Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Ascender by Tracey Pacelli

The Ascender is a middle grade science fiction book that was sent to me by the author. The book will be released in two weeks on March 11, 2020. 12-year-old Billy Magnusson has been targeted by what he calls "The Wave" for most of his life. Symptoms appear to be similar to a panic attack, like extreme nausea and dizziness. But a distinguishing feature is that every time, something in reality changes. When he moves to a new school and joins the Ascender club, he finally finds more kids like him- and must find a way to rewrite history before the world is destroyed by it.

Pacelli has a gift for figurative language, and her imagery and metaphors were extraordinary when describing the Wave attacks. I felt empathetic towards Billie, and his sense of morality was very strong. I could tell from the first few pages that Billie would turn out to be a very human-like character. I pitied him immensely and his personal growth in courage was awesome.

The Ascender was a super fun and is an awesome leisure read- especially on a bad day as there is plenty of humor! The idea of "The Wave" is very creative, and I enjoyed trying to guess what would change next! There was also plenty of mystery and suspense, and although the world seemed a bit too far-fetched at times, the author did a nice job of reeling it back into reality and tying into main themes. The foreshadowing was epic as the book neared its end and I was upset when it did!

I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Ascender
Author: Tracey Pacelli
Publisher: Gypsy Shadow Publishing
Pages: 235
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir by Mary Higgins Clark

43348Kitchen Privileges is a memoir describing Mary Higgins Clark's life story and the factors that influenced her love of writing. From her poor beginnings with interesting tenants in her house to being an flight attendant, she always knew she wanted to write. But it wasn't until after she became a widow with five children to care for that she truly decided to follow her dreams.

I became anxious to read this book after learning of her passing on January 31. However I ended up being very disappointed. I am reluctant to criticize a dead person, but I must be honest- Kitchen Privileges felt rather boring and lacking in multiple areas, including figurative language and plot structure.

Clark has struggled in her life and gone through tremendous tragedy, however there was not an inspirational tone, but almost rather from a bragging standpoint of what she was able to overcome. Kitchen Privileges felt like a textbook, made of chronological facts. I cannot compare this to her other writing styles, however I can say that the story, if one can call it that, was very flat with a strong premise that ended up underdeveloped in a plain tone with a large lacking of figurative language. There was no "it" factor, nothing dramatic or suspenseful that Clark is known for.

I do not recommend this book. If you wish to learn Clark's story, just go to wikipedia- because that's what the book felt like.

Title: Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 208
Series: No
Rating: 2 Stars

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Blog Tour: Escape Galápagos (The Wonder List Adventures Book 1) by Ellen Prager

Today is Darwin Day, a perfect occasion to participate in Dr. Prager's blog tour for her latest book, Escape Galápagos that was sent to me by the publisher. When twelve-year-old Ezzy and her younger brother Luke travel to the Galápagos to honor their mother's wish, they end up taken captive at gunpoint by illegal fisherman and poachers. Ezzy must rely on bravery she didn't know she had to not only escape alive- but to save the animals, too.

I enjoyed Ezzy's character development as she grew braver and more courageous. Initially she was terrified of the animals and seemed as an introvert. But as the book went on, she grew more comfortable around nature and the other animals. I loved watching her smile for the first time and relax around the Booby and take that one more step closer to the Iguanas and Penguins. She had many clever ideas and I enjoyed watching her come out of her shell, so to speak. I love how, despite her fear, she became moved by the idea of social activism and risked her life for those animals.

Escape Galápagos' scientific accuracy is incredible and this book is a great educational tool for young students interested in science or wildlife. I enjoyed the timely conflict of illegal fishing and the kidnapping of these precious animals. Galapagos' sharks and giant tortoises are especially in danger. For example, In August 2017 over 6,000 sharks were illegally fished and slaughtered in that area. In addition to this specific issue pertaining to that island, Prager revealed a larger problem of humanity's greed and disrespect for the planet and its wildlife.

I highly recommend this book! Prager has also written Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians, a middle grade fantasy series, as well as nonfiction adult books like Dangerous Earth and The Oceans. Continue reading below for an interview with the author!

Title: Escape Galápagos
Author: Ellen Prager
Publisher: Tumblehome, Inc.
Pages: 180
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Interview with Dr. Prager:

1. What inspired you to start writing? (ever since back in 1999 with your first Furious Earth)
"Throughout my career I have been incredibly fortunate to experience amazing science and nature firsthand and meet wonderful scientists as mentors and colleagues. Most people never have these opportunities and often to them, science is boring and hard to understand. So, I wanted share my passion for science and nature with more people, combat science illiteracy, and show that it could be done in a way to retain accuracy, be informative and yet entertaining as well."

2. How do you feel about the issue of illegal net fishing and the capture of animals? Is there anything we can do to help protect the Galapagos?
"Of course, I am strongly against illegal net fishing and the capture of wild animals for entertainment purposes - especially whales and dolphins. We need to better protect our wild places, wild animals, and biodiversity. The Galapagos National Park Directorate and their licensed naturalist system do a pretty good job protecting the Galapagos. No one can go on an island without a permit and guide (the guides must report any irregularities), they have capped the number of visitors by ships (need to do more about land-based visitors), and are improving environmental regulations as well. They do however need support to control illegal fishing, over development, and again, control of land-based tourism. Sometimes people suggest stopping tourism in the Galapagos, but I am against this. I strongly believe that well managed tourism provides an important economic incentive for the Ecuadorian government and people to protect the islands, animals, and promote conservation efforts."

3. What inspired you to become a scientist?
"I loved nature as a kid growing up and was inspired by Jacque Cousteau on the television. Then, when I discovered science and in high school - scuba diving - I was so to speak, hooked! The combination of nature, science, and scuba diving was along with great teachers and mentors what really pushed me toward becoming a scientists. I am also endlessly curious and that is, in some ways, what science is all about."

4. When did you first visit the Galapagos?
"In the 1980s, I went to the Galapagos as part of a team studying the impact of El Ninos on corals in the area. We spent two months scuba diving and doing surveys of corals to determine the impact of the strong 1982/1983 El Nino. Unfortunately, the corals in the Galapagos are acclimated to relatively cool water and during strong El Ninos the water temperatures rise. In the 1982/1983 El Nino some 95% of the corals died."

5. What advice would you give for future scientists and/or authors?
"Be pro-active, take risks, discover your passion, strengths and weakness, ask for opportunities and remember perseverance is important. Almost anything is possible with hard work, dedication and a good attitude along with the healing power of laughter."
About the Author:

Dr. Prager is a marine scientist, and author, and spokesperson on earth and ocean science issues. She currently works as a freelance writer, consultant, and science advisor to Celebrity Cruises in the Galapagos Islands. She was previously the Chief Scientist for the Aquarius Reef Base program in Key Largo, FL, which includes the world’s only undersea research station, and the Assistant Dean at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

She has appeared on The Today Show and NBC News, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, CBS Early Show, The Weather Channel, in shows for the Discovery Channel, and was a consultant for the Disney movie, Moana. You can learn more about her at

Also be sure to check out other blog tour features!


Friday, February 7, 2020

What I Lost by Alexandra Ballard

31145120What I Lost is a YA inspirational story about a girl's journey to recovery from her battle with anorexia. Elizabeth is obsessed with losing as much weight as possible and achieving becoming a size 0. She is proud of herself for having the strength to keep going long hours without eating and pleasing her mother, who has the same unhealthy habits that she does. But after her body starts failing, she is taken to Wallingfield, a psychiatric hospital, where she begins the long and harsh road to recovery.

What I Lost might be my favorite YA book featuring a character with an eating disorder ever- more than Sad Perfect or Wintergirls. My favorite element of this book is the raw honesty of it. A few scenes left me near tears.

This book is extremely honest in clearly showing the signs of developing an eating disorder as well as the tips and tricks that people can use to get away with not eating- but also explains all the long-term consequences of anorexia to discourage readers from even thinking of engaging in those behaviors. Rather than focusing on the illness, however, the main goal and theme of this novel is that it is possible to heal. What I Lost preaches the idea of never being alone. I adored the journey to self-confidence and healing that the characters embark. It is certainly not easy- however What I Lost proves that those in the darkest of places can still find light and healing.

What I Lost showcases some of the proper ways to encourage watching weight while still instilling beliefs of being beautiful and building self-confidence. This would be an awesome parenting guide on how to avoid reinforcing negative thoughts. Even if one is overweight and is trying to be healthier, Elizabeth's parents and friends clearly made some mistakes. Speaking of Elizabeth's mother, she clearly had issues with eating disorders herself, whose unhealthy ideals spread to Elizabeth. I love how all the characters in this book were extremely complex and had multiple layers. I cannot pick out anything regarding the plot or setting or characters to critique- I wouldn't change a thing.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: What I Lost
Author: Alexandra Ballard
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 400
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Stranger by Albert Camus

49552The Stranger is a realistic fiction book that I recently read in my AP Literature and Composition class. Normally, I do not review books that I am required to read, however I have strong opinions regarding this book that I wish to voice. It follows the character Meursault, who committed a murder that issued him a death sentence and reflects upon the meaning of life and death. The Stranger is known for its foundations on existentialism.

For me, the most important factor in whether or not I enjoy a book is a realistic character with emotions that I can invest myself in. Meursault is perhaps the most emotionless main character I have ever read. Quite honestly, he is so apathetic that I would almost characterize him as a sociopath. All he cared about, if he cares about anything, is himself, and yet that is not even obvious as he does not have a care in the world during his trial and the death of his mother. I was not invested in his fate and by the end, I didn't exactly care about his execution. I understand that the writing of his detachment from the world around him was deliberate, however he was also detached from the audience and I was left disappointed by the lack of humanity in his soul. Now, I could still like the book if there were strong secondary characters, but even Marie felt distant and almost made of glass or shadows.

Yes, the execution was very unfair and there are good points about existentialism, but it could have been executed better. For instance, the targeted audience is confusing. It is at a seventh grade reading level, but yet full of mature concepts that are inappropriate for that audience. The Stranger was also bland and unsophisticated with a strangely simplistic sentences. There is a very narrow way of looking at life and his message at the end with life being meaningless is downplayed by Meursault’s lack of indifference and bleak, almost non-existent morals.

This book should be known for its ideas, but Camus is not a writer worth the amount of attention the book received. I was missing an "it" factor, something to excite me, but rather the book is narrated with such  monotone that it is perfect for only one task- a bedtime story.

I don't recommend this book.

Title: The Stranger
Author: Albert Camus
Publisher: Vintage International
Pages: 123
Series: No
Rating: 1 Star

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

1669331Gym Candy is a YA realistic fiction book that exposes the dangers of steroids and the mental/physical consequences of playing football. Mick Johnson is a Runningback for his school football team, and he has dreams of being a hero and winning games instead of being the reason the team loses- because he isn't strong enough. Fast enough. Desperate to fit and become better, he tries steroids. After that one dose, his life is changed forever and begins to deteriorate.

Gym Candy emphasizes one of the many dangers of football and one of the main reasons why I dislike the sport. Aside from physical injury, this book explores emotional and psychological damage. More than most sports, Football encourages its players to be the absolute best and is the nightmare of body image and peer pressure. 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. Football is by far the most cruel sport there is, and I love how Gym Candy thoroughly showcases these risks and consequences.

This was an extremely intense and sad books that I know will move others to change themselves and their beliefs. The end of this book can make you cry. Mick has a conscious and he is an extremely intelligent boy. He just made a mistake and became sucked into a fantasy with strong ideals that ended in catastrophe- but he is still an inspirational, good person who simply gave into peer pressure and made a mistake. Deuker will keep you on your toes until the very end, and I came to care immensely for Mick.

I cannot wait to read even more books by Deuker! I highly recommend this book!

Read my review of another book by this author, Gutless! If you are interested in other books portraying the negative effects of football, I recommend that you read Hit Count and Second Impact.

Title: Gym Candy
Author: Carl Deuker
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Odriel's Heirs (Odriel's Heirs Book 1) by Hayley Reese Chow

50245628. sy475 Odriel's Heirs is the first book in its YA fantasy series. This book was sent to me by the author and will be released on March 1, 2020! Kaia is the Dragon Heir, trusted with the power of fire. An outcast from society, she hates her ability and hides on her family's secluded farm. But after her father is kidnapped and the necromancer’s undead attack, she runs away to join up with the Shadow Heir and save Okarria.

This book's fast pace and epic battle in the first few pages surprised me, and I quickly became engrossed in Kaia's story. She had extreme inner conflict, self-hatred, and fear of her own powers. I loved her character development as she learned to embrace her fire and her destiny. By the end, her confidence in herself and her fire was so powerful that she could be a true goddess. The cover art's fire is beautiful, yet powerful- just like Kaia.

The world-building was incredible and beathaking. The village of the Maldibor Clan felt so peaceful and warm. The imagery of her fire was extraordinary and I enjoyed the graphic battle scenes. It is no wonder that the scenes of war were so amazing, considering how the author is an Air Force Veteran and reservist. Ha, maybe every war veteran should write novels!

I highly recommend this book! I cannot wait to read the next book, Idriel's Children!

Title: Odriel's Heirs
Author: Hayley Reese Chow
Publisher: Hayley Reese Chow
Pages: 332
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, January 13, 2020

Before the Legend by J.U. Scribe

21780308Before the Legend is a short middle grade historical fiction story that was sent to me by the author. Troy, the four year old youngest son of the king of the Roman Empire, had a nightmare that there was an earthquake that swallowed his parents. Three days later, a similar event comes true and Troy must face a future without the love of his parents.

I liked the touch of Greek mythology and the historical culture.
I was also fascinated by the magic involved of Troy basically predicting the future. It will be interesting to read in the future if he has the magic ability to predict the future or not. The father's character development was extraordinary and I love how the brothers grew closer together by the end. While it was sad, it was nice to have a hopeful tone.

It took me a little less than half an hour to read, so it is great to read while taking a break from day-to-day stress. I was disappointed when it ended. This was a wonderful tale and I cannot wait to read more from this author in the future!

I highly recommend this very short story!

Title: Before the Legend
Author: J.U. Scribe
Publisher: J.U. Scribe
Pages: 52
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten YA Book Releases in Early 2020

One of the most exciting things about a new year is new books to read! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by That Artsy Reader Girl. If you want to participate, click here. The theme for this week is Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2020. The following books are in order of release date (alphabetical if same date).

1. Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin
                                              Expected Publication: January 7th, 2020
The king's daughter just became Queen- but she's a Nameless, part of a peasant social class so disrespected that they don't even have names. With a kingdom in chaos, this girl needs to make a name for herself (literally), and fight for her class.
46322138. sy475

 2. Scavenge the Stars by Tara Slim 
Expected Publication: January 7th, 2020
Amaya has been held prisioner on a debtor ship for years with no hope for escape. But one day after rescuing a stranger from drowning, he frees her and offers Amaya a life of luxary. But all Amaya wants is revenge.

3. Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Expected Publication: January 14th, 2020
This historical fantasy book tells the story of a magical pair of red shoes that causes uncontrollable dancing. When Rosella is cursed by the shoes, she must find the truth about what happened back in 1518 the last time the magic shoes were worn.
44218347. sy475

4. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Expected Publication: January 21st, 2020
Pepper's family owns the fast food chain Big League Burger, and she steals a grilled cheese recipe from a nearby deli owned by Jack's family. Soon both companies are engaged in a huge twitter war. What's ironic is that in real life, these two are falling in love with each other while destroying each other anonymously online.

5. The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
Expected Publication: February 4th, 2020
Cal is a senior in high school with plans to become a journalist and he finally landed his dream internship at BuzzFeed. But Cal's father just got selected to travel to Mars, meaning they have to move to Houston, plus take part in a silly reality TV show. The silver lining? He's falling in love with Leon, another astronaut's son. 

6. Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
Expected Publication: March 3rd, 2020
From author of Heroine and The Female of the Species comes a survival story similar to Hatchet. One night Ashley goes out hiking with her friends in the Smoky Mountains to a party. When she gets drunk and catches her boyfriend cheating, she runs off and trips down a ravine. She must survive with nothing but her clothes and a nasty cut down her leg.
34604348. sy475

7. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Expected Publication: March 3rd, 2020
From author of Warcross, The Young Elites, and Legend comes a historical fantasy retelling the story of Wolfgang Mozart.
34213299. sy475

8. Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Expected Publication: March 10th, 2020
Harley Milano dreams of being a professional trapeze artist. After a fight with her parents who insist she stay in school, she runs away to join a traveling circus.
38326343. sy475

9. All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Expected Publication: March 17th, 2020
Six students who couldn't be more different are invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover that it was all a trap, and become locked in a room with a bomb.

10. Loveless by Alice Oseman
Expected Publication: April 30th, 2020
Georgia is 18 years old and has never been in a relationship or had a crush on anyone. Now at university, coming to terms with being Aroace, she must try to find a source of happiness.
42115981. sy475

What books are you excited to read this year?

Friday, January 3, 2020

Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball by Phyllis J. Perry

41217744. sy475 Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball is a middle grade inspirational book that was sent to me by the publisher. Fifth-grader Jack is having trouble at school dealing with bullies Steve and Cliff. They steal his lunch, flatten his bike, ruin his work and steal items precious to him. Jack has pretty much given up hope until a new kid shows up to school- Hans, from Germany. They soon become great friends, and while working on a project together, Hans gives him the strength to stand up for himself.

The cover is cool and I enjoy the symbolism of the yellow. This short, cute read is perfect for leisure reading! Its concept is one that (mostly) everyone can relate to. While being a relatively common topic of overcoming bullying, this book still managed to include some unique elements, like its inclusivity of other cultures and languages. I enjoyed Jack's character development. He went from being scared and pessimistic to being confident and willing to stand up for himself.

I enjoyed how Steve's character was portrayed by the end and the important messages he gave with the origins of his mean behavior stemming from his difficulty at home. Sometimes we forget that school is not all that a person is. I could totally see myself in Lizabeth's character. Hans was a unique character to say the least. I liked how this book tackled stereotypes and common assumptions, showing that despite his not knowing English, he still is intelligent and has many talents.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball
Author: Phyllis J. Perry
Publisher: TCK Publishing
Pages: 104
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
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