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
Goodreads

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Esme's Gift (Esme Series Book 2) by Elizabeth Foster

The Magic of Wor(l)ds – Pagina 5 – Free bookreviews and other free ...Esme's Gift is the second book in the middle grade fantasy series that was sent to me by the author. Fifteen-year-old Esme Silver has saved Aeolia by protecting the pearl. However, rescuing her mother is not as simple as she had hoped, as her Gift is trapping her in the past. With the help of a new mentor, Esme must learn to control her time-traveling powers to find the ingredients of a powerful elixir that can awaken her. But this adventure also uncovers a shocking secret in Aeolia's history and puts her directly in the path of Nathan Mare.

Suspenseful and magical, Esme's Gift is even better than the first book! The sequel increases the intensity and delves further into the people and relationships that exist in Aeolia. The twists of new, astonishing revelations kept me hooked and fascinated. What we thought we knew about the motives behind the main villains, like Nathan Mare and Alexander Mann. Almost every character in this book has a dark side, as well, providing a mystery and an intriguing premise. Esme's Gift has a significant number of new characters, and I enjoyed that each one was distinctive in their own personality.

I enjoyed watching Esme make friends and start school as an "otherworlder". It reminded me of Keeper of the Lost Cities, especially when it came to Esme's power. I loved Esme's internal struggle on how to control her Gift and deal with the fact that it was experimented upon. In the beginning, her Gift has almost total control over Esme, and she worries about facing the same fate as her mother. But over time, her Gift becomes a true gift rather than a burden, and I loved watching Esme grow to become stronger. Esme's ability to travel back in time through the water was vividly descriptive, as was the personification of the water embracing her, controlling her, and helping her.

I highly recommend this book!

See my review of the first book in this series, Esme's Wish, here!

Title: Esme's Gift (Esme Series Book 2)
Author: Elizabeth Foster
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Pages: 304
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Land of the Purple Ring by Deborah J. Natelson

52773031Sent to me by the author, the fantasy book, The Land of the Purple Ring, is one of the most creative, witty books I have ever read! The clockwork man is held bound to Time, a slave built by the Clockmaker. But he refuses to remain a slave, and escapes, venturing on a journey across the universe to discover imagination, magic, and the strength to create a true name for himself as a living being.

The clockwork man's perspective on ordinary objects was intriguing. In fact, almost a whole page was simply him pondering types of chairs, and why many are designed for decoration and less for practicality. His confusion of the importance of eating and puzzling thoughts over men who drink until they must stumble home was refreshing. Also creative was how some of these objects were alive, like lampposts, clocks, the magical lakes of cheese and dancing shrimp. One must wonder how the author even came up with some of these bizarre elements! The names of some of the creatures in the story- like "Forsoothians"- was entertaining and curious at the least. If you read it before bed you'll have quite the interesting dreams!

The so-called "clockwork man" had a large amount of character development as he struggled to find an identity. First, he was just Boy, a slave, even taking on the name of his "father" (The Clockmaker) before discovering a true name and soul that defines him as a living being of art- not simply a manikin of clockwork. The one complaint I might have is that sometimes it felt like there was too much going on at once, and I did not see any clear stages of plot, but rather felt more as a collection of short stories.

I recommend this book!

Title: The Land of the Purple Ring
Author: Deborah J. Natleson
Publisher: Thinklings Books, LLC
Pages: 201
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreads

Thursday, July 16, 2020

A Summer Taken (Council of Friends Book 1) by Jason Milgram

A Summer Taken is the first book in the Council of Friends series. This YA realistic fiction book was sent to me by the publisher. It is 2041, and 14-year-old Julia must return to Camp Auctus to write a speech honoring her cousin Lizzie, who was shot two summers ago shortly after leaving the camp. But Julia is still struggling with her shyness and feels lost without Lizzie beside her. This summer, Julia will find the words to express the vast range of emotions bottled inside her and find the strength to speak for change.

I enjoyed the story and Julia's character development over the course of the novel. Readers see her initially shy and reclusive, torn apart over her cousin's murder to being an inspiring force for change in gun violence laws. Milgram was skilled at depicting the stages and the complicated range of emotions one experiences while grieving a loved one, like anger, guilt, numbness, and sadness. The added element of Julia's struggle with anorexia only made it more insightful. A Summer Taken also explores common obstacles that occur in friendships. This book could teach one to become a better friend. I was impressed with the level of detail and imagery in some of the flashback scenes, and how the book still had a nice flow despite alternating from the past and present.

One of my concerns, however, would be that setting the book in 2041 was strange and somewhat distracting from the plot at hand. I understand that it draws attention to the fact that gun violence is still an issue and will still be for many decades, however there was not much in the story that made that year make sense. The only cue that it didn't take place in 2020 was one talking typewriter. I was hoping for more creative integration of the future setting.

Despite my issue with the setting, I do recommend this book! The second book, A Summer Remembered, will be released in October 2020.

Title: A Summer Taken (Council of Friends Book 1)
Author: Jason Milgram
Publisher: Gaby Triana
Pages: 129
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Amazon

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Dwarf Story by W.W. Marplot

53847677. sy475 Dwarf Story is a middle grade fantasy book involving Welsh mythology that was sent to me by the publisher. Eastward Manor, the fairies' world of all mythical and legendary creatures, is no longer pure, but made dark and war-torn by Gwyllion, the Old Woman of the Mountains. So they gather to America, emerging to befriend the last children in the legendary ancestry line to help them defeat Gwyllion and ensure the restoration of a peaceful home for all worlds. These children include Arty, Mary, Cry, Emma, and Ted.

The writing style was unique in the sense that it writes rambling but also controlled at the same time. The reader is thrown instantly into these children's heads with their (often strange) thoughts, dozens of rhetorical questions, and one or two word sentences. When it transitions to another chapter with a new narrator, they often speak very matter-of-fact and interrupt each other, like "I am Ted. You know what’s great about me? I can get involved in any story whenever I want" or "I’d rather have Emma handle this chapter, but I couldn’t find her." This structure initially put me off a bit, but eventually this narration grew on me to be very entertaining.

This was a very funny book, and I enjoyed the author's use of creative puns like "a pain in the axe". I was extremely curious to find out how these fantasy creatures emerged into the "real world" and why this group of teens were chosen. It did take much longer than I thought to find those answers, and the book could have been shorter. But alas, I was hooked to the end. The huge battle at the end was mind-blowing and exciting. The climax was worth the wait.

I recommend this book!

Title: Dwarf Story
Author: W.W. Marplot
Publisher: Waxing Gibbous Books
Pages: 388
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreads

Friday, July 3, 2020

Reflecting on My Fifth Blogiversary

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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
Website

Friday, May 29, 2020

Monster Problems by Jason R. Lady

49947590. sy475 Monster Problems is a middle grade fantasy book that was sent to me by the author. After being caught drawing in Brad's science class and being grounded from drawing, Brad's anger towards his annoying little brother, Daley, only worsens. Soon, a crow lands on his bedroom window and drops off a pen, of which Brad decides to draw Daley-Destroyer, a slimy green monster that would get rid of his brother. Problem is, this pen is magic, and suddenly the Daley-Destroyer comes to life! Brad must find a way to save his brother and erase the slimy monster.

Monster Problems is very relatable for most. Everyone has a talent or a skill that others are not happy with or do not respect, or a sibling who drives them crazy. Brad's anger and sadness is human and relatable, but over the course of the story he learns the importance of not taking out those feelings on others, and discovers his true feelings for his brother. What we decide to do with our emotions is what defines us.

I loved the magical pen! Personally, I have always loved to imagine bringing my art to life. The writing quality of Monster Problems was amazing. The similes and metaphors used on every page were fun to read and extremely effective in emphasizing the importance of his emotions or an idea. Saying you feel like you are trapped in a trash compactor, or feeling "like a knight ready to slay an evil dragon" is amazing! Lady goes above and beyond in his descriptions of everyday occurrences, which was fun to read. The fighting scenes against the monsters were terrific and like an action-movie! Monster Problems was fun and full of laughter!

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Monster Problems
Author: Jason R. Lady
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Pages: 174
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Gripping YA Opening Lines

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 Opening Lines.

The first page, paragraph, even the first sentence, of a book is extremely important in grabbing the reader's attention and interest. There are some where you can tell it will be an amazing read, and others where you aren't that excited anymore. Below are some of the most thought-provoking opening lines I have ever read!

1. Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu
"My mother takes the vase from the bookshelf and hurls it, smashing it to bits by my father's bare feet. My father doesn't even step back as the tiny pink and white pieces of ceramic skid past him on the hardwood floor. He just stands there, staring." I love the unusual nature of the father not instinctual moving, as well as the mother throwing it near the father. That signifies that whatever is about to come next, the context, is very important and very emotionally impactful.

2. The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shawn David Hutchinson
"The boy is on fire. EMTs wheel him into Roanoke General's sterile emergency room. He screams and writhes on the gurney as though the fire that burned his skin away burns still, flaring deep within his bones, where the paramedics and doctors and nurses cowering around him, working desperately, will never be able to extinguish it." The imagery here is very skillful, instantly grabs my attention, and leaves me eagerly awaiting to find out more not only about this boy, but about how the narrator is able to witness it.

3. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
"If he touches her, I swear I'm going to rip his guts out with my bare hands and send them back to his next of kin for lunch." My first thought after reading this sentence was to think what a very rage-filled, slightly disturbing thought this was. Second thought was wondering "why"- the one word every writer should strive for.

4. Reality Boy by A.S. King
"I'm the boy you saw on TV. Remember the little freak who took a crap on his parent's oak-stained table when they confiscated his Game Boy? Remember how the camera cleverly hid his most private parts with the glittery fake daisy and sunflower centerpiece?" First, I love the rhetorical questions. Second, the crude imagery with a humorous, sarcastic note left me extremely intrigued in learning more of his character development since that time. 

5. Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
"There are mice. Lots of mice. Running all over my room. Letting out crying sounds that grate on my ears. They crawl on my feet. My legs. I feel them on my arms. Soft things with toenails like blunt needles." I have never read a first sentence that immediately sets the tone for the rest of the book like this one does. Miles From Ordinary maintains a creepy, at times disturbing, tone throughout the story. This first few sentences perfectly foreshadow the rest of the book and instantly hooks the reader.

6. The Taking by Kimberly Derting 
"My head was pounding. But not like a headache. More like someone was using it as a basketball against the pavement. For target practice. That was it, I realized, prying my eyes open at last. Something was hitting me." I love simile here, which provided an emphasis on how horrible her head must be feeling. What also makes this one gripping is the desire to know what is hitting her- and why. While I did not enjoy the story and did not end up reading more of the series, it still started out great!

8. How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake
"She waits until we're driving over the bridge to tell me. This is a strategic move. Wait until your temperamental daughter is suspended over the Atlantic Ocean to drop the bomb, thereby decreasing the chance that she'll fling open the car door and hurl herself over the edge." The sarcasm in these first two sentences is awesome. In addition, now the reader really wants to find out what the mother will tell her, and why it is so awful that the main character references suicide over it?

7. Dry by Jared and Neal Shusterman
 "The kitchen faucet makes the most bizarre sounds. It coughs and wheezes like its gone asthmatic. It gurgles like someone's drowning. It spits once, then goes silent." I love the personification of the faucet in the opening lines, which emphasizes the importance of the object and the ramification in the rest of the story. The similes and imagery are skillful and one can tell immediately that Shusterman has written an incredible novel.


9. Cured (Stung Book 2) by Bethany Wiggins
 "A person can survive on sixty pounds of beans and three hundred pounds of rice a year. Dinner in the Bloom home tonight is beans and rice for the 365th night in a row. And we ran out of pepper yesterday." Well, that is... depressing, and quite dreadful to think of. So what will the narrator do to prevent the 366th night from being this way? That, I was absolutely dying to find out.

10. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
"I've been locked up for 264 days. I have nothing but a small notebook and a broken pen and the numbers in my head to keep me company. 1 window. 4 walls. 144 square feet of space." This one is gripping because of the extremely short sentences describing the narrator's cell. Of course, now the narrator wants to know why she is locked up- and what could possibly change.


What books do you think have the best opening lines?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Boaters' Club by Deanne Baker

52416422. sy475 The Boaters' Club is a middle grade mythology book that was sent to me by the author. One day, Russian teen Matt and his friends run into Rusalka, a water zombie. Initially they hope it was just a hallucination- but when a house start catches fire and friends of theirs start losing their lives, it becomes clear that Rusalka and the monstrous mythical lizards must be stopped. Not by the police- but by Matt and his friends, Amy, Joe, and Tyler.

I enjoyed the foreshadowing, and while I could predict most of the events, it was awesome when something unexpected happened. I enjoyed learning about the Ruslka and other Russian mythology and culture, which made The Boaters' Club unique and fascinating to read. I also loved the frightening imagery of the creatures! The story was certainly terrifying at times and was very fun!

I love how each main character had extremely distinct personalities. Amy is my favorite character in the story, mostly because of Amy's involvement in commanding a scene and being a leader. She is an inspirational character and I enjoyed following her brilliant personality and her humorous, proactive approaches to troubling situations. Baba, the supernatural woman, was creepy and mystifying. I loved the wide range of emotions and character types in the story. For Matt, I was disappointed with the how his Synesthesia did not hold immense significance to the plot, and while it provided him with some internal conflict, he seemed much duller than all the other characters. However, him being the narrator with a calmer, constant temperament held the story together and allowed for more extraordinary scenes.

I recommend you read this book!

Title: The Boaters' Club
Author: Deanne Baker
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Pages: 205
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Dream Chasers (Screamcatcher Book 2) by Christy J. Breedlove

52386572. sy475 Dream Chasers is the second book in a YA fantasy series sent to me by the author. After Jory and her friends escape her dreamcatcher, the group of teens decide to create The Badlands Paranormal Society, so those in their neighborhood who also have evil spirits inside their dreamcatcher can receive help. So into another dreamcatcher they go to save those trapped inside and banish another evil spirit.

This one is super creepy and much more intense than the last! Simply reading the horrific giant insects eating them alive surrounded by snakes made me feel as if I was in a nightmare and sent shivers down my spine. The added boost of skillful imagery certainly makes this read perfect for a spooky campfire story or Halloween. It's like a voluntary, fantasy, less-evil version of Lord of the Flies- not that I'm complaining. Similarly, I appreciated the increase in violent tendencies from the characters and the darkening of the boy's personalities.

These main characters are insane for signing up for going back into another dream catcher after last time. Even if I was Jory and had a special heritage connection to these, I would have run away as fast as possible. These teens went though pure agony and never gave up. They are absolutely incredible characters. The diversity in the characters' personalities is enjoyable to say the least. Choice is the fun, comical relief from the madness, and Darcy contributed scientific facts that made the book more fascinating.

I highly recommend this book! The next book will be released in summer 2020, according to the last page of the book.

Read my review of the previous book in this series, Screamcatcher: Web World

Title: Dream Chasers (Screamcatcher Book 2)
Author: Christy J. Breedlove
Publisher: Melange Books, Fire & Ice
Pages: 240
Series: Yes, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Saturday, May 9, 2020

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

18222767I figured with the global coronavirus outbreak, this YA historical fiction read on the 1918 Spanish Flu couldn't be more timely! Teen Cleo Berry of Portland, Oregon sneaks out of her quarantined school and joins the Red Cross as a volunteer nurse, going door-to-door to save her neighbors. Experiencing first-hand the severity of the illness, Cleo sacrifices her well-being to save strangers.

Cleo is such an inspiration to humanity and I pray that there are more girls like her in the world right now. Her passion for helping people and doing the right thing no matter consequence to herself is enormous. I was so nervous for Cleo near the end! There is also surprisingly a lot of depth to Cleo, who ends up dealing with her traumatic past. Besides Cleo, it was the relationships that made this story extraordinary. The friendships and bonds that these volunteers made and the courage they gained together created the inspirational tone. Edmond is such a sweet guy, and I love the gradual increase in romantic intensity.

The amount of research and dedication the author spent on this is obvious, as the exact horrific details of the illness are described- I actually learned a ton about viruses reading A Death-Struck Year and I found it fascinating. The imagery of these people dying was astonishing and startling. I loved how this book managed to be very descriptive, but not too gory. One lesson I've learned from reading this book is knowing that viruses like the Spanish Flu and the Coronavirus pandemics are not the end of the world, despite how it may seem that way in the overwhelming moment.

I highly recommend you read this book!

Title: A Death-Struck Year
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Friday, May 1, 2020

Gray Heart (Dark Irregular Book 3) by Kaitlyn Legaspi

52633485Gray Heart is the final book in the YA fantasy Dark Irregular series that was sent to me by the author. Gray Heart is released today! Kanna has lost her voice and her ability to feel emotion after sealing two of the Irregulars inside her body. But she has more obstacles ahead of her with the importance of sealing all four inside her. As the third nearly destroys her, Kanna must face the truth about who she really is and regain control of her own destiny before people she cares about get hurt.

The main character, Kanna, is what makes this trilogy unique, beyond writing quality, fantastic setting, or plot development. I love Kanna's passion for helping others, her sense of morality, as well as her selflessness. Her strong stance for humane treatment of everyone, including irregulars is an inspiration to all. It is understood why she is a princess- but she is also a fierce warrior to be admired. I love her bravery to continue to fulfill her legacy regardless of those limitations.

I adore how accurate the cover is to a main theme of the book, restoring Kanna's red and vibrant soul previously tainted by the Irregulars inside of her. A recurring obstacle is simply getting Kanna to wear the color anymore, and I enjoyed watching her vast internal conflict on how to still be herself despite losing her emotions and voice. When she truly unraveled and those emotions and darkness burst, it made a breathtaking climax. The series was wrapped up nicely and I am satisfied!

I highly recommend you read this series!

Click here to read my review of the previous book, White Blossom.
Click here to read my review of the first book, Dark Irregular. 

Title: Gray Heart (Dark Irregular Book 3)
Author: Kaitlyn Legaspi
Publisher: Kaitlyn Legaspi
Pages: 270
Series: Yes, Book 3 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Voyagers: The Third Ghost by Yvonne Ventresca

Voyagers: The Third Ghost is a collection of 10 diverse historical fantasy short stories that was sent to me by the publisher. Voyagers will be released on May 5th, 2020!

This book is an interesting concept because not only does it introduce 10 emerging authors in a skillful publicity angle, but contains unique stories that redefine traditional historical fiction by including magical elements from time travel to talking trees. Voyagers was super fun to read and I hope that you read it, too when this book is released next month!

1. The Third Ghost by Yvonne Ventresca
This story was suspenseful and epic! I loved the twist at the end and the careful foreshadowing. Now I can't wait to read her first book, Pandemic!

2. The Ghosts of Pompeii by Sherry Ellis
This is based on Ellis' main book, Bubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China. This story was very unique in the fact that it was not only historical fiction, but mixed in elements from fantasy and scifi novels, like ghosts and time travel. Part of it was also really funny!

3. The Blind Ship by Bish Denham
I appreciate the morals of the young boy, viewing African Americans as humans and not slaves. The story is inspirational and highlights some of the terrors of slavery. This was a bizarre, wonderful story with the Opthalimia dilemma. The Blind Ship was very suspenseful and fun! 

4. Dare, Double Dare by Louise MacBeath Barbour
The genetic aspect of the magical ability to time travel was intriguing. I enjoyed the diversity with French being frequently spoken. Dare, Double Dare is also educational, as before I did not know about the Habitation at Port-Royal.

5. Return to Cahokia by L.T. Ward
The plot was super creative! I loved imagining the children creating weather and changing lives. It sounds like such a giant responsibility, being Weather Gods, and I enjoyed the abundance of painful emotion, but also hope and happiness from the characters. Return to Cahokia stands out with its Native American heritage of the Cahokia tribe and their Nahuatl language. The village is thought to have demised due to extreme weather (https://www.pnas.org/content/116/12/5461), so I love the mixing of mythology and historical fiction.

6. Feathered Fire by Ronald Clarke
Feathered Fire is my favorite story of them all. The mythical legend of the Zharptica (firebird) partnered with a powerful, inspirational female heroine in the middle of a war zone made this story epic! I loved the symbolism of the firebird and the central idea of being "reborn" from the flames, free and safe after this war.

7. The Orchard by Beth Anderson Schuck
The Orchard is the most beautiful story, a calming bliss that nature can provide. In the story, Nels is a girl who has a unique connection with nature, who can hear the trees speak to her. I found the idea lovely.

8. Simon Grey and the Yamamba by Charles Kowalski 
I read Kowalski's Simon Grey and the March of a Thousand Ghosts, so I was very excited to read a sequel of sorts! I was not disappointed. It had the perfect balance between creepy and funny. This short story was cute, satisfying, and educational in Japanese folklore.

9. A World of Trouble by Rebecca Douglass
I didn't necessarily enjoy this one as much as the previous stories, as it sent conflicting messages- on one hand, it is bad to sneak out of your house and travel without your parents at such a young age, but on the other hand without these kids, this disaster would have been a whole lot worse. However the dilemma of saving themselves and their homes from drowning was interesting to read about- I was definitely holding my breath by the end!

10. Winter Days by Katharina Gerlach
While taking place in Germany, the concept is still very relatable with border conflicts. I enjoyed the themes of family and the ideals of having the brightness in humanity inside everyone. I loved the description of almost freezing to death- I almost felt as if I was!

Title: Voyagers: The Third Ghost
Author(s):  Yvonne Ventresca, Sherry Ellis, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Rebecca M. Douglass, Beth Anderson Schuck, Louise MacBeath Barbour, and L.T. Ward
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press
Pages: 168
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads
Website

Monday, April 20, 2020

Boon on the Moon by John Huddles

50164283. sx318 sy475 Boon on the Moon is a middle grade science fiction story that is perfect for younger readers who have an interest in space with a big imagination! This book was sent to me by the author. ten-year-old Byron, nicknamed "Boon" is always getting into trouble on Earth. From his wacky inventions to running away to explore caves, he is a handful to say the least. But when his family gets the chance to travel to a colony on the moon, Byron has the chance to redeem himself by using his creativity to save the world from a White Wormhole.

If you enjoyed Frozen Secrets, you'll love this read! The hypothetical scenario of this White Worm (wormhole theory, or formally known as the Einstein-Rosen bridge theory), was super fun to read about! I enjoy that despite how complicated the idea actually is, Huddles shaped this theory into a circumstance that actually seemed straightforward and rather simple to understand. Honestly, the pages explaining the creation of the White Worm should be on Wikipedia or Kids Britannica. This approach is also impressive and unexpected considering Huddles' track record with his recent film, The Philosophers, being a R-rated thriller. But that background was particularly useful for having an immense amount of suspense and excitement.

Boon on the Moon is a fun, creative read that can encourage curiosity and enthusiasm for science. Some of the plot was extremely unexpected and I enjoyed some of the similarities to The Martian. I enjoyed the conclusion of the book and how it summed up future generations nicely. Even if one is not a 10-year-old boy, I still liked the story with its heavy involvement in science. However, one complaint I have is that the emphasis of Bryon's overactive imagination sometimes made it slightly confusing for me to distinguish between reality and daydream.

I recommend that you read this book!

Title: Boon on the Moon
Author: John Huddles
Publisher: Notable Kids Publishing
Pages: 216
Series: No
Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreads
Website
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