Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

counting by 7s

In YA Book Reviews on October 10, 2013 at 10:40 pm


by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Contemporary Fiction/©2013/378 pages/Stand Alone Book/Recommended for Middle Grades and Above*

Publisher’s Blurb (from Goodreads):

In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

My Thoughts:

Holly Goldberg Sloan has written an incredible book about a devastating loss and how the main character deals with it, and she has done so in such a way that you would never label this as a sad book. In fact, you will find yourself laughing more than crying. Ms. Sloan has created the most amazing bunch of characters. They are your classic misfits, but somehow their individual little quirks work together. I absolutely loved Willow Chance, who has a unique way of looking at the world and possesses some unbelievable talents. I loved how she impacted other people’s lives as she was trying to make sense of her own. This is a very engaging story, well written and thoroughly enjoyable. I loved her writing style, and I can’t wait to read more from her. It almost became my new favorite book. Almost. Being that I worked in education for almost forty years, you can understand that I am slightly offended by how public schools in general and the school counselor in particular are portrayed. That element just did not ring true to me and annoyed me no end. Sorry, but it did. That said, I still highly recommend this. No one should miss out on meeting the phenomenal Willow Chance.

My Rating: 4/5

Awards: A B.E.A. BUZZ BOOK 2013. An Amazon Best Book of the Month. A Junior Library Guild Selection. A Kids Indie Next List #4 on Top Ten Autumn 2013

Similar Books: If you liked this book, you might also like Wonder by E.J. Palacco, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, and Twerp by Mark Goldblatt.

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Crown of Midnight

In YA Book Reviews on October 8, 2013 at 2:57 am


 by Sarah J. Maas

YA High Fantasy/©2013/418 pages/A Throne of Glass Novel/Recommended for 7th grade and up*

Publisher’s Blurb (from Goodreads):

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes. Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

My Thoughts:

Sometimes in a series, the succeeding book tends to pale in comparison to the first. Not in this series. Crown of Midnight continues the roller-coaster ride from where the first one left off. It is full of action and political drama, heart-stopping plot twists and turns. Just as unputdownable as Throne of Glass. You get more details about the characters, see significant progress in relationships, and go deeper into the magical world the author is creating. Flows perfectly. Of course, you are left hanging at the end, with no hint of when the third book will be out. It is going to be a very long year, I am sure.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Looking for more books like this? You might like The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo


In YA Book Reviews on October 6, 2013 at 3:22 am


by Steve Sheinkin

Historical Non-Fiction/ ©2012/266 pages/Recommended for 6th grade and above*

Publisher’s Blurb (from Goodreads):

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world’s most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature.

Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Bomb is a 2013 Newbery Honor book.

 My Thoughts:

This book about the creation of the atomic bomb is highly informative, incredibly interesting, truly thought provoking, and full of intrigue. I could not put it down. It was definitely more than I was expecting from a non-fiction book. The book is well researched and well written, and includes comprehensive primary resource information, as well as pictures that add detail and interest. It gives clear information about the science involved, as well as insights into the minds of many of the people involved in the process and the decisions made. I found this all very enlightening. It rocked my world and readjusted what I thought I knew. The book ends very powerfully, with the author speaking directly to the reader. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have put it down.

My Rating: 5/5

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Three Times Lucky

In YA Book Reviews on October 4, 2013 at 7:56 pm


 by Sheila Turnage

Mystery/©2012/312 pages/Stand Alone Book/Recommended for ages 10 and up*

Publisher’s Blurb:

A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetimeRising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.

Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.

My Thoughts:

This book has it all – memorable characters and dialogue, engaging plot, and terrific writing. Mo LoBeau is an absolutely hilarious main character. She is a Southern narrator reminiscent of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, with the same pluckiness and precociousness. Completely irresistible! The rest of the characters are equally fascinating and unique. The writing absolutely sparkles on the page. If there were a prize for most creative similes and metaphors, Mrs. Turnage would win it hands down. A few of my favorite examples: “Rumors swirl around the Colonel like ink around an octopus”, “My voice is like a turkey gobble crammed in a corset”, and Miss Lana’s voice is “the color of sunlight in maple syrup”. Truly an enjoyable read. I am still smiling!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Looking for more great books like this? You might also enjoy counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

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Ender’s Game

In YA Book Reviews on October 3, 2013 at 3:09 am



by Orson Scott Card

Science Fiction/©1977/352 pages/Ender Quintet Series #1/Recommended for 7th Grade and Above*

Publisher’s Blurb:

Once again, the Earth is under attack. Alien “buggers” are poised for a final assault. The survival of the human species depends on a military genius who can defeat the buggers. But who? Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child. Recruited for military training by the world government, Ender’s childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battleschool. Among the elite recruits Ender proves himself to be a genius among geniuses. In simulated war games he excels. But is the pressure and loneliness taking its toll on Ender? Simulations are one thing. How will Ender perform in real combat conditions? After all, Battleschool is just a game. Right?

My Thoughts:

This book has the reputation of being the best science fiction book ever written. Ender is an amazing character, and the action is non-stop. Even though I am not a big fan of science fiction, I was immediately drawn it and found it hard to put down. It has a very compelling plot with many twists and turns. There are sequels to this book which are more plot driven than character driven, but, for all intents and purposed, this book can stand alone. It is a fast read, but thoughtful. Although the content involves aliens, the themes are universal and lends itself to rich discussion. This is definitely one to read before seeing the movie.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Looking for more books like this? You might like The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancy and the I Am Number Four series by Pittacus Lore.