Mouseheart Review & Giveaway

by Lisa Fiedler; Illustrated by Vivienne To
Audience: Ages 8 to 12 years
Fiction * Adventure * Animal Fantasy
Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster
May 20, 2014

Hopper is just an ordinary pet-shop mouse—until he escapes. Soon he finds himself below the bustling streets of Brooklyn, deep within the untamed tangles of transit tunnels, and in Atlantia, a glorious utopian rat civilization. 

But all is not as it seems. Hopper misses Pinkie and Pup, the siblings he lost in the escape attempt. Atlantia is constantly threatened by roving rebels who wish to bring the city to its knees. And there are cats everywhere, cats who would normally eat a rodent in a second, but leave the rats unharmed . . . and no one can seem to answer why. 

Soon Hopper is caught in the crosshairs of an epic battle, one that spans generations and species. As the clashes rage, Hopper learns terrible, extraordinary secrets. Deadly secrets about Atlantia. Painful secrets about his friends. 

And one powerful secret about himself.

When I first heard about Mouseheart, there was a comparison to the Redwall Series by Brian Jacques.  Surprisingly, for someone who does not typically like animal stories, I loved the Redwall Series. It was fantasy at it's finest and a great cast of animals, with epic stories and battles and journeys.  As a result, I was curious to read this book.

Whereas, Redwall is completely set in some medieval time period, Mouseheart begins in a pet shop in of all places Brooklyn, New York.  Soon though, readers follow Hopper as he escapes with his siblings and ends up in a medieval setting under Brooklyn. Atlantia of course has rats and mice and  felines.  There are those that are friends and those to be leery of, and Hopper has to decide who is friend and who is foe.

Adventure stories are also journey stories and for our very unlikley hero, Hopper, he must find the strength and courage to overcome his fears, and discover who he really is.  As a warning, Mouseheart is the first book in a series and does leave readers with some unanswered questions, and a desire to read the second book. 

The artwork in the Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) was not complete, so, it will be interesting to see the final artwork.  I know from speaking with my ARC Group (several students who gather to read ARCs and book talk to other students), though the cover art is stunning, it did scare away some of my more timid readers. It is true that there is some suspense and definitely some worrisome parts, but I have certainly read scarier books geared for the Middle Grade audience.  Consequently, it may be helpful to read bits and portions from the book, in order to draw in readers who love fantasy adventure but may be concerned that the book is too scary for them.

The bottom-line: Students who love animal fantasy and adventure stories will thoroughly enjoy Mouseheart.

Professional Reviews: Kirkus | Publisher's Weekly

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Lisa Fiedler is the author of several novels for children and young adults. She divides her time between Connecticut and the Rhode Island seashore, where she lives happily with her very patient husband, her brilliant and beloved daughter, and their two incredibly spoiled golden retrievers. 

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Vivienne To has illustrated several books, including The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins and the Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective series by Octavia Spencer. As a child, she had two pet mice escape. She currently lives in Sydney, Australia, with her partner and her ginger cat. Visit her at

Check out the official website here.

About the Giveaway:

One lucky reader has a chance of winning a special prize pack, which includes a copy of MOUSEHEART, THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA, and BELLY UP.

Prizing & samples courtesy of Simon & Schuster.  You must be 13 years old or older and have a US mailing address to enter the Giveaway.  To submit and official entry, please enter the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Simon & Schuster (April 15, 2014)
Young Adult
IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Amazon
Source: ARC for Review

Description from GoodReads:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.
Thuy's thoughts on this book:
I just finished this book and I have to say wow, I really liked this a lot more than I thought I would. Though I've heard lots of great things about Jenny Han (I have her Summer series one shelf waiting to be read and have met her and find her think she’s funny and adorable), contemporary YA novels aren't usually my thing and I wasn't sure how I would feel about this. However, the pretty pink cover drew me in and I decided to give it a chance, and I’m so glad I did. Fantastically written and well developed characters and relationships make this a standout book for me.

It was hard for me to connect with Lara Jean when I first started reading. Her voice is a lot younger and more naive than what I expected of a 16-year-old in a contemporary YA novel. However, as the story progressed and I got into Lara Jean’s head, I found myself really liking her and relating to her in a lot of ways. Lara Jean reminds me a lot of myself at her age. She is quiet and, while not unpopular, is not a part of the cool crowd. She isn't afraid to be herself but she still cares about what people think of her. She's a little naive and is afraid to move outside of her comfort zone. In a landscape littered with cunning teen assassins and snarky mean girls, Lara Jean’s sincerity and earnestness is a refreshing change.

Another thing I loved in the book were the relationships. While I don’t have sisters, the sibling relationship between the Song sisters rang true. No one knows how love you and to hurt you as much as a sibling does. I loved how strong the family ties were and how they supported each other. There is no absentee parenting in this book. I was also happy that there was no insta-love. I am usually pretty wary of love triangles, but it worked here because all of the characters were well developed and I can see why Lara Jean would be drawn to both boys for different reasons.

The book had some good secondary characters as well, the standout for me being Kitty, Lara Jean’s little sister. She reminds me a little bit of Louise Belcher from Bob’s Burgers and I have a feeling that she will be ruling the world one day. It was also nice to see a little diversity in the book with a bi-racial main character.

My only small gripe about this book is that I wish the ending was a longer. It felt a little rushed and wished I’d had a little more resolution. I’ve heard that the finished copy of the book (I read an ARC) has a longer ending though and I am interested in re-reading the ending to see if it provides a little more closure. And good news is that there will be another book! Things were left open ended for Lara Jean and I am glad to hear that there will be another book in this charming series.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a sweet, quirky coming of age story that will appeal to fans of contemporary YA fiction and romance. Now that I’ve read Jenny Han I can see why her books are so popular and I plan on reading more of her books soon.

Special thanks to Aly to lending me a copy of her ARC. :)

Side note: Lara Jean bakes cookies on several occasions in the book. One noticeable time is when she upsets Kitty and bakes her a batch of snickerdoodles as an apology. SimonTeen cleverly included a recipe card with the ARC for snickerdoodles, and I made a batch to celebrate the book’s release.

Below are a couple of pics of the results. Yum!

Lara Jean's Snickerdoodles

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Stir in the eggs. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. In a small bowl, stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar, and the cinnamon. Roll dough into walnut sized balls, then roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar. Place them onto an unprepared cookie sheet, two inches apart.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be slightly brown. Remove from sheets to cool on wire racks.

Here's how they turned out:

For more information about Jenny Han: website | blog | tumblr | twitter | facebook 

Thuy can be found blogging at Nite Lite Book Reviews.  Her name Thuy - sounds like twee. Not thigh, thooey, or tweed. She is a lifelong reader, who usually reads Young Adult Fiction (Sci Fi/Fantasy in particular), Paranormal Romance, Romance, Literary Fiction, Comics/Graphic Novels, Mysteries, Cookbooks and Crafts/Knitting books. She loves dogs, zombies, knitting, movies and, of course, reading.

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 14

For the next few days I am going to keep things a bit short.  Somehow with my lack of planning I have several blog tours and giveaways happening.  It's amazing how sometimes I have nothing exciting to post and then I hit a week or two where I have a ton of stuff.  Regardless, I am amazed that my blog has been around for over three years and that there are people actually reading it.  For this, I am thankful.

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation which I read with the 7 year old tonight:

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic
by Robert Burleigh; Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Simon & Schuster (February 2011)

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Locomotive

Author/Illustrator: Brian Floca
Publisher: Atheneum (September 3, 2013)
Source: Copy from Publisher
Audience: 2nd to 5th graders
History * 19th Century United States * Locomotives

Description from GoodReads:
All aboard! From the creator of the “stunning” (Booklist) Moonshot, a rich and detailed sensory exploration of America’s early railroads.

It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

My thoughts on this book:
Recently, I had the chance to hear Brian Floca speak at the SCIBA Children's Breakfast.  Floca's newest book is about trains, specifically steam engine locomotives.  Readers experience the first transcontinental journey made by the crew and families, as this iron horse travels across the country. 

During his speech at the breakfast, Floca shared with the audience about the making of the book.  He spoke about his own travels across the country to stop at locations where the train would have made stops.  Many of these are identified in the book.  He shared about the various primary and secondary sources he researched in order to bring this story to life. And through photographs, the audience also had the chance to watch Floca's creative process and how each step from sketches to ink drawings to watercolor paintings brought the book one step closer to the book we can now hold in our hands.

Trains hold a fascination for many.  Young children love stories about trains, watching a train barrel down a track, or riding on a train at a local park. Many of these children grow up to still maintain the fascination and interest in trains.  The brilliance of Locomotive is that it makes readers feel like they are right there from the first "ring of hammers on spikes" to the incredible attention to detail that is within each illustration to the types of fonts used to emphasize specific words and phrases. 

Floca has another winner on his hands with Locomotive.  Look for a copy of this book at your public library or local independent bookstore and experience the magic of trains.
More information about Brian Flocawebsite | blog | facebook | twitter | YouTube

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews: