Thursday, December 19, 2013


This is more like it!   Read quite a few books this week.....some, I admit.....not my favs.....and some; well, some kept me up all night because I had to know what happened.....=)  Perils of being addicted to books I guess....=)

Here we go:

The False Prince is one that I was assigned...or one that I saw on the Garden State Book Award nominee list and thought "why not?"'s been getting a LOT of buzz....and so I was really looking forward to reading it.   My opinion?  Not bad, but not up to all the hype.  The central premise is that one of the top advisors to the royal family has a plan to "save" the royal family (who have all just conveniently been assassinated).   His plan?  Find an orphan who looks a lot like a prince who sailed away (was sent away) and has been presumed dead since the ship was lost at sea years ago.  He gathers a random group of boys together and proceeds to show them how to become the prince.  One of the boys (the lead character) figures out quite quickly that doing this will mean doing whatever he is told for the rest of his life...and he is feeling quesy about the whole thing.  I figured out the "twist" ending not even halfway through the book....and I think savvy readers will do the same; but if you aren't a heavy fantasy reader, perhaps it will be a huge surprise for you.  I can see why it's popular, but much like the Hunger Games (at least in my opinion) I am not as impressed as the media & masses.  

Since I'm on the subject of "highly touted" books....this is another one.  Son is the conclusion of the series Lowry started ages ago in The Giver.  It wraps up a lot of loose ends, and introduces some new characters...and tries to make for a more hopeful future than thus far has existed in this universe......I read it; but didn't enjoy it......(definitely a "have to" assigned book).  I am not a huge fan of The Giver, nor of dystopias in, yeah.....if you like them; you'll love this.....if won't.....
Sorry folks.....once again, I am out in the cold, disagreeing with all the high mucky-mucks......=/

Now THIS is a title I grabbed as soon as it came is the sequel to Enchanted and takes place in this same fairy tale environment.   I love the whole "fractured fairy tales" movement.....and Kontis does a great job of turning the whole "hero rescuing the fair maiden" on its head....pretty much literally since the "maiden" is actually a guy who was magicked into the witch's daughter's place...and thus looks like a girl; but isn't...and the "hero" is Thursday....a girl, but whom the witch thinks is Jack Woodcutter (it's her brother, so they resemble each other)......I love the easy romantic tale, the classic elements of fairy tale and the fun of an unexpected story that is completely original.  Thursday is a kickass heroine....and this story really made me happy.

Seraphina, sadly is one that I completely forgot that I had read...which I think says something about the story.  It involves a girl who is part dragon, when such half breeds aren't supposed to exist....and her struggles between both human and dragon societies..and the evils of both.  There is also a bit of romantic tale in there; but mostly it is the whole "no one understands me; I must find my way; save the world from evil" tale that I've seen a million times.  I'm sure that there are those who will disagree....and that's fine....but I just was bored reading this and I'm sure I'll forget that I read it again in a month.

Endangered is another assigned title...and this time....well, I am SO glad I was forced to read it.  It has a terribly boring cover, so I never would have picked it up...and it didn't sound exciting at all....bonobos?  Apes in the Congo.....girl in a sanctuary trying to save them.....*yawn*.....but that's not what it is at all!  THIS is the story of a girl (Sophie), born in Congo, but who lives in the US and has completely acclimated to the American way of looking at the much so, that when she sees a beggar selling a young bonobo, she buys him to save him and take him to the sanctuary.  This, of course, is the wrong thing to do, but her heart was in the right place.  Her mother, who runs the sanctuary and has devoted her life to it (thus her parents' divorce and consequent emigration to the USA) tries to explain why it was wrong.....but in the end just says that what's done is done and that Sophie must take charge of the care of the ape until they see if it will live.  Sophie really bonds with him and names him Otto; and really works to keep him healthy throughout the summer.   And then, her mother leaves to do a release of some bonobos into the wild and says her goodbyes as Sophie is due to leave in a couple weeks.  It shouldn't be a problem; until someone kills the President and chaos ensues with random militia groups killing and destroying everything.  Sophie is supposed to evacuate, but runs away when she realizes she can't take Otto with her.  Now she is stuck in the middle of a war zone; trying to survive and to keep Otto safe in a country where he is more likely to be used as meat than he is to be cared for.   The things Sophie goes through and the many ways she has to struggle are harrowing and real.....I loved this book.  I also love that the author has a kind of afterword in the last few that we see Sophie as an adult many years later and what happened to her and to Otto.   This is a book that is NOT to be missed!   READ IT!  NOW!!!

Winger is a book that I kept meaning to get to...and now I'm sorry I waited.  I have loved other books by Andrew Smith; and this one is up to his usual standards....although I must admit the cover is a bit fits once you know what the book is about.  Winger is Ryan Dean's nickname as well as his position on the rugby team for his private boarding school.  Ryan Dean is a bit of a misfit; being two years younger than anyone else in his grade (he's a junior, but only 14); and being in a boarding school because his parents are too busy with their own lives....well, it doesn't make for a fun, easy going life.   The whole story basically follows Ryan Dean through a school year.....or most of one anyway.....his hoped for romance that seems doomed because of their age difference, his being in the "delinquent" house because he did something stupid and got caught, his involvement and obsession with rugby and indeed the whole team all a part of the tale....but there is so much more.  I really loved this story.....Ryan Dean tries so hard and does some idiotic things sometimes; but his heart is in the right place...and when a terrible thing happens (won't say, just....have tissues) he and the reader are equally devastated because we feel a part of his life.   This is a perfect example of a sports book that is so much more than sports.....and I think that it is one of my top books for the year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thoughts on The Alchemist

My Thoughts on the Alchemist

The Alchemist is one of the most inspirational books that I have ever read. It teaches

readers how to follow their dreams and to never give up. The book was written by Paulho

Coelho, and it sold millions of copies worldwide. The New York Times said "This Brazilian

wizard makes books disappear from stores."

The Alchemist is basically about a boy named Santiago. His dream is to travel the world,

which led him into getting the job of a Sheppard. One day he has a dream that a child tells him

that he must travel to the pyramids and obtain a valuable treasure. He sets out on his journey to

Africa, and enters a whole new world. He is then faced by a series of events that teach him how

life really is, and how he can connect with the soul of the world.

I recommend everyone to read The Alchemist, for it is truly inspirational. There

are a lot of dreams we had as children that we gave up on. It is not too late to accomplish them.

This book will make you want to get up and accomplish all the things that you forgot about. I

was truly inspired, and I am sure you will too.

- Bilal Syed


Eli is Daniel's older brother who dies in Iraq.  Daniel is devastated, obviously, as is his family.  The story takes place over the summer of his ninth grade year.  Daniel's summer is a huge moment in his life; he will find and lose love, figure out the meaning of friendship, decide what he wants to do with his life and finally begin to heal from his brother's death several years ago.  This is a really quiet book, but so good.  It is a quick, short read; but it is also a great reminder that sometimes change just sneaks up on us....that while we are simply living life momentous moments happen right under our nose...and it's not until they are over that we realize what they are.  I really enjoyed this, give it a try....

Thursday, December 05, 2013


This is an edge of your seat suspense novel.  Noa wakes up on an operating table.  She has no idea where she is or why she is here; but she knows something is wrong.  She manages to escape, barely....only to find that these unknown people know all of her hiding places.  So, she's on the run.  Peter is a well-to-do member of society; or at least his parents are.  He has no interest in his parents or their interests; but one day while snooping he comes across a reference for the Persephone Project.  He idly researches it (he's quite good with computers) but he has barely done more than look around when strange men kick in the door to his house and steal his computer.....warning him against reporting the crime and threatening to hurt him and his family if he doesn't leave well enough alone.  Confused and frightened, Peter begins to look more deeply into the situation; he meets up with Noa and the two of them begin to realize the depth of this conspiracy...and the imminent danger they are in.  Can they figure out everything in time?  Why do these men want Noa so badly? 

In this sequel to Etiquette and Espionage, we continue with another adventure with Sophronia and the gang at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy.  This time she stumbles upon a plot to kidnap her best friend and her brother as a way to force their parents to do (or not do)....something.   Can Sophronia figure out what is happening and keep her friend safe?  And more importantly, can she do it while still negotiating the perils of being a lady of quality?   This is a great followup to the original...a steampunk fantastical adventure with werewolves, magicians and vampires...and a strong, fiesty leading lady determined to save the day.  Definitely a "to be read immediately" choice.

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad

Amal Unbound Book Review by: Raheem Ahmad Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound is about a girl named Amal who lives in pakistan and goes to school...