Tag Archives: contemporary

Alice and the Fly

Alice and the Fly Book Cover Alice and the Fly
James Rice
Juvenile Fiction
Quercus
April 4, 2017
304

Greg is cripplingly shy, afraid of spiders, and obsessed with Breakfast at Tiffany's. He's not exactly the most popular kid at his high school. In fact, he pretty much goes out of his way to avoid talking to anybody he doesn't have to. And it doesn't help that he has a severe lisp. But Greg's English teacher, Miss Hayes, can see that there's something different about him. He's insightful and sensitive beyond his years, and maybe--just maybe--he'll use these strengths to break out of his shell someday. Miss Hayes urges Greg to keep a journal. "This isn't an assignment," she tells him, "just write down your thoughts." Greg begins to write about everything from his mother's ill-conceived interior decorating ideas to his job at the local butcher's shop. When Greg begins to take an interest in a girl at his school named Alice, he realizes that he will have to face his most paralyzing anxieties if he wants to befriend Alice and help her escape from her violent family life.

 

Review:

I’m not really sure how to review “Alice and the Fly.”  It wasn’t a bad characterization of mental illness, though it did lack any real answers for the reader.  I feel like I just didn’t connect to the main character the way I wish I could.  Overall, I can neither recommend nor not recommend it.

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

Broken Glass (The Mirror Sisters, #2)

Broken Glass Book Cover Broken Glass
The Mirror Sisters, Book 2
V.C. Andrews
Fiction
Simon and Schuster
February 28, 2017
448

Sisters until the end...

Which may come sooner than they think.

Under their mother’s watchful eye, identical twins Haylee and Kaylee Fitzgerald have lived their entire lives in sync. Never alone, never apart, everything about them must be exactly the same: clothes, friends, punishments.

One night, in the darkness of a movie theater, Haylee reveals that she’s leaving to meet up with someone she knows from online. But suddenly feeling ill, and not wanting to disappoint this older man, she convinces Kaylee to go in her stead. He’ll never know, and this way he won’t think she stood him up.

Kaylee reluctantly agrees to go, but when the credits roll and she’s nowhere to be found, Haylee confesses everything to her mom. With the manhunt on, Haylee knows everything must be done to find her sister. Still, for the first time in her life, she’s free from her twin, which, really, isn’t so bad...is it?

 

Review:

What can I say about “Broken Glass?”  I feel like this can sum it up for all fans of V.C. Andrews books: It is exactly what you want and expect to find in one of them, meaning creepy and a guilty pleasure. It’s a fun story that continues the story of Haylee and Kaylee, two of the world’s creepiest twins.  A perfect beach read.

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

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Book Cover The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Young Adult Fiction
Clarion Books
March 7, 2017
464

"A story set on the American border with Mexico, about family and friendship, life and death, and one teen struggling to understand what his adoption does and doesn't mean about who he is"--

 

Review:

“The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” is a book I had mixed feelings about, but in the end I found it well worth the time to read.

The plot is meandering, and while that can be a good thing, in this instance I wish about a quarter of the length had been shaved off.  The repetitiveness sometimes took me out of the story.  The plot itself is a good one about the nature of friendship and family instead of romance.  That’s refreshing to find in a young adult book.  Extra points for being a diverse book with both lgbtq and Mexican-American characters.

The flaws in the length of the story were more than made up for in the absolutely stunning writing.  Every chapter contained at least one beautiful sentence.  It felt like candy in the brain.  The characters, because of the writing style, seemed to jump off of the page and into my life.  They will undoubtedly live on inside of my mind, and I’ve already found myself repeating quotes.

Overall, I can definitely recommend “The Inexplicable Logic of My Life” to any older young adults and adults who are looking for beauty over a fast-paced plot.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Hate Speech

Denton Little’s Still Not Dead (Denton Little #2)

Denton Little's Still Not Dead Book Cover Denton Little's Still Not Dead
Denton Little, Book 2
Lance Rubin
Young Adult Fiction
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
February 7, 2017
352

"Denton and his quirky friends are laugh-out-loud funny, even as their riotous adventures raise deeper questions about science, government control, life, and death." -- SLJ You only live once--unless you're Denton Little! Denton Little lives in a world exactly like our own except that everyone knows the day on which they will die. The good news: Denton has lived through his deathdate. Yay! The bad news: He's being chased by the DIA (Death Investigation Agency), he can never see his family again, and he may now die anytime. Huh. Cheating death isn't quite as awesome as Denton would have thought. . . . Lance Rubin's debut novel, Denton Little's Deathdate, showed readers just how funny and poignant imminent death could be. Now in this sequel, he takes on the big questions about life. How do we cope, knowing we could die at any time? Would you save someone from dying even if they were a horrible person? Is it wrong to kiss the girl your best friend is crushing on if she's really into you instead? What if she's wearing bacon lip gloss? Praise for Denton Little's Deathdate: "Highly original, fantastically entertaining, and laugh-out-loud funny, Denton Little's Deathdate is a wild romp through a night like no other." --Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Geography of You and Me "Let's all pray the grim reaper is even half as witty (and wise) as the deadly talented Lance Rubin. Till then: skip this book at your own peril." --Tim Federle, author of Better Nate than Ever and The Great American Whatever "Rubin is really funny, but like John Green, he manages to be poignant. . . . In other words, it's a keeper." --Bustle

 

Review:

“Denton Little’s Still Not Dead” is a hilarious follow-up to last year’s “Denton Little’s Deathdate.”  It features all of the fun of the original with a heaping dose of existentialism.  This series is definitely for a certain set of readers.  The science of the world is explained a little, but a suspension of disbelief is a requirement.  It won’t make you smarter, but it will definitely make you laugh.  Highly recommended for the weird readers among us (which includes yours truly).

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Drug Use

Optimists Die First

Optimists Die First Book Cover Optimists Die First
Susin Nielsen
Young Adult Fiction
Wendy Lamb Books
February 21, 2017
240

Award-winning author Susin Nielsen has written a laugh-out-loud and heartrending novel for fans of Robyn Schneider's Extraordinary Means and Cammie McGovern's Say What You Will. Beware: Life ahead. Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you. The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class with a small group of fellow misfits. Then a new boy, Jacob, appears at school and in her therapy group. He seems so normal and confident, though he has a prosthetic arm; and soon he teams up with Petula on a hilarious project, gradually inspiring her to let go of some of her fears. But as the two grow closer, a hidden truth behind why he's in the group could derail them, unless Petula takes a huge risk. . .

 

Review:

“Optimists Die First” was a decent enough book about anxiety and a quick read, but it was missing that something extra to push it over into good.  It also seemed to resolve things way too quickly.  I can’t recommend nor not recommend it.  Read the description and give it a try if it piques your interest.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Underage Drinking

10 Things I Can See From Here

10 Things I Can See from Here Book Cover 10 Things I Can See from Here
Carrie Mac
Young Adult Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
February 28, 2017
320

Maeve, a sufferer of severe anxiety, moves in with her recovering alcoholic father and her very pregnant stepmother and falls for a girl who's not afraid of anything.

 

Review:

“10 Things I Can See From Here” is one of the best books that I have read about anxiety disorder.

The way the story is written does an excellent job of showing the stream of consciousness that happens when something triggers anxiety.  At times I was feeling the anxiety creeping in to my own head.  The novel is by no means a one-trick pony, either.  The issues of coming out, gay bashing, familial drug abuse, divorce, step-family dynamics, and first love are tackled head-on.  All of the characters are developed, and for the most part, likable.

I can’t stress this enough: My favorite part is that it did not follow the false trope of mental health issues being solved by meeting the right person.  Salix helps Maeve, but she is not a miracle cure.  Only Maeve’s dad can kick his drug habit, no matter how hard his family tries to help.  Good lessons, in my opinion.

I recommend “10 Things I Can See From Here” for anyone looking for books about anxiety or a wonderful lgbt romance.  Yay for diverse books!

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Hate Words, Drug Abuse

 

 

Southern Spirits (Southern Ghost Hunters #1)

Southern Spirits Book Cover Southern Spirits
Southern Ghost Hunters, Book 1
Angie Fox
Fantasy fiction
January 13, 2015
276

When out of work graphic designer Verity Long accidentally traps a ghost on her property, she's saddled with more than a supernatural sidekick-she gains the ability see spirits. It leads to an offer she can't refuse from the town's bad boy, the brother of her ex and the last man she should ever partner with. Ellis Wyatt is in possession of a stunning historic property haunted by some of Sugarland Tennessee's finest former citizens. Only some of them are growing restless-and destructive. He hires Verity to put an end to the disturbances. But soon, Verity learns there's more to the mysterious estate than floating specters, secret passageways, and hidden rooms. There's a modern day mystery afoot, one that hinges on a decades-old murder. Verity isn't above questioning the living, or the dead. But can she discover the truth before the killer finds her?

 

Review:

“Southern Spirits” is the perfect cozy mystery for a rainy winter’s day.  There is plenty of humor, a pet skunk, and southern charm, along with the beginning of what promises to be a steamy romance.  Don’t be fooled, though, as there were some legitimate scares to be found.  A really fun adult mystery read!

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

Life in a Fishbowl

Life in a Fishbowl Book Cover Life in a Fishbowl
Len Vlahos
Juvenile Fiction
Bloomsbury USA Childrens
January 3, 2017
336

Fifteen-year-old Jackie Stone's father is dying. When Jackie discovers that her father has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, her whole world starts to crumble. She can't imagine how she'll live without him . . . Then, in a desperate act to secure his family's future, Jackie's father does the unthinkable--he puts his life up for auction on eBay. Jackie can do nothing but watch and wait as an odd assortment of bidders, some with nefarious intentions, drive the price up higher. The fate of her entire family hangs in the balance. But no one can predict how the auction will finally end, or any of the very public fallout that ensues. Life as Jackie knows it is about to change forever . . . In this brilliantly written tragicomedy told through multiple points of view--including Jackie's dad's tumor--acclaimed author Len Vlahos deftly explores what it really means to live. "A weird, sardonic delight with the shape of an allegory and the heart of a joyful song." --Brenna Yovanoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement "Surprising, original, political, and deeply affecting . . . It is one of those rare works of art that keeps you guessing up to the very last page." --Leila Sales, author of This Song Will Save Your Life "It will tear you apart, and yet it's an absolute joy." --Adi Alsaid, author of Let's Get Lost and Never, Always, Sometimes

 

Review:

I’ll give it to you upfront:  I did not like “Life in a Fishbowl.”  I did appreciate the writing and the use of some unique points-of-view.

There were a lot of voices in the book, with many being in the same chapter.  It became confusing at points, but the voices were distinct and well-written.  I found the parts written about the thoughts of the tumor itself to be unique and engaging.  In fact, those were the only sections that genuinely made me feel like I was reading a book about cancer that handled the subject well.  The message of how intrusive reality television can be was a good one, but also over-extended the plot.  A few less points-of-view in the tv aspect would have made it flow much better.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of an animal for emotional blackmail. There is an animal death, and it was part of an unnecessary subplot that crowded the tv aspect that I mentioned up above.  I feel like a strong plot can evoke emotion without needing to add in something extra.

The writing is good, but the rest of “Life in a Fishbowl” was disappointing.  It had so much potential.  I recommend giving this one a pass.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations (Some Abusive), Violence, Animal Death

A List of Cages

A List of Cages Book Cover A List of Cages
Robin Roe
Disney-Hyperion
January 10, 2017
Hardcover
320

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he's got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn't easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can't complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian--the foster brother he hasn't seen in five years.
Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He's still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what's really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives

.
First-time novelist Robin Roe relied on life experience when writing this exquisite, gripping story featuring two lionhearted characters.

 

Review:

I’m not sure saying I loved “A List of Cages” is appropriate because of the subject matter, but I can say I loved Julian and Adam.

This book broke my heart and some parts were very difficult to read.  Yet it was also a good reminder that humanity still exists in this world, even in the darkest of places.  I don’t want to spoil how the plot develops, but I will say that the bond between the characters is beautiful.  Julian’s ability to see when others are trapped in their own cages is remarkable.  We don’t get to see how their stories play out, but that is true to life.  We’re all on our own journey.

My only problem with the book is that at times the characters felt just a touch too naive in their decision-making, particularly Adam.  It doesn’t take away from the plot or the writing.  It’s a minor flaw in an otherwise exceptional book.

As a warning, there is abuse in “A List of Cages” and it is graphic. If this is a trigger for you, I would recommend you give it a pass.  Otherwise, I recommend it for everyone high-school aged and up.  It’s simply beautiful.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Underage Drinking, Graphic Child Abuse

The Hundred Lies Of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett Book Cover The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett
Chelsea Sedoti
Young Adult Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
January 3, 2017
400

Hawthorn wasn't trying to insert herself into a missing person's investigation. Or maybe she was. But that's only because Lizzie Lovett's disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don't happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she'll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now. So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie's disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously...at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie's life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie's boyfriend. After all, it's not as if he killed her-or did he? Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn's quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

 

Review:

I wish I could say I liked “The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett,” but that would be telling my own lie.

There were a few secondary characters I would like to know more about, but unfortunately their potential was wasted.  Instead we have to suffer through one of the most annoying and least self-aware young adult characters I have ever encountered.  What is supposed to be quirky is actually creepy, and her love interest is someone who did nothing but enable her.  Not to mention the fact that he is someone you would not be surprised to find on an episode of Dateline.  Those characters took me out of any interest I tried to develop in the plot.

I appear to be in the minority with “The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett.”  If it sounds interesting to you, then by all means give it a read.

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

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Drug Use, Underage Alcohol Use