Welcome to Wittkop Reads. I am an Iowa teacher librarian in a shared middle school & high school library, and have recently begun my journey as a book reviewer. This blog will share my thoughts and updates on the Middle Grade and Young Adult books I am reading. Follow me here to keep up on what I am reading and recommending. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you find something interesting to add to your "To be Read" list. Happy reading!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Recommended for: Young Adult Readers

Thank you Netgalley, St. Martin's Press, and  Roshani Chokshi for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC copy of this book.

"Fate and order are entirely different.  And one cannot rely on the stars for order."
--Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen is the story of Maya, one of many children to the king of Bharata.  Maya is cursed with a horoscope that her marriage will cause death and destruction.  Because of this horoscope she has grown up with everyone around her seeing her as cursed and treating her like a leper.  The other women in the harem tolerate her but aren't kind.  

Maya has no intention of marrying, she is strong, smart and spends her time studying or eavesdropping on the king's many meetings and learning about ruling a kingdom.  After one meeting her father meets with her to let her know she will be married off to better his kingdom, but that she must also kill herself to stop a war.  She is furious and feels there is no way out of it.  At the last moment salvation comes through a strange man who wishes to take her away.

Along her journey Maya encounters "The Otherworld", the Raja of the Underworld, a demon horse, her past, a giant elephant being, and many other fantastical things that help bring the story to it's eventual close.

This story is very difficult for me to review.  I wanted desperately for it to be awesome, but it just wasn't for me.   I honestly struggled to finish it.  It isn't that I didn't like it, it just didn't pull me in and beg to be read.  It took me a lot longer to finish it than my recent books.  I kept telling myself it was because I was busy, but that really isn't true, I just wasn't motivated to read it.

The beginning of the story was appealing but it begins to jump all over the place from world to world, present to past, and I struggled to keep up and buy in.  I felt like there was a lack of time taken to build connections and understanding of what was really happening.  Maya is told over and over to wait for the full moon to get answers to all of her questions.  I feel like I am waiting for the full moon still.  I have so many questions and feel like I was just dragged by a demon horse through the story.  

I also struggled with lack of background knowledge on the many Indian fable/myth/legend words.  I had a hard time visualizing and connecting to these beings when I was given the Indian name for them and not much else.  Some sort of glossary might have been helpful, and since I was reading an advanced unpublished version, maybe there is one in the final story.  

Many have connected this book with Cruel Beauty, Court of Thorns and Roses and even The Wrath and the Dawn.  I have only read The Wrath and the Dawn and it is probably one of my favorite books, so I strongly disagree that the two are similar.  

Based on other reviews this book seems to be polarizing.  You either love it or don't.  I lean towards the don't side.  It was just underwhelming for me.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Recommended for: Middle Grade Readers

Thank you Netgalley, Penguin Group, Dutton Books for Young Readers, and  Lauren Wolk for selecting me to read and review a digital ARC copy of this book.

"But Wolf Hollow was also where I learned to tell the truth in that year before I turned twelve: about things from which refuge was impossible.  Wrong, even.  No matter how tempting."
--Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow tells the story of 11 year old Annabelle and her journey from a carefree child to a deeper, young lady full of character and conviction.  Annabelle lives with her family on a Pennsylvania farm during a time between the end of World War I and the start of World War II.  Annabelle and her brothers Henry and James attend a one room school house a short walk from their farm.  Each day is relatively the same until Betty Glengarry moves to Wolf Hollow.  Due to her parents troubles, she has moved in with her grandparents, and now attends the same school as Annabelle and her brothers.  

From the minute Betty arrives, she is downright AWFUL.  She is truly a mean and cruel girl devoid of any conscience or empathy for others.  Unfortunately she chooses our kind, loving protagonist as the target of her wrath.  She meets up with her on the path to school and threatens to hurt Annabelle and her brothers if Annabelle doesn't bring her things.  Annabelle tries to solve her own problems and deal with Betty herself, but as the problems grow and Betty becomes more cruel and violent, things spiral out of control.  

One particularly bad confrontation is stopped by the strange, reclusive Toby.  He is a World War I veteran who lives in a little shack in the hills and has become friends with Annabelle and her family.  He doesn't really talk to anyone and keeps to himself.  He is a bit strange, but Annabelle's family looks after him and sends him food occasionally.  Toby also has a love for photography, so has borrowed a camera and film from Annabelle's mother.  After Toby stands up for Annabelle, Betty turns her wrath on him.  

Betty tells multiple lies that put Toby as the target of crimes committed in Wolf Hollow.  Annabelle knows first hand of Betty's cruelty and lies and does her best to help.  Unfortunately, these accusations are bigger than Annabelle can fix.  Annabelle wants desperately to help Toby, but can one small girl speak the truth, and actually have others listen?  Annabelle has to find her inner strength and voice if she wants to help Toby.  Will the truth actually set him free?

Wolf Hollow is a well written and intriguing historical fiction story.  The mystery and injustice will keep readers hooked, rooting for Annabelle and for Toby.