About the following mini-reviews: If you’re like me and only need a (very, very, very) general idea of a book and a positive recommendation to be convinced into reading it, the keywords will be the star of the show. If you’re not like me and need a broader summary and an actual review, I do that in the thoughts section.
Refuge for Masterminds by Kathleen Baldwin
Keywords: alternate history (times of Napoleon), England, Stranje House: a very unusual boarding school (read: girls becoming spies/secret agents/masterminds), dangerous schemes, a sweet romance
Last line: And it is enough.
Thoughts: Refuge for Masterminds is the third book in a series, but I think you could start with this one and aonly be a tad bit confused. If not, I’ll take the blame. The Stranje House Novels is one of the few historical fiction series I’ve read (each book follows a different girl at the Stranje House), and they are good. There’s a lot going on in them, like the inventions of steam-powered ships and invisible ink and attempts to destroy Napoleon’s rule. All the characters are devloped well. Each of them have their own personalities and problems. The stories are complex. Jane and Alexander Sinclair (AKA the heathen from America- excuse me, the colonies) are cute, but I like Tess and Lord Ravencross from the second book better.
I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda, and Liz Welch
Keywords: true story, across the world pen pals who live in totally different worlds, best friends, not giving up on dreams, team effort
Last line: It started with a letter- and then all of our lives changed forever.
Thoughts: I believe that writing letters is one of the best things ever, and this book totally supports me. I Will Always Write Back is an awesome book. It’s the story of Caitlin and Martin’s friendship. Caitlin lives in the suburbs and is worried about boys, friends, and fitting in at school. She cares immensely for her pen pal and is willing to take action to help him. On the other hand, Martin lives in a slum in Africa where he’s at the top of his class but struggling to pay his fees for school. However, he’s still willing to make extreme sacrifices to stay in touch with Caitlin. (By the way, Martin is one of the sweetest people ever.) Over the years, they grow to be like sister and brother and impact each other’s lives in crazy ways. The chapters are alternately written by Caitlin and Martin. Sometimes when non-writers decide to tell their beautiful stories, it comes out awkward, but in this case, the book was hard to put down.
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Keywords: veteran father dealing with PTSD, Finn: a cheesy and super sweet nerd, Hayley: our stubborn protagonist who is brilliant and knows a ton of history but hates school and doesn’t know what she’s doing, a stepmother who might not be evil (PLOT TWIST)
Last line: The stars folded themselves away as the sun peeked above the horizon and cracked open the sky and I kissed him and we laughed and it was good.
Thoughts: So this book. There is Hayley’s tenuous and rocky relationship with her alcoholic father who she loves and is loved by. There’s Hayley and her best friend, who is sweet and supportive but has family problems of her own. There’s Hayley and her stepmother who she is furious at. And then there’s Hayley and Finn. That’s all I’m going to say. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out what’s up between them. Hint: it includes horrible, hilarious math jokes.
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Keywords: three siblings who reunite after being separated from their biological mom into different families, Grace: high schooler who wants to find her mom after putting her own daughter up for adoption, Maya: loud, says what she thinks, non-biological parents are fighting, she herself is fighting with her non-biological sister, figuring out those relationships along with new ones with her biological siblings, Joaquin: only one who didn’t get adopter early and was thrown around from foster home to foster home, doesn’t trust himself, quiet and strong, finding family
Last line: And she smiles.
Thoughts: Wow. So this book. It punches you in the gut, it blows up your heart, and it activates those tear ducts. During a couple of parts, I was on the very verge on tears, but my parents were around so I had to keep it together. Some of the highlights: Grace meets Rafe (who is so dorky and sweet- I guess I like the dorks?) after her previous relationships shatters. Maya making amends with her non-biological, Claire. Joaqin being loved unconditionally by his foster parents. His parents are AWESOME. They’re my favorite ones in the book, not that they have much competition.
Have you ever sent a letter by snail?? If you have, isn’t it the BEST THING EVER? Receiving something in the mail feels like Christmas morning. If you haven’t, YOU SHOULD. What books did you read in November?