Category Archives: San Francisco Book Review

Middle Grade Summer Reads


Two more wonderful books to add the this summer’s read:

Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan by Sheila Agnew:

Evie Brooks has just lost her mom. With no father to account for, she must choose between living with her uncle Scott, in New York, or staying with her godmother Janet, in Dublin. “That’s kind of the whole point of having a godparent; that’s the person who brings you up, you know, if something happens and your parents are not on the scene.” As much as Evie would prefer to have things not change, her mother’s dying wish was for Scott to become Evie’s guardian, and “a guardian is basically the chief godparent,” – so she must at least give that a try.

Thus, Evie’s journey half way around the world begins. She has a lot to learn when she gets to New York—like how to help Scott in his veterinary office and how to tell the difference between heading Uptown or Downtown. She also learns that she’s not too smooth when talking to older boys, and that Scott’s girlfriend, Leela, is pure unadulterated evil.

Sheila Agnew’s Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan provides a humorous outsider’s perspective about life in New York, filled with touching moments about loss, family, and true friendship; but not without adventure and mischief in the Big Apple.

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder:

Luna and Willow are sisters who live in a small village by a toxic swamp, which once used to be a beautiful, life-giving, free-flowing, river. Because of the dangers of the swamp, the wicked creature that lives deep within it, and the incurable wasting illness that succumbs to those who drink from the water, Mama has three never-to-be-broken rules:

“Don’t go past the bend in the river.

Don’t go below the dam.

Steer away from the slick.”

Luna’s rational nature and thirst for adventure prevent her from believing too deeply in these silly tales about such nonsense as “sprite magic.” But when Willow accidentally drinks from the black swamp water, Luna must break every single one of Mama’s rules to save her baby sister… or to at least be able to say, “I did everything I could.”

Through alternating perspectives between Luna and the water sprite, Perdita, Melanie Crowder weaves a magical story about sisterly love and devotion. A Nearer Moon is a mesmerizing fairytale told in poetic prose and rhythmic descriptions that transport the reader to a magical place with playful sprites, supernatural powers, and evil curses. It is a captivating tale of self-sacrifice, perseverance, and the true meaning of love.

Both reviews will be on the San Francisco Book Review… so much to read, so little time!

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Filed under Book Review, fantasy, Middle Grade Fiction, San Francisco Book Review, Summer Reads

The One Thing That Matters

circumstances reveal

“I’m not a fan of the bouquet. I have nothing against flowers specifically, but once they’ve been plucked from the ground and clumped together in a grouping, I find them unnerving. Maybe even a smidge creepy. Nothing says Please admire my beauty while I die a long, slow death like the floral arrangement. Looking back, I realize it was probably some sort of omen that Benjamin Milton was standing beside a bouquet when I first met him.”

Maggie Sanders has it all: wonderful parents, a beautiful home, great friends, a promising professional career in soccer, and a bright future ahead. Her booming confidence even leads her rebellious streak towards an epic high school prank— an illegal prank, which leads her directly to a parole officer. And so Maggie’s perfect life begins its decent into darkness, as a bought of bacterial meningitis proceeds to take her sight, her friends, and her bright future along with it.

“Right now my life was so broken, so mangled. I needed to glue something back together before my shaking frame fractured into a million different pieces.”

However, as circumstances would have it, it is after meeting with her parole officer— and falling not “with the dignity and grace of a self-respecting blind girl,” but instead, with a four-letter word and loud crash onto the floor— that Maggie meets Ben. Benjamin Milton is a ten-year-old boy who just happens to think, “That was the most majestic fall I’ve ever seen.” He also happens to have Spina bifida – and excellent taste in hats. Yet, Ben’s most notable quality is that Maggie can actually see him… in bright and vivid color!

Being the only person Maggie has seen in six months, and because of his bubbly, energetic, and refreshingly upbeat personality, she and Ben become fast friends. She meets his mom, and to her surprise, his older brother: Mason, lead singer of the Loose Cannons, and boy of her dreams… also the boy who thinks she’s just a fan girl faking her blindness to take advantage of his naïve little brother. Mason, therefore, exudes all kinds of loathing whenever she’s around. How can she explain she really is blind… around every other human being but Ben? Is Maggie delusional? Concussed? Hallucinating? Or is this a miraculous road to recovery?

In The One Thing, Marci Lyn Curtis creates a world we are hesitant to imagine – after all, we are (most of us) naturally inclined to want to visualize Maggie’s world… yet that is exactly what she needs us to understand: there is nothing to see. Not until Ben comes into Maggie’s world, and she doesn’t need to worry about bumping into flowers, slipping on the floor, or not knowing what she is eating… not when Ben is around. Whereas, without him Maggie’s world is empty – there is no laughter, no color, no passion for random things like Doritos, or hats with funny sayings. There is just a sense of loss for what used to be… and a lack of interest in what still could be.

While Maggie hides behind her witty answers and sarcastic remarks, it is through her relationship with Ben that she realizes just how selfish she has been. In preventing anyone from throwing her a pity-party, she has actually alienated her family and friends, ignoring their needs and their losses. Ben teaches her that although there may be loss – and he knows all about that – everyone of us can still have “a thing” that drives us forward and gives us a reason to get up every morning. These things may change: circumstances arise, and sometimes loss is inevitable.

Nonetheless, the lesson is clear:

“Circumstances don’t change us, they reveal us.”

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Filed under Book Review, San Francisco Book Review, Young Adult

Reading Wonderful YA Fiction!

YA Fiction

To kick off my summer, I am focusing on what I love to read best: Young Adult Fiction!

Thus, I have had the pleasure of reading:

* Gabby Duran and the Unsittables by Elise Allen… ok, so this is actually middle grade fiction. But it is indeed awesome! Gabby Duran is just such an entertaining character, and once the story line pulls you in, you simply need to sit and read all the way through! Who doesn’t enjoy a good story about the best alien babysitter in the galaxy?

* Alice in Wonderland High by Rachel Shane is a great reimagining of Alice as a teenager joining a group of eco-vigilantes in an effort to teach her town how to be friendlier towards the environment. But does such a noble cause really excuse their extreme and rather illegal means?

* Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider, which was so amazing, it needed its own entry!

These book reviews should be appearing sometime soon in the San Francisco Book Review.

Happy summer reading!

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Filed under Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction, San Francisco Book Review, Young Adult