Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point is the first of two YA books about seeing the future. Addie is a Searcher, meaning that she can search the future. This comes in handy, because she can ensure that the choices she makes are correct. However, there is no correct choice when she is forced to choose which parent to live with. Either stay with her mom in the Compound or leave with her father to live with the normal people, and not use her abilities. Told in alternating chapters of the future with her mom or with her dad, Addie is forced to realize that any future will have its flaws. With tragedy on both sides, she must choose between her own happiness or the protection of her friends.

I have always wanted to see the future! My first thought after reading the synopsis was that I was jealous of her ability. If I could see both outcomes, it would be really easy to decide, right? Not for Addie. With loss and fear on both sides, there is no good option. If I was faced with that decision, I don't know what I would do. I think that her decision at the end of the book is controversial. I personally believe that Addie is extremely strong and brave.

Having two parallel story lines was really fresh and unique. At first, I was not sure about reading two different stories, but they are alike more than I thought, especially towards the second half of the book. It was very interesting to see how the two parts overlap and intersect each other. I really enjoyed the concept of the "normal" people, and how they live. Even though the book is fantasy, it really felt realistic, which I liked. This book is also insanely dramatic, containing a murder-mystery that shocked me. I had a lot of fun guessing what was going to happen, especially when the two stories overlapped.

I highly recommend this book! I am excited to read the sequel, Split Second!

Title: Pivot Point
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 343
Series: Yes, book 1 of 2
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, May 14, 2018

Crazy by Han Nolan

Crazy is an inspirational YA realistic fiction book. Jason's mother is dead, and his father's insanity and hallucinations have taken over, leaving Jason by himself to care for his father. He is determined to tell nobody because his father needs him. Simultaneously as his father's condition deteriorates even further, Jason is forced to join a support group at school where he discovers friendships that will inspire him to finally have the strength to get help for his father.

Crazy is one of the most emotional books that I have ever read! The book enforces the importance of asking for help and standing up for what you believe in. Many people are afraid to ask for help or are ashamed that they need it, but this book clearly illustrates the power of friendship and support that can be provided. I believe that hope is the most powerful asset that Crazy has. Through the sad times and the angry times, and the almost-giving-up times, hope still shined through, inspiring optimism.

The themes of family, love, and friendship were very important. The family dynamic has completely switched. Jason is now the father and the father is now a child, the son. Jason's protectiveness of his father was inspiring and heartbreaking. I cannot imagine the weight on his shoulders and how fast he had to grow up, and how isolated his life was. Jason's external and internal conflicts were so emotional and contradicting. On one hand, the house is broken (literally) and completely falling apart, he is emotionally and mentally drained. On the other hand, he loves his father and wants everything to remain how it is, because it was safer and easier for him. I loved his character development and how he came to realize the importance of friendship and how he did not want to be alone anymore. 

This is a book that nobody can forget! I highly recommend this book!

I am also very interested in reading another book of the author's, Dancing on the Edge, as well as If I Should Die Before I Wake about a girl who hates all Jewish people who travels back in time to live the life of a Jewish girl.

Title: Crazy
Author: Han Nolan
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 352
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan

Accomplice is a YA realistic fiction book about two teens who stage a kidnapping to get into college. The guidance counselor at Chloe and Finn's school told the students that colleges are bored of the same students, and kids must stand out in extreme ways. Chloe gets the idea for a publicity stunt to stage her own kidnapping. After a while of hiding Chloe in the basement of Finn's grandmother, Finn will "find" Chloe and all the colleges will want them due to their unique (and fake) college essays. However, the girls are way in over their heads, and things will have to get way worse before they can be better.

My biggest frustration with this book is how Finn and Chloe don't have moral compasses. Finn has more morality than Chloe, but they are both despicable. Chloe strikes me as a Barbie doll, a naive girl greatly concerned only with how she looks. She is blind to emotion and to the others around her and never stops to think about her actions. Finn shows remorse and moral values, but nowhere near enough for me to care about the characters.

Finn has a lot of internal and external conflict, and shows much more intelligence than Chloe, but sadly dug herself deeper and deeper in a hole until there was just no way out. There was no change, no huge revelation, no lesson learned. I had hoped for a transformation, but this story is just sad and disappointing with no meaning at all.

I strongly, strongly dislike the college counselor. That woman should be fired, and gave the students discouraging talks (in all capital letters) which paints a harsh, unrealistic, and anxiety-provoking picture about college. If you decide to read this, please, please do not do anything insane to prove that you are worth college or lie to make yourself look better.

I do not recommend this book.

Title: Accomplice
Author: Eireann Corrigan
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 304
Series: No
Rating: 1 Star

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Boy From the Basement by Susan Shaw

The Boy From the Basement is a YA realistic fiction book about a young boy escaping his abusive past and his fears. 12-year-old Charlie lives in a home where he is condemned to the basement of his home, his "punishment," according to his father. He does not know how to read, what numbers are, and has never been outside, just hurt by his father while his mother just stood by and watched. When Charlie is afraid of a spider, he accidentally goes outside and embarks on a journey of finding love and learning to heal.

This book is quite short, 198 pages, but full of emotions and intense scenes that will move you to tears! I loved the symbolism of the spider and what it meant to Charlie, as well as his mentality of "punishment."

The Boy From the Basement is very sad and inspiring. Unfortunately, it is a true story for many kids in the world. The character development of Charlie is extraordinary. He wants his parents back, and for the longest time he doesn't understand that what he went through is wrong. He is afraid of his father, but loves him, too. He goes from blaming himself to realizing that he can be independent and gains a self-worth and confidence that is incredible and inspiring.

This book should be required reading in school. I can think of so many essays to write, from symbolism to basic characterization. I think that this book could be eye-opening for some people and it is also educational about psychology and really shows the power of positive thinking and self-esteem. It teaches coping skills, especially about fear and how to change your thinking. Readers can take away from this book the fact that life can always get better, and that even taking tiny steps can still be huge progress.

I highly recommend this book, and I cannot wait to read another book of the author's, Black-Eyed Susie!

Title: The Boy From the Basement
Author: Susan Shaw
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 198
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

35297353A Quiet Kind of Thunder is an inspirational YA romance book. Steffi has Selective Mutism, mostly due to her extreme anxiety. Rhys is deaf, and cannot hear. Because Steffi knows sign language, she is assigned to help him adjust to the new school. Soon, they fall in love, and together try to find who they are and prove to themselves that they can be independent and brave.

I love inspirational stories about overcoming hardships, which is why I picked up this book. I did not expect how beautiful romance could be, and I was pleasantly surprised. I do not know how to describe the happiness and butterflies in my heart while I was reading this book. I guess you could call it A Quiet Kind of Thunder, how the characters describe being in love. I love it when the names of books come from somewhere, and this came from the most sincere, loving place.

This book has changed some of my viewpoints on romance, and I will be more open to reading more romance books in the future. I have shied away from the majority of true romance books for a while, and I honestly am not sure why. But wow, this book moved me and enlightened me with an new appreciation for love and a happiness for the rest of the day.

I enjoyed how the book tackled some of the stigmas and assumptions made about the Deaf community and how they are viewed, as well as the cruelty that Steffi faces at school every day. A Quiet Kind of Thunder teaches that one is not defined by their struggles. The book is an inspirational journey of Rhys and Steffi finding their own language, being comfortable in their own skin, and beating social anxiety.

The best way I can think of to describe this book is comparing it to a cupcake. The icing is the sweetness, loving, kissing, and heart-melting parts. But as you dig deeper there is the cake, the foundation built on communication, strength, and courage. The wrapper is the part that pulls the story together, the emotions of crying, laughter, and anger. This is an inspirational story that is intense and romantic at times, but also lighthearted and funny, too.

I highly recommend this book!

This book is for older readers because of a few intimate scenes.

Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder
Author: Sara Barnard
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 400
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

TwoSpells by Mark Morrison

TwoSpells is the first book in a middle grade fantasy series that was sent to me by the author. When twins Sarah and Jon are on a trip to visit their grandparents, they learn about a dark and mysterious building called TwoSpells, a library that allows you to enter into different universes through the power of reading. Unbeknownst to the twins, they have magical powers, too. Their exploration of the library and other realms is interrupted by a war, and the dark leaders have their eyes on the twins.

The cover is beautiful and a fair representation of the book. I would love to visit that library! Being able to visit the world of a book would be a dream come true. The imagery was amazing and I truly felt that I was in there with the characters! I also loved the mysterious and creepy setting that kept me on the edge of my seat.

I enjoyed the action scenes and how the chaos was actually reined in and somewhat controlled at the same time. It was interesting to discover the complex family relationship and the mystery of figuring out their ancestry and discovering their enemies' motivations. My only critique is that I was wishing for Sarah and Jon to use more magic and play a little bit of a bigger role in the war.

I cannot wait for more books in the future! It was a clever cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to find out how their powers develop and evolve! I recommend this book!

Title: TwoSpells
Author: Mark Morrison
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 316
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Virtual Grunt (Everything League Book 1) by Barnaby Quirk

Virtual Grunt is a middle grade science fiction book that was sent to me by the author. It is the first book in the series called Everything League. In the future, virtual video gaming is the most popular recreational activity that teens and even adults are obsessed with. The Everything League, the company that makes the games, is hosting a 50 million dollar contest.

Bobby is an incredible grunt, the enemy in the game working against the players, challenging them harder and harder. As the competition heats up, he starts to notice that things are not quite right, and one player keeps getting insanely lucky. As Bobby starts to work with one of the programmers of the games, he unknowingly is getting involved in a huge hacking scheme that takes criminality into the real world, too. When Bobby starts climbing the ladder of the best grunts, leading to him playing against the cheater, he is really the only one who can make things fair.

Virtual reality is in our future, and it is quite likely that we could have a championship like this in a few hundred years. The games were quite fun and creative! I would love to play in those games, and being a grunt sounds like a lot of fun! It is also striking to see the obsession with virtual world video games, and I liked the reoccurring theme of spending time in "real life" and outside. I loved the suspense and action inside the games, and I was tremendously intrigued! The imagery inside the world was also really strong.

Cheating in sports is popular, and there are many people who will do illegalities for money. In the future, it is likely that this will actually happen, and I enjoyed the glimpse of the future. Bobby's moral skills are impressive and I liked his determination to make things right and fair. I loved how he did not back down even when things got scary. His journey really evolved his personality, too, and readers can watch him expand his confidence and strength as a person.

I highly recommend this book for all ages. I look forward to more books in this series in the coming future!

Title: Virtual Grunt
Author: Barnaby Quirk
Publisher: Blazing Things LLC
Pages: 294
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars
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