Seventeen-year-old Penny loves dancing at the Grande Teatro, a school where she and eleven other girls are training to become the best dancers in all of Italy. She loves to dance. And she loves the Master, the handsome owner of the school. Or…does she?
When Penny starts seeing flashes of a life she doesn’t remember living, she starts asking questions, which lands her in trouble with the Master. But Cricket, the kitchen boy, helps her and she realizes that her life is not what it seems. Desperate to find out the truth, Penny searches for answers, but the Master is one step ahead of her every move. If she does not find the answers she seeks, her memories will be stolen from her forever.
The Midnight Dance starts off when Penny first notices something strange, and the reader sees everything through her eyes, sharing her confusion and fear. This dark novel is both captivating and creepy, told in alternating timelines as the Master’s past is revealed. Penny struggles with the mystery and with the pain of having her memories removed, but she keeps fighting despite the overwhelming odds. I enjoyed this very much, and am looking forward to more from this author.
As if being 16 weren’t bad enough, Krista is still dealing with the death of her mother. Her father has moved his new girlfriend in and wants Krista to start acting normal again and find something to do. Her best friend is going to Maine for the summer. And Krista feels like she has no one to talk to about her pain.
So, she spends her time in a tent on top of the house, shoplifting, and watching a mysterious house. She’s not ready to act normal again. Then she meets Jake, who works at the store she shoplifts, and her dad tells her that her grandfather, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, is coming to visit. Krista starts to feel better, but if she never deals with the past, will she ever feel normal again?
The House at 758 took me by surprise. First, I feel like Krista is my spirit animal. Living in a tent on top of the house because you don’t want to be around people? Sign me up for that! Krista is hurting desperately, but she doesn’t want to ask for help. She’d rather brood and act like everything is okay, because shouldn’t people know what she’s going through? Dealing with dark emotions like grief, anger, and guilt isn’t easy, and Krista fights against it for a long time, until she starts to realize that there is more than one side to every story. This was an engrossing read that drew me into Krista’s head and kept me rooting for her to make a breakthrough and start to see light again.
Kathryn Berla is the author of Dream Me, Twelves Hours in Paradise, Going Places, and The Kitty Committee. The House at 758 is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Julia Jaynes is part of a group of highly-evolved humans living in Austin, Texas. Rich, beautiful, and powerful, they keep to themselves and try not to draw more attention to their media-popular circle. Then Julia saves her sister from drowning, and the media attention she causes makes her powerful father punish her by sending her to public high school.
There Julia meets John, a tennis prodigy and a nice, regular guy. When Julie discovers she can read his mind—sometimes—she uses the power to encourage John, and her feelings start to grow. Living with the regular humans isn’t as bad as she thought, but Julie is desperate to get back in her controlling father’s good graces, before their circle disappears from society for good.
So…the cover of this book is what caught my eye first, and the premise is fantastic. I read all of it, but Julia was a bit too erratic for me. Does she hate her father? Does she love him? Does she want to stay with the super humans? Does a life of freedom with the regular humans sound more appealing? What is really going on with the evolved humans and Julia’s powerful father? And why did he separate the younger members and try to destroy the more powerful ones’ talents?
I don’t actually know the answers to any of these questions, and that bothers me. Julia can’t make up her mind, and a first-person narrative should have some insight into the character, but it doesn’t. (I saw several comparisons to Twilight in other reviews, and that is sadly accurate.) I loved the premise of this book, but the execution and character development was lacking.
Despite her name, Marit Weisenberg is only a quarter Norwegian. She lives in Austin, Texas. Selectis the first book in the Select series.
(Galley provided by Charlesbridge Teen via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
In 1739, Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of the family’s three South Carolina estates so he can go chase his dreams of a military career. With the estates floundering on the edge of ruin, Eliza decides that producing indigo is the family’s only hope.
But not even her family wants her to succeed, and no one will share the thousand-year-old secret to making indigo dye, so Eliza must form a forbidden friendship with a slave who promises to teach her—if she breaks the law and teaches the slaves to read. Eliza is on her own as she fights against tradition and the law, except for the friendship of an aging horticulturalist and the married lawyer who is a friend of the family.
Somehow, I did not realize The Indigo Girl was historical fiction until I finished reading it. Though the issues of slavery and women’s rights in the book bothered me, that stuff happened, and erasing history means we won’t learn from it. Eliza was a wonderful character—and the fact that the character is at least partially based on a real-life woman who fought tradition and oppression is even better—strong, determined, and with the courage to stand up for what she believes in and fight even her family to do what’s right. This is a great read!
Mal Thomas is done with the crazy advertising world. All he wants to do is relax and enjoy time with his wife in their Blue Ridge Mountains home. His relaxation comes to an end when he gets the call of a lifetime: a world-famous billionaire wants to meet with him about a job.
Alfredo Baptiste started with nothing and became the world’s most famous industrialist. Now he wants Mal and his team of brilliant minds to convince the world that his adopted son, Sebastian, is the second coming of the Messiah. Mal and his team face their own doubts and those of the entire world as they put together the most ambitious advertising campaign ever.
I’m of two minds about this book: on one hand, it drew me in even as the subject matter horrified me. Mal’s voice is at times very compelling, but somewhat erratic. This is an intriguing look at the inside of advertising, and the thought processes that go into it. I liked seeing a main character who was older and happily married, instead of the opposite. And I loved the idea of The Hug Challenge!
Matt Wainright has lived in the same cul-de-sac as long as he can remember. His best friend, Tabby, has always lived just across the street. They’re inseparable, and Matt can’t imagine anything ever changing. Except his feelings for Tabby. Matt never saw that coming, and he has no idea how to tell her, but he will. Probably. Until a senior basketball star falls for Tabby, and suddenly everything changes.
Now his best friend is always too busy, and instead of shining on the JV basketball court, Matt finds himself fumbling. Even his younger brother is driving him crazy. Only his favorite class, creative writing, seems to make any sense. Then a tragedy occurs, and Matt can’t make sense of anything, as his life spins out of control and he teeters on the edge of self-destruction.
I was not prepared for this book. At all. I loved Matt’s voice from the very beginning. (With that movie-director voice in his head, of course he’s going to be a writer.) He has grand visions of himself, but his follow-through doesn’t always live up to his hype. This book captures the hope and the confusion of high school, as well as the gobsmacked feeling of first love. I laughed, I hoped, and I cried, right along with Matt. You MUST read this! I’m looking forward to seeing what Jared Reck writes next.
Life in Clearhaven is all Hanna has ever known, so her father’s four wives and her fourteen siblings are normal to her. In Clearhaven, all the young men leave town, and the girls, at age 18, marry men old enough to be their fathers. In one week, Hanna will be 18, and she’ll take her place as the fifth wife of a wealthy man.
Then Hanna meets Daniel, a boy her age who makes her question her life in Clearhaven and what she wants for herself, and her mother tells her a secret—one that Hanna can scarcely believe. Hanna doesn’t want the life she sees around her, but is she strong enough to leave behind the sister she adores and the only life she’s ever known?
Clearhaven and its customs creeped me out on a lot of levels. I know there are communities/cultures like this, but I don’t want to have anything to do with them. However, they are vividly portrayed in the book, and the characters leap off the page with startling intensity. Hanna is both easy to relate to—her love for her sister, her confusion over what she wants from her life—and mysterious. I rooted for Hanna for the entire novel, eager for her to escape the future laid out for her and grasp her fate in both hands.
In a small Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall from the sky, landing on the baseball field. The town is in an uproar, wondering what caused the birds to die, and fearing for their safety. The dead birds are the biggest news to hit town for years. Until a reporter sees everyone’s favorite teacher, Nate Winters, embracing bad girl student Lucia Hamm in front of a no-tell motel.
Despite Nate’s denials, he’s soon being investigated, and Lucia adds fuel to the fire by claiming they are having an affair. Nate’s wife, Alecia, wonders if her husband is telling the truth. With the whole town hurling accusations, other rumors start to surface about Nate. Then Lucia disappears, and Nate is the only suspect. But there’s more going on in this small town than meets the eye, and with only one person on his side, Nate may never find out the truth.
The Blackbird Season was not what I expected at all. The portrayal of small-town life is so vivid and realistic, with the gossip and back-stabbing and secrets. As someone who grew up in a small town, this felt completely believable. I spent most of the book wondering, like the characters, if Nate was guilty and just what Lucia was hiding. There are a lot of twists and unexpected turns in this novel, and it’s a riveting read.
Edgar Hill is a “meh” father at best: he’s content to let his wife take care of the kids while he avoids responsibility and contemplates his dreary life. Until the sky begins to fall, and he only has a few hours to prepare. With a rain of asteroids imminent, Edgar is catapulted into motion, trying to scrape together everything he can to help save his family from the apocalypse. They are trapped in their basement for two weeks, and emerge into a world almost totally devastated.
With a few other survivors, they attempt to sort out their lives. When Edgar is out on a supply run one day, his family is rescued and taken all the way across the country in preparation for evacuation. Now he has only weeks to make it to them, with no vehicles, no supplies, and crazy, power-hungry scavengers who want to rule their own territories between him and his family. Running is the only answer. And Ed has never been much of a runner—more of a couch potato—so the lack of supplies isn’t even his biggest obstacle. Will his ragtag group make it to safety in time?
This novel mixes a dystopian, end-of-the-world feel with literary prose to achieve an adventure that focuses on the outer obstacles, but also a man’s struggles with his own inner ugliness. Ed isn’t a nice guy. He loves his family, but he’s kind of—okay, definitely is—a jerk. The end of the world doesn’t change that, but it does shake loose something in Ed and make him realize how precious his family is. Ed’s friend, Bryce, is a fantastic supporting character, injecting humor and attitude that Ed is decidedly lacking. This was a good read that gave me a bit to think about.
Harley lost her mother a few months ago, and she hasn’t even begun to recover. But it’s summer now, and summer is a time of change. So, Harley sets off on a road trip to come to terms with her loss, find out more about her mother’s past, and scatter her mother’s ashes. Her best friend, Dean, goes along for the ride, but Harley doesn’t know what to do about their relationship—which caused her to shut Dean out when they became more than friends.
Soon enough, Harley realizes she’s pregnant with Dean’s child. Hiding her secret as she learns more about her mother’s life, she realizes her mother faced the same choices she now does. If she is ever to know what the right decision for her is, she’ll have to find out the truth about her mother’s past.
From the first page, Harley’s voice drew me into this story. She’s hurting so badly from her loss, and she’s shut everyone out as a result, but she wants to change. Her internal journey is as compelling as it is painful, and the reader is dragged along for the ride, over the bumps and through the bruises, until Harley finds clarity.