Sunday, September 30, 2018

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Everybody Sees the Ants is a YA magical realism book about a boy who goes to another world in his dreams. Lucky Linderman is bullied and tortured by a fellow classmate, whose abuse goes too far. After his grandfather never comes home from the Vietnam war, his father is a ghost, and his mother barely knows him. While reality falls apart all around him, in his dreams he can escape to a prison camp in Vietnam and speak to his grandfather, who teaches him how to stand up for himself and take back control of his life.

The author also wrote Reality Boy, which I enjoyed very much. Sadly, I was very disappointed by this book and failed to understand and appreciate the story. Multiple things about this book irked me. Everybody Sees the Ants also switched chapters between the past school year and the present summer. I felt confused as to the setting and timeline of the story.

He also references a lot seeing ants jumping up and down, cheering, and speaking to him. I am still not sure if he is schizophrenic or just has a very detailed imagination. I also was not interested in the magical dreaming part since it was not explained very well. His dreams were referred to as dreams, not reality, but when he wakes up he is wet or covered in mud. It was not clear if he was actually traveling/teleporting there, sleepwalking, or dealing with a mental coping mechanism.

The book overall was quite boring for me. It did not feel like the story went anywhere or accomplished anything. I just didn't get the point. Similarly to how Lucky is lost in his jungle world, the book was lost, as well.

I don't recommend this book.

Title: Everybody Sees the Ants
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 279
Series: No
Rating: 2 Stars

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Nice Girls Endure by Chris Struyk-Bonn

Nice Girls Endure is a YA inspirational book about finding self-love and defying discrimination. Sophomore Chelsea Duvay's days involve being tormented and bullied because of her weight. So she tries to hide, not drawing attention by sitting in the very back of the room. Chelsea stays away from people, because they always have something to say about how she looks. After the night of the Spring Fling Dance when the bullying takes a humiliating turn for even worse, she thinks she can never move on. But with the help of her new friend, Melody, she gains the courage to love herself and stand up for herself.

This book is raw and powerful, exposing unfortunate truths about the world and how we view others. The tricky part for most is registering that what they say, do, and act hurt others, and accepting that they are wrong. While the classic lesson of "treat others the way you want to be treated" is well-known, Nice Girls Endure puts a spin on it, including body image and themes of acceptance of loving who one is on the inside, not the lie on the outside.

Unlike most other books regarding weight issues and "fat-shaming", Chelsea shows a positive representation and makes readers feel hope. There is a recurring message of not enduring, and not to let them get away with hurting you. And I truly believe that this book could make a real difference in somebody's life, whether the bully, the victim, or just someone learning to accept themselves for who they are past their appearance.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Nice Girls Endure
Author: Chris Struyk-Bonn
Publisher: Switch Press
Pages: 285
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Renegades of PEACE (Secrets of PEACE Book 2) by T.A. Hernandez

Renegades of PEACE is the second YA book in the Secrets of PEACE trilogy. After escaping the PEACE Project, Zira now works with the rebels to destroy the Project. As Chairman Ryku starts completely taking over the country, Zira is asked to put an end to his reign of terror- permanently, putting her moral values and ethics into question. On the inside, Jared and Aubreigh struggle with defining their loyalties. As everyone tries to do the right thing and protect the ones they love, their paths will cross in a fateful battle for freedom.

I really enjoyed this installment! The first book and the second book are totally different, and I love them for different reasons. Contrary to the previous book where the characters uncovered the secrets of their world, this time they are uncovering the secrets of themselves and where their true loyalties lie. The main theme of this book is dealing with the consequences of their actions. They love each other, but they stand on opposite sides of war, each with their own strong beliefs. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. Morally, this book reigns superior.

Zira has always followed her heart instead of her brain, and questions everything. I admire her persistence and refusal to accept the norm. The mystery, suspense, and external conflict was what I loved about Secrets of PEACE, but I love the internal conflict in Renegades of PEACE. Here I got to understand Jared and the other kids. These kids don't know any better, and while I started to hate Jared, I understand him better now. The tricky thing with this dystopia is that there is not a clear black and white difference like some others. They've lost who they are and their beliefs. I enjoyed the expansion of new characters, especially how Aubreigh, Zira's best friend, blossoms and enveloped hard decisions. She realized her potential, and in the end, she was a true hero.

I am excited to read the last book in the trilogy, Survivors of Peace, which will be coming out sometime later this fall!

Read my review of the first book in this series, Secrets of PEACE! 

Title: Renegades of PEACE
Author: T.A. Hernandez
Publisher: Sanita Street Publishing
Pages: 358
Series: Yes, Book 2 of 3
Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA Books I Want to Read this Fall

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 Books On My Fall 2018 TBR. This is quite difficult, since I have 376 books on my to-read  shelf on Goodreads. In order of priority and likelihood of acquisition, these are the books I want to read this fall!

1. Munmun by Jesse Andrews
In an alternate reality, everyone is as tall as their finances. So, if you're broke, you're like the size of an ant, while rich billionaires are as tall as the Eiffel tower!

2. Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Everywhere Maguire goes, bad things happen. She is a universal bad luck charm; awful, dangerous accidents happen whenever she is outside. So she is perfectly happy to stay in the house all her life- that is, until Jordy shows up and shows her a life worth living.

3. If I Should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan
Hilary detests Jewish people, and is part of a Nazi gang. When she gets in an motorcycle accident, she lands in a coma. Ironically, she goes to a Jewish hospital and is sent back in time to live the life of a Jewish girl in the Holocaust.

4. Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge
Ryan and his friends steal coins from a well to pay for their bus fare home. Shortly afterward, the Well Witch claims them to serve her and grant the wishes of the coins in the fountain.

5. The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Sammie has a rare disorder that causes her memory to deteriorate. She starts a journal, addressed to her future self, of all the things she wants to remember.

6. The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan
Amadou and his younger brother, Seydou, are slaves on a chocolate farm in Africa. One day, Khadija arrives, and reminds the boys of the importance of freedom. They band together and try to escape, one last time.

7. Can't get There from Here by Todd Strasser
Maybe is a homeless teenager who lives on the streets, her only family the other teens sharing the curb. One day, a 12-year-old joins them, Tears. Maybe tries to help her and get Tears off the streets before it's too late.

8. The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser
In an abandoned library, Emma finds a magical book. Anything written in the book will come true!

9. Slated by Teri Terry
The government claims that they wipe the minds of terrorists and criminals before giving them a second chance. For Kyla, their story isn't adding up, as she regains partial past memories.

10. Hannah's Touch by Laura Langston
After getting stung by a bee, Hannah acquires the power the heal with the touch of her hand.

What books are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Returnable Girl by Pamela Lowell

Returnable Girl is a YA realistic fiction book that I found at my school library. Ronnie Hartman's mother moved to Alaska, abandoning her kids. At thirteen years old, she's been returned from multiple foster homes due to her lying, stealing, and impulsive behavior. Alison, her latest foster mom, is a therapist who wants to help her. At school she desperately tries to fit in with the popular crowd, ultimately hurting the only true friend she has. Just when she's starting to actually fit in, a letter arrives, presenting her with a choice to either be adopted by Alison or go to Alaska with her mother.

I am conflicted about Returnable Girl. While I enjoyed the book, it was extreme and the events were unrealistic. Roonie is in eighth grade. The complexity of the dilemmas and the maturity of the situations is shocking and not at all for that age level. The bullying, occasional violence, alcohol, and mature topics brought up are more like 11th or 12th grade. Even the most popular girls I know would not go as far and wild as the book went. Some of the scenes were uncomfortable even for me, so upper class high school students would be the targeted audience regardless of the age of the protagonist.

Other than the unrealistic maturity and conflict, I did enjoy the book! While some would say Roonie is selfish and heartless, I say that she is a good person at heart stuck in a tough situation. Yes, she made a lot of questionable decisions and she could have done things differently, but she's just trying to find her place in the world, learning from her mistakes as she goes. And while some people would say she is immature, I remind readers that she is only 13, and nobody at that age should have to deal with topics like these.

When I re-read the book, and suspended my disbelief I actually really enjoyed it! I think that the key to loving this book is to not overthink it. But even though the flow of the words, the writing style, and the character development is extraordinary, I cannot get past some of the content and the realism of multiple events. I would re-read this book, and I actually do recommend it, but be prepared for the extremity.

Title: Returnable Girl
Author: Pamela Lowell
Publisher: Cavendish Square Publishing
Pages: 229
Series: No
Rating: 3 Stars

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny Moon is an inspirational realistic fiction book about an autistic teenager trying to save her little sister from her birth mother. Ginny was placed in foster care four years ago, after police took her away from her abusive and neglectful mother. Now she is living with a family who loves her and supports her, but all she wants to do is escape and go back. Not because she misses her birth mother, Gloria, but her desire to protect her little sister and take care of her when Gloria cannot. This is the story of a girl trying to find her role in life and struggling to communicate and have a life without her past.

This book is classified as adult but I have no idea why, as this is perfect and relatable to teens everywhere, inspiring kindness and patience with kids of special needs. Ginny shows a lesson to everybody not to bully others and advocates empathy. The book shows the thinking and logic behind behavior that looks illogical on the outside. Every punishable thing she did was out of good intentions, and in this day in age it is especially important for kids to understand others.

On the other hand, it also shows adults how not to behave and interact. Every adult in the book has major flaws and were very misinformed of how to care for Ginny. While some see this as a negative, I see the silver lining in that this book teaches foster parents and teachers everywhere what not to do and how to be calm, patient, and understanding.

Ginny is hurting a lot, and cannot always find ways to communicate effectively. She is extremely smart, but to others it appears not due to her behavior and the way she forms sentences. However, she is just a girl scared for her sister with a paternal instinct that she does not understand, PTSD scars, and autism to top it all off. I really feel for this girl. Ginny Moon is an extremely emotional, tense book with a protagonist that one will remember for a very long time.

I highly recommend that you read this book!

Title: Ginny Moon
Author: Benjamin Ludwig
Publisher: Park Row Books
Pages: 368
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes is a YA historical fiction book about the war in Syria and conflict in the Middle East. Tareq and his family struggle with their newfound sense of normal in a country torn in two by war. It is manageable, until the government bombs his apartment. With his father and sister, they must escape their country before they lost their lives, as well. They must take the trip to Europe in hope of a better life.

The book is called A Land of Permanent Goodbyes because time and time again, they must say goodbye to the people and places they love. Syrians and refugees from the Middle East know more loss than we can imagine. The author enlightened readers about the terrors that Syrians and victims of war face.

It also showed a unique perspective from the narration of Destiny. The idea of fate was turned into a person, observing the characters and commenting on what is destined for them in the future. I loved how this unique perspective provided background knowledge and set the environment of the story. Very strange, however beneficial and intriguing to readers.

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes teaches about religion and has a recurring theme of prayer. The book attempts to acknowledge that religions are not that different from one another, and everyone should be treated as equals.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
Author: Atia Abawi
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pages: 288
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, September 3, 2018

Aaru: Halls of Hel (The Aaru Cycle Book 2) by David Meredith

Aaru: Halls of Hel is a YA sci-fi fantasy book sent to me by the author. This is the second book in the Aaru Cycle series. After Rose died, her brain was uploaded into Aaru, a utopian virtual world. In Aaru, Rose has nearly a perfect life where she has the power of a God, but wants more in her life. Meanwhile, her sister's life is falling apart as well. As pressure mounts on both the girls, they need each other more than ever. But the Magic Man is not finished with them, and his new sinister plan will tear the girls apart and destroy Aaru.

I loved this second installment! The author built on previous themes but added so much more emotion and heartbreak. Mental illness was an added theme, with people ending their lives just to escape into Aaru. They isolated those with mental illness in quarantine, and I adored the moral conflict of what to do with them.

I appreciated the added internal conflict for the girls. In a utopia where one can shape their world at will, and have everything they've ever wanted, what is their purpose? What is there to work for, to set goals for, to be motivated, when all of that can be done with a snap of a finger? There is no such thing as a utopia. I loved the theme of how one who has everything also has nothing. Aaru: Halls of Hel leaves readers with much to contemplate about and the purpose of life.

Hel is a very enthralling character. The main villain of this installment is Hel, a broken young girl brainwashed into atrocious acts. I feel very sorry for her, and what has happened to her. All she knows is pain and sorrow. The detailed descriptions of the torture she endured by the Magic Man brought tears to my eyes. I don't believe that she is all evil, and I feel that there is still light inside of her.

I highly recommend this book, and I cannot wait for more to come in the series!

Click here to read my review of the first book in this series, Aaru!

Title: Aaru: Halls of Hel
Author: David Meredith
Publisher: Bowker
Pages: 386
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars
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