All About Books

All About Books

My passion is reading, I especially enjoy children's, young adult, fantasy, science fiction and realistic fiction-but read a wide range of genres.

5 Stars
Flunked  - Jen Calonita

Flunked takes us on a not so typical fairy tale adventure.

Gillian is one of the children that live in the shoe. The fairy princesses in charge have enacted a magical shoe production, a production that has devastated Gillian's family financially. To make ends meet, Gilly has taken to a not so legal means to earning money…she is stealing. Because of her indiscretions she is sent to Fairy Tale Reform School.

Fairy Tale reform school is filled with the misfits, the students, and “reformed” villains, the teachers, of Enchantasia. Gillian and her group of new found friends uncover a plot to over through the princesses with the Reform School playing a key role in the evil revolution.

Twisted tales have become very popular of late in both adult and children literature. Flunked is Jen Calonita’s imaginative take on this new teen and tween storyline. In her telling, Calonita uses reformed villains to pull the “at risk of becoming villain” children back into their societies norms. She also uses the not so hero/heroine characters as the only hope to save Enchantasia.

The story is absolutely based for a younger audience. I found it enjoyable but written with the young at heart, with their decision making and actions fitting their ages. It had plenty of action and twists that also opens a lot of directions for further installments in this series. For me, I found it to be a little to uncomplicated for 5 stars but I’m sure this will be a huge hit with the tween crowd.

I received this ARC copy of Fairy Tales Reform School: Flunked from Netgalley.

4.5 Stars
The Exact Location of Home Review

This is a beautiful, sensitive book about homelessness, fractured families, inner turmoil, and broken dreams and promises. Zig is 13, and as the book starts he is excited about the weekend when his dad, a busy real estate developer, will be visiting. He loves spending time with his dad, but knows not to get his hopes up too high, because things come up, and often his dad has an emergency to deal with at the last minute, so plans get postponed. And of course, that happens.

What Zig can't figure out, though, is why his dad's cell phone isn't working, and why his mom seems to be hiding things from him. With a bit of investigation (snooping), Zig finds his mom has been in contact with his dad and has gotten further and further in debt with the landlord, while she has been juggling a heavy schedule of nursing school and working at the diner. At this same time, Zig becomes interested in geocaching, and is certain that one of the cachers is his dad. Zig becomes absolutely positive that if he follows the path created by Senior Searcher, he will find clues left from his dad, and eventually it will lead to his dad.

Kate Messner does it again! This book is a delight in so many ways - I especially loved the metaphor of the title. How many of us spend a lot of our lives trying to find the "exact location of home?"

But this book also teaches the importance of friendship as well as empathy. So many people are homeless for reasons others aren't aware. This book is great at addressing the misconceptions of stereotyping all homeless people.

5 Stars
Whatever After: Beauty Queen
Whatever After #7: Beauty Queen - Sarah Mlynowski

Crumbs. (As our heroine says.) I've finished reading! Now, I need to wait (and wait!) for the next addition to the series.

This installment was just as delightful as the rest. Abby's brother has forgotten all their previous trips through the mirror. Perhaps I'm not remembering my fairy tales very well, but I don't recall The Beast having such a penchant for cooking. We certainly seem to learn more about being a beast! And, was Beauty such a do-gooder? I love how the stories elaborate on the Disney versions and also intertwine the original versions of each story. Abby's such a little worry-wort too! It's fun to see her get wound into a little "oh my goodness" tizzy.   

5 Stars
The Isle of the Lost - Melissa  de la Cruz

I am a huge Disney fan since forever and I really love how this book brought my childhood fairytale-esque imagination back again. This book was really enjoyable and fun. It didn’t have so many drama going on in the story since The Isle of The Lost is the prequel to the Disney Channel Movie, The Descendants, so basically half of the book was introducing all the villain characters and how they end up being friends (or minions, I’m not sure).

For all of you Disney geek out there, make sure to check this book out. But for all of you that wasn’t quite a Disney fan, you will probably found this book a bit slow since honestly this book was really focused on introducing all this new characters that you won’t find in the original story. But I really enjoyed it and I can’t wait to watch the movie.

1 Stars
Challenger Deep
Challenger Deep - Brendan Shusterman, Neal Shusterman
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)

“Count your blessings,” the captain says, “And if you count less than ten, cut off the remaining fingers.”

This story was just plain weird, and while I figured out after a while that it was actually about mental illness, it was still pretty weird.

“Where does this hallway go?”
She looks at me with suspicion. “It doesn’t go anywhere, it stays right here.”

Caden was a boy who had obviously got problems, the hallucinations that the was experiencing were so vivid that he actually believed that they were really happening to him, and his delusions about a boy at school who he had never spoken to wanting to kill him, did come across as a symptom of possible schizophrenia.

“well, it’s just that… there’s this kid at school.”
“Of course I can’t be sure…”
“Well… I think he wants to kill me.”

The storyline in this was split in two, half of the time we were following Caden as he lived on a ship (which was very strange), and the other half of the time we saw Caden at home with his family, and experienced the strange ideas he came out with, and his admission to a mental health care facility. This was all a bit confusing though, and after a while I started to get a bit sick of the repetativeness of the story.

“Cartilage of cow,” he tells, “and spine of black beetle.”
“Beetles have no spines,” I point out. “They’re invertebrates.”
“Exactly. That’s why it’s so rare.”

The ending to this was okay, and I appreciated what the author had tried to do with this story, I just struggled to really enjoy this though.
3 Stars
Hidden - Donna Jo Napoli
While not as wonderful as Bound, there's a lot to like in Hidden. Brigid, kidnapped by slavers with her older sister, escapes and finds herself in the Norse lands, far from her home in Eire. Though she does adapt to her new life, finding and leaving new families through her childhood, Brigid's desire is always to find her sister and return to her homeland. Resourceful, clever, and fierce, Brigid gains love and shelter from peasants to kings. As she matures, there's even a romance - but her heart is with her sister, and so Brigid escapes yet again, becoming a pirate and rescuing other captives bound for slavery.

The good? A strong female protagonist and plenty of rich historical detail about a time and place not often found in children's books. The bad? As another reviewer mentioned, Brigid's voice doesn't change from eight to sixteen. Though she experiences significant emotional and spiritual growth, even becoming more Norse and less irish, Brigid's voice never reflects that growth. Too, given her experiences as a child and an outsider, her trials don't seem that traumatic. Everything seems to come right for Brigid fairly quickly, and she's never actually injured or abused. Napoli considers this YA, but it reads more as middle grade.

Brigid's adventures and and willingness to challenge others' expectations and beliefs make this a good read, but it doesn't measure up to some of Napoli's other works.
4 Stars
Anastasia and Her Sisters
Anastasia and Her Sisters - Carolyn Meyer
I don't think I'll ever read enough books about the Romanov family - especially when it comes to the Grand Duchesses. Carolyn Meyer is no stranger to turning the stories of historical characters into works of fiction (she does stick close to the facts but also takes a creative license when telling these stories), nor is she a stranger to Anastasia Romanov having years ago written Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess for The Royal Diaries series roughly 15 years ago. Having read that novel way back when, Beauty's Daughter: The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy last January, and having two additional novels of Carolyn's on my self I knew I couldn't pass up her latest installment.

Carolyn tells the last years of the Romanov rule through Anastasia's eyes as she is probably the most well known of the sisters, a fact we can most likely thank all the imposters claiming to be her and having survived the massacre of her family in 1918. The novel beings in 1918 as Anastasia, two of her sisters, and a family friend "dispose of the medicines" - their code for hiding their jewels by sewing them into their clothing - before backtracking to the year 1911 and coming full circle.

Anastasia's story focuses on the lives of the sisters, especially Olga as Anastasia finds herself constantly reading Olga's secret diary, and strays away from the political aspects of the time. Nicholas and Alexandra kept their children rather in the dark when it came to what was happening in Russia outside of their family and small group of friends and were daily dressed alike by their mother (even well into their teens and early adulthood) so it makes sense that Anastasia and Her Sisters makes little notes of these historical aspects

We spend seven years with the Romanov family and Anastasia's voice grows and changes throughout that time. She goes from talking about her hatred of school and dreaming of balls to understanding that things are not right in Russia even though she doesn't fully grasp what this means for herself and her family. Her thoughts go from surface level to deeper thought and it's this growth and development that adds to the reading experience.

Every time I read a novel about the Romanovs it's hard not to feel emotional. By adding a certain level of depth and characterization, Caroyln makes the emotion even stronger. We're not just reading about their exile, we're feeling their exile. We're sitting in Tobolsk, staring out the windows to our friends in the house across the street but able to talk with them; we're at Ipatiev House with only a half hour of daily exercise in an enclosed garden and our windows painted over to keep us isolated. This isn't a nonfiction biography that spews out facts (don't get me wrong, love those too), but a historical novel that gives these characters life.

4 Stars
The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles, #1)
The Storyspinner (The Keepers' Chronicles, #1) - Becky  Wallace
When I open up a fantasy novel I read for a bunch of reasons: to escape, to discover and learn, to get lost, and to fall in love. I find when I'm done that my experience has fulfilled one or two of the reasons of my list, sometimes none, but when a book has me go through everything, I call that one a "keeper." Let me tell you, The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace is definitely a keeper!

Let me explain further. The Storyspinner features an amazing colorful cast of interesting characters, the story lines are filled with excitement, wonder, mysteries and more, the worldbuilding treats us to a strange, intriguing new world, and there's a budding love story. I never wanted to stop reading. Take a break? Get a drink? No way! When I realized there were multiple points-of-view (narrated by Johanna, Rafael, Jacaré, Leão, Tex and Pira), I'll admit I grew hesitant. There was no need to worry. Wallace's characters kept the story flowing, sharing their views, while the pacing held steady. Fight scenes were intense, sections filled with wonder held tension, while lighter scenes provided a welcomed break.

Johanna is the ideal heroine for YA fantasy. A young girl growing up, part of a "Performing" family, forced to face unknown situations and dangers, she's dedicated to her family, tough, smart and compassionate. She watches over her younger brothers and their mom. It took a while to warm up to Lord Rafael "Rafi" DeSilva due to his arrogance and attitude, but later on he won me over during a certain dance with his sweet charm. What intrigued me most about this book were the two storylines--Johanna and Rafi and a group of magic users called The Keepers--which intersect together farther in. This group has been searching for someone who they think is Johanna but will she believe them? There's a lot to enjoy.

Fantasy lover? Let The Storyspinner weave its magic around you. It worked for me. I can't wait for book two of The Keepers' Chronicles.
5 Stars
The Orphan Queen
The Orphan Queen - Jodi Meadows
The Orphan Queen has so much hype surrounding it and it really does deserve it. I really enjoyed reading this one and I cannot wait to read the Black Knife novellas and The Mirror King.

I LOVED Wil. I loved that she was fully aware of who she was. It seems that most royal heroines discover their birthright or get on the throne through another way, so it was nice that Wil already knew she had a kingdom to take back. I also loved her growth as she took on her role as a leader. I loved her morals and toughness (that didn’t turn abrasive). She seemed . . . different from most royal heroines

Black Knife was one of my favorite parts of the book. Oh my, he was amazing. I puzzled over his identity for such a long time. I was sure he was one guy, but I didn't want to get my hopes up too high, so I was also open to the possibility for him to be another guy. It was a mystery for me, which just made the book more enjoyable.

I loved Wil and Black Knife's dynamic. They made an awesome duo and OH, the chemistry! I loved it--simply loved it!

James was a delight and Tobiah was a grump. I loved both of them, for the most part. That’s all I’ll say about them. Melanie was a good character. I appreciated the presence of a partner in crime, of sorts. She gave the small friendship focus. I would like to get to know her more, though.

I really liked the world. The mirrors, the wraiths, the glowmen, the danger, the was REALLY cool. And pretty well built. I need more of it! I really want to learn more about it.

I loved the action! There was no dull moment. I also liked how the book dived into it right away.

The ending had a big twist--and I do mean BIG. You can sorta see it coming (or maybe I'm just saying that because I had been fearing the event that did happen to actually happen). I refuse to believe it! Yet . . . I've come up with many reasons to believe it. It was a like I was in shock afterwards.

Overall, The Orphan Queen is a great start to what I expect to be an amazing YA fantasy series. You don’t want to miss out on this one!
4 Stars
Material Girls
Material Girls - Elaine Dimopoulos
All the The Devil Wears Prada and Confessions of a Shopaholic will love reading this book, as this book is rich and deep with fashion and trends and glitter and sparkle. Moreover, the author enlightens us about how a finished apparel begins it's journey from being a piece of cloth to ending up behind the glossy and shiny windows of a top-notch fashion brand's store. It was really delightful to read about those technical stuffs related to creation of apparels.

The author created a parallel world to ours in her story where trends last only for few weeks and they are decided the governing body and everybody must stay "in" trend and must obey them blindly. Apart from that the dystopian world that the author created in her book was pretty vague with no supporting back-story to tell us about how these trends became the lifeline of the government etc and other stuffs like that, so it was a big let down for me.

The author have vividly portrayed the vulnerable yet glamorous life of a pop-diva who tried real hard to stay on top of the billboard, who is everyday threatened by her competitors to take away her limelight, who tries hard to sty with the latest fashion trends despite of those free samples of clothes and other accessories. Her life is equally beautiful, sad and dangerous, and that the author have captured well.

The writing is good, the narrative style is also kind of articulate, in fact the book has got a steady pace without much drama, but there are lot of actions against the government, especially the rebels who can't afford to follow those trends.

Overall it is a strong and compelling book with an edgy theme but not very promising. Fashion freaks will have a great time while reading this book, and if you're a huge sci-fi YA fan, the you must read this book.

Verdict: Don't miss out this enchanting and enlightening dystopian novel about latest trends in fashion.

Courtesy: I'd love to thank the publisher for getting me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. (less)
1 Stars
Conspiracy Girl
Conspiracy Girl - Karen Chacek, Abraham Balcazar
I wasn't expecting a picture book from the description. It wasn't what I expected, but I kept an open mind. However, upon reading it, I just didn't get it. I was confused, and I believe that my mind is more sophisticated than the target audience's.
The illustrations were very interesting and artistic, though.
If the plot was smoother, I might recommend it, but as it is, I would not.
*I received this book in exchange for my honest review*
4 Stars
Etta Not Otherwise Specified
Etta Not Otherwise Specified - Hannah Moskowitz
A copy of this novel was provided by Simon & Schuster for review via Edelweiss.

Not Otherwise Specified manages to tackle a lot of important and real issues without being an “issue book”, which is so important. I’m pretty much going to talk about the main themes that stood out to me when reading Not Otherwise Specified, because that’s how I roll.

1. Etta is bisexual, and open about it. She’s not hiding it from anyone, she’s open about ogling pretty boys and pretty girls alike. And I LOVED this. But Etta’s acceptance of herself, and the fact that she owns her sexuality in no way means that it was easy for her. Her friends ditched her because they’re lesbians and don’t believe Etta is “gay” enough to hang out with them. It was pretty petty and cruel, and makes Etta question herself, and think about how being bi is different to being gay and straight, because there are assumptions made based on whoever she’s with. She has a lot of painful thoughts about this, and how if she marries a guy the queer community won’t want her anymore. This broke my heart into pieces.

2. Etta is also recovering from an eating disorder, but being in recovery doesn’t mean that everything is better. She’s worried about her weight, and food – but she’s also happy with herself. And I think this is pretty accurate, whether or not you’re recovering from an eating disorder. Sometimes you feel good in your own skin, and sometimes you’re overwhelmed with fear about how you’re perceived by others.

3. Etta’s sexually active and owns it. Likes it. And I think this is SO IMPORTANT. I think way too often in YA girls are supposed to be these precious little creatures who’ve never even thought about sex, let alone wanted it and liked it. And it’s such complete bullshit that I was happy to finally have a female YA character that wanted and liked sex. *cheers all 'round*

4. Bianca is struggling with her brother, James (CUE ALL THE LOVE), being gay, and her religion. Whilst I couldn’t relate to this at all (being not at all religious), I appreciated this thread of the story. She loves her brother, and she doesn’t condemn him for being who he is, but she’s been taught all these things by the religion that she also loves. So it’s hard for her to come to terms with it all, but she tries and that’s the thing I took away from this. That even though she was uncomfortable and scared – she loves and supports James anyway. I was proud of her for this.

5. Be yourself and unapologetic about it. Etta has her insecurities, but she also knows who she is, and owns it (like her sexual activity and bisexuality). Her dancing plays a huge role in this, also with respect to her weight, and the way she comes to terms with it in the last few chapters is beautiful. I really wanted to be Etta’s best friend, to be honest, because she has such an effect on everyone around her, and I think that if I had a friend like that – I could learn from her. Because she’s flawed and amazing all at the same time. She’s insecure and proud. She’s such an enigmatic and real character, and it was great.

Now there are things I haven’t even mentioned here – like Etta and Rachel (her best friend) and how incredibly intense and confusing their relationship is – like Bianca being right in the throes of her eating disorder, and how everyone acts about that, and how it isn’t right but they’re trying so hard – like how there’s bullying, and it’s disgusting – like how Etta realises the things she’s done wrong (most with respect to her sister throughout the book) and ACKNOWLEDGES them – and how the person that Etta is in love with isn’t even a character, and you don’t know ANYTHING about her, and how that’s completely awesome.

There’s so much in this book, and so much of it is done so well. Not Otherwise Specified is a freaking great novel. It’s fabulous. Go read it.
4 Stars
Remember - Eileen Cook
I love Suzanne Young’s The Program series and when I first read what Remember was about, it immediately reminded me of her books. This is the reason why I requested the book and I am glad I did.

Harper and her family are good for life. They are living the dreams. Harper has a loving and smart boyfriend. Her father is genius and owns a company that manufactures drugs to help people with painful memories. She is happy. Her family is happy. Everything is going as planned. Until her horse dies. This is not just a horse. It was her loving member of her family. If you have a pet and love it with all of your heart, then you know how one can suffer with such loss. Harper couldn’t deal with the pain but with such pains, she started dreaming of a woman.

Not to give the story away, Harper ask her father for the “treatment” his company produces but he refused for her to take it. Why? That is a great mystery. But stubborn, Harper looks for a way to take this treatment and ends up winning. Well, that’s what she thought! Until things starts revealing and Harper realized that her perfect family isn’t as perfect as she thought they were. Secrets start spilling out and this perfect life of hers is forever broken.

Overall, Remember was an intriguing read. Lovers of mystery with a touch of romance would enjoy this novel. It was interesting to see Harper unravel the truth about her past. Even though her family portrait the perfect family, deep down Harper knew it was too good to be true. And when she realized the truth… you know the saying “the truth will set you free”... Yes, this surely set her free! If you’re a fan of The Program series, I recommend that you read Remember!

5 Stars
Palace of Lies
Palace of Lies - Margaret Peterson Haddix
Buzzwords: Princesses, coming of age, dastardly plots, kidnapping, what it means to be royal, orphans, secrets&lies, trust, friendship, love

Desmia is untrusting and unsure of herself because of years of emotional abuse at the hands of Lord Throckmorton, now in jail. Too soon, however, another hurdle strikes and Desmia must find a way to rescue her sister-princesses and save the kingdom.

A satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, if a bit on the younger side. Will likely be a hit among middle schoolers.

5 Stars
Story Thieves
Story Thieves - James  Riley
STORY THIEVES by James Riley is an action-packed fantasy that blurs the line between real life and fictional worlds.

What if you could literally dive into a good book? Bethany can. As the child of a real mother and fictional father, she’s able to disappear into any paper book. Bethany has spent years carefully exploring library books for her lost father. When Owen discovers her secret, they begin an adventure that breaks the “fourth wall” mixing the real world with fantasy universes.

This clever new fantasy series will be a hit with a wide range of book lovers including those who enjoy fairy tales, magic stories, and science fiction. With many references to popular works of fiction, youth will be drawn into the premise and easily imagine themselves in the shoes of the main characters.

Known for his fractured fairy tales, James Riley provides just the right balance of action and suspense to keep readers engaged in the story. He skillfully weaves together silly subplots, humorous dialogue, and witty references into a storyline perfect for middle grade readers. Youth will easily empathize with the well-developed characters who have dreams and desires that sometimes get in the way of making good choices.

Fans of books like Fablehaven and Inkheart will enjoy the book’s premise, while science fiction and steampunk fans will love the characters from Owen’s favorite fictional series.

Like Bethany and Owen, your children will want to dive into this exciting fantasy adventure.

Edelweiss ARC used for review
4 Stars
Space Case 2
Space Case 2 - Stuart Gibbs
Ben Ripley, a student a the CIA school for spies, suddenly finds himself expelled. He is then recruited by SPYDER an enemy organization where he the goes undercover to stop SPYDER's next evil plan. When at SPYDER he questions about his life at spy school and all of his friends. What side does he end up taking?

This book is a very suspenseful and funny book. At one point in the book Ben has to get out of SPYDER's base while being chase by enemy agents so he finds a construction sit with a bulldozer and uses that to break through the outer wall and got out.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves books about spies or anyone who likes a good laugh. This is a book for 6th to 8th graders.