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Read & Review: Secrets of camp Whatever by Chris Grine

Volume one of the graphic novel series invites us to the mystical town of Nowhere, where Willow and her family have recently moved in. Willow, an eleven-year-old girl with a hearing disability, is sent off to a peculiar summer camp while her parents unpack. Despite the dark rumors and fantasy stories told about the place, she reluctantly agrees to go due to her father’s fond memories with the camp. Soon after she arrives, strange things start to happen, and she and her new friends, Violet, Emma, and Molly, stumble upon a thrilling adventure filled with stoned gnomes, vampires, and a menacing fog.

I love stories set in camps, which made this book irresistible to put down. The plot is very intriguing, and the colorful illustrations were a visual treat. I felt the book is suitable for any audience since the narration was easy to follow. I enjoyed the book’s version of Bigfoot (one of the characters) and how some of the villainous-looking ones turned out to be the dearest beings I have ever seen. Additionally, I loved hanging out with Willow. Despite having a hearing disability, she is surprisingly courageous. It’s rare to see a deaf person as a protagonist, and I appreciate that the author didn’t make it her identity

One memorable aspect of the book is when Willow learns the truth about one of her camp friends. There was a lot of foreshadowing that made me think about that character and her knowledge about the camp, but I couldn’t predict it till the end. Overall, this was a fulfilling read, and I am eager to read more of Willow’s adventures in the next volume. 

Reviewed by Sruthi, Twin Hickory Library

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Read & Review: On the hook by Francisco X. Stork

The author of Disappeared delivers a nail-biting novel about hope, courage, and the pursuit of happiness. On the Hook follows Hector Robles, who is a promising high-school student and a proficient chess player. Growing up in a struggling Mexican family, Hector envisions going to college and helping his family lead a better life. However, this vision derails when Joey, a local drug dealer and Chavo’s brother, threatens to kill him. Chavo, the head of the Discípulos gang, envies Hector’s brother, Fili, for an earlier confrontation. All this leads to a clash between Fili and Chavo at a local church, causing Hector to make a decision that lands him in a reform school with Joey. It’s up to Hector now if he wants to seek revenge or think about the consequences and keep working hard for his family.

The book explores very intense themes, and at times, I found them quite challenging to read. It goes in-depth about grief and vengeance and their effects on one’s physical and mental state. However, the prose was straightforward, and I liked how the author shares his experiences as an immigrant through his books and characters. It entices me to read more of his work and learn more about him. His story-telling and choice of words make the readers think about the character’s position. But, I wish the author could have written the story from Hector’s point of view, but otherwise, it was an engaging read filled with memorable characters and a powerful message.

The most memorable part of the book is where Hector learns about Joey’s traumatic childhood. It created empathy for Joey even though he is an antagonist of the story. On the other hand, I liked how Hector didn’t use it to trigger him and dealt it his way to even things out between them.

Reviewed by Sruthi, Twin Hickory Library

Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Cold Hearted by Serena Valentino

Cold Hearted (Villains Series #8) by Serena Valentino, Hardcover | Barnes &  Noble®

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Serena Valentino’s Cold Hearted explores the background and story of Disney’s Cinderella from the perspective of Lady Tremaine, the villainous stepmother. Lady Tremaine, reeling from the loss of her beloved husband, seeks a new spouse as a supporting father for her two daughters. When she meets the picture-perfect Sir Richard, her dreams are seemingly fulfilled as she is suddenly whisked to a new land with her daughters. However, she discovers that her destiny as a wicked stepmother is set in stone, with supernatural forces in play. Will Lady Tremaine live out her happily ever after, or is she doomed to her prewritten destiny?

Having only read one of the books from this series, I went into this mainly because I enjoyed the Twisted Tale series. I recognized they had different overall narratives, but I recalled that the book about the Beast felt similar to the Twisted Tale series, and believed this series was in the same vein. I was wrong. This is strictly a retelling of the source material from the perspective of the villain, but acknowledges the other stories from this series as a part of a shared universe. Another assumption I had about this book was that there would be some sort of diversion from the actual tale being told, but this was only a device for the villain’s perspective of the story. Though I enjoyed it, I felt a little bit disappointed as the story felt as if it was stopped short. The connection to the other Disney tales within its universe is only explained at the beginning and end in about 10 pages or less, so I had to piece the puzzle together without any prior knowledge. I will, however, acknowledge that Valentino’s writing style immersed me in the retelling of Cinderella, and I almost forgot how it tied into a bigger narrative. Outside of that, this book was unexpectedly not what I thought it was going to be, but it was not bad.

The most memorable part of the book was retelling the relationship between Cinderella and Lady Tremaine though the lens of the latter. Knowing Lady Tremaine’s thought process throughout Cinderella’s life and her backstory made me sympathetic towards her. This sympathy reminded me of the Disney movie Cinderella 2, where they gave a redemption tale to Anastasia, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters.

Reviewed by Allyson, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: The Medusa Quest by Alane Adams

The Medusa Quest: The Legends of Olympus, Book 2 (The Legends of Oympus,  2): Adams, Alane: 9781684630752: Amazon.com: Books

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The Medusa Quest whisks readers to the beloved realm of Greek mythology and its dauntless heroes. Phoebe Katz, the headstrong daughter of Zeus, is dissatisfied by her mundane city life and longs for adventure. When she discovers popular Greek myths have changed drastically, an oracle informs her that her previous quests in the mythic world disrupted the destinies of the champions of Olympus.  Phoebe must return to Olympus and rewrite shattered history, or Greek heroes would inevitably meet their deaths. Accompanied by Damian and Angie, Phoebe endeavors to prevent Medusa from turning her twin brother Perseus to stone. Additionally, she must amend her errors and set history onto its rightful path. Monsters, magic, and myths collide in Alane Adams’s thrilling sequel that teems with action and suspense.

The descriptive, yet entertaining writing style never ceases to engage readers. I quite enjoyed viewing the tale from Phoebe’s point of view since it masterfully expressed her character while driving the plot. Furthermore, I was pleased at the astounding accuracy of Greek mythology and its utilization in the story. The characters were diverse in personality and still complemented each other. However, I felt that the plot became somewhat rushed and convoluted as the book progressed. Overall, The Medusa Quest adheres brilliantly to Olympus’s heroes while maintaining an exhilarating creativity of its own.

One memorable aspect of the novel is the author’s creative element in the traditional magic of Greek mythology. While it typically depicts Zeus simply hurling lightning at all those who oppose him, Phoebe’s lightning is quite versatile. She has used it as a weapon, as protection, and for handling simple tasks. For example, she was able to sculpt lightning into a torch and even pick locks.

Reviewed by Soumya, Twin Hickory Library

Books, Read + Review, Teen Reviews

Read + Review: Straight on Till Morning by Liz Braswell

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In a magical retelling of the classic Peter Pan story, Straight On Till Morning tells the tale of sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling and her exasperation with her life in London – routines start to feel droll, waiting after her brothers becomes taxing, and her want of adventure overtakes her dreams. Wishing her life were different, she writes of the trials and tribulations of a Peter Pan in Neverland, who she nearly ran into four years ago. She knows she’ll have to come visit again, since she’s got something of his he needs desperately. When adventure presents itself to her wrapped in a pirate ship, Wendy finds it hard to say no. As she explores the very thing of her dreams, Wendy will soon answer the question: Should you meet your heroes? Or is it better to become one?

Peter Pan has been one of my favorite reads for all my life, and any chance I get to read a retelling of the story, I never turn down! I thought this book was great! I loved how it gave us more of an insight into Wendy as a character. In the original Peter Pan, Wendy is kind and motherly, yes, but she exists only to be a mother to the rest of the characters. However, in this read, she actually has hopes and dreams, and while she cares for her family, we see how she feels about her society and about what could become of her future. Wendy is beyond that timid little thing we first meet in the classic. The plot was also fantastic! It moved quickly, and never left you bored or waiting for the chapter to be over.

Something memorable about this book was the relationship between Wendy and Tinker Bell on Neverland. In the original, there is a jealousy between the two. Both girls have a special place in their hearts for Peter, and it becomes a battle of who he keeps in his heart. In this book, however, there is a friendship between them that we’ve never seen before, making it all the more remarkable.

Reviewed by Shishira, Twin Hickory Library