Surviving High School by M. Doty was an interesting read for me and I definitely enjoyed it. I was concerned at first because the back of the book says it’s based on a mobile game and I wasn’t really sure what depth Surviving High School would bring. I just don’t have a lot of confidence that a game for phones can truly bring across the emotional aspects of losing your sister.
And Surviving High School, while not the sort of typically fluffy and hilarious book that I’ve come to expect from YA contemps involving freshman year, definitely did the grief in a lighter sort of tone. Rather than focusing on how Emily really felt about the loss of her sister (although there were certainly moments where she was clearly grieving), a lot of it was Emily trying to discover what really happened the night her sister died and also showing everyone that she’s not her sister. If any of that makes sense.
But Surviving High School certainly packed an emotional punch. I loved the way Emily’s relationship with her father was done – the strains in their bond was so clear and so upsetting and I really felt for Emily every time her dad acted like he was just her Coach, even at home. For me their relationship was the biggest part of Surviving High School and I really liked how it was handled throughout the story.
And, of course, there’s the romance. The romance in Surviving High School was very sweet and I was really rooting for Emily to stick it to her parents and go out with Ben. I didn’t see a huge connection developing between them at first, it kind of just happened, but even still, I really liked them together.
Overall, Surviving High School by M. Doty is certainly an enjoyable contemp that made laugh but still had a lot of depth to it. There’s a lot of little life lessons in Surviving High School, but I thought the focus on family was done perfectly. I recommend Surviving High School to fans of contemps looking for an engrossing but quick read., and I’ll certainly be reading the second book in this series, based on Emily’s best friend.(less)
Okay, so I will admit first and foremost that The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann is not my typical read. I have a lot of trouble gothic steampunk faerie stuff (although not usually all at the same time) in young adult books, and that even has kissing to sway me over, but with middle grade? I almost kind of expected to be totally put off by it and just throw in the towel at some point.
But The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann totally proved me wrong. Even just the freaking prologue was brilliant and mysterious and intriguing and dark. And just the combination of those elements really drew me in, and then the story itself held me fast.
I loved what Stefan Bachmann did with faery lore. I mostly stay away from faeries, and I’ve read maybe one book (an adult fiction title) about changelings, but The Peculiar was filled with so many interesting details that were obviously taken from lots and lots of research, but with his own creative twist on it all.
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann really made me do a 180 on my feelings about gothic steampunk faerie stuff. I was in complete awe of his storytelling ability from the very beginning and I absolutely can’t wait to read more from Stefan Bachmann. Trust me, The Peculiar is not a middle grade book to be missed! The Peculiar is dark and beautiful with quality writing and a story that will keep you on your toes.(less)
The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron brought out a lot of mixed feelings in me while I was reading it. There were bits of The Dark Unwinding that I really liked, but other bits I felt just didn’t seem to fit.
The first 100 or so (possibly even more) pages of The Dark Unwinding really seemed to drag on. It was strange and creepy and I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I also couldn’t really bring myself to care that I was confused.
But I have to hand it to Sharon Cameron. Once The Dark Unwinding got past all the creepy scenes with Katharine and her Uncle participating in play time, The Dark Unwinding really started to pick up the pace and bring on the unexpected twists. I also really liked how Sharon Cameron tied everything together – seemingly pointless bits in the beginning came back at the end.
Despite my initial creeped out feelings, I do have to say that the characters in The Dark Unwinding were really interesting. I loved the Uncle’s obsession with numbers and all the other details that Sharon Cameron added to her characters.
Overall, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron became an interesting and enjoyable read, but the beginning was rough for me. I had a lot of trouble getting into The Dark Unwinding, which really negatively impacted my view of the book. While I definitely liked the characters a lot, I’m not sure The Dark Unwinding is one that I would want to reread.(less)
Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson is an awesome debut full of awesome Norse mythology, kickass females, and swoon-worthy guys.
While a few parts of Valkyrie Rising did seem to drag a bit, for the most part I read Valkyrie Rising in one sitting. It was action-packed and I was sucked in to the story. The stakes just kept getting higher and higher in Valkyrie Rising and I was definitely rooting for Ellie to kick everyone's ass.
I know next to nothing about Norse mythology and I loved what information Ingrid Paulson gave us in Valkyrie Rising. She worked a lot of the mythology into the story without it seeing like sort of an info dump and more just a natural part of Ellie's tale. Even though I'd never heard of Valkyries, I was still able to follow everything.
And, okay, I am SUCH a sucker for the brother's best friend romance. It makes me giddy and I absolutely loved the way it was done in Valkyrie Rising. There was quite a bit of swooning.
There were several twists throughout Valkyrie Rising - some I expected and some I definitely didn't.
Basically, if you're looking for an action-packed book featuring a kickass protagonist, a swoony romance, and mythology you probably don't know too much about, check out Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson for sure!(less)
I’ve always been a big fan of witchy goodness. Even before Harry Potter, back when I was reading Witch at the Door (and the rest of the books in the series), I knew witches were, by far, the coolest paranormal creature feature, or whatever.
So, my reaction to Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway was hurrah! A new middle grade with witchy goodness! And Ordinary Magic has witchy goodness with a twist – everyone has magical powers, except for Abby, the main character. What a fun twist! Well, for us, not for Abby.
Ordinary Magic was actually a lot darker than I thought it would be. Sure, the summary says that “Ords” aren’t wanted, but man, Abby and all the other Ords were treated terribly – much more brutal than I expected. There are a lot of humorous elements throughout Ordinary Magic, but don’t go into it expecting all light and fluffy.
My favourite part of Ordinary Magic was the family dynamics in Abby’s family. There was so much loyalty and love, even though society had taught them to treat Ords like crap and kick them out of their homes. Abby was their daughter or their sister and they were very loyal to each other in admirable way, especially for the society they grew up in.
The ending of Ordinary Magic was definitely very cliff-hangery and I’m interested to see how Caitlen Rubino-Bradway continues the story. Like I said, don’t go into Ordinary Magic expecting light and fluffy adventure. While there is certainly a good deal of that, Ordinary Magic was also a bit dark. Overall, I thought Ordinary Magic was a unique and engaging story.(less)
Let me start off this review by talking about how hilarious Claire Legrand is. I know that’s an unconventional way to start off a review, but she is totally HILARIOUS. I don’t know if you followed along with her blog tour (this post in particular being my favourite), but after stalking her around the internet, I was super excited to read The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.
And Claire Legrand’s personality totally comes off in The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls. It’s a legit middle-grade with a freaking phenomenal dark and spooky atmosphere (not to mention story line) and I could just not get enough of her writing.
I mean, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is CREEPY. And messed up. And disturbing. But something about The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls hooked me and I could not stop reading, no matter how many times Claire Legrand mentioned bugs and things that otherwise give me the goosebumps.
If you’re a middle grade fanatic, or a horror enthusiast, or just a lover of a good book, please check out The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand. Her debut is full of originality, amazing characters, an atmosphere that will have you turning on the lights, and a story that will leave you half laughing and half gasping at the sheer what the whatness of it all.(less)
Reading The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna was like going away on a vacation and not wanting to go home, ever. I loved every second of The Lost Girl and I never wanted to put it down.
The characters – Amarra, Ray, Mina Mia, Ophelia, Neil, Alisha and basically every other character in The Lost Girl – were wonderfully done. Even the side characters were developed, they had lives and personalities and they weren’t just there to add plot. The side characters were a part of The Lost Girl.
But Eva and Sean…I just loved this so much. Eva was stubborn, she was human, she wanted to live her own life and not Amarra’s life and I love a protagonist with spunk, with the balls to stand up for herself. And Sean! Talk about a swoon worthy love interest. His depth of affection for Eva was so evident and his determination to keep her alive… I just loved them together and I have a feeling that they’re definitely on my top couples of 2012 list.
And the STORY. Usually I am a very character driven girl –if I don’t like the characters, I don’t like the book. But even if the characters in The Lost Girl had sucked (which they didn’t), I would have been so captured by the story. There were so many elements of The Lost Girl that worked for me.
The Lost Girl was a very sci-fi ish book – I mean, echoes created of people and the possibility that when the person dies, their soul is transferred to the echo – not really realistic, right? But The Lost Girl was so modern and that made the whole thing realistic for me. I mean, Eva still used a cellphone – there were no wacky technologies of the future, just a modern teenage girl.
And the range of emotion that I felt while I was reading The Lost Girl…I felt the hope of Mina Mia, the grief of Alisha, the anger of Ray….not to mention the helplessness Eva felt to the strong determination she felt. And I sobbed. There were several moments while reading The Lost Girl that I choked up and had to take a deep breath because I couldn’t continue, but I had to continue.
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna is a beautifully written book with a story and characters that are guaranteed to break your heart and fill you with hope at the same time.
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna is easily one of my favourite books of 2012. At the top of the list, even. I highly recommend Sangu Mandanna to anyone – if you love dystopian, if you’re burned out on dystopian, if you love romance and swoon, if you’re a fan of kickass protagonists or a fan of sci-fi – it doesn’t matter. The Lost Girl is the book for you.(less)
I am a huge fan of the creepy, mysterious stories, and The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman had that in SPADES, you guys.
I literally could not figure out who dun it in The Little Woods. There were so many little hints about every single person, so I was suspicious of EVERYONE. I was like “So it was so and so! No, it was totally so and so!” and I just loved not being able to figure it out because when I found out, I was just kind of awestruck. A HUGE holy shit kind of moment.
And the creepy factor was so there. I was reading The Little Woods at like 12am and my boyfriend was asleep and I had to go to work at 7am, but I was still huddled under the covers with the lights on full blast because I was definitely creeped out by The Little Woods.
I’m a bit so-so on the romance in The Little Woods, mainly because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, hah – even though I can understand why it ended the way it did. There were several creepy relationships that threw me for a loop, but there was definitely some swoon and kissing involved in the non-creepy relationships, for those who are wondering!
Overall, I enjoyed The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman and I will definitely be reading McCormick Templeman’s future works. I thought The Little Woods was a well-crafted and creepy mystery that had me guessing the entire time.(less)
Dark Eyes by William Richter is a seriously intese book. The whole thing was full of wackadoodle craziness, basically. And I totally mean this in a good way.
However, Dark Eyes did start off a little slow for me, because I had a lot of trouble understanding why Wally living on the streets instead of at home with her mother that loved her. I couldn’t comprehend it. I totally know every home environment is different, so I kind of just rolled with it until I could accept it.
But then the story in Dark Eyes really picked up and people were getting shot left and right and there were SO MANY TWISTS my mind was blown. I mean, Dark Eyes read like a script of an awesome YA mob movie. It wasn’t like I was simply reading the words, I could actually visualize it very well. It definitely added to the reading experience of Dark Eyes.
Like I said though, I did have some issues with Wally and her reasonings. Half of Dark Eyes I just wanted to shake her and tell her to look on the bright side. Luckily her story was fascinating enough that I wanted to keep on reading to find out more about her mother and the guys who were after her. I love a good YA mystery!
For real, if you’re a fan of action-y movies and what not, definitely check out Dark Eyes by William Richter. The characters didn’t do much for me, but the story was intense and action packed, and the writing was very well done.(less)
Survive by Alex Morel was INTENSE, you guys. I mean, if you read the summary, you know it’s going to be intense, but Survive was just so more than I expected. For one thing, I guess I didn’t finish reading the summary – and after reading Survive, I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because man, it’s spoilery!
Anyway, I thought Survive was very fast-paced and engaging, which I loved. If the story hadn’t been so quick, I don’t know that I would have gotten into it as much. I can only handle quests for survival for so long, you know?
As for the protagonist, Jane – she bothered me a little. I understand that some people are just depressed, they’re just determined to die, but I didn’t really connect with that part of Jane. From what I understood, she just wanted to die because her father had committed suicide, and her grandmother, and back and back, so she felt like it was her duty. Which, as an uninformed (in regards to suicide/depression) reader, was kind of a shitty reason.
But once the plane crashed and the survival part of Survive started, I warmed to Jane a lot, and I really liked the way she engaged with the guy, Paul.
And that ending – HEARTWRENCHING.
Overall, I enjoyed Survive by Alex Morel. While it’s definitely a lot more intense than I expected, I think that’s a good thing. I recommend checking Survive out if you’re looking for a quick-paced and heart-wrenching yet surprisingly hopeful contemporary.(less)
Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne is basically apocalyptic genius. I’ve read maybe two other books that take place during an apocalyptic situation, which is not a lot, and Monument 14 was an original and intense and slightly traumatizing (in a good way) addition to the genre.
Because Monument 14 is legit. First things first – male protagonist! And Emmy Laybourne pulled the whole male character thing off very well, I thought. I was able to connect with him and root for him and his love interest. Anyway, hurrah for male protagonists because they’re super rare!
I loved the story in Monument 14 as well. Even though it largely (basically entirely) took place in one setting, Emmy Laybourne was able to keep Monument 14 fresh and interesting with the kids’ various attempts to survive and the disasters/fighting that occurs. Plus, you know, a bit of a tragedy and other various central plot elements.
Ugh, and that ending. I am a dystopian/apocalptypic/post-acapolyptic fangirl and I have to say, I loved Monument 14. There were parts where it seemed light – which was good because they’re young children and teenagers – but it was so weighed down by the possible loss of their parents and being stuck in the superstore forever and gah, my emotions were running rampant all throughout Monument 14.
Basically – definitely check out Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne. I’m dying for the next book in the series!(less)
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield was a beautifully written debut and haunting in its subject matter.
I’m such a huge fan of murder mysteries and beautifully written prose, so I was kind of a sucker for Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone from the get-go. I just fell in love with Kat Rosenfield’s storytelling – the way the past (usually involving the history of the town or Becca and James’ relationship) was mixed in with the future to help connect certain events.
And the ending and the killer and how the mystery was solved and the lives ruined. I don’t know, it was just so…much. I had my suspicions about little parts of the whole thing, but the way Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone came together – I never saw it all coming.
I loved the alternating points of view – Becca’s and Amelia’s. They were both connected through their immense desire for things they weren’t given. They both had dreams, like Becca and her dream of going far away and Amelia’s acting career. I just thought it really helped connect the two in a way that made sense, even though they never knew each other.
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield is a book I had to read in small doses. The writing is beautiful and overwhelming at points. If you’re looking for a haunting contemporary with beautiful writing, be sure not to miss Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone.(less)
Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle has an awesome premise and was a pretty entertaining story overall, despite some initial problems that put me off the story.
Kissing Shakespeare asked me to suspend my disbelief in a major way and I had a little bit of trouble doing that. I mean, this weird guy is like hey, come up to the roof with me and go back in time and seduce William Shakespeare. I just couldn’t let go of my disbelief and it kind of ruined Kissing Shakespeare for me at first.
But I definitely got Kissing Shakespeare more as the story went on and I enjoyed it a lot. I loved Pamela Mingle’s descriptions of Shakespearean England – I’m a big period movie fan, so I loved that aspect of Kissing Shakespeare.
Another aspect of Kissing Shakespeare that I really enjoyed was that there was not a huge focus on the romance. I mean, it was always there, but the plot was still the main focus of Kissing Shakespeare, which I enjoyed.
I feel like Kissing Shakespeare is one of those books where if I look too closely, it would ruin some elements of the story for me. But just based on how I felt while reading Kissing Shakespeare, and when I closed the book, I really enjoyed the story and the descriptions.
If you’re looking for a fun story that takes you back in time with beautiful descriptions, definitely do give Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle a chance.(less)
Between You & Me by Marisa Calin is a kind of a ballsy book. There were a lot of risks taken with Between You & Me – and a lot of subjects discussed – that are usually overlooked in young adult literature and I really admire Marisa Calin for that.
The screenplay format of Between You & Me was definitely a change from the typical novel and felt very refreshing to me. It was a risky move, but I thought the screenplay format worked very well with the story of Between You & Me.
The storyline in Between You & Me touched on a lot of different issues, including sexuality, coming to terms with it, feelings for teachers, and just the ups and downs of relationships and unrequited love altogether. I loved how Marisa Calin touched on female sexuality in a way that we so rarely see in young adult literature and the genderless YOU just helps to push it further.
Phyre was an interesting protagonist and I loved seeing her process of coming to terms with herself (and the screenplay format really helped to visualize that). It’s not easy figuring out who you are, especially when you’re conflicted with feelings you never thought you’d feel. The fact that Phyre’s feelings were towards a teacher never really bothered me – the story really felt more about the struggle with her feelings than anything, at least to me.
I loved YOU. I just did. I thought YOU was a fantastic character, even though we know next to nothing about YOU’s identity on paper. But we got such a strong sense of who YOU actually is and I thought YOU was brilliant.
Overall I thought Between You & Me by Marisa Calin was a beautifully written contemporary that touched on important issues. I applaud Marisa Calin for the way she decided to write her story and for the way she addressed female sexuality. If you’re a fan of contemporary and you want to try something a little different, I definitely recommend Between You & Me by Marisa Calin.(less)
Guys, the protagonist of Rebel McKenzie by Candice Ransom wants to be a freaking paleontologist – isn’t that all you need to know? No? Okay, fine. Let’s discuss Rebel McKenzie by Candice Ransom because I have lots of things to say.
Rebel McKenzie had me in absolute stitches. I was literally cracking up on almost every single page due to the crazy, wackiness of Rebel and the people AND the animals in her life. Yes, even the animals. Doublewide the cat made me laugh so hard I cried. But seriously, Rebel is surrounded by a ton of amazing characters with quirks and personalities and each with their own individual story that Rebel shares in her own unique way. And, you know – the cat’s name is DOUBLEWIDE.
And Rebel was SUCH a 12 year old girl. I loved her mannerisms and attitudes – and the family dynamics throughout Rebel McKenzie. I don’t have an older sister, and I definitely don’t have an older sister who is fourteen years older than me with her own son, but I thought the way their relationship was portrayed was brilliantly done.
I loved the storyline of Rebel McKenzie. I’m not usually a big fan of beauty pageants in books because they seem to be either so focused on the beauty pageant itself or the rebel (hah) girl who is forced into the beauty pageant for whatever reason…but the way Candice Ransom worked the pageant into the story – it didn’t overpower anything, and it worked very well.
I definitely recommend Rebel McKenzie by Candice Ransom for fans of middle grade looking for a fun time and a lot of heart.(less)
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley was one of those books where I was just being plain stupid before reading it. Because SO many people were reading it and loving it and I had a moment of rebellion and decided not to read Graffiti Moon.
Boy, was I an idiot. I am so sorry that I put off reading Graffiti Moon because I was just in shock at how much I loved it. And I’m such a contemp fan. Someone, please make me feel better and tell me you’ve felt rebellious too!
Anyway, The writing in Graffiti Moon was phenomenal. I really liked switching between Lucy and Ed’s point of view and how it overlapped with one another, rather than just giving one side to the story. I thought the poetry in Poet’s chapters was very well written, but didn’t interest me as much as Lucy and Ed’s stories.
And guys – the way Ed and Lucy interact, and their history, is hysterical and so freaking real. Cath Crowley got it. I loved the building romance in Graffiti Moon. It’s not a Bam! They meet and they’re into each other kind of book. It’s gradual – well, as gradual as over the course of one night can be, but I swear it feels much longer than that.
The descriptions of all the art in Graffiti Moon made me want to go find all my stuff from high school and start drawing and painting again. Also Lucy does GLASSBLOWING guys if I ever took up an artistic profession, it would be glassblowing because it is so so so amazing and if I had known she did it, I would have read Graffiti Moon immediately.
I’m not sure how well written this review really is, but it doesn’t matter, because Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley does all the explaining itself. Just pick it up. You’ll see.(less)
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin was a fun and engaging, and incredibly magical, middle grade story from the get-go. It had so many elements of my favourite middle grade story – magical settings, mystery and intrigue, and an awesome protagonist.
This might be slightly off topic, but first of all, I LOVE the title – The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy. I think it does a great job of setting up the tone of the book and it’s just one of those titles that I love saying to myself. Plus, the cover is awesome. It’s the kind of cover that even my boyfriend thinks is amazing.
I honestly loved Lorelei, the protagonist. She was a little hard to connect with at certain points – especially in the beginning, but I was rooting her on and cheering for her throughout all of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy. I love a headstrong and determined protagonist and Lorelai definitely had those qualities.
And the story of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy! I love retellings that still have their own unique twist on the fairy tale and I thought Nikki Loftin did a fantastic job. I could definitely feel the Hansel and Gretel inspiration while reading The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, but it also did an amazing job of standing by itself.
In a nutshell – I loved The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin. It’s a beautifully written tale with magic, mystery, and intrigue, not to mention a protagonist to root for. If you’re a fan of middle grade stories, be sure to grab a copy of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy. With a cover like that, and a story so magical, how can you resist?(less)
I want to marry My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It was one of those books where I wanted to raise it above my head and shout “Hey, this is me! In book form!”
Because My Life Next Door totally is. I mean, I don’t mean that the story necessarily relates to me if you gave it to me in outline form, but the overall feel and writing style and setting and characters and lots of family dynamics and all the little things adding up – my perfect kind of book.
IN ANY CASE. The writing style of My Life Next Door was beautiful and lyrical – I wanted to read it slowly, so I could really, really read it.
And the BUILD UP. There was so much build up in My Life Next Door. Just from reading the summary, you KNOW something happens. But the romance and the family is so beautiful and you’re just reading this perfect summer love but at the same time you’re like OH MY GOD WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AND WHEN. I was so tense throughout most of My Life Next Door.
The characters in My Life Next Door were so well done. I loved Samantha, and even her mom, and all of the Garretts of course, because they were all REAL. They all had personality and a story.
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick is not a debut you want to miss. It truly has it all – the perfect combination of summer, love, family, and the tragedy that’s always lurking right around the corner.(less)
I have such COMPLICATED feelings on The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes. For some reason, even after reading the summary, I didn’t expect The Princesses of Iowa to be as heavy and emotional as it was.
I read the prologue of The Princesses of Iowa and immediately connected to it. M. Molly Backes writing style – kind of rambly and flowy like the narrator is saying it all in one breath is so ME. That is how I think. So I loved connecting to The Princesses of Iowa on that level.
But MAN what an emotionally draining book. I was tense from the get-go – car accidents, suspected cheating boyfriend, psycho parents, and then BAM all this even more intense stuff happened and I literally could not catch my breath while reading The Princesses of Iowa. I had to keep reading and more stuff kept happening and nothing was going right and even after I put it down, I was super tense and down in the dumps.
The ending to The Princesses of Iowa was uplifting and hopeful, which I approved of, but even after finishing it, I just couldn’t shake the feelings from my mind.
But the issues discussed in The Princesses of Iowa are SO IMPORTANT. Drunk driving, cheating boyfriends, verbally and otherwise abusive parents, rampaging homophobia – it ALL goes down in this book.
What I guess I’m trying to say is – The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes does not shy away from the tough topics. It’s tough to take and you’ll be holding your breath through parts of it, so definitely have a lighter book ready to read next. But don’t skip The Princesses of Iowa. Definitely worth a read.
(Also, I would just like to point out that since writing this review, I’ve read a couple of reviews describing The Princesses of Iowa as being uplifting and etc. SO even though it was so emotionally draining to me, you could totally have the opposite reaction.)(less)
Croak by Gina Damico is one of those books where you know from the moment you start you’re gonna have fun.
The world building in Croak is excellent. The concept is awesome and almost a bit complicated, and yet I never got confused, despite all the different terms that were being thrown at us in the first 100 pages. Scythes, Killers, Cullers, etc – I understood it all, it was easy to grasp despite there being so much.
I loved all the characters in Croak, especially the main ones, Lex, Driggs, and Mort. Lex was bitter and sarcastic and angry, and even though I totally wanted to punch her sometimes, she was still really likeable. It’s kind of hard to be both, but she pulled it off.
And Driggs! I definitely liked the budding romance between Lex and Driggs, and even though I’m definitely a “Kiss already!” kind of person, I liked that they weren’t thrown together (well, technically they were, but not in a romantic way) – it developed slowly and I can’t wait to see how it ends up in the sequel.
Again, I thought the concept and storyline of Croak was very unique. I’ve seen the show, Dead Like Me, and while I can totally see similarities, Croak stands up by itself. Gina Damico clearly had her own ideas and ran with them.
Croak by Gina Damico is a fun paranormalish book that had me riveted and giggling all at the same time. Definitely pick up a copy of Croak if it sounds like something you’d like!(less)
Rebecca Serle‘s debut When You Were Mine is a sure sign of awesomeness to come from the author. I went through a huge range of emotions while reading When You Were Mine, and even when I was so enraged I almost chucked it at the wall (more on that later), I was still thinking, “Man, this is a damn good book.”
After reading When You Were Mine, I will never look at Romeo and Juliet the same way again. Just like after seeing Wicked in the West End, I’ll never look at the Wizard of Oz the same way. Rebecca Serle did such a freaking fantastic job of taking Romeo and Juliet into modern times and putting a spin on it – and telling it from Rosaline’s point of view.
I loved Rosaline as a protagonist, and her two best friends Charlie and Olivia. Sure, Charlie and Olivia were pretty shallow at certain points, but in the end they were loyal and loving and really came through for Rosaline. Rosaline was so hopeful and happy about Rob and then just crushed and seriously – so many sobs throughout.
Juliet was SUCH A BITCH. I cannot explain to you guys how much I wanted to chuck my book across the room anytime she was mentioned. A conniving, backstabbing, boyfriend stealing bitch. Of course, Rob isn’t blameless and man, I hated him too – even though I fell for him hard in the beginning. I knew what was coming but I couldn’t believe how fast he fell for her. Such an asshole but I just. I can’t. Because it’s Romeo and Juliet, you know? I have so many conflicting feelings.
Can you guys see how many feelings I felt while reading When You Were Mine? I was swoony and happy and then irritated and then enraged and then indignant and swoony again and then crushed and GAH. When You Were Mine is such a roller coaster.
Guys, When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle is an unbelievably fantastic debut. Rebecca Serle was able to tell such a powerful story that made me feel SO MANY different things and I loved that. Even though I hated it, haha! Seriously, check out When You Were Mine for a powerful contemporary that’s certain to stir up emotion.(less)
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is an absolutely astonishing and emotional middle grade. If you’re going to read this one, and trust me – you should – definitely have the tissues on hand.
I loved Carley – she definitely made it to my top protagonists lists. She’s been through so much and her attitude definitely shows this. She’s messed up and angry and hurt and confused, and I thought Lynda Mullaly Hunt really showed that in her story telling.
I loved the Murphys. Every single one. The three awesome and totally different sons, Mr. Murphy, and of course, Mrs. Murphy. She made me cry with her awesomeness.
There was so much about One for the Murphys that was realistic and relatable, even if you’ve never experienced the foster care system. Middle school was terrible for everyone in general and I thought that was really reflected in Carley’s experiences, especially with her developing friendship with Toni, and the bullying of Rainer.
One for the Murphys was a very, very touching debut and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a moving contemporary. Also, One for the Murphys would be great for reluctant readers – I thought it was a quick-paced and engaging.(less)
My feelings on Black City by Elizabeth Richards are a little hard to explain. Black City is an interesting dystopian kind of book, but with a vampire population (although they’re called darklings rather than vampires).
And I loved the first hundred pages or so of Black City. There was political scandal, romance, intrigue, and I loved learning about the world Elizabeth Richards built. New worlds are some of my favourite things and there’s so many rules and customs in Black City – and I loved learning them.
But then some of the characters in Black City really started to annoy me a bit. I couldn’t understand why people kept fighting with each other for no reason and there was this weird, obnoxious love triangle and some stuff dealing with soul mates (blood mates) and it really took me out of the awesome world Elizabeth Richards built.
But then the ending of Black City got crazy again, which I liked.
Despite my mixed feelings on Black City, I feel like it’s one of those books that I need to reread. Now that I know that the romance/love triangle plays a huge role in the middle of Black City, I have to wonder if I’ll enjoy it more – rather than just being thrown by it like I was the first time.
Basically – Black City wasn’t the book for me. But if you like vampires with an interesting backstory, and some crazy dystopian world building, I do recommend giving Black City a shot. Elizabeth Richards definitely knows how to bring you into a new place with her words.(less)
Starters by Lissa Price is heart-wrenching and intense and full of secrets and mystery and just so many awesome things. I mean, I was tearing up within the first chapter, okay?
Because Lissa Price really puts you into Callie’s world. She gives you backstory as it goes on, but you’re immediately feeling the loss that Callie and Michael and Tyler feel and it’s just so heartbreaking and painful and it really sets up the story for why Callie goes through with renting her body to the “elders.”
The story is so intense! I was freaking out through certain parts because there were so many twists in Starters. One or two I saw coming, but there were a few that really blew my mind. I felt like I should have expected it, but I totally didn’t and I was freaking out.
The concept of Starters is super interesting, but also very creepy. The idea of living in a world where elderly people can rent young people’s bodies is just…not a world I want to live in.
And the ending of Starters! Major OH MY GOD. I was saying OH MY GOD outloud for a good five minutes. I’m still saying it. I need to read the second book now because whaaaaaaaaaaat.
If you’re a fan of futuristic, sci-fi books that also feels very current, definitely check out Starters by Lissa Price. It’s emotional and intense, as well as engaging. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it initially, but Starters quickly sucked me in to the mysterious, intense, and upsetting world.(less)
Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank is a beautifully honest and heartbreaking coming-of-age historical fiction.
From the very first page of Child of the Mountains, I was immediately there with the main character, Lydia. She’s from the mountains and her dialect and English isn’t very good, but I was sucked into her story. I was rooting for her from the first page because she’s so heartbroken and honest and good, I guess, is the word I’m looking for. And my feelings from the first page were just solidified throughout the rest of the book.
And there’s so much sadness and confusion and yet throughout Child of the Mountains, I was so hopeful because I just knew that everything had to turn out alright for Lydia, because she deserved better.
I loved the secondary teachers in Child of the Mountains, especially Lydia’s teacher and her brother BJ. They all had a crucial role to play in Lydia’s coming-of-age, but they still felt just as real as she did.
The present day and backstory in Child of the Mountains was beautifully blended into one flowing story. I loved the way Marilyn Sue Shank dropped hints throughout Child of the Mountains so that we were able to mostly figure out on her own what happened to put her mother and jail, and yet there was still a twist at the end that I never expected.
There were parts of Child of the Mountains that literally felt like it came out of a young girl’s diaries. The stories that were shared about Christmas and various road trips and childhood pranks really resonated with me.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a side of heartbreak and hope, and beautiful coming-of-age stories, definitely pick up this fabulous debut by Marilyn Sue Shank. Child of the Mountains is not a book you want to miss.(less)
HOLY WHAT. That was kind of my reaction the ENTIRE time I was reading Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris. There are so many freaking twists throughout Unraveling and I was SO TENSE the entire time I was reading it, and I literally could not put it down.
First off – I love Elizabeth Norris and the way she created Janelle. Because Janelle is a snarky badass. She’s not just snarky when she talks to people, everything about her is snark and hilarious, and yet she still has this soft, caring, passionate side and I just LOVED her. What a brilliant and memorable protagonist.
AND BEN. OH BEN.
THE STORY. Unraveling’s story was wacky and insane and intense but oh so freaking good. Because you’re reading Unraveling and you’re like la la la this is great and engaging, and then all of the sudden you’re like HOLY WHAT JUST HAPPENED WHAT IS THIS BOOK. In a really good way, obviously.
I will admit I had a little trouble suspending my disbelief at first because it was SUCH A HUGE CURVEBALL that I’ve never seen before, but once I took a moment to adjust, I was set.
And there were a few scenes where I BAWLED LIKE A BABY.
Guys, if you’re looking for a freaking fantastic debut, look no further – be sure to check out Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris. Unraveling is a very well-written, suspenseful debut that is sure to leave you on your toes. Be sure to grab the tissues and the stress balls, though! And something to bang your hand against when you’re going “WHAT WHAT WHAT JUST HAPPENED!”(less)
I cannot talk enough about how much I loved Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill (and I don’t think I have stopped talking about it since I first read it)! Seriously, this book is me…but in book form. Very rarely have I ever felt like an author sat down and was like, “Hmm, let me think of the perfect book to write for Tara.” But I totally felt that way with Meant to Be.
First of all, the setting. I lived in London for half a year last spring and there was so much of Meant to Be that was so familiar to me. Some of Julia’s experiences in London were exactly like my first experiences – I went to the same places and ate at many of the same restaurants and it was like I was reliving my time abroad all over again.
And Julia, the protagonist, is totally a straight-laced, uptight, always on time and always following the rules kind of girl. In many ways I found myself relating to her totally (but in other ways I just wanted to shake her and tell her to go have fun). I think she’s going to be one of those characters that people either really like or really dislike, and I definitely feel the former.
And the swoon! The swoon! I loved Jason, even though he was a total butthead at the beginning of Meant to Be. He kind of ended up as a total butthead in an adorable kind of way.
Yes, there was plot too, besides the traveling abroad and romance thing. Which I found to be super entertaining, even though there were a lot of bits I predicted, I still enjoyed the ride. Oh, and there were some bits I totally didn’t predict and it made me MAD for Julia even though Julia didn’t really react the way I would have. But in any case. The plot of Meant to Be is a lot of fun.
Basically – go pick Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill. It’s hilarious with a side of deep and emotional, not to mention the swoony romance and the awesome experience of traveling abroad for the first time. Lauren Morrill’s writing style is one that I loved and she’s definitely already landed herself on my auto-buy list.
I can't wait to get my finished copy of Meant to Be in my hands and reread it all over again.
I have no idea why I put off reading The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellisen for so long. Because once I started it, I thought The Butterfly Clues was truly and wonderfully beautiful.
It’s so rare to find a protagonist who isn’t just weird-yet-still-endearing, but actually, truly, probably..I don’t want to say crazy, but maybe just that their world doesn’t make sense to us. We rarely read a book from the point of view of someone who thinks so differently. And The Butterfly Clues was just that – I couldn’t necessarily understand Lo’s sense of purpose in the collection of objects, but I was able to emphasize with her overall.
And the loss of her brother and her family’s way of dealing with the grief – it broke me. Lo’s treatment of her brother’s room and her dad’s reactions…I just thought The Butterfly Clues was such an interesting look at the grieving process and so heartbreaking.
Other than Lo, one of the main reasons The Butterfly Clues appealed to me is because I am such a huge fan of the mystery-solving-sleuthing teens. I love a good teen mystery – I must have read a billion and twelve Nancy Drew as a teenager book. And The Butterfly Clues? Has a damn good mystery, if I do say so myself. I did not solve it AT ALL (except for one teeny tiny thing I guessed at) and rather than feeling stupid, I was sucked in – I had to know who killed Sapphire, I had to know how Lo figured it out, etc.
The writing, also, was beautiful. Kate Ellisen’s writing really allowed us to get inside Lo’s head and even though I don’t have the same urges as her, the way she was written made her so real.
Overall, I loved The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellisen. I thought it was a beautifully written story with an intriguing mystery and I loved trying to solve it with Lo.(less)
Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy was a cute middle grade story with a premise I really enjoyed.
I loved Lilah as a protagonist. The set up for her psychic powers was awesome and I loved that the first voice she started hearing was her grandmother. She was dealing with so many problems that I remember dealing with when I was 12 turning 13, so it was so easy to relate to Lilah.
And the variety of voices that Lilah heard throughout Small Medium at Large was fun – I liked that it didn’t have to be people she knew. It really opened Small Medium at Large for possibilities.
My only complaint was here were a lot of smaller story lines in Small Medium at Large that all sort of mixed together, which was good because yay variety of ghosts and drama, but they all seemed to be solved within a few paragraphs and the overarching story line wasn’t really such a huge big deal either, if that makes sense.
Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy was a great mix of cute and funny with a very relatable protagonist and a cool psychic ability. The story line didn’t really pack a punch, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.(less)