Tag: young adult novels

The Best Books I Read in July (2022)

In July, I read 18 books, bringing my total for the year to 136 books. I also DNFed 12 books, which is a lot. I’m eight books behind schedule for the year. Hopefully I catch up! Of those 18, several of them were excellent. The best of those were:

The Bodyguard, by Katherine Center. I love this author’s books, but this one was the best of hers I’ve read. This made me laugh out loud several times (especially the “attacking” cow) and really relate to the main character. If you need a fun weekend read, grab this.

Long Story Short, by Serena Kaylor. This has everything: an awkward main character, a hot, brooding love interest, the enemies-to-lovers trope, great secondary characters. and lots of Shakespeare!

The Shadow Wand, by Laurie Forest. I’m still loving every page of this sometimes dark magical series.

Book Review:  Accomplished, by Amanda Quain

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Accomplished   
Author:   Amanda Quain
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

 It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

– Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)

– Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and

– Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

I completely enjoyed this story! Sure, Georgie’s lingering obsession with Wickham was more than a little annoying, but I loved seeing how she grew and changed as she learned to stand on her own two feet. In the end this was a fun read—and I think Austen would have enjoyed it, too.

Amanda Quain lives in Pennsylvania. Accomplished is her debut novel.

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

Book Review:  Long Story Short, by Serena Kaylor

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleLong Story Short    
Author: Serena Kaylor
Genre: YA  
Rating: 5 out of 5

Growing up homeschooled in Berkeley, California, Beatrice Quinn is a statistical genius who has dreamed her whole life of discovering new mathematical challenges at a school like Oxford University. She always thought the hardest part would be getting in, not convincing her parents to let her go. But while math has always made sense to Beatrice, making friends is a problem she hasn’t been able to solve, so her parents are worried about sending her halfway across the world. The compromise: the Connecticut Shakespearean Summer Academy and a detailed list of teenage milestones to check off. She has six weeks to show her parents she can pull off the role of “normal” teenager and won’t spend the rest of her life hiding in a library.

Unfortunately, hearts and hormones don’t follow any rules, and there is no equation for teenage interactions. When she’s adopted by a group of eclectic theater kids, and immediately makes an enemy of the popular—and, annoyingly gorgeous—British son of the camp founders, she realizes that relationships are trickier than calculus. With her future on the line, this girl genius stumbles through illicit parties, double dog dares, and more than your fair share of Shakespeare. But before the final curtain falls, will Beatrice realize that there’s more to life than she can find in the pages of a book?

This was such a fun, sweet book! It was a bit like reading from a female Sheldon Cooper’s POV. Bea is clueless about so many things, but fortunately she manages to make a couple of good friends who help show her the way. The secondary characters are wonderful, and I loved them a lot. Nik came off as jerk at first, but it was soon easy to see the truth of him (Well, I could see it. Bea definitely couldn’t.). This was such a relatable read, and made me laugh out loud several times.

Long Story Short is Serena Kaylor’s debut novel.

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

Book Review:  This Vicious Grace, by Emily Thiede

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   This Vicious Grace   
Author: Emily Thiede
Genre: YA, fantasy  
Rating:  5 out of 5

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

This was such a fantastic read! Alessa’s snark is so much fun—and it only gets better when Dante shows up. I really loved their interactions and banter. The world and culture were quite unique to me, and, while it isn’t really a culture I’d want to live in—or visit—the world-building was vividly realized and fascinating to read. I highly recommend this, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Emily Thiede lives in Virginia. This Vicious Grace is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:   Breaking Time, by Sasha Alsberg

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

TitleBreaking Time  
Author:    Sasha Alsberg
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

When a mysterious Scotsman appears out of nowhere in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and it’s just the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara will soon learn that she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world and a hiding place for a rogue goddess’s magic. Callum is fated to protect her at all costs. A dark force is hunting for the Pillars, to claim the power of the goddess—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. Thrown together by fate, the two have to learn to trust one another and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive.

This was a decent read. Nothing too unique, but nothing completely cookie cutter, either. I enjoyed Klara’s personality and I liked Callum, but sometimes his dialogue sounded like he was from the 1500s—appropriate—and sometimes it sounded like he was the boy next door—not appropriate at all and threw me out of the story. A quick read, but one I never really felt like the stakes were very high in—despite the supposed consequences of the plot.

Sasha Alsberg lives in Massachusetts. Breaking Time is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   The Limitless Sky, by Christina Kilbourne

Image belongs to Dundurn Press.

TitleThe Limitless Sky
Author: Christina Kilbourne
Genre:  Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Trapped in a life she didn’t choose, Rook struggles to find meaning in her appointed role as an apprentice Keeper of ArHK. Even though her mam soothes her with legends of the Outside and her da assures her there are many interesting facts to discover in the Archives, Rook sees only endless years of tracking useless information. Then one day Rook discovers historic footage of the Chosen Ones arriving in ArHK, and she begins to realize her mam’s legends are more than bedtime stories. That’s when Rook begins her perilous and heartbreaking search for the limitless sky.

Gage is also trapped. Living on the frontier line with his family, his is a life of endless moving and constant danger. As he works with the other Scouts, Gage searches for the Ship of Knowledge to help his society regain the wonders of the long distant past, when machines transported people across the land, illnesses could be cured, and human structures rose high into the sky.

Will Rook and Gage escape the traps and perils that await them in order to save each other’s worlds? If they don’t, it could very well be the end of humanity.

The setting and culture in this story were fascinating to me. It was a little unsettling to read about national monuments as archeological artifacts, so that was an interesting aspect. I actually enjoyed Gage’s POV a bit more than Rook’s, because her culture and mindset just felt so foreign to me, but the author did a good job fleshing it out and making it come to life. I thought the ending was a little abrupt and kind of left the reader hanging, but I’d still recommend this.

Christina Kilbourne is from Canada. The Limitless Sky is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Veil, by Dylan Farrow

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Veil
Author:   Dylan Farrow
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Shae’s entire world has been turned upside down, and everything she’s ever believed is a lie. More determined than ever, she sets out to the mysterious land of Gondal—a place forbidden to mention and resigned to myth—in search of a dangerous magical book that could alter the fabric of the world.

Following the trail of Ravod, the boy she thought she knew and trusted, Shae discovers there is far more to the young man who stole the Book of Days than she ever realized. Together, with her friends, Mads and Fiona, and a newfound ally in her fierce former trainer, Kennan, Shae crosses the borders of the only home she’s ever had and into a world ruled not by magic, but technology and industry — one fraught with perils of its own.

In a world shrouded in lies, Shae is desperate for answers and to restore peace, but who will lift the veil?

I did not read Hush, but that didn’t really prove to be a problem. I enjoyed the characters, but the last third of the books seemed a bit erratic and far-fetched. Interesting world and setting, it just didn’t totally work for me because it felt jagged, not like a coherent whole.

Dylan Farrow grew up in New York City and Connecticut. Veil is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  This May End Badly, by Samantha Markum

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:   This May End Badly
Author:   Samantha Markum
Genre:   YA
Rating:  5 out of 5

Pranking mastermind Doe and her motley band of Weston girls are determined to win the century-long war against Winfield Academy before the clock ticks down on their senior year. But when their headmistress announces that The Weston School will merge with its rival the following year, their longtime feud spirals into chaos.

To protect the school that has been her safe haven since her parents’ divorce, Doe puts together a plan to prove once and for all that Winfield boys and Weston girls just don’t mix, starting with a direct hit at Three, Winfield’s boy king and her nemesis. In a desperate move to win, Doe strikes a bargain with Three’s cousin, Wells: If he fake dates her to get under Three’s skin, she’ll help him get back his rightful family heirloom from Three.

As the pranks escalate, so do her feelings for her fake boyfriend, and Doe spins lie after lie to keep up her end of the deal. But when a teacher long suspected of inappropriate behavior messes with a younger Weston girl, Doe has to decide what’s more important: winning a rivalry, or joining forces to protect something far more critical than a prank war legacy.

This book was just good, plain fun!  Sure, Doe did some pretty crappy things—and I never really understood her animosity towards Three—but I enjoyed this book from the very first page. Doe’s group of friends was great, and I liked that the guys were actually good guys, too, even if the girls couldn’t see that at first. Doe grows a lot in this story, and while sometimes that change was painful, I enjoyed the story very much. Especially the interactions between Doe and Wells. Her “stranger danger” made me laugh a lot.

Samantha Markum lives in St. Louis. This May End Badly is her debut novel.

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

 Book Review:  Sense and Second-Degree Murder, by Tirzah Price

Image belongs to HarperCollins.)

Title Sense and Second-Degree Murder
Author Tirzah Price
Genre:   YA, historical, mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

When eighteen-year-old aspiring scientist Elinor Dashwood discovers her beloved father slumped over the desk of his office study, she knows his death means dire straits for the Dashwood women. To make matters worse, an outdated will entails his estate—including Norland & Company, the private investigation firm where her younger sister Marianne worked as her father’s partner and protégé—to their half-brother and his haughty wife, who waste no time in forcing the Dashwoods out of their home and into a cramped apartment on London’s Barton Street. 

But before they go, the Dashwood sisters make a startling discovery that points to foul play, and the killer might be family.

 Obviously, the girls must investigate. It could be dangerous; it could ruin their reputations; and most importantly, it won’t bring back their father. But if the Dashwood sisters can combine their talents and bring their father’s murderer to justice, it may bring them all some comfort—and it might even lead to love.

This was a fun read. I forgot how much Marianne annoyed me—in this and the original—but she really got on my nerves for the first 3/4ths of the book. The supporting characters were very well-done, and I loved the combination of the original storyline and the ladies having their own interests and ambitions. This is definitely a good weekend read.

Tirzah Price Grew up in Michigan. Sense and Second-Degree Murder is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour:  A Forgery of Roses, by Jessica S. Olson

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   A Forgery of Roses
Author:   Jessica S. Olson
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

 But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

 Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

 Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

I enjoyed this! Myra was a great character, and her relationship with her sister was just wonderful, and made the book really shine. This book is fairly dark from the first page, but there are spots of brightness. August is another of them. The author portrayed his debilitating anxiety so well, and I was never sure if he would conquer it, or it would conquer him. His family, meanwhile, was absolutely horrible. A lovely read!

Jessica S. Olson lives in Texas. A Forgery of Roses is her newest novel.

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