Ms. Miller's Book Reviews

Tillie Pierce by Tanya Anderson

Tillie’s summer is not a vacation.  It’s 1863, and the Rebels are coming.  Tillie Pierce lives in the town of Gettysburg, and she’s in the middle of one of the most famous battles in the Civil War.

This is an interesting real life account of a girl who is in the midst of the last invasion of the Confederate Army into the North.  While I appreciate the author trying to include Tillie’s actual writings into the story.  Sometimes it did not always flow well from author’s writing (secondary) to Tillie’s writing (primary).  It’s also sometimes difficult to keep up with who is who in the story.  I felt like I needed a map.  However, it’s still a fascinating story for anyone interested in the Civil War.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

The worst thing that can happen to you is to fall in love.  This deadly disease has been eradicated from Lena’s community with the cure everyone receives on their eighteenth birthday.  Lena can hardly wait.  She’s been counting down the days, so afraid that she will end up like her mother and die from this terrible illness.  Then she meets Alex.

I wanted to like this story.  Really I did, a good scifi dystopian romance, what could be better?  But maybe I was just not up for the star-crossed lovers bit because it’s been done before and with more feeling.  I don’t know if the author was trying to convey the feeling that love is all-consuming, but Lena stops thinking about anything else, and I was bored.  The story about her mother, however, does make the plot a bit more interesting.  So for the hopeless romantic, you might enjoy this story.  I will try out Pandemonium, the sequel, to see if the story line improves.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

You will want to read the first book in this series, Divergent before reading this review.

Tris has survived the Erudite/Dauntless takeover of the Abnegation, but many have not.  Her parents were killed, and she had to kill Will, one of her best friends.  Now she and Tobias are determined to stop the Erudite in their plot to take over all of the factions, but who can they trust to help them?  Can they trust Tobias’s father after his abuse to his son?  Can they trust Amity who believes in pacifism?  Do they even have time to make these decisions while the Dauntless army is out to destroy them?

Sequels have always been a problem with trilogies.  They are never as good as the first one because they don’t have the fresh ideas, and they leave you hanging at the end because of the need for a third book.  Insurgent has some of the same issues.  There were definite lulls in the book, but for the most part, Roth does keep the action going and the ending more than makes up for any dragging moments.  I actually gasped when I got to the ending because it was that shocking.  I did not see that twist coming.  So I am very excited about reading the last book.

Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

You will want to read Unwind before reading this review.

Connor, Lev, and Risa made it out of Happy Jack Harvest Camp alive, and now people are starting to look at the Unwind order.  A new law has passed, making it illegal to unwind someone when they turn seventeen.  Connor has taken over at the Graveyard, taking care of all the Unwind AWOLs looking for a place to stay to keep from being unwound.  Risa helps Connor in any way she can, even though her spine was shattered in the blast at the harvest camp.  But Connor is so distant.  Does he still care?  Meanwhile Lev is working on community service after his clapper incident, now known as the “clapper who didn’t clap.”  All of them are safe from unwinding, or are they?  Their encounters with a storking kid, a rewind, and a determined tithe make them wonder if anyone is safe.

I had forgotten how much I loved Neal Shusterman.  We had him visit our school several years ago, and I read all of his books at the time.  Without fail, he would always throw in one little twist that I wouldn’t see coming.  This was no exception.  I’m so glad he decided to continue on with this series.  I had one student email him about writing another book after Unwind, and at the time, he said he was not planning on continuing the series.  Yes, he changed his mind!  His characters are so real I almost imagine myself talking to anyone of them.  This would be a great case study book for a psychology class looking at how each character behaves and why.  This book is a must read for anyone who enjoyed Unwind, or anyone who loves a fast-paced, well-written story.  Be prepared though.  There’s a third book coming.

Check out the MTV book trailer for this book below, but be forewarned, it’s creepy. You might understand a little about why these books are YA.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

You will want to read Cinder, the first in the series, before reading this review.

Grandma’s missing, and there’s a stranger in town.  Scarlet delivers her vegetables to a local tavern and meets someone she’s not quite sure about.  It’s the story of Red Riding Hood, but this one is set in the future.  Meanwhile, Cinder (the Cinderella story from the previous book) is on the lose, and she’s met up with a captain, who is not really a captain.  Both of them are trying to survive in a world where Lunars in conjuction with some strange creatures are trying to take over Earth.

I love a good fairytale twist.  Some readers on complained about the book not really following Cinder’s story as much, but if you know that up front, you know what to expect.  In fact, I have to say I liked Scarlet’s story better than Cinder’s because I think I prefer Wolf to “Prince Charming” or Prince Kai.  Meyer does flesh out some of the details with the Lunars and their history to make it more interesting.  There are some lulls in the story, but overall, an interesting read with nice twists.

You will want to read the first book in the series, Legend, before reading this review.

June and Day have escaped the clutches of the Republic with the help of the Patriots.  It’s a group that Day really never trusted, but they seem to have no other option now.  He needs to get his brother back, and he wants to help those who are still under the thumb of the Republic’s harsh rule with their tests and plague experimentations.  But who is really on their side?  Who can they trust?  Can June and Day even trust each other?  After all, June was the one who caught Day in the first place.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Legend, but I believe this one is even better.  Because you already know the characters, Marie Lu tries to delve into their psyche more, why they do what they do.  The whole story is shadowed by uncertainty.  Who can you trust?  Is anything you thought was true real?  As a social studies junkie, I enjoyed the take she had on government, how there were flaws to the each approach.  But philosophical/political questions aside, the pace is pretty good, and the action can be heart-pounding.  There are a few lulls but not many, and this novel will definitely be a favorite.

Wooden Bones by Scott William Carter

He’s a real boy now.  Geppetto has carved a wooden boy that comes to life, and now everything is good.  Right?  The miracle of Pino’s creation is not lost on the townspeople.  Now everyone wants Geppetto to do for them what he did with Pinocchio, but the results are disastrous even dangerous.

I love a good retold story, and this book started off nice and creepy.  When you think about it, Pinocchio’s story is pretty strange with wood becoming flesh.  This story also reminded me of King Midas with his golden touch and to be careful of what you ask for.  There are some moments that seem to drag, and I almost wished they stuck with one group and told out the story, giving you more characters to connect with personally.  However, the change of scenery did make it seem more like a folktale or The Hobbit with their one scrape after another.

Interesting random fact: While I was researching the original Pinocchio story that was written in the late 19th century, I found an article about the Pinocchio paradox.  Pretty interesting.

Fish by Gregory Mone

Maurice was born to swim.  He wasn’t good at farming or fighting with his brothers, but when his brother, Conor, threw him into the lake, he realized his gift.  He could swim.  He loved it, even when none of the rest of his family knew how.  Then Fish gets an unusual assignment and ends up on a pirate ship.  Will Fish’s pacifist ways survive with these rough and tumble characters?  What about the secret treasure?  And who is planning revenge?

I wanted this book to be dangerous or funny, and it fell just a bit short of each.  There were moments of danger and moments of humor, but it left me wanting more.  There were definitely the odd and quirky characters that you come to expect in a pirate book, but I couldn’t say any of them stuck out in my mind.  This was a decent read, but not a page turner.

You will want to read the others in this series before reading this review (I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You; Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy; Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover; Only the Good Spy Young).

Cammie wakes up and doesn’t know where she is.  She knows who she is: a girl training to be a spy, but everything about her summer has been erased from her memory.  She finds herself surrounded by nuns in the Swiss Alps, bearing bruises that she doesn’t remember getting.  She left the school because she wanted to save her friends and family from danger.  After all, the Circle of Cavan is trying to hunt her down.  But she doesn’t remember anything after she left.  Someone knows what she did last summer, but will Cammie be able to figure it out before it’s too late?

Awesome book!  I loved the Gallagher Girl series with one exception: the first book seems like it doesn’t belong with the rest of the series.  This book pulls in the first one to make it fit, though not in a way I would have expected.  There are a lot of unexpected surprises in this book, and it’s grittier than the previous ones, but there is still the spy humor that characterizes each of the book and a little bit of romance.  If you enjoyed any of the Gallagher Girl books, you will want to read this, though just warning you, it won’t end with this one, either.   Arrgh!  Yes, I was a little frustrated, too, but now I want the next one.

For more on the Gallagher Girl series, you can check out Ally Carter’s blog.

Lucy has waited so long for this year.  It’s going to be awesome.  When her sister leaves, she’ll have her own room.  She will be in sixth grade, the oldest kids in the school building.  But plans change when her great aunt from China plans to come and visit.  Can Lucy survive what is turning out to be her worst year?

At the beginning, I was annoyed with Lucy’s attitude, but as the story went on and Lucy’s attitude changed, there was so much to like about the book.  This is definitely a character story.  Lucy seems to end up in one scrape after another, but the way she learns to handle those trying times makes you want to read on and see how everything will turn out in the end.  Okay, I almost cried at the end, but it’s a great ending.  For anyone who has ever struggled with crushes or bullying, this is one you’ll want to read.