Monday, December 14, 2015

An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth

An Astronaut's Guide To Life On Earth 

by Chris Hadfield

Plot:

Chris Hadfield tells his life story about how he overcame all odds to become commander of the International Space Station. This book tells you how prepare for and pursue your own personal dreams and goals. Chris Hadfield teaches us that preparation, humor and learning from mistakes can propel us forward in life. In the book he goes through his life and how he had many medical conditions that could have prevented him from becoming the commander of the International Space Station but he never gave up and never giving up is the only reason he is where he is today. In the book he tells a story of when he and his wife went to an Elton John concert. A local radio station was trying to get Elton John to call Hadfield up on stage to play a song with him.  Hadfield decided that if he got this chance, the song would be Rocket Man, so for weeks he practiced playing Rocket Man on his guitar just in case Elton John called him up on stage. This ties into a recurring theme of preparing for things even if they might not happen but just knowing that you're ready in case it does. At the start of the book he talks about his childhood and how he was always fascinated by space and how he always had the dream of becoming the commander of the International Space Station and how he wanted people to know who he was.

Thoughts:

My thoughts on this book where that it was very interesting and that I learned a lot about space travel and what goes into becoming an astronaut. This book was filled with facts that kept me reading and also there were many life lessons that he had learned through his life that I can use in my life to become successful.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in learning more about what goes on behind the scenes at NASA and what is done to become the commander of the International Space Station. This book would also be good for anyone who likes a quick biography that keeps you interested the whole way through.

reviewed by L.P., Grade 10 Scona student


It's Kind Of A Funny Story

It's Kind Of A Funny Story

by Ned Vizzini

Plot:

When 15-year-old high school freshmen Craig Gilner attends a Pre-Professional High School, an overwhelming wave of tasks takes over. The pressure becomes unbearable. He only finds peace in being lazy and using drugs. Craig eventually winds up in the hospital when he has a suicidal episode, where he makes a couple of friends who have struggled with life just as much as himself.

My thoughts:


Personally, I found the book to be quite satisfying! In the beginning I could feel how emotionally deprived Craig was and all the pressure he was going through with school. Gradually, Craig gained happiness and self worth. Developed relationships with others that he valued. He was flourishing as a person before our eyes! The characters are well done but I had difficulty remembering which old lady was which...otherwise great job! Craig’s strange perspective on life is really interesting, its really what got me liking his character (as well as his love for drawing). I would recommend this to someone who is a teenager or someone with a sense of humor. This novel is all about Craig and how he overcomes depression and discovers what he really wants in life. Isn’t that all teenagers? 

reviewed by T.G., Grade 10 Scona student

Dualed

Dualed

by Elsie Chapman

Plot:

Imagine a world where everywhere is plagued by war and death, besides the city you live in. The Government of Kersh is one of the only safe havens in the country, this is because every citizen is a trained warrior. Every citizen has an alternate version of themselves that they need to kill. from the age of 12-20 the citizens train for the moment where they are assigned they have thirty-one  days   to try and kill their alternant  by any means necessary or be killed by their alternant, whoever is the successful alternate is the stronger warrior in the city of Kersh  
This is the world of West Grayer, she has been training since she was a young girl. West is an experienced fighter and gunsmith this will help her when she gets assigned, this is when The Government has 4 words for her “Kill or Be Killed”

My Thoughts:

This book is an exciting ride from start to finish. When i signed it out after reading the back of the book I knew it would be a book for me.  I really like that it puts you in the shoes of West Grayer with a first person writing style. Elsie Chapman is a very good author I especially enjoyed the way she makes you feel what the characters are feeling in certain situations and how the setting is laid out, this allows readers to get immersed in reading the text.  Throughout reading the book it reminded me of The Jason Bourne movies and the book Boy Nobody with the constant action and suspense they both have. If anyone like books from the first person and like action and suspense and want to rarely put a book down. I strongly recommend Dualed by Elsie Chapman

reviewed by K.M., Grade 10 Scona student


A Child Called “It”

A Child Called “It”

by Dave Pelzer

Plot:

“It”, was starved, beaten and thrown into a world of abuse.  “It’s” name was David.  Being raised by abusive parents, and turning alcoholic, Dave’s “mother” quickly repeated the cycle, by turning all her rage and fury on him.  Punishments started off “small”, such as screaming and minor injuries for things “done wrong” to months later where Dave, was starved and severely beaten.  His dad soon became his savior, but spent most of his time at work avoiding life and his monstrous wife.  Dressed in rags and taunted by other students, school became Dave’s safe place where he was safe from his mother’s wrath.  In a dark and isolated world, fighting to survive, Dave’s only way of lasting, is to not give up on his will to live.

My thoughts:

I decided to read this book after learning from the librarian, that it was a true story about a boy forced to endure child abuse.  Easy to read, this novel kept me up until early hours, the intensity building, forbidding me to put it down.  Dave Pelzer was victimized daily by his mother.  As if trapped in a nightmare, he always seemed to be within her grasp, fear keeping him from running out of it and exposing the “family secret.”  From stabbed, to burned, his mother’s punishments were endless.  This novel is eye opening, provoking readers to become aware of child abuse, which often goes unnoticed.  The book makes readers feel several emotions, causing them, in a way, to feel the pain of being neglected.  

I highly recommend reading this book, as it is, attention grabbing and mind-altering.  People who are interested in intriguing true stories should read the novel, A child called It, by Dave Pelzer.

reviewed by M.L., Grade 10 Scona student

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott-Fitzgerald

Plot:

Narrator Nick Carroway, a well off young man, moves to the new money neighbourhood of West Egg where he resides adjacent to the mansion of the illusive Gatsby. Night after night, extravagant parties are thrown there, drawing in people of all sorts, yet not one of them knows who Gatsby is or what secrets he hides. The story takes a turn when an old love is rekindled but these star-crossed lovers begin to feel the weight of their reality.

My Thoughts:

I selected the Great Gatsby because I had heard many good things about it from numerous people and was interested in reading a classic. This novel didn’t disappoint! Anyone from grade 10 and up could easily read this despite the slight change in language due to the settings taking place in the roaring 20’s. I found the author, F. Scott-Fitzgerald, to be an eloquent writer who used themes that almost mirror those in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. There are many similarities between these heartbreaking love stories in that forbidden romances both flourish and die fleetingly, leaving behind an irreparable mess. Fitzgerald’s use of writing techniques such as emphasis of sensory details and his insightful foreshadowing allows the reader to see beneath the surface of the story. By diving deeply into each character's distinct personality Fitzgerald was able to highlight every strength and every flaw. His accentuation of many of the characters flaws made for a more interesting and dynamic read. The connections between this novel and the wildly popular Romeo and Juliet allows this novel to appeal to many audiences, especially teens.


I highly recommend this novel and hope others will enjoy as much as I did. I would give this book a 8/10. Enjoy!

reviewed by M.L., Grade 10 Scona student

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Dead I Know

The Dead I Know

by Scot Gardner  

Plot:

When Aaron lands a job at the local morgue things seem to turn for the better. Nonetheless, Aaron is hiding his grandma's illness from himself and everyone else. However, things soon begin to go downhill. His grandma ends up in hospital and his neighbours are accusing him of murder, what else could go wrong? Well,   Aaron faces the challenges of his own subconscious mind everyday. With dangerous sleepwalking and recurring dreams he can't explain, will he be able to put the pieces together before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

I picked up this book merely because I was intrigued by what others had told me about it. When I first glanced at the summary I wasn’t impressed, but I soon took to the main character Aaron and I couldn't put it down. Readers will grow attached to Aaron and be rooting for him throughout the entire book. Why? Well, Aaron has a hard life at home which made me feel pity for him. No one is ever home, he is always looking out and running around after his grandmother, and lastly he appears to be lonely. As the book progressed all I could hope for was the best for him. The Dead I Know is like an onion. It has many layers and situations to it. Amongst the main idea of the book there are many other scenarios unfolding. I don't generally read books of this genre, however, this one was a good change. It has a mystery aspect that always kept me guessing and wondering what was going to happen next. Scot Gardner also adds quirky details to add suspense and reality into the book. For example, at the beginning of every chapter he includes a snippet of Aaron's crazy dreams. This book is a moderate and mature read written to be read by young adults. I would not recommend this book for anyone under the age of fourteen. Although the book does have some humour it also contains some heavy adult situations (mental illnesses, relationships, etc.). If you get queasy when reading books about blood, detached body parts or death I would not recommend this book. As the book is about working for a morgue, he discusses many of the procedures and situations involved in preparing the body for the service.  
  
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a good read and a change in pace. Anyone who enjoys mystery, reality and suspense should pick up The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner. If you liked The protected by Claire Zorn you would love The Dead I Know.


reviewed by R.S., Grade 10 Scona student

Relax, I'm A Ninja

Relax, I’m A Ninja

by Natalie Whipple

Plot:

You may not believe ninjas are real, but after this book you might think twice. Tosh is just an ordinary, if not even a little nerdy, kid in everyone's perspective until you know his true side. It’s not easy being an undercover ninja for Tosh, going to school not being able to use your skills in public. He soon realizes this when a ninja with a poisoned blade starts killing teens. Tosh and new recruit, Amy Sato, set out to identify the killer but soon find out that Ninjutsu is more evil than either of them could ever imagine. The closer Amy and Tosh grow together they develop a connection that is outrageous and realize this is how they can stop this lethal murderer but it could also cost both of them their lives.

My thoughts:

I choose this book after walking around the library for a very long time and nothing popping out at me until I saw this, after reading the back I was hooked I knew I was going to love this book. I normally don't read too many books because I either don't like what it's about or it's just  too long, but this booked was great I kept me constantly on the edge of my seat. I personally love this book because it's a perfect mixture of drama and action there wasn't too many dull moments. Tosh is a great character in this story because everyone thinks of him as some wimpy nerd but truly he's a great ninja and friend and that's what makes him such a cool character. If you're into action and you like books with a little drama this is a great book and you will want to read the next one.           


reviewed by I. S., Grade 10 Scona student

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Animal Farm

Animal Farm

by George Orwell

Plot Summary:

Manor Farm is home to many different animals, under the oppression of Mr. Jones, one of the main Pig's Old Major comes up with a brilliant new idea in his sleep and tells all the other animals about it. This new idea was called “Animalism” which consist of only seven rules. After preaching to all the animals on how humans only consume and don’t produce they throw out Mr. Jones from Manor Farm. The animals are independent and live by the seven rules of Animalism for the rest of the farms life with twists in the farm.

Thoughts:

Animal Farm is a short and quick read, I personally enjoyed it because I enjoy history and political ideologies and anyone who enjoys that should read Animal Farm. The characters themselves represent old Political leaders and Philosophers. The Pigs are at the top of the social structure Napoleon, Snowball and Old Major are the most important. Napoleon represents Stalin because he was the leader while Snowball represented Trotsky.

I enjoyed Animal Farm not only because of the connections from real people, but ideologies that tied into real quotations made by Marx. Through quotes such as “The worker in his human functions no longer feels himself to be anything but [an] animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal”(Marx 1844) It took a literal approach at quotations by philosophers, political leaders and revolutionists. For those that are interested in history, politics and social structure in the 20th Century. I strongly recommend Animal Farm for a quick read and if you want to make real life connections to history in a well-written and humorous manner.

reviewed by S. M., Grade 10 Scona student


The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky

Plot:

Charlie, an awkward teenager, is a "wallflower" a shy boy who prefers to watch rather than get involved. That is until two students become his mentors. Patrick and his free-spirited stepsister Sam show Charlie how to view things from a different perspective. How to enjoy music, first loves, and the overall joy of having true friends. When his teacher helps make his dream of being a writer a reality Charlie is ravished with happiness. That is until his two friends graduate and his confidence starts to fade.

My thoughts:

I was given this book as a gift in April. I had heard about it a long time before as well as watching a snippet of the newly produced movie when my friends were watching it on the airplane. I never really knew what it was about and it didn't really appeal to me. That was until I started reading and couldn't put down the book. I was quickly able to relate to Charlie (being a high school student who was once very shy). The realism and detail in the novel is strong throughout the novel pulling readers like myself to forget about reality and stay up all night reading. Charlie's life has many twists and turns and shows just how tough life can be. With the diary format of the book, it’s easy to understand not only Charlie's words but his thoughts and feelings. This book often reminded me of the strong bonds and quirky adventures in Paper Towns, although the more serious topics, as well as format separated the two novels. The one and only downside to the novel in my opinion is not shedding light to the fate of a few sub-characters. Overall great read, and tremendously relatable.

Overall rating: 8 ½ books / 10 (I highly recommend this to any teenage student who has had ups and downs. So basically everyone).

reviewed by I. F., Grade 10 Scona student


Uglies

Uglies

by Scott Westerfeld

Plot:

This descriptive book takes you on the adventure of a young girl named Tally. The world she lives in looks perfect on the outside but on the inside it is far from it. Separated by looks teens cannot wait till there 16, this is when the get there operation to change their looks into something you could only dream of. Tally is ecstatic to change and be with her best friend Peris who has already had the operation. But one night of breaking rules leads Tally to be friend a new girl name Shay. Everything turns from there. Tally will have to make the most important decision of her life it will change everything.

My Thoughts:

I am very pleased with this book. There was always something happening and I never got bored with it.  The main character Tally was well developed and very relatable.
Even though they are not realistic situations Tally seems to make the choice I believe we would all make if we were in her shoes. In one part of the book Tally has to choose either to stay ugly forever or find Shay. Tally decides to go with what she wants but later has a change of heart.  The book also caught a glimpse of how her choices affected her and the people around her. An example of this is in the beginning of the book Tally makes the choice to sneak out and see Peris, because of this she meets Shay. I appreciated how the book also gave you a little back story on Peris and tally’s relationship of best friends. Uglies always kept me on my toes wanting to know what happened next. The ending will make you yearn for the next book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves adventure. Also to the people who just want to fit in. If you ever need an amazing read you should hands down get Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

reviewed by J.P., Grade 10 Scona student


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Challenger Deep

Challenger Deep

by Neal Shusterman

Synopsis:

Caden Bosch is on a ship that''s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship''s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page,Challenger Deepis a heartfelt tour de force by one of today''s most admired writers for teens.

My thoughts:

This novel takes readers into the mind of a 15 year old boy who is becoming schizophrenic.  Sometimes Caden is in the real world, and sometimes he is on a pirate ship bound for the deepest part of the ocean, under the control of a one-eyed captain and his cruel parrot.  The reader struggles to determine what is real, and what is not, just as Caden does.  Readers experience the development of Caden’s disease as his moments in reality become shorter and shorter.  His teachers, friends and family know something is wrong but are helpless as Caden spirals deeper into his psychosis.  Eventually Caden’s parents become desperate and admit him into a juvenile mental facility.  There readers see Caden’s thought processes, the effects of medication, or lack thereof, on his everyday functioning. We see his spiral into darkness, and his return to reality, and everything in between. Shusterman masterfully portrays the benefits and detriments of treatment, and how a lesser evil is often the only choice for someone at the end of their rope.

Knowing that Schusterman is drawing on his own son’s experience only makes this story more powerful and at times, painful.  Smart and funny, intelligent and poignant, frightening and thought provoking — this novel will stay with readers a long time.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lies I Told

Lies I Told

by Michelle Zink

Synopsis:

Since Grace was adopted by the Fontaines, she has been carefully taught the art of the scam and has an uncanny ability to create a personality to help her "parents," but their latest job has her questioning everything she has been taught and the family she has grown to love.

My thoughts:

A girl struggles to hold onto her own identity within her family of thieves.

Grace disobeys her parents by keeping mementos from her family’s previous criminal jobs. She hopes she hasn’t completely become the deceptive creature her parents trained her to be from the time they adopted her as a young teen. Now 17, Grace has moved with her family to an affluent area as part of a plot to steal millions in gold from Warren Fairchild, a wildly wealthy but mentally unstable man. Her parents assign Grace to get close to Logan, Fairchild’s son, a task she finds only too easy, as she and Logan truly fall for each other. Grace likes her new friends in Playa Hermosa, making one truly good friend for the first time in her life, her family having moved incessantly to keep up with jobs and ahead of the police. She lives with the realization that she must lie to these good people constantly, and she knows she must betray Logan, whom she loves. Zink deftly weaves the story together, employing foreshadowing and symbolism to support the plot. Although readers know from the prologue that things will turn out badly, suspense ripples throughout the story. Grace’s character blooms as she balances between the good person she hopes to be and the bad one she’s forced to be.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Last Time We Say Goodbye


The Last Time We Say Goodbye

by Cynthia Hand

Synopsis:

We just don't pay attention.
Until we do.

There''s death all around us.
The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment.
Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that''s all she''ll ever be.
As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there''s a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent that could have changed everything.
Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.

My thoughts:

After her younger brother's suicide, ordinarily rational Alexis starts seeing her younger brother's ghost.
Seven weeks after Ty shot himself with a hunting rifle, Alexis' mom announces she's seen him in the house. Alexis, a math student with aspirations of attending MIT, is skeptical but soon sees visions of her own. Alexis watches Ty die in recurring dreams, reluctantly relives firsts and lasts in a journal suggested by her therapist, and tries to stay strong for her mom, who is drinking to cope and certain that her own life is over. Alexis herself hasn't cried since her brother's death. Instead, moments of intense emotion open what Alexis powerfully describes as a "hole in my chest." The hauntings here are more emotional than paranormal, and Alexis' journey primarily entails reconnecting with estranged friends and family and slowly moving on. The characters involved are many—a childhood friend–turned–occultist stoner, Alexis' emotionally absent father and Ty's last girlfriend, to name a few—but each storyline is distinctly important and carefully woven in. Details of Ty's last days, Alexis' sense of guilt and the incident itself are revealed slowly and are often unexpected but always believable.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bone Gap

Bone Gap

by Laura Ruby

Synopsis:

Bone Gapis the story of Roza, a beautiful girl who is taken from a quiet midwestern town and imprisoned by a mysterious man, and Finn, the only witness, who cannot forgive himself for being unable to identify her kidnapper. As we follow them through their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures, acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness-a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

My thoughts:

A teenage boy wrestles against forces real and imagined in a small, rural town named Bone Gap.
Finn was the only one to witness the kidnapping of brother Sean’s beautiful girlfriend, Roza, at the spring festival. But when he looks at mug shots, all the faces look frustratingly similar. Meanwhile, a tall man with eyes like ice who demands her love traps Roza in an ever changing netherworld. But Roza is determined to find her way back to Sean and Finn’s backyard, no matter what the cost. Told from the viewpoints of multiple Bone Gap citizens, this inventive modern fable whimsically combines elements of folklore, mythology, romance and feminism. Finn starts out as a daydreaming cipher, but when he discovers he has a condition called “face blindness,” his vague character comes into sharp focus, and his mission to battle the tall man becomes clear. Both Roza and Finn’s love interest, Priscilla, develop over the course of the magically real journey into strong women to be reckoned with, while the secondary characters, including a sassy beekeeper, wise chicken farmer and self-aware horse, are charming and memorable. And if the transitions between reality and fantasy are a little rocky and the worldbuilding occasionally a little thin, it can be forgiven due to the sheer ambition of the refreshingly original plot.

Cleverly conceived and lusciously written.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Razorhurst

Razorhurst

by Justine Larbalestier

Synopsis:

Sydney’s deadly Razorhurst neighborhood, 1932. Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson, two ruthless mob bosses, have reached a fragile peace—one maintained by “razor men.” Kelpie, orphaned and homeless, is blessed (and cursed) with the ability to see Razorhurst’s many ghosts. They tell her secrets the living can’t know about the cracks already forming in the mobs’ truce. 

Then Kelpie meets Dymphna Campbell, a legendary beauty and prized moll of Gloriana Nelson. She’s earned the nickname “Angel of Death” because none of her beaus has ever survived knowing her. Unbeknownst to Kelpie, Dymphna can see ghosts, too, and she knows that Gloriana’s hold is crumbling one henchman at a time. As loyalties shift and betrayal threatens the two girls at every turn, Dymphna is determined not only to survive, but to rise to the top with Kelpie at her side.


My thoughts:

Kelpie sees ghosts.

An orphaned street urchin in the slums of 1932 Sydney, she has learned to survive not only the ill intent of the living, but also the machinations of the bored dead, who stir up trouble for their own entertainment. Weakened by hunger, she lets a malicious shade lead her astray, catapulting her straight into a crisis that, like a carnival ride, will both thrill and nauseate readers. Along the way, she is alternately helped and foiled by her fellow inhabitants of Razorhurst, including femme fatale Dymphna Campbell, who coped with the trauma of her early life by refashioning herself as the city’s most expensive prostitute. Dymphna’s recently deceased paramour and protector, Jimmy Palmer, hounds the pair through the city, offering both good and bad advice as they try to escape the clutches of the two competing crime bosses on their trail. Straight from the opening lines, the suspenseful narrative is both dizzying and illuminating as it rotates among the characters, giving a nearly 360-degree perspective on the life-threatening mess that Kelpie and Dymphna find themselves in. Characters both living and dead reveal crucial pieces of the plot slowly over the course of one harrowing day.

My Heart and Other Black Holes


My Heart and Other Black Holes

by Jasmine Wanga

Synopsis:


Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There''s only one problem: she''s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel''s convinced she''s found her solution-a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman), who''s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner.

My thoughts:

Sixteen-year-old Aysel’s life “can be neatly divided into two sections: before my father made the nightly news and after.” Since her mentally ill father murdered a local boy with Olympic hopes, Aysel feels as though her only escape from the public shame is suicide. She also worries that her father’s madness is genetic and exists inside her as well. Through a website that matches suicide partners, Aysel meets Roman, a kind, attractive, athletic boy who feels responsible for the drowning death of his little sister. Even though Aysel harbors a passion for science and Roman a love of basketball, they are determined not to let each other “flake out.” Together they begin enacting a fake relationship designed to lull Roman’s overprotective mother into allowing Roman more freedom so they can carry out their fatal plan. But when Aysel begins falling in love with Roman for real, she knows she can no longer follow through on their pact. Can she convince Roman that his life is worth living before it’s too late? Any teen who’s ever felt like an outsider will be able to relate to Aysel’s and Roman’s fully realized characters. The countdown at the beginning of each chapter to the couple’s death date (the same day Roman’s sister died) will help propel readers forward to a hopeful if not entirely unexpected ending.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Undertow


Synopsis:



Readers are quickly plunged into Lyric’s world where three years earlier 30 0000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean dwelling warriors emerge on her beach in Coney Island.  The Alpha now live in a containment camp on the beach and Lyric’s home has turned into a police state where angry protesters, who want the Alpha, gone roam the streets.  When six Alpha teenagers are integrated into the public high school, and Lyric is coerced into befriending Fathom, the Alpha prince, her family’s complicated web of hidden truths threatens to unravel.

My thoughts:



I picked up this book after reading the star review on School Library Journal  and I am glad that I did.  I was immediately drawn to the protagonist and narrator Lyric.  A heroine who is strong, smart with just the right amount of snark.  The action in the novel is nonstop and kept me reading well past my bedtime.  Lyric’s family's secret is hinted at but not revealed until well into the novel and that adds to the suspense.  As well, there is a sharp political commentary and strong parallels to the treatment of minorities.   It reminded me of the movie District 9 at parts but then, this idea of outsiders fitting in is a common theme but what makes this book different is the outsiders.  Readers don’t know what the Alpha want.  Should we see them with their strange powers as a threat or is humanity a threat to them?  The supporting characters are well rounded and readers will be rooting for them throughout.  

I highly recommend this novel and hope the next in the series is released soon. Anyone who enjoys action, suspense with the added bonus of a bit of romance, should pick up the novel Undertow by Michael Buckley.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Liars, Inc.

Liars, Inc.

by Paula Stokes

Synopsis:

A dark and twisted psychological tale that will keep readers guessing, perfect for fans of I Hunt Killers and Gone Girl.

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money. So with the help of his friend Preston and his girlfriend, Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something, and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn''t think twice about it. But then Preston never comes home. And the evidence starts to pile up.

Evidence that points to Max as the killer....

My thoughts:

When Max's friend goes missing, he finds himself in the middle of an increasingly tangled web of lies and conspiracy.
Max's two best friends in the world are his girlfriend, Parvati, and a senator's son, Preston. The three share a gift for lying effectively, and when Preston asks Max to give him an alibi so he can go to Vegas, Max doesn't even blink. But when Preston doesn't return the next morning, Max suddenly becomes the prime person of interest. With Parvati's help, Max does his best to clear his name and discover Preston's true whereabouts. As the mystery unfolds, readers will be put on edge for two reasons: first, Stokes' superb knack for misdirection and intrigue, and second, Max's increasingly poor decisions. Whenever a fork in the road appears and Max must choose between cooperating with the police and making himself a guiltier target, he chooses the latter. This quality is frustrating but remarkably endearing. Max is so well-drawn it's hard not to be completely sympathetic to his predicament. As the ground beneath his feet falls away, Max uncovers bigger and stranger clues regarding Preston's fate, and the author twists and turns at all the right moments. Even the keenest mystery buffs will be hard-pressed to predict the book's finale, which packs quite the emotional and physical punch. Captivating to the very end.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass 

By Sarah J. Maas

Synopsis: 

In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien. The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

My Thoughts:

Throne of Glass, the first in a series of six, introduces us to the world of Celaena Sardothien. A world that once sucked in, readers will not be easily let go.  Our main character, Celaena, is so many things. She is strong, cunning, ruthless and selfless while at the same time she's vindictive, self-centered and maybe a little immature. In other words, while she may be considered the worlds greatest assassin, she is also completely human and ruled by her emotions and her past. And her past is a bit of  a doozy. After being betrayed and forced to spend a year in slave labor, Celaena is chosen to participate in a contest against 23 other criminals for a chance at a full pardon and freedom. As if being pitted against ruthless killers wasn't enough, something in the castle proves that those 23 contestants may just be the least of her worries. 

This book was incredibly fast paced, unpredictable and I was unable to put it down from the start. Each book following Throne of Glass just gets better and better. You can see Maas grow as a writer and if you compare book 1 and book 3 it's hard to believe that it was written by the same person because her writing grew so much.



If you love fantasy then believe me when I say, you do not what to miss this series! 


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           Prequel Novella's          Book two                  Book three       Book four- releases 9/1

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Curse

by Marie Rutkoski

Synopsis:

They were never meant to be together. As a general's daughter, seventeen-year-old Kestrel enjoys an extravagant and privileged life. Arin has nothing but the clothes on his back. Then Kestrel makes an impulsive decision that binds Arin to her. Though they try to fight it, they can't help but fall in love. In order to be together, they must betray their people . . . but to be loyal to their country, they must betray each other.Set in a new world,The Winner's Curse is a story of rebellion, duels, ballroom dances, wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My thoughts:

I think lately we have forgotten that a strong female character doesn't just mean that she can physically kick a lot of ass. We have a tendency to paste a label of 'damsel' on any woman who can't fight and kill men 3X their size. We forget that intellect, being true to yourself, knowing your limitations and making difficult choices in difficult situations is also incredibly strong.I loved Kestrel for all these reasons. In a world where you must enlist or you wed, Kestrel is a general’s daughter who lacks skill in combat. She prefers music and intellectual games, music which is deemed for slaves not for any high born. She is a master in planning and can easily plan how to win a battle but the battle itself is just not for her. I cannot stress how much I love this. I love diverse characters but especially diverse women. Men have owned stories for a lifetime and it is now that women get to really shine. Kestrel was beautifully written with a realism to her that made me connect. She was never written in a light of perfection, she knows her flaws but she also knows her own strengths. I think most of my love for this book comes from Kestrel's character (not saying the rest wasn't any good but she shined and I wanted more and more and more of her). Arin was a Herrani slave bought by Kestrel in a moment of weakness to his defiant eyes. He has a mysterious background that I hope we learn more of in the forthcoming books, we got a bit but I want it all. I have back and forth feelings for Arin, on the one hand I completely understand his actions and his hatred is completely valid but on the other hand, he endangers Kestrel and dude, not cool. Overall, I really adored 'The Winner's Curse'. I was really nervous going into it because it's gotten SUCH rave reviews but to me it really lived up to them. The writing and story were unique and so beautiful and I can't wait to see how the story ends!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sea of Shadows

Sea of Shadows

by Kelley Armstrong

Synopsis:

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire''s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.


Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters'' journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they've ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court--one that will alter the balance of their world forever.


My thoughts:


Twin sisters Ashyn and Moria were born to be the Seeker and the Keeper of Edgewood.  Their duty is to protect the village and obey the spirits that live there but once a year the Seeker must perform a Seeking, entering the Forest to bury the dead and put their spirits at rest while the Keeper protects the village from any malicious spirits that try to flee. With their sixteenth birthday passed the girls perform the Seeking by themselves for the first time and when Ashyn enters the forest the monsters she finds there are creatures right out of Moria's legends.  When most of the village is massacred, the girls are separated and flee the village in search of the each other. As they cross the Waste, with the help of their bonded animals and two very different boys, they must battle more legendary creatures and wonder if they will ever see their twin again.  In Sea of Shadows, Armstrong has switch from her usually genre of paranormal to fantasy with surprising skill though of course there is still the romantic drama one expects from Armstrong.  Ashyn and Moria are both very well written characters with strong personalities that aren't afraid to take the harder (or more difficult moral) path to set wrongs right. Full of action, romantic drama that was already mentioned, and a few monsters, Sea of Shadows is a fantastic opener it what is bound to be an amazing trilogy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In The Shadows

In The Shadows

Text Story by Kiersten White/Art & Art Story by Jim di Bartolo

Synopsis:

If you could live forever, what price would you pay?

Two sisters living in a sleepy Maine town hope for very different things. Sixteen-year-old Cora wants nothing more than to move past the wild emotions of her youth, while fifteen-year-old Minnie wishes everything in her life felt as magical as the Gothic novels she devours. Both girls are intrigued by Arthur, the boy with no past but an abundance of mysteries, living in their boarding house.
When two new boarders, brothers the girls'' own age, arrive unexpectedly, the beckoning night pulls the teens out of the house and into a mystery. But as the new friends grow closer, their adventure takes a turn for the worse. Something sinister is happening in their sleepy town, and the teens must uncover the truth about its shadowy history — before the menacing past of one of their own catches up to them.

My thoughts:

In The Shadows is a wonderful collaboration between Kiersten White who provides a beautifully written gothic narrative and Jim di Bartolo who supplies a dark and mysterious wordless graphic novel adventure.  In White's story Minnie and Cora, whose mother owns a boarding house in a quiet coastal town, are surprised when a mysterious boy name Arthur shows up on their doorstep with nowhere else to go.  Arthur, who is quiet and keeps to himself, ends up staying at the boardinghouse longer than planned having been mesmerized by the sisters especially Minnie.  With the arrival of Thomas and his severely ill brother, Charles, Minnie introduces the teens to the local folklore starting with a trip to the witch's house which sets the teens on a path to discover that not all is as it seems in the quaint little seaside town and causes Arthur to take on a quest that he never wanted. Di Bartolo's graphic novel takes place over a span of a hundred years and follows one man as he tracks a group of men that hold a little blond boy in chains with in an iron cage.  Readers will be unable to put down this compelling read as they try to figure out how these two stories are related which is not at all obvious at the start.  By the end of the book as the two stories connect to become one complete tale readers will be amazed and want to go back through the story to see if there was any clues that were overlooked.  In The Shadows is a unique and wonderfully maddening hybrid novel that readers and non-readers will enjoy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

100 Sideways Miles

100 Sideways Miles

by Andrew Smith

Synopsis:

Destiny takes a detour in this heartbreakingly hilarious novel from the acclaimed author of Winger, which Kirkus Reviews called “smart” and “wickedly funny.”

Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.


Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.


My thoughts:

After a bizarre accident that involved a dead horse falling off a bridge which killed his mother and let Finn with epileptic episodes and a weird scar pattern on his back Finn Easton's father wrote a science fiction book that became a cult classic.  One of his father's characters has Finn's name, his heterochromatic eyes, his epilepsy, his weird back scar, and his odd habit of measuring time in miles traveled by the earth instead of minutes and hours making Finn feel like he is trapped in his father's book unable to move forward. To make matters worse he lives in a California canyon that was the site of a major dam-break disaster (he is a bit obsessed about it) and his best friend Cade, who has never treated Finn like he is a character in his father's book (mainly because he has never read said book) is the King of the school which means Finn is always in his shadow. All this adds up to Finn having a fairly negative look on life and feeling rather stuck in place.  Things change when Finn meets Julia, a new student from Chicago, who finds Finn's oddness endearing instead of just plain weird. When Julia tells him that she is moving back home Finn is crushed and seems to return to the same bleak place he was in before meeting Julia. Deciding to ahead with what is supposed to be a simple road trip with Cade to visit an Oklahoma University ends up being an adventure that involves a torrential downpour, a heroic water rescue, mistaken identities and a detour to Chicago that finally allows Finn to feel like he has broken free of his father's book and can life his own life.  Andrew Smith has written another stunning masterpiece of fiction in 100 Sideways Mile which following the success of his novels Grasshopper Jungle and Winger is no surprise.  This is a story about first loves and friendship, about high school antics and how teenagers worry about sex (it involves one of the funniest scenes about buying condoms which having been written by Smith you would expect nothing less). But Finn's way of measuring distance instead of time and his ideas about recycled atoms will make the reader stop and thinking about the "big picture" and how in reality humans are only a small speck in the universe. This novel is truly original and readers won't be able to put it down till the very last page.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Positive

Positive 

by Paige Rawl

Synopsis:

Paige Rawl was an ordinary girl.

Cheerleader, soccer player, honor roll student. One of the good kids at her middle school.

Then, on an unremarkable day, Paige disclosed the one thing that made her "different": her HIV-positive status.
It didn't matter that she was born with the disease or that her illness posed no danger to her classmates.

Within hours, the bullying began.

They called her PAIDS. Left cruel notes on her locker. Talked in whispers about her and mocked her openly.
She turned to school administrators for help. Instead of assisting her, they ignored her urgent pleas . . . and told her to stop the drama.

She had never felt more alone.

One night, desperate for escape, Paige found herself in front of the medicine cabinet, staring at a bottle of sleeping pills.

That could have been the end of her story. Instead, it was only the beginning.

Finding comfort in steadfast friends and a community of other kids touched by HIV, Paige discovered the strength inside of her, and she embarked on a mission to change things for the bullied kids who would follow in her footsteps.

In this astonishing memoir, Paige immerses the reader in her experience and tells a story that is both deeply personal and completely universal: a story of one girl overcoming relentless bullying by choosing to be Positive.

My Thoughts:

An honest memoir of one girl who overcomes relentless bullying by choosing to be Positive and becomes an inspiration for those who experience bullying.

Born in Indianapolis on 1994, Paige Rawl was an ordinary girl: cheerleader, soccer player and honour roll student. No one knew she was born HIV positive.  Some kids had acne, some had diabetes; she had HIV. That’s what she told her best friend, Yasmine, when they were eleven. Within hours the bullying began. Ignorance, close-mindedness and fear of anything that’s different make the world a cruel place. They called her PAIDS, left cruel notes on her locker and mocked her openly while the adults who should have protected her stood by and told her to stop the drama.  In a desperate attempt to escape the cruelty, Paige finds herself in front of the medicine cabinet contemplating suicide.  But the story doesn’t end here. Paige finds the strength to fight back. She embarks on a mission to change things for the bullied kids who would follow in her footsteps.

This astonishing memoir is highly recommended for middle and high school students as well as teachers and parents.  Paige’s voice is authentic and will engage even the reluctant reader.  The additional resources at the end of the book provide a great starting place for those wanting more information on bullying, what's being done to stop it, facts on HIV and AIDS, as well as where to go for support groups and crisis hotlines.