Posted in Young Adult Lit

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

20560137An Ember in the Ashes
Sabaa Tahir
2015 by Razorbill
ISBN – 9781595148032
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
5 Stars

When Laia’s grandparents are killed and her brother is kidnapped she must make the decision to do whatever it takes to rescue him. She agrees to be a spy for the rebels and feed them information which may help end the empire’s tyrannical reign. Soon she finds herself a slave to the Empress herself. She is powerful and merciless, and Laia must find a way to do what no one else has, stay alive as a spy in order to save her only remaining family.

Adventure, romance, betrayal, spies, murder, rebels, this has something for everyone! Tahir manages to tell a story that is complex in plot and emotion so well. I feel as if I am in the caves, and the palace, and the villages with Laia. She has created a main character that is not inherently strong or weak, but one who must constantly battle to grow into the person she wants to become. A while back we all got tired of the sniveling weak female protagonist, and then all we could find were those girls that were so unrealistically strong that nothing fazed them. Here we have a wonderful middle ground that shows us that we all go back and forth with these two characteristics. The romance is not obvious or cheesy, but just an added touch to the plot. This is the kind of book that would pull me out of a reading slump. It was overall, a masterfully weaved story that left me wanting more.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science, by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos

434472Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science
Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos
2010 by Clarion Books
ISBN – 9780618574926)
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Middle School
4 Stars

Sugar has evolved over time from a substance that was hard and costly to obtain to a substance that is massively over consumed in our daily lives. This is the story of how that changed and how sugar dictated the slave trade, and many revolutions. Sugar has caused many a bloody battle, and countless lives were lost because of it. This book was very informative about many aspects of American, European, and African histories. it takes the evolution of an industry in a fairly straightforward timeline that allows the readers to travel through history. Not only does the sugar trade change tremendously, but so do the social, economical, and political views of different cultures around the world. It’s amazing to me how much cause and effect comes into play when we talk about royalty wanting to sweeten their tea! Drawings and photographs are sprinkled throughout the story, adding another dimension to the tale. The history of the sugar trade across the world is not only exciting, but heartbreaking, complicated, and at times completely unbelievable. Well done

Posted in Uncategorized

Everything, Everthing, by Nicola Yoon

18692431Everything, Eerything
Nicola Yoon
2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780553496642
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
2.7 Stars

Madeline has a rare disease, SCID. She is essentially the girl in the bubble, allergic to the world. Her home has a filter that cycles out the air every four hours. Anyone who enters must go through a rigorous decontamination process. She has learned to accept the fate that her life will be severely limited, and that is okay. Enter Olly, the new next door neighbor. When Madeline begins a strange relationship with him, everything changes, she is no longer willing to accept her previous situation.

I wanted to love this book, but unfortunately found it to be just okay. I understand that Madeline did not want to be trapped, that she felt that living her life was not really living at all, but as the book went on, all I could think was how stupid and selfish she was being. Then I got annoyed at how cheesy the writing was at times. Granted, this is definitely a situation that could lead to some genuinely cheesy feelings, it was wrapped up in this fantastical amount of existential prose. It was confusing, while maybe appropriately so to go back and forth between a girl who was wise beyond her years, to a girl who acted like a toddler! I guess I feel like all of this was appropriate, but that it wasn’t seamlessly pulled off by the author. I didn’t believe it, or didn’t feel it. I liked the beginning, and the end was decent, but I just found myself not too happy with most of the middle in terms of storytelling. I did appreciate the drawings, spoilers and other interludes, they upped the fun factor! Also, I love the cover.

Posted in Uncategorized

Another Day, by David Levithan

18459855Another Day
David Levithan
2015 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780385756204
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
3.2 Stars

This companion novel to Every Day is written from the viewpoint of Rhiannon, the girl who A falls in love with. We follow Rhiannon as she discovers who and what A is, falls in love, and tries to figure out if she can make their relationship work.

It was interesting to read the story from a different point of view. My main problem from the first book, was that A was awfully preachy and judgmental towards anyone who could not just love him without seeing his vessel. That issue disappeared in this book, almost to a fault. It seemed as if A’s personality changed a bit. It’s as if Rhiannon did not register that part of him. It repeated a ton from the first book, which was actually good for me because it helped me remember all of the events that were prominent in the story. I ended up disliking Rhiannon much more after reading her side of the story. It was just so plain that she knew that she was wronging Justin, but because he wasn’t always nice to her, it gave her an excuse to be horrible to him. It just seemed to shine a light on her selfishness. After reading both of these books, I realize that neither A nor Rhiannon are very nice people.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Mysterious Howling, by Rose Maywood

6609748The Mysterious Howling
Rose Maywood
2010 by HarperCollins
ISBN – 9780061791055
Genre – Fantasy
Age – Elementary School
3.2 Stars

Miss Penelope has accepted her first governess job at the Ashton Place, but circumstances are a bit out of the ordinary. Lord Ashton, who has recently married, found three children living in the woods of his estate. They are wild in nature, but sweet at heart, and Miss Penelope must learn to educate them as well as tame them.

Although this book was not amazing to me, it was fun and quirky. I think kids will really enjoy all of the hilarity that ensues when wild children attempt to learn etiquette. The characters were funny, my favorite being Lady Ashton, who just cannot comprehend the entire situation. She is trying her hardest to be a good new wife, but isn’t enjoying being an instant mother of three strange children. I was disappointed that not a single issue was resolved. The series has five books published so far, with more in the works, and I can’t see myself reading each one only to have tiny bits of information revealed in each one, if at all.

Posted in Children's Lit

Countdown, by Deborah Wiles

7192385Countdown
Deborah Wiles
2010 by Scholastic Press
ISBN – 9780545106054
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Middle School
4.2 Stars

Everything is moving along in Franny’s life as normal. She goes to school, has fights with friends, and spends time with her family. Then, the threat of nuclear war. Everyone’s world is turned upside down, living in a shadow of fear. Although its face value screams out typical coming of age story, it is anything but. It is littered with speeches, newspaper articles, advertisements, songs, radio announcements and other snippets of popular culture from the time period. We follow Franny, and her quirky family as they learn to live their lives with a kind of fear no one has ever faced.

This was an excellent audio book. Each of the announcements, songs, and other interludes really make you feel as if you are immersed in the time. Franny’s story in nicely woven in between a fascinating history lesson. My hope is that after reading this, kids might have a bit of interest in learning more about the topic. I loved Franny’s family. They felt real, in the way that they all had different opinions, they were so different overall, but that did not stop them from coming together and supporting each other as a team. It seems to me that this might appeal a bit more to boys than girls (totally agree, Raina.) I was really hoping that the second book “Revolution” might be from a male point of view, but alas, it is another girl. Despite that, I am still really looking forward to listening to that one as well.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Young Adult Nonfiction

They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

7029188They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
2010 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780618440337
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School, Middle School
4.2 Stars

I recently learned that the Ku Klux Klan was founded in Tennessee, and since I just moved to Tennessee, I thought it a good idea to learn some history. “They Called themselves the KKK” starts by describing the Civil War and the implications on the social, political, and economical aspects of life in the South. It goes on to talk about the founding and evolution of the group over the last 150 years.

This is a hard history to swallow and it is even still harder to swallow, that some of it is not history. It was interesting and devastating, the pictures added an extra amount of emotion. I really appreciated that at the end of each chapter, there was a personal account of someone who witnessed these horrors. I also appreciated the lack of editing in the primary documents littered throughout the book. Some things may be more difficult to read because of this, but its authenticity is apparent. The saddest part to me about this book is knowing that these behaviors still exist today, so no matter how far we have come, it is not enough. By making ourselves more aware of the history, we can be better equipped to avoid it, hopefully.

Posted in Uncategorized, Young Adult Lit

The Raft, by S.A. Bodeen

12987986The Raft
S.A. Bodeen
2012 by Feiwel & Friends
ISBN – 9780312650100
Genre – Survival
Age – High School
3.7 Stars

While flying home to a remote island in the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu, Robie’s plane crashes. The worst part is, no one knows that she was on the plane. With the help of the First Officer, she manages to get aboard the aircraft’s emergency raft, and tries to survive. She realizes how much she appreciates food, water, shelter, and the company of another human.

This book was not a masterpiece of writing, but I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t want to get to the end in a hurry. It was a short book, and a super fast read. I can only imagine the thoughts that I would be having in this situation, but all of them are in the realm of what Robie had. She did tend to get incredibly lucky, but then again, she would have to in order to survive, and people do get lucky sometimes. I would recommend this one to people who are looking for survival type books that are more psychological than adventure based.

Posted in Uncategorized

Wild About Us, by Karen Beaumont

22891634Wild About Us
Karen Beaumont
Illustrated by Janet Stevens
2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780152062941
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Toddler, Preschool
5 Stars

Each animal is happy just how they are! This book describes a unique feature of several different animals with the underlying message that we are each different, and we should be happy with who we are. There are minimal words on each pages, but they have depth. For example “pink” is written in the color pink, and “plump” is very, well, plump! The illustrations of each animal are quite fantastic, sometimes taking up a full two page spread. Some of the pictures take up both pages the long way, like the giraffe. The brush strokes are visually appealing, adding a whole new layer to the illustrations. Each animal is posed in such a funky way, sure to get a smile out of the kids. Perfect for a storytime or a one on one read!

Posted in Picture Books

I Don’t Like Koala, by Sean Ferrell

17706518I don’t like Koala
Sean Ferrell
Illustrated by Charles Santoso
2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781481400695
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
5 Stars

Adam does not like Koala, Koala is the most terrible terrible. He is always doing creepy things like staring at him, and following him every where he goes! He is always there, even at bedtime! But Adam has a secret plan to ditch Koala, and hopefully he never finds his way back home. This book is delightful. The illustrations could tell the whole story without needing words, however, the words are also great. Adam is reminiscent of Pixar graphics, while Koala is just one of a kind! This hilarious book even has a sweet ending. Perfect!