“Plain bad heroines” Emily M. Danforth

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. ebook. Published October 20, 2020. HarperCollins.

In 1902 it was scandalous for women to be in love but twelve-year-old Clara and Flo defy everyone, secretly spending time together at The Brookhants School for Girls, memorizing delicious tidbits of Mary MacLane’s tantalizing book that showed them how to know each other better. Neither expected to die a horrible death. One hundred years later their deaths would form the plot of a movie that would star a young lesbian star, causing the horrors of 1902 to be brought to life again.

I wasn’t a fan of this book. There was too much back and forth between the characters and the years kept jumping around so much it was hard to figure out what what was going on. However I will leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Oligarchy” by Scarlett Thomas

1 star * ARC. ebook. Publisher’s Group West (Ingram). To be published November 7, 2019.

OligarchyA bunch of rich girls are in a boarding school somewhere in England, where they rule the school. They spend all their time thinking about ways to avoid eating, measuring nonexistent body fat, and weighing themselves since almost all of them are anorexic. The tepid storyline of “Oligarchy” goes on and on with anorexia as its main theme, jumping disjointedly and dispiritedly from character to character.

I did NOT like this book, but forced myself to keep going because I had to review it. If you want a book that endlessly repeats the same problems, without any solutions, then this is for you. I’m unhappy I wasted so much time slogging through it, but will leave it up to teens aged 15 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review



“The bronze key” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Magisterium. Book #3. Scholastic. 249 p.

The bronze keyCallum is back at school in the Magisterium for his Bronze year after his encounter with Master Joseph in “The copper gauntlet.” All his classmates and the Masters think he and his friends are heroes for killing Constantine, not realizing Constantine has been dead for years but his soul lives in Call.

The Masters believe there is a spy in the Magisterium and, soon, a series of accidents proves someone is trying to kill him. Despite warnings from Master Rufus not to attempt any actions on their own, Call, Aaron, Tamara and Jasper start plotting ways to catch the spy. Unfortunately events take a terrible turn, and Call finds himself in the middle of his worst nightmare.

I could not put this book down, and know my students will be just as enthralled. If it weren’t already 12:25 in the morning I’d be starting book #4 “The silver mask” right now! I’ll have to wait until the real morning to start reading. Don’t wait! Go grab this series ASAP, and start reading. You won’t be sorry.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

“The copper gauntlet” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Magisterium. Book #2. Scholastic. 264 p.

The copper gauntletWhen we left twelve-year-old Callum Hunt in book #1 “The iron trial,” he’d found out that he was possessed by the soul of the Enemy of all Mages, Constantine Madden. Somehow, during the Cold Massacre when Call’s mother had been killed, Constantine had invaded the body of the real baby Callum, killing his soul so Constantine’s could live.

Call suspects his father knows the truth about him so, when he finds a prison in his basement and written plans to have his soul removed through a strange device, he believes his father wants to kill him. Later, while at the Magisterium, he discovers the device he’d seen in the plan is called an Alkahest and his father is accused of stealing it. The Masters plan to kill his father because of this traitorous act, but Call is determined to save him.

He sneaks away from the Magisterium with his friends and Jasper, an annoying classmate who was going to tattle on them, to find his father. Pursued by the Masters, the four of them manage to survive attacks by magical creatures and Master Joseph, the Enemy’s Second-in-Command. With time running out Call will have to make a difficult decision that could cost him his life.

This series is very interesting, and has so many twists and turns it will be sure to keep even the most reluctant reader interested. I can’t wait to start book #3 “The bronze key.”

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

“The iron trial” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Rated 5 stars ***** 2014. Magisterium. Book #1. Scholastic. 295 p.

The iron trialTwelve-year-old Callum Hunt always thought he was ordinary, despite having to walk with a limp because of multiple leg surgeries. His ordinary life changed when his father told him he was a Mage, capable of wielding magical power from the elements, that his mother had died in a Mage war, and that there was a school for young magicians to train their powers. As the child of a magician Call was expected to audition to become an apprentice to the Masters at this Magisterium school. However, his father expected him to fail the auditions because the school was evil, Call could die, and only by failing could Call survive.

Despite having the lowest scores at the audition Call is shocked to still be chosen by a Master and, despite his father’s protests, was sent to the Magisterium. Call expected to hate it there but, gradually, began to enjoy learning magic and having friends for the first time in his life. Soon Call finds hidden secrets at the Magisterium that, when revealed, cause him to make decisions that will forever change his life and those of his friends.

I thought “The iron trial” was a Young Adult book but, once I started reading it, was disappointed to find it was for middle school. I find most middle school books to be boring, but I actually enjoyed reading this one. With Cassandra Clare as one of the authors I purchased the series because I thought it would be about the Shadowhunter world, but it has nothing to do with her books. Holly Black is the main author, so the characters and storylines are all hers. I can definitely see my higher reading 5th graders enjoying this book. I’m looking forward to reading book #2 “The copper gauntlet.”

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

“The girl in the picture” Alexandra Monir

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 15, 2016. Delacorte Press. 260 p.

TheGirlInThePictureNicole Morgan had spent her entire life practicing her violin in hopes of someday getting a scholarship to attend Juilliard, and hadn’t given any thought to relationships. She and Chace seemed to have some sort of electricity that drew them together. With him she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.

Beautiful and rich Lana Rivera spent her whole life living up to her Congresswoman mother’s version of the perfect daughter. She was used to having a certain role in their political life so, when her mother suggested she start dating a rival Congressman’s son to find out family secrets, she did as asked but didn’t realize how hard she would fall for handsome Chace Porter. With Chace she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.

As Lana and Nicole’s relationship grows from being strangers, to roomies, besties and, finally, to mortal enemies, the story of what happened to Chace is slowly unraveled. Their voices speak in alternating cliffhanger ending chapters, which leap from the past to the present. Each of them are suspects in Chase’s murder but, with additional clues, more suspects are added to the drama. Readers find themselves thinking they know whodunit – only to find out they were wrong. The surprise ending will come as a huge shock.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Finding Hope” Colleen Nelson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 12, 2016. Dundurn.

FindingHopeFifteen-year-old Hope can’t express herself except through poems she scrawls on her body, the wall, scraps of paper or any handy surface.

Something awful happened to Eric so, from anger, sadness and frustration, he turned to the sweet release of meth. Now an addict, cast out from his family and adrift on the sea of despair, he nurses revenge along with his broken dreams.

By transferring to a boarding school, Hope is sure she can transform herself and forget about Eric and his problems. Instead she gets involved with The Ravens, a popular group of girls who have their own plans for her. Their constant belittling and bullying soon leaves Hope drowning in her own sea of regret and loneliness, ready to throw away everything good in her life.

In alternate voices brother and sister tell their individual stories of loss, loneliness, despair and fear. Nelson’s short, cliffhanger chapters will keep teens reading until its very satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


“Secret of the Sevens” Lynn Lindquist

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. EBook. Flux. Published June 2015.

SecretOfTheSevensEighteen-year-old Talan Michaels is about to graduate from the Singer School for poor, unwanted and troubled children. Having been there since he was 7 years old, his housemates, house parents and friends are the only family he’s ever known. Upon graduation he will face a future of homelessness and uncertainty, which fills him with fear. Thus when an invitation comes to join the Sevens, a secret society at the school, Talan is ecstatic. He is sure the Sevens’ promise of riches will be his ticket to freedom after graduating.

Talan knew that William Singer’s wife, founder of the school, had died under mysterious circumstances. He also knew that William Singer and five of the original Sevens had also died, with the Sevens accused of his murder. He and his house sister Laney embark on a series of secret missions destined to save the school from someone who knows what really happened to William Singer, his wife and the original Sevens. Talan and Laney will have to be careful, or they will share the same fate. With time running out, the two will have to pull out all the stops to save their school before it’s too late for everyone.

The plot twists and mysteries hidden in “Secret of the Sevens” had me mesmerized. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next to the new group of Sevens. Lindquist will keep readers on the edges of their seats.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The Tragedy Paper” Elizabeth Laban

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House). 312 pp. (Includes “Mr. Simon’s tips on avoiding a tragic ending to your Tragedy Paper” and “A conversation with Elizabeth Laban”).

TragedyPaperTim was a senior transfer at the Irving School in Westchester, New York. On his way there he was snowed in at the airport where he met Vanessa, a senior who also attended Irving. They quickly bonded and he fell in love with her, but knew their involvement would be short-lived because her boyfriend Patrick was jealous and because he was an albino.

When the school year started Duncan was not happy to be given the room in which Tim had spent his senior year. He was also not happy that the treasure each senior was supposed to leave behind for the new occupant turned out to be a bunch of CD’s.

Duncan knew Mr. Simon assigned the seniors in his English class a type of thesis called a Tragedy Paper where students had to define a type of tragedy. When he read Tim’s note referencing Mr. Simon’s upcoming paper, he was ready to listen to the CD’s knowing he had no idea what to write for his paper.

Through Tim’s and Duncan’s alternating voices, readers learn of Tim’s love for Vanessa, his troubles as an albino, problems with Patrick, and how much he wanted to be “normal.” The terrible, real-life tragedy in which he found himself also involved Duncan as intertwined with Tim’s past was Duncan’s present troubles with Daisy. He loved her but was afraid to approach her, plus he had problems trying to continue the senior tradition that went so badly for Tim last year.

Just as Tim’s story kept Duncan glued to his earphones, “The Tragedy Paper” will keep readers glued to its pages. I couldn’t put it down, and read it in one sitting.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“Sex & Violence” Carrie Mesrobian

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Carolrhoda Lab (Lerner Publishing). 294 pp. Finalist for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) 2014 Morris Award.

Sex&ViolenceSeventeen-year-old Evan has been dragged all over the country by his father’s jobs. He uses his New Kid status to scout out girls who’ll Say Yes with the least amount of trouble, knowing he’ll soon be gone and won’t have to form any attachments. While at a boarding school in North Carolina Evan meets Collette, a beautiful girl on the track team. They begin a secret relationship that is ruined when Tate and Patrick, two jealous classmates, viciously assault him.

His father decides to move them to his old family home on a lake in Minnesota, to help Evan heal. Evan begins to see a psychiatrist to work through his issues and, on her advice, begins writing letters to express himself addressing them to Collette, who we soon find out had also been assaulted.

As Evan learns to work through his trauma and sexual issues, he begins calling himself “Dirtbag Evan” as he remembers the many one-night stands of his life and fluctuates between his old persona and trying on a new one with a group of friendly teens who take him under their wings. In “Sex & Violence,” readers gain insight into the mind of a young man trying his best to unlearn his violent sexual past and reinvent a calmer future.

I was disappointed that the boys who assaulted him and Collette did not get their “due,” as readers were left with a nebulous court date and no closure on the crime. It was also a bit discomfiting to see “you’re” for “your” and “they’re” for “their” several times in a book that was not an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). If the book gets a second edition run it would be nice to see these misspellings corrected as well as a chapter or two describing a trial that would send Tate and Patrick to jail for an indeterminate amount of time for their crimes.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.