Review: All the Answers

All the Answers All the Answers by Kate Messner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book number two for Battle of the Books!

I liked this one. I thought the idea of the story was fun but also thought-invoking. I think that many middle-school aged students will relate to Ava, who is in many ways a typical kid, but she also suffers from a nervous disposition. At first, she finds having a magic pencil with all the answers to be reassuring but then learns that sometimes knowing the answers to all of life's questions isn't all it's cracked up to be. The story is about more than just a magic pencil. It's about family, friends, love, learning to take risks and to trust oneself. It was an enjoyable story and a quick read.

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Review: Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Battle of the Books season has begun! Our teacher team has competed the last four years and come in second every time. This year is our year (I hope)! Anyway, Wonderstruck is one of the books on the to-read list this year and I am so glad that it is.

This novel is so special. The story is beautiful and the structure is amazingly unique. Selznick weaves together two different stories - the story of Ben, told through traditional prose and the story of Rose, which is told through pictures. Eventually, the two stories converge and the result is beautiful, a little sad, but wonderful. It is truly a wonderful book.

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Review: Fascism: A Warning

Fascism: A Warning Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine K. Albright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting book. Albright does an excellent job of defining the characteristics of Fascism and how fascism takes hold in various countries around the world throughout history. She describes the Fascists leaders of both the World War II era and modern day. Albright also describes how easy it is for a country or people to fall prey to Fascism if they do not remain vigilant and protect essential Democratic institutions and values.

I wasn't expecting as much history in the book, but it did provide helpful context, especially since Albright herself grew up under a Fascist government. The personal connection brought a sense of authority and authenticity to her argument. The narrative is well written, well researched, and engaging. I did not find it boring or dry at all.

If you have any interest in history, politics, or modern government then I think you would enjoy this book.

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Review: The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, the second installment of this series did not disappoint. I feel like there was a lot more character development in this one, with Ronan, Gansey, and Adam having more individual plotlines that really delved deeper into their personalities and gave them more substance. The main plotline was interesting (Who wouldn't want to be able to take things from dreams?) but didn't advance the plot thread from the first novel too much, until the very end, and was at times a bit slow. I'm excited to see where Stiefvater takes the story in the next book.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book with magic

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Review: Origin

Origin Origin by Dan Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another entertaining installment in the adventures of Robert Langdon. I was hooked from the very beginning and was thoroughly engrossed and entertained throughout. There were plenty of twists and surprises, just like they always are. Even after five books, I still find the character of Robert Langdon interesting and I appreciate Brown's imagination and creative storytelling. This story's centering on the relationship between science, religion, and technology is thought-provoking and leads to an ending that I did not see coming. I think my jaw may have fallen open when I reached it. If you are a fan of the series and/or you are looking for a suspenseful escape from reality, this one may be the book for you.

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Review: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a strange novel. It's like Mad Men meets X-Files meets something else entirely. It definitely takes a suspension of reality to read this book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This novel has a lot of moving parts and it definitely reads like it was written for a film adaptation. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character with their own storyline which is artfully woven together with the others.

The characters are a motley crew, each an outcast in their own way, who are struggling to find their place or identity. The love story between Elisa and the amphibious man echoes the epic romances of star-crossed lovers or stories like Beauty and the Beast where one lover has to see beyond the physical to the soul beneath.

I'm curious to see the film adaptation and how the novel translates, especially since the novel had a screenplay-like feel to it. Overall, I like this novel.

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Review: Alias Grace

Alias Grace Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting one. Atwood really is a literary genius. Her ability to craft a story and throw in unexpected twists is quite remarkable. I did not learn until reading the book's afterword that this story is actually based on a real criminal case. In light of that information, I think the story takes on a whole new dynamic. Atwood fills in the holes in the historical narrative in a way that is believable and realistic. Grace's story is tragic and she is a victim of circumstance. The characters are interesting, Atwood's observations are sharp, and the plot held my attention throughout. This one is definitely worth a read.

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