Fourth Friday – August 2020 (more) Book Surprises

monthly book listWelcome to Fourth Friday! We’re late once again because, well, we’ve been reading lots of reviews!

With school starting (or getting ready to start) in many places, we expect the pace of new reviews being submitted by our teen volunteers will slow down to a trickle. In the meantime, we want to share six book reviews we just published on the Reading Tub that made our day.

From being hooked by a “hidden gem” to being “completely immersed” eve while out of my comfort zone, to being inspired to buy a book because of a classroom read-aloud. When it comes to connecting with the toughest readers on earth – teens! – it doesn’t get much better than this. The other cool thing? Five of the six books have been on the shelves for at least five years! “New” is the first time you read it, not the pub date!

You just never know what, where, or how a reader will keep their bookworm journey growing.

Reminder: Cover image, and are affiliate links. The Reading Tub can earn income via purchases made.

alchemyst nicholas flamel michael scottThe Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (Book 1)
written by Michael Scott
Ember, 2008 (Reprint)

historical fantasy, mystery, magic
Ages: 11 and Up

Review Tagline: Pure gold (not fools gold) in this fast-paced adventure.

In modern day San Francisco, twins Sophia and Josh Newman (15) are living an ordinary life, until a Mr. John Dee enters the bookstore they are working at and engages store owner Nick Fleming in a battle of magic to steal the Codex, an ancient text. Ultimately Dee steals the book (minus two pages Josh holds onto) and imprisons Fleming’s wife Perry on Alcatraz Island. After the battle, Fleming reveals his true identity. He is Nicholas Flamel (670), presumed dead but actually immortal. He tells the twins that he believes they have great powers, and he needs their help against Dee and his new evil allies.

Teen Review Excerpt:The Alchemyst is a hidden gem of fantasy and adventure novels. Once the action starts it never stops, and it kept me hooked from start to finish. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. From the get go readers know the conflict that needs to be resolved, but instead of the main characters solving it easily, they  have to fight and sacrifice to survive.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

mr lemoncello's library grabensteinEscape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
written by Chris Grabenstein
Yearling, 2014

books (meta), mystery, puzzles/problem solving, teamwork
Ages: 10 and Up

Review Tagline: The coolest library ever.

For 12 years, there has been no public library in Alexandriaville, Ohio. Until now. Luigi Lemoncello, an eccentric and ingenious billionaire game designer, is funding the construction of a new one. Kyle Keely (12) is a huge fan of Mr. Lemoncello’s games. When he learns that 12 students will be selected to be the first to go into the library, Kyle knows he has to be one of them! The library’s lock-in night is filled with excitement, entertainment, food, and of course, games. When the kids prepare to leave the next morning, the doors are still locked. The games aren’t over yet. There is one more challenge: Find the escape to the library! Whoever finds the secret escape, will be well rewarded.

Teen Review Excerpt: I enjoyed the solving the clues and puzzles. They are part of the story line and I was captivated by them every time. My 4th-grade teacher did a read aloud with this book and I liked it so much I bought it to read again. Teamwork is well represented in the story. The events show why it is important to work together and use everyone’s ideas to succeed.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

esperanza rising pam munoz ryanEsperanza Rising
written by Pam Munoz Ryan
Scholastic, 2016

Family, historical fiction, LatinX, realistim
Ages: 10 and up

Review Tagline: I never saw myself in books until Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Ortega (12) is a privileged, young girl who lives with her parents, sister, and grandmother. After the untimely death of her father, the family must flee Mexico, leaving behind everything she has ever known. Esperanza takes the train to the US with her mother, sister, and several employees who worked for her family. When they reach California, they have to work in a farm labor camp. Esperanza finds it hard to give up customs from her old life, which makes it hard to interact with those around her. When her mother gets sick and things are starting to threaten her new life, Esperanza must rise above everyone’s preconceptions of her and fight for her mother and friends.

Teen Review Excerpt: This is the first book where I saw myself represented as a girl from Mexico. I was in the 3rd grade when I first read this, and to be truthfully honest, it is the first book that started my love for reading. I have read this book four times and it still captures my attention every time.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

lockdown walter dean myersLockdown
written by Walter Dean Myers
Amistad, 2010


Black character, crime-drugs, prejudice/racism, realism, social issues
Ages: 12 and Up

Review Tagline: Raw, real, and still hopeful.

Maurice “Reese” Anderson isn’t exactly a model prisoner at the Progress juvenile detention facility. He instigates fights and lets his anger take over. But he’s good enough to have been selected to work as an intern at Evergreen, a nursing home. In addition to janitorial duties, Reese is given the responsibility of sitting with Mr. Pieter Hooft, an aging World War II veteran with no filters. There is only one thing Reese wants: to get out of Progress and get his little sister Icy to college. It’s all on him to get there, but it seems like the next fight is just one punch away.

Teen Review Excerpt: When I began reading, I wasn’t sure I liked this book. It is unrelatable to my growing up experience. However, having finished, I know I love this book! It took me out of my comfort zone and provided perspective on something I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

one of us is next karen mcmanusOne of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying, Book 2)
written by Karen M. McManus
Delacorte Press, 2020

crime, high school (setting), mystery, realism
Ages: 14 and Up

Review Tagline: Edge-of-your-seat captivating from page 1.

After the last incident at Bayview High, no one thinks things could get any worse. When Simon Kelleher died, apparently his gossip app died, too. But then someone begins texting a Truth or Dare game to individual students. Phoebe ignored the first text, only to have a secret revealed. Students are taking more and more dangerous dares to protect their secrets. By the time Knox is targeted, things are escalating fast. A student is killed, and the whole school is spooked. Who is the next student chosen by text, and who is the one doing this?

Teen Review Excerpt: If you don’t like to read or are in a reading slump, be prepared to stay on the edge of your seat! I adored this book a lot, and I’ll read it again! I enjoyed it even better than book 1 because of all the new characters. The entire time I felt like a detective trying to piece together the different clues and perspectives. 

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

when victoria laurieWhen
written by Victoria Laurie
Little Brown, Books for Young Readers, 2015

historical fantasy, mystery, magic
Ages: 11 and Up

Review Tagline: Pure gold (not fools gold) in this fast-paced adventure.

Maddie Fynn (16) is a high school junior who has the ability to read the death date of every person she sees. Her earliest memory was when she predicted her father’s premature death because she saw the digits on his forehead. Maddie sees it as a curse, her alcoholic mother sees it as a gift and uses Maddie to earn money. Maddie’s prediction of the death of a young boy brings her to the attention of the FBI. Not only does this boy go missing, but more young people are disappearing and turning up murdered, and Maddie is the prime suspect.

Teen Review Excerpt:This is really an amazing book. One of my favorites. I know how it ends, but I have read it a couple of times because it’s fantastic. It is really hard to put it down because you are immediately engrossed in the plot and start second-guessing each character. The more you read, the more you want to find out who is behind all the murders. You may even feel a connection to some of the characters in the book.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.