Tag Archives: review

Review: Born Wicked

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Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles, #1)Title: Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1)

Author: Jessica Spotswood — GoodreadsTwitter |  Website

Pages: 330

Released: February 7, 2012

Genre: Paranormal/Historical-Fiction

Source: School library

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other. (Goodreads Summary)

*** *** ***

It always maddens me when I read historical fiction and the women are taught to stand below men as uneducated house-keepers. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d lived back then! The only thing that would have made up for it would have been some of the fashion. I would love to try on replicas of some of the dresses from that era so that I could see what it felt like to be so dressed up!

What I Liked:

After her mother’s death, Cate became the womanly head of household, and she feels that it’s her duty to protect her sisters from themselves and the Brothers. As an older sister, I appreciate the fact that Cate feels so protective of her sisters. I can only imagine how scared she must be that at any moment anyone could lay a claim that they are witches and the Brothers would be after them. In their case it would be true, but people wouldn’t necessarily need any proof!

Also, Finn. He seems like such a strong person. He’s willing to protect his mother and sisters from the Brothers. He doesn’t believe that women are below him. He’s funny and witty. I thought it a little funny how Cate marvels at his freckles. I don’t exactly thing freckles are the cutest thing, but she wanted to know about ALL his freckles!

Tess. I love how she’s the youngest, yet seems to be the one with a solid head on her shoulders. She’s a minor character, but she carries a strong impact when she’s there!

I loved that I couldn’t stop reading the last few chapters. It got to a point where everything was rising to a head, and there were important revelations or actions every page.

What I Didn’t Like:

It’s funny to me that I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was engaged in it the whole time when the thing that I didn’t like happened over and over and over. And over! It was driving me NUTS that Cate wouldn’t just TALK to her sisters!! Let them know what the diary says. Let them know that there is a prophecy and what she knows about it. Cate kept fretting over the best way of keeping her sisters safe, but it seems she could have eliminated some of her arguments with Maura if she just would have let her in rather than keeping secrets from her. Quit thinking, “I should tell them…” and just stinkin’ tell them!!

*** *** ***

I’m very curious about where their father has gone off to. He’s not working for the school I presume, since his position is replaced…so what is he doing? Does he know that his daughters are indeed witches? Is he off researching the Prophecy? Is he really just a terrible father who doesn’t have a clue? I want answers!!

The blurb of Star Cursed (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #2) has me curious. I’m curious to see how Maura and Clara interact. I’m curious about Tess. I want more Finn+Cate! I wonder where Paul lands (I thought he was a secret under cover spy Brother…anyone else?!).

I definitely enjoyed Born Wicked, and I am eagerly anticipating Star Cursed (Juuuuuune!!)!

Book Rating 4

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Just Finished: In Honor

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In Honor

Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn . . . and ruggedly good-looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn–but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences? (via Goodreads summary)

This book was a quick weekend read for me, and I absolutely loved it. Jessi Kirby’s writing seemed so heart-felt the whole time. The way Honor spoke about and remembered her brother, he seemed like the kind of guy everyone would want to be around.

Being a Texas girl myself, I felt Honor’s voice fit with her surroundings and background. She seemed like a good ol’ Texas girl with a big protective brother…the kind of brother every kid would love to have. I think the only issue that I have with the Texas things is that we don’t all wear boots all the time, and did she REALLY have to go to UT? (Just kidding. I went to Texas A&M, so I have to give the UT reference a hard time. ;))

It felt many times like the book was going to veer from the originaly purpose — a road trip to honor a dead brother’s last (joking) request — into a romance story about Honor and Rusty. However, while there were fleeting glances, a drunken night, and many sparks, I loved that the story did stay true to the purpose. Honor and Rusty share a closeness that is special to them, that is tied to Finn, and I’m glad that it didn’t need to be pushed to anything much more than that.

I saw on a couple of Goodreads reviews that some people compared Rusty to Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights. I can definitely get on board with that mentality!

Review: Life As We Knew It

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Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1)Title: Life As We Knew It (The Last Survivors #1)

Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer — Twitter |  Website

Pages: 337

Released: October 1, 2006

Genre: Post-apocalyptic

Source: School library

 Goodreads SummaryMiranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all–hope–in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

*** *** ***

In the middle of big life changes for Miranda — she’s growing apart from her two best friends, getting into swimming after a figure skating accident, and just found out her dad and step-mother are pregnant — and even bigger event looms. All the world is excitedly watching as a meteor is scheduled to collide with the moon. This event is predicted by astronomers across the country and is expected to pass with all the world watching but with little fanfare.

As soon as the meteor hits the moon, everyone knows something something is wrong. The moon is knocked harder than expected, tilting and moving it closer to Earth. Too close. In Miranda’s small town it’s the beginning of big change.

Cable is out. Phones are out. Tsunamis start across the world. Miranda’s mom goes into beast mode and takes out all the cash she can before taking her family try to secure any and all supplies they can from the stores. Miranda, her mom, her little brother Jon (future Yankee’s 2nd basemen), and older brother Matt try to settle in and live life as normally as possible…if normal means off-and-on electricity, no school, and rationed food supply. The sky becomes clouded with ash from volcanoes erupting across the U.S.

Winter sets in early, and life is anything but normal. Each day is harder than the last, and with food running low, Miranda doesn’t know how much more she can take.

What I Liked:

Between Ashfall and Life As We Knew It, I’m expecting the end of the world any minute now! This book was so realistic that I can definitely see it happening…and I can’t imagine what it will be like in real life.

I loved Miranda’s mom in this book. I hope that I’m as on top of things as she was when the world starts going downhill. She has a plan and is prepared to hit the supermarkets for anything they might need in the next days/weeks/months. She keeps her head throughout the book and has the perfect balance of hard love and being a softie.

I also loved the relationship between the family as a whole. The siblings obviously love and look out for each other. They all obviously love and respect their mom. Even though the parents are divorced, they get along wonderfully. It’s refreshing to see a family where there isn’t some awkward/awful family dynamic.

I thought the side story of Miranda and her best friends was very fitting. Before the disaster, Miranda and her two best friends are branching off in different directions: Sammi is chasing after boys, Megan is chasing religion, and Miranda is left not knowing exactly what to chase. The disaster seems to push Sammi and Megan even further along the roads they were headed down. Sammi turns to an older man to help her family survive while Megan follows her religious zealot reverend.

What I Didn’t Like:

I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like in this book! There could have been a little more action, but I’ve heard there is plenty in book two.

*** *** ***

I’m thinking of making an “It’s the end of the world as we know it…” display at school for post-apocalyptic books like this! I borrowed this book from my school library, but I don’t remember any of my students reading it this year. Since I hadn’t read it, I didn’t really book talk or push this book…but I will next year! I think my students will definitely like it. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series: The Dead and the Gone, which is told from the point of view of Alex who experiences the disaster in New York City, and This World We Live In, which brings together the survivors from the first two books.

When I was looking up information about the author, I found her blog and uncovered some great news…there will be a book 4! The Shade of the Moon just got picked up by a publisher and will hopefully be out next fall. You can read all about it (and even read the first chapter) in this blog post from Susan Beth Pfeffer.

I think I need to go watch The Day After Tomorrow now 🙂

 

Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

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The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns, #1)Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Author: Rae Carson (debut) – Twitter | Author site | Goodreads

Pages: 424

Released: September 20, 2011

Genre: High fantasy

Source: Harris County Public Library

Goodreads Summary: Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one. But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young…Most of the chosen do.

*** *** ***

What I Liked:

It was refreshing to have a main character who is REAL rather than a girl who is beautiful-but-doesn’t-know-it. Elisa’s comfort is food, and she’s described as being a bit chubby. I think it’s important to have a character with a realistic body rather than one who is fit, who runs every day, or is so uncannily adept at kicking butt.

Elisa family and kingdom believe that the bearer of the Godstone must stay in the dark rather than be knowledgeable about the Godstone. It’s not until the marries and travels to another kingdom that she learns more about the Godstone and her destiny. This was very beneficial to the reader, because we (as readers) learned about her destiny right along with Elisa.

In the beginning, Elisa feels that she doesn’t have what it takes to be a queen or to be a successful Godstone bearer. It’s only through through the different obstacles that she has to face that she grows into a strong young woman who can wield the power of the Godstone.

The story as a whole is fabulous. There’s a great mix of adventure, excitement, tender moments.

What I Didn’t Like:

There wasn’t really anything that I didn’t like! There was one small plot piece that stuck out, but it’s a bit spoilery. You can highlight here to see it:  A couple days after a castle attendant realizes that Elisa is the Godstone bearer, she is kidnapped by revolutionaries who want her help their cause. But then it takes them a month to reach the site of the revolutionaries. How did the kidnappers get to her in just a couple of days when it takes so long to travel back?

*** *** ***

I really loved this story, and I can’t wait for the sequel, The Crown of Embers, which comes out in September. The story in The Girl of Fire and Thorns was pretty well wrapped up, so I’m curious about this whole new adventure for Elisa and company!

Recommend for readers who like: adventure; high-fantasy (Graceling)

Review: Ashfall

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Ashfall (Ashfall, #1)Title: Ashfall (Ashfall #1)

Author: Mike Mullin (debut) — Twitter | Website |

Pages: 466

Released: October 11, 20122

Genre: Post-apocalyptic, survival, realistic fiction

Source: Harris County Public Library (plan to buy!)

Goodreads Summary:  Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don’t know it’s there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.

Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.

In typical teenage style, Alex has fought with him mom and refused to go to visit family about two hours away. He won the argument and was left home alone for the weekend. However, before he can enjoy much of his short-lived freedom, his house is hit with a projectile from the super-volcano in Yellowstone. The whole world is turned upside down after this catastrophe, and Alex feels that he must be reunited with his family.

With the ground covered in inches of volcano ash, it is next to impossible for people to travel by vehicle or by foot. Luckily* Alex’s dad used to do some cross-country skiing, so he’s got the gear to set out on his journey to find his family.

Along the way, he meets people — some kind and helpful, others malicious and mean. When he’s stabbed by a psycho in the woods, Alex luckily* stumbles upon Darla and her mother, who nurse Alex back to health. Darla joins Alex on his journey, and together the two of them continue Alex’s quest to find his family.

*** *** ***

What I Liked:

Alex was very reliable as a narrator and likable as a protagonist. Mike Mullin did a great job of writing a character who really has an authentic teenage voice. Readers can also empathize with Alex’s situation…we’ve all heard a story of family or friends who parted way with harsh words or indifference, then never have a chance to make that right. I feel that is Alex’s fear and motivation in the book, to see his family and give his mom the hug he ignored and his sister (“the brat”) a little more recognition.

The description of the after-math of the volcano is truly terrifying because it is so realistic. As I was reading, I just kept thinking, “Oh my gosh…this could REALLY happen!!” In the first chapters, Alex is stuck inside with his neighbors. There is no electricity, and the sun/moon are blocked by ash in the sky, so they must function in pitch black. There is no cell reception. Thunder is deafening outside. They don’t know how others are faring. Alex is worried about his family. There is barely any food to eat. I’ve been through a hurricane, and that was bad enough…I can’t imagine something this bad!

I feel that all of Alex’s encounters with people along the way were realistic as well. It would be expected that crazy people would be out, trying to take advantage of the natural madness so they can wreck their own madness. It’s also believable that once trusting, kind people turn into suspicious hoarders who don’t trust people traveling. I sure wouldn’t be inviting people off the street into my house in that situation!

Darla has some serious girl-power! She’s a small town girl whose father taught her everything he knew about running a farm, and she is forced to keep the farm running after her father passes away. Without Darla, poor Alex would have died…a couple of times. She is used to providing and surviving, and it is refreshing to have a female character with some UMPH who doesn’t have to ask or wait for a guy to take charge of the situation.

What I Didn’t Like:

I put an * when I mentioned “luckily” in my summary, because without those two pieces in the story, Alex doesn’t survive. If he didn’t happen to have snow-skis in his garage, he doesn’t even get out of Cedar Falls. If he doesn’t meet Darla (with her survival knowledge) and her mom, he doesn’t survive his stab wound. If Darla hadn’t accompanied him on his trip after he leaves their house, he wouldn’t have survived his trip. I understand these are things that had to happen to have the story…they’re just so convenient.

*** *** ***

I could not put this down while reading. I couldn’t just abandon Alex and Darla out in the volcano without knowing they were safe! Mike Mulling did a great job with this book! I can’t wait to get a copy of Ashfall for my classroom library because I have a lot of boys who will be drawn in by this story.

The sequel, Ashen Winter, will be out October 16th, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Here is a fan-made book trailer for Ashfall:

Recommend for: high schoolers; people who like survival/adventure stories; boys!

Review: A Tale Dark and Grimm

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A Tale Dark and Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm #1)Title: A Tale Dark and Grimm

Author: Adam Gidwitz

Pages: 252

Released: October 28, 2010

Genre: Fantasy; Fairy tale re-telling

Source: Classroom library

Goodreads Summary: In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches. Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

This was such a fun read. I loved how the Narrator talked to the reader, giving them warnings for what lay ahead. He warns:

“Are there any small children in the room? If so, it would be best if we just let them think this really is the end of the story and hurried them off to bed. Because this is when things start to get, well…awesome. But in a horrible, bloody kind of way.”

If this book was being used as a read aloud, I can guarantee all of the students in the class would be hooked! Also, the chapters are the perfect length for a read aloud in class.

The story follows Hansel and Gretel after they run away from their parents, the King and Queen. Along the way, they encounter a murderer, face what happens when one is greedy, fight a dragon, and attempt to outwit the devil.

“You see,to find the brightest wisdom one must pass through the darkest zones. And through the darkest zones there can be no guide.

No guide, that is, but courage.”

I’ve never read the original Grimm fairy tales, but this book made me want to check them out for myself!

P.S. A companion book, In a Glass Grimmly, following Jack and Jill will be out in September!

Recommend for: middle grade students who love adventure; middle-grade read aloud.

Review: Boy21

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Boy21Title: Boy21

Author: Matthew Quick

Pages: 250

Released: March 5, 2012

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Bought

Goodreads Summary: Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.
Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.
As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.

First off, I admired the dedication that Finley and Erin (his girlfriend) have towards becoming better basketball players. While Erin is a naturally talented basketball player who is the star of her Varsity team, Finley lacks the natural talent and works hard to be the best point guard that he can. Finley’s father tells him that he can always “outwork talent,” and that is exactly what he does, training with Erin before school even starts. I wish I had that kind of motivation in my body!

Finley lives with his dad and his Pop in a town pretty much ruled by the Irish Mob…a fact everyone knows and no one talks about. If you’ve ever seen the movie Gone Baby, Gone, that’s pretty much what I pictured when I pictured this town in my head. In a town where no one asks questions, Finley has learned that it’s best to just keep quiet…and that’s just what he does best.

When his coach asks him for a favor — to help basketball star Russ/Boy21, the son of a former friend — Finley does everything his Coach asks him to with no questions asked. Russ uses the persona Boy21 to hide from the real-world after experiencing a huge tragedy. Boy21 is a creature from outer space who is sent to “observe human emotions on Earth,” and he likes spending time with Finley since his quiet has a “calming presence.”  But Coach wants Finley to get Russ away from the Boy21 persona and back into life, especially basketball. I thought it was unfair of Coach to put so much pressure on Finley. I mean, it’s his senior year, he’s been training so hard, and he’s just supposed to step aside and let a stranger take his spot? That’s a difficult pill to swallow in the first place. Add to it that the person taking your place acts like he’s from crazy-town, and it’s that much harder.

Coach tells Finley that he chose him to help Russ because they have a lot in common, but it’s not really until the end (when both boys are ready to let go of the silence of their tragedies) that you find out not only what they have in common but why Finley holds so tightly to his cocoon of silence.

When tragedy strikes Erin, Finley is completely lost. I almost felt worse for Finley than Erin because of how helpless and hopeless he feels at first. It has been their goal all along to escape from Bellmont and start a fresh life together. But he is left wondering if they’ll ever make it out. And more importantly, if they will make it out together.

I was torn between liking/disliking Finley’s Coach. While I think he wanted Finley to truly be a friend to Russ and help him become grounded again, I couldn’t help but wonder if Coach was a little motivated by the selfishness of wanting such an amazing ball player to help his team. After Erin’s accident, it didn’t seem like Coach was there for Finley like he should have been, especially after putting such a large responsibility on him with Russ.

I would recommend that you have a tissue handy (just in case) for the last 20 pages or so. My heart just broke (even more!) for Finley, and I was rooting with all of my heart for him to be able to find some happiness!

I’ll be adding this to my classroom library, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of my students. I know this book will appeal to boys and girls, but it has a great cover and story to really draw in some of my more reluctant boy readers. I’ve added Matthew Quick’s Sorta Like A Rockstar to my summer TBR, and I’ll be anxiously looking forward to his next book!