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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Reviewer: Kenneth F. ★★★★★

When I saw the title of this book, I thought this would be a typical book telling other people’s success stories, and part 1 of this book did talk a lot about the things that my parents told me when I was a kid. Though, after part 1, where the author starts talking about the seven principles, I found that the frameworks the author discusses are actually applicable to my actions. Although metaphors like the golden goose and the paradigm are slightly overused, I still think that people who have not read this book read it, especially those who are easily distracted by emergency and non-emergency unimportant tasks, people who constantly felt that they have to keep working because they have a countless emergency and important tasks waiting for one to work on, and people who are looking to develop their leadership. I encourage people who [have] read this book to revisit it and consider whether they truly applied those principles to their decision-making. In the long term, I feel that this book will be the book that changes me the most in terms of how I act and react to things.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. Reviewer: Samraj S. ★★★★☆

Paulo Coehlo’s masterful writing and [the use of] many details hidden in the text come together to create a beautiful story of self-discovery and self-fulfillment. In the story, a boy by the name of Santiago has a dream that he finds treasure, somewhere within the pyramids of egypt. He sets out [on] his journey, and while he doesn’t quite know what he is searching for yet, he is determined to find it. He learns many lessons along the way, as well as important values such as trust, loyalty, and adventure. The boy, as he is referred to in the book, travels with many people. The most important being The Alchemist, who teaches him many important life lessons and reminds him to live out his Personal Legend or his dreams, regardless of what anyone says. While the book may be a little dull at times to those who don’t read deep to uncover all the hidden details, The Alchemist provides a strong story line, with many important messages to be found.

Highly recommended book for high schoolers and all adults seeking self-value and wanting to rediscover themselves.

American Panda by Gloria Chao. Reviewer: Janhvi M. ★★★★☆

I found this book to be very engaging, with a relatable but still interesting plot. The main character, Mei’s, conflict of being stuck between two cultures, would be very familiar to anybody who has family with ideas/culture that they disagree with, and her conflicts are written very poignantly and believably. The supporting characters were all very interesting in their own right, and there wasn’t a single one that felt flat or unnatural.

One of my favorite parts of this book was how masterfully the romantic subplot was done. It didn’t feel like an unnecessary addition that took away from the main plot, but rather one that added to Mei’s character and conflict which helped her to develop, besides also moving the overall plot forward.

My favorite part of the story however, was Mei herself. Her character is multifaceted and very well-developed. Which, combined with the fact that her journey is one of self-discovery, means that you never really stop learning more about her. Though I do think that there were some things that went a bit neglected at times. Overall, while this story is a very typical coming of age story, it’s very well executed and never boring.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyou. Reviewer: Kenneth F. ★★★★☆

After reading this book, I feel that the CEO of Theranos: Elizabeth Holmes, is a genius… at fooling people. Look at how many smart business people invested in her product, believing that it will change the world! Of course, it didn’t. She found out the machine’s prototype [had] many problems, like overheating. It is easy to tell that stuffing so many features into a tiny box is not recommended through later prototypes. So, here’s a question: what happens when your product [does] not meet the expectation of your investors? You pretend that it is successful! The investors didn’t question anything until someone found discrepancies about the company. I will recommend this book to people who want to improve their writing, especially on making your possibly-bland story sound exciting and being more narrative, unlike me. I will not recommend this book to people looking for a more complex moral to this story because, after all, this is just a story about a liar who’s been successful for a long time.

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. Reviewer: Nathaniel.

The Blind Side, written by Michael Lewis, is a non-fiction book about football and its effect on Michael Oher. I found this book to be very enjoyable. Although at first I was confused as to why the author was talking about Lawrence Taylor, his goal very quickly became apparent to me. This happened as Michael Lewis showed us Taylor’s effect on the very foundation of football. Reading about Michael Oher’s life story really puts into perspective the struggle that some people go through in some of Americas less affluent neighborhoods. The portions where Michael Lewis talks about the transformation of the NFL, and strategy in games, is both informative and simple. I am no expert in NFL formations and philosophies, but Michael Lewis explains it in a way that even I could understand the depth of. The use of two main storylines means that whether you read this book for the story, or for the evolution of the offensive lineman, there is something you can enjoy. I would recommend this book to any football fan who wants to gain a better understanding of one of the best offensive line prospects in college football history, or of the changing role of the offensive lineman in the modern era.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Reviewer: Anand R. ★★★★☆

Though Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is over 500 pages, I found this war drama a very easy and enjoyable read. I love books with a WWII Germany setting as I always wonder how everyday Germans of the time were impacted by Hitler’s maniacal ambitions. I loved the fact that Zusak chose many young characters, including the protagonist Liesel Meminger, as it helps see Nazi Germany from the perspective of teens and young adults. The other reason I loved this book was the detailed description of events and emotions, which made me feel as if I was actually in the scenes myself. Zusak portrays how Hitler’s propaganda deeply resonated with many youngsters like Hans Hubermann Jr., the son of Liesel’s foster father. Hans Jr.’s character helped me understand how many people in Germany ‘drank the Kool-Aid’ served up by Hitler and the Nazi regime. At the same time, through the characters of Liesel and her friend Rudy, Zusak shows how other youngsters just hated Hitler’s guts. While the underlying theme of the horrors of war and Hitler’s anti-Semitism run throughout the book, Zusak infuses enough humor, action, and even some romantic tension that made the book very enjoyable. One other thing that makes the book interesting is the use of Death as the narrator. Sounds weird, right?? Interestingly, Death is not some creepy, bony person wearing a dark robe and floating around with a weapon in hand. Rather, as a narrator, Death is quite reflective and, dare I say, likeable!

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Reviewer: Anand R. ★★★★☆

I thoroughly enjoyed reading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The main reason this book was a fun read for me is the character of the protagonist, Holden Caulfield. A good chunk of the story is about a period of unbridled freedom and adventure that Holden gets to experience. I mean, which 16-year old gets to stay alone in a hotel, bar hop, flirt with women, drink like an adult, and be carefree without having to worry about the pressures of family and school? This alternate reality is quite fascinating. At the same time, Holden is not that different from most high schoolers in other respects. The rebel in him, his disgust with some of the “phoniness” of adulthood, and his desire to feel loved are all things that I can relate to. Although understandably off putting to some, in my view, Salinger’s use of blunt and offensive language makes Holden’s character better and realistic. At the same time, Holden is a troubled kid. He has a hard time bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood, flunks out of school a few times, and even has a mental breakdown, which only made me feel sorry for him. All of this combined to make the book hard for me to put down once I started reading it.

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Wayne Dyer. Reviewer: David L. ★★★★☆

Excellent book with practical wisdom and knowledge. The author’s purpose is in the title, but the book’s topic is Taoism philosophy. The author provides his translation of the Tao Te Ching, the Chinese classic text written by Lao Tzu, along with daily practice and quotes. It’s very good if you’re looking for Taoism or philosophy, otherwise it may be nonsense to the reader. I loved how the author provided a simple and straightforward translation of text so I didn’t have to infer anything. Don’t judge a book by the cover!

I loved the virtues and principles the book preached, and it made me feel more grounded, peaceful, and connected to life. So many “AHA” moments! I feel as if my headspace is now more clear, and relaxed. I love the concepts that love and humility will always persevere against anger and abuse. The text is very repetitive, but I believe that’s his (Lao Tzu) way of reinforcing important principles. Wonderful advice and wisdom.

Crooked Kingdoms by Leigh Bardugo. Reviewer: Bryan W. ★★★★★

In her book, Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo masterfully threads together a world of worlds. A world of pickpockets. A world of lockpickers. A world of criminals. A Grishaverse. What I admire most about Bardugo’s writing are her meticulously thought out characters. Each character, protagonist or not, has a backstory which Bardugo teases to the reader in small morsels. The framework story has stories which have stories. The quick thinking of Kaz Brekker, a master lock-picker and leader of the gang, surprised me at every turn. He gambles the lives of his comrades, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he thinks on a higher plane than most characters. The only thing I dislike is how realistic the books may seem. The book draws heavily on the idea of fairness. Bardugo illustrates harsh reality like it is. The protagonist murders. He steals. He tortures. There is no eye for an eye in his society since he takes all of them. The protagonist is the lesser evil which punishes the greater evil out of selfishness and vengeance. What is similar to our reality is how humanizing Bardugo creates her characters. We are not perfect beings, and we are—at our core—selfish. I would definitely give this book a 5/5 for its worldbuilding and realistic themes.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. Reviewer: Riana J. ★★★★★

This Fantasy Fiction book was a thrill to read. This is one of those books with an anti-hero in it. Her personality was refreshing, unlike many Young Adult fiction characters who is either not sure of herself or too sure of herself. She was also self-sufficient, and there was no “damsel in distress” side of her. This girl knew her limits and had a strong personality but none of it was considered a weakness. This is not very often when it comes to girl heroes in Young Adult fiction. This book did not make the characters flawless either. The characters each had their flaws -making them very balanced. The story had many twists and turns and witty banter, making it hard to put down. The storyline was also very interesting with nothing in the book getting wasted. There are no unnecessary scenes and each thing the character does has a reason. Overall, I would recommend this book for anyone wanting a breath of fresh air in the YA fiction genre with well-developed characters, thrilling plot twists and lots of laughs in between.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. Reviewer: Riana J. ★★★★★

This book was amazingly written. As a YA dystopian novel, I think it does a very good job. When the character was scared, I was scared, when the character was happy, I was happy. I felt like I was in the book write next to the character. There are also many twists and turns, it never gets boring. It is almost impossible to see where the book is going from the start. The book was also action-packed. From the start to the end, there is action. There is a little bit of gore in the book, so for those that may not be into this type of action, I would not suggest it. The romance side of it is not the focus so if someone is looking for a dystopian-romance I would not recommend it either. I personally loved this novel. It is very much like Hunger Games, without feeling like a copycat, so I would recommend it to anyone who likes reading the Hunger Games.

The Elite by Kiera Cass. Reviewer: Riana J. ★★☆☆☆

I really liked the first book of this series: The Selection, but I am disappointed with this one. There is no plot, it expands a little on their world but it felt like a filler. The Main character acted like a terrible person for most of the book, and it was frustrating to read. There is a love triangle, mind you one that none of the guys know about, that has lasted two books, and the main character just cannot seem to pick one. I understand that she has her struggles, but after a while it gets a little off. She is technically cheating on both guys but then gets mad when they do something. And then she forgets about them the minute they leave the room. Then there were two love triangles, and that just became too much. There is also a lot of crying. A lot. The Main character also makes mistakes that can easily be avoided. Is she really the person anyone would trust as a monarch? The characters are not well developed at all. They do not have much of a personality and even the scenes feel scripted. I am not even going to talk about the rebels. I find it funny that my favorite character ends up being one of the maids. Overall, this book was a real let down compared to the first one, and the only reason I would tell someone to read it is so they can just finish the series.

Ender's Game (2013) by Gavin Hood. Reviewer: Maya M. ★★★☆☆

Now, when I saw that this book was also a movie, I was ecstatic! But while watching I found that even though the pace was fast it was almost hard to follow. Ender would be somewhere amateur and then after a single practice game, he would be promoted. As well, I think the managers of the army were alluding to it being a real war so much I was surprised Ender did not realize he was being used. I was also slightly disappointed that Ender was not younger in the movie. In my opinion, it would seem a lot more magical if there was a child mastermind, since in the book there was a large emphasis that Ender was younger than most of the children aboard the ship. One thing I did really enjoy in the movie was how they showed the aliens trying to contact him. It started with the video game, then into foreshadowing when he thought they could contact him through his mind. Although I will say the ending did not feel like a story ending, but more so a closing of the last five minutes -which was underwhelming.

This was overall a good dystopian watch, but I wouldn’t recommend people to watch this, but they should read the book!

Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. Reviewer: David L. ★★★★★

[This] book portrays the principles of optimism, enthusiasm, love, and purpose through an unexpected occurrence that happened to the author. The author, Jon Gordon, makes it an easy read with 10 simple rules to adhere by for positive energy.

The story may come off as corny or unbelievable, but I find that the principles are absolutely true and relevant to everyday life no matter who you are. Applying these principles have had such a dramatic effect on my life and happiness. I love how Jon Gordon illustrated that no matter how unfortunate things seem, you can always be enthusiastic and find a positive mindset. I wish everyone [would] read the story, it’s life changing and imperative for inner joy. The book is cringe when he uses terms such as “energy vampire,” or “chief energy officer,” or asking his employees to “get on his energy bus,” but I would advise you to not let that blur the main point.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Reviewer: Aarush.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is a superb book. The first installment of this iconic series has all the necessary elements of an amazing novel. Firstly, the characters in the book are very well represented. With just a few pages each character is described in lots of details and is flushed out. The appearance, motives, ideals, and philosophies of each character are creatively shown through the book with various situations and dialogue. The characters beg the reader’s sympathy and continue to make the reader want to learn more. The numerous exquisite details mixed in with the most creative scenarios results in an amazing read. The remarkable world of magic the book is taken place in opens up the endless possibilities for hooking adventures in the future. In conclusion, this book is very good for readers of all levels, adults and children. It does not take much to get hooked to the story. The book is structured and written amazingly along with amazing character descriptions that are very well developed. I am super excited to read the following books in the series given how great the first one was to me.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Reviewer: Katie T. ★★★★☆

I enjoyed reading this book a lot. As suggested in the title, this book is about a girl who inherits a large sum of money. While the base plot of this novel is nothing new, it was extremely adventurous and engaging, partly because of its structure (the short chapters allowed for a quicker pace). The entire time I was reading, I felt as if I was playing the game and I became extremely invested in finding the answers to the mystery alongside the characters. Another aspect of the book I enjoyed were the characters. The protagonist (Avery Kylie Grambs) was well written, and a strong, female lead. The supporting characters (Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Xander) each had a unique personality and had different ways they interacted with Avery. Their distinct personalities were clearly expressed and I ended up bonding and loving all of the boys for different reasons. I will admit that I was hesitant to read this book at first because of the chosen one trope. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author was able to use this plot line without it being predictable or cringy.

I believe that both middle and high school students could enjoy this book, and readers who enjoy an adventure will find this novel to be an exciting read.

Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani. Reviewer: Riana J. ★★★★★

This book was probably one of the best stand-alone books I have read. It is not a part of a series yet the plot unfolded beautifully. So much action and adventure was packed into that book, with a satisfying romance side too. It was actually recommended to me by an 8th grade teacher, but I ended up taking it up in my own spare time. It never gets boring and is a relatively fast action book. The plot line was unique and had twists and turns one may not expect. The characters were well developed, too.

I want to talk a little bit about the romance in this story. The romantic sub plot was developed very well, and the romance that played out did not seem forceful. In stand-alone books, sometimes things can feel rushed or forced or incomplete, but this novel did a good job of preventing any feelings like that. Overall, I would recommend it to anyone that wants a quick yet thrilling read to pass time.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Reviewer: Vivian. ★★★★★

Kafka on the Shore by Japanese author Haruki Murakami is a story of prophecy, family, and love that follows the parallel stories of two main characters: the young, angsty Kafka Tamura and the lost, old Nakata whose paths eventually converge as Kafka’s search for his identity meets Nakata’s search for a missing cat. Music is a creative, recurring theme Murakami seamlessly works into the story, serving as a medium through which characters can express themselves and further the plot. Like a movie soundtrack, it subtly conveys the ambiance of the story. Although the book is written in the surrealist style with supernatural events, it can still feel grounded and relatable. The characters are imperfect yet endearing: each showcases a different perspective on the nature of life. Their relationships are real and organic: their lives are riddled with tragedy, shaping the way they think. On the other hand, the surreal aspect of the story showcases Murakami’s talent as a writer. His eloquent writing carries readers to another world of magic and destiny, where nothing is as it seems. The sensation of reading certain moments of the story can only be described as floating. Filled with metaphors and symbolism, the story takes twists and turns that all tie together in the end. The dream-like quality of Murakami’s storytelling, coupled with vibrant imagery and complex characters, make Kafka on the Shore a must-read.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Reviewer: Kenneth F. ★★★★★

This book is one of my favorite books by far and I find myself coming back to it time and time again. The story includes a moral and theme which is cleverly hidden throughout the novel. [It] centers around a girl named Mia and how she struggles to fit in amongst other kids at her school. Unfortunately, Mia has been diagnosed with synesthesia which is a condition causing Mia to see sounds, smell colors, and taste shapes. The novel centers around Mia’s struggle with her condition and the sorrow of her grandfather’s death. This story leads a very emotional path for the reader. One reason I love this novel is because it brings awareness to disabilities and the hardship that comes with. I also thought that the title of the novel can be quite deceiving but once I finished the novel the title is quite brilliant. Overall, I believe Wendy Mass did an astonishing job with this novel and I highly recommend reading this novel!

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Reviewer: Annika S. ★★★★★

The‌ ‌butler‌ ‌did‌ ‌it…‌ ‌right?‌ ‌Think‌ ‌again.‌ ‌Hercule‌ ‌Poirot‌ ‌stars‌ ‌in‌ ‌this‌ ‌bestselling‌ ‌thriller‌ ‌mystery with‌ ‌an‌ ‌unexpected‌ ‌twist‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌end.‌ ‌Poirot‌ ‌is‌ ‌on‌ ‌vacation,‌ ‌riding‌ ‌on ‌‌M.‌ ‌Bouc’s‌ train,‌ the‌ ‌Orient‌ ‌Express.‌ ‌One‌ ‌day,‌ ‌a‌ ‌passenger‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌train,‌ ‌Ratchett,‌ ‌comes‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌him.‌ ‌He‌ tells‌ ‌Poirot‌ ‌that‌ ‌his‌ ‌life‌ ‌is‌ ‌in‌ ‌danger,‌ ‌and‌ ‌Poirot‌ ‌needs‌ ‌to‌ ‌protect‌ ‌him.‌ ‌He‌ ‌politely‌ ‌declines‌ ‌the‌ offer,‌ ‌but‌ ‌soon‌ ‌after,‌ ‌Ratchett‌ ‌is‌ ‌found‌ ‌dead‌ ‌in‌ ‌his‌ ‌compartment.‌ ‌Someone‌ ‌stabbed‌ ‌him‌ ‌12‌ times,‌ ‌in‌ ‌12‌ ‌different‌ ‌ways.‌ ‌Who‌ ‌did‌ ‌it?‌ ‌Could‌ ‌it‌ ‌have‌ ‌been‌ ‌his‌ ‌secretary,‌ ‌Hector‌ ‌MacQueen? Poirot‌ ‌uses‌ ‌details‌ ‌generally‌ ‌useless ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌human‌ ‌eye‌ ‌to‌ ‌solve‌ ‌the‌ ‌case.‌ Read‌ ‌the‌ ‌book‌ ‌and‌ ‌see‌ ‌how‌ ‌this‌ ‌mystery‌ ‌unravels.‌ ‌The‌ ‌truth‌ ‌will‌ ‌shock‌ ‌you.‌

‌This‌ ‌book‌ ‌is‌ recommended‌ ‌for‌ ‌readers‌ ‌from‌ ‌ages‌ ‌12‌ ‌and‌ ‌up‌ who‌ ‌love‌ ‌murder‌ ‌mysteries.‌

[some of this review has been edited for potential spoilers]

One Day in December by Josie Silver. Reviewer: Katie T. ★★★★★

This was only my second or third contemporary fiction book that I’ve read, and I loved it. Looking at the reviews, there were mixed feelings, so I was hesitant to pick it up. I’m so glad I did. One aspect I appreciated was that the relationships were always changing and I became so invested in these characters. This book had a one of a kind plot that started with love-at-first-sight to star-crossed lovers. Anyone who enjoys the genre of contemporary fiction and romance will absolutely love this book. The plot twists and turns kept me wanting more and I could not put it down. I think that teens/young adults would most likely enjoy this book. My only regret is that I missed the holiday season. I would definitely recommend reading this book in December just for the vibes, but of course you can read it anytime of the year!

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. Reviewer: Samraj S. ★★★★★

One of Us Is Lying is a very suspenseful, exciting book. Right as readers open the book, they are bombarded with a series of events that keep the readers gripping the edge of their seats (or books). As the book goes on, we discover some of the secrets and thoughts of the main characters, and their connection to the events taking place. The [story] is very interesting, as it is told interchangeably from the points of view of the four different characters. This book will have the readers guessing, thinking, and will keep them in suspense until the very end. Readers will see a fiction in which gossip, depression, and violence dominates high school, and can compare this with their everyday lives and schooling experience. A must-read for Middle and High Schoolers, One of Us Is Lying looks into some of the ugly aspects of our lives.

One of Us is Next by Karen McManus. Reviewer: Samraj S. ★★★★☆

One of Us Is Next is a stunning sequel to One of Us Is Lying. With the previous characters gone, McManus provides us a completely new plotline with an addition of four new, younger, main characters. The plot is somewhat similar to that of the first book, but with a strange new twist. The different elements of surprise, anger, and confusion blend together to make a harmony of emotions that leads to a very exciting and interesting read. One issue, however, with One of Us Is Next, is the lack of suspense and excitement. There are not many twists and unexpected turns, unlike its predecessor, One of Us Is Lying. It seems to follow a more basic storyline, and there isn’t much that gets past unseen or misunderstood. At times, the book can be a little monotonous, and there aren’t many different subplots to keep the reader interested. One of Us Is Next may be a slight downgrade from One of Us Is Lying, it is definitely just as stunning as the first book, despite its lack of excitement.

A must read for middle and high-schoolers, One of Us Is Next is a very well done sequel to its forerunner.

The Parent Trap by Nancy Meyers. Reviewer: Maya M. ★★★★☆

What I love most about this movie is just how great the feeling it is to watch this movie again. It is just one of those films that never gets tiring. It is [so] enjoying to watch the twins evolve with every viewing, and taking a deeper look into the movie and realizing how intricate their plan and preparation was. Hallie had to both learn a British accent and a whole-on hand shake, while Annie had to commit to cutting her hair and getting her ears pierced. I just truly find it remarkable that those two girls were able to do it in the time they had, as well they brought their parents back together. Not to mention the story quite literally ended with a happily ever after. 

This movie is great to watch with family since it is truly hysterically funny and amusing to all ages.

Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas. Reviewer: Katie T. ★★☆☆☆

Usually I’m not very picky with books -it doesn’t take a lot for me to like something I read. This book was meh. It was popular on TikTok, so I decided to try it out. The first thing is, it is a high school romance which I wasn’t too sure about. Second, this book is NA (new adult), but I read it in tenth grade. I would definitely say to be at least in high school if you’re going to try this book. The reason I wasn’t in love was that the plot was a little confusing and the characters (Misha and Ryen) were not very likable. I feel like they didn’t have any depth to them, and they didn’t develop as the story went on. I also feel like the plot was predictable. Ryen is a stereotypical high school cheerleader, who is a little full of herself. Misha was the epitome of the “new high school boy who shows up at school and causes trouble” character. I will say though that there are some moments in the story where I was surprised, and that made it easier to read. I would recommend that if you’re in a reading slump and you need something to fill your time, this book would be okay. However, there are better books out there.

Secret in the Stone (Unicorn Quest #2) by Kamilla Benko. Reviewer: Abhita G. ★★★★★

This book was so good I don’t even know where to start. First of all, the book had so many plot twists and it always made you want to read more. Secondly, I’m gonna dive a little bit into the book. So at the start of the book, Claire and her sister reach the gemmer school because Claire actually has magical powers. She is a gemmer, so she has to learn how to use her powers. So Sophie, who is Claire’s sister, thought that if Claire was a gemmer there might be a chance that she was also a gemmer. Soon, they are accepted into the school because when a stone guard was going to kill them he suddenly bowed down to Claire knowing that she was a princess. The gemmers wondered why the stone knight bowed down to her and decided to welcome her. But at the start, she doesn’t exactly fit in with the others at gemmer school.

Also, this is the second book so you might want to start off with the first one. I recommend you join Claire and Sophie on their adventure to awaken the unicorns and save the dying world of Arden.

The Shack by Stuart Hazeldine. Reviewer: Joanna J. ★★★★★

I love this movie (‘The Shack’) because it is wonderful, educational, and important -especially for all parents who had just lost a child recently. I wanna say I’m sorry for your loss, but I would like to recommend this movie for you [instead]. I’m sure you’ll love it. It is about a father who lost his daughter and never gotten to be back to who he used to be -what I mean is that he’s really changed ever since he lost his child. It was very tough for him and that is the part where the movie gets so intense and thrilling. This is about God. We are reminded about His unconditional love no matter how bad our past mistakes are. Whether you are fond [of] reading the bible or not, there’s many things you can learn from this film. I really love this movie -I even watched this twice this year and maybe I would again next year. My point is that you don’t get bored while watching this movie because you need the lines mentioned here every time you’re anxious and worried. This is also good for those who find it difficult to forgive somebody who has hurt them [in the past] or currently. I don’t usually approve often [of] some movies, but this one has really gotten my attention.

Spies: The Secret Showdown Between America and Russia by Marc Favreau. Reviewer: Riana J. ★★★★★

I am not much of a nonfiction person, but this book blew me away. Written so much like a spy action thriller, there are twist and turns the readers won’t see coming. Many times, I found myself forgetting that these events actually happened. There were excerpts from interviews and books which made seeing things from their eyes all the more interesting. This book also does a good job of looking at both America’s and Russia’s side of the story. The book also did not end at the end of the Cold War. It looked at the spy agencies in present times, relating what happened then to what is happening now. At the end of the book, there were glossaries, keys, references, research materials and more. These would be very helpful for those that want to dig further into this subject. I had a blast reading this and I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to read about the Cold War and to people who had never even heard about it before.

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco. Reviewer: Maya M. ★★★★☆

In this book, we follow Audrey Rose through the documented murders by Jack the Ripper -a serial killer from the [1800’s]. Even though the start was slow, this book gives a mysterious and first person point of view of the forensic sciences in a fictional manner. In the beginning: it was all just Audrey and her peer, Thomas, being taught and understanding the possible crimes committed on a person. It was interesting to see how the characters evolved and used those skills on catching the serial killer. My favorite part of it was the way the mystery unfolds since, from the protagonist’s perspective, it seemed almost impossible. As well, this story truly embodies the setting and time period through the way it is written. The author often mentions the large skirts Audrey had to wear, the cobblestone streets, and the carriages as means of transportation. And lastly, the romance in this book fits in well. It isn’t too potent in the story, but it definitely makes the story feel right and fits in so well into the plot. Overall, this book is a fantastic read with true crime and romance. The only critique I have with this book is that I feel it started too late. It was very hard for me to get “hooked” onto this book unlike with others. 

If you enjoy this read, you might like to check out “A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder“, which has a female protagonist and another true crime mystery.

Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn. Reviewer: Sophia Z. ★★★★☆

Nunn’s storytelling, in addition to the strong female characters, was enjoyable to follow. The story, like the colorful cover, was enchanting. However, it fell flat for me.
The writing was great. Nunn seamlessly wove themes and social commentary into the novel without making it sound awkward. And there were also a couple of quotes that I adored. Amandla’s narrative voice was strong throughout the novel and captivating to read.
My favorite part was learning about the characters. I love the trio of Amandla, Lil Bit, and Goodness and how supportive they were of each other. Individually, Amandla’s character arc was quite nice to follow. And her mother’s character was undoubtedly an interesting one. However, the rest of the characters were underdeveloped. Lil Bit and Goodness were only sidekicks for Amandla without strong personalities of their own. And certain character changes were way too abrupt. Also, there was no reason for the romance to be in the book when it was completely unnecessary.
The plot disappointed me. The first 50% was well-paced with discoveries that continually intrigued me. However, the story then slowed down and stayed too stagnant. I expected the secret that’s hinted in the blurb to be grander, but it wasn’t. And, like I previously mentioned, there were some developments in the latter half that felt way too abrupt and came out of nowhere.
I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone who’d love a good family drama and coming-of-age story with mystery elements!

Tangled by Carolyn Mackler. Reviewer: Sarah M. ★★★★☆

I thought that this was a pretty good book. I think that the way the author wrote was unique. She varied the points of views, using four very distinctive narrators, Jena, Dakota, Skye and Owen. The format of the story, was comparable to R.J. Palacio’s, Wonder. They all meet in a resort named Paradise in the Caribbean. By using different characters, Mackler conveyed different themes, ideas and approaches to certain situations. She used lots of allusions and references, to make the book more understandable. It explored lots of ideas, coming of age and taking risks to even exploring ideas of death. The author also plays with the mood, there are drastic changes between each of the sections (narrator changes). [She] not only brings in many perspectives and raises awareness of the kinds of situations people go through but, really conveys the message of how people affect each other. She shows how people change each other.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. Reviewer: Katie T. ★★★★★

This book is amazing. It is a great YA fantasy book, and the first in a duology (the second/final book, Our Violent Ends is already out). The premise of the novel is that it is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. I don’t come across many retellings, but this book had me hooked. Chloe Gong writes beautifully and the plot twists are perfectly timed. Just as I was about to put the book down, a surprise would come up that kept me reading. What I particularly enjoyed about this novel was that it was set in Shanghai. Being Chinese, I was eager to start a book that had Asian main characters, and I was not disappointed. I felt like the Asian culture was accurately represented and the setting of 1920s Shanghai was politically correct. Gong studied international relations in college, and that is evident in her writing. Throughout the book the main characters and people in Shanghai are constantly interacting with foreign culture and that plays into the chaotic political scene. I personally enjoyed the challenging environment, but there were moments where it did get confusing. I also loved the development of relationships between characters, and despite the fact that I knew the story of Romeo and Juliet, I was never bored. Overall this novel was an exciting read and I cannot wait to read more from this author.

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean. Reviewer: Katie T. ★★★★☆

This book was a great middle grade/ya read. I liked how it was face paced, included Asian representation, and had an interesting relationship trope. This book is pretty short, so it was quick to read. The chapters had a good balance of engaging plot, while also including character development. There was a crazy surprise at the end which left me speechless and I honestly could not have predicted what was going to happen. This book is about a girl named Izumi who finds out her dad is royalty. She then goes to visit him and immerses herself in this whole new world and tries to fit in. I think this book could appeal to Asians and also anybody who deals with being separated from their parents (I found that reading this book as an adoptee made me appreciate the plot of finding one’s parent even more). It’s a beautiful story about discovering who your family is while not being cheesy or predictable. There is also the bodyguard romance trope, which I didn’t think I would be fond of, but it ended up surprising me. The author is coming out with a sequel in 2022 and I look forward to reading it.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Reviewer: Bran W. ★★★★★

A man reflects on his childhood of hunting ol’ coons with his two redbone coonhounds. I wouldn’t normally read a book about coon hunting, but when I looked up at the corner, I was already at page 61.

It’s a very feel-good book. The author set up the story, so we could follow along Billy’s journey to cure his “dog-wanting disease” and his hunts as the youngest coon hunter in the Ozark mountains. His dreams sound very stereotypical for a boy living in the countryside; however, Billy’s stubborn passion for living his dreams as a boy hunter swayed me. It reminded me of the way I wanted to live when I was younger: free, aspiring, and steadfast. This book would greatly appeal to any audience, in the simplistic way it’s told and the powerful story it brings.

The best parts of the story are the coon hunts. For those who wouldn’t even care about hunting raccoons, trust me, you would be surprised at how much skill it takes to catch one. The smart old coons know how to backtrack, swim upstream, escape through trees. However, Billy wouldn’t be called the protagonist for nothing. He trains his hounds to follow the trails, sniff the coon scents, bawl when they treed a coon (running a coon up a tree), and respond to his cries.

Coon hunting and camping in caves makes this book a perfect read for the summer. I was excited every time he embarked on another coon hunt, ready to be surprised by the wily, old coons and the ingenious hunting hounds.