Review: Blythewood by Carol Goodman

Blythewood by Carol Goodman. Viking, 2013. Currently Available.

Genre: Historical Fantasy

17572846Face Value: Solid cover, nothing amazing. It reflects the story, looks intriguing, but doesn’t do too much to grab your attention either. I really enjoyed this first book in a series, so I’m hoping it gets a more dynamic redesign in future editions.

Does it Break the Slate? Totally. This is a great example of a supporting cast that is filled with Slatebreaking characters, building up a rich character landscape.

Who would we give it to? If you love magical boarding schools (Harry Potter, and others) or if you love historical fiction focusing around the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, this book has something for you! I am extremely fond of both of those things, so I was a likely target for this book. But it really works, not just as a retelling of familiar stories. Continue reading

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Review: Freedom Heroines by Frieda Wishinsky

Freedom Heroines by Frieda Wishinsky. Scholastic, 2012. Currently Available. 

Age Level & Genre: Non-Fiction

9780545425186_xlgFace Value: I think that this cover is the way that many non-fiction books for young readers have to look now: edgy and cool. Let’s face it: most young people do not read biographies. The cover has to look mysterious enough to attract interest. This is part of a series of biography books, too, so the publisher has to have some consistent cover design. I would love to see the women featured more prominently on this cover, but I also understand that a little subtlety can go a long way when attracting a reader.

Does it break the slate? Since all of the women profiled in this book were prominent advocates for human rights, that immediately puts the book in the Slatebreaking category. It is a biography of not just one but of six women who were active in movements for women’s rights and civil rights. I appreciate that the author included profiles of women of color and described the ways in which these women disagreed with one another, even though some of them were fighting for the same cause.

Who would we give it to? Any young reader with a budding social conscience will be intrigued by the strategies employed by these women to engage the public in a fight for rights. I think this book is especially relevant as we enter another long stretch of presidential campaigning. I would recommend it to young readers so that they can see where we have been before as a nation. Knowing how hard people fought to have the right to participate in the political process is a powerful antidote to political apathy.

Continue reading

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Review: Revived by Cat Patrick

Revived by Cat Patrick. Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Currently Available.

Genre: Speculative Fiction / Mystery

12681233Face Value: I listened to this on audio book, so I didn’t spend a lot of time with this cover. Which is ok with me, because I don’t think this cover tells you anything about the story, and does nothing to set it apart. Not that good, not that bad either.

Does it Break the Slate? For the most part, yes. Daisy, our protagonist, definitely has her Slatebreaking moments. And over the course of the book, as she learns more about her situation, we see her becoming a much more active participant in her own life / lives. There are great depictions of friendships between teenage girls and a significant trans character (without ever being an “issue” book about trans people).

Who would we give it to? Finding an audience for this book among traditional speculative fiction readers might be challenging. It reads very contemporary romance in a lot of ways (which isn’t a bad thing). But I think that might mean that there is more readership for this book among Sarah Dessen fans than among Hunger Games die-hards. Continue reading

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Review: The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell

The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell.

Age Level & Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction

17063685Face Value: I’m getting a little bored with the “shoes and ankles that represent a character’s personality” theme on book covers. This is good enough for this story – the lower legs that we see fit the character descriptions – but Kate and Marylin are far too interesting to be represented solely by their feet.

Does it break the slate? This is not an earth-shattering book. The female characters are great, especially Kate. They don’t change the world, but they cause ripples that will make their middle school a better place. I can’t call it a Slatebreaking book, but it is a story with notable female characters and I won’t hesitate to recommend it to young women.

Who would we give it to? Any girl who just doesn’t have time for the drama of middle school will appreciate the frank social analysis in O’Roark Dowell’s book. Continue reading

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Review: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. Little Brown and Company, 2012.

Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction

Face Value: Well I like the ketchup clouds. But other than that I don’t really understand the cover, and don’t like it all that much. I much prefer this alternate cover (I think it’s the British version, or maybe the paperback? hard to tell from Goodreads), which draws you in right away, plot and character-wise.


Does it Break the Slate? Getting there. I felt a deep empathy for Zoe, our protagonist, and I totally believed that she was on her way to becoming a Slatebreaker. This girl has so much weighing her down, and I sure don’t know if I could have handled all of that on my shoulders, especially as a teenager. Even though it’s really not until the end of the book that she starts to pull herself together and take her life, and happiness, into her own hands, I really believe that Slatebreaking is in her future.

Who would we give it to? Mystery readers will be intrigued by the “what really happened” element, and contemporary realism fans will appreciate the authenticity of Zoe’s voice, her boy troubles, and her expertly written family dynamic. If you read this book, like I did, because you loved Annabel Pitcher’s first book, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, you won’t be disappointed. Continue reading

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Review: Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth. Harper Collins, 2012 and 2013, respectively. Currently Available.

Genre: Speculative Fiction / Dystopia

Face Value: Consistent and respectable. When I reviewed Divergent  a couple of years ago, I noted my appreciation for the covers and I continue to like them. The former Chicagoan in me appreciates the recognizable features of the skyline and the airport. The distortion of the faction symbols over the course of the trilogy reflects the book and the branding while still looking different and interesting. While this isn’t necessarily a piece of art I’d want to hang on a wall, I have no qualms about reading it in public.

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Does it Break the Slate? YES. Said it about the first book and if anything, Tris becomes even more of a Slatebreaker over the course of the trilogy. She’s very much an action hero, but she’s also thoughtful, loyal, determined and smart. We also see her make terrible, incredibly stupid mistakes – because her good qualities are also paired with actual human flaws. And once again, Tris is not the only tough girl in a sea of boys – in the world of Divergent and its sequels, women hold high ranking power positions, they are good and evil, they are insurgents and politicians and rebels and scientists. Gender is relevant in this world, but it is not the only signifier of any one quality. And the real and true friendship that develops between Tris and Christina might be my favorite in the whole series. Including romance.

But if we are talking romance, despite their fights and occasional total wrong choices when it comes to protection, etc. I found that Tris and Tobias have a relationship built on mutual respect and love. I like the way it changes over the course of the books, and the ways in which they are both there for each other and sometimes let each other down.

Who would we give it to? Judging by the wait time at my local library for the hold to come in, I don’t think I have to work too hard to sell this book to readers. I am actively trying to convince my coworkers to read it before the movie comes out though. Continue reading

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Review: The Riddle of Prague by Laura DeBruce

The Riddle of Prague by Laura DeBruce. CreateSpace, 2013. Currently available.

Genre: YA Fantasy/Mystery

downloadFace Value: I read an e-book copy and didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the cover, but I really do like the image. There is an air of mystery and adventure, and the title fonts blend the ancient and contemporary elements that intermingle in the story.

Does it break the slate? This book is chock-full of amazing female characters, but I’m still waiting for Hana (the protagonist) to break the slate. She grows immensely in this story but I’m still waiting for her to take some major action. I’m glad that I have a sequel to look forward to, because Hana’s future as a Slatebreaker is promising.  Continue reading

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