Book Review: Stray

Stray – Joni Johnson – Independently Published – published 22 March 2017

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Synopsis

Lila Baxter, 17, is abandoned at a gas station in a small town when her father, who was taking her to live with her grandmother, has a lapse in sobriety. Lila is left alone, unsure of where she is, with no money, and no cell phone. Gas station cashier Vance Larson, 18, offers to help the unwanted girl. And how does Lila repay him? By unwittingly unhinging Vance’s whole life. Fixing the trouble she’s caused is next to impossible. And will any of it matter when her father returns?

My thoughts

Stray’s synopsis promised exactly what I love in YA fiction – tortured teens and a touch of romance. It reminded me of a story I read and loved many years ago by Cindy C. Bennett.

Lila has just graduated high school. She knows she only has a few days until she must find her own place to live, but she doesn’t expect her father to pack her into his truck and drive halfway across the country. And, despite his disinterest over the past years, nor does she expect him to abandon her in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Alone and unsure what to do she accepts the help of Vance, a (admittedly handsome) guy she meets, who takes her home. There she experiences the love of a family for the first time as Vance and his mother, Vicki, welcome Lila into their home and lives.

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Book Review: Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me

Liberty: The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me – Andrea Portes – HarperTeen – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

What is a hero? Paige Nolan knows.

Edward Raynes, the young man who exposed America’s unconstitutional spying techniques, is a hero, even if half the dum-dums in the country think he’s a traitor. Or her parents, journalists who were captured by terrorists while telling stories of the endangered and oppressed. They were heroes, too. Were. . . or are—no one has ever told Paige if they’re still alive, or dead.

Not heroes? Anyone in the government who abandoned her parents, letting them rot somewhere halfway across the world. And certainly not Paige herself, who despite her fluency in five languages and mastery of several obscure martial arts (thanks, Mom!) could do nothing to save them.

Couldn’t, that is, until she’s approached by Madden Carter, an undercover operative who gives her a mission—fly to Russia, find Raynes, and discover what other government secrets he’s stockpiled. In exchange, he’ll reopen the case on her missing parents. She’s given a code name and a cover as a foreign exchange student.

Who is a hero? Not Paige Nolan, but maybe, just maybe, Liberty is.

My thoughts

Liberty – The Spy Who (Kind of) Liked Me is absolutely hilarious. It is a super fun, caper of a spy novel with an instantly likeable protagonist.

Paige Nolan’s parents, high profile journalists, are missing. They may be dead, Paige was never told. So when Paige is recruited from her (mostly) mundane college life by a spy (handsome, is younger than expected, and wears a suit very nicely), she is at first incredulous, then reluctant, but finally agrees knowing it might be the only chance of finding her parents.

The synopsis for this sounded fantastic, but it wasn’t until I started reading that I got an idea of just how awesome this book was going to be. I was captured from the first page and I didn’t not want to be released. The book is written in second person. Extremely hard to pull off and yet this book does it flawlessly. Paige is talking directly to the reader, warning them about the story to come, filling in a few details about how the whole thing came to be, and then providing commentary the whole way through the story. It is very well written, the reader is at once both in Paige’s head and right amongst the action.

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Book Review: Defy The Stars

Defy the Stars – Claudia Gray – Constellation #1 – Little, Brown Books – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

She’s a soldier. Noemi Vidal is seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine. Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

My thoughts

Don’t you just love it when a book surprises you? I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Defy The Stars. It just seemed to get better and better. It was clever. It was original. It had so much packed into it. It made me want to desperately read the next book in the series and yet, at the same time, I was totally content with the story just as it was. It made me fall in love with science fiction all over again and reminded me just how good it can be.

Noemi is a solider from Genesis, sworn to sacrifice her life to protect her planet from Earth’s forces who want to destroy Genesis just like they have Earth. Abel is a machine. One of the most advanced robots ever created. But 30 years stuck on an abandoned spaceship has left his wiring a little crossed and he longs for freedom. When Noemi discovers Abel while on a rescue mission, she also discovers that Abel holds the key to protecting her planet from Earth forever. She commands his help and together they explore the galaxy, putting into place her plan. But Abel is growing ever more human, and Noemi is running out of time.

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Book Review: Once and For All

Once and for All – Sarah Dessen – Viking Books – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

My thoughts

A summer of weddings, a girl with a damaged heart, an annoying guy, and a bet – what could go wrong? Once and For All is a delightful new novel with Sarah Dessen’s trademark mix of romance, summer, and starting over.

Louna works for her mother’s wedding planning business. Every week she witnesses the pinnacle of true love. Or at least that’s what it should be. But Louna herself knows how badly love can end, leaving her cynical and sure that romance doesn’t come around all that often. Then she meets Ambrose, a serial dater who enjoys the first few perfect moments of a relationship but never commits to more than a day or two. Ambrose drives Louna nuts with his eternally cheerful and haphazard ways. So she is shocked when her mother employs him to help with the summer weddings. But Louna finds herself enjoying spending time with Ambrose (sometimes, when he isn’t making her crazy) and, even stranger, finds herself making a bet with him – she will agree to start dating again and he will try to commit to a relationship that lasts for seven weeks.

This book was described as sugar and effervescent champagne. But I didn’t get that feeling at all. Yes, there are weddings, flirting, and summer days, but it was far more somber than I was expecting. And yet it perfectly fit the Sarah Dessen mould – sweet romance and a light story, tempered with sad tragedy or hard circumstances with which the character must wrestle. I found Louna’s story to be far sadder than I expected. When it says that her last relationship, her first taste of a true and epic love, ended badly, they mean badly. The reader slowly pieces together what happened and how it changed Louna. Meanwhile, we get to know Ambrose. At first, Louna can’t stand him. But as they work together they build a sweet friendship.

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New Book Releases May 2017

New Book Releases for May 2017

Books, books, glorious books. Here is my little list of new books due for release in May 2017. Click on covers for more information and reviews.

Adult Fiction

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories – Celeste Fletcher McHale – Thomas Nelson – Published 23 May 2017

Jacey Lang spent three terrifying days atop a roof during a terrible storm. She shared that experience with a young family and (possibly) the man of her dreams. But a traumatic accident during their rescue left Jacey with scattered memories and no way to reconnect with Colin. One year later Jacey accidentally finds Colin again – at the end of the isle at her best friend’s wedding, as the preacher. Uncertain what the future holds for them, Jacey must deal with her returning memories about the accident and the fate of the young family, while Colin comes to terms with his family’s past.

Adult fiction: Contemporary


Children’s Fiction

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine – HarperCollins – Published 2 May 2017

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Latki—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Latki-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

Children’s fiction: Fantasy.


Young Adult Fiction

Love and Vandalism – Laurie Boyle Cromption – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 1 May 2017

Rory creates her art in the dark depths of night, spray painting her lions onto vacant walls and overpasses. It helps her control her rage and rebel against her father. Art is the thing she has most in common with her artist mother. But Rory has a plan to escalate her art and paint a lion that is larger and far more visible than all her previous pieces. She knows she will need help to pull it off but the new guy in town is probably last on her list of limited choices. Never mind his city-boy looks and his determination to stay away from trouble (especially the illegal kind), it’s enough that he is threatening to reveal Rory’s identity as the lion graffiti artist if she doesn’t show him around town.

Young adult fiction: Contemporary

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Book Review: Girl Out of Water

Girl Out of Water – Laura Silverman – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

My thoughts

Girl Out Of Water is an easy YA contemporary novel about an unexpected summer, family commitments, new relationships, and hanging onto old friendships.

For Anise, surfing is everything, so her summer plans consist of surfing, spending time with her friends surfing, attending the Surf Break festival, and more surfing. So, when her dad informs her that they will be spending the entire summer in Nebraska caring for her cousins as her aunt recuperates from a serious car accident, she is more than a little upset. But the summer ends up being not so bad as she reconnects with her cousins, meets a new guy, learns to skateboard, and finally has a chance to learn a little more about her long-absent mother.

Anise loves the ocean, and you can see why with the way in which the author describes it. The freedom of the sea, the thrill of riding waves, and the connection that it brings to her friends. For Anise, everything pretty much revolves around surfing. Although I did find a few inconsistent details – you actually have to paddle to catch the wave rather than just wait for it to pick you up – the author captures the scenes of Anise’s life well.

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Book Review: Made You Up

Made You Up – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 19 May 2015

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Synopsis

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

My thoughts

Made You Up has been on my to-read list for a while but I only picked it up after reading Fancesca Zappia’s new book Eliza and Her Monsters which is AMAZING!! So I had high expectations for Made You Up. And it certainly lived up to them in terms of writing style and story and characters, obviously it doesn’t have the extra story and accompanying webcomic panels, but it shares the refreshing honest and up-front way of talking about teenage mental health within a totally authentic setting.

Alex is starting at a new high school after an Incident at her last school involving spray paint, the gym floor and the possibility of communists. Alex is hoping that she will be able hide the fact that she has paranoid schizophrenia from her new classmates. But that might be hard when her new principal could be crazy, the school’s scoreboard is haunted and the boy from her childhood, whom she previously thought was a hallucination, might actually be real.

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Book Review: The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre – Gail Carson Levine – The Two Princesses of Bamarre #0.5 – HarperCollins – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Lakti—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly.

But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Lakti-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

My thoughts

Achingly gorgeous, this is a tale of courage, family, love, loyalty, and a dangerous quest for freedom.

The name Gail Carson Levine evokes strong memories – my first discovery of her beautiful stories, an eternal love for her wonderful characters, sharing her books with other readers, and rereading the tales many, many times over. Of all her books, The Two Princesses of Bamarre was always my favourite, so let’s just say I was completely thrilled that there was to be a new book, a prequel to this wonderful story. Starting The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre I was both excited and cautious – could this story possibly live up to the wonder I feel when reading The Two Princesses? At first, no, it could never have that sparkle of first discovery, but this new story shares all the same wonder, vibrant character, clever storytelling, and magic as the original, and by the end I was just as in love with this book as I am with The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Perry is the daughter of Lord and Lady Tove – a true Lakti in strength and ability and courage. She can run and fight better than all of her peers. But when she discovers that she is actually Bamarre, stolen from her true family, her eyes are opened to the treatment of the Bamarre and how, with a little courage, freedom could be theirs.

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Book Review: Someone Else’s Summer

Someone Else’s Summer – Rachel Bateman – Running Press Kids – Published 9 May 2017

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Synopsis

Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?

My thoughts

Can you fall in love with a book because of its dedication? Because that’s when I first knew I was going to enjoy Someone Else’s Summer. I cautioned myself to actually start reading the book before judging it, but, it turns out, I was right. I enjoyed this book of road trips and love finally realised, summer lists, larger-than-life big sisters, shared memories, shared grief, and unanswered questions. Someone Else’s Summer was refreshing and fun.

Anna’s sister was tragically killed in a car accident just after her high school graduation. Anna and her family are devastated. So when Anna finds one last summer list that her sister left behind, she knows she must complete it. She recruits her sister’s best-friend, boy-next-door, Cameron, and together they set off for a summer of skinny dipping, tattoos, Polaroid photos, and kisses.

I have to say I loved the romance in this story. Anna and Cameron know each other. They have too many shared childhood memories not to. But they drifted apart over the past few years, just like Anna drifted from being her sister’s little shadow. They reconnect through their shared grief and their time on the road trip. Their relationship starts with a familiarity and comfort that comes from being a perfect fit. So it only makes perfect sense when their relationship turns romantic. And boy, does their chemistry leap off the page. Their kisses were literally heart-pounding.

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Book Review: Other Breakable Things

Other Breakable Things – Kelley York and Rowan Altwood – Entangled:Teen – Published 4 April 2017

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Giveaway:
Click here to enter to win an Other Breakable Things Prize Pack.

Synopsis

According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes will grant you healing.

Evelyn Abel will fold two thousand if it will bring Luc back to her.

Luc Argent has always been intimately acquainted with death. After a car crash got him a second chance at life—via someone else’s transplanted heart—he tried to embrace it. He truly did. But he always knew death could be right around the corner again.

And now it is.

Sick of hospitals and tired of transplants, Luc is ready to let his failing heart give out, ready to give up. A road trip to Oregon—where death with dignity is legal—is his answer. But along for the ride is his best friend, Evelyn.

And she’s not giving up so easily.

A thousand miles, a handful of roadside attractions, and one life-altering kiss later, Evelyn’s fallen, and Luc’s heart is full. But is it enough to save him? Evelyn’s betting her heart, her life, that it can be.

Right down to the thousandth paper crane.

My thoughts

Hmmm. What can you say about a book that attempts to pick you up, take you on a roller coaster of emotions and then rip your heart out? I wasn’t sure which path this book would take – ultimately hopeful, focusing on the joys and hurts of living or a complete and utter sob fest? Even after finishing I’m still not sure – a bit of both, maybe? Either way, Other Breakable Things is a very interesting book and quick to read, perfect for contemporary fiction fans.

Evelyn has always loved Luc. Loved him throughout their stilted friendship and then the past three years of silence when she moved away from him. Now she is back in the same town as Luc but still isn’t sure if he will reach out to her, or include her in his life. She is used to being the second choice in people’s lives. But to Luc, Evelyn was never the second choice, just a choice he never allowed himself to make. Luc’s heart is failing. The second time in his short, nineteen-year life. He knows that he doesn’t want to try another transplant, and is sick of hospitals and tests and doctors. So, instead, he takes off on a road trip – one last effort to really live. And he takes Evelyn with him. Evelyn has always suspected that Luc was unwell, but it isn’t until she is on the road with him that she finally, fully begins to understand as she uncovers everything he has been hiding.

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