Thursday, June 30, 2016

REVIEW: Chemistry (Inquire & Investigate) by Carla Mooney

*Thank you to Nomad Press for a review copy on behalf of ROYAL and the SWON Libraries*

Let me tell you a story...

Once upon a time, I manager to survive two full years of AP Chemistry.  This remains one of the most challenging times in my academic career.  Somehow I passed but that was due in part to my best friend and lab partner, a patient and dedicated teacher and my own 'never give up' attitude to persevere even what I hardly knew what to do next.

That being said, I wish I'd had an available text like Chemistry: Investigate the Matter that Makes Up Your World. The text is colorful, engaging and concise while appealing to multiple types of learners through visuals, text and additional activities.  
This is basically for beginners with chapters including:
  1. Atoms, Elements, and the Periodic Table
  2. States of Matter
  3. Changing States of Matter
  4. Compounds, Mixtures and Solutions
  5. Chemical Reactions
  6. Acids and Bases
  7. The Nucleus and Radioactivity
  8. Other Branches of Chemistry
Recommended for purchase in public and school libraries for grades 6-9. This text would also be a stellar classroom resource for many teachers.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars



#chemistry #science #nonfiction #middleschool #ROYAL #learning 

Monday, June 27, 2016

REVIEW: The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire by Dan Howell & Phil Lester

*Thank you to Random House for a review copy on behalf of ROYAL and the SWON Libraries.*


With more than 11 million followers, YouTube stars Dan Howell and Phil Lester present an interactive and multi-genre peak into their quirky lives and how they achieved Internet star status with their unique and weird take on life. The book portrays an interactive narrative that is funny, offers some sound advice.

Recommended for fans and other reader wanting quirky, visually interesting nonfiction. Overall appeal and popularity is modest; therefore, this should be an optional purchase for a public or school library--ages 12 and up.

As a reviewer, my age is showing. Honestly, I have no idea who these two guys are. That being said, the book will appeal to readers who recognize these two from their online adventures or if the cover catches their eye. The format and visage make even browsing an experience, especially use of multi-genre visuals (i.e. collage, drawings) and other engaging forms of expression. They certainly must be trending since I just saw a right up in Entertainment Weekly

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Follow Dan and Phil: @danisnotonfire  @AmazingPhil



#TABINOF #nonfiction #YAlit #teen #humor #YouTube #review





Sunday, June 26, 2016

REVIEW: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

The first in Clare's new Dark Artifices series centering around character first introduced in The City of Heavenly Fire.  Orphaned at the age of twelve by Sebastian Morgenstern, Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn are parabatai, fighting partners, confidants and best friends. Parabatai can be everything to each other--but they can never fall in love.  At 17, their feelings for each other are changing and the true question remains whether passion and love can outweigh the law of the Clave.

Both have had to grow up too fast. In the absence of his parents and older siblings, Julian has had to raise his younger siblings as well as secretly run the Institute on behalf of his mentally incapable uncle.  Haunted by her parent's gruesome murder and convinced that Sebastian Morgenstern wasn't involved, Emma is determined to discover the truth. 

When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents , an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks while keeping their investigation secret and staying alive.

Each clue reveals some surprising secrets and betrayals, especially Julian's hidden feelings, more into the Clave's history of cruelty and why it is forbidden for parabatai to fall in love. These answers are just as eye-opening as they are heartbreaking.

I am hooked on these new characters and their dynamic within the Shadowhunter world. Emma is intelligent and fierce. Julian is dreamy, determined and optimistic. I love their relationship. It is heartfelt but also sexy and passionate; however, the angst and bittersweet status of their declaration will leave readers hoping for resolve but understanding that things will only get much worse before they get better.

Fans of the Shadowhunter world will be glad to see some familiar faces in cameo appearances.  Overall, it is a fun, exciting and engaging read, if a bit long. The audiobook narrated by Morena Baccarin was very well done. Great cliffhanger!!

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @cassieclare


#ladymidnight #darkartifices #Shadowhunters #YAlit #romance #angels #demons #teen #audiobook

REVIEW: Paper & Fire by Rachel Caine

*Thank you, Netgalley, for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*

Expected publication: July 5, 2016

Jess Brightwell and his allies are back in this second installment to Caine's Great Library series.  Paper and Fire jumps right back into the action. The Great Library continues its stranglehold on knowledge throughout the world as it stamps out any notion of rebellion. Serving in the army is nothing like Jess expected as he and his friends are still reeling from the violence and loss surrounding events at the end of Ink and Bone. He believes he's lost his best friend, Thomas, forever and the girl he loves, Morgan, is locked away in the Obscurist's Iron Tower.

After learning some surprising information, Jess and the others embark on a dangerous mission to save one of their own, secretly plotting to thwart the Library in an action packed narrative spanning not only Alexandria but Rome and even London. Dodging automata creatures and betrayal at every turn, Jess and his friends soon learn that even the places they've once called home aren't safe and that the Library is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to retain its unrelenting power.

What I continue to love about this series is the extended discussion of the power of knowledge and the effect on the world concerning what happens when that power is corrupt. There is this broader exploration of Intellectual Freedom and what can happen in a world where thought and creativity is stunted.  I won't give a lot away but one moment of significance is the discovery and outcome surrounding the Black Archives and the parallel  with our world's fate of the Library of Alexandria.

Overall, great pacing and characterization with plenty of action, a dash of romantic angst, some humor and surprising twists.

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @rachelcaine




#PaperandFire #TheGreatLibrary #netgalley #InkandBone #YAlit #IntellectualFreedom #teen #adventure #alternatehistory #intrigue #adventure #review

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

REVIEW: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The Last Star is the final book in Yancey's 5th Wave trilogy. Here's what readers know so far:

  • The end of world came in waves as Others (let's call them aliens to simplify) sought to paralyze life on Earth.
    • 1st wave - lights out (EMPs to knock out machinery and electricity)
    • 2nd wave - surf's up - huge tidal waves knockout coastal cities
    • 3rd wave - Pestilence - eliminate the bulk of the population through illness
    • 4th wave - Silencers - the Others appear on Earth and plan to wipe out the remaining human population. Important lesson: not all 'humans' are human.
    • 5th wave - The Fifth wave is where the Others plan to bomb every city on Earth via the mothership.
  • Teenage Cassie Sullivan, Other with a Conscience, Evan Walker, and Squad 53 leader, Ben 'Zombie' Parish plus others including Cassie's little brother, Sam, and snarky and now Other enhanced Ringer have gone AWOL and are the only ones to know the End Game of the 5th wave.
This crew has to work together to thwart the Others and quite literally save the world and the human race. The primary theme is that of humanity and what traits make us human. Emotions run high and there is significant drama about making sacrifices and so on. 

Honestly, this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016. I adored The 5th Wave and its sequel, The Infinite Sea. But the magic was snuffed out and I found myself underwhelmed and more than a little confused by how all this culminated to a conclusion.  I pretty much hated all the characters with the exception of Evan who was by far the most human but wasn't entirely human at all. The ending is downright depressing and left me feeling pretty blah.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars



#laststar #5thwave #YAlit #teen #scifi #book #letdown

Sunday, June 12, 2016

REVIEW: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” 
What a heartfelt and inspirational read!  Malala is a young Muslim woman from Pakistan who has spent her short life advocating for education.  She was targeted by the Taliban in 2012 where she was shot in the head.  Malala recovered and has continued her outspoken campaign throughout the world including being a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. That's pretty outstanding considering she's still only 18 years old.

Malala is a remarkable human being with a positive message that we should all admire.  It sickens me that there are those in the world that would try to intimidate and act to silence such a young woman who only strives to do good. I wholeheartedly recommend this to readers (teens and adult) who want to be inspired and discover that it is possible to make a difference through the power of knowledge and education.

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” 

If I had one criticism is that there are aspect of the book that make this a big info-heavy and for a reader who isn't familiar who the culture or area of the world or history, there is a lot to take in. Secondly, I would have enjoyed the audiobook more if the narrator had sounded a bit more like a young girl.

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars



#iammalala #malalayousafzai #education #memoir #books #nonfiction

REVIEW: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan is back with another highly entertaining addition to the demigod world of Percy Jackson and Camp Half-Blood!

Rather unhappy with Apollo's action during Gaia's uprising, Zeus punishes his son by banishing him to Earth.  This has happened before, with Apollo eventually winning his father's good graces once again; however, Apollo has never been powerless or stuck in a 15-year-old, pudgy, acne ridden body.  With the help of some familiar and new faces, he makes it to Camp Half-Blood only to learn that demigods are going missing and there is a dangerous new enemy afoot.

Despite the fact that plenty of gods, monsters, and mortals have it out for Apollo, he has to focus his energies on saving the day (and of course, himself!).

Riordan doesn't disappoint with another fast paced and equally hilarious entry into the mythology laden world first introduce in The Lightning Thief. The true gem is Apollo's attitude, which departs so much from the demigods reader's have grown to love since 2005. Apollo is so used to being the handsome, athletic and talented golden god of medicine, music and so much else that it is quite amusing as he discovers that he really is none of those things for the time being.

Other great features are the chapter titles in haiku and the supporting cast of characters. I can't wait for another installment!

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @camphalfblood



#hiddenoracle #trialsofapollo #rickriordan #greekmythology #humor YAlit #teen #audiobook

REVIEW: Calamity (Reckoners #3) by Brandon Sanderson

Thank you to Delacorte Press for a copy in exchange for a fair review on behalf of my ROYAL membership through the SWON Libraries.


Calamity is the conclusion to Sanderson's Reckoner series. Much of David's life has led to this since that fateful moment Calamity appeared in the sky, granting certain people incredible powers. However, this moment doomed David's life as Steelheart murdered his father and set him on a profound journey to eliminate Epics as part of the Reckoners.  It has been a bumpy ride full of loss and love and with this final chapter, the group still has more good to do.

David and the others continue with their plan to save Prof (or kill him if they have to) and ultimately destroy Calamity. First they need some new allies and some cool tricks before they head in search of Prof. Overall, the action sequence are great as are the engaging characters.  There's good banter and general plot pacing.

However, I finished the book feeling underwhelmed and disappointed.

Why?

Well, for one, 85% of the book was about fighting Prof, which I liked, but if the novel is titled Calamity, I want to ending of that plot resolution to to feel rushed, which I believe it was.  There wasn't adequate explanation of all the big reveals and surprises introduced for the narrative and its characters.  As much as I adored Steelheart, this was a huge let down. As I reader, I was left with far too many unanswered questions and without a sense of satisfaction.  How is Prof going to deal with what he did? So, Calamity is gone, now what? What's up with Firefight? Where's Oblivion? What's going to happen now?

I do hope that Sanderson revisits this world to provide readers with more of these answers.

Final rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Follow the author on Twitter: @BrandSanderson



#calamity #reckoners #YAlit #teen #books #superhero #villain #fantasy