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Archive for the ‘YA Book Reviews’ Category

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

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

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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.

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The Crown’s Game

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

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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

The Storyspinner (The Keeper Chronicles, Book 1)

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

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 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

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

In Middle Grade Book Review, Uncategorized, YA Book Reviews on January 10, 2017 at 7:44 pm

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by Melissa Sweet

Biography/©2016/176 pages/Recommended for Middle School and Beyond

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads):
“SOME PIG,” Charlotte the spider’s praise for Wilbur, is just one fondly remembered snippet from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. In Some Writer!, the two-time Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. Budding young writers will be fascinated and inspired by the journalist, New Yorker contributor, and children’s book author who loved words his whole life. This authorized tribute is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White and includes an afterword by Martha White, E. B. White’s granddaughter. 

My Thoughts:
Masterfully written and beautifully illustrated (as all books by Melissa Sweet seem to be), this is one biography that will grab you from the first page, and you won’t want to put it down. It is visually stunning, interspersed as it is with photos, quotes and memorabilia from White’s life, as well as Melissa Sweet’s incredible illustrations. It is also full of stunning revelations about Mr. White. I have read his books, but other than that I couldn’t tell you much about E. B. White. Now I can’t stop talking about him. This book may be intended for the middle school audience, but all adults who grew up on his books are going to enjoy reading this as well. It is some book!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Other Great Books illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women
by Catherine Thimmesh, Melissa Sweet

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, Melissa Sweet

 

Ghost (Track 1)

In YA Book Reviews on September 8, 2016 at 10:30 pm

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by Jason Reynolds

Realistic Fiction/©2016/180 pages/First in a series (Track)/Recommended for ages 10+

Publisher’s Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.

My Thoughts:

What a great book! I loved everything about it – including the clever chapter titles (all of which start with “World Record for the…”). The writing is just amazing, the plot is thoughtful and engaging, and the characters are truly unique and so incredibly well developed that you feel you know them personally. Ghost (the main character) narrates the story in a way that will have you laughing and crying at frequent intervals throughout the book. That boy will work his way into your heart, and you will be rooting for him all the way. It is a quick, enjoyable read, and a great addition to the middle school library. Good to know that there are three more books in the series, each focusing on one of the other track team newbies.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

Furthermore

In YA Book Reviews on September 6, 2016 at 12:59 am

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By Tahereh Mafi

Middle Grade Fantasy/©2016/401 Pages/Stand Alone/Recommended for Middle Grades

Publisher’s Information (Courtesy of Goodreads):

The bestselling author of the Shatter Me series takes readers beyond the limits of their imagination in this captivating new middle grade adventure where color is currency, adventure is inevitable, and friendship is found in the most unexpected places.

There are only three things that matter to twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. The day Father disappears from Ferenwood he takes nothing but a ruler with him. But it’s been almost three years since then, and Alice is determined to find him. She loves her father even more than she loves adventure, and she’s about to embark on one to find the other.

But bringing Father home is no small matter. In order to find him she’ll have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is a boy named Oliver whose own magical ability is based in lies and deceit–and with a liar by her side in a land where nothing is as it seems, it will take all of Alice’s wits (and every limb she’s got) to find Father and return home to Ferenwood in one piece. On her quest to find Father, Alice must first find herself–and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss.

My Thoughts:

I have been a fan of Tahereh Mafi since her Shatter Me trilogy, and this book did not disappoint.  It is highly entertaining and masterfully written.  The characters are truly unique, and the plot is quite engaging. The ending of each chapter just begs the reader to continue on to the next. Fast paced, hilarious, and almost impossible to put down. In addition to being a story well told, it is also about friendship, being yourself and believing in yourself. It is a great addition to the middle school library.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Favorite Quote:

“Alice knew that being different would always be difficult; she knew that there was no magic that would erase narrow-mindedness or iron out the inequities in life. But Alice was also beginning to learn that life was never lived in absolutes. People would both love her and rebuff her; they would show both kindness and prejudice. The simple truth was that Alice would always be different—but to be different was to be extraordinary, and to be extraordinary was an adventure. It no longer mattered how the world saw her; what mattered was how Alice saw herself. ”

 

The Running Dream

In YA Book Reviews on September 2, 2016 at 6:51 pm

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by Wendelin Van Draanen

YA Realistic Fiction/©2011/332 pages/Recommended for 7th Grade+

Publisher’s Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

An award-winning and inspiring novel. When Jessica’s dreams are shattered, she puts herself back together—and learns to dream bigger than ever before.

Jessica thinks her life is over when she loses a leg in a car accident. She’s not comforted by the news that she’ll be able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. Who cares about walking when you live to run?

As she struggles to cope with crutches and a first cyborg-like prosthetic, Jessica feels oddly both in the spotlight and invisible. People who don’t know what to say, act like she’s not there. Which she could handle better if she weren’t now keenly aware that she’d done the same thing herself to a girl with CP named Rosa. A girl who is going to tutor her through all the math she’s missed. A girl who sees right into the heart of her.

With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again. But that’s not enough for her now. She doesn’t just want to cross finish lines herself—she wants to take Rosa with her

Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award

My Thoughts:

Memorable characters, engaging plot, beautifully written, and incredibly inspiring – this book has it all. The story centers on Jessica and her adjustment to having lost her leg, but it is so much more than that.There are many life lessons embedded in the plot, and they will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.  This book is definitely a great addition to the middle school library.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Companion Books:

Flipped by Wendell Van Draanen

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Favorite Quotes:

“I wonder about the deep, wide abyss between good intentions and concrete action, and how many of them leapt across it.”

 “It’s to have people see her instead of her condition. That’s all that anybody with a disability wants. Don’t sum up the person based on what you see, or what you don’t understand; get to know them.” 

“It’s disturbing how fast weeds take root in my garden of worthiness.
They’re so hard to pull.
And grow back so easily.”

 

March (Book One, Book Two, Book Three)

In Non-Fiction Reads, YA Book Reviews on August 31, 2016 at 5:42 am

by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Art by Nate Powell

NonFiction/Graphic Novels©2016/Recommended for 7th Grade and Above

Publisher Info (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Book Two: After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence – but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before.Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Book Three: The third volume continues where the second left off and chronicles the heartbreaking and gut wrenching details of the struggle to assure that every African American secures his/her right to vote.

My Thoughts:

I read all three books in one day. I just could not stop reading. I had my doubts about the suitability of a graphic novel format for such an important subject as the Civil Rights Movement, but those doubts were quickly put to rest. . The graphic art was stunning and will most assuredly attract young adult readers. The incredible story of John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement will amaze them and pull them in.

The second book in this trilogy is just as powerful as the first. I am amazed at how much information is contained in this graphic novel and how accurately it captures everything that went on at the time.  I grew up while all this was happening, yet there was so much I didn’t know.  In addition to the focus on John Lewis’s part in the Civil Rights Movement, the author also shines the light on so many others who likewise made significant contributions. They all most assuredly deserve the recognition for what they did.

The final book in the series just took my breath away. It captured every important event and recognized many of the individuals who put their lives on the line to help secure the right to vote for every African American. So many people showed such courage and conviction – awe inspiring beyond words.

This truly eye-opening and thought provoking series fully deserves to be widely read and not just by the target audience of young adults.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Companion Books:

Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy Book 2) by Deborah Wiles

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson

 

Wolf Hollow

In YA Book Reviews on July 25, 2016 at 11:29 pm

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by Lauren Wolk

Coming-of-Age/Historical Fiction/©2016/Recommended for Ages 9-13

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

My Thoughts:

The stunning cover will attract your attention, and the masterful writing and engaging plot will pull you in. This is one of those books that I could not put down. The characters are well drawn and memorable, especially Annabelle, the 12-year-old who narrates the story in the past tense. It tackles some serious topics (bullying, prejudice, and bigotry), and has at its core significant life lessons about compassion for others, how we judge and treat people, and the importance of doing the right thing. I especially appreciate that this piece of historical fiction takes place between the two world wars and shines a light on the impact of war on the soldiers who had to do the fighting. This is a book that will stay with me for a while.

It is a Newbery contender for sure and a great addition for the middle school library.

The Rose and the Dagger

In YA Book Reviews on May 4, 2016 at 9:46 pm

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(The Wrath and the Dawn #2) by Renee Ahdieh

YA Fantasy/©2016/Recommended for Ages 11+

Publisher’s Information (Courtesy of Goodreads)

The much anticipated sequel to the breathtaking The Wrath and the Dawn, lauded by Publishers Weekly as “a potent page-turner of intrigue and romance.”

I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

My Thoughts:

Too often, the second in a series tends to disappoint. Not this one. In fact, it might even be better than the first. So many twists and turns and layers to the story that I just couldn’t read it fast enough. All the different story lines and characters intertwined and converged resulting in the most amazing and quite satisfying ending. It is just everything I could have asked for in a sequel!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars