Tag: YA

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.)

Blog Tour: Hurricane Summer, by Asha Bromfield

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleHurricane Summer
Author:  Asha Bromfield
Genre:  YA
Rating:  DNF

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

I normally don’t review books I DNF, but in this case I will, because I want to explain:  I was really looking forward to reading this, and I made it to 30% before giving up. Excellent writing and characterization, but the patois that made up the majority of the dialogue slowed me down too much and I lost interest in the story. I’ve read other books that handled this differently without a problem, but, if you need to put a dictionary at the front of your novel, this could be an issue for some readers. And, frankly, Tilla telling me how much she like Jamaica and how great everything was meant nothing when the novel itself was showing me the opposite.

Asha Bromfield is an actress, singer, and writer. Hurricane Summer is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s 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: The Castle School (for Troubled Girls), by Alyssa Sheinmel

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

TitleThe Castle School (for Troubled Girls)
AuthorAlyssa Sheinmel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When Moira Dreyfuss’s parents announce that they’re sending her to an all-girls boarding school deep in the Maine woods, Moira isn’t fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she’s been too much trouble since her best friend, Nathan, died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the odd headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn’t interested in getting over Nathan’s death or befriending her fellow students.

On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside…and learn that they’re not so isolated after all. There’s another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too.

Moira is convinced that the Castle Schools and the doctors who run them are hiding something. But exploring the schools will force Moira to confront her overwhelming grief―and the real reasons her parents sent her away.

I really enjoyed this novel! I like Moira a lot, and I was very firmly in her head for the entire novel, which made this an interesting experience. Her first impressions of the Castle School, Dr. Prince, her fellow students…they were so well-done that I felt them, too. This didn’t turn out like I expected at all—in a very good way. Very strong writing and believable characters made this an engrossing read.

Alyssa Sheinmel is a bestselling author. The Castle School (for Troubled Girls) is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars, by A.K. Small

Image belongs to Algonquin.

Title Bright Burning Stars
AuthorA.K. Small
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Best friends Marine Duval and Kate Sanders have trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School since childhood, where they’ve formed an inseparable bond forged by respective family tragedies and a fierce love for dance. When the body of a student is found in the dorms just before the start of their final year, Marine and Kate begin to ask themselves what they would do to win the ultimate prize: to be the one girl selected to join the Opera’s prestigious corps de ballet. Would they die? Cheat? Seduce the most talented boy in the school, dubbed the Demigod, hoping his magic would make them shine, too? Neither girl is sure.

But then Kate gets closer to the Demigod, even as Marine has begun to capture his heart. And as selection day draws near, the competition—for the prize, for the Demigod—becomes fiercer, and Marine and Kate realize they have everything to lose, including each other. (less)

This was a bit hard for me to read. The writing is excellent, and the characters were great, but reading about the dark side of the ballet world was a little depressing, frankly. I believe it’s a realistic portrayal, sadly, because I can’t image what these girls put themselves through:  the abuse their body image takes and the physical and emotional demands they put on themselves.

Marine’s issues were scary, but at least she eventually realized it. Kate’s issues…her sometimes completely unfounded obsession with guys was just sad. She definitely has some delusions and mental health issues, in addition to her drug problem. It was sad that she didn’t realize that, though.

A.K. Small was born in Paris. Bright Burning Stars is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin 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.)

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: Everything I Thought I Knew, by Shannon Takaoka

Image belongs to Candlewick Press.

Title:  Everything I Thought I Knew
Author:  Shannon Takaoka
Genre:  YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste.

Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.)

And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize.

Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing?

As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.

Solid writing here. I was drawn into the story from the very first page and I cared about Chloe and what she was going through. I loved how she went from an uptight, Type-A person obsessed with grades, achievements, and getting into college to just…not so much. I loved seeing how things with Kai developed. But, the twist towards the end of the book ruined the whole thing for me. Twists are generally a good thing, but I really wasn’t a fan of this one.

Shannon Takaoka is from Pennsylvania but now lives in California. Everything I Thought I Knew is her debut novel.

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