Written reviews – Page 3 – CYAPodcast

Category: Written reviews

Tuesdays At the Castle by Jessica Day George

“Tuesdays At the Castle” by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays At the Castle

A written review by Jenny

Castle Glower has a life of its own. Every Tuesday it grows new rooms, secret passages and sometimes creates new wings. Only Princess Celie takes the time to map the changes in the castle.

Celie’s parents and older brother disappear when returning from the wizard’s university. Celie her older sister Lilah and the crown prince Rolph must protect the castle from the encroaching Prince Kelsh who has infiltrated the councilors and plots to kill Rolph.

Celie is a delightfully fresh and inventive character with lots of spunk! With help from the Castle, Celie and her siblings plan what they can do until the parents and brother are found. This had well rounded characters, delightfully unusual setting and lots of action to move the story along. Can’t wait until for next rollicking adventure “Wednesdays at the Castle” available now.

Small As An Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

“Small As An Elephant” by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Small As An Elephant

A written review by Jenny

Jennifer Richard Jacobson’s Small as an Elephant is eye opening look at mental illness and how it can affect children. Eleven–year- old Jack wakes up the first day of a camping trip with his mom only to find that she has left and taken everything with her. Not the first time this has happened, Jack feels he just needs to find her before someone realizes he is alone.

With nothing but a small plastic elephant to keep him company, Jack must survive on his own, refusing help from anyone who might guess his secret. Jack must come to terms with his mother’s illness and his own part in exacerbating her symptoms and ask for the help he needs.

Jack is inventive and he becomes ever more so during the desperate hunt for his mother.  Jack is fully realized and perhaps acts a bit old for 11, the adults a little-too-hands off, but the story ends in a realistic but satisfying manner.

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

“The Neptune Project” by Polly Holyoke

Neptune Project

A written review by Jenny

In the not so distant future when the land masses are slowing sinking into the sea, Nere spends her time training dolphins with her marine biologist mother. Nere has never had the stamina for sports except when she swimming.  Their idyllic life is compromised when Nere, along with her best friend Cam, uses her dolphin pod to rescue smugglers. This leads to a crackdown by the government which means the end of her mother’s research and Nere’s work with the dolphins.

When the soldiers come to the village, Nere’s mother finally tells her that she has been genetically altered to survive under the ocean.  With a final dose of medication, Nere and two others in her village manage to make it to the ocean to begin a journey to Safe Harbor, a place where there will be others like them and they will be safe. Nere and her group suffer through learning to eat raw fish, avoiding the boats that are hunting them as well as negotiating with other groups of similar children and betrayals big and small.

Lots of action and well developed characters. Readers will be routing for Nere and her group. Good character development including those of the dolphin pod that helps sustain the children as the live in the ocean.  If you read this book – remember to breathe….

Creepy-Ass Dolls by Stacey Leigh Brooks

Creepy-Ass Dolls
A written review by Adrienne
Creepy-Ass Dolls by Stacey Leigh Brooks
Maniacal barbie doll takes over a dilapidated horror-style house and bends all of the other dolls to her sadistic, cruel and torturous will. Mostly made up of pictures there is a thread of a story that is from the maniacal doll’s point of view. We aren’t quite sure what set her off, but her will is bent on complete and utter control and subjugation of all the other dolls. Definitely for high school and up. Enjoy!

Deal Breakers

Adrienne here,

Deal breakers, those literary tropes, or latest annoying character attributions, or plot un-believability or all-round “you’ve GOT to be kidding me” that will make you stop reading a young adult book. This is a subject that I am planning to bring up with my *group of teens. Here is one of mine.

Deal breaker: Boring YA female main characters

Usually I can tell when I’m not going to like a book by its cover. Yeah, yeah, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but really, with the latest trends in young adults I can tell what’s going to happen in the story and what the main character is going to be like by the cover. You know the ones, there’s a girl standing on a cliff or in a field, usually somewhere remote and desolate, wearing a long dress that looks hot, tight and uncomfortable, hair gently wafting in the wind as she stares off into the distance. Then I open the cover and start reading only to find that’s the most this character does: stand places staring off into the distance.

These female characters do not make the action happen in the story thus they do not move the plot. What they do is have pages and pages of internal conversation about what is happening to them and how they feel about it and wonder how others feel about it, but they don’t actually do anything. At most they move along the teen life pattern of home, school, and meeting place(s) and home again. Home is defined as any place they rest whether it is their actual home or makeshift.

If it’s not conversation then flashbacks are used instead to explain either why they are the way they are or how their relationships with other characters came to be, what those relationships mean to the main character and how they feel about it. (My thought is if the background is so important why not start the story there instead. Over use of flashbacks is another deal breaker.)

Who does move the story? The secondary characters do. They are the ones who believe what is happening to the main character and are helping her solve her dilemma. They do all of the heavy lifting: the decision-making, the training, the fighting and the explaining. They also do a lot of shuttling the main character around and setting them to the side whenever any action happens. (Invariably something happens during the fight scene and the main character is standing off to the side get hit by some projectile and knocked out because they were too busy with their internal conversation to duck.)

Secondary characters are more interesting and exciting to me as a reader. They just do more. I start to wonder why are the secondary character much more interesting than the main character. Then I wonder what the story would be like if the main character hadn’t been in the story at all.

How I have been handling this deal breaker is by reading more and more books with male protagonists. Male main characters mix the internal dialogue with the action. You can see them make a decision and then act on it. They tend to be more impulsive and they react quicker to complications.

Tell me your deal breakers that you have in the comments.

Books with proactive male and female main characters that I’ve read recently:

  • “Not A Drop To Drink” by Mindy McGinnis
    “Winger” by Andrew Smith
  • “Wise Young Fool” by Sean Beaudoin
  • “Antigoddess” by Kendare Blake
  • “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater (must read Raven Boys first)
  • “Reality Boy” by A. S. King
  • “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey
  • “Ashes” by Ilsa Bick
  • “Orleans” by Sherri L. Smith
  • “The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Liddell

*My group is unable to meet this fall semester because their library is moving and my library remodeling. I am looking forward to meeting with them during the spring semester


Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Not A Drop To Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Not a Drop to Drink

A written review by Adrienne

So, you know Katniss (Hunger Games) and Katsa (Graceling)? Yeah, they’re wimps. Lily-livered, tea-drinking, wimps. Meet Lynn. All her life she’s only known three things: defend the pond and home, collect and save water and find food. Living with her mother as her only constant companion, Lynn’s life had routine and that was to survive and fight for what was hers. Lynn world changes after a mishap and she is forced outside her comfort zone and learns about friendship and being able to rely on others.

What I liked about this was Lynn character learns and evolves through the story. She’s still tough and able to not only make the hard decisions but carry them out. She’s one tough cookie. Recommended for High School and up.

Tyler Makes Spaghetti! by Tyler Florence

Tyler Makes Spaghetti! By Tyler Florence and Craig Frazier

A written review by Adrienne

Tyler loves spaghetti and meatballs and this is known by his favorite chef at his favorite restaurant. The Chef Lorenzo invites Tyler to visit the restaurant and learn how to make spaghetti and meatballs.

The thin plot barely sustains the short story which is more instructions on the ingredients of the dish. Parents will have a great time pronouncing the different types of pasta and talking about the ingredients. Hint: Parents, this is a great way to introduce children to the foods that are in the kitchen pantry and their different smells.

Recommended for Pre-K and up.

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer

The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer and Jake Parker

The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair

A written review by Adrienne

Here’s one for parents of smelly children. I know what it’s like to have a smelly child and this story is a gentle way of reminding those malodorous children to bathe.

Girl has her one true friend, Baby, who is a baby doll with no hair and named Baby, by the way. Girl and Baby have been friends since she was small and she had no hair. Now Girl has long brown wavy hair that she refuses to brush. Each night she bathes, washes her hair, dries it in a turban and lets it loose. It’s just her way as she explains to her parents.

One day a mouse takes up residence in her hair. Girl finds this charming and explains to her parents that it’s just her way. Soon more mice are living in her hair building it into a castle, staying up all night and telling complicated knock-knock jokes. Girl is welcoming but the mice demand that she stop bathing and washing their hair as they do not like water. It is their way. Girl complies and where once she was an attraction at school now no one wants to be near her because she smells. The final straw is when Baby is no longer allowed in school as Girl can only bring one friend and the mice are numbering into the hundreds.

This story is a starting point for parents in the delicate situation of trying not to hurt their child’s feelings but they really want them to be clean. Recommended for parents of reeking children everywhere and of all ages.

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith


Orleans by Sherrie L. Smith

A written review by Adrienne

There were five hurricanes after Katrina. Each one with more strength: Isaiah, Lorenzo, Olga, Laura, Paloma. Each hurricane slowly decimated the populations of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. It was Hurricane Jesus in 2019 that was the final straw. After it, barely over 10,000 people were left alive in those southern states. Death came in the form of flying debris, cuts, tetanus, and lack of medicines for most common ailments. Then the fever came; a fever with no cure. Finally, the government decided to save the parts of America it could and walled up those southern states keeping those behind it there.

Her name is Fen de la Guerre, she’s known for her fierceness and she lives in Orleans. Where she comes from, they don’t shake hands. If someone were to get a hold of her with one hand, they could have a knife in the other. What you want to know is her blood type. See, behind the wall, you and Fen couldn’t be sitting together enjoying each other’s company. It’s too dangerous. She’s O Positive and all the other blood types hunt her. Why? ‘Cause their blood not only carriers the fever they will die from it without transfusions; transfusions of O Positive’s like Fen. Now, Fen has this baby girl who hasn’t been touched by the fever, she’s clean, and Fen promised the baby’s mother to get her beyond the wall and to a better life and that’s what she’s going to do.

Smith’s apocalyptic book takes you to a world, similar to ours, but so frightening and despairing. The author does not spare the reader at all. She shows us everything from the dead bodies being kept in the Superdome by the Sister’s to what daily life is like when people are cut off from everything including help. Fen is a strong, quick-witted, survivalist in the order of Katsa from Graceling and stubborn like Quintana from The Lumatere Chronicles.

What I liked was Fen’s single focus on achieving her goal to get her friend’s baby beyond the wall. Fen is resourceful and doesn’t scare easy. I liked that almost nothing surprises her and she adapts to anything that happens just as quickly as the problem arises. Smith writes Fen in a patois or dialect I found it fit Fen’s character perfectly. The tone is grim, resilient and dark. Good things happen, bad things happen. That’s life. Well, that’s life behind the wall.


Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Tap Magic Tree

A written review by Cathie Sue

Readers take a walk through the seasons of an apple tree in this interactive picture book. When invited to do so by the gently rhyming text kids will pat, tap and blow on the pages. Upon turning the pages kids will discover seasonal changes to the bare tree shown on the first page.

The focus is on the single tree and its changes over time. This is a nice lesson in the concept of things happening one after another. High school art teachers take note: there’s a lot to learn from these simple illustrations. If you and your kids enjoyed Hervé Tullet’s Press Here you’ll want to own this one as well.