Thursday, April 27, 2017

Silver Stars by Michael Grant

Silver Stars is the second book in the YA historical fiction series, Front Lines, also known as Soldier Girl. It is WWII, but not as students would learn in history class. Women and girls are not cooking and cleaning while the men fight. Michael Grant creates an alternate reality of the war in which women could be drafted. 

Three brave girls decide to enlist in the war. Rio Richlin enlists because she wants to do her part and avenge her sister's death in the war. Frangie Marr enlists to be a medic and help pay bills. Rainy Schulterman enlists because she wants to get rid of Hitler and stop what is happening to her family. In book 2, the three soldier girls move to their next target- Sicily, Italy.

Rio, Frangie, and Rainy's personalities changed from being at war. This painted a big picture of how war can change a person. Their outlook on life and death changed. Rainy's sections were my favorite. I loved her bravery and her focus to do the right thing. How she survived would seem a miracle, and she was an incredible person that anyone would look up to. I also still love the idea of having women fight in the war, and it really shows how women can do anything men can. This story also teaches bravery and acceptance of others.

There was a focus difference in the second book. Front Lines, the first book, was more focused on Rio, Frangie, and Rainy getting through training and into the war, while this one is more focused on the real war life. There were some scenes that were hard to read and get through because of the graphic war violence.  

I also felt like the development of the characters were different. In Silver Stars, I was less drawn to Rio and I was more intrigued to Frangie and Rainy. I found myself wanting to skip passages to get to what happens next. (Luckily I stopped myself.) Just like the first book, Rio had most of the chapters, but in the other book I liked all of the characters equally. The balance of characters and the length of each character's perspective was really strong in Grant's Gone Series, so I was a little surprised. 

Just like in the first book, the names of the battles and the places they went were real. The amount of research that had to go into writing this had to be really extensive. It was very obvious that he knew what he was talking about, and I admire the hard work he put into this. (Take a look at the bibliography page at the end!)

There are two other books in the Front Lines collection. Soldier Girls in Action is book 1.5, and Dead of the Night is an extra short story that Michael Grant wrote exclusively for World Book Day 2017. 

Michael Grant is also the author of the Gone series, which I highly recommend for YA dystopian fans. Read my review of the first book in the Gone series. I am thrilled to know that Grant is coming out with a follow up series to Gone called Shade Darby. The first book is titled Monster and comes out on October 17, 2017.
Title: Silver Stars
Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 576 Pages
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Monday, April 24, 2017

Disconnected by Lisa M. Cronkhite

Disconnected is a YA realistic fiction book that I received from the author. Teen Milly Norris is suffering from schizophrenia and DID (dissociative identity disorder). Milly is being bullied by Amelia, the voice and alternate personality in her head. Amelia used to be her imaginary friend, but over time she turned into her enemy. Filled with hallucinations and missing memories, she is not even sure what is real or not anymore. After a mysterious fire, Milly and her grandfather move in with her Aunt Rachel and begin to unravel what really happened to her family. Amelia is hiding her memories, and her dreams might be the only way to recover the past. She must remember her past and who she is before it's too late and Amelia takes control over Milly forever. 

I absolutely loved this book! From the very first page I was hooked and couldn't put it down. This book hands down has the most internal conflict ever. Amelia is bullying Milly, which technically means that she is bullying herself. Unlike regular bullying, there is no report to fill out at school, there is really no solution, and there were times when she felt helpless. Milly has a really strong voice, and she was firm with standing up to Amelia.  

The author did an amazing job developing the hidden memories and the forgetfulness. DID usually is a reaction to trauma to help the person avoid bad memories. Milly has some pretty awful memories, and all the timelines made sense. I really love books where the character has amnesia or something like that, but the addition of schizophrenia took it in a different direction that I am not used to seeing. Bullying is also something common in books, but the angle of writing makes this book so much different than anything I have read before.  

The mystery concept was intriguing and mesmerizing. There are so many twists and turns that I was hooked the whole time. I also loved the romance between Milly and Blake. The sweet relationship was the cherry on top. The sensory details were amazing, especially imagery with the Magnolia tree, the garden, and her dreams/hallucinations. I liked all of the different settings, and I loved meeting other characters at the hospital. This is a dark book, however there are elements to it that lighten it up. I loved the little details such as the cat and the hospital food. I loved the ending section that is three weeks later. This wrapped up the book quite nicely and is satisfying.

Sometimes people question me as to why I would read books over and over again if I already know what is going to happen, especially a mystery. There is so much more that goes into a book than just the suspense, and this is the type of book I will gladly re-read over and over! I highly recommend you read this book!

Title: Disconnected
Author: Lisa M. Cronkhite
Publisher: Poisoned Pencil
Pages: 200
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Black Tempest (The Time Shift Trilogy Book 2) By Ryan Dalton

I received this brand new science fiction YA book for free from the publisher (Jolly Fish Press) in exchange for an honest review. The Black Tempest will be released on April 25, 2017, and is the second book in The Time Shift Trilogy. Malcolm and Valentine are just starting to adjust back to normal from their battle with Lucius when Asha and Tyrathorn fell into their lap. From the kingdom of Everwatch, their war is now leaking through the timeline into the present. They came to stop this enemy, the Black Tempest, said to control time and ice. In order to beat this new foe, Malcolm and Valentine must unlock the Chronauri power hidden inside of them. The power of time is calling to them, and it is impossible to ignore.

It was a positive thing that The Black Tempest was structured and formatted very similar to the first book. Since I knew what happened in the other book, I was not as surprised with the outcome of this book. I was able to guess a lot of what was going to happen, and I picked up on some other things that were similar, as well. Anyone who has read the first book would quickly realize that the two are related. This kept the sense of The Year of Lightning still at the front of my mind, and I was able to notice things that I had not noticed before.

In the previous book, it was obvious that Malcolm and Valentine had powers, but they were fully explained and enhanced in this book. I loved the descriptive adjectives and sensory details when they were using their powers. I agree with the author’s decisions about Winter. There are a ton of characters already, and I liked how her plot line went in a different direction, but was at the same time still involved. I loved seeing the fragile side of Winter, and I am sympathetic to her family situation. Fred was hilarious, but yet he took protecting his friends seriously. Fred is also very rich, and I still like that he is not conceited about it. Asha broke my heart when I learned the source of her power. She is such an incredible warrior and character, and I look up to her. Asha had strong character development that I loved. She gradually showed the girly side of her as the book progressed.

There was a ton of action in the book. There were parts when I thought that the book was over because every plot line had a different climax, not to mention all the battles and training. The thing I actually liked the most was the family moments with Malcolm, Valentine, Dad, and Callie. I also loved everything when they were at school or at home. Readers got a sense of them attempting to act like normal teenagers, and there are other sides to characters in certain settings. I especially loved it when they actually traveled through time.

I highly recommend that you read this book!

Title: The Black Tempest
Author: Ryan Dalton
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Pages: 448
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Fifteen Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins

Fifteen Days Without a Head is a YA realistic fiction book about how far one would go to save their family. Laurence Roach is trying his best to have a normal life, but that is challenging when his mom is an alcoholic. She loves her sons, but grief, depression, and violent mood swings get in the way. Laurence is also starting to become more of a parent than a 15-year-old student in high school. He constantly is taking care of his 6-year-old brother, Jay, who thinks he is Scooby Doo.

One day, their mom does not come home from work. Laurence does not want to tell anyone about his mother's disappearance in fear that he and his brother will be separated. Hours turn into days, and Laurence spins a complicated web of lies, even dressing up as his mom to trick nosy neighbors. Every night, he pretends to be his father and calls into a radio station to win a tropical vacation. Once Laurence finds his mother, he believes the vacation will make his mother want to come back. 

I wish that there were more scenes at school. There was one interaction with a teacher in the beginning, and I wish that there was more of that. Mina, the girl that Laurence likes, I feel was too suddenly involved. Their relationship was not developed enough for me. The book touches on serious subjects like alcoholism, child abandonment, and poverty. While the subject matter is serious, the characters and the writing style are humorous, especially the Scooby Doo fascination. Laurence and Jay watched Scooby Doo together, and Jay was Scooby and Laurence was Shaggy. They based a lot of things off of the show, which was really cute.

I loved the names of the chapters! Each chapter was a day (15 chapters, 15 days), and he slightly changed the names of the days to match the themes of that chapter. For example, he changed Wednesday to Whensday, and Thursday to Blursday. I also love the title. The first impression of a book is the title and the cover, and the second I read the title I was drawn in.

Laurence seemed way more mature than his age. At 15 he has to take care of his mother, his brother, and school. He was under a lot of pressure, but he pushed through it all and even laughed about it. I find it very ironic that his last name is Roach and there are a lot of cockroaches in their awful apartment. Apparently, Laurence thinks so, too. Laurence does everything he can think of to keep his family together, and it is amazing what he did to get his life back together. This makes Fifteen Days Without a Head inspirational in the sense of the importance of family.

I recommend that you read this book!

Title: Fifteen Days Without a Head
Author: Dave Cousins
Publisher: OUP (Oxford University Press)
Pages: 288
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ashes to Ashes by Valerie Thomas

I received this YA mystery e-book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. Ashes to Ashes is the first book in a YA series. Natalie just moved to a new neighborhood and is starting at Emerson High. Shortly after starting freshman year, strange things start happening. Her weekly planner had already been filled out, with homework and notes already there for the whole year written in her own handwriting! Soon she starts getting notes telling her not to go to school on November 1st. Vague notes warning the future begin to pop up everywhere, on her English paper, in her locker, and on homecoming tickets. In the center of it all, there is a mysterious girl named Love. She seems to be connected to the unfortunate events that keep happening, and Natalie will stop at nothing to figure out what she is hiding and what the notes mean. 

Overall, Ashes to Ashes was a good book. I could not stop reading it and was on the edge of my seat! The concept is very interesting and unique. The notes intrigued me, and I was constantly trying to guess the result. I also loved the figurative language. There was a ton of creative metaphors and similes, and they helped me visualize the events even better. Everything was so descriptive, and all those metaphors helped. There were frequent changes in the style of the language and tone used. There were many different plot lines going in different directions, but what I loved was that the climax of each got more and more intense each time. This helps with the suspense and the mystery. 

A good portion of the book consisted of dialogue. While I usually like more thoughts and feelings than dialogue, the characters all vocalized their thoughts and feelings. Some of the dialogue felt rather forced, but it fit the situations in the environment at the time. 

In my opinion, the characters were a little too mature for their ages. These kids are freshman in high school, and they have almost no adult supervision. The only times when adults were around was when something really bad happened. Natalie and her friends also skipped school whenever they wanted to, and I thought for a while that these kids were freshmen in college instead of freshmen in high school. I feel like the setting and characterizations could have been slightly more developed. I also would have liked to see more internal conflict in Natalie and the other characters. 

The author, Valerie Thomas, has her own website where she posts tips and suggestions for improving writing. She even recommends books to read. Check out her website! 

I recommend that you read this book. The last page of Ashes to Ashes announces that there will be a second book, and I cannot wait to read it!  

Title: Ashes to Ashes 
Author: Valerie Thomas
Publisher: Ebbing Neptune Publishing
Pages: 252 Pages
Series: Yes, book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Monday, March 27, 2017

Radiate by Marley Gibson

Radiate is an inspirational YA realistic fiction book about never giving up and the power of positive thinking. Hayley was in band, but senior year she decided she wanted more with her life. Hayley wanted to stand out and be something important. So, Hayley tries out for cheerleading, and makes it! She pushes herself hard to be the best she can possibly be. Soon, she notices that her left leg is bothering her. She ignores it, until one day she has a painful bump on her leg. She goes to the doctor and is informed that she has osteosarcoma. She has malignant cancer. She could lose her leg, even lose her life. But Hayley stays positive. She never loses hope and stays strong and brave. Hayley will not let cancer strip her from her dreams, no matter what. She is determined to fight and most importantly, cheer. 

Hayley is one of the most inspirational characters I have ever encountered! She took the awful thing given to her and turned it into strength. She used cheerleading and her positive thinking to beat the cancer. She had a possibility of losing her leg, but she never let that push her down. There are a lot of generalizations about cheerleaders in the world, and Hayley showed that there is more to being a cheerleader than meets the eye. She showed how hard the sport actually is. There are a lot of controversies and generalizations about cheerleading and cheerleaders, but Radiate proved them wrong. 

Radiate also showcased problems in society with acceptance. It showed the importance in being who you are, and not caring what others think about you. The author was very descriptive about the cancer and used medical terminology that I now know. The book is educational in learning about cancer. This is also the type of story that teaches about being thankful for what you have. Gabriel was the sweetest guy. Any person would be lucky to know him. 

I loved the section in the back of the book called A Mother’s Perspective. It told the true story that was the motivation for writing the book. I love Radiate even more now that I know it is based off of a true story. I loved the romance in the book, and the love triangle added so much to the book. There were a lot of different plot lines in the story, and they blended and intersected nicely. 

Radiate is a story of friendship and positivity, a book about not giving up a fight. This book is about faith, love and family, and teaches to radiate. I highly recommend that you read this book!

Title: Radiate
Author: Marley Gibson
Publisher: Graphia
Pages: 395
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Winds of Power: The Sleeper Prophecy by Robert Drummond

I was intrigued when the author contacted me to be one of the first to review this YA science fiction e-book, which he self-published. When a blue-violet star in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy died, its solar winds reached Earth. These winds interacted with the DNA of four teens and triggered special powers. Seven other planets in the Milky Way make up the Galactic Alliance that ensures peace. In order to have a better relationship between the Alliance and Earth, they take the four teens into space to learn how to use their abilities. However, there is also an evil threat to the alliance planets, and these teens might just be the advantage that they need. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book, especially the imagery. I could picture what every alien looked like. I had a clear image in my head of all the characters and their surroundings throughout the story. I felt like I was in the room with Aiden and watching the events unfold. The four teens were like a family to each other. They supported each other and trusted each other. The relationships between the characters were a strong point for The Winds of Power

Something I enjoyed was that the four teens did not get too carried away with their powers, especially Aiden. Being the most powerful of all of them, he still focused on his brother Drew and his aunt Del. A lot of leaders abuse their powers, but Aiden stayed true to being human and focused on helping others. The love and concern for his brother was a huge element to the book. Readers cannot go a single chapter without realizing how much family was a value to him. I loved reading Aiden’s emotions. They were so strong that readers can physically feel them, too. 

I have to give credit to the author for the amazing names of the aliens. I know that I could have never come up with anything better. I asked Mr. Drummond how he picked the interesting names and he said, “I picked the names of the aliens using an Australian map, and picked names of roads, towns, bridges etc that I thought matched their characters.” 

Another thing I noticed was that the title of the book is an exact description of the book and fits the subject matter perfectly, which is not often the case with books. Personally, I really love when the cover and title match what I am reading. They just tie everything together. I also like how the cover is not too crazy or crowded. Sometimes less is more, and in this case I think the cover could not have been done any better. 

The part that I would change or recommend to be different is right at the beginning. I felt that it could have been more developed before the aliens and special powers happened. I also would have liked a little more of an initial shock of the fact that aliens actually exist. 

I recommend that you read this book! I can't wait to read the next book, The Winds of Power: Return of the Ancients.

Title: The Winds of Power: The Sleeper Prophecy
Author: Robert Drummond 
Publisher: Self-published (Robert Drummond) 
Pages: 247 Pages
Series: Yes
Rating: 4 Stars