Tag Archives: contemporary

Trusting You & Other Lies

Trusting You and Other Lies Book Cover Trusting You and Other Lies
Nicole Williams
Young Adult Fiction
Crown Books For Young Readers
June 20, 2017
304

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Williams delivers a seductive summer romance worth swooning over. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins. Phoenix can't imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years--do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better? On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum--the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he's impossible to figure out--and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he's promising Phoenix a summer she'll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie? "What elevates this novel...is the witty and realistic dialogue and excellent character development." -SLJ

 

Review:

“Trusting You & Other Lies” is a nice summer romance that has some teeth.

It’s refreshing to see a sibling relationship that is loving and a family that is struggling in a realistic way.  The teenage emotions rang true and brought back quite a bit of nostalgia, along with a lot of “glad I’m past that phase of my life” thoughts.  Last but not least, there was no instalove.  That is always a bonus in YA romances.

I recommend “Trusting You & Other Lies” for anyone looking for an emotional read about young relationships, both with family and romantic interests.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

Secrets of Skin and Stone

Secrets of Skin and Stone Book Cover Secrets of Skin and Stone
Wendy Laine
Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
May 17, 2017
Paperback
290

Something is wrong in Hidden Creek. The sleepy Alabama town is more haunted than any place fiend hunter Grisham Caso has ever seen. Unearthed graves, curse bags, and spilled blood all point to an evil that could destroy his gargoyle birthright. The town isn’t safe for anyone, and everyone says fiery Piper Devon knows why.

Piper wants to leave Hidden Creek behind. She’s had enough of secrets—they hide in the shadows of her room and tell her terrible things are coming. Too-charming city boy Grisham might be her only chance to save herself.

To survive, Piper and Grisham have to shed their secrets and depend only on each other. But what lurks in Hidden Creek still might take everything away from them, including each other.

 

Review:

“Secrets of Skin and Stone” was the perfect palate cleanser and fun read after a series of lackluster novels that almost sent me into a reading slump.  I would describe it as a young adult “Southern Ghost Hunters.”

It’s a fun supernatural romance with witty dialogue and a plot that flows quickly. There are some scary parts, but they are evened out by the humor.  It’s also original.  I know they exist in literature, but a gargoyle shapeshifter has never come across my reading material before.  One caveat:  There is an animal death at the very beginning.  If you can plow through that you’ll be ok.  It isn’t gratuitous and pretty much fuels the rest of the plot.

I recommend “Secrets of Skin and Stone” for anyone looking for a fun supernatural read.  I also really hope the author plans a sequel.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Animal Death

Grendel’s Guide to Love and War

Grendel's Guide to Love and War Book Cover Grendel's Guide to Love and War
A. E. Kaplan
Young Adult Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
April 18, 2017
320

The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy's sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process. Tom Grendel lives a quiet life--writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the "manic-pixie-dream" label. But when Willow's brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens' community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed--his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD--so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it's not that simple. One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister's Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother's death . . . and the question isn't so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he'll survive intact. "Deep and uproarious all at once . . . A clever spin on a weighty classic." --Kirkus, starred review

 

Review:

I’m not sure how to describe “Grendel’s Guide to Love and War.”  It isn’t as deep as it could be, considering Tom Grendel has a very difficult life, including a father suffering from severe PTSD.  Yet it does evoke quite a few emotions by just skimming the surface of the issues he’s dealing with.  It is also hilarious. Laugh out loud hilarious.  If you’re looking for a fast read with a bit of an emotional roller coaster, give it a try.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

All the Forever Things

All the Forever Things Book Cover All the Forever Things
Jolene Perry
Young Adult Fiction
Albert Whitman and Company
April 1, 2017
288

From growing up in the funeral home her family runs, Gabriella knows that death is a part of life and nothing is forever. Yet Bree, her best friend, has been a constant; it’s always been the two of them together against the world. But when Bree starts dating a guy—the worst guy— from that ultra-popular world, suddenly she doesn’t have time for Gabe anymore. Now the only one at school who wants to spend time with “Graveyard Gabe” is Hartman, the new guy, but Gabe, not wanting to lose her mind over a boyfriend the way Bree has, holds back. It takes a very strange prom night (with the family hearse instead of a limo) for Gabe to truly fall for Hartman. But when she leaves the after-prom party with him, she’s not there for Bree—or for the deadly accident that happens that night. Bree survives, but will she and Gabe ever be able to rebuild their friendship?

 

Review:

“All the Forever Things” is a unique book that deals with deep issues in a sensitive and entertaining way.

I think every young adult or adult who is/was an outcast will be able to relate to “Graveyard Gabe,” even if your family does not own a funeral home. The story is bittersweet and touches on friendship, embracing who we are, first loves, forgiveness, and death.  Somehow this is all put together in a way that hurts at times but is funny and entertaining at others.

I recommend “All the Forever Things” for upper middle graders through adults who are looking for a good young adult novel that is different from the norm.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Disturbing Imagery

Always

Always Book Cover Always
Sarah Jio
Fiction
Ballantine Books
February 7, 2017
288

A gripping novel about the kind of love that never lets go, and the heart's capacity to remember, from the New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter and The Violetes of March Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fianc�, Ryan, at one of Seattle's chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can't believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister. When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense--everything connected and felt right. But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what--and whom--she wants. Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she's willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love. Advance praise for Always "A heartwarming story of personal growth and the power of nostalgia . . . Fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Emily Giffin should enjoy this warm and compassionate novel."--Booklist Praise for Sarah Jio Goodnight June "Sarah Jio's delightful and uplifting novel is guaranteed to melt even the toughest cynic and deserves a top rating of five stars (plus the moon)."--Historical Novels Review "A tribute to family and forgiveness."--Booklist Morning Glory "Jio explores the degree to which time and distance give comfort to those who have experienced loss [with] a depth of feeling in her writing."--Publishers Weekly "Jio has become one of the most-read women in America."--Woman's World Blackberry Winter "Compelling . . . an intoxicating blend of mystery, history, and romance."--Real Simple "Ingenious . . . imaginative."--The Seattle Times

 

Review:

“Always” is a sweet romance of love lost and found.  I enjoyed the story but found it lacked the depth of Sarah Jio’s previous books.  It’s still very much worth the read if you’re a fan.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

One Italian Summer

One Italian Summer
Keris Stainton
Hot Key Books
May 4, 2017
Paperback
256

'Gentle and romantic. A holiday in itself.' Rainbow Rowell 'I flew through ONE ITALIAN SUMMER. It's a perfect summer read with a gorgeous setting, warm characters and a bittersweet evocation of life after tragedy.' Sophia Bennett, author of LOVE SONG Milly loves her sisters more than anything - they are her best friends. But this holiday is different. The loss of their dad has left a gaping hole in their lives that none of them know how to fill. Heartbreak is a hard thing to fix ...Still, there is plenty to keep the girls busy in Rome. A family wedding. Food, wine, parties and sun. And of course Luke ...Luke is hot, there is no way around that. And Milly will always have a crush on him. But this summer is about family, being together, and learning to live without Dad. It isn't about Luke at all ...is it?

 

Review:

“One Italian Summer” is a light ya romance that reads quickly but lacks much substance.

While there was an attempt at making the characters developed, I still felt somewhat removed from them, especially the love interest, Luke.  There was little to no explanation of exactly why Milly was so interested in him, aside from a rather alarming amount of wanting to lick his muscles.  Not going to lie, the amount of times a phrase like that was thought by her was a bit unsettling.  I know this complaint may be nitpicky, but the author seems to lose track of what her characters were doing quite a bit.  Characters would stand up twice in one page without sitting down, be in a car one second and in a parking lot walking to the car the next, etc.  It kept pulling me out of the story.

That being said, “One Italian Summer” is still a cute romance if you’re looking for a beach read that doesn’t require much from you.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Alcohol Use

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn Book Cover The Inconceivable Life of Quinn
Marianna Baer
Harry N. Abrams
April 4, 2017
384

Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin? "

 

Review:

I normally hate giving two star reviews, but almost everything about “The Inconceivable Life of Quinn” rubbed me the wrong way.

The main problem for me was Quinn herself.  I didn’t find her at all likable. Instead she was irritating and kind of full of herself.  Her father made me want to punch things.  The plot wore thin about 75 pages before the book ended and it was an unsatisfying conclusion.

I appreciate the hard work the author put into this, and wish her luck in her future writing, but I just can’t recommend this one.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Discussions of Rape, Underage Alcohol Use

Bang

Bang Book Cover Bang
Barry Lyga
Young Adult Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
April 18, 2017
304

A heartbreaking novel about living with your worst mistake, from New York Times bestselling author Barry Lyga. A chunk of old memory, adrift in a pool of blood. Sebastian Cody did something horrible, something no one--not even Sebastian himself--can forgive. At the age of four, he accidentally shot and killed his infant sister with his father's gun. Now, ten years later, Sebastian has lived with the guilt and horror for his entire life. With his best friend away for the summer, Sebastian has only a new friend--Aneesa--to distract him from his darkest thoughts. But even this relationship cannot blunt the pain of his past. Because Sebastian knows exactly how to rectify his childhood crime and sanctify his past. It took a gun to get him into this. Now he needs a gun to get out. Unflinching and honest, Bang is as true and as relevant as tomorrow's headlines, the story of one boy and one moment in time that cannot be reclaimed.

 

Review:

I really wanted to like “Bang”.  It seems that I’m in the minority in not feeling it.  Unfortunately, the book just did not resonate with me.

It isn’t that there is not good writing or that the characters aren’t well-developed.  Both were good.  The problem for me, I believe, is that so many issues were packed into one book that it didn’t have time to focus on any of them enough.  Gun control, Islamophobia, mental illness of several types, and the income gap are a few of the things covered.

I can’t recommend “Bang”, but if the blurb sounds good to you, give it a try.  Maybe it’s just me.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Hate Speech

Fire Starters

Fire Starters Book Cover Fire Starters
Jen Storm
December 31, 2016
Paperback

 

Review:

“Fire Starters” is an excellent book for middle graders about the prejudice facing indigenous peoples.  It’s also a morality tale about taking responsibility for your actions.  Tough subject matter to read, as it should be.  The artwork is great.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Hate Speech

Piper Perish

Piper Perish Book Cover Piper Perish
Kayla Cagan
Young Adult Fiction
Chronicle Books
March 7, 2017
416

Piper Perish inhales air and exhales art. The sooner she and her best friends can get out of Houston and get to New York City, the better. Art school has been Piper's dream her whole life, and now that senior year is halfway over, she's never felt more ready. But in the final months before graduation, things are weird with her friends and stressful with three different guys, and Piper's sister's tyrannical mental state seems to thwart every attempt at happiness for the close-knit Perish family. Piper's art just might be enough to get her out. But is she brave enough to seize that power when it means giving up so much? Debut author Kayla Cagan breathes new life into fiction in this dynamic, utterly authentic work featuring interior art from Rookie magazine illustrator Maria Ines Gul. Piper will have readers asking big questions along with her. What is love? What is friendship? What is family? What is home? And who is a person when she's missing any one of these things?

 

Review:

“Piper Perish” is the perfect book for the kids who are creative and ponder life’s big questions.  It’s also great for the adults who once were those kids and probably are still the same as adults.  I really wish there would have been a book like this when I was in middle and high school.  Highly recommended!

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.