“Code name Verity” (Verity #1) Elizabeth Wein

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Hyperion. 339 p. (Includes a “Brief Bibliography.”)

CodeNameVerityThe story opens with Verity, a secret agent sent to Occupied France by the British, being held prisoner by the Gestapo during World War II. After being tortured for weeks, Verity struck a deal which allowed her to regain a modicum of civility but which also included having her write all she knew about the Royal Air Force (RAF) and her role with the British.

As Verity’s story unfolds we meet Maddie, a rare female pilot in the RAF who became Verity’s best friend. As their stories of bravery, friendship, and survival in the midst of fear and the unknown are revealed, readers will be hard pressed to keep their tears and emotions in check.

“Code Name Verity” won the Michael L. Printz Honor Award in 2013, given by YALSA (the Young Adult Library Services Association). It also was listed on the 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten list, and won numerous other awards. All are well deserved.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older, including Adults.


“Projekt 1065: A novel of World War II” Alan Gratz

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Scholastic. 309 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

projekt1065In 1938 Michael O’Shaunessey moved to Berlin, Germany with his parents when his father was named Irish Ambassador. Over the 6 years of living there he’d seen the Nazi Party became stronger, changing its people for the worse. It is now 1943, and things have gotten bad as Jews and other dissenters are being taken to concentration camps. Michael had never known his parents were spies for the Allies but now, at the age of 13, he found himself working with them.

When a British RAF pilot was shot down over the city, Michael and his parents discovered the Nazis had been secretly building a plane with engines instead of propellers, which could fly faster than any country’s planes and would turn the tide of the war towards Germany.

Accidentally finding the plane’s blueprints accelerated Michael’s spy role within the ranks of the Hitler Youth. As things heat up, it soon becomes evident that Michael and his parents are in grave danger. Michael will have to do all he can to make sure the Nazis don’t succeed in their plan for world domination before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed reading “Projekt 1065.” Its short, cliffhanger, fast paced chapters make it a great choice for reluctant readers, while its storyline is very interesting.

Highly recommended for ages 11-14.

“The Mind Keepers” Lori Brighton

Rated 1 star * Mind Readers, #4. ebook. Published 2013.

TheMindKeepersCameron and Lewis have been reunited, her mother and fake father are dead, Aaron has disappeared, the children are safe, and all should be well in the household. Nope. Time for another adventure…

When Cameron mind travels and learns Maddox is going to be transferred to another prison, she knows he needs to be rescued from S.P.I. Nora isn’t so sure, as she’s spent too much time hating him. It’s bad enough she’s suddenly inherited massive power as the new Source. She doesn’t have time to think about the love she may or may not feel for Maddox.

With this premise, Lori Brighton takes her YA readers on yet another trip down memory lane. This time, Nora is the narrator and we are regaled with the exact same insecurities faced by Cameron. Who to trust? Who to love? Why is she the Source? I’m so jealous. etc. etc. Surely Lori could have thought of new plot lines by now, since it’s the fourth book in the series.

The fact that Cameron’s past thoughts have been regurgitated, and the only change is Nora narrating instead of Cameron, shows Maddox could have been rescued in book three and the series could have finally ended. It was bad enough reading about Cameron’s moaning and insecurities, now having to read the exact same insecurities through Nora’s voice is too much to ask readers to take.

On a positive note, Brighton’s usual mess of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes were lower in this book, but there were still too many to count. Therefore I leave it up to you to decide if you want to Read it or Not.

“The Mind Games” Lori Brighton

Rated 1 star * Mind Readers, #3. ebook. Published 2012.

MindGamesWhen last we saw Cameron she and Lewis were running for their lives from John, her daddy, who was trying to get them to return to his government hideaway and resume life as his mind reader guinea pigs.  In the turmoil, Lewis was shot and recaptured while Cameron wound up in Savannah, Georgia. Her grief at losing Lewis was dealt a blow when she came face to face with her mother Katherine, who was supposed to have died when Cam was a young girl. Katherine is now the leader of a faction of mind readers determined to overthrow John with the help of Cam’s great arsenal of untapped powers.

Cam is tired of being a ping-pong ball in the power struggle between her parents. Despite the advice of others, she decides to risk everything to rescue Lewis. What she doesn’t know is that her father is planning an attack of his own, and when he does Cam will have to look beyond her own needs and desires if she wants to survive.

Lori Brighton has an interesting storyline in her YA Mind Readers series. However, she still continues not to use an editor, so has numerous spelling and grammatical errors which are very annoying. In addition, she keeps copying material from her other books under the guise of “flashbacks” which is also annoying. A flashback can consist of a sentence, and doesn’t necessitate copying entire paragraphs. These errors stand in the way of her being taken seriously as an author, and need to be rectified if she decides to publish any more materials.

If anyone out there is reading this and planning to self publish a book, PLEASE follow the advice I gave in my last post. If you don’t have a group to help edit your manuscript, then hire me as I am a freelance editor and look forward to taking my red pen to your work.

Thus, because of the grammatical/spelling errors and needless repetition, I’ll leave it up to you readers to decide if you want to Read It or Not.

“The Mind Thieves” Lori Brighton

Rated 1 star * Mind Readers, #2. ebook. Published 2012.

TheMindThievesCameron and her grandmother are enjoying a normal; worry free life on a Caribbean island. Cam doesn’t know what to think when an extremely handsome older man named Maddox shows up on her eighteenth birthday insisting she knows him, that she is in danger, and that her dead father is really alive.

It doesn’t take long before Cam finds herself in the midst of a gun battle, forced to flee with Maddox for her life. Despite vowing to hate him for separating her from her Grandmother, and unsure as to whether or not to trust him, Cam finds herself strangely attracted to this handsome stranger.

When her father comes and helps to rescues her, Cam is thrilled. Her joy quickly fades when she finds out he has a secret job, and some not-so-secret expectations for her. With her memories returning, and at the height of her confusion over who to trust, she meets Nora. An agent for the other side, Nora tries to convince her to leave her father’s camp. Knowing she can’t trust her father anymore, and with her memories fully restored, Cam decides to run away and find Lewis. However daddy doesn’t want his little girl to leave, and Cam finds herself in the midst of another nightmare fight for her life.

Brighton weaves a tale of espionage, confusion, romance and naïveté for her YA readers. Unfortunately, she also continues to not use an editor, resulting in needless grammatical errors, which I detailed in my review of “The Mind Readers.” Most egregiously of all, she wastes reader’s time by quoting numerous chapters word for word from book #1, under the guise of detailing Cameron’s returning memories. It is not necessary to regurgitate parts of one book into another, which cheats readers of a completely new read. If I had known that in advance, I wouldn’t have bothered reading book #1.

I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to Read It Or Not.

“Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy” Elizabeth Kiem

Rated 1 star * 2013. Soho Press. 264 pp.

DancerDaughterTraitorSpyIt is 1982, and the Soviet Union is alive and well. Marina Dukovskaya is on her way to becoming an established ballerina just like her mother Sveta had been when she was in her prime. Sveta is still held in high esteem by government officials, and is an important part of their propaganda machine. Despite managing to hide her strange proclivity to see visions of the past, when one of those visions reveals a dark state secret covered up by Soviet officials years ago, Sveta is arrested and imprisoned.

Knowing the KGB (Russian Secret Police) will be after them, Marina and her father are forced to leave their pampered lives and defect to a shabby Brooklyn apartment in Brighton Beach. Using assumed identities, they try to blend into their new lives but Marina’s father is not happy. In his naivete he is sure Sveta will be released by the KGB if he can provide proof of her revelations.

Unfortunately Sveta’s state secrets are also wanted by the Russian Mob, the FBI and the CIA, with each having their own reasons for wanting to place their hands on this data. Thus, instead of returning to her previous life as a ballerina, Marina and her new friend Ben find themselves in the midst of murder, intrigue, spies and national secrets. To complicate matters, Marina starts to get visions of her own…

Readers aged 12-16 who like ballet and want to learn more about what the U.S.S.R. was like in 1982 may find “Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy” interesting, but I found it to be not so interesting. There wasn’t anything especially riveting about it, and the numerous Russian words would have been better appreciated if the book included definitions and a pronunciation guide. It was also unnecessary to have a storyline revolve about Sveta and Marina’s “visions,” as a story of Russians defecting from Mother Russia could have stood alone without it.

So I leave it up to you to decide if You Should Read It or Not.