The Searcher by Tana French

The Searcher by Tana French is an adult standalone novel about a retired cop who moves to a small town in Ireland to get away. 

Retired detective Cal Hooper moved to a remote village in Ireland in the hopes of putting aside the cop part of his brain that always has him looking for trouble. But it turns out that small town living has intricacies all its own and Cal will have to use a whole new set of instincts to get by. 

When a local kid from the “wrong” part of town starts showing up at his house, Cal must break out his detective skills one more time. What do they say about trouble? Don’t go looking for it unless you want trouble to find you. And trouble has certainly found Cal. 

I liked this quaint little mystery, even if I wasn’t overly thrilled with the ending. Cal is a very likeable guy and he fits in well with the rural, nosey citizens of the town. I liked his polite, solitary, yet analytical nature. And his relationship with Trey is handled really well, built up throughout the story. 

This story/mystery builds really slowly but I didn’t actually mind it because it goes with the vibe of the town and it’s citizens. 

Though I sort of saw the twist coming and I didn’t necessarily like the ending, I don’t really see how it could have ended any other way and that, in a sense, was satisfying. 

This one gets 3.5-4 stars from me. 

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Archive of the Forgotten by A.J. Hackwith

The Archive of the Forgotten by A.J. Hackwith is the second book in the Hell’s Library series. 

As Claire and Brevity adjust to their new roles within the library a new threat from within could destroy those who depend on it. 

After being almost destroyed and losing hundreds of books to a fire, the Library of the Unwritten and its caretakers are trying to deal with the trauma and heal but tensions are high and so many stories were lost. 

In the Arcane wing, a mysterious pool of ink appears and Claire and Brevity are at odds at what to do with the dangerous substance. Will they be able to put aside their differences before it is too late?

A Library in hell, a stubborn librarian, a fallen Angel, a muse and a hero… really, how could I not like this series. This second book introduces a bigger arching plot only hinted at in the first book that feels sort of like a coming end game. 

I did have mixed feelings about having more points of view in the second installment because I felt like I missed Claire’s voice and wasn’t as invested in Brevity’s. I understand why we need it to propel the story but I just wanted more from Claire and not broken Claire, determined, stubborn Claire. 

I also missed the feel of “the chase” from the first book. There wasn’t much of that feeling of urgency here and I wanted to see Claire back on the case. 

Even so, there was still a lot to like about this one, Hero and Rami’s budding relationship to name one. Overall, I enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see where the next one goes. 

That’s ask for now! 

-M-

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalai is a juvenile fiction book, steeped in myth and folklore, probably best for 5-7th graders.

“Strong’s keep punching.” Is the family motto of the Strong family and seventh grader, Tristian Strong, feels like doing anything but punching after he losing his first boxing match, while dealing with the death of his best friend, Eddie. In the hopes of “getting his mind off of things,” Tristan is sent to live with his grandparents for the summer, working in the fields and getting away from any reminders of Eddie.

All Tristan has left of Eddie is a beaten up journal where he wrote down old stories. On his first night in Alabama, a sticky little doll sneaks into Tristan’s room and snatches to doll. When Eddie chases the creature down, he and it let loose an evil spirit and they all fall into another world–Midpass.

Burning seas, bone ships, mechanical monsters and more greet him, along with black American gods like John Henry and Brer Rabbit. In order to get home Tristan must ally with these gods and save Midpass, but what can one lost teenager do?

I enjoyed this book a lot and I think it will have a lot of appeal to fantasy fans of myth and legend. The book gives you glimpses into folklore and myth from West Africa and these samples make you want to go out and learn more about the original tales.

Although Tristan is a great character and will be relatable to many, I think the side characters really shine in this book. Gum Baby, John Henry, High John and the others were so fun to read. I loved “seeing” glimpses of them throughout the story and hope the come in to play more in the next book.

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut book for Mbalai because it has memorable characters, a storyline that pulls you in and some pretty good worldbuilding. Overall, I think this will be a great read for kids who are looking for something similar to the Riordan books but with a new feel. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown is the first book in a fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore.

Solstasia is an event that happens every fifty years. It is a both a celebration and ritual. For Malik, Solstasia is a chance to start fresh with his siblings and forge a new life for his family away from the war-torn shambles of his home. When a malevolent spirit kidnaps Malik’s baby sister, he makes a deal to kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, in exchange for her life.

But Karina isn’t so easy to kill and she has her own designs when it comes to Solstasia. Determined to resurrect her murdered mother, the Sultana of Ziran, Karina turns to dark magic, requiring the heart of a king.

Malik and Karina’s fates are tied together and as evil stirs within the city of Ziran both will find that price of their tasks, may be higher than the thought.

I don’t know if it was the audio book or what, but I had a hard time getting into this book. It wasn’t until the Solstasia contest actually starts that my attention was grabbed. And then it seemed like things moved almost too quickly to make up for the slower beginning.

Karina is an emotional character, whereas Malik lives more in his head and I found their narrative observations of one another interesting in how differently they seem themselves versus the way the see one another. And Malik’s chosen side at the end of the story is surprising and out of character with what we witness throughout the story.

I’m actually surprised to find out that this is going to be a duology instead of a series of three because it felt like Brown introduced a lot of elements at the end of the story, maybe too many to wrap up in just one book?

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

4-6th Grade Book Discussion: Shine by J.J. & Chris Grabenstein

Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction novel for 4-6th graders.

Piper Milly has a talent for blending in. She can’t sing or dance, she doesn’t excel at sports or hangs with the popular crowd. She’s smart, she likes astronomy and she’s happy with her small group of friends. So when her dad get’s a new job at a prestigious prep school, Piper is bummed that she has to transfer.

Chumley Prep is definitely a school for the rich and Piper definitely doesn’t fit in. Shortly after she joins the school, she finds out that a mysterious award will be awarded to the “best” student of winter break. Piper shrugs off the contest because she would never win that sort of thing, or would she?

Discussion Questions / Further Reading 

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. What did you like and dislike in this book? What would have made it better?
  3. What STEM themes can you pull out of this book?
  4. Do you think Piper did the right thing when she gave back the money that she and Hannah found at the mall? What would you do? What if you only found a $1? $20? $50?
  5. How important is it for you to get good grades and excel in school, sports, and/or the arts? How does this make you feel?
  6. Depending on the culture and area in the world, people see the moon’s shadow as something different. It makes Piper realize that a lot of things look different depending on your point of view. Can you think of an example in your life or an issue in the world where this applies?
  7. What do you think of Piper’s acts of kindness? Would you do the same?
  8. Let’s think about Mr. Van Deusen’s assignment (p51-52). Who do you want to be? Not when your grown up. Not in the future. Now.
  9. What did you think about the Excelsior competition now that you know what is it? Why do you think Chumley Prep needed this competition?
  10. Why is this book called Shine! What message is this book meant to inspire?

DYI Moon Craters

Supplies: Foils cooking pans, flour, coco powder, various size/weight marbles, balls, step stool, ruler

How to:

  • First, create your moon surfaces by pouring an even layer of flour in the foil pan. Smooth it out and then lightly sprinkle a layer of coco powder on top. You may want to use a tarp or plastic table cloth underneath.
  • Try to select “meteors” of varying size and weight.
    • A small and large marble, a foil ball, maybe a nerf ball or a large bouncy ball.
  • Set up three different heights to drop the objects from. ie standing, on a stool from a table top.
  • Take turns dropping each item. For the first test, try dropping the same marble from each height. Then test your other sized objects.
  • Measure the size and depth of each “crater” made. Keep track on paper.
  • Which marble from which height made the deepest/largest impact? What does this tell you?

The Science:

  • Dropping the marbles at various heights can show us how speed affects the size of the craters. Using different sized objects, shows how the mass of the object also affects the size and shape of the impact crater.
  • Piper found that “The rounder the object hitting the moon, the faster an object is travelling, the farther away an object is from the moon, the larger the crater it creates.” (p104)

Sources:

Brightly’s Book Club for Kids: Shine!


Click to access 9781524717667_6417.pdf

How’d it go:

This was the last one run by my colleauge while I am on maternity leave but I decided to join in because I just loved this book. Overall, this was a fun one and everyone had their supplies ready. I made my coco level a little too thick but other than that everything went great!

That’s all for now!

-M-