Monthly Archives: June 2016

Eleanor Herman’s Empire of Dust – book 2 of the Blood of Gods and Royals series

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Eleanor Herman’s Empire of Dust – book 2 of the Blood of Gods and Royals series

Eleanor Herman’s Blood of Gods and Royals series has a lot of similarities to Game of Thrones:  Lots of players with torn loyalties, a queen mad for her son’s power, and setting fraught with violence and magic.  Alexander the Great’s life is a pretty fascinating story as well, with plenty of strange and unusual elements that read more like fantasy than reality.  I should have loved this series. However, the first book, Legacy of Kings, almost put me to sleep.  It was plagued with too many characters and a dull narrative style.  Empire of Dust, the second book, felt a lot more compelling, but it still managed to bore me.  I gave it three stars.

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Goodreads Summary

In Macedon, war rises like smoke, forbidden romance blooms and ancient magic tempered with rage threatens to turn an empire to dust

After winning his first battle, Prince Alexander fights to become the ruler his kingdom demands—but the line between leader and tyrant blurs with each new threat.
Meanwhile, Hephaestion, cast aside by Alexander for killing the wrong man, must conceal the devastating secret of a divine prophecy from Katerina even as the two of them are thrust together on a dangerous mission to Egypt.

The warrior, Jacob, determined to forget his first love, vows to eradicate the ancient Blood Magics and believes that royal prisoner Cynane holds the key to Macedon’s undoing.

And in chains, the Persian princess Zofia still longs to find the Spirit Eaters, but first must grapple with the secrets of her handsome—and deadly—captor.

New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman entwines the real scandals of history with epic fantasy to reimagine the world’s most brilliant ruler, Alexander the Great, in the second book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

My Thoughts

Empire of Dust is more engaging than the first book, and those who enjoyed Legacy of Kings will enjoy this one as well.  However, the same issues many readers had with the first book are still in play in the follow up.  The biggest one is that there are just too many characters, and moving between them in brief segments makes it hard to connect with any of them.  Several times I thought it would be so much better if one character carried the bulk of the story, even if it would also narrow the broad perspective that a large cast can bring to a situation.  That being said, I was able to ignore that problem more easily than I have in the past.  The individual story lines are more compelling this time.  The big battle scene was interesting and had elements I thought were fun and yet still believable.  The magical elements, while still a bit wobbly, are clearer and more focused.  There are certainly several times when readers will feel that the story is moving ahead and sometimes those come with a nice moment of serendipity.  I still think that fans of George R.R. Martin – those who actually read his work, not just watch it – are the ones who will enjoy this series the most.  They know how to weather dragging story lines and a huge cast of characters, especially when there are some rewards at the end.  My verdict is that this is slightly boring, but it is appropriate for high school readers.

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

We Own the Night – A Radio Hearts book

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We Own the Night – A Radio Hearts book

We Own the Night is the second in Ashley Poston’s Radio Hearts books.  The first, The Sound of Us, is one that I enjoyed – it has a rock star love interest, so I was game.  I was less engaged by We Own the Night which is narrated by a character who frequently made me grind my teeth, which left me feeling a bit “meh” about it.  Both can be read as stand-alone stories, but I think the best reading experience would be to read them in order because the band, Roman Holiday, is featured in the first book and plays a smaller role in the second.  Both ebooks are under $5.

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Goodreads Summary

“Happy midnight, my fellow Niteowls…”

As a candy store employee by day, and mysterious deejay “Niteowl” by night, eighteen-year-old Ingrid North is stuck between rock ‘n roll and a hard place. She can’t wait to get out of her tiny hometown of Steadfast, Nebraska (population three hundred and forty-seven) to chase her dreams, but small-town troubles keep getting in the way. She can’t abandon her grandmother with Alzheimer’s, or her best friend Micah–who she may or may not be in love with.

But for one hour each Saturday, she escapes all of that. On air, she isn’t timid, ugly-sweater-wearing Ingrid North. She’s the funny and daring Niteowl. Every boy’s manic pixie dream girl. Fearless. And there is one caller in particular– Dark and Brooding–whose raspy laugh and snarky humor is just sexy enough to take her mind off Micah. Not that she’s in love with Micah or anything. Cause she’s not.

As her grandmother slips further away and Micah begins dating a Mean-Girls-worthy nightmare, Ingrid runs to the mysterious Dark and Brooding as a disembodied voice to lean on, only to fall down a rabbit hole of punk rockstars, tabloid headlines, and kisses that taste like bubble tea. But the man behind the voice could be surprising in all the right, and wrong, ways.

And she just might find that her real life begins when Niteowl goes off the air.

My Thoughts

After a weak start, this book finds its stride about halfway through, and readers who stick it out will be quite happy with the resolution.  But every reader won’t stick this one out.  Ingrid, the narrator, comes across as a whiner.  She has problems that plenty of us can relate to, and I actually feel really bad about calling her out, but she is a drag.  She cries or fights back tears a lot.  And she doesn’t really seem inclined to do much to improve her own situation, choosing instead to just be angry at others who have succeeded where she feels she has failed.  I understood her – she is at that place where you don’t feel like you can make a move because it will probably be the wrong one, but it isn’t very fun to read about it for very long.  Once Ingrid does shut down the pity party, things really improved, and it is nice to see how she finally figures out who she wants to be.  Teens will probably have more patience with Ingrid than adult readers of YA.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 10+.

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

And I Darken – What if Vlad the Impaler was a Woman?  

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And I Darken – What if Vlad the Impaler was a Woman?  

And I Darken poses the concept of Vlad the Impaler as a woman, and I was not disappointed.  It was initially billed as Dracula meets Game of Thrones, but that is a bit misleading.  Don’t expect any vampires and understand the comparison to Game of Thrones is really based on children being used as pawns in a game of corrupt politics. If that sounds like your cup of tea, prepare yourself for an immersive read that takes you to the rich and exotic Ottoman Empire where every ally can turn into a fierce enemy, and the sacrifices you choose to make can brand you a slave or a powerhouse.  I thought it was a five star read.

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Goodreads Summary

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

My Thoughts

Excellent read with enough action, adventure, and bloodthirsty ambition to keep any reader entertained.  Lada is the daughter that her father never wanted, but she has all the qualities of the son he needs.   She is ruthless, fearless, and feral and she is exactly the character I wanted from the woman who would become the Impaler.  If you love your strong female protagonists holding a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, she will be exactly what you want, too.  Some readers will see her as heartless because she is frighteningly calculating and, at times, purposefully cruel, so, if you are looking for a gooey core to your warrior woman, you can pass on this one.  However, if you like your antihero fierce and smart, step right up.  Radu, Lada’s younger brother, does play as a nice foil, and he provides the softer perspective to the narrative, so it isn’t all hard edges but there is a very sharp learning curve in this deadly game of power.  It is definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list because it will definitely be a big hit with my readers.   I can’t wait to recommend it to fans of Throne of Glass, Graceling, The Young Elites and Rebel of the Sands.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but adults will find this just as engaging.

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

Billed as a Gone Girl meets Nashville, Escaping Perfect is a bit of a disappointment.

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Billed as a Gone Girl meets Nashville, Escaping Perfect is a bit of a disappointment.

Let’s start by clarifying that there is no real comparison between this book and Gone Girl or the show Nashville as far as I can tell.   Someone runs away.  There is romantic drama. Seriously.  The blurb for this book lead me to expect something darker and more twisty, but I still liked the concept – girl runs from controlling mother and finds the life she wants to live in a small town in Tennesee.  Unfortunately, things started to fall apart as the story strayed further and further away from reality.  I gave it three stars, but there are some real haters on Goodreads.

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Goodreads Summary

Gone Girl meets the TV show Nashville in this sultry summer read about a girl who runs away from her high-profile past to live the normal life she’s always wanted.

Cecilia Montgomery has been America’s sweetheart since the day she was born. A member of the prestigious Montgomery family—the US equivalent of royalty—her childhood was cut short after she was nearly kidnapped. Since then, Cecilia has been hidden away, her adolescence spent at an exclusive boarding school.

Her dreams of becoming a professional violinist—dashed.

Her desire to be a normal teenager—not possible.

Her relationship with her once-loving parents—bitter and strained.

Nothing about Cecilia’s life is what she would have planned for herself. So when an opportune moment presents itself, Cecilia seizes the chance to become someone else. To escape. To disappear. To have the life she always dreamed about, far away from her mother’s biting remarks and her sheltered upbringing.

Cecilia says goodbye to the Montgomery name and legacy to become Lia Washington: relaxed, wild, in love, free, and living on her own terms for the very first time. But being on your own isn’t always as easy as it seems…

My Thoughts

I liked Cecilia/Lia as a narrative voice, and I was excited for her to get a little experience and fun.  The town seemed awfully diverse and exciting for a small town, but I was willing to let that slide. I even liked the unrealistic but charming romantic interest she encounters.  Their romantic relationship is fairly unlikely and entirely too whirlwind, but I was okay with that as well because I wanted them together.  I thought there was a lot of drama in their relationship, and I really didn’t understand what exactly lover boy saw in Cecilia/Lia that made him want to reform (special snow-flake trigger warning).  I still didn’t mind it.  What I really minded was the terrible cliffhanger – if you want to resolve the major conflict and tease me with an enticing but smaller cliffhanger that is fine, but it just isn’t fair to leave a major conflict hanging like this book did.  I’m pretty irritated by this, and it think a lot of other readers will be as well.  It would be different if the story were more realistic, but if you are going to magic a romance, can’t you engineer a perfect ending?  I think too many of my high school kids will be frustrated by the final chapter to make this a book I would recommend highly.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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

Revenge and the Wild

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Revenge and the Wild

I was very excited to read this book because I love westerns, and this one has the added bonuses of cannibals, magic, and a mechanical hand.  It was a steampunk western of sorts, and I mention that because the tone will appeal more to readers who appreciate both genres than readers who are simply looking for a western. It’s not quite Army of Darkness meets True Grit, but that is the comparison I just couldn’t quit making.  While that sounds very cool, it just never really worked for me.  I gave Revenge in the Wild three stars.

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Goodreads Summary

The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

This thrilling novel is a remarkable tale of danger and discovery, from debut author Michelle Modesto.

My Thoughts

Westie has a serious desire for revenge on the family of cannibals who took the lives of her family as well as her arm, and I just didn’t think the gravity of the situation paired well with the whimsy of the setting.  The magical Indian maiden warrior and the mythical creatures, the airships and the clockwork mechanisms were at odds with Westie and her goals.  I don’t think my feelings will be universal, and for the right reader, this will be a fun and phenomenal blend, but I personally found it hard to connect with the characters who never made the leap from characters to real people.

The plot does contain action, mystery, and romance, all of which are enhanced by the unexpected twists and turns of a world I haven’t seen before.  It is a fully realized world, too, and one that is easy to envision and still surprising.  The plot does give relationships time to evolve and develop, and it gives readers the opportunity to make inferences, so it isn’t overwrought with backstory.  I found the romantic relationship rather endearing, and it is a complex situation with a universal appeal, so I think most readers will enjoy that subplot as well.  The story does end with a satisfactory resolution that twisted right at the end to foil my best predictions, which is always a pleasure.

I do think most of my high school readers will struggle with the pairing of western and steampunk.  The steampunk genre really hasn’t caught on with my students and that mix of whimsy and serious revenge will be hard for them to rectify in one work.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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

The Impostor Queen 

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The Impostor Queen 

This isn’t a new story – it is clearly playing on the trope where the pampered/sheltered girl is forced to make her way in the world when a disaster thrusts her out of her comfort zone and into real life.  The story is recognizable despite the magical embellishment, but that is okay because I happen to like this trope.  The packaging may not disguise, but it does make a familiar story more appealing.   I gave this book four stars despite the fact that it got a little draggy at some points.

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Goodreads Summary

Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

My Thoughts

Elli, the protagonist didn’t waste time being snotty and selfish about her changed circumstances – she comes across as a empathetic and genuinely good person almost from the start.  She may be a bit too good for some readers, but she was raised to see herself as a protector, first and foremost, of the kingdom, so of course she hesitates at plots that threaten to bring only chaos and destruction to her land.  And it is a fully realized world that she is tasked with protecting.  The social, political, and magical structure of this setting is well developed and thoughtful. It feels believable and, while it does have some problems, the people who populate it are as good and evil as any place you want to point to on a map today.  It wasn’t a stylized dystopian, and that is something I think most readers will appreciate.

Despite these positive points, I did think the pacing was a little slow.  It certainly devoted enough time to developing complex characters and relationships, and there is action throughout, but I found myself growing a little bored as I slowly peeled back the layers to reveal what was really happening – this is mostly due to the fact that the mentor figure disappears for several months in the middle of the book, leaving characters and readers in the dark.  This time was used to build a romance and to develop a nuanced cast, but it was a bit of a lull for me.

As far as the romance goes, it was one I enjoyed.  It was carefully staged to grow from friendship into something more intimate without jumping straight into instant devotion.  It had enough conflict to keep me engaged.  As a matter of fact, it was this relationship that kept me reading when my irritation at the stall in the bigger plot threatened my interest.

Overall, I think this book will appeal to many of my high school readers, particularly those who enjoy books like Sara Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes.  I’m adding it to my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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

Burning Glass

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Burning Glass

I didn’t think this was a bad book, and I think there will be readers who enjoy it. The concept is really cool, and I initially found it very compelling. However, in the end, I had to fight to keep myself reading because I just wasn’t invested in the characters or the outcome. I have a feeling that most of my high school readers would lose interest fairly quickly. I only gave it three stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

My Thoughts

I thought this book was rather dull.  The politics bored me and the intrigue was predictable from the beginning.  There is a lot of talk about equality and the archaic class system of a monarchy, but readers are never really given a personal connection to the horrors of the faceless, nameless mass of people that suffer the most under the rule of the Emperor.  It is clear that there is a problem with the system, but since it is so removed from the action, it just doesn’t feel as urgent and necessary as it should. There is only one character that we get to know personally who represents the mistreated masses, and she lives in the castle and is given relative freedom.  The true horrors are vague and expected – hunger, forced military drafting, slave-like conditions.  The people who are suppose to be in charge of the revolution dither around a lot, so the majority of the book builds up and then lets readers down when there is no follow-through.

The protagonist was hard to really connect with because she was a vessel for everyone else’s emotions, maybe. Neither she nor I seemed to be able to distinguish where her feelings ended and those of the other characters began.  While that is the point, this would have been more successful if there had been some clear rules about how the empathy worked.  She came across as indistinct and the “love” she felt for the men she encountered was never clearly, sincerely her own.  I also kept wondering why someone didn’t force their feelings on her and just have her assassinate the emperor – it was clear that she could be induced to act on someone else’s will, but her control inexplicably changed when she got to the palace (I think I was suppose to believe that her connection with the prince was the factor that changed her, but I wasn’t completely sure).  Again, the rules just weren’t clear enough for me.

Again, just because I didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean you won’t, but it will put some folks to sleep.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school and beyond.

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

Thicker Than Water – this isn’t your run of the mill YA mystery

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Thicker Than Water – this isn’t your run of the mill YA mystery

This was a rather unusual mystery for a couple of reasons. First, the isolation and dislike the protagonist experiences is much more intense than I anticipated. There is no doubt that people really think Thomas killed his mother, and they are on a hairpin trigger to get him. It was kind of shocking, and it was palpable. Second, this isn’t the straightforward contemporary YA mystery I expected. The blurb leaves out a few surprises. Some readers won’t be bothered by the unexpected twists to the story, but other readers might feel like they had been a little mislead, especially if they expected a more run of the mill mystery.  I only gave it three stars because it had some issues, but I still found it a compelling read, and for $2.99, this book could definitely be an easy way to kill a few summer hours.

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Goodreads Summary

Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.

Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years.

The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her best friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers.

Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden…

My Thoughts

I’m not going to ruin the surprise – okay, I’m going to ruin the surprise – there is a left field supernatural element in this book I never anticipated.  I wasn’t quite satisfied by the explanation I was given about that element because there were a few things I just couldn’t quite get to track.  Despite these misgivings, I would still recommend this book to many of my high school readers because, like I said, it is very compelling.  I read it in a few hours because I really did find the story engaging and I kind of liked that the rabbit hole just kept changing.  I liked both of the main characters, and I thought they were almost as surprising as the plot.  Charlotte was an interesting mix of old fashioned and modern, and she might have been a little too naive for my comfort (seriously, leave the maybe-murderer alone, Charlotte) but she held her own in the end.  The plot moves quickly and efficiently towards a resolution, but it does give readers time to get some character depth and some relationship development.  I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Stan and Thomas because it felt so real – two guys just living together in that silent “man” way.  It was cute and funny and honest.  I did pinpoint the perp long before the book was over, but there was enough of a red-herring that I began to second guess myself.   Overall, I enjoyed this book even if it wasn’t exactly what I expected and open minded YA mystery readers probably will as well.  I think there are clarity issues around the supernatural element, but I could roll with 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.

The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney – a light but engaging YA paranormal

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The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney – a light but engaging YA paranormal

When I read the premise for this book, I thought it sounded a bit like The Raven Boys, one of my favorite books ever.  It promised a house full of generational psychics and a narrator desperate to live any other life.  It sounded promising, but the thing was that it only took a few minutes to forget what I wanted the book to be.  I just embraced what I was given – quirky characters, persistent ghosts, and a girl facing a crossroads.

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Goodreads Summary

In high school, the last thing you want is for people to think you talk to ghosts.

When Sparrow begins tenth grade at a huge new school full of strangers, she thinks her dreams of anonymity and a fresh start are finally coming true. No more following in her six older sisters’ footsteps. No more going to class with kids who’ve seen her grandma doing jujitsu in the front yard next to the headstones of her four dead husbands. And no more worrying about keeping her deep, dark secret hidden.

Sparrow makes a new best friend and has her eye on an irritatingly appealing guy in her history class. She feels like she’s well on her way to a normal life. But it’s another boy–a dead one–who wants Sparrow’s attention, and he won’t let her be till she’s helped him Move On.

You see, Sparrow Delaney’s secret is that she’s a psychic. And there’s one very persistent ghost who won’t let her forget it.

My Thoughts

The biggest strength of this book is the narrator, Sparrow, who manages to make her unique concerns feel universally understandable.  She is bent on resisting the path laid out for her by her grandmother, her spirit guides, and even the (mis)fortune of her birth – she is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. She just wants to be normal, something most YA’s will understand.  I liked her voice, I loved her delightfully strange and interesting family, and I even understood her reluctance to let go of the lie she has used to shield herself for a decade.  The message, be true to yourself, might be an old one, but it is one that is paired well with Sparrow’s experience.

There isn’t really a mystery here – when folks show up as ghosts, it is clear they are dead.  We are even given a pretty clear picture of how.  The true question in this book is if Sparrow will cling to her story for the sake of being “normal” or if she will embrace the possibilities and purpose inherent in her gifts.

I genuinely enjoyed this book, enough to see if it had any companion books (not that I can find).  It isn’t the most complex story, and it definitely had a lighter tone than I expected, but it left me feeling satisfied and like the time I spent reading it was worth it.  I found this book on the Overdrive library that my high school maintains, so it was free (always a bonus), but if I had paid the $3.99 for the ebook, I still would have felt it was money well spent.  This is a clean read with no language and a chaste romance.  It is gentle enough for middle school readers, easy to connect with for older YA readers, and just funny enough that I found it engaging as an adult.

This book is available through Overdrive in the MHS library.

This Raging Light 

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This Raging Light 

This is a surprisingly hopeful look at a teen dealing with a profoundly upsetting situation.  Lucille’s dad lost his mind and her mother took off, leaving Lucille to deal with her younger sister, a quickly amassing pile of bills, and questions of the heart that could destroy the fragile support system that she depends on to keep going.

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Amazon Summary

For fans of Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell comes a gorgeous debut novel about family, friends, and first love. 

Lucille Bennett is pushed into adulthood after her mom decides to “take a break”…from parenting, from responsibility, from Lucille and her little sister, Wren. Left to cover for her absentee parents, Lucille thinks, “Wren and Lucille. Lucille and Wren. I will do whatever I have to. No one will pull us apart.”

Now is not the time for level-headed Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she’s about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend’s brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure’s soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

 “A funny, poetic, big-hearted reminder that life can—and will—take us all by surprise.”

—Jennifer E. Smith, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

“Lucille may not take down a beast or assassinate any super bads, but she’s what heroines look like and love like in real life.”

—Justine Magazine

My Thoughts

I haven’t cried while reading a book for years, but this one got me.  Lucille is a great character, and anyone who has been asked to take on burdens too big for young shoulders will find her voice true to the situation.  She is willing to sacrifice so much of what it means to be a carefree teen if it means she and her sister can stay together, but she just wants one thing of her own, and that was spot on. Some of the other characters were a little less developed than Lucille, but I felt like that was part of the alienation her situation demanded of her, so it was really a virtue more than a fault.  The prose is smart and drifts to dreamy at times, and it is well paced to develop both the situation and the romantic relationship.  I can’t say I was completely satisfied by the ending, which left readers to make a few inferences of their own, but it was very compelling.  Themes about friendship and support add a nice depth to the story. I think this will be a book that many of my high school readers will enjoy, so I’m adding it to my classroom library.  I would probably recommend it to readers who enjoy realistic contemporary YA, especially YA that explores the hard hitting situations.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

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