Friday, March 15, 2013

The Book Thief

By Marcus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery…

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist—books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

“I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be se ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

That is my consensus as well. This book was uncomfortable and strange, but beautiful and meaningful. It is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl in Nazi Germany who comes to hate Hitler, and has a Jewish man hiding in her basement. She is poor and almost always hungry, though not as much as her best friend Rudy, who has four brothers and sisters. She is tired of “everyone” (meaning Hitler) taking things away from her, so she decides to take something back. The words. The words that she hates and loves in the end. This book is more than just a story really, it’s art and poetry and humanity and depravity. Like any book about the atrocities of Nazi Germany, it has its horror, but it shows life from the perspective of a brave girl who has lost all she knew and tries to rise from the ashes in the midst of hatred and war. Zusak’s writing is gorgeous and haunting. And, what is more, narrated, not by Liesel, but by Death. Every part of this book is fantastic, telling, and remarkable. I was upset by the amount of swearing (a lot in German, but always translated) and a scene of nudity. It was difficult for me to read, but thanks to a YA class I had to, and I’m glad. I can say that I will most likely never read this in its entirety again, but there are parts that I will gladly go back to; specifically Max, the Jewish fist-fighter’s words. This book should be handled with care when giving it to young people, because it is upsetting at times and has mature content. I would wait until they are at least 15-16, preferably a little later. Again, content-wise there is a lot of language, nudity, death, murder, suicide, war, etc. It’s not for just anybody.

With that said, I give it a 4.8 out of 5- because of its ugly glory.


By Anita Valle

“Would you like to hear the name of the curse that beauty brings?” Nurse Merla asked. But Coco was no longer listening. She fluffed her curls with her small hands and considered which gown she would wear that day. Nurse Merla’s withered fingers settled on her shoulders. “Men,” she whispered.

Coralina Corissa, known as “Coco” to her eight sisters, is the prettiest princess of a hundred kingdoms. And she knows it. Her beauty has always given her anything she wanted…and any man she wanted.

Runa Realm is facing a new threat. Strange bandits, disguised as nobles, are attacking beautiful women to steal their hair. Coralina isn’t concerned. Until Prince Luxley, her favorite (but not only) lover, gets clobbered by a peasant called Gord, who mistakenly assumed the prince was a bandit.

Outraged, Coralina plans to punish the peasant by deliberately breaking his heart. But Gord is nearly blind. For the first time ever, Coralina must rely on more than her looks to ensnare a man. But the harder she flirts, the more Gord seems to hate her. And the more her own heart (and hair) becomes endangered.


This is the second book in the Nine Princesses novella series, and judging by the first book, this was definitely different than I was expecting it to be. It’s about Princess Coralina, who is an extreme flirt who loves making out with just about every attractive man she can find. In result, she’s got a lot of jilted and heart-broken lovers. Funny thing is, she has never had her own heart broken until now. This little novella follows her realization of exactly how much damage she has done to the men of the kingdom and how she finally becomes a better person. It was interesting because it had a little more mature content than the first book, which was innocent and fun more along the lines of Gail Carson Levine, but this one is different. The tone changed and it wasn’t as fun for me to read because the innocent magic was taken away by the heroine’s promiscuity that hinted at being everything but…well you know. I can’t really recommend this one, as I didn’t like how it deviated from the tone of the first book. It’s still good and well written. Just didn’t like where it went in comparison.

I give it a 3 out of 5- average.


By Chanda Hahn

Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated, that is until she saves her crushes life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her new found fame brings misfortune in the form of an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her it’s next fairytale victim.

To break the fairy tale curse on her family and make these deadly occurrences stop, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.


This is a free book that I got on my Kindle that I was pretty excited to read. I really enjoy fairy-tale books (if you haven’t noticed that already) and was intrigued when I read the above synopsis. Mina is a fun character, though I felt like she was a little stereotypical of the “I think I’m homely but I’m actually gorgeous” ploy. That always bothers me when an author does that, I find it boring and predictable. But I enjoyed Mina’s best friend Nan, who sports Edward and Jacob t-shirts and is constantly obsessed with how many people are following her on Twitter. The fairy-tale part of the book, with the curse and what-not was…interesting. The fairy-tales aren’t straightforward when Mina has to relive them, so that was fun to try and figure out how she was supposed to ‘complete’ the fairy tales. But it also sorta killed my interest, because it seemed too easy at times. I was pretty sad about the ending for Mina, but I won’t spoil it. I liked the fae boy Jared, and am interested as to who he actually is; so that’s probably the only reason I would continue the series, because I’m intrigued as to his true identity. But, you know, for a free book, this is pretty fun if you like Grimm fairy tales and unlucky girls and a little romance thrown in.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5 for a little over average just for the imagination of the book.

The Cloak Society

By Jeramey Kraatz

The Cloak Society: An elite organization of supervillains graced with extraordinary powers.

Ten years ago they were defeated by the Rangers of Justice and vanished without a trace. But the villains of Cloak have been biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to resurface. And twelve-year-old Alex Knight wants to be one of them.

Alex is already a junior member, and his entire universe is Cloak’s underground headquarters, hidden beneath an abandoned drive-in theater in Sterling City, Texas. While other kids his age are studying math and history, Alex is mastering his telekinetic powers and learning how to break into bank vaults. His only dream is to follow in his parents’ footsteps as one of the most feared supervillains in the world. Cloak is everything he believes in.

But on the day of his debut mission, Alex does the unthinkable: he saves the life of a young Ranger named Kirbie. Even worse…she becomes his friend. And the more time he spends with her, the more Alex wonders about the world outside of Cloak—and what, exactly, he’s been fighting for.


I admit, I’m partial to superhero books because you can potentially get some really awesome character stuff going on, and who doesn’t like a little superpower here and there? I mean, look at Hollywood making their millions on Marvel and DC characters! Well, this book is told from the eyes of young villain-in-training Alex Knight (if that name isn’t a giveaway I don’t know what is) that slowly comes to the realization that he really isn’t villain material, because, well, he saved the life of a hero and they become friends. He’s unwilling at first to listen to her, but becomes uneasy about the way he is treated and the plans that the Cloak has for the future…and the countless people who will die for them to achieve their plans. This is really more a coming-of-age for Alex than a story of good vs. evil, though it is that. What I liked is that, knowing this is a series, the setup was pretty good, and I was interested to see where the plot takes the young group of would-be heroes toward the end in their attempt to save the world. I really can’t give a complete review of this first book without reading the next book, but I think that it will get better as it goes and this book will be fun for kids who enjoy comic book heroes and like to read novels.

I give it a 3.5 for potential and fun.


By A.C. Gaughen

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the evil Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity a secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only Big John and Robin Hood know the truth—that the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. It’s getting harder to hide as Gisbourne’s camp seeks to find Scarlet and drive Robin Hood out of Nottinghamshire. But Scarlet’s instinct for self-preservation is at war with a strong sense of responsibility to the people who took her in when she was on the run, and she finds it’s not so easy to turn her back on her band and townspeople. As Gisbourne draws closer to Scarlet and puts innocent lives at risk, she must decide how much the people of Nottinghamshire mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles and temper have the rare power to unsettle Scarlet. Full of exciting action, secrets, and romance, this imaginative retelling of the classic tale will have readers following every move of Robin Hood and band of Thieves.


I’ve waited a while to read this book, but was a little ify when I started because of a few scathing reviews I found on Amazon. I decided to give it a go anyway, and found myself really disliking it, but not for the reasons others disliked it. So, if you know the basic Robin Hood story, you’ve got a good idea of the character of Robin Hood and his men right? Well, I really didn’t like what the author did to Robin. She made him all moody and weird.  I greatly disliked it, and also, Little John is not a player! Good grief. I hated the characters and the plot seemed to be secondary to the stupid love triangle that was going on. There was a lot of potential for me in the story about who Will Scarlet really was, but cross-dressing characters must be handled with care. Jimminy. I was going to try to give an objective review, but the more I write about it the more I get worked up. I really didn’t like this, but I think there are people out there who would really love it. It’s a love story first and foremost, a girl-power attempt (in my opinion) and really not about the poor overtaxed people at all. Sure, that’s what brings the lovers together, but other than that, they stay in the background. Oh, oh, and Guy of Gisborne really ticked me off. He was portrayed as pure evil (pretty much) and I disliked that. I liked how BBC portrayed him so much better…and okay I have a little mini-crush on Richard Armitage as well, so I’m a little biased toward the character now. Anyway, read at your own pleasure if you enjoy that sort of thing, but I cannot recommend this book at all.


I give it a 1 out of 5

The Uses of Adversity

By Carlfred Broderick

Some kinds of pain seem to run too deep for words. What can you say that could possibly be of any help to someone who is having one of those “Gethsemane” experiences? Carlfred Broderick has some answers that may surprise you. Acknowledging that pain comes into all our lives, he uses a variety of personal stories to demonstrate that what we do with that pain is part of what shapes us as human beings.

In the end, what really matters is not what happens to us but what our experiences teach us about God. This remarkable little books shows us that He is indeed our Father, and His love will ultimately reach deeper than any trial we might encounter in mortality.


This is a really short book with stories about people who have gone through some of the hardest trials out there; losing children, abuse, etc. It is a great little snippet of why God allows these things to happen to His children and how we can come to understand how we can rise above and work with the adversities we are given in this life. I enjoyed it and honestly, there are a few gems of wisdom that it is worth reading this little 60 page book for.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Thursday, March 7, 2013


By Taylor Longford

When gargoyles last walked the earth eight hundred years ago, the proud race traveled in close-knit packs and could turn to stone at will. They were strong, beautiful creatures whose throats were marked with ancient runes. Throughout time, their greatest enemies were the ugly and brutal harpies that people today mistake for gargoyles.

Like all gargoyles, and the rest of his pack, Valor is driven by instinct to protect the people he cares about. So when he encounters a human girl for the first time in almost a thousand years, his first impulse is to keep her from harm. But Valor soon discovers that the greatest risk to MacKenzie’s safety is himself. Just one scratch from the poisonous barbs on his knuckles…and she’ll be lost to him forever.

I sat for a while trying to decide why I liked this book so much, I mean, really the romance was pretty rushed and some of the plot development had holes that didn’t really make sense, but as a whole, I really really liked this book. It’s probably my latent love of gargoyles from watching the cartoon growing up…Valor sorta became Goliath for me, I’ll admit it. But also, I really enjoyed what the author did in creating her own mythology about Gargoyles, admittedly I don’t really know that much about the mythology, so she could’ve stolen it, but hey, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. I loved the story behind the beautiful gargoyles, their ‘hackles’ which made me smile, because when they raise you want to be far away.  The venom was particularly interesting, and the fact of the runes and choosing someone to wear their rune was romantic and symbolic of the female taking the male’s name. I really enjoyed the characters, I’ll admit that Havoc was my favorite character. She did a good job making a guy for every girl depending on their preference. It made me smile. Really though, the basic gist of the book is the relationship between MacKenzie and the Gargoyles, especially Valor (Awesome name by the by), and finding the rest of their family/pack. It has a bit of action in the end, but I felt the romance was a little too rushed, and I wanted to like MacKenzie’s character more than I did. There were also moments were the gargoyles were a little too romantic and unreal for me, but my brain just justified it by saying, ‘these aren't human guys, these are gargoyle guys.’ Weak I know, but I wanted to like it.  This is a good read for you who like paranormal romances. Lovely little thing to read; no sex, just some kissing. Violence wise, it is pretty run-of-the mill. Nothing over the top. Broken limbs, bruises, mention of torture, but no actual torture.  A little cussing. Farmer words.

I give it a 3.9 out of 5 because it is sooo close to a 4, but I can’t do it. I just liked it for unknown reasons.

Why We Broke Up

By Daniel Handler

I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

It is a rare book that I find myself feeling such dislike for. It is difficult for me to be objective with the content of this book, which by the way, I never would have picked to read but was required for my Young Adult lit class. This book won the Michael Pintz award for YA lit and I can see why. To be fair, the format was creative and beautiful, the paintings added so much to the book and I loved how the ‘letter’ was organized. On the other hand, while Daniel Handler has a great style and his writing and plot were simply amazing, it is purely the content that I couldn’t handle. I hate break up songs, and this is the first break up book I’ve read, and I was sick at the end. It’s basically about a girl who falls for a guy that she has nothing in common with and he tells her he loves her and gets her to agree to sleep with him.  It is every girl’s worst nightmare in words.  I was so frustrated with the character of Min, who was a truly engaging and interesting character that I wanted to scream at her to not be an idiot.  I was really hoping as I read this that this isn’t a typical teenage story of modern days…my teen years were very mild by choice. This book made me highly uncomfortable with what they call “the everything but” scenes and the eventual “everything” scene which made me so sad.  I didn’t find anything to redeem this book, not a moral or anything. It’s a book that is sad. I can find nothing redemptive in the plot.  This just wasn’t my cup a tea. Not to mention the frequent ‘bombs’ of language. Sheesh. Lot of innuendo, sex scene, references, and language was pretty terrible. No violence. Mature themes with drugs and drinking.

I give it a 1.5 out of 5 because I have to give it something for the beautiful art presentation and format which was creative and lovely and the writing tone (not content) is very nice.

 If you want some fun, though I didn't care for this book, this website can be pretty hilarious. It's a project that Daniel Handler started with people's breakup stories and sometimes his responses. Some of the stories are pretty...dicey though. So peruse at your own risk.
On the other hand, you MUST watch this. This guy is awesome.


By Sophie Jordan

A hidden truth.

Mortal enemies.

Doomed love.

Marked as special at an early age, jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she lons for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner drake to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will’s dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner drake is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She’ll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.

I like dragons. Who doesn’t? I had high hopes for this series, and have had it on my  to-read list for quite some time. But, well, it fell flat for me. It’s about a girl/dragon who is rebelling against the rules of the clan and almost gets herself killed by a hunter, who happens to be…you guessed it: a gorgeous guy that she immediately forms an infatuation with because he is “different”. I guess not killing you when he’s supposed to is different. Basically there are different plot points that seem to pop out of nowhere in order to get this girl to move to the one place that happens to miraculously be where gorgeous hunter boy lives. And, coincidentally enough, he is also the only guy around who makes her inner dragon well, ahem, burn? Roar? I don’t know. So, another excuse for her to stalk him, and he in turn stalks her too because coincidentally…well that’s a spoiler so I won’t say it. But you get my drift. There’s a lot of coincidence in this book, but okay, most books have a fantastical one in a million chance that makes something phenomenal happen, but this is a bit over the top for me. It lost my interest about 80 pages in and I had to force myself to keep reading. This is not a good dragon book. It’s basically another author finding a different creature to present the same story. Forbidden love. Go to school and meet. Fall in love.  Sad day for me. Warning: lots of making out and kissing. Little bit of swearing. Mentions drinking. FYI.

I give it a 3 out of 5 because it’s the average stuff going around. Well written, but average.

The Eye of the Beholder

By Elizabeth Darcy

I am a prisoner.

Born to power, the world was my playground. My every wish was a kingdom’s command, my displeasure every man’s worst fear. But then, at the whim of a merciless enchantress, all was stolen from me. My once lavish castle became my dungeon. My once-handsome form became that of a beast. There is no hope of release from the prison of my own body, for the only way to break this curse is to earn the love of another. I, who have never felt a drop of compassion, must hope to inspire devotion. I, who am hideous beyond compare, must hope to inspire passion. After hundreds of years, I have come to accept the truth: I will never know love. There is no escape for me.

I am a prisoner.

Born to two loving parents and a happy home, I was grateful for my good fortune. Though I was plain and prone to living in my head, forced to live in the shadow of my beautiful sisters, I had everything my heart desired. Then tragedy struck, and I lost my mother and my home. Papa was all I had left in the world, and I was utterly devoted to him. When his thoughtful gesture earned him the wrath of a horrible monster, I sacrificed myself for the sake of the one person I love. Now I am a prisoner in a decaying castle with only a terrifying beast for companionship. But I am determined not to give in to the beast’s wrath, to prove to him that he can never truly ensnare me.

I have read a lot of retellings of Beauty and the Beast. It’s my favorite fairy tale, in case you haven’t been paying attention. I’ve been searching for the best one, one that fit my idea of ‘yes, this is how it would be!’ and I think I’ve come as close as I’m going to get. I love this book. It is by far the best book I’ve read about Beauty and the Beast, not just for the romance, which was done properly and slowly built up. But the actual human psychology and change within the Beast was absolutely fantastic.  Again, it was slow! I like slow, it’s realistic and it makes the journey to the end all the more worthwhile, even though you know what will happen. Mirabelle was a good character as well, nicely fleshed out and portrayed well.  My favorite part was the fact that she wouldn’t allow herself to be in love because she was…well afraid to be in love. I could completely relate to that notion, it’s illogical but it’s real! The only beef I had was with the end. It’s a small beef though. Mira is a little slow to figure out that the guy before her is the beast she loved, and I thought that was unrealistic with how intelligent she is portrayed throughout the book. It’s fairly obvious and it bothered me.  Also, they start a kissing-fest and I thought that was a bit unrealistic as well…but perhaps not. It would be for me. Anywho, YAY! I found you at last! The best Beauty and the Beast read thus far. (Sighs in contentment)

I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Open Minds

By Susan Kaye Quinn

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden underworld of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Okay, I really liked this book, and I thought it was going to be average and kinda mediocre. I’ve read books with mind-reading before, but this was so interesting and different that I was left turning page after page, hungry for information and getting more and more twisted up in the story. Kira is a fun character because for the last few years she has become a varitable pariah because she can’t read minds and no one can read hers. I mean, if you can’t read their mind, they can’t be trustworthy right? At least that’s what society at large believes about “zeros” like Kira. What Kira finds out in a desperate moment is that she isn’t without power. It’s just not the power she wanted. She’s a mindjacker. She can control people and make them do anything she wants, even believe that she is just like them.  A whole world opens up to Kira at the prospect of being ‘normal’ or letting everyone believe that she is normal. But the one thing that she has to do to get her normal life is the one thing she can’t stomach….lying. To everyone. Forever. This book is amazing in the way it projects how people would live with the ability to read minds, and the frightening things that mindjackers are capable of and how bias and fear will always be alive so long as there is someone different.

I give it a 4 out of 5- it was close to a 3.5 but it was just so well done. Bravo.

Mister Monday

By Garth Nix

Arthur Penhaligon is not supposed to be a hero. He is, in fact, supposed to die an early death. But then his life is saved by a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock. Arthur is safe—but his world is not. Along with the key comes a plague brought by bizarre creatures from another realm. A stranger named Mister Monday, his avenging messengers with bloodstained wings, and an army of dog-faced Fetchers will stop at nothing to get the key back—even if it means destroying Arthur and everything around him. Desperate, Arthur ventures into a mysterious house—a house that only he can see. It is in this house that Arthur must unravel the secret of the key—and discover his true fate.

It took me a little time to get into the swing of the tone of this book, it’s been a while since I’ve read anything like this; a middle grade book with a lot of fantastical things happening. Arthur is an average kid, he’s got asthma and he’s adopted and he really loves his weird family. When he is given a mysterious key shaped like the minute hand of a clock, there starts the adventure to find the Hour hand key, and gain the first of the seven keys of the kingdom. This is a great imaginative work with wonderful characters and amazing creatures.  I was very engaged with the characters and the workings of the world that Arthur goes to where everyone is pretty much immortal, with very few ways to permanently die. Arthur is a good kid that just wants to help his family and go back to normal life.  This book is full of fun adventures and crazy feats that will keep any kid (and adult) entertained and hungry for the next book in the series.

I give it a 4 out of 5

When You Reach Me

By Rebecca Stead

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.


This Newberry Medal winner is worth its weight in gold. I loved reading this book, reminding me a lot of Jerry Spinelli’s books, with a little science fiction twist to whet my imaginative needs. This book is fantastic and meticulously done, as is evidenced when you read the last pages and go “Oh! Holy cow.” I loved reading from Miranda’s perspective, living in this place where she can’t understand why her best friend stops talking to her and trying to find new friends in the meantime. It’s an amazing read about family, class distinctions, friendship, love, and courage. It’s a coming of age book that you won’t want to miss.  Well earned Newberry Medal winner.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

By Mary E. Pearson

Who is Jenna Fox?

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a year-long coma, and she’s still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. Her parents show her home movies of her life, her memories, but she has no recollection. Is she really the same girl she sees on the screen?  Little by little, Jenna begins to remember. Along with the memories come questions—questions no one wants to answer for her. What really happened after the accident?


Okay, wow. It’s been a while since I’ve been so engrossed in a story. The tone of this novel is mature and the questions of morality and what makes us human is fantastic. Jenna is an amazing character, as her memories return and she comes to understand what happened to her and the mysteries begin to unfold, we see her progress and become increasingly invested in her story and her future. This novel reminded me a lot of the sort of tone and message of novels like “The House of the Scorpion” by Nancy Farmer, and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, both of which are incredible books. I was so impressed by the quality of the writing and the depth of the story and message, I eagerly await the next books and hope they are of the same caliber. I can’t recommend this book enough for those who have enjoyed the above books and enjoy science fiction books that focus on dystopian like futures with questionable morality. It’s wonderful, and while it is the first in a series, it can easily stand alone.


I give it a 4.25 out of 5

Shadow and Bone

By Leigh Bardugo

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh.  Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.


Oh how I loved reading this book. I was hooked from the first moment. It has elements of the most popular young adult books, but the creativity and the world that has been created is really something else. It was original enough to catch my attention while sticking close to good story-telling. It’s about a girl, average in just about everything except for the things she is less than average in. She’s got a best guy friend that she’s in love with, but he doesn’t see her in a romantic light at all. In a desperate situation she unlocks a power to save her best friend that propels her on a journey of self-discovery and danger.  It is a great and entertaining read along the lines of the best selling dystopians and paranormal romances in teen lit. The only thing that bothered me, and it was a large thing for me, was the references to sex and heated moments between certain characters. It’s not graphic, and there aren’t any actual sex scenes, but it was enough making out and almost-there scene to make me really uncomfortable. Sigh. If it weren’t for that, I’d be super gushy of this book.


I give it a 3.5 out of 5 because it’s better than average, but less than fantastic.

The Awakening

By Kate Chopin

Often hailed as the earliest work of Feminist literature, Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” is the story of mother and wife, Edna Pontillier and her summer in the deep south and her slow and steady awakening to her less than appealing life as a caged bird: a woman who is viewed as a possession by her husband and expected to sacrifice her very soul for her children…something she realizes she hates and cannot—will not—do.

So I would not call myself a ‘feminist’ and in true fashion, this book both impressed me and distressed me. Edna Pontillier’s story is a fantastic tragedy.  Basically her story begins with her being the typical housewise and mother to a husband who treats her as a possession rather than a person. She slowly comes to realize that she wants more as she receives the attentions of one of the men while vacationing. The book tells her subtle changes and gradual awakening—hence the title—and her eventual break from conventional norms of the time.  There are a lot of great moments in this book where Edna finds a freedom and independence that I think everyone can relate to; but I was so disconcerted with how she goes about seeking her freedom that I didn’t really care for this classic.  But again, I’m not really a feminist, so I guess that’s one reason why.

I give it a 3 out of 5- it would’ve been a 2 but for a few moments of beautiful writing and insight.

The Chronicles of Kale: A Dragon's Awakening

By Aya Knight

Kale Firehart is a young dragon, and the sole survivor of his race. As a tyrannical general and his massive bloodthirsty army close in on Kale, the most unexpected circumstance transpires. With time against him, Kale’s trusted friend, a veteran arcane sorcerer, transforms him into the one thing he despises most—a human. Kale must unwillingly live among human-kind as he embarks upon an extraordinary journey. With a band of unlikely friends by his side, can Kale overcome the obstacles before him and return to the life he once knew? The ages of dragons is all but over…


I have been itching for dragon stories lately for some unknown reason, and when I came across this one on my Kindle I thought it had potential. Well, as I started reading I was interested enough to keep going, but something kept niggling at me, and when I got about 30 pages in it became obvious with every word I read: this was terribly immature writing. I was appalled. I couldn’t believe that anyone would allow this book to be published in its current form. It was a classic case of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’ making me, as a reader, feel like the author thought I was a simpleton.  Telling me every little thing that Kale thought about everything and exactly how he felt made me bored and irritated. The characters were terribly flat. Kale, as the main character, was supposed to be a Dragon that hated humans, but suddenly without good reasons or explanation, becomes enamored of them and their lifestyle with inexplicable outbursts that he still hates them. Does this make sense? NO! The elf is also too easily sold, she immediately falls in love with Kale and tells him all her woes and life story. Sure, that’s believable.  And even through all this, what truly upset me the most was that the idea behind this story could’ve been something pretty good if done properly and thought out thoroughly.  But it’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever read that wasn’t fanfiction on the internet.  And there’s fanfiction 20 times better than this. 

I give it a 1 out of 5 and it only gets a one because it was a good idea, if poorly executed.

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

By Katherine Marsh

Jepp has never lacked in confidence and wit, despite his diminutive size. For sixteen years, he has lived a comfortable life in the Dutch countryside, the son of a loving mother who protects him from the scorn of an unkind world. But this is no longer enough for Jepp. He longs to see the world, to seek his forune. Then a man arrives at his mother’s alehouse, promising Jepp a life of adventure he can’t refuse. Courtier to the Spanish infant, Don tells Jepp mesmerizing tales of the magnificent court. Before he knows it, Jepp has left behind all he knows to begin a new life. The Infanta’s court is not what Don made it out to be. Though he now lives in luxury, Jepp faces constant humiliation as a court dwarf, serving the whims of an all-powerful queen. The only joy in his life is his love for the beautiful Lia, who is small like him. But even this is soon taken from him, when an ill-fated escape from the castle leaves Lia dead and Jepp brokenhearted. As punishment for Jepp’s defiance, he is sent to the palace of Tycho Brahe where he faces the greatest challenge of all: can he defy the stars and his fate?

When I found this book I thought it was going to be a fantasy book and was surprised to learn it was based on history. I really enjoyed learning some things that I didn’t know about court dwarves (which was pretty surprising and horrible) and finding a character in Jepp that was deep and endearing. This book isn’t a fantasy at all, it’s a human story about a young boy’s coming of age and being thrown into the ‘real world’ and trying to keep his hope for his future alive in the midst of tragedy and pain. Jepp’s story is everyone’s story; and it’s a journey you’ll want to take, hardships and happiness alike. This book was heart-warming and often heart-wrenching.  All in all, it is a gem worth gazing at.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

By Lewis Carroll

Alice in Wonderland is a fantasy novel about a little girl who enters a magical world full of peculiar creatures. She enters this world through a rabbit hole.

As a kid, the cartoon Disney version of this classic tale always freaked me out. The Cheshire Cat was creepy and I couldn’t understand why my friends liked watching this crazy movie. As an adult, I’ve always told myself to read the book, give it a chance. So, here I am, full adult, and…well…it’s still weird.  I don’t think there was one part of that book that I liked.  It was just all random craziness to me. But, I did have a previous bias toward it, so I didn’t go in reading it with great expectations.  For me, this classic is just too confusing and lacks a point. If it’s supposed to be a dream then I can sorta understand that, but I’d like to know if there is a point. If anybody wants to enlighten me, please do!

I give it a 2.5 out of 5 because it’s a classic or it would’ve been lower.

Brotherband 3: The Hunters

By John Flanagan

They’d had him in their grasp. Hal and his fellow Herons had tracked Zavac across the ocean, intent on recovering the stolen Andomal, Skandia’s most prized treasure. But after a battle that left the pirate crew counting their dead, Zavac narrowly slipped through the skandian’s fingers. Now, with one of their own recovering from the fight, the Herons take to the seas. But to bring the pirate captain to justice and put an end to his reign of terror, Hal and his crew must bluff their way into the most dangerous stronghold of all—the infamous Pirate Haven of Raguza. In the dramatic climax to the first Brotherband story arc, one crew will lose its captain, and the other will never be the same.


I love John Flanagan’s feel-good adventures; these books are especially great for boys, as he started writing his other series for his son. These books have so much nautical information that it can be a little daunting to follow where exactly things are on the Heron. I’m not seafaring at all, and I was wishing for an intricate map of the Heron so I could follow what things looked like and where they were. Imagination is great, but it got a little fuzzy for me. That being said, it was great fun to read about the end of the first journey of the Heron Brotherband and I expect to be more and more entertained as more books emerge. I still prefer Ranger’s Apprentice over Brotherband, mostly because the ships and sea voyages don’t interest me as much and leave me a little fuddled. It really is a great new series with the same fun and adventure of the old. I especially like Ingvar, he is one of my favorite characters.  Content-wise there is a few instances of language and of course they fight and kill pirates, but it is tactfully done and not bloody at all. I would recommend this book for kids 5-6th grade and above.

 I give it 3.5 out of 5 Because it’s nice to find a wholesome adventure.