King of Scars

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in a Grisha-verse duology.

Nikolai Lantsov survived the civil war, though not unscathed, and has been working endlessly to bring Ravka back from the brink of destruction. But Ravka is weak, it’s boarders need shoring up and financially, it is in trouble.

As Nikolai and his allies work to strengthen Ravka and it’s decimated Grisha army, a darkness within begins to take hold, neighboring countries spout niceties while planning invasion, and legend threatens to become reality.

Can Nikolai continue to rule if the darkness takes over? Will there even be a Ravka left when all is said and done?

I kept meaning to pick this one up but kept putting it aside. I actually read Six of Crows before reading any of Bardugo’s other books and still nothing can compare. That being said, it was nice to see some familiar faces in this book and to get more of Nikolai’s and the others stories.

Did anyone else notice just how often Nina brings up her former band of misfits from Six of Crows? The whole time I was listening to the audio book, I just kept wanting them to show up. Sigh.

Ultimately, there wasn’t anything really negative to say about the book. Nikolai and Zoya are both lovingly snarky and the banter was spot on. And the Grisha’s and Ravka were the same as always. I guess the issue I have is that the book was a little slow for me. Not a lot happens until the last 100+ pages. And what does happen in the first half of the book, feels too familiar for me–sort of like we’ve been there before in the other Grisha books.

I do expect a lot more action and going-ons in the second book. This one gets a solid 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Skyhunter

Skyhunter by Marie Lu is the first book in, what I believe to be a new young adult duology.

The Karensa Federation has conquered almost all of their continent, leaving Mara as the only free nation left. But how much longer can Mara remain free when mutant beasts, known as Ghosts, rove and ravage at will.

Mara’s elite fighting force, the Strikers, are tasked with killing these monsters and pushing back the Federation for as long as possible. But defeat still seems inevitable.

Still, one Striker, a refugee from another war torn country, an outcast, refuses to give up. Talin Kanami knows just how brutal the Federation will be when they finally arrive and she is determined to save the city she now calls home. When a mysterious prisoner is sentenced to death, Talin’s instincts tell her to save him. Will her actions doom them all or will hope prevail?

It took me a few chapters to get into this book but after that, I flew through it. I really loved how the author makes Talin mute and even she isn’t sure if she’s just stopped talking or if her vocal cords were damaged when she fled her home as a child. I also think Lu handled, how to portray her communication, well. The fact that the Strikers all know how to sign and take an oath of silence on the field, worked perfectly in this book.

Lu also does something great with the relationships in this book. The Striker and his/her Shield have such a fascinating relationship, forged of stronger stuff than just friendship and loyalty. And I am glad that Red and Talin work toward that relationship first, rather than any lovey dovey infatuation. If we are heading that way in book two, well it is slooooow and just the way I want it.

Overall, I thought this was a really strong book with some memorable characters and a neat post-apocalyptic setting/conflict. This one gets a solid 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

American Dirt

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummings is an adult fiction novel about a Mexican mother and son forced to flee to American.

Lydia Pérez lives a quiet life in the Mexican city of Acapulco with her husband and eight-year-old son Luca. And while the cartels are always a problem, Lydia and her family have never felt outright threatened.

When Lydia forges a friendship with the overdressed and suave Javier, she had no idea she was talking poetry with the head of Acapulco’s newest cartel. What’s worse, her journalist husband is publishing a “tell-all” profile about the man and the repercussions will change Lydia and Luca’s lives forever.

Transformed into migrants overnight, will Lydia and Luca make it to America with their souls intact?

My book club picked this one as our next read. It is not one I would normally pick up on my own, so for that I am grateful to read outside the box. But, and I may be the majority here, I did not overly enjoy the book. I felt like the author walked the middle of the road instead of pushing the boundaries one way or the other. Either go too cautious or too graphic; for a title like this, about this topic, trying to play both sides, just doesn’t work.

But the real thing that bugged me about this book, was that the final confrontation between Lydia and Javier was both unbelievable and lacking. The entire book was about Lydia’s relationship with Javier and escaping his wraith. The reader waits the whole book for a final confrontation and what we get… well it didn’t do anything for me.

I also needed a more satisfying ending. Again, it felt lukewarm–probably due to the missing confrontation I just mentioned. But seriously, they are on this whole journey and it just never felt like it ended. The ending didn’t feel like an ending but more of a place to stop.

This wasn’t a bad book and it was neat to read a book I’ve seen getting tossed back and forth in the news, but it was only OK in my opinion.

This one gets 2.5-3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Virtual Storytime: 1/6/2021 MoComCONline

I have a special storytime I am doing for our library system’s MoComCon event. MoComCon is a library comic convention and this year we are going virtual–MoComCONline! <Cute right?! For this storytime, I am doing all things superheroes. Here is what I have planned:

  • Say HELLO Superheroes 
    • This is an original by yours truly. I wanted a fun opening and closing, so I made one up!

Say HELLO superheroes brave and true. 
The world needs saving, the world needs you!  
Buckle your belt, fasten your cape. 
We cannot let those bad guys escape!  

Stretch out those arms, first this way, then that. 
A quick little toe touch, now arch back like a cat.  
Another stretch high and now one way down low. 
We’re ready to fight crime, let’s go go go!  

You are ready now to fly up, up and away! 
Get ready, get set? Let’s all save the day! 

  • ASL –  Smart, Fly, Brave 
    • I always incorporate some American Sign Language into my storytimes. This week, I went with superhero attributes.
  • Book – Supertruck by Stephen Savage 
    • This is a fun story about a garbage truck by day, superhero truck by night!
  • Finger Play – Superhero Turn Around 
    • A simple movement rhyme I found years ago for a superhero storytime and I can’t remember where I got it from.

Superhero, superhero turn around 
Superhero, superhero touch the ground. 
Superhero, superhero put on your suit 
Superhero, superhero put on your boots. 
Superhero, superhero jump up high
Superhero, superhero fly, fly, fly! 

  • Book – Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker 
    • This one is generally a little long, but like the lessons in it. I may cut a few pages from it as I am reading if it feels too long.
  • Folder Story – My Many Colored Capes 
    • Check out my post for more information on this one. It is such a great rhyme and super fun to do as a folder story. I also find folder stories adapt well to a virtual environment.

My cape of bravery 
Goes over my head 
It makes me feel bold 
And its color is __________ (red) 
Up, Up and AWAY! 

My cape of honesty 
Makes villains speak true 
And chases out lies 
Its color is ___________(blue) 
Up, Up and AWAY! 

My cape of fairness 
Conquers those who are mean 
It makes me feel strong 
And its color is _________ (green) 
Up, Up and AWAY! 

My cape of calmness 
Makes me feel mellow 
It quiets the world 
And its color is ____________(yellow) 
Up, Up and AWAY! 

My cape of wisdom 
Helps me to think 
And solve tricky problems 
Its color is __________(pink) 
Up, Up and AWAY! 

My favorite cape 
Gives me a nice glow 
Its all these great colors—In a RAINBOW!!! 

  • Finger Play – Five Brave Superheroes
    • A nice finger play with a counting element.  

Five brave superheroes (hold up five fingers) 
Ready to save the day. (hands on hips in ‘superhero stance’) 
One flies off to chase a villain, (“fly” one finger behind back) 
Up, up and away! (stretch arms up into the air, i.e. ‘flying pose’) 

 Count down from 4, 3, 2… 

One brave superhero 
Ready to save the day. 
She flies off to chase a villain 
Up, up and away! 
Hooray for superheroes! Hooray! (clap hands, shout hooray!) 

  • Book – Superhero Mom by Timothy Knapman 
    • Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. This one has nice big pictures and all the moms out there will enjoy it.
  • Action Rhyme – Have you ever seen a hero 
    • This can be a lap rhyme with swaying back and forth or the kids can pretend to fly. I don’t know that I’d do the additional verses. I may just do the original twice.

Have you ever seen a hero, a hero, a hero, 
Have you ever seen a hero, flying through the sky? 
Fly this way and that way, and that way and this way 
Have you ever seen a hero flying through the sky? 

Verses: Putting on their cape, hopping on one foot, saving the day, twirling around 

  • Say GOODBYE Superheroes 
    • The goodbye to my hello

Say GOODBYE superheroes, the day is through. 
You’ve worked really hard, you’ve chased every clue.  
Every dragon’s been slain, every bad guy subdued. 
The city is safe, thanks to your fortitude. 

So roll your head round and shrug your shoulders, 
You lifted, you pushed, you lugged heavy boulders.  
With a yawn and a sigh and a shake of the head, 
Even superheroes need to rest in their bed.  

Tomorrow’s a new day, there’s nothing to fear. 
Goodbye superheroes. 1…2…3… CHEER!   
 

How’d it go:

This was a really fun storytime! The kids especially liked it when I put them on spotlight, so they could show off their superhero moves. Man, do I love MoComCon season!

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Virtual Book Discussion: The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6 graders. 

When a young boy is found sitting at the DC’s National Gallery without any idea who he is or how he got there, no one imagined the ripple effect that would happen. As black SUVs and missing security footage start popping up, there will be a race to find out who this boy is before it is too late. 

As the boy attempts to piece his life together, he must also use what little he does remember to stop the biggest art frauds ever attempted. Will he remember in time or will his ghosts catch up to him first.  

Discussion Questions / Further Reading  
1. What is this book about? What are the main themes? 
2. This book focuses more on STEAM than STEM, but often times there is science behind the arts like music, dance and painting. Can you give an examples of when the arts use science? Hint: There are a few in our book.  
3.What is the difference between “Science” and “Witchcraft” or “Alchemy?”  
4. This book uses QR codes as an interactive element between the reader and the story. What is a QR code and how does it add or take away from the story?  
5. Art suffered from trauma driven amnesia. How would you feel if you lost all memories of yourself, including your own name?  
6. There’s quite a bit of foreshadowing in the book. What is foreshadowing and how does it help to propel a story? 
7. What did you think about the art supplies in Art and his Dad’s studio? Did you know that some artists used to poison themselves just to get the right color pigment? 
8. Why do you think art forgers have more success when they use old canvas’ by unknown artists? In thinking about this, how does the history of paintings, or a specific painting, influence the forgeries?  
9. What is the fingernail test? (pg 243) 
10.  Art and Camille use a lot of low tech ingenuity to escape their captors, who have a lot of “high tech.” Let’s talk about some of these.  

My set up

DIY: Aging Paper 

Supplies: Paper (try multiple weights), 1 cup of cold coffee, coffee grinds, tea bag, hot water, either a waterproof table cloth and/or cookie trays. 

Directions:  The first step before each of the following techniques is to scrunch the paper and then open it flat. 

  • Coffee Painted 
    -1/4 cup of hot coffee, spoon onto the paper and spread evenly. 
    -add a bit more color by taking dried coffee and sprinkling over the wet paper. 
    -Remove the excess liquid with a paper towel and leave to dry. With adult supervision you can also “bake” your paper in the oven, on the lowest temperature, for about five minutes. Keep and eye on it.  
  • Coffee Dipped: Dipping paper in coffee is also known as coffee staining is a technique that slightly changes the color of the paper. This effect is less bold then painting a paper with coffee. 
    -Make coffee with boiling water and 3:1 ratio of coffee. 
    -Fill a container large enough to hold your paper like a baking tray with coffee. 
    -Submerge the paper in the liquid. 
    -Hang the paper on a clothe line or put it on a rack with paper towel underneath to absorb the excess liquid. 
  • Tea Bags 
    -Soak your teabag in warm water, but cool enough to work with.  
    -Squeeze out the majority of the water and dab the paper with the tea bag. 
    -Rehydrate the tea bag as necessary. 
  • Finishing Touches 
    -Burn the edges of the paper. 
    -Ink the edges with a dark ink. 
    -Add stamped images or text. 
    -Wrinkle again to add extra texture. 
    -tear the edges to enhance the used old look. 

Sources: https://einatkessler.com/how-to-age-paper-6-easy-technique-to/

How’d it go:

This went really well. The kids were doing pretty good with the discussion and we all seemed to like the paper aging project. Also, my office now smells like coffee, so positives all around!

That’s all for now!

-M-