All Book Reviews
Looking for Alaska is a fantastic book for readers who want to be absorbed in feelings. The book revolves around Miles Halter, a skinny and shy teenager that moves to Alabama to go to a boarding school called Culver Creek Life comes at him fast when he meets his new room mate The Colonel, a Japanese kid with a Southern accent named Takumi, and a beautiful girl named Alaska Young. This group of kids enjoy smoking and drinking by the lake and pulling pranks while trying not to get caught by The Eagle, the schools headmaster. A love story appears and as the story progresses, the plot thickens and it is a rollercoaster of emotions that will keep anyone at the edge of their seats.
The book is a cliché love story but with a twist and not everyone can relate. It made me emotional but I wish there was more to the book. I felt like the book could've had more surprising elements to it but there was one part of the book that was definitely a shocker. Even though that one part of the book shocked me, I wanted to feel that way the entire time. Some parts were boring to me but overall it had a creative back story and layout.
Reviewer Grade: 12
Scat, by Carl Hiaasen, was about a mean science teacher who disappears on a school field trip. Two students go on a journey to find their teacher. There are many plot twists and the book also goes in depth about all the characters. Over all this book was amazing and highly suggested for anyone who wants an easy read.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon introduces a little girl named Minli, who lives in a town that goes through difficult times, with people each working from dusk till dawn. Minli though, seems to think that with the stories that her father tells her, there is some hope left. So, Minli sets on a difficult journey to meet the Man in the Moon (told in one of her father's stories) that will give her a fortune to help her family and the town that she lives in. When I started this book I couldn't put it down, the author of this book made this story seem like many stories, which is why I continued to read and finish this book. If I were you I would definitely read this book.
Reviewer Grade: 8
This book was about a boy and he is captured by berserkers and was taken on a great journey to find who he truly is. He learned to defeated some of his greatest inner demons and learned that there are two sides to every story. Also he learned the value of humbleness and that good thing come at a price. He also learns that patients there is beauty in everything. For a grade I give this book a 4.5. I loved this book. It was about an amazing adventure into new places and a road to self discovery. I had mighty beasts and gentle giants. It is a great book for teens and would recommend it for anyone that loves books with great quests and beasts with two sides. A light side that brings love and acceptance, and a dark side that brings chaos and hate. I hope anyone who reads this loves it as much as I did. The only thing I did not like about this book is that my favorite characters did not end up in a relationship, but there are other books in the series I have yet to read.
Actual Rating: 4.5
Reviewer Grade: 8
I’ve been following Sam Sykes on twitter for a while, and given my affinity for both well-crafted fantasy worlds and action-adventure stories, it was only a matter of time before I picked up a copy of The City Stained Red, the first book in Sam’s Bring Down Heaven series.
At almost 650 pages, The City Stained Red is a doorstopper of a book, but a fast, fun, vicious read. The book follows Lenk, an adventurer that some readers may recognize from Sykes’ previous series, The Aeon’s Gate Trilogy (though reading that series first is by no means a prerequisite for Bring Down Heaven). Lenk has finally decided that he’s done with killing, and wants to put aside his sword and pick up what he believes will be a normal life in the trade hub city of Cier’Djall. He and his friends, Denaos the thief, young wizard Dreadaeleon, khoshicht (Sykes’ clever take on elves) archer Kataria, healer/priestess Asper, and dragonman Gariath have killed scores of people and monsters. With the money owed to them for their services, they could happily retire from their violent lives. However, the man who owes them is not so easily found.
Cier’Djall is a massive, sprawling city, and the wealthy who rule over it have made their gold by selling silk produced by enormous spiders. However, the beautiful silk-draped spire that towers over the city leaves long shadows. In darker corners of the city, some of the poor are disappearing, and the ruling fashas may be to blame. Two rival churches seek to position their armies within the city, and tensions are running high as negotiations between them loom. Then, there’s the small matter of the local thieves guild and their ongoing conflict with a new but powerful cult that claims to have demons backing them. This is reality in the city where Lenk hopes to find Miron Evenhands, the priest at whose behest they have been doing what they do best. Cier’Djall is a bonfire piled high, drenched in oil, and awaiting a spark, and Lenk and his friends are unwittingly bringing lit torches through the gates.
The City Stained Red takes a page from A Song of Ice and Fire by presenting chapters from the perspectives of each member of Lenk’s band of adventurers. After arriving in Cier’Djall, they split up to try to located Miron, each using their unique skills and connections to make their way through the city. Denaos has connections from his previous life in the thieves guild, the Jackals. Dreadaeleon seeks the assistance of the Venarium, the wizard’s alliance. Asper, a follower of the same church as Miron, travels to the various temples in the city. Kataria finds herself in Shichttown, a slum where the non-humans try to live out of the way of the fiercely racist upper class. Gariath attempts to gather information from another dragonman who works as a bodyguard for one of the fashsas. Lenk is trying to cope with the fact that his pursuit of retirement may lose him the closest thing he’s ever known to a family. None of them are remotely ready for what they find.
After a footwar between the Jackals and the Khovura cult spills from the back alleys into the streets, every faction with an interest in controlling the silk trade comes out of their corners swinging, and Lenk and company can do little more than hope to survive.
I absolutely loved this book. Sykes blends dark humor and trope deconstruction beautifully. I’m already reading the sequel, The Mortal Tally, because I couldn’t wait to see what happens to these folks next. Reading about these characters is like watching my college Dungeons and Dragons group in action. There’s violence and bloodshed, but also fervent emotion. It’s a wonderful thing.
Lady Helen has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of her dead, treasonous mother. Because her mother did some shady stuff before she died, Helen has had to be the perfect demur lady, no small task for a quick witted woman in the Regency period. But as new information comes to light surrounding her mother's life and death, Lady Helen realizes that her mother had magical powers...that she passed along to her daughter. Soon, Lady Helen finds herself pulled into the dark underbelly of London as she works with the Dark Days Club to try to keep Londoners safe from a group of demons.
I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. There's a lot of world building, and Lady Helen is a very likable character who I think behaves in ways that make sense given the time period. There's a great build up to the reveal of the demons, and the mystery of Helen's mother and her powers unfolds very slowly and deliciously. The problem arises when the demons themselves are revealed. While I'll give Goodman points for originality with the demons and how they interact with humans, really, as villains go, they were pretty low-stakes and unfortunately kind of lame. I don't know, I mean, most of them follow rules and don't do anything bad, but they are hated by humans in the know just by virtue of the fact that they are human parasites, which really, isn't their fault. Things get a little more high stakes by the end, but I really couldn't make myself care. I actually put the book down for a week or so because I wasn't dying to know what happens, which is pretty rare for me.
I liked the setting, world-building, and the characters, and would maybe give the next book in the series a shot as the villains get a bit more villainous and less lame by the end. That and Goodman can write. She also clearly did her Regency homework. Overall though, for me this was just ok. 2 stars.
Peter Grant is part of the Special Assessment Unit, a police group in London that is called in to investigate the weirder cases. And the first case is pretty weird - it seems like there are a few cars in London that have developed a murderous bent. Grant and crew do their best to figure out what is going on...before someone else finds themself dead at the hands of their car.
This was really fun! The mystery was different from anything I've ever read, the world building happened quickly but thoroughly, and the characters were likable. While not spectacular, the art was pretty and made the story easy to follow. Oh, and major bonus, the characters were diverse! I liked this one enough that I just put the regular novel Peter Grant books on hold, and I'll definitely be checking out all future graphic novel installments. Harry Dresden fans, check this series out ASAP!
Ethan Wate has lived in Gatlin all his life - and all he wants to leave his hometown more than anything. That is until he meets the new girl at school, Lena Duchannes, who lives with her strange reclusive uncle Macon. Typical teen love story, right? No. Lena and her family are Casters, meaning they have magical powers. Every girl in the family, when she reaches sixteen years old, is "Claimed" and becomes either good or bad - Light or Dark. Lena is terrified she will be a Dark Caster. Teaming up, she and Ethan search for a way to keep the ritual from turning her evil, discovering dark magical secrets hidden within the town along the way. This book is hilarious, adventurous, and romantic (the romance is kept fairly PG). The characters were likable and unique. The setting, Gatlin, is mysterious and fascinating. The rest of the series isn't as good as this one, unfortunately - but I'd definitely recommend this one to anyone who loved the Southern Gothic genre, romance, or adventure in general. (I'd rate it PG-13 for minor language, a little romance, and violence).
Reviewer Grade: 9
Matched by Ally Condie tells the story of a young girl living in a society where everything is chosen for you - who you are, where you live, who you marry. Cassia, the protagonist, is matched with her best friend - everything seems to be going great until it is discovered that she has also been Matched with another boy. This book had a lot of potential and an interesting concept, but I personally felt it didn't really deliver. The pacing was slow. There wasn't much tension. The characters were a little one-dimensional and cheesy. Although it wasn't one of my favorite books, it could make for a nice summer read.
Reviewer Grade: 9
The name Agatha Christie is synonymous with unique and puzzling mysteries, but And Then There Were None is definitely one of her best. The plot is simple enough: ten people are invited to an island, stranded there, and then accused of a murder. And then one by one each person begins to die just like the people in the old nursery rhyme “Ten Little Soldier Boys.” However, the reader is kept in the dark as to who the murderer is until the very end, and the end is not at all what the reader might have expected. The plot moves along fairly quickly, but it doesn’t get confusing. The characters are fully sketched out which helps to make the story somewhat believable. The best thing about this book is that it is not at all cheesy; it is gripping and just frightening enough to make the reader want to finish the book before they turn out the lights at night.
Reviewer Grade: 11
Cornelia Funke deserves major praise for Inkdeath, because this book, the last in a trilogy, is every bit as good as the first book (something that does not often happen). It continues where the last book left off, with Meggie’s family stuck in the fictional Inkheart world where her father has become a noble robber called the Bluejay. Because he is the champion of justice and the defender of the poor, he is wanted by many powerful nobles. Most want to kill him; however, one of them, the cruelest of them all, wants the Bluejay to save him. But this noble is the one whose death would set the people of the Inkworld free. The plot stalls a little in the middle of the book, but it is more than made up for by the surprise hero at the end. Like the previous books, it has rich characterization and heavy themes. Plenty of times the characters wonder whether our world is after all more “real” than the fictional world they are stuck in, and they often wonder if after all their entire existence is written out by some far-off author. And the book is so well written that the reader could easily find himself wondering also.
Reviewer Grade: 11
This is the perfect summer book! It is a feel-good character centered book. A.J. Fikry is a young widower who isn't coping very well with the death of his wife. He owns and operates a bookstore that he seems not to care about, and is very judgmental about the books he sells and reads. Then one day his life changes when a baby is left for him to care for. A.J. transforms. He loves the baby and gives his all to her. He develops friendships and even falls in love again. But with all good books, there is a little twist! You will have to read it to find out! I highly recommend this book as a vacation book or if you just need a change of pace from what you usually read.
The main characters in the story are Paris Christie, Cooper McQueen, Tamara Maddox (the Maddox family is the family who owns the Red Thread Bourbon company), and Levi Shelby.
The Bourbon Thief is a must read! It's simply captivating and different from many other thrillers I have read. The story focuses on the past and ties it with the present. The author did a spectacular job in making sure we were blown away in everything she wrote. It felt original and the plot was mysterious and romantic. It was mysterious because the Maddox family's bourbon company shut down suddenly and no one knows why. Paris wants the bourbon, but why? What does Paris want to hide? I love the third person narrative because I saw each character's view points and the fact that I could read that was already amazing to me.
Dandelion Wine is a book about an entire town in Green Town, Illinois. It follows many of the different citizens, but focuses on the character development of Douglas Spalding. The book starts with him and his Grandfather making dandelion wine, as a tradition as the beginning of summer. I am reading this for school, and at first, I wasn't thrilled with it. It has no plot, but instead makes up for it with the mini stories throughout the book. Every chapter is new, and about a completely different citizen of Green Town. I was shocked with how the book had many different themes, most of them dealing with love and death, but most of all grief. Each chapter changed my perspective of the world just a little bit, so by the end I felt almost new. I was able to relate to Doug very much, along with other characters. This book hits the hard questions, and views the tragedies of life through only a boy's eyes. I found myself gasping at parts, not because of plot twists, but because of the complete shock of innocence vs tragedy. It made me view life in a completely different way. This has defiantly made my top 5, maybe even 3, book list.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Atlantia is about a girl named Rio. The earth was polluted long ago, so to make a safe haven, the people made Atlantia, an underground city. However, the people below could not survive without some people staying above to farm, and send them supplies. Some people sacrificed their health below so that their loved ones could be healthy instead. This formed the two civilizations: Above and Below. Rio has always dreamed of seeing the stars, the sun, the Above. When your 15 you are able to choose were you want to spend the rest of your life. Once you choose, you cannot go back. Rio’s dream of going above is crushed when her mother dies in a mysterious way, and her twin sister, Bay, makes her promise not to leave her, thus trapping her in Atlantia. When the time comes to choose, Rio goes first, being the older twin, and chooses the Below. However, to everyones surprise, Bay chooses to go Above, and abandons Rio with no explanation. True, the best friend of another boy who chose to go up, thinks he knows why his sister left Rio, and together, they find the truth, about more things then they were looking for. I first picked up this book, about two years ago, when Ally Condie was in Colorado for a book signing. As a volunteer at the library, I was at the event, and got my copy of Matched signed, and bought Atlantia and got that signed as well. I didn’t read it until quit recently. I especially enjoyed the book’s themes. Unlike other YA novels, the focus on the book was not the romance, but the sisterly love instead. This made a great combination of the themes of love in the book. Atlantia always found a way to surprise me, and the plot twists kept on coming. Unlike Condie’s other books, the Matched series, this book wasn't overly romantic and predictable. I was defiantly not disappointed in the writing. Another thing, however, is the reason that Bay leaves does not fit the plot, and confuses me more than anything. Other than that, it was a very well put together book.
Reviewer Grade: 10
In this book, you happen to meet Alyssa, the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice Liddell. You may think that's really cool, but no. As her great-great-great granddaughter, she must live with the legacy that the original Alice left behind, which happens to not be a very positive one. Everyone knows that the original Alice went to the asylum for being "crazy" after she came back from Wonderland, and most of her decedents are destined to follow. Those family members that were "destined to follow" include Alyssa's mother, Allison. Now Alyssa is living with just her father and occasionally goes to the asylum to visit her mother. Then, all the teasing from others about her family history pushes her over the edge. She ends up determined to find Wonderland and prove that no one in her family has been "crazy" at all! She decides to follow out with this plan A.S.A.P.. Once she finally gets there, (yes, Wonderland does exist in the book) she goes throughout it and sees that Alice's story has many things wrong with it, and that because of Alice's age at the time, she was mistaken about many things. You'll see White Rabbit and his descendant are NOT really cute rabbits at all. Then the "pretty" flowers from the original tale turn out to be almost like zombies! Eventually, you find out that all the characters you met in the original story, are backwards and creepy! Alyssa will encounter many trials that might keep her from ever going back to the real world. Or will they? I loved this book a lot even though I'm not a fan of the original 'Alice in Wonderland'. This twist made it really exciting, thrilling and like every chapter held an even better part of the adventure! Also, there is a little romance too! But I actually didn't pick this book out. I ended up getting it from a friend for Christmas, and I really didn't think I would like it. That is... till I started it! My favorite parts are seeing all the characters be so different from the originals! But, I also had a least favorite part, which was actually still a great part! It was when Alyssa goes to the asylum to visit her mother and something crazy happens, but I'll leave it a surprise! ;) I feel like I could even relate to Alyssa because I'm always trying to prove I'm right when others think I'm wrong, which might not be a very good thing but..... Anyways, I think that any one over the age of eleven can read this. (if their parents approve of zombie flowers and whatnot) So, if you're looking for a good book, you just found it. No matter if you like the original 'Alice in Wonderland' or not, this story will keep you engaged no matter where you are in its adventure!
Reviewer Grade: 8
Suspenseful, Mysterious, Heart Wrenching. These are just a few words to describe the novel, Aimee. Aimee, an intense novel written by Mary Beth Miller, focuses on the life of teenager, Zoe, who was just accused of aiding her best friend, Aimee, into suicide. Taking place after court, this exciting novel shows the struggles Zoe goes through regarding the absence of Aimee, separation of her former life, a very eager shrink, and the disapproval of her very existence from her parents and new town. Filled with a range of emotions from depression to elation, you will feel her journey from the personal dialogue and realistic depictions. Many characters interact with Zoe to enhance her very unusual everyday situations, such as (a personal favorite character) Chard, who was a love interest of Zoe’s ever since she met Aimee, Marge, a court-appointed shrink that frustrates and separates Zoe even further from normalcy, and Hope, a suicidal girl who shares classes with Zoe, who knows her story and is eager to become her only friend. Will she overcome all of the odds constantly stacked against her? Only you can find out! Pick up Aimee today and prepare to be unable to put it down!
Reviewer Grade: 12
Every year in different countries in Erdas, children of the age of ~12 get a chance to call a spirit animal - an animals that will be attached to them forever, and gives them the chance to join a group of folks called the "green cloaks" who use their spirit animals to protect Erdas from threats: especially the conquerors. Our four protagonists all call spirit animals - but they aren't just any spirit animals. They are four of the fallen: spirit animals that helped the green cloaks during the last time the conquerors threatened Erdas. As the conquerors begin to attack Erdas anew, the four children must pick a side and learn to fight.
This was quite fun! It was a little generic, and the writing was a little simple, but hey, this IS a book for middle grade readers. I listened to it as I was running, and I've continued listening to the series on long runs as it is easy to follow even when you zone out, its extremely entertaining and at times it manages to be quite clever. It also seems like no one side (green cloaks vs. conquerors) is completely good or evil, and I appreciate that kind of complexity.
Is your family going on a road trip this summer? This would be a great choice to listen to, as I would think the material would be appropriate for all ages. The narration, while not fantastic, is perfectly serviceable. If you want a great middle grade series for your kids, this could be the perfect one to start them with - the entire series has been published, and there are like 10 books in it, so it should keep them busy for a while. That, and it's pretty captivating from the start. Or hey, if, like me, you like to listen to books on long runs, this series is perfect for that sort of thing.
Doon is a romantic fantasy with heart breaking scenarios between lovers and friends. There is a lot of magic throughout the story. In Doon, the stakes are set high because an evil witch wants to take over. I love that the book was so unpredictable. I couldn’t put the book down.
Actual Rating: 3.5
Reviewer Grade: 7
This is the fourth book in the series so it is continuation of Sophie’s story of her fight against a group called Neverseen. They have tried to kill her several times because they view her as a threat. They run to her creator, Black Swan, for help. This is a book of rebellion, betrayal, and Elfin drama. This is a fictional story that is unpredictable and fascinating. It is one of my favorite stories.
Actual Rating: 4.5
Reviewer Grade: 7