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Shadow and Bone

In YA Book Reviews on August 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm


 by Leigh Bardugo

Fantasy/ @2012/ 356 pages/ First book in a trilogy*

Publisher’s Blurb:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

My Thoughts:

This was a good read. It has an unlikely heroine, a villain you love to hate (or rather hate to love, but you just can’t help yourself), and dark forces to combat. It has magical mayhem, a romantic triangle, political intrigue and deceptions, all taking place in a unique setting – a magical country with Grisha, Darklings, and Shadow Folds.  The story is engaging with its fast paced action, plot twist, and some truly interesting characters. The author’s writing style is a pleasure to read – masterfully descriptive. I also appreciated how the author wrapped up the ending, with just enough closure that you could stop here if you wanted to.  Of course, how you could not want to continue to read on to see what happens next is beyond me!

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you liked this, you may also like Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


Red Kayak

In YA Book Reviews on August 20, 2013 at 3:10 am


 by Priscilla Cummings

(Realistic Fiction, @ 2004, 208 pages, Stand-alone book)

Publisher’s Blurb:

First hailed as a hero for his dramatic water rescue, thirteen-year-old Brady Parks, son of a Chesapeake Bay waterman, soon makes a startling discovery that puts him at the heart of an enormous tragedy. Alone with his dark secret, Brady is ultimately forced to choose between loyalty to his lifelong friends and doing what he knows in his heart is right. Priscilla Cummings weaves a suspenseful, multi-layered tale of three teenage boys caught in a wicked web of their own making.

My Thoughts:

This is a compelling first person narrative about a teenage boy learning to make serious decisions about right and wrong. The background of the Eastern Shore and its ecology plays a large part in this story of honesty and betrayal, and of the changing way of life for Maryland’s watermen. It is a quick read, but by no means is it a light read. At the very heart, it is about grief, guilt, and, more subtly, forgiveness and acceptance, but it also touches on friendship, environment, family dynamics, death, child abuse, morality, and integrity, all artfully woven seamlessly into the story. It is well written and engaging with a host of significant life lessons. It brings home in a meaningful way that it is important to take responsibility for your actions.

My Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

In My Opinion: This book is appropriate for and of interest to mature, middle school readers.

Favorite Quote: “Doin’ what’s right is not always the easiest thing…it’s just that sometimes, even when the right answer is smack in front of you, you got to reach deep inside yourself to act on it.”

Additional Detail: There is a companion book, The Journey Back, written by the same author. It tells the story of what happened to Digger, one of the characters from Red Kayak. It is an equally engaging book.

Other Thoughts:

Similar Books That You Might Also Like:

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Where the Red Fern Growns by Wilson Rawls

The Power of Six

In YA Book Reviews on August 19, 2013 at 3:10 am


 by Pittacus Lore (Pseudonym of James Frey and Jobie Hughes)

YA Science Fiction/@2011/406 pages/Part of a Series*

Publisher’s Blurb:

I’ve seen him on the news. Followed the stories about what happened in Ohio. John Smith, out there, on the run. To the world, he’s a mystery. But to me . . . he’s one of us.

Nine of us came here, but sometimes I wonder if time has changed us—if we all still believe in our mission. How can I know? There are six of us left. We’re hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another . . . but our Legacies are developing, and soon we’ll be equipped to fight. Is John Number Four, and is his appearance the sign I’ve been waiting for? And what about Number Five and Six? Could one of them be the raven-haired girl with the stormy eyes from my dreams? The girl with powers that are beyond anything I could ever imagine? The girl who may be strong enough to bring the six of us together?

They caught Number One in Malaysia.

Number Two in England.

And Number Three in Kenya.

They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio—and failed.

I am Number Seven. One of six still alive.

And I’m ready to fight.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the Lorien Legacies (and yes, you have to read them in order or you are going to be utterly confused). I can’t believe I am still reading this series. I never considered myself a sci-fi fan, but I guess I was wrong. The basic premise of the series is that nine young aliens hide on Earth after the destruction of their world by the evil Mogadorians. Now, though, the aliens are beginning to fight back, both to save themselves and their adopted world. In the first book, I Am Number Four, John Smith escaped capture in Paradise, Ohio. Now, on the run with Sam and Number Six, they must find the rest of the remaining six of nine alien survivors in order to fight the impending invasion. I like the main characters, I like the interaction between them, and I like all the plot twists and turns. I liked that the story is told in alternating chapters by Number Four and Number Seven. It is a quick, enjoyable read.  It may not be the best series I have ever read, but I like it enough and I am vested enough to read the next one, The Rise of Nine . I got this far and I want to know what happens. High praise, especially from someone who has always claimed to hate science fiction. Oh, yeah, I am hooked.

My Rating: 3 ½ Stars

In my Opinion: This book is suitable for 11-year-olds and above. There is a lot of violence, but mostly it just involves the destruction of the despicable Mogadorians. Older children will certainly not perceive them as real and most likely will not find them disturbing. All in all, it is a good series to recommend to students as an intro to science fiction, as well as to reluctant readers.

Other Thoughts:


Someone Named Eva

In YA Book Reviews on August 16, 2013 at 1:39 am


Title: Someone Named Eva

Author: Joan M. Wolf

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: 2007

Length: 193 pages plus Author’s Note

Publisher’s Blurb:

A gripping tale of one girl’s struggle against the Nazis. “Remember who you are, Milada.” Milada’s grandmother says these words on the night the Nazi soldiers come to their home in Czechoslovakia. But what do they mean? She is Milada, who lives with her mama and papa, her brother and sister, and her beloved Babichka. Milada with the sun-kissed hair, eleven years old, fastest runner in her school. How could she ever forget? Then the Nazis send Milada to a Lebensborn center in Poland, and Milada quickly discovers that holding on to her true identity will be the greatest struggle of her young life.

My Thoughts:

There is no denying it. Reading anything about the Holocaust and man’s inhumanity to man during this dreadful part of history is always an emotional and draining experience. Yet, it is extremely important we teach our children about it, and age-appropriate historical fiction books,such as this one, are the gentlest way to impart that understanding. I commend author Joan Wolf for handling the subject matter with such truth and sensitivity. This novel focuses on eleven-year-old Milada who is taken with other blond, blue-eyed children to a school in Poland to be trained as “proper Germans” for adoption by German families, but she struggles to remember her true name and history during her long ordeal. The story is a window to the cruelty of mankind, but also the resilience of the human spirit. Although the characters are fictitious, many of the facts and details about events and occurrences in World War II Nazi Germany are very true. For the most part, this story has been relatively untold. In the Author’s Notes at the end, she gives a very detailed explanation of the Czech freedom fighters and the people of Lidice who paid a horrible price. This is a moving tribute to the people of Lidice and to all the people who ended up as Nazi prisoners. This is a story that will engage, teach, and inspire readers.

My rating: 4/5 Stars

Related books: There are many age appropriate books on the subject, but I especially recommend Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (5 Stars), Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank (5 Stars), and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (5 Stars)



In YA Book Reviews on August 11, 2013 at 5:20 am


 byMark Goldblatt

YA Contemporary Fiction/ @2013/ 274 pages/Recommended for ages 10 and up*

Publisher Blurb (from the book jacket):

It’s not like I meant for Danley to get hurt. . . .

Julian Twerski isn’t a bully. He’s just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade–blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he’s still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can’t bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.

My Thoughts:

This book has it all – a strong main character, interesting supporting characters, engaging plot, important life lessons. Though clearly a YA book, this will appeal to adults as well.

This is a coming of age story about adolescence and friendship told in journal format by the main character Julian. He is supposed to be writing about the incident with Danley, as per his teacher’s direction, because “if I write about what happened, I’ll understand what happened” (and also because he will get out of having to write a report on Shakespeare). Of course, all the way through the book, you are waiting to find out what exactly happened to Danley. However, Julian does his best to downplay that incident. Instead, he diverts attention by going into detail about other things happening in his life – his antics with his friends, his first date, his incredible running ability. Some of the details are laugh out loud funny. You get a very clear, and often humorous, look inside the mind of your typical middle school boy. All of that certainly keeps the reader engaged while still waiting for the answer to the initial question about what happened to Danley. Without giving anything away, let me just say that the ending is powerful and will stay with you.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars  (This is a book that will stand the test of time.)

If you liked this book: You might also like Wonder by R. J. Palacio.

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In YA Book Reviews on August 8, 2013 at 2:39 am


by Paula Morris

Ghost Story/Mystery/@ 2009/ 309 pages*

Additional Details:

There is a sequel to this book – Unbroken: A Ruined Novel by Paula Morris (published February, 2013)

Publisher Blurb (from the Backcover of Ruined):

Rebecca couldn’t feel more out of place in New Orleans. She’s staying in a creepy house with her aunt, who reads tarot cards. And at the snooty prep school, a pack of filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she’s invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey gives Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he’s got a hidden agenda. Then one night, among the oak trees in Lafayette Cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to show Rebecca the nooks and crannies of New Orleans. There’s just one catch. Lisette is a ghost.

My Thoughts:

Ruined, simply put, is a very enjoyable ghost/mystery/romance story that will give you a good appreciation for the city and history of New Orleans . The book has a strong character in Rebecca, who seems to have a good sense of herself and doesn’t need acceptance by the in-crowd. Lisette is also an interesting character who has quite a story to tell. For the most part, though, this book is less about the characters and more about the plot and the setting. You couldn’t pick a better location for a ghost story than New Orleans. That definitely influenced my enjoyment of the book. I thought the author did a stellar job giving rich details about the city today, its famous Garden District, French Quarter, and plantations, as well as its history and traditions. There was an especially good scene in the book where Lisette is walking Rebecca through New Orleans, and they come across ghosts with their unique stories, intermingled with real living people just going about their regular day.

You could probably find fault with the plot on a few minor points that just didn’t add up, but, overall, it is a good read.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

In My Opinion: This book is appropriate for and of interest to 7th graders and older. There is a minimum of violence and no objectionable language or explicit sexual scenes.

Book trailer

Other Thoughts:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

In YA Book Reviews on August 4, 2013 at 10:45 pm


by Ransom Riggs

 Fantasy/Mystery/Thriller/@2011/ 348 pages*

Additional Details:

Look for the sequel in January, 2014.

This is a New York Times #1 Best Seller and one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month 2011. AND Tim Burton is directing the movie based on the book.

Publisher Blurb:

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

My Thoughts:

I think this may be the most unique book I have ever read. It is a little bit creepy, very suspenseful, and definitely action packed. Adding to the uniqueness of this story are the truly authentic vintage photographs that are scattered throughout the book and are cleverly intertwined with the story. The author creates the most amazing supernatural backstories and identities for those pictured, which makes for fascinating reading in itself. I think it started slow, but once the action picks up, you are pretty much hooked on the story from there. The characters are well developed, and the language and details are rich. With its elements of time travel, suspense, and romance, this is a book that will appeal to both boys and girls.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

In My Opinion: This is appropriate and of interest to 7th grade students and older. There is some violence and mild swearing. There are some monsters and scary moments, but nothing that will keep you awake at night.

Book Trailer from YouTube:

Favorite quotes:

“At times, young man, you tread a precariously thin line between being charmingly headstrong and insufferably pigheaded.” 

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”