Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











Clara Barton Angel of the BattlefieldFrom Goodreads: While exploring The Treasure Chest, Felix and Maisie are transported to a Massachusetts farm in 1836. Disappointed that they have not landed in their beloved New York City, they wonder why they were brought to Massachusetts to meet a young girl named Clara Barton. Perhaps Clara has a message for the twins? Or maybe they have one for her?

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While I don’t usually seek out and read MG books, I’m really glad that the publisher gave me this novel to read at my leisure. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I would read it for review or not, but since it’s such a quick read, I decided to give it a shot, and I’m happy I did. Though definitely a novel for young readers, the story itself is interesting—with a little bit of drama, lots of snooping around, and time travel, I was hooked almost from the beginning, genuinely interested in the lives of twins Felix and Maisie, especially because they’ve had it so rough as of late. Due to their parents’ divorce, Felix and Maisie find themselves uprooted from their home and moving into the servants quarters of a 70 room mansion—a mansion their great grandfather built, but that his daughter turned over to the preservation society in order to help with its upkeep. Of course, everything is new for the twins, and the loss of their stable home has them rather upset, so it’s easy to connect with them from the start. Hood does a great job fleshing out the twins, and in no time they are exploring their new home, sneaking around the mansion when they know they aren’t supposed to, and a sense of mystery and magic permeates the story as it begins to take flight.

I can see how much a 3rd-5th grader would really love this story, but I also think students as old as 9th and 10th grade would enjoy it as well. Hood really has a way with words, and this novel delivers in all the right places. While these wasn’t much in terms of Clara Barton’s story—more so frivolous information in the beginning—Hood ties it all together for Maisie and Felix, and I can see this historical fiction series becoming a favorite within the classroom. Four stars.

4 stars

I was given this novel for free by the published during NCTE 2013.

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Spellhollow WoodFrom Goodreads: Imagine embracing your mother one day, then having no memory of her 24 hours later …

That’s how thirteen year old Marie’s story begins in the spring of 1968. Each day her father, James, visits his wife’s empty grave, convinced she was the victim of a vicious bear attack. Marie’s memory impairment forces him to endure his grief silently, constantly reliving the horrifying incident— his wife literally torn from his daughter’s arms, with no trace of her ever found.

But this strange disappearance is only too common within the 220 square-mile tract of bewitched woodland they live next to, known locally as Spellhollow Wood— the last remaining ancient growth forest in all of North America. Even now in 2013, it is a place tucked away in obscurity.

And of course there was no bear attack. With the aid of a mysterious boy, Perion, and a homeless girl named Courinn, Marie discovers the truth about the mother she has no memory of. When she takes her first steps into the woods, Marie learns what still lurks there among its twisted branches and roots, after some three thousand years.

Kept secret for more than 40 years, this is the first account of Marie Meehanan’s incredible adventures. Now in her mid 50’s, Marie has played an instrumental role in allowing her unbelievable stories as a young teen to be told, contributing over a dozen of her own meticulous illustrations, which detail the events that occurred within the otherworldly forest she grew up among in New York State.

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This novel begins with aspects of the paranormal taking the forefront, and as a lover of all things paranormal, it drew me right in.  The tale actually sent chills down my spine as I began reading, and I could just imagine the scene unfolding as if I was there on the cliff overlook.  And I kind of wish I was. It is an unnerving beginning, with the sudden encroaching fog and the disappearance of Marie’s mother from her grasp; Scotti does a wonderful job setting an eerie stage for the reader.

And then the novel takes a turn toward the fantastical, leaving the paranormal behind as mystical creatures—a unicorn, a reanimated knight, vampires, living trees, slaugs, and many other sinister elements—begin tracking Marie and her otherworldly friends as they attempt to find Marie’s mother and the others that have been lost along the way.

Truth be told, Spellhollow Wood is an intriguing story of adventure and friendship, a true coming of age story.  Full of sinister plots, twists, and turns, it is an engaging read, and though some portions seemed a bit long in sequence for me, personally, I believe it will definitely spark the interest of any MG or YA lover of fantasy.  Not only is the novel reader friendly, but it has great themes within the pages, and though some of the characters were not my favorite, many were true to life and depicted the tween mind wonderfully.  If you’re a lover of all things fantasy, then I definitely recommend this novel.  Three and a half stars.

3.5 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Check out the Trailer that made this a MUST read!



12619949From Goodreads: When Jem and Oliver accidentally fall through a portal to another world just before their first year of high school, they quickly discover that all is not well here. The first person they meet, a creepy old man named Atychis, almost gets them killed by a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon. They’re only narrowly saved when Sierra, a shy farm girl from a nearby town, uses illegal magic to help them escape. Allowed to stay with her family while they try to figure out a way back home, Jem and Oliver begin to learn of magic and the Regime that is oppressing it.

It isn’t until the Regime kills a woman that the three kids realize they have to do something to stop the Regime from taking over completely. After being framed for a crime they didn’t commit and banished from the town, Jem, Oliver, and Sierra take off on an adventure across this strange world in an attempt to defeat the Regime. New creatures and new kinds of magic are around every corner, but so are dangers that could have them wishing they were back safe at home.

Through the Portal is the first book in a planned trilogy.

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This novel’s premise of traveling through a portal through the bottom of a lake is absolutely ingenious.  It really impressed me because it’s such a unique idea that really worked well in this story.  I am always impressed by the imagination of others, mainly because I have none of my own, and after the fact I always wish I had thought of it myself.  In this case, Dennis has done a great job creating the backdrop for his novel and drawing the reader in.  As our heroes travel through the portal, they are taken to a very different world all together, one with magic, dragons, and an intense dictatorship intent on ruling their world.

While I really enjoyed the ingenuity of this novel, I didn’t necessarily connect with the characters as much as I’d have liked to, and I feel that is because they are a bit juvenile for me.  However, I believe that a MG and YA aged readers who enjoyed fantasy and sci-fi will really enjoy this novel as it’s a true escape from our own world.  Three stars.

3 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.



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