Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

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In the final installment of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Karou finds herself attempting the impossible — uniting the chimera and Misbegotten. Jael, having invaded the human world as a god, is intent on procuring weapons to destroy the Stelian race. Karou and Akiva must work together to unite their meager forces in a defense. New characters and forces thicken the plot, threatening to topple the pair’s careful plans in this breakneck speed conclusion.

As with the other books in the series, I LOVED this one. The writing is spectacular, I loved all the parts with Mik and Zuzuna, I’m pretty sure Razgut was my favorite character, and it was just a really well-done piece. It did have some flaws, though. The angel invasion seemed pretty pointless to me — there was a lot of buildup and then it was just dropped. Also, to be honest, this piece was a little long — some parts could definitely be cut. However, I am sad that I’ve finished the last book in the series because I really would like to know what happens next. If you loved the other two books, don’t skip out on this one! Also, if you haven’t read the other two, I don’t recommend jumping ahead — so much happens!

Rating: 4.5/5

*YALSA Teen’s Top Ten, Nominee, 2015 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

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Tomboy by Liz Prince

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Labeled as a “tomboy” from a young age, Liz struggles to find a place in a hyper-gendered world. In this unique graphic novel memoir, Prince chronicles her battle with mainstream society in all its awkward glory. With each humiliating, painfully real episode, Liz sheds much needed insight into the consequences of forcing gender on individuals, as well as highlights the need for each person to determine his/her gender identity independently.

I LOVED this book! It’s a graphic novel, so that automatically catches my attention, and it’s a memoir. I love hearing people tell their stories! Liz’s book was particularly good because she talks about what it’s like to not fit in because of the way others perceive you. Because of her looks, people call Liz a boy. Liz doesn’t see anything wrong with being a boy (in fact she likes doing “boy” things), but she’s still made fun of because of it. In short, Liz isn’t allowed to be herself because the way she is isn’t “normal”. It was sad to read some of the parts of her story, but I feel like this is also an important book. Through Liz’s story, readers can really see what it’s like for someone who doesn’t fit into a predetermine role — whether gender or otherwise. This book really got me thinking about how I look at and treat other people, as well as the ridiculous standards society/the media places on gender.

Rating: 5/5 

*Maverick, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

The President Has Been Shot: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson

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Swanson presents this in-depth look at the Kennedy assassination, complete with detailed diagrams of the book depository, the motorcade route, and Kennedy’s wounds. Aside from the assassination itself, the author also delves into Lee Harvey Oswald’s personal life, his affiliation with the communist party, and his suspected mental illness. Swanson makes good use of historical photographs (including stills from film reels) and organizes the piece so that it reads more like fiction than a historical work. This is a worthwhile piece to incorporate into lessons involving or related to the event.

I have to admit, I’m fascinated with the Kennedy assassination. I don’t know if it’s the tragedy of the situation, the national grief, the conspiracy theories, or just Jackie, but I’m always interested in learning more. This book is focused only on the assassination, so it goes into a good amount of detail about the event. There’s a lot of pictures, diagrams, and maps which are especially helpful in trying to figure out exactly what happened the day of the shooting. My only criticism of this book is that it takes a pretty rosy view of JFK and his administration. I’m not saying that JFK wasn’t a good president, but I am saying that the author intentionally ignored some of the shadier aspects of his history, family life, and presidency. If you’re interested in those juicier bits, I would recommend doing a little research — there’s some good stuff out there.

Rating: 4/5

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Finalist, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery by Steve Sheinkin

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Though remembered by American history as the most notorious traitor of the American Revolution, Sheinkin’s work illustrates that Benedict Arnold was once a hero. Daring in battle and with an unbreakable will, the general won key battles for the Americans, but felt his achievements were ignored. Interestingly, the same impulsiveness and combative nature that made Arnold a military hero ultimately led him to betray his country. Sheinkin’s work is a well-researched, non-traditional look at Benedict Arnold which demonstrates to students that there are two sides to every story.

What I loved about this book was getting to see Arnold’s side of the story. So often, people are remembered only for the terrible things they do — no one thinks about why they did them. In a way, I could understand Arnold’s frustration with feeling unappreciated and ignored. The treachery, however, is the only thing he will be remembered for. While I loved the “other side of the story” aspect, this book was still boring. Some parts are action-packed and read like a novel, but there are plenty of parts that don’t. I’m actually surprised this won the YALSA nonfiction award. Then again, so did Charles and Emma. I recommend this book if you’re already a fan of the American Revolution, or interested in Benedict Arnold. It’s not as good as Sheinkin’s more recent work, though.

Rating: 3/5 

*YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, winner, 2012

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.