Wolves, Boys, and Other Things that Might Kill Me book review

 

Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me

Kristen Chandler

Ethics/Romance

371 pages

 

KJ is a teenage girl who lives alone with her dad in a part of Yellowstone that has been reintroduced to wolves. This is causing a lot of contention around town between the farmers and people who think that the wolves belong and should be allowed to stay. KJ has always just kind of kept to herself until a new boy, Virgil, comes into town. His mom is there to study the wolves and something about Virgil makes KJ want to stand up and voice her own opinion for a change. She started out by just writing about the wolves in her school newspaper because it was something that Virgil was interested in but then she started to form her own thoughts and ideas about the animals. This causes conflict with her dad and others in the town, but KJ is determined to be heard.

 

The town debates get hotter and hotter as the wolves continue to cause trouble by killing livestock, and soon, violence erupts. Can KJ, with the help of Virgil and his mom, find a solution to the problem that will make everyone happy? This book raises real issues and debates that are going on now. I’ve always loved wolves, and I didn’t even know that there was conflict going on about their reintroduction into Yellowstone until I read this book. Then, less that a week after I finished it, I saw a post on Facebook about the very issues presented in this book. It made me interested because I actually knew what it as talking about where I wouldn’t have just a couple weeks before.

 

This was an interesting book to read and one that was actually full of useful information regarding this conflict. I thought that Chandler did well to present both sides of the argument, and I could definitely empathize with each side. At the beginning of each chapter, there was some sort of little side note that made the book fun; a short fact about wolves, a little joke, or something else was always there to surprise me. That part of the book almost reminded me of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Overall, I think it is a good book. It is a book that takes a while to really get into and start caring about the characters, but once you do, by the end, you’ll really enjoy it. Also, it is an appropriate book for any age range, and one that I think everyone would enjoy reading.

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Garden of Beasts book review

Garden of Beasts

Jeffery Deaver

Spy/Thriller

536 pages

I have had people suggest Jeffery Deaver to me before, but Garden of Beasts is the first one that I have read. I really enjoyed it. I thought that it was a well-written piece of fictional history that revolved around a unique hero in the story. This novel is set to take place in Berlin in 1936, a few years prior to the start of WWII. Hitler was working to rearm and build up Germany’s army secretly, so that he would be well prepared for another battle. The unlikely hero in this story is a previous war veteran who, through a series of difficult choices upon his return from war, ended up being a “button man,” or a hit man. Paul Shumann is picky with his hits though, and only kills men who he feel are evil and deserve it. The government secretly solicits his services to “touch off” a man who is integral to Hitler’s rearming Germany. In exchange, Paul will be paid handsomely as well as receive a clean criminal record.

Paul sets off for Berlin during the Olympics, using that as his cover. This book is filled with a lot of believable covert activities that lead Paul through his setting up to assassinate Reinhard Ernst. At the same time, it follows the path of a local police officer who is simultaneously and quite skillfully tracking Paul down. With the help of a friendly asset in Berlin, Paul gets ready to overcome the difficult odds and make the hit. Things continue to go wrong and get harder, but Paul is determined not to give up.

Of course, Paul meets a woman and has a romantic interest in Berlin, to make things even more complicated, and she doesn’t know why he’s really there. This book was full of surprises and it had some twists that I didn’t see coming. I really enjoyed it and I am excited to have found a new author whose books I believe will be able to keep me going for a while. Deaver reminded me, based on this book only so far, of Robert Ludlum and some of his better books. I am excited to continue on with more of his novels and see where else he will take me.

Milkweed book review

Milkweed

Jerry Spinelli

Historical Fiction/War/Coming-of-Age

230 Pages

 

My mom gave me this book and I had no idea what it was going to be like. I ended up really enjoying it! First of all, I usually enjoy books relating to Nazis, because I think it is usually a very interesting subject. This book takes place in Warsaw during WWII. The Nazis were steadily taking control of everything and and doing whatever they could to control and overrule the Jewish people.

 

The story begins with a young boy who thinks that his own name is “Stopthief,” as this is what he is used to people yelling at him. He has no memory of life other than being on his own and fending for himself, which he does, of course, by stealing to survive. Stopthief meets a group of misfits and other orphan boys who take him in so they can all survive toghether, and they rename him “Misha.” For a while, things are great, with new clothes to wear and plenty of food to eat, until the Nazis decide to force all the Jews to move into the Ghetto.

 

Misha and his friends continue to sneak out and smuggle food, trying to feed themselves and help others. Misha is taken in by another family and lives with them through their own hardships, while trying to help. They give Misha part of the family life he’s never known, and he does the best he can to sneak out and provide extra food for them. Then the Nazis begin the “relocation” of the Jewish people. His adopted family warns him to take his new “sister” and fun away from the Nazis and keep her safe. Misha struggles with issues of his own and the book follows his own coming-of-age and maturation. I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was very entertaining, while heartbreaking. If you are interested in books of this nature or during this time period, I think you will really like this novel.

Extras book review

Extras

Scott Westerfeld

Dystopia/Adventure

417 pages

 

So, I didn’t love this novel as well as the first three in the series. It takes place a few years after the conclusion of the third book, Specials. It takes place in Japan, and has completely new characters. It revolves around the life of a girl named Aya Fuse in a city where popularity is everything. Where you live, the clothes you wear, the things you can get; everything revolves around your popularity, or “face rank,” as it is called. Aya desperately wants to be famous like her brother Hiro, who is a “kicker,” meaning someone who kicks interesting stories on his feed. Aya is a kicker too, but the small stories she’s put out haven’t led her to be famous.

 

She stumbles across a story she thinks will be great about a secretive group called the Sly Girls. To get the story, she has to go undercover to infiltrate them and sneak shots of what they are doing. However, as she starts to get close to them she finds herself torn; she likes the person she is when she is with them, but she can’t get rid of her desire to become famous. Things escalate when the Sly Girls themselves stumble onto an even bigger story, one that could potentially change the world forever. Now Aya feels like she has to kick the story no matter what.

 

When the story hits the feeds, Aya’s face rank immediately starts to climb, however, so does the interest of the odd group she uncovered things about in her story. The story also draws the attention of our old friend in the series, Tally Youngblood. Tally shows up with backup and combines forces with Aya and her friends to seek out the group in the story and get to the bottom of what they are up to.

 

For me, this book was just OK. Unlike the other ones in the story, it took me a long time to get into and really care about it or be excited to read more. In the end, it turned out all right, in my opinion, but I don’t feel like it added anything to the original trilogy. I feel like it might have just been better left the way it was. So, it’s up to you. If you liked the way that Specials ended as a trilogy, you might want to skip this one and end it there. If you want to see how Tally changed the world and what she might be up to now, read on and find out.

Specials book review

Specials

Scott Westerfeld

Dystopia/Romance

372 pages

 

The original conclusion to the Uglies series. I say original, because Westerfeld later decided to add a fourth book to the trilogy called Extras. Tally is back in Specials after having become a Special herself. She is teamed up with Shay, who is the head of the Cutters, a very special branch of Special Circumstances. They can basically do whatever they want. Their goal is to locate and bring down the New Smoke, and they are authorized to do whatever is necessary to accomplish it.

 

Tally is struggling throughout the whole book, and we get an inside look at her struggles and her thought process as she is trying to adapt to what she is, as well as who she used to be. She seems to enjoy being a Special for the most part, and is completely content with it, until she sees Zane again. Zane is just a normal Pretty, although his brain is damaged from attempting to cure himself from Pretty-mindedness. When she sees him, she still has feelings for him but is simultaneously disgusted by the way he is; after all, he isn’t Special. Zane tells her to change her mind again and cure herself of being Special-minded like she cured herself when she was a pretty. This makes Tally start to question her happiness. She wants to do whatever it takes to be with Zane, but sometimes finds herself unhappy with what she has become.

 

Zane and some other Crims escape the city to find the New Smoke and Tally follows them. She is supposed to tail them to the new location and report them to Special Circumstances so that they can bring them down once and for all, but will her love for Zane sway her decision? This book is largely a struggle of the mind. Tally is fighting between what she has been programmed to accomplish and trying to do what she believes is right. Her true friends never stop believing that the true Tally is under there somewhere.

 

This book was a decent conclusion to the series. I didn’t love the way it ended, but I didn’t hate it either. Overall, I enjoyed the novel, and loved the series as a whole, I just didn’t love the ending. I am interested to see what happens in Extras, however, as I felt like this novel did conclude and wrap everything up effectively. If you are looking for a good series about a dystopian setting and especially if you liked the Matched series, I think you will be a fan of these books.

Pretties book review

Pretties

Scott Westerfeld

Dystopia/Romance

370 pages

 

The story continues with Tally now as a pretty. She turned herself in to get the operation so that the Smokies could test out the cure on her. She has been Pretty for about a month when the novel starts, and is living in New Pretty Town with all the other new pretties, including Peris and Shay. All she wants in her new life is to become a member of their clique, the Crims. She is at a party the night she hopes to be voted in, when suddenly, something from her Ugly life turns up. Or, I guess I should say, someone. An Ugly that she remembers is at the party following her around, and she can’t understand why he is there and won’t leave her alone. Tally briefly talks to him and he tells her he will leave something for her to find.

 

She starts to think a little clearer, and with the help of one of her fellow Crims, Zane, she gets through a series of tasks to discover that what is left for her is the cure for being “Pretty-minded.” From there on, Tally and Zane are inseparable, doing everything together and fighting to stay “bubbly” and not to fall back into the easy, Pretty haze. They plot an escape from New Pretty Town, but it becomes increasingly difficult, and there doesn’t seem to be any further help from her Ugly friends on the outside. Finally she and Zane enlist more of their fellow Crims to devise a plan that they think will work.

 

Not surprisingly, the plan doesn’t go exactly as expected, and Tally finds herself alone facing challenges she never would have dreamed of. She learns even more about the operations that the Specials are involved in, and more about the true nature of humanity. Tally must use her new non-Pretty brain to figure out how to join the rest of her group before they have to leave her and she is stuck alone forever. To me, this second book reminded me a lot of the second book of the Matched series, Crossed. I am excited to see what ends up happening in the third book because the end of Pretties was as much of a cliffhanger as the end of Uglies was. Really fun read, and I can’t wait to continue on with Specials!

Uglies book review

Uglies

Scott Westerfeld

Dystopia/Romance

425 pages

 

I love dystopian novels! They are becoming my favorite genre because it is so fun to see how different authors foresee possible futures. Uglies reminded me a lot of Matched. I started it one day and finished it the next. It follows Tally, who is about to turn 16, and subsequently, turn Pretty. When you turn 12, you are sent to Uglyville to live with all the other Uglies until you turn 16, when you become a new Pretty and move to New Pretty Town. Tally’s best friend Peris has just turned Pretty and left her all alone. That is, until she meets Shay, who shares her same birthday.

 

Tally and Shay begin doing everything together, which mostly involves pulling tricks and sneaking out at night to go to the old Rusty Ruins. The Ruins are what is left of the previous civilization that almost destroyed the world. Tally and Shay trust more in each other until Shay lets Tally know that she doesn’t plan to become Pretty, but wants to run away to a group of people who have escaped from various cities. Of course, this means that they will have to stay Uglies the rest of their lives. Shay wants Tally to go with her and run away, but Tally wants to become Pretty and join Peris. However, things don’t end up going as planned.

 

When Shay disappears, Tally suddenly becomes important enough to call on the attention of a group that no one really thought existed, the Specials. They tell her that in order to become Pretty, Tally has to betray her friend and help them discover the location of the secret city that Shay ran off to. Tally has to decide what to do, and who to honor her promises with. She promised Peris she would meet him soon as a Pretty, but she promised Shay she would keep her secret. And if she does go, what will she find when she gets there? Will it be enough to change her mind and make her want to stay?

 

I really enjoyed this book; dystopian novels are almost always a fun read, in my opinion. This is a great book for young adults, or anyone else who likes these kind of stories. If you like these kinds of books, pick it up! Especially if you liked Matched, as I said, this reminded me a lot of it. This is the first book in what was originally meant to be a trilogy, but is now a 4 piece set. I’m excited to keep reading on and see what happens in the rest of the series.

Lunch-Box Dream book review

 

Lunch-Box Dream

Tony Abbott

Race/Historical Fiction

173 pages

This novel follows two different families; one White, one Black. This is seemingly no reason for their paths to ever cross, but destiny leads them to. They are each facing their own problems and challenges; both dealing with their race and family relations. The White family goes on a road trip across the country to help their grandma relocate to Florida. The mother of this family is having obvious marriage problems that she tries to keep hidden from her two boys. The boys have problems of their own and are struggling with their won issues.

The Black family sends their boy to stay with relatives, and then they find out that he has gone missing and no one knows where he is. The family is in a panic and sets off to find him, which eventually leads the paths of the two families to cross. The end of the story remains open, but leaves the reader with a hopeful tone that everything will work out in the end.

I didn’t really love this book. I think that it carried with it a good message, and that was the intent of the author, but it just wasn’t for me. There wasn’t a whole lot of suspense, and I never even felt myself really caring about the characters in the book; I just couldn’t connect with them. For me, it wasn’t a great book, but I’m sure there are those that would enjoy it.

Michael Vey Rise of the Elgen book review

Michael Vey Rise of the Elgen

Richard Paul Evans

Science Fiction/Adventure

335 Pages

 

Michael Vey and the rest of the Electroclan are back to battle Dr. Hatch and the Elgen empire in this second installment of the series. If you liked the first book, I think you’ll like this one. I thought it was really fun and I read it over the course of a few days because I was really into it and excited to see what would happen. Michael and his friends who helped bring down the Pasadena location of the Elgen set out to do whatever it takes to find Michael’s mother. It takes them a while, but they finally find out where she is being held and realize they need to travel to South America to get her back.

 

This book is packed with excitement. When the gang gets back to Idaho to regroup, they are met with traps laid for them by the Elgen and have to use their skills and cleverness to escape more than once. Then they have to figure out how to get to South America to find Michael’s mother. While they are figuring everything out, the electric kids try to practice and expand their powers, so they will be ready to face Dr. Hatch, his electric kids, and the rest of the Elgen army. Meanwhile, joining Dr. Hatch is a new electric kid with a dangerous power of his own, making the mission even more troubling.

 

When Michael and his friends make it to South America and find the compound that his mother is being held in, they see how daunting their situation is. There are thousands of guards there, the other electric kids, and even Dr. Hatch himself. Now they have to find a way inside the heavily guarded compound, rescue Michael’s mother, and escape with everyone safely. There was a lot of adventure in this book, it was very exciting to read. They are constantly getting into trouble and hairy situations, and it is often the ones without powers, Ostin, Jack, and Wade, who are most helpful at getting past them. I was glad to see that Jack and Wade stuck with Michael and the Electoclan to help them rescue Michael’s mother. I have come to really like all the characters in the book, they each have an important role and work together great as a team.

 

This book has enough excitement and twists to keep you guessing a bit. You hope that everyone will come out all right, but there are a couple times in the book where you just don’t know if that will happen. The ending of the book was a surprise to me, not what I was expecting, but it left me excited to read the next book for sure. I just wish that I didn’t have to wait and that it was out right now! I really enjoyed both the books in this series so far, and I can’t wait until the next one!

Cut book review

Cut

Patricia McCormick

Realistic Fiction/Self-Image

157 pages

 

Callie is a young teenage girl who cuts herself. The story starts out in a rehabilitation center called Sea Pines, although the girls residing there have nicknamed it “Sick Minds.” She is staying there to get help, but not of her own free will and choice; her parents sent her there. It is not just a place for girls who are cutters like her, she is living with a group of girls with a variety of issues, such as eating disorders and other things.

 

Callie doesn’t talk – at all – for a large part of the book. It is interesting because with no spoken dialogue from her, we get to see a lot into her mind and see her point of view. When her therapist and other people are talking to her, you can see where her mind is drifting to and what she is thinking instead of outwardly vocalizing her thoughts. She is resisting treatment and seems to not want to get any help for her problem. Through therapy and her own growth, Callie finally comes to an understanding that her recovery is up to her, but entirely possible.

 

This novel helps the reader explore the mind of a troubled teen. We might not fully understand how she feels, yet some of the feelings are things that we can all relate to. You can’t help but emphasize with the character and hope that she finds her way and gets better. McCormick put a lot of work into this short novel. She talked to girls who are actually cutters to hear their stories, and make sure that the fictional story of Callie was told right. I think that this book could be a great inspiration to teens who are going through something similar, whether it be cutting or something else entirely. It has a message of hope, so that they will know that they are not alone and that there is always help for such problems and a way that they can escape and better themselves. Some of the content might be considered advanced for some readers, but I don’t see any reason why anyone who is a teen or older couldn’t enjoy reading and even learn something from this book.