Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

Archive for the category “Book Reviews – Ellen”

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko

Chasing SecretsThis book drew me in so completely, I did not want to put it down.

We are introduced to Elizabeth Kennedy or Lizzie to her friends, a young girl who aspires to be a scientist. Unfortunately for her, there’s a bit of a problem, it’s the 1900s.

While Lizzie does go to school, it’s a finishing school and not one where she fits in well. The other girls are snobby, and Lizzie has a difficult time making friends.  One of the highlights of her weeks is going on calls with her father, who is a doctor, and encourages her love of science. These outings are frowned upon by her Aunt who helps to take care of Lizzie and her brother William. Her Aunt does not approve of Lizzie’s interest in science and thinks the focus of their father’s attention should be on young William.

Lizzie will soon discover that there is more to life than her interest in science. Like how to make friends at school, or learning more about Noah, the son of her family’s Chinese cook. When Lizzie discovers he is hiding in the servant’s quarters, she wants to know why and how is it that she never knew of him.

Lizzie finds out that Noah has questions of his own. He wants to know if he can go back and live with his uncle in China Town, and why some people are dying of an illness and some survive.  Lizzie and Noah team up to find out if there is a plague in San Francisco and what they can do to help.

So pick up this book and see how Lizzie survives her triumphs and trials and if she will continue on with her in interest in science.

– Ellen

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Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

Stone RiderWould you participate in a treacherous race, choosing to leave behind family and friends for the chance to have a better existence? You might if you feel like you’re quickly running out of options and have little to lose.

In a future where Earth can no longer support the population, a fierce competition has developed to give hope to those brave enough to take the risk. The Blackwater Trail: a grueling and brutal race whose winner receives a one way ticket off the desolate ground to Sky-Base. Above the Earth, Sky-Base is the new home, and haven, for a select group of humanity.

Adam Stone did not initially even want to race. He would not abandon his little brother or relinquish his love for Sadie Blood. However a year later, Levi (Sadie’s cruel brother) destroys all Adam’s reasons to stay.

When competing in the Blackwater Trail, most choose to tackle it in groups. Should Adam try to trust again? Will he trust new friends, especially when he has ample reason to rely solely on his own efforts to win the race?

A solid read for those like to enjoy action adventure and dystopian future settings. While we might not be in a position like this today, who knows what the earth will be like in the future. Reading this book made me think about how we can work harder to prevent this future for Earth.

– Ellen

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I Remember You by Cathleen Davitt Bell

I Remember YouThis story is all about memories. Memories of what it is to be young, to be in high school again and to be in love. First love to be exact. Cathleen Davitt Bell does a wonderful job of taking the reader through the young lives of Lucas and Juliet. The way she describes their relationship, how when two people see, really see, each other for the first time or how a person smells or how their smile makes you feel.

It all starts at the beginning of a new school year. Lucas a senior, and Juliet a junior, see each other in a high school physics class. They seem to have a normal relationship except for the fact the Lucas has a strange ability to see things that have yet to happen. Like when a classmate’s house burns down – Lucas had told Juliet that this would occur beforehand.

For Juliet, this is tormenting – knowing Lucas can tell her what’s going to happen. It almost feels as if an older version of Lucas inhabits a younger body.  Then, suddenly a life threatening injury occurs and Lucas can no longer remember what he had called the dreams. This is even more traumatic for Juliet as she no longer knows what to think. Did some part of her boyfriend die or did he actually have a serious brain injury. And how will this affect their relationship? You will have to read this book to find out and to remember how it felt to be young again.

– Ellen

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The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War That Saved My LifeThis is the story of a young girl named Ada and her brother Jamie who live in London right at the start of World War II. Ada is nine years old and was born with a club foot. She’s never been outside of her family’s apartment as her mother is too embarrassed.  She even makes Ada think that she was to blame for her own deformity.

When younger brother Jamie is sent away from London to escape the coming war, Ada sneaks out to join him and the two are transported to the countryside.  They are taken in by a woman named Susan who is grieving over the loss of a close friend. When she met the children she was uncertain what to do with them. She starts by getting them cleaned up and into some new clothes and feeding them.

After some time with Susan, the children begin to settle in and explore their new surroundings now that Ada is finally free to go outside. She befriends Susan’s pony and learns how to take care of him and even ride. A strong bond is beginning to form between the children and their caretaker Susan who is also beginning to love them back. All is going well until their mother finds them and plots to make them return to with her to London.

This book is a great read about overcoming obstacles while mixing in history, adventure and family dynamics.

– Ellen

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The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford

The Case of the Missing MoonstoneSet in the year 1826, this book proposes what it would be like if Mary Shelley (creator of Frankenstein) and Ada Lovelace (known as the world’s first computer programmer) met as young girls and formed a detective agency!

Although Jordan Stratford takes some literary liberties with the ages of her main characters, they seem to work for this book as the girls turn into fine young detectives and become good friends.

First we start with Ada (Lady Ada Byron), a somewhat neglected child who has learned very few of the social graces of her time period. She is a mathematical and engineering genius but basically lives on her own, cared for by servants as her mother has left to be at their country house.

The second young lady we meet is Mary Godwin. She is the daughter of the famous feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and political philosopher William Godwin. She joins Ada as the girls are to be tutored at Ada’s home by none other than (renowned poet), Percy Bysshe Shelley. He finds it difficult to tutor Ada but Mary is a very willing pupil. We must also mention the young man who delivers and retrieves messages and mail for the girls, Charles Dickens. It is however the chemistry that Jordan Stratford creates between the girls that lead to some very surprising and hilarious solutions for the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.

Fans of Sherlock Holmes style mysteries will love this series where girls use science, math and clever thinking to solve crimes and the mixing in of historically real figures is an intriguing bonus.

– Ellen

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The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

The Forgotten GirlsLouise Rick is in her second week as commander of Denmark’s Missing Persons Agency, a newly established unit in the police department. Her first case is a woman who was found dead in the forest. The unknown woman should be easy to identify as the side of her face was covered by a large scar.

When no one comes forward to report a missing person, Louise releases a photo to the media in hopes that this would lead to some answers. An elderly woman comes forward to say that she recognized the person in the photo as a child she once cared for in the state mental institution many years ago. The dead woman’s name was Lisemette and she had been abandoned by her family at a young age.  Like other children at the institution, she was thought of as one of the “forgotten girls”.

Upon talking with Lisemette’s father, Louise is informed of some shocking news.  Many years ago, the father had been told that Lisemette and her twin sister had both died from pneumonia. The girls had been living in an institution after their mother had died after a difficult childbirth. Now the greater mystery is where have they been all this time and where is the other twin?

As Louise gets closer to solving this mystery, she uncovers more hidden crimes as well as links to her own past and memories of love and heartbreak.

– Ellen

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The Left Behinds: The iPhone that Saved George Washington by David Potter

The Left BehindsThree 12-year-old students of a snooty boarding school in New Jersey spend Christmas break with their social studies teacher. Not because they want to but because their parents are too busy to have them home over the holidays.  They’re called the “left behinds” as the school staff callously describe them.

First there is Mel. His dad was a big shot on Wall Street and lost it all during the crash. Next is Bev whose mom is a fading actress in Los Angeles. And last is Brandon who is from New Mexico where his family has something to do with the oil industry.

Their teacher, Mr. Hart, takes them on field trips over the holidays. One such field trip is to a reenactment of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware. While the three kids are off exploring, they find a MacBook. As Brandon is playing with the tablet, all of the friends’ iPhones start to do weird things and they suddenly find themselves transported to a stable, standing over the dead body of none other than George Washington. Needless to say it’s not going to be an easy task to set history right or get back to their own time.

If you’re familiar with the story of the crossing of the Delaware, you already know how that ends but for the three kids in this tale, finding George Washington dead is just the beginning of a wild, fast-paced time travel adventure through history.

– Ellen

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Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath

Like Water on StoneThis book sounded like a good story to read, but when I picked it up and looked inside I was terrified to even start reading it.  Honestly, it looked like a book of poetry. I thought how can I write about a book of poetry?  Finally, I became brave enough to start reading and what a surprise I was in for.

Although this is a fictional story of historical events it is more importantly a story based on the author’s own family.

The story begins with a large family in Western Armenia.  Six children in all, they are Armenian Christians, while their neighbors are Turks and Kurds.  When war breaks out, the father thinks that they all will be safe as the village is full of their friends. The only person he has known to leave the area is his wife’s brother, who moved to America.  His youngest son, Shahen, begs his father almost daily to go live with his uncle. While Shahen’s twin sister, Sosi, wants nothing more than to live in the village her whole life.  But as war draws closer to the family, it is finally decided that the three youngest children must escape to Aleppo.

The children escape just in time and must race for their lives over mountains and through the desert to safety.  All this time on the run they have a guardian.  An eagle, Ardzir, who lost his mate and hatchlings to the drum caps.  Will the children make it safely to their uncle’s home?

For a book that I didn’t want to pick up, it quickly became a book I could hardly set down. It’s an incredible story of survival and one everyone should read.

– Ellen

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Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Trust Me, I'm LyingIn this book we meet Julep Dupree. She is going to high school at St. Agatha’s Preparatory School. Julep is what is referred to as a grafter or a con artist. She was taught this trade by her father.  They live in an apartment in the West Side Slums of Chicago.

As we are introduced to Julep she is helping out a friend from high school. Actually she is working for a friend trying to convince her mom that she is getting an interview from New York University. She convinces the mom to write an admissions check that goes back to her daughter, who will use it to live on as she tries to become a model in New York after graduation.

When Julep returns home from her friend’s, she finds the apartment trashed and her father missing. After scouring the apartment she finds a note from her father and a gun that belonged to her mother. Julep calls her best friend and stays at his place for the night.

This starts a long search while trying to decipher the note from her father.  Along the way, she finds more friends and other clues to what happened to him. When the FBI becomes involved, Julep and her friends must work with them. She also discovers that she is a strong person even in the face of death.

This book is a great read into the strength of one young woman and her hopes for a normal life.

– Ellen

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Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Black IceBrit Pheiffer, a high school senior in Idaho, and her best friend Korbie are going camping and hopefully hiking in the Grand Tetons National Park during spring break. Korbie’s brother Calvin will be back from his freshman year at college and he is to chaperone the girls. This will be difficult for Britt as they dated the year before Calvin left for school and he broke off their relationship.

On the way to the cabin the girls run into a snowstorm and end up stranded on the mountainous road. They decide to hike to the first cabin that they can find.

When they find a cabin, they are taken captive by two guys, Shaun and Mason, who have robbed a subway and shot a policeman. Britt convinces them just to take her along to get them off the mountain.          

Calvin knows something is wrong when the girls don’t show up at a reasonable time and decides to track them down.

In the meantime, Britt leads them to a park ranger cabin. It is here that Britt tries to escape only to have Mason follow her. Calvin makes it to the cabin.  Is Korbie there?  Have the kidnappers killed her?  Does Britt make it out alive?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

If you like twists and turns in a story and to see a character make a transformation, than this is just the book for you.      

– Ellen

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