Review: I Learned a New Word Today… Genocide by Elizabeth Hankins

by First Mate Keira, guest reviewer

Title: I Learned a New Word Today… Genocide
Author: Elizabeth Hankins
Format: Paperback
# of Pages: 150 pages
Grade Reading Level: 5th – 8th grade

Summary: Javier Mendoza is a 5th grade student at Franklin D. Roosevelt Elementary. As part of an assignment for social studies he must keep a journal and tell what he learns about the new unit being taught by Mr. Steinberg, his social studies teacher. The unit is about genocide and specifically six genocides that happened in the last 100 years. It’s a fictional story filled with factual information.

Why I Read This Book:

This book was given to LYAF as an ARC. My sixth grade sister was going to read it but she found the subject too sad to really get into it for pleasure reading. I picked it up after that and read it over a couple of days.

Likes:

  • Elizabeth Hankins keeps everything age appropriate. There are no gory details. When things are tough she keeps it light by having Javier boil the topic down to its basic components: genocide is sad, evil, terrible, and devastating.
  • A lot of factual information is condensed into this 150 page book and through Javier’s definitions, reiterations, lists, and commentary one learns a lot. It will be easy for kids from 5th grade to 8th grade to understand.
  • Two of the things gone over in the book are how genocide starts and how it is hidden or glossed over by others.
  • It is a thinking book. Young and older readers will think about what genocide is and figure out how to spot it even when it’s not being labeled as genocide.

Dislikes:

I have only one dislike. Javier begins to question God’s presence in a world where genocide exists and He doesn’t stop it. Javier also questions whether or not God is good (page 58-59).

I was hoping at the end of the book Javier would come to a conclusion about both, but it was left unresolved and that really bothered me. I couldn’t tell why it was left that way even after Javier came to the conclusion he wanted to be a doer and not a watcher. What was the purpose?

One of the reasons for genocide listed in the book is religion and how people worshipped God. The book does say religion by itself does not cause genocide and Javier thinks if God is good and fair He would hate people fighting over Him. In my opinion genocide doesn’t happen because of God. It happens because there is a lack of Him, even and especially if people are using God as an excuse to do what they do.

In addition, faith groups are mentioned as great sources for good in the fight against genocide.

Still, I really wish once it had been brought up it had been dealt with more thoroughly. It is my only concern about the book because the message is unclear.

Last Minute Thoughts: Genocide is a sad topic and while the book a little heavy it is not overwhelmingly so for young kids. I think it would be a great companion for a unit study or in a literary group. I also think it would be a good book for adults looking to learn more about the subject without getting too wrapped up in the horrors involved. You can fill in the blanks well enough.

Buy: I Learned a New Word Today … Genocide

Book Rating: 4 Treasure Chests

Keira runs a book review blog for readers by readers on romance novels entitled Love Romance Passion. She’s been reading romance since she was in her teens and began blogging about romance so she could share her passion for her favorite genre. She loves reading paranormal, Regency, historical America, and highlander most of all and completely adores blind and wounded heroes.

Audio Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

the hostReviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Format: Audio Book
Length: 23 hrs and 5 mins
Narrator: Kate Reading
Grade Reading Level: Grades 9-12

Summary: The earth was invaded quietly and circumspectly. Humans realized too late when “miraculously peaceful” events took place like junkies turning themselves into hospitals and polite arguments while refereeing sports. The aliens call themselves souls but humans call them parasites. Melanie is body snatched by a soul called Wanderer (Wanda). Wanda is not expecting company and suddenly two are occupying a space meant only for one.

Why I started this book:

I was hesitant to read this book when it first came out. It didn’t sound like anything that I would want to read, but I enjoyed the movie when it came out, so I thought, ‘what the heck.’

Likes:

  • Melanie is smart and observant (hard not to be in her situation). She sees a way to secure what she wants and uses her memories and emotions to transfer her feelings of her lover and her brother to Wanda, the alien. If they both love the same people, Wanda won’t want to turn them in to become hosts for other souls.
  • Jared, Jamie, and Ian, the guy that falls for Wanda.
  • Eventually, Wanda prefers being human ala Little Mermaid style.

Toss-up:

  • Wanda is not an awful alien, but she’s dumb as rocks. I guess if you’re the parasite you don’t see your actions as wrong when you take over another body/civilization/world. She justifies it because souls make the world/bodies they inhabit better.

Side bar: And on that point, how do they make it better? They commit genocide of entire species and then homogenize the world they are on and continue in the lives of the people they inhabit… but they play at life and lack the sophistication to create/do anything of their own. There’s no art or science – there’s imitation of art and science. Don’t ask me where the souls came up with their medicine, or spaceships, I believe the spider aliens had it and the souls stole it when they occupied the spiders.

Dislikes:

On a theological side, I take a lot of umbrage with the book. There are many things I disagree with including…:

  • The royal “we” – Wanda does not speak for Melanie. Period. They are separate entities. This plurality is incorrect. Melanie is not her body. The body does not have the ability to speak or identify itself.
  • The idea that a body has a mind of its own (as in… memories get stored in the brain and are accessible like a computer… if that is true, then a brain is unique and not the person… and identity is wiped by removal of memories/brain from the body and [implied] not recoverable, ever, not even in the idea of afterlife)
  • The idea of being trapped inside your body (God gave man dominion in Genesis)
  • The idea that we love bodies not persons (lots of references to “this body loves so-and-so and so-and-so loves the body not the person the body represents). That kind of “love” is superficial and shallow and animal.
  • The idea that people “disappear” or “check-out” under the host invasion and are gone forever, even if the host is removed.

Final Thoughts: Just so we’re clear… This book is not about a love triangle. A love triangle implies one person loves two people too much to make a permanent choice between them in order to stay in a relationship with one of them. Jared wanted Melanie. Melanie wanted Jared. Wanda wanted Jared. Jared didn’t want Wanda. That’s unrequited love, not a love triangle.

Also, I like the movie better. Shouldn’t have read the book.

Narrator: Kate Reading reads beautifully. I honestly felt I was listening to the characters thoughts versus listening to a book. Kudos!

Buy: The Host, The Host (Audiobook)

Rating: 2 Treasure Chests
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Review: Open Minds (Mindjack, Book 1) by Susan Kaye Quinn

Reviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Open Minds
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Format: Digital ebook
Page Count: 338 pages
Grade Reading Level: Grade 7+

Summary: Kira Moore is an outcast in a future where mind-reading and telepathy are traits everyone can do… everyone except her. This makes her a zero and zeroes can’t be trusted. She hopes her mind-reading skills haven’t developed yet because she’s a late bloomer, but it’s not looking so good for her. If she stays a zero, Kira can’t be with her best friend, Raf. And even though he’s willing to risk it for a chance between the two of them, she’s not. When Kira—without meaning to do so—mindjacks Raf and controls him for a few moments and nearly kills him, she discovers being a zero is the least of her worries. In fact, Kira is not a zero at all, but a mindjacker, a hidden mutation in the gene pool, and for good reason. If anybody found out mindjackers existed they’d be sent to camps designed to keep them separated from the general populace, just like how the first readers were rounded up.

Why I started this book:

I started this book because I was offered a free copy for review.

Likes:

  • The worldbuilding on this is excellent! It’s a little creepy, a lot interesting, and always moving. It doesn’t slow down for a minute.
  • Can you imagine teachers passing lessons to you directly into your mind? Or that they’d know if you weren’t paying attention because they could read your thoughts? Wow!
  • If you could control people’s minds and actions by manipulating their thoughts, would you? How would you protect yourself from being controlled in return?
  • Kira is a strong heroine, willing to stick her neck out for the right reasons and to protect the innocent.

Dislikes:

  • That a key character of the story died. In doing so they were redeemed, but it’s still sad.
  • There wasn’t more Raf! A relationship is hinted at, but it’s not there yet. Maybe the next book?

Buy: Open Minds (Mindjack #1)

Rating: 4 Treasure Chests

Review: Night by Elie Wiesel

by Cook Cutlery, guest reviewer

Title: Night
Author: Elie Wiesel
Format:
Hardcover
# of pages: 108 pages
Grade Reading Level: 8.7

Summary: Elie Wiesel is a young 14 year old Jewish Orthodox boy. He’s 15 at the end. He lived during the time that Adolf Hitler rose to power. He was one of very few to survive the Holocaust. Night is his journey of how he and his father survive the different concentration camps, one of which was Auschwitz. During the journey they are evacuated from Buna and sent to Auschwitz’s concentration camp.  Once they walk through the gate of Auschwitz it’s only the beginning of their rigorous journey to survive the horrors they are going to encounter and endure.

Why I Started This Book:

We read this book in language arts as part of our Holocaust unit. We read Night because he was the same age as many of us in class and this is the story of how he survived some truly awful terrible things.

Likes:

  • Elie Wiesel is a truly extraordinary human being. I’m glad he survived and I can only wish there had been more survivors.
  • I am grateful many of the descriptions were brief and that some things were condensed to a few sentences. It made it easier for me to read it.
  • I liked this book because it tells a tale of inner strength. If someone, especially a kid, survive all that, it really makes you think. It’s sort of empowering because of that. It’s a good lesson to teach kids. You can survive even the worst of troubles, fears, and experiences.

Dislikes:

  • This really isn’t against the book so much as it’s against human history. I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that anyone could think doing this to people is okay. Ethnic cleansing is not okay and it made me really uncomfortable to read about it from someone’s personal experience. It’s impossible to understand such evil.
  • On the trip to Auschwitz a woman has visions and starts to scream out “Fire! Can’t you see it? Fire!” Many people run to the edge of the cattle cart to see if there was a fire and there wasn’t one, but still she persisted in screaming “Fire!” until some men beat her up. How awful. Then they tie her up and gag her to silence her. Then when they arrive at the gate of Auschwitz they realized why the woman was screaming “Fire!” because when they looked up they saw a huge crematory and they looked at the chimney, coming out of it was huge flames. This is even worse. I can barely stand imagining such a scene let alone living through it in real life.
  • I also disliked the fact that his father didn’t survive when they got to the other camp. I wish Elie was able to say goodbye to his father before he was taken in the night. I wish I could rewrite the ending if not the whole story. The whole thing is so sad.

Last Minute Thoughts: Reading this book is like squeezing your heart until you feel all bruised and hallowed out. It isn’t pleasure reading and despite the rating I probably wouldn’t read it again, but it’s definitely a book you should made a point of reading.

Buy: Night

Rating: I give this book 3 out of 5 treasure chests.

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Review: Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go (The Nine Circles of Heck, Book 1) by Dale E. Basye

Reviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go (The Nine Circles of Heck, Book 1)
Author: Dale E. Basye
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 304 pages
Grade Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Summary: The afterlife isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. A bureaucratic error sends Milton down to Heck with his sister Marlo. There’s no way he deserves to be here – just look at his file – one measly little Post-It note saying he was duped by his kleptomaniac sister into stealing right before they died. But as Milton learns, it’s not your first impression that counts the most in the afterlife but your last.

Why I started this book:

They die in a marshmallow explosion! The humor of this book drew me in and I checked it out from the library.

Likes:

  • There is a lot of humor in the story from the infamous marshmallow explosion to acronym fun to a toad like principal named Bea Elsa Bubb and her three headed tiny canine.
  • Milton and Marlo’s sibling relationship – are they fighting each other or for each other? It’s typical but loving.
  • I like how it ends. I like that some characters were willing to sacrifice a chance of escape to ensure one got away. Surely that means they’re redeemable and/or redeemed right?
  • The bully reminds me a lot of Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. Love it!

Dislikes:

  • Some of the world building didn’t sit right with me because it seemed like small infractions were being punished endlessly and I’m guessing that’s why Milton is down there to right these wrongs, but I don’t know for sure.
  • Also I think some references might be more for adults than younger readers when the author refers to certain famous dead people, but I could be wrong. I love that Nixon teaching ethics, but do kids know why it’s so funny?

Buy: Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go

Rating: 3 Treasure Chests

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Review: Rapacia (The Second Circle of Heck) by Dale E. Basye

Reviewed by First Mate Keira

Title: Rapacia (The Second Circle of Heck)
Author: Dale E. Basye
Format: Hardback
Page Count: 384 pages
Grade Reading Level: Grades 5-8

Summary: Milton is back on the surface, but is having troubles maintaining the energy that keeps him together and in the present. A science experiment with a bug zapper gets him the energy he needs but also makes him jittery and edgy. He’s trying to figure out if Heck was a dream or a reality of the afterlife and is attempting to reach Damian, the bully who got him killed in the first place. Meanwhile Marlo has been transferred out of the first circle of Heck into the second known as Rapacia for all the girls and boys who like to steal. Speaking of stealing, Marlo desperately wants to please this metallic bunny and grab the Hopeless Diamonds as they’re being transferred. Can she do it? Should she do it?

Why I started this book:

I wanted to know what happened next to Milton!

Likes:

  • Instead of Nirvana its Mallvana – the perfect place for shoppers in the afterlife!
  • The Dante approach to Heck is well done.
  • It’s got a good balance of humor to gothic.

Toss Up:

  • Many witticisms reference pop culture but are bound make more sense to older readers than they do for younger readers. Some even went over my head.

Dislikes:

  • The Grabbit. Creepy bugger isn’t he? I don’t like his rhyming.
  • The beginning was exceptionally hard to get through and I’ve read the first book. I’m not sure exactly what made it difficult, but I kept putting it down until I finally got passed the opening and got to the meat of the story.

Buy: Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck

Rating: 2 Treasure Chests

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