Tag: 5 stars

Book Review; Ground Zero: A Story of 9/11 by Alan Gratz

Ground Zero: A Novel of 9/11
Author: Alan Gratz

Published:  February 2, 2021
336 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 29- September 4, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

It’s September 11, 2001. Brandon, a 9-year-old boy, goes to work for the day with his dad . . . at the World Trade Center in New York City. When two planes hit the towers, Brandon and his father are trapped inside a fiery nightmare as terror and confusion swirl around them. Can they escape — and what will the world be like when they do?

In present-day Afghanistan, Reshmina is an 11-year-old girl who is used to growing up in the shadow of war, but she has dreams of peace and unity. When she ends up harboring a wounded young American soldier, she and her entire family are put in mortal danger. But Reshmina also learns something surprising about the roots of this endless war.

Jessica’s Review:

It just seems hard to believe that it has been 20 years since 9/11 happened and our world changed forever.  It’s even harder to believe that there are those who will not have a memory of it and will just learn about it in the history books. Ground Zero by Alan Gratz is a book every middle schooler must read. Really everyone out there must read. 

We have two time periods with two children the focus: 9-year-old Brandon on September 11, 2019 and 11-year-old Reshmina on September 11, 2019.  The same day 18 years apart that end up being connected together.  Brandon was suspended from school and is going to work with his father as dad cannot afford to take time off of work.  Where Dad works is Windows on the World- a restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center…  Reshmina and her twin brother Pasoon live in a small village in Afganistan and nearby there is a battle and Reshmina finds herself helping an injured American solider thus possibly putting her family and village in terrible danger.

Initially, I was more interested in Brandon’s story of experiencing that day from inside one of the towers, But soon I became just as entranced with Reshmina’s story. And when a common connection is realized, the reader feels so much more emotion.  The short chapters alternate between Brandon and Reshmina and they each tend to end on cliff hangers which keep you reading.

Ground Zero is a powerful novel that brings back memories and emotions of that day. There is a 14-page author’s note that must be read as well.  The author explains that there are a few liberties made for the story- but this is historical fiction and not non-fiction.

Gratz mentioned he tried to write a novel about 9/11 but it was never right for him. This novel was published earlier this year, in time for the 20th anniversary and I think it came at the perfect time. We must never forget what happened on that day 20 years ago and share the history for future generations, while Reshmina’s story shows what happens if events are never told.”

Though Ground Zero is written for the middle grades age group, everyone must read this book. Even both the front and back covers can bring out emotions. The front showing the destruction of the towers with a boy standing there and the back showing a picture of the twin towers before 9/11.   

Ground Zero is very highly recommended.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Audiobook Review: AfterMath by Emily Barth Isler

AfterMath
Author: Emily Barth Isler

Narrator: Emily Barth Isler
To Be Published:  September 7, 2021

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 14-17, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

After her brother’s death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school–especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family’s own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers.

Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.

Jessica’s Review:

AfterMath is the third book I have read this year that has dealt with a school shooting before or after the fact. AfterMath is a middle grades novel by Emily Barth Isler and the title has multiple meanings.  The idea for AfterMath came to Isler after the December 2, 2015 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California.  She had a baby and a 4-year-old at the time. 

Each chapter of AfterMath begins with a Math problem. Our main character is Lucy who is twelve years old and dealing with the death of her younger brother from a rare congenital heart defect.  Dealing with the loss, Lucy’s parents decide to move.  They move to where her parents have a shorter commute, but they also move to a town that has not had new members to the community since there was a school shooting four years earlier.  Not only that, but Lucy is also the age of the students who were victims of the shooting.  The house they move into was also the home of a girl her age who died in the shooting. 

Lucy’s adjustment to a new school in a unique situation at an awkward time of life is our story.  There are so many important issues addressed in this book with loss and grief being at the forefront.  PTSD in various forms is also addressed along with bullying.  For one particular student we see the effects of how the sins of one person affect another who had nothing to do with said sin.  We see how everyone experiences their grief in different ways, and the way Lucy does this is not telling anyone at her new school about the recent loss of her brother. 

I really liked Lucy and how we see her love of Math despite having problems with learning the concept of Infinity.  We see how she grows over the course of the novel. We also get to know Avery through Lucy, a girl whom everyone at the school avoids. We also see Lucy’s home life with her parents and mysterious math jokes appearing in her room.  Lucy has a good relationship with her math teacher who also teaches her after-school mime class. 

This is a great book for those in the middle grades age group.  I listened to the audiobook version which the author also narrated.  She brought a special voice to the novel.  I received an arc copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

AfterMath is definitely recommended for the middle grades ages readers. 

Pre-order Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Book Review: The Hiding Girl by Dorian Box

The Hiding Girl
Series: Emily Calby Book 1
Author:  Dorian Box

Published: June 15, 2020
334 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 6-18, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Twelve-year-old Emily Calby was a good girl from a religious family in rural Georgia. She loved softball, her little sister and looking up words to get her allowance. Then two men came and murdered her family. Only the killers know she survived.

On the run, surviving by wits and animal instinct, she makes an unlikely ally in an ex-gang member who lost his own family to violence. He takes her in and trains her in “self-defense” before more tragedy launches her on a terrifying journey for justice. Nothing will stop her—not cops or creeps, not even her own splintering mind. Through it all, Emily fights to hold onto hope and the girl she once knew, kept buried deep inside.

Dark and gritty, but filled with heart and hope, The Hiding Girl is a twisty, fast-paced thriller and a testament to the boundless limits of human love, sacrifice and the will to survive.

Jessica’s Review:

What else can I say about The Hiding Girl by Dorian Box other than wow!  It is a fast-paced novel that packs all the punches: Literally and figuratively!  The Hiding Girl is dark and gritty with very graphic violence that also gives us characters to root for and become very attached to.

Twelve-year-old Emily Calby survives the graphic attack on her family and is on the run. Emily is definitely not the typical twelve-year-old.  Experiencing what she did already ages her and over the course of the novel you have to keep reminding yourself of her young age!  She meets Lucas who is a former gang member who helps her and these two definitely make quite the unique pair that form a special relationship. We also have Kiona, who is Lucas’ significant other who isn’t quite sure what to make of Emily.  They teach her self defense and more as Emily is determined to find the men who killed her mother and sister.

Emily is one you cannot help but be on her side and get attached to. She is in for a long ‘adventure’ with many obstacles that keep coming up.   At one point I found myself thinking “What else is Box going to have Emily go through!?!?” It is one thing after another, but our brave little fireball of a main character Emily can pull through!

And let me say this: I love Lucas! He is not what you expected and you really grow to care for him.  As I was reading, I pictured Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP) as Lucas, but then I saw the premiere of The Walking Dead’s final season where we meet Mercer played by Michael James Shaw and despite the age difference, he would be a perfect Lucas! 

This novel will not be for everyone with the graphic violence, but it also has a lot of heart and emotion to it.  What made me read The Hiding Girl was that I was granted an arc copy of the second in the series The Girl in Cell 49B.  I realized when I read the description for book two that I should read The Hiding Girl first. Though not needed as the second book touches on Emily’s back story, if you don’t read The Hiding Girl you will be missing so much!  I am currently reading the second and still rooting for Emily! 

The Hiding Girl actually fits for the prompt for #Diverseathon for this month, which is a main character in an interracial relationship.  The relationship between Emily and Lucas starts as a mentor/mentee relationship that grows into so much more. August’s host is Mary @booksbymary1 and she will host at Instagram.

For full details on this year long read-a-thon, please click here.
And don’t forget about the awesome GRAND PRIZE at the end of the year. Click the link here for that information.

I really enjoyed The Hiding Girl  and recommend it and cannot wait to see where Box goes next with the series.  He is working on book three and I will be highly anticipating it!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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