Monday, December 29, 2014

11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, 2009


Synopsis (from Goodreads):It's Amanda's 11th birthday and she is super excited -- after all, 11 is so different from 10. But from the start, everything goes wrong. The worst part of it all is that she and her best friend, Leo, with whom she's shared every birthday, are on the outs and this will be the first birthday they haven't shared together. When Amanda turns in for the night, glad to have her birthday behind her, she wakes up happy for a new day. Or is it? Her birthday seems to be repeating iself. What is going on?! And how can she fix it? Only time, friendship, and a little luck will tell. . . 




I read this book for the first time several years ago. In many ways it helped me start a new era of flexibility in my reading patterns: up until this point I refused to read any book not written in third person past tense. For those of you who have not read this book, it is written in first person present tense. I basically read it because my mother told me to and because I had nothing else to read and once started, could not put it down. It made me realize that sometimes you have to be flexible in your reading habits, because sometimes you can find the most wonderful books written in ways that you are not accustomed to.

Now, I'm sure you can tell from my opening paragraph that I really liked this book. That is true. I really, really like this book. In fact, I like the whole series. No, I love the whole series. Frankly, I love almost every book Wendy Mass has ever written. And it all started with this book, five years ago. Over the next few weeks, I plan to post my reviews of all of the books in this four – book series. As some of you may know, I recently had surgery on my dominant wrist and have spent a lot of time lately with nothing to do but read a book. Unfortunately, that time has now ended and I am scrambling to catch up all of the schoolwork that I got behind on while recovering from the surgery. But while I was still incapacitated, I started rereading the Willow Falls series as a sort of comfort read. Now I plan to review them so that others can see why I love these books so much.

The story itself in this book is a fun if slightly cliché set up: Amanda is stuck in a Groundhog Day-esque scenario where every morning when she wakes up she has to repeat the same birthday over and over again. It was miserable the first time; by the third time, it's practically unbearable. She has no idea what is going on, or how to fix it. It's like her worst nightmare: she has spent a year feeling very alone without her ex-best friend Leo, but now she is truly alone with no one to confide in as she has to repeat the same day over and over again. I love the set-up of the story (part of which I can't mention for spoiler reasons), and while the book literally takes place over the course of one day repeated over and over aagin, it's really cool seeing how the choices Amanda makes affects the world around her. It's like one of those models I'm learning about in AP Macroeconomics: how does a change in one factor change the entire economy? How does a change in the behavior of one(ish - sh, spoilers!) person?

I love the two main characters. Amanda is, obviously, the main focus of the book. The story is told from her point of view so you get a firsthand view of the worst day of her life. While I personally have never gotten in a huge fight with my best friend, stressed about getting onto the chearleading squad (while really wanting to join the much nerdier marching band as a drummer), or gotten stuck in a time loop where I have to repeat a terrible day over and over again, I was still right there with Amanda every step of the way. She was not like me in any way, but she was someone I'd like to be friends with. The other MC, Leo, doesn't really get involved directly in the story until about halfway through the book. I can't really go into much detail with Leo because of the risk of spoilers, but suffice to say I wouldn't mind having him as a friend, either!

I love this book. I just want to end on that point. Because of reading this one book several years ago, I have now read (and loved!) over ten other books by Mass. And the wonderful thing about this series is that it builds in the most delicious way. Each book focuses on a different person and a different storyline (except the fourth book, which focuses on Amanda once more), and each book is just as good if not better than the one before it. Stay posted for my reviews of the other books in the wonderful Willow Falls series!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George, 2007

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Many stories tell of damsels in distress, who are rescued from the clutches of fire-breathing dragons by knights in shining armor, and swept off to live happily ever after. 
Unfortunately, this is not one of those stories.  
True, when Creel's aunt suggests sacrificing her to the local dragon, it is with the hope that the knight will marry Creel and that everyone (aunt and family included) will benefit handsomely. Yet it's Creel who talks her way out of the dragon's clutches. And it's Creel who walks for days on end to seek her fortune in the king's city with only a bit of embroidery thread and a strange pair of slippers in her possession.

But even Creel could not have guessed the outcome of this tale. For in a country on the verge of war, Creel unknowingly possesses not just any pair of shoes, but a tool that could be used to save her kingdom…or destroy it.
(324 pages)

This is my third time attempting to review this book. I've been coming back to it periodically for almost a year now, never able to get my feelings about it down on paper. The first time I wound up just summarizing the entire story (pretty poorly, at that). The second time I got started talking about how much I love it and describing Creel, the main character. Somehow I lost my oomph halfway through my seventh line, and never really got it back. But now I'm trying one more time. Three's a lucky number, right?

Okay, I think I'll start with the characters. Creel first, because she's the main character and because, well, she's awesome. Creel is a fun character for many reasons, from her love for sewing (the clothes descriptions in this book are fantastic!) to her love for - well, someone. Of course, in this book the romance doesn't dominate the scene. No, it's just added to the story. What I love about Creel and the prince's relationship, is that it starts out as a comfortable friendship. It takes the whole first book to become anything more than that, which is really refreshing in today's fantasy novels. But anyway, Creel is fun. She's stubborn and single-minded and - well, and funny. Really funny!

Next, the girls who work at the shop. Not much to say about them without spoilers, but I love how Creel made her opinions about the other shopgirls the first time she met them, but then it turned out her first impressions were completely wrong.

Luka. He's sweet. He's funny. He's not a hunk of meat in shoes. He's an actual person, with an actual life, who becomes friends with Creel. They have things in common, they share a sense of humor, and they like each other as friends before any idea of romance ever comes into either one's head (okay, that might be an overstatement - but still!). I love him as a character, and my love for him has nothing to do with his physical description. He's just a nice person.

As for the dragons, the characterization here is really good. Each dragon has a unique personality without being a caricature, and the idea that every dragon hordes a different good is really cool. The first dragon Creel meets hordes shoes, another words stained-glass windows, and another collects dogs. The type of objects that the dragons collect provide a great reflection of their individual personalities.

The storyline is tight, compelling, and flawlessly executed. I honestly have nothing to critique about this book: I all-around love it. I cherish my signed/personalized copy like the treasure it is, and reread it every nine months to a year. I love the characters, the settings, and the plot. And this is why I've had such a hard time reviewing it: I have to fight to come up with anything besides "I LOVE THIS BOOK! GO READ IT RIGHT NOW! AND THEN READ THE SEQUELS!" Becase really, that's all I have to say about this book at the end of the day. So go. Read the book. Please.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas, Some Announcements, and a List of Rick Riordan Cliches

Hello, readers! Isn't today such a wonderful time? Is there anything more delightful than coming down the stairs and seeing the Christmas tree lit up with all the presents underneath it, just waiting to be opened? Well, maybe: the joy you get watching family members open the presents you picked out for them! Well, today I have a little present for you. A while ago, I asked for help compiling a list of Rick Riordan clichés. I got some great feedback, but had wrist surgery the week I was planning to write out the list of clichés, and never quite got around to it while I was recovering. Well, I'm still recovering, but I think it's about time to get that list published.

Also, that's not the only Christmas present I have for you! I am now resolving to post reviews twice a week instead of once a week, now that my schedule is a less hectic. Call it an early New Year's resolution if you want, but I am determined to double my production. And I'm sure I can do it! I was just being lazy, posting once a week. So now here's the official schedule: I will will post reviews on Mondays and Fridays. I will still also do Teaser Tuesdays on Tuesdays (I guess that's kind of obvious!), giving you a sneak peek at Friday's reviews. The Monday reviews will be mysteries: you won't know what they will be ahead of time.

I already started my new schedule this week. You may have noticed my review of Spell Robbers on Monday. Click here to read it if you haven't gotten a chance yet.

Without further ado, I present to you:

Read Till Dawn's "Rick Riordan Cliches"

1. Love stories. With angst. Cause someone's always wondering if their girlfriend/boyfriend really likes them as much as they say.
2. Land ship. Fight monsters. Leave. Repeat.
3. This can't possibly get any worse. Oh wait, it just did!
4. Every character has to have some kind of internal fear/something they're hiding from the team. If not related to cliche #2, these fears usually turn out to be really important to the plot
5. There's a prophesy that seems horrible, but in the end we discover a different way to intrepret the prophecy, and now no one has to die.
6. The gods. They're SO USELESS, except for when they're vital to the plot.
7. Characters who suddenly have mysterious, special powera (like how Leo can summon fire and Frank can change into animals)
8. Characters who have dead parents (Frank, Hazel, Leo, etc)
9. Underdogs who always turn out on the top

I'm posting tomorrow's review early as a final Christmas present. Click here to read my review of Dragon Slippers, and have a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Quantum League book 1: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby, 2014

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
After Ben Warner is recruited to join a “science camp” led by the eccentric quantum physicist Dr. Madeleine Hughes, he quickly realizes it’s no regular science camp. Along with his new friend, Peter, Ben discovers the secret, powerful art of Actuation—the ability to change reality by simply imagining it differently.
When a mysterious group of men invade Dr. Hughes’s laboratory, abducting her and stealing her precious equipment, Ben and Peter are suddenly caught up in a turf war between dangerous actuators desperate for Dr. Hughes’s innovative technology. And as Ben and Peter are pulled into a perilous, hidden world full of impossibilities now made possible, will their combined powers be enough to save Dr. Hughes and vanquish their enemies before it’s too late?


This one will be a short review, because I already turned my copy of the book back into the library. I basically got this one solely because I am a huge fan of Kirby's other books (two of which rank in my all-time favorites), and I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. I guess I'm glad I did, but I wasn't exactly blown away by this book. It reminded me a lot of Gordon Korman's The Hypnotists but was, with all due respect to another amazing author, better than it. It was less convoluted, more compelling, and provided a more realistic (relatively, okay?) storyline.

But enough about comparisons. Ranked on its own, this was an okay book. I think I would rate it a lot higher if I was a twelve-year-old boy (or frankly, even a twelve-year-old girl). It's leagues above most trash I've read in the genre, and is much better than the cover suggests. I doubt I'll re-read it anytime soon, but I might read the sequel if I can get hold of it without much trouble.

The characterizations, while strong, left no real impression on me. Ben is the kind of hero you admire and whom you can easily envision yourself being. He's like a braver, stronger version of the reader.

Okay, I really have nothing else to say. I wasn't going to review this so I turned it back in, and then I changed my mind because I realized there are a lot of people out there looking for just this sort of book to give to their middle schoolers. If you're one of those people, or if you've got an hour or two to kill, go ahead and check this book out. It's not exactly a break-out novel, but there isn't really anything I can say against it, either. In fact, I had quite a bit of fun reading it!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Swindle by Gordon Korman, 2008

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
After a mean collector named Swindle cons him out of his most valuable baseball card, Griffin Bing must put together a band of misfits to break into Swindle's compound and recapture the card. There are many things standing in their way -- a menacing guard dog, a high-tech security system, a very secret hiding place, and their general inability to drive -- but Griffin and his team are going to get back what's rightfully his . . . even if hijinks ensue. 
(256 pages)


This is a fun book that I first read years ago. Since then both I and my middle school brother have read the rest of the books, more or less in order. I wouldn't call this one of my favorite books from the series, but because it's the first it's definintely fun to see where everything began. This is where the team comes together for the first time: it's their first crazy adventure, and coming back to it there's a bit of nostalgia in the air - or at least to me there is.

This is a Middle Grade series that is a lot of fun. My middle school-aged brother always sucks these books in as fast as I get ahold of them. He isn't obsessed with them or anything, but he likes them enough he'll drop a less interesting read for a day or two to read a new one. I do still get them when they ccome out, for my own reading enjoyment (I was reading them before he was!), but I don't go out of my way to snag a copy of the new books or even remember when there is a new one half the time - they just sort of pop up every now and then, and I check them out to read them.

As for this book in particular, I'm sorry I can't remember more details. I set out to review this almost a year ago after re-reading it, and forgot to actually do the writing part of writing a review. Now I, slightly neurotic, am trying to clear out my draft pile (which right now is filled with "spam-posts" that I started and never finished a long time ago). Some would point out that I could just throw out all those old half-posts by hitting the "delete" button. But nay, that would be cheating!

So here we go. Characters, lets talk about characters. I love Korman's characters. Just, you know, in general. He comes up with the funnest MCs and supporters. The Swindle books really put his talent in the best light as he draws each unique, unrealistic but oh-so-realistic character in the group. There's Logan, the aspiring actor, Savannah the animal lover, Melissa the shy computer genius, Ben the ever present sidekick, and Griffin, known as The Man with the Plan. The villains are interesting if not incredibly three-dimensional. There's the school bully who forces himself in on the plan and of course there's swindle himself who jerked Griffin out of a valuable baseball card that could save his family from having to move away.

If you like Middle Grade books, then check out this series. If you don't have time to read the entire series, then I would recommend starting with some of Korman's other books: this is a very good series, but it gets better as it goes along. If you're looking for good, funny Middle Grade book either for yourself or for a middle schooler you know, Korman is probably the best Middle Grade author I've ever read. If you have read this series and are looking for more books by him, an excellent place to start would be with Ungifted, No More Dead Dogs, or Schooled (the links go to Goodreads). You can read my review of Ungifted here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quick Note

Hello, readers! This is just an update bulletin: a few weeks ago I told you I wasn't able to type with my left hand. Today we got the MRI results and found out I need surgery, which I will be having done tomorrow. I have a few blog posts written up ahead of time, but I'm afraid by the time my four weeks in a cast are up, I'll have fallen pretty far behind.
Thanks for understanding!
Jaina

Update 12/6/14:
 The surgery went well, and I'm recovering slowly but steadily. I now have feeling/mobility back in one of my fingers. Only four more to go before I can try to type!

Update 12/11/14:
One week ago today I had my surgery! I still can't use my hand to type, but we're buying the Dragon speech recognition software to help me function on the computer. I will focus on catching up with my AP classes, and then I can review the growing pile of books I read over the last week. Also, check back tomorrow for my review of Sheila Turnage's The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays (Dec. 16)

Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My current read is Swindle by Gordon Korman.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
After a mean collector named Swindle cons him out of his most valuable baseball card, Griffin Bing must put together a band of misfits to break into Swindle's compound and recapture the card. There are many things standing in their way -- a menacing guard dog, a high-tech security system, a very secret hiding place, and their general inability to drive -- but Griffin and his team are going to get back what's rightfully his . . . even if hijinks ensue. 

This is Gordon Korman at his crowd-pleasing best, perfect for readers who like to hoot, howl, and heist.


This week I couldn't pick a favorite quote, so I'm just using the opener. Here it is:
When a plan came from Griffin Bing, even the tiniest detail had to be perfect. He'd agonized over every fine point and possibility.
Let me know what you think of the book, and check back on Friday for my review!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage, 2014

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When Miss Lana makes an Accidental Bid at the Tupelo auction and winds up the mortified owner of an old inn, she doesn't realize there's a ghost in the fine print. Naturally, Desperado Detective Agency (aka Mo and Dale) opens a paranormal division to solve the mystery of the ghost's identity. They've got to figure out who the ghost is so they can interview it for their history assignment (extra credit). But Mo and Dale start to realize that the Inn isn't the only haunted place in Tupelo Landing. People can also be haunted by their own past. As Mo and Dale handily track down the truth about the ghost (with some help from the new kid in town), they discover the truth about a great many other people, too.
(368 pages)


Two years ago, I was six feet away from meeting Ms. Turnage. She was on an author panel along with some other authors, but I had never heard of her. I did not buy her book or get in line to meet her, but I did go home and request her then-new book, Three Times Lucky. Three chapters in, I was already regretting not buying a copy at the event and getting it autographed. That book was gold. It was hilarious, and fun, and quirky, and I absolutely loved it. Now, I just discovered that there is a sequel. As soon as I saw Becky's review of Ghosts, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

I loved this book just as much as its prequel. It was hilarious, quirky, fun, and strangely touching at the same time - just like the first book. Most of this is because of the characters. Not just the main characters (although their characterization is amazing), but also the minor characters. There's the girl who will do any service for you online for the cost of a quarter. There's the boy who is an expert on all things weather. There's the school teacher who you can tell thinks Mo is cute, but keeps up a firm persona.

Speaking of Mo, she is such a hoot! The thing I love about these books is that Mo (short for Moses, because they found her as a baby floating down the stream) can get away with anything. She says the most outrageous things at the most outrageous times, and it's not awkward or stilted. Everyone knows her, so no one is offended. She has decided she is going to marry the nineteen-year-old brother of her best friend Dale, and so she is constantly making semi-rude remarks about his dates and openly telling Lavender (Dale's brother) that he should ask her to the dance. Lavender always laughs and turns her down, but not in a "wow you're weird" way. More of a "that's Mo for you" kind of way.

Mo is outrageous. She cooks up crazy plots, tells people things straight to their faces, but always seems to end up on top. For example, Dale's father is in jail for the millionth time. Dale's mother, Rose, is divorcing him. Several times in the book, Mo straight-out tells Rose that she is better off without her loser of a husband. In any other book, that would be so awkward and forward it would be horrible. In this one, Rose just kind of changes the subject and the story moves on. No one gets offended, no one calls Mo out. Mo's hilarious.

As for her best friend Dale, he's so funny! He has a hard time with rhetorical questions and Mo clarifies for him: "that one was rhetorical," "not rhetorical," etc, throughout the whole book - so cute! There's been a thread through both books showing his struggle with his father's criminal lifestyle. At the end of the first book Dale's mom Rose decides to divorce Dale's dad, and you see some of the emotions Dale and his family are going through but things still stay light. This book never once gets slow or depressing: it's always zany and fun. But at the same time, Turnage manages to bring across some pretty powerful emotions. I have no idea how she does it, but I absolutely love it.

I could go on about every one of the many characters in the book, but I'm sure you don't want to read about that. All I can say is, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone and everyone. And I'll leave it at that, because I'm really not doing this book justice.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion by Jody Feldman, 2014

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The Golly Toy and Game Company is hosting the regional rounds for the next Gollywhopper Games, and this time it's brother against brother in the physical challenges and mental puzzles. The companion to the popular The Gollywhopper Games will appeal to fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Chasing Vermeer.
Chock-full of puzzles, riddles, and challenges for the reader to solve along with the main characters, this fast-paced companion to The Gollywhopper Games is bigger, bolder, and braver! The Golly Toy and Game Company's Gollywhopper Games was such a big success the last time, the company's executives have decided to host the competition again. Cameron and Spencer Schein have scored two highly sought-after slots in the regional round—will one of the Schein brothers make it all the way to the finals? Favorite characters from the first book make guest appearances, and a new cast of competitors, both boys and girls, get set to compete against (and with) Cameron and Spencer. There are twists and turns and complications—as well as lots of great things to eat—in this page-turner of a race to the finish line!

(400 pages)

First, I absolutely loved the first book in this series (it's a series! I only discovered there was a sequel a week ago, and I can't wait for the third one!). Click here to check the first book out on Goodreads - I'm requesting it from the library and plan to review it soon, but I wanted to get this review off my chest first.

Okay, so as you may have already figured out, I loved the original. Sure it wasn't too deep and philosophical, and maybe it was pretty obvious how things would turn out. But you know what? Everyone needs a book like that once in a while. Coming off of reading The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia (Click here to read my review!), I was ready for just the kind of light, fun book The Gollywhopper Games has to offer. So when I was browsing the library and I saw this book, I grabbed it, shoved it in my bag, and started reading it the minute I got in the car. The fun thing about these books is that they're chock full of puzzles that are instrumental to the plot (think Hunger Games or Survivor, but you're beating everybody else at puzzling instead of, you know, scary things. And the prize for winning is a million dollars).

Did I like this book as much as the last one? I'm not sure. I think there's a novelty to the first book that can't be replicated with this one, but The New Champion did as well as it possible could in the follow-up department. Feldman clearly knew that she was writing a book purely because people wanted more of the first one: she even puts that in there, showing the Gollywhopper heads deciding to do another Games because everyone was so obsessed with the first ones. She walks a fine line between drawing fans of the first book, and coming across as totally just ripping off of it. I'd say she succeeded pretty well. There were a few points where I was like "wow, this is like a recast of the first book!" But then it would turn out to be different in some way. It was full of nods to the first book, but still succeeded in being its own original story. Kind of like Mockingjay from the Hunger Games series, I guess. Except this book is for kids.

Well, technically it's for kids. There's nothing inappropriate in it (unless you count one character wearing a tank top for, like, a minute in the first book), so anyone who can understand it can read it. But it's not just a kiddy book, or a spoof of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (though it's that too, and I for one like these books better than the Roald Dahl ones): it's a book for people of all ages. When I finished The New Champion, I handed it off to my mom. When she's done with it, it will go to my middle school-aged brother. Both my brother and my mom loved the first one. My youngest brother (in elementary school) got interested in the books so I requested the first one from the library for him and, let's be honest, myself as well. People of all ages can read and enjoy this book. So please, by all means, read it! Just start with the first one. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, 2014

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia's last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost; The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia's poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.
(304 pages)

This was an amazing read. There was so much intimate detail it read like a historical fiction, but everything was strictly true according to the information we have available. I have read many a book about the Romanovs, most of which are fictional and the majority of which focus on the final months of the royal family (usually involving either Maria or Anastasia's survival), but I learned a whole wealth of information about the family in this book. Facts I knew about the family's lives were put into context, so I didn't just know the small pieces of the Romanov story; I saw the large picture as well.

Scattered throughout the book are firsthand accounts from peasants and soldiers living in Russia during Tsar Nicholas's reign and through to the beginning of Lenin's reign (which was when the Romanovs died). While I'm sure those excerpts provide a good picture of the horror of the lives of the average Russian, I'm afraid I skimmed over and even blatantly skipped most of the excerpts. What can I say? I read half of the book late at night while babysitting (the kids were in bed), and the other half in a foggy sleep-deprived state the next day. I absorbed the intimate details about the royal family (seriously, their diaries were like extensions of their hands!), but I found the inserts more a distraction than anything else. Others might find them more interesting than I did, though.

There are two sets of photographs set into the book, the first half of which focus on the time before the war and revolution, and the latter half providing glimpses into the war as well as the increasingly confined Romanovs. If you're not a reader but you're interested in the Romanovs, then get this book from the library and just look at the pictures. They tell the entire story in an intimate, heartbreaking tale that begins with pictures of people in fancy dress and of opulent houses, and ends with pictures of bones laid out on a table and a holy icon bearing the image of the sainted royal family. It is very moving watching the downward spiral that was their lives. The photographs are amazing; there were many pictures of the royal family that I had never seen before, and even the ones that I had already seen were given new meaning because of the detail the text provided. It really puts the names to faces, if you know what I mean.

All in all, a great historical nonfiction book about a fascinating point in history. If you are at all interested in the Romanovs, this is the perfect book for you!

Edit 12/6/14:
I just realized I forgot to link to Becky's review of this book, which is where I learned about it. If you are intrigued by the book, check out Becky's review as well!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays (Dec. 2)

Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

If you read last week's teaser and want to know more about The Perfect Score Project, click here to read my review. It was a lot of fun revisiting an old favorite!

My current read is The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion by Jody Feldman.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

The Golly Toy and Game Company is hosting the regional rounds for the next Gollywhopper Games, and this time it's brother against brother in the physical challenges and mental puzzles. The companion to the popular The Gollywhopper Games will appeal to fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Chasing Vermeer.
Chock-full of puzzles, riddles, and challenges for the reader to solve along with the main characters, this fast-paced companion to The Gollywhopper Games is bigger, bolder, and braver! The Golly Toy and Game Company's Gollywhopper Games was such a big success the last time, the company's executives have decided to host the competition again. Cameron and Spencer Schein have scored two highly sought-after slots in the regional round—will one of the Schein brothers make it all the way to the finals? Favorite characters from the first book make guest appearances, and a new cast of competitors, both boys and girls, get set to compete against (and with) Cameron and Spencer. There are twists and turns and complications—as well as lots of great things to eat—in this page-turner of a race to the finish line!


This week I couldn't pick a favorite quote, so I'm just using the opener. Here it is:
Cameron may have been the only one in his family with an actual ticket for their area's Gollywhopper Regional, but his brothers still shove him to the middle of the backseat like some old forgotten gym bag.
Let me know what you think of the book, and check back on Saturday for my review! While you're here, head on over here to help me with my list of Percy Jackson cliches. Today is the last day to submit cliches! I'll post the final list by the end of the week. I'll also be posting an extra review tomorrow (The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia), so come back then to check it out!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Perfect Score Project by Debbie Stier, 2014


Synopsis (from Goodreads - I clipped off a couple paragraphs because it's really long):

It all began as an attempt by Debbie Stier to help her high-school age son, Ethan, who would shortly be studying for the SAT. Aware that Ethan was a typical teenager (i.e., completely uninterested in any test) and that a mind-boggling menu of test-prep options existed, she decided – on his behalf -- to sample as many as she could to create the perfect SAT test-prep recipe.
Debbie’s quest turned out to be an exercise in both hilarity and heartbreak as she took the SAT seven times in one year and in-between “went to school” on standardized testing. Here, she reveals why the SAT has become so important, the cottage industries it has spawned, what really works in preparing for the test and what is a waste of time.
Both a toolbox of fresh tips and an amusing snapshot of parental love and wisdom colliding with teenage apathy, The Perfect Score Project rivets. In the book Debbie does it all: wrestles with Kaplan and Princeton Review, enrolls in Kumon, navigates khanacademy.org, meets regularly with a premier grammar coach, takes a battery of intelligence tests, and even cadges free lessons from the world’s most prestigious (and expensive) test prep company.
Along the way she answers the questions that plague every test-prep rookie, including: “When do I start?”...”Do the brand-name test prep services really deliver?”...”Which should I go with: a tutor, an SAT class, or self study?”...”Does test location really matter?” … “How do I find the right tutor?”… “How do SAT scores affect merit aid?”... and “What’s the one thing I need to know?”The Perfect Score Project’s combination of charm, authority, and unexpected poignancy makes it one of the most compulsively readable guides to SAT test prep ever – and a book that will make you think hard about what really matters.
(304 pages)

So, I realize this is a bit off the beaten track for this blog. "Where's the YA?" you ask. "Or at the very least MG like last week's review?" Well, bare with me on this one. I'm a high school junior, okay? I saw a review of this book at Tea Time With Annie Kate and knew immediately that I needed to read it. And I did. And now I'm going to review it.


This book is part memoir, part how-to guide. The story of Debbie's path to understanding the SAT intertwines with revelations about her relationship with her children and her approach to parenting teenagers. I'm going to break it down into the two components and review them separately, but if you want the short version, here it is: high schoolers, read this book only if you want to start panicking about the SAT! If you do want to start panicking, then this is a good place to start.

First, the personal story line. Debbie is one of those super-obsessive moms who latch onto something and don't let it go. It gets a bit much for both me and her children (who revolt at the idea of Kumon lessons and move in with their dad) somewhere around the middle, but she pulls out strong at the end of the year/story. It was nice seeing that relationship, and the very promise that she loves her son so much she takes seven SATs to motivate him is pretty neat.

As an aside, how much money has this lady got? She spent half the book buying various test prep sources, the fate of which she describes on page 98:
. . . my shelf of rejects bulged ever wider until I had to move the forsaken books to a larger space downstairs, and then ultimately, when they outgrew that room too, to the big bookshelf in the sky.
Anyway, on to the SAT portion. I know very little about the SAT, but she knows a ton. She tried just about every resource there is out there and weeded out quite a few bad ones. It's extremely intimidating reading about the amount of prep that goes into taking that test - for some people at least. How can I compete with private tutors and hours spent poring over old tests like they're the new Bible? I suppose the answer involves a huge amount of work, and I'm not exactly thrilled about beginning. However, when I do I'll be sure to use this book (and the website that goes with it) as a resource. My biggest fault with the book? No "cheat sheet" in the back. An appendix summarizing good study techniques and bad ones would have been so helpful. Fingers crossed that's on the website.

Lack of appendix aside, this book is chock full of every SAT prep tip imaginable, about everything from what snacks to bring (she recommends dark chocolate, water, a sliced red apple, and Listerine strips) to how to motivate a teenager to study (parental enthusiasm and involvement). The results she came to at the end of her trial and error experiment don't seem exotic or crazy; they scream "experience" more than most SAT "tip" books. By the end of the year, Debbie saw the SAT as one big puzzle she would never be able to crack. She had fun trying, but she just didn't have the math background to do it.

The biggest take-away I got from the book is to take the SAT multiple times, so it's not do-or-die the first few times. I'm going to peruse her website a bit more to see if there are any more specific tips I can glean (the book is good, and the tips are put together in gray boxes to separate them from the rest of the narrative, but it's still a pain to find anything in it). I'm not going to say this is the be all and end all of SAT prep advice books, because I don't know enough about the SAT to know that. I do, however, know that this is a good place to start my journey to the SAT.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Rick Riordan Cliches (I Need Your Help!)

Hello, readers! Today I'll be doing something a bit different: Lakshmi commented on my review of Blood of Olympus suggesting I put together a list of the top Rick Riordan cliches, and I decided to do it. As you can see in my review, I loved the original Percy Jackson series but have been pretty disappointed in the Heroes of Olympus books. Don't jump all over me for hating, I just want to poke some gentle fun at the cliches Uncle Rick likes to lean on.


And without further ado, let's get started! Here are a few I thought of:

1. Love stories. With angst. Cause someone's always wondering if their girlfriend/boyfriend really likes them as much as they say.

2. Land ship. Fight monsters. Leave. Repeat.

3. This can't possibly get any worse. Oh wait, it just did!

4. Every character has to have some kind of internal fear/something they're hiding from the team. If not related to cliche #2, these fears usually turn out to be really important to the plot

5. There's a prophesy that seems horrible, but in the end we discover a different way to intrepret the prophecy, and now no one has to die.

6. The gods. They're SO USELESS, except for when they're vital to the plot.

What are your top Rick Riordan cliches? Leave them below, and I'll add them to my list! I'll post the full version on December 2, unless we need more time.

Edit 12/5/14:
This is now closed. I will post the final list of cliches next week. Feel free to continue posting cliches on here, as I will keep monitoring it for comments. If you post before my list is up and running, and I have time, I will add your cliche(s) to the end of the list.

Edit 1/6/15:
I just realized I should add the link to the final list. Here it is!

Teaser Tuesdays (Nov. 25)


Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

If you read last week's teaser and want to know more about Masterpiece, click here to read my review. It was a lot of fun revisiting an old favorite!

My current read is The Perfect Score Project: Discovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Stier. I know it's a bit different from my usual reviews, but I couldn't resist reading it after seeing Annie Kate's review of it.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

It all began as an attempt by Debbie Stier to help her high-school age son, Ethan, who would shortly be studying for the SAT. Aware that Ethan was a typical teenager (i.e., completely uninterested in any test) and that a mind-boggling menu of test-prep options existed, she decided – on his behalf -- to sample as many as she could to create the perfect SAT test-prep recipe.
Debbie’s quest turned out to be an exercise in both hilarity and heartbreak as she took the SAT seven times in one year and in-between “went to school” on standardized testing. Here, she reveals why the SAT has become so important, the cottage industries it has spawned, what really works in preparing for the test and what is a waste of time.
Both a toolbox of fresh tips and an amusing snapshot of parental love and wisdom colliding with teenage apathy, The Perfect Score Project rivets. In the book Debbie does it all: wrestles with Kaplan and Princeton Review, enrolls in Kumon, navigates khanacademy.org, meets regularly with a premier grammar coach, takes a battery of intelligence tests, and even cadges free lessons from the world’s most prestigious (and expensive) test prep company.
Along the way she answers the questions that plague every test-prep rookie, including: “When do I start?”...”Do the brand-name test prep services really deliver?”...”Which should I go with: a tutor, an SAT class, or self study?”...”Does test location really matter?” … “How do I find the right tutor?”… “How do SAT scores affect merit aid?”... and “What’s the one thing I need to know?”
The Perfect Score Project’s combination of charm, authority, and unexpected poignancy makes it one of the most compulsively readable guides to SAT test prep ever – and a book that will make you think hard about what really matters.


Here´s my quote, taken from page 98:

. . . my shelf of rejects bulged ever wider until I had to move the forsaken books to a larger space downstairs, and then ultimately, when they outgrew that room too, to the big bookshelf in the sky.
Let me know what you think of the book, and check back on Saturday for my review!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Masterpiece by Elise Broach, 2008

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays’ apartment. He is very much a beetle. James Pompaday lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy.After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture and before these unlikely friends know it they are caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that could help recover a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer. But James can’t go through with the plan without Marvin’s help. And that’s where things get really complicated (and interesting!). This fast-paced mystery will have young readers on the edge of their seats as they root for boy and beetle.


First, an important note to my readers: Two months ago I fell off a horse (during my third and final horse-back riding lesson), spraining my left and dominant hand. We went to the doctor and got a wrist brace which helped it get better, but in the last two weeks it has become painful once more and so I'm under orders not to use it for anything. Sadly, that "anything" includes typing. I'm left to do my school-work and blog writing either one-handed or with my computer's pretty faulty dictation device. So if I miss a typo here or there, just let me know in the comments and I'll fix it.

Anyway, on to the review.
I read this book for the first time several years ago, back when I was actually part of the target audience.  The first time I read it, I picked it up because I had loved Shakespeare's Secret by the same author.  I didn't really know what to expect with this one, but once I got into this book, I was enthralled.  Now, a few years later, I am not quite as in love as I was the first time (and caught a couple logistical issues that escaped my notice the first time), but it is still the fun, sweet story I remember - and even cuter than I thought it was!

I'm not really going to nit-pick through this one. The fact that the beetles are so similar to humans requires a leap of faith (I mean, Marvin has an uncle who fixes the electronic devices when they malfunction!), but the charming picture of a tiny family living in the walls and mimicking the lives of the larger inhabitants is indubitably an appealing one to elementary and middle school-aged children. You only have to look at the success of The Littles and The Borrowers to see this. Stuart Little and The Cricket in Time's Square are some  more successful additions to this sub-genre about tiny people or animals who behave like people. Masterpiece joins the ranks of these stretch-of-the-imagination classics with all the charm that can be desired, if not all the logic (at one point Marvin can't see and knows he's in an  elevator because of the swooping feeling in his stomach - how can this pubescent beetle who has never left home before possibly know what it feels like to be in an elevator?).
The story is told third person past tense from Marvin's point of view. Marvin is the hero of this book, no doubt about it. It's his decisions that carry the story, starting with his impulsive present to James. Marvin doesn't really have much unique characterization. The novelty is in what Marvin is and what he can do, not who Marvin is. Marvin is pretty straight-forward (kind, curious, artistic, etc), and you can't help but automatically be on his side.

James, the main human character in the book, is just as nice as Marvin, and is also very perceptive. James is probably my favorite character in the book not only because of his shy kindness, but because his mother and step-father walk all over him and you can't help but be on his side. Even James's real father Karl (divorced from James's mother several years before the book begins) seems oblivious to James's real desires in life: he gives James a pen and ink set for his birthday, clueless to the fact that James can't even draw. James doesn't throw a fit about getting a pen and ink set for his birthday (which is what most bratty kids in today's MG would do). He thanks his dad with as much enthusiasm as he can muster, and goes upstairs to start testing the kit out. See why I like this kid? There have been too many self-absorbed MCs lately, and I enjoyed reading a book with two kind and even compassionate main characters. Maybe I should read younger kid books more often.

As for the plot, it's a fun adventure through art, history, and museum security with a clever twist ending. As I mentioned above, James's parents are divorced. It's handled neatly throughout the book, and younger readers will quickly catch on to the fact that James's parents just weren't compatible because of their completely different approaches to life. While I may not agree with the idea of "incompatibility" divorce, there's no fault in the way it's handled.

Now, I keep saying this is a book for younger kids. This is true, but keep in mind: it's 292 pages long. It packs quite a heft for a middle grade book, so be careful that you only give it to kids who've got some endurance training under their belt. Also, older people are not excluded from reading it. I'm a high school junior and I read it, and I'm even admitting to reading it online!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free through Barnes & Noble's summer reading program this past summer. No one asked me to review it, and it didn't affect my review in any way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays (Nov. 18)


Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


If you read last week's teaser and want to know more about The Silver Bowl, click here to read my review. It's one of my favorite books!

My current (re)read is Masterpiece by Elise Broach.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays’ apartment. He is very much a beetle. James Pompaday lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy.After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture and before these unlikely friends know it they are caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that could help recover a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer. But James can’t go through with the plan without Marvin’s help. And that’s where things get really complicated (and interesting!). This fast-paced mystery will have young readers on the edge of their seats as they root for boy and beetle.


Here´s my quote, taken from page 32:
 And then, without planning to - without meaning to, without ever thinking for a moment of the consequences - Marvin found himself crawling out into the open, across the vast desktop, directly in front of James. He stopped at the edge of the picture and waited, unable to breathe.
Let me know what you think of the book, and check back on Saturday for my review!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley, 2011

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Unwanted at home, Molly goes to work for the king of Westria as a humble scullery maid. She arrives at the castle with no education, no manners, and a very disturbing secret: She sees visions, and those visions always come true.One day, while she's working in the king's great hall, young Prince Alaric passes by. Molly finds him unbearably handsome—but also unbearably rude. But what does it really matter? She'll probably never see him again.In time Molly is promoted to polishing silver and is given a priceless royal treasure to work on: the king's great ceremonial hand basin. But there's something odd about it. The silver warms to her touch, a voice commands her to watch and listen, and then the visions appear. They tell the story of a dreaded curse that has stalked the royal family for years. There have already been deaths; soon there will be more.As tragedy after tragedy strikes the royal family, Molly can't help but wonder: Will the beautiful Alaric be next? Together with her friends Tobias and Winifred, Molly must protect the prince and destroy the curse. Could a less likely champion be found to save the kingdom of Westria?


After my third or fourth reread, I've decided that this book officially goes on my all-time favorites list. It's got everything I love - magic, royalty, danger, and subtle humor - without falling into any of the tired cliches that characterize most books that involve royalty and magic. In fact, Molly, the kitchen girl, is the MC - not the cute royal prince she rescues. I love seeing her roll her eyes at the prince's clueless-ness in the real world when they're hiding - like, "gee, sure, give them your royal brooch in gratitude for helping you. I'm sure no one will think they stole it if they try to sell it for, you know, actual money to replace all the food and medicine they just used on you." Okay, she didn't phrase it like that - like I said, the humor is subtle - that's just my paraphrase.


Okay, characters. As I already wrote, Meg is awesome. She's smart, and clever, but not in that really cloying cliche way. She's a bit of a wild-child in the first few chapters, but we quickly watch her flash forward about ten years. Even though she's wild, as soon as she goes to work at the castle (at age seven) she catches on to the fact that she has to do anything people ask, and not get into any trouble, if she wants to keep her post. Her stubbornness is not a tool to show that she's a flawed character (but secretly not, because stubbornness just shows strength of character!). It's a part of her personality, but a part that she knows how to deny when she needs to.


Meg also has this mysterious ability to sense the future, which isn't explained much in this book (the author delves a lot more into that in the second and third book, both of which are good but not quite as good as this one). I love how she's not going crazy with excitement about her powers: she actually sees them as a curse, not a blessing, and is deathly afraid of her visions through not only this book but actually most of the entire trilogy. She fears the burden that has been placed onto her.


Tobias is Meg's best friend, and a great character in his own right. A bit more cookie-cutter, he has all the usual side-kick bits: loyal, funny, smart, helps the MC catch her bearings in a new place (in this case the castle), and has a sad back-story to boot. However, you can't help but like Tobias. He's just so nice!


The prince doesn't actually get a huge amount of screen time in this book, because Molly the servent girl doesn't really get to interact much with Alaric the prince in the first half of the book, and then later he's pretty wounded and spends quite a bit of time unconsciouse. However, the bits that you do see give the bare outline of a compelling character. From the moment Meg (shamelessly eavesdropping) overhears him arguing with his parents as a child, you know that he's not going to be a cookie-cutter prince. Later, I love how strong he is. He still even keeps a bit of his humor! I won't go into it more than that, for fear of spoilers.


I can't really think of anything else to say, besides "read this book!" Like I said above, this is one of my all-time favorite books, and I recently bought it so I could have it forever. If you have any questions about the book, post them in the comments below! Also, I want to hear about your favorite books. Let me know what book you never get tired of, and I might just review it!


Note 5/19/15: This review is also available on the blog Bookshop Talk. Click here to check it out, and browse the reviews sent in by other book lovers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays (Nov. 11)


Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My current (re)read is The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Unwanted at home, Molly goes to work for the king of Westria as a humble scullery maid. She arrives at the castle with no education, no manners, and a very disturbing secret: She sees visions, and those visions always come true.

One day, while she's working in the king's great hall, young Prince Alaric passes by. Molly finds him unbearably handsome—but also unbearably rude. But what does it really matter? She'll probably never see him again.



In time Molly is promoted to polishing silver and is given a priceless royal treasure to work on: the king's great ceremonial hand basin. But there's something odd about it. The silver warms to her touch, a voice commands her to watch and listen, and then the visions appear. They tell the story of a dreaded curse that has stalked the royal family for years. There have already been deaths; soon there will be more.

As tragedy after tragedy strikes the royal family, Molly can't help but wonder: Will the beautiful Alaric be next? Together with her friends Tobias and Winifred, Molly must protect the prince and destroy the curse. Could a less likely champion be found to save the kingdom of Westria?


Here´s my quote, taken from page 108:
 . . . I felt uneasy. Everyone and everything that came near the king might be suddenly transformed into something else. Something deadly.
Let me know what you think of the book, and check back in a couple of days for my review!

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Faraway Island by Annika Thor, 2009

Synopsis (from Amazon)

It's the summer of 1939. Two Jewish sisters from Vienna—12-year-old Stephie Steiner and seven-year-old Nellie—are sent to Sweden to escape the Nazis. They expect to stay there six months, until their parents can flee to Amsterdam; then all four will go to America. But as the world war intensifies, the girls remain, each with her own host family, on a rugged island off the western coast of Sweden.
Nellie quickly settles in to her new surroundings. Not so for Stephie, who finds it hard to adapt; she feels stranded at the end of the world, with a foster mother who's as unforgiving as the island itself. It's no wonder Stephie doesn't let on that the most popular girl at school becomes her bitter enemy, or that she endures the wounding slights of certain villagers. Her main worry, though, is her parents—and whether she will ever see them again.

11/1/14
I just finished A Faraway Island, and I really liked it. It's not going on my top ten list of 
favorites, but it was really good. I've already begun the sequel, but I'll review A Faraway Island once I've finished that.

A few days later:
Okay, I have now finished the sequel (The Lily Pond) and am bemoaning the fact that the third and fourth books of the series have not been translated into English yet. You see, they were originally written in Swedish!

The book is written in third person present tense, from the point of view of the fictional twelve-year-old Stephie. Stephie and her sister Nellie are two of only five hundred Austrian children who were offered asylum by the Swedish, and I frankly hadn't known anything about the Swedish point of view of World War II. It was very interesting for me to read about the lives of the Swedish during WWII, in part because I am actually half Swedish.

The characterization in the book was good, but not to the point of drawing attention away from the story. Stephie is essentially supposed to be a stand-in for the reader - or at least, that's what she was for me. When I was reading this book I forgot that I was reading about someone else, and became Stephie. I felt perfect empathy with her, despite the fact that I've never been to Austria, World War II has been over for decades, and my real parents were literally in the same house as me for most of the duration of my reading. That didn't matter, because I was sucked in and I felt Stephie's pain. And that's why I enjoyed this book so much.

The secondary characters are still good, but not perfect. My favorite is probably Auntie Marta (with a mark over the "a"), because she's so much deeper than she seems at first (and because I have a thing for tough-love characters). Nellie was shallow and callous, and didn't care at all that she was losing her very heritage as she dropped her native German tongue for the more popular Swedish language. Then again, she was seven years old so what can you expect? She acted her age, even though I might not like it. There's some pretty interesting side threads with two of Stephie's school friends, neither of which I really loved. One of the girls she makes friends with is the illegitimate daughter of a man who died at sea before he married his fiance. She and her mother are sort of the scum of the town, but Stephie doesn't care. It's a nice story line, it just felt kind of dry and cliche.

The other friend Stephie makes at school is more on the in crowd. She's a bit of a goody-goody, and there's a scene later in the book she says that Stephie needs to do something or otherwise Jesus will be mad at her. Forget the fact that I don't agree with the Pentecostal religion that the people on the island follow (seriously, who is this girl to say whether Jesus will be mad at Stephie?!), I just think that's so obnoxious. Stephie. a Jew who was baptized before she even spoke English, gets very mad at her friend and tells her that Jesus doesn't exist. Of course she regrets that later, and I do believe that Jesus exists, but I'm still on her side in that scene.

As a whole, this is a great WWII book. You get to see a lot of the struggles that children who were separated from their families went through, and I never felt like it was fake. The sequel is also well-written, but I didn't find the subject matter as a whole (Stephie delves a bit more into the tween crush phase than I really enjoy reading about) as compelling as this book.

Are you interested in WWII books? Post your favorites in the comments, or ask for recommendations!