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Divergent by Veronica Roth

March 3, 2020

Futuristic Chicago is split into five factions. Each  one is designed to maintain a happy, healthy, hard working community that balances all of the strong human traits. Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior has lived in Abnegation her whole life; they’re the faction that values selflessness above everything else. Now, Beatrice has the opportunity to decide her own fate, and choose which faction she truly belongs to. But when her aptitude test goes wrong, Beatrice discovers that she is in great danger and has a big decision to make.  Will she choose selfless Abnegation and stay with her family and all she’s ever known? Or should Beatrice betray her family and her faction, and choose one of the other four? It’s faction before blood, after all. Beatrice makes a decision that leads to some terrifying, nerve wracking, and suspenseful moments, all to find out where she really belongs.

Veronica Roth creates a dystopian novel with constant suspense, each chapter fast-paced and exciting. Readers will find themselves wondering what faction they would belong in, right along with Beatrice, who now goes by “Tris”. Each page has strong sensory diction, making it easy for the reader to follow along and imagine all of the unexpected buildings, people and places in this futuristic world. Roth writes in a dramatic tone, which adds to the plot and will have the reader wondering, What’s next? Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, and the reader might be completely unsure of what could happen in the coming chapter. 

Tris will surprise at every step of the way. She was once a quiet girl who kept her eyes down, but through the effective first person narrative, readers will watch her become brave, strong, and intelligent. This narrative shows every thought and feeling Tris experiences, explaining why she made each and every daring decision. 

This leads into the theme of Divergent, which explores how humans act, and how no one fits into one category. Tris is unsteady and unsure of herself, but as the book goes on, the reader will realize along with Tris that she does not have just one trait. She has lots of important qualities that make her who she is, which she will realize eventually. Readers will follow along with Tris as she makes friends and enemies for the first time, falls in love, and learns just how imperfect her society is.

Tris, her friends Four and Christina, and many others face their fears, learn new skills, work together, discover secrets about their society, and stand up for themselves and others. Each character has an intriguing story, and distinct personality. This book will have readers rooting for an assortment of characters, at different moments throughout the book.

I rated this book a 10 out of 10 and enjoyed every detail and description. There are two other books in this trilogy, Insurgent and Allegiant, and I am sure they will be as thrilling as Divergent. I would recommend this book to anyone ages eleven and older, because there are a few gory scenes. Anyone who enjoys suspense, friendship, and dramatic and dangerous scenes will love this book. You will empathize with Tris for her daring and kind personality, and completely enjoy her perspective.


HarperCollins, 487 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


The Green Mile by Stephen King

January 27, 2018

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

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

January 26, 2018

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 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

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

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

January 31, 2017

Four students arrive at Opportunity High: some filled with hopes for a new start, others not able to let go of the past. But all of their worst fears come true when, minutes after the school principal finishes her speech welcoming the students to a new semester and encouraging them to shape the future, the students get up to leave and discover that the auditorium double doors are locked. The students swarm around the doors, trying to get them open, when a dark figure appears in the room standing in the frame of the only open door—holding a gun.

The book continues telling the minute-by-minute story of one student’s calculated revenge, the heartbreak of those he kills, and the fast-paced game of survival. The reader closely follows four students: Autumn, the shooter’s sister whose mother recently died; Claire, who wasn’t in the building but wants to help; Sylv, Autumn’s girlfriend who has also had a complicated life; and Tomás, who desperately tries to protect his sister.

This read was gripping and well written. Nijkamp not only crafted a fast-paced plot, but also created characters that changed and grew over the course of the book. Throughout the novel, the characters have flashbacks to important parts in their life, which add up to tell the story of how they got to where they are now. For example Autumn’s memories are about her father who turned abusive after her mother’s death and how her brother Ty reacted. After reading about each story you learn more about that character’s complicated connection to Tyler. This shows the reader more of what is going on inside his head, as well as the motives behind his violent actions.

Nijkamp tells a compelling story that makes you think about other people and the world around you. She explores an emotional topic through the eyes of four complex yet relatable teenagers, and it will leave you full of questions about the society we live in.

This Is Where It Ends sucked me in from the first chapter. Anyone who reads it will thoroughly enjoy the heart-pounding story about love, loss, and the power of forgiveness. Nijkamp effectively brings you into the lives of Autumn, Claire, Slyv, and Tomás, and you feel deeply connected to them as they try to stay alive in a school taken over by fear.

Overall, this was an amazing book I couldn’t put down. It was an exciting and touching novel that even made me cry. I believe any reader who tries it will more deeply understand the hate and cruelty that causes people to act brutally, and be shocked at how those actions can effect so many people in different ways. So be prepared for an emotional ride that will leave you brokenhearted and full of new realizations.


Source Books, 282 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

Carrie by Stephen King

February 11, 2016

Carrie-book-cover-imageCarrie White looks–and believes she is–normal. She lives with her extremely religious, abusive mother. At school Carrie is also bullied and mistreated by her classmates. But as prom approaches, Carrie begins to develop telekinetic powers. She starts manipulating her mother and some of her bullies from school. On prom night Chris, the girl who has tormented Carrie most, gets her for good. Carrie furiously lashes out, injuring or murdering everyone at prom, especially the people who have hurt her the most.

This thriller by Stephen King intrigues and thrills with every scene of action and revenge. King includes interviews and journal entries from survivors of prom night. He also incorporates definitions of Carrie’s powers and other pieces of the book that readers might not understand, so they never have to feel lost. Readers will find it impossible to put this novel down–so much so that they may read it in a day. However, I advise against reading Carrie before bed.

Reading this book, I was always a little creeped out to read how King described the scenes involving Carrie’s mother the night of prom. Throughout King always had me feeling what he wanted to convey. Whether it was sympathy or horror, I was convinced. I read this book in one day, mesmerized by every scene, unable to take my eyes of the page. The book is very fast-paced, but you shouldn’t read too fast, or you’ll lose your understanding of what is happening.

If you are interested in trying a thriller, Carrie would be a good transitional read—one that’s more creepy than terrifying. I would recommend that students thirteen years and over read this book because it can be alarming when Carrie’s mother is abusive but at the same time hurts herself. If you read this, you must be prepared to have an intense fear of your mother!

I rated Carrie a ten. I thought King was creative in this novel. He has written other thrillers just amazing as this read, and there has also been a movie made of this irresistible book.


Pocket Books, 193 pages

Numbers, by Rachel Ward

July 7, 2010

WardSince her mother’s death when she was seven, Jem has known about numbers. Fifteen-year-old Jem has kept the biggest secret ever.  When Jem looks into anybody’s eyes she gets a number stamped into her mind.  That number represents the date of that person’s death.  Jem tried to tell people when she was younger.  Her response was always, “It’s not her name, it is Mommy’s special number.”

Jem gets sent from foster parent to foster parent until she ends up in Karin’s home.  Karin is a strict woman that makes Jem lives in a very small room.  Jem avoids physical interactions with others because of the dates of their deaths that pops into her head with any eye contact.  Jem’s only friend is a freakishly tall, African-American boy named Spider.  Spider’s death date is less than two weeks away.

Spider and Jem have a fun day together on a day out in London until Jem sees a tourist’s number.  She sees the same date on tourists over and over and the date is that same day.  Jem tells Spider to run and moments later, a bomb blows up the London Eye.

I loved how Rachel Ward crafted this book because she made the plot intense and has a very different writing style from any I have ever read.  I had the feeling it was exiting and was not as gory as I thought it would be when I first picked the book up to interview.

You cannot read this book with any skimming or skipping or you won’t have all the input from the police about Jem and her problems with Spider.  Rachel Ward cut right down to just the important information and didn’t put any irrelevant or side plots in the chapters.

I love how Jem asks herself questions which made me think the same.  That way I had the urge to find out what was going to happen next:  Are the police going to catch her?  If they do, what will happen?

Numbers has most original plot concept I have read.  If you love mysteries or you are an action lover you have found the perfect book. When I read this book, I felt I had an IMAX movie temporarily built into my head.  What I found was that Rachel Ward created a strong hope for Jem and then she crashed and ruined it.

Another hope for Spider and Jem ventures into the book again, and makes the plot structure much more involved.  I am looking forward to the sequel that will be published this summer.  I am sure that there will be more exiting mysteries to wrap my mind around.  Something to keep in mind is: “I’d avoid eye contact if I were you.”


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Counterfeit Son, by Elaine Marie Alphin

July 6, 2010

AlphinCounterfeit Son is crammed with suspense, moments of sadness, and moments of happiness that bring tears to your eyes.  Cameron, the main character, has a father that murders innocent young boys in his basement, and no matter how many cleaners he puts down, the stench of old blood and flesh won’t go away.  While his father is in the basement, Cameron looks through the files of the boys his father has murdered. When his father is finally killed during a police shootout, the one thing he had been waiting for might be right around the corner: becoming a normal person.  He decides to steal the identity of one of his father’s victims:  Neil Lacey.  He dreams of sailing and Neil Lacey had exactly that.  His wish is granted.

Neil Lacey was gifted with loving parents, pleasures only money could buy, and a nice home.  Only Cameron’s plan doesn’t work all the way.  His so-called sister doesn’t believe the lies that Cameron mimicked from the newspaper articles.  The way he doesn’t act like Neil makes her even more suspicious that he is an impostor.

His father’s scheming crime partner, Cougar, shows up after his sentence in prison for murdering a boy.  He wants money from the Laceys, knowing that Cameron is an impostor.  Only then does Cameron find out the truth about the murders and how he was associated with them.

Elaine Marie Alphin had me connect with Cameron by putting a lot of his thoughts and feelings in the book so that the way you were into the book was because of sympathy and feeling guilty that this was happening to Cameron.  I think Alphin does that because Cameron’s situation is pretty rare; you couldn’t connect with the book if the novel was only description or dialogue.

Also, she puts you on the plot conveyer belt and compels you to read the book because the protagonist has a lot of hurdles thrown at him that he has to avoid.  That makes the novel suspenseful because you keep thinking, “Is he going to get caught?” That was the reason I wanted to read under the covers at night.  Alphin creates suspense in the book while the book moves on.  It makes you think that Cameron’s cover will be blown any second and then when he seems safe, you exhale and sigh because he was not caught.  But, then you’re right back where you started, holding your breath on the very next page.  For example, when his “sister” asks who he really is, you don’t know if Cameron is going to say, “Well, I am Cameron Miller, the son of the boy who killed Neil,” or if he is going to say, “Well, I am Neil. I’ve only changed because of the experiences that I’ve been through.”  There seem to always be two options to his actions when it comes to lying and telling the truth.  When his sister’s suspicions transform into reality, you are holding your breath for what resolution will unfold and how it will change Cameron’s life.  Also, when Cougar shows up, you think:  Well, I was hopeful while it lasted and now it’s over.  Alphin takes you on a roller coaster that you always want to go on, over and over again.

I think that if you liked The Perfect Shot by Elaine Marie Alphin, you would love Counterfeit Son because they both have a fast-moving plot and they always keep you on the edge of your seats.  Also, there is a pretty big twist in The Perfect Shot and an extremely big twist in , so if you like twists, these two books are must-reads.  Since I have read both, I think that Alphin is not a cliché writer that always writes about the same thing in her books.  Also, she is very original in her ideas to portray a moral so that the So What? has not been portrayed in the way that she has.  That way, the book is not close to something you’ve read before.


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Relic, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

May 15, 2009

betterrelic1This book is about a monster that gets loose in the Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was taken back there from an archeological expedition to Brazil on a boat full of other artifacts. The monster then escapes into the museum’s vast basements and storage rooms and starts preying on unfortunate individuals who wander the museum late at night…and devouring their brains.

The monster is extremely fast, its bones are too thick to shoot through, and it’s very aggressive. The museum is opening a brand new exhibition on superstitions, in disregard to the fact that bodies keep showing up all over the museum. And on the exhibition’s opening night, the monster strikes again, causing the museum to go into lockdown mode and trapping everything—and everyone—inside.

Relic introduces the characters of special agent Aloysius Pendergast, a freelancing FBI agent from New Orleans, and Vincent D’Agosta, an Italian-American Lieutenant working for the NYPD.

Aloysius Pendergast is the perfect FBI agent. He is calm and collected, and you get the feeling that he is much, MUCH more than he appears to be. He has an almost inhuman sophistication, and his skill at getting exactly what he wants, where he wants it, when he wants it, is formidable. He doesn’t always play by the rules, but he always gets to the bottom of the case.

D’Agosta is the more ordinary of the two, but he is still amazingly good at what he does. He still gets annoyed and angry when the case isn’t going anywhere, but he really cares about what he does and never gets flustered or confused. He isn’t easily intimidated, and he doesn’t mind risking his life for what he does.

I would recommend this thriller to readers who enjoy a lot of action, plot twist, and suspense in what they read. Relic is pretty graphic, so I would say that I would recommend it only to ages 12+.

Overall, I would rate this book a 10/10.


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