What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy (2017)

3.4 Stars.31450696.jpg

Short Summary: A group of teens vie for their place amongst NASA’s elite teen science program and once through, discover that their role is much more important than anticipated.

What I liked: The switch between the two main characters was interesting. I thought they provided a nice contrast, they were well constructed (Eddie more so than Rosa) and their thought process and energy kept me entertained. The writing itself throughout the beginning part of the novel had me whizzing through pages wondering what would happen next. On the whole, I found the first part of the book rather captivating.

What I didn’t: I hate it when the book jacket gives away too much, and then you end up having your entire vision skewed as a result. This was what happened for me. That being said, my biggest problem however was that without the book jacket, it was so hard to see where this book was going. I was a solid 100 pages into it, and I didn’t really have a clue what the plot was. It seemed like a book made up with many mini plots that connected through a linear timeline, but those gaps between those plots tended to really sag on the reader engagement. I also had some difficulty with plot holes I didn’t really understand, but this came second to my initial issue.

Recommendation: If you are interested in the prospect of the book, the characters are entertaining enough, and the writing itself is strong enough to keep you engaged, but it takes a little blind faith to lead you through the elongated beginning.

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim (2016)

25760792.jpgRating 4.3 stars
I discovered this book through listening to the “Hey YA” podcast, and I’m blown away that I’ve not heard of this gem before.

Short Summary: In an alternative world where the clock towers control life and a broken clock can distort and even break time. Danny is a clock mechanic, when problems arrive, he can repair the cracks and rifts of time. When love and mystery bombings enter Danny’s world, the problems are not so easily solved.

What I liked: I love the concept behind this book. City clocks were such a central part of life, its a very interesting extrapolation on reality. The romance in this piece is beautiful and I love the well done LGBT plot line. Sim has done a phenomenal job with world building, and the mystery keeps you glued to the page right to the end.

What I didn’t: Not much. I wanted more, so I can’t wait for the next book to come out. I would love to learn more about the background of Danny’s love interest.

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of alternative historical fiction, this is a great play on the victorian era.

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The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (2017)

Rating: 4.7 Stars32667458.jpg

Short Summary: Like most fantasy novels, its hard to create a short summary encompassing all that is this piece. The daughter of the dragon King, Asha, the best dragon slayer, attempts to take down the First Dragon in order to be granted the freedom from marrying a cruel suitor. She soon discovers that there is much she does not understand about the magic that surrounds her and stories she is forbidden to tell.

The only interaction I’ve had with Ciccarelli is listening to her speak at Word o

n the Street in Toronto. Her book really intrigued me then and she seems like the kind of author who would be fun to grab a coffee with and chat.

What I liked: Great characters. We follow Asha through this piece, and she’s instantly a character I can cling to. She’s tough, she’s smart, she’s got power and willpower. She doesn’t give up, but keeps her moral compass strong when the world around her begins to shift. The antagonist is someone you love to hate, and the romantic interest develops so subtly it practically sneaks up on you and leaves you wanting more.

Fantastic Writing. I inhaled this in two days. It was certainly one of those books that I could have stayed up all night reading if I hadn’t forced myself to put it down. I love Ciccarelli’s spellbinding style. I was entranced.

Creative Story. Its been a few years since I’ve read a really good Dragon story and this certainly hit the mark. The story telling elements added unique perspectives to the piece and helped build the world within my mind.

What I didn’t: Its hard to find anything really. I’d probably warn a future reader that there are some slow sections in the first half of the book, but they are pretty integral to the understanding of the rest of the piece.

Recommendation: If you’re a fantasy fan, its a must read and certainly book hangover worthy.

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Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (2017)

4.5 Stars33163378.jpg
Moxie Girls Fight Back!
Short Summary: Vivian Carter is sick of the way boys get away with treating girls. After reading her mom’s old zines from the 90’s she becomes inspired to fight back.

What I liked: This might be one of my favourite books of the year. I loved Vivian, the conflict she had amongst her friends, and the way that she took action. I love the snowballing of the action out of her control to create a really beautiful positive female force. Girls who take back the word feminist and attempt to shake down the system. I like contrast Seth brings to the table as a love interest and a guy amidst this episode.

I love the way the story tackles a myriad of issues facing girls today like dress codes and what their purpose really is. We see it all the time in the news debated, but it was nice to see it dealt with well.

What I didn’t: Being an educator, I always cringe at the lack of support from teaching staff. I get the need to make the enemy obvious, but I had hoped that there would have been at least one character who would have supported the cause on that side to make it more believable. The mother’s storyline with her love interest felt a little unresolved. I wouldn’t have minded some form of closure on that.

Recommendation: EVERYONE. I really wish I could have had this book to read while I was in high school. It is all the right kind of female empowerment. I can’t wait to buy this for my library and give this to all my girls.

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Brave by Svetlana Chmakova (2017)

Rating: 4.5 stars.30079697.jpg

Short Summary: Jensen is trying to navigate middle school through his struggles with math, bullying, friendships and finding his place.

What I liked: The characters were really authentic. Jensen is so perfectly the awkward kid with thoughts and fears of what most middle school students go through. He has dreams, and stresses and his emotionally honest account of going through each day is both heart-breaking and up-lifting.

The book does a really good job of trying to relay what “bullying culture” can look like in a variety of different forms. So often kids think its just about one evil bad guy, but the book shows that even our friends can show signs of making us feel like less than we deserve. This idea of outwardly questioning whether or not Jensen has a “safe space to go” is something not seen enough in bullying novels. It spells it out beautifully.

What I didn’t: This is a weird thing to care about, but I’m always bothered when I see a school nurse make an appearance in any YA/junior fiction. I don’t know of any school who has had a nurse on staff for the last 20+ years. It feels like more of a forced plot device than anything close to reality. But comparatively speaking, it is completely irrelevant to the beautiful story itself.

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of the realistic graphic novel, this middle school grade fiction is phenomenal. Well worth the read.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (2017)

Rating: 4.2 stars33385229.jpg
Short Summary: In an alternate universe from our own, everyone receives the “death cast” within 24 hours of their demise. Mateo and Rufus find each other as their “Last Friends” as their world’s collide when they both receive the death cast.

I’m a true follower of Silvera’s work. I adore the books of his I’ve read to date, and I certainly counted down the days until I could get my hands on this.

What I liked: I love the way he writes characters, I find it is so easy to get lost in his characters and their versions of the world. You have an excellent contrast between Mateo and Rufus, both with their own kinds of baggage, but together they make a beautiful pair. I loved the interwoven stories that are dispersed throughout the book as well developing the world building.

It deals with some heavy subject matter, and forces you to reflect on how you would spend your last day given your knowledge of your own end.

What I didn’t: Not much, but there were slower elements to the book.

Recommendation: If you like the more melancholy kind of read, its a good one, with characters that are well developed and pull you in.

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Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution (2017)

Rating: Four stars.34275230.jpg

Short Summary: Bernie Sanders runs us through several major tenants in his belief system from Tax reform, to health care to climate change.

I have mixed feelings on Bernie, so I’m going to try to keep my review as unbiased as possible. Full disclosure, we share a lot of similar values – values common in Canada, so its easy for me to identify with what he says.

What I liked: It was a really easy read. I feel like I understood all of the basics without having to decipher political jargon. I find the book to be quite accessible to young people, particularly those who are politically minded. He made good points, sound arguments, and had some insightful statistics to back it up.

What I didn’t: I would have liked a more comprehensive list at the end where all of the statistics and information came from. Some of the infographics were well sourced, but other claims he made, I questioned, and would have liked to see where it came from.

Recommendation: Its a really easy to understand version of Bernie’s mantra. I would encourage people of all sides of the political spectrum to read it, particularly if you find yourself intimidated by reading heavy duty political stuff.

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