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Guest Review: Shani takes on THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

 

 

On the small island of Thisby, each year in November they hosts The Scorpio Races. Men from the island ride capaill uisce, carnivorous horses that come from the sea. These horses are vicious, fast and almost impossible to control.  It isn’t unusual for men to be attacked, killed and eaten during training. Due to bad family fortune, this year’s race will see its first female rider Puck Connolly . Sean Kendrick is the returning champion, and one of the few trainers who has some control over the capill uisce. Neither one is prepared for the friendship that comes during training, too bad only one of them can win the race. 

Having never read one of Stefvater's books, I was pleasantly surprised with how great this was. I was hooked in by the characters and the capaill uisce. Told in alternating voices between Puck and Sean, you get insight into what motivates both characters to participate in a potentially deadly race. The way this story is written you really feel like you can take a boat to Thisby and watch these gory races; this is magic realism at its best. Another high point for me is the friendship between Sean and Puck. It is clear that there is a mutual love interest brewing but it has its foundation in a strong friendship.  Don’t be fooled by the cover, this book is accessible to both guys and girls.

 --Shani 

 

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

This is the best middle reader historical fiction that I’ve read in years.  As a girl growing up at the end of the 19th century, Callie doesn’t feel like she has any control over the path her life will take; the only girl in a house full of brothers, she is all too aware that her future is full of cooking, cleaning, sewing, and raising children.  But what Callie loves more than anything is observing nature and conducting scientific experiments.  Fortunately, Callie finds an ideal companion and mentor who shares and nurtures her interest in science- her grandfather.

Each chapter begins with a quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species, mirroring Callie’s own “evolution” and the awakening of her ambition.  The characters are smart and endearing, and I love Callie’s touching relationship with her grandfather.  This Newbery Honor book is a must-read if you missed it the first time around.
 
-Caitlin, one of four Children's Lit experts from our Palo Alto Store 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (ages 10& up)

This is one of those books that you know is going to be special from the very first page.  Starting middle school is hard, even harder for Auggie who’s been home schooled due to a rare genetic disorder that has given him a misshapen head and face that earned him nicknames like Freddy Krueger, he’s grown used to people adverting their eyes when they see him (I was terrified for him).  But Auggie feels normal inside, he is obsessed with Star Wars, loves his Dog, and is surrounded by an amazing family that I secretly want to be a part of. What follows is an extraordinary debut novel told from not only Auggie’s perspective but his sister & other people around him whose lives have changed from his attendance at school.  Both touching and funny this is a story about courage and friendship that will melt your heart.

 

--Shannon, Senior Children's Book Buyer for Books Inc.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

For those of you who grew up reading the Theodosia or Nathaniel Fludd Series, it's no surprise that Robin LaFevers can write an amazing story. But say, by some mistake, you didn't read Theodosia. (Go ahead and do so now, we'll wait.) Then this debut YOUNG ADULT novel from Robin's gonna blow your mind.

You know, scratch that. Even if you DID grow up read Theodosia and Nathaniel Fludd, your mind's STILL gonna be blown. Why? Because Grave Mercy (book one of the His Fair Assassin trilogy) has all the crossbow weilding, dagger throwing, political skulduggery and murderous nuns (that's right, you heard me) you can handle. Fans of Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire), rejoice-- Grave Mercy is just the book to tide you over until Bitterblue comes out in May! 

Set in medieval Brittany, Grave Mercy features Ismae, a girl who escapes a brutal arranged marriage by joining a convent of assassins. And while tough female leads who kill dudes are a dime a dozen these days in YA (not that we're complaining-- bring on all the tough chicks!)Ismae sets herself apart with likeable vulnerability and fondness toward other characters. Her sense of empathy is not dulled by the fact that she has been thrust into an impossible situation, which serves as a brilliant counterpoint to the amount of killing she does.

So if you feel like reading something that's so fun it'll kill you (literally) pick up Grave Mercy. You're welcome.

 

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