Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Melody Finch by Ian B. Boyd and Gary Luck

Melody Finch is a middle grade fantasy book that was sent to me by the authors and was published last week. 12-year-old Melody Klomp didn't believe in the "fairy tales" her grandmother told her about humans turning into animals- at least, not until Melody did. Once a girl, now a Diamond Firetail Finch. With some new wildlife friends, Melody starts a journey to warn her grandmother and save her from an evil fisherman set on illegal seal culling that puts the Coorong and her grandmother in danger. Along the way, she learns about the harshness of drought, invasive species, and the delicacy and connectiveness of ecosystems.

I enjoyed how educational the book was and the format in. For example, I had no idea that birds knew directions like north and south based on where the sun shines on their wings, or that cane toads' skin produces poisonous mucus. Rather than the facts being presented in a textbook, in Melody Finch the information is presented in a fun fantasy story. I enjoyed how the authors included the dangers of invasive species and some extreme, inhumane measures like seal culling. 

I liked the evolution of the plot, how a goal for Melody to tell her grandmother about it finally raining turned into a much larger adventure and mission of protecting all of ecology and sustaining the circle of life. Ecology is a giant chain; if one link is broken, all suffer. Melody saw and learned first-hand how a single change, whether man-made or natural, can disrupt  an entire ecosystems. Melody Finch felt similar to many parts of Finding Nemo, which made me smile. The cover is also gorgeous! 

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Melody Finch
Author: Ian B. Boyd and Gary Luck
Publisher: Spirit of the Earth Books
Pages: 134
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Traitor's Jewel (Love and War Book 1) by Shreya Boyapati

The Traitor's Jewel is the first in the Love and War YA fantasy series. This book was sent to me by the author. Following a betrayal and attack on Charlena Saxen's kingdom, it is discovered that it was lead by her own father (presumed dead). Charlena vows to kill him and defend what is left of her kingdom, with her best friend by her side. But the further into war she descends, the less about honor for her people it becomes and more about pure anger and revenge. As she struggles to contain these new emotions and her romantic feelings towards Raj, Charlena must decide if the reward of revenge is worth destroying her soul.

The Traitor's Jewel is a fast rollercoaster of emotions that alter between a perfect fairytale and a painful nightmare. The structure is  dialogue heavy, but was written so vividly that I could hear their voices in my head and felt very immersed in the conversations. Boyapati also did a good job ensuring that the revelations and new plot twists were surprising, but not enough to be unrealistic.

While fantasy, The Traitor's Jewel is extremely realistic in its depiction of PTSD and the other harsh realities and emotional pain that comes with taking lives. Killing is easier for soldiers, for Charlena, if she doesn't feel or care. She lives like a rock, relying on instinct and survival with no emotion. Love requires emotion and caring. Once she started to care for another human, slaughtering people became painful and inhumane. The blood and gore didn't matter to her as much when there was nothing to care or feel about. But once she let her guard down for her heart, guilt and pain flooded. However, love can also be something to fight for, to care if you survive. 

This complex relationship between war and love (emotions) is the primary focus of the story and provides a wonderful theme. It is also unclear at times who is an ally and who is considered "bad", especially when considering the murders of war. The book also discusses the idea that "the ends justify the means" when fighting for something important. The Traitor's Jewel makes us question if the means are worth the end.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: The Traitor's Jewel (Love and War Book 1)
Author: Shreya Boyapati
Publisher: Shreya Boyapati
Pages: 358
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Never Fight Alone by Shelomo Solson

Never Fight Alone: 51 Inspiring Interviews to Help Teens Overcome Their Struggles & Improve Their Mental Health
 is a YA inspirational non-fiction book that was sent to me by the author. Solson conducted 51 interviews with teens who hit rock bottom and rose above it, finding the strength to make a difference in the world and help others. 

What separates this book from Chicken Soup and other inspirational short story reads is that Never Fight Alone is formatted in direct interviews. I can read exactly what these teens said, which makes it more personal. The author took a different, more personal approach of being a journalist who endured massive struggles in his life. Different from publishing for money, Solson genuinely wrote Never Fight Alone for the sole purpose of helping teens who struggled like he did growing up. One of my favorite parts of each interview is that each focuses on how far they have come. Each chapter leaves you feeling hopeful. If he could beat this, if she could find a way to be happy, then maybe I can, too. 

It is also amazing at how much emphasis is placed on suicidal thoughts and how to combat them. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, and 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) consider suicide (The Trevor Project). This book also involves other issues such as abuse, sexuality, addiction, eating disorders, and even dwarfism.  Never Fight Alone emphasizes the "silver lining of hope" and how asking for help is nothing to be embarrassed about. When feeling when feeling depressed and isolated, thinking "why me" and feeling ashamed is common, but Never Fight Alone proves more than any other book I have read that nobody is ever hopeless or alone. 

Favorite quote: "Anytime I felt weak or vulnerable, instead of asking, 'Why me?', I thought of people who had it worse than me, and it changed my mindset to 'What can we do to make each other happy? How can we do the things that better each other?'" (67).

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Never Fight Alone: 51 Inspiring Interviews to Help Teens Overcome Their Struggles & Improve Their Mental Health 
Author: Shelomo Solson
Publisher: Shelomo Solson
Pages: 306
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Amazon

Friday, September 4, 2020

Special by Chino Chakanga

40805404. sy475 Special is a YA fantasy novel that was sent to me by the author. In a world where everybody has superpowers, Hope does not. Her medical mystery leads to tons of surgeries and research studies desperate to "cure" her, while society treats her as inferior, Hopeless, a maladroit. As Hope struggles to find self-confidence, she is thrust into the plot of a fellow classmate who is resorting to extreme measures to gain equality- and Hope might be the only person who can stop him.

Special is one of my favorite books that I have read in a long time. Rather than the popular topic of the protagonist struggling with having powers, Special explores the opposite with a girl who is struggling in a world where everyone has powers but her. Similar with taboos on those with mental illness or learning disabilities, Special touches on modern-world injustices and biases against those who are "less" than others, as well as the extreme lengths one will go to gain equality. What is so inspirational in this story is the message that nobody is hopeless; everybody has a purpose and can rise up to overcome anything if they can believe in themselves. Once Hope accepts who she is, she breaks down every wall put in her way.

I love the doll on  the cover because Hope has been a doll for years, being poked and prodded with dozens of surgeries. But over the course of the book, Hope regains her independence and confidence, no longer only being a doctor's toy. Another impressive thing to note is the connection to autism and those on the spectrum. Hope has Ability Dysfunction Spectral Disorder (ADSD or AD). There is also a subset called "High-Functioning AD". Sound familiar? Autistic people are four times as likely to experience depression. Hope goes through a really dark time and struggles with depression and feeling hopeless. Special dives deep into mental illness, too, even also touching on opiod addiction. Chakanga is skilled with being concise with her word choices while still being powerful.

I highly, highly recommend this book!

Title: Special
Author: Chino Chakanga
Publisher: Chino Chakanga
Pages: 252
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Friday, August 21, 2020

Munmun by Jesse Andrews

36310515. sx318 Munmun by Jesse Andrews is a YA science fiction novel that completely challenges main societal beliefs. It is also a satire and strongly allegorical. in this alternate reality, the amount of money you have is exact to your height, so that those who are nearly broke are as tiny as ants and those like Bill Gates, for example, would be as tall as the Eiffel Tower. Teen Warner and his sister Prayer are tired of worrying about being literally stepped on, eaten by a cat, and not having access to medical care. As Warner starts physically and economically scaling up, he faces significant moral dilemmas and must decide what is more important- his size, or his character.

The book clearly showcases the extreme societal unfairness that even just having a dollar can do to your life. I have never read a book so effective in describing the extreme challenges that being a lower-class citizen must face. Munmun is brutally honest about a major issue of corruptness in society that a desire for money causes. This heartbreaking story opens one’s mind to the burden on one’s character that having money can make. As teenagers start getting allowances and become fascinated with buying clothes, jewelry, makeup, and start teasing and judging those without, Munmun is a necessary eye-opener that has the potential to completely change one's perspectives. Munmun should be taught in schools.

While the siutation is rather depressing, the book definitely isn't! I adore the fact that this is a satire and is still lighthearted and even uplifting at many times. Warner is a boy to remember. Trapped in an impossible situation, he still tries to make the best of it and try to save his family. Warner struggles with rage and guilt. He ends up in terrible situations, and over the course of the novel he is forced to decide whether or not to be towering over others (physically and emotionally) or to stand by his moral conscience, and accept who he is. Warner makes some awful choices, but he has tremendous character growth and truly becomes a better person by the end. The hint of romance was also very sweet and heartbreaking.

I highly recommend you read this book! I do recommend this book for older YA readers due to some mature content.

Title: Munmun
Author: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Pages: 407
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars
Goodreads

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Heir of G.OD. by Harper Maze

Heir of G.OD. is a YA science fiction book that was sent to me by the publisher. After fracking caused an enormous earthquake that triggered a volcanic winter, humanity plunged into sickness and depression. Gary O’Drae then created Sol, a virtual reality world. This allows Ana, secretly blind, to see. But Drae put an expiration date in Sol, unless his child comes forward. Faced with the reality of her blindness, Ana must take extreme risks to find someone who can help her see in the real world, which puts her directly into the path of the Church of G.OD. and their mysterious intentions.

For a science fiction book, the premise is extremely realistic with the environmental disasters that fracking caused and the turn to virtual reality as a result. Heir of G.OD. managed to be educational as well, driving home the point about the dangers of fracking and ignoring scientific warnings. There is a glossary at the end, which appeared useful at times. The description of Ana being blind was heart-wrenching, and Heir of G.OD. shows the extreme risks one is willing to take to save their life.The ending provides an intriguing premise for the second book which would completely change their world.

It was very fast-paced, and my critique is that I wish it could have slowed down and expanded some parts. Often two or three arena battles could be covered in the same page, and I wish the most important ones could have been further described. I also wish there would have been an explanation for why the blind are persecuted, and the storyline was rather predictable. Despite these concerns, I did enjoy reading it!

I recommend this book, and I am interested in reading the next book.

If you are interested in this book, I recommend you read Warcross!

Title: Heir of G.OD.
Author: Harper Maze
Publisher: Harper Maze
Pages: 230
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars
Goodreads

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?
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