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CONGRATULATIONS! This weeks winners are:

Teen SRC 2020 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I originally discovered To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in my sister’s extensive book collection and I decided to finally read it after months of anticipation.

The novel introduces the Finches (Atticus, Jem, and Jean Louise). The Finches are as normal a family as you can find in Maycomb, Alabama. The story follows the Children (Jem and Jean Louise Finch, and sometimes Dill) as they learn about their father’s hopeless struggle to defend a black man accused of rape. The novel also contains a side plot where they learn about Boo Radley, Macyomb’s local mystery.

The novel flows excellently from chapter to chapter and page to page; readers are drawn in by Lee’s incredible storytelling. The novel does a great job of introducing readers and its own characters to racial bias and injustice. With the rise Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and around the world, the morals and message woven into the story are more than relevant. I would wholeheartedly recommend this novel to anyone who wishes to read about racial injustice and rate this an 8.5/10

Teen SRC 2020 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Rowling, J.K.: 8601404281891:  Books - Amazon.ca

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

You’re probably wondering why I’m reviewing Harry Potter all of a sudden… and I can explain.

It took me almost 5 years to become a calm, hidden Harry Potter fan, and in about a month, TikTok has reversed all of that hard work. My entire FYP is Harry Potter edits and thus, I have been re-reading the books, and re-crying about how I’ll never get to go to Hogwarts. But, enough about that, let’s get on with the review.

Summary (Spoiler-Free): After another uneventful summer, Harry Potter has finally returned to Hogwarts for his third year. He has a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher: Professor Lupin, and Hagrid, his friend, has begun teaching Care of Magical Creatures. Oh, and did I mention a vicious Death Eater has escaped from Azkaban? Well, he has, and he goes by the name of Sirius Black.

Every single review I write for the Harry Potter series is going to be biased because I am in love with their world. In. Love. No other words for it. The plot lines are always amazing, full of mystery, suspense, and action. The characters are very well built as well, with Harry being an extremely likeable protagonist, and Ron and Hermione exceptional characters each on their own.

I believe though, that the true magic lies in the emotional aspect of this read. First, J.K. Rowling created a universe so real, so layered and magical and mysterious, that it’s impossible not to get lost in it. And, secondly, the characters are written so realistically that one feels they could very well pop out of the book, flesh and blood. These combine to create a story that leaves the line between fantasy and reality blurred, a feeling that I absolutely love experiencing. In addition to this, reading the series reminds me of my childhood, and I can relate to growing up, right along with the Golden Trio, which adds to the overall nostalgia, and hiraeth.

Hogwarts is my home, and I will laugh, cry, and grieve with Harry Potter, until the end of time.

I think it’s obvious what my rating is, and I’ll leave you with a quote from Dumbledore because although I talk about missing Hogwarts, you must remember that “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” So, go make the most of your life, and live it like you would as the main character of a story.

As well, here are a few songs that I recommend listening to, if you’re missing that magical feeling.

  1. Leaving Hogwarts – John Williams
  2. Welcome Home, Son – Radical Face
  3. Harry’s Wondrous World – John Williams
  4. Dragon Flight – Alexandre Desplat

Teen SRC 2020- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder - Jackson, Holly

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson seemed like an interesting read (the cover is amazing, and i judged the book by it, fight me 😉 ). But then, the synopsis ended up disappointing me. It sounded like the book was a mash-up of literally every other YA murder mystery. We have our usual ‘good’ white girl protagonist, our suspect from a marginalized community, with a name like ‘Sal Singh’ to make it extra obvious. We have the popular/mean girl murder victim (Andie) and the lazy/racist reporter. Then, of course, Ravi. The younger brother of previously mentioned murderer that killed his girlfriend then himself (Sal Singh). Of course, Ravi is the cute but very reserved and intense love interest.

The first quarter of this book made me want to chuck it at a wall. But I kept going and… it improved. BY A LOT.

The characters stayed flat. Only Pippa (protag) had some sort of character arc, and even that was half-hearted. No, the only thing that redeemed this book was the mystery. It was SHOCKINGLY well-planned and thought out. I didn’t guess the murderer and wouldn’t have in a thousand years, but IT MADE SENSE.

The romance ended up growing on me, and the relationships between the characters are okay. I don’t have much else to say, so the rating: 8/10. Boring and stereotyped characters, but BRILLIANT mystery. Enjoyable, and suspenseful, but seriously– too many cliches.

Teen SRC 2020- Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie

Appointment With Death

For this week’s dose of Agatha Christie, we’ve got Appointment with Death, and Hercule Poirot on vacation in Jerusalem! Is it just me, or do detectives NEVER get a vacation off without having somebody going and getting murdered? I mean, there wouldn’t be a story if they actually got a proper vacation, but… I digress. Hercule Poirot is shutting his window to the night air when he overhears a most peculiar sentence. “You see that she’s got to die, don’t you?” a male voice says. He smiles, and dismisses it as an author or playwright discussing their work, but imagines how ‘funny’ it would be if the words were taken out of context.

Also vacationing in Palestine are the Boyntons. They, as two separate doctors note, are a nerve-wracked and peculiar family. The matriarch, Mrs. Boynton has a strange hold over the rest of her family: two step-sons, a step-daughter and a birth daughter. The only one who seems free from her force of will is the daughter-in-law, but even she hates the ugly old woman. Mrs. Boynton is manipulative, cruel, and takes immense joy in other people’s–and especially her family’s–pain. Then Mrs. Boynton is found dead.

Her heart, obviously, gave out, but… why is there then a small needle mark on her wrist? And who, out of all the people that had motive, committed the murder? Poirot, entrustred with the job, shockingly recognizes the voice he heard outside his bedroom window. It belonged to none other than Raymond Boynton, the younger son.

This book’s beginning plot was very strangely similar to ‘A Caribbean Mystery’ (it’s almost like they had the same author or something LOLLL) but I found it considerably better. I am not biased because of Poirot vs. Miss Marple, though, because the plot of this book turned in a different direction. I also didn’t guess or even suspect the murderer at all. :0 Secondly, there was more action in this book, more interesting conversations, and Poirot subtly (and annoyingly) pointed little details to guide us. There was some romance, some complex relationships and it was all brilliant. And there was only one repetitive thing in all of it (compared to A Caribbean Mystery’s twenty!) and it was about how ‘sadistic’ and how ‘evil’ the step-mother was.

Okay, so I may be a little biased, and I’m so sorry Miss Marple, for that I’ll read more of your books soon!

The ending wasn’t WHOLLY satisfactory, but it was terrifically written and even my critical little heart can appreciate the epilogue!! Because epilogues!!! All in all, another great Christie. 8.5/10

Teen SRC 2020- The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

The Girl They Left Behind - Veletzos, Roxanne

The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos is the most moving, heartbreaking and beautiful book I’ve read in a long time. Set in World War II Romania, the book tells the life story of two families joined despite war, boundaries, and suffering, by the daughter they share.

Natalia is four years old when the knock comes on her door. The police is here to arrest her father and take her and her mother away. It is only by sheer luck that the family runs away in the cover of the night. Fearing for their lives, and that of their daughter’s, Natalia’s parents have to make the worst decision of their lives. Leave Natalia behind, and give her the chance at a better life, breaking their own hearts in the process, or risk taking her with them, where death is an almost certain possibility.

Enter Despina and Anton. In every way except one, they are the perfect young couple. She is rich and gorgeous, he is charming and happy. But after four miscarriages, the sadness that hangs on Despina is too much for Anton to accept. At the orphanage, Despina and Anton are shocked to meet Natalia a silent, broken girl, and not the joyous bundle they expected. But something stirs deep inside her heart and Despina knows she needs Natalia’s love just as much as Natalia needs hers.

Despina, Anton, and Natalia’s story is told in gripping scenes and chapters, time passing as Natalia slowly grows up into a young woman. With the war ending, and the Soviets taking control, the family’s fortunes are reversed. They lose everything, and come close to losing each other. Victor, a young man Anton took under his wing years ago, returns later in the story as a powerful Communist leader. He becomes, even as they begin a secret affair, Natalia’s only chance at freedom.

With the devastation of war and the power of love, comes the pain of sacrifice. What will Natalia choose: staying with the only people she’s ever loved, in an ever-shrinking world, or leave behind everything to seek freedom, and answers to a past she thought buried?

Wow, okay, so the description went a little long (sorry! and believe me, there were no spoilers in it). The book itself includes so much more, and every bit of it is raw, and riveting. The passage of time was discreet, and well-written, and the subplots/ change in perspectives were amazing. The only thing I didn’t like in the book was the romance between Victor and Talia, and the fact that sometimes a scene would start in the middle, telling us what happened before instead of showing it. That glossed over some things should’ve been more important.

Anyway, the book shook me to my core. It made me cry, both from sorrow and happiness. Each character is complex, none of them perfect (having well-written characters in historical fiction is a must!!) The Girl They Left Behind matches to the likes of The Book Thief. 10/10, no regrets.

Teen SRC 2020- Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui

Have you ever wondered what a dragon tasted like? Would it taste like chicken, maybe beef? Or maybe you’ve been wondering what a cockatrice would taste like served in a good stew. After all, a snake/chicken hybrid would seem to make an interesting dinner combo. Or maybe, you’ve been wondering about the morality of eating fishmen. Unlike mermen, they have fish heads, and though they seem semi-sentient, it wouldn’t hurt to try one… Would it?

These are the questions Delicious in Dungeon set out to answer, as Ryoko Kui serves up a masterful manga, seemingly to answer the age-old question of “What would happen if Gordon Ramsay got trapped in Middle Earth?”

The story begins, as a cave opening is discovered, leading to an underground kingdom covered in gold. A distraught king emerges from its entrance, promising all of his treasure to whoever defeats the insane magician who sunk his kingdom underground in the first place, before crumbling to dust. Word of the king’s promise spreads like a wildfire, as numerous guilds gather to try to navigate the labyrinth-esque kingdom, now infested with monsters of all shapes and sizes. Laios is the leader of one such guild, before his party is decimated and his sister is eaten by a dragon. Laios and his crew rush back into the kingdom of gold in an attempt to save his sister, but soon run out of supplies. They are saved by a dwarf named Senshii who teaches Laios and crew how to properly cook and eat monsters, as the adventure to save Laios’s sister begins.

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Teen SRC 2020 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Rowling, J.K.: 8601418346777 ...

Wow, a double post?! I haven’t done that in a looong time. Anyways, I have been devouring the Harry Potter books for literally the 7th time recently, and I have just finished this one. The ending made me feel a lot of ~emotions~ so I am going to rant about it on here, because it makes me keep my thoughts in order!

To be honest, I expect all of you guys to have read this book already, so I am going to… *gasp*… include spoilers for the first time ever! So, if you have not read up to this book yet, what are you even waiting for????? I would give my soul to live at Hogwarts, you’re missing OUT! Go on, this review isn’t going anywhere… come back when you’re ready!

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Teen SRC 2020 – One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying - McManus, Karen M.

Hiii again! Alright, this week, I’m reviewing One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, a realistic fiction/murder mystery.

Summary (Spoiler-Free): Five students are in detention together: Bronwyn, the Yale-bound brainiac, Addy, the popular and pretty homecoming queen, Nate, the druggie, who is on probation, Cooper, the star athlete, and Simon, an outcast, who runs Bayview High’s most notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it to the end of detention… he is dead by allergic reaction, but the authorities say it was no accident. Simon died on Monday, when on Tuesday, he was set to expose some dirty secrets about the students he was in detention with, which makes them all suspects in his case.

This story is told through alternating perspectives, and in first-person, which, initially, I found very risky of McManus to use, because this is a mystery, after all, and that could lead to the readers figuring out the culprit very early on. However, I later found out there was reasoning behind this, and it actually tied in very well with the ending. Overall, this book was pretty well written, and it’s hard to figure anything out, because red herrings are ALL over the place, which is good in a mystery. However, I did manage to guess the killer before the ending, even though it was supposed to be a plot twist, so it’s definitely not an Agatha Christie.

I wouldn’t say that there’s anything special about this book?? It was good, and interesting to read, but it didn’t shock me, or make much of a lasting impression. Therefore, it gets a 7.5/10. The extra .5 is for the cover, because it’s a very crisp, yet representative design, which I always appreciate 🙂

Teen SRC 2020- A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

A Caribbean Mystery

While my respect and admiration for Agatha Christie‘s work is unwavering, I found A Caribbean Mystery to be disappointing. The problem, in my opinion, starts with Miss Marple. The prospect of an old lady solving mysteries by listening, knitting, and thinking, is interesting, but it also becomes stale and boring very quickly. Miss Marple has little personality herself, and except for her sharpness and intellect, she is nothing like Hercule Poirot. (Of whom I am a die-hard fan.)

Let me first tell you about the book before I continue my opinions on it.

Miss Marple’s loving nephew has arranged a vacation for her in the Caribbean. Her rheumatism will benefit from the pleasant weather, and at her age, she should really be seeing more of the world. But while Miss Marple is grateful for her nephew’s kindness, she can’t help but feel discontented with the fact that nothing exciting happens in the Caribbean. But a little while later, as she sits knitting and listening to a talkative old Major on the beach, something interesting does happen. The Major, having launched into a story about a murder, asks her “would you like to see a snapshot of a murderer–” when he suddenly stops talking. Interrupting himself, he loudly starts on another topic. Miss Marple notices the fact but doesn’t pay it much attention… Not until the Major is found dead in his room (high blood pressure, apparently) and the snapshot he boasted about nowhere to be found. Is it all just one big coincidence, or is something more nefarious at play?

Okay. To continue on my criticism, the mystery part of the book isn’t very good either. Ms. Christie’s red herrings are usually fun but in this book, I simply found them irritating. There isn’t much work for the readers to do, and every time something new is discovered, we are told in simple plain English. The characters are flat and stereotypical. Worst of all, I managed to guess the murderer, by pure luck, and also because nothing pointed towards her/him, and that’s who it usually is. (kind of SPOILER**** and in far too many mysteries I’ve read, it’s the spouse/romantic partner. too many. SPOILER ENDED**)

I’m not saying the book is bad, all I’m saying is I definitely wouldn’t choose it as the first (or second) Agatha Christie book to recommend. 7.5/10. Enjoyable, but there are better.