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Family Saga

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

February 14, 2018

When Vince discovers that his dad’s vending machine business doesn’t involve vending machines but instead involves scamming and cheating people out of their money, he goes to great lengths to distance himself from his dad’s mob and all the dirty money that comes with it. But when he starts dating Kendra Blighty, whose dad turns out to be the FBI agent who’s been trying to put Vince’s father in jail, the plot starts to take a turn. This is the story of the book Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman.

I like the way the Korman crafted the book as to make it funny but serious at the same time. He includes jokes but manages to keep the plot rolling without laughing you out of the reading zone. The narrative voice is first person from the perspective of Vince, the main character, and that’s effective because readers get a window into Vince’s views, which are a very important part of the book.

Vince evolved a lot during the book from being unsure of his ideas and is unaware of where he wants to go with his life to having strong opinions and knowing for sure that he doesn’t want anything to do with his life.

If you like books by Gordon Korman Son of the Mob will not disappoint it is packed with the same humor and same action you would find in other books by him such as Masterminds. It is easy to follow and you will never find yourself looking for action.

This book is a good example for when someone feels something so strongly they would betray their own dad to not have to do something. For example Vince believes that what his dad’s doing is wrong so he goes against his dad to do what he thinks is right by not taking any part in his dad’s business.

If you like humor and weird matches this is the book for you. I rated this book a 10/10 and would recommend it to anyone ages eleven and up.


Disney-Hyperion, 240 pages

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

February 6, 2017

Enzo is not an ordinary dog, and he knows it. When Denny Swift, a professional racecar driver, adopts him, Enzo moves away from his life of standing apart from other dogs. From paying close attention to his beloved owner, Denny, and watching endless television, Enzo teaches himself more than the average person knows—about car racing, humans, and our confusing way of life.

As Denny and Enzo spend more time together, their trust in each other grows deeper, so Enzo is taken aback when Denny falls in love with Eve. But time goes on, and eventually Enzo grows to like Eve, as well as the couple’s newborn daughter Zoe, even though both of them seem to have edged in on his spot in Denny’s heart.

When Eve gets very sick and her parents try to take custody of Zoe, Denny gets into trouble, and Enzo can do nothing but stand back and watch as his family is ripped apart.

I liked how Stein balanced characters with completely different personalities, making readers feel like they were seeing the world through Enzo’s point of view: right with the family as they celebrated, crying with them as they cried, and suffering as their world fell apart.

At first, I thought that it was strange, or at least different, to be reading from this dog’s perspective that Stein had chosen, but as the novel progressed, the observations that Enzo had about being a human, or having the soul of a human, taught me a new way to think about our everyday lives.

It was interesting how Stein included obstacles for their family to face, while keeping the story realistic at the same time. This made the plot much more effective, because the characters resolved some of their problems, while others just couldn’t be fixed. These mixed outcomes created a heart breaking, yet much more believable story.

I also appreciated how Stein incorporated humor while writing this novel, because, even though at some points it felt like everything was crashing apart, the mood was lightened by Enzo’s powerful ideas and positive way of thinking

This book was an incredible blend of joy, despair and anger. It made me think about life differently, and I believe that anybody who reads this book will feel the same mix of emotions as this family is brought to life on the pages. Any reader who wants a convincing novel that will change the way he or she thinks about the world, will not be able to put this book down.



Harper Collins, 321 pages




Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

January 31, 2017

Black Dove and White Raven are the stage names of Delia, and Rhoda a team of female stunt-pilots. Traveling with them as they perform are their two young children, Emilia and Teo. During one of their shows, a bird strike crashes their plane and immediately kills Teo’s mother. Emilia’s mother, Rhoda, survives and adopts Teo. But in this novel’s particular time, 1930’s America, it is often considered suspicious to see a white woman raising a black adopted son alongside her own white daughter. Following Delia’s lifelong dream, Rhoda moves to Ethiopia so she can raise Teo where he won’t be discriminated against for the color of his skin. But soon after they arrive, war with the Italians threatens to push them out forever.

This historical fiction book by Elizabeth Wein (author of Rose Under Fire and Code Name Verity) is told in the first person through a letter to the emperor from the present (March 4, 1936), and then a collection of stories from the past attached. Wein gives the reader an overall idea of all the different characters and incorporates the points of view of both Teo and Emilia using flight log entries. These logs give the reader a glimpse of the characters’ thoughts, almost like a diary, revealing untold emotions. Throughout the book , short stories that Emilia and Teo write foreshadow or explain complicated events in a simpler situation. Wein portrays the characters in a way that makes the story come to life.

Although the beginning of the book is slow to develop, the result is an action-packed conclusion. Wein’s detailed plot will make the reader laugh and cry alongside the characters. This heartfelt historical fiction novel would be enjoyed by anyone who likes a heroic adventure. I definitely rate this book a ten out of ten for its realistic and unforgettable story.


Hyperion, 345 pages

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

February 11, 2016

Half BrotherBen Tomlin was an only child for thirteen years. Then his parents brought home a baby chimpanzee. The book Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel takes place in the mind of a thirteen-year-old boy named Ben Tomlin. His mother and father are both scientists and have finally been able to fund their experiment, which involves cross-fostering, where one species raises another. Ben’s parents wanted to cross-foster a chimpanzee named Zan, to see if he can learn ASL (American Sign Language), truly understand what we have in common with chimps, and to discover what makes us different.

The Tomlins teach Zan how to communicate using ASL: ‘up’, ‘drink’, ‘give’, ‘more’, ‘eat’, ‘you’, and ‘me’ becomes Zan’s vocabulary, and, before long, he is regularly signing to get what he desires. Ben sees Zan for who he really is, but Ben’s father, who is opposed to even giving Zan a name, almost never interacts with him and doesn’t want anything to do with him besides write down data. Ben’s mom is acting as Zan’s mother figure, and while she is kind and nurturing, she is also strict and stern.

As Zan grows in both size and strength, and the experiment becomes more difficult to maintain safely, the project begins to spiral out of control. At this point, Ben finds an ally in Peter, one of the student research assistants working on the project. Like Ben, Peter sees Zan for what he truly is – a living being with real needs and emotions. With Peter, Ben attempts to find a way out of what has become a tragic trap for Zan.

Oppel did an excellent job with going into the mind of a teenage boy, and along with the troubles the chimp brings, he also struggles with school and with winning the heart of his crush, Jennifer. This book really shows the love in a relationship between two brothers, or in this case, half brothers. Oppel brought life into a chimpanzee that felt more human than animal, and showed us how close we really are to these apes. I thought this book was well-written and contained incredible insight into the thought and voices of both the humans and the chimps. I would recommend this novel to animal lovers and those who would like to read about family relationships.

Scholastic/New York, Pages: 375

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