Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

JGTurtles All the Way Down by John Green

About: It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Ofilia’s Thoughts: It’s John Green’s new book! Super excited because I’ve enjoyed all of his books. I felt like this was actually two different books. One was about girl dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder and one about a rich kid who’s trying to find a real friend. They don’t really go together, but Green tries really hard to make them fit together and that’s the problem. It felt very forced to me. The story with Aza (OCD patient) is compelling. Green does an excellent job of getting you in her head and vividly illustrating what it’s like to wrestle with this mental illness. I love the way he describes the illogical sense of it all. For me, Aza was the only character that was really fully realized. All of the other characters felt flat, almost like stock characters. Davis, the billionaire kid, is very one-dimensional. He is in a horrible situation, but I found that I didn’t really relate to him. Because his character is so one note, I didn’t feel very much for him at all. Same with Aza’s sassy Latina best friend, Daisy, she felt very much like a stereotype. I still think this book is worth the read simply to get a glimpse of what it is like to manage OCD, but unfortunately for me, this book did not live up to Green’s other works.

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Wild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen

wildWild Bird by Wendelin Van Draanen 

Wren hates her life. Her parents are constantly disappointed in her, her sister mostly ignores her, and anytime she is with her family she’s fighting with them. Her escape is drugs, they take the pain away. She usually gets them from Meadow, her only “friend.” When Wren’s parents are fed up they send her to a therapy survival camp or, as she calls it, a desert prison. In this fascinating page-turner, Wren comes to terms with what she’s done and embarks on a path of redemption.

I LOVED this book. I was constantly rooting for Wren and enjoyed following along her emotional journey. The author puts so much emotion into the story that I can’t help but feel for her. I think all of us have felt disappointed in ourselves at one point, and that’s why Wren is such a relatable character. I loved how her path to recovery wasn’t easy or perfect. There were times where she just didn’t want to get better. It wasn’t like typical books I’ve read where they are terrible people one minute and suddenly a new person the next. Her recovery was slow, painful, and she made mistakes throughout her journey. The story is so pure and raw that I couldn’t put it down. I applaud the author for writing someone so real. I enjoyed the element of nature and storytelling in the book. Not only was the book emotional, but it was also fun and entertaining too.

As a whole, this is a great book that should be on the Lone Star List that everyone should read. It takes you through the difficult journey of recovery and shows that it’s not impossible to get better. –Mansi Madaik (Murphy Middle School Student)

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

flameFlame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh 

Mariko has been raised in a palace and has known her entire life she would have to get married. Kenshin, Mariko’s twin brother, is the warrior of her father’s family. He always fights with honor and will do anything to protect his sister. One day, while Mariko is in the forest, she is attacked. She follows the Black Clan, while pretending to be a boy named Takeo, thinking that was who tried to assassinate her, and meets Okami along the way. Okami feels that there is something different about Takeo who has recently joined the Black Clan. Will Okami figure out Mariko’s secret? What will happen if he does? Will Mariko survive?
I don’t think this book should go on the Lone Star List. For over 3/4 of the book, it practically stayed in one place and the pacing was slow. It just kept dragging on and on and on… While I was reading from Kenshin’s perspective it just repeated its self over and over again; I must find my sister blah blah blah, the entire time. Towards the end of the book it finally sped up and the action started, and had to end in the cliff only reason I sort of enjoyed this book was for the last 3 or so chapters. –Angela Tatsch (Murphy Middle School Student)

I would give this book 4.5 stars! It took me awhile to get in to it, but by the end, I was totally fangirling and cannot wait for the sequel!! (A minor general spoiler here… nothing too serious). The story was entertaining, had some thrilling scenes, and was all around really enjoyable. I agree with what Mrs. Mullen and Mrs. Pearson said about this book being a lot like Mulan. Flame in the Mist is not a fairytale, however, it is written beautifully. Mariko and Mulan are both intelligent women who gain strength and fierceness along their respective journeys. Mariko never goes to war—she is recruited by the dangerous ‘‘Black Clan’’. Since that doesn’t happen, she never falls in love with a captain. Plus, she doesn’t fit the criteria of Disney princesses. Mariko is done with dresses and pampering forever; She wants revenge. The Black Clan tried to kill her and they didn’t succeed, so now it’s her turn to strike back.
As you can see, this is more of a loose retelling of Mulan. Furthermore, Renée Ahdieh touches on feminist issues better than Disney ever did. She isn’t afraid to point out all that is wrong with the way men perceive women.
There is romance, but it’s not a romantic story. Mariko is serious about her plan to murder the leader of the clan. At the same time, she is human—her emotions sometimes get in the way. –Vyshnavi Poruri (Murphy Middle School Student)

I loved this story. It did remind me of Mulan (like Mrs. Pearson said). Like Mulan, there is a love story here. It is also a mystery and action adventure story. Mariko is knocked unconscious during an attack on her convoy as they travel through the woods. She awakens to find her maid/servant dead from multiple arrow wounds and her carriage on fire. The culprits are lingering in the woods and as she listens, she discovers they mean for her to be dead. She narrowly escapes only to be captured by the Black Clan. She has disguised herself as a young boy and must keep that secret as she uncovers the truth about her circumstances and the plot to kill her. –Laura Mullens (MMS Head of English Dept.) 

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The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

Apprentice-Witch-198x297The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol 

This book is about a girl named Arianwyn Gribble and she is a witch. At the start of the book, Arianwyn, along with other witches her age, is standing on a stage in front of a crowd to get her evaluation. This evaluation will decide whether or not she is ready to become a full – fledged witch and help the townspeople that she is assigned to.
However, when the director comes to Arianwyn with the machine that will decide, it gives a curious output. Arianwyn’s grandmother, a famed witch on the Council for Elder Witches, speaks with the director and they decide to make Ariana an apprentice witch. She can retest in half a year. Embarrassed, Arianwyn gets her stuff ready to leave for the lonely town of Lull. On the bus there, she makes a friend, Salle. While riding on the rickety bus, they are attacked by a dark spirit, a crawler. They manage to scare it off and continue to the town. Being late, the only person to welcome them is the annoyed mayor. Arianwyn hopes that everything will turn out well … but snotlings do have a tendency to explode…
I thought that this was a good book. Ariana had to prove to others and herself that she could accomplish the tasks and in the end of the book, she faced something that had been haunting her for years. This book should make the Lone Star List. –Ishaan Javali (Murphy Middle School Student) 

LOVED this book!!! What happens when you make the machine blow up that grants you your status as a full fledged witch? Well, you end up in a backwater town as an “apprentice witch” for an undetermined time until they can retest you. But, what if that backwater town is on the edge of an evil forest and that evil is unleashed on the town? What’s an apprentice to do? –Laura Mullens (Murphy Middle School Head of English) 

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Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhonda Belleza

empressEmpress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza 

This book is about a girl named Rhiannon Ta’an who is actually supposed to be empress of a powerful dynasty. However, she is only 15, soon to turn 16, and is the last of the line of the Ta’ans. This is because her parents and sister died in an explosion in a pod travelling to another planet. Rhee has lived for many years without them and she is starting to get a suspicion about who had killed her family.
She remembered that her father’s friend, Regent Seotra, had warned her father that people would try to kill them. Seotra had sounded angry at the time. And so, all these years later, Rhee believed that it was him who had planned her family’s death since now, he was basically the one ruling the planet, people believed that Rhee was too young.
And now, for years, Rhee has been planning to kill Seotra, the person who caused her family’s death. Yet, little does she know about the true things that are happening or will happen.
Aly, Alyosha, is a Wratean boy who is a Uniforce soldier. His job is to patrol the galaxy and catch illegal smugglers and those kind of people. There is only one other person on board with him, his friend Vincent. There is also the intelligent droid, Pavel, who is constantly learning. The three of them are not normal UniForce officers. For some reason, DroneVision got interested in them and decided to make a reality show starring them. Yet even still, life is hard for Aly, being a Wratean.
Anyways, each chapter alternates between Rhee and Aly and they are constantly learning things they never knew. I honestly have to say that the book didn’t keep me turning the pages like the other Lone Star nominations had. My favorite part was the last 20 pages of the book because a big secret was revealed. That secret would probably be the only reason why I would want to read the next book. Some of you may actually like the book, but for me, it wasn’t that interesting. I don’t think it should make the Lone Star list. –Ishaan Javali (Murphy Middles School Student) 

This was actually a book that Mrs. Pearson and myself recommended be on the list. This is an action adventure/science fiction/romance. I really liked the characters and the story itself was unique. I don’t want to say too much because I do want to know what you all think about it. –Laura Mullen (MMS Head of English Dept.) 

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Warcross by Marie Lu

WarcrossWarcross by Marie Lu 

Virtual reality is now the new reality, created by billionaire Hideo Tanaka. Hideo has created a new game called Warcross that is played in virtual reality. Everyone is playing it, even Emika, a talented hacker. She has been trying to earn a living as a bounty hunter. One day while watching the Warcross ceremony, she glitches into the game. The next day, she’s flown into Tokyo to meet the famous Hideo Tanaka. He needs help catching Zero who has been ruining the games. When Hideo meets Emika, she seems different than other people. Will Hideo and Emika be more than friends? Will Emika ever catch Zero? Who is Zero?

This book was good from the start! It was perfect! I definitely recommend this book for the Texas Lone Star List. Emika is a stubborn yet sweet, talented hacker, who just happens to have rainbow hair. You can’t help but love her. Her character grows so much in this book as does Hideo’s. Lu has created a very complex past for Hideo and his past has effected everything that has and will happen to him. I especially love how Lu created this world, which will probably be in our future. But that ending! I guess I am going to have to wait for the second book. This book definitely has some twists to it. –Angela Tatsch (Murphy Middle School Student) 

Virtual reality has become actual reality. While other virtual reality programs focus on making the graphics better, billionaire Hideo Tananka invents a pair of glasses that trick the brain into believing what it’s seeing is real. Warcross is a game that Hideo has created. It’s like Overwatch and League of Legends because it becomes a professionally competitive game. Emika is a bounty hunter who hunts players that bet illegally on Warcross. She is a skilled hacker and accidentally hacks her way into a professional Warcross game. Hideo catches her, but instead of getting her in trouble, he hires her to catch a hacker named Zero. Now it is up to Erika to catch Zero and bring him down before the tournament ends. –Cole Blevins (MMS Student)

Awesome book by Lu. In this not too distant world, everyone is obsessed with REAL virtual reality. Instead of perfecting the graphics to make the virtual worlds feel real, the teenage billionaire inventor, Hideo Tanaka, makes a neurological device that fools your brain into accepting the graphics as real. It is an overnight sensation and everyone NEEDS one. One of the games is called Warcross which becomes a professional past time. Emika, an orphan bounty hunter and computer hacker, finds the flaws in Warcross and hacks her way into a game in an attempt to steal a device to sell in the real world. Tanaka catches her but instead of pressing charges, pays off all her bills and hires her to find Zero. Zero is trying to bring down Tanaka’s empire and the Warcross game. Emika must match wits with an expert hacker and expose him before the end of the games. –Laura Mullens (MMS Head of English Dept.)

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I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

loveI Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo 

Desi is the student-body president, a straight A student, on the soccer team, and is planning to go to Stanford and become a surgeon. She, also, believes that you can achieve anything if you have a plan. That is, until artsy-boy Luca Drakos showed up. She immediately falls for Luca, however, due to her past experiences with dating and “flailures”(flirting failures), she’s not so confident. To help her achieve her goal (Luca), she binge watches Korean dramas and creates steps to help her along the way. Will she succeed at her first true love? Or will it end in disaster?

This was a good book that had a great plot. It is a creative twist from other rom-com books and a good read if you want to feel better about your love life. However, I feel like the book is a little too dramatic for me and the author could’ve wrote it better. I wouldn’t really recommend it for the lone-star list. It’s a pretty good book overall. –Thuyan Dang (Murphy Middle School Student) 

This book is about a girl named Desi Lee who basically has no dating life due to her copious amounts of flailures (flirting failures). She meets a boy named Luca one day and has a flailure which involves her pants literally falling down. To get Luca to like her, she binge-watches a bunch of K Drama (Korean drama) for advice.

I was pretty much laughing this entire book because of how much it’s like a Korean drama (and I admit I’ve seen quite a few and they are all very similar). The chapter titles are the steps that happen in an average k drama my favorite titles being: “Be Caught In an Obviously Lopsided Love Triangle”, “Find Out the Guy’s Big Secret, Preferably through Excruciatingly Repetitive Flashbacks”, and “Fall Deeply into Cringe-Inducing Mushy Love”. This book is one of those books that make you cringe not in a bad way but in a really weird unexplainable good way. I liked all the characters (especially Wes because he was hilarious). I really do think that this book deserves to make it on the Texas Lone Star List.-Alexis Phillips (MMS Student) 

This was an interesting twist on the romance story. From the beginning Desi is in love with Luca, but her past exploits have ended horribly embarrassing. She believes that she can’t flirt or find love because she needs a plan. She binge watches Korean dramas and comes up with the perfect list to “catch” a man based on the antics of the actors and actresses in the dramas.

She puts her plan into motion and steps out of her comfort zone. What happens is funny but slightly predictable. Can you really plan falling in love? –Laura Mullens (MMS Head of English Dept.)

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