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<<August 2015>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,666
26. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Viking, 2015

Peyton and Syndey, brother and sister, couldn't be more different from each other.  They're separated by not only personality, but today,by tables of lawyers in a courtroom.  Peyton, the gregarious, daredevil, is being tried for a felony crime.  Sydney is quietly sitting beside her parents, hiding her feelings, being a good girl.

It's been that way for as long as Sydney can remember.  Even as children, Peyton stole the energy and light from the room.  Now, as a teen, Sydney is hidden even farther away from the family dynamic.  After Peyton's conviction, her mother is personally entrenched in Peyton's situation and being the supportive parent her son needs.  Sydney's father doesn't help; he's allowed her mom to make all major decisions and never speaks up.

But she isn't quite invisible.  Peyton's friend Ames, is willing to help out the family whenever they need him.  Again, Sydney hides the trepidation she feels around him because her mother trusts him implicitly. Whatever is best for Peyton.

And then there are the whispers and rumors starting at school.  With her life inundated with Peyton's problems, Peyton's reputation, and how to help Peyton, Sydney cut ties and enrolls in a public high school, where she hopes no one knows who her brother is.  And it's on that first week that a pizza joint will change her life....

Layla and Mac, brother and sister, couldn't be more different from each other.  Layla is the one with the effervescent personality and goes through life headfirst and headstrong.  Mac is the one who is the rock, balancing his sister and his family's business while studying as hard as he can with that glimmer of hope he'll be able to leave this town and pursue his dream.  Their mother is involved in their lives but with love and wisdom while their father runs their pizza place successfully. Layla and Mac enjoy spending time together.  Layla may not play in the band Mac is in, but she does show up to every show, creating that energy only she can create.

And one day at their family's pizza joint, their lives will change course with a chance meeting with one girl...

Two different families, two people who want to find themselves, and emotional ties with both friends and family will come together, a pressure cooker ready to explode...

Sarah Dessen, delivers with her newest young adult novel.  What makes this novel work so well is the depth she writes about concerning relationships on all levels, emotional and internal conflict, growing up, and personal dreams and goals.  This isn't a sugary sweet book for girls - this is real life, which can be ugly, dangerous, and poignant.  Dessen balances these traits of real life with honesty, trust, and convictions.  The reader gets to live in both households and see how the other half lives, which is the strength of this novel.  Full of opposites, it creates balance.  Oh, I have no qualms this book will blow off the shelves, never to return.  Better buy two copies!
HIGHLY recommended upper junior high/high school.

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27. Snapshot reviews- Firestarter, Only Ever Yours, Firewallers, The Crane Wife

Hi everyone! Firstly, I had a brilliant time at the Sunday of YALC. I got more books than I should have done, and met so many wonderful people. Thank you everyone for a great day!

Second, Rebecca is the winner of a signed, unpersonalised copy of The Lost and the Found! I will post it some time this week/  There’s still one unsigned copy to be won... if you're reading this on Saturday 25th, there's a twitter giveaway going on... 

Third! I have a giant pile of books I’ve read that I don’t feel I can write fully about.  So I asked Georgia, aka the Bibliomaniac, if I could use her format of very mini reviews (such as here) and she said yes! Thank you, Georgia!  Here’s a very quick snapshot at some things I’ve been reading...

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28. Operation Redwood Revisited {Great Fiction Book for Kids!}

Today I make my way to revisit an old friend, the redwood trees of Northern California. In celebration of this very fun trip, I’m re-sharing an old Jump into a Book favorite about a great read called Operation Redwood.

This is one of our favorite books and every time we read it we feel that we want to go immediately to visit the redwood trees. Today we’ll be in the Muir Forest doing just that.



Maybe it was the vivid memory of being a 7 year-old and being in a car that my father drove through the middle of a huge tree. Every time I hear the word “redwood” this memory comes immediately to mind. That’s exactly what happened in the bookstore as I saw Operation Redwood by S Terrell French,a new release on the counter at the bookstore.

Operation Redwood

I immediately purchased it, took it home, and started turning pages. This is a story that doesn’t disappoint. Twelve year-old Julian Carter-Li accidentally reads an email he shouldn’t be reading only to find himself in a fight to save an old growth stand of the oldest trees in the world; the Redwoods. The story unfolds with a great sense of discovery. The children discover themselves, their values, and their shared love of an old grove of trees which has become a part of their lives.

There are many twists and turns but ultimately it was the vision and spirit of team work that led this group of young people to a brilliant success. The message is loud and clear, anyone can make a difference.



One of the reasons the children felt so connected to this grove of trees was discovery and the sharing of their discoveries. Julian didn’t know that the redwoods were in trouble. He didn’t even know it was an issue. Robin, her sister,best friend had all shared countless memories in the old grove, as well as , two big brothers who had shared a secret treehouse. Only when their sisters reached a certain age would they be told the secret of how to get up the very tall tree and into the treehouse. Julian, together with his best friend Danny, discover how to stand up for what is truly important.

With that said, it is time for us to take a journey into the woods or forest and see what we can share.

Something To Do

Let’s play ‘Into the Forest”. Here’s how we play:

  • Go as a family, or a group of friends.
  • Bring along any or all of these items;a camera,journal,sketchbook,pencils, and crayons
  • Once in the forest, set boundaries so that no one gets lost. Use the buddy system. No one is left alone.

Now we are ready for our Scavenger Hunt. Have a look at the lists below. See how many things you can find. Be sure to look, touch, smell,listen, and watch as much as you can. Please feel free to write down your discoveries,photograph them, or just sit in wonder of sharing such a grand experience.


Dead tree               Wild flowers           pine cone        Berries          Vine        Poison Ivy

Stream                    Creek                  grass                clover leaf    Moss       Pine tree

Seeds                      pods                    soil                  eroding soil  rock         mud

sand                        fern                 y shaped twig      Trash            acorn        nuts

pine needles          tree blossoms    hole in a tree        tree stump    pond         dark leaves

light leaves            small pebbles     unusual leaves      colored rocks  different shades of color

dew                   tree fungus           season changes     caterpillars       squirrels    bird

ants                    butterfly             snails                      beetles           feather      salamander

lizard                   ladybug               spider                     spider web      birds nest   insects

deer tracks          raccoon tracks      frog                     leaf eat by insect  proof of animals

proof of people

Listen to:

Leaves under your feet           wind in the trees         sound of a bee

birds singing                           crickets                      Water running

Noises in the forests               Wet mud                     rotten wood

Wind blowing                          rocks hitting water       rocks tumbling in water


Pine tree        flowers            Mud        grass          water       fresh air         cedar tree

Watch and share:

Animals eating                   leaves falling to the ground      spider web being built

insect in a spider web         An ant moving something         Wind blowing in the leaves

fish jumping                       moving clouds                          sunlight coming through the trees

sunrise                               sunset                                      stars in the night sky

Lightning bugs                     reflections in water                  trail markers

animal homes                       shelters

After all of your discoveries today sit with your family or group and share all of the wonderful moments you felt, heard, touched and smelled. If you have some photos of your walk into the forest that you would like to share please do so here.

You can also download this list to take with or to create a checklist for your Into the Forest adventure.

For more information about the Redwood Forest and where you can see these trees of size of yourself have a look here:

Looking for a unique way to keep your kids busy this summer…and engaged with nature? The At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum is available for sale!

At Home Summer Nature Camp eCirriculum


This 8-week eCurriculum is packed with ideas and inspiration to keep kids engaged and happy all summer long. It offers 8 kid-approved themes with outdoor activities, indoor projects, arts & crafts, recipes, field trip ideas, book & media suggestions, and more. The curriculum, now available for download, is a full-color PDF that can be read on a computer screen or tablet, or printed out. Designed for children ages 5-11, it is fun and easily adaptable for all ages!

The At-Home Summer Nature Camp eGuide is packed with ideas & inspiration to keep your kids engaged all summer long. This unique eCurriculum is packed with ideas & inspiration from a group of creative “camp counselors.” Sign up, or get more details, HERE

The post Operation Redwood Revisited {Great Fiction Book for Kids!} appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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29. Book Review: The Doublecross (and other skills I learned as a superspy) by Jackson Pearce

Book: The Doublecross (and other skills I learned as a superspy)
Author: Jackson Pearce
Published: July 14, 2015
Source: review copy from publisher via Netgalley.com

Hale's parents are two of SRS's best spies. The Jordans are known worldwide. Too bad for them that he's a chubby, awkward kid who couldn't win a footrace against a herd of snails - hardly the kind of son to live up to superspy parents. Still, when they disappear on a mission, Hale knows he can break into the evil League's headquarters and rescue them, because he's got plenty of brains and wits, and really, what's more important to a spy?

But the League isn't the evil super-organization he's always been told it was. It's a rickety affair, drained of its funding, limping along with only one spy and some hapless support staff. And what they tell Hale turns his whole world upside down - because it turns out SRS are the ones who made his parents disappear. SRS are the bad guys.

Just like with his initial plan to rescue his parents, Hale knows the right thing to do, and that's to bring down the SRS from inside.

This is a book you probably shouldn't think about too closely, what with its prepubescent spies and I-Spy antics. It's awfully fun once you have a generous suspension of disbelief. The plot romps along, with plenty of explosions and gadgets and excitement, as well as humor. I also enjoyed Hale's confidence in his own abilities. Yes, he's overweight and not that great at the physical stuff. (Pearce mostly avoids making fat-shaming a source of comedy, luckily.) Hale is also observant, nimble-witted, and is able to oversee a mission with a variety of challenges.

What really appealed to me the most was the generous dose of heart in Hale's friendships with new League pals Ben and Beatrix, as well with his baby sister Kennedy, and his one-time friend/one-time nemesis/now maybe friend again, Walter Quaddlebaum.

The end is open to a series of Hale's adventures fighting the SRS, and that's a series that would probably be popular among middle-schoolers.

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30. Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Title:  The Art of Being Normal
Author:  Lisa Williamson
Series:   N/A
Published:    1 January 2015 by David Fickling
Length:  368 pages
Source: library
Other info: This was Lisa’s debut
Summary :  Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.
When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

Review: David, seen by everyone as a boy, really a girl, is continually teased and misunderstood by everyone bar his best friends, from parents to bullies. Leo is the new guy, with rumours about why he left his old school running around, and he just wants to be invisible. They  become friends after  Leo sticks up for David, and they
I enjoyed watching the friendship between David and Leo, the ups and downs and the things they tell eachother. Both narrations are well fleshed out, and so are most of the side characters.  My favourites were probably Alicia, Essie, and Felix, who are all great in their own way and who I want to befriends with.
I enjoyed the represntation of trans people here. I loved the fact that we see a trans character who has already undergone some of the transition process, and that being trans is not the only facet of their being, they have siblings, families, friends, and romantic issues to navigate too. I also liked the way we saw how gender expectations also influenced the trans characters’ perceptions of themselves, such as David’s despair at his growth spurt, defying his hopes to be small and feminine, because of the expectations society sets for women.
I  really appreciated the look at life as a queer child in a modern, less tolerant environment. I’m really lucky to live in a very tolerant school where our trans community, as far as I know, are treated with respect by both staff and students, and there’s no physical bullying. I know nationwide  figures for bullying, but like with many things, it all becomes more real, more important, if you’re reading a more fleshed out story, be it fact or fiction, than just looking at statistics.
I found  it weird that Leo continues to call David David and he when he’s learn David’s chosen name. I don’t know if that’s internalised cisnormativity or something. I just noticed and wondered why he of all people would continue  with that. It changes by the end though. Eh, I don’t know.
I really liked the look at  complex family relationships. Leo’s quest to find his father. David’s continual hiding and eventual coming out. The support given and not given to each child. It varies, and feeds into each character.
Emotions were had when reading this. Sadness for the environment that allows the continued bullying. Sadness and happiness when Leo and Alicia get together. Happiness and pride for David when coming out. Pure happiness at the Christmas ball they put up and how happy David.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to an eyeopening story about friendship, family, and  being transgender today.

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31. Review: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

The book everyone is talking about. The book no one thought they would ever see. Fifty Five years after To Kill A Mockingbird we have a sequel…. Firstly I think it is really important to remember the context of this book while reading it. This book was written before To Kill A Mockingbird. Before all […]

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32. A Book Review of “The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife”

by Sally Matheny

The Perils of a Pastor's Wife
Growing up, I remember a variety of wives serving alongside their pastor-husbands.  On Sundays, I noticed their kindness and smiling faces. I remember their immaculate appearance—hair teased and sprayed in place, crisply ironed skirts with coordinating jackets, hose, and shiny high heeled shoes that matched their purses. As I child, I thought these women were as polished as the pearls on their necks.

Of course, as I matured, I realized the life of a pastor’s wife is not as pristine as I’d imagined. While she finds joy in serving alongside her husband, the pastor’s wife also discovers she’s frequently in battle.

Nan Jones knows this as well, and has penned a wonderful book, The Perils of a Pastor’s Wife. Chapter by chapter, Nan discusses various perils including ones on meeting expectations, battle fatigue, anxiety and fear, and a strained marriage. Nan exchanges her opaque, pearl necklace for a crystal one so readers can clearly see her heart and relate to her experiences.

“Nan offers a hand to hold, aha moments of healing, and soul-strengthening biblical insight.” She takes you straight to God’s Word for hope and encouragement. Also, you’ll find sprinkles of humor as you learn how God worked in Nan’s life, even through persimmon-colored linoleum.
Read more »

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33. Mort(e) Book Review

Title: Mort(e) Author: Robert Repino Publisher: Soho Press Publication Date: January 20, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1616954277 368 pp. ARC provided by publisher "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."  Kent Brockman Mort(e) by Robert Repino was an ARC I picked up at last summer's ALA Annual Conference and I finally found the time to read it. I was intrigued by its animal

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34. Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2015: July

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author, Netgalley or the publisher for this honest review.

About the Book

Ruled by duty…driven by desire!

A king amongst men, Sheikh Zafir cannot allow emotion or feelings to colour his judgement.  His carnal desires must be curbed for the sake of peace in his kingdom.  But his control is tested by the feisty Fern Davenport; Zafir must have her.  

Innocent Fern Davenport tries to resist the Sheikh’s skilful seduction – she knows that he could never marry her. But under the blistering sun an incendiary thirst awakes and one incredible night results in a very lasting consequence.

Now this Sheikh must claim his heir and his bride!

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 4 stars

Here's why:

The illustrations in this book were stunning. I got this one to read with my science-obsessed youngster who loved it. It also was easy to read and kept my child engaged for the entire length of the story.

Would I recommend this? Yes. It is a good book for children.

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35. Free ebooks Review: Death Wish by Megan Tatye

Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

About the Book

Book #1 in The Ceruleans series


The Ceruleans: mere mortals infused with power over life and death. Five books; one question: If the might of the heavens were in your hands, would you be sinner or saint?

Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. But suicide? It makes no sense.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to an isolated English cove with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.

As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.

What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.

To believe the impossible. 

Buy the Book

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 2.5 stars

Here's why:

The reason I chose this read was because of the blurb. It looked like it would be a good paranormal read while addressing the issue of suicide. I made it to chapter 6 (around 10% according to my Kindle) and then I stopped. I tried to get into this one, I really did, but I couldn't get behind the main character.

She drove me crazy and not in a good way. I know that everyone grieves differently when a loved one dies. But if you're trying to solve the why, you don't go and do the same things half-baked and expect to get answers.

This story is also first-person point-of-view which I always have a love/hate relationship when it comes to stories written in that fashion. You either get it right, halfway right or it goes wrong. I felt that this one was a halfway type of reading. Yes, I was initially interested in her thoughts and feelings but it quickly went downhill and I lost interest in her inner turmoil.

Would I recommend this book? I'm on the fence. I personally didn't like it. Doesn't mean you won't. Choose at your own risk.

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36. Book Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Book: Hold Me Like a Breath
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Published: 2015
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley

Penelope Landlow is a Mafia princess, the daughter of one of the most successful organ traffickers in the country. But she's shielded from the business because of her illness, an autoimmune disorder that means she bruises at the barest touch. Wrapped up in cotton wool and sheltered from the world, she chafes at her restrictions and dreams of escaping to New York City and being allowed to love Garrett Ward, her brother Carter's bodyguard.

When Carter is murdered, apparently by the rival Zhu family, Penelope's world is rocked to its foundations. But when her parents are slaughtered, just as she's planning to run away with
Garrett, that world is shattered beyond hope of repair. Spirited away to New York City, without Garrett, she finds only loneliness in the city she's longed for.

Then she meets Char. Still in hiding, she gives him a fake name and discovers unexpected freedom in the role of Maeve. Maeve isn't sick. Maeve has never so much as heard of organized crime. Maeve is free to create her own life. But Penelope Landlow's dangerous life is waiting to suck her back in.

This book took a long time to get started. Schmidt spends a considerable number of pages on setting up Penelope's pampered, confining life and her longings for something more. I almost put it down, but things picked up around the 1/3rd mark and after that I was glued to the pages - especially once I figured out that the rather dull Garrett wasn't actually the love interest.

In fact, I was heartened to realize that while Penelope falls in love with somebody else, Char is a secondary character at best. This is Penelope's story, through and through - how she moves from being an overprotected, fearful, and naive girl to a young woman willing to take risks for herself and the people she loves.

My favorite part? Penelope doesn't get magically cured of her autoimmune disorder. Instead, she learns how to manage it, how to live with it instead of allowing it to define her. A harrowing sequence late in the novel leaves her black and blue from head to foot, quite literally, but you can tell it's all worth it.

Drawing on both The Princess and the Pea and Rapunzel, this is a fairy tale retelling with a hefty dose of suspense, betrayal, and inner strength. This is apparently the first in a series, and while I don't know where it will go from here, I'm willing to find out.

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37. Re-Reading To Kill A Mockingbird

In anticipation of the new Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman, (out July 14) I decided it was the perfect time for a re-read of To Kill A Mockingbird. I don’t think I’ve read the book since high school and the movie is still so dominant in my mind so it was a great […]

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38. Book Review: Watch Out For Flying Kids! How Two Circuses, Two Countries, and Nine Kids Confront Conflict and Build Community

In her new book, Watch Out For Flying Kids! (Peachtree, 2015), author Cynthia Levinson soars to new heights exploring issues of black and white, rich and poor, and Jews and Arabs in a whole new way. As she did in her previous book, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March, Cynthia looks at prejudice through the eyes of kids who face it every day. About her new book, Cynthia explains, “I knew I needed to help make the notion understandable and acceptable that not only Jews and Arabs, but also blacks, whites, Muslims, Christians – all kids—can get along. And that circus is an especially enchanting means in which to do so.”

She’s right about that. The kids tumble, juggle and fly above the conflicts that afflict their communities. The two circuses are Circus Harmony of St. Louis, Missouri and the Galilee Circus in Israel. Each has its share of stars. In Circus Harmony, there is inner-city Iking, who was in danger of following in his mother’s footsteps (she died in prison) if not for a loving mentor who introduced him to the youth circus. Iking works alongside Meghan, a transplant from the white suburbs of Wisconsin. Half way around the world we learn about Roey, a Jewish boy with a penchant for juggling, and Hla, a hijab-wearing Arab acrobat, just to name a few.

There are a lot of characters in this story, but Cynthia keeps the reader on track as she first introduces each circus and then shows what happened when Circus Harmony visited Israel in 2007, and the Galilee Circus came to St. Louis in 2008. Young readers will identify with the typical problems of being homesick, yearning for pizza, and not feeling “good enough.” But they will also feel the fear and tension that is part of daily life in Israel when a murder is committed in the village the American performers are staying in.

The honesty in this book is refreshing. The children don’t gloss over their feelings of anxiety, fear, and awkwardness as they try to merge the two groups. At the same time, they reveal a lot of maturity persevering through injuries, lack of equipment, foreign languages, learning to trust each other, etc. And this is piled on top of the common challenges of growing up – changing bodies, trying to fit in, making decisions between sports, cheerleading, circus, etc.   

Throughout the book, sidebars in the margins offer more information about circus acts, Jewish and Arab traditions, as well as the Second Lebanon War that the Israelis kids lived through. Thematic quotes begin each chapter, and at the end Cynthia lets readers know what some of the children are doing now as older teens and adults.

Cynthia does a tremendous job juggling dozens of characters, bouncing back and forth between the two circuses, and moving the story forward chronologically. A less ambitious writer might have settled for a tighter focus on only one circus, but the story would not have allowed the reader to come away with the understanding that, no matter where we live, we are all alike. 

Highly recommended!

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39. The Time Machine Audiobook Review

Title: The Time Machine Author: H.G. Wells Narrated by: Sir Derek Jacobi Publisher: Listening Library Publication Date: June 11, 2013 Listening copy via Sync H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is one of those science fiction classics that I just never got around to reading, so I thought listening to a free Sync copy would be a perfect way to finally get around to it. I've seen the Hollywood

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40. Book Review: Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman

Book: Will Sparrow's Road
Author: Karen Cushman
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Sold by his father for ale, mistreated by his new master, twelve-year-old Will Sparrow takes off, vowing to care only for himself. But the world of Elizabethan England isn't known for its kindness to the young and the vulnerable, and Will is taken advantage of time and again.

When he falls in with a most unusual group - a dwarf man, a cat-faced girl, their wagon full of oddities, and Tidball, the man who owns them all - Will thinks he's found a place to belong, at least for a little while. But how long can such a life last?

I love Karen Cushman's writing for the vivid way it brings history to life, but also for its complicated, realistic, and not always likeable main characters. Will is both hardened by life and tremendously naive, taking people at face value yet unsurprised when they betray him. Both of these qualities are things he has to unlearn in the course of the book. When he meets Fitz and Grace Wyse, he dismisses them as freaks and believes in his new master's promises of food and pay. But as Tidball breaks those promises over and over, and both Fitz and Grace prove to be more than the brawler and the monster Tidball calls them, he learns both to look beyond the surface and to trust that others will be there for him.

History is generally a hard sell for kids, and the first part of this book moves somewhat slowly. It picks up when he meets Tidball, but the changes in both Will and how he sees others still unfold at a gradual, if realistic pace.While it takes place four hundred years ago, Will's loneliness and his found family will strike a chord with kids willing to dive in.

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41. Review: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

I am quite pleased with Ally Carter‘s latest book All Fall Down. I had high expectations since her NYT bestselling series, Gallagher Girls, is such an excellently hilarious series, but All Fall Down definitely stands on it’s own! It features Grace, snarky and bitter, and granddaughter of a powerful ambassador. Oh and she’s looking for her mother’s […]

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42. Review: Stealing People by Robert Wilson

Charlie Boxer returns in one of Robert Wilson’s best novels to date. Two years after the events of You Will Never Find Me Charlie Boxer’s life is nearing some normalcy. Normal for a kidnap consultant whose services offer a little bit extra revenge on the side. His relationships with his ex-wife Mercy and daughter Amy […]

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43. City of Savages by Kelly Lee

Saga Press, 2015

Skyler and Phee are two sisters with very different personalities. Skyler is the quiet one, thinking things through while Phee jumps into a situation not thinking about the consequences of her actions. Right now, they, along with their mother, are on the move to what was once Central Park in order to stay safe through the winter.  It's not what any of them want, it's what they need in order to survive.

New York City, including the island of Manhattan where the girls and their mother live, have undergone changes because of World War III and the Red Army that took over.  While their mother may remember the time before WWIII, Sklyer and Phee only know the broken down streets, the savages lurking in dark corners, and Rolladin and her lords, who rule the decimated population at the POW camp once known as Central Park.

Rolladin rules with an iron fist, and those rules must be obeyed. When Phee, Skyler and their mother arrive late for the head count, they know they're in trouble. Those who don't make it are forced to try and survive outside the POW camp, where many have tried and failed.  But for some reason, Rolladin has a soft spot for the girls and instead of kicking them out, she allows them in with one condition...Phee must be part of the annual street fights in order to win their family a spot inside.  While Phee sees this as an opportunity, quiet Skyler sees the danger in it, understanding how manipulative Rolladin can be.

After playing her part, Phee, Skyler and their mother are able to move back into camp, but one fateful night will change their situation.  One chance meeting with outsiders and a conversation overheard will change the girls' world and future as they know it.  Instead of seeing themselves as safe, they now understand they are actually prisoners and are willing to risk the outside in order to flee, along with their mother and the two strangers, from the madness.

What they don't realize is that madness can be found anywhere, especially in a world that is trying to right itself and the struggle for power over what's left becomes the new battlefront.

Kelly Lee writes an amazing dystopian YA novel with a larger than life backdrop of a bombed out NYC and the different survivors dwelling there.  They say opposites attract, and Lee uses this through point of view alternating narratives between the sisters and how they see the same situation in completely different ways.  This is what creates the solidity of this novel.  The characters are real, the history is real, and those in the background create a stark reality.  This is what I've been waiting for....a great, believable dystopian novel with a fast pace and abrupt surprises.  Recommended.

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44. Book Review: Dead to Me by Mary McCoy

Book: Dead to Me
Author: Mary McCoy
Published: 2015
Source: Review copy from publisher via Netgalley

In 1948, sixteen-year-old Alice Gates gets a call from a hospital, telling her they've found her sister beaten half to death in a public park. This is surprising in more ways than one. This is the same sister Alice hasn't seen in four years, ever since Annie stormed out of the house. Alice has spent those four years bewildered and depressed. Meanwhile, her parents refuse to acknowledge that they even have an older daughter and continue to pursue Hollywood glitz.

Alice rushes to the hospital by herself, unwilling to trust her parents. Once there, she discovers her sister still conscious and a private detective who tells her Annie was mixed up with some very shady people. To understand what happened to Annie, Alice will have to take on her sister's quest, and follow a mystery through the glittering highs and festering depths of Hollywood.

This is very much a Hollywood noir book. The film industry, shown here at the height of the glamour period, glitters and dazzles while the center rots away. But it's more than a cynical novel about terrible people. As Alice slowly uncovers the mystery of why her sister left and what she's been doing in the interim, she learns about her sister and herself in equal measure. Put together with the mix of women that Alice meets along with the way, as well as discovering new things about her mother and her once-best-friend, McCoy injects a powerful meditation on relationships between women as friends, sisters, mothers, and adversaries.

Fast-paced, addictive, full of flawed and untrustworthy people, this book will feed the appetites of those who love a dark-edged mystery.

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45. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Book Review

Title: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Author: Kirstin Cronn-Mills Publisher: Flux Publication Date: October 8, 2012 ISBN-13: 978-0738732510 288 pp. Copy provided via publisher I picked up a copy of this title (signed by the author!) at the ALA Annual Conference last year, and though it's taken me awhile to get to it on my TBR pile, I am absolutely in love in with it. Beautiful Music for

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46. Review: The Cartel by Don Winslow

Ten years ago Don Winslow wrote the thriller of the decade. The Power of the Dog was an epic thriller that detailed America’s thirty year war on drugs on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Ten years later he has done it again. Winslow blows The Power of the Dog away detailing the next ten […]

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47. I Want His Job

Headline news can be depressing. Which is why it makes me happy to find news stories like this one: This Teenager Discovered a New Planet on his Third Day of Work. Seriously. At 15, this kid shows up for day three of his “work experience” project, they’ve assigned him the task of wading through all […]

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48. Review: Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville takes his writing up another notch in his latest thought-provoking and tragic crime novel. This isn’t a crime novel where a mystery needs to be solved or a vicious killer is stalking victims, although you are kept guessing at different times. This is a crime novel about what happens afterwards, after a crime […]

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49. Book Review- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

So, it’s Pride Day, or whatever you call the day where really major cities hold their Pride celebrations, being the last weekend of June and thus commemeorating the Stonewall Riots. It’s also the day after the Supreme Court of the USA announced it’s a constiutional right for all people regardless of gender and sexuality to get married if they choose, and states can’t deny this. YAY!! In celebration, here’s a book I read for Faye’s LGBT Readathon and really enjoyed!

Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author:  Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Series:   N/A
Published:    February 2012 by Simon and Schuster
Length:  368 pages
Source: borrowed from friend
Summary : Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Review: 1987. Two very different boys meet and form a friendship. Together they have fun, navigate their teenage years and, learn things about the universe and themselves.
I've had this on my to read list for ages, because it's on many people's lists of brilliant gay teen novels, and it's been hard to find (I don't think it has a UK publisher). Yay for friends who bother buying things off the internet instead!
This is one of those quietly brilliant books. I'm not always into discovering who you are type stories, but I liked this one.
My favourite thing was watching the friendship between Aristotle and Dante grow. It's organic, full of setbacks, but ultimately endures. It's a beautifully close friendship and love, and it just makes you smile for them, because it's the kind that makes you think they're soulmates, and makes it natural for things to progress at the end, but it would be OK even if it didn't because some kinds of bond are so profound they don't need anything else but if there is then that's fine too.
Close second is all the family relationships going on, from the easiness with Dante's father (who is a generally awesome person) to the awkwardness surrounding Aristotle's imprisoned brother.
Then there's  the development of Aristotle and Dante, Dante knowong what he wants, Aristotle figuring it out. They learn a lot, they go through a lot with and without each other.
Also, the final feeling the book left me with. It's not loud happiness, like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, another gay story I got through quickly and loved. In Aristotle and Dante,  it's more a quiet kind of contentment, that everything's been resolved, that the future will all work out.
This is all becsuse of the writing (OK, all books are what they are because of writing, but here I want to make a point of it). It's narrated by Aristotle, and we see  Dante directly from his letters. We get all of Aristotle's thoughts and questions and emotions and view of the world and it all comes together into a story that feels real and full.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a tender, gentle story about many forms of love.

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50. Book Review: Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway

Book: Emmy and Oliver
Author: Robin Benway
Published: June 23, 2015
Source: review copy from publisher via Edelweiss

Emmy and Oliver have been best friends since the day they were born. But when he was seven, he disappeared, kidnapped by his own father. Emmy spent the next ten years not knowing what became of him.

Ten years later, Oliver is back, but he's changed. He's no longer a second-grader. He's taller, he's quieter, and he's spent the last ten years hidden away by his father. He's a completely different person - except for the moments when he remembers an old joke, an old event, or even just smiles in a particular way that reminds her of the little boy who was her best friend.

Emmy's not the only one feeling unsettled by Oliver's return. His relationship with his mother is rocky, he struggles to connect to other kids at school, and he's not so sure that his return was the best thing for anybody. Is there a way to find some semblence of normal again, for any of them?

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book so much was that Robin Benway's stories have  a surface lightness with a surprising depth and heft once you get into the story. The narration is light and witty, the characters enjoyably snarky, but the themes that move through the book aren't light or fluffy. In this book, that theme is the impact of a traumatic event on friends and on the community.

Oliver's disappearance, its immediate aftermath, and the years of just not knowing, have had a profound impact on Emmy. She thinks about it often, recalling the media circus, the police interviews, and her own seven-year-old's realization that the world is big and scary and nobody, not even your parents, can protect you.

Emmy's parents, while loving, are overprotective to the point of stifling, and that's a direct result of Oliver's disappearance. She can't even tell them that she's surfing secretly and wants to go to UCSD instead of staying at home for community college. Oliver's return starts to dredge up all the feelings that led up to that overprotectiveness, and ultimately make it possible for Emmy break free of it.

Truly, I expected this to be a dual-POV book, which has been fashionable in YA so long as to become nearly a trope, especially for teen romances. Unlike some others, this would have worked pretty well in that structure. But the book is thoroughly Emmy's point of view, and it works awfully well that way too. She's the only one that Oliver feels normal around, and their growing intimacy allows him to tell his story to her.

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