Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve read some of these books [Mini-Reviews]

There are so many books that I read last year that I still haven’t gotten around to reviewing. Hopefully, this post can make a (small) dent in that list.


The Conspiracy of Us and Map of Fates by Maggie Hall

map of fates

conspiracy of us

I really thought I was going to like these books because it seemed like it was going to be one massive treasure hunt. Instead, we’re gifted with insta-love and a completely unnecessary love triangle. I also don’t really understand why there’s this slight magical element? I mean, one of the characters is literally fireproof and I don’t know how that can be explained without magic. The main character is so naive and very annoying. I never understand why protagonists have such a hard time being left behind on “missions” when they have no training and would clearly only get in the way. I, personally, would be happy to sit on my behind in the hotel room and let people with ACTUAL TRAINING take care of the dangerous stuff. I honestly don’t know why I even bothered with the second book, but I am definitely NOT going to be reading the third one. 3/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

Orphan Monster SpyI wasn’t super impressed by this book. I thought it actually started off pretty strong, but it didn’t maintain that excitement through to the end. While I felt like it had a different tone from most books, that didn’t really make things any more interesting. The plot was fine, but not super engaging and I had a hard time figuring out what the end goal was supposed to be. Our main character is going through a bunch of stuff, but for what? I also didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters. The main character was…fine. Kind of bland–you really don’t get to know her that well. The author also chose to include some pretty messed up characters, but I didn’t really feel like they added to the story. 3/5

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The ArchivedThis book had been on my TBR forever because I really liked the Monsters of Verity duology. Also, I love any kind of twist on the “library” so if you know any good alternate library books, let me know in the comments! To get into my review, I felt like the world was pretty complex and didn’t really get explained very well at the beginning, which just left me feeling confused. I was also very confused for the first three chapters because I didn’t realize that Da and Dad were not both Mackenzie’s father. I liked Mackenzie as a main character, but she made some really questionable decisions. I never really understood her resistance for sharing information with the librarians, but especially Roland. He seemed to obviously be on her side and some things could have been prevented if she had been more transparent. I thought Wesley was a bit much as a character, but I did like watching his relationship with Mackenzie develop. Owen, on the other hand…that relationship seemed to come out of nowhere. In the end, there was a twist that I did NOT see coming and I’m just left with so many questions. Like, what is up with Ms. Angelli? Such a mystery. 4/5

ebook | Paperback

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

The ChristmasaurusThis is such a fun middle grade Christmas book. The language was pretty silly throughout, so I would definitely recommend for younger middle grade readers, but I think that age will find the silly language really enjoyable. This book has wheelchair representation which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other books–let alone middle grade. I’m no expert, but it felt like it was portrayed accurately and definitely felt super respectful. I also thought that the characters developed in a realistic way. Even though Brenda is horrible, I felt like I understood her and that’s not always the case with antagonists. I loved all of the illustrations throughout and the Christmas feels were SO STRONG. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming (am I just oblivious???) which was such a fun surprise. I recommend getting the version of the book that comes with the soundtrack–not necessary, but a really fun and festive bonus. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Musical Edition

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Two Dark ReignsOkay, I’m hoping to get through this review without any spoilers, but it’s book three in the series, so I’m really sorry if I reveal anything from the first two books–unintentional. After the second book I wasn’t sure how invested I would be in the rest of the story–I didn’t really see where Blake could take it from there. However, the third book got me reinvested real quick. I found myself liking this book much more than the second one and the different POVs continued to be a nice change of pace. I enjoyed each POV equally. There continue to be many, many questions and I need the next book asap. The ending took me by surprise and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on or what’s going to happen. There’s some interesting things going on on the island and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens next. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, & Brodi Ashton

my plain janeI love this series! The tone is fun and light and easy to enjoy. Once again, I thought the rotating perspective worked well, but Jane’s sections were probably my least favorite. I do wish that I’d read Jane Eyre first, though, because there are certain plot points that were so strange and I don’t know if they were extra or if they’re part of the original text. This is partly why one of my 2019 reading goals is to read Jane Eyre. I also liked that this is somewhat of a “Jane Eyre origin story”. The plot itself was good, but not completely thought out or explained. Why do the talismans work on ghosts? What really determines if a ghost moves on or not? Is a special “moving on” room really necessary? I also felt like red rooms were mentioned several times and I don’t really know why. Despite all that, the tone of the book is so enjoyable that I happily overlooked the times when things weren’t fully explained and I’m excited to continue on with this series. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

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HW Assignment: The Six by Mark Alpert

Note: This post was used as a homework assignment and may contain spoilers.

There are two things that I think teens should pull from this 61h4qR4hM5L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_book. First, adults are not always perfect. Two, “weak” characters can do strong things. A lot of times, in dystopian books especially, it seems that our main teenage characters are tasked with fixing the mistakes that the adults made. In this way, the idea of “imperfect adults” is not new. What this book has that is new, however, is the fact that the adults are working with the children to fix their mistakes, even while making new ones. I like that there is a codependency in the relationship as I feel that exists in real life as well.

The second, and most prevalent, idea that I mentioned shows that just because a character (or person) is “weak” in one aspect doesn’t mean that they as an entire person are “weak”. All of these children have terminal illnesses and, as is the case with Adam and DeShawn especially, have physical limitations. When they are released from their limitations, they have all kinds of potential. I think DeShawn especially shows this. He was arguably the most limited of the six characters but as soon as he gets into his robot, he starts cheering. This is Adam’s reaction: “I feel like cheering too. DeShawn’s not pretending. It’s the bravest thing I’ve ever seen” (pg 94). Throughout the book, DeShawn continues to be brave and shows that he’s just grateful to have this second chance at life. In their own ways, each of the Pioneers shows the strength that they have.

As mentioned in its Kirkus Review, this book “raises interesting questions about ethics, technology, and human nature”. I agree that the question of whether or not it was ethically right to put these kids (even though dying) into robots is a tough one. In addition, the question that Adam and his mother especially struggle with on what makes a person human is impossible to answer. Behind the action and the science, I believe that this book has a lot of themes that can inspire deep discussion among teens.

Some read-a-likes that I would recommend are Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Ender’s Game is similar because in both books, kids (or teens) have to fight a war started by adults. The adults would like to fight their own battles, but physically cannot because of the way their brains are. I thought of Ready Player One because of something that Adam says at the very beginning of the book. “That’s what I like about VR programs—how you can use them to build a virtual world that’s way better than ordinary reality” (pg 5). Ready Player One also has a main character that uses virtual reality in order to escape from his own, less-desirable reality.