readingcook

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

The War I Finally Won (The War That Saved My Life #2)

In Middle Grade Book Review on October 7, 2017 at 10:58 pm

51a4oJNBhsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Historical Fiction/©2017/Recommended for Middle School

Publisher Information (Courtesy of Goodreads):

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

My Thoughts:

I really didn’t think that The War That Saved My Life needed a sequel. I loved it just the way it was, and I was sure that a sequel couldn’t possibly meet my high expectations. However, I was definitely wrong about that.

The War I Finally Won is equal in every way – beautifully written, engaging plot and memorable characters.  Every bit as good as The War That Saved My Life!   The author took the opportunity of a sequel to add to Ada’s story, to more fully develop the characters, and to include more historical detail. A very satisfying sequel and a great addition to the middle school library.

 

Advertisements

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

In Middle Grade Book Review on October 4, 2017 at 11:34 pm

61K6Y9NuyaL._SX418_BO1,204,203,200_

written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Non’Fiction Biography/©2017/Recommended for Middle Grade

Publisher’s Info (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Women in Sports highlights notable women’s contributions to competitive athletics to inspire readers young and old. Keeping girls interested in sports has never been more important: research suggests that girls who play sports get better grades and have higher self-esteem–but girls are six times more likely to quit playing sports than boys and are unlikely to see female athlete role models in the media. A fascinating collection full of striking, singular art, Women in Sports features 50 profiles and illustrated portraits of women athletes from the 1800s to today including trailblazers, Olympians, and record-breakers in more than 40 different sports. The book also contains infographics about relevant topics such as muscle anatomy, a timeline of women’s participation in sports, statistics about women in athletics, and influential female teams.

My Thoughts:

I cannot say enough about this book! It is a great collection of brief bios of a very diverse group of amazing women. It is well researched and beautifully written. The author, though limiting each person to one page, managed to capture the essence and importance of each. The illustrations and graphics for each woman are eye-catching and engaging and add tremendously to each account.

The book goes through a timeline of history as well as including a wide range of sports. It talks of the challenges the women faced and how they dealt with them.

An empowering and inspiring book!

Other Books by This Author:

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

 

Restart

In Middle Grade Book Review on September 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

51S79MZ6rLL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_

by Gordon Korman

Realistic Fiction/©2017/Stand Alone Book/Recommended for Middle School

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return. Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him. One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

My Thoughts:

Gordon Korman is one of my favorite middle grade authors, and this book did not disappoint. First of all, it has an intriguing  plot – having the bully lose his memory and then have to figure out who he is.  The author also provides a wide variety of memorable characters – several of whom shared POV with the main character. Quite a feat for the author to get them all to have separate, unique voices, but they did. And woven throughout, there are powerful messages and life lessons about bullying, kindness, the power of forgiveness, and so many more. I think it will give middle schools students a lot to ponder. There are some epic moments of humor and epic moments that bring you to tears. All in all, an enjoyable read that packs a punch.

 

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

In YA Book Reviews on August 22, 2017 at 7:32 pm

51x99HG6kdL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

by F. C. Tee

YA Fantasy/©2017/Stand Alone/Recommended for 7th Grade and Above

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads)

The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined.

My Thoughts:

This was a highly entertaining read. Genie and Quentin are truly unique characters who will make a memorable impression on your heart and soul.  It is beautifully written, and the plot is highly creative, witty and action packed. I found it hard to put down.  With its references to Chinese mythology, I think it will be especially appealing to fans of Percy Jackson.

Wolf by Wolf

In Middle Grade Book Review on July 11, 2017 at 8:11 pm

51LKTQmvKxL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

by Ryan Graudin

YA Fiction/©

Book Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts:

A great combination of history and fantasy complete with an engaging plot and memorable characters. The motorcycle race was quite the adventure with its intricate web of evolving relationships, back-stabbing, and twists and turns. Definitely a page turner! And that ending!!! I did not see that coming. All in all, a great read, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

The Crown’s Game

In YA Book Reviews on May 22, 2017 at 8:49 pm

51RTmE-n5RL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

by Evelyn Skye
Fantasy/©2016/Grade 7 and Up

Book Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

My Thoughts:

A very unique reading experience! The setting was the first thing that captured my interest – an alternate 19th Century Russian historical setting infused with elements of magic. Then there was the fascinating mix of characters, with Vitka and Nikolai being the most interesting and quite memorable in their own way. The plot was full of edge-of-your seat twists and turns, and didn’t let up. When you reach the cliff hanger at the end, you just have to have the sequel (The Crown’s Fate) ready to grab. Even with all that, for me, the quality of the writing and the elements of magic really stood out. Highly creative and imaginative.

Sequel: The Crown’s Fate

Much darker than the first book, but equally great magical world, serious girl-power, epic sibling rivalry, deeper character development.

If You Liked This, Then You Might Like This:

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Series, Book 1) by Leigh Bardugo

Finding the Worm (Twerp Sequel)

In Middle Grade Book Review on May 22, 2017 at 5:07 pm

51ogDXXoaYL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

by Mark Goldblatt

Realistic Fiction/@2015/Recommended for Middle School

Publisher’s Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Finding the Worm (Sequel to Twerp):

It’s not a test unless you can fail. . . .

Trouble always seems to find thirteen-year-old Julian Twerski. First it was a bullying incident, and now he’s been accused of vandalizing a painting. The principal doesn’t want to suspend him again, so instead, he asks Julian to write a 200-word essay on good citizenship. Julian writes 200 no’s instead, and so begins an epic struggle between Julian and his principal.
 
Being falsely accused is bad enough, but outside of school, Julian’s dealing with even bigger issues. His friend Quentin has been really sick. How can life be fair when the nicest guy in your group has cancer? Julian’s faith and friendships are put to the test . . . and the stakes have never been higher.

My Thoughts:

Though Finding the Worm is the sequel to Twerp, both books can stand alone. However, you won’t want to miss out on either one. Each one gives you great writing, unforgettable characters and engaging plots. Both are powerful stories that give you a realistic view of life in 6th and 7th grade as related through Julian’s (i.e. Twerp) journals, both bring you humor and tears, both bring you thought provoking issues of bullying and its consequences, of integrity, and of empathy. I think both books will give middle grade readers much to think about long after they have finished the last page.

 

 

Small Great Things

In My Book Club Books on May 15, 2017 at 1:52 am

IMG_0611

by Jodi Picoult

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

My Thoughts:

This is just one of those books I could not put down, and I can’t stop thinking about. In the course of a very engaging story told from the perspectives of three characters, the author raises major issues about racism, our justice system, and how we treat minorities. While it is a book of fiction, it is also a book that makes you think. The author’s note at the end was unlike any I have ever read before and gives me a whole new appreciation of Jodi Picoult.

Book Club Discussion:

We actually started our discussion by talking about the ending. The author is Jodi Picoult, after all, and she is known for her unexpected endings. We all agreed we liked the book for many reasons, but one member thought the ending came too fast, seemed rushed, and was just too tidy. At least one of us felt that it just wasn’t realistic to expect Turk to have changed so drastically in that short of a time. It also didn’t seem completely realistic  to us that things would have ended so well for Ruth. We all agreed with these observations, but most of us still liked the ending. We wanted things to end well for Ruth, and it gave us a sense of hope that someone like Turk could change so drastically, even if it wasn’t completely realistic.

All in all, the story made us think more deeply about racism and if we were totally sure we were not at all prejudiced. Like Kennedy, we believed that we fit into that category of people who don’t see color, but then we discussed this further. One member clarified her thoughts about this by saying that of course, we see color. How could you not? The thing is not to dwell on it, not to see it as what defines the person,  and not to use it as the basis of how we relate to him/her.

The book definitely made us think about and acknowledge our prejudices. One member shared her experience of having accrued a lot of information about a woman, and then being surprised to find out she was African-American, not white. It made her stop and thing about why she had formed that opinion, what prejudices she indeed had. She outlined her thought process on figuring it out, and went on to say that we all have prejudices and need to be more self-aware in order to monitor how we think and react.

We went on to discuss the parts of the story that really stuck with us. One member brought up how enlightening it was to find out how white supremacists think and the brainwashing involved to multiply their numbers.  One member cited the part of the story when Ruth had Kennedy go shopping with her and what an eye-opening experience it was for Kennedy. One member noted the court scenes as being truly memorable. Another found it interesting how Kennedy had her associate help with the background check of the prospective jurors and observe how each juror reacted to things said in the course of the selection process. Another member cited the scene that starts on page 407 where Ruth states her true, unrestrained feelings. That was so powerful.

All in all, we liked the book. It provided an engaging story and was seriously thought provoking. One member stated that it was the best book she has read that examines racism.  Because it is fictionalized and brought in characters who displayed many of the stereotypes of both whites and blacks, it helps you look at and be open and honest about your own prejudices. A special thank you to author for including a very detailed and heartfelt Author’s Note at the end of the book.

Discussion Resources:

Reading Group Guide

Booking Mama Discussion

Book Club Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Book Club Menu

An Appetizer Collection of Small Great Things

IMG_0614

Cheeses, crackers, olives, truffle salted macron almonds, crudités

Kennedy’s Dinner for Ruth

Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread

Lasagne

Cold Zabaglione with Berries

Well, That Was Awkward

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2017 at 3:21 pm
41m7toCM4VL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
by Rachel Vail
Realistic Fiction/Contemporary/©2017/Recommended for Middle Grade

Book Info (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.
It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.
It s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying.

My Thoughts:

Interesting take on the retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac for the middle school set. Gracie as narrator of her story was highly entertaining, and many of the other characters were equally unique and memorable. I think the use of text messaging in the story will also appeal to the intended audience. In addition to an engaging plot, there are important life lessons about family, friendship, bullying, love, and loss. All in all, a good addition to the middle school library.

The Storyspinner (The Keeper Chronicles, Book 1)

In YA Book Reviews on April 20, 2017 at 7:00 pm

51WmmlZL5yL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

 by Becky Wallace

Fantasy (Young Adult)/©2015/Recommended for Ages 13+

Book Info (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

What I Thought:

It was one of those books that I could not put down. It had an engaging plot, memorable characters, and a fascinating fantasy world. The author had an interesting way of building suspense. Each chapter was fairly short (usually no more than 3-5 pages), each of which focused on what was going on with a certain character and most ending with a bit of a cliff hanger. Joanna was the main character, but there were a host of other major and lesser characters, some better developed than others, but all quite interesting and all playing significant parts. I am looking forward to Book 2 and hoping that it is just as good!

If you enjoyed this, you would also appreciate:

The Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The Winner’s Curse  by Marie Rutkoski

Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles) by Mary E. Pearson