#11 A Monster Calls

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This book was written by Patrick Ness, but it was inspired by Siohban Dowd. Dowd died of cancer before she could write the book, so Ness just put it into his own words and then credited her with the inspiration, so as not to disrespect the deceased. (Ness has written a lot of other books). This story takes place somewhere between 1990 and 2010, and somewhere in Europe. I don’t know exactly when or where. The book has now been made into a movie.

This is a tale of a boy whose mother has a cancer that is rapidly killing her. All treatments are failing, one-byone. The boy’s name is Conor O’Malley. Conor is bullied physically by a boy named Harry and threatened mentally by a nightmare, in which his mother stands on the edge a cliff as a monster lurks nearby. He first started having the nightmare when Harry began to bully him – it has repeated every night since his mom first got sick. The repeating part of this makes you feel bad for Connor.

Then one night at 12:07am a monster came. Not the one from his nightmare, but a sort of tree-like creature, who says he was here before us all. (He may be some sort of green man, like an Ent). The monster says that Conor called him. He also says that he will tell Conor three apocryphal  stories that will help him. As these stories get told, though, life gets worse for Conor. First his mom has to permanently go to the hospital. This is after the first story about a murdering prince and a kind Queen who is a witch. He then ruins his grandmother’s prized living room. This follows a story about an apothecary who is shunned by a parson. When the parson’s daughters get very sick and he begs the apothocary to heal them, the apothecary can’t. And then one night the monster came walking through and he destroyed the parson’s home. (If you want to learn why you will have to read the book). Even though this seems bad I feel like it brings them – Conor and his Grandmother – closer together. The third story makes him break someone physically (it is Harry). Harry calls Conor invisible and then the monster say that the third story is about a man who was invisible but made himself seen. After all of this, he has to admit his deepest darkest secret.

I’m trying not to give it all away. These stories help Conor deal with what is going on in his life. You will have to read the book to find out.

I loved this book, it was pretty emotional though. Especially if anyone in your family has died of cancer. I would give this book to anyone who was feeling alone and scared. I also liked that it taught me that sometimes you need to go into the dark to be brought into the light.

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#10 Nickel and Dimed

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This book was written by journalist Barbra Ehrenriech. It includes several chapters where she goes from her upper middle class life to living like she is the lowest class. She tries to survive in this lifestyle – and in disguise as an ordinary worker – with only 6-7 dollars an hour. This is a thrilling adventure that takes her to Minnesota, Florida, and Maine.

She starts out in Florida and is a waitress, where she learns how to survive as a low wage worker. She mainly eats fast food to survive. She starts out at a restaurant called the Hearthside. Then she transfers to a different one. She can’t make enough money to make ends meet. At the end of this adventure she learns that this is how poor people live and she is determined to help them. Next she goes to Maine where she becomes a cleaning maid. She lives in a crummy motel where she is suddenly confronted with the fear of rape, sexism, or racism. As a maid she learns that the crew looks up to a cruel man who is only sometimes nice. When her colleague breaks something she must take over for her and do twice the work. She learns that no one leaves because they have nowhere to go. She then left. Finally she went to work in Minnesota where she took up the job of a Walmart sales person in the women’s aisle. She is appalled by how little money the people make there, given how hard they must work. At the end of her adventure there, she wants to start a union but decides against it; she simple doesn’t have the money to continue. She says goodbye to a new friend – a who is also leaving – and reveals that she is writing a book.

I would give this book to anyone who wanted to do what she went through or who are in the situation that she pretended to be in. You can learn a lot about investigative journalism. And also a lot about poverty. I would also recommend it to anyone who thinks about the relationship of time and money. I liked it for its constant adventure into new things. I learned a lot about low wage work.

#9 The Young Elites

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The Young Elites is written by Marie Lu. The series continues with The Rose Society and The Midnight Star. Also, she wrote the Legend series. This book takes place in medieval times, a decade after a great plague swept through the country. It was written in 2015. People who are infected with the fever are scarred with ugly marks and they are also stronger and with abilities that don’t belong in this world. All the parents who got the fever died, so only the young survive and are marked in this way. They will be known as the Young Elites.

There are five main characters, all of whom have been infected and survived. They are Enzo, Teren, Raffaele, Violetta, and Adelina. Adelina is mistreated by her father while her sister is pampered. Enzo is the crown prince, but is scorned by all, though he does have power: he can control fire at will. He starts the Dagger society which wants to overthrow the king and give Enzo his rightful position. Teren is the leader of the police team that is charged with stopping all riots, robberies, and other rubbish, and mainly with finding people with the strange abilities they received after the fever. He is not a regular police officer; he is known as the leader of the force called the Inquisition. He serves only the queen and she causes him to do some grown-up-ish things. Teren’s power is to heal any wound instantly. He was a friend of Enzo’s, back when they both were children. Raffaele is a kindhearted consort (he may seem to like that job but he doesn’t really) who can see the strings of power in everything. He uses this ability to manipulate people, and as a consort this helps him make others fall for him. Violetta is Adelina’s younger sister. She may have no marks, but she is possibly the most powerful of all the elites. She can take away any other elite’s power which leaves them weaker than they should ever be.

The story starts with Adelina in jail – where she waits to be given an execution day and where she recites the story of how she kills her father by using her power of illusion to scare him so that he is then trampled to death by his horse. There is, in short, a lot going on. Right before she gets burned to death, she is rescued by Enzo who has a quick fight with Teren before disappearing with Adelina. Then Adelina starts to try and join up with the rest of the Dagger society, a group that aims is to overthrow the king. She starts to grow accustomed to a Dagger’s life style and is growing more powerful with her abilities, but Teren appears at one point and turns her into a spy to keep her sister safe. Adelina’s powers are dangerous, and when she realizes this she makes a fellow Dagger who always hated her imagine so much pain that it becomes real. When she steals her sister away from Teren she ends up starting a final confrontation that will either end with Teren’s or Enzo’s  death.

You will have to read the book to find out what happens. There are some surprises. Ordinarily, in a multi-book series, the first volume is about the band getting together, but in this one, the band falls apart. Adelina, for example, falls away from the rest of the Daggers, except her sister.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loved the Legend series because this book series will not let you down. I thought that this book was a little dark and stormy, but who doesn’t like dark and stormy in a book?

Throw-Back Thursday #1 Raising Dragons

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This book was written by Jerdine Nolen, and was illustrated by Elsie Primayera. I am not sure when this book takes place but any time period where they had overalls and no cellphones would be the right time period, I guess.

There are four main characters. One is the girl who doesn’t have a name. She wants to be a dragon trainer, and she knows everything about dragons. Another character is Pa- this is what the girl calls him- he is a farmer and knows how to raise all kinds of things. He is a very disbelieving man and doesn’t want anything to do with dragons. Ma- this is what the girl calls her mom- is basically the same kind of person as Pa. The only difference is that she is female and does all the cooking and clothing. The final character is Hank. He is the green dragon on the cover. He is a fun loving dragon who instantly bonds with with the girl.

At the start of the book the girl works on a farm with Pa and Ma. Then one day she finds an egg-clearly a dragon egg-that her father tells her not to touch. Soon enough the egg hatches and she bonds with the little hatchling, who goes by the name Hank. Even though the girl was attached to Hank, her parents felt otherwise. They didn’t think this was a good idea. But she had experience with raising other animals, and Hank was smarter than any common animal. The only downside was that he was very quickly huge. 

They went through some hard times on the farm. There was a hot spell once. When Hank saved the day, they had enough popcorn to last them a life time. After that Hank had gained the trust of the other members of the girls family. Ma would make him his favorite non red meat dishes, including “Eel Potpies, Frog-leg pudding, and a fish and insect stew that Hank just loved.” They may sound disgusting but they were delicious to Hank. One day the girl was reading a book and she saw a map of a dragon island and she knew what she had to do (with Hank). They flew the island and in the end Hank decided to stay on the island with the dragons. As the girl and Hank, the dragon gave her a gift: more eggs. She knew what she needed to do.

I loved this book, I don’t know why but I just seem drawn to the book. I would recommend this book to any parent who has children with big dreams. I hope anyone who reads this book enjoys it to. I have been reading this book for many years, reading it at least once a year at different intervals.