Reluctant Readers

Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
Author: 
Dashner, James
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Maze Runner is the first book in James Dashner's dystopian trilogy. It follows Thomas, a teenager who finds himself trapped in a maze with a group of boys and no memory of his past. This book kept me on my toes, and I couldn't put it down. It was intense and mysterious with a gripping plot and a diverse group of characters. I would definitely recommend this book to teens who love action packed adventure and the ideas presented through futuristic worlds!

Reviewer's Name: 
Emma

Book Review: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief
Author: 
Riordan, Rick
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is an amazing book about Greek Mythology. Percy Jackson, the main character, learns who he is and sets off on a crazy journey to return something very valuable. He has to fight dangerous monsters along side his two friends and save his mom. Percy learns that there are actually Greek gods and that they probably want to kill him. This book is a great book for all ages and I would definitely recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: 
Lily K.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Book Cover
Author: 
Rowling, J. K.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets is a continuation of Harry’s journey in the wizardry school of Hogwarts. The book basically starts when messages appear on the wall. These messages say that the "Chamber of Secrets" has been opened and that the "heir of Slytherin" will kill all students who are muggles. These threats are found after attacks on some students that leave everyone in the school scared. Harry starts his own little investigation with his friends, Hermione and Ron.

The book is full of mystery, but it has its share of funny too, like a new professor, Gilroy Lockhart, thinks that he is the best at everything, as he shows off to his students including Harry, Hermione and Ron. Eventually, Professor Lockhart, ends up humiliating himself many many times in front of his pupils.

In another part, Harry and Ron decide to use an enchanted flying car to get to Hogwarts from summer break. Just as they arrive at Hogwarts, the car begins to break down and they end up crashing into a tree that swings its branches wildly. Harry and Ron somehow survive, but eventually get detention.

So, overall, it is a good read, but personally, it is my least favorite book in the series.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gurman G.

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Book Cover
Author: 
Rowling, J. K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

For people who want to enjoy an intriguing, fast paced novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the perfect book to read. It keeps you involved throughout the book as most chapters have cliffhangers at the end. This novel is the first of the seven famous Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling.

The book is about 11 year old Harry Potter, who receives a letter saying that he is invited to attend Hogwarts, school of witchcraft and wizardry. He then learns that a powerful wizard and his minions are after the sorcerer’s stone that will make this evil wizard immortal and undefeatable. Harry decides to go after the sorcerer’s stone before the wizard reaches it, but his loyal friends, Hermione and Ron don’t let Harry face this danger alone.

This book is full of fantasies and imagination like at one point, Harry Potter is asked to catch a flying golden ball while flying on his broomstick. Eventually Harry Potter stands on his broomstick and tries to reach for the ball, but he falls off the broomstick in a very tense moment. He unexpectedly throws up the golden ball winning the game for his team.

Harry Potter and a sorcerer stone is a good book to spark joy and imagination for anyone, regardless of age. But I would say it is most enjoyable for elementary school students, who can very well relate to the fantasy world. So I would say that it is a must read for younger audiences, but it’s a good read in general.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gurman G.

Book Review: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Book Cover
Author: 
Grabenstein, Chris
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Twelve year old Kyle Keeley loves games, and his favorites are created by Mr. Lemoncello, owner of the famous Imagination Factory. When Kyle finds out there will be a lock in at the brand new library, and Mr. Lemoncello is involved, he is determined to be there. The only thing standing in his way is an essay contest. All he has to do is write a prizewinning essay. No problem - or is it? Because the essay is due this very morning, and he hasn't got one.

I loved this book because it was full of puzzles that the reader can solve along with the characters. The characters themselves were all likeable, and my favorite was Sierra. I love how she is always reading a book! I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves libraries, puzzles, or games. It was fantastic!

Reviewer's Name: 
Madeline A.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Book Cover
Author: 
Collins, Suzanne
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

If you're like me, you've been looking forward to the new Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, since its announcement last year. After all the anxious waiting and counting down the days, I found that this new novel, focusing on future villain, Coriolanus Snow, is not as good as the original trilogy but still holds its own and has its place in Collins' universe of Panem.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a villain background story. The main character-- for I certainly would not call him a protagonist, even 65 years earlier-- is Coriolanus Snow, future tyrant president of Panem and one of the most despised villains in all of young adult dystopian literature. Here, Snow has an ego, he has big plans, dreams and ambitions for the future of his country. Coriolanus is an orphan after the war that spurred the Hunger Games. The Snow household is broken down and poor, and Coriolanus lives with his grandmother and fellow orphaned cousin, Tigris (yes, that very same Tigris from Mockingjay that Katniss and her squad hid with while in the Capitol. This connection is one of the most interesting in the book, because here, Tigris and Coriolanus are best friends as well as cousins, always looking out for one another and sharing a tight bond. The obvious deterioration of their relationship is never addressed in the book, and I desperately want to know what went sideways between them now.) Coriolanus is a student at the Academy, a high school, and is chosen as one of the 24 best and brightest Capitol students to mentor a tribute in the 10 Hunger Games.

One important thing to note and understand about this book is that the Hunger Games are very very different from where we join them 65 years later. The tributes are abused and starved. The arena is not high-tech or glamorous. The television viewership is low. Most people do not even watch the games at all. All of that changes after this book, I would presume.

Coriolanus, who is hated by the leader of the Academy, Dean Highbottom, is consequentially assigned to mentor District 12 female tribute, Lucy Gray Baird. Lucy Gray is the true protagonist of this novel, and a strange one at that. She is part of a 'Covey', a traveling musical family who got stuck in District 12. She is strange to Coriolanus and the other Capitol children. She is musical, cunning, and not to be underestimated.

One of my wishes for this book is that there would be a romance between Lucy Gray and Coriolanus. There was, and unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations, which greatly added to my minor issues with this book. Collins greatly crafted a love triangle in the original Hunger Games trilogy, and I was so excited for more of that great romance that made you root for two people to end up together. The romance between Coriolanus and Lucy Gray seemed disjointed, rushed, and absurd. It almost seemed like Coriolanus was using Lucy Gray, which of course is false since he had nothing to gain from loving a poor girl from District 12.

Coriolanus prepares Lucy Gray for the arena while some Hunger Games traditions are introduced-- the betting, mutts and TV host and interviews are all started in this book. The Head Gamemaker at the time is Dr. Gaul, a psychotic and mutation-obsessed woman who takes interest in Coriolanus. Readers should expect to be creeped out and disturbed by Dr. Gaul throughout the novel.

Drama unfolds before the Games even begin, and there are many, many characters and side plots introduced and finished before the Hunger Games even begin. The actual part of the Hunger Games was my favorite part of the novel. Collins truly is a master of writing stories set in the arenas. I will not spoil who wins the 10th Hunger Games, but expect to be surprised by the turn of events right after the Games conclude.

My only other problem with this book is it actually felt like three books instead of one. Like the rest of the series, it is divided into three sections, and each felt like it's own standalone story. The third section Iread very fast. The first was very slow. And the middle was the best, with the arena and Hunger Games.

One of the things about this book that I enjoyed tremendously is that it does not paint Coriolanus as a hero, even back then. He is still cunning and a little evil, especially at the surprising ending. Coriolanus is never written as a good person. Instead, the good people around him are at his disposal.

Another thing to note is the literalness of the title. There are all three-ballads, songbirds, and snakes, in this novel. It is in no way symbolic or metaphorical. There is a lot of music, for Lucy Gray, and to add a lighter tone. I liked the inclusion of all the music, though it was a little strange to have so many songs included in full, with all their lyrics and everything. There are several songs from the original trilogy in this book, The Hanging Tree among them, and I enjoyed the inclusion of those.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does not feel like a Hunger Games novel. It feels like a companion to Collins' original trilogy, but not directly connected to that world. That being said, it is a very compelling and originally imaginative story, that only suffered from a few disjointed elements. This prequel does not quite live up to the original beloved stories of The Hunger Games, but comes very close and presents a new take on Suzanne Collins' world of Panem.

Reviewer's Name: 
Allie S.

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Book Cover
Author: 
Collins, Suzanne
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

This book is fantastic! The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes adds a whole new level of depth to the Hunger Games Series main antagonist, Coriolanus Snow, and to Suzanne Collins' dystopian world. This novel shows the journey of Coriolanus Snow from an eighteen year old boy trying to find his place in the world to the ruthless president in the Hunger Games Trilogy. I could not put this book down. It is the perfect addition to a fantastic series. I highly recommend this novel for any teenaged reader or fan of the Hunger Games Series.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B.

Book Review: The Fowl Twins

Book Cover
Author: 
Colfer, Eoin
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Artemis Fowl is back!

Well, not really. But his little brothers are a more than sufficient replacement. Twins Myles and Beckett have lived a life of education and luxury (with some mild kidnapping thrown in). But everything changes drastically when a small troll appears on their island. Before they know it, they find themselves kidnapped by ACRONYM (a government organization that deals with magic) and working with a fairy to escape from not one, but two baddies - an evil, mustache twirling duke and a deranged nun that are themselves at odds. Will the Fowl Twins escape in time to save their lives and, perhaps more importantly, human-fairy relations for the rest of time?

This was very cute. Colfer was in top form here, and this held all of the characteristics of a middle grade book that I find to be readable (they aren't always my favorite). Myles is snarky. Beckett is a loose cannon (who can talk to animals!!!). The duke has access to insanely quirky gadgets and wouldn't be out of place as a Despicable Me super-villain. The evil nun is an evil nun. The pace moves quickly, but we still get to know our characters. Aside from its general predictability (adults will see all the twists coming before they happen), it's a fantastic middle grade read. If the narrator is any good, I'll add this series to my list of books that I listen to while running.

TLDR: If you loved the Artemis Fowl series, you'll love this one too! It has all of the best elements of the original series with some fun new quirks and characters. 4 stars - I really liked it.

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Fowl Twins is available for purchase on 05 Nov, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again
Author: 
Lai, Thanhha
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Inside Out and Back Again is a historical drama all told in poems. A Vietnamese family is forced to flee their home in Saigon, Vietnam due to the outbreak of the Vietnam war. Luckily, they escape and flee to Alabama, however, Ha, the daughter in the family has trouble adjusting to the different lifestyle in the U.S. In, this book, you get a view into the life of Vietnamese refugees and their struggle to adjust to a new life, all in the form of poems. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great story filled to the brim with poems.

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: 
Kyle Y

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