Completely Clementine

clementineby Sara Pennypacker
First sentence: “As soon as I woke up Monday morning, I flopped onto the floor with my drawing pad.”
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Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at work.
Others in the series: Clementine, The Talented Clementine, Clementine’s Letter, Clementine, Friend of the Week, Clementine and the Family Meeting, Clementine and the Spring Trip (I thought I’ve read them all, but I guess I missed one!)
Content: It’s short, there’s lots of illustrations, and it’s perfect for beginning readers. You don’t have to read the series in order, but it does help a little.

I have a confession: this book came out in hardcover a year ago and I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. I couldn’t, not after eight years of loving Clementine, believe that it was coming to an end. So, I put it off. And put it off. But the paperback came out a bit ago, and I got brave and decided that maybe good things can come to an end.

Interestingly enough, that’s the theme of this last Clementine book. It’s the end of 3rd grade, and Clementine doesn’t want to move on. She doesn’t want to leave her teacher and move on to fourth grade. It’s all so new and scary. It also doesn’t help that she’s not talking to her father because she’s become concerned about animal rights and he won’t become vegetarian like her. Oh, and her mother is about to have another baby.

Pennypacker does with this one what she’s done in all the Clementine books: gives us a normal, every-day kid with a normal, every-day family and makes it super interesting. Clementine is such an affable character in all her normalness, that every kid can relate. Change is hard, and Pennypacker captures that resistance in Clementine. It’s charming, sweet, endearing, and cute. All the things I’ve come to expect from this series.

I’m just sad to see it end.

Amulet: Firelight

firelightby Kazu Kibuishi
First sentence: “Okay, Emily. I think this is a good place to start.”
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Others in the series: The Stonekeeper, The Stonekeeper’s Curse, The Cloud Searchers, The Last Council, Prince of the Elves, Escape from Lucien
Content: There’s a lot going on, and sometimes the vocabulary is a bit challenging, it’s good for a strong 2nd or 3rd grade reader. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Picking up where we left off in the last book…

The powers of the stone are getting more, well, powerful. Emily’s nightmares are beginning to become more intense, and her control over the stone is slipping. And yet, she and Trellis head to Algos Island to recover Trellis’s memories, so they can defeat his father, the evil Elf King. Navin meanwhile, needs to head back to the resistance and there’s a delightful side trip with a sassy robot chef (and an encounter with some elf bounty hunters) before he does. But everything (as it often happens with epic adventures) doesn’t go according to their plan.

I feel like a broken record with this series. I love it, I buy it, I read it, and I want the next one immediately. (I’m kind of beginning to think that I should have waited until all 9 were out… But then I might not have started.) I adore Kibuishi’s art. I can sense where the story is going, but I’m also wondering how it all fits together. (Mostly because I forget parts from one book to the next. I really should do a reread one of these days.) But, I’m not going to give up on Emily, Trellis and Navin. I most definitely want to see how their story ends.

Especially after this installment.

The Shadow Cabinet

by Maureen Johnson
First sentence: “The curtains at 16 Hyssop Close hadn’t been opened all day.”
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Review copy snagged from the box from the publisher rep.
Others in the series: The Name of the Star, The Madness Underneath
Release date: February 10, 2015
Content: There’s a lot of murder in this one, some of it gory, but never graphic. Other than that, it’s just intense. The series is in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore, but I wouldn’t oppose giving it to a younger kid who was interested in ghost stories.

First off: spoilers for the other two books, obviously. You’ve been warned. (And if you haven’t read them, you really should. They’re excellent.)

Two years is a long time to wait for a book. And in the process, I’ve forgotten all the anxiousness I experienced when I finished the last one. So I do have to admit, that this one took a little bit of time to get back into the swing of things.

It begins forty years ago, with the grisly murder of 10 teenagers by a pair of odd, unusual twins named Sid and Sadie (though in my mind, Sadie was always the Thrilling Adventure Hour Sadie…). It’s a violent way to begin a book (then again, they are murder mysteries) and it’s important, though it doesn’t come to fruition until the end. The main story is the two prongs leftover from Madness: trying to figure out what happened to Stephen when he died and trying to figure out where crazy Jane took Charlotte. Both of those lead Rory and the rest of the ghost team: Thorpe, Boo, and Callum down increasingly crazy paths.

Things I really liked: I loved the addition of Freddie, a new ghost hunter. She was spunky and funny and a breath of fresh air in the midst of Rory’s loss. And I loved that MJ brought back Jerome from book one. Even though he’s mostly kept in the dark, he plays an important role in all of the crazy that follows.

It’s as good as Name of the Star, I think. And it sets up an epic conclusion (I hope). Now, it’s just waiting until that conclusion comes.

Fairest

by Marissa Meyer
First sentence: “She was lying on a burning pyre, hot coals beneath her back.”
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Others in the series: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress
Content: There are some sexytimes, but it’s entirely off-stage and only vaguely alluded to. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore, like the rest of the series.

This wasn’t the Marissa Meyer book I was expecting to review this year. I wanted Winter, the final installment in my series, the one that will hopefully bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. So, I kind of jokingly asked our Macmillian rep when he was here a couple weeks back if he had an ARC of it for me. His response? “Oh, you haven’t heard? They’ve pushed that off in favor of telling Queen Levana’s backstory.” Me? “WHAT?”

This one goes back an unspecified number of years (10? 15? 20?) to when Levana was 15, the younger sister of a very beautiful, and very cruel princess. A princess who used her mind-manipulation powers to control Levana. To make Levana do things she wouldn’t usually do. To hurt Levana. It’s also the story of the damaged (emotionally and physically) Levana trying to find love in inappropriate places (ie, with a married guard), and manipulating people to get what she wants. And, it’s the story of how Levana became queen (mostly by an accident of fate), and how she ended up with Winter.

Sometimes, going back and telling a character’s backstory works. Say, like Kristin Cashore’s Fire. It was needed to fully understand what she was going to tell in Bitterblue. But this? I enjoyed Levana as a cardboard villain, the fairy tale Bad Queen. I really wasn’t looking to find her sympathetic, to understand Why she was the Bad Guy.

But I read this anyway. And I still feel the same: I’m not sure it was a necessary diversion, but perhaps I’ll be proved wrong when Winter finally comes out.