My Top Three Reads of 2014

People like to set goals for themselves during the new year: New Year’s Resolutions. Because of my love for reading, I am proud to say that I completed my reading goal of 50 books last year. With that amount, I finished some amazing series and books. This is my list of Top Three Reads read in 2014.

unmarked1) Unmarked by Kami Garcia

This book is the sequel to another I reviewed a while back, Unbreakable. That book is still my favorite out of all the ones I’ve read. I love the supernatural mystery of it. I was in love with it so much that I had to countdown the days to when this book came out.

**SPOILERS!! Must have read Unbreakable!**

The story begins with Kennedy at her new boarding school, where she was put after the police found and interrogated her that night in the rain. She’s on her own now. The Legion left to work. Their job has just begun, with Andras now free. But Andras has a mission too. He’s looking for Kennedy. She has to reunite with the Legion in order to capture Andras and finally get her mark.

In my opinion, Unbreakable had a better story. There was more action and different spirit encounters, as where in Unmarked it was just Andras. It wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped it would be. The ending wasn’t satisfying, either. I didn’t like it compared to the first one, but I still anticipate the third book in the series.

2) Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

**SPOILERS!! Must have read House of Hades!**

Many of you know, Blood of Olympus came out in the fall, so I got to finish this exciting series, but I was also sad that it finally ended. It starts off with the continuation of the seven demigods’ quest to deliver the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood as a peace offering to stop the war against the Romans and the Greeks. They already have enough to worry about with Gaea, the earth goddess, on her way to the wreak havoc on the world.

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire, the world must fall,
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death”

It’s time to end this intriguing series we all love.

**SPOILERS!! Must have read Blood of Olympus!**

For those who have finished this book, let’s reflect. I didn’t like the fact that Percy and Annabeth barely spoke throughout the whole book. They’re the main characters after all. Also, I wasn’t happy with the end of the book (and not just because of the fact that it ended). Gaea is supposed to be the all mighty, most powerful goddess, so I expected a full on fight with her that would maybe take up an entire chapter or two, not a fight that didn’t even last a chapter. The way she finally died was very simple and didn’t seem to take up much effort from the demigods. Another thing was how the demigods finally ended up. I’m happy for Percy and Annabeth, getting the ending they truly deserve, and Nico, meeting someone who loves him back, and Leo for keeping his promise and finding Calypso. It would’ve been nice to see exactly what happened like an Epilogue to show how they lived. I know the rest is for the readers to imagine, but that’s my opinion. Overall, the book was okay. I’m still upset, though, that one of my favorite series ended.

outsiders3) The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

A couple of my friends have been telling me to read this book forever, and I kept putting it off, but when I finally did get to it, I couldn’t put it down. The story is set in the ’60s about Greasers and Socs. Greasers are considered the “low lives” in the neighborhood. They are kids who are usually not the brightest, form gangs, are poor, and distinguish themselves by styling their hair with grease. The Socs are the white boys who are rich and educated and love to beat up Greasers just for fun. The narrator, Ponyboy, shares the story of his life as a Greaser with his two brothers, Darry and Sodapop. Ponyboy is the youngest of the brothers, only 14, but he has seen more danger and destruction than one should see at his age. And of course, Johnny, Ponyboy’s best friend, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, as people say. All is normal and well enough between the two groups, until one member of a group kills someone of the other side.

This book was very interesting, showing a time when kids jumped others just to get a kick out of it, not even to steal. The book even describes a gang fight including maybe twenty members from each side, just to see who’s the best. I couldn’t believe the ending. It shocked me because it was so surprising I never saw it coming. It’s a great book, and I can see why it was my friends’ favorite.

Have you ever made a New Year’s Resolution involving reading or writing? Have you accomplished them? Are you making one for 2015? I think they’re great ways to keep on track. And as for these three books,  have you read them? If not, are you now interested to?

-Sabrina C., 9th grade

Book Review and Music Pairing: Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

space_case“This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  ~Neil Armstrong

Tick-tock.  Fast forward to the future.  Man is now living on the moon.  The human race has made a huge advance in technology.  At Moon Base Alpha, or MBA, as referred to by the lunarnauts, life is very different from home on Earth.  This may sound like a pretty cool place to live but not until you get the scoop from Dash Gibson.  While being one of the most famous kids on Earth for living on the moon, he is bored out of his mind.

He tells his readers that all of those Sci-Fi movies are wrong.  Have you ever seen anybody go to the bathroom in space?  Nope, they never thought about how hard it is to make a toilet that functions in low gravity.  And the food is never fresh and tastes nasty.  But of course, the moonies, or the lunarnauts, as they are called, are not allowed to talk about the horrible conditions they are enduring, for NASA invested a lot of money on this expedition.  For the children living on the moon, it is worse because they don’t have work to do like their scientist parents.  Kids aren’t allowed on the actual surface of the moon, for safety reasons.  So, there isn’t much to do besides attending school and playing video games.  Basically, Dash feels like a sardine trapped in an empty can.

After reading all of this, I thought of the song Time Keeps on Slipping into the Future  (Fly Like an Eagle) by the Steve Miller Band.  Not only because of the futuristic aspect of the song, but also due to the other lyrics, I thought it fit quite well.  When the ‘fly like an eagle’ refrain is sung, I thought of how the advancements in technology soared in the decade(s) that had passed to the time period of this book.  (It was not specified throughout the course of the novel.)

One night, Dash was out of his sleeping pod and in the bathroom–which was very inconveniently placed at the other side of the base with the work offices rather than the dwellings–when he overheard a very exciting conversation. One of the scientists, Dr. Holtz, seemed to be discussing a new discovery over the phone.  Once Dash was finally back in his bed, he could not sleep, in anticipation of information to be released on Dr. Holtz’s discovery scheduled for later that morning.  But, that did not occur.  Apparently, Dr. Holtz stepped out of the air lock, solo, and died.

This sci-fi story is about Dash’s mission to solve the case of Dr. Holtz’s sudden death.  The circumstances seemed suspicious to him.  In addition, he was eager to uncover Dr. Holtz’s discovery.  His death-defying investigations got him in trouble.  As the adults and kids were fighting, however, I was reminded of the song, Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen.  Of the many parts and styles of this song, the “Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, let me go” snippet struck me, and I made many connections between the song lyrics and the falling action in the book.

I would rate Space Case a 10/10 for its captivating storyline and science fiction aspects.  I consumed this book in a single day!

-Maya S., 7th grade

Book Review: Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

sleep_no_moreHave you ever wished you could have magical powers? What would you desire? The power to see the future? That’s exactly what Charlotte Westing can do. But that is also what gets her into trouble.

In an attempt to change the future when she was six years old, an accident killed her father and permanently injured her mother. She has spent the past ten years fighting every vision that comes to her, pulling an imaginary black curtain over the scene. No one else knows her secret, except for her Aunt Sierra. Charlotte has lived her life covering up this secret, claiming to suffer from sudden migraines. But one day, a vision stronger than ever before greets her, one that she doesn’t have the strength to fight: One of her classmates being murdered. Afraid to tell her aunt, the only other Oracle she knows, Charlotte keeps this to herself.

After the second such vision, she gets a message that someone can help her stop these murders from occurring. Eventually, she gives in and receives help from someone, who makes up his name as Smith.

Also during all of this, her crush since fourth grade, Linden, becomes more interested in her, claiming she helps distract him from the brutality of the murders.

And then, like every good book, everything becomes twisted.

I loved the creativity of this novel, and I found it excruciatingly hard to put down. I could not wait to find out what happens next. The novel has so much going on. It was interesting to learn that this novel was dedicated to the survivors of Newtown and the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.

-Leila S., 9th grade

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

abundance_of_katherinesAn Abundance of Katherines by John Green is phenomenal book that is about a boy who has only dated girls named Katherine. The book starts with a boy named Colin who is introduced to be a child prodigy. He has just had is heart broken by his nineteenth girlfriend named Katherine. Colin is extremely upset, so his friend Hassan convinces him to go on a road trip.

After convincing both of their parents, they go on the road trip. They stop in a town called Gutshot where they are offered summer jobs and a room to live in. The women who offers them these jobs has a daughter named Lindsey. Meanwhile, Colin is set on the fact of finding an equation that will predict the future of any relationship.

Eventually, Colin finds that he is attracted to Lindsey. However, Lindsey already has a boyfriend. Anyone who has read any John Green books in the past would certainly be interested in this book and it is a wonderful book that I would recommend to everyone.

-Melika R., 9th grade


Book Review: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

firefightFinally, the wait has drawn to a close. On January 6, Firefight by Brandon Sanderson, arrived in bookstores for its hungry readers. Having read the advanced copy before the official publication date, I can assure you that this thriller lives up to the high expectations set by the first book, Steelheart.

After the Calamity, ordinary people around the world gained a variety of super powers. Almost immediately, society crumbled. The elite class of people called Epics subjugated and ruled over the ordinary people. After David and the insurgents of ordinary people called the Reckoners killed the ruthless High Epic, Steelheart, they showed the world that no Epic was safe.

Enter the sequel. Having met Firefight, an Epic struggling to turn good, David is no longer sure of the Reckoners’ vow to kill Epics. Seeking clarity, David travels to the city Babylon Restored, where Firefight was rumored to be. While the rest of the team is focused on taking down any enemy in their path, David must overcome his ethical problems and decide who the enemy is for himself.

Firefight emphasizes that there are always good people out there, which is more optimistic than Steelheart. The first book had convinced us that power inevitably leads to corruption, but now we’re thinking twice. One of the biggest revelations was the fact that gaining and using powers changes the mind of an Epic, forcing them to become violent and ruthless and filled with rage. If they truly can’t control themselves, then who is at fault? Is killing Epics an act of mercy for a doomed human? Much of the story involves David struggling to find a sense of purpose in the wake of these questions.

From start to finish, this story is really fun to read. Sanderson’s imagination and detail comprehensively describes the shape of society after Calamity. Many cities and ways of life have been altered by the powers of a single Epic. For example, the streets of Manhattan became canals and waterways when the Epic Regalia raised the sea level. The mysterious wielder of plants, Dawnslight, supplies the city with an abundance of food. Our protagonist David’s storytelling is realistic. He voices every thought that flits across his mind, as if we were really there. All in all, Firefight is yet another thought-provoking book that will keep you hooked. Look for it!

-Phillip X., 9th grade

6 Young Adult Books That Would Make Awesome Movies

1. Every Day by David Levithan follows A, a teenager who wakes up each morning to find himself in the body and sharing the mind of another. A common concept throughout this novel is how love has the capacity to “reach beyond” things such as appearance and gender. I love this book and I feel it is one that should be shared outside of the standard YA reader audience.

let_it_snow_cover2. Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle is a unique literary compilation written by three accomplished YA authors with similar writing styles and a common sense of humor. It tells the overlapping stories of three different pairs/groups of friends who are brought together by fate on Christmas Day. It’s funny, heartfelt, and really capitalizes on the magic and meaning of the holiday season.

3. Legend by Marie Lu would make an awesome dystopian action film due to its fascinating world building and interesting use of two very different narrators in two very different situations.

4. Encouraged by a friend, I read Wings (the first book in the Wings series) by Aprilynne Pike a few summers ago hoping for a quick read. The book hugely exceeded my expectations and I ended up getting the rest of the series the next day. Wings follows Laurel, a seemingly normal teenage girl, as she discovers the truth of her past, her ancestry, and herself. She soon finds herself in a world of faeries, human-like beings that couldn’t be less human. They are, ultimately, plants instead of animals. I think that it would be awesome to be able to see this supernatural world in a more visual way.

will_grayson_cover5. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is an captivating and inspiring story about two very different teenagers with the same name that are brought together by fate. This book contains everything–from humor; to support of the LGBT community; to friendship; to love; to a Tiny Cooper musical. This is a truly amazing book and I believe it would make a great movie.

6. I’m not exactly sure of the status of the film rights for I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You (the first book in the Gallagher Girls Series) by Ally Carter. I have heard that they were purchased and sold and bought and expired. I have seen conflicting information, but last I heard, Tonik Productions had undertaken the project. If this is true, I am excited to see their final project. If it’s not, I am disappointed that they overlooked such an amazing opportunity. This series is a compilation of the journal entries of Cammie Morgan, a student at a clandestine spy-training academy disguised as an pristigious prep school for “exceptional young women”. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so, but don’t judge the series by its first book. 😉

What books do you wish to see on the big screen?

-Danielle K., 9th grade

Favorite Book Characters of 2014

The book characters that I loved from the stories I read in 2014 would have to include James Potter from the new James Potter fanfiction series by G. Norman Lippert. I think that it is the coolest thing to make books about Harry Potter’s kid and his journeys at school. His creative personality helps him discover the secrets of the riddles of the castle and the weird occurrences at his school.

Another character that I thought was cool was from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth; Four (Tobias). He is an incredible spy/agent that works on his own agenda and works to take down a corrupt government with a group of rebels. Four is the ultimate hero and I thought his skills deserved a place on my list.

Also on my list of awesome characters in stories from 2014 is Eragon from the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini. I thought that the concept of the book was so cool because I love science fiction novels, especially ones with such a developed and exciting character like Eragon. He is a really amazing fighter and dragon rider that saves his world from annihilation. Eragon is the definition of a hero and with so many plot twists and surprising turns in the story, he constantly has to adapt to different circumstances.

These characters really impact my life as I try to be more like them in having goals and meeting them with success. My new year’s resolution is to read more books with heroes like these and to become more like them!

-Kyle H., 8th grade

Book Review: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

eye_of_mindsThere is reality and there is virtual reality.  In the real world, life is dull and boring for high schooler, Michael.  Virtual reality, however, is the excitement of life times a million, you can do anything…be anything…and the more rules you break, the more fun it is.  The bad part of this virtual world is that a gamer named Kaine has found a way to trap people in the VirtNet and the authorities know that he has to be stopped.  That’s where Michael comes in.  In order to stop Kaine, Michael and his two best friends that he met inside the VirtNet must go on a wild journey through the internet and hope that they will make it home alive.

James Dashner seems to enjoy killing off his characters in gruesome ways.  In the Maze Runner series, people die from a sickness that kills their brain and in this series people’s minds die in the virtual world but not their bodies.  This completely original novel has bizarre, gory and disturbing twists and turns which kept my attention but made me lose my appetite, literally.

I hesitantly recommend this book to teenagers.  You may want to read the Maze Runner series first so that you will be prepared for his brilliant writing style and gore.  If you’ve already read it, then you understand exactly what I’m talking about.

-Evan G., 6th grade

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

young_elitesThis story is The Young Elites, by author Marie Lu. She is one of my favorite authors ever. I loved her Legend series. So when I saw this book at the store I had to read it.

The Young Elites takes place in a different world during a Renaissance-ish time. A plague ran through this world, called blood-fever. Those who survived this fever are a usually marked with a extremely strange feature. Such as, odd hair color, odd marks on their skin, and other weird scars that were left behind by the fever. These people were called malfettos. Some melfettos though were not only left behind with markings but some were also left with powers. Those who were left with powers were called Young Elites.

The story alternates between the narration of three characters: Adelina, Enzo, and Teren. All are malfettos with powers. The three’s lives collide in this story and create quite the adventure. The book was mostly based around the female character, Adelina. During the story I was actually very confused on who was the “good” guy and who was the “bad” guy. Adelina has the power of illusion. She can create images, emotions, sounds, and pains that seem very real, but it is created from the fear and pain of the others around her. She was abused by her father because she was a malfetto. She often has very gruesome thoughts, such as killing another character in a very violent manner.

Teren is also a malfetto that has powers similar to the wolverine. He heals automatically. He is the head of the Inquistion Axis and it is his job to hunt out Young Elites and malfettos and kill them. Teren believes malfettos are the work of the devil and he and the others should not exist. He does it all for the Queen who he is “in love with.” The Queen uses Teren to carry out tasks for her so that she can be the ultimate ruler. Teren is always very scary when he is brought into a scene.

The last narrator is Enzo. Enzo is the malfetto prince. He is the rightful heir to the throne. But was unable to take the throne because of his sister, the Queen, and Teren. Teren and Enzo used to be close friends. Enzo is able to wield fire. Enzo formed the Dagger Society where they gather Elites  with powers and train them to help Enzo take back the throne. But in the story it hints that Enzo seems to be only using these powerful Elites.  They rescue Elites with useful powers but leaves none powerful Elites and malfettos to Teren’s will.

So this novel was really intriguing but I’m still unsure who the “bad” guy is.  There might not be a protagonist and an antagonist. Adelina seems wicked, Teren does evil things, and Enzo seems greedy. You guys should definitely go check this book out especially if you read Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy and figure out for yourself who the protagonist or antagonist is– or if there is a protagonist or antagonist. I heard there is going to be a second book called The Rose Society which is Adelina’s new group. So if you liked this make sure to look out for it!

-Erika T., 8th grade

Book Review: The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

hitchhikers_guideThe Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is the first, out of five, novels depicting the intergalactic adventure of an Earthling, Arthur Dent, and an extraterrestrial, Ford Perfect (his name on Earth).

In the beginning of the story, Arthur Dent is lying in the mud in front of his house to protect it from the contractors who want to destroy it so a bypass could be built there. A little while later, Ford Perfect comes and convinces Arthur to go to a pub with him. At the pub, Arthur thinks that Ford is crazy because he warns that the Earth is going to be destroyed by the alien race, Vogons. Turning out to be true, they manage to get on the Vogon’s ship.

Aboard the ship, Arthur and Ford are discovered and, as a punishment, are mandated to listen to the Vogon’s poetry, the third worst in the Galaxy. Then they are placed into an airlock where would be released into space. The President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, who is aboard the ship called Heart of Gold, rescues them. Zaphod is a cousin of Ford; a miserable robot named Marvin and a woman named Trillian also join them. Follow Arthur and Ford through their interplanetary journey by reading The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

Picking up this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the story. But I am glad I choose it. Despite its intimidating size, I read it and I thought that it was an awesome science-fiction story. At certain points in the book, the author goes off describing a new Alien race or new planet, but it eventually connects back to the story. If you enjoy the first novella, then I suggest reading the rest of the novels.

-Anmol K., 8th grade