Category: YA

Book Review: Where It All Lands, by Jennie Wexler

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.

Twice.

Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane’s dad. The bitter separation of Drew’s parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they’ve always been there for each other.

When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.

But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.

This was an interesting read. The first half of the story is told where Drew wins the coin toss, the second where Shane wins. And, dang. It was interesting to see the two different storylines—the characters (Drew and Shane at least) came across completely differently with that one seemingly small change.

Music runs through all of this novel, and several times I wanted to stop and look up some of the songs to listen. I have zero musical ability, but I love to read about people who have that ability. All in all, this was a solid read, and I loved the split stories.

Jennie Wexler lives in New Jersey. Where It All Lands is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Image belongs to Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

This was a fantastic read! I love that it’s a retelling of a fairy tale, set in a completely different—and vividly drawn—culture. Some of the brothers kind of blurred together for me; not a surprise, as for the most part they sort of played one part, but the other characters were distinct and believable.

Shiori herself was great. Her journey to realizing and embracing her strength was wonderful, and I loved how she thought for herself and didn’t just go along with what everyone told her. I was up late finishing this because I just couldn’t put it down.

Elizabeth Lin lives in New York City. Six Crimson Cranes is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Down with this Ship, by Katie Kingman

Image belongs to Flux.
  • Author:  Katie Kingman
  • Genre:  YA
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Kole Miller does one thing really well: write fanfiction for the show The Space Game. Everything else is a struggle: like managing her anxiety, frequent crushes, and plans after high school. But when her blog, Spacer, wins a major fanfiction contest, her traffic soars.

With massive readership comes criticism Kole isn’t prepared for, including getting stuck in the heated ship wars surrounding the show. And then an invitation to speak at The Space Game’s official convention arrives in her inbox.

When the most competitive kids in her Creative Writing class discover Kole’s writing Spacer, her blog is taken hostage and she risks them hitting ctrl+A+del on Spacer. To win it back, Kole must face both her inner demons and the ones at Crystal Lake High before they make the drama not just about The Space Game, but about Kole herself.

I love to read YA fiction. I do. But I think maybe this wasn’t the best fit for me. I’m not knocking her being obsessed with a TV show or writing fanfiction at all, but she just didn’t make sense to me. Why is she hiding her identity so hard? Why does she not want anyone to know she writes a hugely popular blog? Why does she even care what her ex-friends think of her? And why does she care about all of those things so much she lets herself be blackmailed? Multiple times, no less. If you care that much about something, own it. Don’t let someone make you feel less-than because of it.

Bits of this were pretty cliched (the boy next door crush) or blown out of proportion (Are you telling me someone with such a successful online presence doesn’t know how to protect her own blog?), and it felt like that stuff happened just to add drama—without being believable. In the end, this tried just a little bit too hard, without fully delivering a believable story or characters.

Katie Kingman lives in Phoenix. Down with This Ship is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Tragedy of Dane Riley, by Kat Spears

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Dane Riley’s grasp on reality is slipping, and he’s not sure that he cares. While his mother has moved on after his father’s death, Dane desperately misses the man who made Dane feel okay to be himself. He can’t stand his mother’s boyfriend, or the boyfriend’s son, whose favorite pastime is tormenting Dane. Then there’s the girl next door: Dane can’t quite define their relationship, and he doesn’t know if he’s got the courage to leave the friend zone.

Dane is an interesting character! He’s sad, but he’s so thoughtful and introspective about everything—and, while I don’t necessarily agree with some of his conclusions, I can see where they make sense to him, in the middle of the shadows where he is.

His mother comes across as clueless and insensitive, but I loved the reveal about her boyfriend. I like Ophelia, too, but she and Dane were both totally oblivious to each other’s interest, which was frustrating. I have to say, I didn’t care for the ending. It left things feeling unresolved, so that was definitely not a plus, but this book dealt with depression and grief in a way that draws the reader into Dane’s head, so they can understand exactly how he’s feeling.

Kat Spears thinks being a teenager sucked, so now she writes about it. The Tragedy of Dane Riley is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous, by Suzanne Park

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Sunny Song’s Big Summer Goals:

1) Make Rafael Kim my boyfriend (finally!)

2) Hit 100K followers (almost there…)

3) Have the best last summer of high school ever

Not on Sunny’s list: accidentally filming a PG-13 cooking video that goes viral (#browniegate). Extremely not on her list: being shipped off to a digital detox farm camp in Iowa (IOWA??) for a whole month. She’s traded in her WiFi connection for a butter churn, and if she wants any shot at growing her social media platform this summer, she’ll need to find a way back online.

But between some unexpected friendships and an alarmingly cute farm boy, Sunny might be surprised by the connections she makes when she’s forced to disconnect.

That was an entertaining read. The obsession with social media was almost too much for me—please, people, live your actual life—but I enjoyed Sunny’s growth from living and breathing for her followers and likes to actually looking around and interacting with people.

The writing was solid and the description of Iowa was vivid and well-done—I assume, as I’ve never been there—and I could almost feel the heat. I wasn’t quite sure what Sunny would decide at the end, so that was fun, too. She showed a lot of character growth, but it was done gradually and believably, making this an enjoyable read.

Suzanne Park was born and raised in Tennessee. Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Counting Down with You, by Tashie Bhuiyan

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleCounting Down with You
AuthorTashie Bhuiyan
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Karina Ahmed has a plan. Keep her head down, get through high school without a fuss, and follow her parents’ rules—even if it means sacrificing her dreams. When her parents go abroad to Bangladesh for four weeks, Karina expects some peace and quiet. Instead, one simple lie unravels everything.

Karina is my girlfriend.

Tutoring the school’s resident bad boy was already crossing a line. Pretending to date him? Out of the question. But Ace Clyde does everything right—he brings her coffee in the mornings, impresses her friends without trying, and even promises to buy her a dozen books (a week) if she goes along with his fake-dating facade. Though Karina agrees, she can’t help but start counting down the days until her parents come back.

T-minus twenty-eight days until everything returns to normal—but what if Karina no longer wants it to?

I enjoyed this read and learning more about Karina’s life and culture. She’s a fascinating character and a lot of fun—especially when she’s with her two best friends. I did not, however, find Ace believable or realistic in the slightest. Sure, he was wonderful and perfect, but…a 16-year-old boy who’s perfect and always does the right thing is the opposite of believable. He’s not a bad boy. He’s super nice and respectful, and he apparently falls for Karina without knowing a thing about her. So, while I enjoyed this read, I never lost sight of the fact that it wasn’t believable.

Tashie Bhuiyan is based in New York City. Counting Down with You is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter, by Angeline Boulley

Image belongs to Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

TitleFirekeeper’s Daughter
AuthorAngeline Boulley
Genre:  YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.

The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.

Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.

Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.

This is an incredible book! From the very first page, I was invested in Daunis and her story. The cultural details come to shimmering life on the page, and though I’m unfamiliar with the culture, the details made me feel like part of everything—even the hockey, which is a big part of the storyline. Daunis herself is an extraordinary character: a strong woman surrounded by strong women who frequently have their strength stolen or attacked by men. You should definitely read this!

Angeline Boulley has had a career in Indian education at the tribal, state, and national levels and is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Firekeeper’s Daughter is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan/Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Namesake, by Adrienne Young

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleNamesake
AuthorAdrienne Young
Genre:  YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

I have read—and loved—everything Adrienne Young has published, and I was so excited to read this. And it did not disappoint! I read it straight through in one siting, and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next! Lots of action, intrigue, betrayal, adventure, and a bit of romance makes this unputdownable!

Adrienne Young is a bestselling author. Namesake is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Iron Raven, by Julie Kagawa

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleThe Iron Raven
Author Julie Kagawa
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything set in this world. Like, a really long time. But I remember Puck. He was always a character I loved. So, it was fun to read his story. The voice of this novel is perfect for his story, too.

Of course, all of faerie—and the human world—is at stake (it wouldn’t be a Kagawa book if it weren’t), but seeing the “old” Puck, a.k.a Robin Goodfellow, was the most unsettling part of this novel. Seeing Meghan and Ash again was great, too, but I think I need to go back and re-read all the other books again, so I feel a bit more up-to-speed. This was an excellent read. A touch of nostalgia, but Puck is front and center—and larger than life.

Julie Kagawa is a bestselling author. The iron Raven is her newest novel, the first book in The Iron Fey:  Evenfall.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour and Book Review: How to Build a Heart, by Maria Padian

Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

TitleHow to Build a Heart
AuthorMaria Padian
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

I’m pleased to say this was nothing like I expected! I liked Izzy a lot. She struggled in this book:  with grief over her dad, her struggles with his family, her identity, and accepting and embracing who she is. Honestly, I expected a mean-girls scenario, and there was a tiny touch of that, but not much.

Izzy friendship with Roz was well-done, and how the two grew and changed in the novel made this a story well worth reading. It’s not a typical YA/romance, although there is romance, it’s not the focus of the story. There were a few loose ends left when the story was over, so it felt a bit unresolved, but this was a solid, heartwarming read.

Maria Padian was born in New York City. How to Build a Heart is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)