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Warcross by Marie Lu

February 10, 2021

The online black market has exploded in activity ever since Tokyo billionaire, Hideo Tanaka, created the virtual reality world of Warcross. Each day, millions of people across the globe join the server to play, buy, sell, trade, or just see the world as a different reality.  For young New Yorker Emika Chen, this futuristic world is not just an escape from her troublesome life and infinite debt, it’s also her only source of income as she hunts and hacks to survive. Emika’s life drastically changes overnight when she hacks into the competitive Warcross Championships, with the ambitious goal of stealing a valuable power-up in front of two hundred million people. Will she succeed in paying her debt, or will the eviction notice on her apartment door reach her first? Packed with constant adrenaline, this book will leave you wishing there were more pages to read.

As readers follow Emika Chen while she finds her way through the crowded neon streets of Tokyo, they will share her feelings and thoughts, allowing the author, Marie Lu, to carefully craft a plot woven with mystery and full of unexpected turns—right up until the end.

Readers will tear through Warcross, not just because of its fast pace, but also because Lu will leave them hanging at the end of each addictive chapter: a shared trait with Lu’s popular Legend series. Lu blends text messages and depictions of Warcross life bars into her captivating plot, giving readers an exceptionally personal experience: something lacking in other examples of the science-fiction genre. 

As she dives right into the action in the present tense, and makes sure that every word on the page is a necessary part of this futuristic world, Lu succeeds in flawlessly introducing and developing new characters all while she keeps readers intrigued. The reader will find that Lu does not overwhelm with many different characters, but instead focuses on developing and giving the backgrounds of the small band of individuals. This allows the reader to have a deep connection with the characters. Just after finishing the first chapter, we know Emika’s job, how she gets around, the fact that she is poor, where she lives, and how she ended up having six thousand dollars in credit card debt.

I recommend this thrilling science-fiction novel from experience—as someone who has read many books in this genre. I have immersed myself in Warcross’s smart and intriguing plot multiple times for the sole reason that I want to be in Lu’s world again. Every science-fiction fan out there should pick up this addictive book. Trust me: Warcross will blow your mind and leave you wanting to go back and reread this ten-out-of-ten.


Penguin Young Readers Group, 353

The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

Two years ago, Amadou and Seydou left their home in Mali, West Africa, to find a job and earn money for their family. Instead, they were brought to the Ivory Coast and sold into slavery on a cacao plantation. The work is dangerous, and the child slaves are beaten and starved if they don’t meet the unclear quota. The bosses promise they can return home when they pay off their debt, but Amadou has never seen anyone being released from the farm. One day, a girl is brought to the camp: thirteen-year-old Khadija is defiant and determined to escape. Amadou had lost all hope of ever going home, but her willful spirit makes him start thinking about the outside world again. When Seydou’s life comes under threat, Amadou sees no other choice but to attempt an escape.

This realistic fiction novel was incredibly effective. I was awed by the conditions that Amadou and the other children had to work in, and there were times when I got emotional while reading. The present-tense narrative makes the reading experience very moving and captures the child trafficking and labor plot in a very powerful way. I couldn’t put the book down as I followed Tara Sullivan and her three characters in The Bitter Side of Sweet through their journey  to freedom—finding an unexpected friendship—in this page-turning book.

This novel completely changed my view on chocolate. To learn that cacao farmers would resort to using children as slaves because the pay was only two dollars a day was shocking. I had no idea that because cocoa is a crop grown primarily for export, around 65% of the Ivory Coast’s export revenue comes from its cocoa. As the chocolate industry has grown, so has the demand for cheap chocolate. On average, cocoa farmers earn less than $2 per day, an income well below the poverty line. As a result, the farmers often resort to the use of child labor to keep from going out of buisness. I was stunned to learn that the chocolate that I love and have enjoyed almost all of my life has come at the expense of child slaves.

“I have no idea why we grow these seeds, no idea who wants them. Why have so many trees growing the same thing? The bosses never talk about it; they only say that the seeds leave our farm and go to the coast, where someone else buys them. For what? I asked once, but they all shrugged. No one here knows. All we know is that people in the city want these seeds, so we grow them.” 

The Bitter Side of Sweet opened my eyes to see the different cultures and the different levels of poverty and education around the world. I found it interesting that no one on the farm even knew what the seeds were for, let alone what chocolate was. It was strange to me that the people that worked farming these seeds had never tasted their own product. I feel that I am unbelievably lucky to live in America, a rich country where there is no need for slavery, with with laws that prevent child labor. This novel made me rethink my views on my life, and how fortunate I am to be born here.

Sullivan wove together a fast-paced book that made me feel like I was right there with Amadou, enslaved on a cacao plantation, fighting to stay alive. The visual language painted the action of the story in my mind, and even though I have never been to the Ivory Coast or West Africa, I felt like I had been alongside Amadou for years. If a reader did not know anything about the Ivory Coast or a cacao plantation, he or she could still follow the main plot of the book because of Sullivan’s vivid descriptions of each scene.

I absolutely loved The Bitter Side of Sweet; I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is in need of a powerful realistic fiction novel (for readers ten and above). I would rate this book a ten out of ten; there was never a dull moment where I wanted to skip a scene, and it always kept me on the edge of my seat. Readers that have read Prisoner B 3087 by Alan Gratz and Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys will love this novel, as well as other books by Tara Sullivan, such as Treasure of the World and Golden Boy. The Bitter Side of Sweet is a must-read, and I guarantee that your perspective on chocolate will be forever changed.

Lilly Mae

Putnam, 322 pages

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

February 3, 2021

“In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

This is a world where the government believes in “unwinding,” a way of disassembling criminals or unwanted children from ages thirteen to eighteen without killing them, as an alternative to abortion or disowning. Meet Connor—a seventeen-year-old “troublemaker” who found out about his unwind order, Risa— a sixteen-year-old orphan and a talented pianist that lives in a state home, and Lev—a thirteen year old born into a religious family, who was planned to be tithed (a religious way to give back to God, willingly unwound soon after their thirteenth birthday when they become eligible for unwinding) and is proud about it. Readers follow along as the trio teams up to evade the Juvey-cops and attempt to end the practice of unwinding for good. 

The gripping novel Unwind by Neal Shusterman is written in third-person omniscient, focusing on Connor, Risa, and Lev. I thought this was effective because when the characters split up, readers could follow each of their stories and know what they are thinking and feeling. It shows the reader opinions of other characters that are relevant to the story and how their opinion of unwinding changes throughout the book. Shusterman also includes excerpts from news articles that inform the reader of what laws the government is passing. 

This fast-paced book keeps the reader guessing at every turn. Shusterman leaves each chapter as a cliffhanger, making the reader try to predict what will happen to the characters. He also includes allusions to real life events.

The themes of this story are morality and injustice because the plot revolves around the idea of unwinding an unwanted, which will lead the people to rethink their opinions on the laws in this society. The audience will experience the characters questioning their own beliefs and their way of living. If unwinding existed, would you stand up for the runaway unwinds? Would you go AWOL or accept your unwinding?

I rate this title a ten out of ten and recommend it to anyone who would like to read a fast-paced sci-fi dystopian thriller about unequal treatment and morality. There are three other books in this series: Unwholly, Unsouled, and Undivided. Shusterman has also written multiple other books, including The Ark of a Scythe Trilogy, The Skinjacker Trilogy, and The Star Shards Chronicles. I have only read the first two and enjoyed them almost as much as Unwind. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes a page-turner that makes the reader stop to think about what the world might become.


Simon & Schuster, 335 pages

Champion by Marie Lu

Daniel “Day” Alten Wing is a teenager who used to live on the streets as the government’s most wanted and dangerous criminal. Since those days, he has changed to become the most-liked person by the people in the government and is in a high-ranked military position. June Iparis is around the same age as Day and, after figuring out what happened in her brother’s death, was made one of the Princeps-Elects. June and Day have very strong stories about how they got to be the way they are: both have gone through sacrifices and loss of family. 

Champion is the third book in Marie Lu’s Legend series, and it has a very high-tension plot, with the main problem being that the colonies are angry at the government because they have accused it of spreading a deadly virus, which it doesn’t yet have a cure for. The colonies decide they must threaten to attack and destroy the government. The government stands no chance if it’s attacked, so it needs the cure fast: the colonies have helicopters and well trained soldiers. So Day has to risk his brother’s life—who is the last of his family members left—if he wants to save their country, because the scientists found that the virus started from Eden, Day’s brother.  

This book is written in first person perspective, and each chapter alternates between the two voices, which I thought really worked well for knowing what both Day and June are thinking, even when they are split up, or what their thoughts are when thinking about each other. 

One thing I think Marie Lu did well was that each character that made an appearance added to the plot. There weren’t any characters without a purpose in the book. The author has a very strong bias towards the two main characters, which makes readers almost feel their problems and issues with the virus, as well as their work at jobs they do. I found this very effective, and it helped me enjoy the book more. 

The genres of this novel are science fiction, strong, fast-paced action adventure, with a good mellow mystery as the Plague virus spreads and characters work to figure out a cure for it. The book also features chase scenes, some violence, and an unexpected romance between the two main characters. All of this combines to create a wide range of types of books. It is very similar to the books earlier in the Legend series, so I would recommend reading this right after reading the others. It is a good page-turner and really the audience into the story. 

I rated this book a ten out of ten and really liked the action-packed scenes of antagonists and protagonists facing off, and would recommend this book to anyone who has read the other books in the series or Marie Lu’s other series, Warcross. The tension that Lu has built up in Champion makes any reader want to keep reading. 


G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 339 Pages

Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Alex and her twin brother, Conner, fall into a strange world and take a dangerous and exciting adventure. This adventure leads them toward knowing more about their family and themselves. The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer, is an exciting story of many tales from many children’s books: from Jack and the Beanstalk to Sleeping Beauty. Some of the characters in these familiar stories are not what they seem in this strange twist of a world, and the reader gets to see their true selves. Alex and Conner find lots of friends but many enemies, too. With adventures into the sea, mines, lairs and castles, the twins collect important pieces so that they can find a way home, but it is harder than it seems.

With action-packed and challenging missions, Colfer allows Conner and Alex to find their way into a lot of trouble, and they have to do some dangerous things to get out. What Colfer does to set the scene for more books in the Land of Stories series is have Alex make friends she never had before, so she changes as these new relationships form.

Alex and Conner lost their dad a few years ago to a car crash, and their mother had to sell the bookstore they owned, in order to take a full time job that meant she barely saw the twins except on break. Alex is twelve just like Conner and loves to read, so in school she knows all the answers to all the questions.  Everyone dislikes her because she acts like a teacher’s pet. Colfer shows that Alex doesn’t have any friends and is lonely, while Conner is the complete opposite. He is not as smart as Alex in school, but he plays a big part in their trip into the Land of Stories and reveals how smart he is, even when he falls asleep in class nearly every day and has many friends, unlike Alex. Readers will like how Colfer made Alex and Conner so different in some ways, yet similar at the same time.

I appreciated this book because Chris Colfer is a very descriptive and thoughtful writer. For example: 

“It was, undoubtedly, a witch, and although they had never seen a real witch to make a comparison to, she was more grotesque than they could have imagined. Her skin was wrinkled and pale with a yellowish tint. Her eyes were bloodshot and bulged out of her head. She was hunched over and had an enormous hump on her back.”

“Hello, children,” the witch said. 

I love how much description Colfer puts in, without ever dragging out the moment or slowing the pace. My rating for this book is a ten out of ten. I found this novel to be unpredictable, even though it has familiar characters with their stories retold. Readers will never know what will happen next or who will appear next. If you like adventure, fantasy, and twists, this book is just the one for you.


Little, Brown, 438 pages

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

March 6, 2020

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” — Chris McCandless

Christopher Johnson McCandless is a gifted and talented young man who has a good life set up before him and never wanted anything else— until he does. When he decides he wants to “live off the land for a bit,” he graduates from college with honors, and he hops in his battered, yellow Datsun and makes his way across the country from Atlanta to California (with his car breaking down in Arizona.) Then he heads straight up to “The Last Frontier” in Alaska where his decomposed body is found four months later by a group of moose hunters inside of an old, abandoned bus.

How did he survive hitchhiking across America? What drove him to do what he did? In Into The Wild author Jon Krakauer reports this unique adventure in third person, narrating McCandless’s journey while using his personal journal, where he wrote in during his trek, to make a story out of McCandless’s life. Krakaueralso throws in stories from his own life that connect with what Chris was feeling. Along the way, he includes interviews with the different people who accidentally got in the way of McCandless’s cross- country trek while going on with everyday business.

The plot isn’t that fast paced, but at the same time it’s informational and interesting to get a glimpse of how successful McCandless was before he went into the wild. Krakauer explains where his journey took him and how many good people he met along the way, who cared for him and tried to convince him to call his parents and not run away once they found what kind of person he was underneath that hair and dirty clothes.

I loved how Krakauer carefully pieced this story together using McCandless’s journal and the many interviews that Krakauer did to properly make McCandless’s true story come to life on paper and on television and be heard by millions of people who wondered what happened to the young man who ran away from home and a good life to live his own life on the road.

Krakauer has published many other non-fiction books, some that I have not read yet but one I have. It’s just as good as this one and is called Into Thin Air. It certainly changed my perspective on the sport of mountain climbing (especially on Everest) and how fast weather can change from good to bad.

I rated Into The Wild a ten out of ten for its amazing diction and storytelling. This book is a must-read for any person who likes the outdoors, and I am positive that this book will give readers some insight and advice for living out in the wild.


Anchor Books, 207 pages

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

February 29, 2020

In 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight decides to venture off from his home in Massachusetts and live as a hermit in the woods of Maine. He does not bring food, so he has to steal from other cabins around his hidden tent to survive. During this time, he has only one human encounter in the woods—with a hiker, and that is just to say hello. Otherwise, Christopher has been in the woods for twenty-seven years without having to leave, until now.

In The Stranger in the Woods, journalist Michael Finkel tells the story of the last true hermit, and how he survived in the woods without death, or being officially found out for twenty-seven years of living in the wilderness.

This non-fiction piece is written effectively in first person, showing how Finkel found the amazing Maine hermit and the challenges of interviewing a socially awkward criminal. The true-story masterpiece is also well written when Finkel focuses on explaining the life of Knight and how he knew his life’s purpose at the age of twenty.

Finkel describes the living conditions of Christopher Knight perfectly: what he ate, how he got it, where he lived, quiet hiding spots that only he knew about, what he brought into the woods and how he made his supplies effective in his challenge of staying alive, and the exciting adventure that came with his time in hiding.

Finkel also describes why Knight ventured off into the woods and abandoned lots of his belongings in doing so, including his own loved ones. All of this proves why this story will keep readers turning the pages forcing them not to put this exciting tale down, which makes for a very fast-paced book.

Another element that made this book effective was how it changed my views about people in general—for the better. I couldn’t understand why someone would venture off into the woods, knowing that their only relationship with anything was the wilderness. After reading this book I found the true meaning of why hermits live the way they do.

I have learned through this book that I should be less judgmental if someone like Christopher Knight thinks outside the box and goes out and does something new and unique. Now I know that there is always a meaning behind every human’s actions. In Knight’s case, it was to get away from the problems of humanity, which after reading this story, made a lot of sense. This book will forever change the reader’s perspective. It explains how rejecting society for a large amount of time affects a person.

Another book by Michael Finkel is True Story: Murder, Memoir, and Mea Culpa, which was made into a 2015 film. Michael Finkel also worked for National Geographic, Rolling Stone, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Vanity Fair.

If readers like gripping true stories and the challenges of effective reporting, while wanting to try something new and read a ten out of ten story, then this amazing book is made for them. This piece of non-fiction will forever change their thoughts on hermits and possibly people from their everyday life, and the brilliant ideas hidden within them.


KNOPF, 203 pages

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

February 14, 2019

When a fifteen-year-old artist, Lina, is ripped from her home in 1941, all she can think about is her father, who has been separated from her brother, mother, and her. While she grieves for him, she is also terrified for her own life, as she makes her way through Russian territory to slave away with limited food and rest at work camp after work camp. She attempts to send her artwork to her father to let him know she’s alive—in hopes he will receive it and understand it’s from his daughter. As she and her family take on an incredibly harrowing journey, she learns the most powerful values are strength, love, and hope.

I fell in love with the characters in this book, especially the main character of Lina. She is developed flawlessly as a strong young lady who can fend for herself, even in the tough environment that holds her captive. She and her brother are unlike any other brother-sister pair I’d ever heard of or seen. Their cooperation and support for each other is heartwarming and will keep readers invested throughout the ups and downs of the conflict.

The plot was extremely suspenseful and fast-paced. The storyline is interesting because Lina and her family are constantly being moved from camp to camp, and the audience will want to follow them on their journey. I loved how Sepetys ended each chapter on a suspenseful note; this was another aspect that added to the fast pace.

Although Between Shades of Gray is a work of fiction, it is well researched, and Sepetys includes many details about World War Two. She describes specific places in Russia and Poland, where the work camps were, and exactly the cities they traveled through.  This made the book plausible and more enjoyable to read, knowing that it could have happened in real life.  

Lina’s art was a wonderful addition to the plot, because the reader is always curious about whether her art will reach her father, and if it did, how that would affect her story. It also helped develop Lina as a character, because the artwork gave her a passion that added to her personality.

Sepetys has also published two other historical novels that are just as compelling as this one: Salt to the Sea and Out of the Easy. I have only read Salt to the Sea, but it easily became my favorite book of the year. Between Shades of Gray is a must-read, and I guarantee that your perspective on war and violence will be forever changed.


Philomel Books, 338

Legend by Marie Lu

February 11, 2019

Daniel Altan Wing’s (Day’s) family thinks he is dead. In reality he is the Republic’s most wanted criminal. After failing his trial to become a Republic soldier, he is sent off to the labor camps and is expected to die, but manages to escape. When he returns to his hometown he sees a plague symbol on his family’s door and takes action. He raids the hospital and, during his escape, throws a knife at Captain Metias Iparis, allegedly killing him.

June Iparis is the first person ever to score a perfect 1500 on her trial,  but soon after joining the Republic’s force she finds her brother, Metias Iparis, dead. Enraged, she starts planning to chase down and get revenge on Day. During her search, she is dragged into a fight, stabbed, and taken in by a boy on the street. What she doesn’t realize is that Day is hiding in plain sight. Will she figure it out? And if she does, what will she do?

Readers will love the way Marie Lu develops both of the main characters in this work. In the beginning June is very naïve about the republic and the world outside of it, but as the story progresses she becomes increasingly aware of the problems in the world. Day, on the other hand, is very skeptical of the Republic throughout the entirety of the novel, but as the book continues he becomes more tuned into the problems outside of the Republic, as well as the ones inside of it.

The perspectives switch between a character inside of the government and a character fighting against it which is an effective feature as it gives readers the point of view of each side: their opinions and how they see the issues within their cities and outside of them. Lu also avoided showing the same scene from each character’s perspective, which let the story continue at a fast pace and kept the reader engaged throughout  the entire book.

The first person narrative  that Lu used was extremely effective as it helped the reader focus in on the complex issues faced by both characters in the novel. This also helps readers delve into the minds of the characters and really understand what is happening in each of their lives at the moment.

Lu did a great job of explaining all the rules in the new world of the Republic within the first few pages so that she could get directly into the plot of the book. Since the whole novel takes place in a world similar to ours, but with a much more advanced civilization and a different set of rules for the citizens, Lu had to teach readers everything about the new world in order for the plot to be understood.

At the end of this book I found myself rushing into the sequel, Prodigy, and the final book, Champion. I rated this book a ten out of ten and would recommend it to fans of Divergent, by Veronica Roth, as there are some similarities in the plot and genre. Be ready to enter a new world from the perspectives of June and Day with a gripping plot that will not let you put the book down.


Speak, 352 pages

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

February 9, 2019

Zélie Adebola remembers when there was magic in the air, in the sea, and in the soil. Zélie Adebola remembers her mother’s magic protecting her from evil forces and helping her in any way. Zélie Adebola remembers when magic disappeared. Zélie Adebola remembers her mother’s slaughter. She will never forget, and now she can do something about it, with a newly found scroll of power that restores only a small portion of magic, she can fight King Saran and his evil ways. With the help of her brother, the king’s daughter, and a bunch of others along the way, she will fight without rest to restore magic fully: to the Maji, to her fellow Diviners, and to the world.

Adeyemi created an amazing plot in this book and used effective strategies and structure to give the reader a full experience. One of these was multiple perspectives–every chapter the point of view changes and is always in first person, so it’s like the reader is in each character’s head and knows his or her thoughts. Because of the multiple perspectives, the reader is not limited to one person, but gets to know all the important characters.

And who are those characters? They are Zélie Adebola, Amari, and Inan. Zélie, as explained before, was a girl destined to have magic, specifically over death. Then it all disappeared and her mother was slaughtered. After she gets the scroll to save magic forever, a reader would think that she would be on board with bringing magic back a hundred percent, but after meeting a group of Diviner rebels, she actually has second thoughts: Is it safe to bring magic back? Would it really make everything better?

One of the most important characters is Amari, King Saran’s daughter. She is the one who brings the scroll to Zélie and needs her help to escape. Amari is one of those characters that looks soft and vulnerable on the outside, but on the inside, she has the skills of a ninja master. She’s brave, determined, and wants to help anyone in need–in this case Zélie and the Diviners.

Then there’s Inan. He may not be the most important or destined character, but he’s a red devil with white angel wings and a halo. He’s obviously a devil, although he also has good qualities, and knows what’s right and wrong, but he’s King Saran’s son, so that adds conflict to the plot.

This title may seem like a good, classic, “Bring magic back” fantasy. But that’s not simply the case with this book; it has much deeper meanings. For one, there’s a strong racism metaphor, but instead of black skin, it’s white hair, because anyone with white hair has magic, or had magic. These white haired people are the Diviners, and they are discriminated against. Seeing the impact of this discrimination definitely changed my view of this fantasy book’s world and the real world.

 Overall, this is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, with the most intriguing characters, plot, and themes. I recommend this book to anyone who loves magic, meaning, and thrill. Adeyemi’s novel is 100% a ten out of ten title. I hope any reader will enjoy!


Henry Holt, 532 pg.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

February 5, 2019

Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in the city of Ember, a place eternally shrouded in darkness, except for the electric light bulbs spread across the town. However, food is running out, and the lights have been flickering constantly. When city jobs are assigned, Lina’s worst fear comes true: she’s assigned to the most menial task—Pipeworks laborer. However, by circumstance, Doon happens to have her dream job: messenger. He offers to trade, in order to inspect the generator—the cause of the blackouts plaguing the city— and she is overjoyed. But then she discovers scraps of parchment hidden in a closet, which could shine a light on everything hidden in the darkness of Ember. They could even lead to a path out of the city. This is the dystopian story of The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau—and the beginning of a great series.

But this isn’t just a book about a few pieces of ripped parchment and a city in darkness. It’s a book about how limited conditions for the many can elevate the few, and therefore an allegory for corruption and authoritarianism. Explaining these crucial events in detail would spoil the plot of the book, but it’s enought to say that corruption is contained within the darkness of Ember. As Ember is essentially a poverty-ridden police state, similar to today’s North Korea, when this corruption is discovered, the full extent of its leaders’  power is revealed. This unfolds throughout the entire book, beginning with the event mentioned above, and continuing into the sequel, The People of Sparks, where DuPrau also handles such delicate and controversial issues as xenophobia. DuPrau weaves these in expertly, beginning with a detour from the path out of Ember, and incorpoating it throughout the rest of the book and its sequel.

I loved how the novel showed exactly what it would be like to live in a world deprived of such basic technology as a movable light. It was interesting to ponder what our world would look like without the technology we have developed, and even as a possible, hopefully distant, future way of life. It challenges the popular notion of futuristic ways of life as dominated by technology by presenting a vision of life without it.

The third person narrative voice usually makes readers feel much more distant from the characters, but DuPrau utilized it so expertly that it makes the audience feel just as close to the characters as they would if the novel was written in first person, and it spreads out the focus between the two main characters evenly. For example, when Sadge Merrall returns from the Unknown Regions ranting and raving, readers will almost feel Lina’s anxiety and fear, even through third person narration. For another, when Lina and Doon are being pursued by the police, third person is perfect, as it doesn’t have to use just one perspective, and the reader would be much less confused.

DuPrau kept the pace speedy, as this is an adventure novel at its core, but she also added some truly powerful and insightful moments. I enjoyed this; it never felt slow or drawn-out, but wasn’t shallow or without theme. The strong plot makes for a quick but insightful reading experience. I flew through this, never lacking for theme or pace.

I rated this book a ten out of ten, as did many of my peers. This is for all the features that I have already mentioned, as well as so many more that I could not possibly fit into this short review. As I have mentioned, there is a sequel, The People of Sparks, and it is exactly as enjoyable as its precursor. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced dystopian adventure with elements of mystery and can still appreciate a captivating and insightful theme. Everyone who has tried The City of Ember has enjoyed it, so therefore everyone should try it.


Random House, 270 pages

Refugee by Alan Gratz

March 16, 2018

Josef is a Jewish boy living in the 1930s in Nazi Germany. With the fear of being sent to concentration camps, he and his family board a ship headed for the other side of the world. Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and chaos infecting her country, she and her family get on a raft hoping to find safety in America. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With the land being destroyed by violence, he and his family set out on a long journey toward Europe. All of these kids go on unimaginable journeys to find refuge. They have to face many dangers, but their courage will help them survive into tomorrow. Although the kids are separated by continents and decades, their stories all have an interesting way of coming together at the end of this novel: Refugee by Alan Gratz.

Even though this book contained three stories, Gratz told each effectively using a strong third person perspective and descriptive dialogue to make reader feel like they were there with the characters. Each character’s story would switch to another’s at the end of every chapter. Gratz made each chapter less than ten pages, so his audience wouldn’t forget what happened to any of the other characters in previous chapters. At the beginning of a chapter Gratz tells the character’s name, the place they are in, and how far away they are from their home. By doing this he made it easy to never lose track of where the characters are in the world.

What made the book the most interesting was how Gratz wrote the book so realistically— I felt like I was there with the characters. I could see their facial expressions, and I could feel their emotions. Everything he was describing in the book I could easily picture in my head. Gratz made it easy for me to understand what it was like to be a refugee in different times. He incorporated cliffhangers throughout, so I never wanted to put the book down.

What made this novel especially effective for me was how it changed my view on the refugee crisis across the world. I used to think refugees were like migrants, but Gratz showed me what it was like to be a refugee and how hard it is to be forced to leave your home and fight your way to another country to be safe. This book also revealed the problems some countries have and what effect those issues have on citizens. This story demonstrated how long refugees have been around and the struggles that they go through on their journeys.

Gratz hooked me throughout this historical fiction book: in three different times, with three different stories, from three different kids, with one goal in common— escape. I hope you will love Refugee and its story of courage and hope because this book has a rating way above 10.


Scholastic, 317 pages

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

When Buttercup’s true love, Westley, has his ship attacked by pirates on its way out of the country, Buttercup is distraught and determined that she will never love again. But she realizes she has bigger problems—she is promised to Prince Humperdinck as his next wife. Before she leaves for the castle, she is kidnapped by an odd group of criminals: Vizzini, the mastermind behind the whole scheme, who loves money more then anything; Inigo Montoya, a man out for revenge; and Fezzik, a caring, helpful, and flighty giant. As they travel, the man in black who saves Buttercup from the criminals, meets them.

Together the pair travels across the country of Guilder, on a mission to return to Florin, where Buttercup secretly continues her relationship with the man in black, while she delays the arranged marriage with Prince Humperdinck. But how long can she stall the wedding? What will happen if the Prince finds out? Will everyone make it out alive?

William Goldman writes as if he is abridging the work of a fictional author, S. Morgenstern. Goldman often breaks into the story by including first-person personal paragraphs that “explain” a section of S. Morgenstern’s tale because it was too boring, or it was just conveying useless information. Goldman writes with a light comedic tone, which makes it easy for readers to connect with not just the characters but Goldman himself. So when he breaks in, it seems as if he is a character in his own story, causing the entire book to flow smoothly.

I loved how Goldman developed every character in the novel, even if they weren’t present throughout the whole story. For example, Fezzik is part of the plot, but he is not as important as Buttercup, or Westley. However, Goldman develops him just as much as any other character, so that by the end of the story readers feel that they have been best friends with him for their entire lives.

Other than Goldman’s commentary, he writes the story in third person, switching between Westley and Buttercup. This feature is effective because it gives the book a quick pace and keeps readers interested throughout the story— he will often end chapters that followed either Westley or Buttercup on life-or-death cliffhangers, making a reader want to keep reading to find out what happens. This is one of the many aspects that led me to rate this book a solid ten out of ten.

The Princess Bride is a classic tale of friendship, love, and near-death experiences that captivate, and intrigue readers of any age. I hope that you will join Buttercup, Westley, and their unique accomplices on their journey—and their fight for love.


Harcourt, 512 pages

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

February 13, 2018

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 Krakauer

February 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

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

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

January 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


The Rig by Joe Ducie

April 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

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

March 21, 2017

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

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

February 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

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

January 31, 2017

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Finn is not your average boy, growing up in a not- so- average place, surrounded by an unusual group of people. Finn is captive in the living prison called Incarceron that can kill and breed people at will. No one except the inmate’s legend, Sapphique, has escaped the dreaded world. No one has come in or out since the prison was built, although Finn believes he came from the outside. In fact, no one believes there is anywhere else. He embarks on a dangerous quest with his oath-brother Kerio to escape Incarceron using a mysterious crystal key and visions of Sapphique, before Incarceron finds them.

Claudia is the daughter of the warden of Incarceron. She lives in a kingdom where she is forced to marry the second son of the royal family and become the queen of the kingdom. She is trying to find Incarceron’s location with the help of her tutor, Jared. Searching through her father’s belongings, she finds a crystal key she believes will unlock the door to Incarceron. A mysterious artifact brings Claudia and Finn together to uncover a secret plot that has to do with the missing prince of the kingdom and the creation of Incarceron.

Catherine Fisher’s imagination has brought to life this blend of science fiction, action adventure, high technology, kings and queens, and lots of deception, conspiracies, and heart. Readers follow Finn and Claudia through their quest to uncover the truth. Fisher switches between third- person perspectives of Finn and Claudia. When I got to an exciting part, the novel would change perspectives so I was always wanting to read on to find out what happened to the characters. Both characters have to overcome many extra problems they run into, in order to accomplish their main goal.

Fisher leads this book into its follow up, Sapphique. She has written another amazing novel called Circle of Stones. I rate this book a ten because I never stopped being interested in the plot. I also liked how Fisher made Incarceron alive. She used personification to give a prison human qualities, and throughout the book  characters talk about a certain emotion Incarceron is feeling at the time— for example, a rumble or a creak would be how Incarceron shows its emotions. I recommend this book to any one who likes action-adventure, science fiction, corruption, fantasy, and rebellion.

Fisher leads you on two adventures that collide into a story that will change everything for both characters. Meanwhile the reader asks so many questions: Who should they trust? What can they do? Who’s bad and who’s good? What is Incarceron?

Dial books, 442 pages


Monument 14: Savage Drift by Emmy Laybourne

January 27, 2017

Now at Quilchena Refugee Camp in Canada, Dean and the survivors from Monument 14 are safe. The only concern is that Josie is missing. She is now at a Type O containment camp in Missouri where everyone is going crazy due to the reaction from their blood type, and a mean guard called Vengar bosses everyone around. Niko finds out where she is from the start of the book and is determined to rescue her. Jake, Astrid (who is still pregnant), and Dean want to go with him. So a man at the refugee camp takes them to an airport in Idaho where their newest adventure begins.

Monument 14: Savage Drift is a great conclusion to the Monument 14 series. I appreciated how Laybourne switched between the perspectives of Josie and Dean, which were very different, especially at the beginning when Dean and his friends have all that they needed at Quilchena Refugee Camp, while Josie, at the Type O containment camp, is treated terribly. People there are constantly fighting, but a kind man named Mario looks after Josie and the other kids. I also enjoyed how Laybourne recorded the number of each day since the hailstorm at the bottom of each page. I could easily keep track of which day it was. I thought Laybourne described the setting well. I could picture it although I think that the first book had better imagery because the characters spent the whole novel in the store. However, I would change how much Dean, Jake, and Astrid argued. In the other books they seemed to get along better and worked as a team to protect the little kids.

Laybourne’s character development was also effective. Dean, at first, seemed to stand up for Astrid too much and argued with Jake often, but as the book went on, he learned that he was overly protective and became more of a leader, with a little help from Niko. Josie, on the other hand, was very helpful to Mario and in looking after the little kids. She also was good at standing up for herself when crazed Type Os were being cruel to her. As the book went on she kept trying to escape, never giving up.

Overall, I really liked this book. I enjoyed how It switched between Josie and Dean’s perspectives, and the settings were intriguing and easy to picture. I would rate it a nine out of ten and recommend it to anyone who likes exciting, survival books and great character development.


Square Fish Books, 308 pages

Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

January 25, 2017

Laurel is an average teenage girl—with a wealthy best friend. Tom Forelli is a celebrity who needs to shed his childhood “Baby Tom-Tom” image. The Cruise to Lose is the opportunity of a lifetime for both of them.

When the diet drug Solu is created, the company holds a luxury cruise for only the richest of the rich to get a sneak peek at their new, seemingly-magical, sweetener that not only tastes exactly like real sugar, it also helps the eater lose weight. At first, Laurel and Tom’s paths cross in a somewhat cliché way (literally running into one another), but their reason for staying in each others’ lives is unique: neither has taken Solu, which means neither has experienced the strange symptoms popping up in the rest of the passengers, such as extreme addiction to the point of murder. The passengers get crazier and literally bloodthirsty, including Laurel’s best friend, Vivika, and Tom’s to-the-public “girlfriend,” reality-star Sabbi Ribiero. As the only sober people on the ship, Tom and Laurel unite to put an end to the cruise and take down Solu before it is released to the public.

Laybourne switches perspectives between Tom Forelli and Laurel. Because these two characters are so alike in personality but come from contrasting backgrounds, I felt the plot had more dimensions to it. It creates the expectation of predictability in the readers’ minds, then goes in a surprising direction. There are twists and turns no reader could expect, giving the novel its breakneck speed.

An aspect I particularly loved was how Laybourne packed multiple themes into one book to appeal to multiple audiences. It contained bits of dystopian science-fiction, contemporary realistic fiction, disaster/survival, adventure, and magical realism. Even if you prefer only one of those five genres, Laybourne’s way of fusing them together is intriguing and unique: perfect for this novel.

Prepare yourself for a book filled-to-the-brim with shocking twists (including a conclusion no one could’ve foreseen) that you can finish it in a day. Sweet reveals human nature’s dark side when we want something badly, but also the beauty of two different personalities working together.


Feiwel and Friends, 272 pages

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