All Fall Down by Ally Carter

allfalldown_allycarterThe mystery novel, All Fall Down by Ally Carter, tells the story of sixteen-year-old Grace Blakely. Unfortunately, Grace’s mother died three years ago in an disastrous accident when her antique shop caught on fire. Grace was with her mother that night and she believes that a man with a scar shot her mother. Nobody wants to believe Grace, which makes Grace even more determined to find him.

Grace doesn’t see much of her older brother or father because they both are in the military and move around a lot. Before her mother’s death, Grace would spend her summers with her grandfather. Her grandfather is the American ambassador and he lives in Adria with other ambassadors from all over the world in Embassy Row.

Back at Embassy Row, Grace is haunted by the recurring nightmare of her Mother being murdered. Her grandfather and her brother’s friend, Alexei, try to convince her, but she refuses to believe them. Haunted and determined, she befriends Noah, Megan and Rosie, who are all children of ambassadors, in hopes to track down the man with the scar. Join Grace to see what actually happened that night.

Although Grace was emotionally troubled, she was a great character. Liking her determination and refusal to believe other people that her mother died in a fire, I also I found the concept of the different embassies very intriguing. The idea of having characters from all over the world made it very interesting. Personally, I would recommend it to anybody who is a fan of a good mystery novel. With a cliff-hanger ending, I am sure to read the sequel coming next year!

-Anmol K.

All Fall Down is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.

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

Book Review: United We Spy, by Ally Carter

united_we_spy_coverThis long-anticipated conclusion of the Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter is both suspenseful and captivating, and I guarantee that it will undoubtedly live up to readers’ expectations.

Cammie Morgan returns to the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women with a newly fueled appreciation for life and a devastating fear of the future. Cammie, Bex, Liz, Macy, Zach and Preston– yes, he’s back– now know why the Circle of Cavan has been hunting them. Together, they must work to locate the Inner Circle before someone else does and succumb to their varying futures, for they cannot prolong them any further. Even Cammie the Chameleon, who is a prodigy in the art of deception and infamous for her talent of concealing herself in plain sight, cannot hide from the future.

I felt United We Spy was a stunning and heart-felt resolution to the saga. After Cammie’s crazily hectic and horridly torturous year, she is simply ecstatic to be breathing, conscious, and with her memory intact. I found myself favoring the new post-torture Cammie over the old carefree teenager she used to be; this was due to her newfound understanding of the enigmatical complexity of life and death. I believe that, even though Cammie had been in life-threatening situations previously, she had never thoroughly experienced just how dangerous the art of espionage had a potential to be before the whole memory-loss ordeal in Out of Sight, Out of Time. I felt that her acknowledgement of the risks of her aspiring vocation and her decided disregard of them is what considerably developed her character throughout the entire series.

After all,

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

-Albus Dumbledore

I was reminded of this quote when recounting my likeness for Cammie’s character development.

Although this book is not as exceptionally written as I think it could have been with such an incredible plot, readers must remind themselves that the story is supposedly written by Cammie, a teenage spy, not a prodigious author. Whether Ally Carter did this consciously or not I do not know, but I have learned to appreciate it all the same. I will additionally – and surprisingly – be able to earn Reading Counts points on United We Spy for English 8: Honors, as it has been given a higher Lexile and reading level than I would have assumed.

I recommend this series/book to girls who either 1) enjoy action packed tales of espionage, 2) like the Delirium Trilogy and/or Divergent Series, or 3) have read Ally Carter’s Heist Society books. Although this book did not make my list of favorites, I still considered it a quick, must-read (as I started and finished the book within an hour and a half). And for those of you who liked the first Gallagher Girls books, I promise you won’t be disappointed, for this book definitely did the series justice, and far exceeded my expectations.

-Danielle K., 8th grade

Top 5 Fictional Schools I’d Like to Attend


image copyright Warner Bros.

1. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry from the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
After living in the wizarding world for the duration of the saga, who didn’t deny their muggle roots, and delude themselves into believing they possessed the ability to spell-cast? What if you could live in Harry’s world, where you would receive your attendance letter when you turn eleven and get shipped off on the Hogwarts Express for your first year (unless you’re a Squib, of course ) in September? My friends and I still reassure ourselves that our letters obviously got lost via owl post, and Dumbledore will make an exception when he discovers his tragic mistake… and we’re going on fourteen.
See also: Beauxbatons Academy of Magic or Dumstrang Institute of Sorcery

2. Camp Half-Blood from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan
Don’t want to be a wizard? How about the child of a Greek god? Your friends would be your family (literally, for all the gods have some relation to one another; therefore, their children do as well). You’d have the opportunity to venture into the mortal world and perform dangerous tasks for the gods (which you would hopefully succeed). Plus, who wouldn’t want to be a demigod? I definitely would.
See also: Camp Jupiter from the Heroes of Olympus series (for those with Roman deity heritage)

gallagher_girls13. The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women from the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
The girls who attend this school have reputations of rich, genius heiresses, but they’re really clandestine agents-in-training for the CIA, under cover. I would absolutely love to be trained in the art of espionage, and going to a school that specializes in just that? Now that would be awesome. 
See also: Blackthorne Institute for Troubled Young Men (I thought it was even cooler than the girls’ spy school! For those of you who have read the books, you know who the boys really are. Those of you who haven’t– read the books; you’ll find out.)

4. The Princess Academy from Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Every girl (okay, most girls…) wanted to be a princess at one point in time, whether you idolized Snow White, or someone a bit more like Mulan. At the Princess Academy, competition and challenges prevail in order to discover the best fit for the throne; whether its testing your poise and composure in times of danger or your tolerance when it comes to the immature practical jokes of your classmates, the Princess Academy separates the arrogant from the strong, and the smart from the intelligent.

alphas_cover5. The Alpha Academy from the Alphas series by Lisi Harrison
The Alpha Academy is a school for the next generation of powerful, influential woman (sorry, boys!), “without any distractions from the mediocre world.” The girls are forced to compete — after all, there can only be one Alpha — for worldwide fame, fortune, and guaranteed success in life. The series was… okay… (not exactly my cup of tea) but being the fairly competitive person I am, I absolutely fell in love with the idea of a school where it is a part of your everyday life; a place where females are dominant, manipulation of your peers is seen as resourceful on your fight to the top, and smarts are valued, and never overlooked.

What Hogwarts house would you be in: Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, or Slytherin???

Who would be your godly parent??

What fictional school would you like to attend? 

Share in the comments!

-Danielle K., 8th grade

Book Review: The Gallagher Girls Series, by Ally Carter

gallagher_girls1This addicting, action-packed series follows Cameron “Cammie” Ann Morgan, a sophomore at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. The Gallagher Academy’s reputation is primly negative, and the neighboring inhabitants of Roseville, Virginia view it as a school for “rich, snotty heiresses.” However, the students are actually spies-in-training, the next generation of agents who hope to be employed by the CIA post high school graduation.

Book One: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You
While on a mission for her Covert Operations class, Cammie meets Josh Abrams, a normal, typical boy, who sees her, despite her rank of being a great ‘pavement artist’ and her distinctive aim to stay in the shadows. Cammie is known as the “Chameleon,” because she is average- not too tall, not too short, not too chubby, not too thin, not too anything- so she is able to blend in among a crowd of people, and specializes in tailing her subjects while under cover. With the help of her best friends, Liz Sutton and Bex Baxter, and her roommate, Macey McHenry, along with some brilliant heists and ingenious exaggerations of the truth, Cammie is able to develop a steady relationship with Josh, and sneaks out– using the school’s newfound secret passageways that only she knows about (being the headmistress’s daughter and all)– to see him on a regular basis throughout the school year. She revels in his normalcy and takes comfort in his regular teen dilemmas; I believe this is a big part of why she likes him: when she is with him, she is able to become someone she’s not, and abandon the careful, restless side of her that has been trained to constantly watch her back. However, things soon get complicated, as Cammie is forced to lie endlessly (and flawlessly) to keep her cover as a rich schoolgirl, and she soon learns that normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Book Two: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

After the whole Josh-inspired mishap, Cammie returns to Gallagher Academy for her junior year of high school, only to find that the East Wing is strictly off-limits. During CoveOps the next day, the class is blindfolded and transported to the National Mall, where they are told to blend in and instructed to meet at the ruby slippers exhibit by a given time, practicing counter-surveillance. Only one girl in the class succeeds in doing this; Cammie fails when she is followed by Zach, whom she believed to be an innocently ignorant teenage boy, follows her from the elevator. Later, Cammie’s mom, Headmistress Morgan, announces that fifteen boys- Zach being one of them- from Blackthorne Institute for Troubled Young Men (Cammie concludes this is a cover, and they are also spies in disguise) will be staying at the Gallagher Academy for an unknown duration of time, in a sort of “one-way exchange program.” Cammie and her roommates view the boys as suspicious targets and decide to investigate, but the carefully-placed listening devices in their bedrooms, and the trackers in their shoes don’t prove useful. Zach always seems to constantly hang around Cammie, who doesn’t know whether to consider him infuriating or endearing, and ends up settling with annoying. When he asks her on a study date, she almost says no, but then uses it as an excuse to get information from him about his school, and his past. When the Gallagher Academy’s cover almost gets blown, and is in danger of being released, the girls- and the boys!- must work to make sure that their identities stay secret, no matter what the cost.

Book Three: Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover

When Macey invites Cammie to stay with her in Boston over summer break, Cammie accepts, and looks forward to watching Macey’s father accept his nomination for Vice President of the United States. But Cammie and Macey lead dangerous and twisted lives, and they soon find themselves victims of an attempted kidnapping. But luckily their in-depth training and fantastic espionage skills kick in, and they manage to escape along with Preston, the son of the soon-to-be President of the U.S. As their junior year begins, Cammie has a hard time focusing on her studies, and Gallagher Academy doesn’t feel like the safe sanctuary she once believed it to be. In addition, Zach is starting to make a habit of showing up at dangerous points in Cammie’s life. Coincidence? Or is he a piece of the puzzle? Cammie (Codename: Chameleon), Macey (Peacock), Bex (Duchess), and Liz (Bookworm) must dig up their field devices once again and harness their talents of espionage in order to discover who is out to get Macey and why, in this extraordinary novel of friendship, romance, and family. Continue reading

Top 10 Books To Read After Harry Potter

Whenever a review refers to a book series as “the next Harry Potter,” I start reading with impossibly high expectations. While these books aren’t as enchanting or inspirational as Rowling’s phenomenon, they are unforgettable just the same.

divergent_cover1. The Divergent trilogy, by Veronica Roth… because readers can relate to the main character’s conflicts, such as deciding between what your family wants and what’s best for you, and discovering the difference between bravery and stupidity.

2. The Twilight saga, by Stephenie Meyer… because of the memorable characters and unexpected plot twists.

3. The Delirium trilogy, by Lauren Oliver… because of its universal themes and unique characters, making for an unforgettable dystopian read.

4. The Gallagher Girls series, by Ally Carter… because the author was able to amalgamate teenage girls into a world of spies, romance, danger, and sacrifice.

stormbreaker_cover5. The Alex Rider saga, by Anthony Horowitz… because of its complex setting and captivating characters.

6. The Maze Runner trilogy, by James Dashner… because the author exhibits adventure and suspense in this narrative about values, curiosity, and life’s true meaning.

7. The Hush, Hush saga, by Becca Fitzpatrick… because of how readers are able to relate to the characters and their personal incentives.

matched_cover8. The Matched trilogy, by Allie Condie… because of how it is similar to The Giver. It takes place in a futuristic dystopian society, while telling a story of love, courage, and individuality.

9. The Percy Jackson series & the Heroes of Olympus series, by Rick Riordan… because the author takes Greek mythology and adds modern, unforgettable characters.

10. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins… because it teaches readers about life, loss, love, and bravery through the eyes of the strong, female heroine, Katniss Everdeen.

-Danielle K., 7th grade