Read all the Battle of the Books nominations? Challenge Accepted!

When the Battle of the Books nominations came out a few months ago I was so excited to see the different books that were on the list. That's when I decided to give myself a challenge. To read as many of them as I can. Here are the five that I've read so far.

 

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone Gap is a little tiny town somewhere outside of Chicago, Illinois. It's also a town that apparently is home to mysterious gaps in time and space, basically portholes to other dimensions so to speak. We have the main brothers, Sean and Finn. Finn is the main protagonist, his best friend Miguel, Roza the girl who goes missing and Petey, Finn's love interest.

So the gist of the story is that in this tiny little town called Bone Gap, Roza mysteriously appears and just as mysteriously disappears. Except, when she disappeared, there was a witness. The witness was Finn, except that no one has been able to find the man that took Roza, and no really believes there is a man that took Roza. They just think she left.

Here's the thing with Finn. He's face-blind. He can't distinguish between faces, even his own. He didn't even know this was a condition of his until Petey tells him and shows him documents and studies of other people with this condition.

And the identity of the kidnapper? Yes, it's revealed and it's weirder than you think. If you need to know who the kidnapper is, you should read this book. This book is a fast read. I was able to read it in one day because it was so captivating. I didn't want to put it down. I just needed to know how it ended.

This book is captivating, strange, good and everything in between.

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Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost is about an eighth grader named Castle Cranshaw, nick named Ghost and he's had a tough several years. It all started on the night his father had one too many drinks and when his mother fought back. What ensued was a frightful run to Mr. Charles' store where they hid until his father was arrested. Now, his father is behind bars for the next 10 years. Ghost's life is hard, but he has his mother who tries. She works in the cafeteria of a hospital and is going to school to be a nurse. While she loves Ghost and Ghost loves his mom, his life is hard at school. He's constantly getting bullied for how he's dressed and where he lives. One day he happens to walk up to a track field where there's a practice. He watches the kids on the track team stretch, warm up and practice running. He's pretty impressed with most of them... some not so much. He was really getting annoyed by one kid, Lu, who just seemed to be too cocky. Ghost had had enough. He decided to race against him to put Lu in his place. Well, by doing that he ended up getting placed on the track team. His life for the next month changes.

This book is a quick read and for a quick read you really begin to learn about the characters and their different personalities and stories. I hope that since is the first volume, Reynolds really explores the other characters like Sunny, Patty, Lu, maybe even the vets and team captain and even the Coach himself. It would be nice to see more of his story, after his heart-to-heart with Ghost in his cab, you really want to learn more about what happened to him after the Olympics.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It's heartfelt, heartbreaking, but also uplifting towards the end. Ghost really pushes the boundaries of his morals and tries to figure out who he is and what he wants to be. He's on his way, and it starts with is first race on his first team in his first uniform.

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Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

Girl Mans Up is about Pen who lives in Canada. Pen is a gamer. She goes to St. Peter's Catholic School. Her family is Portuguese and her brother Johnny is the only one she looks up too. She has her friends, and there is a code of loyalty, but she soon finds that loyalty for her means something entirely different. Pen's life is changing and changing quickly in the few months that she decides to start being who she wants to be. To be who she wants to be she just needs to do one thing, and man up.

I'm going to be honest here and say that like a lot of other YA books that are based in realistic fiction the mood of this book is somewhat angsty, angry and emotional at times. This isn't a bad thing since they are the feelings that Pen was going through. As a teenager I know for a fact that I would've devoured this book immediately because of the fact that I had the same angsty feelings she did.

Pen is a character that I can relate too in that I know what it's like to have to straddle two different worlds/cultures. Just like Pen I also know what it's like to feel isolated and different in your own family. Unlike Pen I wasn't able to have a brother like Johnny to help me get away, but like Pen I had to swallow my pride and anger at times and man up so I can walk away from toxic people.

I think that's what I like about this book, that she was able to walk away from the toxic people in her life and have a safe space to start her journey of figuring herself out and getting through each day. Call me cliche, but sometimes I like a happy ending. Not only for the protagonist, but for the reader too. When you and the protagonist go through some heavy feelings together it's nice to have that cathartic release and to know that there's always a beautiful day ahead for you and for the character you just bonded with. That's the feeling I got when closing this book.

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I am Princess X by Cherie Priest

I am Princess X is a fast paced novel set in the Northwest and features a rag tag group of teens trying to take down this murderous creepy guy known by the name "Needleman".

It was well written and I couldn't put it down. I really liked all of the characters in the book and how their personalities played off of each other. For me it's character development and setting that keeps me drawn into a book and Priest did a great job in writing the characters and describing the setting in a way I could visually be emersed in it.

It was exciting and intriguing and gets you caught up in the story. It's a mystery that needs to be solved and I found myself saying "One more chapter and then I can put it down", but it didn't happen until I closed the book after reading the last page. It makes you feel amped and excited with every clue revealed and explained.

I also really like the use of graphic novel pages for Princess X's webcomics. For me, it's a nice break from the text because I'm very visual. I really enjoyed looking at the pages because it helped to enhance the story and the mystery of Princess X.

Overall, I really enjoyed I am Princess X and can't recommend it enough to everyone.

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Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner

If you've read Heart of Samurai, I think you'll enjoy this book. In Heart of a Samurai, it takes place in the early 19th century, so in a way it picks up on the history of Japan where Samurai Raising leaves off in a way. 

Samurai Rising talks about Yoshitsune's short lived violent life as a samurai, with the battles he won, the carnage he, his soldiers and other roaring rival families unleashed on each other and unsuspecting peasants and villagers. This book touches on the violent history of Japan, political intrigue in the Japanese government and court life, as well as what honor meant to the samurai.

The book also talks about seppuku, an honorable form of Samurai suicide and how it began with the Minamoto, and the lasting influence of the Minamoto family on Japan.

As someone who has Japanese ancestry, I found this book interesting because without being incredibly boring and dense, Turner was able to lay out the history of Japan and the samurai in a way that didn't feel like you were getting a dry, dusty history lesson. Turner made it interesting for the reader to learn about what 12th century life was like for Yoshitsune and other samurai. It was also a fairly quick read, and Turner included supplemental information for the reader (glossary on terms with pronunciation tips, author's notes, etc.). I also found the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter to be a nice break from the text. They were in the style of the black and white scroll paintings which fit well with the context of the book. I just thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learning more about the samurai culture in 12th century Japan.