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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: Michael Vey Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Hello everyone!

So someone was telling me about this book two years ago, and I noticed it going out fairly regularly at the library, but honestly, I didn’t want to give it a chance.  It seemed kind a kid-ish and not a unique story line.  I gave it a shot because I needed something to listen to on audiobook and now I might be a Michael Vey fangirl.

Holy Cow!  It completely surprised me  how much I enjoyed this series (granted, I still have books 6 and 7 to read).  I still think this book is a younger YA novel, not quite middle grade, but I do not think that older teens would be huge fans.  The book started out sort of cliche, boy has secret powers, likes popular girl, and he gets beat up for being small and nerdy, blah blah blah.  I thought that this would be sort of a dumb high school novel.  Then it turns out the girl has powers too (I will say the two of them ending up in the same small town seems statistically unlikely, but I will accept it).  Then she is kidnapped along with Michael’s mother.  He sets off to rescue them with an odd assortment of people.

Here is what I like about the series:

  1.  Yes, he is a typical hero.  However, I like that the enemy is a whole organization and he does have to go up against teens like himself.  That would be difficult.  There is also the redemption of characters that I also appreciate and a sense of right and wrong.  Richard Paul Evans did start to touch on an idea that maybe we don’t know good guy from bad guy, but sort of backed off.  I love that concept though, it brings good discussion.
  2.  We are going all over the world!  This is not just set in Idaho or California.  So far I have read about Peru (now it is on a bucket list of places to go), Mexico, Taiwan, and Tuvalu.  I hadn’t even heard of the last one.  There are descriptions and facts that make it interesting.  I am not sure how many facts are true, but I like them.  Richard Paul Evans also writes in a few different languages, just little bits, but I feel like it makes it a little more authentic.
  3. I like the cast of characters.  I think it supports all their strengths and weaknesses, and they meld well together.

Honestly, if I was a teacher, I think this book would be great to read and talk about a variety of things, from physics, electricity, geography, culture, and the topic “Could you, should you” (As in, I can make electric people that have cool powers, should I though?)

So a slightly better recap of the first book:

Michael Vey lives in Meridian, Idaho with his mother.  He is electric powers and no one knows except for his best friend Ostin and his mother.  Then Michael shocks some bullies while they were beating him up, and a cheerleader named Taylor sees.  It turns out she is electric too.  As they are trying to learn more about themselves, they accidently let the company that did this to them figure out their location.  The company kidnaps Taylor and Michael’s mother.  Michael goes to get them back from this less than trustworthy school along with a few of his friends.  There is a lot of action, a lot of secret agent sort of stuff, and a lot of community.

If you are in the 5th-9th grade and are looking for a series, I would pick this up.  Good for fans of Rick Riordan, Harry Potter, or Marvel (especially the TV show Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D).

Please talk to me about this series.  Thanks!

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-prisoner-of-cell-25-michael-vey-book-1

 

Image of the mash-mash up of books I got from this site: https://vey-electroclan.tumblr.com/post/165677972408/i-saw-one-of-these-before-and-decided-to-make-an

 

Maggie Review: Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

Hello,

 

I just finished Far From the Tree by Robin Benway.  This book was so worth the hype!  I heard so many great reviews and everyone was loving it, so I decided to give it a try.  Sooooo Good.  I read the book without really knowing what it was about, and I am glad I didn’t know, because I don’t think I would have picked up the book otherwise.

This book is about 3 siblings who were all seperated from each other and their birth family.  Two of the girls were adopted when they were infants into different families and the brother was put into the foster system when he was about 1 years old.  They finally learned about each other and met each other for the first time when they were teenagers.  This journey started because one of the sisters, Grace, had a baby herself at the age of 16 and gave the baby up for adoption.  While she was processing this grief, it inspired her to look for her birth family and then she found her siblings.

This book was really sensitive but filled with grief, anger, loneliness in a real authentic way.  Sometimes with comtemporary YA novels I feel like characters to really odd things or react in extreme ways to situations and I feel like it is done just for drama and flair.  With this book I felt like they all had real and reasonable reactions to their feelings and family given what the characters have been through.  The characters were pretty level headed as well, which I appreciate.  Benway could have made the brother’s character,  Joaquin, really obnoxious, especially since he was in the foster system and there are a lot of stereotypes with that, but  Joaquin was likeable, down to earth, and I was rooting for him throughout the whole story.

Maya, one of the sisters, was sometimes a little obnoxious, but I appreciated her story too. I think that Maya’s character shows that everyone has their own bought of trouble in their lives, even if it isn’t as bad as someone elses.  She was adopted into a wealthy family, she was loved unconditionally, and accepted as a lesbian by her family.  Her life is perfect from the outside, but Maya still struggles with feeling like a fish out of water with her family, struggles with her mother’s alcholism, and struggles with communicating her feelings.  Her flaws and troubles are real, and her emotions are real, and her siblings accept that and help her through it.  I just felt Benway made it clear that all three siblings had equal struggles with life, even though they were vastly different struggles.

This is a really great story, and I would recommend it to students in high school, even some middle school.  The Lexile Framework for reading has this booked marked as a High-Low 780 book.  Meaning it is has content and story that would appeal to 8th grade and above, but is written at an elementary level.  This is to help struggling or reluctant readers to have a book written at their level, but with a story that will interest them and not embarrass them as much.

There is a lot of swearing in the book.  It also discusses some about teen pregnancy, but the book didn’t go much into the discussion of sex.  A few makeout scenes, but nothing to graphic.  There is also a short scene where the siblings smoke a joint.  I would be comfortable giving this to a 7th and 8th grade reader, but some parents might not.

Here is a review from Common Sense Media that  puts in there two cents: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/far-from-the-tree#

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

 

Whoo-wee its been a while (again) since I have posted.  Apologies, things have been crazy and I took a break from YA for a short while as well.  (If you need a break from YA and are lost of what to read, check out Reese Witherspoon’s book reccommendations.)

I just got done listening to Wonder Woman: Warbringer, and I was pleasantly surprised with it.  I was sort of worried it was being hyped to much, plus I love Leigh Bardugo but was unsure of how it would be outside of the Grishaverse.  I thought Bardugo did an excellent job of writing this story with lots of great details, good humor, and interesting diverse characters.

The story was about Diana and a girl that she saved and brought to the island, which is against the rules.  She finds out that this girl, Alia, is actually the “warbringer” and many people suggest that Diana just let her die, because it would help the world.  The warbringer is a curse that is genetically linked to people who are decendents of Helen of Troy and is fated to bring bloodshed and misery to the world.  There had been other warbringers in the past that caused great wars (like World War II) or were killed young Diana wants to protect the girl though, and help her no longer be the warbringer.  Diana believes that Alia is being targeted by people and they are trying to kill her. So they set off in secret to New York.  While there Diana meets Alia’s brother, best friend, and crush, and they then go on a quest to Greece to help save Alia.

There are many twists and turns, assinataion attempts, secret powers, and healthy dose of greek mythology that will keep you interested as you read through the story.  There is a plot twist at the end that is sort of interesting (and I didn’t see it coming), but part of me felt it was an afterthought.  I also liked how the book ended.  It felt complete, and I am not dying for another book.  Sure I wonder what will happen next for the characters, but I am content with what I know.

This book does have some lanugage in it, but not a ton.  There is also some alluding to sex and sexuality, but really this book is pretty appropriate for teens 12 and up.  You can read Common Sense Media’s opinion of it here.

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.

 

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