All Book Reviews
Sixth grader Miranda Sinclair started receiving strange letters that somehow predict the future. After she got more and more letters, Miranda was determined to solve the mystery behind them.
The novel really conveys the feeling of normalcy; it seems like the every-day life of an ordinary middle schooler, but when the future-predictions letters are added into the mix, it feels surreal- almost dream-like.
It got a little confusing in the middle for me because I couldn't understand why the characters were doing what they were doing, but it all gets brilliantly explained at the end. The way it all tied up was wonderful and worth all of the confusion; the ending really was the best part.
The characters were all like ordinary people I'd see everyday, which gave me the feeling that I was reading realistic fiction rather than science-fiction.
Their personalities weren't typical and they weren't just generic personalities (e.g., a a mean popular girl or a nerdy unpopular kid).
Reading When You Reach Me was a roller-coaster (especially the last part!) and I really recommend it to everyone.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Another amazing book! This #1 New York Bestselling novel is truly a piece of art; with a captivating plot and many lovable characters. Taken place back in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help, focuses on the story of a white southern woman named Skeeter whose life-long goal was to become a profound writer for the New York Times, however odds kept stacking against her. The first obstacle for Skeeter was that all of her pish-posh friends since childhood greatly looked down upon her ambitions and discouraged poor Skeeter for not wanting to marry and raise kids. The second obstacle was that the book she wished to complete, which would give her the opportunity to write for the New York Times, focused on the terrible conditions of the Help, a group of black women who worked as maids for the privileged white families of the Deep South. And the final obstacle, which was the biggest obstacle for Skeeter, was that segregation and racism was at an all-time-high in Jackson.
This would have an incredibly negative impact on her eagerness to aid in exposing the terrors inflicted on the black women by the white, meaning extreme courage, caution, and determination. Now all she needs is maids to tell her their stories. A stunning piece of work, an eye-opener, a book about
truth: The Help.
Reviewer Grade: 12
iDrakula by Bekka Black is an interesting book for me because I found it to be both creative and unimaginative at the same time. I found it unimaginative because of the fact that it is the same plot line as Bram Stoker's classic Dracula. On the other hand, it is a creative retelling in the fact that it is set in modern times and is almost entirely made up of texts and emails, sort of like a written version of those movies that are POV and created by giving the actors the camera so it looks like an amateur did it. So I found the content to be a copy but the way it was presented to be highly entertaining and imaginative. I would say that this is very much for teens who find Bram Stoker's Dracula too hard a read. If you can, read the original over this. However this is a good alternative if you cannot.
Reviewer Grade: 12
John Krakauer, author of Under the Banner of Heaven, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air, brings his literary non-fiction style to addressing the topic of rape and sexual assault at the University of Montana, which is located in the titular city, Missoula. Krakauer examines the assaults of five young women with ties to this university during the period of 2008-2012. These case studies examine the culture of sexual assault and how these cases are dealt with by the criminal justice system and the university. Readers should be warned that this book does have some graphic content due to the nature of this topic.
Readers of Krakauer who enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven will find a similar style of reporting found in this work. Krakauer champions the stories of the five women whose assaults he details as he works to debunk many of the myths surrounding the topic. Most interesting to this reviewer is the research that he presents that not many men commit sexual assault, but those that do tend to be repeat offenders. And many of these perpetrators fail to even realize that their actions are criminal.
Krakauer thoroughly takes to task members of the criminal justice system who oversee the charging and prosecution of these crimes. Other reviewers have found his treatment of those officials to be harsh and one-sided, claiming this to be a departure from Krakauer’s normally unbiased reporting style. This reviewer found that the critical lens Krakauer uses when discussing the many missteps of the criminal justice system to be warranted. He also is critical of the football culture of the area that strives to protect its athletes even if they have harmed others. We see how university officials try to navigate bringing offenders to justice in this type of culture. This book is really more about the culture of sexual assault than it is about Missoula. While it is an emotionally challenging read, it is a worthwhile read and it will hopefully bring more attention to sexual assault and ways that we as a society can prevent these crimes.
Mary Roach covers military science in a way that seemingly only she can: by covering the weird, little known aspects like genitalia injuries, shark repellent, military fashion, and, of course, diarrhea. The result is an interesting, engaging and very accessible non-fiction read.
I listened to this book, and I think that was probably a mistake. Mary Roach tends to jump around from topic to topic even within a larger topic (in a chapter about shark repellent you may jump from sharks to polar bears pretty abruptly), which can be fun to read, but was hard to listen to. Zone out for a minute, and you'll find yourself completely lost. My listening enjoyment was also hampered by the insane amount of acronyms used by the military. I had a lot of "wait, what does that stand for again?" moments, and in an audiobook, there's not really a way to go back and check, and its not like I'm going to google whilst driving. Oh yeah, and the narrator was not to my taste. Her voice just didn't do it for me.
But overall, it managed to be both informative and funny which is not an oft found combination. I really enjoyed it, and I'll be booktalking this one in the fall.
There were two versions of the books, one on Wattpad before it was published, and the published version. The published version was different from the one on Wattpad. Jackie, the main character, is bland and I felt like she could've had more development to her character. The thing I liked was that the plot was intriguing. Jackie's family died in a car crash and she is forced to move in with the Walter Boys, 12 of them too be exact. I liked the boys Jackie was forced to move in with. They're funny and pull off pranks and turn Jackie into less of a boring person. I wish the book was a little more well-written because the plot is amazing, but the lack of vocabulary and character development is disappointing. Be prepared for a love triangle! If romances aren't your thing, then this book is not for you.
Reviewer Grade: 12
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 families 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 characters view points and the fact that I could read that was already amazing to me.
Reviewer Grade: 12
Rash is a book about a so called “perfect” society, where anything moderately dangerous is outlawed. After Bo has had a run in with the law for the third time he is sent to a work camp to serve time for his crimes. His old A.I from when he was in school promises him freedom. Can he do it? Meanwhile Bo runs into many dangerous things on his time in prison.
Twilight has an interesting story idea. The love story between the two lead characters, Bella and Edward with the rivaling Jacob Black is a good basic plot, however the way the story was written made me want to burn the book, and some things were just strange. Like the main male, Edward is a vampire and when Bella finds out she has no emotions about it whatsoever. The book is kind of disturbing. I do not recommend it to anyone.
Insurgent, Divergent's sequel, takes place in Chicago, in the distant future.
In Chicago, there are five factions that each believe upholding and strengthening a certain aspect of people's personalities. People either devote their lives to one of the factions, or live factionless, empty. There is Abnegation, which is selfless, Candor, which is honest, Dauntless, brave, Amity, peaceful, and Erudite, intelligent. Tris, Insurgent's main character, is Divergent, which means she resists serums and can't be forced to think a certain way. Her boyfriend, Tobias, is also divergent. The Erudite want to kill all the Divergent, so they must hide their secret. Tris must fight the Divergent hating Erudite. After watching both of her parents die, she starts to go into depression and self doubt, not to mention the hard task of getting her best friend Christina to forgive her for doing a terrible thing. To destroy the Erudite, she must make sacrifices, even if it means she has to betray the one she loves the most to do what is right. This was an amazing book. While not quite as good as Divergent, the book was still great! I would definitely recommend reading it.
Reviewer Grade: 8
I saw the trailer for this book and I wanted to read it before I watched the movie. I was slightly disappointed when I read this. I was hoping for a cool, unique, different aspect of an alien book but I was wrong. The book was extremely confusing to read, I found myself reading over a page 5 times to understand where I was at in the book. The plot jumps around in different time periods so many times without warning. The annoyance I suffered from the book might be different from your perspective of the book. There was also a love story that was going to emerge but failed miserably. The only thing I enjoyed, which is why I gave this 3 stars, was the action portions. Even though the writing STYLE was confusing, the writing itself is quite intriguing, kind of like a poem. Once you understood where you are at, the action scenes pull you in but then it goes back to round one, which is boring, confusing, and annoying.
Reviewer Grade: 12
I was underwhelmed by the entire concept of the book. I felt as if it was poorly written and extremely sappy. The whole "find your personal legend" to me was a reach to be creative but went downhill. I admit, some parts of the book pulled me in but the plot never seemed to satisfy me 100%.The message in the story is to follow your own legacy but it also has a supernatural element that helps Santiago through his journey and it seems that if an individual wants to find his own worth and legacy, you need some supernatural, god-like force to help you along the way and not a lot of people like the idea of that. The book was reviewed as amazing and one of a kind but I think otherwise. The way the author tried to make the story deep, failed and it seems like a silly fable at the end of the day.
Reviewer Grade: 12
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