Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

The psychological impact of 9/11 still resonates today.  Terrorism continues to disturb the world we live in.  Everyone is affected by the memory.  Those too young to remember soon learn about it as they get older.  The following story begins five years after a fictional terrorist attack at a popular gathering place.

Jaime was 5 years old when his sister is killed.   My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher takes place in London.  Now 10 years old, Jaime has vague memories of the sister that died.  Both parents remind him often of the tragedy and they do not understand why he is not  grieving.

Jaime's viewpoint is very straightforward and often humorous. Both characters have issues as they try to navigate day to day life five years after the horrific attack.  Jaime's sister Jasmine does remember her twin, Rose, who died in the attack.  Even though Jasmine has her own problems, she tries to provide some stability for Jaime.  She cooks and makes calls to school as best she can.   Jaime does not dare tell his father he has a new friend at school. Sunya is Muslim. 

Jaime and his sister continue to fend for themselves as their parents grieve.  Amidst the sadness there is hope but no easy solutions for this family, which makes this story real.  There are humorous moments but the ending is not nice and tidy, although it is as good as it gets for this family. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

Despite being a wanna-be princess and the daughter of a witch, Sophie and Agatha are best friends.  But when they're taken to the School For Good and Evil, Agatha is enrolled in the Good School and Sophie in the Evil School!  Is this a horrible mistake or is Agatha really Good and Sophie really Evil?  Or is this part of another plot entirely?

To complicate matters, there's a handsome prince, and fairy godmothers and villains as teachers, scheming classmates, and the School Master - a mysterious figure in a silver mask.  And while Agatha just wants to go home, she's going to learn a lot about friendship, love, good, and evil along the way.

The second book in the series is less about Good and Evil and more about Girls and Boys.  Here, once again, what you think you know will be turned on its head.  These books aren't about right and wrong, but instead about the ideas behind how we think of Good and Evil and Girls and Boys.  Which sounds like a lot of thinking, but don't worry, there's plenty of sword fights, magic spells, and twists and turns in these books to keep it interesting!

~ Book Ninja

P.S.  Universal Pictures might make a trilogy of films about these books and the third one in the series that's being written right now!  So read them now before the movie comes out!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Imagine if everybody you ever crushed on suddenly learned about your feelings. That's what happens to Lara Jean in To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Lara Jean has never had a boyfriend. Instead, she has a habit of crushing madly on a boy, suffering in silence, and then writing him a letter to get over him, hiding it away in an old hatbox. She thinks her secrets are safe, but one day, the letters somehow get sent out, and all the boys she's ever had unrequited feelings for discover them. Unfortunately, one of them is her older sister's recent ex and their next-door neighbor, Josh.

Frantic to convince him that she doesn't feel that way anymore (even though she kinda does), Lara Jean enlists the help of one of her other crushes, one she's totally over. Peter just broke up with his own girlfriend and wants to make her jealous. With the agreement that their relationship is just for show, Peter and Lara Jean make a production of holding hands, snuggling, and smooching where everyone can see them.

But then Lara Jean actually starts having feelings for Peter. What if he doesn't feel the same way?

Worse yet: what if he does?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver is a futuristic novel written by Lois Lowry. The book centers around a young boy named Jonas. In this book, Jonas and his family unit live inside a strange civilization founded by who we can only guess is the remaining people in the world after war, starvation, anger, and memories devastated it. Inside this strange society, there are no memories, no color, and no freedom. The book starts off with Jonas preparing for the
annual Ceremony of the Twelves. In this sacred tradition, young children turning twelve are given their jobs chosen by the Elders of the community, the people who enforce the rules. The choice is non-negotiable with the recipients, and if you chose to not follow the choice, then you are to be released from the community. With this important ceremony coming up, Jonas nervously anticipates the Elder's choice for him. When the Ceremony of the Twelves finally arrives, the Elders do something very rare and special: they give Jonas the job of the Receiver of Memory. Not knowing how much of a burden the Elders have put on him, Jonas agrees to meet the current Receiver and start his training. The Receiver tells Jonas to call him the Giver, and over his training, the Giver essentially gives Jonas all of the memories of everyone who once lived on Earth. Memories that can be good, such as love and peacefulness, but also the memories of war, and starvation, and loneliness. All these memories are memories that the people living inside the community do not have to bear. The only person that has to bear all of them now is Jonas. Jonas learns about love, hatred, brilliant colors, and depression. These memories encourage Jonas to do things that he would never have done before. But how far is he willing to go to learn the truth?

I loved this book because it's unlike anything I've ever read before. Imagine never seeing any color in the sky, or not being able to know what love is and how it feels. Would it really be worth it to have your memories stolen, in exchange for a perfect society? I enjoyed this book thoroughly, but I did not like the ending. Of course, I can't say the ending, because that would spoil the book. However, even though I did not particularly like the ending, it is very much worth it to read this book and uncover the adventures that lie in between The Giver's pages.

-Jordan K.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Book Review: Firebrand by Gillian Philip

Firebrand is an amazingly thrilling tale about two brothers exiled from their home world.
This story starts with the main protagonist Seth telling his story: his mother is in a high place of power as is his dad. His mother and father split up for they are not connected in soul. In the realm Seth lives, the world of the Sithe a realm beyond the veil, marriage and love is thrown around. If you wish to marry you must be connected by soul otherwise you can live and mate with whomever you please; there is no "cheating on" in this world. Women in this world are also more battleborn: women tend to be warriors or blacksmiths. Our story begins with Seth living with his father who ignores him in every way. He has no friends at this time and his only companion is his brother Conal, the "good" brother for lack of a better word. The first few chapters are the story of Seth and Conal growing as people and the pain as well as love that grows between them. After some time, the real story begins when Conal is exiled from his world to the world across the veil, the Overworld, at the end of the sixteenth century. The Overworld is the world of mortals - a world of death, darkness and dismay as in this world Sithe are burned at the stake.

Firebrand is an amazing book full of thrilling action, enticing romance, and depressing sorrow. It is a fun thrilling book that will keep you at the edge of your seat for each minute you read it. The first time I started reading it, two hours and ten chapters went by before I realized what time it was. I recommend this book for anyone into fantasy or just looking for a good book to read.

-Zane the Awesome

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: Silver People by Margarita Engle

The subtitle for Silver People is Voices From the Panama Canal and hearing from different voices is really what this book is like.  The strongest voices are from the silver people, workers on the Panama Canal who can only earn silver coins (not the gold coins earned by the white man) because of the darker shade of their skin.   We hear from Mateo, a Cuban teen who comes to work on this massive earth moving project that took place in the first years of the 20th century. We also hear from Henry who has come from Jamaica because he has heard that he can earn good money working on the canal as well as from Anita, a girl adopted by an herb woman who teaches her to use the secrets of the forest to heal.  Joining the chorus are howler monkeys, blue morpho butterflies and even trees.  The award winning author Margarita Engle writes in verse, and the story moves along in an easy, flowing way.  We follow some of the characters as their lives intersect within the setting of this monumental project. When I was younger, I got a chance to cross the Panama Canal, and was amazed at this feat of engineering but never considered the impact on those who lived and worked there and the environment.  After reading this book, I feel like my eyes have been opened on this place and time.  If you like historical fiction and appreciate the flow of poetry, you'll love this book.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a book about the future. In this future, at the age of 13 parents can have to choice to "unwind" their kid. Unwinding is when doctors will take all the child's organs and parts away and give them to different kids around the world. The unwound kid will still be able to have some control of the parts when with an other kid, but not all control. There is three different ways that a kid can be unwound. One is that the parent thinks that the child is beyond saving so they will sign papers to have them unwind. Two is that the government thinks that you don't have enough talent to stay in one piece. And three is that you are born to be unwound, this means that you are a tithe, in which the family gives 10% of everything to God, including their kids. The book is about three kids who try to escape the process of being unwound. The main character's names are Conner, Risa, and Lev. Conner's parents thought that he would be happier unwound so they signed the papers. Risa lives in a state house, which means that she lives with the government of that city. Risa is a musician, but the government feels like she doesn't have enough talent to live so they send her to be unwound. Lev; short for Levi, is a tithe and has always been ready to be unwound. But when Conner escapes and saves Risa and Lev, they find themselves running from the whole world. Will they survive with their lives?

Unwind is a very good book. The details are amazing, and you feel like you know the characters. The book switches from different points of views to the other, so you experience all the characters thoughts. There are four books in the series and they are planning to make them into movies in 2016. I enjoyed this book mainly because of the characters. You can picture all of them in your mind and you can imagine the pain they go through. As the story goes on, you really feel like the cops are going to take you away next. All the locations the characters adventure to, are amazing and dangerous, which make you feel like you are next to Conner and Risa. I finished the first book around two weeks ago, and now I'm around halfway done with the second one. The ending of the book makes you want more and makes you want to save the people being unwound. The action scenes are awesome and the villains make you curl your feet. I do have a favorite character, and every time something happens to hurt them, I get mad. Unwind tries to aim for teen readers, but I think that anyone who picks it up, will not be able to put it down.