Tag: young adult

Book Review: This is Not a Love Letter, by Kim Purcell

thisisnotaloveletter_comps
Image belongs to Disney Book Group.

Jessie and Chris were on a break. Just one week, so Jessie could get some perspective, then they could make all the big decisions looming with graduation. Jessie just needed a little bit of time to think.

Then Chris disappears on a run by the river, on the same path where, a few weeks before, he was beaten up by some guys from a rival high school. Chris is popular. He’s good looking. And he’s black, a rarity in their small, paper mill town.

When the police decide Chris ran away, Jessie speaks up, and voices her fears that Chris’s disappearance is race-related. She’s terrified of what might have happened to Chris, but she’s not prepared for the threats she receives.

Chris has written Jessie a love letter every Friday since they started dating, now it’s her turn to write him, telling him everything that’s happening while he’s gone, what she’s afraid of, and some truths she’s kept hidden.

I’m just going to say it straight out:  this book almost broke me. I’m not sure if it was the situation, or if I just identified with Jessie that strongly, but I was in tears (sobs) by the time I finished reading this. Straight through, in one sitting, I might add. Jessie, while not always rational or sensible, made sense to me. She seemed real. Her relationship with Chris, which she remembers in detail while he’s missing, was charming and inspiring. Their town has problems, and sometimes the issues were ugly and hurtful, but they were always truthful. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Kim Purcell is from Canada, but now lives in New York. This is Not a Love Letter is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Before I Let Go, by Marieke Naijkamp

 

before i let go
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Corey and Kyra grew up as best friends in tiny Lost Creek, Alaska. Kyra was vibrant and artistic—and manic/depressive, so the town ostracized her for being different. But Corey was always there for her. Until Corey’s mom got a new job and Corey had to move away, promising Kyra she’d be back in exchange for Kyra’s promise to stay strong.

Days before Corey’s visit home, Kyra dies, and Corey is devastated. Her grief turns to confusion when she returns to Lost, and discovers the town has changed in her absence. Everyone grieves for Kyra, but whispers that her death was meant to be.

Corey doesn’t know what to think. The town that shut Kyra out seems to have embraced her in the past months, but the more Corey asks questions, the more she’s treated as an outsider herself. As she tries to learn more about what happened to Kyra, the more her suspicions grow. Lost is hiding a secret—and Corey can’t get through the darkness to the truth.

I’m just going to say it:  this was a weird book. It’s a mix of YA, magical realism, and death investigation—kind of. Lost comes to vivid, haunting life on the pages, and the characters are both compelling and strange.  Kyra and Corey’s friendship was heartwarming and sad, and I enjoyed Corey’s attempts to find out the truth about her friend. In the end, though, I still wasn’t quite sure what happened. An interesting, unpredictable read.

Marieke Naijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. She is the New York Times bestselling author of This is Where It Ends. Her newest novel is Before I Let Go.

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

 

Book Review: The Forgotten Book, by Mechthild Gläser

the forgotten book
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan.

Emma’s life is pretty good. She attends a prestigious boarding school. Her friends all trust her enough to ask her for advice. She’s pretty sure the guy she’s had a crush on for ages is about to ask her out. Things are going well. Except for arrogant Darcy de Winter, the heir to the family who owns the school, who’s there searching for clues about his missing sister.

Then someone trashes the abandoned library Emma and her friends have taken as “theirs,” and Emma finds an old book hidden there. The book is filled with pages written by many different people over the years. A diary of sorts, Emma thinks, and she starts writing in it as well.

When the things Emma writes in the book come true—sort of—Emma realizes there’s more to the book than she thought. But someone else knows of the book’s power, and will stop at nothing to take it from Emma. Emma must unravel the mysteries hidden in the book—and the school—if she’s to figure out what the book is—and who’s after it.

The Forgotten Book is labeled as YA, but that seems a tiny bit too old for this book, to me. Or maybe Emma’s led such a sheltered life that she seems younger. And, considering this is a boarding school, there is surprising little conflict or animosity between a group of students who all live together. Everyone gets along. That was the most far-fetched part of this book for me. Not the magic book.

I enjoyed the mystery, as Emma tries to figure out the secrets of the book, as well as the mysterious creature mentioned in the book. The school sounds like a fantastical place to live, or at least to visit. Emma is an interesting character:  she’s very innocent and oblivious to some things, but she’s inquisitive enough to make up for her naivety.

Mechthild Gläser is an award-winning German author. The Forgotten Book is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Bad Call, by Stephen Wallenfels

bad call
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

It starts as a poker bet:  Ceo, Colin, Grahame, and Rhody agree to go hiking in Yosemite. In the winter. Except Rhody backs out at the last minute, so Ceo invites Ellie along. Ellie, who doesn’t know she’ll be hiking alone with three guys, and who the guys have never heard of. Ceo is a master manipulator, so this turn of events isn’t a huge surprise to Collin. What is a surprise is the connection he feels with Ellie. With the animosity between Ceo and Grahame rising, soon it’s all Collin and Ellie can do to keep the peace.

Despite warnings from fellow hikers, the group sets off to summit, and finds themselves in the midst of a bad snowstorm, with a leaking Craigslist tent and no food. Trying desperately to survive, they seek to make a camp that will shelter them all from the storm. But one of them does not return, and the circumstances don’t quite add up. In addition to battling the weather, the remaining three will have fight their suspicions—while always watching their backs—if they are to make it off the mountain alive.

I spent most of my reading time for Bad Call wondering why on Earth…1)…did Ellie go hiking in the wilderness with 3 boys, 2 of whom were strangers? 2)…does anyone hang out with Grahame, when he’s such a jerk? 3)…is Collin still friends with Ceo, who totally screwed him over? I had lots of questions about the characters’ motivations, and basically no answers. There was a decent level of suspense, and some chilling bits—creepy and cold—but the characters just didn’t make sense to me.

Stephen Wallenfels is a creative director, IT manager, and author who loves hiking and his family. Bad Call is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: All the Wrong Chords, by Christine Hurley Deriso

all the wrong chords
Image belongs to Flux.

Scarlett Stiles has had a tough time since her brother died of a drug overdose, so she agrees—reluctantly—to spend the summer with her grandfather, who’s getting older and, according to Scarlett’s parents, needs help driving. Except Scarlett is the one who really needs help in that area, as a near-miss proves. Scarlett’s near-miss turns out to be Zach, a funny, thoughtful boy with a band in need of a guitar player.

Scarlett hasn’t played guitar since her brother died, but one look at the band’s hot lead singer, Declan, has her agreeing. Just once, Scarlett thinks she deserves the hot guy, so she pursues the attraction between herself and Declan. When conflict between Declan and the rest of the band comes to a boil, Scarlett is caught between what she thinks and what she feels, while she learns new things about herself and her brother.

All the Wrong Chords is, at heart, a light YA read with a heroine who is drawn to a boy that no one else can see good in. Scarlett isn’t a perfect character. She struggles with bad decisions, feelings of inadequacy, and a tendency to be selfish. In the midst of her grief over her brother, she fails to see the pain of those around her, which causes her to hurt people she cares about. This is a good read, full of emotion and some laughs. The secondary characters make this very worth reading, and the issues concerning drug abuse and being true to yourself lend a deeper tone to the story.

Christine Hurley Deriso loves words, so she became a writer. All the Wrong Chords is her newest novel.

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

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Book Review: Rules of Rain, by Leah Scheier

 

rules of rain
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Rain has always been the one to take care of Ethan, her autistic twin brother. It’s always been her job…when their father left, when their mother gets sick, when school bullies pick on Ethan, Rain is there, with her rules to keep Ethan stable and functioning. Then her best friend falls in love with Ethan, and Rain’s own long-time crush falls in love with her, and suddenly everything changes.

Rain discovers secrets she never imagined Ethan could hide, and secrets her mother has hidden for years. Amid this upheaval, Rain makes a mistake she can’t undo, and life goes from predictable and routine to scary and unexpected all at once, as Rain struggles to figure out who she really is and what she wants, for the first time in her life.

Rules of Rain is about the bond between a girl and her autistic brother, but it’s also about finding out who you are and sorting out your life. Rain loves routine and stability to get her through life, but sometimes life gives you things you never expected. This is a moving read that shows one girl’s search for herself when the one person who has always needed her suddenly doesn’t anymore. A very good read!

Leah Scheier is a pediatrician by day, and a writer by night. Rules of Rain is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review: The Dark Intercept, by Julia Keller

the dark intercept
Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge

 

Violet Crowley is the sixteen-year-old daughter of the founder of New Earth, the safe home of people with the right to leave the sordid conditions of Earth behind. The Intercept keeps New Earth residents safe, and it monitors emotions and occasionally uses them to keep that safety intact. Julia has never known anything different, but when Danny, a cop and her long-time crush, is almost killed on Old Earth, Violet decides to investigate what he’s up to, and ends up finding out secrets she never imagined.

I enjoyed The Dark Intercept very much. The concept was unique and intriguing, and the book takes a hard look at what people are willing to put up with for their idea of safety. Technology is taken to the extreme in New Earth, and the idea is terrifying. Violet is pretty typical for a teenager, with her crush and her preconceived ideas of what’s really going on. She matures some in the book, but she still has a tendency to forgive all of Danny’s lies and actions, which is a bit annoying. The characters are rather one-dimensional, but I feel they will develop more as the series continues.

Julia Keller is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. The Dark Intercept is her new novel.

Galley provided by Macmillan-Tor/Forge via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish

firebrand

Way back in…March, I think…I went to a local author event, mainly because Rachel Caine was going to be there, and I love her writing. I’d heard her speak before, and was pleased to have another opportunity. There was another author there, Sarah MacTavish, and I really enjoyed her talk as well. So, I ended up buying her debut novel, Firebrand. And it’s been sitting in that particular TBR pile until last week. Yes, I stockpile books…and then don’t have a chance to read them for months. I have a problem, okay?

When I did pick it up, I finished reading it in less than 24 hours. It was that good. It’s set right before the Civil War, and its about two young abolitionists and the struggles they face. I like historical fiction, but I thought this YA historical was extremely well-written, and I found myself rooting for the characters. (Also, I’m from Texas, not too far from where part of the book is set, and I had no idea about some of the things in the novel.) This book deals with difficult events and topics, but it’s history:  if we don’t learn from it, we’re doomed to repeat it.

Saoirse Callahan and her family are struggling to survive on their small Texas farm that’s a far cry from their home in Ireland. Tempers are short, and after the death of one of her brothers, the whole family seems on the verge of collapsing. Then a series of fires sweep the region, and rumors of a slave uprising spread, leaving vigilante justice in their wake. Saoirse is desperate to find out what really happened, but her questions land her family in even deeper trouble.

Westleigh Kavanagh is safely an abolitionist in Pennsylvania, until he realizes his father’s new boarder is a runaway slave. Westleigh is determined to keep the man’s secret, even from his father, who, as sheriff, is bound to uphold the law, no matter what his personal beliefs are. Then Westleigh finds an old journal, and uncovers secrets his father has long kept hidden from him, secrets that lead him to the Callahans in  Texas.

Book Review: The Breathless, by Tara Goedjen

the breathless
Image belongs to Delacorte Press.

Roxanne Cole died a year ago, and her family still hasn’t come to terms with her death. Ro was the light of the Cole family, and everything has been dark since her death. Her boyfriend, Cole, vanished the night she died, and no one has seen him since, but when he shows up at the door to Blue Gate Manor asking where Ro is, Mae doesn’t know what to think.

Her sister’s death hit her hard, and Mae is still struggling, but to Cole, Ro was just alive yesterday. When Mae finds the little green book that was never far from Ro’s hands, she also finds dark secrets about her family’s past, and realizes that Ro might be gone now, but that doesn’t mean she has to stay gone.

The Breathless is a creepy Southern gothic mystery that tells three stories:  the present-day tale of Cole and Mae struggling to deal with Ro’s loss, Cole’s memories of his relationship with Ro, and a dark time in the family’s past. The setting adds an eerie layer to an unsettling story, as Mae finds out just what was in that little green book. The storyline about the family’s past does deal with a history of racism that was common in that era, but does not glorify it, instead it reveals the results of such violence and hate.

Tara Goedjen was raised in Alabama and now lives in California. The Breathless is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Delacorte Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Midnight Dance, by Nikki Katz

Midnight-Dance
Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

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.

Nikki Katz has a degree in rocket science. The Midnight Dance is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Swoon Reads via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)