Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Champions: Amid Ember's Betrayal (The Champions Book 2) by Charlotte Jain

Champions: Amid Ember's Betrayal was sent to me by the author, and is the second book in a YA Greek mythology series about a modern twist on the famous Olympian and Titan war. For decades, the Olympian Greek Gods have fought the Titans. Desperate to just stop the fighting, the Gods come up with the Champion Solution. Four mortals would be given control of one of the elements, and fight the war for them. With control of fire and water, April and Kyle were raised from birth by the immortals.

After a major twist was revealed, the line between friend and foe is thin. The four Champions are divided and conflicted. To add on to the new circumstances, everyone is getting impatient for the war to finally end, and two powerful immortals come to Caria, set on destroying the Champions and taking control for themselves. The Champions must figure out how to work together again before their town is destroyed, and finally end the war. 

It is hard to pinpoint exactly why I loved this book, but I just know that I do! Everything flowed together nicely, and I could not stop reading it! The writing is amazing, and if it was turned in for a grade in school, the teacher would give it a perfect score.

The pressure on the characters to finally end the war forced them to a breaking point, and I greatly enjoyed the action towards the end! April's bravery and strength tripled in the second book, and readers saw more of her powerful side in this book, rather than being more vulnerable in the first. I love the characters, but I know that somebody has to die. I really hope it's not going to be who I think it will be, given which side wins in Greek mythology.

The ending was satisfying, and I am excited to read the next book, Champions: Under Fractured Brilliance. 
 
Read my review of the first book in this series, Champions: At Fire's End

Title: Champions: Amid Ember's Betrayal
Author: Charlotte Jain
Publisher: Charlotte Jain
Pages: 350
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Celebrating Two Years of Blogging: My Favorite Books

In the past two years since I started blogging, I have read and reviewed over 150 books! I thought this would be a great opportunity to look back on my reviews and share my favorite YA and middle grade books.  See my first review from exactly two years ago, The Running Dream. It is hard to rank my favorite books, so this list is mostly in order of favorites.

One of my favorite parts of blogging these past two years has been getting the amazing opportunity to receive several books from authors and publishers to review. I can't wait to see what new and exciting books I receive in the coming years!
 
1. Keeper of the Lost Cities Series by Shannon Messenger
This middle grade fantasy series is my all-time favorite series! The covers of all the books are amazing and the books are addicting. They are my favorite to read over and over again!
 
2.  Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry
This is extremely inspirational, and I love the character development and internal conflict. Joy showcases strength and is an amazing example of how experiences shape who you are.

3. Losers Take All by David Klass
The concept of this realistic fiction book was hilarious, and is the funniest book I have ever read! Everyone can laugh out loud while watching the characters purposely lose.


4. Gone by Michael Grant
This first book was fascinating, and this YA series was thrilling! The book was suspenseful and the prospect of having no adults around makes for my favorite dystopian series! The powers that they gain are an amazing twist.

5. Losing It by Erin Fry
This realistic fiction book shows that you can do anything when you put your mind to it, and shows the difficulties in losing weight and being healthy. It also shows great examples of how to handle bullying.


6. Faceless by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
This book is about discrimination and being comfortable in who you are. It went deep into many teen issues, including self-confidence. Maisie teaches about honesty and taking care of yourself. This book is inspirational and I love it!

7. Rule of Three by Eric Walters
What I really liked was that even though it is dystopian, it seemed a little more realistic, seeing that the communities did not completely fall apart, and there was still some order.  


8. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
This is one of the only books I have read where I don't have unanswered questions! The plot structure was intriguing and Juliet's character is well-written and developed. I would not change anything!

9. Numbers by Rachel Ward
I have never read a book like this, and it must have been really hard to write! I loved the internal conflict and I thought that the topic was brilliant. I was able to easily connect to Jem, and her optimism and bravery made up for the fact that the series is a little sadder than what I normally read.


10. Radiate by Marley Gibson
I love that this book is based off of a true story! I also like how the book tackles generalizations about cheerleaders, and I loved reading her journey to recovery.

This was one of the options on a school summer reading list, and I never imagined I would love it as much as I did! This funny book about patriotism is for everyone!


Friday, June 9, 2017

The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program is the first book in a YA dystopian series. In this futuristic society, suicide is a national epidemic, and if a person is depressed, they are claimed to be “sick.” Not mentally ill or as a mental disorder, but sick. It is also claimed to be “contagious.” With 1 in 3 teens committing suicide in the United States annually, the government has created the Program, the only proven way to get rid of depression- erasing their memories that “gave” them depression. With handlers from the Program all over the schools, nobody is allowed to show any emotion but happiness. Everyone must remain a blank slate or else they will be taken. (Until they turn 18, then they cannot force you.)

Salone has first-hand experience with these things. Her older brother committed suicide in front of her, and several of her friends have been taken in, not remembering her anymore when they come out. Salone buries her feelings deep down and does not let anything show. Not at school, not at home. Her mother thinks the program is the best thing in the world, and will do anything to keep her from getting “sick.” Salone only shows emotion with James, her boyfriend. He has promised to keep her out of treatment, and Salone is confident their love can sustain anything. Gradually, it becomes harder to hide the truth. Salone must continue to fight if she wants to remember James and who she is.

Teen suicide is not the point at all of this book, and it is about so much more.  It is about control, privacy, human rights, and expressing who you are. The Program is about finding yourself and who we are on the inside. If somebody took away everything that we had, who we are, would we be the same? This book is also about the power of love. The Program is very thought-provoking and with a concept that I have yet to read. I loved the romance between Salone and James. They are that perfect couple that you see in movies. Readers saw relationship development and it was obvious how much they both cared for each other. I also loved how they were holding hands in the cover.

I have many strong feelings about this book. I am so angry at The Program. It is unconstitutional and a violation of human rights. I feel so bad for everyone in the Program, and I really hope nothing like this ever happens in the future. I am angry about how they treat these people. Depression is not a contagious illness. The pattern of thinking is just so wrong. On the other hand, having a book like this is practically a guide for how not to handle depression.

I loved the setting in the facility/mental hospital part. I liked the gradual erasing of memories, and how strong Salone fought. The therapist was aggravating, and I hated how the handlers treated Salone, especially one in particular, Roger. There were so many times in the book when I wanted to help Salone, warn her or jump in the book and get her out. The characters were extremely well-developed and I care about all of them, except for Salone’s mom. I am really glad she is not my mother!

I highly recommend that you read this book! I cannot wait to read the next book, The Treatment! The third book, The Adjustment, (staring different characters) was released on April 18, 2017. The fourth book comes out sometime in 2018. There is a prequel series titled The Remedy and The Epidemic (also different characters) that I might read.

Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 405 Pages
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA Realistic Fiction Books I Want to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the Broke and the Bookish blog. If you want to participate, click here. This week's theme is Top 10 Books From X Genre That I've Recently Added To My TBR List. I have adapted it to be realistic fiction books that I want to read. 

A reason why I love realistic fiction is that you can open a door into somebody else's life, one that is actually possible. Realistic fiction characters are the easiest to connect to because they feel real. Their stories can actually happen somewhere in the world, if they haven't already. The following list is in order of priority. 

1. Ultimatum by K.M. Walton
Ever since Oscar and Vance's mom died, the two brothers have drifted apart. When their dad's liver fails, they must figure out how to put aside their differences and work together. 

2. The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
For Mallory Dodge, silence is a shield, and when she was little she quickly learned that saying nothing was the best way to survive. After years of homeschooling, she will be at a public high school for her senior year. When things start falling apart, she must choose between silence and speaking the truth. 

3. A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Adam Blake got the best elective his senior year- an aid for the school psychologist, and he thinks it's going to be easy. Then when she asks Adam to track down a student for her, it ends up to be Julian, a foster brother he hasn't seen in five years, troubled with a hard secret.

4. Life Unaware by Cole Gibsen
One day, Regan Flay arrives to school to see that every text, email, insult or lie she has ever told or written was taped to all the lockers in school.

5. A Door Near Here by Heather Quarles
15-year-old Katherine is basically the mother to her three younger siblings. There is no stability, food and money are running out, and the school is suspicious. On top of everything, her youngest sister is obsessed with finding a door to the imaginary land of Narnia.

6. Scrawl by Mark Shulman
When Tod and his friends get caught doing something bad, his punishment is to write his life story to why he is a bully. Hopefully, this can teach him to stop.


7. Ironman by Chris Crutcher
Bo hates his father, and they are at "war". The anger he feels gives him strength to be a triathlete, but also translates into yelling at his teachers. Close to expulsion, he is put in anger management class.


8. The Year Without Michael by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Last year, Jody's younger brother disappeared, and her family is falling apart.


9. Panic by Sharon M. Draper
Diamond was just at the mall. She was left alone for two minutes, and then makes a stupid mistake. One that leaves her as captive after being kidnapped.


10. How to Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
Grace just wants a normal life, one that does not involve moving every three months, and having to worry whether or not the electric bill is paid. She is just trying to lay low until graduation. Then Grace meets Eva, a girl with her own share of demons.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey is a YA realistic fiction book told in journal entries about knowing when to ask for help. In 16-year-old Tish's English class, her teacher (Mrs. Dunphrey) requires the kids to keep a journal. She promises to not read anything marked "Do Not Read." Usually this is the type of thing that Tish would not try or do well on, as a straight C student. But with her current home life, she needs somebody to talk to, even if it is venting in a journal. Her father is abusive and her mother still loves him and neglects her children. The situation takes a turn for the worse when her mother runs off to find Tish's father and leaves her to care for her brother with only the small amount of money Tish makes at her part-time job at the Burger Boy.

This is quite a short book, but holds the worth of 1,000+ pages. This book contains subjects of child abuse, neglect, mental illness, and death. It reminds me of a book I read recently, 15 Days Without a Head, which follows a similar plot line. However, this journal is filled with more emotion and was written in a different direction. While I was reading it, I felt like I could hear Tish talking. There are a lot of ramblings and tangents, which I loved. Don't You Dare Read This is written in a way just like the thoughts in one's head, like Tish projected all her thoughts on a page. I would love to be able to write like Haddix and give as much insight as she did.

On top of that, this book is inspirational. It teaches about asking for help and shows that adults and teachers care about their students. It teaches about strength and the difference between right and wrong. Tish was one of the most round characters I have ever met. (A round character is basically the proper terminology of a complex character.) She started writing in the assigned journal feeling embarrassed and having huge trust issues. But as the book progressed she was so desperate that she is driven to write all the details. She goes from a straight C student to failing and having to pay bills and go job hunting. She even considered dropping out of school to provide support. She was so torn about whether or not to ask for help, and she really wanted to care for her little brother. She was battling so many emotions at once, and Tish should not have to had to go through what she did.

I've always wanted to be a teacher, and this book makes me wonder what I would do in the situation of Mrs. Dunphrey. In fact, it would be really amazing if there was a sequel told from the viewpoint of her. (Unfortunately, this book is from 2004, so my wish comes too late.) This is very different from most of the other works by this author. I read a lot of her books when I was younger, including her Shadow Children series, The Missing series, and Double Identity. Those were all sci-fi books.

I absolutely loved this book, and I am glad I bought it! I highly recommend that you read this book!

Title: Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey
Author: Margret Peterson Haddix
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 128 Pages
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything is a YA realistic fiction book about what you would do for love, and it is in movie theaters now! Maddy has SCID, meaning that she has no immune system and has no white blood cells. Her overprotective mother has made sure that she has not been out of the house for 17 years. One day, a moving truck arrives next door, and a very cute teenage boy named Olly moves in. One thing leads to another, and they fall in love. Maddy begins to take risks, and gradually begins to realize that not everything is as bad as it seems, and not everyone has been honest with her. 

For a whole book about SCID, they sure got some facts wrong. For one thing, Maddy describes herself as "allergic to the world." Allergies are from an overactive immune system, and Maddy has no immune system. SCID means that the child was born without white blood cells and has little or no immune system. While bacteria and viruses are dangerous to SCID patients, going in your backyard or walking down the street is not. Staying indoors all the time is not recommended.

There are many treatments and surgeries that may let people with SCID live mostly normal lives. Thanks to her overprotective, slightly-insane mother, Maddy knows none of this, which makes no sense since she is always on her computer. If you have a disease, I would think that you want to know more about it and look up about it. Also, everything in her life is described as white. Her whole house is white walls, white food, white clothes. But why? She is not allergic to color. There are some other plot inconsistencies that don't add up, but I'll let you figure out those for yourself.
 
Olly and Maddy were meant for each other. I don't mean it in that sweet, lovey way, but they have a lot of things in common. They are both trapped in situations that they don't like (Olly has a drunken abusive father). Olly was good for Maddy, and showed her what life was all about.

The ending was amazing, and I am very happy about it! While I could predict it, the twist at the end wrapped up the story nicely and was that classic Disney ending, if you know what I mean. This book actually felt kind of like a fairy tale, and that was interesting. The cover is beautiful and looks hand drawn. I loved Maddy's unique personality and character. She was sarcastic, and talked right to you. She does not complain about her life, she just finds ways to keep herself busy and happy. She is a total bookworm and reads constantly. That might be why she is so smart. Sometimes I forgot that she was only 18. 
 
Everything, Everything is about enjoying the little things in life. While some of those things are annoying to me now after researching and thinking, I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, and it really is an interesting concept.
 
I do recommend this book to YA readers, and I will be watching the movie!

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 310
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Champions: At Fire's End by Charlotte Jain

Champions: At Fire's End was sent to me by the author, and is the first book in a YA Greek mythology series about a modern twist on the famous Olympian and Titan war. For decades, the Olympian Greek Gods have fought the Titans endlessly, causing destruction visible to mortals.
 
Desperate to just stop the fighting, the Gods come up with the Champion Solution. Four mortals would be given control of one of the elements, and fight the war for them. With control of fire and water, April and Kyle were raised from birth by the immortals, raised for the single purpose of winning the war by defeating the other champions. But the mortal body is not made to handle such power, and they must win before their powers corrupt them to a point of no return.
 
The imagery in this book was fantastic! I could effectively picture every scene in the book. It is fast paced and full of suspense. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, anxious to find out what happened.

Champions: At Fire's End was not what I was expecting. I was pleasantly surprised! It is nothing like the Percy Jackson series, or really any Greek mythology I have read. It focused more on the teens and their conflicts and their journey instead of just on the war. The four elements were the main difference, which I loved. It is unusual for fantasy and Greek mythology to be combined.

April has major character development. The pressure of having to solve somebody else's war really took a toll on her, and she had to make tough choices. Everyone can relate to her and the struggles she faced. Kyle had major internal conflict as well. He loved Kim, but she was on the other side. He has to choose between April and Kim, which does not settle well for him. 

Controlling the elements has always sounded amazing, but now I realize the consequences and sacrifices that comes with them. I have always wanted to control air. I also feel bad for the Champions since they are basically puppets.

The ending of this book is possibly the best ending I have ever read! A major twist was revealed that changes the whole game. The way that the author chose to end the book was brilliant, and really showcased how hard this war is and will continue to be.

I highly recommend that you read this book! I cannot wait to read the next book, Champions: Amid Fire's Betrayal!

Title: Champions: At Fire's End
Author: Charlotte Jain
Publisher: Charlotte Jain
Pages: 334 Pages
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

The Diabolic is a YA dystopian trilogy about acceptance and humanity. Nemesis is a diabolic, a genetically enhanced humanoid. Diabolics are created for one purpose- to destroy anyone who threatens the person they have been created for. They are incapable of human emotions and feelings. Nemesis is a diabolic. She was created to protect Sidonia, heir to the galactic senate. They grew up together, and Nemesis would willingly sacrifice herself for her. Many years ago, the court ordered all Diabolics destroyed, but Sidonia’s family saved her.

In their world, science and knowledge are not allowed. They only rely on their technology. When the Emperor realizes that Sidonia’s father is part of the rebellion against the corrupt government, the court summons her to the imperial court as a hostage. There is only one way for Nemesis to protect her. She must become Sidonia and go in her place. To ensure that nobody finds out who she really is, Nemesis must find inside her what she was told she does not have- humanity.

The character development is huge in The Diabolic. Nemesis goes from being practically a robot to having feelings of love and being able to laugh. She has a ton of internal conflict. She was made and told to be “less human.” She has a journey of finding herself and self-acceptance, and debates whether or not to let herself feel. This book can also apply to real life. Stereotypes and acceptance are problems in today’s society, and everyone can connect to Nemesis’ character.

I loved the relationship between Sidonia and Nemesis. Even though Nemesis was chemically altered to protect her, their friendship became real over time. Nemesis’ battles over human emotion was powerful and insightful. She was constantly torn between being what she was engineered to be, and what she could be.

The cover is amazing!!! I love the butterfly and what it represents. The bottom of the butterfly is steel or metal, representing Nemesis as what she was in the beginning of the book, and the top of the butterfly with color represents emotion and what she became. A butterfly is also very fragile, which shows how careful Nemesis had to be. Of course I could be totally wrong and this could all be a coincidence, but I still adore the cover!

The book ended very abruptly, right in the middle of the ending climax event. It felt unfinished. An epilogue would have been nice since the ending was not the best. I was pretty mad when I finished the book about the ending, but now that I know that there are more books I am not so mad anymore.

I recommend that you read this book, and I cannot wait to read the next book in this trilogy, which comes out on November 7, 2017!

I found this book in a Top Ten Tuesday blog post by My Thoughts Literally. Thank you Cassi for showing me this book!

Title: The Diabolic
Author: S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 416 Pages
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator Is Changing the World by Jack Andraka with Matthew Lysiak

Breakthrough is a YA autobiography about Jack Andraka, an innovator who created a strip of paper capable of detecting cancers 400 times more effective than the testing before. When Jack's uncle dies of pancreatic cancer due to not catching it early enough, Jack decides to invent a way to detect cancer earlier.  At 15 years old he does it. He makes a strip of paper that detects multiple types of cancer, generating media attention from all over the world. His story was not easy. He tells how he overcame the horrifying homophobic bullying, depression, and all the rejections and doubt. He urges kids to make themselves be heard and to chase after their dreams. Jack was only 18 when his book was published.

The thing I loved most about this nonfiction book was the 50 or so pages in the end. They contained 10 science experiments that are simple and fun to do, as well as tricks for math problems. He also included information on bullying, LGBTQ issues, and Open Access programs. 

I learned a lot by reading this book. I learned more about cancer and proteins just by reading the book. Breakthrough is very educational in teaching about math and science. I also learned a math trick about dividing long numbers by nine! The book is very inspirational. The message that Jack teaches is that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. The amount of bullying that Jack received was mind blowing! The teachers were even mean to him about his sexuality. This book teaches people not to judge somebody and that words and actions hurt. 

The reading level is middle grade, but due to some of the content and language, this book is more for YA readers. I highly recommend that you read this book!

Title: Breakthrough: How One Teen Innovator Is Changing the World
Author: Jack Andraka with Matthew Lysiak
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 256 Pages
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

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
Goodreads

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
Goodreads  

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
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