Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review of The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Ewing, Amy.  The Jewel.  HarperTeen, 2014.

Once they reach puberty, all girls in The Marsh must have a blood test to determine if they have certain characteristics, which will qualify them to become surrogates to the royal families who live in The Jewel.  Due to a genetic quirk, royalty are unable to give birth to their own children. A Girl who “passes” the blood test is removed from her family and taken to live in one of four holding facilities in The Lone City, where she is trained to use her special powers, or auguries.  The auguries include the ability to change the color of an item, the ability to change the shape of an item, and the ability to make things grow.  Eventually, after several years, the girl is sold at auction to the highest royal bidder and becomes the surrogate for that family.

Violet Lasting, now sixteen years old, has spent her last four years in the   Southgate Holding Facility, preparing for her life as a surrogate.  She has wanted for nothing while living in the facility, has achieved extremely high scores on her augury tests, and is an accomplished cellist.  However, she has missed her family and home in The Marsh deeply.

At auction she is sold to The Duchess of the Lake as Lot #197 for an enormous sum and goes to spend her days in a lovely palace, where she has beautiful clothes, wonderful meals, enjoys lavish parties, and has her own suite of rooms.

However, there is a dark side to being a surrogate. Violet is a nameless “pet” to The Duchess of the Lake, forced to wear a leash and collar when they go out, as do all surrogates.  She is at The Duchess’s beck and call twenty-four hours a day.  Her body is not hers; it belongs to the doctor who performs experiments on her and to The Duchess, who wants Violet to use her abilities to grow a baby in three months as opposed to nine.

When Violet is secretly offered a way to leave The Jewel and her life of surrogacy, she has to decide if freedom is also worth leaving forbidden love and her best friend behind, as well.  Some decisions are hard, especially when they involve trust, promises, and love.

This terrific debut novel by Amy Ewing is the first in her new series, “The Lone City”, and is filled with excitement, surprises, and intrigue.  The world building is exquisite.  In The Jewel, which is painted as a fairytale-like place, everyone lives in castles, and all lifestyles are extravagant!  The city is decorated like it is Christmas all the time! There are headstrong royal women and power plays to see who can produce the first daughter, who can shun whom, and who has the most talented and beautiful surrogate.  All the royal women are conniving and mean-spirited!

Ms. Ewing has included such strong characters in her book—Violet, Garnet—The Duchess of the Lake’s unruly son; Ash—companion to Carnelian Silver, The Lady’s niece; and Lucien, the Lady-in-Waiting who prepares Violet for the Auction.  I am really looking forward to their continuing story in the next installment!

This dystopian/fantasy/romance will be enjoyed by readers who liked The Selection series by Kiera Cass.  However, be prepared, because it is much more sinister!  I recommend it for grades eight and up and for public libraries.  I give it five out of five fleur de lis!!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I am continuing to read books for the TLA Spirit of Texas High School nominations.  Please stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I have not posted any reviews in awhile because I am currently reading many books that have or will be nominated for the Spirit of Texas High School Book List.  I will begin posting reviews very soon.  Please keep coming to my blog!  Thanks!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review of Fat Boy vs the Cheeleaders by Geoff Herbach

Herback, Geoff.  Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders.  Sourcebooks Fire, 2014.

Sixteen-year-old Gabe “Chunk” Johnson lives in Minnekota, MN with his controlling dad and former body-builder grandpa, who moved in after Gabe’s mom ran off with an architect to Japan.  Gabe’s favorite thing about school is playing the trombone in the Minnekota Lake Area High School Band.  Every day he buys multiple bottles of Code Red Mountain Dew from the school’s soda machine because he thinks the proceeds are funding summer marching band camp.  Unfortunately, Gabe’s soda habit, lack of exercise, and his dad’s junk food purchases have caused him to gain a lot of weight.

One day, Gabe notices that the prices on the soda machine have increased.  He finds out later that the proceeds are now going to the school’s voluptuous new dance coach and dance squad, formerly the cheerleaders, instead of the band.  Consequently, band camp is cancelled for lack of funding.  The band director flips out and does some crazy things and is dismissed by the school board.  Helped by his friend and coworkers, RCIII, Chandra Gore, other band members, and band alumni, Gabe declares war on the cheerleaders and leads a rebellion to regain control of the soda machine and reinstatement of the band director.

Along with his cause, Gabe also gains a girlfriend, gets help shaping up and eating right from his grandpa, and helps the school acquire funding for the summer marching camp.

This book is extremely character-driven.  There are a lot of stereotypes in this humorous novel, and Geoff Herbach destroys some of them.  RCIII, for instance, is a black, talented athlete, but he enjoys hanging out with the band students!  The Goth girl, Chandra “Gore” Wettinger, is actually very nice and sensitive, contrary to what other students think about her and her past.

I can totally relate to this story because I was in band beginning in seventh grade and continuing all through college.  I also have three band directors in my family, so I understand the funding issues bands deal with.  Gabe is such a loyal, hardworking band member, and he thinks his director is pretty cool.  He epitomizes the typical band student and loves music.

I loved Gabe’s grandpa.  He inspires Gabe and sticks by him; he is a great positive role model.  He cheers Gabe, lifts him up, and supports his weight loss and fitness attempts.  He gives him advice because Gabe’s father is still trying to overcome rejection from his ex-wife.

Readers looking for a humorous read will enjoy this story.  It is refreshing and delightful to see and such an underdog become a hero!  I recommend this book for eighth grade readers and high school  and public libraries.  I give it four out of five fleur de lis!

Reviewer's Note:  The copy reviewed was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review of Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Scott, Victoria.  Fire and Flood.  Scholastic, 2014.

Tella Holloway’s brother, Cody, is very sick and dying.  When, out of the blue, she gets a chance to try to save his life, she jumps at it.  Against her parents’ wishes, she enters the Brimstone Bleed.  The prize is The Cure—the remedy to save her brother’s life.  To win, Tella will have to journey across a jungle, a desert, an ocean, and the mountains against other Contenders.  There is only one prize, and she vows she will win it for Cody.

The Contenders’ only help comes from their Pandoras, genetically engineered animals with unique fantastical abilities.   Tella’s Pandora, KD-8, which she names Madox, is a black fox with bright green eyes.  He has the power to morph into other Pandoras and to read Tella’s thoughts.

As Tella bands together with other Contenders, she discovers that some Contenders are helpful and kind, while others are cutthroat and brutal.  What Tella eventually discovers from Guy Chambers, another Contender, is that not everything is at it seems, and there is a reason for everything—especially in the Brimstone Bleed.

This book started out eerily similar to The Hunger Games, but ended up being something different entirely.  Tella starts out as an average teenager, but grows and matures as the story develops.  She becomes a  stronger and more compassionate protagonist.  Guy Chambers, Tella’s eventual love interest, is smart and well versed in survival techniques.  However, he has a sweet, caring side that is “swoon-worthy” that will appeal to teen girls.

The mix between science fiction, romance, and adventure will attract both male and female readers.  This book will be enjoyed by readers looking for a book similar to The Hunger Games and by those who enjoy a good survival story.  The second book in the series, Salt and Stone, is expected to be released in March, 2014.

I recommend Fire and Flood for middle school, high school, and public libraries.  I give it four out of five fleur de lis!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review of Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

         Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose, edited by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil.  Sourcebooks/Fire, 2013.

“Tonight I got arrested.”  This is the first sentence of journals kept by Mary Rose, a young teenage girl who is fighting addiction to drugs and alcohol.  She has a tragic home life; her father left Mary Rose and her mother when she was very young.  Her mother always seems to choose boyfriends over Mary Rose and her sister.  Her mother’s boyfriends are both physically and mentally abusive.   By the age of fifteen, Mary Rose is an addict, has experienced sex, and has been gang-raped.  Her loneliness leads to boredom, bad hygiene, drugs, and alcohol.

Mary Rose longs for friendship, love, and acceptance, but she continuously chooses the wrong kind of people to befriend.  She is in and out of rehab clinics and hospitals; she reveals later in her journals that she has cystic fibrosis.  Many of the children she has known through in hospitals have died; the life expectancy of CF patients is only thirty-two years of age, and that is for someone who has taken care of himself.

So Mary Rose lives her life on the edge, trying to experience everything she can as fast as possible because she doesn’t know how long she will be around.   She writes to Nobody since no one will ever read what she has written, or so she believes.

Mary Rose’s journals were found after her death in her bedroom closet by her friend and given to the editors.  They actually did no editing per se, only cut out some of the entries.  Because Mary Rose died as a minor,  her mom had to go to court to have her father removed from Mary Rose’s estate; he would not give permission for the diary entries to be published.  After he left Mary Rose and her mother, he did not pay one penny in child support, and the editors did not think he should benefit from any of the proceeds of the book.

Mary Rose’s writing takes place over a course of about three years and is brutally honest; even though she had to drop out of school in second grade due to her illness, she was a brilliant writer.  In her diary, she talks of despair, guilt, loneliness, and the physical pain of cystic fibrosis.  She dreamed of being an rich actress or a famous writer but knew, in her heart, that she wouldn’t live long enough.  She had seen friends as young as eleven pass away and had looked death in the face several times before she finally succumbed to complications due to CF in 1999.

I recommend this book with caution for high school and public libraries.  It contains profanity, underage drinking, drug abuse, and many sexual situations.  Readers who enjoy books by Ellen Hopkins or read Go Ask Alice will devour this book.  Thank you to Sourcebooks/Fire which allowed me to read and review this book.  I give it three out of five fleur de lis!