Thursday, July 30, 2015

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

If you are looking for a great young adult mystery book, then read Six Months Later. Chloe fell asleep in study hall in May. When she wakes up, it is November, and she can't remember the last six months of her life. Suddenly, she has a boyfriend that she didn't have a chance with, Chloe's best friend won't talk to her, and weirdest of all, she may become valedictorian, which was impossible with the grades she had in May. It all sounds great, but it would be nice if she actually remembered it happening. She wants her memories back, but the truth might be worse than not knowing.

I really liked that there was not a cause that made sense. After the doctor finished looking at her, I was so annoyed that they didn't think anything of it, but it helped for the mystery part of it. I liked how I didn't expect some of what was coming. A few hints were given time to time, but you really had to pay attention to recognize what it is telling you. I liked the flashbacks, although I was not sure why they happened. There was a little more romance than I would have liked, but not anything to be concerned about for younger teen readers. Chloe was very shy, and that bugged me at first, but by the end you can see that it was a good thing to keep quiet.

Six Months Later has an edge to it, and it is really addicting. When writing mysteries, it can be easy to mess up by giving away too many hints or not enough, but this was not the case. I highly recommend reading this book.

Title: Six Months Later
Author: Natalie D. Richards
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 323 pages
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

H2O (The Rain) by Virginia Bergin

I got this sci-fi dystopian novel for my birthday, and was eager to read it. H2O, the American title, was previously published in the UK and called The Rain. 

Awhile before the rain started, an asteroid was racing toward earth. Little did the scientists know, inside was a space bacteria that loves water. After destroying the asteroid, all the bacteria went in the clouds, and infected them. Ruby is at a party when the startling emergency alert goes out : "It's in the rain. It's fatal and there's no cure." Even a tiny drop, and the bacteria gets in your blood and destroys you from the inside out. (Pretty scary, right?) After two weeks, only .27% of the population is left. Ruby is all alone, and she doesn't have many options left with almost no food or water. Ruby must go across the country to find her dad, possibly her only hope for surviving. 

H2O was pretty much the opposite of how you would organize the plot of a book. Normally, a book would start out kind of slow, and then gradually work its way up to the climax, but H2O was almost backwards. It started with all the excitement, and gradually got slower, like a car running out of gas. Also, the beginning was too dramatic with too much about how sorry she feels for herself. I really expected the book to be better than it was.

On the bright side, Ruby is such a determined character, and you never see a point where she gives up. She kept trying, even when others didn't. What is great about her is that you can feel her emotions. She did, however, yell a lot, although it was understandable. In the book, Ruby likes to use swear words, but instead of showing the words she used, the author put a little picture of a black butterfly, so we don't have to read whatever bad things she says. I like that the author decided to do this, and I have never seen that done before.

Although I was disappointed, I still want to read book 2, The Storm, which comes out in fall 2015.

Title: H2O
Author: Virginia Bergin
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 327 pages
Series: Yes, book 1
Rating: 3 Stars

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Unwanteds Books 1-3 by Lisa McMann

Last year, I read The Unwanteds (book 1), and I really liked it. I did not know that there would be other books. While browsing online for a good read, I happened to stumble upon the second book. I was so excited to read them!

In the land of Quill, you are expected to be very smart and strong. The leader, High Priestess Justine is afraid of emotions and creativity. When you turn 13, you are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. All the strong, intelligent people advance in society with a higher education, and are called Wanteds. The Necessities are in charge of labor and work, and help, while the creative ones are sent to their deaths.

What Quill does not know is that instead of dying, the Unwanteds are actually going to Artimé, a magical place where they are encouraged to use their creative abilities for magic, with spells using paint brushes and musical instruments. It is the complete opposite from Quill. Alex and Aaron are twins. Alex becomes an Unwanted and lives happily, while Aaron is a Wanted, and is lucky. Twins are very rarely split up, and it forever becomes a brother vs brother in the ultimate battle.

In book 1, Alex and Aaron each adjust to their new lives, and Alex attempts to rescue his brother, putting everyone in danger from being exposed. In book 2, Island of Silence, the magical barrier separating the two worlds is gone, and everyone is free to come and go as they please, leaving Quill as a disaster with no organization. In book 3, Island of Fire, Artimé is gone, and it is up to Alex to find a way to restore everything, as well as save his captured friends, while Aaron prepares for an attack to end them.

I really liked the idea of this series. The magic was very creative and enjoyable, and I found it a little hard to put down. It is a great series for younger fantasy fans. The middle of each book kind of dragged on a little bit, but it was not a huge problem. I was a little disappointed with the second and third books. I was expecting them to be better than they were. They were still really great reads, and I am glad that I read them.  I felt that the characters kind of blended a little bit, and I would have liked more variety of their personalities.

The author, Lisa McMann, generally writes drama novels and romance novels that are for way more advanced readers and contain content that is best to stay away from for middle grade readers. The Unwanteds is an exception and is completely different.

I am looking forward to reading the next books. There are currently 5 books out, with Book 6 coming out September 2015, and book 7 is expected the spring of 2016.

Title: The Unwanteds
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 390 pages
Series: Yes, book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hidden Talents and True Talents by David Lubar

I found these sci-fi books by browsing at my public library, and the title and cover art caught my attention. In the first book, Hidden Talents, Martin starts at Edgeview Alternative School, and makes new friends. After reading a book, he eventually realizes that he and his new friends all have special powers. They use their powers to help the school not be shut down, and survive the other kids who are worse than they are.

In the sequel, True Talents, it has been about a year since they all left, and have headed their separate ways. Martin and his friends are brought back together when Eddie, (nickname "Trash") accidentally shows his telekinesis, and is taken away by an evil man who wants to use Eddie's power to his advantage. Torchie, Cheater, Lucky, Flinch and Martin come together to free their friend and stop a group of criminals.

I thought the first book was better than the sequel. I felt that the first book, Hidden Talents, was a good book, although it went kind of slow. The book was half over by the time they all figured out their talents. I liked how Martin behaved, and I thought Martin did a good job narrating the book. All the events that happened were necessary and important. The flow between chapters was smooth and together. I also think that if the book was longer it would not need a sequel.

The sequel, True Talents, I felt was not really worth my time of reading. The narration alternated between characters, and at times I did not know who was narrating. The plot seemed all over the place, and not really organized. I don't even think it was worth it to make a sequel. I did like the idea of revisiting them a year later, but I think I would have liked it better if it described more of their private life, and I would have really liked more time of when Eddie was reunited with his parents.

I think it is a good idea to read the first book, but don't waste your time with the sequel.

Title: Hidden Talents
Author: David Lubar
Publisher: Starscape
Pages: 224 pages
Series: Yes, book 1
Rating: 3 Stars

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Where I Belong by Mary Downing Hahn

I found this interesting realistic fiction book while browsing at my public library. This is a touching story about 12-year-old Brendan, who is always bullied. Even his teacher and foster mother are mean to him. Brendan is very smart, but his heart is in reading and drawing. Since he would rather draw and daydream than pay attention, he fails 6th grade, and everyone thinks he is stupid. Brendan's problem is not that he is always drawing and his lack of attention, it is really his lack of self-esteem.

He has a great imagination, and meets a man in the woods that he believes is the magical guardian spirit of the forest, "Green Man." The only place where Brendan feels safe is the woods, and with his tree house. In summer school, he finally makes a friend, Shea.

I feel bad for Brendan. Nobody should have to go through what he goes through every day. I love how even though he is so down on himself, he believes the magic of the world. If the book did not have the magical element of it, it would be too sad. I think that Brendan grew stronger with a friend, and Shea is such a special person. 

There is a huge turning point with the bullying. When it gets too much to handle, he has his friends with him the whole time. It gets very emotional at times, but the elements of friendship and family really show through, and they help when things grow out of hand.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes a good inspirational realistic fiction read.

Title: Where I Belong
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 240 pages
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, July 17, 2015

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

If you are looking for an unusual combination between realistic fiction and fantasy, this is the book for you. After Liz Hall dies in an hit-and-run accident, she awakens to find herself on a boat called the SS Nile with no recollection of how she got there. She eventually realizes that she is dead, and this is where all the dead people go. The boat takes them to a land called Elsewhere. In Elsewhere, when your birthday comes, you age backwards. For Liz, this means instead of turning 16, she will turn 14 again. (This, of course, makes her very mad.) When you are a baby again, you are sent back to Earth to live another life. It is sort of a unique turn on reincarnation.

This was an interesting book to read, but there are some areas that could be improved. One issue I had with Elsewhere was that nothing really bad happened. It made it seem like a perfect life. (Ha-ha, see what I did there.) It made the book not as interesting as I would have liked. It also didn't describe enough about getting younger. Almost the entire book is when she is still 15, and only a couple short chapters at the end are when she is younger. For a book about getting younger, I would have liked there to be more "getting younger." I also would have liked a little more information about what happens to you after you return to Earth.

What I liked was that it is so unique. There are books about heaven, or afterlife, but this is so different. There are no books like it that I have read. I like the concept, and I liked the beginning of the book, and how she was so clueless. I loved what the dogs were saying, and I thought it was funny that there is a dog language. I also thought that it was very clever to start the book with the viewpoint of a dog, and while it seemed weird at the time, it totally made sense as the book progressed.

I do recommend that you read the book and give it a chance.

Title: Elsewhere
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Square Fish
Pages: 277 pages
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Everblaze (Keeper of the Lost Cities Book 3) by Shannon Messenger

After I read the first book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series last fall, I was so excited to read books 2 and 3. I requested them at my school's library, as well as the public library, but they still don't have them. I was extremely happy to receive them as a birthday present.

In book 3, Sophie Foster is tired of hiding. With her abilities stronger than ever, she is willing to do whatever it takes to solve the conspiracy and find the people who kidnapped her. Unfortunately, one decision goes too far, and leaves the world on the edge of war. She must face the truth, and realize that you have to be careful who to trust, and her worst nightmare might be closer than she ever imagined.

The cover art is pretty much the coolest ever! The second I saw the cover, I was like, "okay, this book better be as epic as that cover!" I mean seriously, falling off an exploding building? Yes, Everblaze was as great as the cover. Actually, even if I did not look at the cover, it is exactly how I would have pictured it.

Unlike books 1 and 2, the overall tone of book 3 is sad, although in a way it did help to see other sides of some of the characters, and it was still a great read. This was the longest book in the series so far, and the most dramatic. I really liked how much friendship was in it. Friendship is a strong element in the series, and I felt that Everblaze took it further than the others, and really showed how much they cared for each other. My favorite book in this series is book 1, but all three books are super!

The author, Shannon Messenger, said on her website that she is not sure if there will be a book 5, and that depends partly on the sales of her books. Please tell everyone you know about this awesome middle grade fantasy series! I highly recommend getting the box set of books 1-3 that comes out on August 25, 2015. I am so excited to read the fourth book, Neverseen, that comes out in November 2015!!!

See my reviews of the other books in the series:

Title: Keeper of the Lost Cities: Everblaze
Author: Shannon Messenger
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 624 pages
Series: Yes, Book 3
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, July 13, 2015

Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities Book 2) by Shannon Messenger

After I read Keeper of the Lost Cities, I was so exited to read more in this middle grade fantasy series. The adventures of Sophie Foster continue in the incredible second book, Exile. Sophie Foster is an elf, and was raised by humans. She has incredible powers, and with the mix of the two kinds of DNA, her abilities are even more rare and special than anyone ever thought. So special, that hidden secrets and abilities that nobody knows of are stored in her brain.

Sophie has just recovered from some traumatic events and is finally feeling safe again. She even gets to train the only female alicorn in the whole world! Unfortunately, things take a toll for the worst when the secretive group of the Black Swan contacts her once again. She takes a huge risk- one that ends up to be the difference between life and death. In order to save some she loves, Sophie must find a way to face her fears and unlock a secret in herself that could change the world.

A thing that I love about Exile is the fact that it feels like an extension of the first book. In a lot of books I read that are series, each book is different, and really doesn't fit with the first. But this one could really just be added on to the first and it would not make much difference! Also, a lot of second books make it feel like you are forgetting something, or like "when did that happen?" but this was not like that at all. I was worried that I might of forgot some things, but in the beginning it kind of summarizes all the major events that had happened.

Everything flowed together nicely, and nothing felt rushed or too slow. Given how great the first book was, I was scared that this one might not be able to live up to it, but I was wrong. The book was just as good, and maybe even better. The ending of Exile ended at the right time and fully concluded an adventure, while at the same time starting a new one.

I am super excited to read and review book three. I highly, highly, highly recommend this book, and this series.

Read my review of the first book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series.

Title: Keeper of the Lost Cities: Exile
Author: Shannon Messenger
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 576 pages
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, July 10, 2015

Gone by Michael Grant

This is the first book in this young adult dystopian series. There are currently six books in the Gone series.  In one second, everything is normal. The next second it is not. In the blink of an eye, everyone 15 or older vanishes into thin air, along with phone signals, internet, and anyway to get help. A barrier is surrounding them, and there is no way to get through. On top of that, some people get powers. Strange abilities that cause power struggles. Ones with powers against ones that don't. Time is running out. When you turn 15... you vanish too.

I liked that the story was shown by a lot of different perspectives, and it helped to see what was happening at the same time as other things. Although there were a lot of different characters, it was pretty easy to see who the main characters were. The characters were all so different, and it made them all memorable.

The book was very suspenseful, and I did not want to put it down. It is filled with twists and turns that you would never expect. The amount of visual details was incredible, and I could picture every single thing that happened. I liked the concept, and the thing about getting powers was awesome.

The author did a great job with the ending. It was just enough for it to tell the important stuff, and still have a cliffhanger. This is an amazing book, and I cannot wait to read the other ones in the series!

Title: Gone #1
Author: Michael Grant
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 559 pages
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Dirt Diary by Anna Staniszewski

I purchased this enjoyable realistic fiction book from a scholastic book fair. Rachel Lee's parents are about to divorce, and Rachel will not let that happen. So she stole $287.22 from her college fund to buy a plane ticket to go see her dad, and convince him to come back. In order to repay the money, she has to give up her weekends to help in her mom's house cleaning business. But Rachel ends up cleaning for the most popular kids in school, including Briana Riley, who bullies Rachel whenever she gets the chance. The money from that still is not enough, so when an opportunity comes up for serious cash, Rachel can't help but say yes. The secrets that she uncovers are more than she bargained for. They cause way more trouble than she originally thought.

The Dirt Diary has a lot of elements to it, such as family, bullying, honesty, and friendship. A lot of people can relate to her case. Rachel is a great character, and she developed a lot in the story, and we get to see a lot of different sides of her. I think I liked Evan the best. He is so sweet and nothing like his sister. I liked that often right after something bad happens, he is pretty much who she runs into next, and of course, embarrasses herself.

It was funny to hear her goofy swear words, like "gas cap!" and "holy fried onion rings!" Rachel has a habit of getting into bad situations, and they are almost always funny. It is completely original, and the perfect amount of everything. It can be hard to coordinate a book to work together, but the author pulled it off, and everything flows together nicely.

I really recommend this book. I am looking forward to reading the second and third books in the series.

Title: The Dirt Diary #1
Author:  Anna Staniszewski
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Pages: 246 pages
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, July 6, 2015

Above World by Jenn Reese

The Above World Series is a middle grade trilogy for readers who love fantasy and science fiction. Book number one, Above World is a good read. Long ago, technology made a way for people called the Kampii to live and breathe underwater with special breathing necklaces. But now, they are starting to fail. Aluna is thirteen-years-old, and suspects that something is very wrong with the necklaces. At a special ceremony where she is supposed to get her tail, she stands up to the council, who deny that anything is wrong. Aluna has lived in the City of Shifting Tides her whole life, but now with her friend Hoku's help, they will run away into the world above to find a cure. Little do they know, there are other people who also have adapted to unusual environments, like Aviars, who have wings and live in the sky. Despite the sea and the sky being opposites, they have to work together in order to save their tribes- and the whole world.

The characters are well-developed, and their personalities really come through. Hoku is more logical, and a good influence. Aluna is more of an act-now-think-later type of person, which came in handy in certain situations. The plot was easy to follow, and I never once had to re-read anything for clarification. I like that the book gives a lesson. Above World teaches that despite each others differences, you can still be friends.

I love science fiction and fantasy, and to read a book that has both is pretty great. I think it could be hard to combine them, and the author did a great job of using both. The cover art is terrific.

What I did not like was that they adjusted to land so easily. It seemed like since they lived in the water their entire life they should be a little more clueless. I also would have liked a little more information in the big ending mission.

I can't wait to read books two and three. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fantasy and sci-fi.

Title: Above World #1
Author: Jenn Reese
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 368 pages
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Nothing But the Truth by Avi

This documentary novel is a great summer reading book for eighth graders. Philip Malloy, a ninth grader, can't do track because of a failing grade in English. Convinced that the teacher has it out for him, he tries to get switched out of her class. Every morning, his school plays the national anthem. One day, Philip loudly hums along. Miss Narwin sends him out of class, since he was causing a disturbance. After a few more times, he is suspended. Philip's family reports it to the newspaper. Without long, the entire world sees the headline, "...Suspended for Being Patriotic," and it is very interesting to read about the chaos that follows.

I really like the format of the book. The true story is told through journal entries, dialogue and letters. This really helps to shorten the book, add background knowledge, and makes the plot really easy to follow. I also thought that it was very ironic how the entire time the school was obsessed with the budget. I think that switching back and forth between the two perspectives, the school and Philip, was a smart choice. At times, the book made me laugh, and I think you will enjoy reading about the experiences of this ninth grader. 

Really, the only thing I didn't like was the ending. The last sentence in the book was a huge surprise, and it will change everything you thought you knew about Philip, so whatever you do... DO NOT SKIP TO THE END! 

Title: Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel
Author: Avi
Publisher: Turtleback Books
Pages: 240 pages
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

This is a book that is completely different than anything that I have ever read. Peregrine "Perry" Eckert is fifteen-years-old, and is obsessed with a role-playing game, Creatures & Caverns. He is kind of a math geek, and doesn't really have any friends. Perry's parents, concerned that their son has no social life and is a "late bloomer," give him his worst nightmare- summer camp! Even worse, he is not allowed to have any of his action figures or math stuff. He thinks he is in for the worst summer of his life. However, that theory is tossed aside when he stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of the game, and other mythical creatures from the game, including Ada Ember. He learns that most of the people there he has already met. There are correspondences, which are basically two of the same person across a different dimension. In each dimension they look different and have different names and voices, but whatever one does effects the other. This being said, the only way to rescue their princess is for Perry to kiss her correspondence.

On the negative side, there is a lot of inappropriate language. You can't go a whole chapter without reading it. Also, there are some words that look like "di-." They say that it is not understandable to human minds, but it left me trying to fill in the blank with no idea whatsoever, which really threw me off. There were also a lot of parts that I felt didn't have to be mentioned, and kind of just filled it up with clutter. The Other Normals took a lot of points way too far, and even became inappropriate at some levels. 

On the positive side, I really loved how the two worlds connected. It was funny to see the resemblance between the characters with their correspondences. Most books I have read about alternate dimensions and planets have nothing to do with reality, so this was much more interesting and a relief. I like Perry, and I think he handled himself incredibly well in the face of danger. He could think quick, and he was a hero. (Well, in the other world, at least.)

The Other Normals is not a good book, and it is not a bad book. I won't be reading anything more by this author. I was sad to learn that Ned Vizzini died at a very young age because of a poor choice. I am torn between recommending it or not, so go ahead and read it if you want.

Title: The Other Normals
Author: Ned Vizzini
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 387 pages
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien

This is a book you may find on an 8th grade summer reading list for advanced readers. However, I think it belongs on a 9th grade list, due to the content. After the nuclear war happened, the world was radioactive and would kill a person if they were unprotected. Although, one area called the valley is safe to live in, and that's where Ann lives. Ann is sixteen years old, and all alone. Her family and all the others went to see if anyone else survived. They did not know about the nerve gas and radiation. They never came back.

One day, a man wearing a radiation suit arrives, and her life changes forever. She keeps an eye on him to see if he's dangerous. Then, he takes a bath in a radioactive creek and gets very sick. Ann finally shows herself and takes care of him. She nurses him back to health, putting him before herself. During his fever and delirium, Ann slowly begins to suspect that she should not have gotten involved. Her suspicions come true. Mr. Loomis is possessive, demanding, and controlling. Ann soon finds herself fighting for her life.

I really liked the book. I loved how Ann was able to take care of herself, and she handled being alone amazingly. For the world ending, she dealt with it by taking each day at a time and made the most of what she had. I admire her, and Ann seemed like an adult, the way she made decisions. I also liked the format, how the book was kind of like a diary in some ways, and it helped to connect with her. In general, it is a really good read.

An issue that I had was that when all the action happened, it was near the end of the book, and it ended too fast with a major cliffhanger. There cannot be a second book since the author died in the middle of writing it, and his family finished it for him with notes left over. I believe that the book would have been longer, and I don't think that it ended like O'Brien intended it to. I also did not like that sometimes Ann spoiled stuff herself. She says something, and then tells the events leading up to it, kind of backwards in a way.

This is a good book for 9th or maybe even 10th graders. I hope you like it as much as I did!

Title: Z for Zachariah
Author: by Robert C. O'Brien
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 240 pages
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

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