Category Archives: Reviews

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Call # FIC AHD

Welcome back to Miss Pickel’s Picks! It’s been a really long time since I’ve written. I came back to school last month determined to turn over a leaf and keep my blog updated, but somehow we’ve been back at school for six weeks and I’m just now writing my first post. I read a lot of really good books this summer, like Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers series, which somehow managed to be funny, dramatic, thrilling and chilling all at the same time. I’m so excited because Noah is reading the first book right now – I hope he likes it as much as I did! The other book I loved was The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds; I just read a book co-written by Reynolds and I promise I’ll blog about that next!

I just finished a wonderful book based on the Arabian story collection One Thousand and One Nights; I loved it so much that I had to write about it. The novel is called The Wrath and the Dawn; the author is Renee Ahdieh and I think she’s so amazing that I will read everything she ever writes! The book opens when 16-year-old Shahrzad’s best friend has been killed by the new king. For months the 18-year-old Caliph has married a new woman every night and had her killed the next morning. When Shahrzad hears the news about her best friend she is determined to put a stop to the king once and for all, so she volunteers to be the Caliph’s next bride. Her family is terrified and her childhood sweetheart follows her. However, Shahrzad has a plan and she will not be stopped. When the Caliph comes to her room that night Shahrzad begins a story about Agib, the “thief of Baghdad.” The Caliph is mesmerized by the story and as the sun begins to rise Shahrzad leaves off on a cliffhanger. Of course, the king can’t have her killed now; he has to find out how the story ends! The next night Shahrzad wraps up the story about Agib, but starts another tale and the king must again spare her life. This pattern follows night after night as Shahrzad and the Caliph begin to talk about their lives and she learns that there is much more to the young king than meets the eye.

I adore this book for so many reasons. First of all, the language is so lyrical that I found myself reading passages out loud. I also love the way Ahdieh writes her characters; I was drawn to the supporting characters even more than the main ones, especially Despina, Shahrzad’s servant and confidante. I think my favorite thing about the book, though, is how the author takes an ancient story and updates it. I’ve always been interested in mythology, fairy tales and folklore with a twist and The Wrath and the Dawn has become one of my favorites in that genre!

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Filed under Fantasy, Library Stuff, Reviews, Romance

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Call # FIC ROW

OK, it’s been almost six months since I’ve written a blog post and it’s finally time for me to get back in the game!  There are so many books I want to read and write about I can’t even count them.   I’ve decided to start with this year’s Flume nominees, which are chosen by New Hampshire teens.   Monsieur has read almost all of them and my goal is to read all of them before we vote for our favorites in April.  So far I have read Winger by Andrew Smith and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.  I read Winger a year ago and I really liked it, but I never blogged about it, so all I remember now is that it’s about guys in boarding school.  This is why I always have to write a blog post when I like a book.  From now on I always will, even if it’s really short.  I did read Out of the Easy and loved it; you can read my review here.  I decided that the next contender I wanted to read was Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl because it looked like my kind of book: a contemporary novel with a touch of romance and a focus on writing.  I ended up loving Fangirl in so many ways.  I might vote for it to win the Flume award; I can’t imagine liking any of the other nominees more.

Fangirl is about Cath, who has always had an extremely close bond with her twin sister Wren.  The girls’ mother left when they were young and their father raised them by himself.  Cath and Wren have always shared a room; when the girls decide to go to the same college Cath just assumes that they’ll continue to be roommates.  She’s shocked when Wren announces that she wants to room with someone else.  Cath is devastated that Wren has decided that the beloved fan fiction the two of them have written for years is babyish and that she is too mature for it now that she is in college.  Cath has never felt more alone after her father drops her off in her dorm room.  To make matters worse, Cath’s terrified of her roommate, Reagan, and irritated by the fact that Reagan’s amiable, ultra-laid-back boyfriend  Levi is always around.  The only place Cath finds solace is in her fan fiction, which is based on a blockbuster Harry Potter-ish series.  Cath’s fanfic has a huge online following, yet she subsists on granola bars for a week because she’s afraid to ask anyone where the dining hall is.

Reagan and Levi soon catch on to Cath’s diet and decide to make it their mission to drag her to the dining hall and beyond.  Cath realizes that Reagan, who turns out not be nearly as scary as Cath thought, and Levi are no longer an item; Cath might just think he’s a little cute.  Meanwhile, Cath is dealing with a suddenly odd relationship with her sister, a writing professor who doesn’t understand the merits of fanfic, and finishing the online story her thousands of fans are clamoring for.  Cath has a crazy, amazing year and I absolutely loved following her every step of the way.  I hope Rowell makes a series out of Cath’s adventures; I’d love to accompany her through every year of college!

 

 

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The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer

Call # 306.874 ROD

As part of my renewed commitment to my blog I have decided to concentrate on nonfiction for real this year; I am going to try to read one nonfiction book a month. I decided to start with The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer. Maddy had picked it up off the shelf while waiting for an IMovie project to finalize and liked it so much she brought it home to finish. She brought it back the next day, saying she loved it. After reading it cover to cover in one day I can see why. Rodriguez’s book chronicles her senior project in high school, in which she pretended to be pregnant to see how people would react.
Gaby’s mother had her first child at age 15 and subsequently had seven more children, including Gaby, the youngest by several years. Many of Gaby’s brothers and sisters also became teen parents. As she grew up many people, including her siblings, warned her incessantly about becoming a teen mother. At the same time Gaby saw the way people talked about girls who did become pregnant at her school. When it came time to think about what she might want to do for her senior project she thought about all of the stereotypes that she continuously heard, not only about teen mothers, but about people who had teen mothers in their family. She decided that she wanted to find out firsthand what it felt like to hear whispered gossip and feel people staring at her. Gaby came to the conclusion that for her senior project she would pretend to be pregnant and record the reactions of the people in her life. This took a great deal of courage, not just on Gaby’s part, but her boyfriend Jorge’s as well. Gaby and Jorge decided to not even tell Jorge’s parents that the pregnancy was fake. Gaby got special permission from the principal to embark on this project and except for some healthcare professionals with whom she consulted the only other people who knew the truth were Jorge, Gaby’s mother, and her best friend, Saida. Saida was enlisted in the project to overhear the comments made about Gaby and report them back to her. The project culminated with Gaby doing a presentation in front of the entire school, where she explained that she wasn’t really pregnant and why she felt strongly about the project.
I flew through The Pregnancy Project. I loved learning about Gaby’s family, especially her strong, loving mother. As I was reading I felt that the main focus of Gaby’s senior project was to expose stereotypes; she wanted to show her classmates and teachers how easy it is to fall into the habit of stereotyping and how limiting and hurtful it can be to judge people. Gaby’s presentation opened a lot of eyes and I think her book does the same.

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Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Call # FIC SEP

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres; I love it because I love learning about other time periods and I also love immersing myself in a really atmospheric setting.  I think Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys will go on my list of all-time favorite historical fiction books.  The book takes place in New Orleans in 1950 and its heroine is Josie Moraine, whose mother Louise is a prostitute at Willie Woodley’s brothel in the French Quarter.  Josie and her mother Louise live above a bookstore run by a local author and Josie works as a housekeeper at the brothel and as a clerk at the bookstore.  The book starts on New Years Eve; Josie graduated from high school the previous June and desperately wants to earn enough money to pay for a college education. She has basically raised herself; Louise is neglectful and only pays attention to Josie when she wants something from her.  When Louise runs off to California with her criminal boyfriend Cincinnati Josie is relieved.  Even though her mother is lacking Josie is surrounded by many caring, supportive people.  She has basically been raised by Willie and Willie’s driver Cokie.  She is also close to the bookstore’s owner, Charlie, and his son Patrick.  Everyone has been telling Josie for years that she has what it takes to succeed in college and on New Year’s Eve two customers persuade her even more to follow her dreams.  One is Charlotte, who is a student at Smith and tells Josie that she would be perfect for the campus.  The other is a gentleman from Memphis, Tennessee who assumes that Josie is already in college; they have a great discussion about literature.  After these two conversations Josie can picture herself at a New England university, taking challenging classes and going to cultural events, and surrounding herself with people with similar interests.  The next morning, though, Josie plummets back down to the reality of her life in the Quarter.  She finds out that the gentleman from Memphis died the night before and that her mother was with him.  As Josie becomes embroiled in this mystery she begins to wonder whether she can ever get out of New Orleans.

 

This book is wonderful on so many levels.  The New Orleans atmosphere is palpable; I felt like I was right there in the French Quarter with Josie.  More importantly, though, the characters are wonderful.  I loved Josie and her support system, including Jesse, the local “bad boy” who turns out to be so much more.  In fact, many of the “upstanding citizens” in the novel turn out to be dishonorable and some of the so-called corrupt people are kind and honest.  I love how Sepetys turns stereotypes on their heads.  I enjoyed this book so much that after I finished I immediately went to YouTube to find an interview with the author.  I’m including the one I found below; it was so fun and inspiring to hear about what led Sepetys to write this novel.  It made the experience of this book even more special to me.

 

 

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Reviews

All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Call # FIC BER

I read a lot of books that I love, but every once in a while I find one that I think is so amazing that I want to recommend it to everyone I know. Julie Berry’s All the Truth That’s In Me is that book for me right now. I think it is absolutely incredible in every way. It is gorgeously written and has a resilant heroine who grows stronger as the story goes on. There is also a mystery to unravel and complex characters to follow. On top of all that Berry poses a lot of questions to ponder that really made me think.
The novel is about Judith, who has recently come back to her town after having disappeared two years earlier. The story seems to take place in the 1800s and Roswell Station is a place where people live simply and everyone knows everyone. The night Judith disappeared her friend Lottie did as well and the townspeople are stunned and full of questions when Judith returns alone. However, Judith can’t provide any answers; she has been rendered mute since half of her tongue was cut out. Judith is immediately shunned upon her return; she is treated as ignorant and freakish and her mother blames her for her father’s death. The only friendly face in Roswell Station is Judith’s childhood friend Lucas. Before she vanished Judith thought that their friendship might blossom into something more; now Lucas is engaged to someone else. Judith thinks that her lot in life is to simply to exist and go unnoticed from day to day, but when her village is threatened she decides she has to do whatever she can to protect it. This may mean going back to the life she escaped from. The chain of events that follows opens Judith up to things she didn’t dream were posiible for her: an education, friendship and maybe even love.
I don’t want to write too much more about this book because there are so many surprises in it and I don’t want to give anything away. All I can say is that it’s one of the best books I have ever read and I can’t wait for Julie Berry’s next novel.

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Full Ride by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Call # FIC HAD

I just read the most amazing book ever last night and I can’t wait to write about it.  Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Full Ride is just a completely amazing book and I don’t even know what aspect of the book to write about first.  I think I’ll start with the concept.  Haddix took a news headline, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and subsequent fraud conviction, and reimagined it as a fictional story.  In this novel Becca Jones is fourteen years old and looking forward to starting high school with her popular crowd of friends when her father is suddenly arrested and put on trial for embezzlement.  When Becca’s father is found guilty and sent to prison Becca is completely without friends and she and her mother are without money.  In the midst of Becca’s embarrassment and shame her mother has the idea that they should move to tiny Deskins, Ohio; her mother can work as a nurse and she and Becca can reinvent themselves where no one has any idea who they are.  On Becca’s first day in her new school she realizes that she must keep a low profile so her classmates never find out her real identity.  She decides that the she can’t be popular like she was at her old school; the best thing to do is to fill her schedule with honors and advanced placement classes.  That way she’ll be too busy with schoolwork to socialize, therefore limiting the the chances that she will slip up and say something that she shouldn’t.

Becca’s plan works beautifully except for the fact that she’s lonely; she only sees her friends at school because inviting them to her house could lead to too many questions.  Becca’s plan works so well, in fact, that by the time she’s a senior she’s ranked fourth in her class and excited about applying to colleges.  Becca’s mother quashes her excitement, though, by telling her that she can’t apply for financial aid without revealing who she really is.  Becca wonders why it matters anymore if anyone knows her identity, but she doesn’t press her mother.  Instead she starts to focus on a great scholarship opportunity that could mean that her four years of college could be totally paid for, which would be the perfect solution.

The scholarship seems too good to be true and in a way that turns out to be the case because it leads Becca on an odyssey that takes her down some very unexpected paths.  The wonderful thing about this book is that it leads the reader down some very unexpected paths as well.  I loved Becca and I was rooting for her throughout the entire book.  I felt her loneliness and wished that she could open up to her friends; I felt her disappointment and anger that she could not pursue her dreams after having sacrificed and lost so much.  Because of that the road trip that Becca embarks on toward the end of the novel is much sweeter.  I highly recommend Full Ride; it’s a good, fast-paced read that left me with a lot to think about.

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Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick & Suzanne Young

Call # FIC PAT

I’m a really slow reader and it’s very rare when I read a book in one night, even a short one. Well, last night I read a 300-page book all at once! I just couldn’t put it down. The book is Just Like Fate, written by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time. What first drew me to the novel was its tagline, “One decision, two paths.” The book begins with Caroline learning that her beloved grandmother’s cancer has taken a turn for the worse and that she doesn’t have much time left. The entire family gathers around Gram in hospice care while Caroline thinks about how much Gram has meant to her over the past five years. Caroline moved in with Gram when she was 12 and her parents were going through a nasty divorce. She has lived with Gram ever since, causing a rift in her relationships with her mother, father, and her older sister. Not only is Caroline losing the one person in her family who truly understands her, but her mother seems like a stranger now and her sister is filled with animosity toward her. Caroline feels like she can’t take the sadness and pressure anymore. Her best friend Simone tries to convince her to go to a party to take her mind off things for a while. Caroline is conflicted because she feels like she needs to get away, but at the same time she feels like she needs to stay with her grandmother. The second chapter ends with Caroline starting to give Simone her answer. Then the book diverges and every other chapter is titled “Stay” or “Go” as Caroline travels down the two different roads.

I don’t want to say any more about Just Like Fate because I loved following the two stories as they unfolded, not knowing where Caroline’s decisions would lead her next. I can’t wait for other people to read it, though, because it is so thought-provoking and I want to be able to discuss it. This reminds me of one of my favorite novels, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, which is about a girl who lives her last day over and over. Both books talk a lot about fate and relationships and they gave me a lot to think about. The other intriguing thing about Just Like Fate is that it was written by two people. I had to keep reminding myself of this while I was reading because the authors’ voices blended together seamlessly. I really want Lily and Courtney to read it since they’re doing a writing project together. I can’t wait to read interviews with the authors to get more insight into their writing and I’m really looking forward to their next project.

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Filed under Family, Reviews