Review of “Sweep,” by Jonathan Auxier

I’m not going to lie, I did not want to read this book at first. I’m not a fan of historical fiction, and a story about monsters and chimney sweeps in England does not sound very appealing. But it’s highly rated and recommended, so I decided to give it a try.

To be honest, this was one of the very best historical fiction books I’ve read. Auxier creates a cold world of struggling characters trying to make a home amidst the cruelties of child labor, yet it’s one you don’t want to leave.

Nan Sparrow is a climber — a girl owned by a chimney sweep and forced to climb up tiny flues all day. Her master, Wilkie Crudd, is cruel, and she and the other children have barely enough to eat. But this is the only thing she’s ever known, sweeping. And she is desperate to find a man, one who cared for her until she was six years old, until she found herself alone.

The Sweep made her see magic in everything, keeping the two of them lighthearted. Indeed, they kept each other alive for half a dozen years until he vanished.

One day, Nan nearly dies in a chimney fire but awakes unharmed in a room with her char — a tiny piece of the Sweep’s love — miraculously alive. Together, Nan and her monster find a home together and realize the truth about love.

Rating: 5/5 stars. This book made me smile, it made me (almost) cry, and I loved Nan’s character, how brave and kind she was.

Ages: 9-14. There is some violence and related elements.

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This book starts out relatively normal, a girl and her friend are entering a club called the “Pandemonium”.   It is written from two different views, one with Clary, the main character, and one with a demon boy. The demon is led into a closet by a very pretty girl.  Clary enters the closet and witnesses the “murder” of the demon boy. He poofs into magical mist and Clary gets a horrible phone call. Her mother is telling her to not come to the house, she sounds in danger and very scared. Clary goes back to her house, leaving her best friend Simon confused. She returns to see her house ruined, she is attacked by a Ravener demon, somehow managing to survive. She then meets Jace Wayland, a handsome boy who helps to bring her to the Institute, a magical place where Shadowhunters can stay. She stays there while she recovers as she was bitten by the demon.

She meets Hodge and then other people of the Institute. She then goes on a multitude of adventures with the other Shadowhunters, who are the people who hunt and kill demons, Isabelle and Alec Lightwood and of course Jace Wayland. Simon also comes on some of the adventures. Some of the adventures include defeating a Forsaken and traveling to the City of Bones and meeting the Silent Brothers. The story ends on a very interesting note, which includes lots of drama with her love interest and we uncover some new things about her newfound brother and her apparently dead father. I will let you read this and find out what truly happens.

I really enjoyed this whole book, it is the first in a six-part series (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire). The series was introduced to me by a friend, who happens to show me most of the books that are now my favorites but anyway, I am really glad that she showed me this book series because I love it!

            It has many twists and turns. Some parts that warm your heart, make you angry or sad and just the parts that you can’t help but love. Cassandra Clare has also created some really unique characters. Overall, I would recommend this book and the rest of the series too.

I would give this book a 9/10

The Tale of Despereaux by: Kate DiCamillo

“The Tale of Despereaux” is a heartwarming book, masterfully written with tales of hope, love, and regrets. Now our tale will be centered on our brave, little mouse, who, of course, has made a friend with none other than the distinguished Princess Pea. Afterwards, trials await the young mouse, lots of them, that lead one little mouse to learning forgiveness.

Every since he was born, Despereaux knew he would never be the mouse his family wanted. He had abnormally big ears, his eyes were open from the start, and he always got sick. No matter what. Therefore, that made him a topic of great disgust to his family. Instead of being cared for, his family and others around him despised him. Especially after Despereaux broke the rule: Do not interact with humans. And he did. With Princess Pea. He gets disgraced and thrown into the deep, dark basement. Nobody expects him to live. And thus begin the trials of our little but big mouse. He can do anything he puts his mind to. But will it be enough? Probably, seeming that he has many allies.

This book is an automatic 10/10 rating for me. Each sentence was masterfully written and the story just flowed fast and quick. But the flow is slow enough for everyone to catch a ride and see just how amazing this story gets. It has a deeper meaning than I originally thought, and maybe you’ll feel that too. If anyone needs a new favorite book that you can’t put down, this book is just for you. It is fairly short, so it won’t take long, though you’ll be thinking about this story long after the last word is read.

The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Six

“All right, all right, Harriet!” exclaimed Storm, flashing a wide, fake smile. “Come on down to the kitchen! We’ve made some fresh garlic-and-herb bread!”

Vali followed the three of them down a hallway, and then to an elevator that arrived at the floor below in three seconds.

Sure enough, at a long, wooden kitchen table, there was a plate of cheesy, green-flecked bread that made Vali’s stomach growl.

They all sat at the table, in the center, with Vali and Max at one end and Storm and J at the other.

“So how long will you be staying with us?” J asked, flipping her hair and digging into a piece of bread.

“I . . . don’t know,” Vali hesitated. “But I would like to know why you are hiding. You seem as if you are on the run.”

“So do you,” Max laughed, and he giggled until Storm gave him a warning look.

“Well, I’ll explain it to you,” Storm said. “Well, Max and J were caught doing something illegal to Lazen law, and I was caught doing something illegal by Lorian law. And then we found each other, and then we hid in this house, and we were never found. That is the shortened version.”

“Uh, what’s Lazen?” Vali asked, though she suspected it was the name of the Other Place.

“Oh, child. So full of questions,” Storm muttered.

“Here. It’s the name of this country,” Max explained.

“And what did you do that was against the law?” asked Vali.

“It is your choice to tell her,” Storm said.

“Well, we, uh—” Max started.

“Shush!” J exclaimed through clenched teeth. “We are not telling her!”

“Yes we are,” Max said, nostrils flared.

“Oh my,” Storm sighed.

“We made robots!” Max quickly yelled. “Illegal robots.”

“How were they illegal?”

No more,” J scowled.

“They were equipped,” Max paused mysteriously, “with guns. Lazer guns!”

“That’s it!” J exclaimed. “You’re in for it!”

J got up from the table, and darted after Max, who was just getting in the elevator. The elevator shot up, and on the floor above them Vali heard shouting and yelling.

“I always try to control them, but it fails,” Storm said, putting her head in her hands.

The Girl Who Could Unite Them All, Part Five

Vali awoke some time later, her heart pounding. She was bound to a chair in a dark room, her hands and legs uncomfortably tied. She attempted to yell “Let me go!” but with tape across her mouth, it came out muffled.

She jolted to try to get out of the chair, but at that moment, a light flicked on. It was a small book light, and it was shining right in her eyes.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” asked a female voice.

The tape was ripped from her mouth and she shrieked from the pain.

“Why should I tell you anything?” she yelled.

Suddenly there was warmth on her leg. They were about to burn her!

Vali screamed. At that moment, she remembered her powers. She burnt all the ropes off of her body and jumped out of her chair, flinging her fists and flames at the unidentified person.

Or rather, people. She could see two silhouettes in the dark. One taller person, an adult, and one shorter, a person probably around her age.

Stop!” someone shouted. A door that Vali hadn’t known was part of the room opened, and a thirteen-year old girl with dirty blonde hair and glittering black eyes was standing there. “Everybody calm down.”

“You naïve child,” said the female voice Vali had heard from earlier. “She was going insane! We were merely trying to stop her.”

Vali swiveled around. The speaker was a middle-aged woman with wavy turquoise hair, gray streaked, and electric blue eyes. An aquatic.

“Hello,” the woman said, regaining her composure. “I am Storm, and this is Max.”

Vali looked at Max. He looked very similar to the girl in the doorway, except his face was peppered with freckles and he was a little bit shorter. He was holding up a lighter, sheepishly smiling.

Storm looked pointedly at the girl, and the girl pursed her lips. “I’m J.”

“Who are you?” Max asked. He had a raspy, strong voice.

“I’m not saying anything until you tell me why you did that to me.”

J rolled her eyes. “Well, we were taking precautions. We had a plan that if anyone ever found us, we would knock them unconscious and then question them. Which is exactly what we did.”

“But burning me?” Vali asked incredulously.

“Max was trying a new tactic,” Storm said after a short pause.

J walked inside of the room and flicked the light on. Vali was surprised to see that the room was an office, which looked like a hurricane had come through.“So,” Max said.

“You can trust us, I promise. What’s your name?”

Vali decided to come up with a fake name in the spur of the moment. “Harriet,” she lied.

“And a flame, I see,” Storm muttered. “But with purple hair!”

“It’s”—Vali stumbled over her words—“it’s a disguise thing.”

J narrowed her eyes for a moment, looking up from the papers she was rearranging and throwing on the desk, but she quickly looked back down.

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke

Cover of The Thief Lord

From the books I have read that have been written by Cornelia Funke, The Thief Lord has set my standards of a good book pretty high. Since when could a merry-go-round change your age? Since when did an evil uncle and aunt make their nephews run away in the dead of night?

The book, which is based in the magical city of Venice, Italy, has its own secrets down every alley and up every staircase. Of course, any story is boring without any good characters and a plot so delightful, nobody would be able to put it down, so that is where Prosper and Boniface (Bo) come in with their gang including Hornet, Riccio, Scipio, also known as the Thief Lord, and Mosca. All are orphans, except Prosper and Bo. They are runaways from their evil Aunt Esther and Uncle Max Hartlieb.

Throughout their stay with the gang, they meet a detective who is hired to capture them who instead helps them, a secret that’s been kept from them for a long time, and recover a merry-go-round that turns time around. They have to keep friendship alive, trust one another, and face their fears all in one big adventure! Only then will they find a secret hidden within all the others.

Overall, this book was highly enjoyable. It was a great read, and I could not put down the book until the very last page. I don’t believe there was a part I did not like. Some parts of the book were sad and some were confusing. However, all the parts in the book were knitted well together which made for a terrific story in the magical world of Venice, Italy. I would definitely recommend it, especially for those who love reading about fantasy and magic. This was also about family and friendship all the way. Anyone who likes Harry Potter would find this enjoyable and Wings of Fire fans would like this book, too.

I rate this book a 9/10.

Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan

Cover of Wicked Saints novel

Wicked Saints, written by Emily A. Duncan, is an action-packed fantasy filled with love and betrayal. It follows our main character Nadya, a cleric from Kalyazin who can speak to the gods, while she works to save her people. She meets Malachiasz, a blood mage from the rival kingdom Tranavia, who she works with to end the war. The book also follows Serefin, the crown prince, who is just trying to figure things out with his kingdom while trying not to die by the hands of his father. I would highly recommend this book so beware of spoilers down below.

The magic system in this book is refreshingly unique. Nadya herself has powers gifted to her by the gods and she speaks with them to get her power. The mysteries of her magic are explored throughout the book and it’s very intriguing. The Tranavians use a power called blood magic, which Nadya continuously calls heresy. They must use their blood to activate spells they draw into their spell books.

The plot of the book was similar to other young adult fantasy books: save the kingdom and end a war. What differs is that there is a clash in religion. While Nadya and her people believe in the gods and are very religious, the Tranavians seem to be atheists. The battle between the two opposing belief systems becomes a real conflict that can be shown in today’s society to some extent. It also leaves the reader in a peculiar position of not knowing which side to be on and wondering who they should really be rooting for.

The romance was very well done and heartbreaking. The rivalry between the two’s beliefs create the “forbidden romance” and adds to the confusion Nadya feels as she navigates her journey. The character development was amazing. Each had their own personality that was distinguishable from the others, which you don’t always find in young adult books. They all have internal struggles that could be relatable to some people. Serefin is the most relatable character and his personality is unlike others I’ve seen, which is refreshing and makes him a lovable character. The development for Nadya was smooth and believable, although the romance did move quickly at the beginning, so it could have used some more pages and adventures to flesh it out. Malachiasz was a confusing character towards the end of the book. As a perpetual liar, it was hard to distinguish what was real and what wasn’t, which could have been the author’s choice, but it left me a little frustrated.

The two of the side characters felt a little underdeveloped and sort of didn’t need to be there, so hopefully, Duncan gives them a chance to shine in future books. There was plenty of diversity in the book that didn’t feel forced, which will make it easier for all readers to feel connected to the book in some way.

The book is very dark and the characters have some morally grey areas that they have to cross when dealing with religion, so I would recommend this book to older teenagers if those topics bother you.

I would rate Wicked Saints 9/10 dragons for its unique story and heartbreaking romance.