By: J.C. Carleson
With my ever growing list of books that I want to read, I feel like every review I write starts with the statement that it is a book I have wanted to read for some time, so even though this is true, I will skip saying it about this book. I don’t even remember when I first heard about this book, but I couldn’t wait for it to come in our order so that I could get my hands on it. However, another issue I run into with my job is that I put all sorts of books on a fictional “I can’t wait to read this book” list and then I promptly forget about all the books I want to read. So as I was browsing the shelves during a spine poetry lesson before Winter Break, I once again stumbled upon this book and quickly grabbed it to take home. And I am glad I did!
This is a fantastic book about a topic we hear about every day on the news, but from a very different perspective. The main character is the king’s daughter. The author never states exactly where the family is from, and is sure to explain this literary choice in an author’s note at the end of the story. However, the war, death, and damage to the country is universal to many countries around the world today. Being that the story is told from the perspective of the king’s daughter in a culture where women are not in the know, the reader learns about the events and tragedies that the country has suffered as Laila learns about them. She eventually learns that her father was not exactly the man that she thought he was and he caused many of his people to suffer during his reign. She moves to America with her family and learns during her time here that she never really truly belongs. But many things need to change before she and her family can even consider going back and reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. Through all this change, she also finds out her mother is not exactly the woman she thought she was. She is tougher, but also more fragile. She learns much about herself through the story. It was eye opening to me as a reader, and I know I will be watching the news with a different viewpoint from now on because of it.
Although the author claims that the story is fiction, it is definitely based in fact. Insert the name of any country in the Middle East right now, and this story would fit their history. And although I know that there is death and senseless killing, all these people have families and that is the perspective that I will now have. What a wonderful read!
by Barry Lyga
Recently I said that I wasn’t a huge fan of trilogies anymore (in case you missed it, I feel that it is an author’s way to sell more books and make more money), but I guess I just had to come across the right one. And boy, did I ever find one! I read I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga last year as one of our Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl books. I thought it was pretty decent. And while it was good, I can’t say that it was my favorite Helen Ruffin book. However, I was willing to read the second in the series (Game) to see the outcome. And I was very pleasantly surprised! And maybe even beyond pleasantly surprised. I have to say that it was fantastic! In my experience, it is rare for a second in a series to be even better than the first – but as I read all three of these books, I couldn’t seem to put them down. Each one was better than the previous one.
What the first installment lacked in suspense and twists and turns, Game definitely had those and then some. And because Game was so wonderful, I could not wait until Blood of my Blood came out. The story line in the second two books is insane! There are so many surprises that I literally carried the book with me wherever I went so I could read it if I had a few minutes to spare.
I had to know what happened to the main character, Jazz. His dad is Billy Dent, the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper. In the first book, Jazz is asked to help the town of Lobo’s Nod solve a series of murders that are following similar patterns as his father’s murders. Without giving anything away, Billy Dent is a manipulator. This manipulation is even stronger in the second book. In this book, there is another series of murders that can’t be solved by the police and they seek Jazz to help again. The only difference this time is the murders are in New York City. So not only does Jazz have to help the police navigate the clues, he also has to navigate a strange city that he has never been to. The third and final installment brings in the family connections and wraps the story up nicely.
Throughout all three books, Billy (Dear Old Dad) plays with Jazz’s mind and the consequences are severe. There are many people who are killed, some of them in graphic ways and described in detail. The psychological aspect to this book is amazing! I was in awe trying to figure out how the author came up with such a creative plot full of grisly detail. If you like mystery books that are full of suspense, this is a series that you should definitely pick up.
By: Marie Rutkoski
This book has been highly advertised and quickly found its way on to my radar. When it came in, it had already been mentioned on several lists as a book that will quickly rise up the charts. Marie Rutkoski is the author of one of our current Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl books (The Shadow Society) and because of this book, I know that she is a fantastic author. So over the winter break, I made sure to grab this book so I could check it out. I didn’t end up picking it up until the last possible moment, but I will tell you, it was done before I returned! I absolutely loved this story!
The main character is the 17-year-old Kestrel, who is the daughter to the country’s top general. She lives in the lap of luxury and never has to lift a hand. Her father wants her to join the military, but she is not interested in that. She is an incredible strategist and prefers to use that skill on her own time and in her own way, and not as a part of the military career.
Another main character is Arin, a slave that was purchased by Kestrel on a whim at the slave auction. He is a very angry man who has watched his country get taken away from him in a war. He has lost his entire family and is now forced to work as a slave. Needless to say, he is not the most compliant slave. He doesn’t follow the rules that slaves are supposed to follow. And I won’t give any spoilers, but there is a reason for this.
As you read through this story, you will experience frustration, death, love, hope, and loss. It is all woven in a story that is easy to get engrossed in. And although I have become a bit bored with trilogies (usually because the stories seem drawn out just for the purpose of selling more books), I think this is an excellent start to a new series and I can’t wait for the next installment, which is due out in March 2015.
By: Jenny Han
This is one of the books that I had heard a lot of buzz about before I finally got my hands on it. It quickly made its way to my shortlist of books I wanted to read. And I have to say that I was not disappointed with it. It was a very cute read. The main character, Lara Jean, is a very naïve character that has fallen in her version of love with 5 boys during her short life. In order to get over each of these boys, she writes them letters expressing her feelings. She places all these letters in a very special place with no intention of anyone ever seeing them. However, somehow her letters get sent to each of the boys. One of these boys is her sister’s ex-boyfriend. Between him and Peter, another one of the boys, Lara Jean ends up in a bit of a quandary. The story unfolds quickly and Lara Jean’s life changes rapidly. She goes from a girl who has never had a boyfriend (and really only 2 quick kisses that weren’t really kisses) to a girl who has a boyfriend and another boy interested in her (who also happens to be her neighbor). It makes for some very interesting experiences, given how naïve and innocent Lara Jean is. I will tell you, though, as I finished this book, I was not happy. There is absolutely no closure to the story. As I looked into this book a little more, I discovered that there will be a sequel, so at least I won’t be left hanging like I thought. I don’t know that the story line lends itself to a sequel, but I know I will read it just to see how it turns out. If you are looking for a quick read with a cute story line, check this one out!
This book has been advertised as the next Eleanor and Park, which has taken the YA world by storm. And while I agree to an extent that there are some parallels, there are also some huge differences that make this novel stand on its own two feet.
I really enjoyed the story line in this book. The emotions that I felt as I read this book were very strong, and that is a testament to the author’s ability to write. The two main characters were fantastically written! They were realistic. They were honest. They were authentic. I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about the Jewish faith and their customs before reading this book, and I am not anywhere near an expert now that I have read it. However, I feel like I have been enlightened to the trials and tribulations that Devorah suffered because of the rules of her faith. I also felt the frustration and angst that Jaxon felt after falling in love with someone who is required to follow rules that are so foreign to him.
I was literally on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book waiting to see if their love would conquer their differences. Couple that with several external characters who are actively working to keep these two apart, and you have the recipe for a fantastic read about two teenagers who experience first love. I highly recommend this book for those who are looking for a love story – it was a fantastic book!
I am a huge fan of Stephanie Perkins’ book Anna and the French Kiss, which was a Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl book a couple years ago. It actually ended up receiving enough votes to be named as the runner-up for the Georgia Teen Peach Award that year. Because of this, I couldn’t wait to read Isla and the Happily Ever After. I did not realize until I started reading that this book focuses on several of the characters originally found in Anna and the French Kiss during the following school year. What a wonderful surprise for me!
I have to say that I love this book as much as I did Anna and the French Kiss. It is a love story through and through. Stephanie Perkins created characters that were believable. They went through typical and identifiable issues. And through the ups and downs, their love survived. The writing is exactly what I expected from this author. Even though the characters are all incredibly wealthy and privileged, I didn’t feel that about the characters as I read. I usually get irritated with authors who write about characters who are so wealthy they don’t seem real. It becomes all about the privilege. However, I don’t feel that is the case in this novel. I actually forgot they were so wealthy because of the fact that their characters were going through emotions that can be found in any teen – no matter what their economic status may be.
I was so excited to see that Perkins included cameos by several characters from Anna and the French Kiss. It was a wonderful end to her series. Because I didn’t realize that this book was the third in the series (although they can also be read as stand alone books), I have inadvertently skipped Lola and the Boy Next Door. This is a problem that I plan to solve very soon!
So if you are looking for a good love story, I would definitely add this one to my list! And while you are at it, you can also add Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Happy reading!
A new feature we will be adding periodically to this blog is to add media specialist recommendations/reviews. Today’s review is about Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen.
I really loved this book. It seems weird to say that I loved a book that is primarily about bullying and is incredibly emotional, but I do. I think this book should be on required reading lists in every high school to be used as a cautionary tale. The characters were written perfectly. Their actions, reactions, and emotions were real. The consequences of bullying were real. The guilt and what-ifs were real. And even though it was an excellently written book that was very honest, it was also very difficult to read. It is hard to imagine ever being in the situation of being a victim or a witness to bullying in the degree that was portrayed in the book. I would like to think that high schools today are much safer than they apparently are. I would like to think that the characters in Leverage were truly fictional. But I am a realist and understand that bullying happens, and sometimes the consequences are frightening. That is the reason we have bully awareness campaigns. Through the realistic, sometimes painful, actions and dialogue in this novel, students will be able to understand and appreciate the negative consequences to bullying another student and hopefully think twice before making a comment or committing an action that would be perceived as harmful to another person.
I am excited to get this blog up and running. I look forward to communicating with the students in this format. We will soon have a wealth of resources for you to use. Please use them! And let us know what else we can add to help you in your lessons and research.