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

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 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 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 Fabrice Midal 

5 Stars

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t: Cut the Crap and Live Your Life by  Fabrice Midal

French philosopher and meditation expert Fabrice Midal, the founder of the Western School of Meditation in France, attempts to share his wisdom in order to help those struggling with finding themselves to understand the true meaning of meditation with the help of philosophy. Midal does an excellent job explaining ways of meditation. He shares countless personal stories, each one adding more to his overall message that meditation is more about experiencing freedom, letting go and not caring about anything in that exact moment rather than a way to relax. 

As someone who has never really been interested in meditation, this book was very interesting and enlightening. What made it most enjoyable for me was Midal’s personality. He is quite funny in some parts of the book and also serious when he needs to be.

As Fabrice Midal mentions, in this modern age, we cause ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety by trying too hard to always be the best. Reading this self-help book makes you wonder the answers to questions such as, what would happen if I did step back every once in a while and is that something I would actually be able to do?

It also motivates you in telling the reader that it’s ok to say no to things you don’t enjoy doing. Thinking with this mindset allows you to do things that make you happier as a person, thus allowing you to live your life without the worry of pleasing others.

I would personally recommend this book to anyone who is thinking of starting up meditation or is interested. I did not think I would enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Vlada E.

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by Kevin Kwan

5 Stars

Rich People Problems: A Novel: Kwan, Kevin: 9780385689403: Books - Amazon.ca

Rich People Problems is the third and final installment of Kevin Kwan’s captivating trilogy that showcases a deep insight into the wealthy and powerful families of Singapore. Nick and Rachel are happily married and enjoying life living in Manhattan. Suddenly, Nick discovers from his mother that his grandmother, Su Yi, has had a heart attack and is currently on her deathbed, so he quickly rushes to Singapore to be by her side. Apparently, Nick is not the only one who goes back to Singapore to visit her. The entire Shang-young clan has assembled from all over the world to say their last goodbyes to Su Yi, hoping to inherit Tyersall Park, Su Yi’s trophy estate on sixty-four prime acres in the heart of Singapore. Backbiting and sabotaging take place within Su Yi’s house as the family members fight to inherit this massive fortune. Discover some of the shocking secrets that Asia’s most privileged families are hiding and all the insight into their ridiculous rich people problems! 

Rich People Problems was an excellent novel to conclude a phenomenal series. The novel was very emotional and focused a lot on family, which was very relatable to read. The storyline was captivating, had numerous surprises, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. I could not put the book down as it was that interesting! Overall, Rich People Problems was intriguing, emotional, and the perfect way to end the charming trilogy. This was an amazing way to conclude a great story. 

Emily K.

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by Kevin Kwan

5 Stars

China Rich Girlfriend - Wikipedia

Written by Kevin Kwan, China Rich Girlfriend is the sequel to the novel Crazy Rich Asians. Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young are finalizing and preparing details on the eve of their wedding day. Even though Rachel is ecstatic and more than eager to marry the man of her dreams, she still wishes she knew who and where her birth father was, so he would be there to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. However, a sudden and shocking revelation reveals his identity, and Rachel reunites with her long-lost father. Rachel eventually gets drawn into a crazy world of Shanghai splendour beyond anything she could have ever imagined. China Rich Girlfriend introduces the elite circles of mainland China, as well as captivating characters that are far more than crazy rich – they’re China-rich. 

China Rich Girlfriend was a fascinating and funny summer novel filled with love, family, and of course, extravagant displays of wealth. The novel is the second volume within the humorous trilogy that follows the richest families of Hong Kong and mainland China. Personally, I prefer the first book over this one, as I feel that the first book had more drama and was more intriguing. However, the book was still very well written, and I enjoyed reading about the different characters introduced and the different perspectives. I think China Rich Girlfriend is a solid continuation of the series and worth reading. If you enjoyed reading the first book within the series, I would definitely recommend picking this one up! 

Emily K.

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by Jenny Han

4 Stars

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before – Eagle Eye

Written by Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a young adult romance novel. Lara Jean Covey is the main character and a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in Virginia and is very close to her older sister Margot and younger sister Kitty. In a hatbox given to her by her mother, she keeps love letters written to all of the boys that she has loved before – five in total. By writing these love letters, she is able to pour her heart and soul out and release the emotions and true feelings that she would never say in real life. One day at school, Peter Kavinsky, one of the boys she wrote a letter to, approaches her and tells Lara Jean that he does not feel any attraction towards her. Initially, Lara Jean expresses confusion, however, she quickly realizes that Peter has received the love letter she wrote to him years ago. Horrified, she rushes home to make sure the remaining letters have not been sent out, but she cannot find the hatbox. She eventually discovers that her younger sister Kitty had sent out all of the love letters. With all of the letters sent out, Lara Jean must cope with her out of control love life. 

Personally, I found this novel to be quite charming and relatable. The novel is fairly short and will not take long to finish, I was able to finish it within a day. Some may find parts of the story to be cheesy, however, I thought that the book was wholesome and relaxing to read. Anyone who enjoys teenage romance novels will absolutely fall in love with this book! 

Emily K.

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by James Dashner

5 Stars

The Maze Runner - Wikipedia

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, tells a story about a young boy named Thomas, who awakens in a strange elevator with all his past memories forgotten. As he emerges from the earth, he finds himself in a grassland, surrounded by dangerous stone walls that form a maze. In that maze, he also finds himself living in a community with a bunch of other boys who call themselves “The Gladers”. As Thomas slowly starts to gain back his memory, such as his name and age, he also discovers more sinister clues about the boys and the location he landed in. After learning about how the maze surrounds them all, Thomas is determined to help find a way out of this unknown maze with the help of his friends. The journey won’t be easy, as anyone who dares to find their way out of the maze will be haunted and attacked by the Grievers.  

I personally enjoyed reading this action-packed book. Dashner adds the right amount of clarity, detail, and mystery to help engage the reader. The way the plot moves and the different types of events that are happening forces the reader to keep thinking and imagining what will happen next. This is a key feature in Dashner’s writing style. It is a dystopian science fiction book about boys, who have been trying to find their way out of this maze for three years. However, everything changes when the protagonist (Thomas) arrives. I strongly urge you to, if you haven’t, give this book a read, especially if you love reading dystopian science fiction books. 

Ahmed Q.

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