Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way DownTurtles All the Way Down by John Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Invasive thoughts, Irrational routines, Persistent worries: We all suffer from these to some degree. But what if you lost the ability to quiet the inner voice? What if your routines, became obsessions? What if your worries became so all-encompassing that they prohibited you from functioning in normal society?

Aza Holmes is an intelligent, attractive, compassionate young woman in high school. She lives with her widowed mother. She misses her father. She prefers quiet, and predictability in life. However, Aza's best friend, Daisy, is a completely UNpredictable force of nature.

When Aza and Daisy learn about a missing Billionaire and a potential reward for his whereabouts- Daisy hatches a scheme to get rich. This type of excitement fuels Daisy.

Aza, having once been friends with the Billionaire's son, Davis Pickett, gets reeled right in to the plan. But the excitement that inspires Daisy, triggers Aza.

Aza doesn't process stimuli the way Daisy, or other typical teens do. Aza has to really make an effort at "normalcy." She cannot silence invasive thoughts. She cannot defy her compulsions. Aza has Mental Illness- and that makes adolescence even more of a challenge.

Typically, Aza is able to quell the obsessive compulsions through the use of medication, therapy, self-care. However, when she is introduced to new stressors, new experiences, new GERMS, she loses that control.

This is especially true of her experiences with Davis Pickett. Davis not only thrills Aza- he unravels her.

Turtles All the Way Down is a book about...
...love and loss...
... Mental Illness...
...a mysterious disappearance...
...expensive ancient reptiles...
...bacterial infections...

Turtles All the Way Down is a book about learning to accept, nurture, and forgive YOURSELF. It is a story of evolution, regression, and enlightenment and understanding that life is a spiral- not a straight line.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross (Warcross, #1)Warcross by Marie Lu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine a Virtual Reality Game so realistic that the entire world is obsessed with it.
Imagine being able to alter everything you see just by wearing a special set of lenses. People walking down the street look like their avatars, walk impossible pets on leashes, and have game statistics floating over their heads. Game points can be exchanged for merchandise, just like real money. Illegal gambling on games has taken center-stage in the Organized Crime world. The game is the center of all society.

The game is Warcross.

Emika Chen is a teenage girl living on her own in New York City. She has no parents, she isn't in school, and she is up to her eyeballs in debt. So, what's an orphan- turned- hacker -with- a- criminal-record supposed to do to feed herself? She becomes a Bounty Hunter.

The police are so overwhelmed with crime these days that they have asked regular citizens to help them catch criminals. Emika is very good at this and keeps hoping for the next big score to help get her out of debt.

Emika is also REALLY good at hacking. So good, in fact, that she has discovered a way to hack the ultimate game. Emika can hack Warcross. What happens when Hideo Tanaka, a 21 year old billionaire and the creator of the world's most popular game, discovers that a teenage girl has hacked his empire? Well, her life is changed forever.

This unique and fast-paced first installation of what promises to be an engaging new series is difficult to put down. 4 out of 5 stars. Perfect for ages 12+.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Everlost, Book 1 of the Skinjacker Series

Everlost (Skinjacker, #1)Everlost by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My binge-reading of Neal Shusterman began with Scythe, then Challenger Deep, and then I read Everlost. Scythe was a dark, violent, dystopian-ish story and Challenger Deep was an intense novel about the mind. Everlost reads more like a faerie-tale, and I curled up inside of it happily.

The premise of Everlost is that not every child makes it to the light at the end of the tunnel when they die. Some get lost along the way. When they do, they enter a world called Everlost in which they can only interact with people, places, and objects that have passed into death.

In Everlost, there are only children. No one needs to eat or sleep or breathe. However, the children who reside there cannot stay put anywhere that is still part of the living world or they will slowly sink and become swallowed up by the Earth. They have to find dead places- like forests that perished, or sites of great tragedy.

The story begins with a double car crash- killing our main characters, Allie and Nick, and landing them in Everlost. Trying to figure out this new world they are in proves challenging and perilous. Memory of the living world begins to fade. The two lost children depend on the guidance of other "afterlights" to navigate their surroundings.

There are thousands of lost souls in Everlost- and not all of them have good intentions. Allie and Nick will have to fight against what is comfortable and self-serving in order to do what is right.

Book 1 of a Trilogy. Recommended for ages 11+

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Challenger DeepChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So...this book requires patience. Understand that this is a book about a boy whose concept of reality is slowly disintegrating into a prismatic light-show of madness. He is plunging down the rabbit hole and you will go there with him.

There are two stories being told in Challenger Deep- the story of the voyage into the Marianas Trench and the story of a 15 year old boy's voyage into his own personal trench.  

Eventually, the stories will collide.

If you embark on this journey with Caden Bosch, understand that the voyage is long and the way is not always clear. However, the story is worth the travel.

Once you wrap your mind around what is truly happening in this novel, you will appreciate the honest, caring, and accepting way it deals with the issues it covers. Normalizing something that affects millions of people around the world, Challenger Deep is a necessary novel.  

Ages 13+
4 out of 5 stars

Monday, August 28, 2017

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)Scythe by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, is a difficult book to place in a genre. It is Utopian, partially, but has a nasty dystopian streak running through it. This unique vision of the world's future depicts a humanity that has conquered disease, crime, and ultimately, death. There is no government but, instead, a beneficent, cognizant evolution of the internet called the "Thunderhead" makes sure that society has all of its needs met. The only problem is that, having conquered death, there would be no fail safe in place to handle overpopulation.

This is why the first immortal humans created the Scythedom.

Scythes are above the law and not subject to the power of the "Thunderhead." It is their duty to "glean" (which is a sugar-coated term for "kill") a certain number of people per year to keep the population down. Scythes are supposed to be incredibly moral, compassionate, and just. They are supposed to "glean" in the most humane way possible. However, without the "Thunderhead" keeping the Scythes in line, guiding them to make the right decisions, human nature is able take its normal course. There is corruption in the Scythedom. For some Scythes, "Gleaning" has become sport and a way to lord power over others.

The protagonists of this story are two high school kids who have been selected to be apprentices to a well-known Scythe. Ultimately, only one of them will be selected to serve as a Scythe, and the other one, they are told, will return to his/her normal life. However, political machinations infect what should be an amicable competition. The apprentices, Citra and Rowan, see that there are many dark secrets within the Scythedom. They have to choose between succumbing to the corruption or rebelling against it.

Shusterman has imagined an interesting take on the world's future. While I do see some holes in the concept, overall it works.

So far, the series is fine for ages 11+- however, be warned that it is gory and violent.
4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Written in poetic form, Brown Girl Dreaming is the memoir of Jacqueline Woodson, a writer whose childhood experiences were of two worlds- Greenville, SC and Brooklyn, NY.

Jacqueline was born during America's Civil Rights movement. As an African American girl with both a southern and northern parent, she experienced how geography played a markedly strong role in the treatment of people of color.

The anger and frustration she felt towards the inexcusable injustices happening around her, and the pride she felt towards the energy of the civil rights revolution were fuel for the words she had bubbling inside of her.

Far from the "smartest" child in her family, Jacqueline grew up doubting herself even when the words were dancing in her brain and spilling out of her pencil. Yet, with the encouragement of a few intuitive teachers, and the deep love from a tightly connected family, Jacqueline found a way to take her "dreams" and turn them into beautiful stories.

Brown Girl Dreaming is a lovely, emotive, and powerful true story of the life of an American child during the 1960 and 1970s. The audio book version is particularly poignant because it is read by Woodson herself.

Winner of the Newbery and other prestigious awards, this memoir is a must have in every middle school collection.

5 stars for ages 10+

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Silverback Gorilla is a GREAT Ape- a proud protector of his troop- a majestic creature. They belong in the wild- guarding the nests of their family- fathering their offspring- living with the natural world.

Ivan is a Silverback Gorilla who was stolen from his natural habitat to serve as an attraction in a mall. He was raised by humans but, although his memory is not as absolute as an elephants, he remembers the joy that he was taken from and the sorrows he has faced.

Ivan is also an artist. Give him any medium- mud, crayons, paint, magic markers- and he will draw his world for you.

Ivan has made the best of his captivity. He has true friends in a dog, elephant, and little girl.

It is only when he loses one of these friends that he begins to see his "domain" for what it really is- a cage.

Ivan has made a promise so nearly impossible that even a Silverback might not be able to keep it. But Ivan is more that just a Silverback. He is an artist.

Katherine Applegate has fictionalized the true account of an actual gorilla named Ivan, giving him a story to tell. Although this is a tale told from the perspective of animals- their "humanity" is just as valid as our own.

5 Stars for all ages