Monthly Archives: July 2015

Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers is clean YA contemporary romance about an everyday girl and the rocker boy who sneaks into her heart

Standard
Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers is clean YA contemporary romance about an everyday girl and the rocker boy who sneaks into her heart

If you know me at all, you probably know about my weakness for rock star love interests.  I couldn’t pass this one up, and you shouldn’t either if you are looking for a light, fluffy read that will leave you happy.  It’s not great literature, but who wants Hemmingway?  The Heartbreakers is publishing on August 1, 2015. *publication was moved to 8/4/15*

image

Goodreads Summary

“When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. And he had no idea that I was the only girl in the world who hated his music.”

Stella will do anything for her sick sister, Cara—even stand in line for an autographed Heartbreakers CD…for four hours. She’s totally winning best birthday gift this year. At least she met a cute boy with soft brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes while getting her caffeine fix. Too bad she’ll never see him again.
Except, Stella’s life has suddenly turned into a cheesy love song. Because Starbucks Boy is Oliver Perry – lead singer for the Heartbreakers. And even after she calls his music crap, Oliver still gives Stella his phone number. And whispers quotes from her favorite Disney movie in her ear. OMG, what is her life?
But how can Stella even think about being with Oliver — dating and laughing and pulling pranks with the band — when her sister could be dying of cancer?

Ali Novak wrote her debut novel My Life with the Walter Boys when she was just 15 years old, and has since penned her next book, The Heartbreakers. First a hit on the online community Wattpad, her second novel has over 38 million reads and is loved by readers around the world.

My Thoughts

Heartbreakers is a cute YA romance about a girl, about a boy band, and about finding your future.  Since I adore books with rocker boy love interests, I was really excited to get a chance to read this one.  I liked the theme of the bonds between family and the fear of losing that bond that this book explored.  It was sweet and gentle and played on every girl’s fantasy of being “The One.”  The characters were likeable, if rather generic. Initially, I found Stella rather off putting.  She throws a strange tantrum close to the beginning of the book which was explained as a character trait and I thought it was awkward and it didn’t bode well for the book, but it was even stranger when that temper didn’t manifest again anywhere in the book.  She does redeem herself, and I liked how she was introspective and had enough self respect to handle situations that have made other protagonists cave.  The members of The Heartbreakers had three distinct members and one who faded into the background, so I wasn’t sure what purpose he served and I thought he needed to be more distinctly developed or eliminated.  While the plot moved along at a nice pace and worked well to develop the romantic relationship, I couldn’t help but feel like several scenes were ones I had read before.  In the genre of rock romance, story lines do tend to have similar elements, though, so it didn’t really bother me.  Overall, this was a pretty fluffy read, but it will satisfy readers who just want to know that after the drama, they will finish with a smile on their face.  This is a clean read with only a few instances of mature language and scenes of light sensuality.  It is appropriate for grades 7+.  Adult readers of YA won’t find it as engaging as the intended audience.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Million Times Goodnight by Kristina McBride explores how one choice can mean everything

Standard
A Million Times Goodnight by Kristina McBride explores how one choice can mean everything

Books and movies that use parallel lives don’t work very often.  They tend towards the confusing, and they rarely are worth the work.  I think A Million Times Goodnight might be an exception to that rule.  Now, this is one of those rare times when the goodreads crowd actually rated the book lower than I did, which I chalk up to the amount of mental commitment readers have to make to keep the parallel narratives straight.  I liked this dark and suspenseful read, and I think you might as well.  I do think it is interesting that someone decided to use the movie Sliding Doors to give readers an idea of what they are dealing with – that movie is from 1998.  I don’t think the target audience was even born then, so What???  Also, that movie was awful.

image

Goodreads Summary

A teen Sliding Doors. One choice creates parallel dual narratives in this romantic contemporary mystery-thriller perfect for fans of Just Like Fate and Pivot Point.

One Night. Two Paths. Infinite Danger.
On the night of the big Spring Break party, Hadley “borrows” her boyfriend Ben’s car without telling him. As payback, he posts a naked picture of her online for the entire senior class to see.
Now Hadley has a choice: go back to the party and force Ben to delete the picture or raise the stakes and take his beloved car on a road trip as far away from their hometown of Oak Grove, Ohio, as she can get.
Chapters alternate to reveal each possible future as Hadley, her ex-boyfriend, Josh, and her best friends embark on a night of reckless adventure where old feelings are rekindled, friendships are tested, and secrets are uncovered that are so much worse than a scandalous photo.

My Thoughts 

This book follows Hadley through two parallel outcomes that begin when she steals her boyfriend’s car for a short drive. He posts a naked picture of her on Facebook in retaliation and demands she bring his car back. In one parallel, she goes back, and in another, she ends up on a road trip in the stolen car with the most hated boy in her class. This synopsis sounds more lighthearted than it is. This is a dark read. It vibrates with tension and threat. Things get ugly as secrets come to light and the knot begins to unravel. I teach high school and have a realistic outlook on teen life, and I was still shocked at the level of depravity of some characters. Like any book that tries to juggle dual narratives, this book does require some work for the reader to keep the two time lines straight. The ending was a little puzzling for me, and I’m still trying to sort my feelings about the way the author merged the two timelines to wrap up the book. Overall, this was a pretty engaging read.  I certainly couldn’t put it down. Sex, drugs, and suicide are topics covered, but they are not glorified and offer opportunities for discussion.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Debra Doxer’s Like Candy left a sour taste in my mouth

Standard
Debra Doxer’s Like Candy left a sour taste in my mouth

I didn’t like this book and I gave it only two stars, but the Goodreads community seemed to be more forgiving, so there is a chance you will like it more than I did.  Candy is a certifiable psychopath if you ask me, and that can be amusing, but the author pulled her punches and didn’t go whole hog.  I say go big or go home – the book would have been stronger if it had committed to the crazy.

image

Goodreads Summary – they used the bad word, not me

Revenge is sweet, just like candy.

Candy Seaborne knows she’s badass. She takes after her father, an assassin and possibly a spy, although he won’t admit to either. She idolizes him. Her dream is to follow in his footsteps. But first, she has to finish high school.
Biding her time, waiting for real life to begin, Candy craves drama and isn’t above manufacturing some. If you’re a classmate who wronged her or a boyfriend who cheated, watch your back. She’s no pushover, and revenge may be her favorite pastime.
Jonah Bryson is the senior class heartthrob who breaks all the stereotypes. He’s a jock, but he isn’t the typical player. He’s moody and antisocial. No girl has gotten anywhere with him since his last girlfriend broke his heart.
Candy sees Jonah as a challenge and the perfect distraction. But she may be in over her head because unlike everyone else, Jonah isn’t buying her tough act. He sees the lost, lonely girl inside. He sees too much. When he looks at her that way, she wants to let her guard down and be vulnerable. But that’s the last thing she should do because her father’s world is spilling over into hers, and life is about to get real much sooner than Candy expected.
My Thoughts

This book just didn’t work for me for several reasons.  First, the blurb lead me to believe that Candy was going to join her father in some action packed sequences, but that just isn’t what happens here.  Candy has no skills beyond her ability to manipulate, so she isn’t going to fight her way out of a paper bag.  Second, Candy comes across as a psychopath – she is calculating and cruel and vengeful.  She is something more than a mean girl, and though I think readers are suppose to cheer when she gets her revenge, it feels wrong.  If she has such deep seeded tendencies, it is hard to see her as some vulnerable girl underneath.  I think this was meant to give the reader an impression of a character with layers, but it ended up feeling like a fractured character.  The Candy who presents herself as hard core feels like a completely different Candy than the one who “falls” for Jonah.  In my opinion, someone like the first Candy would be incapable of feeling any true emotions towards other people, so this just seemed off.  Third, Jonah is not suppose to be a fool.  He sees through the machinations of every high school girl, but he sees the true Candy beneath the mean?  He fails to see how mean Candy is?  She is so hot he can’t help but want to rub against her?  None of those really seemed logical based on what we learn about Jonah, so that romance just didn’t pass muster. I understood what the author wanted to do here, and if the romance was lifted out of the context around it, it wouldn’t be a badly developed relationship – it’s nicely paced, it is full of believable and sweet moments, and I genuinely would have cheered for this couple if it hadn’t been this couple.  Fourth, it ends with a cliffhanger.  A bad one.  There is no sense of resolution in this book, and this is the kind of cliffhanger that irritates readers.  I wasn’t that bothered because I don’t plan to read the next book, but for readers who really liked it, they are going to feel like the author cut the book in half to get a second book purchase (I have no idea if that is the case, but I know that someone will bring it up).  Overall, this book doesn’t have the cohesion and consistency to really make it all work together, and readers will sense that early on.  Candy’s story about living with cousins a la Jane Eyre doesn’t jive with her reflexive vengeance.  Candy’s dad could be at the dog races for all we learn about his “job” and I can’t imagine a man like that not teaching his daughter some basic self defense.  Even the school setting didn’t really feel right because people kept missing practice or being late for practice, and I know that isn’t how things work.  I think this needs an editor who can really suss out some character continuity.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ever Near by Melissa MacVicar could have been amazing an YA supernatural read if it didn’t commit a couple of social faux paux that I think readers will struggle to overlook

Standard
Ever Near by Melissa MacVicar could have been amazing an YA supernatural read if it didn’t commit a couple of social faux paux that I think readers will struggle to overlook

She sees ghosts.  She hides her ability.  She must put the ghost in her new bedroom to rest if she ever wants to sleep again.  She wants to hook up with her stepbrother.  You think you can ignore the creep factor of that final statement because the rest sounds okay, but I bet you can’t!  

image

Goodreads Summary

Love is ever near. But trouble is never far.
Nantucket Island is haunted, but only sixteen-year-old Jade Irving knows it. Ignoring the disturbing spirits isn’t an option, because one dwells in the enormous historic home she shares with her newly blended family. Jade is finding it more and more difficult to explain away Lacey’s ghostly, anguished tantrums, especially with Charlie, her gorgeous, almost step-brother, living right across the hall.
When a power-hungry ghost hunter tracks down Jade and blackmails her, Jade’s secret teeters on the edge of exposure, and her entire future hangs in the balance. If anyone finds out Jade can talk to ghosts, her life will be forever changed.
Can she save herself, free Lacey, and hang on to her tenuous connection with Charlie? Or will everything she ever wanted slip through her fingers?

My Thoughts

This book had some pretty cool things going for it.  First, the protagonist offers a little diversity to Nantuckett.  I’ll be the first to admit I had some preconceived notions about who lived in old whaling towns, so she was a nice surprise. She also is a nice surprise in the world of paranormal YA where apparently white people are no longer the only ones who see ghosts!   I hadn’t considered how very homogenous that sub genre was until I read this book and started pondering the issue.  Second, the relationships are almost completely healthy – these kids have parents who are there for them despite divorces and combined families, it was nice to see kids and parents getting along.  Third, the ghosts in this story are frightening.  They aren’t happy and they are clearly confused, as ghosts who can’t pass on should be.  If you like your ghosts more poltergeist and less Casper, you will appreciate these.  And there was a really nice commentary about spirits and spirituality near the end of the book that I thought was particularly smart and thoughtful.  So, with all these perks, why did it get filed under “Meh”? There were two factors that really bothered me about this book.  The decision to have Jade begin a romantic relationship with her soon to be stepbrother, Charlie, creeped me out.  Yes, I understand they aren’t related, but it is still a taboo of sorts that will bother more readers than just me.  I think this was done because the story requires Jade and Charlie to have access to each other at night so he can be aware of her nightmares, but there had to be another way because that is an uncomfortable romantic relationship.  Seriously.  Any other way.  The other problem I had was with the ghost hunter.  Jade threatens to falsely accuse him of something that I think should never even be considered.  I didn’t like it, and it made that whole situation strange.  I’m not even sure why he was in the story, as he played a small part that could have been worked in another way.  Overall, I just found the negatives had bigger weight for me as a reader than the positives.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Survive the Night reads like a B Horror Movie for teens that will leave you puzzled and forever cautious of drugs, raves, and the subway

Standard

I wasn’t a fan of this book, and it felt like a bit of bait and switch by the end, but if you enjoy teen horror flicks, this might interest you.  It is not scary because it is ridiculous, but one part reminded me of a movie I saw as a kid – a group of teens get stuck on a floating dock in the middle of a lake because some oil slick looking thing eats anyone who tries to swim for shore.  I have no idea what the movie was or why I was allowed to watch it – I think my biological father is to blame for this ridiculously inappropriate viewing – but it certainly made an impression on me.  So, if you are into that kind of thing, here you go . . .

image

Goodreads Summary

We’re all gonna die down here. . . .

Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.

In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse . . .

. . . until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.

Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.

They’re being hunted.

Trapped underground with someone—or something—out to get them, Casey can’t help but listen to her friend’s terrified refrain: “We’re all gonna die down here. . . .” in this bone-chilling sophmore novel by the acclaimed author of The Merciless.

My Thoughts

This is a wholly unrealistic teen horror book, and if that isn’t what you are looking for, please move along.  This is a book you read for fun and escape.  It is reminiscent of the Christopher Pike teen scream books from the nineties, but it is a little heavier on its attempt to add depth to the story by developing conflicts around addiction, friendship, and love.  The truth is, though, that you are reading this for the thrills, or you probably will wish you weren’t reading it, so no depth really needed.  This attempt at depth is actually what slows the story down.  There is a large chunk of the book that was dedicated to establishing character and situation.  However, when the action does pick up, it is pretty decent horror sequence action.  One of the best things about this book is the reader’s uncertainty about whether or not the narrator is reliable.  I honestly couldn’t tell, right up till the very end.  It got a few laughs from me, some of them were probably even intentional, and I thought there was a good sense of ” this is a bad idea, guys” throughout.  There is an excellent final sequence that surprised me and definitely left me asking WT?  If this is what you are looking for, I think you will be moderately pleased.  If you are looking for a more realistic scare, this is probably just going to annoy you.  Language and situations are probably appropriate for high school, and though there is a variety of bad ideas and terrible behaviors in this book, most of those are punished in traditional horror movie fashion.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Everything You and I Could Have Been if We Weren’t You and I 

Standard
Everything You and I Could Have Been if We Weren’t You and I 

This book is one I hesitated to blog about simply because I’m not sure there is much of an audience for it in the American readership.  Certainly if you are looking for something experimental or if you just like giving something unique a try, this is a book to consider.  I personally only gave it a three star rating, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy this mix of science fiction and magical realism.

 

image

Goodreads Summary

Can you imagine a future where everyone has given up sleeping?

From the creator of the television series Red Band Society and author of the international bestseller The Yellow World comes this uniquely special novel.
What if I could reveal your secrets with just a glance? And what if I could feel with your heart just by looking at you? And what if –in a single moment– I could know that we were made for each other? Marcos has just lost his mother, a famous dancer who taught him everything, and he decides that his world can never be the same without her. Just as he is about to make a radical change, a phone call turns his world upside down.

My Thoughts

This is a strange little work of science fiction that reads like a dream – literally, it reads like a strange dream.  That is rather fitting as the book opens with the main character contemplating taking an injection designed to take away the need for sleep.  His mother has died and the idea of dreaming in a world without his mother is too much.  Then a couple of things stop him from pushing the plunger on his dream life.  He sees a girl in the plaza outside his window and his boss calls him to work because a suspected alien life form has been discovered.  These two events will change his perceptions about life and death forever.  Reading this book is quite a lot like watching a foreign film.   The ideas and plot are going to be different from a traditional American novel.  It has the magical realism that is almost entirely absent in American literature, and it takes a more open minded American reader to suspend their disbelief long enough to enjoy it.  It also might make you feel dumb when you don’t “get it” or when you are afraid you didn’t “get it.”  I certainly felt there were parts of the story that eluded me, but overall, I enjoyed it for its strange, dream-like situations and prose. However, I was disturbed by what I inferred about the mother/son relationship in this story, but I wasn’t really sure if I was inferring too much.  I do think that some readers will be annoyed by this story and feel like it was a waste of time.  If you can’t enjoy a strange foreign film, or even an American remake of one like Vanilla Sky, I think you should just skip this.  If, however, you can loosen up your ideas of what a story should be or do and let the words take you to somewhere new and unexpected, you might enjoy this.  While this book was listed as YA on NetGalley, I don’t think this is a YA read.  The experimental feel of the style paired with the leisurely pace don’t really lend themselves to the average YA reader’s expectations.  There is also a lot of thought and philosophy about sex which I didn’t really feel was appropriate for Just any teen reader.  It isn’t graphic, but it is just a casual attitude towards sex that I think some parents would object to.  It would certainly prompt a lot of discussion as a book club selection, though, and I think it is an interesting and thought provoking read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Andy Weir’s The Martian – in which I again am late to the party, but I’m sooo glad I came

Standard
Andy Weir’s The Martian – in which I again am late to the party, but I’m sooo glad I came

I ignored this book for a long time.  I picked it up and read the summary and put it down.  It kept showing up in my recommendations and I kept hitting “Not Interested.”  Lots of people read it – lots, but I know when I’m looking at boring grown up stuff, right?  But then I took my son to see Jurassic World the other night and saw this preview.  Watch it and tell me you aren’t a little interested.

I known, right?

I went home and immediately downloaded the preview chapters. Then I bought it – under $6? Uh, yes.  Then I read for hours before I finally forced myself to stop because it was 2 a.m. and I had already promised the kids a swimming trip early the next day.  I still managed to finish it in under 24 hours (I did not read while they were swimming – not because that is irresponsible but because my ebook readers aren’t waterproof).  I was fascinated, and I think you will be too.

image

Goodreads Summary

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Thoughts

Look, the cover isn’t really grabbing me, and that summary sounds so serious, but don’t reject this book until you try it.  Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon in the preview in a spot on casting decision IMHO) is a really engaging narrator.  Sure, he is talking about science, but he is so funny that you can’t help but become instantly invested in his survival.  Also, you know that even if he dies, you are going to have a good time hanging out with him until Mars takes him out.  The real trick in a book like this is to keep the tedium of the scenario from becoming a tedious read, and this author succeeds.  The repetitive nature of Watney’s existence is really well balanced with the tension of his survival and/or plans for rescue. Also, he talks about all the stuff you really wonder about, namely excrement and what you do with it in space, because, come on, how do you do that stuff in space or Mars or at a really sketchy rest stop?  That is what readers really want to know, and Weir gives it to them.  This isn’t the only instance where he shows an understanding of how to play to an audience – one really interesting decision was to bring in the narrative on Earth because that gave the readers an opportunity to get some dramatic irony that really ramped up both hope and fear for the protagonist.  I’m not going to lie to you – there is science in this book, and it was science that barely brushed the tip of my head as it attempted to blow over it.  I fully expected to scan those paragraphs with numbers and calculations and formulas.  Imagine my surprise when I actually found I was reading every word. I was able to follow the logic, and I was able to appreciate almost every experiment Watney desperately needed to perform.  Boring Teacher Talk Warning – As a teacher, all I could think was that this book would be perfect for a science teacher’s classroom library and also as a fascinating way to engage kids in simulated experiments to see if they could work things out like the protagonist did. End of Boring Teacher Talk. I’m so impressed with the way this book turned out, and I found the bonus interview and essay on the kindle version really interesting. Some mature language, but I would still hand this to any of you jokers without a qualm.

This book is available in the MHS library for checkout.

Hickville Confession – small town life, an outsider romance, and some big social issues

Standard
Hickville Confession – small town life, an outsider romance, and some big social issues

I like books about country kids.  I spent many a night cruising town, making pit stops at Sonic and trying to keep myself out of trouble in a place fairly empty of entertainment possibilities.  I also understand the judgement and support that only a rural, small town society can dispense.  This book came across as an accurate depiction of this kind of setting, so if you have a similar background (or just wish you did), you might enjoy this book, and maybe even this series about a trio of sisters who are uprooted from the big city to small town Texas.

image

Goodreads Summary

New town. New look. New beginning. High school junior Ryan Quinn has a past. She will do just about anything to keep it hidden, even if means joining the ultra-conservative, no fun allowed, Purity Club. But secrets are hard to keep in a small town and when the Purity Club girls discover the truth, they viciously attack Ryan.

Justin is the kind of guy who can make Ryan forget her vow to change. He’s the kind of guy she should avoid at all costs. But he knows her soul secrets. He understands her and it is torture when she is away from him. But as she deals with the outward scars on her face and the inward shame of her past and Justin’s home life continues to spiral out of control, their relationship becomes as convoluted as their home life. Will they find the courage to open their hearts to each other in spite of their family drama?

My Thoughts

I sampled this book before I requested it for review, and I have to say the surprisingly vicious attack that it opens with, followed by the simple, human heroics that cuts the attack short engaged me immediately.  I requested it and read it straight through in a few hours.  Part of my interest probably came from the fact that I hadn’t read the first book in the series, so I couldn’t even comprehend what prompted the inciting action.  I think it might have been a bonus, actually, because I didn’t have preconceived notions about these characters, and the book did a good job of getting me up to speed on what I missed.  I think I was also interested because these are my kind of people – country kids who knock around a small town focusing on football games and trips to the Sonic.  I had a pretty easy time visualizing this town and the way it’s social systems worked.  I even appreciated the fact that it deals with some pretty hard hitting issues and still managed to read like a book and not a counseling pamphlet.  So, why did I only give it three stars?  It does come across as a little “hard hitting issues lite.”  The ideas are big, but there are a lot of them, and it feels like that took away from the time spent really covering any of them in a thorough way.  No big deal, but it just isn’t going to have a huge impact on readers because they are dealing with a lot.  Also, the pace was a little off for me.  I thought there were some lags in the storylines.  Finally, I just didn’t connect with either of the main characters. That is not necessarily the fault of the book because I am not the target audience, but it is worth noting that I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in the outcomes as I probably should have been.  I still think it is worth reading, especially if you like to see two kids who are struggling find a connection that helps them both.  Also, there was a really compelling kickoff to the next book in the last sentence of this one, and I’m really thinking I need to get my hands on it.  That aspect reminded me a little of Sea of Tranquility, so if you enjoyed that book, you might give this one a whirl.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In Damage Done, Amanda Panitch crafts a YA  protagonist as unsettling as any Gillian Flynn character

Standard
In Damage Done, Amanda Panitch crafts a YA  protagonist as unsettling as any Gillian Flynn character

I blame my fondness for manipulative girl protagonists – the really awful, selfish and back stabbing kind – on Nellie Olsen, the bad girl everyone loves to hate from Little House on the Prairie.  I loved to see Nellie get her karmic backlash, and I think it is that delight that keeps me reading when I realize the narrator is a devious little snot.  Sometimes I actually find I kind of like them and see that mean girl response as a justified defensive measure.  Sometimes, I just like feeling superior and wait for their downfall.  Damage Done had a protagonist that I took a long while deciding about.  I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I can promise she probably won’t bore you.  Also, don’t you think the girl on the cover looks like Kristen Stewart?

image

Goodreads Summary

22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.
After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.
Now that she’s Lucy Black, she’s able to begin again. She’s even getting used to the empty bedroom where her brother should be. And her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school, a boy who will do anything to protect her. But when someone much more dangerous also takes notice, Lucy’s forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind.
One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . . 
My Thoughts

Lucy used to be Julia.  Before her brother killed eleven people in a school shooting.  Now she is starting over, but some things aren’t what they seem, and Lucy doesn’t know the whole truth.  As her new, carefully crafted life begins to crumble, Lucy will have to decide if she is strong enough to do what it takes to survive one more time.  This is a fast and compelling read.  Lucy wasn’t a warm and fuzzy character, and it was clear that she had a manipulative and calculating side and it gave a slightly discordant edge to even moments that were suppose to be happy and light.  I kept reading despite my dislike for her (and you probably will, too) because there was the unanswered question of why her brother killed their friends and a promise that the answer would be given.  There were a few places where time sagged in the plot, but, for the most part, it was well paced to move the action forward.  I won’t say I was surprised by the resolution, but there were surprising revelations inside the expected ending.  I think this is a book that my students would enjoy if they aren’t turned off too much by Lucy, especially fans of thrillers and mysteries.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Reading Hollywood Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda felt like a bad road trip with an impatient dad 

Standard
Reading Hollywood Witch Hunter by Valerie Tejeda felt like a bad road trip with an impatient dad 

People touted this book as a read for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other television shows that you are probably too young to have watched.  Enough of them did it that it sounded like they were looking at the same Cliffs Notes, and you know what?  I wouldn’t blame them.  I really, really struggled to read this book.  It felt like being on the road with a dad who has a timed agenda and doesn’t care if you need to go to the bathroom or develop characters or whatever – we are making it to our destination on time, no matter what!  I gave it two stars and filed it under nightmares, but it is a Bloomsbury Spark read, so if you don’t want to take my word for it (and lots of folks on Goodreads gave it a four or five stars ???), you can download this ebook for under $3.

image

Goodreads Summary

From the moment she first learned the truth about witches…she knew she was born to fight them.

Now, at sixteen, Iris is the lone girl on the Witch Hunters Special Ops Team.
But when Iris meets a boy named Arlo, he might just be the key to preventing an evil uprising in Southern California.
Together they’re ready to protect the human race at all costs. Because that’s what witch hunters do.
Welcome to Hollywood. 
My Thoughts

Plot killed this book.  It literally did a hit and run on both character development and world building in its race to the resolution.  Iris, who is suppose to be the character who readers connect with is hard to connect with because we know so little about what makes her tick beyond her desire to prove her ability despite her gender.  Readers do know she feels something for Arlo, but it is mostly via the jealousy she spews through half the book.  Little time is given to develop her, him, or their relationship beyond a few training exercises.  Secondary characters are only given a stock personality trait and an identity based on their genetics and abilities.  I will admit that Belinda’s stock personality amused me, and I was really sad the author didn’t take her character and really run with it because there was potential for fun there.  These decisions really hurt the story the most when the author wanted us to feel surprised or shocked by the way the characters “change” at the end, but, really, we didn’t know them to begin with, so it was just an um, okay moment instead of a revelation.  The lack of strong world building was also a problem.  After setting up a scenario where the witches and hunters were supposedly mortal enemies,  including a scene of torture, the scenario shifted to feel more like a mean girls versus Iris concept.  This included the snippy insulting banter and the requisite moment where they realized they didn’t have to be enemies.  Look, I’m not opposed to a plot driven book. I actually enjoy them often, but remember the journey can be just as important as the destination, and in this case, the lack of journey really devalued the arrival at the destination.  Seriously, the plot even had to take a pit stop to get directions from a stranger from Wales since it got a little lost near the end.  I think there was a lot of potential here for a witty commentary on society or frenemies or celebrity. Several of the characters grabbed my interest initially.  Pacing could have made all the difference, and I’m disappointed that no one took the time to force the plot to slow down.  

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.