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Book Review: Prized by Caragh M. O’Brien

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Just when Gaia thought she had escaped strange, harsh rules and saved her baby sister by trekking to the rumored town of Sylum, she finds herself bound in new unwelcome ways, and familiar faces don’t bring comfort the way they should.

This is a companion to Birthmarked (2010). Gaia’s strong character is put through a gauntlet of daunting challenges that help her grow into a more confident person. The beginning is action-packed but still seemed slow. However, in all, this is a satisfying conclusion of an amazing story. The cover is eye-catching and the audience is in the 12-14 range.

I like how two very different societies are compared to each other here. The way Gaia stays true to her beliefs no matter what inspiring. The confusion and tension of multiple love interests vying for her adds a unique twist to liven the plot, as does the mystery of the dying males and “swamp illness” that makes leaving sylum impossible and deadly.

Reviewed by Marissa, age 15

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Book Review: Daughter of the Centaurs by K. K. Ross

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Malora wants nothing more than to follow in the steps of her father and be the next great horse trainer, regardless of the opinions of her little settlement. On the day her dreams are to be realized, the first day of her instruction with her father, she witnesses an horrific event that will change her life forever. Forced to leave her now bloody and empty town, she slowly acquires a band of horses that she names and trains to respond to her every signal, a necessity to survive in the harsh desert landscape she now roams. Her world is shattered once again when a party of centaurs corrals her family herd and captures her. She must now learn to survive with a whole different range of dangers-those of a centaur court.

Full of raw emotions and heartbreak, one cannot help but feel for Malora as she struggles with the loss of her family, the crushing weight of being the last human, and the difficulties of adjusting to a centaur city. Outspoken and opinionated, she never hesitates to say or do exactly what she feels is best. She is never cowed by the intimidating size of whatever problem faces her, and uses her tenacity to her immense advantage. I recommend this novel to horse lovers everywhere.

Reviewed by Marissa, age 15

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Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells

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Kira Walker is a plague baby-one of the last children born before the devastating RM disease was released, causing all newborns to die within 48 hours. After interning in the maternity ward and witnessing firsthand the desperation and desolation the doomed infants cause, she is determined to cure RM and save the dwindling human race. Her plan is to capture one of their greatest enemy, the releasers of RM-the Partials, and study it. Breaking numerous laws, Kira and her loyal band of friends make their way through the dangerous lands held by rebellious human fractions and enter the wild land of the half-robot, incredibly strong Partials.

A transfixing sci-fi tale with a subtle lesson in acceptance, this story is a mixture of the most popular elements-action, romance, and adventure. Kira is a believable character, her intense drive to cure RM offset by her relationship problems with long time boyfriend Marcus. Courageous and confident, she lets her heart take the lead when her head is unsure. Her slow transformation from naive citizen to borderline rebel was perfectly done. I recommend this book to anybody who craves a thrilling and eerily realistic tale that is bound to have a sequel.

I’d rate this four stars — I loved it!

Reviewed by Marissa, age 15

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Book Review: The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton

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When Tiki managers to snatch the queen’s own ring from the confines of Buckingham Palace, she is overjoyed. Finally, she can provide her ragtag family of orphans with a real home. What Tiki doesn’t realize is that the ring is the key to an ancient truce between the Fey and mortals, and now that she has the ring, London is thrown into chaos.

This was a thrilling tale with all of the pieces: action, tension, betrayal and budding romance. The courts of faerie were never completely explained, but that was the only fault I could find. I found the cover intriguing and the audience range is 12-15. This is a captivating tale that gives new life to the age-old tales of faeries.

Each and every character is strongly developed, from Toots to Reiner. The plot could have been predictable, but instead is a twisting labyrinth of lies, threats and the rush of new love. Tiki always follows her heart, even when it leads her down dangerous paths. The descriptions of a beggar’s London are complete and eye opening.

-Marissa, age 15

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Book Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory has just arrived in London, but she’s not the only new arrival. Jack the Ripper has returned and is even more terrifying than before. This story has believable characters and surprising twists, though some seemed a bit much and rather far-fetched. It took away some reality, but did make the story interesting. I’d rate it 4 stars — I liked it a lot.

This is a book crafted by a creative mind — the largest twist is shocking and, in my opinion, completely changes the genre of the book! Nevertheless, it is wonderfully executed!

-Marissa, age 14

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Book Review: Saga of the Sioux by Dwight Jon Zimmerman

This is a book that tells the other side of the story — something I’ve been looking for. I liked that it was full of information, but in an easy format. The only thing I didn’t like was that the maps were omitted, but that’s due to the unpublished nature! [Note: this review is of a pre-publication galley of the book]. The chapters were well-planned and the cover striking. This is a book directed toward youth, which was enjoyable, and it was full of useful and fascinating information.

This book truly captures the courage, pride and integrity of the Sioux chiefs. They were continuously wronged, and they fought for what they knew was rightfully theirs. This is an embarrassing blotch on the USA’s history. I’m excited to finally be able to read the Sioux’s side.

– Marissa, age 14

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Book Review: The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson

Annabel’s family has been avoiding work for years, so when the new lord comes to town, she is sent to work in his castle as payment. Stern, mauled and foreboding Lord LeWyse is not a welcoming man. Chased by the Bailiff, Annabel is saved time and time again by her Lord. What interest does he have in her?

This was a realistic Beauty and the Beast — a tale of unconditional love fraught with pain and heartbreak. I’d rate it 5 stars — there was nothing I didn’t like about it!

A potent combination of my favorite genres — romance and action, all set in medieval times. Annabel is a perfect heroine, embodying the traits of women both ages ago and today. Humble, shy and caring, she is also quick-witted and unafraid to follow her heart. I immediately connected with her, cheering her on every step of the way. Lord LeWyse is a man with heart-wrenching scars — inside and out. While his beard hides his scarred face, his rough, harsh demeanor hides a heart of gold and a sweet soul. He is fiercely loyal, and committed to doing what is right. I love the way chapters switched between the two. I couldn’t wait to find out what the other was thinking in each event. It gave the piece a three-dimensional quality that I have ever encountered before. This is truly a phenomenal book with characters that are strong and realistic beyond belief and a plot that twists with each page.

One of the best books I have ever read.

-Marissa, age 14

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Book Review: Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

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Dylan and Alek are off to the Siberian wilds to pick up a mystery passenger who turns out to be an eccentric inventor claiming his latest invention – “Goliath” – is powerful enough to stop the war. Alek and Dylan become divided over whether or not to trust Tesla’s odd invention. Then Dylan’s (or Deryn’s) biggest secret is revealed to Alek — will their friendship survive?

Even though I haven’t read Behemoth, I had no trouble understanding what was going on. The plot was action-packed and the Darwinian creatures as creative as they were in the first book. The similar cover styles make this trio easily identifiable and the drawing add a unique flair to the books. This is a wonderful addition to the Leviathan series –a powerful book full of action, adventure, and two types of love — the kind between friends and something stronger. I hope another book is on the way!

Reviewed by Marissa, age 14

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Book Review: The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf

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Each person aboard the Titanic had a unique voice and a story to tell — this book is a collection of them all, from the time the Titanic left the dock to the last tragic moment. This is a powerful tribute to the lost souls of the Titanic — everyone is represented, from millionaires to the rats. The format of the writing is refreshing, and each voice different and complete. This book is full of ingenious ideas — from the voice of the iceberg to the Morse code inserts/dictionary throughout. It gives readers a faint idea of the horrors and miracles of the Titanic’s last hours. Overall, a wonderful insight into the fated voyage.

Reviewed by Marissa, age 14

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Book Review: The Mark of the Golden Dragon by L.A. Meyer

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The daring Jacky Faber is in trouble once again. After she and Ravi are swept overboard in a typhoon and stranded on a tiger-infested beach, they make their way to Rangoon, where she is captured by a merchant who puts her to work in his black market. Desperate to get back to Jaimy, she is shocked when she hears that Jaimy has turned to crime and succumbed to madness.

I like that Jacky is as strong a character as ever. She uses her considerable intelligence to triumph over her opponents with wit, humor and that special Faber touch. I love the drawn covers and prefer them over the newer photographed ones. I don’t like that the books seem to be getting shorter — but maybe I’m reading faster! I always look forward to the next Bloody Jack book. It seems to be the perfect combination of piracy, adventure, humor and romance. Jacky is the perfect heroine because she’s not always such a heroine. She is very relateable and real — the kind of girl I want to be! She always has some original bit to say — and it’s usually funny. Just when I thought Jacky had done all she could, the cunning twist of Jaimy going mad is added! Where will Jacky take him – how will she heal him and how will she heal from the discovery of Jaimy’s love for the now-dead landlord’s daughter? Overall, another stupendous addition to the Bloody Jack series!

Reviewed by Marissa, age 14