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.

undefined

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

undefined

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

undefined

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

undefined

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

undefined

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

undefined

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

undefined

Carl Hiaasen creates some really outrageous characters. – Robert Gerson

undefined

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

undefined

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

undefined

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

undefined

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.

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!

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!

Turn Left at the Cow – Review by Savannah Jarrett

df4fdecbbdf732946fe4acd0ffcb5604--school-uniforms-school-uniform-skirtsSavannah is adorable, fashionable, and bright. She rushes through the halls with great purpose, but offers a smile as she passes. At times, her face lights up with realization when she hits on a great idea, while at other times her features curl with thought as she puzzles over new information about history or a challenging passage of a book. She shares her ideas with enthusiasm, demonstrated by going above and beyond by writing a review for this blog!

 

Thirteen-year-old Trav has always wondered about his dead-before-he-was-born dad. But when he heads from California to his grandmother’s house in rural Minnesota, hoping to learn about his past, he gets more than he bargained for.  It turns out his dad was involved in a bank robbery right before he mysteriously disappeared, and the loot from the take is 17165955still missing. Along with Kenny and Iz, the kids next door, Trav embarks on a search for the cash. But the trio’s adventure quickly turns dangerous when it becomes clear that someone else is looking for the money—someone who won’t give up without a fight! – Amazon

 

Review — Turn Left at the Cow is a hilarious and exciting book with excellent characters. Although the non-white/female representation could use some work (most/all characters being white, doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, blue eyes romanticized), you should definitely read it! Trav and his friends are funny and honest, and even though Gram’s small Minnesota town takes some getting used to for Trav, his awesome adventures there are very exciting! Recommend for ages 8 and up.

 

 

“Family secrets, an unsolved bank robbery, summer on a lake, a treasure island and a first romance are the ingredients for this inviting middle-grade mystery. . . . A promising fiction debut.” Kirkus
“Bullard has a good sense of family and community dynamic and articulates complex conflict and resolution with honesty and humor. . . . With a warm narrative, careful plotting, actual danger, and the beginnings of romance, this adventure has something for everyone.”
Booklist
“Through strong character development, Bullard is able to explore family dynamics in a way that is both relatable and informative. Fans of books like Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky are sure to enjoy this suspenseful and heartwarming novel.”
School Library Journal

Keeper of the Lost Cities – Review by Lily Scheckner

pasted image 0Lily is the first reviewer from my new crew of 6th graders. She is sharp, funny, and seems fascinated by everything, which makes introducing new ideas and topics to her extra fun. Her enthusiasm is abundant, as you might be able to tell from her review. Thanks for taking the time to write this, Lily!

 

Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks… But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known. The truth could mean life or death—and time is running out.     http://simonandschusterpublishing.com/keeper-of-the-lost-cities

 

WARNING: This book series is severely addictive!91feMZ4LegL

This series is not only a beautiful blend of fantasy, magic, and mystery, it includes funny little bits of regular teenage life: crushes, awkwardness, school and even overprotective parents. This makes the characters all the more relatable, and really helps bring the books to life.

Sophie Foster, the amazing protagonist, is the only elf (and no, they don’t work for Santa) with brown eyes and incredible powers. She is ripped away from the world as she knows it and must live in society where everything is perfect… At least that’s how it seems. Even as she begins to settle into life as an elf, making friends and even getting some adoptive parents, a nefarious plot stirs under the surface. Glittering jewels and dazzling riches conceal a secret, so deep and horrible that the elves have kept it hidden for generations. And when Sophie discovers it, her enemies are not happy.

Not only is Sophie an intricate and beautiful character, so are her friends and family. One of the things that makes this story so amazing is the complexity of every single character. All of them have their own unique quirks and their own unique faults, and that’s what makes them perfect.

I strongly recommend this series to people of every age. I have introduced it to 4 or so people, and now they are all diehard fans! However, I think it would be best for kids ages 9 – 14, because there is some violence in the later books. It is still, however, very sweet series that would be good for anyone! Thank you for reading this review and I hope you enjoy Keeper of the Lost Cities!

Steelheart – Review by Keuyrbel Zewedu

IMG_20180705_134619_2Keuyrbel can’t get extra credit for doing another review or writing during the summer, so it’s extra awesome that he emailed me. He might be done with my class, but I’m hoping we’ll keep working together in the school’s drama department. He’s as adorable on stage as in his picture. Don’t let the smile fool you. His book taste can run darker, as his review shows. Enjoy!
.
.
Shots. Cries. Screams. Blood. Death. At the First Union Bank, Deathpoint arrives unnamedand starts skeletonizing people in the bank, then Steelheart arrives. Steelheart stops Deathpoint and forces him to surrender his loyalty to him. Steelheart continues Deathpoint’s task: killing innocents. As Steelheart gets to the last 10, a man stands up, grabs a gun, and fires. Deathpoint is down, shot after trying to kill Steelheart. But Steelheart is bleeding on his cheek. Steelheart turns and, with anger, kills him with his own gun. A boy hides in a vault. Steelheart finishes killing the people and flies, commanding one of his servants, Faultline, to bury the vault. Faultine finds the boy in the vault and lets him go. Later, Steelheart turns most of Chicago into steel and calls it Newcago. That boy is 8-year-old boy David Charleson and that dead man was his father. Deathpoint, Steelheart, and Faultline were all Epics, humans granted superhuman powers by Calamity, a star. And Steelheart is invincible. Ten years later, at 18, David joins a group named the Reckoners committed to killing all Epics in the United States. Meeting them in Newcago, he gives them his research and convinces them to try to kill Steelheart. Because David knows Steelheart’s secret. David has seen him bleed. And he intends to see him bleeding again.
 
After reading Steelheart, you will feel amazed and still have that feeling for months. This book is truly a must-read, 10-out-of-10, amazing, suspenseful, and interesting book. I learned the importance of trust, safety, teamwork, security, and rebellion from incorrect methods. What I really like about this book is how David and the Reckoners are able to work as a team to help the United States. This series will be amazing once you read it. After this are books Firefight and Calamity. There is also a short story called Mitosis. I recommend for readers 10 and up. What are you waiting for? Stop reading my review and go read the books. There are 3 books in the Reckoner stories, plus a short story.