Thursday, 15 October 2015

Review: Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

I am by no means a comic book junkie. I don't go to Comic Con, and I couldn't name heroes or villains outside those featured in multi-million dollar blockbusters. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that—let your geek flag fly! I just want to establish that in spite of my inexperience with the superhero genre, I loved Gwenda Bond's novel Fallout

Not only is Fallout a fantastic modern retelling of the Superman story, but it takes a talented author to write a page-turning mystery with characters who are so well-known to readers. And Bond does do them justice, capturing fearless Lois and mild-mannered Clark in their teenage years. 

Summary: Lois Lane is starting a new life in Metropolis. An Army brat, Lois has lived all over — and seen all kinds of things. (Some of them defy explanation, like the near-disaster she witnessed in Kansas in the middle of one night.) But now her family is putting down roots in the big city, and Lois is determined to fit in. Stay quiet. Fly straight. As soon as she steps into her new high school, though, she can see it won't be that easy. A group known as the Warheads is making life miserable for another girl at school. They're messing with her mind, somehow, via the high-tech immersive videogame they all play. Not cool. Armed with her wit and her new snazzy job as a reporter, Lois has her sights set on solving this mystery. But sometimes it's all a bit much. Thank goodness for her maybe-more-than-a friend, a guy she knows only by his screen name, Smallville Guy…

Although Clark Kent has a strong presence in the book,  he remains off-page throughout the story. While this was a disappointing twist, Lois does not need Superman to save her. She is no damsel in distress. This is Lois' victory —with a tiny bit of Super help, of course. Clark and Lois met on an online chat forum for the strange and supernatural, but they've never actually met. Instead of a pair of glasses, Clark hides behind a screen name and alien avatar. Clark and Lois have a "more than friends" vibe, but the romance angle is extremely PG.

I love that the book revolves around illegal experimentation with simulation gaming and technology's effect on the mind. As Lois and her friends work together to crack the case, they risk losing a lot more than a few friends to the pack of brainwashed teens.

Although the publisher indicates that this book is for readers ages 14+, it's actually a clean read (clean language, mild violence set in a video game, etc). If it wasn't for the length of the book and the detailed narrative requiring a confident reader, I would be recommending this story to middle graders. 

The world has been calling for more female superheroes and Gwenda Bond gives us a female hero we can rally behind. If you, like me, enjoy the odd Marvel movie, you liked Smallville, or you're just a fan of the Man of Steel, Fallout is a fantastic choice. Smart, witty, and incredibly well-written. Lois Lane is the female [mortal] superhero you've been waiting for!

4 Stars

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Review: Frozen Heart

A Frozen Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick is one of three Disney fairy tale retellings in novel-format. Aimed at readers ages 10-14, A Frozen Heart explores Hans' back story, allowing readers to better understand his character and his actions. As excited as I was to finally read this novel, I was a bit disappointed that compared to A Beast Within and Maleficent, it had less to offer Frozen fans who want more.

Summary: Told in alternating chapters from both Anna’s and Hans’ perspectives, A Frozen Heart takes a sophisticated look at events of Frozen, exploring the couple’s backstories, motivations, and doomed relationship.

Although the story is aimed at readers ages 10-14, A Frozen Heart is a fairly clean story. There is some on-page drinking of wine (though it's not excessive drinking), and some violence that is hinted at off-page (Hans' father rules the Seven Isles using violence to enforce laws, but we don't get much detail). Other than that, A Frozen Heart is a word-for-word retelling of the Disney movie. And yes, that's how well I know the movie, because I could read this book word-for-word and recognize when dialogue was in any way modified (which was not all that often).

You do get some background on Hans and it does offer an explanation for why he does what he does. For me, that was worth the read. If you love Frozen and you're a fan of Elizabeth Rudnick's retellings, this is definitely a must-read. If you're looking for something darker and edgier, try her retelling of A Beast Within

3 Stars


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Cover Reveal: Spark by Holly Schindler

I'm very excited to be participating in the cover reveal of Holly Schindler's new YA novel, Spark. You'll want to make room on your bookshelves whether you've read her previous novels or you're looking for your next great teen read!

Published by HarperTeen, Spark is scheduled to be released in hardcover on May 17, 2016. 

Summary: When the right hearts come to the Avery Theater—at the right time—the magic will return. The Avery will come back from the dead. 

Or so Quin’s great-grandmother predicted many years ago on Verona, Missouri’s most tragic night, when Nick and Emma, two star-crossed teenage lovers, died on the stage. It was the night that the Avery’s marquee lights went out forever. 

It sounds like urban legend, but one that high school senior Quin is now starting to believe, especially when her best friend, Cass, and their classmate Dylan step onto the stage and sparks fly. It seems that magic can still unfold at the old Avery Theater and a happier ending can still be had—one that will align the stars and revive not only the decrepit theater, but also the decaying town. However, it hinges on one thing—that Quin gets the story right this time around. 

Holly Schindler brings the magic of the theater to life in this tale of family ties, fate, love, and one girl’s quest to rewrite history.

A note from Holly: “In my hometown, the restoration of a former movie theater on the town square provided the genesis for my new YA novel, SPARK. Who among us hasn’t dreamed of seeing their name in blazing neon across a gigantic marquee? Let me invite you to dim the lights and draw back the velvet curtains—let your imagination run wild as you enter my fictional Avery Theater, where literally anything goes…”     —Holly Schindler

About the Author: 
Holly Schindler is the author of three previous YA novels: PLAYING HURT as well as the critically acclaimed FERAL (starred PW review) and A BLUE SO DARK (starred Booklist review, ForeWord Book of the Year silver medal, IPPY gold medal). A writer of books for all ages, Schindler’s MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, has made the master list for children’s book awards in Illinois, South Carolina, and Alabama. She is also a hybrid author, having independently released comedic women’s fiction (FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS) and the forthcoming PLAY IT AGAIN, her adult follow-up to her YA PLAYING HURT. She can be reached through her author site:, and hosts special sneak peeks and giveaways for subscribers of her newsletter.

Spark “Premieres” May 17, 2016, but you can buy your “tickets” now. Click the links below to visit these retailers, or pre-order wherever books are sold!

You can learn more about Holly and her books on her website. Or get in touch with her on social media.

|  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Google +  | 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Review: A Shiloh Christmas by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

It's been years since I read Shiloh. In fact, I was probably in elementary school when I last read it. But the time span between having read Shiloh and reading A Shiloh Christmas did not at all affect my enjoyment of the book. It is a heart-warming holiday story about hope, family, holiday miracles, and friendly. And it is perfect for reading cuddled up with your own furry friend.

Summary: Christmas is coming and Marty and his rescued pup Shiloh are sure glad about that—for their town is sure low on love and understanding and they hope that the joy of the holiday will bring with it the generosity of spirit that’s so lacking. 

It’s been a year since Marty Preston rescued Shiloh from Judd Travers and his cruel ways, and since then, Marty and Shiloh have been inseparable. Anywhere Marty goes, the beagle’s at his side, and Marty couldn’t be happier about that. Even Judd has been working to improve his reputation. 

But just as townsfolk grow more accepting of Judd, a fire in the woods destroys many homes, including Judd’s, and Judd’s newly formed reputation. Doubt, blame, and anger spread faster than the flames—flames that are fanned by the new minister, who seems fonder of fire and brimstone than love and mercy. And why are his daughters so skittish around him? And what’s happened to Judd’s dogs? With Christmas right around the corner, Marty has a lot of questions, and how they’re answered might just take a Christmas miracle.

I was surprised how little the story is actually about Shiloh. There are many references to the original classic novel so the reader doesn't need to worry about remembering what happened in Shiloh. But the story is largely about a person's ability to change. We see how Judd has changed from his abusive ways, and in the end, we see the new minister is capable of great change, too. 

While a fire tests the community's strength and resiliency, the Bible-thumping new minister brings his own kind of fire to the community. He preaches about sin and the fires of hell, warning of a vengeful God to those who stray from His path, as was common in the South at this time. Marty's family does not take well to his way of teaching the Bible. Though religion is a major theme, the characters do not encourage the readers to accept this way of thinking. Especially when the readers learn that the minister is as fiery at home with his children and wife as he is at church. 

Yes, child abuse is a startling theme of the novel. Besides the heavy religious themes in the long-winded Old Testament sermons from the preacher, parents and educators need to be aware that there is emotional/psychological child abuse. HOWEVER, the novel is set during early 20th century West Virginia. Marty's parents comment that while the preacher's discipline methods are frowned upon, they are NOT illegal and they consider it to be in his right, so long as he does not resort to violence. That is the accepted social thinking of the time period. 

Due to the mature content, I'd like to be clear about what is in this book:
  • The preacher never hits his children and has never hit his children. They never have marks or injuries to suggest physical abuse. The eldest daughter confirms he does NOT beat them
  • The abuse all takes place OFF-PAGE
  • The eldest child is locked in a cold shed with no coat and no bathroom, for an unknown amount of time
  • They used to own a chair with manacles of some sort to restrain the kids (the eldest daughter managed to throw it out)
  • The youngest was forced to put her feet in ice water as punishment
  • The youngest was forced to put all her food in her milk and drink it as punishment
  • The wife and children all show outward anxiety about defying the preacher. He is severely strict, limiting their social engagements with others
Overall, the content does not feel inappropriate for middle grade readers. It is NOT graphic or upsetting, I would advise it is best for ages 10 & up. As long as the reader can appreciate the historical cultural views and the fact that the protagonist's family sees this behaviour as wrong, I don't see it as being an issue.

A Shiloh Christmas is the fourth book in The Shiloh Quartet. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is an award-winning author whose stories are very much worth the read. The book ends with a warm-and-fuzzy hopeful Christmas moment for the minister's family. In a Christmas miracle, it seems he has seen the error of his ways. It is the holidays, after all! 

I very much enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone looking for a new children's classic for middle grade readers! It is a heart-warming holiday tale about friendship, about a heroic dog, and the lesson that people can change for the better.

4 Stars

Monday, 7 September 2015

Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a fantastical fairy tale retelling of the Snow Queen. Although I'm not a fan of the cover art, Karen Foxlee has crafted a beautifully written story of adventure, friendship, magic, and danger for middle grade readers. Ophelia is an asthmatic, underdog hero who must rescue a magical boy and help him find a sword to defeat the evil Snow Queen once and for all.

Summary: This is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty, the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help. As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world. A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

Although the publisher has rightly targeted this chapter book at ages 8-12, the narrative style feels better suited for older, more confident readers. Foxlee's magical adventure requires a reader who can appreciate the imagery and what I can only describe as an original "Brothers Grimm"-type feel. This story might actually make a really good read-aloud or bedtime story, too. You can view a sneak peak on Penguin Random House's website.

Personally, I would have liked to see this story written for an older audience, with thrills and chills to amp up the plot. The Snow Queen is a frightening villain (as scary as middle grade will allow without actually scaring anyone). The writing style certainly translates for a well-read audience who can appreciate the narrative. 

Content-wise, this is a clean read. There are no frightening scenes or objectionable language to upset the target audience. Frozen fans might appreciate hearing a story about the original fairy tale that inspired Disney's multi-million dollar success.

All in all, this is a beautifully written book with lessons about being brave and not putting vanity above all else (Ophelia's sister, and countless other girls, were captured by the Snow Queen because of this weakness). With plenty of starred reviews to back it, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a great choice for confident readers who love fairy tales and magical adventures. 

3 Stars

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules was my second Erin Bow novel—and is easily my favourite. It is a dystopian and sci-fi hybrid, set in a world where AIs rule over humanity, and where the children of world leaders are used as pawns in the game of maintaining world peace. Gripping dystopian story? Check. Beautifully written? Check. Hooks the reader? Check—my subway rides were painfully short. I love Erin Bow's writing. From the nail-biting drama to the beautiful and sometimes haunting imagery, her stories and characters have a habit of sticking with you long after you turn the final page.

SummaryGreta is a crown princess—and a hostage to peace, held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. Greta and the other royal hostages are Talis’s strategy to keep the peace: if her country enters a war, Greta dies. Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives, a boy who refuses to play by the rules and opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system and to her own power. 

The Scorpion Rules is a perfect balance of [believable] sci-fi and dystopian society. This is a YA novel, aimed at readers ages 14 & up. Parents and educators should be aware of on-page sex, violence, possibly disturbing scenes, and mature language (ranging from "hell" to the f-bomb). 

Most dystopian novels follow this formula: the corrupt "system" emerges after a long war and is maintained with violence. The protagonist has never felt loyal to the system and spends the book trying to hide his/her differences, while rebelling against it. While this is happening, there is a love triangle. Sounds like 95% of dystopian novels today, right? So I was surprised when The Scorpion Rules suddenly diverged from the formula that I was positive it was following. Surprised, but pleased, I should note. [[spoiler ahead]] The protagonist, who I was sure was going to fall for the "new boy," actually ends up in a sexual and romantic relationship with her best female friend. A break from the love triangle at last!

The Scorpion Rules finally gives the tired dystopian genre a story that is both fresh and that has real substance and merit to young adult readers. It is a beautiful love story, a tale of friendships and alliances, of murder and violence, of humanity vs. technology, of power and peace, and ultimately, good vs. evil. 

Erin Bow's writing, as always, is powerful and poetic. The Scorpion Rules is perfect for teen readers looking for their next dystopian/thriller fix. 

4 Stars

This novel has a pub date of September 22, 2015.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me an ARC for review. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Review: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

I haven't been surprised by a book in a while, but Lisa Graff's new novel, Absolutely Almost, got me. I ADORED this book! It's a heart-wrenching story of a boy who struggles in school, with bullies and in making friends. It's a story of a young boy who desperately wants to find the thing that makes him special. As kids, we all feel 'stupid' at something. We all experience moments of feeling not good enough or worry about letting our parents down. Absolutely Almost shows readers that in spite of our own weaknesses, we all are our special in our own way, we just have to look past the bad to see the good!

Summary: Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself. 

A perfect companion to Lisa Graff's National Book Award-nominated A Tangle of Knots, this novel explores a similar theme in a realistic contemporary world where kids will easily be able to relate their own struggles to Albie's. Great for fans of Rebecca Stead's Liar and Spy, RJ Palacio's Wonder and Cynthia Lord's Rules.

Absolutely Almost is a great choice for middle grade classrooms to discuss character traits like self-confidence and self-acceptance. I'm not really a fan of the cover. I think it's soft and skews toward boy readers, but the story will appeal to everyone.

A great example of why you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover! Absolutely Almost is a beautiful, wonderful story of an almost average boy who has always been absolutely perfect in his own way.

4 Stars

"Achingly superb, Albie’s story shines." - Kirkus, starred review

"Graff’s (A Tangle of Knots) ... stands out for its thoughtful, moving portrait of a boy who learns to keep moving forward, taking on the world at his own speed." - Publisher's Weekly, starred review

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I've heard many amazing things about Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun and I'm so happy to say that this book definitely held up to all the praise. This book is heart-wrenching, beautiful, inspiring, and incredible, and I loved every minute of it. 

Summary: Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Nothing I could say about this YA novel can really justify the depth and power of the story. Both Jude and Noah not only struggle with their mother's death, their broken family, and their tormented twin-bond, but a myriad of other heartbreaking issues from identity crisis, to sexual orientation, to addiction. 

This book is written for YA readers ages 14 & up due to the mature language and themes. Nonetheless, it is already a celebrated novel among bloggers and reviewers. It is extremely well-written and highly acclaimed. Among its many awards and starred reviews, I'll Give You the Sun has already picked up the 2015 Printz Award and the 2015 Stonewall Honor. 

Move over Fault in Our Stars. There's a new beautiful, soul-crushing YA novel in town. 

4 Stars 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Review: Potterwookiee by Obert Skye

Two multi-million dollar fandoms merge together in this hilarious, middle grade illustrated novel. The second in the Creature From My Closet chapter book series, Potterwookiee is great for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other similar illustrated novels. 

Summary: The latest creature to emerge from Rob’s closet is a cross between Chewbacca from Star Wars and Harry Potter. Rob names him “Potterwookiee” (“Hairy” for short) and soon Rob finds himself treading water as he tries to figure out how to care for his mixed-up friend. Great laughs and great books help Rob along the way.

After the Potterwookiee emerges from Rob's closet, the little guy ends up in a weird trance. To help him, Rob turns to the first Harry Potter book for the answer, illustrating that wisdom can be found in the pages of great books. Aside from helping his hybrid friend, Rob must also keep him safe from others and overcome the neighbourhood bully.

As a Potterhead and a fan of Star Wars, I really enjoyed this book. It's an easy, entertaining read for reluctant readers and is filled with hilarious illustrations to break up the text. Parents and educators can feel good about this clean, well-received, and most definitely fun read for middle grade readers. 

Keep kids reading this summer with Potterwookiee!

3.5 Stars 

Reviews for Potterwookie: 

“The second doll-sized literary mashup to come out of a wimpy kid’s magic closet adds wizardly spells [and] noxious smells…” - Kirkus 

"The text is hysterical by itself, but acts as the straight man in relation to the one-two punch of the childlike drawings and captions that appear on almost every page. Get multiple copies of this book: it will fly off the shelves.”- School Library Journal 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: Ghosts of War: The Secret of Midway by Steve Watkins

Ghosts of War is a new middle grade series from Scholastic, Inc. A twist of mystery, historical fiction, and middle school drama, these books are aimed at middle grade boys with an interest in war fiction. The series stars a trio of friends who meet a ghost and help him remember his mortal life and solve the mystery of his death.

Summary: In the basement of his family’s junkshop, Anderson and his friends Greg and Julie discover a trunk full of old military stuff. Including a battered navy peacoat from World War II, and when Anderson puts it on he finds a mysterious letter in the pocket. Curious, he takes the coat and letter home. But that’s not all he brings home...

Later that evening the ghost of a World War II sailor appears in Anderson’s room. Anderson is completely freaked out. Who is the ghost and why hasn’t he crossed over? But most importantly, what does he want with Anderson?

This is a content-free, fast-paced read about an important moment in history. Readers learn about a famous US naval battle without feeling like history is being shoved down their throats. While there is talk of gunfire, death, and violence between the Japanese and American forces, it's not at all graphic or frightening.

Overall, it's a solid middle grade read that offers an educational bonus that parents and educators can feel good about. A second book in the series is forthcoming in April!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Review: Klutz String Art

I wouldn't consider myself a crafter and by no means am I artistically talented. But I've had my eye on Klutz products for a while now. There are so many really cool Klutz products and activities out there, all of which come with all the supplies you need in a box!

I finally got my hands on a copy of Klutz String Art after seeing this cool retro craft splashed over Pinterest? Me and my sister sat down to have a Klutzy crafternoon together with String Art! And it was great! For two inexperienced crafters, we're both extremely proud of our string art and making them was easy, quick, and fun!

Overall, Klutz String Art comes with simple instructions, tons of pins, colourful string, pretty mounting paper, and lots of traceable patterns to create different designs in various sizes. You can make flowers, an owl, words, a whale, and more!

My only complaint is that the number of designs outnumbers the number of mounting boards you get. On the plus side, the mounting boards are just thick pieces of cardboard so you can definitely get more of your own.

For a couple of amateur crafters, I have to say they turned out pretty good! We taped some ribbon to the backs and hung them on the wall!

A simple and fun activity for kids ages 10 & up. You can find tons of other great craft ideas from Klutz on their website! 

4 Stars

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Review: Gatekeepers #5: Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz's Gatekeepers series is an excellent choice for readers who enjoy thrilling, action-packed dystopian stories with all sorts of twist and turns. The series has positive reviews overall from several credible sources and Anthony Horowitz is beloved by his fans. Oblivion is the fifth and final book in the saga.

Summary: Matt. Pedro. Scott. Jamie. Scar. Five Gatekeepers have finally found one another. And only the five of them can fight the evil force that is on the rise, threatening the destruction of the world In the penultimate volume of The Gatekeepers series, a massive storm arose that signalled the beginning of the end. Now the five Gatekeepers must battle the evil power the storm has unleashed — and strive to stop the world from ending.

The book is not short on shock-factors, gun violence, or terrible people (demonic forces or human). I get why the series is thrilling; I can see why the plot is exciting, but honestly, I was just glad when it was over. As I work in the editorial world, I get itchy when a book needs to trim down the excess thinking, complaining, fretting, and bullets whizzing (book five comes in at a whopping 580 pages--there's A LOT of this).

There are also many scenes included not only to shock the readers, but to illustrate just how much the world has gone to hell. My argument: we're five books in so we get it. These shock factors include suicide, graphic violence, gore, human trafficking, torture, murder, and cannibalism. Plus all the time the characters spend dwelling on them. The publisher deems the series is for ages 9-12, but I would push 12+ due to all the reasons listed above, plus a little objectionable language. Moreover, some of the themes and concepts will make more sense to older reasons.

If you're just getting started, I can say that the series goes out with a bang. Actually, with all the gunfire and murder occurring in book five, the end battle is a touch anti-climatic. Although we do get two main character deaths (I do love an author who is brave enough to do this in a series that's lasted this long!).

I'm not a fan of books that need so much room to pack a punch, but if you love the build-up and the action, then you'll be fine. It's worth a read if you're a die-hard dystopian fan, but pass if you love dystopian and are anxiously looking to fill the void Divergent or Hunger Games left in your soul. Horowitz is a bestselling author and deserves all the acclaim he's received, but Oblivion doesn't come close to touching the crown jewels of YA.

3 Stars 

Praise for The Gatekeepers:
"Younger teens who like an exciting adventure mixed with supernatural horror will thrill to Matt's story." —VOYA
"Horowitz truly knows his way around a plot; he keeps the tension at a nail-biting level throughout." —Kirkus
"There's no denying Horowitz's talent for creating monstrous evil and pumping up the tension with bloody details, exciting escapes, and cliff-hanging sequences." —Booklist

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Review: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

"Peace in every home, every street, every village, every country--this is my dream. Education for every boy and every girl in the world. To sit down on a chair and read my books with all my friends at school is my right. To see each and every human being with a smile of happiness is my wish" (pg 313).

I've never been interested in reading non-fiction, but I've had my eye on I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban for a while now. Not only is this inspiring person the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, but her story is so incredibly power and so important, that I really wanted to read it. I'll admit I'm not the most informed person when it comes to global news and political crises, but even if you're not aware of who Malala is beyond faint recognition of her name, it is impossible not to have a sense of who the Taliban is or the dangers of political crisis and the institution of social and political change in Pakistan right now. Malala's story and her cause are important, making this an important book for everyone to read.

Summary: When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. 

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons. I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

It is impossible not to feel changed after reading Malala's story of growing up in Pakistan, of her family's struggles to live under the violent oppression of Muslim extremists, and the reality of the inequality of girls and boys. It reminds readers how lucky we are in North America to have the right to education; to be able to live in a society free from the fear of being gunned down in the name of twisted interpretations of holy text. Our cultures and lifestyles may be different, but the lesson Malala teaches reaches us all. You may be Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or an Atheist, but regardless of who we are and what beliefs we hold, we're all human. We all deserve peace, equality, and the right to live, and grow, and be happy.

Malala's voice is inspiring, powerful, and honest. It's easy to relate to her, to feel for her, and to be affected by her story. I flew through this book, captivated by Malala's bravery and remarkable personality. Parents/educators should be forewarned that the book does contain content (objectionable language, some graphic violence, and minor gore). However, I strongly believe that the context in which the content appears justifies its presence. We should not shy away from the truth of the terrible things that happened and are happening in Pakistan. It is only when we are all aware and willing to stand up against the violence and discrimination that change will happen.

Everyone should read I Am Malala. This is a beautiful story of a young woman whose bravery has made her voice heard around the world. I almost never give 5 stars, but nothing deserves it more than this extraordinary memoir about this extraordinary person.

5 Stars

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Review: The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

If you raced through Hunger Games or Divergent, Joelle Charbonneau's thrilling YA dystopian novel The Testing is sure to be your next favourite read.

I'm often judgmental and skeptical of a YA dystopian novel. Although the reason is mostly due to the fact that once Hunger Games and Divergent took the YA world by storm, there was little anyone else could do to produce something different. Nothing sums up this fact like this hilarious and honest summary of EVERY YA STORY EVER from The Toast. Seriously. EVERY.SINGLE.BOOK.

So while The Testing can be summed up in this brilliant article, I'll also provide the publisher's summary.

Summary: It’s graduation day for sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale, and the entire Five Lakes Colony (the former Great Lakes) is celebrating. All Cia can think about—hope for—is whether she’ll be chosen for The Testing, a United Commonwealth program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders of the slowly revitalizing post-war civilization. When Cia is chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmarish half-memories of The Testing. Armed with his dire warnings (”Cia, trust no one”), she bravely heads off to Tosu City, far away from friends and family, perhaps forever. Danger, romance—and sheer terror—await.

While I did love reading this book, I think part of my enjoyment came from the blindingly obvious reasons why The Testing is Veronica's Roth Divergent. There are differences, of course, but MANY of the plot events and several details are very similar. I even made this handy chart:

The Testing
Inspiring Heroine
Beatrice “Tris”
Malencia             “Cia”
Love interest
Society’s divisions
Gruesome injury during competition
Edward takes a knife to eye
Malachi takes a nail to the eye
Suicide by hanging
Vicious competitor
Source of evil
Erudite leader
Tosu City Testing officials
Dystopian setting
War-ravaged Chicago
War-ravaged USA; featuring a race to what USED to be Chicago
Weapon of Choice

But in all seriousness, while I find it hilarious that the books are SO similar (more similar in comparison to all YA dystopian novels being similar—so much so that if I were Veronica Roth, I would write a strongly worded letter to Ms. Charbonneau) it WAS a thrilling story. Well-written, action-packed, suspenseful, filled with both loveable characters and characters we love to hate.

If you love these sort of novels, it's definitely worth a read! Independent Study is book two of the series and is available now!

... So I guess in this bok, Cia decides if she's honest or peaceful or... 

3 Stars 

I do not own any of these images.