Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Cage is a sweet YA contemporary romance with a side of depth

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The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Cage is a sweet YA contemporary romance with a side of depth

In college, I worked with one of the prettiest and most ladylike girls I had ever met, and since we were trapped in an office sealing envelopes for hours on end, I decided I was going to ask her all the stuff I’d ever wanted to know about how it felt to be beautiful.  I just really wanted to know what it was like to wear the right clothes and to attract boys like flies – to be the one thing I always wanted to be but could never quite achieve.  I was a little stumped when she acted like my perception of her was crazy.  Even more surprising was when she turned the tables on me and asked what it was like to be so sure about everything, so confident.  I’m pretty sure I spit my drink across the room. I knew the anxiety and insecurity in my own head, so that seemed way off base. The fact is, though, that your perceptions of yourself can be so far off the mark.  I felt like a bumbling idiot, and she felt like a shrinking violet.  Who knew?

Carrie Paxton, the protagonist in this story, is a little too wrapped up in her own perceptions of the world and the people who populate it, and it doesn’t take long to see exactly how that is holding her back from the things she really wants in life.  I liked this book because there was the love story I wanted, fairly low on silly angst, and there were still some lessons for readers to take away.  I think you’ll enjoy this sweet and fast read if you like writers like Miranda Kennelly or Huntley Fitzpatrick.

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Goodreads Summary

Sixteen year old, Carrie Paxton, isn’t the most popular girl in her small town of Stillburrow. But that’s never concerned her before. Her life revolves around her writing, and she loves her job as the student editor of the school paper.But when she gets assigned to interview the football team’s beloved quarterback, she takes one look into Luke Carter’s blue eyes and is a goner. Suddenly, she doesn’t like her lowly rank so much.

Then her dreamy, popular crush surprises her when he starts to act as if he likes her in return. But there’s no way Luke Carter could possibly ever like a nobody like Carrie Paxton.

Is there?

My Thoughts

This a fast and sweet contemporary, small town YA romance that will satisfy your secret dream of being noticed by the hottest guy in town.  Surprisingly, it addresses a few deeper issues of small town life, including the perceived lines between the haves and the have nots.  I enjoyed this book and finished in a couple of hours, and I think if you are looking for a clean read with a bit of resonance, this book is a good choice.  I did think that Carrie was a little too committed to her beliefs about small town social hierarchy, but I know people who feel that about their own towns.  Luke is a bit of a lightweight of a character.  He has dimension, but I didn’t really feel like he was an actual person making his own choices so much as a character following a script.  That is okay.  I like my romantic interests a little idealized, but if you are looking for a guy that you might encounter in real life, you might find he is a bit more fantasy than reality.  Overall, this is a book that I can see my high school readers embracing, particularly those who enjoyed books like Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+.

Mandy Hubbard’s YA Contemporary Romance, Everything But The Truth – Can it be love if he doesn’t even know your real name?  

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Mandy Hubbard’s YA Contemporary Romance, Everything But The Truth – Can it be love if he doesn’t even know your real name?  

There is just something I hate about a book where I can see the disaster from the beginning.  I don’t do well with the stress, and a romance based on a deception is a hard thing for me to roll with.  That being said, I rather enjoyed Everything But the Truth.  This is the sixth book in the Bloomsbury “If Only” series of books where the only thing that ties them together is the theme – you always want what you can’t have.  Each book is a standalone contemporary YA romance, and they are clean and sweet reads that I would hand to anyone from my sixth grade cousin to my grandmother.  I have read several in this series, and they are hit or miss, but this is definitely a strong addition.

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Goodreads Summary

If Only . . . she wasn’t pretending to be someone else! The If Only romance line continues in this fun rags-to-riches romance.

Holly Mathews’ mom is the new manager of a ritzy retirement home, and they just moved in. But having super-rich retirees as her only neighbors isn’t a total bust, because the gorgeous, notorious Malik Buchannan is the grandson of a resident. Just one problem: when they meet, Malik assumes Holly is there to visit her own rich relative. She doesn’t correct him, and it probably doesn’t matter, because their flirtation could never turn into more than a superficial fling . . . right? But the longer she lives in his privileged world, the deeper Holly falls for Malik, and the harder it is to tell the truth . . . because coming clean might mean losing him.

For anyone who has dreamed of their own Cinderella story, this romance shows that when it comes to true love, the best person to be is yourself!

My Thoughts

The romance is sweet and clean, and the characters are interesting and original.  I particularly enjoyed Holiday’s furniture moving obsession, and her interest in antiques – it was just quirky enough to be new but it was real enough to be believable.   This isn’t a really long read, so most of the other characters are surface characters, but they don’t feel shallow, so I didn’t have any complaints. The plot moved quickly but took the time to savor the romance part of the love story, and the central relationship was well developed and thoughtful.  I would honestly let this author plan my next date, because she got the ones in here so right.  I  also thought it was a pretty cool thing that the book took place in a retirement home.  That sounds so strange, but there is such a nice parallel about how people, no matter what stage of life they are in, are always having to adjust to big changes in life, whether it is giving up something you thought you really were essential to or letting relationships evolve with the changes life throws at you.  This book offers a lot of diversity, almost so much that it is a little suspect, but I think that means a wide audience can find something to connect with.  As I said, I’m not a fan of deception dating books, and this one dragged the climax of discovery out a long time, which meant the resolution was a little too rushed, but, overall, I was pretty pleased with this quick and loveable romance.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

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

Calvin by Martine Leavitt is a fast but deep read, with a humorous slant that is hard to resist.

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Calvin by Martine Leavitt is a fast but deep read, with a humorous slant that is hard to resist.

If you are looking for something smart and fast, you would be hard pressed to find a better book than Calvin.  This is a gem of a book that will appeal to readers who like viewing life through a different lens.  Mental illness isn’t a joke, but this lighter look at Schizophrenia offers an approachable and insightful view that is surprisingly engaging and pretty heartfelt, too.

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Goodreads Summary

In this latest novel from National Book Award finalist Martine Leavitt, a schizophrenic teen believes that Bill Watterson can save him from his illness if he creates one more Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.

Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back—as a delusion—and Calvin can’t control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down.

My Thoughts

This was a pretty engaging little book.  I always enjoy a good quest, and it was certainly a rather surreal quest.  A lot of the time I was left wondering what was real and what was delusion as much as Calvin was, so I certainly needed to know how this was going to turn out.  I read it in a little over an hour because it was formatted more like a play in terms of dialogue, and that was essential because it really kept all of the voices straight in both Calvin’s and my head.  I enjoyed the sweet but real feel of the romance between Calvin and Susie.  Sometimes love really is just about “getting” someone in a way no one else does.  I liked the positive spin this puts on schizophrenia.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still clearly dangerous because Susie lets Calvin determine her reality to some degree, but this book still puts a humorous slant on the situation, which allows readers to laugh and still empathize with it.  I do have to say that Calvin had some pretty deep thoughts about life, God, and humanity near the end, but if readers aren’t into pondering transcendentalism or whatever, they can skim past those and pick back up with little trouble. This book is pretty creative, and creative minds will probably enjoy it the most. I think fans of things like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or the original short story version of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” will really enjoy this, but the presence of Susie does leave a voice for the more sensible reader to connect with.  I do want to say that I have little knowledge of the Calvin and Hobbes comics, but that didn’t really impact my enjoyment or ability to understand the themes or the plot.  I thought this was a quirky and fun read, and I think it would appeal to my high school readers, particularly those who want a little depth but don’t want to invest a huge chunk of time.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but interest level is high school and beyond.

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

In Mystique, Shari Arnold’s newest YA, you really can’t keep a dead guy down.

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In Mystique, Shari Arnold’s newest YA, you really can’t keep a dead guy down.

I really enjoyed Shari Arnold’s  Neverland.  It was magical and unexpected.  I had high hopes for Mistique, but I have to say I was disappointed.  While I liked the concept (big Les Revenants fan here), this story just didn’t come together for me.  However, this book, which does feel like a YA Stephen King concept, might really appeal to you.  I mean, essentially this whole town becomes the less evil equivalent of the Pet Cemetery, which is pretty cool.  I also do have to say that it got me thinking about how wild it would be if you had a town that could resurrect the dead, and Arnold does a good job of really making that chaos of hope and desperation come alive.

Mystique is publishing Tuesday, November 13, 2015.

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Goodreads Summary

Only Bauer Grant can pull off gorgeous while dead. But staying dead is another thing entirely. When he wakes up at his own funeral, the town of Mystique calls it a miracle, until it happens again. Something is bringing the residents of Mystique back to life, but what? Presley Caine finds herself caught up in the mystery when Bauer asks her to visit him. Presley can’t figure out why the most popular guy in school is so drawn to her. And when Bauer is kidnapped soon after, she looks to Bauer’s brooding best friend Sam, whose dad works for the powerful Mystique military base, for answers. In her quest to discover the truth, Presley’s relationship with Sam deepens, her feelings for Bauer are tested, and it becomes clear that her own mysterious past is somehow connected to these strange events. But is she strong enough to handle the truth when it is finally revealed?

My Thoughts

I think my problem really started with the things that left me feeling disbelief for too long at the very beginning of the book.  It started with a question about embalming – a small detail, but a really big stumbling block for me.  How can a kid wake up at his own funeral and not have his eyes glued closed or his lips sewn shut?  Did he still have a heart?  Didn’t they drain his blood and pump him full of chemicals?  Yes, these are the things I think about.  Anxiety takes many fun forms.  This is finally addressed chapters later, and a weak explanation was offered, but it was already too late.  I had lost a little faith in the story.  When that was compounded by the seemingly inconceivable insta-connection Bauer felt for Presley, I really struggled to stick this one out.  The connection was eventually explained, but, again, my ability to suspend disbelief was already gone.  I didn’t trust the story, and I just never really settled in after that.  I did still see a bit of what I most enjoyed about Neverland in this book – the relationship between Sam and Presely was one I could get lost in.  I think that is really what the author excels at – sweet and carefully drawn connections between her main characters.  However, I struggled with the relationships of her more minor characters in this book.  I think this is a result of the way Presely connected with them, which created a one sided and surface friendship, but it didn’t work for me.  Overall, I was able to enjoy the book when it focused on Sam and Presley, but I felt like when that focus shifted, I was reading a book that just didn’t quite gel.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals – the best dollar I’ve spent in a long, long time.

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Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Naturals – the best dollar I’ve spent in a long, long time.

I get a lot of books from publishers in exchange for review, but that doesn’t stop me from browsing.  When I saw that a book from the same author as The Fixer , and noticed it was only 99 cents today, I went into high alert. The blurb sounded like a go, and the price was unbelievably right, so I bought it before I even sampled it.  I’m so glad I did.  Think Criminal Minds, and add in a little teen angst, and you’ve got yourself a YA read that, while a bit unbelievable, is compelling and entertaining.

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Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides—especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

My Thoughts

I thought this was a very engaging book with enough suspense and suspects to keep me guessing.  Right up until the big reveal, I kept changing my mind.  That speaks well for this suspense/mystery/thriller because that doesn’t happen very often in a head so full of plots and predictions.  I liked the characters, who represented a variety of personality types with their white, black, and gray sides.  I liked the concept.  No,  I didn’t really believe the concept could happen, but I was able to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the ride.  The plot moved quickly and there were no noticeable lulls, but there were some sketchy relationships.  That might be due to the fact that these kids are all suppose to be masters of deception and detection and thus made themselves really hard to read, or it might be the fact that I smelled a more than awkward love rectangle early in the game.  I honestly wasn’t bothered by the Anita Blake/Stephanie Plum they are going to pass each other around relationship set-up, but I would have enjoyed a more clear-cut romance.  Don’t want to write it myself, though, so I’ll take what I can get.  I particularly appreciated the fact that Cassie wasn’t forced to join the team and we didn’t have to listen to her sullen resentment – it is a breath of fresh air in the YA genre.  She did pull some tern pouting when she didn’t get her way, but nothing on the scale I expected.  Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I think my high school readers will as well, particularly those who enjoy watching Criminal Minds or just interesting if implausible teens hunting murders read.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school, but as an adult reader of YA, I got a kick out of it as well.

This book is available in the MHS library.

Young Widow’s Club has a surprising premise for a YA book, but it got a lot of things right

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Young Widow’s Club has a surprising premise for a YA book, but it got a lot of things right

This title caught my eye, and I couldn’t help but think this had to be mislabeled as YA.  It actually isn’t. This book is about facing the future when your plans go up in flames, and YA’s are really the ideal audience for this message.  I hesitate to say it, but if you like Nicholas Sparks and would like a break from cancer, this book offers the a strong and emotional story that you will probably enjoy.  If you hate Nicholas Sparks, as I do, you can still enjoy this emotional story without rolling your eyes and laughing inappropriately.  Four stars.

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Goodreads Review

First came love, then came marriage, and then…

For seventeen-year-old Tam, running off to marry her musician boyfriend is the ideal escape from her claustrophobic high-school life on the island, and the ultimate rebellion against her father and stepmother. But when Tam becomes a widow just weeks later, the shell-shocked teen is forced to find her way forward by going back to the life she thought she’d moved beyond—even as her struggle to deal with her grief is forcing her to reinvent herself and reach out to others in ways she never imagined.

My Thoughts

This was a unique premise, and though I’m not sure how many readers can relate to the exact experience, it brings up the more universal question of what to do with yourself when your entire plan for your future is irrevocably changed.  Seventeen year old Tamsin had her entire life planned out until her young husband died unexpectedly.  It changed everything, and like any crushing blow to a young life, it left her feeling lost.  Tamsin was sort of an alien character for me because a lot of the things I value she didn’t care about even before her husband died.  I was still pretty engaged by her character, though, and this really was a Buildungsroman in the sense that her journey was about finding her place in the world.  This is a character driven book, so the pacing was designed (very well) to develop her character and the relationships she forged in the aftermath of her disaster.  I found the setting almost as interesting as Tamsin, an island populated by aging hippies and their children, where values and lifestyles created an intriguingly different experience from the one I grew up with.  Overall, this was a well written and hopeful book that I think many of my students will enjoy. Language and situations are appropriate for high school.

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

Becca Fitzpatrick’s Dangerous Lies is a surprisingly satisfying YA contemporary, especially since or despite the fact that I think her Hush,Hush series is unreadable

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Becca Fitzpatrick’s Dangerous Lies is a surprisingly satisfying YA contemporary, especially since or despite the fact that I think her Hush,Hush series is unreadable

I wasn’t a fan of this author’s paranormal books, but I really enjoyed this YA Suspense/Thriller.   I thought that there was a nice complexity to the plot, characters, and conflicts. Underlying themes of family, friendship, responsibility and guilt added depth.  I think fans of Becca Fitzpatrick will be pleasantly surprised, and her naysayers will be pretty surprised as well.  I recommend this book to readers who enjoy YA contemporary mysteries rand romance as well as those who enjoy small town life and all the complexities that accompany it.

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Goodreads Summary

A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…

My Thoughts

As a narrative voice, I liked Stella, and she felt like a real teen dealing with the big issues of being ripped out of her own life.  She is initially bratty, but I think most of us would act in the same way (let’s be real – I pout when there aren’t any cold cokes in the fridge or when the lunch menu at school is wrong, so leaving my past, present, and planned future behind would probably involve an all out temper tantrum).   Once readers start peeling her layers back, it is clear that she is not a bad person, but a girl who desperately is clinging to the only security she has had for the last few years.  She cares about people and has a righteous anger when she thinks someone is being a bully.  It is that characteristic tendency that plays havoc and creates both internal and external conflict that I thought was both believable and compelling.  Chet is the love interest in the story, and most readers will fall quickly and hard for this reformed bad boy of a cowboy.  He isn’t too country, and he has a backstory that let’s you know he can get up to some antics, but he is the guy you want to cuddle up with in the back of a pick up truck.  While there is some concern about a love triangle, the other guy is in the Witness Protection Program, too, and readers are told up front that Stella won’t be able to contact him ever again, so the battle between the boys really takes place in Stella’s mind – I honestly didn’t really consider this a love triangle at all. The story was nicely paced to develop relationships and allow time for a believable epiphany, but it also maintained a nice tension by giving Stella an adversary in her new setting in addition to the drug dealer who wants to snuff her out back in Phillie.  There are some characters I wanted to know a little more about, but I thought the resolution was satisfying, and I think most readers will as well.  I started this book late at night, and two hours had passed when I looked up again!  Clearly, it reads easily and the story and characters are absorbing.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, but I think adult readers of YA will enjoy this book as well.

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

The August 5 -don’t judge this book by its awesome cover. You’ll just be disappointed.

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The August 5 -don’t judge this book by its awesome cover. You’ll just be disappointed.

I’ll admit the cover and summary for The August 5 had me envisioning a really awesome book. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was more of a middle school read than a YA book, but it took longer for me to understand this really was going to be a very dull read.  It is so boring I was impressed I got through it. I will be more impressed if the intended audience can get through it.  Someone misplaced the memo that reminds writers that, while rebellion is interesting, the politics behind it are usually sleep inducing. I still gave this book three stars – it did have its moments, but readers who think they are about to read the next Hunger Games will be disappointed.

The August 5 publishes Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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Goodreads Summary

In a world rocked by revolt, your worst enemy can become your greatest hope

Fourteen-year-old Tommy Shore lives a life of privilege: he has the finest clothing, food, and education available and servants to take care of his every whim. He is the son of the chief administrator of Aeren-the most important man on the islands. Fifteen-year-old Tamsin Henry has grown up knowing only poverty, but she is the daughter of a revolutionary who longs to give her and their people more.

Ordinarily, Tommy and Tamsin would never cross paths, but on the day of a violent and deadly revolt, chance brings them together. Now the world waits to hear the fate of the August 5, five men led by, and including, Tamsin’s father and captured during the uprising. As tensions between the government and the rebels escalate, Tommy uncovers a brutal truth about his father. How will he ever get Tamsin to trust that he wants to help her cause, when she believes he stands for everything she’s fighting against?

My Thought

I really looked forward to reading this book because it sounded like it would be full of action, smokey rebellion and two teens fighting to change their world.  While all of those elements were indeed part of the story, the majority of the book focused on politics, and it was boring.

The plot started off with a bang but then it got dredged down with political manuvering.  A lot of the plot was spent reiterating the point that the current power structure was bad, something readers and even the characters recognized before the first two chapters were finished.

Tommy, the protagonist from the upper level of society, didn’t have to uncover any shocking secrets about his society or his father.  There was no journey of growth or slowly blooming horror as more corruption emerged.  He knew from the beginning that his dad was a pretty awful person, so why did the author spend all that time making Tommy see more examples of how corrupt his father and his cronies really were?  On top of that, Tommy had very easily weighted internal conflicts.   He had no desire to please his father or live up to expectations.  I think that is the heart of the problem here.  Tommy had nothing to lose besides things he didn’t value, so when he was faced with a conflict between doing what his father expected and doing the noble thing, it was pretty clear which way he was going to go.

Tamsin, the character from the lowest level of society, was also placed in a similar situation.  Effort was made to make it clear that she didn’t have anyone she wanted to impress except her own rebel father.  No one knew who she was, so it wasn’t like they were threatening to hurt anyone she cared about if she didn’t toe the line.  People she cared about were going to be hurt anyway, so what was there for her to lose?  Because of the lack of real conflict in the conflicts, it is hard to feel any suspense or anxiety about what choices these two good guys would make.

Overall, I think a lot of my high school readers will become bored by the politics and put this book down.  I certainly felt that way less than a third of the way through.  Language and situations are appropriate for middle school and beyond.

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

Valhalla is one of the most violent and action packed YA books I’ve ever read, but it is also one of the most boring.

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Valhalla is one of the most violent and action packed YA books I’ve ever read, but it is also one of the most boring.

Valhalla reads like a book a computer would spit out if you fed it all the scifi and action reads of the last few decades and told it to write a book.  It has no soul.  Two stars and an emphatic warning not to waste your time.

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Goodreads Summary

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

Violet MacRae is one of the aimless millions crowding northern Scotland. In the year 2330, where war is obsolete and only brilliant minds are valued, she emerges into adulthood with more brawn than brains and a propensity for violence. People dismiss her as a relic, but world peace is more fragile than they know.

In Valhalla, a clandestine base hidden in an icy ravine, Violet connects with a group of outcasts just like her. There, she learns the skills she needs to keep the world safe from genetically enhanced criminals and traitors who threaten the first friends she’s ever known. She also meets Wulfgar Kray, a genius gang leader who knows her better than she knows herself and who would conquer the world to capture her.

Branded from childhood as a useless barbarian, Violet is about to learn the world needs her exactly as she is.

My Thoughts

It is rare to find a book so full of action and yet so boring at the same time.  I blame this on the author’s writing style.  The overly-detailed descriptions and straight-forward narrative voice quickly proved monotonous.  I never connected with the protagonist, mostly because her every action and choice was so clinically described that I felt like I was reading a lab report.  The premise is promising, and this author managed to get it all down, but there is no voice or style present in the writing.  It creates a distance that turns what should have been a very engaging action book full of blood and violence into a history channel documentary turned sleep aid for the insomniac.  Part of the problem is a lack of flow.  The story sort of encapsulates events and confines them into chunks that don’t easily connect as a whole story.  The decision to describe minutiae, like every level in Valhalla and the accent and appearance of every minor character,  is equally problematic to the flow. The romance seems to have been tacked on as an afterthought and, for me, contradicted some of the charateristics the author worked so hard to emphasize in the protagonist.  Overall, there was very little I enjoyed about this book, and I would struggle to find a reader I would recommend it to.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, though I can’t see many of then sticking this one out.  I would have abandoned it at 25% if I hadn’t felt obligated by my request to read and review it.

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

How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras isn’t the light hearted YA contemporary that it appears to be

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How To Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras isn’t the light hearted YA contemporary that it appears to be

Readers who appreciate honesty and realism in their contemporary YA fiction will probably appreciate How To Be Brave more than readers who take one look at the cover and expect some light-hearted shenanigans.  While I found this book to be a bit of a downer because I was picking this book based on the cover, I really did appreciate the sincerity of the story.

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Goodreads Summary

An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

My Thoughts

This is a Bildungsroman that I think gives a very accurate portrayal of what it is like to search for your place in the world when the rug has been ripped out from under you.  Georgia is trying to get back to relishing life when the story begins, and like many of us, her journey begins with a list.  The problem with lists is that things often don’t turn out as expected, and as she tries to push herself to rejoin those who are really “living,” she finds she might just have destroyed all the things she thought she had left.  I think that is the part that is most real about this book – you can’t really just dive back into life and find that everything is golden.  It is this reality, though, that kind of made this a sad and lonely journey for me as a reader.  Georgia needs the isolation to really get in touch with who she is, but it honestly felt like she was given an extended stay in misery.  I didn’t really mind this, but I think the blurb made me expect something more light-hearted, and this was more honest than that.  I liked the characters in this book, and I liked the lessons that each of them taught Georgia.  She was a better person for having to see people through a different perspective.  I also liked the fact that, in the end, being brave meant more than just doing daring things – it really meant putting herself out there emotionally.  I did feel like the narrative kind of glossed over a pretty big issue – when Georgia does something inexplicable at a party, there aren’t really enough details to make readers understand how she could have possibly made such a colossal mistake.  I felt like Georgia didn’t really have to do any soul searching about that incident, and I think she should have had to own up to her actions more – she pays for it and regrets it, but she doesn’t really think about how she was the person at fault.  Overall, I enjoyed the truth this book told about the work we all have to do when our plans crumble around us.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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