Tag Archives: mystery

Three Truths and a Lie

Standard
Three Truths and a Lie

This suspense thriller reads quickly and has a compelling mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None if it was influenced by a teen slasher movie.   It did feel contrived.  The author incorporated some provocative sexual situations that some YA readers (and their moms) won’t be prepared for.  Also, I love a twisty tale as much as anyone, but the deception needs to be for other characters in the story, not the audience.  This felt like it was all about tricking me as a reader.  I did give it a three star rating based on the fact that I read it in one tense sitting.

image

Goodreads Summary

A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

My Thoughts

While the title makes it clear deception is at play, few readers will unravel this one until the end.  That is partly because of the twists and partly because there aren’t enough clues to allow readers to reach the real conclusion on their own.  That means the ending comes a bit out of left field, which will leave some readers feeling played.  Without giving too much away, I can say the narrator is easy to connect with, and the story follows a basic “stupid folks are going to die in the woods” format.  Like I said before, it is entertaining.  I did have some problems with the sex scenes in the book.  They aren’t graphic but they left me feeling uncomfortable because it seemed love was the last thing fueling them – that is my general way of deciding if sensuality is appropriate in YA books, and this one fails the test.  The ending put another spin on all the relationships, and I’m still working through that.   Overall, I was engaged by the mystery, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I felt the whole purpose of the book was to trick me.  While this is marketed as YA, the sexual situations make this book more appropriate for the 17+ crowd, but the contrived storyline will be a turn off to most discerning readers.

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

Advertisements

Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

Standard
Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

Look, I saw the cover for Children of Icarus and read the cryptic summary and I seriously thought about passing on it.  What a mistake that would have been!  This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.  I found myself racing through this compelling book, and I ended it questioning how far I would go to get my hands on the second.  The answer would shock you, unless you’ve read it, too.  Reviews have been mixed, but it is interesting to note that even those who didn’t love it acknowledged that it would appeal to fans of the big dystopian hits like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.  I gave it five stars, and it will be the first book I purchase for my classroom library this year.

image

Goodreads Summary

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

My Thoughts

Look, that summary doesn’t give you much.  So . . . In a future society, Icarus is worshipped.  Special children between the ages of ten and sixteen are chosen on the day Icarus fell to go into the labyrinth of Icarus and to ascend as angels.  Except, the labyrinth is definitely not a holy place, and all those kids?  Well, some of them might be angels, but it had nothing to do with Icarus and a lot to do with the nasty truth about what really happens in the labyrinth.

While it reminded me in part of The Maze Runner (mysterious labyrinth with horrifying depths) and it reminded me a bit of Ann Aguire’s Enclave (a primitive society born operating in confusion and fear), it was something all its own and that something was rich and engaging.  The narrator is not the fierce warrior woman, as a matter of fact, she is the forgettable sidekick, and that leaves a lot of room for growth.  The mystery and palpable danger of her situation make it hard to leave her side, even when you need a bathroom break.  The twist at the end left me stunned, and the questions I’m still pondering have me itching to talk about it to anyone who will listen.  I can’t wait to share it with my high school readers.  The fast-paced action and the unique brand of mystery make for a winning combination that I know my students will embrace.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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

Revenge and the Wild

Standard
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.

image

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 

Standard
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.

image

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

Standard
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.

image

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

Standard
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.

image

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.

Jane Steele – Jane Eyre reimagined as a serial killer.  Yeah.  You want it.

Standard
Jane Steele – Jane Eyre reimagined as a serial killer.  Yeah.  You want it.

Having taught Jane Eyre for several years, I found the premise of a serial killing Jane quite amusing.  I have often wanted to knock off a few characters myself, so it sounded like a good time.  It really was.  While this book does maintain some of the bones of the original Gothic romance, all of the stupid sentimentality and dithering heroine mess are pushed aside.  Of course, that means some of the major themes that made Jane Eyre a book of its time are missing as well, but this is, by far, a more satisfying read for a modern sensibility.  While this isn’t a YA read, so many YA readers felt tortured by the classic, I felt compelled to pass this on.

image

Goodreads Summary

A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as “riveting” and The Wall Street Journal called “thrilling.”

“Young Jane Steele’s favorite book, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, mirrors her life both too little and too much…In an arresting tale of dark humor and sometimes gory imagination, Faye has produced a heroine worthy of the gothic literature canon but reminiscent of detective fiction.”

—Library Journal, Starred Review

“Reader, I murdered him.”

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.

Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?

A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.

My Thoughts

At first, I thought this would be a dark mirror image of the classic tale, and that can be boring.  The events paralleled but with some twists.  Eventually, though, this work became its own, and I thought the last half was a spectacular adventure/mystery.  On top of that, this story has a much more exotic and engaging love interest.  (Sorry, Rochester, but you kind of always gave me the creeps anyway). This is really what got my stamp of approval. Without killing the suspense or even the angst, the author manages to create a very compelling , somewhat bloodthirsty and  thoroughly sigh worthy love story.

I thought this was a great romp through sacred literary fields, but there were some things that might keep you from having as much fun as I did.  First, the language is elevated and that means you have to think a little bit.  The same issue stumps many would-be readers of Jane Eyre, so I’m just putting it out there.  Second, there is a decidedly dark sensuality in this read.  Charlotte Bronte definitely didn’t use some of these words and images, so prepare yourself for some more modern expressions of sexuality.  Somehow these things seem so much more scandalous and wicked when placed in this context, so I thought it was a little shocking, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  If you are my grandmother and believe that we are all ruining the world with the acknowledgement that people have fantasies and sex, you probably can’t handle it.

Overall, I enjoyed this read enough to finish it in a day.  I think that it would make a nice parallel text and an interesting study in theme for a college class, but I’m not sure it would be as well received by my high school readers.  I would definitely consider it for a book club read because there are lots of topics for discussion.  I do think you can enjoy this book without having studied Jane Eyre, but watching the movie (the one with Michael Fassbender, of course) might help you make a few important connections and increase your appreciation for its rather irreverent twists.

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

How to Disappear 

Standard
How to Disappear 

With echoes  of Gone Girl and a fast-paced, threat-filled storyline, this twisty mystery will hold a lot of appeal for YA fans of suspense thrillers. It has its flaws, but I enjoyed.

img_0883

Goodreads Summary

This electric cross-country thriller follows the game of cat and mouse between a girl on the run from a murder she witnessed—or committed?—and the boy who’s sent to kill her.

Nicolette Holland is the girl everyone likes. Up for adventure. Loyal to a fault. And she’s pretty sure she can get away with anything…until a young woman is brutally murdered in the woods near Nicolette’s house. Which is why she has to disappear.

Jack Manx has always been the stand-up guy with the killer last name. But straight A’s and athletic trophies can’t make people forget that his father was a hit man and his brother is doing time for armed assault. Just when Jack is about to graduate from his Las Vegas high school and head east for college, his brother pulls him into the family business with inescapable instructions: find this ruthless Nicolette Holland and get rid of her. Or else Jack and everyone he loves will pay the price.

As Nicolette and Jack race to outsmart each other, tensions—and attractions—run high. Told in alternating voices, this tightly plotted mystery and tense love story challenges our assumptions about right and wrong, guilt and innocence, truth and lies.

My Thoughts 

It took a while for me to hit the groove with this book simply because it took a while for me to really puzzle out what was going on.  That wasn’t a bad thing. It was a really intriguing thing.  Nicolette saw something she shouldn’t have, and this time her stepdad (even with his crime boss connections) can’t help her.  On the run, but longing for the life she left behind, Nicolette struggles to keep herself hidden from the powerful men who want her silenced.  Jack has tried to forget the legacy of crime and violence connected to his name, but when the one thing he cares about most is threatened, he is willing to use every advantage he was born with to get the girl he’s been sent to kill.  This is a tense game of hide and seek, and the author uses both the dual narrative perspective and the dramatic irony it creates to keep readers holding their breath until the last page.  The really impressive thing about this book for me is how Nic and Jack both manage to come across as crafty and street smart while still reading like teens.  Sure, they both know that getting involved with the other is a horrible idea, but just like real and impulsive teens, they find the siren song of attraction is hard to resist.  I liked the fact that they made mistakes and were thwarted by stupid turns of fate because it added an authenticity to their characters and the plot which kept me in suspended disbelief just long enough to really get swept away by this story, a story that I would have scoffed at as completely unrealistic if I hadn’t been so invested in the outcome.  I think it might be hard for some readers to buy into two teens navigating this situation, but I also think most YA readers who pick it up will have a hard time putting it down simply for its tense blend of underworld mystery and dangerous attraction.   I will say that I wasn’t able to guess this ending at all, despite my excellent prediction skills, and it has a twist that I wasn’t really sold on, but I think it will delight most readers.  I don’t think this is a perfect book, but I did find it compelling and extremely entertaining.  I will definitely recommend it to my high school readers, especially those with a penchant for mystery and a yen for a darker kind of romance.  This one is going on my classroom library wish list and my high school librarian recommendation list.  Language and situations, specifically violence and some sensuality, make this most appropriate for high school readers.

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


Ice Massacre – These are the mermaids Homer warned you about, but these aren’t your average sailors

Standard
Ice Massacre – These are the mermaids Homer warned you about, but these aren’t your average sailors

Mermaids aren’t my thing, but a ship full of warrior women out to exterminate them had some real possibilities.  It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it was engaging enough to keep me reading for a few hours straight.  I ultimately gave it only three stars, but other reviewers on Goodreads were more impressed.

image

Goodreads Summary

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return.

Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

My Thoughts

I loved the idea of a ship of warrior women going out to conquer the enemy that was holding their society captive.  The battle scenes were interesting and tense, and the enemy was frightening and still managed to retain the universal “human” qualities necessary for the plot to make sense.  I loved the close friendships the main character had, and overall, I was engaged.  The problem for me really came in some of the details.  The time frame was murky for me – wooden ships but also helicopters.  I wish that had been clarified in the development of the setting simply because it would have helped me stop wondering about it every time I saw something that seemed off.  I also had trouble with some of the logic of sending only newbies out for the massacre.  Why weren’t the seasoned warriors accompanying these girls?  If things were so desperate, why weren’t the ones with experience on board to guide these untried fighters? This society just sends a bunch of eighteen year old girls out without any help?  Nope.  I also had to ask what exactly they had been doing in their five years of training since they had few team tactics or a developed sense of discipline and respect for leadership.  They are teen girls, but basic training in the military manages to instill those traits, and it doesn’t take five years.  These questions kept me from being able to immerse myself fully in the book, so, while they might be small issues (and ones I think could easily have been fixed) they were important.  I liked the story, and I would be interested in seeing what happens next, but tightening up the holes in logic would have made this book so much stronger.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

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

The Sound of Us – YA Contemporary about being true to yourself

Standard
The Sound of Us – YA Contemporary about being true to yourself

If you like music or romance, or genuine and believable characters, I think you will enjoy this read.  It isn’t your average YA music book – it takes place at an opera camp – but  don’t let that deter you.  There is plenty of catty girl stare downs, some awkward shirtless guy encounters, and a little bit of geek-girl-letting-go in the depths of this coming of age tale.

image

Goodreads Summary

Kiki Nichols might not survive music camp.

She’s put her TV-loving, nerdy self aside for one summer to prove she’s got what it takes: she can be cool enough to make friends, she can earn that music scholarship, and she can get into Krause University’s music program.

Except camp has rigid conduct rules—which means her thrilling late-night jam session with the hot drummer can’t happen again, even though they love all the same TV shows, and fifteen minutes making music with him meant more than every aria she’s ever sung.

But when someone starts snitching on rule breakers and getting them kicked out, music camp turns into survival of the fittest. If Kiki’s going to get that scholarship, her chance to make true friends—and her chance with the drummer guy—might cost her the future she wants more than anything.

My Thoughts

I particularly enjoyed the narrator, Kiki.  She is smart, medium quirky, and a character who feels things deeply.  I related to her anxious attempts to become more social, and her obsessive drive to prove herself.  She won’t be everyone’s cup of tea initially because she comes across as pretty meek and insecure, but readers who stick it out will realize exactly how strong she can be.  This journey is one that a lot of YA readers will find engaging, especially since the message is about being true to yourself.  Kiki struggles with that quest, as many of us do, and that feels genuine.  The cast of secondary characters are varied and I love the fact that they surprised me, often as much as Kiki did.  Overall, this read is one I’m happy to put in my high school classroom library.  It has a clean and compelling romance – these characters aren’t squeaky clean, but they aren’t going to horrify your mother with their antics — a nice coming of age story, and Kiki is a character I would be proud to point to as a role model.  It is definitely going on my wish list.  Language  and situations are appropriate for grades 14+.

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