Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Transcendent by Lesley Livingston student book review by Nicole

Resuming immediately after the cliffhanger of the second novel of this trilogy, Transcendent is action-packed from the start. Haunted by the prophecy surrounding Ragnarok, both intentional and unintentional choices make the destruction of everything more of a reality. Despite the grim future, the daring protagonist Mason Starling is determined to prevent her world from going to its end. She pushes through adversity alongside her transformed romantic interest, the Fennrys Wolf, in order to thwart what the fates and her father has deemed inevitable. Throughout this book there is constant danger and the plot’s twists and turns are plentiful. All in all, the plot rose to a wonderfully crafted climax for the final novel in this series which lead to an unexpected but well-thought out resolution. 

In general, I agree with the majority of the reviews throughout other sources such as GoodReads. The action picked up right at the beginning and never stopped. There is a huge connection to Norse mythology and that truly added to the amount of action that Livingston wrote. Saying that, I believe that my interest in mythology helped my reading of this book. I would recommend this series to a lover of Rick Riordan’s novels or other YA fantasy/mystery books. The mythology used was good but I believe that the integration of multiple mythologies such as Greek could have been done better. I believe it could have been improved if a singular mythology was used in order to be true to that culture. With the heavy reliance upon mythology, the characters follow in suit violence-wise. In addition, there is mild language but nothing that the general YA population hasn’t read in other novels. 

Other than that it is a generally clean novel. Within the classroom or the library this novel would fit right alongside the Percy Jackson or Mortal Instruments series. A mythology themed month containing these novels would be a great addition to the bookshelf. One last important thing to note, it is vital to read this novel as the last book of the trilogy. Without the prior knowledge of the rest of the books, Transcendent is confusing and almost unreadable. 

Lies I Live By (Lauren Sabel) student book review by Alyssa

Callie’s life is a little bit strange; on the outside, she might just seem like any normal teenager, with a loving boyfriend, super nerdy mom, and just getting ready to go to college. But unbeknownst to those closest to her, she is actually a secret government psychic, saving lives by seeing future disasters and helping the government prevent them. It is something her family can never know, lest they get put in danger; but what happens if her mom gets involved in some secret agency no one seems to know about, Callie’s boyfriend is seen injured in a vision, and she finds herself falling for another guy against her will?

Lies I Live By starts out a little bland, but once the action begins, the captivating mystery involved will keep the reader wanting more. My first impression of the book was that it was going to be another one of those cheesy romances; girl has perfect boyfriend, hot guy comes into her life, and suddenly she is cheating on him. I was a bit turned off by this assumption, but as soon as the action came in around halfway through the book, I couldn’t put it down. The different aspects of Callie’s visions kept me guessing the entire way through, and although the whole “end of the world” aspect came off as kind of cliche, I found myself pleasantly caught off guard by the plot twist at the end of the book - and hoping for a sequel.

The book does contain mild violence and some death, so there is that to be aware of, but it also teaches good lessons of loyalty and doing what is right for others, rather than for yourself. It is the perfect book to pick up on a boring, rainy day and enjoy a captivating read. Would be recommended for readers of a higher age group, just because of the more sophisticated themes, but it is specifically good for those in a late high school level in order to relate to the characters, who are around that age. Overall,the book is certainly enjoyable.  Definitely recommended for teens!

Monday, October 16, 2017

My Lady Jane student book review by Alyssa

Have you ever wanted to read a book that was a mixture of British history, Monty Python, The Princess Bride, Shakespeare, and a touch of fantasy? Then My Lady Jane is definitely the book for you. As strange as that combination sounds, My Lady Jane pulls it off seamlessly - focusing on a twisted, fantastical, and almost completely-changed version of the story of Lady Jane Grey’s nine-day long rule of England with sarcastic humor to match that of Monty Python and the Princess Bride, and with Shakespeare references slipped almost un-noticeably into the text.

Edward VI knows he is dying; but he also knows that neither of his sisters are fit to be queen. That’s why, on his deathbed, he names the first son of his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his heir, and marries his cousin off to a horse. (Well, not literally a horse; Lord Gifford Dudley, in actuality, who is a horse by day and human by night, not that Jane needs to know - she would likely be too buried in a book to notice anyway). These three protagonists will be thrown knee-deep in a huge conspiracy when Edward’s sister, Bloody Mary, takes the crown, and will risk all of their lives in this daring adventure to get it back.

The perfectly timed humor makes the whole book totally worth it. I found myself laughing my head off at least twice a chapter at the numerous references and jokes I caught, and could not put the book down. It would help for people reading the book to have experience with Monty Python, The Princess Bride, and some Shakespeare in order to catch the numerous references, but the humor can still be appreciated without that foreknowledge. Aside from the humor, the book does contain some more serious themes such as love and prejudice, as well as what it means to be a good leader and help those who have need of it. There is a little bit of blood and death, but not enough to be a concern for the high school level. All in all, My Lady Jane has quickly become one of the most entertaining books I have ever read, and I would highly recommended to anyone who loves sarcastic humor.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith book review by Nicole

Annabeth is entering her senior year of high school with her best friend Noe and is looking forward to the entire experience of what is to come. With her head stuck in the future, all she can think about is going to college with Noe, her Paris plans, and following her best friend to the ends of the earth. To her dismay, nothing goes right; she gets pregnant, her mother tells her that her father raped her, Noe is recruited for a gymnastics team at a completely different college, and their friendship starts to fall apart. This is the story of broken relationships and change; from the point of view from a girl who’s life is falling apart, Smith tells the story of recovery.

This story feels like an emotional diary from a broken girl who desperately needs help. From how Smith set up the novel, the reader gets a full novel with the experiences and reactions both emotional and physical from Annabeth. This intricate yet simplistic set-up of the novel from both the character backstories to how the chapters set up adds to the overall mood of sadness to recovery of this book. I was able to feel connected to the characters despite how different their lives were from mine. Smith beautifully portrayed what it meant to fall apart and start building your life back up again. The path of both Annabeth and Noe follows one of sex and pregnancy that leads to abortion, rape, eating disorders, underage drinking, and bullying so be aware with younger audiences.

Educationally this book can be used to analyze the culture of high school and its impact on teens. As previously mentioned, relations, both mending and breaking, is a reoccurring theme that strives to tell that one’s true family is the closest when you need it and toxic relationships that cause personal harm should always be weeded out, no matter the past relation. Furthermore, this book is perfect for a bookshelf theme in May which is Mental Health Month. It would be such a great experience if students could have a mental health seminar which would provide both resources of how to overcome disorders and novels like this which describe the experiences of a sufferer.

Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos book review by Nicole

Author (Last name first): Dimopoulos, Elaine
 Title of the Book: Material Girls
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
 Date of Publication: 2015
 ISBN# 987-0-544-38850-5
Price: $17.99 Hardcover
 Grade Level: YA
 Number of pages: 319
Nicole's Rating (based on VOYA): 5Q4P
Highly Recommended

 In a world where fashion and looks are the only things that seem to matter, Marla is a superior court judge within the famous fashion company, Torro-LeBlanc. Believing she had achieved her wildest dreams, she never expected to be demoted back to the lowest level of the company, a drafter of designs, once she voted against the rest of the court on a fashion item. Humiliated for going with her gut decisions on what “trends” will occur, Marla finds is difficult to initially get back with the designer crowd. At the same time, Ivy Wilde, a pop star icon, is stuck within her “wilde” image of a pop star who couldn't care less about what is considered scandalous. Joined together by the common need for a change, Marla and Ivy rebel against the trendy “Big Five” fashion brands and wilde’s agency. Marla creates a new image for wilde, a wilder, animalistic, earthy new look for the once untameable star. Their goal is to inform people against the crazy trends that create so much waste as each piece of clothing can only be worn once. To reduce the impact of the economy of the environment, they promote wearing clothes multiple times and to even upcycle their clothing once finished. One step after another the once small image rebellion turns into a full scale strike and uprising against the trends. Fighting against public opinion, bosses and managers, and friends the strike is short lived and the message against the unsustainable trends all but dies with it.

This book was a very interesting read for me. I could not put it down yet I hated the ending. Dimopoulos married fashion, dystopian society, politics, and an eco-friendly message while keeping it as realistic as it can get for this dystopian society. Although not as Project Runway as the back cover implies, this new fashion world intrigued me as I was able to peer into the process of creating a garment and was able to understand how each aspect of that process influenced the official design. Regarding the Project Runway aspect, it truly was more of a Project Runway Jr. Fashion Challenge, and a failed one at that. Many of the described designs were insane but given the society, it makes fun of the insanity of the importance placed upon looks. The success of the characters in this book would have been of a lower level designer who did not get eliminated for the challenge yet they were the second to last. That is truly what infuriated me. The ending resulted in a complete reset to the beginning of the book. Ivy turned back into a agency-obeying scandalous pop star who could have had marvelous character development.

The climax of this novel had her completely against her old self and with actual morals. Regarding Marla, her character development was more realistic. She was able to open up her own upcycled clothing shop with some of the other drafters who were released from their jobs after the strikes. All-in-all, although the ending made me upset, I understand why Dimopoulos had it end that way. A main theme was that it takes more work to change something existing than to create something new. Although the strikes failed, the failed strikers were still able to create their own start-up, slowly getting their message to the world rather than forcing immediate change.

In hindsight my emotions towards their success was purposeful. I believe that this helped get the message of reducing clothing waste across more than it would have if it was a successful rebellion. Also, by having Ivy revert to her old self Dimopoulos was able to show to the readers how self centered many pop-culture icons are. This book was a small protest against the attitudes of current society who is self-centered and all about how one looks to others.

 This book has a decent amount of drug use. Called the “Placidophilus pill” or a “P Pill” for short, it causes the user to relax and create a happiness high. Although the drug is illegal, its widespread use represents how this society is not satisfied with how everything is going. The need for this pill demonstrates that the immense pressures of society are too large for everyone to handle and a change was needed. In addition, the entire book is practically child labour. Children get “Tapped” at the end of seventh grade to be asked into a certain field of work. Their entire lives depend on that moment and if not tapped, people get hated jobs such as doctors or teachers. The fact that much of the children want to go into the entertainment industry is another reflection of today’s society yet does not make sense. I wondered how does this society thrive if the majority of the workforce are children and there are not many people to take the necessary place of civil workers?

 With an interesting take on society and how people create waste this book would be perfect for a book club or interdisciplinary studies of economics and society. To fully enjoy this book an already present interest in fashion would be beneficial as the surface plot completely revolves around them.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

EtherWorld by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam - student book review by Nicole

Immediately following the ending of the previous novel of the Elusion series, Elusion, Gabel and Klam start the novel with Regan and her newly discovered father in the Ether World. Struggling to fight and return to the real world, Regan and Josh are desperate to destroy the virtual reality escape of Elusion to protect the real world from the unknown dangers hidden in the code.
Once forced out of the app by Patrick, the new head of her father’s company Orexis, Regan goes through the struggles of trying to find the bodies of her friends still stuck within Elusion while dealing with political and familial issues. Continuing with the mysteries, Regan relies on her friends for help to heal the trapped people and finally find the body of her father to prove that he is not dead. On the edge of your seat until the end of this novel, Ether World is full of adventure and romance until the very end.
It should be noted that it is necessary to read the first novel as many of the concepts explored are futuristic. Combined with a complicated plotline in relation to character’s interactions, the reader may become confused or not be able to follow what is going on. Furthermore, there are many scenes of violence or illegal activities that may not be suitable for a younger audience. Despite these small warnings, they add to the plotline and make sense in accordance to the characters situation.
Overall, I believe that this novel was a wonderfully executed sequel to Elusion. I love the concept of this novel: a polluted future with people desperate for nature but end up leaning upon technology for a replacement. It questions actions taken today that will ruin the environment and comments upon how lucky we are to have such a beautiful world. Moreover, technology’s usage and its “addictive” tendencies is portrayed similarly in that its overuse will destroy one’s life.
Considering school usage, a technology themed book shelf or themed month is one of the easiest ways to incorporate this book into your library. For literary analysis, motivations of characters such as profit, family, and love are three of the most prevalent motivations driving the main characters. Lastly, technology and its implications can be analyzes along with its effects upon society.