Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Melody Finch by Ian B. Boyd and Gary Luck

Melody Finch is a middle grade fantasy book that was sent to me by the authors and was published last week. 12-year-old Melody Klomp didn't believe in the "fairy tales" her grandmother told her about humans turning into animals- at least, not until Melody did. Once a girl, now a Diamond Firetail Finch. With some new wildlife friends, Melody starts a journey to warn her grandmother and save her from an evil fisherman set on illegal seal culling that puts the Coorong and her grandmother in danger. Along the way, she learns about the harshness of drought, invasive species, and the delicacy and connectiveness of ecosystems.

I enjoyed how educational the book was and the format in. For example, I had no idea that birds knew directions like north and south based on where the sun shines on their wings, or that cane toads' skin produces poisonous mucus. Rather than the facts being presented in a textbook, in Melody Finch the information is presented in a fun fantasy story. I enjoyed how the authors included the dangers of invasive species and some extreme, inhumane measures like seal culling. 

I liked the evolution of the plot, how a goal for Melody to tell her grandmother about it finally raining turned into a much larger adventure and mission of protecting all of ecology and sustaining the circle of life. Ecology is a giant chain; if one link is broken, all suffer. Melody saw and learned first-hand how a single change, whether man-made or natural, can disrupt  an entire ecosystems. Melody Finch felt similar to many parts of Finding Nemo, which made me smile. The cover is also gorgeous! 

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Melody Finch
Author: Ian B. Boyd and Gary Luck
Publisher: Spirit of the Earth Books
Pages: 134
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Traitor's Jewel (Love and War Book 1) by Shreya Boyapati

The Traitor's Jewel is the first in the Love and War YA fantasy series. This book was sent to me by the author. Following a betrayal and attack on Charlena Saxen's kingdom, it is discovered that it was lead by her own father (presumed dead). Charlena vows to kill him and defend what is left of her kingdom, with her best friend by her side. But the further into war she descends, the less about honor for her people it becomes and more about pure anger and revenge. As she struggles to contain these new emotions and her romantic feelings towards Raj, Charlena must decide if the reward of revenge is worth destroying her soul.

The Traitor's Jewel is a fast rollercoaster of emotions that alter between a perfect fairytale and a painful nightmare. The structure is  dialogue heavy, but was written so vividly that I could hear their voices in my head and felt very immersed in the conversations. Boyapati also did a good job ensuring that the revelations and new plot twists were surprising, but not enough to be unrealistic.

While fantasy, The Traitor's Jewel is extremely realistic in its depiction of PTSD and the other harsh realities and emotional pain that comes with taking lives. Killing is easier for soldiers, for Charlena, if she doesn't feel or care. She lives like a rock, relying on instinct and survival with no emotion. Love requires emotion and caring. Once she started to care for another human, slaughtering people became painful and inhumane. The blood and gore didn't matter to her as much when there was nothing to care or feel about. But once she let her guard down for her heart, guilt and pain flooded. However, love can also be something to fight for, to care if you survive. 

This complex relationship between war and love (emotions) is the primary focus of the story and provides a wonderful theme. It is also unclear at times who is an ally and who is considered "bad", especially when considering the murders of war. The book also discusses the idea that "the ends justify the means" when fighting for something important. The Traitor's Jewel makes us question if the means are worth the end.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Traitor's Jewel (Love and War Book 1)
Author: Shreya Boyapati
Publisher: Shreya Boyapati
Pages: 358
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Never Fight Alone by Shelomo Solson

Never Fight Alone: 51 Inspiring Interviews to Help Teens Overcome Their Struggles & Improve Their Mental Health
 is a YA inspirational non-fiction book that was sent to me by the author. Solson conducted 51 interviews with teens who hit rock bottom and rose above it, finding the strength to make a difference in the world and help others. 

What separates this book from Chicken Soup and other inspirational short story reads is that Never Fight Alone is formatted in direct interviews. I can read exactly what these teens said, which makes it more personal. The author took a different, more personal approach of being a journalist who endured massive struggles in his life. Different from publishing for money, Solson genuinely wrote Never Fight Alone for the sole purpose of helping teens who struggled like he did growing up. One of my favorite parts of each interview is that each focuses on how far they have come. Each chapter leaves you feeling hopeful. If he could beat this, if she could find a way to be happy, then maybe I can, too. 

It is also amazing at how much emphasis is placed on suicidal thoughts and how to combat them. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, and 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) consider suicide (The Trevor Project). This book also involves other issues such as abuse, sexuality, addiction, eating disorders, and even dwarfism.  Never Fight Alone emphasizes the "silver lining of hope" and how asking for help is nothing to be embarrassed about. When feeling when feeling depressed and isolated, thinking "why me" and feeling ashamed is common, but Never Fight Alone proves more than any other book I have read that nobody is ever hopeless or alone. 

Favorite quote: "Anytime I felt weak or vulnerable, instead of asking, 'Why me?', I thought of people who had it worse than me, and it changed my mindset to 'What can we do to make each other happy? How can we do the things that better each other?'" (67).

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Never Fight Alone: 51 Inspiring Interviews to Help Teens Overcome Their Struggles & Improve Their Mental Health 
Author: Shelomo Solson
Publisher: Shelomo Solson
Pages: 306
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, September 4, 2020

Special by Chino Chakanga

40805404. sy475 Special is a YA fantasy novel that was sent to me by the author. In a world where everybody has superpowers, Hope does not. Her medical mystery leads to tons of surgeries and research studies desperate to "cure" her, while society treats her as inferior, Hopeless, a maladroit. As Hope struggles to find self-confidence, she is thrust into the plot of a fellow classmate who is resorting to extreme measures to gain equality- and Hope might be the only person who can stop him.

Special is one of my favorite books that I have read in a long time. Rather than the popular topic of the protagonist struggling with having powers, Special explores the opposite with a girl who is struggling in a world where everyone has powers but her. Similar with taboos on those with mental illness or learning disabilities, Special touches on modern-world injustices and biases against those who are "less" than others, as well as the extreme lengths one will go to gain equality. What is so inspirational in this story is the message that nobody is hopeless; everybody has a purpose and can rise up to overcome anything if they can believe in themselves. Once Hope accepts who she is, she breaks down every wall put in her way.

I love the doll on  the cover because Hope has been a doll for years, being poked and prodded with dozens of surgeries. But over the course of the book, Hope regains her independence and confidence, no longer only being a doctor's toy. Another impressive thing to note is the connection to autism and those on the spectrum. Hope has Ability Dysfunction Spectral Disorder (ADSD or AD). There is also a subset called "High-Functioning AD". Sound familiar? Autistic people are four times as likely to experience depression. Hope goes through a really dark time and struggles with depression and feeling hopeless. Special dives deep into mental illness, too, even also touching on opiod addiction. Chakanga is skilled with being concise with her word choices while still being powerful.

I highly, highly recommend this book!

Title: Special
Author: Chino Chakanga
Publisher: Chino Chakanga
Pages: 252
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, August 21, 2020

Munmun by Jesse Andrews

36310515. sx318 Munmun by Jesse Andrews is a YA science fiction novel that completely challenges main societal beliefs. It is also a satire and strongly allegorical. in this alternate reality, the amount of money you have is exact to your height, so that those who are nearly broke are as tiny as ants and those like Bill Gates, for example, would be as tall as the Eiffel Tower. Teen Warner and his sister Prayer are tired of worrying about being literally stepped on, eaten by a cat, and not having access to medical care. As Warner starts physically and economically scaling up, he faces significant moral dilemmas and must decide what is more important- his size, or his character.

The book clearly showcases the extreme societal unfairness that even just having a dollar can do to your life. I have never read a book so effective in describing the extreme challenges that being a lower-class citizen must face. Munmun is brutally honest about a major issue of corruptness in society that a desire for money causes. This heartbreaking story opens one’s mind to the burden on one’s character that having money can make. As teenagers start getting allowances and become fascinated with buying clothes, jewelry, makeup, and start teasing and judging those without, Munmun is a necessary eye-opener that has the potential to completely change one's perspectives. Munmun should be taught in schools.

While the siutation is rather depressing, the book definitely isn't! I adore the fact that this is a satire and is still lighthearted and even uplifting at many times. Warner is a boy to remember. Trapped in an impossible situation, he still tries to make the best of it and try to save his family. Warner struggles with rage and guilt. He ends up in terrible situations, and over the course of the novel he is forced to decide whether or not to be towering over others (physically and emotionally) or to stand by his moral conscience, and accept who he is. Warner makes some awful choices, but he has tremendous character growth and truly becomes a better person by the end. The hint of romance was also very sweet and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend you read this book! I do recommend this book for older YA readers due to some mature content.

Title: Munmun
Author: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Pages: 407
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Heir of G.OD. by Harper Maze

Heir of G.OD. is a YA science fiction book that was sent to me by the publisher. After fracking caused an enormous earthquake that triggered a volcanic winter, humanity plunged into sickness and depression. Gary O’Drae then created Sol, a virtual reality world. This allows Ana, secretly blind, to see. But Drae put an expiration date in Sol, unless his child comes forward. Faced with the reality of her blindness, Ana must take extreme risks to find someone who can help her see in the real world, which puts her directly into the path of the Church of G.OD. and their mysterious intentions.

For a science fiction book, the premise is extremely realistic with the environmental disasters that fracking caused and the turn to virtual reality as a result. Heir of G.OD. managed to be educational as well, driving home the point about the dangers of fracking and ignoring scientific warnings. There is a glossary at the end, which appeared useful at times. The description of Ana being blind was heart-wrenching, and Heir of G.OD. shows the extreme risks one is willing to take to save their life.The ending provides an intriguing premise for the second book which would completely change their world.

It was very fast-paced, and my critique is that I wish it could have slowed down and expanded some parts. Often two or three arena battles could be covered in the same page, and I wish the most important ones could have been further described. I also wish there would have been an explanation for why the blind are persecuted, and the storyline was rather predictable. Despite these concerns, I did enjoy reading it!

I recommend this book, and I am interested in reading the next book.

If you are interested in this book, I recommend you read Warcross!

Title: Heir of G.OD.
Author: Harper Maze
Publisher: Harper Maze
Pages: 230
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Sword of the Spirit (Spirits Book 3) by Rob Keeley

29747379. sy475 The Sword of the Spirit is the third book in the middle grade Spirits series sent to me by the author. When Ellie and her mom are relocated to Holiley Castle for the digging of the mythical St Merrell Sword. One afternoon, Ellie literally ran into a knight- Sir Francis from the medieval times, transported into the future. When the sword is recovered, dark secrets from the past and an evil is unleashed, requiring the help of Sir Francis and others in his time to defeat the demon.

One thing I enjoyed was how funny Sir Francis was with his reactions to modern day items like forks and carrots! Many of these funny instances reminded me of the 2001 movie Kate & Leopold. It is also interesting to notice his character development of honesty. The Sword of the Spirit proves that those who make bad choices are not bad people, and that there is the possibility for redemption no matter how great your crime. The biblical references and interpretations of vague myths were intriguing.

Here, Ellie becomes further invested in the spirit world and helping ghosts and spirits from the past, despite a direct order not to interfere. In The Sword of the Spirit it becomes clear that the kind-hearted decision to help someone can cause significant damage to both worlds. When torn between saving the world and saving her friend, both have lasting consequences that Ellie and her family will have to live with. In this book readers also see Ellie become even braver and willing to take bigger risks. There the suspense was strong and I loved the climatic fight at the end!

I highly recommend this book! I am excited to read the fourth book in this series, High Spirits!

See my reviews of the first and second books in this series!

Title: The Sword of the Spirit (Spirits Book 3)
Author: Rob Keeley
Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd
Pages: 128
Series: Yes, Book 3 of 5
Rating: 5 Stars
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