Saturday, August 31, 2019

Short and Simple Reviews: When You Reach Me, June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny, & Out of Place

This is a place for books that I didn't fully review.
Maybe I listed my likes and dislikes, had a little short paragraph, or a few sentences to convey my feelings on the book, but whatever the "review" is, all of them are short and simple. (hence the clever name)

Today I have a group of middle-grade books!

When You Reach Me
This remarkable novel holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper. The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late. 
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I have been wanting to read more middle grade lately and I realized that as well-known this book is, I had never gotten a chance to read it. Well, I fixed that! I thought this was a fantastic book! I had no idea what to expect from it (I picked it up without even reading the synopsis), but I loved the historical setting, the realism of the book, with the small hints of sci-fi and mystery. You wouldn't think that some of the themes of this book would work together, but they did. I was very surprised by the interesting direction this book went. I know I'm being vague but I want everyone else to be surprised as well! I do wish this book was a little longer. I was getting very much into the book only to find that I ran out of pages. This is definitely a read-in-one-sitting book and I was very busy when I started this book, so it took me two days instead. I do wonder if I lost some of the feeling for this book because I only read it in short bursts. Maybe I could pick this up again one day and read it straight through. 

 I hereby give this book
4 Stars
Meaning: It was amazing!

June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny

A charming, classic middle grade debut perfect for fans of Three Times Lucky and
Because of Winn-Dixie with the most lovable pig since Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.

June Sparrow and her best friend—a miniature pig named Indigo Bunting—have always been just fine on their own. June is a wealthy orphan who’s lived in New York City her whole life. But on June’s twelfth birthday, she suddenly loses her fortune and is forced to move in with an aunt she’s never even met, in the tiny town of Red Bank, South Dakota, a place so small that it doesn’t even have a traffic light.

Now June has to live on a farm with grouchy Aunt Bridget, who sees her best friend as potential bacon! Then one day, June finds a mysterious Penny Book that her mother used to keep. She is instantly intrigued by what her mother called the Big One, the rarest and most valuable of all pennies. Finding it could be June’s ticket back to New York and her old life. But the only guide June and Indigo have is a cryptic list her mom left behind.

To decode the list and find the Big One, June and Indigo enlist the help of some new friends in Red Bank and turn the town upside down in their search. But the most surprising mystery of all may be what brought June to Red Bank in the first place—and what is most valuable to her in the end.

  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository

This was a cute little book and I read it fairly quickly. It's a riches to rags tell (rather than rags to riches) and it features a happy orphan. The plotline is done really quickly, but the major aspect of this book is the characters. I loved the characters. June Sparrow, while rich, is not unbearable. She's trying to get used to living in a completely new environment. I liked seeing her interact with all the people of Red Back and there's Indigo Bunting, of course, her pet pig. The book is really predictable. There's a little plot involving a list June finds of her mother's, and I knew early on what the list was referring to (but I'm an adult so...). The book reminded me a little of a Hallmark movie. You know the ones. Character comes from the big city and finds family in a small town. While predictable, I don't think it's a bad thing. It made for an enjoyable read and I think it's a great middle-grade book.

I hereby give this book
3 Stars
Meaning: I liked it

Out of PlaceWhen twelve-year-old Cove Bernstein becomes the target of a school-wide bullying campaign, she sets out to find a way to leave her home on Martha’s Vineyard for New York City, where her best friend lives. But Cove discovers that friends can appear in the unlikeliest places, and maybe home isn’t the worst place to be after all.

Jennifer Blecher’s debut novel is a voice-driven story about bullying, friendship, and self-reliance that hits the sweet spot for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Erin Entrada Kelly’s You Go First

Twelve-year-old Cove Bernstein’s year has gone from bad to worse. First, her best friend, Nina, moved from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City. Then, without Nina around, Cove became the target of a bullying campaign at school. Escape seems impossible.

But opportunities can appear when you least expect them. Cove’s visit to a secondhand clothing store leads her to a surprising chance to visit Nina, but only if she can win a coveted place in a kids-only design competition. Cove doesn’t know how to sew, but her friend at the retirement home, Anna, has promised to teach her. And things start really looking up when a new kid at school, Jack, begins appearing everywhere Cove goes.

Then Cove makes a big mistake. One that could ruin every good thing that has happened to her this year. One that she doesn’t know how to undo.

Jennifer Blecher’s accessible and beautifully written debut novel explores actions and consequences, loneliness, bullying, and finding your voice. This voice-driven friendship story is for fans of Rebecca Stead’s Goodbye Stranger and Jodi Kendall’s The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City.  

This is a strange but fairly quick read. It took me a bit to get into this book because, at the start, it read like an adult book rather than YA. I am an adult, but I get a bit suspicious when a YA book reads more for an adult audience. One of the MCs, Beth, is dead and is helping her dad solve a case. I think the fact that the book begins with solving a mystery with an adult (as a ghost) did not read YA at first. Especially since Beth had a lot of focus on her dad. As the book continued, it did shift so that Beth became a major focus. The book also has dual perspectives. The other perspective is from Isobel Catching and her entire POV is in verse as she tells Beth and Beth's dad what happened to her. Her story goes into the realm of unusual but it was very interesting. Both main characters are aboriginal and a lot of this book carries inspiration from aboriginal stories which was great. While it did take me a bit to get into this book, the ending was absolutely fantastic and surprising. I think the way this book came together will stick with me.

 I hereby give this book
4 Stars
Meaning: It was amazing!

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