Monday, September 28, 2015

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Banned Books Week takes place the last week of September every year. It's a time to bring awareness of the banning and challenging of books that is still prevalent in our society. To support the freedom to read, I choose a banned/challenged book that I've never read before. Because of this, my review is slightly different, as I tend to focus on the reason it was banned or challenged for most of the review. For more information on Banned Books Week, visit

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Publication date: 1970/1988
Publisher: Atheneum
Pages: 153
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 10+

After moving from New York City to New Jersey, 11-year-old Margaret must deal with finding new friends, a new teacher, and the changes in her body. The only person she can truly be honest with is God, who she speaks to on a regular basis.

This book was first challenged in 1982 for being amoral and sexual explicit. It was then continued to be challenged/banned for those reasons and for being anti-Christian.

Margaret is the daughter of a Jewish father and a Christian mother, but she doesn't have a religion, though she does, obviously, believe in God. Throughout the course of the book Margaret researches several different religions, trying to see if there was one where she feels God. I don't see this as anti-Christian or anti-religion.

As for being sexually explicit. There is talk of breasts and menstruation. Though, when I was about 11, I read books with girls who were going through the same things that I was. It was nice and I probably learned more from them than anyone else, except my mom. The thing is, girls want to know about their bodies and the way they are changing. They want to know what a period is like and if their breasts are ever going to grow, but sometimes they are embarrassed to ask someone. It's perfectly normal and I don't think that there is anything wrong with books that feature preteens with the same questions.

As with almost all of the banned books that I have read over the years, it's a good way to open conversations. Also, to actually be read by parents, instead of just flipped through. Without context, I guess I could see certain parts being seen as inappropriate, but then, without context, most anything could be considered in appropriate.

It is a bit outdated and might contain references that today's preteens may not understand.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Tu Books
Pages: 380
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 14+

Claire has a trouble free life: parents who love her, two brothers, a life-long best friend, and a place on the soccer team. But everything changes when she finds a letter from her biological father to her stepdad. The letter hints at a much darker secret, and then someone starts targeting Claire using Japanese superstitions. Has her father's past come back to haunt her? And what connection did her fathers have to each other?

In her debut novel, Maetani uses her own childhood and history to create a mystery different from many others marketed to teens. She entwines Japanese traditions, culture, and superstitions with modern American teens.

Not knowing very much about Japanese/Japanese-American culture, I found the book pretty fascinating. Understand about the Japanese mafia and Japanese superstitions (like not passing food from your chopsticks to someone else's) was easy and never took away from the real story, which was the mystery of Claire's father's past and what it has to do with what is happening to her in the present. I also enjoyed that it was set in my home state, making certain things relatable and easy to envision. The mystery, I don't think, was simple to figure out-in fact, I had this dread that it was going to be one of the characters I liked.

Little to no language and no sexual situations.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, September 21, 2015

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Clair

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Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 339
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 14+

When Kenzie ends up on the school's yearly "Hottie List," the only thing she thinks it will change is her social status. But then strange things start happening--dangerous things. The girls on the list start dying in strange "accidents," one by one. Kenzie must hurry to find out what's happening, before her number comes up.

This was a good mystery, with just enough "creep" factor. I was kept guessing, trying to figure out what was going on and how they were all connected. Of course, I'm notoriously bad at figuring out mysteries, so take that with a grain of salt.

The end was a little difficult to make fit into what I had created as the believable perimeters of the story. But it didn't ruin it for me, I just had to adjust the suspension of my beliefs. This book could either be the beginning of a series, or a standalone, which is nice.

There is some language, but not sexual situations.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 351
My rating: 4 stars

Lou and Dacia, cousins in two of the most influential New York families, are on their way to meet their Romanian family. But what they thought was going to be a family reunion becomes so much more when they learn about the dark family secret and their destiny. Not all destinies need to be followed and not all princes are charming.

This review might be a bit biased since I love anything by George, but this book was like a breath of fresh air. A book dealing with the paranormal that presents it in a unique but classic way. No sparkling or dark angels in this book. I think that setting it in the late 19th century really helped to make it that way.

It was a lot of fun to see the changes throughout the book of Lou and Dacia, their ups and downs and how they react to the revelation of the dark family secret. One thing I love about George's books is that her strong female characters don't have to sacrifice their femininity in order to be respected by the other characters.

No sex, no swearing. Great for teens who love fantasy and the paranormal.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark

More info*
Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Potter Style
Pages: 160
My rating: 4.5 stars
Ages: 8+

Plum lives in London with Emma. She keeps this diary to share the fun, annoying, interesting, and thoughtful things that happen to her. The words are her own, but Emma helps by illustrating them.

This book is completely charming and fun. It follows Plum throughout a year as she travels and meets up with her dog friends. The illustrations are beautiful and colorful and fun.

I wasn't really sure what I would be getting when I requested this book to be sent to me, but I am so glad that I choose this one. I think everyone will like this book, kids, adults, dog lovers, and probably even cat lovers! There isn't much that I can say about it except pick up a copy. It will provide a great evening's entertainment

There is one swear word near the end of the book.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

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Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 227
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 13+

After losing her friend Libby to a car accident three years ago, May suddenly starts seeing artwork from the stories they used to make together. Certain it's a sign that Libby is actually alive, May starts trying to find clues in the online comic.

I wasn't really sure about this book at first, but I really liked it.  It's mostly novel with a little bit of graphic novel in it as you read along with May as she tries to find clues into Libby's disappearance/death. I love the tone of the writing, which seemed familiar to me but in a way I can't really explain. Maybe a little noir-feeling? Or something.

I think this is something that nearly anyone could enjoy. It has mystery, graphic novel, computer hacking, puzzles, adventure, friendship, etc. Also, I would love to see a Princess X cosplay.

No swearing and no sexual situations.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.