All Book Reviews
Wow. Another amazing historical novel by Ms. Sepetys. At first I wasn't sure about the short chapters that alternated by point of view, but by the end I didn't even notice. Beautiful writing, emotional story of a tragedy that I'm sure most people aren't even aware of. Good grief, I'm wrung out after reading this beautiful novel.
The world is burning, one person at a time. A new sort of plague, a spore known colloquially as Dragonscale, is infecting hundreds of thousands around the globe. It begins with something small. It gets into your head. It grows. You feel fine until you see it on your skin-a small stripe, like a gold-flecked stain. You might even mistake it for a bruise at first. But then you know you have it. You know that you’re going to burn, and it’s only a question of when. No one knows exactly how it spreads, and there’s no sign of a cure short of being killed before you ignite. You’ll smoke a bit first, and then you’ll combust, unless someone decides to end your life before then.
In the midst of the chaos is Harper Willowes, a Portsmouth nurse who sincerely wishes for nothing more than to be able to help others through the crisis. She volunteers her services caring for the infected while her husband Jakob works for the Public Works Department, helping to clean up the devestation left behind by the burning infected. It’s at work that Harper first meets the Fireman. He brings a child in for treatment, not for the Dragonscale covering him, but for a ruptured appendix. After the boy, Nick, is taken in for surgery, the Fireman vanishes. A few days later, Nick is gone as well, leaving only questions in his wake. Then, disaster strikes and the Portsmouth Hospital burns to the ground. Harper escapes, but soon makes two discoveries. She’s pregnant and she has the ‘scale. Believing himself to be infected as well, Jakob snaps and Harper is forced to flee for her life and that of her unborn child.
When all seems lost, the Fireman intervenes. He rescues Harper from Jakob’s pursuit and secrets her away to a small camp where over a hundred and fifty infected are living in hiding, including Nick. Living and thriving, to Harper’s great surprise. While there’s no cure for the spore, the people of the camp have found a way to live in harmony with the Dragonscale, under the leadership of Nick’s grandfather. Harper’s medical skills quickly make her indispensable. The camp, however, is no paradise. As panic grips the nation, marauders seek to eliminate any infected. Harper only wants to survive long enough to deliver her baby, but internal power struggles in the camp threaten to expose them all to the roving Cremation Crews. The Fireman may be the only one who can save them all, but he hides a dark secret of his own.
Joe Hill takes on an apocalypse of his own, one that rivals The Stand in scope and violence (not to mention pop culture references). As the world around them burns, his characters must face the fact that other humans may be a greater threat to them than the Dragonscale ever was. The Fireman is a hell of a ride from beginning to end, and is every bit as intense as the flames it evokes. Go check it out.
Nice idea, not especially well executed, but serviceable nevertheless. Penniless but daring young Abigail Rook is stuck in New England when she meets an eccentric private detective named Jackaby. He specializes in supernatural deduction using an ability to see what other people can't -- faeries, monsters, etc. He is also in need of an assistant. When a very odd murder occurs, Jackaby and Abigail are on the case. Who is the murderer? Can our heroes stop the killer in time to save innocent lives? And will we ever learn what Jackaby's initials stand for? At best, it's a really laudable middle-grade supernatural mystery. Unfortunately, Jackaby himself falls rather flat. He seems to be a collection of quirks and mannerisms borrowed from more famous characters. Abigail is by no means and ideal character, but she is independent in a way that many female protagonists aren't. There are several appealing secondary characters -- one of whom is a ghost -- who were a bit more unusual, but on the whole, this book does not have the most intriguing cast, although it does try very hard. The plot itself is reasonably interesting, but suffers from the same malady as the characterizations: originality, or rather, lack thereof. Anyone who's familiar with folklore (or has read Harry Potter) has a good chance at guessing the identities of the murderer and other characters long before the big reveal. If you want a lightweight, easy-read fantasy-mystery with some fun characters and fairly witty dialogue, you'll probably like it, but for really intense murder mystery fans, look elsewhere.
Reviewer Grade: 12
Witch and Wizard is an extravagant book for young adults and teens. From a kidnapping to an evil tyrant, Whit and Wisty Allgood can't accept the fact that they are the children from the proficy, the children with powers, the children destined to save and rule the world. James Patterson takes his readers on an adventure that you can't put down. This book was unpredictable and left me wanting more from the very beginning. This is one of the best books of I have read since fourth grade and I've read a lot. On my free time I will go to a bookstore and grab as many books as my arms can carry and this time I tried to find as many James Patterson books as I could and this book was yelling my name from across the room. This book captivated me within just the first paragraph. The language and content flashbacks kept me engaged to the end. Whit and Wisty will do much more than keep you intrigued, they will keep you close through the whole series. I would rate this book five of five stars and I would recommend this book to teens from ages 11-15.
Reviewer Grade: 5
Everyone knows what McDonald’s or Burger King is, but how many people know how they got here, how are they getting their food, and why do they target kids as a key consumer audience. In Chew on This, Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson explain who founded the fast food industries, how animals are mistreated in slaughterhouses,
and the horrible effects fast food has on our bodies. I personally loved this book because I am super interested in food and health and it’s shocking to learn that: high school dropouts started the biggest industries in the world, each can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar, and that chicken slaughterhouses feed chickens leftover chickens. The authors profile stories of teens who have taken action to stop the fast food industry such as: A girl launching a campaign to remove soda machines from her school. I recommend this book to those interested in learning about the fast food industry and what they are actually doing. Chew on This is meant to show people, especially kids and teens, they can change the world by changing what they eat.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Do you ever wonder where your food comes from? How the potatoes in your french fries were grown? Or even what's in your burger. This book answers those questions and many more and it also lets you in on the food industry’s biggest secrets. It’s super interesting and educational. I mean did you know that corn is in about
everything from batteries to fireworks and that in cattle feed people put in M&M’s, hooves, corn, and cardboard?! I recommend this book to people interested in food and health since it teaches you the brutal truths behind industrial food production. It taught me what “real” food is and why I should stay away from processed foods. I loved this book because it actually taught me a lot about food that isn’t taught in school and I would recommend it to basically everyone because this is stuff you really need to know before you go grocery shopping.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Elie Wiesel is a twelve year old Jewish boy living in Sighet, Romania in 1944 who loves to study the Talmud. When his instructor warns the people of the Nazi aggressors coming to threaten their peaceful lives, it is too late and Elie’s family is forced into ghettos. Elie and his father, Shlomo, are separated from the rest of their family and are sent to multiple concentration camps, just trying to survive. This is my second favorite book ever because it is written by Elie Wiesel himself and is about his life as a Holocaust survivor. I can’t even describe
how good this book is because once you realize it is nonfiction, it gives the book a whole new meaning. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially those interested in the Holocaust or books about it such as The Diary of Anne Frank. I picked this book because I love autobiographies about the Holocaust and it just really shocked me at how life for Jews during that time was.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Equality 7-2521 is a street sweeper in a society ruled by a Communist/ Fascist type of dictatorship where individuals rights have been destroyed and everyone works only to serve their government. As a young boy, Equality 7-2521 witnessed the execution of someone who had spoken the “Unspeakable Word” and ever since
then, he has wondered what that word is. Resuming to the present, Equality 7-2521 one day discovers
a metal grill leading down into a dark tunnel from the Unmentionable Times, the ancient period prior to the establishment of the present society. For the next 2 years, he does secret experiments down in this tunnel and discovers electricity, but when he shows it to the World Council of Scholars, he is rejected and must escape from being persecuted. I love Anthem by Ayn Rand because it talks about a dystopian society and about a curious mind that defies the government and learns something great. The beginning is boring and is of backstory, but from there it becomes so interesting that it feels like you are there with the main character. Also it’s a short book for those who hate 800 page books and want a quick read for school or just to kill some free time.
Reviewer Grade: 10
Don't get me wrong -- this is a good book. The narrator is Marcelo, a teenage boy with an Asperger's-like condition that allows him to hear music that no one else can hear, but that also means he has some difficulty with social interaction. He goes to a special school for autistic students, although to be honest he could probably manage in a regular school, it's just that he has been coddled his entire life -- no one has made him push himself to practice functioning in regular society. His parents realize this is the case, and offer him the option of attending a mainstream school for his senior year. To help him decide, his lawyer father his makes him work at his law firm over the summer -- forcing Marcelo to get used to the "real world."
Marcelo is extremely relatable and well-drawn -- he is a sympathetic character, and both earnest and honest. When he is faced with difficult choices, the reader experiences his conflict. Many of his interactions with other people seem realistic and believable. I loved the first half of the book. My problem was with the second half. A major plotline appeared that I simply didn't like -- it didn't seem to fit the rest of the narrative in the sense that it brought a new focus to the story that altered its tone. I didn't enjoy it very much, but I think that many other readers wouldn't mind it. The book as a whole is still definitely worth reading. If you like thoughtful, introspective books with appealing narration and moral conflict, this one does very well.
Reviewer Grade: 12
Apollo – the Greek god of music, archery, healing, plague, and the sun – has been turned into a mortal teenager and dropped onto Earth as punishment from his father, Zeus. In order to earn his godly title back, he must be guided by a demigod and follow their orders – this demigod happens to be feisty Meg McCaffrey, “street urchin overlord”. The two must team up to help Apollo succeed in his trials and become a god again.
I read this book in 2 days – I could not put it down! It is adventurous and hilarious! Apollo is an interesting hero who must overcome his arrogance by becoming an average mortal teenager and proving himself to his fellow gods – and you totally root for him along the way. I would recommend reading the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus books before reading this one because many of the old characters make appearances and it would be easier to understand the references to the other series. Being a longtime fan of these books, I was so excited to see that Rick had brought back almost the entire Argo II crew back!
This book was truly awesome – lots of humor and adventure. I highly recommend it. 5 out of 5 stars.
Reviewer Grade: 9
Elizabeth Gilbert has everything a normal person wants: loving husband, country home, a great career, and much more. But for some reason she was not happy, instead she felt confused and lost in her own world of thoughts. So, through a painful process, she leaves behind everything (her marriage, job, home) and plans a year round trip to Italy, India, and Indonesia, hoping that traveling to these places will help her find herself. I began reading this book this year for a school assignment and I have to say I didn’t like it from the cover and the first few pages. What made it interesting was that Eat, Pray, Love is an auto-biography by Elizabeth herself about her journey for self-actualization and also that you are able to learn a little bit more about the culture of these countries. I recommend this book to those who are having trouble about knowing who they are in the world, but while I was able to be intrigued by the book and it did grab my attention, let’s just say it didn’t have me standing on the edge of my seat and isn’t one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Reviewer Grade: 10
This sci-fi by Orson Scott Card, the writer of Ender's Game, will warp your mind. Full, of interesting theories about time and space, this book is meant for adults and older teens. Every chapter there seems to be a new moral decision for the characters to make. This book creates great debates, and all of Card's ideas are well explained.
Reviewer Grade: 8
Gogol Ganguli regrets his parents decision of giving him his humiliating name ever since he was born. But when we rewind to 1968, we see the newly immigrated Gangulis’ give birth to a baby boy and in order to be released from the hospital, they must break their Bengali culture and give their son an official name, which they decide to be Gogol. Growing up, Gogol hates his name, but once he learns of its origin he rethinks its meaning and after a life-changing incident, Gogol learns to embrace his culture and his family heritage. Bringing you on a journey of love, self- realization, and of a life or death situation, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is an amazing novel and I found it super interesting to me because it related so much to how I grew up. There are many suspenseful and attention grabbing parts and I highly recommend it. I had to read this book for an assignment, but I ended up loving it, except for some boring parts especially in the first few chapters since it's just introduction. I recommend this book to those who have an interest in cross-cultural conflict books, but most people in my class disliked it so I’m assuming it wasn’t interesting to them.
Reviewer Grade: 10
The Manor Farm is home to animals who, noticeably, hate being controlled and oppressed by their farmer, Mr. Jones. One night Old Major, a wise boar, gathers the animals for a meeting and tells them of a dream he has where all animals live together with no human beings to oppress or control them. After his death, the animals take over the farm under the leadership of the pigs. As the story progresses the pigs move away from Animalism and move towards becoming human beings. Animal Farm by George Orwell is number 9 in my top books list mostly because it is a satire about the Russian Revolution and Stalinism. I did not like it in the fact that it overused personification and the use of animals to represent Russia in the 1970’s, but if we look at the book as a story just about animals taking over a farm, it is actually really interesting. I would recommend it to some people, not to others (those who dislike personification and satires).
Reviewer Grade: 10
Six year old Scout Finch is living in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression. Raised by Atticus Finch, Scout and her brother, Jem, are very comfortable with Maycomb and understand the well being of their neighbors, except the house of the mysterious Arthur Radley, whom they obsess over. Half the book is basically about Scout, Jem, and Dill (their new friend) trying to lure Arthur Radley out of his house. However, when Atticus, a lawyer, decides to take the case of a black man named Tom Robinson, tensions become high and the trial to see whether Tom Robinson is guilty or innocent based on his crime and, especially, his skin color is at stake. I absolutely love To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and it is my #1 favorite book because the structure of this book is so eye-opening since it addresses the struggle and tensions between African- Americans and Whites during a time period where slavery was abolished just less-than a century ago. I highly recommend this book because it is just so jaw-dropping and it hit me with surprises that had me at the edge of my seat.
Reviewer Grade: 10
In this fantasy, John Flanagan describes the life of a few kids growing up in a medieval setting where you can become the apprentice of different trade masters. The book mostly follows the apprentice ranger Will as he trains to be a full fledged ranger. This book is meant for teens and young adults because the Ranger's Apprentice series follows the lives of Will and his friends and all the troubles they face. If you like imagining what your life could be like in medieval times, than this book is for you.
Reviewer Grade: 8
This book by J.K. Rowling engulfs you in a world of magic where you want to keep on reading without putting it down. Harry Potter takes place in England, and is all about a boy named Harry Potter's time at Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry. This book can attract readers of all kinds of reading levels because of its simplicity and depth. The Harry Potter series is an extremely fun series and the characters are full of emotion. I guarantee that you will love this book.
Reviewer Grade: 8
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a very good and interesting book. This book is about an Indian boy named Arnold, also known by his nickname Junior, who is a freshman in high school. Junior lives on a Native American reservation and doesn’t fit in with any of the other kids very well because he has many special abilities that make him look, talk, and function differently. In the story, he has a best friend called Rowdy who is in his eyes, is really tough and strong. One day, Junior decides that he needs to go to a better school OFF the reservation (Rez) called Reardan. When he transferred, Rowdy decided that he hated Junior. Everyone at his new school calls Junior names, and makes fun of him because he’s an Indian with disabilities. Throughout the book, Junior encounters many more hardships and obstacles. I did like the book, although it was very depressing towards the end. The book has parts with more mature content, but is not bad if you are older. The part I enjoyed in the book is when Junior makes the basketball team by being crazy and making crazy shots. This is the second best book I have read in 2016… Messenger of Fear being the first. All in all, this is a great book that any teen should check out if they are mature enough to read it.
Reviewer Grade: 7
The book, The Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders, is a very fascinating book by Brandon Mull. The book starts out in a small town in Arizona. The main character, Cole, is getting ready for Halloween. He soon meets up with his best friend, Dalton, and the girl he likes, Jennifer, along with a couple others (six). They are looking for a haunted house that was a few blocks from where they already were. After finding the haunted house, a guy jumps up and tries to scare the group, and fails. He reveals that the biggest scare is in the basement, and once they were there, the guy locked the door behind them. Dalton starts to worry, and soon they were grabbed by a guy called Ham. Ham grabs most of kids, but Cole gets away, and Ham disappears behind a curtain and vanishes. Desperate to get his friends back, Cole follows him, and ends up in… the outskirts! The part I enjoyed in this book was when Cole gets into the outskirts. I recommend this book to anybody who likes action books and suspense.
The story; Double Vision is a great book that I recommend to readers who like suspense. Double Vision starts out in the main character; Lincoln’s school. He and his classmates are to go on a trip to a chicken farm not far from the school. After getting to the chicken farm, the farmer was very strict, and didn’t let anybody near his chickens. Instead, he just talked about them, and told everyone all about chicken farming, chicken housing, chicken food, etc. Soon, Lincoln got bored and decided to go see the chickens for himself. After sneaking away from the group, Lincoln opened the door to the chicken coop and was flustered by chickens in front of all of the other kids. After Lincoln went home, he found out that he was expelled from his school, and the farmer is suing them for a great amount of money. Because they knew he was in lots of trouble, two agents came to knock on their door. After, they told them that they would take Lincoln and straighten him up. At first, his mother refused, but decided to give in. After Lincoln got in their car, they said they weren’t taking him to a boot camp… but a spy camp! The part I enjoyed in this book was when Lincoln got attacked by chickens! I recommend this book to any age that loves suspense and action!
Reviewer Grade: 7