Thursday, September 29, 2016

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

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

Buy here*
Publication date: 2008
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pages: 365
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 16+

When San Francisco is attacked, Marcus and his friends are taken to an undisclosed location to be questioned as terrorists. When they are let go, Marcus is determined to get back at them anyway he can. Setting up a secret web and gathering other protestors, Marcus tries to find ways to bring back the freedom that was taken from them the moment the Department of Homeland Security decided everyone was guilty until proven innocent. With the threat of prison hanging over his head, Marcus needs to find a way to evade the DHS and to win back his city.

Doctorow's novel was challenged and pulled from the curriculum at a Florida high school in 2014. The reason cited? It promoted questioning authority. Which was the entire point of the book. Authority should be questioned, especially if they seem to be doing something wrong. Our kids should be taught that it's okay to ask questions, to wonder if something is the right way to do something. That is how democracy works, what this entire country was built on.

Other reasons cited include hacking culture. Yes, hacking shouldn't really be the past time for the average teenager. And Marcus did some pretty illegal stuff. But hacking is so prevalent in movies and TVs, that I think kids are so used to hearing about it that it won't be anything new or revelatory to them. And I liked the way Doctorow explained the different parts of hacking and using computers in the way that his characters do. It was simple enough that even I understood what was happening, instead of it being a mysterious amount of typing.

There was some sex and sexual circumstances, but nothing graphic. Surprisingly, there was hardly any language. A brief mention of the "f-word" without the entire word spelled out.

I think that this book could act like a cautionary tale--what if the government did react the way it did in the book to terrorist attacks? What if we were suddenly part of a police state? What would that mean for us and how should we react?

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 491
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 16+

It's all there in the history books: after the death of young King Edward of England, Jane Grey ruled for 9 days before being deposed and executed. But, the history books have gotten it all wrong. This is the true story of Lady Jane and King Edward.

I was immediately drawn to this book because of the cover and the promise of a historical romance. I did not know what I was getting into--but I'm glad I got into it.

If you are looking for historical fiction based on, you know, history, this isn't really the book for you. Instead, this is a reimagining of history; it's more like an alternative history with magic and people who can turn into animals. There are robbers, rebellions, kings, deceptions, and romance.

Jane is a headstrong, intelligent woman, faced with something she never wanted. G is a free spirit who just longs to run in the fields. Edward has never faced any hardship before, and his trust has been misplaced for far too long. Each of these characters grow and change and develop in the best possible way. The story is so full and complete. Every character, no matter how small, was interesting and unique. The narrators/authors are funny--and their pop culture references are a special treat.

I completely recommend this book to everyone. There is little to no language and some minute, veiled mentions of sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Pages: 348
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 14+

Witches, a curse, a spirit, and a secret. Samantha Mather is a descendant of Cotton Mather--one of the men who convicted witches during the trials in Salem. When she and her stepmother move to Salem, Sam is met with suspicion and outright harassment. This mostly comes from The Descendants--those teens who are directly descended from the people tried as witches. Then people start dying. With the help of a spirit, Sam must break a curse that she doesn't truly believe in.

I love how Mather 1) uses her own family history to create a story without it seeming like she was making Sam an avatar of herself, 2) used a well-known historical event and put it so seamlessly into a new and interesting story.

The characters were engaging and mysterious. Mather gives the reader just enough information to keep them interested without getting frustrated. I, as I do when reading mystery, tried to make out who was behind it all. I did think of the solution, but kept passing it off as ridiculous.

This is another book that I would recommend to a lot of people--especially when looking at it through the lens of Mather's author note at the end.

Little to no language and no sex.

*I receive no compensation from Amazon.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Pages: 245
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 14+

Katherine's and her brother, George's, lives changed the day an attorney came to their small farm in Virginia. Just a few months later they are in England, the only heirs of a large estate and a title. But just as they are getting settled, George dies. Everyone says it's an accident, but Katherine is certain he was killed. That, with the rumor of a beast on the estate and a strange poacher, Katherine is starting to think there is something very wrong about what she has inherited.

A period piece mystery . . . I think that was exactly what I needed when I started this book. Katherine is young, but confident in herself--even when put into a completely foreign situation. She wasn't going to let anyone change her mind, not when what they are saying doesn't add up.

I did have a little bit of a beef with the romance story. Katherine seemed to too quickly change her affections from one man to another. It was pretty obvious (to me) who she was going to end up with, but in less than 250 pages, there are no less than three men mentioned/she has a moment with. I think that the story could have still had the same elements without one of those moments, instead focusing on her developing feelings and confusion toward the main counterpart.

Very mild language and no sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

More info*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pages: 121
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 8+

Women have been contributing to science since the beginning of time, though it has always been difficult. From Hypatia in Ancient Egypt to astronaut Mae Jemison, this book celebrates and introduces these women to a new generation of scientists.

This book is wonderful! Each scientist gets her own two page spread, with a wonderful illustration of her and her work, along with a quote, interesting trivia, and a page of information about her life and work. The illustrations are colorful and fun and the information just simple enough to be understood but not to seem condescending.

There were a lot of women in this book who grabbed my interest. Some I had heard of before, some I didn't know anything about. I felt empowered by them. The women are from all time periods (that we have history of), different countries, different races, and different disciplines. I loved learning that every single one of these women had someone who believed in them and supported them--whether that was their parents or spouses or mentors. It's really important to know that you aren't doing it all alone.

This is a great book for everyone to read, whether you're a kid or an adult, male or female.

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

Buy here*
Publication date: 2016
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 387
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 17+

Lana's life is split between before and after. After is her trying to become brave after seeing her stepbrother's murder. But things start getting scary once other kids start dying--kids that had done Lana wrong in some way. Could it be some random killer? The homeless man? Or has Ben's ghost returned to enact vengeance?

This is one of those books that I was kind of "meh" about during most of it. My brain did keep coming up with different theories on who the murderer was, and there was one that I really liked--and would have preferred for it to have been that theory when it came to the end.

The book seemed long. I kept thinking that I was getting to the end of it, then I'd look to see how many pages were left and there were still a lot. That doesn't necessarily mean that the entire book was difficult to read or get into. There were a lot of moments in the book that kept me reading, but they were broken up by a lot of internal and psychological stuff with Lana. Some of those stopped the narrative a little too much for me. The characters were interested and complex, though it didn't seem so at the beginning.

It brought up a lot of questions and confusion about what is right and wrong to do and feel and act on.

There was some hard language and sexual contexts.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.