Tag Archives: love in a time of Really?

Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You

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Cecilia Vinesse’s Seven Days of You

This is a book about letting things go:  Old hurts, old friends, and old dreams.  It is also a book about seeing all the good things that are waiting to fill the void.  It gets ugly, as only teen drama and talk shows can, but I ultimately enjoyed how it turned out in the end.  I gave Seven Days of You four stars.


Goodreads Summary

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

My Thoughts

The characters are fairly immature teenagers, and they all have their good sides and their bad sides. This book mostly revolves around an incident that broke up a friendship years ago, prompted by jealousy over middle school crushes.  If you are expecting more grown up issues, step away from this book.  If you are still holding a grudge from junior high and expressly avoid that person to this day, you will relate.  I loved the fact that the book did give a lot of the cultural aspects of the setting a role in the book, but don’t expect actual natives to be part of the cast.  I thought that was a missed opportunity, and I couldn’t decide if it represented the self absorption of teens or reiterated the the stereotype of self absorbed Americans.  I was horrified that the main character repeatedly pointed out her failure to learn the language despite living in the country for years.  Really?  I chose to enjoy the book despite those flaws, but I did notice them.   I will say that the book made me get a bit of wanderlust (which my husband promptly shut down – boo). Teens looking for a familiar story in an exotic setting will probably find this engaging, and there is definitely enough conflict to satisfy those who long for drama.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

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

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Hilary Badger’s State of Grace – A Utopian YA 

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Hilary Badger’s State of Grace – A Utopian YA 

There aren’t many contemporary utopian books on the market, and we all know why. It just isn’t very interesting in a world without conflict.  This book does slowly turn into a dystopian, but chances are high that you won’t get that far into the book without a struggle.  The mindless bliss and the language are annoying.  Very annoying.  If you make it through to the dark side, there is an interesting premise, but this ultimately wasn’t a book I connected with.  I gave it a three star rating, but some reviewers at Goodreads were a little more generous.  State of Grace will be re-publishing September 1, 2015.

 

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Goodreads Summary

Ever since she was created, Wren has lived in an idyllic garden with her friends. Wren’s deity Dot ensures the trees are laden with fruit and the water in the lagoon is crystal clear. Wren and her friends have everything they could possibly need right there, in Dot’s Paradise.

If only Wren could stop the strange, disturbing visions she’s started having. Do these visions make her less worthy of Dot’s love? And what does Blaze, the most beautiful and mysterious of Dot’s creations, know about what’s going on in Wren’s head?
Wren is desperate to feel Dot’s love, just like everyone else. But that’s harder than ever when a creation she’s never met before arrives in the garden. He claims to be from outside and brings with him words and ideas that make Wren’s brain hurt.

Gradually Wren and Blaze uncover the truth: they’re part of a clinical trial of an ominous drug called Grace.

And as she deals with this disturbing knowledge, Wren confronts a horrific secret from her past. Now she must decide whether to return to the comforting delusion of faith or fight for the right to face the very ugly truth.

 

My Thoughts

State of Grace begins in a world where everything is perfect and it is really annoying.  The book opens in a lush and vivid setting where teens are encouraged to simply have fun in homage to Dot, the creator.  They are mindless and insipid, and it was almost intolerable.  Conflicts begin to arise, slowly but with malevolence, and it was hard to peg exactly what horror was going to unfold as utopia slipped into dystopia.  I really wasn’t engaged until the last third of the book, and I think that the last third was worth waiting for, but it takes patience, and if your threshold for silly is low, you probably won’t make it that far. Wren, the main character, does experience growth, and her story is one that, once all the pieces are in place, evokes empathy.  The same is true of Blaze, the other main character.  This was a fast read, and I finished it in a few hours, but I probably wouldn’t have finished the book if I hadn’t requested a review copy.  Overall, this was an interesting concept, and I think that it could be very appealing to YA readers who would find the ideas behind the utopian society intriguing because it is one free from the normal taboos. Language and situations are appropriate for mature high school readers.  It is not explicit, but there are several variations of sexual coercion that are referenced or take place.

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

Huntley Fitzpatrick’s The Boy Most Likely To is a compelling companion read to My Life Next Door

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Huntley Fitzpatrick’s The Boy Most Likely To is a compelling companion read to My Life Next Door

Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next a Door is one of the most read and requested books in my classroom library, and it is one I frequently recommend to my fans of contemporary YA romance.  I didn’t realize that The Boy Most Likely To was a companion book, and I was so excited when I finally made the connection.  This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but I really enjoyed it anyway, and I think Huntley Fitzpatrick fans will be much happier with this read than with her last book.

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Goodreads Summary

Surprises abound and sparks ignite in the highly anticipated, utterly romantic companion to My Life Next Door

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To:
– find the liquor cabinet blindfolded

– need a liver transplant

– drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To:
– well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.
Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.
And Alice is caught in the middle.
Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this return to the world of My Life Next Door is a story about failing first, trying again, and having to decide whether to risk it all once more.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed My Life Next Door because of the sweet love story.  I was excited about reading The Boy Most Likely To because I thought it would follow in that same vein.  Uh, no.  This book is the antithesis of sweet love story – it actually felt like a New Adult novel rather than a YA novel because the main focus for the two main characters is their sexual attraction to each other.  For me, this book is really mostly defined by the sexual tension that exudes from almost every interaction the two characters have.  I still enjoyed it, and I liked the book as a whole, but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting.  The two characters played small but memorable roles in the first book, and it was engaging to see their personalities clash.  Tim is hopelessly overwhelmed by expectations, and his rebellion has taken him to a very difficult place.  His story dominated my interest, and watching him struggle to become a man he can be proud of is heartbreaking and sometimes inspiring.  I was less interested in Alice as a character.  I felt like she had a lot to lose, and even though I understand that love can be unpredictable, it doesn’t have to make you blind and stupid.  I wanted them to end up together, but I honestly felt like Alice was making a bad decision to see where her heart would lead her.  There is a lot going on in the background that ties this book to the first one, so you need to read them in order, but there were also enough plot points independent of the first book to keep the story fresh.  I read it straight through the minute I got my hands on it, so I certainly found it compelling.  I think my high school readers will enjoy the book, and even though it feels a lot more grown up than MLND, I believe it is appropriate for high school readers.  I’m definitely adding it to my classroom library wish list.

I received an ARC through the Penguin First to Read program in exchange for an honest review.

You can join this program at firsttoread.com

Ward Against Death – A bumbling hero navigates murder, magic, and one undead assassin

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Ward Against Death – A bumbling hero navigates murder, magic, and one undead assassin

Ward Against Death is going to be the perfect read for someone.  Ward is a screw-up who just can’t seem to catch a break, and the brilliantly efficient Celia (a secret assassin) is his perfect foil.  Murder, magic, necromancy and secret societies abound in this fast paced adventure.  Maria V. Snyder (who I adore for her Poison Study books) blurbed it, and Ward is favorably compared to Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files (I kinda see it).  I sort of feel like a punk because I didn’t fall in love with this book, but I was bored and easily distracted all the way through.  Ward, I honestly believe that it’s not you – it’s me.  I’m sure there is a reader out there somewhere just waiting to get their hands on you.

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Goodreads Summary

Twenty-year-old Ward de’Ath expected this to be a simple job—bring a nobleman’s daughter back from the dead for fifteen minutes, let her family say good-bye, and launch his fledgling career as a necromancer. Goddess knows he can’t be a surgeon—the Quayestri already branded him a criminal for trying—so bringing people back from the dead it is.

But when Ward wakes the beautiful Celia Carlyle, he gets more than he bargained for. Insistent that she’s been murdered, Celia begs Ward to keep her alive and help her find justice. By the time she drags him out her bedroom window and into the sewers, Ward can’t bring himself to break his damned physician’s Oath and desert her.
However, nothing is as it seems—including Celia. One second, she’s treating Ward like sewage, the next she’s kissing him. And for a nobleman’s daughter, she sure has a lot of enemies. If he could just convince his heart to give up on the infuriating beauty, he might get out of this alive…

My Thoughts

This book just wasn’t my thing, and that is surprising since the word “necromancer” paired with a female undead assassin should have really been right up my alley.  I think the biggest problem for me is that these characters are running all over the town for answers but those answers never added up to much for me as a reader.  So, I couldn’t put the puzzle together without one of the characters explaining in detail what had just happened.  When the two characters did slow down. They usually split up which didn’t give them much time to really bond as a team.  All the running around also stalled their development as characters – I didn’t feel like they were more than just characters, and that made me apathetic about the outcome of the story.  I also struggled with the many character names and the intricacies of this world – I just couldn’t seem to grasp how the social structure was set up, so I didn’t really understand the advantages of killing people or not killing people or raising people from the dead.  I really had to force myself to read this book after the first few chapters, but the whole time I was reluctantly reading, I was thinking that some readers would really love this story.  I think this book has a lot of things to recommend it to the right reader, but that just wasn’t me.

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

Lumière by Jacqueline E. Garlick would make a fabulous Tim Burton film, but as a book, it just didn’t hook me

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Lumière by Jacqueline E. Garlick would make a fabulous Tim Burton film, but as a book, it just didn’t hook me

If I could, I’d embrace whimsy and make every day a beautiful adventure for all of you.  Seriously.  Bubble machine fountains and sparkle pony stickers and . . . Well, you can see that even my attempts at whimsy are a fail.  The practical gene is so dominant.  I know that I’m not the ideal person to read steampunk because it is an entire genre made up to be whimsical and somewhat silly, but I still try, especially when they have covers that scream – we won’t wear miniature top hats and use the word “dirigible” (that word sets my teeth on edge).  Unfortunately, this book was too silly and perhaps my mood was foul(er) because the summer is slipping away.  But, dear friends, it doesn’t mean that you won’t love this madhouse of book about a girl on a quest in a very curious land that feels a little like a Tim Burton movie.

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Goodreads Summary

One determined girl. One resourceful boy. One miracle machine that could destroy everything.

After an unexplained flash shatters her world, seventeen-year-old Eyelet Elsworth sets out to find the Illuminator, her father’s prized invention. With it, she hopes to cure herself of her debilitating seizures before Professor Smrt—her father’s arch nemesis—discovers her secret and locks her away in an asylum.

Pursued by Smrt, Eyelet locates the Illuminator only to see it whisked away. She follows the thief into the world of the unknown, compelled not only by her quest but by the allure of the stranger—Urlick Babbit—who harbors secrets of his own. 

Together, they endure deadly Vapours and criminal-infested woods in pursuit of the same prize, only to discover the miracle machine they hoped would solve their problems may in fact be their biggest problem of all. 

My Thoughts

This book was a mix of steampunk and magic which resulted in a charmingly strange world where steam powered elephants roamed carnival paths and zombie-like creatures devoured anyone unknowingly entered the wrong woods.  The world building was my favorite part of the book, and I was so happy to see a steampunk book that actually contained a lot of nonsensical and redundant inventions for me to marvel over.  Unfortunately, this book also had a high level of what I struggle to tolerate in steampunk books – the bumbling characters who are so very smart and so very clueless at the same time.  Both of the major characters annoyed me, so my favorite character ended up being the one sensible character in the batch – the mute kitchen maid who I considered the real heroine in this adventure.  I’m not sure why I didn’t connect with either Eyelet or Urlick, but I suspect that it is a case of bad first impressions.  I liked Eyelet until she encountered Urlich, and then she came across as nosey and rude.  Urlich was a problem for me from the start because he was so inconsistent – sort of a Jeckyl and Hide.  I didn’t think their romantic connection was given the development it needed to be plausible, even steampunk plausible.  I also had some issues with the ridiculousness of their respective “afflictions.”  I just didn’t see what the big deal with having seizures was (it equalled mental hospital lockdown in this setting, but even that was so stupidly primitive). I was doubly annoyed with the explanation for Urlick’s unusual appearance.  I think that if Tim Burton got a hold of this book and made it into a charming little film, I would really enjoy it, but as a book, it just didn’t work as a whole for me.  I still think that true fans of steampunk will really enjoy this and I think that some middle school readers will enjoy this adventure – this is a quest story, after all, and it has some really engaging moments and fast paced action sequences.

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

Colleen Houck’s Reawakened is an engaging adventure full of mystery, romance and the magic of ancient Egypt.

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Colleen Houck’s Reawakened is an engaging adventure full of mystery, romance and the magic of ancient Egypt.

So, there was a Sesame Street movie (30 or so years ago) where Big Bird had to help an Egyptian boy make his way to the afterlife – I think that sounds incredibly morbid and I would assume I made it up if I didn’t distinctly remember the kid’s soul being weighed on scales against a feather. It is actually called “Don’t Eat the Pictures.”  I guess it made an impression on me because I have a pretty big obsession with ancient Egypt which means my husband has fallen asleep to a boatload of documentaries about King Tut and Co.  When I first saw the cover and premise for Colleen Houck’s Reawakened, I was intrigued by the Egyptian aspect, but I just couldn’t help but think it was going to read younger than I liked.  I’m glad I took a chance on this book.  The depth of theme and character complexity were clearly and wholly YA, and adult readers of YA will find it just as engaging as the target audience.

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Goodreads Summary

When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can’t imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.
But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

From New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck comes an epic adventure about two star-crossed teens who must battle mythical forces and ancient curses on a journey with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.

My Thoughts

Reawakened was a pretty engaging read.  It had adventure and romance, and the magic of ancient Egypt.  Liliana, a contemporary seventeen year old, becomes bonded to Amon, an Egyptian hero who rises every thousand years to restore the bond keeping dark forces at bay.  The bond means Liliana is compelled to go on a quest to help Amon put everything in place before the ceremony that will keep the dark Egyptian god, Seth, from unleashing chaos on the world.  Liliana is a character I could relate to.  She follows the rules and tries to be the daughter her parents want her to be.   As college decisions loom closer, she is trying to balance personal desires against expectations.  What better time for her to go through a transformative experience?  Amon, too, faces that decision (though he doesn’t necessarily see it as a choice) every time he is reawakened, but it isn’t until he meets Liliana that he actually starts to consider how his decision to give up his own life for the greater good is not necessarily satisfying.  There was a lot of satisfaction in their parallel journeys, and it is a universal enough conflict to pull in a lot of readers.  I thought the pacing was pretty well done.  The romance was nicely plotted, and the author takes the time to build a relationship between characters. I think most readers will be satisfied by this romance as well because there is an equal amount of sacrifice and rescue on the parts of both Amon and Liliana.  Threats popped up consistently enough to keep the action going, and I only became distracted when some of the myths inserted into conversation became too long.  While those myths did have a lot to add to reader understanding, they sometimes felt like something to be endured just until I could get back to the main characters.  I will say that they were exceptionally well chosen, and I hate to think of how much time and research went into finding the perfect myth to go with situations when I didn’t really appreciate them as much as I should have.  The writer’s style is well honed, and I really was impressed at the level of skill it took to write something so carefully crafted. I only found fault in a few word choices that felt awkward because of their repetition, namely the word “feast” to describe any and every meal (and there are lots of them).  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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

Patty Blount’s Nothing Left to Burn got a lukewarm reception, but I think it has potential.

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Patty Blount’s Nothing Left to Burn got a lukewarm reception, but I think it has potential.

For a book that I only gave three stars, I certainly had a lot to say about it!  Nothing Left to Burn grew on me the more I read it, and I thought some reviewers were a little too harsh in their criticism.  I don’t think a lot of adult readers will think this is a spectacular book, but I do think it could be a popular read with some of my high school students.  It touches on some serious issues, but the real appeal is the friendship and support that the protagonist finds in an unexpected place.

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Goodreads Summary

Reece’s father hasn’t spoken to him since the car wreck that killed Reece’s brother. Desperate for forgiveness, Reece joins the Junior Cadet program at his dad’s firehouse. But the program is grueling, and Reece isn’t sure he can make it through. Then he meets Amanda.

Amanda understands wanting to belong. As a foster kid, the firehouse is the only place that feels like home. She agrees to help Reece, but falling for him wasn’t part of the deal. And when a string of arsons suddenly point to Amanda, their relationship could go up in flames.
My Thoughts

While this book had its faults, and you know I’m going to list them in detail soon, I really liked it once I got past the first few chapters.  First, I really liked the brotherhood that these characters find in their junior fire squad.  Being part of this group made a huge difference in the two main characters’ lives, and I think readers will respond to their comraderie and teamwork.  Second, this book gave readers an accurate picture of what it feels like to be in the foster system.  Some readers will see Amanda’s insecurities, fears, and stress as exaggerated, but I know that lots of kids daily walk the line in fear of being sent to the next care facility.  This is also the first book that really lays out the struggle Amanda will face as she begins to age out of the system – her dreams have to be a lot more practical than the average teen’s.  Her situation creates understanding and empathy for readers who may never have thought about foster care.  I also liked the parallel dynamics between Reece and Amanda’s situations with their parents – their internal conflicts essentially boil down to feeling like their parent didn’t really love them, and the story presents two ways that confronting that feeling can go.  Finally, I liked how the experience that Reece dreads is really transformative for him.  He starts the book feeling like he is hated and useless, but becoming part of the squad gives him a new sense of purpose and belonging.  That is a potentially inspirational message for any teen who doesn’t feel like they have a place in the world.

Now, for the things I felt were a little lacking.  The romantic feelings between Reece and Amanda feel rushed, and some readers will be uncomfortable with the fact that Amanda seems to be transferring her feelings for Reece’s dead brother onto Reece as a result.  I also felt like there was an unbelievable amount of hatred towards Reece.  I’m not sure if those feelings were just his skewed perceptions or if people really did spew dislike of him.  Either way, it comes across as too dramatic to be believable, and since that issue comes up within the first few chapters, it will cause some readers to write this book off too early.  I also think that the book could be perceived as glossing over Reece’s decision to change his plan to leave his family – there wasn’t enough internal debate to really make it clear what convinced him to change his mind.  I really believe it was the squad’s support and friendship that changed the game, but it can come across to some readers that he is simply changing his mind for love of Amanda, and that could marginalized the bigger issue.  Finally, I just didn’t understand what was wrong with Reece – I think he had to be somewhere on the autism spectrum as a child, but I found it hard to believe that no one forced his family to seek out the answers.  I understood that there was a desire not to pigeonhole him, but in this day and age, a teacher or a doctor would have insisted on getting him tested based on the way he was described as a young child.  I don’t know why that bothered me so much, but I felt like Reece struggled more than he would have if someone had just helped him understand why he found life and people more overwhelming than his peers.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I didn’t really see most of the faults until I sat down to reflect.  It felt a little rushed and a little overly dramatic about some things, but I liked the big idea behind it.

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

Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne concludes her Midnight Thief series

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Daughter of Dusk by Livia Blackburne concludes her Midnight Thief series

When I read Midnight Thief, the first book in this pair, I wasn’t terribly impressed.  When I reread it before attempting the sequel, I enjoyed it a little more.  You definitely need to read these books in order, but if you have already read and enjoyed Midnight Thief, I think you will enjoy Daughter of Dusk.  I think this is a book that younger YA readers will enjoy more than older ones.

Goodreads Summary

After learning the truth about her bloodlines, Kyra can’t help but feel like a monster.

Though she’s formed a tentative alliance with the Palace, Kyra must keep her identity a secret or risk being hunted like the rest of her Demon Rider kin. Tristam and the imprisoned assassin James are among the few who know about her heritage, but when Tristam reveals a heartbreaking secret of his own, Kyra’s not sure she can trust him. And with James’s fate in the hands of the palace, Kyra fears that he will give her away to save himself.
As tensions rise within Forge’s Council, and vicious Demon Rider attacks continue in surrounding villages, Kyra knows she must do something to save her city. But she walks a dangerous line between opposing armies: will she be able to use her link to the Demon Riders for good, or will her Makvani blood prove to be deadly?
In this spellbinding sequel to Midnight Thief, Kyra and Tristam face their biggest battle yet as they grapple with changing allegiances, shocking deceit, and vengeful opponents. 
My Thoughts

While Kyra’s conflicts are the same as before (her heritage, the inequality among the classes, her past with James and the assassin’s guild), the issues have shifted slightly after the events in the first book and still hold enough interest to move the story arc and character development forward.  While many readers will be excited to know that the romance that started with Tristam’s rescue of Kyra in the first book continues to develop in the second, they should be prepared for a sweet rather than passionate love story.  I was surprised to learn that this is the last book featuring these characters, but it did mean that the resolution at the end was an actual resolution of the conflicts.  While the book is technically everything it should be, it didn’t resonate with me.  I did enjoy the fact that Kyra grew to better understand James and his perspective on the way the world works, but she doesn’t ever really learn to control the impulsive actions that initiate most of her personal battles.  Tristam, too, had the potential to be a new book crush, but he just seemed to be going through the motions.  While I equate the characters and plot with the word “lukewarm,” I do think that the actual target audience will be more impressed, particularly those on the younger end of the scale. 

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

What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi is a hard hitting read with a unique premise

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What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi is a hard hitting read with a unique premise

This is a pretty raw and real read about a boy coming to terms with a responsibility he never wanted and a decision that will change his entire life.  Ryden has to decide if he is going to man up or run away, and readers will absolutely understand why that is a real struggle.  What you left behind is unique for its story and for its honesty.  If you like your protagonists conflicted and your situations fraught with emotion, consider adding this book to your TBR list.  This book is available on 8/4/15.

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Goodreads Summary

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?
My Thoughts

This was a hard, honest look at a really difficult situation, and it was beautifully done.  Reality is often harsh, and the author holds nothing back with Ryden’s character.  He is, at times, resentful and selfish and, at others, optimistic and naive.  He makes decisions about his daughter’s care that others will judge as terrible, but they absolutely ring true for someone in his situation.  Adults struggle with these responsibilities, so it is reasonable that a high school senior would, too.  While I did want to turn away when Ryden’s world got overwhelming, the message was absolutely worth the journey.  The book is nicely paced to keep the momentum in the story going.  The characters were well developed and as real as any I’ve seen.  Primary caregiver teen dads are pretty rare in the YA book world, and What You Left Behind fills that gap nicely.  This book will appeal to readers of both genders, especially fans of John Green and Ned Vizzini.  It also will probably get you Nick Sparks a little excited, too – cancer.

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Summary

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

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

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

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