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Keeper of the Lost Cities (Keeper of the Lost Cities #1)

In Middle Grade Book Review on January 26, 2017 at 10:05 pm

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by Shannon Messenger

Middle Grade Fantasy/©2012/488 Pages/Recommended for Middle School/First in a series of 7 Books

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”
There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.

My Thoughts:

This is just one of those books that grabs you on the first page and doesn’t let you go. The plot is engaging and full of twists and turns, the fantasy world setting is incredibly creative, and the characters (and there are many!) are each quite interesting and multidimensional. It is the first of seven in the series, and I am looking forward to reading them all. A well written, thoroughly enjoyable book.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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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

 

The Wrath & the Dawn

In YA Book Reviews on May 4, 2016 at 9:28 pm

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By Renee Ahdieh

YA Fantasy/©2015/First of Two/Recommended for Ages 11+

Publisher Information (Courtesy of Goodreads)

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

My Thoughts:

This book took my breath away. It is so beautifully written that it grabs hold of you from the first page and doesn’t let go. It has an engaging plot and the most incredible characters. Shahrzad, of course, tops the list along with Khalid, but there are at least a dozen more that are also quite unique and memorable in their own right. All in all, one of those books that you just can’t put down!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

The Winner’s Curse

In YA Book Reviews on May 1, 2015 at 4:34 am

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 by Marie Rutkoski

YA Fantasy/©2015/355 Pages/The Winner’s Trilogy #1/Recommended for Age 12+

Publisher’s Blurb:

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My Thoughts:

This story has a strong female protagonist and a fascinating fantasy world reminiscent of ancient Rome and Greece. That was enough to catch my attention, and it hung on tight as Kestrel’s and Arin’s relationship built and became more complex, especially as the power dynamic shifted. As if the tension filled relationship wasn’t enough, the author added to the plot with a healthy amount of battle strategies and political intrigue. And more than once, just when I figured I knew where the story was headed, it didn’t. I liked the pacing of the story – slow at first, giving adequate time to develop the characters and plot line, then picking up quickly towards the middle, with an ending that makes reading the next book in the trilogy inevitable. All in all, I think this is a very enjoyable, well written fantasy.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Other Resources:

Winner’s Crime (The Winner’s Trilogy Book #2)

Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy Book #3) March 1, 2016

The Book Addict’s Guide

Companion Books:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

The Wicked Will Rise

In YA Book Reviews on April 6, 2015 at 12:53 am

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by Danielle Paige

YA Fantasy Retelling/©2015/293 pages/Second Book in a Trilogy/Recommended for ages 12 and above

Publisher’s Blurb (Courtesy of Goodreads):

In this dark, high-octane sequel to the New York Times bestselling Dorothy Must Die, Amy Gumm must do everything in her power to kill Dorothy and free Oz.

To make Oz a free land again, Amy Gumm was given a mission: remove the Tin Woodman’s heart, steal the Scarecrow’s brain, take the Lion’s courage, and then Dorothy must die….

But Dorothy still lives. Now the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has vanished, and mysterious Princess Ozma might be Amy’s only ally. As Amy learns the truth about her mission, she realizes that she’s only just scratched the surface of Oz’s past—and that Kansas, the home she couldn’t wait to leave behind, may also be in danger. In a place where the line between good and evil shifts with just a strong gust of wind, who can Amy trust—and who is really Wicked?

My Thoughts:

This sequel to Dorothy Must Die is equally dark and wickedly good. I love Amy as the snarky narrator. She takes the reader on quite a ride as she tries to find a way to save Oz. Many of the characters from the first book can be found in the sequel, along with a few additional new characters, each of which another layer of complexity to the story.The plot takes up where the last one left off and quickly picks up the pace, providing lots of action, suspense, and twists and turns. But what I especially enjoyed about this book was the incredible writing. Danielle Paige is masterful with word building and description. For example, “It was like being spun in some Willy Wonka version of a washing machine. A neon palette swirled around me as I tumbled: hot pink, electric blue, candy-apple red, grape-soda purple, and every color imaginable in between, all of them zooming downward into infinity in a twisting, death-defying flume, carrying me faster than even seemed possible.” I wish I had tagged more great lines, but I was too busy turning those pages. Then it all came to an end. Rather abruptly, I thought, leaving me with an uneasy feeling of what-is-happenning here. That is the problem with those bridge books in a trilogy, and it is going to be along wait to find out what finally happens. Book #3 won’t be published until 2017. I am sure, though, that it will be worth the wait!

My Rating: 4/5

Additional Resources:

The Candid Cover review

USA Today – Interview with the author

Companion Books: The Lunar Chronicles by Marisa Meyer

All Our Yesterdays

In YA Book Reviews on April 1, 2015 at 6:39 pm

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 by Cristin Terrill

YA Science Fiction Fantasy/©2013/360 Pages/Stand Alone Book

Publisher’s Comments:

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

My Thoughts:

I found this to be quite the page turner. On the surface, it focuses on the three main characters over two time periods courtesy of time travel. The plot is compelling and fast moving. Fair warning, there is a fair amount of violence, suspense, a love triangle of sorts, and a suicide. Lest you think it is far too serious a read, the afore mentioned love triangle provides some very humorous moments. Beyond the basic story line, the author weaves issues of friendship, obsession, loyalty, class differences, ethics, and politics throughout, providing some thought provoking topics for the YA reader. All in all, it is an exciting read that explores how tragedy and the desperate desire to fix the past can consume people.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Other Thoughts:

Kirkus Reviews

Reading After Midnight

Ruin and Rising

In YA Book Reviews on March 19, 2015 at 9:25 pm

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by Leich Bardugo

YA Fantasy/©2014/434 Pages/The Grisha #3/Recommended for 7th Grade+

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

My Thoughts:

I loved everything about this book, as I did the other two books in the series. I especially enjoyed and appreciated her writing style. Leigh Bardugo is an absolute master of description and dialogue. She is also pretty darn good at plot and character development. The main characters evolved as the story progressed, but the secondary characters also developed more depth, thus providing more than just a few truly memorable and unique characters. The plot is darker and even more complex than the previous two books in the series, and quite the page turner. Too many plot twists and OMG moments to count. How it was all going to end was always in question, and with each turn of events, I had the nagging feeling that I wasn’t going to like it. But like it, I did. I must say that this is the most satisfying ending to a trilogy ever! I was surprised at how things were resolved, but all the loose ends were tied up and I was not disappointed.

My Rating: 5/5

Books Like This: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Bardugo’s Next Series: The Dregs #1 coming October 6, 2015

Other Reviews:

The Book Addict’s Guide

Read. Breathe. Relax

Siege and Storm

In YA Book Reviews on March 16, 2015 at 6:13 pm

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 by Leich Bardugo

YA Fantasy/©2014/434 Pages/The Grisha #2/Recommended for 7th Grade+

Publisher’s Comments (Courtesy of Goodreads):

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My Thoughts:

Author Leigh Bardugo has built quite the magical world in her Grisha Trilogy, with Siege and Storm as an excellent follow-up to Shadow and Bone. In fact, I like this one even better. Bardugo’s writing continues to be incredible. Alina has become a more interesting narrator, and some engaging new characters are introduced.  The Darkling takes on a less prominent role in this book, but I have no doubt he will move back to the forefront very soon. The plot is compelling, highly entertaining, and well thought out with lots of intense action and plot twists. As to be expected, it ends with quite the cliffhanger. Lucky for me, I already have the third book and am ready to start on it.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Other Resources:

Leigh Bardudugo’s Website and the World of the Grisha

Read. Breathe. Relax. Review