Book review: Magellan: Over the Edge of the World, by Laurence Bergreen

 Bergreen, Laurence. Magellan: Over the Edge of the World. Roaring Brook, 2017. $19.99. 211p. ISBN 978-1-62672-120-3. Ages 11-14  P3Q6

The author adapts his adult book on Magellan’s journey, the first circumnavigation of the world, which began with his ambitions that led him from his native Portugal to its rival Spain. Magellan died before a few of his sailors straggled back to their starting point after three years, and his family lost all of his money while he was gone. Treachery, mutiny, illness, starvation—Magellan and his men experienced all these and worse before he was killed in the Philippines on his way to the Spice Islands.

Verdict: The dull prose doesn’t match the excitement of the adventures, and the illustrations and few maps are muddy and difficult to read. There is room for a more accessible book about the explorer.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Mars One, by Jonathan Maberry

Maberry, Jonathan.  Mars One.  Simon & Schuster, 2017.  ISBN 978-4814-6161-0.  $17.99.  448 pages.  Ages 12 and up.  Q9P8

A not-so-very futuristic novel where a group of candidates are chosen to colonize Mars.  When you pick up the book you think the novel is going to be about colonizing Mars, but it’s about the pressures faced by the people who have been chosen to go.  The training they endure and how much training they have to go through, from psychological to physical.  The book story highlights the “reality” the characters portray to their doting fans, and the moral question of whether we should colonize a planet when we cannot take care of the one we have.  The book also explores the psychological duress created by leaving loved ones behind and the pressure to be the first human to take a step on Mars.  What I like most about this book is also what I liked least: I picked up the book thinking the story would take place on Mars, when we only get to take the first step.

Google Mars One and there seems to be an actual project, or a very believable mock-up of this very idea.  I’m not sure which came first, the actual project, or the book.

Verdict:  Loved the detail behind the training, and what life would be like while traveling to another planet, that combined with the complexity of the social media world we live in and how it literally finances projects like this, makes this an eye-opening story.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Julia Defiant, by Catherine Egan

Egan, Catherine.  Julia Defiant. (Witch’s Child series, #2) Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.  ISBN 978-0-553-53335-4.  $17.99.  445 pages.  Ages 14 and up.  Q8P8

The second in the Witch’s Child series.  This book expanded on the story line of Julia’s talents and the mystery of her apparent value to others in power.  The setting changes to an Asian feel as Julia and her friends try to find the magician who cursed the little boy Julia betrayed in book 1. A new character is introduced – Julia finds a sneak thief who seems to be as talented as she is at going unnoticed without her ability to disappear.  Together they try to find the magician and in doing so move further along toward solving Julia’s own mystery.

Verdict:  A great second novel in the series. It kept me engrossed.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Julia Vanishes, by Catherine Egan

Egan, Catherine.  Julia Vanishes. (Witch’s Child series, #1) Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.  ISBN 978-0-553-52484-0.  $17.99.  375 pages.  Ages 14 and up.  Q8P8

A new spin on witches in a 19th century setting.  These witches have to write their spells for them to work.  Needless to say, all forms of writing and tools of writing have been banned.  Can you imagine?  I cannot, but thankfully Catherine Egan did.  Julia, the main character, is the child of a witch, yet isn’t a witch.  Julia has her own special ability to move between planes of existence and this ability makes her dearly sought after by the most powerful beings of all.  Julia finds herself friends and allies with her would be victims (she’s a thief) and finds herself on a journey of self-discovery to save a little boy she betrayed.

Verdict:  A great new twist on witches and their powers!  A fast-paced, fun to read book.  I look forward to the next book!

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Mask of Shadows, by Linsey Miller

Miller, Linsey.  Mask of Shadows. “Advanced Reader’s Copy.” Sourcebooks Fire, 2017.  ISBN 978-1-4926-4749-2.  352 pages. Ages 14 and up.  Q7P8

A very fast paced medieval-ish fantasy novel with a heroine/hero!  She/he is gender fluid and while this confused me at first, the author does an excellent job at keeping the gender neutral. The nature of gender fluidity works extremely well for the part played in the novel.  Sal is a trained assassin for the queen and can assume any character needed to be successful at the job.  We experience Sal’s training and successes as an assassin.  Included is a nongraphic romance between two people who love each other not for how they look or their gender, but for who they are.

I give a quality 7 because of the slight confusion caused by the gender fluidity (I’m not sure this could have been achieved in a more understandable manner) and because I found myself flipping back in the book to confirm facts the story was based on, but not explained sufficiently for me to understand.  Love the art work on the cover!

Verdict:  An exciting fantasy novel with a non-gendered spin to stretch our minds and help us understand and accept their differences.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: On a LARP: a Sid Rubin Silicon Alley Adventure, by Stefani Deoul

Deoul, Stefani. On a LARP: a Sid Rubin Silicon Alley adventure. “Advance reader copy.”  Bywater Books, publication date April 11, 2017. $11.95. ISBN 9781612940953. [164 pages.] Ages 14+. P7Q8

As Sidonie—Sid—Rubin notes, the “the teenage brain doesn’t know, understand or care what it can’t do; and while this sounds great in theory, in practice it honestly is not always a good thing.”  A brief glance at a murder scene photo on an AP honors class outing to the local police department leads Sid Rubin and her friends into a police investigation and confrontation with a high-tech serial killer involved in steampunk live-action role playing games.  Told in first person by lesbian nerd Sid, this fast paced, frenetic mystery introduces an appealing heroine.  I hope that it will be the first of a series—I would enjoy seeing more of Sid and her friends.

Verdict: This appealing mystery has a main character who is a lesbian, but the book is not an issue novel about being a lesbian.  The mystery delves into the dark net and flows from clue to clue.  Highly recommended for high school and college popular reading collections as well as public library collections.

October 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid, by Jeanette Winter

Winter, Jeanette. The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid. Beach Lane Books, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481446693. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7Q7

Picture book author and artist Jeanette Winter approaches the life of award winning architect Zaha Hadid by illustrating the scenes of her native Iraq—marshes, desert, ruins—and showing how Hadid used the curves and lines of nature in her building designs.  Beginning with her childhood in Iraq and her architectural studies in London, Winter shows the difficulty of early years as Hadid sets up an office with friends “making drawings and plans.” Her winning designs are not built in England.  Eventually, through determination and hard work, Zaha Hadid makes her visions become reality. Double page spreads show the relationships between nature—swaying marsh grasses, stones in a stream, sand dunes, a sea shell—and the buildings Hadid designed.  Includes a biographical note, author’s note and bibliographic sources.

Verdict: This is a well-executed picture book biography of a woman who changed the field of architecture.  Recommended for school and public library collections.

Note: Both Kirkus and Booklist gave starred reviews to this title.

October 2017 review by Jane Cothron.