Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Realistic (ish) Fiction
Publishing Date: January 27th 2015 by Scholastic Press

Summary: In all the ways that matter, Mark is a normal kid. He's got a dog named Beau and a best friend, Jessie. He likes to take photos and write haiku poems in his notebook. He dreams of climbing a mountain one day.

But in one important way, Mark is not like other kids at all. Mark is sick. The kind of sick that means hospitals. And treatments. The kind of sick some people never get better from.

So Mark runs away. He leaves home with his camera, his notebook, his dog, and a plan to reach the top of Mount Rainier--even if it's the last thing he ever does.

The Honest Truth is a rare and extraordinary novel about big questions, small moments, and the incredible journey of the human spirit.

What I Liked: Like the last book I just recently covered, Full of Beans, even though it was definitely unintentional, for some reason the book had a sort of nostalgia feel. Like the book really wasn't trying to get any where, it was just trying to tell a story, which it did very well, but it did so as if it were your grandparents telling it to you. Of course, (shocker), I've never actually had my grandparents tell me a story, but the story was told in a way in which I think a grandparent would tell it. Sort of laid back, mood not that intense just sort of bleh, and at the end of the story you feel satisfied...but that's it It was a very revealing, capturing, all of those good adjective-type-of-story and I really felt moved. This seriously was a good book, although again, you actual middle-graders may not like it because again, it is bleh.

What I Didn't Like: For the same reasons I liked it, I didn't like that it was a sort of bleh retelling. Not that it was bad, just different, however, I was craving some sort of insane action scene where he's trying to fight up the mountain and he won't give up. While I can't spoil it, all I will say is that it wasn't what I expected (not saying it's the exact opposite, but just not 100 percent my prediction). Again, those parents will love nostalgia, because it brings you back to the old days of books and storytelling. Too bad I'm not a parent; I mean, would it have hurt to break the whole down-to-Earth feel and throw in a James Bond scene or something once in a while (probably, now that I think about it, but of course, you get my point)

Rating: 9.2 out of ten

Why? In my eyes, it's sort of like Full of Beans but at Mount Rainier, not bad, just different.
The Honest Truth

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publishing Date: August 30th, 2016 by Random House Books

Summary:  Goodreads ~ Newbery Honor Book Turtle in Paradise is beloved by readers, and now they can return to this wonderful world through the eyes of Turtle’s cousin Beans.

Grown-ups lie. That’s one truth Beans knows for sure. He and his gang know how to spot a whopper a mile away, because they are the savviest bunch of barefoot conchs (that means “locals”) in all of Key West. Not that Beans really minds; it’s 1934, the middle of the Great Depression. With no jobs on the island, and no money anywhere, who can really blame the grown-ups for telling a few tales? Besides, Beans isn’t anyone’s fool. In fact, he has plans. Big plans. And the consequences might surprise even Beans himself.


“As a storyteller, Holm is superb.”— School Library Journal

“Holm impressively wraps pathos with comedy.”— Booklist

“Anyone interested in learning to write crowd-pleasing historical fiction for elementary school readers would be wise to study Holm’s work.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Sweet, funny and superb.”— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

What I Liked: See, this is one of those books that "adults" like. I don't really mean that with any disrespect, just that, it isn't a book filled with too much superhero-action or anything like that. However, that doesn't mean the book was bland. It's sort of hard to explain why I liked this book. If anything it was holistically (overall). A good comparison, in my opinion, is that this book is sort of like To Kill a Mockingbird. Pretty bold statement I know, but not only was the setting and time accurate but just how everything played out. I'm really referring to only part 1 of To Kill a Mockingbird however, so if you know how that goes, you have an idea of the style of action, sort of mild but still interesting.

What I Didn't Like: Alright, I'm going to be honest, I'm going to "roast" To Kill a Mockingbird for a second (see even book bloggers can use slang too. It's not weird...I hope). To Kill a Mockingbird sort of lost me, and for my teenage mind that needed some mental stimulus from an action scene, I was, at times bored. Same with this book. I felt like at times it was, well, yawn-worthy. I didn't feel like it kept me going through the whole book. But who knows, maybe different age groups react differently to this book.

Rating: 8.6 out of ten,

Full of Beans

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Kid Owner by Tim Green

Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Sports Fiction/ Mystery
Publishing Date: September 29th, 2015 by HarperCollins

Summary: From New York Times bestselling author and former NFL player Tim Green comes a riveting new stand-alone football novel.

When Ryan's estranged father unexpectedly dies, Ryan learns that he has inherited the Dallas Cowboys. With his new role as owner of this NFL team, Ryan has high hopes that he can be more than just a middle-school misfit. Maybe he can even get off the bench and into the starting lineup of his own football team.

With the help of his friends Jackson and Izzy, Ryan takes advantage of his newfound stardom. He convinces his coach to use a tricky passing offense that plays to Ryan's strengths.

But just when things are looking up, Ryan's nasty stepmother makes a legal play to make her own son the Cowboys' kid owner. With drama heating up both on and off the field, Ryan quickly realizes he may lose much more than just the Dallas Cowboys.

What I Liked: The book was well indeed very interesting. As a somewhat Cowboys fan, I have to admit I did like how much time and effort was put into the book to, for example, get some of the exact school names as the book takes place in the North Texas area. One main thing I loved is that it isn't a cliched ending, but you are still happy with the result. Of course, I don't want to spoil it, but I really liked it, because again, there was a twist, but I still ended up liking it.

What I Didn't Like: If there was something for me to nitpick about this book, it's the fact that there are two conflicts. It's not that they didn't work; Tim Green uses two conflicts in its books all the time, so I was use to it, but it was sort of like he tried to blend them but they didn't really fit. It's not as bad as you think, but the book almost got confusing at times. Throw in the drama between Ryan and Izzy as well as the friendship struggles between Ryan and Jackson, and at times it was just like you had to actually concentrate instead of just let loose and read.

Final Thoughts: 9.2 out of ten.

Why? Really good book, bonus points for sticking to North Texas, but not my favorite Tim Green book. 

Kid Owner

Also, if you made it this far, thanks to being a big enough fan to not click away. As you've guys have noticed, I tend to not post twice or even once a week anymore. It's because we're currently hitting standardized testing week and finals are just around the corner. Hang with me if I don't post as often, it'll come back in the summer.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Middle School: Escape to Australia

Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Comedy
Publishing Date: March 6th, 2017 by Jimmy Patterson

Summary: Goodreads~ In the newest installment of James Patterson's bestselling Middle School series, everyone's favorite underdog hero Rafe Khatchadorian is headed to the dangerous wilds of Australia! 

Rafe isn't exactly considered a winner in Hills Village Middle School to say the least, but everything's about to change: he's won a school-wide art competition, and the fabulous prize is getting to jet-set off to Australia for a whirlwind adventure! But Rafe soon finds that living in the Land Down Under is harder than he could've ever imagined--his host-siblings are anything but welcoming, the burning temperatures are torturous, and poisonous critters are ready to sting or eat him at every step. So with the help of some new misfit friends, Rafe sets out to show everyone what he does best: create utter mayhem! 

What I Liked: Out of all the amazing things about this book, one of my favorite parts was when Rafe stumbled upon this random group of kids that were just his cup of tea. The way it was portrayed, I really enjoyed the adventures that they went through, and even though it only lasted for a couple days (if that), it seemed like they made a lifetime's worth of memories (kind of cheesy, but you get the point). For example, Rafe and these kids made bonding time over creating chaos at an art showing. I mean how much better can you get? I really liked the newfound friendship in this novel.

What I Didn't Like: If I had to say something about what I didn't like, I found myself flipping through the parts where his host-siblings play pranks on him. I mean, it's okay if they mess with Rafe once or twice, but I will warn you, James Patterson (and company), really works and stretches to whole host-siblings-mess-with-Rafe idea, and it got kind of annoying to me.

Rating: 9 out of ten.

Why? Sadly, not my favorite book in this series, mostly because of the tedious flipping.]

Middle School: Escape to Australia (Middle School, #9)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Million Dollar Kick by Dan Gutman

Age Group: Middle Grade
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Publishing Date: September 15th, 2006 by Disney Hyperion

Summary:  Goodreads ~ Whisper Nelson hates sports--all sports--with a passion! So when by a fluke she wins a chance to kick a goal past a professional soccer star for a million-dollar prize, she is torn. Should she try it and risk humiliation, or just forget the whole thing and save what dignity she has left? But the Million Dollar Kick might be Whisper's big chance not only to win a million dollars, but to regain confidence in herself.

What I Liked: First off, what I liked about this book is that Dan Gutman managed to pack all the good stuff for a middle grade novel into around a hundred pages. So I think that even for those who don't like to read at all, not only is it a good book, it's also a good book that will take around thirty minutes to an hour to complete. To elaborate on the "good stuff", I do like the whole build up to the kick. It was really cool to see this sport-hating girl not only get her confidence, but find a love for the game of soccer as well.

What I Didn't Like: Other than "I want more!", I'd have to say this was another classic cliched plot. Now in the words of Stuart Gibbs "There's always going to be a defined structure to a book" (or something like that), I agree, there will always be an expository, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. But I'm not talking about that. I'm referencing to the classic "kid gets lucky and then something happens which makes him unlucky but then he perseveres and is lucky again" I don't know if I'm the only one who sees a lot of books like this (or for the matter understood what the quotes even meant), but even though I am, I still found this book's actions pretty similar to other books, which made me a little bored.

Rating 8.2 out of ten.

Why? It's a great book, but you can't be the best book in only a hundred pages.

The Million Dollar Kick (The Million Dollar Series, #2)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Every Day on Earth by Steve Murrie, Matthew Murrie and Tom Bloom

Age Group: All Ages
Genre: Non Fiction
Publishing Date: August 1st 2011 by Scholastic Paperbacks

Summary: Goodreads ~ "Discover all of the amazing things that can happen around the world in just one day!

You already know all of the amazing things that can happen in just one minute on Earth, so think what could happen in a whole day! Your taste bud cells are replaced at a rate of 50,000 a day, almost 40,000 trees are cut down every day just to make paper bags, and a mayfly lives its entire life in a single day. This book is full of fun facts about space technology, pop culture, food, animals, sports, the human body, and more!"

What I Liked: I think I'd like to compare this book to the fabulous almanac/encyclopedia that National Geographic sent me a month or two ago. This is a book I recently picked up because the title intrigued me and honestly I'm into these sort of weird fact books. And it delivered. It has just a little bit of everything from practically every genre, so if you want to be a scientist or an athlete, movie star or you just like food, this book is for you. I especially loved reading this book when I had an hour or two to kill later Saturday afternoon. It just fascinated me, and funnily enough, I used one of the biology facts in my class and impressed my teacher. Weird, but cool.

What I Don't Like: The problem with having every single genre is that while it is sure to contain something that you like, there is always something that you don't like, which can be tedious. Naturally, I found myself bypassing all of the stuff I found uninteresting in order to get to the good stuff. Then again, in all almanac books, there's always gonna be sections that you won't want to read and just skip. Nothing wrong with it, but I'd like to point out that you probably aren't going to end up reading the whole book cover to cover. Just like to mention that.

Rating: 9 out of ten.

Why? Pretty solid book not going to lie, but it isn't your NY Bestseller action going to be turned into a movie.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Guest Review! Violet from Reading Violet Brings Impyrium by Henry H. Neff

So we have a different sort of post here. Recently, I have collaborated with Violet from Reading Violet, a blog which has some sweet book stuff like the one right here, and we are guest posting. Today is her opinion on Impyrium, and on Sunday, check out her blog for my review on Spy School. Enjoy!

Hello, everybody!  Today I’m so excited to be reviewing Impyrium by Henry H. Neff on JustinTalksBooks. 

Title: Impyrium
Series: No clue, but the second book comes out soon!
Author: Henry H. Neff
Age group: 8 - 12
Page count: 592 pages

Summary from Amazon:
    In the first book of Henry H. Neff’s new high-stakes middle grade fantasy series, two unlikely allies confront a conspiracy that will shake the world of Impyrium to its core.
    For over three thousand years, the Faeregine dynasty has ruled Impyrium. But the family’s magic has been fading, and with it their power over the empire. Whether it’s treachery from a rival house, the demon Lirlanders, or rebel forces, many believe the Faeregines are ripe to fall.
Hazel, the youngest member of the royal family, is happy to leave ruling to her sisters so that she can study her magic. But the empress has other plans for her granddaughter, dark and dangerous plans to exploit Hazel’s talents and rekindle the Faeregine mystique. Hob, a commoner from the remote provinces, has been sent to the city to serve the Faeregines—and to spy on them.
One wants to protect the dynasty. The other wants to destroy it. But when Hazel and Hob form an improbable friendship, their bond may save the realm as they know it…or end it for good.
    First, I’d like us to look at the cover.  The cover amazingly captured the intrigue, suspense and mystery of the book.  The creepy jester-looking shadow gave me an ominous feeling, and the vault door opening made me wonder what could be inside.  It also blatantly shows things connected to the book, similar to how clues are hidden in plain sight.  It reflects the mood of Impyrium very nicely!
    This book pulled me out of reality and dropped me in Impyrium.  The world is so well-developed and thought out.  Everything is well-described.  Little things are there that most authors wouldn’t think of.  The maps helped clarify where places in the story were, which proved useful as I received lots of information about locations.  The world is just so deep.

    The prologue pulled me right in.  It had great action and mystery.  Initially, I was worried I wouldn’t like it.  It was one of the best introductions to a story I’ve ever had.

    The action in Impyrium is so strong.  There is something going on in every chapter that is key to the story.  Everything little detail is relevant to the plot.  I thought the story was over after something big happened, but no!  There was still 100 pages left, and more big things happened.  It was amazing.
    I thought the portrayal of both sides was great.  The author leaves us in suspense, wondering which side is good and which is evil.  Both sides have flaws, but we root for aspects of both of them.

    The characters were fantastic.  Hazel has great powers, but she's flawed and relatable.  She’s not self-absorbent or haughty about her powers.  She sees them as a gift and a burden, and I was able to recognize that through the writing.

Hob was a character who wanted to make a name for himself, but cares for others more than he does himself.  He was smart, but did not gloat about his accomplishments.  Both characters were very down-to-earth and this made them very relatable in all their conflicts.

    Their friendship began sketchy.  However, both Hazel and Hob provided support and comfort for each other in times of need.  They understand how the other feels like.  Their attitudes were collected and happy to learn (most of the time).  Their motivational words to each other gave me inspiration.

    As Hazel grows up, she starts to realize things aren’t as perfect as she liked to imagine.  Her friend helps her guide through tricky parts of life.

    I grew to care very deeply about these characters.  When Hazel is connected as similar to someone wicked, I was very concerned!

    Since Impyrium is very thick, it might deter readers.  However, I would encourage them to push through because it is a great book.

    Occasionally, the author tries to teach us about the world of Impyrium.  This is done in classrooms where students/teachers answer questions.  I didn’t like this way of gaining information about the book very much.  I wish I could’ve been done a little more subtly.

    Overall, I give Impyrium a nine out of ten!  No book is perfect (ten out of ten), but Impyrium came very close!  It has captivating conflict, a strong friendship and a deep world.  It definitely deserves its stars!
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Author bio: 
Henry H. Neff grew up outside Chicago before going off to Cornell University where he majored in history. He began his professional career as a consultant with McKinsey & Company before leaving the corporate life to teach at a San Francisco high school and write fantasy novels.
His first series, “The Tapestry”, is a five-volume epic that follows the life and adventures of Max McDaniels. Its books have been translated into nineteen languages and were finalists for the Texas Bluebonnet, Missouri Truman Award, and Northern California Book of the Year.
Impyrium is Henry’s second series. You’ll find him working away in Montclair, New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and two children.
Taken from Amazon.  Click the link below to go to his website.
Thank you for joining me this week for my review!  Next week, on my blog Reading Violet, I will be reviewing Day of Ice by Andrew Lane.  Also, on Wednesday, March 1st, I will post an interview with Jennifer A. Nielsen.
Have a wonderful week!