Friday, August 21, 2015

Spelled by Betsy Schow

There is a reason this publisher is printing this book for the third time in the two and a half months since it was first released. It's that great.


Title: Spelled
Author: Betsy Schow
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction (Children's Classics Mash-up)
Rating: FABULOUS!!!!
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story" (

Opinions: I was so excited to get this book as Betsy is a friend of mine. I was able to see this book flourish and grow and I couldn't wait to read it in its final iteration. As soon as it came out I ran home and started reading it out loud to my husband. By the end of the first few chapters he said, "You're loving this aren't you?"  Well, yeah.  But I wasn't sure if he was. My husband is a huge fan of the original Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz--he's even read the series to our daughter since she was about two. So I stopped reading it out loud to him after a few nights because I didn't think he was into it.  Then we went to a doctor's appointment together and he caught me reading it to myself. "Isn't that the one we're supposed to be reading together?" he asked.  Busted. We read the rest of it together and he thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed. I cried.....I nearly snorted soda out my get the picture.

Just be prepared for snark. Be prepared for sass. And be prepared for everything you think you know about the Wizard of Oz and other children's classics to be flipped on its head, tossed in a cyclone, and rewritten in the most creative, inventive, unique way then turn it into a YA novel. I cannot wait for you to meet Dorthea (Dot) re imagined, Prince Kato (like no prince you've ever seen) and Rexi. You are in for a true adventure with Spelled.

P.S. The last time I went to see my counselor she told me she was currently reading this book because she knew that I was friends with the author and had recommended it. She said that she didn't get into it right at first, but that her teenage daughter refused to let her put it down. Now she is immersed and has to know how its going to play out.   Yeah, its that addictive.  And the good news......the publisher has picked up the entire series. So we'll all get to see what happens to Dorothea next.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I know, I know....its been eons since either of us has posted. It's been a rough few months, but now that summer is almost over and the kids will soon heading back to school I hope to post more often.


Title: Whistling Past The Graveyard
Author: Susan Crandall
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Death, Violence at the time of Civil Rights
Premise: "The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart" (

Opinions: This book was chosen for book club reading this last year. Unfortunately it was so popular that I was on hold forever at the library and finally got to read it two months after we held our discussion. The biggest hang-up with this book is that, even though is masterfully done, I'm afraid it can be lost in the influx of civil rights era books that have been released in quick succession over the last few years.

Having said that.....I love Starla. Starla is 9. She acts 9. She thinks like a 9 year old. She talks 9. She feels very real to me. And when she ends up running away and is forced to deal with some incredibly adult matters I was there with her as her thoughts battled her emotions to come to grip with reality in the 60s. I loved seeing her growth, her character arc, and her willing to fight for those she loves and for what she feels is right.  The difficulty of this story is that the dark matters revolving around self-worth, abuse, civil rights, and the treatment of others were so intense (especially knowing that Starla is only 9) made me wonder whether or not I could personally handle reading the rest. I love Ms. Cyrena and I love Eula, but Starla is my hero. And in spite of the danger, the darkness, and the heart-wrenching lessons she learns I'm glad that I endured the journey with her.  And it made for an incredible and complex book club discussion.  Overall my favorite line is toward the end when Starla is trying to come to grips with what she learned about the trials she went through....."God's plan ain't a free pass. Uh-uh. He give us moments to make choices, and we make them. We accountable for those choices. God's job ain't to make our lives easier, it's to make us better souls b the lessons he give us."