Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Neverworld Wake, by Marisha Pessl

One year ago, Bea was living a charmed life. She was popular, she had amazing friends, and she had an incredible boyfriend, the boy all the girls wanted to date and all the guys wanted to be. Everything was perfect. Until Jim's mysterious (and accidental?) death, that is. 

That's when everything fell apart.

Today Bea is a different person. Her grades have dropped, her friends have drifted away, and she spends her free time working at her parents' restaurant and trying not to think too much about the past.

Then comes an invitation from Whitley Lansing. Whitley tells Bea that the friends are reuniting for the weekend at Wincroft Estate. And against her better judgment, Bea attends. She finds everything and everyone the same, but senses there's something very wrong. Something no one is talking about. 

Then, following a near-miss car accident, a mysterious stranger arrives at the door. He tells the five teens that they are all lingering between life and death, caught in an endless loop where they are doomed to live out the same day over and over again. There is only one way to break the loop: Each day, they must vote on who lives and who dies. 

The vote must be unanimous. 

And there can only be one survivor.

(You can guess how well that plays out)

At first no one believes the Stranger and everyone goes their separate ways. But again and again they wake to find themselves back at Wincroft, repeating the same day. Some use these repetitions to do what they want without consequence, but Bea begins to look into why she and her friends are stuck in time. She suspects it has something to do with the circumstances surrounding Jim's death. Unfortunately, this is something no one will talk about.

Neverworld Wake, the first YA novel by Marisha Pessl, reminded me of a cross between We Were Liars (Lockhart) and Before I Fall (Oliver). In the best possible way! The author did a fantastic job with character development in that I didn't much like any of the characters but, as I got to know them, I became sympathetic with each and every one of them. I understood their motivations for how they behaved and why they did what they did. The plot was highly suspenseful and hauntingly strange. It kept me guessing right until the end. And, for the most part, I didn't see the twists and turns coming until they were upon me. 

That's all I'm going to say. This is the sort of book that's best read if you don't know too many spoiler-y things. In fact, the less you know going into it, the better. (I've probably already said too much)

Just read it!

You know you want to!


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

Zelie’s mother was a powerful maji, who was killed by the royal guards during the raid because of her ability to perform magic. At the kings command, all of the maji were ordered to to be killed in attempt to wipe out magic from the land forever. Their children, "diviners" marked with bright white hair, are spared since their magic was not supposed to reveal itself until they’re older. Without the maji, the diviners are doomed to never acquire their powers. Magic becomes a thing of the past. Almost a legend. Diviners are treated like animals, having to pay higher taxes which causes some to be forced into selling themselves into slavery. The diviners, who are referred to as "maggots", live in fear as they are also frequent victims and survivors of violent crime. They would dye or cut their hair to conceal their identities as diviners, but the white strands repeal all methods of remaining hidden.

Many years later, an artifact resurfaces that possesses the ability to give magic back to any diviners who touch it. Orisha’s rebel of a princess, Amari, escapes the castle with the stolen artifact with the help of Zelie. Teaming up with Zelie’s stubborn brother Tzain, they find themselves in an important quest to try to bring the magic back to all the diviners, “The Children of Blood and Bone”.  

Any teen will fall in love with the magical people from the land of Orisha. The diverse characters, intricate character development, and meaningful plot line will keep readers turning the pages until its over. There are also giant cats the characters ride on, so that is pretty awesome. Zelie and her cause to give the magic back to the diviners so they can stand up to their oppressors is both powerful and inspiring. This book is also told from 3 alternating points of view every chapter or so. Adults and teens alike will not be able to put this book down until it is finished. I loved it. It is everything I wanted out of a 2018 fantasy novel and more.

MOVIE ALERT: In additional exciting news, the book is signed in to become a movie in development at Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions with the incredible producers Karen Rosenfelt and Wyck Godfrey (you know them from their work in movies like- Twilight, The Fault In Our Stars, Love Simon). Read it before it hits theaters! 


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling

This is a brief review of the Audiobook version read by Jim Dale.

Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts for his 3rd year there. The prisoner Sirius Black is on the loose. Harry, throughout the school year, is told he is not safe with Sirius on the loose. Later, he meets Sirius Black and learns the unknown truth about his godfather. 

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Overall, I think the audio-book "The Secret Garden" was an interesting experience. Usually, I don't listen to audio-books. But, I think I'd definitely listen to another one after this. Furthermore, I'd absolutely suggest listening to The Secret Garden because it is a classic story and it is almost like someone is sitting there and reading to you. Looking back on this, I now realize that I like audio-books, and without this square on my bingo board I would have never tried it out. 

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!

Warcross, by Marie Lu

An ever-changing virtual reality world, bounty hunters, food delivering robots, a warrior of a heroine, a slice of romance, game-changing plot twists- what more can you want from a science fiction novel?!

Warcross is the name of a virtual reality game that changes the world. You can use it to escape to a virtual island in the sun, make a “better version” of yourself in your avatar, play the actual fighting game it is used for, or keep yourself logged in on your walk to work so anyone else also logged in can see your virtual pet dragon following behind you. The Warcross tournament is an event that is kind of like the Olympics. Everyone watches from around the world. The game itself is essentially capture the flag style, but set in virtual reality with amazing power-ups like being able to fly.

Emika Chen is an orphaned teen who is struggling in life. She has a job as a waitress, but is about to be evicted from her apartment due to a lot of debt. She also works as a bounty hunter for the New York City police to make ends meet and she escapes into Warcross on her off time. An experienced hacker, she attempts to hack into a professional Warcross game to try and make some quick cash. She is caught by the game creator, young billionaire and skilled inventor, Hideo Tanaka. Quickly, Emika’s life is changing into something she did not know she would be getting herself into.

This science fiction has some seriously stellar technology flares that Emika (as a hacker) can see as breaches through its security. Any teen interested in technology would enjoy this piece of science fiction that might not be too far off from our own world after all. As Hideo Tanaka says, “everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact”.   

This book will make you feel like you have entered an episode of Netflix's Black Mirror - MC

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Flight of Dragons (DVD)

Recently I recommended ordering a bunch of animated (and Anime) films to add to our growing DVD collection. Among them was Flight of Dragons, which popped up as an "if you like...try..." recommendation for one of the other films. The reviews were glowing and Fantasy films are popular here, so I figured we'd give it a try.

Over the weekend, I decided to check it out. And, despite the decidedly old-school animation, I was not disappointed! This movie was pretty fantastic!

Flight of Dragons opens with the Green Wizard expressing his concerns about the negative impact of modern society on the environment and, in turn, the repercussions that impact is having on the realm of magic. Before his power disappears entirely, he contacts his brothers the Blue Wizard and the Yellow Wizard. Together they determine a champion is needed to defeat the diabolical Red Wizard, who has basically cursed the world and humankind to self-destruct, destroying all positive magic with it and leaving in its wake a world of evil. Pretty harsh!

Enter Peter, a gamer geek from the 20th Century. We first meet Peter while he is playing a Dungeons and Dragons-like game with an elderly friend. Although skeptical at first (because this kid hardly looks like warrior material), the three Wizards decide to trust the wisdom of the Fates that Peter's combined love of science and fantasy is what is needed to save the day. 

The Green Wizard brings Peter to the Realm of Magic, but a spell goes awry and traps the young man in the body of a dragon. But the quest happens anyway. Aided by an aging knight, a warrior princess, a Hobbit-like creature, and a magical wolf, Peter does, indeed vanquish the Red Wizard. But it is his intelligence, not his sword (or fiery breath), that saves the day. This was a twist I wasn't expecting, but really appreciated.

Although originally released in the mid-1980s, Flight of Dragons touches on some issues that are very timely today, such as environmental awareness and accepting others rather than making war with them. 

Overall, Flight of Dragons was an enjoyable movie. I'd recommend it to fans of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Eragon, and other classic fantasy stories.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Finding Someplace, by Denise Lewis Patrick

A book you should read is a beautiful novel by Denise Lewis Patrick. It's called Finding Someplace. Reesie is turning 13 years old, August 29th, 2005. This spunky girl who is living in New Orleans believes her birthday is going to be the start of something great. However, in the middle of coconut cake and presents, one of the most deadliest hurricanes, hurricane Katrina decides to strike. Everyone else is paranoid about the staying through the storm so evacuations are made immediately. Reesie is stuck with her elderly neighbor Miss Martine. As they barely escape on a boat, the storm was not the only thing that shook Reesie. Finding Someplace talks about the importance of family and truly finding someplace to fit in. It taught me that storms can destroy anything, but it can get you closer with the people you love. - Teen Summer Reader

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Invisible Emmie, by Terri Libenson

Emmie is a talented artist, but painfully awkward and shy. Especially when it comes to boys (and one boy in particular). 

Katie is everything Emmie is not: Pretty, popular, and has no trouble talking to anyone (cute boys included).

The drama begins when a secret love letter Emmie writes about her crush is stolen by the most obnoxious boy in class and circulated through the entire middle school. Emmie is horrified! To make matters worse, Emmie has a fight with her best friend over the loss of the note. So she's never felt more alone.

What's more, the crush in question just happens to be Katie's new boyfriend! 

Katie, who has pretty much the same class schedule as Emmie, witnesses her classmate's humiliation in full...including the fact that her BF seems to return Emmie's feelings. 

What will happen next?

Will Katie confront Emmie about the note (and about her boyfriend's reaction)?

Will Katie instead help her less-popular classmate deal?

Will Emmie continue to take the teasing?

Will she finally learn to stick up for herself?

At this point, anything can happen.

But no spoilers!

Like with Terri Libenson's other book, Positively Izzy, Invisible Emmie boasts a cast of likable characters, a well-developed plot, and a surprise twist. While I didn't like Emmie quite as much as I did Izzy, there was plenty of dramatic action to keep me reading. And I still very much enjoyed the story. 

I would definitely recommend it!


Monday, June 4, 2018

Positively Izzy, by Terri Libenson

Izzy and Brianna are both students at Lakefront Middle School, but that's where their similarities end. Although the girls know (sort of) each other, they're not what you would all "friends." 

Izzy is outgoing and artistic with a knack for acting. Unfortunately, she often has her head in the clouds, which usually means she's in trouble for not doing so well in school. 

Brianna is shy and super smart, often pulling straight A's without even trying. She wishes she could get her classmates to see past her "brain" label, but doesn't know how to break out of her shell. 

Izzy has been practicing her act for the annual school talent show for weeks, and she couldn't be more excited. But when she fails a test the day before her big performance and ends up grounded (meaning no talent show), of course she sneaks out. After all, the show must go on, right? Hopefully she won't get caught...

Brianna, on the other hand, has never been comfortable in the spotlight. But when one of the main actors cancels at pretty mugh the last minute, the new drama teacher (who just happens to be Bri's mother) convinces her to fill in. Reluctantly, Bri agrees, but worries that this could only lead to disaster...

On this night, the two girls' paths cross in unforeseen ways. And the consequences of this night of drama will change them both forever. 

Terri Libenson's novel about (literal) Middle School drama, Positively Izzy, was a fun story about two very different teens. Told in alternating chapters, the reader really gets to know each character. This is something I really enjoyed about this story. But the best part was the ending. No spoilers, though.

I'd recommend Positively Izzy to fans of Raina Telgemeier. And be sure to check out Libenson's other book, Invisible Emmie, which focuses on Bri's best friend.

Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

Watts crafts a world that is much different from our own without feeling completely otherworldly.  The city where most of the action takes place is some kind of holy city and there is talk of the New World without there ever being any real explanation of what the New World is.  The whole book has a surreal, otherworldly 1970's feel to it.  Django Conn, the rock star that everyone loves, definitely feels like Bowie and the fashions that he's ushered in fit the glam rock scene too and there is a lot of talk about the moon landing and what it might mean.

Davi has always lived in the Angelus Hotel.  His family has owned it for generations and there he has access to almost anything he could want.  He spends his time listening to music in his room and coming and going as he please, him and his sister having chased off any tutors long ago.  When Davi goes to the Django Conn concert, he spots a girl who is completely lost in the music and he can't help but feel like they are the only two people who really get it.  When the girl, Anna Z, shows up with Davi's sister's boyfriend, Davi follows her, desperate to find out who she is.  Anna Z is unlike anyone Davi has ever met before.  She talk-talk-talks about strange things until they seem to be the absolute truth.  But Anna Z is trying to escape and she needs Davi to be more than he ever has in order to free her.

This was an iffy book for me.  It was short and had short chapters, which I loved, and it reminded me a lot of Francesca Lia Block, which is honestly what kept me reading.  There was a lot here and I would like to see it with more ratings and reviews because I definitely think it's worth the read.  However, I was a little put off by the portrayal of Anna Z.  She's almost the definition of a "manic pixie dream girl" but I still liked her as a character.  I liked this book enough that I would like to seek out some more of Watts in the future but it is definitely an acquired taste.  Read it if you love music enough to think it's everything and don't mind a few strange ideas being twisted page after page. -RYQ

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Starry Eyes, by Jenn Bennett

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett is about a spectacular adventure with some cuteness, fun, romance and heartbreak.

Best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon are stranded together after a camping trip that goes wrong. With no one but each other, they are forced to face their issues. With witty jabs and insults as they try to make it back to safety. Fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature, what could possibly go wrong?

Both Zorie and Lennon are dealing with some major things happening in their lives and the one person that they would typically confide in, (each other) has been MIA. The solitude of the trail and camping allows them to open up to each other and share the things that have come between them. And they are some pretty major things. Now I'm not much of a hiker or camper, you might be able to convince me on this glamping thing, but I absolutely loved what Bennett created here.

This was such a unique setting to use for these characters and I adored Lennon's love for the trail and how it allowed him the time to come to terms with the things happening in his life. As always Bennett manages to weigh some heavy and overwhelming issues with lighthearted moments, and the story is so lovely and emotional and as always, the romance is sweet and delightful and I just want more and more.

This was a quick read but a a feel good adorable YA contemporary that I may re-read just because this  book did not let me put it down at all! I highly recommend this to YA contemporary romance fans and invite you to fall in love!

This was my first time reading Jenn Bennett's work and I can't wait to jump into more of it. *JK*