Friday, July 3, 2020

Reflecting on My Fifth Blogiversary

Made Using PicsArt
When I started my blog on June 15, 2015, it was the summer before eighth grade. Blogging was the perfect way to combine my love of reading and writing. I set out to review 40 books that summer and met my goal! I remember I was so excited to share my blog with all my teachers! It was amazing to receive emails and compliments from former and new teachers. My seventh grade English teacher still subscribes to my blog and even printed out some of my reviews to keep in a special binder to show her students when they need ideas of books to read!

Now five years later, I am about to go off to college in Pennsylvania to be a science teacher. I plan to keep actively blogging throughout college, but my top priority remains my schoolwork. For the past five years I have done at least one blog post every week. This is my 370th post!

I remember being so excited to receive my first author request; now I receive so many more than I can accept! Also in the beginning I would be carrying stacks of around 12 books home from the library at a time, but in 2017 I got a Kindle. However, I still like to checkout several books. In July 2016, I started participating in Top Ten Tuesday, which has been a great way to connect with other book bloggers.

Some reviews are more memorable than others, and below are some of my most memorable reviews.

June 16, 2015
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger was my second review. What makes the first book special was that due to a fluke of noticing it on a library shelf I have fallen in love with this series and own all eight books. Five years later, this middle grade fantasy series remains my favorite series of all time!

February 15, 2015
I also have to mention Five High School Dialogues by Ian Thomas Malone. This was the first book I ever received from an author. I remember literally jumping for joy because the email was so surprising and made me very happy! I could not believe that a tiny new blog like mine could have attracted the attention of an author. Now, I receive so many requests every week that I have to be selective in what I can accept.

December 15, 2017
This is when I reviewed Monster by Michael Grant, the first in the follow-up series to Gone! I LOVE the Gone series, as well as his Front Lines series. It was also the most amazing time jump book I have ever read. Monster is a prime example of one of the reasons why we learn history in school, to prevent history from repeating itself. It was very interesting to see how the past impacts the character’s decisions. Unfortunately, Grant writes more books than I can keep up with (especially since they are so long)!

February 9, 2018
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is memorable because of how much I disliked it. It took all my strength to finish it, and the only reason I did was because I was excited to vent in a review! I remember every detail of this book, simply due to how much I couldn’t care less about it! All the Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer prize, and this was the first book I read where my opinion was the total opposite than most. With this book, I really felt the importance of writing reviews and expressing unpopular opinions.

July 3, 2019
I Wish My Teacher Knew by Kyle Schwartz is important to me because I plan to be a teacher, and I will aspire to follow in her footsteps, learn from her mistakes, and use her strategies. Some of her tips and tricks I never would have thought of using. In fact, I plan on bringing her new book, I Wish For Change, with me to college!

Other notable reviews include Audacity, Anger is a Gift, and The Wave. I am excited to witness the growth of this blog in the next five years! Five years from now, I will be a teacher!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA New Releases in Late 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here. One of the most exciting things is discovering new books to read! The theme for this week is Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020. The following releases that I look forward to the most are in order of release date.

1. Loveless by Alice Oseman
Release Ddate: July 9, 2020 (Postponed from April 30)
As Georgia goes to college with her friends, she is excited to finally have a chance at love. But her plan goes awry with hilarious mistakes, Georgia realizes that she is asexual, incapable of sexual attraction. In Loveless, Georgia works to discover who she is and accept herself.
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2. The Game by Linsey Miller
Release Date: August 4, 2020
It is tradition that the seniors at Lincoln High School play the stragety game Assassin, where in teams they try to kill each other with water guns. Lia is stoked to play this year, but soon the game is no longer fun, as students start being murdered. Lia will risk everything to stop him before she is next.
The Game

3. Cut Off by Adrianne Finlay 
Release Date: August 11, 2020
The new virtual reality show CUT/OFF (a high-tech version of Survivor) places a group of teens in the wilderness. Whoever can go the longest without "tapping out" wins a million dollars. But when tapping out doesn't work, the teens horrifying realize that nobody is coming to save them; they are trapped in this alternate reality.
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4. Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Release Date: August 11, 2020
Based on Hindu mythology, Sheetal is the daughter of a star and a human, struggling to keep her starlike powers a secret. But when she loses control and severely injures her human father with her fire, she must go to the heavens and find a star to heal him. But before she can save her father, she is thrust into the competition to decide the new ruler of the heavens.
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5. Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Release Date: September 1, 2020
One night, Amal Shahid, a teen artist and poet, gets into an altercation with other boys that ends in tragety. Amal is then sent to prision for a crime he didn't comit- because he is black. Told in verse, Punching The Air tells of the biased justice system and Amal's dedication to expose the truth.
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6. Legendborn by Tracey Deonn
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Her first night on college campus, Bree Matthews witnesses a flying demon attack students and the secret society of Legendborn students (magical decedents of King Arthur) who defeats it. When one of the students tries to erase Bree's memory of the attack, they find out that she has unique magic of her own, which could be connected to her mother's death.
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Release Date: September 29, 2020
A Deadly Education is the book I am most excited to read! At Scholomance, a school for magically gifted teens, there are no teachers, grades, or friendships. But there are monsters lurking in every corner- literally. One graduates when they defeat enough monsters. But for El, who's dark powers are extremely strong, graduating might mean accidentally killing all of the other students, too.
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8. All This Time by Rachael Lippincott and Mikki Daughtry
Release Date: September 29, 2020
Kyle wakes up in the hospital with a brain injury after a car accident and learns that his girlfriend died. Then he meets Marley, a girl struggling with loss of her own. Together, they face the past and move on to the future before another catastrophe arises.
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9. The Truth Project by Dante Medema 
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Seventeen-year-old Cordelia Koenig's senior genetic project is supposed to be easy. But when her DNA sample comes back and reveals that her father is not her father, Cordelia must figure out who she is and try to forgive her mother.
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10. The Cousins by Karen M. McManus
Release Date: December 1, 2020
Cousins Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah are estranged and barely know each another, not to mention ever met their grandmother. When each receive a letter to join her grandmother on a private island for the summer, their original surprise and curiosity reveals something more sinister about their family.
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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Skate the Thief (The Rag and Bone Chronicles, #1) by Jeff Ayers

52773232Skate the Thief is the first book in a YA fantasy series sent to me by the publisher. After nine-year-old Skate's parents died in a tragic fire, Skate was taken in by the criminal organization The Ink. In exchange for stealing valuable items, she is given a place to stay and food to eat. When a steal goes awry and she is discovered by the wizard Belamy, he offers her a surprising deal; she can earn a place to stay if she "borrows" books for him. He even teaches her how to read and some magical spells. However, she lies to Belamy and still works for The Ink, preparing to steal from him. But as she grows fond of Belamy, Skate must decide who is deserving of her loyalty. She must decide soon, because everyone's lives may soon be at risk.

In Skate the Thief, the setting and coincidental circumstances make Skate special, not the other way around like in many stories. The idea that anyone can practice magic, if taught, is marvelous. One doesn't have to come from a special bloodline to be able to change the color of a fireplace. That sense of equality is unique in most literature, and helps contradict the hierarchical structure of their world. The setting was unique to have magical and mythical creatures co-existing with humans, especially for the most part even aware of each other.

Skate the Thief also brings up important ethical issues and challenges the traditional beliefs of right and wrong. In Skate's case, both choices (of remaining loyal to The Ink or to Belamy) are morally wrong and right. While The Ink took her off the streets, Belamy showed her nothing but kindness, even when she didn't deserve it. While she must betray someone in the presence of many lives at stake, kindness is the most important value. While staying with Belamy, Skate evolves from a cold criminal on the streets to an girl capable of independence with a strong moral compass and the ability to care for others. Skate the Thief teaches that while loyalty and survival are important, trust and compassion are more essential forces.

The ending held a strong climax, and I enjoyed the increase in intensity. However, some of the chapters felt very information-heavy. Some chapters would just be Skate asking multiple questions and Belamy listing the answers. I feel like there could have been a way to trim down some of the background information, which was sometimes irrelevant and distracting from the plot. It is also difficult to believe that Skate is only nine- her emotional maturity puts her, in my mind, closer to thirteen or fourteen.

Despite that, I recommend you read this book! I'm excited to read the next book!

Title: Skate the Thief
Author: Jeff Ayers
Publisher: Thinklings Books, LLC
Pages: 349
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreads

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA Inspirational Books That Tackle Tough Issues

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Top Ten Tuesday! For this post, we are supposed to "pick a past TTT topic you wish you’d done, but didn’t get a chance to do." If you want to participate, click here. 

I have chosen to do a post from July 26, 2011 tackling tough issues, from back when Top Ten Tuesday was still managed by The Broke and the Bookish. Books that tackle tough issues (such as abuse or racism) inspire us to become better people help society move forward into progressiveness and kindness. This list was VERY difficult to choose! You can see all the inspirational books I've reviewed here. Due to how much I love all of these books, this list is only slightly in order.

1. Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Anger is a Gift deals with police brutality and racism in schools. This book is angering, and it is heartbreaking to see the police outright attack the students with no probable cause, but also inspiring, proving that anger and sadness can be turned into a force for change. Anger is a Gift is a true wake-up call, and is very relatable in our current political climate.
 

2. Heroine by Mindy McGinnis
 This book deals with the issue of the opioid crisis, and proves how easy it is to fall victim to addiction. Contrary to some people's opinions, addiction is a disease and not entirely in the person's control. Mickey becomes trapped in a downward spiral after being prescribed opioids after a car accident. Heroine is one of the most raw, honest stories I have ever read.
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3. Crazy by Han Nolan  
Crazy is one of the most intense, emotional books I have read regarding mental illness. Jason is drowning his father's mental illness and the piles of unpaid medical bills before his mother died. When his father loses his grip on reality and succumbs to his hallucinations, Jason becomes the father in their (literally and figuratively) deteriorating house. After joining a support group at school, he discovers friendships that will inspire him to finally have the strength to get help for his father.

4. Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix
In 16-year-old Trish's English class, her teacher requires all students to keep a journal, but promises not to read anything marked "Do Not Read". When Trish's mother runs off and leaves her to care for her little brother, she vents in this journal. This book contains subjects of child abuse, neglect, mental illness, and death. It teaches about asking for help and the difference between right and wrong.

5. Gym Candy by Carl Deuker
Gym Candy is a YA realistic fiction book that exposes the dangers of steroids and the mental/physical consequences of playing football.The immense pressure involved in the popularity and idolization of the game leads to body image issues and a desperation to be accepted by any means possible. This was an extremely intense book that I know will move others to change themselves and their beliefs. 

6. Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
Adam has schizophrenia; he sees and hears things that aren't there. After making it into a new drug trial that helps him ignore his visions, he starts at a new private school and falls in love with Maya. But when the drug fails, Adam becomes afraid that she will not love him anymore. Many become angry and afraid at what they don't understand. It is also interesting to note that Adam is atheist, ironically attending a catholic school. 

7. The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
The First Time She Drowned is one of my favorite books. Two and a half years ago, Cassie's mother dumped her in a mental hospital to get rid of her, and spun lies to make sure they kept her. Now at 18, Cassie is eager to leave and go to college. But the mental and emotional damage done to her by her mother will continue to haunt her, and secrets she has kept to herself for years and years threaten to consume her once again. This book deals with abuse, sexual assault, and mental illness.

8. Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
Here to Stay tackles bullying, racism, homophobia, and Islamophobia. I love how Here to Stay proves that even when it seems like the world is against you, there will always be people by your side who will continue to stand up for what's right. Its extremely diverse set of characters in races, religion, and sexual orientation adds to the inspirational tone.

9. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
Little & Lion is a YA realistic fiction book about struggling with sexuality and mental illness. Suzette deals with her brother's bipolar disorder while coming to terms with her sexuality. After her brother stops taking his pills, she must find a way to save him before it's too late.Anyone who has a family member or friend who's struggling with an illness needs to read this book. This serves as a guide as to what to do in response to alarming situations.


10. Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
Personal Effects deals with grief and the difficulty of having a family member in the military. The anger, grief, and betrayal jumped off the pages and stabbed my heart in its core. This is a special read for anyone dealing with loss.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Hungry Hearts by Julie Hoag

49104636. sy475 Hungry Hearts is a YA romance that combats eating disorders. This book was sent to me by the author. Landra, struggling with anorexia, is committed to being as thin and in shape as possible. On the other side, her classmate Brian, striving to be a gourmet chef, idolizes Landra and starts baking her treats and snacks every day. With Brian and her best friend Becca by her side, Landra learns to enjoy food again, whilst becoming romantically drawn to Brian.

I enjoyed how Hungry Hearts proves that those who struggle with eating disorders do not necessarily need psychiatric care but also more importantly support from friends and family. Brian and Becca were passionate and fully invested in making sure that Landra ate and was taken care of. The love from them, and her big brother, gave her the confidence to appreciate food again. She kept a constant struggle of dealing with negative body image, but her friends and family helped to convince her of her beauty and contradict Landra's negative feelings.

I love how honest the book is on eating disorders. Some of the sentences are so outright honest that it almost hurt to read them. This author has a lot of courage. The romance was so cute and enjoyable that almost every chapter left a smile on my face- as did the gorgeous cover! The love between Brian, Landra, and Hunter was intense, and the imagery and description of the yearning for each other was vivid and skilled. I will definitely say that this book is best for older YA readers due to some of the language.

I recommend this book! The author has informed me that there will be a sequel. In 2021 the Hoag will also be releasing the book Out of Control.

Title: Hungry Hearts
Author: Julie Hoag
Publisher: Month9Books
Pages: 291
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Friday, June 12, 2020

Esme's Wish (Esme Series Book 1) by Elizabeth Foster

33634667. sy475 Esme's Wish is a middle grade fantasy book that was sent to me by the author. 15-year-old Esme refuses to move on from her mother's death and accept her new stepmother, with a deep suspicion that something terrible happened to her. Esme, harboring her magical gift to look into the past, travels to the world of Esperance to find her mother. Little does she know that her gift may be the key to saving Esperance and finding the pearl that keeps their world at peace.

I enjoyed the deep thematic connections to John Steinbeck's The Pearl. Greed is one of the foundations that draw people to evil actions, and love and friendship is a major foundation and power for light and virtuous actions. The world-building was skilled and full of creative imagery that was wonderful and easy to picture. It is obvious that Foster spent a long time being thorough with all the details of the setting. The magical elements of the town were wonderful. Esme's Wish is certainly a fun, relaxing read! The hint of Greek mythology was interesting to say the least, and I liked the involvement of dragons!

Esme is a sweet, lovely protagonist who is determined to find her mother and will not let anything get in her way. As a character, what makes her unique is her devotion and love to her mother, no matter the danger. Esme's emotions are powerful, however she always manages to think clearly despite them. I will say that I wished the description of going through the portals to and from Esperance were more vivid, and with higher intensity of emotion. In addition, I wish the climax with the pearl's power at the end was more powerful.

I recommend you read this book!

I look forward to reading the second book in this series, Esme's Gift.

Title: Esme's Wish (Esme Series Book 1)
Author: Elizabeth Foster
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Pages: 252
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 2
Rating: 4 StarsGoodreads

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Invasion of the Aliens (The Legends of Pinena) by Amy Zhao

Perfect for fans of Keeper of the Lost Cities or DustInvasion of the Aliens (The Legends of Pinena) is a middle grade fantasy story surrounded in magic and adventure! This book was sent to me by the author. When Pia, the Friendship Talent Fairy, is sucked into a portal that transports her to another galaxy, she finds herself thrust into the middle of a war between fairies and Slucus, octopus-like alien invaders. Pia, trapped on this new planet, decides to help fight the aliens and win freedom back for these fairies. Along the way, she'll grow to realize the immense power at her fingertips (that she didn't know she had) is the key to defeating the Slucus.

I'll admit, in the beginning I didn't see how a Friendship Fairy could majorly turn the tide in a war, but I was shocked to be proven wrong by the end! This story teaches the importance of being kind to one another and that caring for each other can be the strongest type of magic there is. I loved Pia's moral values and her willingness to endanger herself to save others. I was continuously surprised by her ability to find hope and continue to fight even when it seemed hopeless.  I enjoyed the mystery aspect of Pia suddenly being transported to another galaxy. This world was so imaginative and diverse, filled with all sorts of mythical and magical creatures. Invasion of the Aliens was very fun to read and lifts one's spirits!

I cannot believe that Amy is only twelve years old and wrote a 347 page book!  It is mind-blowing that Amy has the same talent as a 40-year-old! This girl is going places, and I cannot wait to watch her grow in future years! I love the 26-page bonus chapter at the end titled "My Writing Experience & Lessons, and Writing Tips I Learned". In addition to being fun to read, the educational benefit of Zhao teaching figurative language and character-building strategies is wonderful! I believe that Amy Zhao and this book can serve as a major inspiration for young authors.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Invasion of the Aliens (The Legends of Pinena)
Author: Amy Zhao
Publisher: Amy Zhao Publishing
Pages: 347
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Amazon UK
Amazon US
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