Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Three Dark Crowns - Kendare Blake

From the Publisher: 

When kingdom come, there will be one.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born—three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown. 

My Review: 

With masterful world-building and skillful storytelling, Kendare Blake draws you in to the island of Fennbirn and leaves you desperate for book two's release in 2017! 

The fantasy, magical island world that Blake builds is incredibly detailed, and with three narrators (and their "followers") I found it necessary to take notes until I better knew the characters and their world. As the novel progresses, it is easier to follow which entourage belongs with queen. 

What got me hooked? Well the cover, for one, is simple and gorgeous! Add in the premise of triplet sisters destined to kill each other for the crown, and I was hooked! Though the backstory and world-building took some time to develop at the beginning, it did not disappoint in the end, except with a cliffhanger! There are many loose ends and unknowns, so I will anxiously await the follow-up! 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mila 2.0 - Debra Driza

From the Publisher: 

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past—that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

My Review: 

Fans of realistic science fiction like the I am Number Four series will love Mila 2.0. Its fast-paced mysterious storyline will keep readers guessing about Mila's background and destination. The ending definitely sets up the next book, so be ready to continue reading.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Loose Ends List - Carrie Firestone

From the Publisher: 
It’s a summer for first love, last wishes, and letting go.

Maddie has big plans to spend the last months before college tying up high school “loose ends” alongside her best friends. Then her beloved grandmother drops two bombshells: (1) Gram is dying. (2) She’s taking her entire family on a round-the-world cruise of dreams come true—but at the end, Gram won’t be returning home.

With a promise to live in the now without regrets, Maddie boards the Wishwell determined to make every moment count. She finds new friends in her fellow Wishwellians, takes advantage of the trip’s many luxuries, gets even closer to her quirky family, and falls for painfully gorgeous Enzo. But despite the copious laughter, headiness of first love, and wonder of the glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram, and she struggles to find the strength to let go in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, grief, and laughter.

My Review: 
The Loose Ends List was utterly perfect. While processing her emotions, Maddie and her family are on a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the world. Though their experiences definitely aren't practical for the average, the emotions they experience while tying up loose ends and having grand adventures are for everyone. I knew I would cry, but I laughed so much more than I anticipated. This book is about so much more than losing a loved one, and I look forward to recommending it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

If I Fix You - Abigail Johnson

From the Publisher:
Readers of Sarah Dessen, Cammie McGovern and Morgan Matson will adore this thought-provoking, complex and romantic contemporary novel from debut author Abigail Johnson, about finding the strength to put yourself back together when everything you know has fallen apart.

When sixteen-year-old Jill Whitaker’s mom walks out—with a sticky note as a goodbye—only Jill knows the real reason she’s gone. But how can she tell her father? Jill can hardly believe the truth herself.

Suddenly, the girl who likes to fix things—cars, relationships, romances, people—is all broken up. Used to be, her best friend, tall, blond and hot flirt Sean Addison, could make her smile in seconds. But not anymore. They don’t even talk.With nothing making sense, Jill tries to pick up the pieces of her life. But when a new guy moves in next door, intense, seriously cute, but with scars—on the inside and out—that he thinks don’t show, Jill finds herself trying to make things better for Daniel. But over one long, hot Arizona summer, she realizes she can’t fix anyone’s life until she fixes her own. And she knows just where to start . . .

My Review:
The strength displayed by Jill when she wakes to a goodbye post-it note from her mother is inspiring. Throwing herself into her work, Jill finds ways to move on during one hot Arizona summer. She tries to fix a lot of people and eventually discovers how to fix the most important people in her life, herself included. I would give this one 4.5 stars. It definitely demonstrates we don't always know what goes on behind closed doors and takes a look at relationships - both good and bad. Great for the Psych reading list.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

From the Publisher: 
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

My Review: 

As a high school librarian, I pretty exclusively read YA lit. After Me Before You was highly recommended by a student (and waiting on a hold list all summer), I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Recorded Books Audiobook versionMe Before You was every bit worth the wait. The variety of narrators (Susan Lyons, Anna Bentinck, Steven Crossley, Alex Tregear, Andrew Wincott, and Owen Lindsay) absolutely brought a heart-wrenching narrative to life. I found Louisa's character so likable, and I enjoyed the bickering banter between Louisa and Will. Though I anticipated blubbering at the end, I felt comforted by the hope Louisa discovers in future possibilities. I look forward to seeing how the film interpretation holds up against the book.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Way I Used to Be - Amber Smith

From the Publisher: 
A New York Times bestseller!

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

My Review: 
There is not enough high praise that I can give to The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith. Immediately, I was drawn in by the heartbreaking narrative. Readers will devour Eden's words, not just to discover the impact of the trauma she experiences in the first pages, but because they are at a loss as much as she is. Yes, this book is about sexual violence, but it is about so much more. Eden loses her identity as a result of the trauma, and though it's not always the best path, she follows a new one. Simply said, readers of this novel will be profoundly impacted by Eden's story which will resonate with them long after the last page. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Sky Between You and Me - Catherine Alene

Read 09/29/2016

From the Publisher: 

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

Raesha will do whatever it takes to win Nationals. For her, competing isn't just about the speed of her horse or the thrill of the win. It's about honoring her mother's memory and holding on to a dream they once shared.

Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

For an athlete. Every second counts. Raesha knows minus five on the scale will let her sit deeper in the saddle, make her horse lighter on her feet. And lighter, leaner, faster gives her the edge she needs over the new girl on the team, a girl who keeps flirting with Raesha's boyfriend and making plans with her best friend.

So Raesha focuses on minus five. But if she isn't careful, she will lose more than just the people she loves. She will lose herself to Lighter. Leaner. Faster.

My Review: 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Alene does a great job of showing how one simple comment - you may want to consider a larger saddle - can change someone's life. Still dealing with the grief over her mother's death years ago, Raesha uses her mother's saddle, and when her best friend suggests she's outgrown it lighter, leaner, faster becomes Rae's mantra. Though hear lack of eating is clearly spiraling out of control, no one - her boyfriend, best friend, or father - broach the subject until it's almost too late. Rae's anorexic thoughts as she loses control are very powerful in this verse-style novel.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett - Chelsea Sedoti

Read 09/11/2016

From the Publisher: 

A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn't mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie's life. That includes taking her job... and her boyfriend. It's a huge risk — but it's just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world.

My Review: 

** spoiler alert ** 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I struggled with this one a bit. While the bigger picture items (depression, bullying, teen suicide, growing up/apart from friends, and feeling like you don't fit in anywhere) were very compelling, the whole werewolf thing was a distraction. I kept expecting Hawthorn to be diagnosed with something and didn't enjoy that aspect of the story. I don't know many high school seniors that make up convoluted fantasies to deal with stress. I stuck with it through the end, but I don't know that many teens will be as dedicated. Love the cover, though!

The Best Possible Answer - E. Katherine Kottaras

Read 08/20/2016

From the Publisher: 

A contemporary YA novel about growing up and learning that loving yourself is more important than trying to be perfect.

AP Exams – check
SAT test – check
College Application – check
Date the wrong guy and ruin everything you’ve spent your whole life working for– check

Ultra-high-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has always had a plan—and no room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection comes toa screeching halt when her boyfriend leaks racy pictures of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her parents are getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Viv feels like a complete and utter failure.

Then she gets a job working at the community pool, where she meets a new group of friends who know nothing about her past. That includes Evan, a gorgeous guy who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. For the first time in her life, Viv realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.

My Review: 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Vivi has always strived for the perfect life, partially due to the immense pressure her father places on her to overachieve. She has goals, but one bad choice seemingly unravels her life. This book is about picking up the pieces and looking inside yourself to find happiness. I found this ya novel very realistic and devoured it quickly! I look forward to recommending it to my students!