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Carve the Mark

by Veronica Roth

review | Katie Wisniewski

Veronica Roth, author of The Divergent series, has come to us—finally!—with her new book, Carve the Mark.  The Divergent series certainly had a futuristic concept to it, but I believe this one was even more so.  I’m not normally too keen on this genre, but I am here to tell you that this is worth the read – despite any thoughts you might have upon reading its back cover.  I am so glad that I did!  Further, I can def see this book becoming a series!

The story is set in the future, on a number of planets in a galaxy.  Each of the planets has its special customs and ways of living, but they all live by the “currentstream”.  The current lives in each of them.  Some are favored by fate, but everybody develops a “currentgift” - some beneficial, others that can be easily manipulated against them. 

Akos is from the nation of Thuhve – a peace-loving and family-oriented people.  His love for his family runs deep and evolves into a certain vulnerability.  Across the “feathergrass” (or “The Divide”) is the nation of Shotet and the home of Cyra.  She is the sister of the ruling tyrant of this nation.  Her brother has learned to use her “currentgift” as a torturing mechanism. 

Akos and his brother are captured by The Shotet in a move to gain power and ultimate rule over their planet and the two nations.  As sworn enemies, it is hard for Cyra and Akos to trust each other; however, they must learn to overcome that as their currentgifts benefit each other.  Do they continue to work together despite their given fates, or do they give in to the civil war their two nations are engaged in?

 

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Fly a Little Higher

by Laura Sobiech

review | Katie Wisniewski

Zach Sobiech is a typical 14 year old hailing from Minnesota—smart, active, and kind.  He had his whole life ahead of him when he noticed a pain in his hip after a run one day.  The last thing on his mind was cancer, but he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma a few weeks later.  He beats it the first time, but it eventually returns.  It is when doctors tell him he is terminal that his story and life became known to the world. Written by his mother, Laura, this is a tear-inducing book that offers an amazing way to look at life despite what it may throw your way.

After he was given his diagnosis, she suggested that Zach begin writing letters to loved ones - to release feelings, emotions, struggles, whatever it may strike his heart to write about!  Having always been interested in music and playing the guitar, he decides letters aren’t his “thing” and starts writing songs instead.  Zach and his family decide that rather than letting his diagnosis kick them to the ground, they would allow it to speak to the world. 

It is through God’s grace that Zach and his family learn to live life to the fullest despite knowing how short it would be.  He refuses to allow cancer to steal time away from his friends and family.  His song, Clouds, put his message on blast and opened so many doors to spread it!  He got to check so many items off his bucket list: doing a music video, working with music producers, getting signed to a label, and singing on a few of Minnesota’s most famous music stages. His song, Clouds, eventually made #1 on the iTunes charts just days after his death in 2013, creating a frenzy in his family’s world. Zach wanted to leave a positive mark on this world even though he would leave it much earlier than intended and it definitely seems that he succeeded.

Note: Although this book was published in 2014, I am ever so thankful to Target for adding it to the “Club Pick” list.  Otherwise, I probably would never have found it on shelves last year.  Reading this may require a box of tissues at times, but the message is totally worth it!  After you’re done reading, check out his short documentary on You Tube channel SoulPancake, titled “My Last Days”.  

 

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Still Lolo

by Lauren Scruggs and The Scruggs Family, with Marcus Brotherton

review | Katie WisniewskI

A forward by Bethany Hamilton, (the inspiration for Soul Surfer), and written through the viewpoints of Lauren, and other family members, this is a faith provoking read, following a personal tragedy for the Scruggs family.  Lolo, a childhood nickname that stuck, was raised alongside her twin sister in the Dallas suburbs.  Their faith in a higher power grew after a divorce and remarriage within their family.  Continuing through college and post-college, Lauren grew accustomed to knowing when she was leading the life God intended for her, and when her path strayed from that calling.  

With her fashion acuity, she realized her dream in founding LOLO Magazine—a publication focused on fashion, art, beauty, and travel all tailored towards an enthusiastic, passionate young woman’s lifestyle.  She was months into its birth and launch when tragedy struck.

The evening of December 3, 2011, stopped them all in their tracks.  What was to be a fun airplane tour of Christmas lights through the Dallas suburbs, turned into a horrible accident in which Lolo walked into the still spinning propellers of the small plane she was riding in.  She miraculously survives, but her long journey in healing, both mentally and physically, is a serious test of faith and God.

We all encounter hardships, both big and small, throughout life.  This is a fabulous and hopeful story, and guaranteed reread, that captures the warrior spirit we all have inside us, to wage those battles and come out whole and filled with faith on the other side.   

 

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I am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lame

review | Katie Wisniewski

“I raise up my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”

Named after Malalai of Maiwand, a great heroine of Afghanistan, Malala is one of the most notorious well-known young women of our century thus far.  She writes an excellent memoir from her home country of Pakistan.  Rich in Pashtun history, Malala tells of life growing up in the valley as a young girl.  Her younger days were spent like most children—playing games with her friends and brothers and going to school.  Like most Pakistani women, her mother grew up illiterate; however, her father was well-known in his community as an education and environmental activist.   Following in her father’s footsteps, she gains a passion for education, in particular for girls and women. 

Life in Pakistan eventually takes a slow, yet drastic turn for the worse when the Taliban take over every facet of their daily lives.  The Taliban are anti-education for females and eventually ban them from attending school.  As a teenager Malala and her father travel around speaking out about the importance of education for all of their people, they gain the attention of the Taliban.  After repeated threats, the Taliban follow through with their target and shoot her in the head.  Malala makes a miraculous recovery and has continued her education campaign.  She has won numerous awards—most notably, a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.  Her campaign has never been about notoriety; only about everybody deserving an education.  Malala’s spirit is pure throughout her writing—it is evident in the mature way she views religions, politics, and humanity.       

I am Malala
 

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Dairy Queen

by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

review | Monique Sherman

“That’s one advantage to not talking. After a while, people stop talking back.” When D.J. gets in a fight with her best friend, they stop talking. When her college football star brothers get in a fight, they leave and stop calling home. When her little brother Curtis doesn’t want to play sports, he stops talking altogether. When her dad gets injured, and D.J. has to run the farm by herself, she stops talking about it. When her mom has to work two jobs and is keeping a big secret, nobody talks about that either.

When she has to quit basketball before the biggest game of the season and fails English, she stops talking about it. When she starts training Brian, her rival football team’s jerk of a quarterback, she stops talking. 

What happens when D.J. finds herself having a huge crush on Brian who is way out of her league? What about when she wants to play football on her high school’s team? Can she really stop talking then?

The summer she turns sixteen is truly one of discovery, communication, and strengthening of broken family ties. Dairy Queen follows the story of D.J. Schwenk’s road to self-acceptance as she realizes she really does have a lot to say about her life. Catherine Gilbert Murdock brings to light the importance of self-discovery and communication in any relationship. This book is a must-read for any girl who feels stuck in her life or anyone who just wants a fun and uplifting read. Dairy Queen is truly a delightful story that teaches the most important yet simple thing in life…loving it!

 

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Life Just Got Real

By Sadie Robertson with Cindy Coloma

review | Katie Wisniewaski 

This novel is a quick, intriguing read whose narrative alternates between two high school teenagers that could not be any more different from each other. AJ has recently moved to Nashville with her Mom and brother.  Hailing from a backwoods Louisiana town, she is tomboy through and through—she grew up fishing and four-wheeling with her Dad and two brothers.   Kate Kelly, on the other hand, grew up in Nashville surrounded by the lavish lifestyle that comes with a father who is a top executive in the music industry.   

Being the new girl at the small and fancy, private high school (that somebody has mysteriously paid for) in town, called Westmont, comes with its challenges and attention-grabbing hysterics.  Not only does she grab the attention of Kate’s brother, Kaden, but she is also tapped as a co-star next to Kate in the piloted reality show, Real Life.  Navigating the rocky waters of her new life, AJ realizes that she has lost sight of God and His voice in her life. She seeks out the path He has laid out for her by reconnecting with Him.  It’s only through this focus that she realizes that life in her new city just might not be that bad.  And, as unpleasant as AJ’s arrival to town was, Kate recognizes that maybe, just maybe, they can actually become friends.  

 

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DUMPLIN'

by Julie Murphy 

review | Katie Wisniewski

We all feel uncomfortable in our own skin from time to time—some more than others.  Willowdean Dickson or Will for short, and also nicknamed Dumplin’ by her mom, is no exception.  Especially difficult for her is the fact that she labels herself as the fat girl and her mom, a former beauty pageant winner, cannot seem to look past her bigger exterior.  Clover City, TX is a small West Texas town.  The town’s only claim to fame is football and the yearly Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—the same one her mom won and now runs.

Will and her best friend since first grade, Ellen, have been inseparable since they met and bonded over Dolly Parton.  Ellen’s mother and Will’s aunt, Lucy, were Dolly fanatics and that’s where it all began. Inspired by a secret dream Lucy had kept, Will enters the infamous town pageant after her aunt's passing.  

Far from the stereotypical pageant queen, she unknowingly inspires three other pageant “misfits” to join her.  

Although in the months leading up to the pageant, Will’s life seems to be coming apart at the seams.  Her friendship with Ellen comes to an abrupt halt as she feels she is being left behind.  So much so that she never gets to divulge the juicy details of a budding romance with Bo, the gorgeous basketball player she works with at Harpy’s.  A romance she feels she is unworthy of and is afraid to embark on due to what others will think and say.  As the pageant nears, she learns lessons in loyalty and self-confidence—all with the help of new and old friends—and that maybe she really deserves more than what she thought.

 

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Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine.

by Boaz Yaking, Jennifer Li Shotz and Sheldon Lettich

review | Katie Wisniewski

When Kyle, a Marine serving in Afghanistan, is killed while in action his family is left broken-hearted.  The only thing he’s left behind is his locker filled with his belongings and a German Shepard that served alongside him in the war.  Max, the military-trained dog, is equally as lost without his handler.  So lost, in fact, that he has been deemed as unfit to return to service work.  

Kyle’s family agrees to take Max in, essentially saving his life.  Justin, Kyle’s younger teenage brother, is charged with the care and responsibility of Max, although he really wants nothing to do with him.  It seems, though, that Justin is the only person that Max has taken an interest in since his owner died.  

With the help of Carmen, a family friend, and a dog whisperer of sorts, Justin learns how to work with Max as a very intelligent animal who only wants to please those around him.  Both of them begin the painstaking process of trusting each other and realize that they need each other more than they think.  Justin helps Max regain his confident, valiant self.  And Max aides Justin in his dangerous endeavor to discover the circumstances surrounding his brother’s death.  Their success gains the respect from Justin’s father, and the pair find each other as best friends.  

This is now a major motion picture, and I encourage you to watch it, too!

 

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CITY OF BONES

by Cassandra Clare

review | Katie Wisniewski

With the second season of  Shadowhunters just beginning, I figured I would see what the book series was all about.  Something about this genre of fiction always “pulls” at me and I definitely got hooked into this series easily!

What started out as a harmless night out with her best friend at a New York City club, Pandemonium, ended in the witness of a murder and the beginning of a discovery into her own family history for Clary Fray.  Fifteen-year old Clary lived a fairly ordinary life—her mom worked hard to support them while discreetly mourning the very early loss of Clary’s dad when she was young, but it was all doable next to her friend, Simon…  Until that fateful night at the club when she met Jace, a strikingly handsome boy with fair hair and strange tattoos on his body.  

The fact that Clary was witness to this murder has Jace curious.  Normally, “mundanes”—ordinary humans—cannot see Shadowhunters and the creatures that inhabit their world.

Because as Clary finds out, Jace is a Shadowhunter, a demon slayer, of which there are plenty.  The more she is introduced to this world, the more she discovers that the stories about fairies, werewolves, and vampires are true.  All the stories are true.  

It isn’t until Clary and her mom are attacked in their own apartment by a demon that family secrets and memories she doesn’t even remember are revealed to her.  Why can Clary see the Shadowhunter world?  And why has her mom chosen to keep her history hidden from her?

I know I will be binge watching Shadowhunters Season 1 to catch up on the series...Season 2 episodes air  Mondays at 8/7c on Freeform.  Check your local listings for it!  As for the other books in the series, I’m already knee deep in Book #3—told you I was hooked!

 

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