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!

Picture Perfect – Review by Julia A.

attachmentJulia A. is just a pleasant kid to be around. You might think that’s not the biggest of compliments, but in a middle school, that’s a huge deal. Julia is kind and thoughtful, and  funny. She has great ideas and makes strong connections in our literature class. The picture she chose for herself is pretty fitting, too, since she’s caring and protective of her friends. All that and she can write! I’m so glad she wanted to share this book review with the world.

 

Picture Perfect, by Elaine Marie Alphin

754348Picture Perfect depicts Ian, a 15-year-old, photography-loving boy, who tries to discover the truth behind the disappearance of his best friend, Teddy. While investigating Teddy’s disappearance, Ian begins to act strangely. He wonders about his role in the mystery and who he can trust to help him. Through his journey to find Teddy, Ian learns of secrets that change how he sees those closest to him. He discovers the pieces of the puzzle that have made up his life.

Picture Perfect is a phenomenal book; I have never read anything as intriguing and exciting. It is a story in which something is always going on. Sometimes the conflict is internal, like when Ian debates whether or not to confide in a counselor about the confusion going on in his life. Other times the conflict is external, like when the sheriff accuses Ian of withholding evidence that may be important in their efforts to find Teddy. Author Elaine Marie Alphin develops all of Ian’s conflicts by creating a compelling plot. Ian is trying to solve many small mysteries and piece them together to get the big picture. He must figure out why his best friend has disappeared and why he has mysterious gaps in his memory. He must also find out why his dad, the principal, seems to be a completely different person at school than he is at home. His dad compliments Ian on fabulous work one moment, but yells at him and locks him in the closet he next. Alphin also creates intrigue by following Ian during a time when he has many clashing thoughts and ideas. Ian is constantly arguing with himself about how to fix his problems. He wonders if he should rely on the sheriff and others to find Teddy or if he should venture out and find Teddy himself. He wonders if he should talk to someone about his dad’s changing personalities or if he should keep silent to avoid his dad’s wrath. I would recommend Picture Perfect to anyone who likes a good mystery, in which you can figure out what is going on along with the main character. Alphin drops small, subtle clues regarding the solutions to Ian’s problems, but doesn’t make anything too obvious. Picture Perfect is a beautifully written book, one that will have you turning pages until you learn how everything ties together.

The Westing Game – Review by Hanako W.

imageHanako is currently a 6th grader in my class. Insightful, sweet, bright and sincere, this kid is going places. She likes to sit at the front of the room and acts like I’m pretty interesting and funny, which I enjoy, especially, since it’s the last class of my day and the fourth time I’ve delivered the same lesson.

 

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin71MT0ceUanL

When sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, an extraordinary game begins. Although no one understands why the unconventional, game-loving millionaire has chosen a possible murderer to inherit his extensive fortune, the players all know that Sam Westing may not be alive, but that won’t prevent him from playing one last game.    

This book was spectacular. It was a detailed, edge-of-your-seat kind of story, with twists and turns on every page. The Westing Game is full of mysteries just waiting to be solved, and, as a reader, in a way, you get to. The characters are so deeply developed that you can imagine what he or she may do before he or she does it. This allows for the reader to have a “day in the life of a detective” and further expands on their understanding of the story. In the plot, there was a lot of working together involved. Players of the Westing Game are put in pairs, and then required to try and figure out who murdered Sam Westing. In the end, the only way that the players can win is to use one another’s individual talents. This was one of the themes of the book, but it was very subtle, and not as cliché as books that I have read before. I read The Westing Game this past year, and was perplexed as to why I had never read it before. I recommend this book to students and adults of ages 9 and up, simply because some of the parts can be a bit confusing. For me, however, that is one of the parts of the book that I enjoyed. Ellen Raskin tied the short, simple things that, as readers, we may sometimes overlook, into the larger, more complex areas, to create a slowly thickening plot. This was a beautiful book about how teamwork can open up opportunities that may not typically come without the help of complementary personalities working together.

 

Greenglass House – Reviewed by Megan

Megan and SheepMegan is a delightful young lady who came to hear me speak at the Gaithersburg Book Festival when Falling for Hamlet was new to the world. Megan stood out in the crowd because she was, I believe, the only actual teen in the audience. Anyhow, we’ve stayed in touch, and she even arranged for me to speak to at her high school. In the middle of getting ready to graduate from high school and beginning a new chapter of her life, she agreed to review a book for the blog.

Megan, you’re wonderful! Happy graduation.

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Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

A18fcrxLO2L._SL1500_“It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smugglers’ inn is always quiet during this season, and Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.”

A perfect read for a quiet day, this book blends mystery with fantasy in Milford’s well-imagined world. The characters are eccentric and unique—much in the tradition of a turn-of-the-century mystery: it’s easy to imagine Professor Plum stepping into the mix with Clem Candler, Mr. Vinge, Dr. Gowervine, Mrs. Hereward, and blue-haired Georgie Moselle. These five guests seem to be suspects—after all, they have come to a smugglers’ inn—but it’s unclear what the crime is, or even if there is a crime at all. While the guests are easily defined by their eccentricities, they defy flat characterization, instead possessing aspects beyond their initial introduction. The hotel staff, too, is full of well-developed characters, including Milo’s parents, who are kind and generous without being boring. Milo, the protagonist, very much has the potential to be an average middle-grade hero, but differs from his literary peers by having depth to his quirkiness. He’s adopted, but Milford stresses that this is not even remotely the most important part of his character. Instead, he’s curious, polite, and geeky. Milo listens to his parents and (largely) obeys their wishes, but without seeming too much like a goody-two-shoes. He is a likeable character, but also believable—he isn’t always sure of what to do, and often uses easy-to-follow logic.

The Greenglass House is a lot of fun to read because often the reader can guess what’s going to happen next just a little bit before Milo does, but the ending is genuinely surprising (not something I can say for a lot of books). Especially for younger readers, this book gives the satisfaction of piecing together the mystery yourself, without being predictable. The details are vivid and tactile: Milford’s descriptions of the stained-glass windows that distinguish the inn are beautiful. Her world is truly well crafted, and the reader gets the sense that it is built up far beyond the town where Milo lives (indeed, the book is connected to some of Milford’s other books by characters mentioned but not present in Greenglass House). Nonetheless, even portraying only a tiny corner of it, Milford gives a clear and lucid depiction of the world.

Well-defined and eccentric characters with dynamic relationships, set in an interesting and vibrant world; a clever yet easy-to-follow mystery; a Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque role-playing game; a mysterious map: The Greenglass House is perfect for middle-grade readers who like mystery or fantasy, or older readers who like a good adventure. Highly recommended.