Young Adult July Reads Book Review: Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer (Zac Brewer)

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Photo via Goodreads.

Book Review

Book Title: Eighth Grade Bites (Vladimir Todd #1)
Book Author: Heather Brewer (now Zac Brewer)

This is a throwback review, since I read this book way back when I was in grade eight (which feels like a lifetime ago). At the time this was one of my favourite books, and it goes me into many more YA novels and into my current reading obsession. I even called one of my cats Meredith (many years later). This book was a great way to get me into reading, and I applaud Zac Brewer for all of his wonderful writing and work, because I wouldn’t be here in my reading and writing career without him.

Now onto my review:

Eighth Grade Bites is a great spin on the typical fish out of water story. Vladimir Todd is a vampire, and his life is quite the mystery. Not only does he have to try to survive being a teenager as a vampire, but he has to try to find out where his past comes from. Where are his parents? What happened to them? Why is he a vampire? Why must he hide this secret?

The book is incredibly light hearted and written for the correct audience. It doesn’t exactly translate into the adult scene unless you are interested in these types of books (in my opinion). Rereading it, I loved it but my friends who have moved on from the vampire scene did not enjoy it as much. The book is super fun and delightful and I hope more people get into this series.

Every minute of Vlad’s story is enjoyable to read. It will keep you on your toes and make you want to continue the story. The plot is well thought out over the series, and the characters are absolutely lovable. Alongside the steady pace, the random twists that occur make this book stand out among the many other vampire books I have read throughout the years. The fact that I can still pick this book up and get a good chuckle out of it proves to me that Zac is a truly incredible author.

Overall, I give this book four out of five stars. Wonderful story!!

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Quick Book Reviews: The Kingdom of the Sun and Moon by Lowell H. Press

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The Kingdom of the Sun and Moon was an interesting readb y Lowell H Press.

This book was clearly made for a much younger audience – perhaps middle grade? The story follows a group of mice (yes, first person animal…not my forte) and their adventures. It’s filled with courage, hope, action, adventure, talking animals, suspense and a beautifully woven tale.

I did enjoy this book, but it was not aimed for the adult audience. Younger readers would find this book way more interesting than I did. It did not have me hooked, despite the twists and turns within this. It simply didn’t move well with an adult audience, in my opinion. Lowell H Press is amazing! For a child’s book it’s great, but if I had to read this to a child I would probably get bored very quickly. I personally like stories that can sit well with both adults and children. That being said, it still had incredible benefits!

The book is visual and gives an enchanting set of descriptions as you go along. You can picture to world forming around you, which is very rare in the books I’ve read. The tale that’s woven would get kids excited – mice battles, brotherhood, friendship, courage! These are all types of topics kids are interested in! Read this to children, it’s a great read!!

Overall, I think this was a cute children’s novel. I would recommend it to schools and libraries to fill their shelves, because it’s definitely age appropriate for children.

Two out of five stars – great children’s read, did not work well for the adult audience (in my opinion).

I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

Book Review: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

In honor of the Netflix release of A Series of Unfortunate Events, here is a throwback review of The Bad Beginning!!

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Book Review:
Title: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Author: Lemony Snicket
Date Read: October 4th – October 12th, 2016
Date Reviewed: October 12th, 2016

Introduction: I went to a local bookstore and saw that quite a few books in this series was on sale. Since I read these books a long time ago when I was younger, I figured rereading them now as an adult would be fun. I also figured since a new Netflix series is going to be coming around soon that I should go over this book series so I can watch the show!!!

Spoilers Ahead?: Yes.

Quick Summary: Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire face a horrible tragedy – their parents have passed away in a tragic fire and they must go live with the horrible, no good Count Olaf (who is not only a Count but an actor as well). When Count Olaf finds out that Violet has money from their parents in an account, he tries to marry her to acquire this money.

Evaluations: This book is an incredible children’s read that adults can also find humorous. For children, this book is full of action and adventure, and the situations seem “realistic”. They might have a horrible four times removed third cousin that could take them in!! Reading this book was quite nostalgic, but I find that it still stands. While it’s quite foolish and silly, it makes for a great adventure. Overall, I really enjoyed re-reading this book. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Jim Carrey as Count Olaf since the movie that was made was actually quite funny (and great in my opinion), but this book will make a great television series!

Plot: As an adult, the children seem boring. They have faced horrible circumstances and it seems like the children are to young to deal with it. For a child, this seems like a great adventure story. These kids have been put through terrible times, but they still fight back in child-like ways. If the reader goes into this book expecting it to be like Harry Potter (where it translates well for both adults and children) then the reader will not be impressed. This book was aimed at children, not adults, so most of the plot seems unrealistic and unimpressive. The kids are whiny, they’re constantly wallowing in distress, and they complain how they want their parents back – but aren’t mots kids like that? I work with kids, and when they have a bad day they act that way. Overall, the plot is not written to be a fantastic, adult novel. This is a children’s novel, so adults beware.

Characters: Violet, Klaus and Sunny are interesting characters within the story. I do not relate to them as much as I did when I was a kid (I used to think I was just like Violet, and now looking at these characters I can’t relate at all to any of them). Violet seems to be older and “wiser” in mature situations, Klaus seems to be more intelligent but whinier, and Sunny bites and can’t speak well. To a kid, this is essentially an Avengers roster of your average every day kids. To adults, it’s three archetype children. As an adult, I also noticed that after their parents die the children are almost perfectly fine. How I understood this concept, is that a child cannot grasp that death is forever, but an adult can. An adult understands these intense feelings, but a child cannot grasp it until it happens. So while many of the situations that occur may seem out of place for an adult, you still need to realize it’s aimed towards children. This is simply an adventurous novel for kids to read.

Count Olaf is strange, but I love him. He’s a wacky character and keeps the novel interesting. He brings a lot of the twists and turns about that keeps the reader interested. Yes, he’s inappropriate when you look at it from an adult point of view (why would he want to marry a pre-teen?..) but in a child’s point of view he’s a great, wacky villain. I like to compare him as the child’s Joker (from Batman). Wacky and strange, but they keep it interesting (of course the Joker is more intense and R-rated, but hopefully you get the point).

Themes/Creativity: This book is definitely creative! It brings a crazy and wacky plot together with some relatable child characters and then finishes it off with some silly villains. The only theme I might find in this book is family sticking together, but I’m sure there’s more hanging around for those theme heavy readers.

Uniqueness: Is this book unique? Absolutely! A book with thirteen novels in the series that kept changing it up is definitely unique. It fits in it’s own little category alongside novels like Harry Potter, Eragon and The Wizard of Oz for must reads! I would definitely recommend parents try to get their kids into reading with this series!

Strengths: This novel is definitely aimed at children! It does a great job mixing in child problems, silly villains and adventures for your child reader.

Weaknesses: This book might be considered unrealistic for adults. It definitely doesn’t transcend into the older age groups for a good, relatable read.

Score: Three out of Five.

I find that the relatable-ness factor brings this book down in score, and that the children are sometimes incredibly annoying for an adult audience.

Book Review: Surviving Gretchen by Bonnie Daly

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Book Review
Book Title: Surviving Gretchen
Author: Bonnie Daly

Introduction: I was given a copy of this novel for an honest review.

Review:
This story is a great middle-grade or pre-YA novel. It’s a contemporary, Disney Channel-esque book that will keep young readers interested. I definitely enjoyed this book on a middle-grade level. Bonnie Daly did a fantastic job writing towards her audience, and I’m sure that younger readers will relate to this story.

From an adult’s point of view there were definitely holes (Gretchen seems to be mean because she doesn’t have friends, but usually there is a reason behind the behaviour), but viewing it as if I was younger reading it, it makes sense. When I was a kid, it seemed like the bullies just picked on others for fun and not because they had issues in their own lives.

Some of the really fantastic parts within this story was the family and friendship relationships. Bonnie made these friendships seem real and honest, which is truly an incredible feat. There are many books I’ve read where I wonder how realistic the relationships are, but this book makes it very clear. I applaud Bonnie’s skill in writing that aspect of a novel.

I was slightly confused as to why there was a goat as a pet and why it seemed to take on more human characteristics – this book seemed to be quite realistic, but Ozzy felt out of place. At times, I felt like Bonnie was trying to make a character similar to Olaf and Sven and Pascal in the Disney-realm, but it just didn’t feel right in this setting. That being said, kids might really like a friendly goat in the story, I just know as an adult I found it quite silly and useless.

If anything, I really didn’t like the portrayal of Gretchen. I really wanted her to grow within the novel at some point – maybe she gets friends, maybe a reason is given for her behaviour, maybe she’s not the true villain – I wanted something, and I didn’t get it. Perhaps in further books she will be discussed, but for now I’m left feeling cheated. With the fantastic story building and relationships in this novel, having this wicked villain who’s just evil, “because” (and no other reason) made me want so much more. I finished the book and wondered if I was missing pages! This couldn’t be the climax and ending of the story! Gretchen needs her human-izing ending!

This book did a great job at being short and to the point. There were scenes that I felt could have been left out, but they made the book interesting. A majority of this book is cliche – it deals with preteens, bullying, diaries/journals, someone reading your journal, backstabbing, gossiping, and essentially every cliche in the book that can happen to 13 year olds. Although, the aspect of the story about what happens when friends get confused and assume things was very well written, so among the cliches there are some gems.

Overall, this book had it’s highs and it’s lows. As an adult, I expected more. As a younger reader, this might be the type of book they need. I’m not entirely sure, especially since as a younger reader I was more into the entire vampire scene and not the contemporary.

Three out of five stars.

Book Review: Ugly by Robert Hoge

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Edition photos via Goodreads.

Book Review:
Title: Ugly
Author: Robert Hoge
Date Read: September 28th – October 4th, 2016
Date Reviewed: October 6th, 2016

Introduction: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. When I read the synopsis of this novel I was incredibly intrigued. A memoir of the life of a child that went through surgeries due to birth defects seemed realistic and interesting. Most school aged children (and even adults) feel like they don’t fit in, so reading a story about a life long battle with trying to fit in and how Robert Hoge managed to keep going made my heart warm.

Spoilers Ahead?: Yes.

Quick Summary: Robert Hoge was born with a few issues – he had a tumor on his face and his legs did not form correctly. As a small child, he went through surgeries to remove parts of his legs (to the knee and above the knee), remove the tumor on his face and realign his facial features to appear more ‘normal’. Throughout his life Robert had to learn how to adapt – like walking with mechanical legs, deal with bullying, and making life decisions regarding future surgeries. This story is uplifting and inspiring to read, and this version of the story is written as a kid friendly story.

Evaluations: I loved this book – it was inspiring, beautifully written and aimed at the right audience. This easy read was made so children would be not only interested but able to understand. Robert Hoge uses metaphors and similes to explain how it feels to be different, which I think will help the audience grasp a better understanding. Overall, I’m impressed. I would definitely suggest that anyone read this novel, and if possible that school’s should adapt the book into their reading curriculum. If more people understand, perhaps there would be less bullying and hate in this world.

Plot: The content of this story revolves around Robert Hoge’s life and his struggles. It starts from when he was born, to when he was in his pre-teens. If anything, I would have liked to see what his struggles look like now, but I don’t know if that would have worked with the audience he was writing to. Children want to hear about lives similar to theirs, so perhaps it was for the best.

The plot moves quick enough to keep the reader interested. I was more than impressed with how the story was adapted – a child could easily read this book and understand, but as an adult I also enjoyed the novel. It’s hard to find stories that translate well for both kids and adult. I applaud Robert on how well he wrote this story.

I haven’t been able to find any problems with the story itself. It’s a great narrative with lots of substance – not only is there a story to be told, but Robert explains how he feels, and how the reader might feel. His metaphors work well with the audience – making a clay head that’s perfect, but suddenly there’s a giant piece of clay in the middle – and he continues to reference them throughout the novel for further understanding.

Overall, the context of the words in this book are excellent. The author tells a great story, and the fact that it was a true story, a memoir, that makes it even better.

Characters:¬† The “characters” of the story are mainly Robert and his family, with a splash of friends, schoolmates, doctors and teachers. All the characters are realistic in the setting (and of course they are all real life people as well). You can’t tell if they were portrayed the way they actually were, but everyone seems to be acting realistically. No character seems out of place or unrealistic within the context of the story.

Robert’s character (of himself) also acts realistically for his age. I’ve found in some memoirs that when the author writes about themselves that the child version of themselves acts like an adult. Child Robert acts like a child, which is refreshing. Little Robert isn’t having intense emotions similar to an adults, he is acting and thinking like a child throughout the novel. A+ for characterization!

Themes/Creativity/Uniqueness: If this novel would have been Young Adult or aimed at the Adult audience (which Robert Hoge has an “Adult” version of this novel that you can also check out) there probably could have been more themes implemented. This book doesn’t deal with some of the emotional pain and bullying that most likely happened. The pain isn’t discussed as much as it probably happened, either. But, this book wasn’t aimed at an audience¬† that needs to feel that pain just yet. For the audience it’s made for, it does it’s job. It explains how he was bullied and puts a light spin on the names he was called.

The main theme of this story seemed like “Be yourself” or “Nobody is perfect”. Robert could have gotten more surgeries to look more “normal” but he didn’t want to. Why would he want to go through more pain, time out for surgery, and the possibility for further injury just to look “normal”. Everyone has their differences, and Robert constantly highlights this throughout the book. Nobody is truly normal – there are individuals with physical, mental, physiological and psychological changes out there. There are no two people alike – even twins are different with their personalities and interests. If people weren’t quick to judge and accepted differences, perhaps this world would be a better place.

Overall, the themes and creativity within this book were tremendous. Yes, I would have liked Robert to expand on many topics, but this book wouldn’t have adapted well for children if he did.

Strengths: Robert’s ability to write to a younger audience but have an adult audience enjoy the book as well is perhaps the greatest strength. He rivals JK Rowling with that ability, and he deserves the recognition. He also deserves a lot of credit for being able to write a story about being different and have it so warm-hearted. He put such a wonderful spin on something that could have been very terrible for him. I appreciate his work, and he deserves lots and lots of press for this book.

Weaknesses: His weaknesses within this book are mainly the themes and context that readers wanted – but readers need to be aware that this specific version of the story was adapted for children. Yes, I would have liked to see more of the struggle of his story and understand what he went through (the bullying, the pain, the thought process), but children don’t always understand those aspects of an adult’s story. Adults understand adults, children do not understand adults.

Score: 5 out of 5.

Robert Hoge’s book is inspiring and uplifting. This inspirational read is truly a gem and I would love for more people to read this book. It addresses many topics that schools are trying to plant within their curriculums – embracing differences, dealing with bullying, and adapting to change. This book was incredible, and I can not give it enough stars or great reviews.