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Archive for February, 2014

Tsarina by J Nelle Patrick

Posted by Caitie F on February 27, 2014

Title: Tsarina17382389
Author: J Nelle Patrick
Hardcover: 331 pages
Pub Date: Feb 27, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

Natalya knows a secret.

A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia’s Winter Palace.

It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.

A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.

Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.

But it’s not in the right hands.

Review:

I am so excited for more young adult historical fiction and I am absolutely fascinated with this time period – I blame the movie Anastasia.

Tsarina is a perfect mix of romance, magic, and a lot of action and suspense with fascinating and complicated characters.

It is easy to see things from the perspective of the rich. They have everything they could want and live in luxury. Natalya is also going to marry the next Tsar, so she has it even better than most. It could make her spoiled and cruel, but luckily it does not. She does want to keep the Tsar around, but she isn’t heartless and can see things in more than one way.

This book is so full of action that you will always need to read just one more chapter. You know there wasn’t really a magical egg that could save everyone in the royal family,but it doesn’t take away from the suspense of what is happening to them. The added magic really works in the story and adds a fantastical element to the basic story most know.

I can’t say much without giving away the story, so I won’t. Not knowing any of the twists in this book made it so enjoyable to read, and I won’t take that away from anyone.

So if you like historical fiction, even if you don’t read many YA books, you should get this one, it is really good. And if you love YA but are unsure about historical fiction, try this book.

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Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens

Posted by Caitie F on February 26, 2014

Title: Faking Normalfaking
Author: Courtney Stevens
Hardcover: 336 pages
Pub Date: Feb 25, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer. Ashamed and embarrassed, she hides in her closet and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does.

When Bodee Lennox, the quiet and awkward boy next door, comes to live with the Littrells, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in “the Kool-Aid Kid,” who has secrets of his own. As they lean on each other for support, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her find the courage to finally face the truth

Review:

Realistic fiction is big right now and this is one of the best i have read lately. It is about serious things that (sadly) happen to teens in this country with two great characters, a realistic family dynamic, and a story about friendship in a place you wouldn’t expect it.

I was worried this book might be trying to just be a newer version of Speak, but it wasn’t. It had a unique character and situation. it is not an easy book to read. It is about rape, self-harm, and abusive parents and how these things can affect teens.

Alexi never told anyone what happened that night, not her parents or even her best friends. They don’t know that she hides in her closet and scratches her neck to make the memory go away.

Bodee’s abusive father murdered his mother and he is the one who found her. Alexi’s family takes him in and tries to help him deal with his pain.

Their friendship might be able to save them both.

I really liked how their friendship started building slowly. It is hard to trust new people when bad things have happened, so I am glad they took the time for the friendship to develop. Not only was it more realistic, but it let the reader know the severity of their trauma, especially since what happened is slowly revealed to the reader.

It is hard to believe that this is a debut novel. The writing is so strong and the entire book blew me away.

The end of this book was fantastic, but I don’t want to spoil anything, so just be ready.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they can handle such a serious and emotional read. You will  probably cry.

 

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Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook

Posted by Caitie F on February 25, 2014

Title: Year of Mistaken Discoveries18051087
Author: Eileen Cook
Hardcover:  272 pages
Pub Date: Feb 25, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

As first graders, Avery and Nora bonded over a special trait they shared—they were both adopted.

Years later, Avery is smart, popular, and on the cheerleading squad, while Nora spends her time on the fringes of school society, wearing black, reading esoteric poetry, and listening to obscure music. They never interact…until the night Nora approaches Avery at a party, saying it’s urgent. She tells Avery that she thought she found her birth mom—but it turned out to be a cruel lie. Avery feels for Nora, but returns to her friends at the party.

Then Avery learns that Nora overdosed on pills. Left to cope with Nora’s loss and questioning her own actions, Avery decides to honor her friend by launching a search for her own birth mother. Aided by Brody, a friend of Nora’s who is also looking for a way to respect Nora’s legacy, Avery embarks on an emotional quest. But what she’s really seeking might go far deeper than just genetics.

Review:

This is realistic fiction how it should be – some mystery, some romance, and a lot of growing up.

Avery starts out as the perfect student – hard worker, lots of extracurriculars and heading for the top. She is popular and perfect, someone who has it all. Everything she does is done to get to the next step, to be the best and make everyone around her happy.

She isn’t unlikeable, she is driven. But there is more to life than being the best and always being perfect. There are reasons to do the right thing that don’t have to do with getting into the dream school. She needs to learn that her parents will love her no matter what. I can see why some readers might not like her, but I did.

Brody, on the other hand, is purely awesome. He is a great friend, works hard, is passionate and does things just to help people. He isn’t a pushover though and he isn’t perfect.

There is no insta-love in this one. There is a friendship that can turn into more if Avery can just learn to accept herself as she is.

There are parts of this book that really got to me. I found myself tearing up at two or three spots feeling so much for these characters just trying to find out answers. The book is as much about family as it is about romance, which seems to be a trend in YA, which I love.

This is a good young adult book. It isn’t the best, but it reminded me of a Sarah Dessen book with its depth.

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What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren

Posted by Caitie F on February 24, 2014

Title: What the Moon Saidwhat
Author: Gayle Rosengren
Hardcover: 224 pages
Pub Date: Feb 20, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Rating: +++

Summary from pub:

Thanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can’t keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther’s family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but that means there are plenty of opportunities for Esther to show her mother how helpful she can be. She loves all of the farm animals (except the mean geese) and even better makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?

Review:

Is historical fiction becoming bigger in middle grade? I hope so!

This book reminded me a little of the Little House on the Prairie series and readers will really enjoy it, just like they enjoyed that series.

Leaving the city is really hard for Esther, not only does she have to leave her friends and older sisters, but she has to go live at a farm where there is nothing familiar. She is such a heart-breaking character because all she wants is to feel like her mother loves her. She tries so hard, but never seems to feel it.

All of the superstitions got to be a bit much, but the whole idea of superstitions annoys me, so I don’t think most people would be annoyed by it.

This is a very nice, quiet novel about family, friendship, and what makes a home.

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Changers Book One: Drew by T Cooper

Posted by Caitie F on February 23, 2014

Title: Changers: Book One: Drew17675386
Author: T Cooper
Paperback: 288 pages
Pub Date: Feb 4, 2014
Publisher:  Black Sheep
Rating:  +++++

Summary from pub:

Changers Book One: Drew opens on the eve of Ethan Miller’s freshman year of high school in a brand-new town. He’s finally sporting a haircut he doesn’t hate, has grown two inches since middle school, and can’t wait to try out for the soccer team. At last, everything is looking up in life.

Until the next morning. When Ethan awakens as a girl.

Ethan is a Changer, a little-known, ancient race of humans who live out each of their four years of high school as a different person. After graduation, Changers choose which version of themselves they will be forever—and no, they cannot go back to who they were before the changes began.

Ethan must now live as Drew Bohner—a petite blonde with an unfortunate last name—and navigate the treacherous waters of freshman year while also following the rules: Never tell anyone what you are. Never disobey the Changers Council. And never, ever fall in love with another Changer. Oh, and Drew also has to battle a creepy underground syndicate called “Abiders” (as well as the sadistic school queen bee, Chloe). And she can’t even confide in her best friend Audrey, who can never know the real her, without risking both of their lives

Review:

This is one of the most creative concepts I have heard about, so I knew I would have to read it right away! I was worried that the execution wouldn’t be as good as the  concept, but it was amazing!

Each book in this series will have the character living  as a different person because they are a Changer. They will wake up each year of high school as a new person. Ethan doesn’t even know he is a Changer until he wakes up the first day of freshman year as Drew – a small blond girl. And everything is different. Everyone treats Drew differently than they treated Ethan. Ethan/Drew has to deal with all the first of being a female very quickly and it is very hard to get used to it. Ethan/Drew also looks at sexuality in a unique way as Ethan like girls and Drew is attracted to both genders. It is such a different take on human sexuality and I hope it makes readers think and causes some great discussions.

But Drew does get used to it and makes some friends and has normal teenage problems and triumphs. And all of that would make for a fantastic young adult novel. Yet there is even more. There is a group that is very anti-Changers. This group doesn’t have a problem with exposing or hurting them. There are also a lot of rules for Changers. Rules about not telling anyone and not dating any other Changers. So life is pretty complicated and gets very exciting.

The crazy thing is, each year won’t get any easier. Ethan/Drew has to keep notes about life because at the end of the four year they must choose who to be for the rest of their life.And these Abiders aren’t going anywhere either.

I cannot wait to read the rest of the books in this series. I hope we get to see the Main Character as a different race in at least one of the books. I look forward to what is done with such a great concept.

 

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Grim edited by Christine Johnson

Posted by Caitie F on February 22, 2014

Title: Grimgrim
Editor: Christine Johnson
Hardcover:
Pub Date: Feb 25, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

Inspired by classic fairy tales, but with a dark and sinister twist, Grim contains short stories from some of the best voices in young adult literature today:

Ellen Hopkins

Amanda Hocking

Julie Kagawa

Claudia Gray

Rachel Hawkins

Kimberly Derting

Myra McEntire

Malinda Lo

Sarah Rees-Brennan

Jackson Pearce

Christine Johnson

Jeri Smith Ready

Shaun David Hutchinson

Saundra Mitchell

Sonia Gensler

Tessa Gratton

Jon Skrovan

Review:

So this is a short story collection of new versions of fairy tales. What more do you need to know? You shouldn’t need anything else, but I will tell you some more.

It includes amazing authors like Malinda Lo, Kimberly Derting, Ellen Hopkins, and Sarah Rees-Brennan, just to name a few of them. The whole list is above and it is full of brilliant authors.

Are you still not convinced? Really? Well, let me also tell you that these are some of the most creative retellings I have ever read. There are ones that are funny. There are ones that are so romantic. There are fairy tales with twists in the relationship. And almost all of the fairy tales have a kick ass heroine or hero. They are spectacular. And if you don’t enjoy one, the next is just a few pages away. But I didn’t have that problem. I enjoyed the stories even if I didn’t know the author or even the fairy tale.

This is one of the absolute best short story collections because the authors are fantastic and fairy tales never get old, especially when they are told this well.

Picking my favorite would be so difficult, but if I had to pick, it would go to Light It Up by Kimberly Derting, with The Brothers Piggett, The Twelfth Girl, Figment, Beauty and the Chad being really close and every other story being really close after those!

This is a must-read for fans of fairy tales or any of these wonderful authors and is completely worth gushing over.

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Bewitched, Bothered, and Bicotti by Bailey Cates

Posted by Caitie F on February 21, 2014

Title: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bicotti15808412
Author: Bailey Cates
Mass Market: 336 pages
Pub Date: Dec 31, 2012
Publisher: Signet
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

As a new witch—not to mention owner of Savannah’s most enchanting bakery—Katie Lightfoot is still getting used to casting spells, brewing potions, and mastering her magical powers. But that doesn’t mean she can’t find time to enjoy a picnic with firefighter Declan McCarthy…until she stumbles upon a corpse.

The dead man’s tattoo reveals he was a member of a secret society—and it turns out he’s missing an object that was very important to the group. When Katie learns the killer was after more than the man’s life, she and her Aunt Lucy leave the baked goods on the rack to cool and set off in hot pursuit of a killer.

Review:

I really need to read more cozy mysteries. They are fast and a lot of fun to read! When I saw that this book was not just a bakery, but also had magic, I knew I had to read it.

And it was wonderful! Katie is a fun character that every reader will cheer for. She is pulled between two men, who are both pretty intriguing. I can see why she is interested in both of them! All of Katie’s friends and family who are also witches are great and fun to read. The bakery part will make you want some biscotti, so make sure you can go get it!

The mystery has so many turns and surprises that it was a lot of fun to read. It was suspenseful and shocking, but not scary. Almost every crime was done with magic, so the police were not much help.

I really liked how magic worked for the two different groups using it. It could be used for both good and…not so good (not always quite evil though). The tension between the groups and how they saw magic as a whole was a unique aspect and made me want to read the next book too!

If you are looking for a magical cozy, check this one out, it is wonderful and fun!

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Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Posted by Caitie F on February 20, 2014

Title: Better Off Friends17228280
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Hardcover: 288 pages
Pub Date: Feb 25, 2014
Publisher: Point
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

Review:

I am always so worried that I won’t like the new book by  Elizabeth Eulberg since she is my favorite author writing contemporary YA. For the first chapter, I am on the edge of my seat worrying. And, like all the books before, I get so wrapped up in the amazingness of the story that all those worries go away and I adore it just as much as all of her others.

One really cool thing is that at the end of each chapter, there is a conversation about it from the characters as they are at the end of the book. It was a little jarring for the first couples times but I really loved it. It was insightful to see how they would react to the story being told years later and seeing their regrets. It helped the readers get to know the characters in a different way.

The characters are so awesome! I have no idea how she manages to write in the voice of a fifteen year old boy, but it was spot on. The chapters go back and forth between Macallan and Levi and both are fully fleshed out characters and feel so authentic. One of the best things is that who they are to their core never changes. Yes, people change, but there are some events that never leave you.

Macallan’s mom died shortly before the book opened and that never left her thoughts and her actions. The reader watches her grow and go through the stages of grief in the six years that the book takes place. It felt so genuine. I found myself crying at several points when she was talking about her mom and thinking about her mom. It wasn’t easy. The pain didn’t go away, but how she approached it changed. It added a level of realism to the book that will stick with me for a long time.

Macallan is just an absolutely wonderful character. I also loved Levi and his voice, but I connected more with Macallan, so I will stick to her a little more. There was so much I felt like I could relate to with her. Teen me needed this book and this character. She is strong, yet vulnerable at times. She is both confident and terrified. I know that is how I felt at that age so many times. There was even a situation with her friend Emily that was very close to what happened when I was that age. I am sure it happens to many teens. She and Levi are such rounded characters that I think most readers will be able to relate to one of them.

The other thing this book will do is it will make you hungry. Macallan cooks a lot and everything she makes sounds wonderful. My mouth was watering just reading about it. Just make sure you have a snack nearby or you will have to go get one. I know right now I am craving some homemade gnocchi with pesto sauce and baked alaska for dessert.

There are so many awesome thing about this book that I could go on and on, but I won’t. Just go get this book and wait eagerly with me for her next.

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The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

Posted by Caitie F on February 19, 2014

 

Title: The Gospel of Winter18048982
Author: Brendan Kiely
Hardcover: 304 pages
Pub Date: Jan 21, 2014
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: +++++

Summary from pub:

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith.

Review:

There are a lot of books that are hard to read for different reasons. File this book in the hard to read list. Aidan broke my heart. His innocence and longing for love. His fear. That he felt like he had to protect those that hurt him because of who they were.

I don’t think there have been any young adult books about priests molesting boys, if they are others, I haven’t read them. As someone who was raised Catholic and was a kid growing up, reading this book meant a lot. I don’t think anything happened at any of the churches I went to, but watching the church move these monsters around changed what I thought about them.

But they didn’t show the victims, which is good because they didn’t need that attention after all they had been through. Yet it made it easier to not think of them. This novel shows one victim right before the story broke and slowly tells how it happened and shows not just his story, but the story of several young people hurt by the church.

This is incredibly written. Aidan is such a strong character who is struggling to find himself through all of this and struggling to speak up when so many are telling him not to, even adults who are not priests or nuns! Slowly, he is able to start talking, but not with the help of others, like his friends who were great characters.

This isn’t about one event or one time, it is about a deep level of hurt and distrust in many different forms. It is about adults who abuse their power and adults who look the other way because they are dealing with their own things. But really, it is about young people finding their voices and speaking out.

It is a very hard book to read, but it is worth every page.

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The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Posted by Caitie F on February 18, 2014

Title: The Naturals 13597723
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Hardcover: 304 pages
Pub Date: Nov 5. 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Rating: ++++

Summary from pub:

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive

Review:

This book is about teenagers who can use and grow their natural abilities to help solve cold cases. It is a thriller about a serial killer who has gotten on the inside and is going after one of them.

Do you really need to know anything else?  Because that is pretty awesome.

Okay, here is a little more: the characters are complex and well-rounded, even that start out as a little comic relief. They are smart, but they are no where near perfect. Their mistakes cause real problems and they were all thrust into tough lives early. Learning their backstories add so much to the characters and the way it is done feels so natural.

There is a little from the serial killer each chapter and it is chilling. It is one of those books that is hard to put down because of those sections.

This is exactly what a young adult mystery/thriller should be. If you are a fan of the genre at any age, pick this one up!

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