Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

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I read Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee as part of the Dragons and Tea Book Club.
Min is bound and determined to prove her brother’s innocence after he’s accused of being a traitor. She runs away from home in search of her brother Jun. On her way to stowaway on a ship, Min meets her Aunt Nari, who tells Min a little about her family’s past, things she would have never guessed. Min manages, through trickery, to get on a ship and barely survives an attack. While in the infirmary, she meets a young man’s ghost. This young man, Cadet Jang, died in the same attack Min was in and she assumes his identity and uses her fox charm to look like him. He happens to be on the same ship as Min’s brother Jun. While posing as Jang, Min gains insight into what may have happened to her brother and she also gets firsthand battle experience. Min learns a lot about herself and her skills and she’s praised for her engineering skills and realizes that she does have worth. Mild intrigue and mystery, 3.5 stars!

The Whole Wide World and Me by Toni Yuly

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Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read and review The Whole Wide World and Me by Toni Yuly!
Cute, simple and charming prose! Illustrations are reminiscent of Eric Carle because of the patterns, paint on paper and construction paper looking images and backgrounds. A sweet book with a strong message of uniqueness and belonging. 5 stars!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

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Based on the true events of Florida’s infamous reform school!
Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to read and review The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead!
Historical fiction novel based on the real reform school that horribly mistreated the boys who resided there. Traumatized young men were left to deal with the abuse on their own. The story focuses on Elwood and we learn about other boys’ stories through his eyes as he witnesses them. The prevalent racism harbored hatred to the point of punishing innocent people and sending them to this terrible reform school where even harsher acts of racism occurred. The abuse went on for decades and through several headmasters. After reading this novel, I felt compelled to research the truth behind the story and was sickened at the amount of violence and abuse that young boys had to live through. Some didn’t survive. I truly don’t understand how the adults took part in or witnessed and kept quiet about any of the abuse. What’s their excuse? The Nickel Boys is tremendously powerful, enlightening and tragic, 4 stars!

8 Souls by Rachel Rust

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A haunting that just won’t stop!
Thanks to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review 8 Souls by Rachel Rust!
Spooky and ominous from the beginning; I was instantly hooked! Mysterious and recurring dreams about a house haunt Chessie; they have since she was little. These dreams were part of her life, to the point that she drew the house for her elementary teacher after she gave the students the assignment of drawing their dream house. Little does she know that Chessie dreams of a house where murders were committed over a century before. When Chessie draws her dream house scene, the teacher is worried and notifies her parents. She then ends up being sent to a psychiatrist. Ever since then, Chessie keeps her dreams to herself, even when she’s hearing voices. She finally confides in someone else and the two of them share the struggle of solving the haunting. 8 Souls is well-written, contains awesome characters and a haunting that won’t stop until justice is complete; 5 spooky stars!

Breakout by A.M. Rose!

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Good storyline, rushed ending.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Breakout by A.M. Rose!
A prison full of young prisoners, with the last of their lives ticking away while robots guard and serve them, makes up the character pool for the first part of the book. Two cell mates try to escape since they don’t have anything to lose. They get another prisoner added to the escape party and the three of them accidentally end up in a juvenile prison for young men. The young men decide to escape also, so they go together. The main character is often mentioning that things are happening to her only, “happening to me”, like being trapped within four stone walls. Then the next paragraph states that the rest of the group is in there with her. It’s misleading. Breakout is a conglomeration of Virtual Reality and bits and pieces that are reminiscent of popular book plots, such as Hunger Games, Maze Runner and I, Robot. I don’t feel like the ending is solid and seemed almost rushed and I didn’t feel the pull towards the characters that I would have like to; 3.5 stars.

Tower of Winds Series by Makiia Lucier

 

Must- read series!

Isle of Blood and Stone review:

The prologue tells a tale of young princes, innocent discoveries and a mass poisoning ending in death. Eighteen years later, we meet the brother of the young princes, Ulises, who is now king. We also meet his friends and entourage and the connections to the prologue are interestingly explained in the third chapter. After that point, we follow Elias, one of the young king’s friends, and Mercedes, the king’s cousin, as they follow clues on a map that may or may not lead them to the two lost princes and their unknown fate, as well as the fate of Elias’s father who also disappeared along with the princes eighteen years earlier. Supernatural elements within this fantasy make the story even more interesting and suspenseful. I enjoyed reading every word of this book, with the layers of intrigue and strong characters. I loved unraveling the mystery alongside the characters and I’m going to immediately begin reading the sequel, Song of the Abyss. 5 full and happy stars!

Song of the Abyss review:

Magnificent sequel!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and a goodreads giveaway for the opportunity to read and review Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucier!
The story begins eight years after Isle of Blood and Stone. Reyna is now a teenager and struggling to sneak off a ship that’s under attack. She saves herself and her maps because of her logic, swimming abilities and help from sea worms. Reyna ends up in Selene, in the kingdom of Lunes, where the king has just died. She’s the only person that escaped the attack. She accidentally meets Levi, one of the princes, as he’s grieving the loss of his father. He’s Captain of the Royal Guard and tries to detain Reyna so he can question her more but she escapes and finds a ship heading back to her home in Del Mar. Levi and his sister, Queen Vashti, visit Reyna’s kingdom to discuss ships being attacked since both kingdoms have people missing. Reyna helps Levi on the quest to find their loved ones and together they discover a horrible and treacherous deception. Song of the Abyss weaves a tale of differing kingdoms and cultures; one of them backwards and secluded and struggling to survive. A bit of historical fiction is added along with mythological creatures to create a fantasy that I loved; 5 stars for a book I couldn’t put down!

A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach

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Outstanding garden photos!
Thanks to NetGalley and Timber Press for the opportunity to read and review A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach!
This book lives up to its subtitle- a hands-on primer for every season! Contents are broken into six bi-monthly sections that walk us through the life of plants and the growing seasons, from birth to death. The author invites readers into her garden and home, to see how much nature truly is in every aspect of her life. Beautiful photographs, accompanied by names of included plants, inspire! This book covers everything from browsing seed and plant catalogs, to different types of plants, to growing, canning and freezing and finally using the harvested goodies. Then onto benefits of trees, prevention and maintaining gardens. The enjoyment of seeing the author’s garden changing through the seasons is my favorite part. 5 stars for lush photos and valuable gardening tips!

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

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Original, thought-provoking story!
Thanks to Bookish First for the ARC of How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox and Dial Books. I received the book as a Bookish First winner!
Elizabeth, Biz, sees and hears her dad even though he’s been dead for many years. Biz lives in Australia with her single mother and younger twin siblings. She has a best friend named Grace that’s loyal to the point of vandalizing, on Biz’s behalf. They both receive warnings from the police even though Grace keeps saying that Biz was innocent. Grace’s family sends her away and Biz becomes more withdrawn. So, Biz starts therapy and a photography class. Her therapist advises Biz to stay in the moment and acknowledge her feelings and live. She meets new people and makes new friends as she spreads her wings. She also acknowledges the problems that have been buried deep inside. How It Feels to Float was a therapeutic read for me and I relished the professional advice given to Biz. I can see how this book might be triggering, especially if the reader is dealing with similar struggles. I really cannot sum this book’s effect in one word because it’s somewhat enigmatic.,thought-provoking, eye-opening and uniquely unusual! The revealing of the cause of Biz’s struggles was jittery and not explained as well as I expected it to be. I would have appreciated more explanation and feel that this would be more healing and helpful to those that have experienced the same traumas and for this reason, I rate this book 4 stars!

 

Prom-Wrecked by T.H. Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni!

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Event after event of chaos!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Prom-Wrecked by T. H. Hernandez and Jennifer DiGiovanni!
The opening, showing the ragged and imprisoned state of the teen prom attendees, made me curious and the book didn’t let me down. The group of prom planners and prom goers dealt with a mountain of tumultuous events before the prom ever started and then prom was eventful with completely different issues. The characters are realistic, overwhelmed and anxious, just like real teenagers. Drama, of course takes a part in this story but so does maturity, loyalty and perseverance. Riley, Catherine and Owen are the three main characters, each with distinct personalities and Owen is in the middle of all the action. Fun and with a message of prevailing justice makes Prom-Wrecked an interesting read, 5 stars!