Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas got a bit of a raw deal from reviewers

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A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas got a bit of a raw deal from reviewers

While I keep saying I’m done with the fairytale retellings, I just can’t seem to leave them alone.  I definitely had A Wicked Thing on my wish list for quite some time, but it was just too expensive, especially when the reviews were generally negative.  However, it recently went on sale for $1.99 on Amazon, and I jumped on it.  I can honestly say that, while I might have been disappointed (like so many reviewers) if I’d spent $11 on this ebook, I was quite happy with it as a $2 read.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it is a compelling look at life after waking up from true love’s kiss.

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Goodreads Summary

Rhiannon Thomas’s dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

My Thoughts

I’m not sure why this book got slammed by reviewers.  I quite enjoyed it.  It was suspenseful and unexpected, and when it comes to fairytale reimaginings, I feel like I’ve read enough of them that I can be trusted when I say that.  Perhaps it was the rather dismal and hopeless atmosphere?  Aurora is definitely between a rock and a hard place in this book, and things do seem decidedly grim.  Maybe the problem was the fact that Aurora wasn’t a woman warrior from the second she wakes, but it is pretty clear exactly how she was raised, and I thought she was pretty consistent based on her past.  There were enough factors pulling at her that I wasn’t sure what I would have done in her place, and I thought she was actually pretty brave if rightfully cautiousness.  She is a pawn for many of the male characters in the book, but in the end, it actually felt like the only choice she could make was to pick the person who would use her in a way she approved of.  Hey, freedom is sometimes only the right to choose your prison.  In fact, that ending took this book from just being an okay read to a series I’m interested in continuing.

I did have some complaints.  The pacing isn’t as consistent as I would like.  Scenes of action were followed by scene after scene set in the same bedroom or garden.  It wasn’t a huge issue, but it wasn’t as interesting as it could have been.  I also didn’t think that all of the characters were as well rounded as they could have been, and I really wanted some more dimension for characters like the queen and the prince.  These aren’t insurmountable obstacles, and, like I said, I’m interested in seeing what the second book in the series has to offer.

If you like fairytale revisions, or if you enjoyed Sleeping Beauty, this is definitely worth sampling.  While it is definitely a different spin, this book might just be what you are looking for if you enjoyed Stacey Jay’s Princess of Thorns.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

Robin Benway’s Emmy and Oliver -YA contemporary for fans of Sarah Dessen

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Robin Benway’s Emmy and Oliver -YA contemporary for fans of Sarah Dessen

One of the biggest struggles for any teen is finding their place in the world, and Emmy & Oliver focuses on that conflict.  There are some complications thrown in that make these struggles more interesting than average, but, ultimately, it really is about making choices.  I sort of stumbled onto this book in the kindle sale, and I was quite pleased with my $1.99 purchase.  This isn’t your average $2 ebook, and it is well written and compelling enough that it is going on my classroom library wish list.

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Goodreads Summary

Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.
She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

My Thoughts

The smart thing about this book was the decision to choose a narrator with one foot in the experience, and one foot out.  Emmy is close to the situation, but she is distant enough to add something new to the genre of books where kidnapped teens find their way back home.  If Oliver had narrated the story, this would have only been about the problems associated with the kidnapping, but Emmy allows the story to expand to include themes of friendship, trust, truth, and making your own decisions.  I like Emmy’s voice, which is smart and witty but also uncertain.  She is someone that an average reader can relate to easily, and I think she is a character that most people will enjoy.  The story is well paced to develop both the plot and the relationships evenly, and while it wasn’t action-packed, it was a fast and yet thoughtful story.  I did think  there was a bit of cheese in the scenes where the story flashed back to life before Oliver disappeared, particularly the final flashback, but those sections are short and easy to ignore.

Overall, I think most of the target audience will appreciate how each character represents some battle with finding their place in the world, and this book offers diverse perspectives of that same issue without being redundant.  I enjoyed it, and I think it will appeal to both YA’s and adult readers of YA because of the complexity of the characters’ emotions, which ring true.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

Jamie Kain’s Instructions for the End of the World might bring up your abandonment issues, but it is a contemplative YA contemporary

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Jamie Kain’s Instructions for the End of the World might bring up your abandonment issues, but it is a contemplative YA contemporary

When I was four, I experienced one of the most traumatic experiences of my life – watching Bambi’s mom get shot on the big screen.  I had to be removed from the theater because my inconsolable crying was upsetting everyone.  That moment has haunted me since.  I seriously had a reoccurring dream of losing my mother for the next ten years (she, on the other hand, dreamed repeatedly about not being able to find her car).  When I realized that the premise for this book is every nightmare I ever had about abandonment by my mom, I wasn’t really sure I was going to be all in.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but that turned out to be a good thing.

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Goodreads Summary

From the author of The Good Sister comes a gripping novel about two sisters who learn that there are things in life—love, loss, and self-discovery—that you simply can’t prepare for.

He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man—except for the one that struck.

When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Instructions for the End of the World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.

My Thoughts

This was a fairly introspective book and, while I thought it would be plot driven, it is a character driven narrative from four different perspectives.  All four of the narrative voices have experienced some form of abandonment by their parents, and I thought it was a rather fascinating study on how a similar situation can have very different impacts.   I quickly connected with Nicole and her attempts to be a good daughter, even when it means living in the crappiest situation ever.  I had varying degrees of interest in the other characters, but they all experienced growth and had a unique and identifiable voice.  There is some romance – some good and some disappointing, but I felt like the relationships between characters overall were more important than just the love story.   I was happy with the way Nicole and her sister developed a better relationship, and it was pretty happy with the resolution because it felt realistic.  While this isn’t a plot driven story, it was well paced and instead of letting povs overlap, they worked more like puzzle pieces.  Some characters knew things the others didn’t, and that created a little dramatic irony and suspense. Overall, I thought it was a thoughtful and compelling read.  I think it might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy characters as much as plot, you should give this a shot.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school students.

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

The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill – what can go wrong when you combine competition, band geeks and a cruise ship? So much. So very, very much.

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The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill – what can go wrong when you combine competition, band geeks and a cruise ship?  So much. So very, very much.

There is a part of me that I am deeply ashamed of but that I can’t deny.  I am incredibly competitive.  Not about important things, like earning the most money or being the best human or whatever.  I’m competitive about the small stuff.  My son calls it Momster because he is the one who really gets a good look at it . . . Her . . . the other side.  Literary character costume contests, science fair displays, pumpkin carving competitions – these are the things that drive me.  I’ve been competing with the other moms (unbeknownst to them) since my son brought home his first project in Kindergarten.  It’s a little evil, but I just can’t get past the feeling that I walked away the superior mom in a competition.  All this is to say that I got this character.  Competition can blind you (to the fact that your ten year old doesn’t want to dress up as a The Little Prince even if it’ll mean a slam dunk) and it can make you a little crazy (pushing old ladies out of the way to get the last two orange fuzzy bath mats that are going to be the envy of the Dr. Seuss costume competition after a few hours plotting and sewing).  But competition, when it means so much to someone or something you love, is something I can understand.  So, despite the fact that I didn’t love this book, I got it.

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Goodreads Summary

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey…

With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize.

Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.

But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.

My Thoughts

I really liked Meant To Be, this author’s other book, and many of my students enjoyed it as well. I just knew I would be a fan of this one, but, funny thing, it reads like a washed out version of Meant To Be. The characters are less vivid, the situations are not as funny, and the romance is much less engaging.

The romance was probably the biggest disappointment for me.  It suffered from the pacing.  Lisa spends most of her time eating, practicing, and then going to her cabin.  There just wasn’t a lot of opportunity for relationships to blossom believably.  I wasn’t surprised or unhappy with the ending, but I was sad that the journey wasn’t as good as the destination.

The strongest part of this book was its theme of friendship, and the way that Liza kind of gives herself over to the evil competitive side we are all suppressing most of the time.  I will say that the final competition was well played.  It was unexpected and pretty perfect.

Overall, this book was a fast, fun read. I think people will be drawn to the cover, and they will probably enjoy the book.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades seven and up.

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

Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood – the YA read that I became obsessed with in 2015

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I have been waiting ages to introduce Inherit the Stars to other people.  It is one of my favorite books from this past year, and I spent those months between receiving my ARC and blogging about it rereading it a number of times (ok, so I read it eleven times, and while that is probably strange, it shows how much I really did enjoy it).  I can’t guarantee that you will be as obsessed as I obviously am, but if you are looking for a love story that is subtle and believable, you will definitely want to give this book a shot.  I thought this was a five star read.

Inherit the Stars is publishing Tuesday, December 8, 2015.  If you can’t wait, there is a free kindle short story (12 pages) called “Inherit the Stars: Reprieve,” and you can download that today.

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Goodreads Summary

Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

My Thoughts

I love this book.  Asa is sweet and unbelievably selfless and sincere. She doesn’t read others well because she thinks they are just as good as her on the inside, so part of the fun is interpreting other’s reactions through her unreliable perspective.  Eagle, the love interest,  is a bit of a mystery and a wounded, silent warrior.  I would have liked more clarity about his motives, but he had my number almost from the start.  New book boyfriend, anyone?  Yes, please.

The plot was well paced to develop a meaningful relationship that could believably blossom into love. It kicked off with good, solid action, and it drew me in and kept me reading.  This was a one sitting, straight through book for me.  Good thing I fed the kids before I started, or they might have had to graze until I finished!

The politics of the society are clearly explained and develop a nice tension as they grow more and more complex throughout the story.

Some of the narrative jumps are a little abrupt, but I think that is more of a formatting issue in my ARC than anything, and they didn’t disrupt my enjoyment.  The narrative is also a bit like a stream of consciousness, and that isn’t as easy to follow, but with a little practice, it isn’t hard to relax into the style.  There is some confusing action when things got really heated, especially in the first action sequence when I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but it was mid-battle, so some chaos is expected.

I won’t tell you this is a perfect book, but I enjoyed every second of it.  I think readers will enjoy the premise, the intrigue, and the romance, so this one is definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for all ages, but high school students will enjoy this the most.

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

Ashley Mansour’s Blood, Ink & Fire – YA dystopian set in a world without books

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Ashley Mansour’s Blood, Ink & Fire – YA dystopian set in a world without books

As an avid reader and an English teacher, I really was rooting for Blood, Ink & Fire.  My worst nightmare would be a world without books!  It takes a lot for me to admit that, in the end, it felt like a depressing and pointless read.  I’m taking a bit of a beating on my Amazon reviews for this opinion, though, so maybe I just didn’t get it.  Maybe you, too, will think I’m a big ole idiot for not embracing this book, but I stand by my two star rating – this book just didn’t do a thing for me as a reader.

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Goodreads Summary

Imagine a world without books…

In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.

But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.

Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.

Blood, Ink & Fire is a gripping, evocative tale that asks, who would we be without books?

My Thoughts

In a nutshell, I was bored.  I think a big part of the problem is that the plot hinges on a quest that doesn’t really have a clear purpose.  I never really understood what Noelle was suppose to do if she succeeded, so I didn’t really care if she did.  If you are going to create a quest for your hero, he or she needs to either make a big impact when hitting the finish line, or the journey needs to count for something.  This journey didn’t help the character grow, and it certainly ended in a way that took the wind out of my sails.  That being said, it wasn’t all bad.  The setting had some real potential, and it felt a bit like Alice in Shakespeareland, which was cool.  And, I liked the romance.  It wasn’t my favorite type of love story, bittersweet, but I did understand how the circumstances created a bond that Noelle was reluctant to relinquish.  Ultimately,  the negatives outweighed the positives for me in this book.  I can’t see my high school readers getting through this one because I would have stopped at 30% if I hadn’t felt obligated to finish it since I requested it.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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

Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First reminds readers that there are so many ways you can be blind

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Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First reminds readers that there are so many ways you can be blind

Parker Grant is a straight shooting gal, she can afford to be because she can’t see them flinch – she’s blind.  She has been for a long time, and she has rules for all the seeing idiots who surround her, and there’s no hope for those who can’t follow the rules.  But things change, and this book is about adjusting to those changes, particularly those rather elusive and heart-rending changes in perception about yourself. I liked this book, and if Parker is a little rough around the edges, I at least felt like she was different from so many other contemporary YA protagonists.

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Goodreads Summary

The Rules: 

Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago.

But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

My Thoughts

I liked Parker, and though some readers will find her as abrasive as her fellow school mates do, I felt like I got her.  If you like your characters sweet and meek, skip this one, but if you like them bold, impetuous, and a little lost, this book is for you.  The book focuses on some big changes in Parker’s life, and I thought those were portrayed realistically.  Her grief and doubt about her father’s unexpected death, her reunion with an old friend turned arch nemesis, and her own understanding of her limitations and abilities are all part of what makes this story moving and honest.

While I enjoyed the story, I was a little confused by some of the character motivations.  Both of the romantic interests were hard for me to understand.  Hey, guys are a mystery, but they kept trying to explain themselves and I just couldn’t track the words with real motivations.  They were a mystery to Parker as well, so it wasn’t a deal breaker, but I think the complexity of their feelings was too much to express clearly.

I struggled, as well, with the way Parker and her girl friends have something just a little off about them.  They aren’t girly girls, but none of them really sound like girls either.  None of their interactions are really about the trivial junk that girls talk about out of boredom or happiness.  No one complained about their weight or their mom, or even the cattiness of other girls.  Even the least girly of us brings one of those up sometimes.  I’m not saying this male author didn’t do a good job of creating living, breathing characters.  I’m just saying he didn’t exactly create living, breathing girls.  Again, it wasn’t a deal breaker, but it added to my sense of something being just a bit off kilter about this story.  Also, none of Parkers real friends would have let her leave her house wearing a scarf as a blindfold.  That was just weird.

Overall, I liked this book for its honesty and portrayal of universal experiences shared by unique characters.  I liked some of the ideas this book puts forward about being a good person and about being honest, as well as being both at the same time.  I enjoyed the fact that beauty has a different criteria in this book, and I appreciated how it made me see so clearly that being blind is a whole other level of uncertainty when it comes to navigating change and high school.  Those themes may be just enough to really engage my high school students, so it is going on my classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are most appropriate for high school readers.

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

Hellraisers, the first book in a new YA horror/action series by Alexander Gordon Smith is full of action but the characters suffer for it.

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Hellraisers, the first book in a new YA horror/action series by Alexander Gordon Smith is full of action but the characters suffer for it.

I had never heard of the Escape from Furnace series, which begins with Lockdown, until I started working at my current school.  It was quite a popular series, and, though I wasn’t particularly engaged by it, many of my students were big fans. When I saw that the author, Alexander Gordon Smith, was beginning a new series with a sort of Faustian twist, I was pretty excited to get my hands on it.  I was rather surprised with how very uninterested I was when I got a copy.  I think if you are a huge fan of this author or if you are looking for the equivalent of blockbuster horror/action flick, this might be up your alley.  If you want a book with a little more depth, I say to give this one a pass.

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Goodreads Summary

From the author of the Escape from Furnace series, an explosive new horror trilogy about an ordinary American kid caught up in an invisible war against the very worst enemy imaginable.

There is a machine from the darkest parts of history, concealed in an impossible location, that can make any wish come true, and the only price you have to pay is your soul. Known as the Devil’s Engine, this device powers a brutal war between good and evil that will decide the fate of every living thing on Earth. When a 16-year-old asthmatic kid named Marlow Green unwittingly rescues an ass-kicking secret soldier from a demonic attack in the middle of his Staten Island neighborhood, he finds himself following her into a centuries-old conflict between a group of mysterious protectors and the legions of the Devil himself. Faced with superpowers, monsters, machine guns, and a lot worse, Marlow knows it’s going to be a breathless ride—and not just because he’s lost his inhaler along the way.

My Thoughts

I have to admit I was a little disappointed by this book.  It is full of fast paced action sequences, and it has a pretty cool premise, but I just never connected with any of the characters.  I’m not sure that will be such a big problem for the target audience.  The author’s biggest draw seems to be his ability to create troubled protagonists that are actually rather heroic in their own way, and Marlowe doesn’t break the mold (though I felt like he was just too much of an idiot).  The author’s other calling card is putting that protagonist through the ringer to mold him into that something more, and, again, Marlowe is about to get wrung.  But it felt like something was just missing here.  The characters really lacked the depth and insightful growth I wanted.  They felt like characters instead of people.  Again, I don’t think that will be a huge problem for reluctant readers who just want to be entertained.  This book is full of entertaining action.  It takes off with a flying leap and it doesn’t seem to slow down much at all.  Perhaps that is really going to be the issue for more descerning readers – this book is so busy dazzling you with some truly original demons and buzzing the tower with so much battle that character development gets shuffled to the side and never makes its way to the forefront.  I’m still going to add it to my classroom library wish list because this is a book my students will want to give a try, and I think it will be very appealing to many of them.  Language and situations are most appropriate for high school, but middle school readers will probably enjoy it more.

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

Forbidden by Eve Bunting packs a lot of atmospheric punch, but little else to hold a YA reader’s attention

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Forbidden by Eve Bunting packs a lot of atmospheric punch, but little else to hold a YA reader’s attention

If you are looking for  atmosphere, this book has it.  It is as creepy as the cover promises.  The problem is that there is little else that will appeal to most readers of YA.  Someone did this book a real disservice by forcing it into a YA mold when it would have been a fairly spectacular upper elementary read.  I wanted to like it, but in the end, I just had to give it a two star rating.

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Goodreads Summary

In early-nineteenth century Scotland, sixteen-year-old Josie, an orphan, is sent to live with an aunt and uncle on the rocky, stormy northwest coast. Everything and everyone in her new surroundings, including her relatives, is sinister, threatening, and mysterious. She’s told that Eli, the young man she’s attracted to, is forbidden to her, but not why. Spirited, curious, and determined, Josie sets out to learn the village’s secrets and discovers evil, fueled by heartless greed, as well as a ghostly presence eager for revenge. An author’s note gives the historical inspiration for this story

My Thoughts

I tried to give this book the benefit of the doubt, but the truth is that the characters are lacking in complexity, and the romance is ridiculously rushed.  It will leave most YA readers dissatisfied. If someone had just knocked the protagonist’s age down a few more years and considered friendship tinged with a first flush of a crush instead of a manic romance, this would have been a perfect follow up for young fans of books like Wait Till Helen Comes.  It radiates a sinister atmosphere that has readers guessing that somehow, someway, young Josie’s soul is going to be in peril.  I honestly had a whole host of horrible ideas in my head, and I wasn’t terribly disappointed with the more realistic path the book chose.  Of course, I guessed the answer long before Josie did, and most readers will as well, but I think it would have played well to a younger crowd who hadn’t seen these kinds of twists before.  I don’t think they would have been as bothered by the stilted feel of the formal language, either.  I think this book is going to be most appealing to young middle school readers.  It is a fast read, and while certain elements bothered me, I thought it was compelling enough.  Language and situations are appropriate for all ages, but this is definitely one that younger readers will appreciate more.

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

Kate McGovern’s Rules for 50/50 Chances – a YA contemporary about the uncertainty of life

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Kate McGovern’s Rules for 50/50 Chances – a YA contemporary about the uncertainty of life

The conflict in this book is original, and the protagonist feels very real.  Unfortunately, most people faced with life altering decisions aren’t at their best, so Rose’s very honest responses will grate on some reader’s nerves.  I didn’t mind her myself, but I thought her love interest was a bit of a downer.  This book will appeal to readers who are facing decisions about their own future.

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Goodreads Summary

A heartrending but ultimately uplifting debut novel about learning to accept life’s uncertainties; a perfect fit for the current trend in contemporary realistic novels that confront issues about life, death, and love.

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.

With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.

My Thoughts

This is a hard book to rate because I had such conflicted feelings about the storylines.  I did enjoy Rose’s journey to figuring out what she really wanted from her life.  It is easy to see why Rose would feel like she was frozen in a holding pattern because of her responsibility to her family and the uncertainty of her own future health.  Even readers who don’t have such impossible odds hanging over them can relate to the fear of making a choice about their future.  I liked how she began to recognize her desires as seperate from her parents’ desires.  For most kids, that college choice is the first time they really have to decide if they are going to go against parental expectations, so I thought it was well done.  I even liked the fact that this painted a nice picture of the uncertainty we all face about death – car crash or genetic disease, we all die and most of us won’t get any warning, so can you really put life on hold just because your life might end sooner?  I was thoroughly disappointed by the romantic relationship that developed between Rose and Caleb.  He had his good attributes, but he sure seemed to have a superiority complex when it came to Rose.  Either love her for who she is, or walk away, but don’t try to fix her like you are her moral guide.  I disliked him.  I disliked their awkward and uncomfortable discussions that always turned into a life lesson about how Rose is less enlightened than Caleb.  I really disliked the fact that Rose and Caleb had a physical relationship when they always appeared to be fighting.  Why?  This was a disaster, and as much as it may be a realistic look at a relationship, it isn’t one I want to hold up as positive for my students.  While I think this could add up to some rather interesting classroom debates, because someone will drink the Koolaid and insist tha Caleb is sooo fabulous, I just don’t know if I want to put this relationship out there for debate.  Language and situations are mature but not graphic, so it is suitable for most high school readers.

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