes back with a weird hat and says the guy at the store told her it was something Burt Reynolds would wear. Total generation gap miscommunication - and I could picture the horrified look on his face when he saw that weird hat. The contrast between Zac and Mia is impossible to miss. He's a laid back country fellow, happy to hang out with his mates and help around the family olive grove/petting farm. Mia is rebellious, beautiful, angry, playing loud music and screaming at her mother to go away. She's used to being a "hot" girl with a cool boyfriend (who wears cool hats), shopping and clubbing with her friends, and refuses to see that her cancer treatment is more important than the spring formal.

Over the course of the story you see how Zac and Mia influence each other and how they and their friendship change over time. This is a book for fans of Nicholas Sparks and John Green, or other writers whose books have you going through a box of tissues as you read - because you are alternating with laughing out loud and crying so hard that you can't see the pages. It shows the very true way that teens with cancer react to their situations and cope, or not, with everything that results from their diagnosis. But it also shows how you can find friends in even the most dismal circumstances of your life.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published September 2, 2014.

Fall Reading 2014 Little Red Quacking Hood


Princess Pink returns to the Land of Fake-Believe for another fractured fairy tale adventure. This time she meets Little Red Quacking Hood. That's right, Hood is a duck in this story. And not just any duck, but a thieving duck! She has been stealing pies from the bakery of Scaredy-Pants Wolf. Wolf has asked Moldylocks for help in stopping the robberies, so Princess Pink joins her friend in trying to trap and confront the devious duck. Princess is surprised to learn the reason why Little Red Quacking Hood is stealing the pies - and readers will probably be just as shocked. Never fear, Princess and Moldylocks are on the case and they won't let their friend down, even if he is a big crybaby.

This second book in the Fake-Believe series brings back some of the characters from <i>Moldylocks and the Three Beards</i>, and introduces more of the land's inhabitants. I think that Princess Pink will be visiting the Land of Fake-Believe much more often now that she has her magical refrigerator magnet (you'll see what I mean), and we will be hearing about even more adventures.

If you enjoy stories that add a new twist to old classics, then you should try out Princess Pink and her friends.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published August 26, 2014.

Fall Reading 2014 Tales from High Hallack, Volume 3


I first encountered Andre Norton's work when I was in middle school. A friend read one of her books and then passed it on to me. I have been a fan ever since. This collection of short stories covers a wide range of material. You may find Guinevere and Nimue in twentieth century England, explorers searching on alien planets for signs of the Forerunners and other ancient races, traders crossing space to find and deliver cargo, and even Herne the Hunter. Whatever the topic, each story is told in Norton's classic style. No swearing. No lewd behavior. Danger is faced and often overcome with strength of will rather than weapons. The lowly or seemingly helpless are given aid and evil is defeated by good; darkness falls to the light. There is something comforting about each story even though the characters may have been threatened or suffered a loss.

For readers who enjoy classic science fiction and fantasy, this is a wonderful anthology to relax with in your favorite chair.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published October 14, 2014.

Fall Reading 2014 Humpty Dumpty Flip-Side Rhymes


Fractured fairy tales have become very popular in recent years. This new series looks at traditional nursery rhymes from another point of view. In this case, Humpty Dumpty's story is also told from the viewpoint of the king's men. On the last page of the original rhyme, the men are carrying away all of the pieces. But once we flip the book over, we see the king's men valiantly trying to reassemble Humpty using an enormous syringe of glue. The process causes "fits" and the horses wander off. Then the king's men find an original (and logical) solution to the problem.

The illustrations are bright and colorful. They remind me of the style used in animated shows such as SpongeBob Square Pants, which should make them attractive to children. The flip-side rhyme is funny and will probably inspire young readers to create their own flip-sides for other favorite rhymes. I would recommend this book and series to anyone studying nursery rhymes or point of view in language arts lessons.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book will be published March 5, 2015.

Fall Reading 2014 Rise of the Earth Dragon


These new Branches books from Scholastic are short, have a good balance of text and illustrations, and a variety of stories from which to choose. The Dragon Masters series is perfect for students who are interested in fantasy and are gaining confidence in reading chapter books. In this first volume of the series, Drake is taken from his family's onion farm to serve in King Roland's castle. He learns that he will be a dragon master and work closely with the dragon assigned to him. There are already three other kids with dragons and they are all being rained by the magician Griffith. As they train, they all learn about the abilities each dragon has and begin to form bonds with their dragons. Drake's bond is with an earth dragon he names Worm. When there is trouble late one night and the students are trapped in a cave-in, Worm surprises them with his ability to shift rocks. But Drake is beginning to suspect that the king may not be as brave and admirable as everyone thinks. What exactly will the king expect from them? We will have to wait and see what happens as the dragon masters gain more knowledge and can communicate better with their dragons.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. We just added this title to our library through our Scholastic Book Fair.

Fall Reading 2014 I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 (I Survived #10)


As with all of the I Survived series, this one follows the experiences of a young adult. Marcus is a young slave in the household of a rich man in Pompeii. He and his father had been the slaves of a kind owner named Linus, who was a scientist in Rome. Linus respected Tata (Marcus's father) and took him along on his research trips. But when Linus died, his nephew Festus inherited everything, including the slaves. He sold Tata off and took Marcus back to Pompeii. One day as Marcus is running errands he sees a procession coming through town and his father is in it. It seems that their reunion will be very brief since the volcano above the city is shaking the earth and venting deadly gases into the area. Even though Tata tries to warn everyone, they will not listen to a slave. Marcus and Tata will have to escape from their owners and the city if they want to live.

Tarshis does an excellent job of describing this ancient culture for modern readers. The details of the clothing, social classes, and even the foods (honey-baked stuffed mice) are accurate depictions of the Roman Empire in 79 A.D. The way in which slaves were treated as property and disregarded is also true to life. After learning of the customs of the times, you begin to feel that some of those who died in the eruption deserved their fate. For readers who want to learn more, there are answers to some of their questions in the back of the books as well as suggestions for further reading and learning.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. We just added this book to the library through our Scholastic Book Fair.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rose and the Magician's Mask Blog Tour

In Rose's third adventure, the evil sorcerer that tried to steal Princess Jane has managed to carry off a Venetian mask that was on display in the palace. Mr. Fountain is very worried, because the mask is a powerful magical artifact. When the king sends him off to Venice to investigate the theft, Rose, Freddie and Bella travel with him. Rose is thrilled with the chance to see the world since she has never been outside London, and the thought of the canals and gondolas seems like something from a fairy tale. But when she and Bella take a walk outside the British embassy and are attacked by a gang of ruffians, suddenly it doesn't seem like such a wonderful place. With the help of Gus and the faithful Bill, the children do their best to uncover what Gossamer and Venn are plotting and whether the Doge of Venice is involved or just another of the sorcerer's victims.

Rose's magical abilities and personality are revealed in more depth with each story in the series. Her humble beginnings at the orphanage keep her grounded and sensible in a way that the children born into the elite magical families are not. As she struggles to learn as Mr. Fountain's apprentice, she also tries to maintain her friendships with the other servants in the household (other than the odious Susan). Rose is such a lovable character that we can't help but cheer for her triumphs.

LEAVE A COMMENT TO BE ENTERED IN A DRAWING FOR A FREE COPY OF ROSE AND THE MAGICIAN'S MASK (by midnight September 18, 2014).  In the meantime, you can always read (or re-read) Rose's first two adventures. 


Rose, the orphaned ward and apprentice of magician Aloysius Fountain, is deep in trouble again. This time she has been assigned as a companion/bodyguard for the darling of the kingdom, Princess Jane. There has already been one magical attempt to kidnap the princess from the palace and the king wants Rose to help protect his daughter from further harm. The whole realm is under attack from some form of ice magic that is causing a bitterly cold winter, there are envoys from the emperor of Talish visiting the court, and Rose's fellow servants all look at her suspiciously now that they know she can do magic. Can things get any more complicated?

I enjoy the practical way Rose looks at life. It seems simple to her - she was taken from the orphanage to serve as a maid in Mr. Fountain's household and she was glad to be employed and able to earn wages and support herself. When her magical abilities were discovered, she looked on them as another set of skills she could use to earn a living. She doesn't have the spoiled outlook of wealthy children born into privilege or a family with a history of magic and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. Sensible, hard-working heroines are admirable and likable. I look forward to future adventures with Rose

This was a book with lots of good features. There is the basic story of an orphan being taken from the orphanage to serve as a maid in a wealthy household. The master of the house is an alchemist, so there is magic to make things exciting. Then there is the mystery of children disappearing from the neighborhood. And the character of Rose is a very likable girl. She works hard, has realistic plans for her life, and is loyal to her friends (old and new). Rose's relationships with other members of the household demonstrate her courage and generosity - whether she is saving the alchemist's apprentice, Freddie, from an experiment that's gone out of control, or helping her fellow servant, Bill, polish the chandelier - Rose always tries her best. She will need all her courage and determination to save the missing children before it is too late.

The story balances humor with danger and keeps pulling you along to see what will happen next. You find yourself admiring how Gustavus the cat has everyone treating him like royalty, or wondering what new tantrum the alchemist's daughter, Isabella, will pull. I had to laugh at how the matrons in the orphanage "were convinced that the orphans' morals would be forever destroyed if they so much as breathed the same air as a boy." If you like stories of magic and mystery, then you should give this one a try.


If Holly's name sounds familiar, it is probably because you have seen some of her other books.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fall Reading 2014 Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch


Maddy Kettle is one of those stories that starts off in medias res. Maddy is aboard a train speaking to her parents, but we notice in the fifth frame that her parents are mice. "Odd," we think to ourselves. "How can her parents be mice when she is a human girl?" Several pages later we see (in a flashback), that her parents were human until the Thimblewitch turned them into rodents. Eventually we learn the whole story as Maddy reminisces with her flying spadefoot toad, then explains her quest to some cloud cartographers she meets along the way to the Thimblewitch's home. As we piece together the story along with Maddy, we come to see that several events have intersected to cause her parents' transformation as well as bad luck for the witch and other inhabitants of the cloudscape.

Maddy is a resourceful heroine and she makes some interesting friends along the way - including a bear who is also a balloon pilot, a map-making raccoon, a talking bat, and her flying frog. She sees incredible sights like scarecrow guards, spider goblins, and cloud whales, but never loses track of her mission. 

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy fantasy adventures such as Coraline.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published September 30, 2014.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall Reading Teen Titans: Earth One Volume 1


Teen Titans is a new title for me, although I have been a reader and collector of comics for years. (I'm more of an X-Men, Justice League, Avengers sort of girl). The story in volume 1 starts with the teenagers involved seeming to be just ordinary kids, although 3 out of the 4 seem to have very poor relationships with their parents. Then again, that's not unusual either. But then things begin to change and strange powers and abilities begin to reveal themselves. Just how much do their parents know about what is happening? Are they involved somehow? And who is the mysterious girl they all see in their minds? Where does the other teen from out west fit in?

This will probably appeal to those readers who enjoy stories featuring young adult characters with super powers. There is a mix of genders and racial backgrounds, a variety of abilities - mental and superhuman, and a range of personality types. This first book gives you just enough background to set up the story line for the ongoing series. You might even say that the plot centered around growing pains, with the manifestation of their powers forcing them to leave the nest and face the world. It will be interesting to see how all the characters come back together in the next adventure and whether or not they can form a cohesive unit. I would recommend this for readers 13+, due to some strong language and teen dating elements.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published November 25, 2014.

Fall Reading 2014 Bad Magic

Bad Magic

For those who have enjoyed the tales of Max-Ernest and Cass, here is a new story featuring his younger brother, Clay. When he is accused of painting graffiti on the wall of a classroom and suspended from school, Clay must attend summer "reform" camp to earn his way back to middle school. Once he arrives, everything about camp is strange. There are guard bees that sting anyone who passes beyond the Wall of Trust. Campers spend their time working the organic garden and eating veggies fresh from the garden for their meals. They also have llamas to care for. There's a volcano on the island where the camp is located and they do an overnight camp out near the volcano, and then "surf" down the side of the volcano back to camp. It's not your typical camp for troubled kids. Clay is curious about the abandoned mansion on the island and the ghost that everyone says haunts it. 

Things are mysterious and hard to understand from the very beginning. Why did Max-Ernest leave home? Why hasn't Clay heard from him? Who really did paint the graffiti on the wall at school? What is really going on at the camp? Does it have anything to do with Shakespeare's play, "The Tempest"? There seem to be a lot of similarities between the play and Clay's situation. Is it all coincidence? You'll just have to read along and find out the answers as Clay does.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will go on sale September 16, 2014.

Fall Reading 2014 Dreamwood


If you enjoy historical fiction that has a bit of fantasy woven in, then this story is right up your alley. Lucy has run away from the boarding school her father enrolled her in, because she wants to help him in his job of "clearing ghosts." (Yes, he is an early sort of Ghostbuster. Of all the guys on the team, he would be most like Egon - he has a prominent nose, glasses, and is always making new gadgets to help with his work.) 

But when Lucy arrives at his last known location, he has gone off to try and solve the problem facing the townspeople and has not returned. Lucy packs up some supplies and heads off into the wilderness of the northwest to find him and bring back the remedy that the settlers in the area need. In this alternate history, the native tribes still control many areas along the Pacific coast and the white settlers are having problems with the lumber industry because the trees are rotting from something called Rust. They fear the First People of the Lupine tribe have hexed the trees, but the Lupines have the same problem. (Egon would be happy, Lucy's father has identified Rust as a type of fungus. He even took samples.)

Lucy has help on her quest from a couple of fellow teenagers, and some good advice from a few adults. But as in all adventures, there are perils, villains, and obstacles. It will take all of Lucy's experience with the world of spirits, her companion's wilderness skills, and even some help from the spirits to succeed. Along the way she learns that she can't always have all the answers, sometimes it's okay not to know everything, and it can even be good to admit when you have made a mistake.

This strong female protagonist reminds me of the characters from Karen Cushman's books like Catherine Called BirdyThe Midwife's Apprentice, and The Ballad of Lucy Whipple. 

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It was published June 12, 2014. For more information, visit the author's website.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fall Reading 2014 Nest


This story was so well told, it made me laugh and cry and made my heart ache. It belongs in that group of books like Missing May or Bridge to Terabithia that are beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. The characters are so real - Naomi ("Chirp") with her passion for bird watching, Rachel as the moody teenage big sister, Dad with his calm psychiatrist voice and need to talk about everything, Mom with her dancing heart and laughter, and Joey with his overly strict father and delinquent brothers. You can see them all so clearly as you read, and you can hear the ocean in the background just as it is in their everyday lives. You can also hear all the things that help to anchor the story in its 1972 setting - "I think I love you" on the radio and "Get Smart" on the TV and talk of draft dodgers running off to Canada. 

Something that really came through for me was the emotions - Mom's depression, Dad's worry, Rachel's anger, Chirp's fear - whatever they were feeling was there in each scene, easy to identify with or sympathize. I don't want to give away too much, but Mom's health problems and the way they impact the family drive the story and motivate Chirp's actions. Another thing that rang true was Chirp's teacher, Miss Gallagher, with all her "nifty" ideas. I had teachers like her and I can remember sitting in the reading corner trying to choose between The Secret Garden and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, or groaning over the part I was assigned for the class play. 

It truly is a wonderful story about family and friendship and loss - and I cried my way through the second half of the book. I recommend reading it with your box of tissues close at hand.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will go on sale on September 9, 2014.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall Reading 2014 Creature Keepers and the Hijacked Hydro-Hide


Jordan Grimsley thinks he is doomed to the most agonizing Spring Break ever. His parents received a letter telling them that they have inherited a house deep in the Florida Everglades, adjacent to the Okeeyuckachokee Swamp. Mr. and Mrs. Grimsley love old things and love fixing up old things even more, so they are excited about the prospect of rehabbing the old house and turning it into a Bed & Breakfast. Jordan and his sister Abbie miss the comforts of the big city - including their friends, Abbie's pet lizard, Wi-Fi and cell service. The house is next to a retirement community, so there aren't a lot of prospects for making new friends, even if their parents don't keep them busy with nonstop chores from Dad's to-do list.

But things turn out to be a lot more exciting around the old house than they expected. They find out that Grandpa Grimsley was a cryptid hunter and spent his life tracking down mythical creatures like the Loch Ness Monster. One of the last creatures he claimed to have found was the Florida Skunk Ape, but then he was arrested for pulling a hoax on everyone and generally being a nuisance. He disappeared into the swamp in his pajamas and was never seen again. Jordan learns some of this history from a Badger Ranger named Eldon who has a lemonade stand in the neighborhood. Eldon convinces Jordan that he should become a Ranger Runt and learn all about spoor and tracking. What the boys discover is a very large mystery.

If you enjoy stories about cryptids like skunk apes, jackalopes, and chupacabras, and you also like a little humor mixed in with the excitement, then this could be the first in a new favorite series for you. There are some tense moments, but nothing that will keep you awake at night jumping at every little sound. And the characters are amusing, especially the contrast between the almost "goodie goodie" Eldon and the Wi-Fi junkie Jordan.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

Fall Reading 2014 The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)


For most of us, Hogwarts is what comes to mind when we hear "school of wizardry." in any context. Well, this ain't Hogwarts. No soaring towers, no beautiful windows, no whomping willow (imagine a school for wizards without one). Instead there are miles of underground tunnels, eyeless fish in underground lakes, meals of mushrooms and lichen, and the threat of war hanging over it all. Okay, yeah, that last bit does sound like the whole conflict with Voldemort. But when the author of The Spiderwick Chronicles teams up with the author of The Mortal Instruments, you know the story will not be some pale imitation.

The Magisterium is a school to train young people with magical powers. The first year is called the Iron Year (hence the name of the book). Potential students are contacted and they gather to take entrance exams. Those with the best potential are taken to be taught how to use and control their powers. Callum Hunt has heard of the Magisterium; his parents were students there. But his father has told him it is a terrible place and that the masters are only interested in power and are willing to throw their students' lives away in their battles with the enemy. Mr. Hunt doesn't want Call to be selected and it looks as if he won't be. When the exam scores are posted, Call is actually the lowest ranked - with a negative score. Yet he is still chosen to be the apprentice of the most powerful master at the school. Over the course of the year Call gets to know his fellow apprentices, has lessons that are really boring and some that are very entertaining, learns to actually enjoy meals of strangely colored lichen, and starts to feel as if he might like to stay at the school.

The way human brains organize information, we really can't help but make comparisons to things that are already familiar as we try to assimilate something new. So drawing parallels between this book and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is natural. And there are many similarities - the three apprentices who become friends (2 boys and 1 really smart girl), a student who is almost as snarky as Draco, Chaos-ridden wolves instead of a three-headed dog, an enemy from a previous generation who is still lurking out there, a parent who died in the last war with the enemy, and a child who survived the battle are just a few of the commonalities. But they are different enough in presentation and details to keep them interesting.

I am curious how the series will continue to tell its own story and differentiate itself from the world of Harry and Hogwarts.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Update: We just added a copy of this to the library through our spring book fair.