Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

I read this book in a day, oh my god, it was stinkin’ amazing. I tried to read this when I was around 8 or so, but it mentioned puberty and womanhood and was like ‘nope not appropriate’ and returned it to the library. And it was one of those books that just hung around in my mind until one day, about a year or so ago, I saw this series and all Tamora Pierce’s following series on the shelf, looked for the first book, couldn’t, and kept looking for over a year. Until I was at a huge book sale, found it, bought it, read it, and here we are.

This book follows Alanna, a girl who’d rather be a knight instead of a lady as is expected. And since her brother hates idea of being a knight and loves magic, she chops her hair and they switch. Now, she has to hide who she is, keep up with the grueling training, defend herself from bullies, and prove herself as a page. So you have a strong, genderbendy, determined, magic wielding entity of awesome, who still has weaknesses and fears.

So, I would say read this book. There’s some, but minor, violence, some brief mention of what happens when you lay with a man, and Alanna dealing with puberty. The last might make some a little uncomfortable if they’re prepubescent or don’t have a uterus. But, all those parts are brief, and this is still an excellent book. 11+. 

Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Sorry for the gap in posts, vacation week was hectic. I don’t usually rate sequels to books, but for this, I have to because this book was and is an amazing sequel. In this book, all our favorite and diverse characters are here with the addition of a feisty Alex Fierro, who’s gender fluid.

This band of heroes are now fighting against Loki’s plan to marry of Sam to a giant. They go on tons of adventures, trying to figure out a way to get her out of this while Thor’s hammer is also on the line, part of Sam’s nuptial gifts. 

The story stayed interesting, and awesome. Like seriously awesome. It’s definitely for older middle graders (at one point the make magical string out of a cup of blood and hair), but it’s definitely worth the read.

I especially love Alex Fierro’s character, who normalizes gender confusion and explains to kids. I find Alex a decent role model, and wished she was around when I was younger.

Probably 11+. Bit more violence and fighting, not mention some innuendo that’ll go over little kids heads. I recommend highly.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

A lot of books I rate on this blog are books I really, really like. This book is no exception. I loved this book, evident by me reading it in just 2 days. This author has also penned the Shatter Me series, but I haven’t yet read those. What I can say is that her first middle grade book was well done.

It takes place in a magical world where color is everything and magic is ranked. People have to go on adventures for the greater good of their land, based on how awesome your magic is. The main character is a bit of an outcast, since unlike everyone else, she’s colorless. The only spot of color is the occasional red tint to her cheeks and her eyes.  She also has a magic that no one else has, and she doesn’t like to admit. Her dad’s missing, and a boy she knows named Oliver gets tasked with finding him. And he needs Alice’s help. This is where it really gets fun.

They travel all over a fantastical world out of their town of Ferenwood, into Furthermore. Here, they face many challenges and have to work together, which is difficult since Oliver and her do not get along well.

I liked this book a lot. I liked the uniqueness and whimsicalness and the relationships. I loved the adventure of it. In books like these, in middle grade fiction, I like adventure and friendship and a sense of wonder. I feel like this book emulates that.

This book would be great for middle grade kids. Probably 6th grade up, catch my drift? But I’m sure younger kids would like it too, though it is a bit longer than some, at around 400 pages. I know when I was younger, it would take a special book for me to read it, if it was on the longer side. I have a feeling that I would have liked this book, had it been out when I was younger.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Wow, it’s been a while. Let’s start with a favorite author of mine.

I have a long standing love for Rick Riordan books. The Percy Jackson series got me out of a pretty low place, and never fail to amuse me. The Heroes of Olympus series I didn’t like as much, but then there was this book. The Sword of Summer. I really, really, really liked this book. And, it was back in first person.

This follows Magnus Chase and his adventures into the world of Norse mythology, with some clear similarities to Percy Jackson. Others weren’t a huge fan of this and rated this poorly because of that, but I didn’t mind to much. I found the new mythology interesting enough to look past that. I also love, in this book, how their was more diversity in the characters, from religion, to skin color, to disabilities. It was nice reading that.

Overall, I would recommend this book. It’s fast paced, interesting, and was totally worth the Barnes and Noble gift card I used on it. It’s a little on the thick side, and deals with the usual fantasy violence. Probably good for 10/11+.

Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks

This book was just…wow. I am pretty much wordless. It was just so amazing. It was one of those books that you want to read fast to find out how it ends, yet you want it to go on forever. I read this book the same weekend that I read two mediocre books, and this book was a nice change to that.

In this book (this fabulous, fabulous book) Ruben’s 19-year-old older sister is raped and murdered. He senses things, and sensed it, but didn’t tell. Afterward, he and his brother Cole (also older at 17, and Ruben 14) set off to find who did it so they can bring back their sister’s body for burial. This is a powerful book that makes you think and weaves in a number of topics like murder, family, racism, violence, love, and how dangerous big business and wealthy men can be.

This book has a lot of violence (I mean, it is about a murder) and other darker things. 13/14+, I think would be best. But this is a powerful book that is amazing.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

First off, I can’t believe I’m only getting into this series now. I read the first book a few years ago and thought, ‘Yeah, that was a good book. I might read the second’ but I wasn’t really into it. All I really remembered was the movie based off the book since I’ve seen it twice (and until yesterday only read the book once) and I’ve seen it more recently. But I had a friend into it, and I’ve heard really good things about this series from both young and old (well, old in my joking sense, which is college age). I was at a used book store yesterday and decided to pick up a copy of the second book, ‘Sea of Monsters’. On the way home, it was clear after the first 40 something pages that I needed to reread the first one. What’s great about this series is that I was excited to do this. So when I got home I rushed of to my room, hoping that I kept ‘Lightning Thief’. I did. I read that whole book that night, in just a few hours. And it was even better than I remembered.

This book follows Percy Jackson as he has a weird experience during a field trip, ditches his friend and goes to a beach with his mom, finds out that he’s a demigod, goes to a weird camp in upstate New York, kills a Minotaur, gets hurt, believes he’s a demigod, finds out who his dad is, and sets off with Grover and Annabeth on a crazy quest to stop a war between the gods. This book is action packed and never boring, with the occasional humor sprinkled throughout. I fell in love with this world of gods, goddesses, and demigods. With monsters and heroes. With magic and Mist. With good and evil and all the blurred lines in between. There were some things that I didn’t like as much, though. At parts it seemed like it was one monster battle after another. Like it was two action packed. Also, I thought I noticed one or two spelling mistakes or wrong words used. But the main thing that irritated me about this series was the movies based off the books. The movies did not really follow the book that well and changed a lot of things. The books, like usual, were way better.

This series is great, and although action packed, not too graphic. This book would be good for 10+, but would really be great for teens as well as 10-year-olds.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

At times I think of this book and love. Other times I hate it. Mostly, my feelings are of strong dislike.

This book is about Violet White. She lives in a small town with only her twin brother in a giant house. Her parents are touring Europe and wasting the last of the money. When Violet runs out, she rents the guest house. River West rents it out, then mysterious things start happening in the small town.

First, for the things I liked. The writing was pretty good, and I loved the details of the mansion the White’s live in. That is where the pro’s end and the con’s begin. Let’s start with the way the characters were described. Violet’s twin, Luke, is described as a mean, sexist, bully. That is told at the beginning and not really mentioned that much in the rest. The only way Sunshine Black, Violet’s only friend or neighbor, is described is as a slut. Every time she is described or thought about. Then, there is Violet’s character. The story is written from her point of view, which is very immature at times. Whenever her brother and Sunshine are flirting, Violet stops it. Violet is also supposed to be very smart, and this is shown by constant quotes from books and poems. Violet also lives in the past by sleeping in her dead grandmother’s room, wearing her clothes, and reading her letters.

There is also pretty much no plot until the last hundred pages. And towards the end, it felt like the author was running out of ideas, and started making everyone related to someone. And then added brand new brothers of River West. None of the characters were that good or changed. To be honest, River’s younger brother Neely was the most interesting character. Then there is the issue of how even though River is a killer who doesn’t even think what he does is wrong, Violet still loves him. And the fact that when he comes to read the guest house, she doesn’t ask for any references or identification. And soon after, she starts sleeping next to him. And kissing him.

This book has violence, gore, and some romance. I would say 14/15+, if you wish to read this.