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Read + Review: Swing by Kwame Alexander

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This book takes place in a small town where Noah and his best friends, Walt and Sam, live. They are all high school juniors and play sports. Noah has had a crush on Sam since 3rd grade, but Sam has a boyfriend named Cruz, who is the best baseball player on their high school team. When Noah’s mom and dad travel to Barcelona, Noah decides to throw a wild party. To his surprise something unimaginable happens, and Noah and Sam’s relationship will never be the same.

I enjoyed the plot and the setting, however I wish there were more characters in the book. I want to be like Walt because he seems wise, but is not the best at sports. Although he is not athletic, he is exceptionally good at giving people advice. As he does with his friend, Noah, Walt encourages him do what he’s dreamed of doing since 3rd grade. I think that Noah is an amazing artist, but was upset that he is terrified to show his feelings that he has for Sam. He worries that he may push her away, so he is very reserved and cautious around her. I hope Kwame Alexander will write another book to sum up all of Noah’s, Sam’s, and Walt’s feelings.

One memorable thing about the book is when Walt, Sam, and Noah go to a mall to buy a gift for Noah’s mom for her trip to Barcelona. While Noah is picking out a hat for his mom, Walt is off talking with the Clerk, Divya. Walt likes her a lot and even through she is out of college, he asks her out on a date.

Reviewed by Tyler M., Tuckahoe Area Library

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Read + Review: Impostors

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Impostors by Scott Westerfeld takes place in the futuristic city of Shreve, ruled by Rafi and her father. Rafi is a diplomat loved by all, while her father is exactly the opposite, and always seems to be one step ahead of everybody. To the average person, that may seem like that’s all there is to this family, but it definitely is not. Even the first family has its own dirty little secret-and that secret is Frey. Frey is Rafi’s twin sister, born 26 minutes after her. These 26 minutes are why Frey has been training to kill ever since she was 6. These 26 minutes are why Frey has been trapped in her room for her whole life. These 26 minutes are why Frey is Rafi’s body double. And these 26 minutes are why Frey got involved in a political deal her father made over metal, and for the first time has been sent away from her sister and to another first family, where she will be held hostage until they finish harvesting the metal. During her time as a hostage, Frey meets Col, who she gets too close to, and soon starts to notice something off about her impression. So when the deal starts to crumble apart, Frey is forced to choose between staying with her father, or running off with Col and becoming a rebel.

In all honesty, I am a BIG fan of the author of this book, and adore his work. I will eat up any of his books, and will always get lost in the universe he so masterfully creates, so when it came time to review this book, I decided to try my best to criticize this book in the perspective of someone who is not as in to this kind of genre as me, and it was still good. Right off the bat, I want to say to NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE REST OF THE SERIES! If you do so, chances are you will be really lost. Now to start off this review I want to discuss the characters. This category is especially important in this book, and I think the author did a great job on it. The characters were all very different, and had their own dynamic personalities. I sometimes got lost thinking about what I would do in these situations, and found myself hating the villains, and rooting for the heroes, which not a lot of books make me do. The writing was mediocre, but was still skillfully executed. But every good thing still has a bad side, and this book is no exception. The concept was interesting, but the plot was not. It was a slower book and was very detailed, something I like, but I can see how some people would get annoyed with it. The story was good, but near the end, I was starting to get bored, but as always, Westerfeld never disappoints, and there was a crazily well written action sequence and an ending that kept me wanting more. All in all it was a good book, and I highly recommend it.

One of the most memorable parts was an action scene near the end, where Frey and some friends she meets along the way orchestrate an attack, and once the attack is launched, ends up being by far the coolest, most well written part of the book. I got lost in the description of the events, and was sitting on the edge of my seat the entire duration of the fight. I can’t reveal too much without giving away spoilers, but I can say this battle leads to one of the most shocking events of the book, that you definitely don’t want to miss.

Reviewed by Aryan A., Glen Allen Library

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Read + Review: Endurance: My Year in Space and How I Got There

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Scott Kelly, just like his twin brother, was a hyperactive kid with a ridiculously short attention span and a thirst for adventure. Being someone who just barely made good enough grades in addition to what was probably an undiagnosed case of ADHD, there didn’t seem to be much of a future ahead for him, especially in a time when life was much less accommodating of learning disabilities. Yet, despite all of that, he, alongside his brother, became an astronaut for NASA. This the story of how he overcame the odds, found his motivation to study, became a naval pilot, and reached what was arguably the highest point of his career: a year spent in the International Space Station. This is his endurance.

This tale of overcoming the odds, determination, and life in zero gravity was one that both inspired and deeply fascinated me. Not only did he undergo numerous trials, but he also came out a man who had accomplished what few could even dream of. I also heavily empathized with his struggle to find a goal in life, specifically one that not only suited his interests, but also one that wouldn’t be affected by the areas he lacked skill in. I definitely recommend this book to anyone in need of motivation in following their dreams.

My favorite part about this book was getting glimpses into what the life of an astronaut is like. The stress that comes with launching, the annoying technical errors, and trying to adjust to life in zero gravity are all written here in great detail.

Reviewed by Dahlia S., Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

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In an alternate version of the classic 19th century novel “Jane Eyre”, the brilliant minds of Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows come together to tell the adventures of a young woman named Jane, who was as plain as could be. Between her miserable childhood as an orphan in poverty and her considerably bland appearance, there was nothing amazing nor remarkable about her whatsoever. Well, actually, there was one thing: she could see ghosts, and was, in fact, best friends with one. It doesn’t take long for her after discovering her abilities to decide that no one can know about them, not even her other best friend, Charlotte Brontë (who was very much alive). Despite all her attempts to keep her abilities a secret, however, she comes across and gets found out by an organization called the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits. Even though women were not allowed to join the society, Alexander Blackwood takes an interest in her abilities, and wants her to become an agent. Miss Eyre, not wanting to spend her days hunting down ghosts and sucking them into talismans, even for an incredibly high pay, refuses the job offer, and instead accepts a job as a governess in a wealthy home, and promptly falls in love with the head of the household soon after. It almost seemed like this poor orphan was actually going to get a happily ever after. Sadly, life has other plans for her, and when fires start, people get possessed, and a sinister plot that would affect all of England goes underway, she might just have to use her wits, connections, and unique abilities to bust some ghosts after all. Who are you going to send a letter to? The Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits!

This book was, without a doubt, a worthwhile read. It provided an interesting commentary on the social norms of the 19th century while also providing its own sparks of literary, and sometimes entertaining, brilliance, such as the explanation for King George the Third’s notorious madness, which is important for the setup of the story. I especially found it creative how the writers were able to insert elements from the original story, while at the same time telling an entirely new one of their own. Even if you’ve never read or heard of “Jane Eyre” until now, you should definitely read this, as it has enough content to stand as a story on its own.

I’d say without a doubt, that if you read the original beforehand, then the most memorable parts about this book would be the creative twists it had on the elements of the original. If you haven’t, like me, then the most memorable parts would probably be the underlying sense of humor, which gives it its own unique charm.

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Reviewed by Dahlia S., Twin Hickory Library

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Read + Review: Undying by Amie Kaufman

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When the son of a famous scientist, Jules, and scavenger Mia get trapped inside of the Undying’s ancient spaceship, they discover the upcoming consequences of humanities greed. Plunged back to Earth, they start in a desperate race against time to warn the rest of world of the dangers yet to come. Competing for the attention of the public with the Earthen politics and the schedules of the Undying, they attempt to find time juggling the affection they feel for each other. This fast-paced, page-turning novel will leave you hungry for more as the duo travel from mountains to cities trying to spread the word about the approaching crisis.

The book was well written, with author Ami Kaufman showing her incredible prowess in imagery and beautifully scenarios. As the sequel of the original book, this book was interwoven with the complex storyline of the previous book: Unearthed. The first book consisted more of an alien-like texture and feel and we get, literally, thrown back down to earth with a race against time with the aliens among them. Kaufman’s elegance in creating a world filled with complicated yet intense backstory was displayed with vigor in this book as the main characters struggle with opening the eyes of the oblivious public. Although the book was a brilliant finishing touch to the series, I felt that the first book gave more of an exhilarating feeling to the readers. In Unearthed, the abundance of cliffhangers and action-packed scenes were beautiful and made the original book unique while keeping to the Kaufman styled books, such as Illumina with the space-styled theme. Kaufman strayed from her main theme with this book, returning to Earth in a more political styled series for an interesting take on the new book.

The most memorable part of this book would definitely be tricking two others into accompanying them into the spaceship. The moment was humorously written but didn’t stray from the serious tone of the event. Although many other parts of the book were just as well written as this scene, this one is a personal favorite.

Reviewed by Rochan S., Twin Hickory Library.