Crowdsourced Short Book Reviews – by my friends!

So here we are locked in (or at least we should be – come on people!), and my friends have books to recommend. The request was a brief book review of a book that floats your metaphorical (socially distanced) boat. Care to join in the fun? Message me and I’ll see about doing this again.

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Dodgers by Bill Beverly. A powerful coming of age story that follows East, a LA gang member, on his journey to complete a mission. – Stacey Robothom Baugh

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The Nix: a smart, funny and often touching novel about a professor. Struggling to write his next book, he finds inspiration when his estranged mother makes news headlines. – Jennifer Ress Bush

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The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. It’s a coming-of-age story in which the sibling relationship is the most significant. Vivid characters surrounded by strange beauty. – Jill Hecht Maxwell

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The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. I’m working my way back through the first three before I finally read the final book. Spanning from 1910-1960 Barcelona, they’re crime, thriller, noir stories. Gorgeously descriptive in it’s portrayal of a beautiful, yet socially broken Spain following the civil war. Each book is self contained, but there are character/family lineage crossovers. The books are: The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, and The Labyrinth of the Spirits. – Sean Hefferon

Adding on to Sean’s review — I just finished the last book. Not much need to read the rest of the series. They are not the main characters and not featured until the end. For everyone, it’s over 2000 pages of delicious reading. – Robert Gerson

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Tembi Locke, From Scratch. A haunting, beautifully written memoir about love, loss and how food can bring us together and heal our broken hearts. – Lauren Henry

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The Starless Sea. I have no idea what happened but I loved it anyway. – Jennifer Ray

Adding on to Jennifer’s review — That is the best description on the book. I was sad when it was over. – Michelle Smith

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Carl Hiaasen creates some really outrageous characters. – Robert Gerson

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How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen. It puts into perspective and context what is important in life, how to understand where you are in that “process” while bringing different views and experiences that enrich everyone’s understating of their own sense of achievement and happiness. – Pablo Terpolilli

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I’ve been reading a lot of Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls. It’s about the Spanish civil war, and it totally holds up. – David Larmore

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If you are interested in learning more about epidemiology and the political and social implications from years past, (particularly the Reagan administration), I recommend And the Band Played On by Randy Shiltz. – Leslie Salters

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I am very excited to read The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. It’s the final book in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the first two, gave a new perspective on Henry VIII, the wives, and the history of that time. Absolutely riveting…and many pages, which is good when one is social distancing as we all are right now. – Phyllis Stone

Furthermore – Review by Marcella

Marcella is enthusiastic about everything, whether it’s books, history, connecting books and history, or just chatting with her friends in the hall. Her joy is contagious and her energy boosts my sleepy morning class. Here’s what she has to say about a great book called Furthermore.

Furthermore, the first book in the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi, is a twist on the classic Alice in Wonderland. Alice Queensmeadow, the main character, is albino, but lives in Fenwood, a world full of color and magic. With her bland, pale hair and milk-white skin, she is an outcast, even more so because her father, a respected member of the society and the only one who listened to what she had to say, is missing. 

The Surrender, a competition where 12-year-olds compete with their magic talents and the winner takes it all, is coming up, but Alice doesn’t know what her magical talent is. She feels that the only one who can help her is her father, and she knows in her gut that he’s still alive. Along with her frenemy neighbor, Oliver Newbanks, who won the Surrender last year with his ability to control minds, Alice goes on a journey to find her father and herself in the twisted world of Furthermore. She and Oliver must survive using their wits, courage, and determination, testing their friendship, all while keeping a dark secret from each other.

This book is very well written, filled with action, drama, and humor. Tahereh Mafi opens up the new world of Furthermore full of differences and similarities to Alice as she travels through space and time, but also to the reader, who understands that this society is not all that different from our own. As Alice and Oliver explore this new world with the readers, meeting new characters who confuse and excite. Recommended to anyone who likes fantasy books filled with color, both literally and figuratively, this book is a great read.

Cheshire Crossing – Review by Zadie

Zadie is effervescent, sweet, and smart. I look forward to her coming into class every day because I know she’ll smile and have great ideas, and always looks interested even when I’m being boring (which I try not to be). She loves to read, and has a great book to share with you!

In Cheshire Crossing we once again meet Dorthy (The Wizard of Oz), Wendy (Peter Pan), and Alice (Alice in Wonderland), but for the first time, they meet each other. But, the Wicked Witch of the West and Captain Hook are back, and they also meet! As their worlds, collide, can Dorthy, Wendy, and Alice stop Hook and the Witch from taking over Oz? Or will they be forced to retreat?

With wonderful new views on classic characters, Cheshire Crossing gives us back Wendy, Dorthy, and Alice, but more kick-butt than ever! I laughed at so many different parts of this book and because it is a graphic novel, marveled at the amazing illustrations. Also, Wendy got a pixie cut!!!

The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After – Review by Rebecca

Rebecca smiles so much, which is magnificent for a middle schooler (tough years!). She is positive, smart, funny, and kind. If Rebecca enrolled in a school for good and evil, she would be on the good side! Enjoy her review.

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In The School for Good and Evil: The Last Ever After, Sophie and Agatha are in their own respective happily ever afters. But the Storian hasn’t stopped their story. Then are they really happy? And which side will prevail? Good or Evil? Those are the thoughts the book left me with after reading only a few chapters. This book was able to make me love a character one page, and hate them the next. 

While reading this book there are some safety precautions I would like to tell you, dearest Reader. This book will make you go through a roller coaster of emotions that you didn’t know you signed up for, make you fall in love with a character with just TWO WORDS, and wonder what went wrong with your favorite character.  All of this happened within one book. Although this book may be categorized under fantasy, I believe it created a genre of its own. Terms like Good and Evil are used but their meanings disappear. Is Evil always bad? Will Good always win? I believe this book, no not this book, but the whole series will leave you with loving for both Evil and Good. 

Fish in a Tree – Review by Valerie

 Valerie bursts with enthusiasm, especially when it’s about books. When we are reading in class or discussing a story or chapters read at home the night before, Valerie thrills at the chance to share her ideas and insights. She notices aspects of stories that most kids miss, and shares beautifully during conversation and in writing. She’s reviewing a book that really connects with thoughtful middle schoolers, and one which my own kids loved very much.

Ally is different. She has known this her whole life. What she doesn’t know is why she is different. Why she says things different from what she thinks. Why her handwriting is so bad. Why she struggles to read and write while the rest of her sixth grade class does it with ease. Ally feels alone, with no friends in a world that just won’t understand her, but then she meets her new teacher, Mr. Daniels, and new friends Keisha and Albert. Ally has lived her whole life thinking she was stupid, until Mr. Daniels tells her something that will change her life, and the way she sees herself.

I think this is a great book because it teaches kids that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean they are stupid or weird. It also has a large set of characters, each of whom face their own struggles and have a unique personality. This book will make you laugh and cry, and it shows how great minds don’t always think alike. If you like books like Rules, Wonder, and One For The Murphys, then you will love this realistic fiction book by Linda Mullay Hunt. My favorite character is Albert, and one of my favorite parts is when all the kids bring a bag to school with something that represents them, because it always makes me laugh, and we learn about the characters. I give this book two thumbs up!

The River – Review by Surafel

Surafel is an enthusiastic student. He shares his thoughts on the books we read in class, and happily debates topics from character motivations to history, all while being really nice to others! Enjoy his review of the classic novel, Hatchet.

After Brian’s harsh experience in the Canadian woods for forty-four days is over and he returns home, he meets a psychologist named Derek Holtzer who works at a government survival school. Derek wants Brian do go into the woods and survive so that others can follow his steps and be able to mimic his survival skills. At last, Brian and his mother say yes, but when they get to the woods, a tragedy happens. After a few days, Derek is hit by lightning and falls into a coma. Will Brian be able to use his viability to transport Derek to safety?

This book is the sequel of Hatchet, which has won the John Newbery Award. This is a dramatic and uprising book with plot twists to everything that happens. I would categorize this in adventure because Derek and Brian go on an adventure in the wilderness to learn Brian’s ways of surviving. I loved the fact that Brian had to experience what he barely lived, yet with more tragedy. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes the wilderness or survival books or movies.

Warning: Traumatic flashbacks take place in this book

Among the Hidden – Review by Emily

Emily is the first up for a student book review this year. She is in my biggest class with 31 kids packed into a sunny classroom full of excited students, but her smile lights up the space even more. She is smart, a great reader, and willing to engage with interesting books, like the one she has chose to read and write about on her own!

One day, Luke’s family decides to sell the farm to the Government. Luke is forbidden to see the outside world forever.

He then discovers a secret that he must tell no one–he has finally met another one of his kind, a special girl named Jen. This flips his entire world upside down. The special girl is more than ever determined to find a way around the Law, more than Luke could ever imagine.

In this suspense filled, heart warming story, Luke realizes the true power of friendship and determination. 

This book is a must-read because it is filled with suspense and heart-melting details. When I read it, it pulled me right in and I curled up into a ball with the cliff hanging moments. Loved it!