by Kristin Cashore 

5 Stars

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1) by Kristin Cashore

Graceling is the first book of the Seven Kingdoms Series written by Kristin Cashore and was published on October 1, 2008. This story follows a young woman named Katsa and her adventures with Po, a young Lienid man, as they attempt to figure out the mysteries and reasons behind the kidnapping of Po’s grandfather. In this world, there are abilities called “Grace”, which allowed one to have an excellent talent for a certain task. For Katsa, it is the Grace to kill. Throughout her entire life, she was trained to kill or torture those who King Randa, the king of Middlun and Katsa’s uncle, wanted, which were mostly morally evil. Though Katsa had an idea to do what is morally better than to be her uncle’s “pet”. After her escape under King Randa’s grasp, she finally had the chance to do what she thought best, as she helps her Lienid companion solve the mystery. 

The writing of the characters in this book is amazing, as each character and their behaviour are expressed in a clear way. For example, Giddon, an underlord of King Randa who had worked with Katsa countless times. Though as the chapters progress, his negative personality shows. His jealousy getting the best of him, his snarky replies towards others, and special treatment towards Katsa- until a certain point of the story. Another example would be Po, who was introduced as a mysterious person, one with a confident and cautious atmosphere. Though as the story progresses, he is seen as a caring person and a well-suited companion to Katsa, as they go wander through the lands of this world.

As for the setting, the world seems to be one of a fantasy and medieval sort. With the descriptions of the lands, cities, transportation, and powers. Just like the characters, the setting is clear, as the language gives off the impression that the era is medieval or somewhat something similar to it. With plenty of descriptive writing, it brings the atmosphere of the story to life. For example, somewhere a third beyond the book, Katsa looks out from an inn as she sees the rainy weather. Another example of well-written descriptive writing can be found on page 95, chapter 13, “Katsa watched the grass moving around them. The wind pushed it, attacked it, struck it in one place and then another. It rose and fell and rose again. It flowed, like water.” Clearly, this book is fantastic when it comes to the plot, characters, and setting, as it brings the reader into the world of Graceling

Nyjel C.

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by Raina Telgemeier

5 Stars

Drama: Telgemeier, Raina: 9780545326995: Books - Amazon.ca

Callie Marin is a middle school student with a love for all things related to theatre. As soon as she is made aware of the fact that her school is putting on a production of a play named “Moon Over Mississippi”, Callie immediately signs up to be in charge of set design, with a passion to create a Broadway-worthy set with a middle-school budget. Faced with challenges along the way, Callie does the best she can in order to overcome all the drama at school and in her personal relationships. The story focuses on her as she learns the importance of teamwork, friendship and being inclusive, as well as how that can be beneficial both off and on stage. It also introduces and teaches children about LGBTQ+ topics, normalizing the idea of being different.  

Drama is a beautifully written graphic novel with fantastic characters that many kids can relate to, those feeling like outcasts because of their sexualities are taught that they are not alone. It is one of my favourite books I’ve read in a while. It’s very refreshing to see openly gay characters portrayed as normal people, not having their whole personality being based on the fact that they have a different sexual preference than those around them. I would rate Drama a definite 10/10 based on its quality, story-telling, and representation. I’d recommend this graphic novel to those who are 13 or older since some scenes are more for mature audiences, but it is amazingly written, and the style is beautiful therefore I’m positive anyone can enjoy it.

Vlada E.

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by Raina Telgemeier

5 Stars

Smile: Telgemeier, Raina, Telgemeier, Raina: 8601300314594: Books -  Amazon.ca

The autobiographical graphic novel named Smile follows the author, Raina Telegemeler, as she takes the reader through the events that took place from 6th grade all the way to when she graduated from high school. The graphic novel starts off by introducing then 11-year-old Raina as she goes with her mother to the orthodontist’s office, learning she will need to get braces in order to repair her overbite. Later that night, as she is chasing her friends around having fun, Raina ends up falling face-first on the hard concrete breaking her 2 front teeth. As soon as her mother sees what happened, she immediately takes Raina to the orthodontist’s office to see if they can do anything to save her teeth. After the orthodontist does his best to repair her damaged teeth, they notice that the teeth are lodged too far up compared to all her other ones. Due to this fact, she has to wear braces that would be even more intrusive and painful to her life, trying to pull them back down, even going as far as having to wear headgear at night to help. The story continues following Raina throughout her teenage years, showing her struggles with friends and other obstacles she had to overcome due to her braces. Raina Telgemeier also illustrates how escaping a toxic friend group can change the way you see yourself, and she learns to have more confidence in herself by changing her environment. 

This is an excellent read, in my opinion. I’ve personally loved this book for years, I’d recommend it to younger audiences who enjoy reality, comedy and a satisfying conclusion. I would rate this book a solid 10/10. 

Vlada E.

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by Katherine Applegate

5 Stars

The One and Only Ivan

The book, The One and Only Ivan, is about a Gorilla on his epic journey to his home, the zoo. The novel is written in the first person from the point of view of Ivan, a gorilla. Ivan and his friends all work at Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. In this mall, Ivan and his friends try to catch people’s attention, by running a circus. Ivan and his friends all work for Mack, who’s a stubborn man and only cares about how his business is going, not his animals. On his journey, he meets lots of new friends. That die and survive. Some of the main friends that he meets on his journey are Stella, Bob, Ruby, etc. Stella’s an older elephant, Bob’s a dog, and Ruby’s a baby elephant. 

All of these characters provide great help to Ivan, but Ruby is the one who can change Ivan’s life forever! 

Ivan lives in a domain where there is a Genitor named George, who has a daughter named Julia. 

Julia is a human and one of Ivan’s best friends. One thing in common between the two is that they both love art!  

In my opinion, the book, The One and Only Ivan is a great read! I like the main message of the book, storytelling. One of the ways they used storytelling in this book is when Ivan can’t sleep he goes to Stella to listen to a story from her past. Another reason why I liked this book is that it gives a really strong message to never give up! Ivan goes through a lot, but eventually, he gets to his home, the zoo. I would prefer this book, for all ages. 

“This beautiful, life-affirming story will soar directly from Ivan’s heart into yours.” – Katherine Applegate

Ahmed Q.

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by James Dashner

5 Stars

The Eye of Minds

The novel The Eye of Minds by James Dashner is a story about a young teenage boy named Micheal. Since he doesn’t have the chance of seeing his parents much, he spends most of his time gaming. This book takes place in the future, where gaming and technology are more advanced and ultra-modern than this current era. The main gaming system displayed in the book is called VirtNet. This stunning gaming system provides a great experience for gamers whose minds are connected to the system, making them present in a virtual world. This world also unlocks the gamer’s ability to use their five senses. Everything starts well until a sudden event occurs. Kaine, a cyber-terrorist, has the ability to claim different gamer profiles, forcing them to follow whatever he says. The owners of VirtNet are shocked but are willing to find a way to stop the dangerous cyber-terrorist before he hurts their company and its profits.  

To catch a hacker, you need a hacker. VirtNet has been examining Micheal and his hacking skills. They decide to use him to save VirtNet and find Kaine. This risk is enormous, and Micheal realizes that he might have a chance of dying in the process. It’s a dangerous journey, but Micheal and his friends are ready to take the challenge. 

This novel was truly a masterpiece. The book contained great detail and was fast-paced, which drew me right from the beginning. This book also kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. Overall, I would recommend this book to all ages.

Ahmed Q.

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by Traci Chee

4.5 Stars

We Are Not Free

The Historical Fiction/Young Adult Fiction, We Are Not Free, written by Traci Chee, was an addictive and intriguing book. It was also quite unusual. The author featured 14 Japanese American teens during the perspectives of 14 Japanese American characters. Usually, in books that have 3-5 characters, each character has had his/her chapter. I never personally liked that. But the way Traci Chee had Frankie, Tommy, Ike, Twitchy, Mas, Shig, Minnow, Stan, Bette, Yum-yum and Yosh have their own chapters and perspectives. It was a different book. I never read anything like it, but once I started reading it, more and more, I literally couldn’t put it down! All the 14 teens had different characteristics like bravery, artistic, leadership, talent, loveable, athletic, funny, considerate, friendly, humble, intelligent, sensitive, outgoing and optimistic. The story is about all the 14 teens’ lives turning upside down after over 100,000 people of Japanese descent have been removed from their homes in San Francisco and forced into hard labour camps. These 14 Nisei (a person born in the US or Canada whose parents are from Japan) teens gather to compare their perceptions as they are all facing racism and prosecution to pull them all apart. This book is historical fiction directed at young adults, but in some parts, there is crude language. This story is based on all the lives we’ve lost, especially during WWII. I would recommend this book to ages 12 and up. This is historical fiction and young adult. The book deals with the creoles and discrimination and other races at that time when they were treated badly during WWII. Characters do go through some of the hard times in life for the Japanese and other races at the time that were treated really poorly during WWII. It may have situations and events that are hard for some children under 12 to understand. Nevertheless, I rate this book a 4.5/5 star. It’s an amazing read and an emotional read!

4.5 Stars

Hoda D.

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by Andrzej Sapkowski

5 Stars

The Last Wish

Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher: The Last Wish is the first entry in Sapkowski’s The Witcher series. The novel is a collection of stories about Geralt of Rivia’s adventures as a Witcher. Throughout the novel he encounters a variety of interesting characters and creatures, such as a striga, a giant bear who is half-man, a wizard, a queen, and a devil among others. Throughout the novel, Geralt meets people who hire him to deal with monsters. However, the tasks he is given are often more complicated than they first seem.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Witcher: The Last Wish. Sapkowski’s writing style is interesting and engaging, creating an exceptional novel that is hard to put down. The book consists of several short stories of Geralt’s adventures that combine to form a larger story filled with messages and morals. Geralt is a fascinating character who truly elevates the novel into a masterpiece. He is witty, intelligent, strong, and courageous. He is also very cautious and always expects the unexpected to occur. I found it interesting to read about his friend Dandelion, who is the complete opposite of Geralt. Dandelion is cheerful, energetic, optimistic, and always assumes the best of people. This creates an interesting dynamic between the two and leads to some amusing scenes where both are taken out of their element and act a bit like each other. Overall The Witcher: The Last Wish is an excellent novel and is truly one of the books where if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out. I would give this book 5 stars out of 5.

Ethan M.

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by Deborah Ellis

5 stars

My Name Is Parvana

The Fiction, My Name Is Parvana, written by Deborah Ellis, was an adventurous and astonishing book. It’s the fourth and final book of the Breadwinner series. It tells the story of a 15-year-old Parvana imprisoned and designated as a suspected terrorist in Kabul, Afghanistan. She was carrying her late father’s shoulder bag, which was searched by the American soldiers. They found a notebook that she wrote letters to Nooria, Asif, Hassan, Leila, Shauzia, pens, and a chewed-up copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. Parvana refuses to talk, and the interrogator thinks Parvanna is either deaf or mute. She doesn’t even respond to any questions in the languages the interrogator suspects she knows, she remains silent even when she is threatened, harassed and treated horribly over several days. While her fate is in the balance, the interrogator and the force to determine her fate, she remembers flashbacks of the past four years of her life. Remembering her mother and sisters living in a village where her mother had finally managed to open a school for girls called Leila’s Hope of Academy. Even when the Taliban had been driven by the government, the country was still at war, and many families continue to view the freedom of education of girls and women with fear. As Parvana’s family settles into the routine of running the school, she finds herself bored. She even thinks of running away. Her mother was killed due to the local men that had threatened the school and destroyed the school, which puts Paravana’s own life in danger. This story is one inspiring book to read. This book is a must-read, and I recommend this book to all ages. I rate this story 5/5 stars!

Hoda D.

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by Deborah Ellis

5 Stars

Mud City

The Fiction, Mud City, written by Deborah Ellis, was a breathtaking and engaging book. Deborah Ellis’s Mud City is the third book of the Breadwinner series. It tells the story of a 14-year-old girl, Shauzia, Parvana’s best friend, into a refugee camp in Pakistan. Shauzia left Kabul to come to the camp with Mrs. Weera, her former PE teacher, who is in charge of the Widow’s Compound. Shauzia begins to get annoyed with Mrs. Weera as she doesn’t get paid for any of the jobs at the camp. But Shauzia always had a dream of going to France with her dog Jasper and just imaging the beautiful lavender fields and living there. So Shauzia decides to leave the camp and head off to the dangerous streets in Peshawar to look for jobs that will pay her. As she gets accused one day of stealing a guy’s money, she got thrown into prison. She is soon rescued by a generous American Family, Tom and Barbara, as the family treats Shauzia as one of their own kids with generosity and respect. Shauzia soon has to go back to camp because she let lots of families inside the home to help them out and give them something to eat and drink but without the consent of Tom and Barbara. Once Shauzia returns to the camp, she realizes that Mrs. Weera isn’t a bad person. After all, she likes helping people and wants to make a difference in their lives. She doesn’t give up on her dream to go to France, but she realizes she has a long way to go, and her dream of her going to go to France can wait until she is ready. This story is one amazing story. This book is a must-read, and I recommend this book to all ages. Overall, I rate this book 5/5 stars!

Hoda D.

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by Christopher Golden

5 Stars

Red Hands

It’s July 4th, and the people in the small town of New Hampshire are celebrating by putting on a huge parade. Everything starts going well until a mysterious worker from Garland Mountain Labs is seen himself in a vehicle and starts to plow through the crowd. Panicking, many people witness the car’s driver hopping out of the vehicle and touching people. Within a few seconds, the people of the town drop dead due to the sickness that person had attained. As worriedness and pressure start to grow, a parade attendee named Maeve uses a baseball bat to hit the guy and fully knock him out, but not before the mysterious person touches her. Surprisingly, she seems to be fine and immediately goes to check on her family, but when she touches them, they instantly die too. Filled with trembling fear, she flees into the mountain to hide, struggling with her own grief and confusion.  

Scientist expert, Ben Walker is called upon to help investigate the problem. He must not only find Maeve but to find out the exact secret weapon Garland Moutain Labs have unleashed. Meanwhile, Maeve looks for a hiding spot. Filled with terror and exhaustion, she begins to hear voices inside her head, and her desperation to touch another human being continues to grow. Will Maeve die? Can Ben Walker exactly figure out the secret weapon? Find out by reading Red Hands by Christopher Golden. 

This well-crafted book was very entertaining, and I highly enjoyed it. The novel grabs you in the first couple of pages, and it is then nearly impossible to put down! The energy is held in tension throughout the entire development of the story. To conclude, this is simply a fantastic read, and I highly recommend this novel to fans who enjoy thriller books.

Ahmed Q.

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