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

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Tsarist Tragedy

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Author: Candace Fleming

I didn't know much about Tsarist Russia and the tragedy of the Imperial Romanov family before reading this book. The author's deft writing had me hooked before the first chapter was over. We know the final outcome before starting the book, and the author does a great job setting the scene of life in Russia before, during, and after the fall of the Tsarist Empire. Tsar Nicholas and his family were so far removed from the people over which they ruled, watching these events play out to their ultimate end was like watching the proverbial train wreck. You know what's coming, and you can see exactly how every moment is unrelentingly and irrevocably unfolding into the next, but you just can't tear your gaze away -- or put the book down -- until the horrible end finally arrives.

Very engaging writing makes this book an easy read, and it should be accessible to middle school students, as well as older teens and adults. The author provides newly accessible and highly informative journal and diary entries written by people from all social strata and many different occupations, bringing her picture of Imperial Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution, and World War I vividly to life. A section of photographs, some taken by the Imperial family (who would have guessed that they were nuts for photography?) provide an additional layer of detail.

A must-read for anyone interested in learning more about this period in history!

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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.

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Author: Ken Setterington

Whether writing an informational paper on the history of Gay Rights or trying to get a better handle on the information for yourself, this book serves a great function. This non-fiction novel includes pictures, letters, timelines, and true life stories of a handful of Gay men who lived during Nazi rule.Not often do I read every word of a non-fiction book, but this one kept me reading.

An interesting fact I learned was: In 1919, Adolf Hitler became best friends with a man named Ernst Rohm (a homosexual). Rohm was named the first official leader of the SA (Hitler's Storm Section, who were in charge of disrupting opposing political parties' meetings and protecting Hitler). People just ignored the fact that there was a gay man leading part of an army that was against gay relations. All good things must end of course, so in 1934 Hitler was pressured to disband the SA (Rohm wasn't very happy). Heinrich Himmler (Head of the Nazi intelligence) and Hermann Goring (head of the Nazi air force) wanted more power and they wanted it quickly. Their big idea was to eliminate Rohm all together. On July 1st, 1934 a Nazi officer stepped into Rohm's cell and handed him a gun. Rohm is said to have replied "Let Adolf do it himself." He was executed by two Nazi officers and his body was hauled off in secret. 

This book is very informational but very readable at the same time and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in LGBTQ literature. 

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Title: Asylum
Author: Madeleine Roux

16-year-old Dan Crawford spends his summer at New Hampshire College Prep. The dormitory he is assigned to is none other than the infamous—converted and newly renovated--Brookline Sanitarium. Soon after his arrival at the college, Dan makes friends with Abby and Jordan, who soon find themselves exploring the abandoned, eerie hidden recesses of the Brookline. Soon after their first midnight escapade, the trio begins experiencing the supernatural. Dan receives mysterious notes and visions, Abby’s mood takes a turn for the disgruntled, and Jordan begins losing sleep over frightening nightmares. The events that unfold beg the question, did these teens choose Brookline, or did Brookline choose them?

Asylum is a great book for those that read and enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Roux employs some really creepy found-photographs to help the reader feel a part of the story. It is a bit of a scary read, but not too scary so fans of the thriller genre may like this one as well as the horror fans and adrenaline junkies.

My Reaction: I liked this book. Ever since Rigg’s book (referenced above), I have taken an interest in books that use “found photography.” I think it is a really neat way to get a better picture of what the characters are experiencing. I also enjoyed that this book was creepy without ever crossing the line which makes it appropriate for a range of audiences. On the negative side, I thought the characters were a little bit flat and could have been better developed and there were some loose ends (i.e. strange “coincidences”) that never get fully explained. Maybe you can chalk this up to it being the first in a series, but I doubt it. The overall plot was well-done and the setting was fabulous. I might re-read this one just in case I missed something. Grades 7 and up.

Themes: Ghosts, Haunted, Insane Asylum, Sanitarium, Summer School, Prep School, Mystery, History, Friends 

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Title: Passion
Author: Lauren Kate

3rd book in a series. The storyline is awesome. It's supposed to be an epic love story between a fallen angel and a girl reincarnated over and over again. However, the girl is foolish and always getting into trouble so her guy has to rescue her. Too 1800's anti-independence for me.

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Author: Deborah Hopkinson

I love this book Because it is about an interesting subject The Titanic,I find the story so unreal and touching I give this book 5 stars because I liked the topic and it was all in all a really great book. If you like books that are true story you'll love this book.

Author: Lee Roddy

I was never big on historical fiction; it all seemed so boring. "Cry of Courage" by Lee Roddy certainly changed my mind about that! The book takes place in Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War. "Cry of Courage" is the story of three preteens: Gideon, a twelve year old, dirt poor farm boy from Virginia, Emily, a Yankee girl living in the South, and Nat, a rebellious slave boy. All three have their dreams and ambitions, but they are so far away from reality. The story mostly follows Gideon, as it is he is telling it, but as a third person. It is particularly good because it accurately describes the young teen's mind, staying true to the time period. "Cry of Courage" is a very entertaining book; it is well written and well portrayed. Apparently, it is the first of a series. I cannot wait to read the next books!

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Title: Downriver
Author: Will Hobbs

One their way to the San Juan River, 15 year-old Jessie, along with six other juvenile delinquents "borrow" their leader's equipment and van. Then head for the Grand Canyon. Little did they know what was in store for them, as they traveled down the river, without a river guide, and with only a week's worth of food. I really enjoyed reading this book. When I first got it I was a little unsure, but as soon as I started to read it, I couldn't stop. I really learned about the Grand Canyon, and I would love to go there some day. Will Hobbs really makes you feel like you're in the book, plunging head first down the tongue of a rapid. He explains in detail the beauty of the Canyon. He throws in a little bit of history, geography, mystery, romance, adventure, and lessons to learn. He has great characters. Jessie, trying to make out the black tunnel of her future. Troy, a born leader. Rita, the "Thief of New York". Pug, the big, branny, tough-guy. Star, quiet, with superstitious beliefs. Freddy, well, he's just quiet.

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Author: Julia Golding

This book surprised me to no end. I am new to Golding's work, and have read only one of her newer works besides this book. When I heard that this was her first novel, I wasn't expecting much. Boy, did Cat Royal prove me wrong! This book is about Catherine "Cat" Royal, a twelve to thirteen year old girl growing up on Drury Lane in London of 1790. She is a ward of the Theater Royal, and has lived there since she was a baby. This book describes her adventures from a first person perspective. Within the 424 pages of the book, Cat gets involved in gang mischief, political turmoil, crime, hot air balloons, even getting a taste of upper class English life. It is an intriguing read, and it is very believable. This book is meant for readers twelve and up because some of the language is crude, but is historically accurate. What charmed me most was the lay out of the book; Cat writes it in the format of a five act play, acts separated into scenes and so on. Over all, I give this book a four and a half star, because it was fun, exciting, captivating, and thrilling. This is the first in a series of "Cat Royal Adventures". I cannot wait to read the others!

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Author: Adam Selzer

If you love history/social studies and have sort of an attitude, then this book is for you! This book explains many important events in American History, as well as some of the "less important" stuff that teachers totally skip. Figure out how to impress your teachers with your knowledge and still hold your reputation for your attitude!!!