Tag: fiction

Doing the wrong thing for the right reason in Lillian Clark’s “Immoral Code”

immoral code
Image belongs to Knopf.

 

Title: Immoral Code
Author:  Lillian Clark
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Five friends. An absentee father who’s a billionaire. One nefarious plot.

Nari is a genius digital hacker. Keagan is her sweet boyfriend who would follow her anywhere. Reese is a visual artist who dreams of traveling everywhere. San is headed to Stanford on a diving scholarship and wants to go to the Olympics. And Bellamy is a physics genius who gets into MIT—then finds out the father she’s never seen is a billionaire, destroying her hopes of financial aid.

Nari’s not going to let her best friend’s dreams be destroyed by some jerk who wants nothing to do with her, so she comes up with a plan:  hack into Bellamy’s dad’s computer empire and plant a code that skims enough money off millions of transactions to pay for Bellamy’s first year of college.

What could possibly go wrong?

This group of characters was fascinating. A group of individuals who form a fantastic team with an unbreakable friendship. I did not entirely care for Nari, who was very bossy and demanding (autocratic comes to mind), but I loved the rest—especially Reese and her vibrant hair. The relationships were complex and believable, and Keagan was my favorite character:  he’s the voice of reason, as well as being the lone “ordinary” soul in the group. Definitely a good read.

Lillian Clark grew up in Wyoming and now lives in Idaho. Immoral Code is her debut novel.

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

#immoralcode #lillianclark #knopfteen #ireadthereforeiam #books #bookstagram #bookreview #reading #netgalley #netgalleyreads #contemporaryya #ireadya #yalit

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Book Review: Spectacle, by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

spectacle-red-final
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Spectacle
Author:  Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Genre:  YA, fantasy, historical
Rating:  3.7 out of 5

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column in 1887 Paris. It’s her job to tell about each day’s new arrivals to the morgue, which the citizens of Paris are fascinated with. It’s morbid, but it’s just a job, until the day Nathalie sees a vision of the murder of the body before her…from the perspective of the murderer.

When the body of another woman is found a few days later, all of Paris is talking about it—and speculating it won’t be the last. Nathalie’s visions may be the only way to help find the killer, but can she figure out who the murderer is before her own life is forfeit?

This wasn’t a bad read. The premise is unique, but I found it a little erratic. Sometimes, Nathalie seemed very childish and naïve—who wanders around a busy city alone when they are the target of a serial killer? And who would go into the Parisian Catacombs like that, especially? I liked the concept, but the execution could use a little bit of polishing.

Jodie Lynn Zdrok holds two MA degrees in European History, and an MBA. Spectacle is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Tor Teen via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

#spectacle #jodielynnzdrok #torteen #ireadthereforeiam #books #bookstagram #bookreview #reading #netgalley #netgalleyreads #ya #ireadya #historical #paris

 

Book Review: A Danger to Herself and Others, by Alyssa Sheinmel

a danger to herself
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire

Title:  A Danger to Herself and Others
Author:  Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Hannah should not be institutionalized. Her roommate at an intensive study program, Agnes, fell out a window and was severely injured, but Hannah had nothing to do with it. She and Agnes were friends—best friends—even though Hannah was hooking up with Josh, Agnes’s boyfriend, on the side. But she’d never hurt Agnes.

Her parents are off to Europe, as usual, so Hannah decides to play along with Dr. Lightfoot so she can get out of here and back to her life. School’s about to start, and she can’t afford to be late with her college applications. Hannah is on her best behavior—but nothing seems to make an impact on the doctor until Hannah’s roommate, Lucy, arrives.

With Lucy’s help, Hannah can prove to Dr. Lightfoot that there’s nothing wrong with her, nothing at all, but Lucy will show her truths she never imagined.

Hannah is an unreliable narrator at best, but her story and the way her mind worked drew me in immediately. I knew there was something else going on here, but only started getting glimpses of what that was about halfway through. In the end, the book wasn’t what I expected at all, but I was enthralled.

Alyssa B. Sheinmel was born in California and grew up in New York. A Danger to Herself and Others is her newest novel.

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

#adangertoherselfandothers #alyssasheinmel #sourcebooksfire #firereads #yareads #yalit #yacontemporary #ireadya #ireadthereforeiam #books #bookstagram #bookreview #reading #netgalley #netgalleyreads

 

 

Book Review: Castle on the Rise, by Kristy Cambron

castle on the rise
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Castle on the Rise
Author:  Kristy Cambron
Genre:  Historical fiction.
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Laine Forrester is in France for her best friend’s fairytale wedding—and to forget about her own failed marriage. But her friend’s devastating diagnosis takes Laine’s mind off her own problems, and she agrees to return to Ireland with her friend and new family. There, she finds an empty castle filled with treasures and a family who won’t even speak to each other, but everything she needs may just be in Ireland.

This story is actually three different stories in three separate timelines, and I loved all three of them! The troubles in Ireland are a sad subject, but the author does a good job capturing the emotions in the situations—as well as the hope. This is well-written and full of vibrant characters and settings I’d love to see!

Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author. Castle on the Rise is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Inbetween Days, by Eva Woods

the inbetween days
Image belongs to Graydon House/Harlequin.

Title:   The Inbetween Days
Author:   Eva Woods
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Rosie Cook wakes up in a hospital, having been hit by a bus, but no one knows she’s awake. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, on the verge of death. Rosie can’t remember anything:  who she is, what her life is like, or how she got hit by a bus. She just knows she wants to live.

Then Rosie starts remembering things:  a fight with her sister, a walk on a beach, the day her brother was born. But why these memories? And what do they mean? Rosie has trouble facing what the memories reveal about who she was before she woke up, but if she doesn’t make sense of them and figure out who she really is and what she wants, she may never get the chance to try.

The Inbetween Days is touted as emotional and comic, but I wouldn’t really say it’s a comic novel. There are some funny moments, and every page is full of emotion, but it’s not a humorous book. Rosie wasn’t a very happy person—or a nice one—and her memories are not usually happy ones. However, the story follows Rosie’s change from a person she can’t stand, to one filled with hope and promise, and this is truly an excellent read, although Rosie’s sister, Daisy was the one I really related to.

Eva Woods is a writer and lecturer. The Inbetween Days is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Graydon House/Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Famous in a Small Town, by Emma Mills

famous in a small town
Image belongs to Henry Holt & Company.

Title:  Famous in a Small Town
Author:   Emma Mills
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.2 out of 5

Sophie loves living in a small town. She has her four best friends, marching band, and the Yum Yum Shoppe and its fourteen flavors of ice cream. She also has a few regrets, but she tries not to let them get her down. This year, she just wants the band to be able to march in the Rose Bowl parade, and she’s ready to go all-out to make sure that happens. Even if that includes a social media campaign to the country star who is from their small town.

When August moves in down the street, he’s determined to keep everyone at arm’s length, especially Sophie, but soon he’s hanging out with her friends and joining the social media campaign. Her friends aren’t sure he deserves a permanent spot in the group, but August makes a home for himself there—if he’s willing to claim it.

I enjoyed this light, funny read, but it does have some deeper themes as well. Sophie is good at pushing the bad stuff to the back of her mind, but sometimes you just have to face things. August prefers to expect the worst—and not to bother hoping for the best. The friendships in this story are so realistic:  good, bad, at times ugly. I’d love to hang out with these people.

Emma Mills lives in Indianapolis. Famous in a Small Town is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Henry Holt & Company in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal

unmarriageable
Image belongs to Random House Publishing Group.

Title:  Unmarriageable
Author:  Soniah Kamal
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal.”

This is the belief that Alys Binat, second of five daughters and a literature teacher, faces in her students, girls who will likely marry instead of finishing school. That’s just how things are in Pakistan in the early 2000s, but Alys hopes to influence some of her students, nonetheless. Then her family is invited to the society wedding of the year, and her mother sees it as the perfect opportunity to showcase her five daughters.

The eldest, sweet Jena, catches the eye of “Bungles” Bingla, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Mrs. Binat is convinced a proposal is imminent. Alys and her best friend, Sherry, who is determined to marry so she can escape her home life, watch in amusement—and horror—as Aly’s mom and other three sisters—uber-religious Mari, flighty Lady, and artistic Qitty—make a less than stellar impression on Bungles’ sisters and very rich Valentine Darsee, his best friend. Alys hears Darsee’s scathing remarks about her and writes him off as a jerk.

But fate—and Jena and Bungles’ romance—keep throwing Alys and Darsee back into proximity, and Alys discovers the haughty man might not be quite as horrible as she thought. When Lady’s antics destroy the Binat family’s chances of ever holding their heads up in public, no one can save them. Except, maybe, Mr. Darsee.

Fact:  I love Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen had a phenomenal insight into people and portrayed them very well. Fact:  I know basically nothing about Pakistani culture.

Unmarriageable is a close re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, but it’s still its own story. The characters’ names made me laugh—Bungles—but there’s enough of the original in them to make them feel like old friends. I found Mr. Binat much more ineffectual than Mr. Bennet, but everyone else I enjoyed. Even Lady, annoyingly oblivious as she was. Alys was much more of a feminist than Elizabeth Bennet, but I love how her mind worked, and how quick she was to grasp her own mistakes. I highly recommend this!

Soniah Kamal was born in Pakistan, but grew up in England and Saudi Arabia and now lives in the U.S. She is an award-winning author and a creative-writing teacher. Unmarriageable is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Perfect Liar, by Thomas Christopher Greene

the perfect liar
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Perfect Liar
Author:  Thomas Christopher Greene
Genre:   Thriller
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Susannah’s first marriage was to an older man—her therapist—who spent a lot of time “helping” her work through her issues. Now, she’s married to handsome and charming Max, an artist and speaker whose new job at a university took them out of New York City to a small Vermont town where she hopes her 15-year-old son will thrive.

One morning, Susannah finds a note on the door. “I know who you are.” The note triggers her anxiety, and she worries her family is in danger, but Max thinks the note is just a prank. All the same, he starts looking at his coworkers and their neighbors with new eyes—do they know his secret? When a couple visit for dinner, Susannah finds Max’s behavior suspicious, and, a few days later, the man dies tragically while on a run with Max. Then, a second note appears. “Did you get away with it?”

Susannah knows Max is hiding dark secrets, but she has secrets of her own she wants to keep hidden. Who is leaving the notes? And just which secret is he or she talking about?

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, and the writing was solid, but I couldn’t stand the characters. Susannah had a history of mental health issues as well as abuse, and I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t like her at all. She let life happen to her—except near the end of the book—instead of making choices and moving forward. Max was just creepy to me. I really wish I’d liked the characters more. I finished the book, which speaks to the quality of the plot and the writing, but the characters just didn’t work for me.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Massachusetts. The Perfect Liar is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: White Stag, by Kara Barbieri

white stag
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   White Stag
Author:   Kara Barbieri
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Janneke was the last child in a family of daughters, so she was raised as a son and heir. Instead of being trained as a wife and mother like her sisters, she learned to track, hunt, and fight.

A hundred years ago, goblins attacked and destroyed her village and her entire family, leaving her bound to the cruel goblin prince Lydian, who tortured her for years, before she became bound to his nephew, Soren.

Janneke is slowly losing her humanity amidst the violence of the goblin court, but when the king dies and the ancient hunt for the white stag to choose the next king begins, she must choose between her lingering memories of being human and her loyalty to Soren, who has only helped her grow stronger.

White Stag was dark, atmospheric, and broody—in a good way. The Permafrost setting is stark and made me shiver. Janneke grows a lot, especially as she learns truths she never knew. However, I didn’t get a good feel for the goblin culture, apart from violence and cruelty, and I really wanted to know more. There must be a reason for the violence, so more information would have given the culture more nuances. And I found all the characters besides Soren and Janneke to be mostly one-dimensional.

Kara Barbieri lives in Wisconsin. White Stag is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Similars, by Rebecca Hanover

the similars
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   The Similars
Author:   Rebecca Hanover
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

The elite Darkwood Academy is for high-achievers from wealthy families. It’s not cheap, and it’s not easy. But this year, it’s going to get a whole lot more competitive when six new students join the junior class. They’re more than overachievers, they’re clones. And their originals already attend Darkwood.

Emma doesn’t care about the clones. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer, and all she can think about is getting through each day without him. Until she meets Levi and realizes forgetting Oliver will be harder than she thought:  Levi is Oliver’s clone, and seeing his face every day makes life unbearable.

But something is going on with the clones. They’re hiding something, and Emma discovers they have unheard of abilities to go along with their secret agenda. When her friend is almost murdered, Emma realizes something darker is happening, and she must trust someone if she is to find out the truth. But can she really trust Levi?

This is set in a future-America, but not that future, so it was easy to make sense of the world (sadly). I enjoyed reading Emma’s point-of-view and cannot imagine having lost my best friend and then being faced with his clone every day. There is a lot going on here, and I feel like the author glossed over some things that will hopefully be explored in the rest of the series. I noticed there wasn’t a lot involving the instructors, which seemed a bit odd, considering the setting is basically a boarding school, but it wasn’t something that made the story feel fake. The Similars is definitely a book I recommend.

Rebecca Hanover is an Emmy-winning writer and graduate of Stanford. The Similars is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)