Category: young adult

Book Review: The Knockout, by Sajni Patel

Image belongs to Flux.

Title:  The Knockout
Author:  Sajni Patel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

If seventeen-year-old Kareena Thakkar is going to alienate herself from the entire Indian community, she might as well do it gloriously. She’s landed the chance of a lifetime, an invitation to the US Muay Thai Open, which could lead to a spot on the first-ever Olympic team. If only her sport wasn’t seen as something too rough for girls, something she’s afraid to share with anyone outside of her family. Despite pleasing her parents, exceling at school, and making plans to get her family out of debt, Kareena’s never felt quite Indian enough, and her training is only making it worse.

Which is inconvenient, since she’s starting to fall for Amit Patel, who just might be the world’s most perfect Indian. Admitting her feelings for Amit will cost Kareena more than just her pride–she’ll have to face his parents’ disapproval, battle her own insecurities, and remain focused for the big fight. Kareena’s bid for the Olympics could very well make history–if she has the courage to go for it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read! Kareena is a fantastic character:  she’s tough, determined, loves her family, and is dealing with problems on all sides with strength and courage. Kareena has always been both a rebel against her community and set on making her parents proud, so this conflict is a theme in the story, as is her finding the courage to trust people with her secrets. This is a well-written book set in a vibrant community and is an excellent read!

Sajni Patel was born in India and grew up in Texas. The Knockout is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Defending the Galaxy, by Maria V. Snyder

Image belongs to the author.

Title: Defending the Galaxy
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Junior Officer Ara Lawrence here, reporting for duty. Again. It’s situation critical for the security team and everyone in the base – including my parents – with a new attack from the looters imminent, a possible galaxy-wide crime conspiracy and an unstoppable alien threat. But this all pales in the face of my mind-blowing discovery about the Q-net. Of course, no one believes me. I’m not sure I believe me. It could just be a stress-induced delusion. That’s what my parents seem to believe…

Their concern for me is hampering my ability to do my job. I know they love me, but with the Q-net in my corner, I’m the only one who can help the security team beat the shadowy aliens from the pits we discovered. We’re holding them at bay, for now, but the entire Milky Way Galaxy is in danger of being overrun.

With battles on too many fronts, it’s looking dire. But one thing I’ve learned is when people I love are in jeopardy, I’ll never give up trying to save them. Not until my dying breath. Which could very well be today…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Sentinels of the Galaxy series! Maria V. Snyder’s writing is fantastic, as always, and this universe is nicely done and intriguing. I’d never considered the effects faster-than-light travel would have on families and friendships, so that was an intriguing detail.

Ara is a lot of fun to read—smart, determined, and with enough snark to make me laugh. She trying to save the universe here, but she’s also concerned with typical teenage things like her boyfriend and what’s going on with him. Lots of action, high stakes, and characters I care about made this a riveting read!

Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Defending the Galaxy is the final book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series.

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

Book Review: Above All Else, by Dana Alison Levy

Image belongs to Charlesbridge.

Title: Above All Else
Author: Dana Alison Levy    
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.0 out 0f 5

Rose Keller and Tate Russo have been climbing for years, training in harsh weather and traveling all over the world. The goal that kept them going? Summiting Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. Accompanied by Tate’s dad, the two will finally make the ultimate climb at the end of their senior year. But neither Rose nor Tate are fully in the game–not only is there a simmering romance between them, but Rose can’t get her mind off her mother’s illness, while Tate constantly fails to live up to his ambitious father’s standards.

Everyone on their expedition has something to prove, it seems. And not everyone is making the best decisions while short on oxygen and exhausted, body and mind. The farther up the mountain they go, the more their climbing plans unravel and the more isolated each team member becomes. Rose and Tate will have to dig deep within themselves to determine what–or who–they value above all else.

For someone with a fear of heights, parts of this were moderately terrifying. This was an intense read! I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon twice—third trip will be next year—but that’s more of a months-of-training thing, not years of training. And, while I’m fascinated by people who choose to hike Mt. Everest, I haven’t the faintest desire to actually climb any mountain.

I loved how we see this story from both Rose and Tate’s points-of-view. They’re such different people and their perspectives are so different, despite everyone thinking of them as RoseandTate. There are some intense scenes in this, but the author does an incredible job with the setting and letting us see what Rose and Tate experience on this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Dana Alison Levy lives in New England. Above All Else is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Code for Love and Heartbreak, by Jillian Cantor

  

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak
Author: Jillian Cantor
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Emma Woodhouse is a genius at math, but clueless about people. After all, people are unreliable. They let you down—just like Emma’s sister, Izzy, did this year, when she moved to California for college. But numbers…those you can count on. (No pun intended.)

Emma’s senior year is going to be all about numbers, and seeing how far they can take her. When she and George, her Coding Club co-president, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born—a matchmaking app that goes far beyond swiping, using algorithms to calculate compatibility. George disapproves of Emma’s idea, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other and her own feelings defy any algorithm? Emma thought math could solve everything. But there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

This was an excellent and unique re-telling of Emma! Emma is beyond clueless about people—to the point it’s actually funny to see what she’ll fail to understand next, but she’s so likable and relatable. I felt sorry for her while wanting her to succeed and learn from her mistakes. And George is just so lovable!

The prose flows smoothly here, not getting in the way of the story. Any awkwardness is due to Emma—and maybe Jane—not author intrusion or clunky writing. This was a fun read that did not disgrace Jane Austen.

Jillian Cantor lives in Arizona. The Code for Love and Heartbreak is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Smash It, by Francina Simone

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Smash It
Author: Francina Simone  
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts–why, God, why?–she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list–a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold–do the thing that scares me.

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys–and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.

This is billed as a re-telling of Othello, except it’s not. Not even remotely. The school musical Liv ends up doing is Othello (a rap version, no less), but that’s it. Solid writing and diverse characters, but those were the only positives for me of this book.

Liv herself is…immensely selfish. She’s so self-involved she doesn’t even notice her two best friends’ lives imploding—and not in the way Liv’s does (because she’s so selfish she brings disaster on herself). I’m all for owning your own life, but you shouldn’t do it at the expense of those around you. And Liv does. She’s awful to her mom and sister, to the guy who likes her, to hew new friends, and how she treats her two “best” friends is atrocious (With friends like Liv, who needs enemies?).

Francina Simone was born in Germany. Smash It is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Finding Balance, by Kati Gardner

finding balance
Image belongs to North Star Editions/Flux.

Title:  Finding Balance
AuthorKati Gardner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.

Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.

Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you

 

This book deals with some really tough subjects. Bad things happen sometimes—and sometimes children are the one who have to deal with it. Jase and Mari survived childhood cancer, but years later they’re still dealing with the fallout. Mari is so unbelievably strong—and I love how she doesn’t just put up with Jase’s b.s. She calls him out on it and lets him know it’s not okay.

I felt really sorry for Jase. How can anyone think it’s okay to bully someone who had cancer? I can’t imagine being the victim there, on top of having cancer! Strength in the midst of pain runs through this novel, and it was so good!

Kati Gardner calls herself a recovering actor. She lives in North Carolina and had an amputation as the result of childhood cancer. Finding Balance is her newest novel, the second book in the Brave Enough series.

(Galley courtesy of North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Road Out of Winter, by Alison Stine

road out of winter
Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

Title: Road Out of Winter
Author: Alison Stine
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Surrounded by poverty and paranoia her entire life, Wil has been left behind in her small Appalachian town by her mother and her best friend. Not only is she tending her stepfather’s illegal marijuana farm alone, but she’s left to watch the world fall further into chaos in the face of a climate crisis brought on by another year of unending winter.  

With her now priceless grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, Wil upends her life to pursue her mother in California, collecting an eclectic crew of fellow refugees along the way. She’s determined to start over and use her skills to grow badly needed food in impossible farming conditions, but the icy roads and desperate strangers are treacherous to Wil and her gang. Her green thumb becomes the target of a violent cult and their volatile leader, and Wil must use all her cunning and resources to protect her newfound family and the hope they have found within each other.

 This was rather dark and depressing—so the author did an excellent job of setting the tone and mood of the story. The idea of never-ending winter is sobering, at the very least. Wil is an interesting character. She’s so used to being the outcast, the one everyone shuns, that it’s a big adjustment to have people around who actually need her.

I enjoyed the character growth she experienced, but the book just depressed me, frankly. Lots of horrible people willing to steal and kill in order to get ahead, even if they don’t actually need what they’re stealing. Wil is like a tiny ray of light in a dark room in this story, and even though she sometimes flickers, she does not go out.

Alison Stine lives in the Appalachian foothills. Road Out of Winter is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Blog Tour and Book Review: These Vengeful Hearts, by Katherine Laurin

these vengeful hearts
Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: These Vengeful Hearts
Author:  Katherine Laurin
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members–the most elite female students in the school–deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities a secret known only to their ruthless leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Sixteen-year-old Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Two years ago, they caused the accident that left her older sister paralyzed. Now, Ember is determined to hold them accountable…by taking the Red Court down from the inside.

But crossing enemy lines will mean crossing moral boundaries, too–ones Ember may never be able to come back from. She always knew taking on the Red Court would come at a price, but will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

This asks the question “Does doing the wrong/bad thing for a right/good reason make it okay?” Because Ember does some pretty horrible stuff to people as a member of the Red Court—and she keeps telling herself it’s okay because she’s trying to take the Red Court down.

I actually enjoyed reading Ember’s moral quandary. I thought her struggles were very realistic—and there are a lot of crappy people at her school! Her friendship with Gideon was fantastic and totally believable (everyone needs a best friend like that), and her crush was a nice counter to the darkness of the whole Red Court, even if it was bit predictable.

Katherine Laurin lives in Colorado. These Vengeful Hearts is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Fable, by Adrienne Young

fable
Image belongs to Wednesday Books.

Title: Fable
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre:   4.5 out of 5
Rating: Fantasy, YA

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

I was intrigued by this from the very first page. Fable is clearly a better person than me, because if I’d been abandoned—basically to die—by my father four years ago, I wouldn’t have gone back looking for him like I cared. It did make her a strong person, though.  The parts on the sea were well-done and vivid, and the land-based settings were vivid and realistic.

I liked all the characters and their relationships were believable. There’s enough escalating tension here to keep me reading late into the night, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the second book. I saw a post pointing out the similarity between West and The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride and now I can’t unsee that…which isn’t a bad thing. I liked the adventure-filled atmosphere and the setting was fascinating.

Adrienne Young is a New York Times-bestselling author. Fable is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: It Came from the Sky, by Chelsea Sedoti

 

it came from the sky
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title: It Came from the Sky
Author:  Chelsea Sedoti
Genre: YA
Rating: 4 out of 5

This is the absolutely true account of how Lansburg, Pennsylvania was invaded by aliens and the weeks of chaos that followed. There were sightings of UFOs, close encounters, and even abductions. There were believers, Truth Seekers, and, above all, people who looked to the sky and hoped for more.

Only…there were no aliens.

Gideon Hofstadt knows what really happened. When one of his science experiments went wrong, he and his older brother blamed the resulting explosion on extraterrestrial activity. And their lie was not only believed by their town―it was embraced. As the brothers go to increasingly greater lengths to keep up the ruse and avoid getting caught, the hoax flourishes. But Gideon’s obsession with their tale threatened his whole world. Can he find a way to banish the aliens before Lansburg, and his life, are changed forever?

I really enjoyed reading this! Gideon is…Sheldon, from Big Bang Theory (except he doesn’t think he’s smarter than everyone), and I love Sheldon, so I enjoyed Gideon’s point-of-view. I actually felt sorry for him, too, because he was just baffled by people’s emotions and how he should respond sometimes.

The secondary characters are vibrant and distinctive, and Sedoti’s writing is solid and enjoyable as always, letting the reader feel at home in the story world. There were several funny moments here, and I’d love to read more about all these characters (like, what’s Maggie getting up to?).

Chelsea Sedoti lives in Las Vegas. It Came from the Sky is her newest novel.

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