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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is an atmospheric novel based on a tale of water horses. Puck Connolly (Kate) is a young orphan girl who lives on Thisby, loves it with all of her heart, and barely has enough food for herself and her brothers. Her other main love is her horse, Dove. Her oldest brother, Gabe, earns the bulk of the money in the family, but he’s also plotting a life of his own away from the family home.

On the other side, there is the wildly successful horse trainer at the Malvern Farm, Sean Kendrick. This farm breeds horses and Kendrick is the premier rider in the Scorpio Races along the beach in November every year, and his capaill uisce (a type of water horse) Cor. While he has won the race four out of six times, he cannot escape the small room near the stable beneath the thumb of his employer, Malvern. He and Cor have a special bond, and it is clear that Sean’s love is for his horse.

Unlike Stiefvater’s other novels, which tend to be heavy on teen romance, the setting and the horses are the true stars of the Scorpio Races, especially on a less-than-forgiving island that is far enough away from American that a horseman can be considered a foreigner and the mainland can be seen as a way to improve one’s financial situation and see picture shows and musical numbers. The water horses are mysterious beasts that must be captured and dragged from the oceans they love, and while they eat flesh and can be difficult to control, they are the fastest and most magnificent animals to behold. The mystique of the island and the horses will draw readers in, but the story is not about the myth, so much as the love between man and beast and woman and beast.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is about wishes and reality, love and despair, hardship and compassion. It’s a story that comes from the sea mists and rises to the cliff tops to sing like a water horse thriving in its natural environment despite the November cold.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, photographs by Brent Stapelkamp

Source: Diary of an Eccentric
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and photographs by Brent Stapelkamp, due to be published in April, is not about the great lion’s death but about his life as a pride leader and as an unconventional one at that.  The photographs in this book are stunning, and as a reader, a hardcover edition of this one would be worth buying for the photographs alone.

The death of Cecil renewed calls for conservation and the protection of endangered species, and this book seeks to keep that momentum going, as Cecil left behind cubs and a pride that had no leader.  In the lion world, when cubs are left behind after the death of the leader, they are usually killed off by the incoming leader.  Luckily Cecil’s cubs did not meet this fate, but it will surprise readers to learn how that happened.

Brent Stapelkamp had been studying Cecil and his family since 2008, and what he learned was extraordinary.  Rather than just learning how far these animals roam in search of food and in terms of territory, he learned other things about their behavior that are astonishing.  These kinds of research projects can help us learn more about the interconnected world we live and see that animals have more than base instincts.

Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and photographs by Brent Stapelkamp may have pictures not suitable for really young audiences, but my young reader and I watch nature shows so she knows that some animals are predators and eat other animals.  The pictures of the lions eating an elephant are definitely tamer than they could be, though, which was appreciated.

RATING: Quatrain

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 357 pgs.
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Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is the culmination of everything readers will love about the Shiver series; these characters, flawed as they are, have come a long geographic distance to outrun their problems but instead are faced with the reality that they cannot be run from.  Cole St. Clair, a former famous rocker, has come to Los Angeles to get away from the empty quiet of Minnesota, and as the new star on a reality TV series, he hopes that he’ll find a way to win Isabel Culpeper’s heart and keep her forever by his side.  However, he has forgotten one thing, Isabel is not interested in being an accessory for anyone’s life; she’s a star of her own show, even if it is inside a cold winter not-so-wonderland.

Baby, the producer of the reality TV series, is well aware that Cole is a reformed addict — though she doesn’t know about his baser nature — and she’s ready to make some great TV, even if she has to throw naked women at the fallen rock star. Isabel, however, is made of tougher stuff, or so she thinks. She’s an ice queen, but like ice under pressure, she’s bound to crack.

Stiefvater’s characters may have supernatural problems, but those only really magnify what’s broken inside them emotionally. Feeling abandoned, out of place, unloved — all are deep problems that cannot be ignored, lest they destroy the victim.  Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is a wonderful addition to the Shiver trilogy, and it will have readers cheering for that reality TV happy ending. But will they get it?

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Digital Library
Digital audio, 9+ hrs
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Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is the third book in this series, and it is such a strong series of books.  Listening to these back to back on audio with the fabulous Will Patton as the narrator has been an immersive experience.  Where a hot room can feel like a jacket closing you in, readers will fall into the world Steifvater has created, wanting to uncover the magic and secrets within the pages quickly, but at the same time struggle not to linger over her images and poetic prose.  Adam and Blue are sent on a journey into the caves with the other Raven Boys, but as they are less sure of their own abilities, they are edging closer to a precipice they may not come back from.

What do you so when your psychic mother disappears, the Greenmantle comes to down to unearth darkness, and the Raven Boys are ever closer to discovering the resting place of a former Welsh king, Glendower?  While things have seen more certain, they are less certain than ever because the ley lines are in disorder, dream thieves are rifling with things they do not fully understand, and others are scrying in the search for guidance.  Time is fluid in this book, and so is what is real and what is not.  Stiefvater has woven a believable world in which readers will be trapped with Blue and the Raven Boys, searching for the unknown and hoping for answers.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, reveals answers and poses more questions, but readers will never tire of this world and its fantastical elements.  Her characters are nuanced, engaging, twisted and damaged, but they all cling to some form of hope, a hope that things will improve, things will go their way, and that all will be re-aligned as it should be.  However, what they believe it to be, might not be how it ends up when all is said and done.  Stiefvater is a rare talent in the young adult fiction genre.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 11 CDs
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The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, continues the series with the Raven Boys and Blue fighting the dark forces of dreamland.  The ley line has been awakened but the Raven Boys and Gansey continue their search for the dead ancient king Glendower.  As they continue their search, the Gray Man is searching for a mechanism, but even with the help of Blue’s psychic family, he has no idea what he is searching for. The romantic tension is present here, but the book is less about teen romance than about the battle between good and evil and the known versus the unknown.

Meanwhile, the magic of Cabes Water has disappeared or fizzled out, as if a power surge has disrupted its power.  Ronan, who has been the black sheep, has finally found a purpose, and in this volume, he has come into his own, while Adam still seems lost.  Despite the fluid relationships between the Raven Boys and Blue and her family, they have little choice but to push aside their emotions to save the magic of Cabes Water, jumpstart the power of the fading lay line, and keep the evil forces at bay.  Stiefvater’s prose is thrilling, visually arresting, and unforgettable.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is a whirlwind of magic that will leave readers wanting more.  Will these boys survive the magic? Can they wield the magic with aplomb and responsibility? Or will they be devoured by the fire that threatens to burn the town and take the magic with it?  This is a series that will have readers begging for more, and they’ll be unable to get these living nightmares out of their head long after the book is closed.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
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Forever by Maggie Stiefvater — narrated by Dan Bittner, Pierce Cravens, Emma Galvin, Jenna Lamia, and Maggie Stiefvater — is stunning in its twists and turns, its big reveals, and its ever-poetic language that takes readers into boundary wood.  In this third book in the Mercy Falls series, Sam and Grace are again separated by circumstances, and even when they can be together, there are things that separate them, leaving each waiting in anticipation for the other — for their connection to be rekindled.  Their connection, however, is so strong that it transcends species and is a testament to love, loyalty, and family.

Sam looks to Grace as his center, and she often helps him overcome his indecision, but when Grace is in danger, he’s forced to make his own choices, forced to grow up into the man he is.  Beck is no longer there as a buffer, and Cole may be older and more focused on saving the pack, but he is not who the wolves will follow.  Sam has to make a sacrifice he didn’t think he could make again, but when he decides to do it, he is all in.  Isabelle and Cole’s budding relationship, meanwhile, is filled with obstacles, including both characters’ personal baggage.

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater — narrated by Dan Bittner, Pierce Cravens, Emma Galvin, Jenna Lamia, and Maggie Stiefvater — is part of a highly imaginative series of books about werewolves in Mercy Falls.  These characters are forced to grow up too soon, but even as they want to cling to their childhood freedoms, they know that their lives are forever changed once they make the leap into adulthood.  These characters are bound to make a lasting impression on readers, and Mercy Falls will be missed when it’s over.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.  All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is a dark tale of supernatural forces, love, sacrifice, and transformation.  Blue Sargent cannot “see” like her mother and aunts can, but she can help them in their work.  She’s lived a cloistered life under the dark cloud of a premonition that her kiss would lead to the death of her true love, whom she has yet to meet.  The Raven Boys are considered the bad boys of the town, and Blue is expected to steer clear of them, but with all things forbidden, destiny cannot be avoided.

Gansey, Noah, Adam, and Ronan have been thrust together by a mission, but this mission has long-term consequences for them all, and Blue and her family.  Blue struggles to understand these boys and their role in the supernatural happenings that have happened in their town.  Her presence among the boys increases the tension between them, as Gansey represents privelege — a privilege that Adam resents.  Ronan is the wild card who never follows rules, and Noah is the sounding board, the quiet observer, whose secret is only going to break them emotionally.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is thrilling opening book to this series.  While readers are introduced to a surreal and strange world, it quickly becomes addictive.  The Raven Boys are mostly sympathetic, but they also have dark edges, and Blue is likely in for a long ride with them — one that will be dangerous.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.  All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-la

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Jenna Lamia and David Ledoux, is the second book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series.  Grace and Sam have courted disaster in the previous volume and have been reunited here, but Isabelle continues to seek out danger — the danger that comes with the new wolf, Cole, who is a very troubled young man trying to escape his past.  Even as Sam achieves a reprieve from the curse, it has its claws in others.

Grace finds that she’s not feeling well, but she fears telling anyone for her own fears will become reality.  As she struggles to hold onto herself, her health, and Sam, her parents are putting their foot down finally, grounding her and forbidding her from seeing Sam.  Sam is struggling with his new lease on life, and he still has to reconcile who he has become and what that means for the rest of his life.  Cole, the newest of the wolves, is happy to escape his past life, and while he’s enjoying his anonymity, his secrets threaten to expose all of the wolves hiding in the woods.

Jenna Lamia is a fantastic narrator for the female characters, and David Ledoux provides just the right amount of calm for Sam and the angst of Cole.  He also has to sing some lines, and does well. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Jenna Lamia and David Ledoux, is a solid second book in this series, and while there are moments where the teenage love drama is a bit over the top, the story is well drawn and the characters face some life-changing decisions.

Other Reviews:

Shiver

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.  All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Jenna Lamia and David Ledoux, is one of those young adult novels that adults who can engage in magical worlds will enjoy.  Boundary wood in Mercy Falls, Minn., is populated with wolves, and while most of the time they keep to themselves, there are those incidents of attacks and the inevitable backlash by hunters with guns.  Sam Roth and Grace Brisbane have lingered just on the outskirts of one another for six years, and while Grace was bitten by wolves as a child, she barely remembers what happened, other than the beautiful white-gray wolf who was their rescuing her and his piercing yellow eyes.  The woods near Grace’s house are where she sees the wolves in the winter, but never in the summer, and she’s fascinated by their grace and beauty.

Her obsession with the wolves does distance her from her friends, but she doesn’t seem to mind until they begin disappearing.  Sam is a boy with a dark family history, who was “saved” by Beck as a young boy.  Grace and he instantly connect, and only his glittering yellow eyes reveal who he truly is.  Grace is then swept up into a world she marginally knew existed, and her first love consumes her.  Jenna Lamia is a believable teenage girl, and she has the right timber and pace for Grace’s character, and David Ledoux provides fantastic depth to Sam’s character in the narration.  On audio, this book shines in the darkness of the snow-lit woods.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Jenna Lamia and David Ledoux, is a stunning opener to a paranormal series of books for young adults.  Stiefvater creates dynamic characters who are forced to deal with tough issues in unreal situations, and these characters are unforgettable.  Like many books in this category, there is a series, but this one has a lot of potential.  I’m looking forward to the next audio installment.

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.  All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 282 pages
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Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers is for readers age 12 and up given the subject matter, though there is less gruesome violence in this book than in other war books.  Robin “Birdy” Perry is a new recruit to the Civilian Affairs Battalion from Harlem who finds himself confused as to who the enemy is in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  His division’s mission is to secure and stabilize the country, providing medical attention and supplies whenever they can.  The confusion begins when civilians begin shooting at them and planting IEDs that blow up their convoys and other Iraqis in the streets.

“I looked to where she was nodding and saw the sun on the horizon and above it a thin red line that stretched endlessly in the distance.  There was also sand, rising like a shadow with shifting shades of dark brown and orange, coming toward us.  Cameras were brought out and guys stepped away from the trucks to get clear pictures.” (page 45)

Birdy’s got a crush on Marla, and he’s fast friends with Jonesy, who wants to own a Blues club when he gets out of the military.  Told in first person point of view, readers are limited to what they know about the war until Birdy becomes aware.  Unlike hand-to-hand combat or even WWI and WWII, the war in Iraq is more impersonal, as the enemy is often obscured by the lack of knowledge Americans had about the factions in the country or the bombs they detonate without being in close proximity.

Myers’ characters are a bit stereotyped in this novel, with the macho tough girl, Marla, and the laid back Jonesy.  And there are moments when Birdy’s reading the newspapers to get information about the war, which seems incongruous with the availability of the Internet and television in the Green Zone, where he spends most of his time.  Much of the story centers on Birdy’s fears about being in combat and worrying whether he’s good enough to be a soldier.  Once he becomes a little more comfortable in his skin, he worries about whether he’s doing a good job or accomplishing the mission — but then the team is ambushed or bombed and the fear becomes real.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers is a good introduction for young readers to the realities of war without being overly gruesome.  Myers examines the camaraderie between soldiers, the mixed up feelings that war stirs up, and confusion of war in the modern world.

About the Author:

Walter Dean Myers is an African-American writer of children’s books best known for young adult literature. He has written over fifty books including picture books and nonfiction.

6th book (Gulf Wars — Operation Iraqi Freedom) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

5th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Short Reviews of 3 Children’s Books

Over Dewey’s 24-hour read-a-thon, my daughter and read three books she picked out of the library since I really didn’t have that much time to participate, but I did want to share our impressions of these books.

Freight Train by Donald Crews is a Caldecott Honor Book with few words and vibrant pictures written in 1978, it’s amazing that the book is still so relevant today.  The freight trains still run, and the parts of the train are still the same.  But this book strives not only to teach young children about the parts of a train and how it gets from one place to another, moving on through the day and night, but it also teaches colors with each part of the train a different color.  My daughter was engaged while I read and repeated each color with me, but she loved watching the train go as I flipped the pages.

Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage is similar to the Where’s Waldo? books I remember, but with a goofy looking Walrus.  The trick of this book is that many of the other images are gray, similar to the walrus, making it harder for kids to discern the walrus from his surroundings.  It’s a book about observation and recognition.  My daughter and I had fun with this book, as did her daddy.  We made it two games in one  — the first pass we found walrus and on the second pass we found the zoo keeper who was trying to get him back into the zoo.  She liked this one so much she wanted to keep playing it several more times in a row…and she’s almost got the word walrus enunciated correctly.

Halloween Forest by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by John Shelley is a book of poetry, or at least that’s how it reads…like the children’s books of my childhood (i.e. Little Miss Muffet).  The illustrations are engaging and unique, and in many ways would seem scary to young kids, since it is a forest made of bones.  However, my daughter is fascinated by the pictures and not scared at all by the bone forest, which could be related to the empowering statements of the poem-like lines in which the child is not scared but demands her trick-or-treat dues.  The little one and I enjoy this one a lot, and it is perfect for the current season.  Our library actually has shelf sections based on holidays and seasons, which is where I found this one for her and I to read.  Really engaging visually and textually.

 

That’s it, what good children’s books have you shared with your kids that you both enjoyed?

These are my 65th, 66th, and 67th books for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

This Totally Bites! by Ruth Ames

This Totally Bites! by Ruth Ames, part of the Poison Apple series of books from Scholastic, is for children in grades 4-6, though it would more likely appeal to girls.  Emma-Rose Paley turns 12 and her life becomes something out of a fantasy novel, and readers will have to suspend disbelief, which shouldn’t be too hard with kids who haven’t lost touch with their imaginations.  Emma likes things dark and wears black, she likes the rain, and she loves rare meat, but her friend Gabby is her polar opposite, wearing pastels, always punctual, and a vegetarian.  In typical seventh grade fashion, there is gossip, hiding from the popular crowd, and navigating peer pressures, but Em’s mother is a curator at the New York Museum of Natural History and her great-aunt is staying with them while helping out with a museum exhibit on bats.

Despite her recurring nightmare of darkness and red eyes, Em tackles her homework and navigates the preteen world with a sense of self unlike most 12-year-old girls.  She’s got her small network of friends, but really only one strong girlfriend, Gabby, while her other two friends tend to waver at the first sign of peer pressure.  In many ways, this dynamic group resembles the truth of school-age kids.  Ames has created a believable world, and even the supernatural elements are believable as the girls research the truth of the matter.  It’s great to see Em come out of her shell, voice her opinion, and become a peer that others can look up to, even when she’s hoping to fade into the background.

There are school girl crushes, bickering, and boy gossip, but what makes Ames’ story memorable is the character of Em, who demonstrates a mature ability to think logically about her situation and at the same time remain vulnerable and stubborn when it comes to arguing her point with her friends.  This Totally Bites! by Ruth Ames is a fun story that younger girls will enjoy and learn about how to be themselves in a world that thrives on peer pressure and fitting in.

About the Author:

Ruth Ames is the author of This Totally Bites, one of the inaugural spine-tingling Poison Apple books. She has written several best-selling young adult novels under another name. Ruth loved reading spooky stories as a child. She now lives in Manhattan.

This is my 5th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.