Summer Reading

Carve the Mark: Book Review

Synopsis via Goodreads: 

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.

Then Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.

My Thoughts

To say I’m obsessed with Veronica Roth’s latest novel is an understatement. I. Love. It. I came across it in the library as I was leaving last week, and, upon seeing who wrote it, I yanked it off the shelf without knowing anything about it. It was not a bad decision.

Usually, I do not like sci-fi novels. This, however, was an exception. Roth’s description of Thuvhe paints a picture of a magical, enchanting world that automatically pulls you in, as does the interaction between Akos and his family. Their conversations reminded me of ones I’ve had with my own family, something that pleasantly surprised me, as I was expecting there to be a bunch of jargon and lingo from their planet.

As in Divergent, Roth tells Akos and Cyra’s story with elequonce and beauty. She utilizes both first and third person points of view in the novel, and the transition between the two is so smooth that after a while, I didn’t even notice it. One of my favorite things about the book is how real both Akos and Cyra seemed- Roth has created two characters who come to life on the page. They seemed less like characters and more like actual people, a feat which shows just how talented of a writer Roth is.

Another thing I loved about the novel was its pacing, probably because it’s something I’m still figuring out as a writer. There aren’t lengthy paragraphs of description- she describes the setting in a few sentences at most, painting a picture without boring the reader. And the plot unfurled at breakneck speed, pulling me in and keeping me hooked until the last page. As a result, I read the book entirely too fast and will probably have to go back and reread to pick up on the things I missed the first time. But that’s the thing: this is a book you can read again and again.

Carve the Mark is definitely one of the best books I’ve read all year. To me, it’s better than Divergent, and that’s saying something, because I thought Divergent was phenomenal. Roth has again delivered a masterpiece, and if you loved The Divergent Series, Carve the Mark will soon become one of your favorite books.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Summer Reading

My Personal Cannon

A few weeks ago, Stephanie posted her at Adventures of a Bibliophile posted her personal cannon of books which have impacted her throughout her life, and invited readers to do the same. Stephanie, I’m so sorry I took so long to do this! Here is my personal cannon:

  1. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

This was the series that got me into reading. I was in second grade, and at the time, I couldn’t stand reading, and so I read Clifford books at school just to be able to tell my parents I was reading something. Well, they soon found out what I was doing, and asked the librarian to make sure I only checked out books that were at my reading level. I had no idea what to read- until my physical therapist suggested The Boxcar Children. I immediately fell in love with Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden, and thus my love affair with reading began. I read every book in this series that I could get my hands on, and got to the point to where I could read two in a day.

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2. The Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny

Another mystery series. These books are about thirteen-year-old Trixie Belden, who calls small town Sleepyside, New York home. When Honey Wheeler moves in to the mansion next door, the two become fast friends, and this series chronicles their adventures and the mysteries they solve along the way. I loved the elements of family and friendship that are present throughout the novels, and some of the first stories I wrote were about Trixie and her friends. I would create a new adventure for them, throw myself in as a character (because why not?), and let my imagination run wild. That helped foster my love of writing as well, and for that, those books will always hold a special place in my heart.

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3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

What girl doesn’t love Little Women? My grandmother bought a condensed version of the book for me when I was in fifth grade, and upon devouring it, I fell in love and had to know the rest of the story. I loved the dynamics between the characters, and I liked how different each girl was. I found a film adaptation on Netflix not long after I read it, and I must have watched it at least twenty times.

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4. The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Yes, I know technically I listed two books, but I love them both equally and I couldn’t decide which one to choose, so I put both. I was introduced to Sarah Dessen the summer after sixth grade, when my literature teacher gave me a basket of books from her bookshelf and told me to read whichever ones I wanted and bring them back to her at the beginning of the next school year. Lock and Key was the first Dessen book I read, and I went on to read all of her books after that. At the time I read each of the two books above, I felt a connection with their main characters that I’d never felt before. Dessen made me feel understood and as if I wasn’t alone, and I knew I wanted to craft stories that did the same thing for other girls. I want to write books which make readers laugh, cry, smile, feel comforted, and know that they’re not the only ones who have gone through what they’re going through. Dessen played a major role in helping me figure out who I want to be as an author, and I hope one day I can meet her and thank her for that.

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5. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

Another gift from my grandmother. She gave it to me when I spent the night at her house and had forgotten to bring a book, and I loved it, although the ending drives me crazy. I recently reread it, and I’ll put a review up soon!

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6. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (and every Becca Fitzpatrick novel)

A friend recommended this series to me, and I knew it was good if she was recommending it, because she is not a reader. I was hooked by page two. Not only does it have realistic dialogue and a plot that unfurls at breakneck speed, but I’ve never read a book that combines fantasy, romance, and thriller in a way that seems effortless. Becca Fitzpatrick is brilliant, and I loved the Hush, Hush saga so much that I bought her two latest books without knowing anything about them. It was not a bad decision. Black Ice and Dangerous Lies were just as incredible as the Hush, Hush saga was. I highly recommend all of her books!

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7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

I had to read this for AP Language last year, and it was one of my favorite books that we read all year. It’s a nonfiction novel about the murders of the Clutter family in 1959 Holcomb, Kansas. I loved Capote’s style- he painted a picture in your head and somehow had you rooting for the two killers despite the fact that they killed four people in cold blood (I had to). Fun fact: Harper Lee assisted him with the research for the novel.

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8. Shaken by Tim Tebow

Totally opposite end of the spectrum from In Cold Blood, but it’s one of my favorite books. It’s special to me because Timmy- Yes, I know him and yes, I call him Timmy- shared my story in Chapter 7, and it features stories of friends of mine that I love dearly. There were pieces of the book where I could hear him reading it to me- that’s how authentic his voice is. I couldn’t be more honored that he chose to write about my W15H and about the time we’ve spent together, and I couldn’t be more proud of the success the book has had. It’s a great read, one that will make you laugh, cry, and realize that you, too can make a difference in the lives of others.

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That’s my personal cannon! Stephanie, thank you so much for the post inspiration! Now, I have a question: What books make up yours?

Summer Reading

Out of My Mind: Book Review

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Out of My Mind synopsis via Goodreads:

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom – the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it – somehow.

In this breakthrough story, reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.

Main character Melody Brooks is a force to be reckoned with. She navigates the world with a wheelchair, two loving, supporting parents, and Mrs. V, a lively, animated neighbor who will be sure to make you smile. Though she doesn’t have the ability to speak, she has the cognitive ability of a nondisabled ten-year old, and she takes in everything around her, describing her world with a voice that is both lively and vivid. Through Melody’s eyes, readers gain a view of cerebral palsy that is startlingly realistic and accurate.

Things I Loved

  • Draper’s Writing Style

The instant you begin reading Out of My Mind, you’re a part of Melody’s world. Draper uses words to paint a picture in your head, and by the time you finish the book, you feel as though you know Melody and the people around her. The dynamic between the characters is realistic and often humorous, and she writes with vivid detail and touching emotion, two things which leave an impact long after you close the cover.

  • The Portrayal of Cerebral Palsy

I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy in the way Draper portrays CP. From the frustration that comes when your disability doesn’t allow you to do something you want to do, to the difficulty of getting into public places when buildings are inaccessible, to the pain that being stared at causes…. Draper was right about everything. And as someone who goes through these things each day, I can’t tell you how comforting it was to read about a character who experiences the same things I do. I felt understood, and I felt as though I wasn’t alone. It was refreshing.

  • The Technological Aspect

I absolutely LOVED that technology was a part of this story, because technology has opened so many doors for me. A shower seat allows me to be independent in my bathroom, a walker gives me the gift of freedom, and elevators let me navigate stores and other public facilities that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I appreciated that Draper acknowledged the impact technology has in the lives of those who are disabled, because it plays a major role in allowing us to navigate the world.

What Wasn’t My Favorite

The ending. To me, it didn’t completely finish the story, and it was cheesy. A few conflicts were left unresolved. I understand why authors do that, but she could have executed it a little better. Draper had created an incredible character and an endearing world, and I felt they deserved something better than the ending they were given.

My Overall Rating

Four out of five stars! Despite my opinion of the ending, the story was touching and endearing and one I would definitely read again. I loved reading Melody’s story, and hope to read books similar to Out of My Mind in the future.

What books have you read that you’ve been able to relate to on such a high level?

Also, this is my first book review… I know I have room for improvement. What constructive criticism do you have for me?

Summer Reading

Summer Reading

We get out of school in about four weeks, and one of my goals this summer is to read more. When I was younger, I read all the time, but now with school, I don’t have as much time to. And now that I have a phone, I spend time on it instead, which is something else that I want to work on.

My summer reading list so far is:

  • The Shack
  • War Room
  • The Chronicles of Narnia

That’s all I have for now; plus, I’ll have books I’ll have to read for my AP Literature class over the summer. So, my question to you is: What books do you think I should read? I’ll read anything! Science fiction isn’t my favorite, but I’m open to reading a little sci-fi! Please comment with recommendations and suggestions! I’ll also be reviewing each book after I read it, so I’m excited about taking you along with me on this summer reading journey!