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

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.

CONGRATULATIONS! This weeks winners are:

Best Review of the week: BiscuitsBlink by Malcolm Gladwell

The Most Thoughtful Comment on our Book Club goes to Inshal. Find it here!

Okay, I know I said last week that it is great that it’s sunny, but geez… it has been SO HOT the last few nights!! I can’t sleep and have been reading into the night – it’s not a bad thing 🙂

Don’t forget! We have some big prizes for the end of August, so make sure you write more comments and reviews on the blog.

And, this is the last few days to submit your entry for our Design Contest! Submissions are due Friday August 21st and you could be the big winner!

Teen SRC 2020 – The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

The Changelings (Hardcover) | BookPeople

The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

Skip This Entire Red Section If You’re Not Interested In My Life

Today, I created a schedule for everything that I was going to do. That was my plan to prioritize my time and be more productive. I decided that I was going to start reading at 10am to 1pm. I completely underestimated how long it takes to read an average book. It took me 5 hours! My brother kept telling me to play Fortnite since the season is ending, I told him no! I haven’t even watched a single youtube video today. It is amazing how a book can pull you into it’s world to make it feel lke you’re there.

Normally, I wouldn’t read adventure books like this, but while I was reading the summary on the back of the book, I noticed that it was about a sibling relationship, sisters! Now, I am intruiged. This book is about a girl named Izzy, she’s moved with her family 11 times and now she is living in the most boring city you can imagine. I won’t give any spoilers but she realizes that her life is not so boring after all.

I felt that the intro was a bit unnecessary. Everyone thinking Marian was a witch honestly didn’t help with any of the story. I really liked how at the start, Izzy was being a bit mean to Hen (her sister) without realizing it, but when she started to look for her, she thought of all those times where she should have thought before she spoke. I relate to this in some way because my brother is always judging me on everything I do. Hopefully, someday my brother will realize his actions and change his perspective on things.

I loved the little touch of detail that they put on the cover. At the end of the book, Selden wrote a note saying “DO NOT FORGET US- SLDN. In the title, Changelings was spelled with a backwards E.

Teen SRC 2020 – Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Bone Crier's Moon - Purdie, Kathryn

Bone ​Criers have a sacred job. Them alone can keep the dead from preying the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes with a great sacrifice. The gods order a promise of dedication to their duty. And that promise includes the life of the Bone Criers’ one true love. Ailesse has been molded since her first breath to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers. But first she must successfully complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she loves. Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier which he wasn’t supposed to wittiness, and now he seeks revenge. Along with his companions’ whose family has also been taken as sacrifice by Bone Criers. But when he finally kidnapped one, his craving for vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fate has already been tied. Sabine, Ailesse’s best friend, never had the guts to take part of the Bone Crier’s work. But when Ailesse had been caught, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means breaking their traditions or acting against their matriarch just to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. And to just make circumstances even worse the matriarch seems to be harboring dark secrets and Sabine only has one year to save Ailesse, or they will all die.

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Teen SRC 2020 – Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Trevor was born from a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time where that could be punishable by law for five years in prison. As he was living evidence of his parents “crime”, he was kept indoors most of his childhood. His mother hid him as well as she could as the government could take him away at any time. Finally when that era ended, did Trevor and his mother able to live freely. And it was then that he had to set foot into the ocean of possibility only made possible have a long struggle. The book takes you through a journey about a imp child who turns into a man in a environment where he wasn’t suppose to even exist. He is accompanied by his fearless, passionately religious mother, who is determined to keep her son safe from the cycle of poverty, cruelty, and brutality of the world.

This book was so beautiful and humorous. I have watched his shows before with my family online and its focused on race, police brutality, prejudice, hate speech, and many other important topics that needs to be discussed. He really brought the book to life and the audio book was even better. There is so much dark humor in there and he manages to talk about those topics that usually makes us feel uneasy. And I have to say, I love his mother. She is hilarious as well, strong minded, and basically amazing. She taught him many important lessons and guided him gently along the way through his dark and daunting life.

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Teen SRC 2020- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

Having read Genuine Fraud (also by E. Lockhart) I started We Were Liars happily expecting to have my socks knocked off. And it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Welcome to the Sinclair family. Tall, proud, and rich. Golden-haired, freckled, and most importantly: perfect. There are no Sinclair addicts, drop-outs, or failures. And every summer, the prestigious family meets on their very own island. But one summer, when the Liars (Cadence, her cousins, and a family friend named Gat) are fifteen, something goes horribly wrong. Cadence has an accident and now, at seventeen, she’s still suffering from constant migraines and selective amnesia. She doesn’t remember a thing of what happened. But after having skipped summer sixteen to travel Europe with her dad, Cadence finally returns to Beechwood Island, desperate for answers.

We Were Liars was absolutely brilliant. The idea of a perfect and rich family with their own island is fascinating, and E. Lockhart pulled it off impeccably AND realistically. The flashbacks, Cadence’s pain written in fanciful poetry, and yes, even the romance, was enjoyable to read. It beautifully conveyed the reality that no family is perfect, and there is an overall message in the book about dealing with family problems, money, expectations, pain, loss, and guilt…

And then there’s the plot twist. OH BOY, what can I say about the plot twist? My heart skipped a beat and I had to read the page again and again when I got to it. And the best part: it was entirely believable. (I mean, it took some time but I eventually came to terms with it.) Seriously, the plot twist is amazing.

The book isn’t perfect. (Duh, nothing’s perfect. Not even the Sinclairs!) The switching timelines were confusing: I didn’t know half the time when Cadence was talking about summer fifteen or seventeen. It could have been improved with chapter headings or something like ‘before’ and ‘after’. Cadence is okay as a character– not enough personality in my opinion, and not very likable, either. There were also some overdone metaphors that cut the quality of the writing, and and abrupt ending that needed more and slower falling action.

But please, don’t let my harsh criticism put you off. (that’s just me being me, really.) We Were Liars gripped me from the start and I finished the book in hours. I sacrificed sleep for it, and I don’t regret a thing. It’s the best of the best of contemporary suspense novels and I can’t wait to read it again. 9.5/10.