Review: Children of Refuge


Children of Refuge (Children of Exile: Volume 2)

Author Margaret Peterson Haddix

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017

Source: ARC

In Volume 2 of the Children of Exile series we follow the story of Edwy, Rosi’s frenemy from Fredtown. Edwy, like Rosi, is twelve, one of the first children to be brought to Fredtown. Unlike Rosi, Edwy has always been a bit of a rebel. Despite his perfect Fred upbringing, things like lying and rule-breaking have always come easily to Edwy.

Now back with his biological parents, Edwy’s situation is totally different from Rosi’s. His parents, the Watanabonesets, are rich. In fact, his father is a powerful crime lord with all kinds of underground connections. Edwy’s older brother and sister don’t have to live in their former hometown, now called Cursed Town. No, they live separated from their parents in a town called Refuge City. Refuge City has all kinds of things to make for a better life but most people can’t leave Cursed Town. Only Edwy’s father has the kind of clout to get his son out of Cursed Town to live with his siblings in Refuge City.

Life in Refuge City should feel natural to Edwy. It’s a place where everyone seems to lie and cheat. Edwy’s siblings, Enu and Kiandra, have found ways to fool their parents into thinking that they really attend school. When Edwy plays basketball with Enu and his friends, cheating is not only expected but accepted. So why does it suddenly seem wrong to Edwy?

When Edwy learns of Rosi’s fate in Cursed Town (because Kiandra hacks their computer system), he realizes that Rosi, poster child for the Freds, has been wrongly imprisoned. He knows he must help her in some way. To do so, he must do all kinds of things that Rosi and the Freds would think wrong. Yet is it wrong to do bad things in order to help his friend?

Once again readers are pulled into the story as we wonder not only about the actions of Edwy, but also the fate of Rosi. Be sure to check out the discussion questions tomorrow.



Review: Children of Exile

Children of ExileReview:

Children of Exile

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016

Source: ARC

Rosi has always believed she was an orphan. She has been raised in Fredtown by Fred-parents along with her five-year-old brother, Bobo. Yet now, at the age of twelve, she learns that she is not an orphan, and that the Freds are going to return her and all the other children living in Fredtown to their biological parents.

Rosi learns that the reason the Freds have raised her and the other children is because it was too dangerous for the children to remain with their real parents. Now the situation – Rosi has no idea what the situation truly is – has been resolved. Crowded onto a plane with all the other children, she is sent back without the support or comfort of any of the Fred-parents.

Life with her biological parents is a shock to Rosi. They seem as different from her Fred-parents as they could possibly be. While the Freds seemed perfect, her real parents are physically and emotionally scarred. They are also unkind, uncouth, and perhaps more than just a little bit scared, as well. And it’s not just her parents that seem so different; it’s all of the other parents. Why would the kind and loving Freds send the children to such a place?

When Rosi finally dares to speak out about the things she has observed, she unknowingly gets into trouble – real trouble which is leading her further into a dangerous world she has never known existed. She is only beginning to understand that not everyone is exactly what they seem.

Haddix has the reader on the hook right from Chapter 1, and she slowly but surely reels us in as we begin to wonder, along with Rosi, what is really going on in Rosi’s world. We immediately feel that something is wrong and are increasingly drawn into the mystery. Then Haddix throws her bomb, a shocking revelation that will force Rosi to take actions she never dreamed possible, which leaves the reader hungering for the next book in the series, Children of Refuge.

Tomorrow I will be posting discussion questions for Children of Exile and I will follow that with the review of Children of Refuge – and, of course, more discussion questions. Stay tuned!


Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Shadow Magic

Shadow MagicReview:

Shadow Magic

Author: Joshua Khan

Publisher: Disney Hyperion, 2016

Source: ARC

Grades 3-7, Ages 8-12

The House of Shadows is one of the six Great Houses of Magic. The Shadows command the magic of darkness. Gehenna is a dark and gloomy place: misty forests, craggy mountains. The sun never shines and the dead walk. It is ruled by Lileth Shadows (usually called Lily, sometimes Lady Shadows), the thirteen-year-old girl who is the last surviving direct descendant of the Shadow family. In Gehenna, Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year (yes, I saved this review especially for today!) as Gehenna was once a country of necromancers who could summon ghosts and ghouls. They celebrate with the Halloween Ball, and it is something that Lily has always looked forward to attending.

Twelve-year-old Thorn is a slave – with secrets. He’s the son of a woodcutter, but he has talents that extend beyond the typical woodcutter. At the slave market he is bought by Master Tyburn, Executioner for the House of Shadows. Tyburn’s mission, although unknown to Thorn, is to find the one remaining man of the group that murdered Lily Shadow’s family. Tyburn senses that Thorn’s skills may help his search, so he brings Thorn back to Castle Gloom.

Once at Castle Gloom, Thorn quickly learns the situation. Lady Shadows is to be married to Gabriel Solar, heir to Lumina and a member of rival house, the House of Solar. Traditionally the House of Shadows, who command darkness, and the House of Solars, who command light, are enemies and a union between them will weaken their magic. However, Lily will do anything to protect Gehenna, even marry into the very family she suspects has something to do with the deaths of her father, mother, and brother.

Unlikely as it seems, Lily and Thorn strike up a sort of friendship. And it is a good thing, especially for Lily. She’s in constant danger, for someone really wants to get rid of all of the Shadows. Thorn, with his common sense, street-smarts, and brash acts of derring-do, is just the boy to help keep her safe. He is helped by a cast of other characters; saving Lily takes a lot of work.

Fans of the Harry Potter Series will love this new story. With plenty of mysteries, plot twists and turns and the corresponding red herrings, it’s one wild and thrilling read. It’s filled with unusual magical folk, most of whom are likeable and some of whom make very satisfying villains. There are a few illustrations which have a graphic-novel feel to them. At the end, you know there is more to come (and there is: #2 in series is Dream Magic and #3 is Burning Magic so far) – and you just can’t wait to find out more!


Review: Deep and Dark and Dangerous

Deep and Dark and DangerousReview:

Deep and Dark and Dangerous

Author: Mary Downing Hahn

Publisher: Sandpiper, an imprint of Houghton Mufflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2007

Source: Public Library

No Halloween reading list would be complete without a selection by Mary Downing Hahn. Her books are always so deliciously creepy! Although this is not a newly published book, it is wonderfully chilling – just right for reading on a dark and dangerous night with your back up against a wall.

Ali is getting to spend the summer at Gull Cottage on Sycamore Lake in Maine despite her mother’s negative attitude toward the whole idea. Her mother hasn’t been to the cottage since she was a girl, but according to her the place is always rainy, mosquito-ridden and unpleasant. Sycamore Lake is deep and dark and dangerous. Aunt Dulcie, an artist preparing for a big show, has decided it is time to return and get some work done. She needs Ali to babysit her five-year-old daughter, Emma. Despite a lot of reservations, Ali’s mother agrees.

Once in Maine, Ali realizes that her mother’s fears may be well-founded. Emma shares a scary dream in which bones in the water come out and chase her. Then a malicious and mysterious girl of about nine or ten shows up. Sissy is a nasty little thing, made all the worse because she seems to be a bad influence on Emma. After hanging out with her, Emma begins lying, telling Aunt Dulcie that Ali tried to push her off the dock into the lake.

It is through Sissy that Ali and Emma learn about a girl named Teresa: how Teresa was drowned in Sycamore Lake and her body was never recovered. “… her bones are still out there someplace deep down in the dark, dark water” (pg. 87). Most frightening of all is the accusation that Ali’s mom and Aunt Dulcie were somehow involved in the tragedy.

Can Ali find out the truth after all this time? Can she keep herself and Emma safe while trying to find out just what happened at Lake Sycamore? And is Sissy going to make more trouble – or might she actually help solve the mystery? Those questions really keep the pages turning.


Review: The Witch’s Boy


The Witch’s Boy

Author: Kelly Barnhill

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers, 2014

Source: Personal Purchase

Recommended Ages: 9+

Ned and Tam are twins. They built a raft which they tried to float in the Great River. The craft was not seaworthy and the boys were thrown into the water, fighting for their lives. People of the town gathered at the edge of the river and called out to their father, “If you can only save one, make sure you save the right one.” He saves one boy, Ned, and Tam is drowned. The townspeople shake their heads. They felt he had saved the wrong boy.

The boys’ mother, Sister Witch, realizes that she is also about to lose Ned. So she uses her magic and as Tam’s soul leaves his body, she takes hold of it and sews it onto Ned. Ned survives.

Áine is the daughter of the Bandit King. Her mother’s last words are, “The wrong boy will save your life, and you will save his.” Her father was so grieved at the loss of his beloved, that he locks himself away with a jug of wine and howls his sadness. When Áine points out that they desperately need money to survive, the Bandit King finally rouses himself. Suddenly there is money available, but her father is much changed. What has caused this change? Áine does not know, but she knows that action is needed in order to save her father from himself.

When the Bandit King comes to steal Sister Witch’s magic, Ned knows he must do something drastic, so he attaches the magic to himself. But “Magic is chaotic. Magic is sneaky” (pg. 121). Perhaps Ned has taken on more than he can handle. He meets up with Áine and together they set out on a mission that will change the course between two warring nations and their lives.

The Witch’s Boy stands as a great classic fantasy story. However, I love it in part because it’s language is so rich. My partial vocabulary list includes words like multitudinous, implacable, prodigious, and stymied – not the vocabulary used by the average nine-year-old, or even much older kids, for that matter. So you might think this book is too hard for some of the younger audience to read. I’d like to quote Madeleine L’Engle from her book, A Circle of Quiet (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1972):

To give a writer a controlled-vocabulary list is manipulating both writer and reader. It keeps the child within his present capacity, on the bland assumption that growth is even and orderly and rational, instead of something that happens in great leaps and bounds. (148)

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are, the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. (149)

We need more books like this, books that use wonderfully expressive language. Sure, it’s a great story, but part of what draws us in are the words. I was so impressed by this that – as you may have guessed – tomorrow I will include a vocabulary list. Warning: it is a long one!

Review: The Candymakers


The Candymakers

Author: Wendy Mass

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2010

Source: Personal Purchase

I thought this book would be a nice one to include as part of my October reading. It’s not scary, though it does include a mystery. It’s just that it seemed like an appropriate way to start the candy season.

The Life Is Sweet candy factory has held a contest in which four lucky winners will get to compete in a candy-making competition. The goal, of course, is to come up with the best new candy. The four contestants have been chosen and there could not be four more unlikely children. They are only alike in one way. Each of them has a secret.

Logan Sweet is the son of the factory owners. Like his name suggests, Logan is a sweet kid. He has spent most of his life in the factory. In fact, since the factory stopped giving public tours years earlier when a child threw a toy truck into one of the machines, Logan hardly sees any other kids at all. You might think that as the son of a family of candy makers, Logan would have the definite advantage. He knows all about the processes involved. He’s been experimenting with them for years. All he really needs is a miracle. Instead, he is faced with a problem. Logan learns that someone is trying to steal the factory’s secret ingredient!

Miles O’Leary is a strange character. He speaks gibberish (well, unless you know his secret code, that is) and is overly concerned with the afterlife. His secret involves a terrible accident. But the real question is this: Does Miles really know what he has seen, not just what he thinks he has seen?

We know right from the beginning that Daisy Carpenter is a spy. Her mission is to steal the secret ingredient from the Life Is Sweet candy factory. At least, that is what her mission is supposed to be. She really has another, even more secret mission. However, she acts as though she is working completely for the spy agency while all the time she is wondering: Who is the client? Who really wants her to steal the secret ingredient?

Philip Ransford The Third wears a suit, carries a briefcase, and has an apparent dislike for candy. He’s all business and not a very likable kid. So why is he here? To Philip, success is the best revenge – and revenge is very, very important to Philip. Too bad he is unaware of the real person he needs to take revenge against.

Each section of the book is told from the point of view of one character. Then the stories converge, the secrets emerge, and the results are pretty sweet.

Though I loved the story, I have to be honest. I was disappointed in one aspect of the book. The candy portion could have been so much better. I mean “Icy White Blob” and “Neon Yellow Lightning Chews” are just not tempting, mouth-watering names. Even J.K. Rowling’s candies (you remember – things like Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, or Cockroach Clusters) – have a certain charm, even if I wouldn’t want to eat them. Blobs and Chews just don’t cut it.

Review: The Notebook of Doom (Series)

the notebook of doomReview:

The Notebook of Doom series

Pop of the Bumpy Mummy (2014)

Rumble of the Coaster Ghost (2016)

Sneeze of the Octo-Schnozz (2017)

Author: Tony Cummings

Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.

Source: Public Library

Recommended for Grades 1-3

Lots of kids say they like scary stories. Some just think that they like them. Parents of this type of kid know what I mean. The child reads something that frightens them – and everybody suffers at night.

This series (The Notebook of Doom) might provide the right balance. I read three of them. There is minor mystery, some not-very-scary monsters, and lots of the type of silliness that is so appealing to this age group.

Basically, the Super Secret Monster Patrol (SSMP), led by Alexander Bopp, finds ways to fight the local monsters and then write them up in his secret notebook.

There is, for instance, the Bumpy Mummy. It’s actually a bubble wrapped warrior wearing a diaper (sort of). The Octo-Schnozz sneezes and the “snot rained down on Putter’s Cove making all eighteen greens a bit greener” (The Sneeze of the Octo-Schnozz, pg. 87).

Yes, I know. Not remotely scary. And sometimes that’s exactly what kids need. Many of the characters (Alexander’s father comes right to mind) and pictures are goofy, but pleasantly so. Actually, the monsters are kind of cute. These books would be fun even as read-alouds.

Review: The Little Leftover Witch

little leftover witchReview:

The Little Leftover Witch

Author: Florence Laughlin

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1960

Source: Personal Purchase

If you’ve had enough scary this month (already???) and are looking for something sweet, this is just the book to pick up.

On Halloween night, Lucinda Doon has an unexpected visitor. She is woken in the middle of the night by the sound of someone crying and looking out the window she sees a little witch stuck in the mulberry tree. Lucinda learns that the little witch’s broom has broken and she is crying because if she cannot get back up in the sky before the sun rises, she will be stuck on the ground for a whole year.

Lucinda offers the witch her mother’s broom, but it is not a magic one and so the little witch, whose name is Felina, has to stay with the Doon family for the whole year. The Doons are very kind to Felina, but, being a witch, she is not so nice in return. She fusses because she has to take a bath (but she won’t take off her witch’s hat for anything). She fusses about the food she eats (only black-bat soup and jibbers’ gizzards will do). She fusses about everything, because that’s what little witches do.

Still, the Doons want to help, so they get a permit to keep a witch. Felina can then go to school and do all the things that Lucinda does. Sometimes her magic takes a wrong turn, like at the birthday party in which it spoiled everything or at the doctor’s office when she misbehaves terribly by jumping up and down on his scale and mysteriously stealing his stethoscope.

The scariest thing about this story is that some parents may find Felina and her antics to be just a little too familiar. Otherwise, it is a wonderfully sweet – and generally un-October-ish – sort of story.


Review: The Crimson Skew


Image Credit:


The Crimson Skew (Mapmakers Book Three)

Author: S. E. Grove

Publisher: Puffin Books, 2016

Source: Personal Purchase

Ages 10 and up

Sophia Tims is returning to Boston. With help from a number of companions, she had been searching for her missing parents by using a very special map. She is using a divining map, which allows her to fulfill the meaning of the map rather than just following set directions.

At the same time as her return, a mysterious crimson fog with an unknown source has been unleashed over certain areas of the country. The effects of the crimson fog are more than frightening: the fog is lethal. Anyone caught by the fog becomes delusional and commits horrific acts of violence. Why is the deadly fog occurring and who is behind it? How will this new peril effect Sophia’s quest?

I had not read the rest of the Mapmakers series and if this is the case for you, too, I would recommend putting aside this volume and going back to read the 1st (The Glass Sentence) and 2nd (The Golden Specific) books in the series. Without any knowledge of the previous books, the story is very hard to follow. Despite this lack, I found Crimson Skew to be an intriguing mix of the familiar and fantasy, with a cast of characters that includes everything from soldiers and fortunetellers to beings from different worlds.

Review: The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine (and Giveaway!)

Adventure MachineReview:

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine

Author: Frank L. Cole

Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2017

Doug Castle of Castle Corp. from Beyond (Beyond, California, that is) has held a contest. Winners will get the chance of a lifetime: a new type of roller coaster ride – the Adventure Machine – which promises plenty of thrills and chills.

And the winners are…. (drum roll, please):

  1. Trevor Isaacs, a thirteen-year old who is frequently in trouble
  2. Cameron Kiffling, world’s smartest eleven-year old who is just a bit hyper (well, maybe more than a bit)
  3. Devin Drobbs, an obnoxious thirteen-year old gaming genius with an equally obnoxious, photo-snapping father
  4. Nika Pushkin – a milk-shake-drinking Russian girl with a way overprotective grandfather (who happens to be very, very rich)

This ride is much more than it seems because the Adventure Machine taps into its riders’ minds to have a thrilling – and entirely out-of-mind – experience. The prime attraction of this ride is the Terrorarium, a name which gives just a hint of what is to come. And any number of deadly things – black holes, saber-toothed tigers, and miniature moose (???) – are lying in wait for the unsuspecting contestants.

What the winners and their parents don’t realize is that the Adventure Machine ride has a secret. And to make this story even more of a page-turner, each of the riders has a secret, too. (I’d love to tell, but no spoilers!)

With four unique children, one dangerous and scary ride, and a few unexpected characters thrown into the mix, this story gives just what the ride promises: plenty of thrills and not overly grisly chills to keep readers racing for the end.

Here is my own little surprise: another contest! Win a copy of The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine. Simply follow Two BookWorms Blog and leave a comment to be entered into a drawing. Share this post for an extra entry! The winner will be announced on Friday, September 22. Good luck to all who enter!


Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.