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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Year of Lightning (The Time Shift Trilogy Book 1) By Ryan Dalton

I received this science fiction mystery book for free from the publisher (Jolly Fish Press) in exchange for an honest review. I was so excited when the publisher contacted me because I already had this teen sci-fi trilogy on my to-read list.
After Malcolm and Valentine’s mother died, they moved in with their grandmother. Shortly after moving, the 15-year-old twins notice something strange about the house across the street. It has no doors and no windows. As if that is not strange enough, strange lighting storms happen all over the town that keep getting worse and more intense. When the kids start investigating, they find a shocking connection between the house and the storms. Malcolm and Valentine’s curiosity turns into something far more dangerous. Armed with a time traveling watch, the kids must stop what is happening inside the house before the city is destroyed. 

The Year of Lightning did a good job at being unpredictable. I was surprised at many of the major events that happened. This book had a lot of mystery elements to it. This is one of very few mystery books that I have read that I could not guess what is going to happen. I was on the edge of my seat. There is so much action and adventure. As you progress to the end, there are more fights, drama and surprise. 

The plot speed was perfect. It started slow and then gradually got faster until the climax. The plot was also chaotic with a lot of things happening at once. In general The Year of Lightning moved pretty fast, but in this case it was the appropriate speed given the time travel. 

Some of the names of the characters fit them perfectly. Valentine was the only main character to be in a romantic relationship. Another character was Winter. She can be cold at times and stubborn, but fun to be around. That is a close description of the season of winter. The names helped characterize the characters. These four friends are all 15 years old and in ninth grade. It was impressive that these kids were only freshmen in high school and were saving the world and traveling through time. They had a heavy burden to carry, but fortunately they were a mature group for their age. 

However, I would say that at times the book was hard to follow. Near the end with all the action and fighting, there would be a lot of time travel, and sometimes I had to go back to figure out what era they were in. At times, it was hard to follow what the characters were going to do and what their plan would be. 

While the reading level is middle grade, this is an enjoyable book for all ages! I cannot wait to read the next book in this trilogy, The Black Tempest, which will be released in April 2017.

Title: The Year of Lightning
Author: Ryan Dalton
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Pages: 320
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

The Bunker Diary is a realistic fiction book for older teens who like thrillers. Linus Weems, who is 16, wakes up in an underground bunker after being kidnapped by a stranger and being drugged with chloroform. The bunker he is in has six bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. There are also microphones and cameras for the kidnapper to watch every move. Soon more victims arrive - Jenny, Anja, Bird, Fred, and Russell. They discover that any attempt of escape is met with punishments of deafening noise, knockouts with gas, or food being poisoned or stopped. The group of six must figure out how to live in captivity with each other and survive among the means of the kidnapper upstairs.

I really liked the thoughts of the main character, Linus. I loved that in his diary entries there would be a ton of tangents that just go on and on. While some might find that annoying, I appreciate such thoughts and thought-provoking questions that he rhetorically asked in his journal.  I love books where the book is a journal/diary because you get to see more of the character. I enjoyed the scenes where Linus told readers about his past. I liked how the information would still be relevant at the point in time to the story. I was very intrigued and was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading. There were some funny moments, but most of it was intense.

I would have liked to know more information about the kidnapper and his motives. The Bunker Diary contains a lot of unanswered questions in the end, and my viewpoint of the story might change if there was a second book. It would be really cool if there was another book, but in the viewpoint of the kidnapper.
The ending of this book was horrible! On one hand, I can't believe this! Seriously? This is the worst type of ending ever! I am so angry about what the author did to this ending! On the other hand, good job to the author for making the characters so attachable that I care about them and have anger about it.  

However, I have to caution readers about the content and controversies in this book and do not recommend it for younger teens. This book can be very shocking and contains a lot of dark things. It is still a thrilling read, but be prepared to read some things that you would not be expecting. 

I was surprised to find out that this author, Kevin Brooks, is also the author of one of my favorite books, iBoy! Although I read it a long time ago, I remember how much I loved it! Read my review of iBoy.

Title: The Bunker Diary
Author: Kevin Brooks
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 268
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Homefree and Sensitive by Nina Wright

If you are a teen who enjoys reading YA fantasy books, then you may like these two books. Easter Hutton's life is a mess to say the least. Her parents are divorced and her mother goes through boyfriends as often as night and day. She and her mom live in a temporary trailer park in Florida. In school the students hate her and throw raw eggs at her. As if that is not enough, Easter keeps accidentally astral projecting in the middle of her classes and in the hallways. She also channels other people's thoughts, which can be very embarrassing in public!

In the first book, Homefree, Easter battles these problems. Her astral projecting brings her to interesting places and situations where she meets other teens that have similar powers, including her friends she knew in the past. With a nice teacher's help, she discovers a place for people with powers, called Homefree. The second book, Sensitive, follows her and her friends though the first weeks at Fairless Grove Academy, the headquarters of Homefree. Easter learns more about her powers and realizes she can talk to spirits, and must help settle a misunderstanding from 200 years ago. She also must find her missing mother and help her troubled friend.

I enjoyed Homefree more than Sensitive. The first book contained more of a mystery, and I loved seeing Easter in school and the chaotic life with her mom. There was also more of a story line and I was constantly intrigued. Homefree has an amazing mix of reality and fantasy. I also enjoyed the accidental use of powers. For me personally, I like it better when characters have no control over their powers and do funny things. Both books had a sense of humor and really good figurative language. There was a lot of French in both books, but not so much that it was hard to understand.

Sensitive had more romance in it. Cal and Easter were sweet together. The beginning of this second book was amazing and quite funny and sarcastic. Teleportation was cool, and I liked that the kids each went in separate directions. Even though they were in the same house, they had different jobs to give them individuality.  I enjoyed that Sensitive felt like a continuation of the previous book, like another chapter. However, I do feel that both of these should have been combined into one book. I feel like there was not enough material to go into the second book and therefore was stretched out too much. The ending of Sensitive I felt was too sudden and not developed enough.

There are many themes in the two books. There are some heavy topics such as mental health and addiction, but they are not thorough. Homefree more focuses on bullying and friendship while the second book focuses on independence and family, plus romance. I would give Homefree 5 stars and Sensitive 3 stars, which averages to 4 stars for the two of them.

I recommend that readers read both of these books together! Individually they might not be perfect, but together there are enough differences for there to be something for every reader.

Title(s): Homefree and Sensitive
Author: Nina Wright
Publisher(s): Llewellyn Publications and Flux
Pages: 234 pages, 240 pages
Series: Books 1 and 2 out of 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, February 17, 2017

Linked by Imogen Howson

Linked is a YA science fiction book with a sequel. For the last three years, Elissa has been getting a tremendous amount of pain and bruises appearing out of nowhere, as well as scary visions and hallucinations. A couple days before a surgery, she discovers that her hallucinations are actually real, and that she is seeing the world from somebody else's eyes. That person turns out to be the twin she never knew existed, and they share a mental link. That link should have disappeared many years ago, but instead it got stronger.

Lin is her Spare, born from a rare abnormality where one egg splits into two identical copies. We know of that as twins, but on the planet Sekoia, these are rare and not supposed to happen. One of the siblings will be normal, and the other one would have some special power. Lin is electrokinetic. Parents keep the normal child and give the other to the government to be experimented on. Spares are told that they are not human and their lives do not matter. Lin escaped from the facility where she was held, and Elissa and Lin decide to run away to a different planet where they can be protected. The Sekoian government will do anything to stop the girls from exposing the dangerous secrets that could destroy the planet. While Lin is powerful on her own, together they are so much more.

I wish that there was more of an exposition. The book opened right away with rising action and jumped right to action and the main idea. I wanted to see more with Elissa on her own in her daily life. The book opened up right at the doctors office with the surgery idea and then jumped to meeting her twin. School was something I wish I saw more of. There was one scene in the locker room with her former friend, but daily life was an element that was missing. I just felt like there should have been more of an exposition before getting right to the main idea. Other than the shaky beginning, the book was amazing!

Linked dived deep into human rights and ethical issues. The book shows how even though there are laws and acts in place to prevent discrimination from happening, there are ways to get around them. Lin was a type of character that I have not seen much of. Lin was raised in thinking that lives do not matter, and the only real family she had was her sister, Elissa. Lin was willing to do anything to help her sister, and Elissa had to stop her many times from making harmful choices with her powers. She did not really understand what was wrong with hurting some people to help them escape. Lin's personality showcased certain points of view that we do not see in everyday life.

The relationship between the girls was strong. Not just because of the mental link, but the love they have for each other. Elissa had never met this girl in her life, and she decided to throw her future away and help the sister she never knew. Most of the book took place in space, which I really liked. The book is set in the future, and I loved the advanced tools and space travel that they had. I loved the hint of romance between Caden and Elissa. It helped the plot move along and added something special. 

I recommend that you read this book, and I cannot wait to read the sequel, Unravel.

Title: Linked
Author: Imogen Howson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Pages: 368
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

Afterward is a YA realistic fiction book. When 11-year-old Dylan is kidnapped, his rescue also saves 15-year-old Ethan, a teenager who was living with Dylan and his captor. Ethan was kidnapped four years earlier when he went on a bike ride and never returned. Dylan has autism and is non-verbal. He is not adjusting well at home and is traumatized. His sister, Caroline, really wants to help him, but Dylan cannot tell her what happened or how to help. The only person who knows what really happened is Ethan.

Ethan blames himself for not escaping earlier when he had the chance, and Caroline blames herself for Dylan's kidnapping, since she was supposed to be watching him the day he was taken. While they both have the kidnapping in common, they also have something else in common- Ethan and Caroline both need a friend.

The thing that I did not like very much was the fact that the story started three months after Ethan and Dylan were returned to their families. I wish there was a scene of the police returning them to their families. I feel like there was not enough emotion from the kidnapping. Showing the amount of progress and adjustment would have been more beneficial if readers saw what they were like when they first got home. I also wish that there was a perspective from Dylan. Readers did not really get a feel for how hard his life was, and it was hard for me to connect with him. I would have loved to read what Dylan was going through.

At first Caroline and Ethan were only friends and hanging out because of the kidnapping, but overtime the friendship became real. It really shows how friendships can form in dark times. I am glad that there was not much romance. There was one scene where I thought the book was totally going in the wrong direction, but that path did not last for long.

The real background knowledge that we got was in Ethan's therapy sessions with Dr. Greenberg. There was so much emotion. Ethan talked about what happened to him and had flashbacks. A real theme in the book was therapy. Caroline and her family were falling apart, and they did not have a therapist, but Ethan's whole family did. The book showcased how talking to people can help their problems. Caroline felt a lot better after venting to Ethan sometimes. There was a lot of internal conflict. Afterward had more internal conflict than any book I have read.

Ethan and Caroline both had a heavy share of guilt, blame and frustration. Caroline's burden was about how to help her brother, not watching Dylan close enough, and her parents splitting up. Ethan's burden was guilt about not running away all the times he had the chance, and he wrestled with memory issues and talking to Caroline. The only answers Caroline could possibly get were from Ethan, but the answers she wants are horrible. I loved that they played music. It distracted them from their problems, and at times was hilarious.

I recommend that you read this book!

Title: Afterward
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Pages: 320
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

Friday, February 3, 2017

Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

25131061Life in a Fishbowl is a YA realistic fiction book about what one would do for their family. Jared Stone has a malignant glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor, and he is dying. When the doctor tells him that he will not live for much longer, he decides to sell his life on eBay to get money to support his family when he is gone. Many are interested, but after eBay takes the ad off in violation of rules, the one person left is a television producer. Jared accepts 5 million dollars in exchange for him and his family to be on a reality TV show, Life and Death. However, the show takes away all privacy and completely changes what really happens. Jackie, Jared's 15-year-old daughter, creates her own TV show to expose the true reality of reality TV.

When I read the synopsis on Goodreads, I was so excited to read it! However, the subject of the book and the description is misleading, and I am very disappointed. The focus was not really even on the family or about all the changes. The concept did not even seem like a real problem, since there was no "normal" for comparison. It was very fast-paced, and there were way to many characters, so it was hard to keep track of them. There were view points from all ten characters in the book, which made it much harder for me to connect to the family.

A perspective I was not expecting was the perspective of the tumor. Gilo, the malignant glioblastoma multiforme, had a perspective which contained dark humor. It talked about finding Jared's brain "delicious" and that his memories "tasted wonderful." Gilo's passages were about him eating more and more of Jared's brain and eating and watching memories. This was kind of disturbing and funny at the same time. The tumor almost felt... guilty that he was hurting the man. The characterization was so strong that I could connect to him/it and feel sympathetic. Gilo even had character development! This is just so strange. Technically, a tumor is alive, but it was waaaaay to personified.

Life in a Fishbowl also tackled some human rights issues. The idea of euthanasia was heavily involved, as well as the first amendment. A campaign was actually created called Free Jackie Stone, and the book showed the true reality of reality TV. I liked the concept. I loved the idea about reality TV, and it is a problem today about believing everything we see on TV. Sibling relationship was also big. Megan, Jackie's younger sister, had the classic little sister role. Her perspectives were refreshing, since she was the only one who liked being on TV. I liked the character of Jared. He cared so much about his family and was willing to sacrifice everything so they could live an easier life when he was gone. The title is a really great metaphor to illustrate the invasion of privacy. Fish are trapped in a fishbowl, and they were trapped in their house.

Overall, the book was okay. I would have enjoyed it more if there were less perspectives and the description was accurate, but I loved the concept. This is the type of book that some people would like and some people would not. So, if you want to read it, go ahead. Just make sure not to get your hopes up.

Title: Life in a Fishbowl
Author: Len Vlahos
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 336
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Bruiser is a mix of realistic fiction and fantasy about the sacrifices one makes for the people they love. In high school, Brewster “Bruiser” Rawlins is voted "Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty." Nobody understands him. Nobody can be friends with him, and he cannot afford to care about anyone. When he takes a chance and starts dating Brontë, she and her twin brother Tennyson start noticing strange things. 

Any injury that they have instantly disappears, and Brewster is hurt in exactly the same way. It does not take long for them to realize the truth- whoever he cares about, their injures always become his. Things take a turn for the worse when they realize that he can take emotional pain away, too, and he is saving Brontë's family from the burn of divorce. While the twins give him the love and friendship that he wants, he is forced to take on more pain than he can possibly handle.  

When I first picked up the book, my initial thought was that Brewster had healing powers, and it would just be an interesting book to read. Wow- it was way better than I thought! I did not expect the story to be so deep, and it was a wave of emotion. This story showcases the difficulties and struggles that come with not having any pain, as well as having too much. It shows the black and white, and gives readers a lot to think about. Usually you don't want to see someone you love hurting, and sometimes you wish you could take their pain away- but what if you could? 

Bruiser is inspirational. There are major themes of family and protection. They all wanted so desperately to help and protect each other. Brontë really wanted to protect Brewster, and Tennyson wanted to protect Brontë. They fought all the time before, and having Brewster around brought them together. I loved how they put aside their differences to help Brewster. They did this even when he was not around to take their pain. 

Brewster is basically an empath that also feels physical pain as well as mental and emotional. I loved that all of his passages were written in free verse! It helped to capture all of his emotions. What's crazier is that the emotions are not all his. The pain is not all his. Bruiser was a very depressing book. Not like a depressing concept, more like a depressing and painful tone. The variety of characters helped to make up for some of the sadness. Cody is young. He is Brewster's younger brother, and some of the things he says and does sounds like a little toddler, and other things he did and said were adult like. He really wanted to protect him.

I loved this emotional, inquisitive book, and I highly recommend that you read it!

Title: Bruiser
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 328 Pages
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, January 23, 2017

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the first book in this YA fantasy series. Jacob's grandfather always told crazy stories. So crazy, that Jacob's family thinks he is mental. Jacob keeps a bond with his grandfather and just chooses to forget the peculiar stories. But when his grandfather is attacked by monsters, he is forced to admit that his stories might actually be real. Jacob and his dad go to a remote island and find a house where the peculiar kids might still be alive.

I truly did not like this book. It was one of the worst books I have ever read! It had no imagery whatsoever and I could not imagine or picture anything. It was very uneventful and the plot dragged on forever. The beginning was great, but right after they got to that island the whole thing was like a flat line on a heart monitor. Basically the story stopped breathing.
Honestly, the book should be used as a bedtime story. I forced myself to finish it, in the hope that it would get better. Then, right before the book ended, it was like the heart started beating again. I was shocked at the sudden change, not to mention that the huge "revelations" were totally unexpected and not developed. Usually I like it when I cannot guess the ending of books, but this was just totally extreme.

I also disliked that his dad was not really a dad at all, more like a temporary babysitter. He basically let Jacob do whatever he wanted and paid no attention to anything. I was also very disappointed in the amount of magic. Really, the only power was the strange non-explained time travel. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there was time travel in the book. Apparently peculiar people can go in a portal back in time to WW2 when the kids were still alive. There were pictures in the book, often cutting in the middle of a sentence. The book was written in 2011, but it felt like it was written in the 1700's, especially given the black and white photos.

I strongly disliked this book, and I will not read the next books, even though I already borrowed them from the public library. Apparently some people liked it enough to turn it into a movie, and I might watch the movie out of curiosity. However, I absolutely do not recommend this book!

Title: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Publisher: Quirk
Pages: 352 pages
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 1 Star

Friday, January 13, 2017

Trapped by Michael Northrop

Trapped is a realistic fiction YA book about being stuck at a high school during a blizzard. When it started snowing, nobody could guess that it would keep snowing for a week. Scotty, Pete, and Jason are supposed to be getting picked up from Jason's dad. Four other kids are also waiting for rides. Eventual they realize nobody is coming for them. Spending the night at school does not sound so bad. That is, until the power goes out, the pipes freeze, and the roof collapses. As the days go on, the seven kids realize that they have no options left.

The writing is very simple and there is a lack of sensory details. The narrator (Scotty) speaks like a teenager. Yes, I get the point, the kids are teenagers. However, readers cannot go a couple sentences without reading the words "seriously", and "kind of" and things like that. The book was narrated toward the audience, but there were too many hypothetical questions, and if I did not know any better, I would think it is a diary. They were pretty lifeless characters. There was no character development and the characters are pretty standard- the regular guys, the troublemaker, the strange kid, and the girls. There was nothing really special about them. They also missed all types of foreshadowing. I could easily guess what was going to happen way before the characters did. 

The plot was not bad, it was just slow. The events were all necessary and important. A lot of what happened I might not have thought to include, in a good way and a bad way. Some events I was impressed with, but others just were very obvious. I liked the idea of the story, but the little things tore it down. The ending was not what I wanted it to be. The general conclusion was easily guessable, but it ended too suddenly, like someone just yanked the book out of the author's hand while he was still writing it. 

I do not recommend that you read this book. 

Title: Trapped
Author: Michael Northrop
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 232 Pages
Series: No
Rating: 2 Stars

Friday, January 6, 2017

Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen

From the author of the 5-star book The Running Dream is the YA realistic fiction book, Runaway. Holly was in her fifth foster home in two years, and this one was the worst. Mr. and Mrs. Bender called her a "bad girl," and she was always accused of things she did not do. They make her sleep in the laundry room. Things reach a breaking point when Mr. Bender sticks her head in a toilet and flushes several times. Holly has run away before and has always been caught, but this time she is determined to run away for real and survive on her own.

The beginning was amazing, and I thought that it was going to be a 5-star book, just like The Running Dream, the first review I wrote! Soon after, my thoughts changed. The plot was all messed up. The climax happened too early, and most of the book was about her living and traveling by herself, all over the country. The thing I did not like was that there was no real conflict or intrigue. The conflicts in the beginning were never solved, just avoided. I was hoping for certain endings, but they never came.

Really, I just kept reading it to get to the end and find out what happens. A 12-year-old going all over the country, stealing, living under houses, and jumping trains - it just seemed way too easy and unrealistic. I would have liked to seen more conflicts and more hardship. Runaway made running away seem easy, while in reality we know that is not the truth.  In the author's defense, this was written 5 years before The Running Dream, so comparisons between the two might not be accurate.

I really liked how the book was a journal/diary. Readers saw a ton of thoughts and feelings about her past and her future. There was a lot of confidence in herself, and Holly was determined to succeed. But as I mentioned earlier, this was not as impressive since there were not many conflicts for her to grow upon. They also helped readers be more connected with Holly. I thought it was a really good thing, and the stories shared added to her current situation.

I also liked who the "you" was in the book. While most readers would assume that the "you" was just the diary/journal, it was directed towards her teacher who gave her the journal to begin with. Originally she hated the idea of writing in a journal, but along the way she grew to like it, so there was some character development. I really liked that she remembered throughout the book who the teacher was, and that she was trying to keep up with school. I enjoyed her hiding in the schools. Some of those scenes were really funny!

This book was worth reading, and I recommend it.

Read my review of The Running Dream, the first blog post I wrote.

Title: Runaway
Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 245 Pages
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars