The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

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In a time when young women are expected to act like proper ladies and aspire only to an advantageous marriage, Faith wants to be a scientist. Fascinated by the natural world, Faith takes pleasure in accompanying her father to fossil digs, even though she is not taken seriously because of her gender. When a scandal breaks in the scientific world involving Faith’s father, her family flees to a remote island. There, secrets about her father’s past begin to come to light, and Faith discovers that he may have brought an even bigger, more dangerous secret with him to the island. Using her deductive reasoning skills, Faith must uncover the truth of what’s happening on the island — before she gets sucked into its mysteries.

I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this book. It’s historical fiction, but it’s completely accessible and a super fast paced read. I especially love how this book tackles women’s rights, women in STEM, and fake news — all wrapped up in a murder mystery! You will definitely be eager to find out how the story ends. Characters are entertaining and well-rounded, and I liked that the author gave particular depth to the character of Faith’s mother. If you like historical fiction, mysteries, STEM, or are just looking for a good read, give this one a try. Worth it!

*Costa Book of the Year, 2015

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

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At twenty-third in line to the throne, Freya may technically be part of the court, but doesn’t feel it worthwhile to invest much energy into her court life. Instead, Freya prefers to conduct science experiments aimed at inventing a device that will make her independently wealthy. When she is invited to the King’s birthday party, Freya reluctantly attends, but ends up sneaking out in order to finish and experiment. In her absence, someone poisons the king’s cake and nearly everyone at the party is killed. So many, in fact, that Freya is next in line to be queen. Completely unprepared to rule, Freya finds herself the center of a decimated court, surrounded by those who suspect her of the murder. Freya must find the true murderer before she loses her new throne and her life.

Wow! This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. The premise itself is fascinating — basically an entire court dies leaving one obscure relation as queen? Yes, please. I also loved how much Freya was obsessed with science and finding her own way in the world. So many female heroines (even when they’re strong!) stand around waiting for a prince, convinced they’re not worth anything. Not Freya! The story also features excellent female friendships and a healthy romantic relationship. If you’re looking for a fantasy standalone (rare, I know), don’t miss this!

Rating: 5/5

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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While Illuminae followed the plight of Kady after her escape from a deadly attack on her home planet, Gemina picks up with Hannah, the daughter of the captain of Hypatia. Though Hypatia may seem to Kady to be a refuge, its status as such quickly deteriorates as BioTech realizes Kady may be headed to the ship to tell her story. In response, BioTech sends an elite team of assassins to “neutralize” the threat Hypatia poses, as well as any possible witnesses. In what was supposed to be a boring weekend of public appearances, Hannah now finds herself swept up in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the ship’s intruders. With the help of unlikely friends, she must find a way to stop BioTech’s squad before the truth is erased forever.

Wow!! This one is so good!! I have to be honest, it took me an arguably embarrassingly long time to figure everything out in Illuminae (the first book in this series). There were just so many moving parts, so to speak. In this one, though, the plot picks up fast and moves even faster. Think Die Hard in space. It’s great. The best part is that, if you haven’t read Illuminae, you can still probably follow what’s going on in this book. You will, however, want to read it after you’re done. Don’t miss this one if you liked the first one, or if you’re in the mood for a techie, sci-fi, action thriller!

Rating: 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. 

Red Madness: How A Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

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It’s probable that few young adult readers have even heard of the disease Pellagra, though it ravaged the South through much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jarrow presents readers with a glimpse into a world in which “germ theory” was finally being accepted as fact, “quack” doctors concocted poisonous “cures”, and the nation was scrambling to find a cure for the ugly disease which had just become rampant. Written as a mystery, Jarrow’s piece hold readers’ attention even through the more technical, scientific parts, and the ending may surprise readers as it illuminates why a well-known ingredient today became so common.

So this book was really good. I was unsure about it, because I usually don’t like science-y things and it’s about a scary/gross disease. BUT, it was really good. I liked the fact that it really does read like a mystery — there was more than one part when I was like “Oh, that’s what caused the disease”…but I was wrong. I have to appreciate that suspense in a nonfiction book! So, if you like medicine, science, weird diseases, history, or you just need a good nonfiction book, give this one a try! My biggest take away: I’m so glad they figured out the cause/cure for this disease!

Rating: 4/5

*School Library Journal, Best Books, Nonfiction, 2014

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

Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island by Wilborn Hampton

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A first-hand witness to the near nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island in the 1970’s, reporter Wilborn Hampton recounts the suspense and fear of the United States as scientists desperately tried to keep a nuclear plant from reaching meltdown. Though many Americans supported the idea of nuclear power as a new form of energy, a meltdown of a nuclear reactor would mean death and radiation sickness for decades to come. As residents near the plant fled from the invisible danger, Hampton and his colleague stayed behind to witness and record the events, despite the fact that their lives could be in jeopardy.

This book was equally interesting and terrifying. I didn’t know much about the events at Three Mile Island until now, but what I learned was pretty scary. With more pressure on the world to look for alternative fuel sourcing, nuclear power continues to gain attention. However, as Hampton’s book shows, it can be a dangerous resource. Aside from Three Mile Island, the book also talks about the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in WWII and the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. there’s a lot to think about when it comes to using nuclear energy. If you’re at all interested in environmental issues, science, or physics, this may be a good book for you. The author witnessed the events he writes about first-hand, which makes the action extremely exciting and suspenseful. Give it a read!

*Rating: 4/5

*IRA Young Adult Nonfiction Award, 2002

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

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Brag; Illustrated by Kevin O’Malley

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Focusing only on their untimely and often graphic ends, Bragg presents this compilation of mini “death” biographies of prominent historical figures. Arranged chronologically (by death date) and including plenty of extra historical facts and infographics, this piece is sure to interest readers of levels. As many young adults are fascinated by the demise of others, this would be an excellent book to use when planning history lessons. Sections are short, illustrated,  and leave many opportunities for reader discussion, debate, and further research.

This book was great! It’s a little on the gory, side, but it’s hilarious and definitely paints a different picture of historical people. I learned a lot of little facts that I didn’t know before, and it was SO much better than reading a history textbook. Of course, the author skips over much of each person’s life, and it’s not in-depth coverage at all. So if you’re doing a report, you’ll want to use more than just this book as a source However, it’s a great place to start — really entertaining and fun to read! Pick this one up if you’d like to know more about historical figures or if you just love history/biography.

Rating: 4.5/5

*Lone Star Book, 2013

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