Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage SongThis Savage Song
by Victoria Schwab

ISBN-13: 9780062380852
Publication date: July 5, 2016 from Greenwillow Books
Purchased by me

There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

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Gorgeous. That’s the first word that popped into my mind after finishing This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab – well, that and the phrase “sequel now please.” I love Victoria Schwab’s books; I don’t know why it has taken me so long to read this one. I bought it back in 2016 when it was released and then life just happened I suppose. But I am SO glad I didn’t wait any longer.

This Savage Song contains the world building that I like to see. It’s teased out throughout the course of the novel rather than presented in monologues and flashbacks. The story begins, and you find out about the state of things orgnaically, as the characters reflect, talk, think and interact. It’s the kind of world building where there are moments of “I don’t know what’s happening” followed quickly by “ahhh that’s why!” It was perfect.

As for our two main characters, Kate and August? Well done. I really enjoyed their personalities, backstories, and growth. Their interactions together were realistic, and Kate in particular stuck with me. She had so many revelations/truths/changes thrown at her and she rolled with it. She spent the book trying to prove to her father that she was strong – and she was. Just not in the way she thought. And August. Oh August. I just wanted to give him a hug most of the time.

I am very excited to read the sequel after the action packed way that This Savage Song ended, and the cliffhanger it left us with. Victoria Schwab continues to impress me and this book just reminded me why she’s on my auto-buy list. Even if it takes me a few years to read the book 😉

Review: Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

Just Beyond the Very Very Far NorthJust Beyond the Very, Very Far North
by Dan Bar-el

ISBN-13: 9781534433441
Publication date: October 6, 2020 by Atheneum BYR
Purchased by my school

Past the place where icebergs shiver, you will find the Very, Very Far North, where Duane and his friends are sure to make you feel right at home. You might like to share a delicious Snow Delight with warmhearted Duane. While you’re slurping away, if C.C. suddenly asks you where you’ve come from, it’s not because she’s nosy; she is simply gathering scientific data. If Handsome, the musk ox, pays a visit, a quick hair combing is highly recommended. Should you notice a quiet caribou grazing nearby, well, that’s just Boo’s way of saying hello.

And if a less-than-friendly visitor arrives to sneak, shove, and shake things up, Duane and the others might discover that life isn’t always as peaceful as mid-late-afternoon nap. Fortunately, they know that change is as much a part of life as picnics and Tuesdays and cozy stories shared among friends.

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Once again this year I read The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el to my grade two students, and once again they loved it! So as soon as this sequel was released my school purchased it for me, and it did not disappoint! Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North is a fantastic follow up to Duane’s life in the very, very far north and my students were just as invested in this second visit with familiar friends as they had been with book one.

Duane and all his friends are back again for more adventures, and I loved that the chapters remained like mini stories. The shorter ones we finished in one sitting, the longer ones we broke up over two days (or even three sometimes!). As a teacher, I appreciate the obvious stopping points so that I’m not needing to decide in the middle of a chapter where I can leave off and not have the students upset, or forget what happened the previous day when we pick the book back up again.

My students loved the extra attention that Major Puff and Boo both received. Major Puff has to make some big decisions when it comes time for his migration (which is NOT a vacation), and Boo has a secret that is found out through not-so honest means. Handsome also gets a bit of a fun story near the end that my students were both saddened by, and happy for.Duane of course is front and center again, enjoying adventures, icicles and time with his friends. But this time, there is a new character – one who inserts himself into the friends decisions in a manner that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group. My students were so upset every time he appeared on page! (but in a good, this character is doing his job and we don’t like him because we’re not supposed to, kind of way) We had so many good conversations around this character: what makes a good friend, why he may be behaving the way he is, how Duane and the others can interact with him in a good way, is what this character is doing kind/nice/appropriate/etc. They loved arguing about him, predicting what he’ll do next and if the friends will realize what’s going on.

Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North is a wonderful book, and I cannot wait to read both stories to next year’s class!

Review: The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible Boy The Invisible Boy
by Trudy Ludwig

ISBN-13: 9781582464503
Published: October 8, 2013 from Alfred A. Knopf
Purchased by my school
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party… until, that is, a new kid comes to class.

When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine.

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The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a sweet book about what it means to acknowledge others. I love reading this one to my students early in the year as we often refer to it as conflicts arise in the classroom. Every year, a student makes connections to the beginning of the book when it talks about students who talk loudly, or misbehave, or are silly, etc. taking up most of the teacher’s time and other students not being noticed because of it.

Students notice how Brian is faded and colourless in the beginning, but slowly changes to full colour as he is “seen” by Justin. We have discussions around how it only takes one person to make another feel happy and confident, and included. We talk about reaching out past our current friends to find someone knew, who they may not have thought to play with.

It’s a powerful story with beautiful illustrations and definitely belongs in every classroom!

Waiting On Wednesday: Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

Waiting On Wednesday New

“Waiting On” Wednesday was originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is being continued through Can’t Wait Wednesdays at Wishful Endings.

Star Daughter Star Daughter
by Shveta Thakrar
Publication date: August 20, 2020

The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.

Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.

This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.

Review: Home Made Summer by Yvette van Boven

Home Made Summer Home Made Summer
by Yvette van Boven

ISBN-13: 9781617690150
Published: May 14, 2012 by Harry N. Abrams
Received at Book Expo America 2012

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In a small change of pace, I wanted to take a look at a cookbook today! Now, cookbooks are a funny thing for me because I don’t love to cook. In fact I often try to avoid it and always end up making the same kind of meals over and over again because they’re easy, quick and simple. But I love to bake and I love cookbooks. I always look through them and dream about all the meals I’ll make and then…never do. Home Made Summer has taken me 8 years to review for precisely that reason. I picked this gorgeous cookbook up at BEA 2012 because during an initial flip through the pictures were beautiful, the recipes well laid out and I saw some foods I thought I’d love to try. At home, the book ended up on a shelf and wasn’t touched. Why? Seafood. A lot of seafood. Many of the main course recipes call for some form of seafood and I don’t eat fish. Or shellfish. Nothing from the sea. I didn’t dive deeper into the book, until this year (thank you quarantine) when I was cleaning out my recipe books and decided to browse this one again before deciding if I should donate it. I’m so glad I did (and didn’t donate!).

Peach tartMany of the main course recipes still intimidate me, either because of their use of seafood or some more obscure ingredients that I feel must be more prevalent in European grocery stores than Canadian ones, but the desserts – oh the desserts! Remember how I just said I don’t like cooking, but I love to bake? Oh I love to bake, and this cookbook has some beautiful sweet recipes in it. First up was the peach tart. This is honestly the most simple pie I have ever made. No pie pan needed, no finicky crust or complicated filling. All you need is a food processor, peaches, sugar and a pan. The crust is made directly in the food processor and chilled for half an hour. The peaches are sliced, mixed with sugar and left to sit for half an hour. Then you roll out the dough, pour on the peaches, fold up the sides of the dough and bake. So simple! And amazingly delicious. I have a new pie crust recipe now! This one is perfect. I’ve included a picture of my second tart, with some sprinkled icing sugar on top (and served with vanilla ice cream). Just made my third peach tart tonight! As my fiance said after the first one: “We could have been having this the whole time we’ve lived together? What other cookbooks are you hiding?”

Strawberry ShortcakeThe second recipe I tried is one of my all time favourite desserts: strawberry shortcake. I love strawberry shortcake so much. I like it with biscuits, I like it with pound cake, I like it as a cake, I just like it all ways. So of course I had to try Yvette van Boven’s version. And it’s my new fav. The biscuits (scones) are slightly crunchy on the outside like a traditional tea biscuit but the inside is almost like a cake. They are delicious! Served with whipped cream and sugared strawberries this dessert is a must have for any BBQ, party, Friday afternoon – you know, whenever. I’ve made this twice so far this July. This recipe is simple as well; the dough uses a food processor and the strawberries are just sliced and mixed with sugar. I wish I had thought of using a food processor for simple doughs before this; it’s a time saver.

My fiance wants to try the beef stew recipe, and I’m excited to attempt the pumpkin fritters. So while I haven’t found a ton of recipes in this book to try, the breakfast and cake sections, as well as the drinks, have some winners and there are a couple mains that I think are worth an attempt.

As for the layout of the book itself, the pictures are beautiful and the anecdotes that accompany the recipes are fun. I did find the background colour of some of the handwritten recipes hard to see – for example the strawberry shortcake recipe is “handwritten” on a dark red background with black font. For someone with bad eyesight like myself, it’s a bad combination. I wrote it onto a recipe card so I wouldn’t strain my eyes each time I want to make it. Some of the recipes have very small, crowded font, like for the eclairs and macarons. Overall, this is a beautiful example of a cookbook, with a fair range of recipes. Especially if you enjoy seafood, vegetables and cake. And who doesn’t like cake?