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The FCPL Edge Book Reviews

First blog post

Hello! Amanda, Kate, and I (Maggie) are excited to start a blog telling you about books we have read and what we thought of them.  Well, they may not be, but I am making them write in the blog.  Each of us have different tastes in books and different interests, so I am sure you can turn to one of us for good books. This blog will primarily be about what we are reading or what we have read.  You can head over to the library teen page to find out what we are doing here at the Edge!

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Maggie Review: PennyRoyal Academy by M.A. Larson

Hello All!  It has been a while!  I apologize for that, I was in a reading slump so I decided to take a break from YA and read some other books.  It has definitely helped get out of my reading funk.

 

One of the books I read is a middle grade book by M.A. Larson, the Pennyroyal Academy.  I am currently listening to the second book now, and hopefully soon (fingers crossed!) the library will get the 3rd!

I decided to read this book because Reese Witherspoon recommended it on her Instagram.  (Just being honest)  She picks really good books to read!  This story is so fun!  It is about a girl with no name whose family are dragons.  She was raised by them, and when finding out she was not a dragon, she ran from her family.

While on the run, she battled trees and met a young aspiring knight who was heading to the Pennyroyal Academy to become a knight, and suggested she go to become a princess.  She had never heard of a princess and didn’t know what they did, but decided to do it anyways.

Now, this isn’t a damsel in distress princess school, or a learn your manners and be beautiful princess school, this is like a bootcamp.  The princess cadets work hard to learn how to defeat evil witches so they can protect their kingdoms and villages.  There are references to popular princess, such as Cinderella, and there are goblins and trolls they learn from as well.  It does have a lot of similarities to Hogwarts, but the school is only three years and the end goal is to be a warrior.  Her teachers are also more strict compared to the professors at Hogwarts.  They kick out unworthy cadets frequently, making the girls work really hard to succeed.

While at school, the girl, dubbed by Evee by her new friends, learns more about both her biological family and her dragon family.  Which unfolded in surprising ways.  Her friends also help her mold her new identity as she works hard to learn to fight witches.  Evee also deals with school bullies, romances, and school exams.  Will she be a great princess?  I am excited to find out!

This book is very appropriate for middle grade readers.   Some parts can get a little scary, like when she gets caught by witches and they want to cut out her heart, but nothing vulgar or questionable happens in the story.

 

Maggie Post: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

Wow.  Just wow.  This book completely lives up to its hype that I heard before and during its month of release.  And really, it is right now #1 best selling YA book on the New York Times.  This book was released in February, and I finally got a chance to check it out and it was awesome.

This book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and it is very reflective of the tragic situations that have happened and are happening in the United States.  Many critics believe this is the most important read for this year, and I couldn’t agree more.  The book has topped charts and is currently in the works to become a movie starring Amandla Stenberg.  Amandla played Rue in the Hunger Games, and most recently starred in Nicola Yoon’s Everything,Everything.

This book follows the character Starr.  She is an African American girl who is living in two separate worlds.  She lives in a poor black neighborhood with her family.  She works with her father, who is a kind, opinionated, hardworking ex-con, at their grocery store.  She also has her friends from that neighborhood, Kenya and Khalil.  But she also goes to a rich prep school in the suburbs.  There she has her rich friends and a white boyfriend.  She hides parts of herself because she doesn’t want the reputation of ghetto or angry black girl.  One night during her spring break, she attends a party in her neighborhood.  Gunshots go off and she takes off with Khalil in his car.  They were catching up when they get pulled over.  Starr has been given “the talk” about dealing with the police.  Only answer their questions, follow their directions, keep your hands visible at all times.  Khalil never had the talk.  Khalil gets shot and killed by the officer because he moved to see if Starr was okay.  Starr then became a murder witness and her two worlds are on the path to collide.

That is all in the first chapter of the book.  The story is about the aftermath of Khalil’s death.  Was he a gang member and drug dealer?  Will the cop be put on trial?  Can Starr even testify?  If she does, what will happen to her or her family?  This book is not anti-police.  It is anti that officer, and other officers who abuse their power.  This book is about a struggle to be yourself and stand up for what is right when a lot of people want to knock you down, mentally, physically, and legally.  It really is a powerful read.

This book isn’t all super seriousness though.  It is has a lot of very moving and very funny parts to the book.  I cried when Starr went to talk to Khalil’s grandma after his death.  How she wrote the grandma’s character was beautiful and the loss she felt was unreal.  And to top it off, she wrote this whole little thing on grandma’s hand gripping that reminded me so much of my own grandma.  I was in awe from her courage to tell her and Khalil’s story.  I laughed at her everyday family drama’s that I know everyone with a sibling has experienced.  (and as always, I teared up when people did something kind or nice for her, because I am kind of a sap for those sorts of things.)

Angie Thomas just did an amazing job writing Starr.  She is well rounded, smart, and thoughtful.  Even when she did things I thought were extreme, she still had a sense of reason and right in it.  Thomas’s supporting characters were pretty well written as well.  My favorites were her dad and her Uncle Carlos.  They were just great father figures and role models.  A lot of YA likes to make parents bad guys, and they truly were not.

Warnings:  This book has a lot of swearing.  It is also graphic due to scenes of murder, beatings, and riots.  There is also a one or two main sexy scenes I can think of.  They more allude to things happening, but they are definitely in the book.  I think this book would be for an older teen, maybe starting at 15.

I do think this is an important book to read.  And I do hope you will.

P.S.  The audio book, read by Bahini Turpin, was AWESOME.  She was really good.

Maggie Post – Crazy House by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Sorry its been a while!  I have been so busy!

I just finished James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet’s book Crazy House.  It  was definitely an interesting read.  Its a good book to read to get over a series and you are in a slump.  I was reading the Mortal Instruments series, and I just didn’t know what to read.  I picked up this because I knew that James Patterson YA books were fairly quick reads and (to be honest) I thought the dragonfly on the cover was really cool.

 

This book is a dystopian novel set in rural United States but in the future.  The country is made up of various cells, which are like towns for the people.  It is still unclear to me if the people know there are other cells within this “United Nation.”  I think this because the main characters were completely shocked when they met people of different racial backgrounds other than white.  In other parts of the book though, they seemed to know there were other cells, they just didn’t know what they made in those cells.

The book is told from a couple of different character viewpoints, but mainly it alternates between twin sisters, Becca and Cassie.  Becca is abducted from her cell and is taken to a prison and put on death row.  She is tortured, is forced to fight other kids, and watches executions of kids who supposedly didn’t make the mark.  Cassie is back home and is trying to get people to help her find her sister, and she is met with lots of tension and people not wanting to help.  Cassie’s known good girl behavior is questioned and her stress to find her sister is overwhelming that she starts breaking the cells rules. This leads her to be imprisoned as well.

The book had different writing techniques that I am not 100% sure about.  At some points I thought it seemed cliche.  There were a lot of quotes by modern day writers, businessmen, and politicians.  Which is nice, because I think the young adult audience will understand recognize them more, but it felt weird when reading it.  I am going to make a friend read it and see if she felt the same way or if that weirdness is just me.

I will stop myself here before I spoil any more of the plot.  While I admit this wasn’t my favorite book of this year, I did find it interesting enough to keep going with it and now I am ready for my next books.

This book is fairly clean.  It may have cursed once or twice in the book, but it really wasn’t that bad.  The book does depict violence, as the children are meant to beat each other up pretty brutally.  The book also discusses government funded assisted suicide.  I don’t feel like the book is going to cause trauma or nightmares, but it is something to keep in mind that younger teens might have questions about.

Spill Zone: by Scott Westerfeld Post by Rachel

 

Spill Zone, Scott Westerfeld’s newest arrival is a colorful graphic novel set in a dystopic community. The story is filled with government secrets, political tension, mutant animals, and a creepy rag doll. “Spill Zone” is a community destroyed by a mysterious nuclear and chemical accident. Meanwhile, residents of the Spill Zone, caught completely unaware at the time of the disaster, are now odd, floating, zombie-like creatures. An adventurous protagonist, Addison, regularly sneaks into the restricted area and snaps artsy photographs which she sells on the black market. This book is an exciting page-turner that ends with a gripping cliffhanger; leaving the reader anxious for the next installment.

For parents- Westerfeld’s books are certainly written with older teens in mind; Spill Zone is no exception. Characters curse and there are images of anatomically correct dolls.

Seventh sons (and daughters) Post by Amanda

There are many legends and folklore about the abilities or attributes of people who are seventh sons of seventh sons.  The library has several books relating tales of the adventures and quests of such people.  I really enjoy reading different takes on being the seventh son of the seventh son.

The first I read, years ago, is in the Children’s department.  The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney is the first in a series about a 7th of the 7th who becomes the new apprentice to the local “ghost hunter.”

The second I found in the Teen department while shuffling books around.  The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede is actually the beginning of the tale of Eff, whose bad luck as the thirteenth child, 7th daughter of the 7th son, leads her on a different path than her gifted brother, who is the 7th son of a 7th son.

Next I saved The Dark is Rising  by Susan Cooper from being thinned out of Teen department. It is a Newberry Award winner.  And deserves the honor.  It is book 2 in The Dark is Rising series, but stands well alone.  On the eve of his 11th birthday, Will starts to get an inking of what it means to be a 7th son of a 7th son.  (Please be sure to check out this one to justify it staying in our collection!)

There is also a whole sci-fi series written by Orson Scott Card using the 7th son premise.  You can find this series in the Adult collection. So, you need to visit us here at the library and start digging into these magical books.

 

Maggie Review: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

 

This novel is definitely for older teens.  There is cursing, sexual assault, and violence.  It does cover a scary subject well though, and could lead to interesting discussion with the right group of people.

The Female of the Species has a cool cover and had some top notch reviews (mainly the girl from Epic Reads, because she is who I watch and I think she is really cool.).  This is my first book from this author, and I enjoyed this book, so I will probably check out her other books in the future.  I enjoyed the book, I enjoyed the story, and I would recommend it, however, I did not love it as much as the girl from Epic Reads.

See her review (along with the other ten here):

This story is told from 3 points of view.  A boy who has a crush on a girl, a preacher’s daughter who is sexually assaulted, and a girl who is a little different and sister was raped and murdered.  Alex, whose sister was murdered, is by far the most interesting character.  She is smart but very socially awkward, it is like she doesn’t know how to interact with people her own age.  She is out for revenge though.  Revenge against every man who has ever assaulted a woman or child.  In some ways, she is epic.  She attacks three older 20-something guys, by herself, and shreds them.  And they deserve it.  They do.  However, there were parts of her different revenges that I don’t believe was all the way necessary.  It was just very violent and I have mixed feelings of showing that sort of violence as a way to deal with a problem.

Peekay is the preacher’s kid.  She is sexually assaulted in the book.  We hear her story of how she deals with what happens to her, but also learn how her friendship grows with Alex.  How she learns to deal with different things happening to her in positive ways.

Jack falls in love with Alex.  She is smart, has freckles, and she can kick some butt.  Alex isn’t the sort of girl he normally goes for, but he cannot help himself.  She might be the one.  He is also holding a secret from her.  He was there when they found Alex’s sister’s dead body.  And how he acted, makes him feel terribly guilty.

I do think this book shines a light on teen sexuality and rape culture that should be talked about.  How it is important to speak out if something like this happens to you, despite worrying about what your friends think.  It also shows how quickly a rape can happen, even if you are surrounded by people.  It isn’t something that happens just behind closed doors, you can be targeted with your friends only steps away.  I think there are highlights of girl power in this book that are important too (not just the parts where Alex is beating the crap out of people).  For instance, there is one girl, who is depicted as someone we don’t necessarily like, and she stayed to help Peekay after her assault.  It was the right thing to do and she didn’t let personal feelings stop her from supporting her fellow woman.  I thought that was really amazing, especially since throughout the book she makes you really not like her.

 

Maggie Post: Ruby Red by Kersten Gier

 

The trailer does not do this book justice.

I randomly chose this book on Hoopla to listen to because it appeared on my screen.  I really had no idea what it was about.  I thought it was going to be about princesses.  I was wrong.  Very wrong.  (Other than there is a guy who uses princess as a pet name for his one true love.) I am currently listening to the 3rd one.  I have been eager and willing to listen to each one in order back to back.

Another fun fact.  The author is from Germany.  So this book was translated into English from German.  I think whoever did the translation did a wonderful job.  I read some reviews that said that they thought the translation lost something, if that is true, then the German translation must be mind blowing good.

The story (turns out) to be about time travel.  The main character,Gwenyth discovers that she has a special gene that allows her to go backward in time for a certain amount of time, and then brings her back to present day.  She grew up knowing bits about the gene, but she (and the rest of her family) had assumed her cousin, Charolette, was going to be born with the gene.

So much to Gwen’s dismay (and her family’s, and the order of time travelers) she is thrown into missions that she was never trained to do with a frustrating, condescending, yet beautiful boy Gideon.  But what is the order having her do exactly?  Why did her older cousin, Lucy, before steal from the order, does it have anything to the strange guy from the past?    Who knows?

The main forwarding plot in this series is that she wants to know why her cousin did what she did.  Who is the bad guy?  Is it Lucy or the seemingly bad guy from the past that everyone else honors so blindly.  She is exploring this mystery with a variety of people.  A younger version of her grandfather from 1956, her very smart best friend, Leslie, and a variety of ghosts and demons that only she can talk too.  (Really her demon-ghost friend is one of my favorites so far.  He is quite funny.  He complains about people, but then curls up on an unsuspecting shoulder to read the romance novel they are reading.)  The series is so far very fulfilling to listen too and keeps its pace very well.  I really like the time travelling aspects of it and being able to just she snapshots of the different eras.  I am only so so on the romance aspects of the book.

Also you can watch the German movie of this book in English dubs.  It was not a great book to movie, it didn’t follow the story well.  I felt they changed Gwen’s character a lot, nad not in great ways.  Interesting to watch though.

So far this book series has not had anything horribly inappropriate.  There have been a few curse words, but they do not litter the pages.  It is definitely worth the listen or read if you like time travel.

 

To Be a Fool?

Amanda Peters

I just finished The Queen’s Own Fool by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris.  I love stories that fill in the gaps of history. Even though they are works of fiction, they give historical figures life! It is a way to connect with people from our past in a meaningful way.

Nicola is a wonderful person with an exciting story.  She is able to make an impact on her world despite her status as a peasant simply because she speaks truthfully.  I found myself inspired by her bravery to be truthful and disappointed when her emotions prevented her from saying what she knew needed to be said.

Even if you are not a history buff, this story was enjoyable.  Romance, drama, action!  It has all the elements of the best fairytales.  But, does it have a happily ever after?

Maggie Post: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

 

Hello fellow readers!  Again showing that I am behind the times in YA books, I just read Leigh Bardugo.  I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to read any book because I was in such a slump (plus I am re-watching Doctor Who, it is for work so it is okay.) .  Little did I know that this book would suck me into its world.  It was a really great read!

I decided to read this book because I love looking at the covers of Bardugo’s other series The Six of Crows.  They are soooooo pretty.  I investigated and talked with a few other people and they said that it was a different series but in the same world as the Grisha series.  I decided to read this series first because I figured it would describe the world and history better.  You do not have to read this series first though.

The story follows a girl who is a soldier in a world that has spent decades in war.  They were crossing the “Fold” and were attacked by the monsters that live there.  While protecting her friend from one of the Volcra, it was discovered that she had a power, she was a Sun Summoner.  She could radiate light and it caused the Volcra to leave her, her friend, and gave the army time to retreat.  She was taken to the palace to practice and perfect her skill to save the country.  However (because there is always a however)  she is confused because she has entered this new world, she has feelings for the most powerful person in the kingdom, the Darkling (how mysterious and seducing is that name?) and her childhood best friend, Mal, and she is struggling with her power.  Will she be able to save the world?

It is so good.  It follows a typical trope of a girl finding out she has a special power and then learning to use and accept it to save her fellow man, but it definitely has its own voice.  In the acknowledgments , Bardugo thanks a friend who helped her with Russian  translations, and you can see the thought and care she used to incorporate the language and traditions into the story.  It did feel somewhat predictable (I found myself finding similarities between this story and the Red Queen), but the process to get to that end was interesting and not all the way what I expected.  I am ready to finish this series and move onto her next.  She really is one of the best YA fantasy readers I have read so far.

A lot of people make it seem this book is a lot about battle.  Maybe I was reading books about the series as a whole, because this book did have some battle, but not a ton in my opinion.  Really, I think this story was more about the main character discovering things about herself.  Building her up for the greatness she is sure to have in the coming books.

Read it and talk to me about! Please!?! And who else is thinking the YA community is wanting us to fall in love with the bad guys?  I do.  I don’t know how I feel about that.

Book 1 is pretty clean and appropriate for ages 13 up, it alluded to sexual situations a couple of times and one part got a little grabby, but nothing happened within that scene.  Some scenes could be seen as scary because of the monsters and the fighting that happens.  (a guy gets sliced in half)

Read more at Common Sense Media: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/shadow-and-bone-the-grisha-trilogy-book-1#

 

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