Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Almost Home is an inspirational middle grade book about a girl and her dog fighting against the odds. Sugar is in the sixth grade, and has a lot of burdens to carry. Her grandfather died, her father stole money and ran off, and she is losing her home. When the two end up on the streets, her mom Reba falls apart, landing her in a psychiatric hospital and Sugar in foster care. Luckily, Sugar has her puppy, Shush, and the inspirational emails of her favorite teacher to help her. Through writing poetry and positive thinking, Sugar begins to realize that she has more power to change her life for the better than she thinks. 

I read this book many times when I was younger years ago, but I recently picked it up again. I loved it then and I love it now! The puppy on the cover is adorable, and Shush proves the need for therapy dogs. Animals really do help people feel better, and Shush made Almost Home lighthearted and hopeful in depressing times.

Sugar is just as sweet as her name, writing thank-you letters to everyone and always being nice to the bullies. She has a desire to make the world become as sweet as she is, and Sugar demonstrates qualities of compassion and empathy for others, as well as a very clear insight to life. She writes poems in every chapter, putting words to her pain and observations. Sugar is twelve years old, and she is able to articulate the ignorance of others and the reality of situations. She has a gift for seeing the world for what it really is. Sugar is as sweet as an angel, and inspires children and adults to be kind to everybody. 

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Almost Home
Author: Joan Bauer
Publisher: Puffin Books
Pages: 264
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf is the first book of two in a YA historical fiction series with a sci-fi twist of the hypothetical scenario in which Hitler would have won WWII. In 1956, the Axis powers of Japan and Third Reich (also known as Nazi Germany) rule. The allies lost, and Hitler rules the world. Yael has lost everything she loved. She was a prisoner. She was also a victim of human experimentation, and it worked too well, leading to her secret ability to skinshift, allowing her to morph into other people. She escaped and joined the Resistance, what is left of the Allies.

Her mission is simple. Kidnap Adele Wolfe and skinshift into her, taking her place in an annual motorcycle race, which awards her a dance with Hitler himself at the Victor's ball. Finally, stab him and topple his empire. However, it soon becomes much more complicated than she had planned when having to deal with her twin brother and former boyfriend.

I enjoy alternative history very much, and I loved the author's train of thought of "what if," and I would certainly hope that if this happens at all in the future with another war, there will still be people willing to fight. I also enjoyed that the author made the setting believable. The book was so exciting and fast-paced!  The adventure aspect was very strong, and I loved how every chapter was going somewhere- literally. I felt at times that I was on that motorcycle, racing as well.

Yael doesn't remember what she looked like before. She spends her life impersonating other people, so much so that the real Yael is just a faint memory. She is an extremely unique character. Held together with the memories of torture and those she's lost, Yael is wild, strong, and brilliant. She has done what many of us try our whole lives to do; she has used her pain and turned it into strength. Her fire to succeed and her determination is stronger than any other female heroine that I know. The romantic interest between Yael and Luka was very interesting to say the least, especially when she doesn't know about the huge elephant in the room, whatever big thing happened between them. Even though she was in the lead of the race, she was far behind in becoming Adele. Pretending to be someone else is a very hard feat to accomplish. The book was quite stressful, and I was scared for her a few times.

My only critique would be that there was so much action and adventure with the race that I wanted more action and adventure with Hitler, what he's up to, and how evil he is currently. Readers see her need for revenge given her past, but not any reasons given the present. My concern is that it was not made clear how the world would be better off without him. This is something that I hope will be expanded upon in the next book.

I highly recommend this book, and I cannot wait to read the next one, Blood For Blood!

Title: Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 388
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 2
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, July 19, 2018

All Rights Reserved (Word$ Book 1) by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

All Rights Reserved is the first YA dystopian book of two in a series about freedom of speech. In this world, every gesture, word, and form of communication is trademarked or copyrighted, and using them costs money. Instead of buying food, clothes, and a home, the people buy the words that they speak. If one speaks more than they can afford, they get tortured or enslaved.

Speth witnesses her friend jump off a bridge rather than be enslaved to pay off his debt, and she is not allowed to convey sadness or express it. Too traumatized to speak, she vows never to speak again, rebelling against the fabric of society and fighting back against the cruelty that took her friend's life and countless others. She inspires others to fight back as well, sparking a revolution for the forgotten first amendment.

The creation of the futuristic world was incredible and horrifying. There's 3-D printing of food and whole cities made of plastic with huge screens and holographic projections everywhere one looks. But at the same time, there are cameras everywhere, implants in your eyes that can shock your eyes, and wristbands that can burn off your arm. I was fascinated by their world and all the means of control over the people. My eyes were glued to every page, and the level of detail and the precision of every fact was astonishing.

I loved the pattern of thinking related to this concept and the inspiration of standing up for what you believe in. I cannot even imagine the level of greed that must cripple the society. Yes, this book takes place very far in the future, but I cannot believe that the Supreme Court would ever allow this. Let's hope for the good of the Earth that the government never becomes this corrupt in the hands of corporate bribes and greed.

Today in our society with the current president, fake news, and freedom of speech and press in controversy, All Rights Reserved is very relevant to current issues and is a must-read for all adolescents soon making their way into adulthood in this complex world. It also reminds us that our freedom should never be taken for granted.

Readers discover that silence is more powerful than words. Words are not essential to forming a human being or a personality. It is what one stands for that defines a person. Speth is extremely humble. She did not want to be a hero, and constantly worked for the better of her friends. It was nearly impossible for her to resist the urge to speak and defend herself, and I doubt I would be able to hold on as long as she did. She was able to channel her rage into power and motivation to change the world.

I highly recommend this book. I cannot wait to read the next book, Access Restricted, which comes out on August 28, 2018!

Title: All Rights Reserved
Author: Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 400
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 2
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hit Count by Chris Lynch

Hit Count is a YA realistic fiction book about brain injury and the dangers of football. Arlo Brodie loves playing football, just like his brother, following in his footsteps all the way to the top. Hitting others, and getting hit back. Arlo becomes known as "Starlo," showing no mercy and helping to win games. As his personal life spirals downward, he pushes himself harder and harder, ignoring concern from the coaches. Despite the grueling headaches, blackouts, dizziness, and confusion, the cheering crowds convince him that he is fine. However, the brain can only handle so much.

This book largely expands on how football makes people violent. Football promotes violence, and Hit Count shows the story of two brothers who became almost addicted to the rush of adrenaline they got from tackling someone. All the time, Arlo would talk about wanting that rush, no matter the pain. Football shaped him into almost a sadist. The depiction was extremely accurate and almost scary. I loved it and the thrill!

I also loved the intense account of pain. Specifically, how he felt after every tackle. I have never seen a picture of pain quite like this, especially since he did not give in and cry or ask for help. It just kept building and building. I also enjoyed the conflict with his family and following in his brother's footsteps. It was fascinating to witness how once he saw a brother consumed by violence and doing everything wrong, to doing almost exactly what he was doing, not able to stop it. The cause and effect scenario relating to football was very loud and clear.

Even with the clarity of the theme, it lacked the clarity for Arlo. My one major issue with this book is the lack of guilt and reflection. Arlo never once says "I shouldn't have hit as hard," or "I should have listened to the coach," or "I should've payed attention to my body and stopped." It is inferred that he learned  his lesson and reflects on his life, but he is so indirect about it that I find Hit Count's argument not as productive. It was very show and not tell. Usually that is a good thing, but I wanted more of him telling the reader what not to do, actually voicing to the reader the danger and not to push themselves. Again, the correlation to the changes in his personality and the personality of his brother was extremely clear to the reader, however it was not so clear to the character.

It was so good in the beginning and the middle, but I feel like the book fell flat at the end and failed to fully deliver its real message and warning to football players. However, I did really enjoy the book and its vivid descriptions, imagery, and emotion. Hit Count is a 5-star book up until the end, which is the real downfall; the lack of reflection and regret.

I recommend that you read this book for fun and for a firsthand account of pain. However, if you are interested in more of the seriousness of the theme, I recommend that you read Second Impact instead, which is more developed in theme, guilt, and life lessons.

Title: Hit Count
Author: Chris Lynch
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 368
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books I Want to be a Movie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here.

This week's original theme was Throwback, to do a post that you missed or want to do again. I chose books that I want to be made into movies, from April 12, 2011 (back when Top Ten Tuesday was managed by The Broke and Bookish).

This is exciting to me, especially since The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is being made into a movie and is hitting theaters on August 3, 2018! I can't wait! Below is a list of YA sci-fi and fantasy books, in random order, that I hope will be made into movies in the future.

1. The Six by Mark Alpert
I feel like this one is unrealistic to be made into a movie since it is similar to Transformers and Power Rangers, but I just think it would be really, really, cool! Who doesn’t love robots?

2. Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
The set design would be incredible for this movie, with the war and the falling-apart buildings. The disappearance of American values would show people that we need to prevent this from happening at all costs, and the intense emotion and action would be a blockbuster hit. 

3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
Although I did not enjoy the book, I think that if this was in a visual format like a movie, I could picture and understand the characters better, and I would hope it to be more emotional.

4. Consider and Contribute by Kristy Acevedo
I would want both books to be combined into one movie. It would be amazing to try to replicate the incredible holographic technology and solidified light, which would be jaw-dropping to see in person.

5. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Elsewhere is so unique, and the concept of somebody getting younger would be really cool to see, and the afterlife concept with reincarnation is not explored very often in movies.

6. H20 (The Rain) by Virginia Bergin
The special effects and the makeup required to pull this off with people's skin melting and dissolving would be really, really cool. It would probably be rated R, though.

7. Numbers by Rachael Ward
The suspense and the intensity would be through the roof, and Jem's dilemma and internal conflict would touch viewers hearts. The huge explosion in the beginning, partnered with all the floating numbers, would make it incredible.

8. The Program by Suzanne Young
It would be scary, thrilling, and emotional. Tears would fall, and people would be inspired by the power of love and human rights. The movie would also teach people about depression and the right way to deal with it (not like this).

9. Glitch by Heather Anastasiu
It would be really interesting to see the world be in color and exciting, and then switch to bland and boring. The aspect of being controlled and numb would be fascinating.

10. The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
I love the book, and I feel like it would be really interesting as a movie. It could teach valuable lessons to the public about how to survive and work together. Especially with cell phone addiction, It would be really interesting and eye-opening for some teens. 

What books do you want to be made into a movie?

Friday, July 6, 2018

Once You Know This by Emily Blejwas

Once You Know This is a middle grade realistic fiction book about a girl trying to save her broken family in the rough areas of Chicago. Fifth-grader Brittany Kowalski is feeling hopeless about a future for her family. Her cat is missing, her grandmother is sick, and her mother's boyfriend is controlling and abusive. To make matters worse, they have no money and often don't eat. With the help of her teacher, she makes a plan for her mother to have a better life and escape.

I enjoyed how the story shows a lot of major problems in the world and in the city of Chicago from the viewpoint of such a young child. Sometimes adults feel the need to shelter young kids from the reality of the world but Brittany already knows some of this. She sees abuse, she lives in poverty, she sees violence, and she sees the issues with funding for Chicago schools. I liked how the author incorporated those elements beyond the basic plot and showed readers what it could be like for a child living in bad areas, the child being told to never go outside after dark. 

This book is inspiring to young children to find their inner strength and can teach others in similar situations that they are not useless and that they have the power, too, to change their lives. Living in the grim reality that she lived in, Brittany's determination and positivity will inspire other children to feel hope, as well, and realize that everybody has a future.

I highly recommend this book, and I cannot wait to see what books the author writes in the future!

Title: Once You Know This
Author: Emily Blejwas
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 256
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, July 2, 2018

Edge of Nowhere by John E. Smelcer

Edge of Nowhere is a YA realistic fiction book about survival. 16-year-old Seth and his dog, Tucker, are on his father's fishing boat during a torrential storm in Alaska, and are knocked into the ocean overnight. Luckily, they manage to float on one of the islands lining the Alaskan coast, and over months, they try to survive. Swimming island to island, trying to get home, Seth is forced to come to terms with his mother's death. Meanwhile, while everybody else believes they are dead, his father never stops looking for him.

This book is a combination between Hatchet and The Odyssey, but much easier. Seth's survival was easier in the sense that what he needed to live was right in front of him, and there was not any violence or a direct threat. The plot was very simple. Sleep, eat some raw fish, swim, pet the dog, repeat. I was looking for the extra suspense, the action and the intensiveness coming from surviving. I needed more excitement, more thrill to keep me engaged as a reader.

The aspect of Seth facing the death of his mother and overcoming his depression was strong, but not strong enough. I just wanted more. The concept is there, the plot is there, the journey is there, but the extra step is not. I feel like this is somewhat of a rough draft. I really just needed more emotion, stress, desperation, and obstacles. I loved the idea, I loved the heritage aspect, and I learned a lot about Alaska, but I needed more. There is so much room to expand. I held such high hopes for this book, but sadly they did not live up to the book's potential.

I feel like some people might enjoy the book, but it was lacking for me, and just okay.

Title: Edge of Nowhere
Author: John E. Smelcer
Publisher: Leapfrog Press
Pages: 194
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars
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