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Welcome to the book blog, featuring reviews for teens from InfoSoup librarians and users!

Author: Candace Fleming

Nicholas II, last Tsar of Russia, his family, their servants and their physician were imprisoned at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg (or, Yekaterinburg) during the upheaval of the Russian Revolution and brutally murdered in a cellar in the wee hours of the morning on July 17, 1918.

For three hundred years, the Romanov Dynasty reigned over Russia, yet Nicholas never wanted to be Tsar. He was shy and less commanding than his father, Alexander III. Because of his great love for Russia, he took his place as Tsar after his father’s death, with Alexandra at his side.

The ill-fated romance of Nicholas and Alexandra is one rarely found in history books between Emperors and Empresses, Kings and Queens, and/or the ruling elite. The two were truly in love, rather than marrying simply for political reasons or convenience. Grand Duchess after Grand Duchess, Nicholas and Alix tried to produce an heir. First Olga, then Maria, Tatiana, and Anastasia; finally, in 1904, Alexei Nicholaeovich was born, solidifying the Romanov line would continue…but all was not well. Alexei was afflicted with hemophilia. Enter Rasputin…healing monk? Or charlatan?

The story continues with photographs from the childrens’ Kodak Brownie cameras, professional portraits, personal letters, and other documents telling the tale of the Romanovs’ imminent demise and the political unrest leading up to it. Intermittent sections from the perspective of workers, peasants, and others add context and depth to the content.

My Reaction: The Romanovs have long been a fascination of mine; having studied various aspects of Russian History at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh under the tutelage of Karl Loewenstein, the professor that ignited my passion for Russia and it’s beautiful, yet bloody history. I was overjoyed to see that Candace Fleming, a highly capable non-fiction author for children and teens, made the tragic story of this family accessible to students. Fleming artfully weaves primary source documents into the story in such a way that one forgets they are reading a nonfiction text. The writing style and complexity of this book make it acceptable for teens in grades 9 through 12.

Themes: Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoirs, Imperial Russia, juvenile literary nonfiction, narrative history, narrative nonfiction, non-fiction, revolution, Romanovs, Royal History, Russia, Russian Revolution, Soviet Union, teen, teen nonfiction, tsar, YA, Young Adult

Author: Francis Mayes

When the author and her husband buy and restore a house in Italy, they begin to make this second home into their sanctuary. Although the experience frustrations and delays with their rennovations, the property soon becomes a haven for them. Mayes' descriptions of the easy pace of life in Italy, the food, and the landscape will make the reader want to book a flight to Tuscany. 

Author: Aline Sax

This is a sobering story of WWII Warsaw. Misha’s family has been relocated to the ghetto where Jews die daily from starvation and disease. He goes to extreme lengths to help provide for his family, even resorting to crawling through the sewers to get to the outside world to retrieve food. Eventually, the ghetto is emptied out as many Jews are relocated to concentration camps. Fear and anger are prominent emotions for Misha—and despite struggling to survive--he takes a stand in the Warsaw Uprising. Told through text and blue-and-white illustrations, this hybrid novel is a gut-wrenching, poignant tale of survival amidst oppression.


My Reaction

I enjoyed this fictionalized telling of the Warsaw Uprising. I thought the illustrations were chaotic, but still beautiful. The use of blue and white pencil drawings gave the story a very sobering feel. My heart ached for Misha and his family. This is a great story to help give context to any WWII history lesson involving Poland, the Holocaust, and Jewish Internment.

Themes: Holocaust, Poland, Jewish, Warsaw, Occupation, 1939-1945, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw Ghetto

Author: Laura Schaefer

  This book was wonderful. I mean if you like tea and friendship, because that's pretty much what this book is all about. You have Annie, who's only thirteen, but has decided to finally ask for a job at her grandmother's teashop, The Steeping Leaf, a place that she has always loved. The only thing is that The Steeping Leaf has a steeping pile of bills to pay and no money in which to pay them with. Annie takes it upon herself to keep The Steeping Leaf open along with her two friends, Genna and Zoe, they come up with some great plans, but in the end can the Teashop Girls keep the shop from closing? Read the book to find out. 

  One of my most favorite things about this book is that it has history and facts mixed into it, as well as beauty tips and yummy sounding recipes, almost all of which are relating to tea. I also love that the book focuses not only on tea, but also on how important friendship can be. Annie and her two bestfriends really make you want to just drop what you're doing at 4'o'clock in the afternoon and have teatime with a couple of cucumber sandwiches and some tasty tea. Another thing that really made me happy is that Laura Schaefer is a Wisconsin author, which I didn't even know when I picked up the book at the library. She lives right in Madison and loves English Breakfast tea just like her character Annie.. All in all, I gave this book 5/5 stars, because, in my opinion, it was perfectly balanced; just the right amount of fun and seriousness.

Author: Ester Earl

I wanted to read this book because I have a love for writing and saw that it was a book of stories and letters written by someone who shared that love for writing. The first thing I loved about this book was that it went ahead and answered all my questions from the start. It explained when Ester was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer, how she was treated, and her whole story until the end. I found her letters funny, and felt she would have been a very great friend to have if she had lived longer. However, her diary entries quickly became dark, and she mentioned how she wished she didn't feel so dark and hateful, but it's just how she was feeling. After reading this book I looked back and noted all the things we had in common. She was a very relatable person that loved to have fun and wished no harm onto anyone. It was sad though, reading this and knowing the out come. Even after the inevitable was noted, there was more to tell. Somehow she lived on, even months after she had passed, and reminded her family of what she had been like before her sickness. One thing I loved about this book is the fact that is was completly true, and that she never let the cancer define her. It was just something she had, it wasn't her. I think it's a great inspirational work, and that anyone feeling down on themselves should read it to remind themselves that whatever they are going through, they can get through it.

Author: Susanne Collins

The Hunger Games is about a district (district 12 of 12) that is very poor and that is run by the capital. Every district has to have a "drawing" that the mentour chooses 2 tributes from each district from district 1-12  from the ages 12-18 and the tributes from district 12 are Primrose (prim)  Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Prims big sister Katness Everdeen voulenteers for her and so Katness and Peeta have to go have 2 weeks training with 22 other trbuter for 2 weeks in the capital. when they are done they have a tribute parate which is how Katness becomes known as the girl on fire thanks to Cina (district 12's dress/costume degsiner) a horse drawn carrige and some fire retardent outfits! All the tributes then have an interview and they then are taken to a room where they are sent off to the games and they have a 10 second count-down and then they announce: LET THE GAMES BEGIN! then all 24 tributes run to the cornicopia and grab the wepons which for many is a BIG mistake. Of course Katness makes it. and that is how she meets her shadow Rue after 3 days in the games an dthey help eachother survive like when Katniss gets stung by the cracker jackers (very poisenious mechanical bees). Rue then gets trapped by a gang of kids in the games and gets a metal spear throwan at her and that is the end of Rue thus the famous Mocking Jay whistle! after a couuple of days pass by sleeping in a tree she finds peeta under moss down by the lake where she retrived herself after getting hit by a gigantic fire ball! Her and peet then go to the cornicopia where all but 1 dead body lays. Katness and peeta are then chased up to the roof of the cornicopia by a 3pack of hungry,wild dogs! they then kill the boy that is the only surviver other than Katness and Peeta and daylight comes and they get to continue on with their lives. You are going to have to read Catching Fire to see what happens nest because that is basically the whole book!

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell

This is a heart waming comming of age story.

The main charecter, Cath, is a fanfiction loving introvert. Cath and her twin sister Wren are starting freshmen year of collage and cath is a wreck. Wren already told Cath that she dosent want to be her room mate, so Cath is left to fend for herself. Cath sepnds every night in her room wrighting Simon Snow fanfictions. That is untill she befriends her room mates boyfriend Levi.

This is a fantastic read! Sweet and hilarious, Fangirl is an allround great story.

Author: Kate Hattemer

Selwyn Academy is a school for the arts; for the prima ballerinas, the future stars of Broadway, the artists who's work is identical to real life. However, the elite school is being destroyed by a reality TV show, For Art's Sake, a sleazy production that manipulates the students and teachers at Selwyn. Or at least, that's what Luke, Ethan's best friend says. Ethan doesn't mind the show that much; it allows him to gawk at Mia, a contestant on the show, whom he has a huge crush on, without being a stalker. But Luke is determined to bring down For Art's Sake and restore Selwyn's honor. Following in the steps of Ezra Pound, Luke, Ethan, and two of their others friends, write a long poem, capturing the attention of their fellow students. However, the people who are behind For Art's Sake are craftier than they realized, and soon the four are surrounded by a web of lies and betrayal that runs deeper than they could have ever imagined. Hattemer's quirky novel, filled with humor, wit, and interesting characters, and a deeper lesson that will resonate will everyone who picks up this marvelous book.