As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

December 31, 2013

CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E.B. White, 2001

An affectionate pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, White reminds readers to open their eyes to the wonder and miracle found in the simplest of things. (Goodreads)

Reviewed by Sarah, old-fashioned girl at heart 

CHARLOTTE'S WEB is a delightful book about compassion, love, acceptance, and barnyard life.  Wilbur the pig has had a rough go of it right from the start; as the runt of the litter he is saved from euthanasia via ax by his owner’s daughter, Fern.  After basking in Fern’s loving and attentive care for 5 weeks he is sold to her uncle down the road.  In his new home he pines for Fern and longs for company.    When Charlotte the spider befriends him his troubles appear to be over, until he discovers the fate of farm pigs ends on the farmer’s plate.  Charlotte’s ingenious plan to save him amuses and warms the heart.

Charlotte and Wilbur are some of the most delightful characters ever penned.  Charlotte is wise, kind, loving, patient and humorous.  She also has a lovely sense of humor.  Wilbur is a rather shy, insecure, tenderhearted pig, and these qualities cause him some heartache.  In addition to these central two, the barn abounds with quirky characters: Templeton, the deliciously selfish rat; the garrulous goose, gander and goslings; and the cynical sheep. 

I read this book to my sister when she was a preschooler, and later to my own children.  A note of warning if you plan to read aloud; practice your animal voices thoroughly and be prepared to read the second to last chapter with a tight throat and teary eyes.  Because just like ‘real life,’ this magical book is a combination of fear and joy, humor and sorrow, love and loss. 

Market: Children’s Literature
Language: Wholesome; somewhat vocabulary expanding for children
Violence: None
Sensuality: None
Mature themes: death, self-sacrifice

December 26, 2013

THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell, 2011

In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep. Thirteen-year-old Reveka decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Valette M.

THE PRINCESS CURSE is a gem. And yes. This will be a raving post. I could go on an on about these characters, but for your sakes I will keep it brief...ish. Reveka is only thirteen, but demonstrates the maturity of those who have dealt primarily with adults their whole lives.. In fact, often times she was more mature than the adults around her, demonstrating her true character by staying true to what she believed and being willing to sacrifice for those she loved. Her age provided a perfect perspective for the plot. There was an interesting dynamic between Reveka and her father, an irritation/adoration type of thing, but his motives were seamless. At first I suspected Minhas (a former cowherd) of being a hero of the story, and in a way he is. But he's not the stereotypical hero type, and he's much better because of that. And Dragos was perfect, as a character. His strengths and flaws gave him a visible depth. His past is incredibly intriguing.

This plot is a remix of Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast. The Twleve Dancing princesses portion would be fairly standard, except it doesn't take place from the perspective of the princesses but from one of their servant's. The princesses are under a curse, shrouded in a mystery from which countless have fallen into a comatose state attempting to break. Someone must break it. Who better than Reveka? But breaking the curse is barely half of the plot. Finding herself wrapped up in something far bigger than she is, Reveka must decide what matters to her most, and what's worth fighting for. The rest is even better, but if I tell you, it would be a bit of a spoiler.

I found this book in the library's junior fiction section, but it can easily be enjoyed by all ages. Merrie Haskell does a marvelous job of keeping the fairy tales' classic feel while introducing  her own flair and sense of style. Reveka's engaging matter-of-fact manner mixed with the creative worlds Merrie Haskell paints make this book a definite re-read.

Market: Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: None
Mature Themes: Abduction

December 19, 2013

THE WISH by Gail Carson Levine, 2000

There's nothing wrong with Wilma Sturtz. She's perfectly nice. But nobody cares about nice at Claverford, her middle school. Wilma is left out, forgotten, ignored -- until she meets an extraordinary old lady who grants a wish: for Wilma to be the most popular kid in school. Presto! Everything changes. Now Wilma has more best friends than she can keep track of and forty dates to the Graduation Night Dance; and someone is writing her love poetry. What more could she want? Nothing! But will it last? How can Wilma make sure she is never unpopular again? (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

Eighth-grader Wilma Sturtz is ignored and miserable at school.  One day, she offers her seat on the bus to an old lady who offers to grant her one wish.  Wilma asks to be popular, and her wish is fulfilled. At first, her life changes for the better--then Wilma realizes her wish has an expiration date.  What can she do to remain loved by her new friends?

Gail Carson Levine is known for her fairy tale retellings, but THE WISH is a very realistic story with just a hint of magic.  In contemporary New York, Wilma is a regular girl--intelligent, average-looking, and a little bit awkward.  When she has the chance to become someone popular, well-known and liked, she takes it.  All of a sudden, she has a secret admirer, many not-so-secret admirers, and classmates falling at her feet in hopes of impressing her.  But this leads Wilma to question: What exactly do they like about her?  How can she remain true to herself if she doesn't know who that self is?

The Wish avoids the gossip girl/mean girl cliches by presenting even the "popular crowd" as real people with capacities to be kind. Although some characters are less likable than others, no "villain" overshadows Wilma's world.  Instead, The Wish presents an array of believable kids, trying to navigate the tumultuous waters of middle school.  Light humor and romance contribute to a fun and interesting story.

Market: Middle grade fiction
Violence: None
Language: Mild--one scene that refers to anatomy
Sensuality: Mild--kissing and hand-holding kinds of things
Adult Themes: Friendships, first romance, school, identity-building

December 17, 2013


Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory. The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect? (Amazon)

Review by Amy Finnegan - Writer, Reader, Bookshop Talk Host

There has been a lot of great buzz about DEFY for a year now, and Bookshop Talk was lucky enough to get our hands on an advanced reading copy! If you like one or all of the following, you should definitely read this book:

1. Girls who aren’t just fought over, but do the fighting themselves . . . and save the boys.
2. Hot guys (often in distress)
3. Nonstop action (it’s amazing how much is going on in this novel!)
4. A three book series so you don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite characters after just one adventure!

The thing I liked most about this book is that the main character, Alexa, truly has a good reason to be fighting—and fighting hard. But here’s the twist (no real spoiler here, I promise): Alexa works for the bad guys. So it isn’t like the usual tale of “good-vs-evil.” And not everyone who works for the king is bad . . . so Alexa’s internal dilemmas are realistic. She has to go up against the kingdom that houses and feeds her . . . and will be inherited by a boy she becomes rather attached to.

This book hasn't been officially released yet, but you can preorder DEFY now so it can be on your porch as soon as January 7th!

Also, Sara B. Larson has a great publishing story and an exceptional blog that often gives tips to aspiring writers. So check it out at

Market: Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: rape, a lot of war-related deaths, loss of loved ones

December 14, 2013

THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH by Rosemary Sutcliff, 1954

In A.D. 119 the Ninth Roman Legion marched north into the wilds of Britain beyond Agricola's Wall and disappeared without a trace. Fifteen years later, Marcus Flavius Aquila, the son of the unit's commander, embarks on a quest to recovers the lost eagle standard on the Ninth, symbol of a legion's- and his family's- honor. (Goodreads)

Review by Emily, avid bibliophile

THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH is one of those books. You know, the ones where you forget you're even seeing words on a page. Somehow, while I was reading it, I felt that I really was in ancient Britain, with Marcus, the injured centurion, and his friend Esca. The descriptions are so wonderfully evocative of the place, the time, and the situations that Marcus and Esca face.

But the story is more than just its setting. It's a tale of honor lost that must be regained, and of the lengths that Marcus must go to in order to find the symbol of that honor.

Marcus' father was a legionary in the Ninth Roman Legion, which disappeared beyond the boundaries of Rome's influence. Their standard was lost with them, and Marcus is determined to bring it back.
Market: Young Adult Fiction
Language: Mild
Sensuality: None
Violence: Moderate
Mature Themes: Family honor, pride

December 9, 2013

AFTER HELLO by Lisa Mangum, 2012

Seventeen-year-old Sara is a seeker. She's always on the lookout for the perfect moment to capture with her ever-present, point-and-shoot camera. Sam is a finder. He has a knack for finding what other people can't. When Sam and Sara's paths cross, neither one of them is prepared for what they will find out about each other and about themselves when they form an unlikely partnership in search of an elusive work of art. Fate brought their talents together, but what happens when time runs out? (Amazon)

Reviewed by Brooke-Wife, Mother, Reader

I loved AFTER HELLO.  It was quirky, sweet, thought provoking.  I loved the dynamic between the 2 main characters.  I loved that Sara sees New York City in a way I've never looked at it (not that I've been there a lot).  I loved the 2 different points of view, but one in first person, the other in third person.  I loved the adventure, the quest these 2 characters went on.  I loved the sweetness and kindness between these two.  And I loved the message of holding on to memories that are important and letting go of ones that need to be set free so they don't hurt us anymore.

Market: Teen/Young Adult
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild, Flirting, Kissing
Violence: Mild, Memories of a car crash
Mature Themes: Disobeying parents, Death of friends

December 4, 2013

A BOOK DRAGON by Donn Kushner, 1987

Nonesuch, the last in a line of dragons, uses his unique ability to change in size to survive for six centuries, during which time he observes such different humans as a medieval monk, an eighteenth-century London chemist, and a modern American bookseller. (Amazon)

Review by Emily, avid bibliophile

I first picked A BOOK DRAGON up on a rainy day at the library. I figured I could read a chapter or two and wait out the rain.

Well, I ended up finishing the entire book. I admit it: I was enchanted by the main character, Nonesuch the dragon. The story, though short, spans thousands of years of history - Nonesuch finds his way into the lives of several very interesting people, including a monk who illuminated manuscripts, Brother Theophilus, a bookstore owner, Mr. Samuel Gottlieb and his family, and several dastardly villains. 

Oh, and a book. He becomes attached to a book, created by the good Brother, and follows it on its journeys through a robbery, a plague, and a long wait in a warehouse. When at last it comes to light, he decides that he must protect the book and the family who has uncovered it at any cost.

It's a good story, and I really love Nonesuch. The discoveries he makes about himself, his family line, and the world around him are actually quite thought-provoking.

Market: probably children's fiction?
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild
Mature Themes: None