Edgecomb, Maine 04556
Son of the Mob by Gordon KormanFebruary 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
Night by Elie WieselFebruary 13, 2018
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.
It’s 1944, at the height of the Holocaust, when Eliezer, a young Jewish boy is deported to a concentration camp in Auschwitz, Germany, altering his life forever. Eliezer had lived in Sighet, Transylvania, with his family for his entire life. But when Nazis are sent to deport his family, along with 15,000 other Jews living in his town, everything he knows is stripped away from him.
After arriving at the camp, Eliezer is separated from his mom and sister. He sees smoke from crematoriums drift into a silent sky, and realizes his family’s devastating fate. At the camp he and his father are forced to work in terrible conditions and fed nothing but stale bread and water. Eliezer is tortured and must watch his friends and neighbors be killed because of the god they believe in. Night by Elie Wiesel—the grown man and survivor—tells the story of a son and a father who must endure through one of the darkest times in our history.
Night is both expertly crafted and a gripping story. Wiesel’s sensory descriptions transport readers to the labor camp and help them better understand the hardship and anguish that millions of Jews experienced. When Wiesel describes how he was starved, beaten, and barren of any hope for the future, he writes in such detail that his readers can’t help but feel the same emotions.
Wiesel writes about his own experiences, bringing the reader through the powerful changes and growth he experienced. Eliezer loses his innocence and faith. He no longer believes in his god and struggles to find his identity. This transformation is shown through the emotions and actions of the young man, giving the reader a taste of the trauma that lived within the prisoners.
Night is layered deeply with theme. Eliezer is just a child at the beginning of the book, naive and unaware, but he is quickly awoken to the harshness of the world. Wiesel beautifully weaves together themes of prejudice, religion, and the importance of family.
This memoir is a heart-wrenching read. You will experience both anger and sadness—and be left with a powerful impression of the Holocaust.
Bantam Books, 109 pages.
Ten by Gretchen McNeil
It all starts with a shy girl named Meg and her bigger-than-life, popular best friend, Minnie. One day Meg and Minnie get an invitation to a party hosted by one of the most influential girls at their school, Jessica, on her private island. Knowing their parents won’t approve, they sneak away to the party.
Once they sneak away to the ferry and make it to the island, the ferry pulls away and the captain tells them he will pick them up in three days. When Meg and Minnie walk down the dock they spy TJ Fletcher, the boy that both girls have had a crush on for a while. Meg had denied an invitation to the homecoming dance from TJ and told him she was sick because she knew Minnie would never forgive her; that made TJ dislike Meg ever since. They see another guy they don’t recognize. He says that his name is Ben, Jessica’s boyfriend, and he will be on the island with Meg, Minnie, TJ, and the other six teens until Jessica gets back from a cheerleading event the next day.
As Gretchen McNeil continues the novel she adds the twist of the teenagers finding a disc telling them that they have all been guilty of “character assassination.” The book continues and briskly speeds up pace. McNeil starts to add in the horror part of the novel after that. As the teens start dying mysteriously, no one can trust each other. McNeil crafts a strong, fast-paced mystery of suspicion. All the while, she uses great diction that put readers in the moment with Meg and Minnie.
McNeil uses only Meg’s perspective throughout the book, which helped me understand the story better. It also helped me get to know Meg better, since I only had to focus on one point of view. Another strength of having only one character is readers get to see all of the other characters from Meg’s perspective.
The mystery of the killer draws nearer, and there are fewer and fewer teens still alive. The characters have to figure out who’s still alive that might be the killer, or if the murderer is someone that’s already dead. Gretchen McNeil’s Ten is a fast paced book that I can guarantee readers will not be able to put down easily.
Balzer and Bray, 294 pages
Into Thin Air by Jon KrakauerFebruary 2, 2018
Using up precious ticks of the clock, none of them imagined that a horrible ordeal was drawing nigh. None of them suspected that by the end of the long day every minute would matter.
It’s spring on Mt Everest in 1996, and multiple teams are preparing for the long ascent to the top of the world. Little do they know, weak snow layers and building monsoons may cause the mountain’s deadliest season ever. As Jon Krakauer’s team, led by Rob Hall, plods up the mountain, they must encounter some of the most vicious weather on the planet, while fighting for their lives. Soon it is apparent that the six different teams need rescue— it’s a matter of life and death in the fight to get down alive. Time is running out for the brave team.
Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction masterpiece captures the harrowing tale of the perils at high altitude; this roller coaster ride sucks you in until you have finished. Krakauer used strong first and third person narratives, accompanied by strong diction and a journalistic style of writing that brought me right into the story and really portrayed the action. The perspectives swapped depending on whether Krakauer was experiencing it himself or explaining how certain things came to be. I loved how he interviewed many sources to bring in multiple perspectives on how events really took place. It was interesting to try to puzzle out how so many people made multiple mistakes leading to one of the most horrific mountain disasters of all time. Readers follow Krakauer the whole time, so it feels almost like accompanying Krakauer and interviewing people while discovering more and more about how they came to Everest and what they planed to do, which I thought was creative on Krakauer’s part.
When Krakauer writes he often dives off into history, such as how the first people climbed the mountain and how unfairly the Sherpas were and are treated. I personally thought that these short paragraphs were effective because they helped me understand some of the background information when I was reading. If readers knew nothing about mountains or elevation, they could still follow the main plot of the book, all due to the chapters designated for explaining background. Also if there is ever a word in a different language or a mountaineering term, Krakauer uses an indicator and explains the meaning or definition of the term below, therefore making the premise and details of the book completely understandable and easy to follow.
If you have always dreamed of mountains and the world surrounding them, this is a great book for you: it passes on intriguing ideas about how we can learn from mistakes people made before us and cautions readers to always pay attention to nature’s signs. Krakauer’s book is crafted so well that it was a national bestseller that captivated thousands of readers. If you are into suspense, action, and adventure, this is a book for you—especially if you have read other mountain books before. It inspired me in multiple ways, and I hope it will do the same for you.
Anchor Books, 333 pages
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Rashad Butler is a black teenager living in a small town. He’s never done anything wrong—never broken the law or gotten into trouble. But that’s not what the cops see. They see his clothes and the way he walks. They see the color of his skin.
Quinn, a white boy, stands and watches as the man who raised him drags a black boy onto the street, and throws him against the ground. He is paralyzed with emotion. It obviously isn’t right, but he doesn’t know what to do. The police officer—the man beating his defenseless classmate—is his best friend’s brother. So at first, Quinn pretends he didn’t see anything. He pretends that nothing ever happened—but secrets can’t be controlled for long in this usually quiet town.
Quinn can’t stay silent. He will be a part of the encounter no matter what, but it is up to him to fight for his own beliefs—up to him to go against the people he cares about. He will be the one who decides which side of history he’s on.
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely alternate perspectives in All American Boys: Reynolds writes in the voice of the black boy, and Kiely narrates the white boy. This results in two contrasting personalities, and writing styles, that both have a lasting effect on readers. The author’s decisions to form personal connections— between Quinn and the police officer, and the readers with the characters—were effective, because they developed a relationship between readers and the protagonists, then threw conflicts and hurdles at the characters, resulting in a thoughtful novel.
This book educates readers about one of the biggest issues we still face in our country today: police brutality. Two authors display the stark differences between the lives of two boys—one black, one white, both American—in our contemporary world. Reynolds and Kiely show—through two resilient characters—that racism is still alive in our country, and it’s waiting for us to make a change. These authors explore themes of racial justice and standing up for your own beliefs, while bringing characters to life in this inspiring novel.
This novel informs readers about current events, but still has a gripping plot that will keep its audience flipping the pages. I rated it a ten out of ten, and would recommend it to any fan of realistic or historical fiction. Anybody who wants to learn the hidden truths of our country will enjoy this thoughtful story.
Simon & Schuster, 310 pages
Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and John Haise start on what they hope will be a successful moon landing—Apollo 13. As a NASA astronaut, Lovell’s dream has always been to go to the moon, and Apollo 13 is his first chance to do this. Whatever happens on the mission, he is determined to get to the moon, and more importantly, get home to see his family again. He’s at least going to space today.
When Lovell, Swigert and Haise begin their flight, the mission is going as expected with no problems as yet. But fifty-five hours after take-off, at 9:07pm on April 15, 1970, oxygen tank two on Odyssey ruptures, flooding oxygen into space, diverting their path and making a landing on the moon impossible—if they don’t want to become permanent residents. This forces them to make a challenging series of maneuvers in order to get back to Earth safely. This book covers their journey through space, with all hope of reaching the moon lost. Their only goal becomes retuning home.
I loved how Lovell took an event that actually happened in his life and made it suspenseful, like no other author that I’ve read has. When you read this memoir, you get the impression that he wrote this as a work of fiction, but these were real events that he spun with a strong narrative. Lovell also described the emotions of people back home, as if he crafted them himself. In reality, he probably interviewed them before writing the book, especially his family. Lovell described the thoughts of his wife back home perfectly when Aquarius’ oxygen tank explodes. Since most memoirs only describe the writer’s experience, this is a unique and interesting memoirist’s style. Overall, Lovell crafted an effective narrative using both his own experience, and the experiences of others, with an overarching story connecting them. Lovell also effectively includes background information in the plot by taking readers away from events in the book and giving some technical information, because some events in the book are hard to understand without prior scientific knowledge. He also explains all the previous Apollo flights in the beginning, and explains the logistics of the mission and the modules themselves. Speaking of the modules, there is both a diagram of them and a timeline of the mission in the front cover of the book: helpful for the reader’s clarification.
The theme here is perseverance, because Lovell, Swigert, and Haise never give up. They don’t just lie down and accept their fate; they keep trying to perform every tiny action it takes to get back to Earth and survive the journey. I know firsthand how hard it is to include a strong theme in a memoir, and this book definitely succeeds.
If you decide to read this book, which I strongly recommend that you do, prepare yourself for an exciting true story, where you know that at least the author survives. This takes a little bit of sting out of it, but it doesn’t affect the suspense. There is also a movie, which I have not seen, but I know that it’s well-reviewed. I rate this a ten out of ten, and recommend it to anyone who is comfortable with relatively dense books. Anyone can read this. You don’t even have to understand the science behind it.
Houghton-Mifflin Co., 378 pages
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Shahrzad is out for revenge. Or at least that’s what she thinks when she marries the murderous Khalid, Caliph of Khorasan, whose pervious brides have been found murdered by the break of dawn. But this time it will be different. To avenge her best friend before her, Shahrzad captivates the Caliph by telling an elaborate fairytale—one in which he must keep her alive to know what happens next. But as days turn into weeks, Shahrzad begins falling for the Caliph. As a result, the underlying secret Khalid and the whole palace have been keeping from the kingdom is revealed. Now they must destroy it, before it destroys them.
This powerful re-telling is based on the book A Thousand and One Nights, and not only has the element of romance, but is also a thrilling page-turner. The perspective switches between the two main characters, Shahrzad and Khalid, giving the reader their separate views on the situation. Ahdieh also employs character development extremely well, as the two personalities complement each other; both try to deny the fact that they love the other because of the positions they’re in.
Another well-crafted feature of this book was the development of secondary characters such as Sharzad’s handmaiden, Despina, whom she becomes close with as the book progresses. Characters like this are built up, and their stories unraveled, resulting in a captivating plotline with mulitiple elements. Ahdieh’s writing sweeps readers into a new land, where they experience the emotions of the characters right alongside them.
Something else particularly enjoyable about the tone of the book was that it wasn’t entirely a romance novel. Ahdieh incorporated this factor into the re-telling plotline, but there was a balance between the two genres. Although this made the novel slightly complicated, the author beautifully crafts the book in an understandable fashion. This allows the story to become complex without confusion.
The diction that Ahdieh uses puts the reader right into the scene, making it easy to picture this time and place through her amazing description and vivid details. The plot comes to life in readers’ minds, and holds their attention to the last page. Another aspect of the book that was interesting was how Ahdieh created Shahrzad as a character. She is nervous and scared, but too proud to show it, which makes for a surprising turn when she begins to fall in love with Khalid.
I definitely give this book a ten for its enticing and well-crafted plot. I recommend this book to students in middle school or above who enjoy fairytale-like stories with a romantic twist. Ahdieh also wrote a sequel to The Wrath and The Dawn titled The Rose and The Dagger, which is a continuation of the previous book and just as amazing. I hope you allow Ahdieh’s writing to transport you into the world of Sharzad and Khalid, and that you find it just as wonderful as I did.
Putnam, 404 pages
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Liesel Meminger is a girl living in Nazi Germany, who learns to read with the help of her adoptive father. She steals books for more to read when her family, the Hubermanns, takes in Max Vandenburg, a Jewish man on the run from the Nazis. Liesel’s best friend, Rudy Steiner, convinces Liesel to join a band of teenage thieves who steal apples from farmers for food and helps her through many tough situations. The aforementioned Max is my favorite character due to his role and involvement in Liesel’s growing up.
I rated this book a ten out of ten because Zusak created such a rich and descriptive world with strong narration and characters. The strength of this book was in the little details Zusak used to paint pictures in your head, such as when Max would imagine boxing with Hitler. This could have been cut, and doing so might have made the book shorter, but not as powerful.
This book isn’t for readers who dislike sad novels. One of the literary techniques that Zusak uses is having death as a narrator. This choice helps represent such a dark and ghastly time. I recommend this book to ages ten and up due to the sad topic and story. However, the theme was friendship after all the friendships that occur throughout the book and the important roles they play for the characters.
This was one of my binge reads. I was hooked from the first paragraph:
First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s how I see things.
Or at least how, I try.
* * * HERE IS A SMALL FACT * * *
You are going to die.
This quote shows the strength of having Death narrate the book and the straightforwardness of his storytelling style.
I loved every page of this novel. The moment I finished this it was in my top three books. This book is life changing. It will make you change how you think about the Holocaust and the world.
Alfred A. Knopf. 552 pages.
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
First off, a warning: if you don’t like gore in your books then don’t bother to read this review.
Wilson’s screams abruptly ended in a gurgling report and a veritable geyser of blood, most of which cascaded from a robust stream into the monster’s waiting mouth. His head fell forward with a sickening thud onto the metal bars. A final paroxysmal spasm of his legs and Wilson lay still.
Will Henry is a sixteen-year-old orphan who works for a man with an unusual practice: monstrumology, or the study of monsters. His master, Doctor Warthrop, is obsessed with this and brings Will Henry on a gory, painful, and also violent adventure to hunt down and examine a type of monster called the Anthropophagi, thought to be extinct, which has recently begun to come out of hibernation and started to eat humans. This book is set in a world just like ours; the one crucial difference being that there is a chance that monsters are lurking around every corner. Soon a simple examination mission becomes a fight for the survival of millions of others.
I loved the way Yancey developed Will as a character. When the book starts Will shies away from everything, but by the end he is an exuberant character who readers can still relate to—aside from the fact that he hunts monsters. It was a good choice by Yancey to change Will as a character because readers focus more on the problem rather than trying to understand what the character was thinking.
Yancey also did a good job of developing the secondary character: Doctor Warthrop. Even though his personality didn’t change throughout the book, at the beginning his personality completely offsets Will’s, which is an effective choice. I also liked Doctor Warthrop as a character because his personality contrasts with Will’s, in multiple ways, one of them being his professionalism in monstrumology. He is very good at monstrumology because he has done it his whole life, whereas Will is new to it. I appreciated Yancey’s choice to make this contrast. It made the book more effective for me.
I thought that the secondary problem of Will trying to gain Doctor Worthrop’s respect was an effective addition by Yancey. It was nice to sometimes not be immersed in the violent world of monstrumology and get a chance to learn more about the character’s personalities. I thought that it was a good choice by Yancey to have one problem be action-packed, gory adventure and one problem be a little less heavy and a little bit slow-moving. Whenever I would consider stopping, Yancey would draw me back into the book with another action scene. I appreciated the balance of action and character development.
This book was an 11 out of 10 for me and many others. Yancey brought me out of my house and into a new world where anything is possible, good or bad. I encourage anyone and everyone to at least give this book a shot and enter a different world.
Simon & Schuster, 434 pages
The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey
Will Henry doesn’t have an ordinary life; he has a career of monstrumology all planed out for him. He’s battled against the anthropophagi, in Yancey’s first book, but he and readers wonder if he has what it takes to defeat the elusive Wendigo, which the ancient story describes as, “he who eats all mankind.” The Wendigo is said to be up to twelve feet tall, and it is so slender that it can’t be seen from the side. The more it eats human flesh the hungrier it becomes, and once it catches a person’s scent it will hunt for days until it finds the perfect moment to strike.
The main characters in The Curse of the Wendigo are Will Henry, Dr. Pellinore Wathrop, and John Chanler. The doctor’s best friend has gone missing in the woods of Canada. looking for the myth of the Wendigo. So Henry and the doctor are heading to the woods to find him or it – whichever they discover first.
The genre of Rick Yancey’s book is horror and paranormal, and if you don’t like gore and horror this is not the book you should be reading. I loved this novel because it was a real page-turner, and throughout the story Yancey keeps a steady pace. Readers should make sure to read the first book or they won’t really get this one. The Monstrumologist won a Michael Printz Honor Award, and I liked it better because it was more fast-paced and creepier than this book. This book is gorier and just straight out strange, which does make it enjoyable.
I loved this novel because I had never read a book quite like this one. This series is like a young adult version of the Goosebumps novels, so it’s a lot scarier, gorier, and includes everything that has to do with nightmares. I recommend this to anyone that can look past the gore and frightening parts of the novel and see how well-developed Yancey’s story is because the shock factors are not the only features that makes this book good. Rick Yancey also wrote the 5th wave series and, if you haven’t read that trilogy I highly recommend it.
There are four books in this series: the first one is the best and the quality falls off as they go on, as I have heard from a number of readers. Later the books are slower with not as much detail. It’s possible that Yancey ran out of material because he already included so much in the first two books, and he didn’t want to repeat plot lines he had already written.
This series is meant to be read, and I hope you accept the challenge.
Simon & Shuster BFYR, 424 Pages
The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasJanuary 29, 2018
I blink through my tears as Officer 115 points the same gun he killed my friend with, at me.
Starr is a teenage girl who witnesses someone that she cares about die in front of her eyes: her best friend, Khalil, is killed by a white cop, even though he doesn’t do anything wrong. The police officer pulls both of them over and asks Khalil for proof of insurance, licence, and registration. Khalil questions, “Why did you pull me over?” Then the cop tells him to get out of the car and to lie against it, so he does. When Khalil looks into the car to ask if Starr is okay, the cop assumes that he is looking for the gun, which he thinks is the black hairbrush in the side pocket of the car door. The officer’s instinct is to shoot because he thinks Khalil was grabbing the “gun” in the car door.
From there, everything gets worse. For instance, the police officer begs that Starr be interogated. She finally goes just to find out that the only questions they are asking are about Khalil’s life and what he might have done wrong: not about that night or about what Starr saw, heard, or felt.
Thomas crafts this book well: I love how she used the perspective of a girl who lives in a neighborhood where there are gangs, turf wars, and drug dealers. Starr also has to deal with the problem of going to a completely white school where no one really understands what it’s like where she lives. I also like how Thomas didn’t just focus on racism toward Starr and Khalil. She also included the racism expierienced by Starr’s friend, Maya, who is Chinese American.
Thomas included an effective secondary character, Devante. He echances the story and makes it stand out more. Devante gets treated like Starr’s family because one of the leaders in a gang is hunting him because he stole 5,000 dollars to protect his family. Starr and her family shelter Devante and keep him safe.
If I were to rate this book on a scale of one to ten I would definitely choose ten because I like how Thomas focused on Starr’s life throughout the whole book and didn’t switch perspectives. I thought that made the book intriguing to read. Starr’s point of view made a strong impression on me. I like how Thomas structured this novel in present tense because it makes readers feel as if they are with Starr, rather than writing in past tense, as though this already happened.
Another feature I like about The Hate U Give is that it’s a book where readers can’t predict what happens next, therefore it makes it a real page-turner that also raises important issues about society.
Balzer & Bray, 444 pages
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie KingJanuary 27, 2018
It all starts when fifteen-year-old, gawky, recently-orphaned Mary Russell literally runs into fifty-four-year-old, retired Sherlock Holmes on Sussex Downs. Surprised and impressed by her intellect, Holmes reluctantly takes Russell on as his apprentice. Soon they are called to Wales to help Scotland Yard find the kidnapped daughter of an American senator. Once they return, Holmes and Russell find themselves on the run from a mysterious killer, and they uncover clues that lead deep into their pasts—and change them in ways they never imagined.
In The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie R. King develops Russell as a smart and humorous protagonist, who made me think about each choice that she made, and what influenced those choices. I found that she complements Holmes, with his gruff sarcastic demeanor, which made them an interesting pair to follow. This improved my overall reading experience, because even when there was a lull in the plot, the engaging protagonists ensured that there was never a boring moment.
I enjoyed how King crafted a fast-paced, suspenseful plot that was full of excitement, while keeping it from becoming scary. For me, this was critical because I am sensitive to frightening books, and I often have trouble finding a good mystery, so this novel was perfect for me.
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was a well-written book, where there were never any loose ends. Each choice the characters made fit in with where the plot was at that time.
King is knowledgeable about London, Oxford, and Sherlock Holmes; she often goes into depth about Holmes’ “Baker Street Days,” then compares one of his past cases directly with the current mystery. There are also many references to real world objects and places, which I found that this made the book more plausible: I could prove everything in the setting, which left the protagonists as the only truly fictional element.
These characters were easy to relate to, despite their unusual lives, which made this book one of the best I’ve ever read. I hope you will choose to read this amazing novel. Follow Russell and Holmes in a breathtaking mystery through London and beyond, in King’s first book of the Mary Russell series.
St. Martin’s press, 356 pages
The Rattled Bones by S. M. Parker
Rilla Brae’s life has taken a drastic turn. With her mother living in a mental asylum and her father’s recent death, she has to live with her grandmother on an island off the coast of Sabasco, Maine. Rilla has lived on this island her whole life, but one day she suddenly starts hearing voices at night. Not wanting anyone to think she is going down the same path as her mother, Rilla decides to keep her secret to herself. With her father dead, the only way for her to make a living is to continue to keep up with lobstering, as her father had before: a hard and low-paying job. But one day, while Rilla is out on her boat, she meets Sam, a student from USM who studies the neighboring island, Malaga. Rilla joins Sam on his expedition, and together they uncover life-changing secrets about the place Rilla thought she knew like the back of her hand.
One aspect I appreciated in The Rattled Bones was that author S. M. Parker tells the story through Rilla’s point of view. Using first person was effective because I always got a taste of how Rilla was feeling throughout the book. However, most books told through first person fail to develop the secondary characters as well. In The Rattled Bones, this was not the case. Simply through the dialogue, I could see what each character’s personality was like and how his or her feelings impacted the story.
Parker crafts each character’s personality amazingly. With Rilla telling the story through first person, you’d think you will only get a strong sense of her personality, but Rilla’s boyfriend Reed’s sharp and quick-to-talk personality, Gram’s stern but caring personality, and Sam’s kind and humble personality all shone through.
Another feature of The Rattled Bones that surpasses other novels is the effective mix of three genres: historical fiction, horror, and contemporary realistic fiction. Historical fiction comes in when Rilla and Sam learn about Malaga’s history, and the horror comes in with the voices and visions Rilla experiences. Some readers might think that three genres in one book is too much, but here they blended together perfectly.
I enjoyed how real facts were mixed into the story. For instance, when Rilla takes Sam lobstering, you learn true details about how lobstering works in real life. Other examples are the facts Rilla and Sam learn while exploring Malaga Island. It was impressive to learn information about Maine’s history that I didn’t know before, especially from a novel.
I also enjoyed the theme: there’s always something new to learn about a place you think you know like the back of your hand. Although Rilla has lived right next to the overlooked Malaga Island, she has no idea of the secrets it holds. Be sure to read the book, and you’ll find the secrets she and Sam discover.
I thought that The Rattled Bones was an amazing novel. With nothing to criticize, I would rate the novel a perfect 10/10. It was a real page-turner and was the perfect length. Readers who like a suspenseful plot, well-crafted characters, and a story with real facts mixed in will love this book, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading. So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself a copy of The Rattled Bones!
Simon Pulse, 370 pages
The Green Mile by Stephen King
John Coffey is a black man in the 1930’s with a mind that seems like a child’s. He has been put into the Cold Mountain Penitentiary on death row and has an appointment with old sparky (the electric chair) because he has been accused of killing two white girls under the age of twelve. However, his life on “the mile” (death row) gets changed when he meets the head of the mile, Paul Edgecomb, who starts to treat him differently and with a little more care. Coffey also comes from a very poor farm life and a family that was treated badly and experienced racism and prejudice.
In The Green Mile, Stephen King develops a strong protagonist who faces lots of challenges throughout the book and shows lots of character development. The longer John is on the mile, the guards start to treat him better than usual and get to know him better than the rest of the inmates, which leads to John getting special privileges—like Paul’s wife’s corn bread and other little perks.
I appreciated that the theme of this novel is that not everything is always what it looks like—not everything is black and white. There will always be unknown areas in every scenario. There will also always be injustice. For example, John says, “I’m tired, boss. I’m tired of people hurting each other for no reason.” That quote shows the theme that not everything is how it looks, and it also shows that John is not some crazy killer but that he wants the world to be a safe place for everyone.
I rate this book a 10/10 and would strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes an older setting and a fantastic story with lots of plot twists and a very shocking ending—or someone looking to try a new genre or author. Considering the length of this book, it was fast-paced and hard to put down.
POCKET BOOKS, 536 pages
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Gwyneth is a normal teenager in a family where a select few females inherit a time travel gene. Her cousin, Charlotte, is believed to possess it, as she was born on the day Sir Isaac Newton predicted for her. She’s spent her whole life learning to fence, dance, gain proper manners, speak foreign languages, and generally, how to fit in in the past, while she misses out on sports, friends, and sleepovers. But that all goes to waste when, one day, Gwen gets dizzy, and travels into the past. She discovers she was born on the same day as Charlotte, but her mother lied about her birthday in an attempt to give Gwen a normal life. She soon finds herself transported via chronograph—a machine that sends people with the gene back to a specific year for a few hours—with Gideon (her counterpart male time traveler from the de Villiers family; the males in that family received the gene). The two of them try to collect the blood of other travelers to fill the Circle of the Twelve on the second chronograph, because the previous pair had stolen the first one.
Gideon interested me as a secondary character because, when we first meet him, he dates Charlotte, but soon after, he kisses Gwen. And not only that, but half the time he’s a complete jerk: he ignores Gwen and doesn’t help with the blindfold they make her wear on the way down to the chronograph room. But at other times he kisses her, hugs her, stands up for her and helps let her go home early. His unpredictability brought that element into the rest of the book, because readers never knew what mood he’d be in with Gwen.
A more fun secondary character was Lesley, Gwyneth’s best friend, because while Gwen wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about the gene in the family, she told what little she knew to Lesley. Every time Gwen went into the past to meet someone, she would recount every detail back to her friend, who would then spend most of the night on the Internet, to try to help answer some of the questions the men refused to answer.
I was impressed at how Gier managed to keep the time travel aspect of the novel clear and simple. I never once questioned how it worked, because I could tell she put effort into the explanation and kept the concept easy to understand. Part of what made that stick out were that there were a lot of secrets that the secret society of men kept from her, which confused me in the parts when Gwen was confused, but kept the others crystal clear.
When the novel begins, Gwen travels back uncontrolled, and doesn’t know which years she ends up in. She finds herself on a sidewalk, in her house (where its former occupants chase her around), and in a classroom where she witnesses something that confuses both her and the reader, and adds an element of mystery, which pushes the reader to keep reading, and makes the book very fast-paced.
This book is a quick masterpiece that will take you two days in which you’ll read nonstop—then you’ll wish the book were longer. This was a book I rated thirteen out of ten. Good luck putting it down.
Henry and Holt Co., 322 pages
Black Hawk Down by Mark BowdenJanuary 26, 2018
It’s an in-and-out operation to drop in on a Habr Gidr clan leader meeting in the heart of Mogadishu, Somalia. Today’s targets: two of political leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s lieutenants, another attempt to get closer to revealing Aidid. There are four chalks; each have twelve Rangers. As they surround the perimeter of the block, a Delta team rushes into the building and captures the lieutenants. It should only take an hour.
But it all goes wrong when one Black Hawk helicopter gets shot down, and now one hundred elite soldiers have to rescue those men—and find their way out.
This work of non-fiction, Black Hawk Down, is interesting because author Mark Bowden thought to talk about the fighting techniques of the Somalian men. Most of them were just armed civilians, but there were also members of Aidid’s militia who were better trained. They hid in crowds of woman and children, firing from behind them, making it so that the Rangers would have to shoot innocent people, too. The Somali women would bring the Somali men ammunition and rockets.
I also found it powerful that, as well as interviewing and collecting experiences from the U.S. troops, Bowden interviewed Somali people. Some were even the ones fighting against America. It brings in some different perspective and keeps the narrative from being biased. Readers get a look at the situation from both sides.
Readers will appreciate how the theme Bowden is getting at is clear, especially at the end, and relevant. His message is that when soldiers get into a firefight, and a bunch of their buddies get killed, or wounded they come back home and lots of people don’t know, don’t remember, or don’t care about their experiences. And then they realize all the lives taken, and realize it’s not appreciated. Somebody has to write a book about an unknown firefight, so people know. And it makes me think that there are probably other fights like that.
There is also a decent movie adaptation of this book, and it follows the story accurately. I would suggest reading the book first, since the movie doesn’t change perspectives as much, which loses some of the depth that makes the book so strong.
I rated this book a nine, just because some parts were a little slow. Still, I recommend Black Hawk Down to anyone who’s interested in the military. Even though its a non-fiction book, it gripped me and was a page turner. Prepare yourself for an exciting and terrifying true story to remember those who were there.
Grove Press New York, 360 pages
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
In the brutal winter of 1934, famous detective Hercule Poirot catches the Orient Express only to find that a murder occurs the first night he’s on board. When the train is halted by a snow drift, everyone wakes up to find Samuel Ratchett dead in his compartment. Poriot takes the matter in his own hands and determines to find the murderer by interviewing all the passengers who were in that car. When matters get complicated, Poroit has to rely on his friendships to solve this mysterious crime.
I loved how Christie used third-person narrative, so she was able to obscure the characters’ thoughts. When I noticed she used that perspective I didn’t understand why she would choose it. But as I neared the end, I realized that, otherwise, the conclusion would be revealed about half way through the book.
Christie uses older language, not on purpose, but just because that is how people spoke when she wrote the book. Even though the diction was a bit complicated, I had no problem being able to understand it. It is set in Europe, and French is the main language on the train, so there are a few French references.
The character Hercule Poirot is a clever man with a lot of interesting ideas that he keeps to himself. He is a classic detective, who loves a good mystery. Christie doesn’t make you close to the supporting characters so that if one of them is the murderer, you won’t be heartbroken. It also makes the plot a lot harder to predict. The end was confusing; I read it through once and didn’t immediately understand. So I read the end again and understood it a lot better. The conclusion was creative, which made it impossible to guess what happened. The setting beyond the train, is not revealed outside, except that you know there is a snow drift preventing the train from going anywhere. I thought this was effective because you focused more on the mystery than on what had happened outside of the train.
I rated this book a ten because it is extremely rare to find a captivating mystery that is not scary. I also enjoyed how about eighty percent of the book is told through interviews with the passengers. If you enjoyed this breathtaking book, the movie came out, and it is just as thrilling. Murder on the Orient Express never lacked an exciting moment and made me think on my feet throughout the book. What would you do if you had to risk your life to solve a murder?
Harper Collins, 315 pages
The Rig by Joe DucieApril 6, 2017
Will Drake has escaped four high security prisons, but can he break free from the supposedly inescapable Rig? Being trapped miles from land, surrounded by the icy Arctic Ocean is no place for Drake, but he is determined to escape. In fact, when he first arrives at the Rig, he doesn’t feel intimidated and only sees his situation as a challenge.
Every teen prisoner is assigned a daily job, and Drake gets one of the hardest. Each day he must clean the Tubes, where the waste and sewage from the Rig goes (don’t worry, Ducie doesn’t go into too much detail about this). There are other stronger, tougher boys who also clean the Tubes and force Drake to be the one who climbs inside to clean them while the other boys lure him down with rope. Drake also meets a boy named Tristan who teaches him about how the Rig works, and they become bunkmates. When Drake gets in a fight with a very tough boy named Grey, he gets sent to the nurse’s office, where he meets Irene, a girl whose daily job is nursing and who knows some secrets about the Rig. Drake agrees to meet her one night, and she shows him something that completely changes Drake’s perspective of the Rig— and the book’s genre along with it.
I thought Ducie did a great job describing the setting. The whole book took place on the Rig, so I was able to keep track of what took place where. I got a strong sense of how scary and dangerous the prison was. Duice also developed the characters well. Tristan knows all about technology, and he understands how the Rig’s security functions. Irene likes to explore the Rig and knows its many secrets. Drake uses his friends’ knowledge to build a plan of escape. Drake does not like to make friends at first, as he accidentally killed a friend he made while escaping a prison before the Rig, but he grows to enjoy spending time with Irene and Tristan. Together they make a great team.
I also enjoyed how the book was set up. First, Drake arrived at the Rig and learned where each room was. Then, he made friends with Tristan and Irene, at the same time as he learned about his nasty job and the daily schedule. Finally, he planned escape. This effective setup resulted in a real page-turner and a fast-paced novel.
The only aspect of this book I would change is when Drake starts to play Rigball, a game like lacrosse, but with electromagnetic sticks (Tristan finds these interesting) and no rules on tackling or fighting. I found this part a bit unsettling, but with all the violent people on the Rig this was a realistic way for them to have fun.
Prepare yourself for an amazing book full of strong imagery, great character development, and an exciting plot. I would give it a ten out of ten and recommend it to anyone who enjoys exciting escape stories with a fantastic setting and awesome characters.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 308 pages
About the BlogMarch 21, 2017
You Gotta Read This! features book reviews written by CTL seventh- and eighth-grade students about books they have loved and think other middle school readers would love, too. All reviews are written by the kids in writing workshop, based on titles that they’ve selected and adored in reading workshop. The reviews are posted chronologically–extending back to 2009–tagged according to genre, and added to each year.
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Etta started to pull herself up, not caring that she was crying, just looking for fresh air and a path out of this nightmare. Instead, she climbed into the mouth of another one.
Etta is an extraordinary violinist with a mysterious mother and a loving music teacher. Nicholas is a legal pirate and daring sailor, whose mother was a slave. They have one thing in common: they can time travel. Yes, they can visit any place, any time period, as long as there is a passage. Etta’s mother keeps this gift secret from her, until Sophia—another traveler—pushes her into a nearby passage, after shots ring out in the present. Etta wakes up several days later to find herself aboard an unfamiliar ship and that her clothes and beloved earrings are missing. For Nicholas, however, his gift is more of a curse. It placed him in indentured servitude working for a family he despises. It is not until he meets Etta, that he begin to question the hearts of his “family”, and what their ambitions truly are. Together they go on an impossible journey through time to recover (and hopefully destroy) an astrolabe with the capability to create passages—Although they know that Cyrus Ironwood, their grandfather, wants it for darker reasons.
Bracken crafts the narrative well: the perspectives switch back and forth between Etta and Nicholas, while remaining in the third person. For example, Bracken leaves cliffhangers, and then the narrative will cut to the other character and whatever he or she is doing in that chapter. I thought that this was effective because it kept the plot moving and the readers on their toes, making them want to continue. She also cues time transitions effectively so readers can easily tell where and when they are. For instance, when there is a new chapter, she tells readers what time period the characters are in and what the year is.
I loved how Bracken develops not only the protagonists but also the secondary characters and antagonists. For example, Sophia is well-developed so that the readers can feel pity for her but also hate her for being rude and annoying to both Etta and Nicholas. Readers can also picture her well: her long dark hair, black eyes, and milky complexion. I also liked how Cyrus Ironwood was portrayed and described, because he seems like a mysterious and creepy man. The way he talks and takes control of even the air around him is disturbing.
Bracken transported me to unimaginable times, and indescribable places. I hope you will join me as a Passenger on this time traveling journey, because this is a book beyond rating.
Disney-Hyperion, 486 pages
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
If someone told you miniature, third world countries were scattered across the western United states, you probably wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Unless you lived near a native reservation. When most Americans hear about these reservations, they imagine little native villages peacefully carrying on their traditions into modern times. Unfortunately this is not the case. Sherman Alexie, a Spokane-Coeur d’Alene novelist, short story writer, poet, and filmmaker has managed to show us what life is really like on a reservation in his book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. The title is a bit of a mouthful, if you ask me, but it describes the book perfectly.
Arnold Spirit, better known as Junior, is a stuttering fourteen-year-old high school freshman with a terrible lisp. Like the author, Junior lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation, Alexie claims to have loosely based the character on himself. Junior leads a very troubled life, living in poverty with alcoholic parents, a sister who disappears for days, and a sweet grandmother who seems to be a perfect person. He loves basketball, and draws cartoons to distract himself from his life. The story begins with a new school year for Junior. In geometry, he is given “new” textbooks, but is shocked to find his mother’s name written inside. Realizing how unfair the poverty that he lives in is, Junior angrily throws the textbook, accidentally hitting his teacher in the face. Once his teacher realizes why Junior is so furious, he motivated him to escape his horrible life, and go to a white school outside the reservation. His best friend, Rowdy, is completely crushed that his friend is leaving him, and refuses to talk. Junior is considered a traitor to not only to his best friend, but to the rest of the reservation, as well. Junior has to walk miles to a new school, where he faces racism, stereotypes, and other struggles. As life finally starts to get better away from home, they only get worse on the reservation, and Junior is caught living two lives. Ultimately, he needs to decide which life he really wants to live.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is definitely one of my favorite books of all time, and I felt like I could relate to Junior in many ways. Alexis captured life on a reservation perfectly, and was very straight forward, in a way that most schools unfortunately don’t approve of in their curriculum. This is definitely not a book for kids, filled with poverty, violence, tragedy, murder, alcohol, and a lot of profanity. All in all, I would rate this book a 10 out of 10, and would recommend it to anyone 13+ who is interested in what its like to be a native person in America.
Little, Brown and Company
The Selection by Kiera Cass
For thirty-four other girls, a chance to be drawn for the Selection is the dream of a lifetime: a chance to glide around in silken ballgowns, to be weighed down with glittering jewels, and most of all, a chance to win Prince Maxon’s heart—if only to be princess for a day. When thirty-four other girls are drawn for the Selection, it will be a dream come true… For thirty-four girls, but not for America Singer.
America and her family of artists and musicians are Fives in Illéa’s caste system, just three castes away from the lowest of the low. When a letter arrives offering an opportunity to enter the Selection, America’s mother couldn’t be more delighted. Despite the generous compensation and life-long fame that the Selection has to offer, America finds the competition ridiculous—after all, America is in love with Aspen Leger. But when Aspen convinces her to put her name in for the contest, America reluctantly complies. She is chosen—and thrown into a whirlpool of cameras, costumes, and royalty. Aspen is torn from America as she’s thrust into this new world, which sparks resentment and her determination to stay in the competition. As the Selection wears on and girls disappear each week, America becomes friends with the prince. America soon discovers that Maxon is much more than the stuffy royal she thought she knew.
In this book, Kiera Cass puts a thrilling spin on the present day Bachelor phenomenon. Cass’s The Selection is set in the strict dystopian country of Illéa. In this society, all citizens must conform to the rules and occupation that their caste requires. As the book continues, two rebel groups—the Northern and Southern rebels—attempt to infiltrate the deep-rooted system, which causes jaw-dropping twists that delve into themes of action, reaction, and breaking conformity. These surprises create a respite from the romance and drama of the rest of the story.
Each character in The Selection is expertly crafted with layers on layers of personality and flaws—this creates unique interactions and makes it challenging to anticipate what will happen next. Cass describes each character with an earnest reality, as if you could run into any of them on the street. America is written as a real teenager struggling to survive in a world built on status and mistrust, with the added complications of having to decide what her heart wants—a life that everyone can relate to at times. As readers enter this story, they will discover that every girl chosen for the Selection yearns to win and is involved in the process for a reason. Cass makes it easy to experience America’s discoveries of the competitors, the rebels, her family, and her country in countless unexpected ways.
There are two books in The Selection series, The Elite and The One, which also feature America’s journey in the Selection. The Heir and The Crown are the two most recent companion novels to the series. These titles focus on Princess Eadlyn Schreave, the first ever female heir to the throne, and the challenges she faces during her Selection. Cass crafts each book in the series with thought and power, making it almost impossible to favor any of the five above one another.
I recommend this book to anyone from the ages twelve and up. The Selection is a dystopian novel, packed with contemporary realistic fiction sub-plots and themes that make the book possible for any reader to enjoy. I adored this read, and the rest of the series, so much that my rating can’t possibly be contained in a simple ten. The Selection series by Kiera Cass certainly deserves the praise it has gotten from readers and critics alike—I strongly believe The Selection has earned its place on the shelf next to other instant YA classics like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games.
Harper Teen, 327 pages
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten MillerFebruary 15, 2017
Teenage pickpocket Flick has abandoned his formerly glamorous lifestyle and is now living on the streets of the Lower East Side, stealing from civilians with a “flick” of his wrist. While eating breakfast at a Chinatown restaurant, Flick encounters the mysterious Lucian Mandel, headmaster of Mandel Academy. Flick is offered a place at the school to settle a disagreement between his abusive, alcoholic father, who is on the school board, and Mr. Mandel. Flick’s acceptance and to graduation from the academy will be traded for the information about how his younger brother really died.
Mandel Academy is a well-known school famous for enrolling teenagers from the streets and producing Ivy League-bound students and future corrupt millionaires. Flick accepts Mr. Mandel’s offer and discovers that the academy is not what he thought it would be. There are classes like hand-to-hand combat and crime scene cleaning—“skills for real life,” as Mr. Mandel calls the classes—and tracking chips implanted in students upon arrival, and the consequences for failure could be deadly.
I appreciated how Miller included an Addendum in the back of the book about the characters’ because it gave the reader more insight into their lives before the academy, which I really enjoyed. While I was reading the book I was hoping for more information on the secondary characters past lives and backgrounds. The Addendum also includes blueprints of the school, which helped me picture the school in my mind. I noticed and enjoyed the strong character development. When the book starts Flick is focused on getting revenge on his father and is whiny and ignorant. As the book progresses he becomes less focused on revenge and more concentrated on stopping Mr. Mandel from his evil plan. I could see Flick understanding that he can’t do everything on his own, and I appreciated that detail. I rated this amazing book a 10 out of 10.
How to Lead a Life of Crime was funny, action-packed, and mysterious. I would recommend this gripping book to both boys and girls who love a good action-adventure story and like to be on the edge of their seats.
Razor Bill, 434 pages
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Celaena Sardothien is a fearless assassin in the city of Adarlan and is one year into her life sentence in the salt mines of Endovier. But after a long day in the dark endless mines she is greeted by six guards and a strange man in black.They bring her to the prince (the king’s son) to be looked over before she is invited to the glass castle to compete in the king’s competition for the title of king’s champion—basically his hitman. One of the king’s many different challenges reveals how the lack of training in the salt mines affected Celaena, who she would normally be at the top of the group. Because of her lack of strength she goes to the king as a different person with a different name so she won’t look bad.
Maas effectively balances out the amount of action and adventure with the drama and romance so readers never get bored with the plot. Maas did an excellent job developing all the characters. For example, when she was developing Celaena Sardothien she made her a brutal, emotionless assassin with a soft side for the people closest to her, like her friends and masters at the assassin’s guild. I think that the author could have added more detail about Celaena’s past, like how long was she an assassin before she got captured and sent to Endovire, but that is why audiences should also read The Assassin’s Blade, which is the prequel to Throne of Glass.
I think that anyone would love this book whether they like fantasy, action- adventure, or drama because this novel has all of those elements rolled into one amazing, must-read story. Celaena grows from being some heartless assassin who got locked in the mines after years of killing for money, to a nicer more trustworthy character who will surprise readers throughout the entire book— and the rest of the series if they choose to read it. A good example this transformation from the start of the book is seeing how her relationship grows with the captain of the royal guard and the prince of Auterland.
Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., 404 pages
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth SteinFebruary 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
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