Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern

24723223A Step Towards Falling is a YA realistic fiction book about two teens who fall in love while struggling to make up for their mistakes. Emily and Lucas froze that night at the football game. They both saw Belinda, a fellow classmate with disabilities, being attacked by the football players. They both froze and did not interfere. Sick with guilt, they try to find a way to help her while volunteering at a community center for people with disabilities.

I found this book tough to get into and somewhat confusing. For one thing, half of Belinda's POV was in the past and half was in the present with no indication of which time it was. The plot was also very simple and felt dragged out. I feel like there were scenes that could have been cut and the pacing could have been quicker. The plot also felt very predictable. Lucas and Emily's romance was very sweet and I adore them being together- however it did feel slightly circumstantial.

I also wished the book explored the psychological side of why they froze. The book also definitely stereotyped people with disabilities. And while the point may have been to prove them wrong, how many of the characters were described is somewhat offensive. A Step Towards Falling wasn't bad, it just wasn't great and I wouldn't be enthusiastic to read it again. I did appreciate how Lucas and Emily took to helping Belinda and saw how she deserves to have the same opportunities as others.

Read this book if you want to, just know that you may be disappointed.

Title: A Step Towards Falling
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 361
Series: No
Rating: 2 Stars

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims

29905711. sy475 The Art of Feeling is a YA realistic fiction book about two teens who fall in love while learning to deal with different types of pain. Since the car accident that killed her mother, Samantha has been in emotional and physical turmoil- not just from losing her mother, but the fact that she'll never walk normally again. Eliot has Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis, which means that he can never feel physical pain. Eliot has let himself become a human punching bag and is trying to understand what emotional pain means as well. The two misfits fall in love while uncovering the truth behind the fatal car accident.

Eliot and Samantha could not be more different; Eliot cannot feel pain while Samantha feels too much. They made each other better people and I enjoyed watching them learn to experience and handle their emotions. Eliot is so socially awkward but very sweet and determined. It was funny and sad when he had to google what friendship was when he met her. I loved watching him learn what friendship meant and what it feels like to emotionally have pain and love and care for someone.

I liked the romance and it was very sweet. The love for each other grew gradually on the course of the novel and the romance felt real and genuine by the end. Before I read this book, I thought it would be awesome to not be able to feel pain, but now I know it's vast physical and physiological consequences. As much as we all hate pain, Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis does not make Eliot lucky in any way. The Art of Feeling teaches the surprising importance of having emotions and pain and the consequences of not dealing with them.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Art of Feeling
Author: Laura Tims
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 336
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Character Traits I Love

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here. This week's theme is Top Ten Character Traits I Love.

A book is nothing without an amazing character to lead it. If I cannot connect to the character and view him/her as a real person then the story isn't believable or interesting. A good story always starts with a character. Below are some of the character traits I love in random order! These traits are based on teenage characters, however they can apply to adult characters, too. 

1. Empathetic
For me to enjoy and love a character, he/she must have compassion and empathy for others. Empathy goes beyond simply being kind. The best example is Alix from Hidden. Alix broke the law and risked her life to protect an innocent stranger. While this is an extreme scenario, I love characters who take the time to understand other's feelings and put other's feelings and needs above their own.

2. Honest
Unreliable narrators are tricky for me. While people do lie, I generally want the character to be honest to themselves and to the reader of the realities of their situation- not just seeking the truth, but telling it. A clear example for me is Tandy in Confessions of A Murder Suspect. While Tandy is unreliable with her own memory, I love how she was honest with herself about it and clearly dictated to the reader her honest feelings regarding her own dishonesty and internal conflict of having a lack of perfect memory.

3. Reflective/4. Imperfect
I'm combining 3 and 4 because they go hand in hand. Imperfect is a huge one for me because in order for the character to feel real, they need to mess up and make mistakes like humans do, as nobody is perfect. At the same time, that character should acknowledge their mistakes and become reflective of them. The clearest example I can think of is from Little and Lion. Both Lionel and Suzette made huge mistakes, and I love them not only for being human, but for admitting they made those mistakes and learning from them. 

5. Heroic 
One doesn't need to have special powers or be characters from the Gone series to be heroic. I love it when characters are willing to defy the societal standard or their government to stand up for what's right or to save others from bullying or other various tragedies. Speth in All Rights Reserved is a clear example for me in this sense. She has no special powers other than a clear mind and a determination to stand up for equality and freedom of speech. There is heroism in journalism, like Carla in Second Impact, who is willing to write and expose the truth. 

6. Encouraging
Of course I love characters who are inspirational and encouraging, those who can offer me wisdom and strength. I adore characters who are role models, who prove that anything is possible and encourage readers to believe in themselves, keep their head up, and peruse their dreams. Hayley from Radiate is the first character that comes to my mind. Her positivity while facing cancer was stellar. 

7. Funny
Besides satirical humor and funny plots in general (ex: Losers Take All), I personally love characters who have the confidence to laugh at themselves or who can take awful situations and find light hearted silver linings in them. For example, Trevor Noah in Born A Crime grew up during difficult apartheid and even as a young child he could joke about abuse and poverty but still acknowledge it's seriousness. 

Well, that's 7- what do you think the last 3 should be?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Childish Spirits (Spirits Book 1) By Rob Keeley

45992224Childish Spirits is the first book of five in the middle grade fantasy series Spirits. This book was sent to me by the author. When Ellie and her family move into an ancient manor, she makes friends with the ghost of a little boy, Edward, who lived there over a century ago. Quickly it becomes clear that someone is trying to hurt Edward and Ellie will do everything in her power to protect him from the evil spirits.

I liked the unique setting combining the past and present day. I loved the mystical vibe! The castle was super creepy, mysterious, and fascinating! I also loved cool idea of the spirit world and I found their magic powers to be fascinating. I enjoyed how the spirit world and magic was blended into the real world so that readers weren't always sure if what was happening was real or not!

It was also really funny when Ellie's family saw her talking and interacting with a spirit/ghost they couldn't see! That also raises the question of why Ellie can see the spirits in the first place- but hopefully that will be answered in the next books! I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding Edward's family history. While I did guess most of what happened, there were definitely moments that blew my mind! My one critique is that the cover seems a bit dull and undersells the magic and excitement of the story.

I highly recommend this book!

I cannot wait to read the next book in this series, The Spirit of London!

Title: Childish Spirits
Author: Rob Keeley
Publisher: Matador
Pages: 119
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 5
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, September 27, 2019

Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration Edited by Rose Brock

34959355. sx318 Hope Nation is a YA collection of short stories written by authors describing times when they were able to find hope in seemingly hopeless circumstances. These authors (Atia Abawi, Renée Ahdieh, Libba Bray, Howard Bryant, Ally Carter, Ally Condie, James Dashner, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Gayle Forman, Romina Garber, I.W. Gregorio, Kate Hart, Brendan Kiely, David Levithan, Alex London, Marie Lu, Julie Murphy, Jason Reynolds, Aisha Saeed, Nic Stone, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Angie Thomas, Nicola Yoon, and Jeff Zentner) share personal stories about their life with the goal to inspire their teen readers to remain hopeful in the face of peril.

Hope Nation teaches that even in the darkest times, there are always ways to find hope and optimism. Ranging from issues of death and tragedy to racism and the current President, Hope Nation explores a variety of dark times and circumstances where those victimized still manage to find hope. Libba Bray's essay was definitely my favorite. She described how she still managed to find hope and happiness after a horrifying car accident. I also enjoyed the essays describing the foundation of our country and the importance of protesting racism and violence, as well as those discussing immigration and moving on after terrorist attacks. If you are looking for uplifting stories by some of your favorite authors, read this book!

I highly recommend you read this book!

Here are some books I've reviewed by these authors:

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi 
Warcross by Marie Lu
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner 

Title: Hope Nation
Editor: Rose Brock
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pages: 304
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, September 23, 2019

Merged by Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl

Merged is a YA science fiction book sent to me by the publisher. New technology has allowed one to merge minds with another- seven gifted teenagers will be hosts for genius minds whose bodies are about to perish. For some, it could lead to another lifetime of scientific breakthroughs- but at the cost of the health and mental well-being of the teens. When teens Orfyn, Lake, and Stryker start losing control of their minds, they attempt to fight back and reclaim themselves.

I loved every page and found the concept of merging minds fascinating! The creepy vibe was cool. I also loved the vivid degeneration of the character's minds. When reading Lake's passages with her memory loss and her bizarre new personality, I felt like I had Alzheimer's or was going crazy myself just reading it! It's awesome that the writing was still coherent and messy at the same time. In addition, this cover is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen! I also loved the mystery element. The ending was very bittersweet and satisfying.

I highly recommend you read this book!

Title: Merged
Author: Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 300
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Kingdom Untold (Kingdom Cold Book 3) by Brittni Chenelle

46009292. sy475 Kingdom Untold is the stunning final book in the YA fantasy trilogy Kingdom Cold. While Minseo and Young try to get along without Charlotte, she bonds with a dragon and attempts to escape captivity in Camelot. Camelot is threatening war, but Morgana's elemental magic is stronger than Merlin. Her magic, along with Charlotte's new dragon, may be the key to defeating Camelot forever and gaining a peaceful home.

I loved the ending and the terrifying war that nearly brought me to tears with a shocking twist. It was my favorite book in the series by far! The ending was perfect and concluded the series nicely.  Morgana's powers were incredible and it was ironic having a child of just 5 years old have more power than Merlin! I enjoyed having Merlin be portrayed as a woman with real emotions and traits of humanity. As a woman, the original Arthurian legends definitely changed in this book- but I honestly prefer this version by the end. Merlin felt real and modern- as did Arthur's immaturity and childishness- despite being alive centuries ago.

In Kingdom Untold, Young must face that his wife has chosen his brother over him- and it obviously hurts, changing his personality and ambitions As he's next in line to be king as well, it was interesting to witness the corruptness and downfalls of having such power. I enjoyed how Minseo matured over the course of the series and how Charlotte made him a better man. In addition, Charlotte has vastly matured with motherhood in this book.

I highly recommend this book!

Read my review of the previous book in this series, Kingdom Soul.

Title: Kingdom Untold
Author: Brittni Chenelle
Publisher: Brittni Chenelle
Pages: 320
Series: Yes, Book 3 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Audacity by Melanie Crowder

Audacity is a YA historical fiction book about the real life story of Clara Lemlich. A Jewish refugee fleeing Russia, Carla came to New York with an eagerness to read and write English, against her families' wishes. Carla is forced to endure harsh conditions at a shirtwaist factory whilst trying to help her family put food on the table. Carla couldn't stand how the women were being treated and with her newly acquired English skills, she created a union for women workers and fought for equality and safety in her new country. She is known today for organizing The Uprising of the 20,000, a strike that revolutionized the rights of a female in the workplace.

My favorite thing about this book is how it is written in free verse poetry. This choice was extremely fitting given that Carla didn't know much English, so naturally poetry would be easier to write than sentences and paragraphs. Crowder is seriously an incredible poet! Her endless similes fly off the page and the extensive inner dialogue lets me see into Carla's heart.

Carla's inner turmoil was extreme. She believed in her duty to be educated to defend her gender and stand up for worker's rights but at the same time she wanted desperately to be a doctor and go to college. By defying the female stereotype and role in a household she was hurting and betraying her family. Every protest or stance for a long time earned her vast beatings and broken ribs. At such a young age Carla went through so much and saw things that couldn't be unseen. She had an incredible amount of tenacity and a fearless determination that truly made a difference for millions of lives.

In history classes at school I learned about the New York shirtwaist strike of 1909. I learned about the sweatshops and child labor and the extreme maltreatment and abuse of young women, but it was entirely different and electrifying to practically see it happening right before my eyes. Audacity is inspiring in not only advocating the importance of education but the importance of always standing up for what's right. Lemlich proves that even the smallest voices can make a huge difference, and that women are just as powerful and significant as men.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Audacity
Author: Melanie Crowder
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pages: 400
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Stone Man and the Trail of Tears by Charles Suddeth

44453832Stone Man and the Trail of Tears is a middle grade historical fiction story that was sent to me by the publisher. This book will be released in exactly one month on October 8th. As the Americans continued to explore the westward areas of the United States, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 allowed the military to take the Native tribe's land and relocate them- by force if necessary. When twelve-year-old Tsatsi’s village is attacked by soldiers and his family kidnapped, he and his younger sister are on the run. With the help of a white man named Johnny, Tsatsi must become a Cherokee warrior and find the strength to get to Oconaluftee.

I enjoyed how the story accurately conveyed the historical attacks against the Cherokee tribes. Stone Man and the Trail of Tears could be a useful educational tool. I also thought it was extremely important and beneficial how Stone Man and the Trail of Tears proves that not all white men were evil and discriminatory. Johnny took unfathomable risks to protect these two kids, inspiring others to do the same and reach out to those in need. The scenery was wonderful and I loved the action-packed scenes. As sad as the story was, I liked how all the characters were still hopeful and did not give up. We should all have the mentality of these characters. I adored the ending and it warmed my heart!

I highly recommend you read this book!

Title: Stone Man and the Trail of Tears
Author: Charles Suddeth
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press LLC
Pages: 162
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Girl of All My Memes by C.S. Johnson

The Girl of All My Memes is a YA realistic fiction book sent to me by the author. Tommy has always been second in class ranking to Kara. His GPA only being a few tenths lower than Kara caused immense jealousy, and even hatred for a few years. When they are both entered in a competition to gain a full scholarship to their first choice college, Tommy begins to change his mind about Kara- even finds himself starting to fall in love with her. However, his chance at love could be destroyed by a silly decision he made to create memes about her.

I enjoyed how this book showcased the importance of forgiveness and understanding. It is essential to rise above hate, become better people, and learn from your mistakes- but not drown in them. The Girl of All My Memes is also unique in how it expresses how boredom, not just hatred, is a direct link to cyberbullying. Boredom breeds the most awful form of creativity, and it doesn't mean that Tommy is a bad person. A lot of cyberbullying instances don't stem from evil intentions- rather an accidental lapse of judgement. 

I love how The Girl of All My Memes was lighthearted and fun whilst still showing serious issues of mental illness and cyberbullying. It's much easier to read and digest than a serious book like Backlash or Here to Stay, yet they both expose mostly the same truths. Tommy and Kara's romance was very sweet and defies all obstacles. It was amazing to see how their love overshadowed the competition and jealousy between them. Kara's personality is radiating and vibrant. Besides how yellow is her favorite color, her positive and inspiring outlook on life is one that everyone should embody.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Girl of All My Memes
Author: C.S. Johnson
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 340
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Screamcatcher: Web World (Screamcatcher Book 1) by Christy J. Breedlove

45181000. sy475 Screamcatcher: Web World is a YA fantasy book sent to me by the author. Ever since Jory Pike lost her parents to a car accident, she has been haunted with terrible nightmares. She reluctantly agrees to try the original Chippewa dream catcher during a sleepover with her friends Choice, Darcy, and Lander. However, the dream catcher works too well- not only catching their dreams- but the teens as well! They get sucked into an alternate universe created by centuries of nightmares. Jory and her friends must attempt to survive their own worst nightmares and find the center of the dream catcher where they can escape through the light.

Screamcatcher is a very creative concept. I've always thought of dream catchers as pretty, peaceful items, so it was intriguing for them to be representative of evil. I loved the alternate universe! The setting was extremely fascinating and creepy at times, especially with the humongous insects. The book was very mysterious, and I enjoyed the mix of danger and excitement. I also love how theories of evolution and the nature vs nurture debate came into play. It was fascinating to watch how Lander's personality and characteristics changed after being stuck in this opposing environment.

I love how the end turned out and the progress of Choice and Joy's relationship. The contrast between the character's personalities, especially Darcy, was humorous. It was also really sweet how Choice and Joy refused to leave Darcy behind, even though she was a weak link. Screamcatcher also showcased the importance of having a positive attitude, and Darcy's circumstances amusingly reminded me of The Little Engine That Could.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Screamcatcher: Web World
Author: Christy J. Breedlove
Publisher: Fire and Ice Young Adult Books
Pages: 219
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Hidden Scales (Merrows Book 1) by A.M. Robin

Hidden Scales is a middle grade fantasy book about a girl who finds out she's a Merrow. This first book in the Merrows series was sent to me by the author. Hidden Scales will be released on September 1st! When eleven-year-old Mira and her friend Peter discover that she has grown actual scales on her feet, the discovery triggers a curse that has them running for their lives. With the help of their new friends, Mira learns that she is a Merrow, and must master her new powers to fight back against the Empress of the Sea.

I enjoyed the major thematic similarities to Keeper of the Lost Cities. If you enjoy that series, you’ll definitely love this book! The plotline was fun to read and easily understandable. I enjoyed the unique representation of many types of magical creatures, like gnomes, pixies, and dragons. I also liked that humans were able to coexist and share the same kingdom with the magical species, an idea often not written about. I wish I could live there! The setting was vivid and realistic with lighthearted, peaceful imagery that makes you feel happy.

I liked how even though Peter is human, his intellectual ability and determination to protect his friends still made him a beneficial ally and an important character to the story. Mira's internal conflict and growth was instrumental. She goes from being insecure and terrified of her powers to embracing her identity and having newfound confidence. The cover art is also beautiful and captures both the dangers and the wonders of the ocean and their abilities.

I am excited for the next book in this series!

Title: Hidden Scales
Author A.M. Robin
Publisher: A.M. Robin
Pages: 324
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Hyperion's Shield (The Scales of Torma Book 1) by Nathan Schivley

Hyperion's Shield is the first YA fantasy book in the Scales of Torma series. This book was sent to me by the author. After the Eighth Great War between the Reysa and the Gartune, the Gartune defeated the Reytanas and built a huge shield that prevented their sun-based powers. The citizens live fearful lives under their rule. Inside the city, twins Loras and Regan dream of being Reytanas and taking back their home. When their dream shockingly comes true, the twins, along with their best friend Tinko, are forced to flee for their lives. After discovering a refugee camp for fellow Reytanas, the twins participate in a massive battle to take back their city.

I loved Hyperion's Shield! While the book is quite long, it is worth the time! This strong, exciting story was very well written and captivating! The world-building was special and vivid. The literal battle between darkness and light was intriguing and ironic. It is a completely original and extremely creative plotline. I enjoy it when I get to read content that I've never thought of before.

I enjoyed Xander's vast internal conflict- if he decides to be with the girl he loves, he turns his back on his family. It was fun for me to predict what side he would be on. Tinko was enjoyable and confident. While he has no powers of his own, he still managed to stand out with his creativity, humor, and resourcefulness. I loved the twins' struggle to adjust to their powers and solve the mystery of their destiny. I was shocked by the identities and roles of Loras and Regan in the amazing final battle, and I loved the sweet cliffhanger at the end!

I highly recommend this book and cannot wait to read the next book in this series!

Title: Hyperion's Shield
Author: Nathan Schivly
Publisher: Blue Avenue Media
Pages: 585
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Unfettered Child by Micahel C. Sahd

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The Unfettered Child is a YA fantasy book sent to me by the author. Long ago, the great magician Abizou became trapped inside a gem. He eventually is let out, and replaced with the evil elf Illtud. Years later, Abizou's spirit inhibits eight-year-old Samara, who discovers great power when fighting back against the elves who attack her village. Samara discovers the gem, and Illtud manipulates her magic with the goal of getting his revenge on the Havallan Empire. Meanwhile, her father fights to get his daughter back, no matter the cost.

I haven't read any concept like The Unfettered Child and highly enjoyed this unique magical story! I also liked the addition of Elves and their mischievous nature. I liked this unique approach to having a young child hold so much power. It was fascinating to watch her brain struggle to understand what she could do and the ramifications of her actions when she lost control of her magic.

I was amazed at how Samara was portrayed accurately to her age with emotional breakdowns. She also obtained a strong sense of moral beliefs and showed a massive amount of guilt that only a pure, innocent child could have. I felt bad for her struggle to overcome gullibility and traumatic memories. This much power caused quite the emotional turmoil in her, and my eyes teared up by the end of the book. Speaking of the end of the book, it was astonishing and I was totally shocked at the ending!

I highly recommend you read this book!

Title: The Unfettered Child
Author: Michael C. Sahd
Publisher: Michael C. Sahd
Pages: 414
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Clash Of The Celestials (The Red Rover Book 2) by C.E. Whitaker III

46716261. sy475 Clash of the Celestials is the second YA scifi book in the Red Rover series that was sent to me by the author. Two years ago, the teens on the Red Rover became the last surviving members of the human race after the Galicia star system was destroyed. Their resources have fallen extremely low and they tempt a landing on a new planet to find a new energy source, food, and water. Not only did the teens discover all of the above- they are also drawn into a war.

I liked the introduction of new species and the expansion of their world. How the teens were able to drastically impact the worlds around them were fascinating to me. Clash of the Celestials definitely grew in intensity and the climactic huge fight at the end was spectacular and vivid! The spider monsters were very creepy, if I do say so myself.

I enjoyed the growth in maturity of the characters and their desire to become leaders, not followers. Their determination, teamwork, and heroism is a huge step up from the previous book. The reasons behind Andrew's parent's deaths were explored, and I liked watching his emotional breakdowns that provided a surge of realism.

I highly recommend this book!

Click here to read my review of the previous book in this series, The Red Rover: Origins

Title: Clash of the Celestials
Author: C.E. Whitaker III
Publisher: C.E. Whitaker III
Pages: 305
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here. This week's theme is a freebie. 

I've chosen to write about a few of the many books that I've read over the years that never made it onto my blog. Below is a collection of 10 mini-reviews of some of my favorite 5-star books that never made it onto this blog. Those below are not in any particular order.

1. City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau 
I absolutely loved this book when I was in middle school and was mystified by the underground world. It was one of the first dystopian books I ever read and fell in love with the concept. I would rush through the pages searching for the solution to the mystery. Every time I reread it I discovered another detail I missed and loved. It's imagery was stunning and I still can vividly picture the tiny details of their world years later.

2. Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman 
Inspired by the story of Megan Mier, Backlash shows the dangerous consequences of cyberbullying and the horrible outcomes for everyone involved. What separates Backlash from other bullying stories is how it shows the POV's of both the bully and the victim. It was eye-opening to see how their lives are changed after Bree types words she can never take back. 

3. Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot
The safety pin on the front cover is actually a very important part of the story- I love how simple, yet accurate, the cover illustration is. I had no idea what ARFID was until now, and I love how educational the story was. Pea's mental anguish was heartbreaking. I loved her determination to overcome her eating disorder and not let it define her. Ben is the perfect boyfriend and their romance was one of the most beautiful I've ever read.

4. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
I read this book back in 7th grade and still remember almost every page. Its striking and horrifying detailed deaths of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 are one of those images that don't leave your mind for a long time. Mattie is only 14 and suffers more loss in a year than most have in their lifetimes. She is extremely brave, in no means a hero, but just your average girl trying to survive against the most severe epidemic in U.S. history. If you like historical fiction, you must read this book if you haven't already!

5. Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
While the situation was very unsettling, I loved how Time Bomb conquered the massive stereotypes and judgments regarding students who attack their school. Unfortunately mass shootings and bombings in school across the world are happening more and more often. This book addresses the stigma and false assumptions against those with mental illness and those of other races with a shocking ending that leaves readers questioning their own judgement and their political position on many gun-control laws.
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6. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
This is one of those books that is generally required reading in school, but I was awestruck reading it and fell in love with the reliability and anguish of these teens living with stereotypes not so different from our own still today, just trying to survive and find their place in the world. The language and writing style is very simple, yet it speaks volumes.

7. Transparent by Natalie Whipple
I've read this book more times than I can count and was hooked from the first sentence. Many wish they were invisible, but Transparent clearly showcases that being invisible comes with its own issues. Fiona is fierce and delicate at the same time, a balanced and reliable narrator that is easy to connect to and cheer for. 

8. The Deepest Roots by Miranda Asebedo 
The Deepest Roots is a beautiful tale of friendship that is truly inspiring, magic or not. All three girls risked their lives for each other and are a family. This book teaches that even when all seems lost, the power of love and friendship will still prevail. The girls' powers were fascinating and I loved their hardships.
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9. Beetle Boy by Margaret Willey
I loved watching Charlie discover his identity and emerge from the shadow of his abusive childhood. By the end, I loved how Charlie was finally empowered and on his way to being a man and starting a real life.
10. Sparrow by Sarah Moon
Sparrow is a lovely testament to grief. Sparrow is a troubled young girl who is very misunderstood, and I adored her growth in finding her own voice, as well as the coping strategies that the book taught.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Kingdom Soul (Kingdom Cold Book 2) by Brittni Chenelle

46447096. sy475 Kingdom Soul is the second book in the YA fantasy trilogy Kingdom Cold. This book was sent to me by the author. Five years after the fall of Besmium, Charlotte and her young daughter Morgana hide in a small village from Lancelot and King Arthur. Reeling from the death of his brother, Minseo has been drinking away his feelings. But when news arrives that Lancelot is close to finding her, Minseo runs away to find Charlotte and protect her. But even though Charlotte loves him, she can't tell him her secret just yet.

Kingdom Soul certainly served its purpose in showing the aftermath of Besmium's fall and introducing the major secrets that haunt the next book. It was fascinating how motherhood and grief changed Charlotte and Minseo's personality. I also enjoyed the very diverse set of characters, including LGBTQ people. I was very surprised at the major plot twists and very intrigued to learn more about King Arthur and the surprise addition of having Merlin as a character. I love how this medieval fantasy world keeps growing. It was very fast paced and I finished the book very quickly.

Despite enjoying it, I had a few issues. I found the romance a little rushed between Charlotte and Minseo, even though they had a connection in the previous book. And I would say that the final plot twist at the end was a little unbelievable. 

I do recommend this book and am excited to read the next book, Kingdom Untold, which comes out on August 22nd! 

Read my review of the previous book, Kingdom Cold.

Title: Kingdom Soul
Author: Brittni Chenelle
Publisher: Brittni Chenelle
Pages: 248
Series: Yes, Book 2 of 3
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts by Charles Kowalski

Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts by [Kowalski, Charles]Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts is the first book in a middle grade series with a creative mix of historical fiction and mythology. This book was sent to me by the author and will be released in two weeks on August 1st.

In 1620, Simon Grey has always been able to see ghosts and spirits. Desperate for them to stop haunting him, Simon boards a ship set for the spice islands, but crashes on a Japanese coastline instead. He soon learns that he can see yokai, spirits and shadows- not just ghosts. He also learns that an evil sorcerer and shogun want to steal his ability to gain immortality, and must learn to fight back to free his friends and his life.

I learned briefly about yokai in my A.P World History class when we discussed animism and the Edo Period of Japan, and I was excited to learn more about them! I loved the historical accuracy of the story, like including the Sakoku Edict of 1635 and their war on Christianity. I found this book very educational on Japanese folklore, but fun and light at the same time. I enjoyed the very imaginative concept that provided lots of entertainment!

I found many of the scenes very funny and mystifying. The adventure continuously raised the stakes and I was anxious to find out the ending! Simon was a sincere narrator with tons of character development. He goes from feeling alone and expressing hatred for his ability to appreciating the need of it to save his new friends. The story is very empowering and can teach young readers to embrace who they are.

I recommend that you read this book!

Title: Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts
Author: Charles Kowalski
Publisher: Excalibur Books
Pages: 192
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Wave by Todd Srasser

481743The Wave is a YA historical fiction book that takes The Third Wave classroom experiment from 1967 into a modern-day setting. Students in Burt Ross' history classroom don't understand how Nazism was able to become so powerful- surely the people would have realized their actions were wrong and stop it, right? Wrong. To illustrate how powerful peer pressure and human desire to gain social power can overpower moral beliefs, Mr. Ross creates a fake movement called The Wave. But the experiment grows quickly out of hand and it is up to two students of their school newspaper to expose the truth and stop it.

When I've learned about the Nazis in school I've had the same questions that these kids had. How could these ordinary people turn into monsters and think killing millions of children is acceptable? How can loving, kind people suddenly forget their morals and be brainwashed so easily? Like their teacher, mine haven't exactly had the best answers either. The Wave explains everything- it's like something clicked in my brain after reading it. How come I hadn't heard of this before? As an editor of my school newspaper, I also loved the influence of their newspaper.

I found this story absolutely fascinating. There is no question in my mind that this event should be taught in all history classes and this book should be required reading in schools worldwide to teach us a valuable lesson about the dangers of sacrificing moral beliefs in favor of social acceptance and self-worth. This book reminds and questions the readers beliefs and puts them in their shoes. The Wave is very thought provoking. If you were in this situation, what would you do? Would you blindly follow the leader regardless of the outcome or would you find the strength to think for yourself?

I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Wave
Author: Todd Strasser
Publisher: Laurel Leaf Books
Pages: 138
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Shifting of Stars by Kathy Kimbray

44303513. sy475 A Shifting of Stars is the first book in a YA fantasy series sent to me by the author. In Meadow Sircha's kingdom, talk of rebellion or dislike of the sadistic Emperor results in a death sentence. However, dislike of the Tyjans is quite automatic as he neglects his citizens and forces them to fight to the death in his tournaments. After the 17-year-old's mother dies because the Emperor would not give her the medicine needed, Meadow speaks out, asking the villagers to boycott. When she and her father are captured, Meadow barely escapes with her life and journeys across her kingdom to find him, ending up in more trouble than she bargained for.

A Shifting of Stars has an amazing cover that captures the magical and somewhat tragic fates of the characters. Meadow faced plenty of tyranny in her life, but her I love how she was still afraid and angry at it. Meadow is very brave and modest, feeling powerless to help her people but trying everything she can anyway even with her anxiety. Vogel was my favorite character. He was beguiling and battled internal demons. He was darkness and Meadow was light, they balanced each other out. Their romance was beautiful and felt very realistic.

The torture shown was very vivid and evil. The plot surprised me and quickly threw me off course. The magical twist was fascinating and opens a whole new realm of possibilities. The ending was lovely and exactly what I wanted. However I wanted more clarity on how the magic spells worked and where they came from, and some of those scenes were bizarre and not explained.

I recommend you read this book! I'm excited to read the next book!
Title: A Shifting of Stars
Author: Kathy Kimbray
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Pages: 450
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 StarsGoodreads

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz

28369599I Wish My Teacher Knew is a nonfiction book about the movement that transpired when Mrs. Schwartz had her third-grade class answer the open-ended question on a post-it. She gets heartbreaking answers and forms connections with her students that goes viral worldwide. Mrs. Schwartz tells her story, the story of her students, and how she creates a feeling of safety and unity in her classroom.

I plan to be a teacher, and I will aspire to follow in her footsteps, learn from her mistakes, and use her strategies. In addition to just this fill-in-the-blank sentence, Schwartz goes through her own education and mistakes she's learned from. I particularly loved how she pointed out key phrases to say and others to avoid or change to promote inclusivity. Some of her tips and tricks I never would have thought of.

I Wish My Teacher Knew is not only aimed for educators, but this also has appeal for students because it teaches steps they can take to make new friends and help the classroom become safer. This book also clearly showcases how teachers are not perfect and shows how good intentions can easily backfire. I Wish My Teacher Knew helps students understand their teacher better. This book is also important for policymakers and politicians to read as Schwartz makes important points about poverty in schools and what systems should be in place to help them. I was shocked at how thorough the research was and I found the statistics startling.

I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read it again! I cannot wait to read her new book, I Wish For Change.

Title: I Wish My Teacher Knew
Author: Kyle Schwartz
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Pages: 272
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Red Rover: Origins by C.E. Whitaker III

45305697. sy475 The Red Rover: Origins is the first YA scifi book in a futuristic series where the remaining humans live on a gigantic space station. When global warming and nuclear fallout made the Earth uninhabitable, humans from around the globe escaped on the Rover Base Alpha in search of a new home. When their current star system appears to be nearing a violent end of its life, seven teens are thrust into the role of hopefully finding a new planet to colonize.

One thing I enjoyed was the very wide range of characters that showed all aspects of society- from corrupt businessmen to complaining children, even throwing in mental health conditions and a touch of heartbreak. I loved watching the development of these teens and their growth in emotional maturity. They went from selfish, spoiled children to young adults who truly cared about their teammates and the greater good of their society. It was super fun to watch them in their action-packed challenges. I also loved how the book accurately depicted a star's life cycle and conditions in outer space.

I highly recommend this book! The author is currently finishing the next book in this series, Clash of the Celestials, and I cannot wait to read it! That cliffhanger was crazy!

Title: The Red Rover: Origins
Author: C.E. Whitaker III
Publisher: C.E. Whitaker III
Pages: 286
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Viperob Files by Alister Hodge

45444300The Viperob Files is a YA dystopian book about a group of teens who discover a conspiracy and race to prevent it. This book was sent to me by the author. Fast forward to an island off the coast of Australia in 2194. The misuse of fossil fuels led to a global warming catastrophe with sea level rise over 30 meters and ocean acidity so high that trilobites proliferate. Ethan, Jaego, and Gwen live on an island fiercely controlled by the Viperob company. Its citizens are nothing more than slaves. When the three teens come across a secret project where the Viperob are planning to invade the country, they must leave the island and get to the mainland to warn the Australian military before it's too late.   

The cruelties of the Viperob honestly remind me of the BEIC in India or King Leopold II of Belgium and what he did to the Congolese. Lieutenant Harris disgusts me and angers me. He is extremely violent and has no empathy for others. He is a manifestation of humanity at its worst- and he's just a mindless robot following the orders of someone even crueler. I don't think I've been this angry reading a book in a long time. I love it!! Creating powerful protagonists and making the reader care about their success is just as important as creating terrorizing antagonists and making the reader hope for them to fail. I did!

I am amazed at the courage and bravery of these three teens. My mouth dropped in awe at some of the major close calls. These kids are surviving by the skin of their teeth. The Viperob Files was absolutely thrilling and terrifyingly realistic. Having the trilobites come back to life was a humorous twist that I, being the science nerd that I am, found completely fascinating!

Hodge has told me that he is in the process of writing the sequel. I cannot wait to find out what happens next! I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Viperob Files
Author: Alister Hodge
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Pages: 217
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA New Releases in Late 2019

One of the most exciting things is discovering new books to read! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here. The theme for this week is Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2019. The following releases I look forward to the most are in order of release date.

1. The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair
Expected Publication: July 2nd 2019
Vesper Montgomery has the power to make somebody's worst fear come to life. She is terrified of her ability, but is forced to use it when she enters a fierce competition for the chance to rewrite the past.

2. Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Expected Publication: July 9th 2019
A bizarre and deadly plague called the Tox has infected Hetty's boarding schools. After all the teachers died, the students were left to fend for themselves in quarantine. 

3. Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé
Expected publication: August 1st 2019
Skye always knew that her younger sister was strange, but she never thought that the imaginary creatures she plays with in the woods would ever come to life.

4. I'm Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
Expected publication: August 6th 2019
When what was supposed to be a normal football game suddenly turns into a city-wide riot, two girls have to stick together and help each other survive the night and get home safe.

5. A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth
Expected publication: September 10th, 2019
Violet's house has magical powers and kept everything beautiful and happy, until her father is killed and Violet is forced into fleeing. When she returns to the house years later, she finds it has become dark and twisted, poisoning nature. Violet will do everything she can to make her house happy again.

6. Suggested Reading by Dave Connis
Expected publication: September 17th 2019 
When Clara's school principal starts banning dozens of meaningful books, she starts a secret library in her locker to fight back.

7. Who Put This Song On? by Morgan Parker
Expected publication: September 24th 2019 
Morgan is an African American teen struggling with depression. She feels too much pressure to be the "right kind" of black, but will now decide to not let her skin color define her.44139408

8. The Memory Thief  by Lauren Mansy
Expected publication: October 1st, 2019
In this city, memories are money, and sold to the highest bidder. Ones with magical gifts can simply steal a memory with a slight touch. When Seventeen-year-old Etta's mother's memories are up for grabs, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her.

9. War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Expected publication: October 15th, 2019
In 2172, global warming and nuclear war has decimated the majority of Earth. The only way to even go outside is to wear bionic body parts and artifical organs to protect themselves from the deadly climate. In Nigeria, two sisters will sacrifice everything to try to restore peace.

10. I'm a Gay Wizard by V.S. Santoni
Expected publication: October 29th, 2019
When Johnny and Alison accidentally unleash an earthquake while practicing their magic, they get recuirted to the Marduk Institute and must use their magic to defend their new world.

What releases are you looking forward to?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Whispers of Nowhere by Shannon Rohrer

38729689Whispers of Nowhere is the first book in a YA fantasy series sent to me by the author. When Gwen's father brings home magical artifacts from work, Gwen mistakenly touches them, causing their seals to break and open the magical prison gates to Nowhere, allowing demons and criminals to escape into the moral world. Gwen's special ability to sense and wield the artifacts makes her a prime target of demons. Gwen takes off in the middle of the night with guardians Phenex and Forneus to clean up her mess and find the artifacts before the monsters do.

I love how the book combined mythology from different religions and cultures, like Greek, Egyptian, and even aspects of demonology engraved in Japanese folklore. It was very mind-boggling to now see the Gods and Demons of multiple religions and cultures existing in the same realm. The author did a great job building a world that I could envision and comprehend. The fighting scenes were perfectly executed and I loved the vivid imagery describing the almost unfathomable magic. The book felt like a fun treasure hunt, and I very much enjoyed the adventuring aspect of the novel.

I loved the complicated relationship between the three teens and the boys' desire to protect Gwen. The almost love-triangle feel between the three of them was very sweet. Phenex's complicated and traumatizing history leaves a roughness and fear to him, and  I loved it when he showed his true vulnerable self. I will always remember his ultimate fiery display in the final battle.

There were some inconsistencies in the plot that bug me, but will hopefully be resolved in the next book. I wanted Gwen to have more power or unearth a grand evolution which feel a little short. I would have liked to see more character development from her. She mostly remained weak but I am hoping that will change in the next book. My love of Phenex and Forneus, however, overshadowed my irritations with Gwen.

I recommend this book! I'm looking forward to reading the next book that I'm told will come out sometime next year.

Title: Whispers of Nowhere
Author: Shannon Rohrer
Publisher: Shannon Rohrer
Pages: 483
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Monday, June 3, 2019

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Goodbye Days is a YA realistic fiction book about one text message that took three lives. When Carter's friends Eli, Mars, and Blake were running late to pick him up from work, he asks them where they are- but when Mars goes to answer the text, he gets into a car accident, resulting in the boys dead. Carter begins having panic attacks and massive feelings of guilt and shame. To make matters worse, he could potentially be going to jail for negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. 

I enjoyed many parts of the book, like the very strong lesson of not texting and driving. Usually something that we can think be so obvious, but in the moment you can just forget and make a mistake, like what happened to Carter. He didn't stop to think before he texted his friends, and while it was Mars' fault that he chose to respond, Carter did have a role. It is one of those books that teaches a major lesson in the worst case scenario. Carter's panic attacks were also extremely realistic. The book overall was written very well, but I had some issues with the characters.

I felt no sadness for Eli, Mars, and Blake. They were extremely irresponsible people with little to no compassion for others. Some of the jokes they made are just plain mean and borderline inappropriate. I’m not happy that they’re dead, but I saw no reason to care for those boys. They were just classic teenage boys and class clowns. I think they were a bad influence on Carter. This is one of the most masculine books I've read. While I felt like there was nothing to connect to and shake my head in exasperation at the boys' ridiculous behavior, it would make a lot more sense to a male reader. I will say that the audience for this book is definitely teenage boys, not girls.

I do recommend that you read the book, but don't get your hopes up on the characters.

Title: Goodbye Days
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 399
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini

Be More Chill is a YA science fiction book about a boy who swallows a computer. In 2015, it was made into a hit Broadway musical. Jeremy Heere is the opposite of popular and is teased every day. He desperately wants to gain the attention of the girl he likes and be cooler. So, he swallows the Squip, a tiny computer that will instruct him how to be a better, more popular person. However, even a computer might not have all the answers his society wants.

I initially thought it was a funny concept to have a computer in your brain, but the scifi aspect was extremely underdeveloped and downright idiotic at best. I hoped there would be an inspirational feel to it where all the characters learn a big life lesson about how it's best to be yourself, but I was totally wrong and this ended up being one of the worst books I've ever read in my life. I am shocked at how in the world this got made into a musical on Broadway!

First off, it portrayed girls in an incredibly sexist way and basically treated girls like a toy or an object to have fun with. I was appalled and I am extremely proud that I even finished the book. Some pages were extremely uncomfortable to read and made me horrified and outraged. As a woman, I was personally offended by this book's messages of women being nothing more their bodies. There are no moral values of any kind present in any characters. They are extremely hypocritical and homophobic- they treat the idea of gay people as worst than terrorists.

Don't read this book. However, if you do decide to read this book, take it as a lesson who not to be.

Title: Be More Chill
Author: Ned Vizzini
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 287
Series: No
Rating: 1 Star

Monday, May 20, 2019

Secrets of Hawthorne House by Donald Firesmith

Secrets of Hawthorne House is the first book in a middle grade and YA fantasy series about a family of magical Druids. This book was sent to me by the author. After a drunk driver kills his mother, fifteen-year-old Matt, his twin sister, and their father move to a small town in Indiana. It just so happens that they move next door to the famous Hawthorne house, rumored to house a witch. Matt doesn't believe in such fairy tales, but when he becomes best friends with Old Lady Hawthorne's nephew, Gerallt, he finds a whole new world.

I loved this book and never took my eyes off the pages! I've never heard of the Goddess Modron or the Druids before, but I certainly know a lot about them now. Magic intertwining with religion and history is fascinating! How Gerallt used his magic to defend himself from the bullies was hilarious and I found myself frequently laughing out loud! The plotline was extremely creative and I loved how it kept constantly changing and evolving into new issues. Every chapter was a new adventure. This book was like the game Wack-A-Mole but I was surprised at how everything was still blended together evenly.

Mythology aside, I loved the real life message of being friends with people regardless of how they look or the reputation that they have. The theme of acceptance is very clear and the bullying extremely realistic. I'm not typically a fan of male protagonists, but Matt has such a kind heart that he is impossible to dislike. I enjoyed the journey of these two families coming together in the hardest of times.

I cannot wait to read the next book in this series! I highly recommend this book!

Title: Secrets of Hawthorne House
Author: Donald Firesmith
Publisher: Donald Firesmith
Pages: 411
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Scarecrow and the Princess by Maggie Archer

The Scarecrow and the Princess is a middle grade fantasy book about a young prince who is cursed into being a scarecrow. This book was sent to me by the author. After Prince Harvey insults a the witch Bettina's daughter, Bettina turns him into a scarecrow. The curse can only be broken if a girl wishes him to come alive during a full moon. Luckily for Harvey, he's placed in Princess Sasha's orchard. She is longing for a friend, and may have also found the perfect husband.

This review will be short and sweet, just like the book! This magical story is very cute and sweet, teaching the importance of always treating others with kindness. While on the younger side of middle grade, The Scarecrow and the Princess is relevant and inspiring for all ages. This book is guaranteed to make you smile! This book is an extremely quick and short read that will leave you in a better mood. Even for just 67 pages, the author still put in plenty of character development and a lovely storyline that won't disappoint!

I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Scarecrow and the Princess
Author: Maggie Archer
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Pages: 67
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

38355098From the author of Bruiser comes Dry, a realistic fiction book about what happens when a California area runs out of water. The drought in California has been survivable with major conservation. But when the states of Arizona and Nevada break a treaty agreement and block water from the Colorado River from entering California, claiming they need it more than California does, the taps run totally dry. As neighbors turn on each other and thirst turns to violence, teenagers Alyssa, Jacqui, and Henry must make the tough choices and fend for themselves.

In my mind the book was perfect! The situation was alarming, but still realistic. The desperation and violence was frightening and disturbing but still justifiable and coherent. It was the perfect balance between educational and disturbing. Every scene raised intensity and I couldn't tear my eyes away!

People label this book on Goodreads as science fiction and dystopian, but I completely disagree. 1 in 9 people in the world currently don't have access to clean water and 3-4 million people worldwide die of dehydration and water-related illness a year. Running out of water is a real threat and a real issue that millions currently deal with in this exact situation.

Hopefully books like this can enlighten minds to the dangers of running out of water and encourage people to be grateful for what they have and advocate for water rights around the world. We need the EPA to enforce water quality laws, we need more desalination plants on coastlines, we need farmers to use drip irrigation and cover crops and rotational grazing. We need better wastewater treatment plants and limiting run-off and water pollution, holding industry accountable for toxic waste dumping out back in bodies of water.

I highly recommend this book!

Read my review of Bruiser, another book by Shusterman.

Title: Dry
Author: Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 390
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
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