The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

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In the second installment of the Lockwood and Co. series, George, Lockwood, and Lucy are enjoying the success of their venture with the Screaming Staircase. However, though they have a steady number of contracts, the trio still isn’t taken seriously by the rest of the ghost-hunting world. When the team stumbles upon a mysterious grave and artifact at a haunting site, George’s curiosity is peaked. But, in his investigation, George awakens a malevolent spirit bent on revenge. Before the spirit completes its mission, the Lockwood team must stop the phantom and uncover the real mystery of the haunting.

I can’t lie — I expected a lot more from the second Lockwood book. The first one was just so good! And, this one isn’t bad, it just didn’t live up to my hopes. To me, the plot read rather weakly, and I wanted much more from the mystery. However, while the story itself was lacking, there were some bright spots. Many of the characters are great — I especially liked Flo and the Whispering Skull. There are also plenty of scary/suspenseful scenes. If you liked the first Lockwood, give this one a try. You may love it!

Rating: 3/5

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

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The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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In Sophie and Agatha’s land, there is a legend that says two children will be kidnapped on one night of the year. One child will be sent to the school for good; one to the school for evil. In the school for good, the child will learn how to be a prince or princess, while, in evil school, the child learns how to be a villain. Sophie is sure that she will be taken to the school for good, and has spent all her life preparing to be a princess. Everyone thinks Agatha, the town outcast, must surely be chosen for evil. But when the mysterious Schoolmaster comes to collect the children, a horrible mistake occurs. Sophie is dropped into the school for evil, while Agatha lands in the school for good. Somehow the girls must survive their schools and find a way to correct the mistake before they are stuck forever.

This is definitely the best book I’ve read in a while! It’s so creative! Think Harry Potter, but with fairy tales. I loved the creativity and world-building in both schools, and all of the characters are fun to read. I definitely wish I could go to one of these schools. If you love fairy tales, you may like this book. It was really cool to see the children of famous fairy tale characters go to school to get learn how to be a prince/princess/villain. I recommend this series if you’re a fan of fantasy, fairy tales, or good books.

Rating: 4.5/5

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

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

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After years of struggling with anxiety and body image issues, Lara has finally turned her life around. She’s even somewhat popular and on the cheerleading squad. When a boy she doesn’t know, Christian, friends her on Facebook, Lara accepts. Their online friendship soon turns to romance — until Christian abruptly breaks it off and humiliates Lara online. Bree, Lara’s ex-best-friend, is happy Lara is getting put “back in her place”, but has no idea how devastated Lara really is over the incident. Lara’s online life suddenly spirals out of control, bringing real life consequences crashing down.

So, you can tell from my rating that this book wasn’t my favorite. BUT, that doesn’t mean you won’t like it. I personally felt that this book was super cheesy and did a great job of hammering its message home over and over and over. Don’t get me wrong; the message is very important! Online actions definitely have real life consequences, and it’s important that we realize those consequences. I’ve also had lots of kids tell me they LOVE this book. It’s got life drama, Facebook drama, romance drama — there’s a lot to like. I just didn’t. But you may want to give this book a try if you’re a fan of realistic fiction.

Rating: 2.5/5

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

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Moments after Kady breaks up with her boyfriend, Ezra, their planet is invaded. Struggling to get to safety, Kady and Ezra (though at odds) must work together to survive the attack. Once the two successfully escape their planet on evacuation ships, more information about the attack starts to surface. The attacking corporation, Bio-Tech, unleashed a deadly virus onto the planet during its attack– one that is now incubating inside the humans aboard the evacuation ships. What’s more, the artificial intelligence on one of the ships may have become too powerful for its own good. Told through files, documents, concrete poetry, and images, Illuminae is the story of Kady, Ezra, and the AI, Aidan, during the harrowing escape from their home planet. Their three stories intertwine in surprising ways, all culminating in a raw, dramatic ending.

Wow, wow, wow! I am not a fan of space-fiction at all, so I had mixed feelings about trying this book. I only did because it has such a unique construction. Instead of reading paragraphs, you read transcripts, chats, poetry, and illustrations. Super cool and different. I have to be honest, the first 200 pages or so are a little slow, but push through! The action, twists, drama, and ending are totally worth it. Plus, I loved reading the character of the evil AI, Aidan. He’s the best/worst. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a new series to get sucked into.

*VOYA Perfect 10, 2015

*YALSA Best Fiction, 2016

Rating: 4.5/5

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