Tag Archives: fiction

Enzon Races in the Rain

Enzo Races in the Rain! Book Cover Enzo Races in the Rain!
Garth Stein
Juvenile Fiction
HarperCollins
October 7, 2014
40

[Enzo Races in the Rain!; TR 9780062295330] New York Times bestseller Garth Stein's picture book debut about the lovable dog Enzo from The Art of Racing in the Rain is a heartwarming tale of coming home. Fans of Bad Dog, Marley! by John Grogan and Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond will delight in Enzo's unforgettable personality and funny antics. Enzo the puppy's action-packed adventure begins when he makes the journey from the farm to the city (bark twice for faster!), discovers just how big the world is, and finds the family that was meant to be his. Life on the farm is pretty quiet—except when he races the cars that come down the barn road. Because Enzo is fast. He knows he's different from other dogs. But people never understand Enzo when he barks, and it drives him crazy! Then one day Enzo meets a little girl named Zoë and her father, Denny, and everything changes. R. W. Alley's fantastic illustrations bring the beloved Enzo to life as he learns to adapt to life in his new home and discovers just what it means to become a family.

 

Review:

I loved “Enzo Races in the Rain.”  The illustrations are fun and the story is fleshed out enough that it will make a good story time choice or bedtime story for older kids.  The illustrations will keep all but the youngest involved.  It’s also nice to read about Enzo without sobbing at the end!

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe

The Agony of Bun O'Keefe Book Cover The Agony of Bun O'Keefe
Heather Smith
Razorbill Canada
2017-03

Little Miss Sunshine meets Room in this quirky, heartwarming story of friendship, loyalty and discovery.

It's Newfoundland, 1986. Fourteen-year-old Bun O'Keefe has lived a solitary life in an unsafe, unsanitary house. Her mother is a compulsive hoarder, and Bun has had little contact with the outside world. What she's learned about life comes from the random books and old VHS tapes that she finds in the boxes and bags her mother brings home. Bun and her mother rarely talk, so when Bun's mother tells Bun to leave one day, she does. Hitchhiking out of town, Bun ends up on the streets of St. John's, Newfoundland. Fortunately, the first person she meets is Busker Boy, a street musician who senses her naivety and takes her in. Together they live in a house with an eclectic cast of characters: Chef, a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; Cher, a drag queen with a tragic past; Big Eyes, a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and The Landlord, a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost. Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns that the world extends beyond the walls of her mother's house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family -- a family of friends who care.

 

Review:

I fully recognize that I am in the minority here, but I did not like “The Agony of Bun O’Keefe” at all.  The main character bothered me, even though she was supposed to be one I felt sympathetic toward.  There were good issues brought up, but there were way too many and it made the whole thing seem crowded and rushed.  The only things I liked about it was the character of “Busker Boy” and the diversity.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Situations, Child Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Racist Language, Violence

The Border

The Border Book Cover The Border
Steve Schafer
Young Adult Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
September 1, 2017
368

One moment changed their lives forever. A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them. Crack. Crack. Crack. Not fireworks—gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them. Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcosresponsible for their families' murders have put out a reward for the teens' capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape...

 

Review:

Words cannot describe how important I think “The Border” is for everyone from middle grade up to read.  The story really put a face on the plights of those crossing the US border from the south.  The author did meticulous research and took great care to tell the story in an easy to understand manner.  This would be perfect for classroom and child/parent discussions.  It’s also a good choice for reluctant readers and those looking for diversity in their books.  Highly recommended.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence, Underage Smoking

Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, Book 1)

Nyxia Book Cover Nyxia
Scott Reintgen
Young Adult Fiction
Crown Books For Young Readers
2017
384

Emmett accepts an interstellar space contract but learns en route that to win the promised fortune he and nine other recruits face a brutal competition, putting their very humanity at risk.

 

Review:

I’ll say right off the bat that “Nyxia” borrowed quite a few elements from other science-fiction and dystopian works.  That being said, it didn’t diminish my enjoyment.  It was a quick read that left me wanting more.  Emmett is complex, as are the secondary characters, and there are definitely deeper things going on that I want to know about.  Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait for the second book.  The cast of characters is extremely diverse.  This is a good setup to the rest of the trilogy that I can easily recommend to those who enjoy science-fiction or dystopian novels.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

Black Bird of the Gallows

Black Bird of the Gallows Book Cover Black Bird of the Gallows
Meg Kassel
Young Adult Fiction
Entangled Teen
September 5, 2017
300

Her love breaks his curse. But his love spells her death. A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full. Angie Dovage can tell the mysterious new boy next door is more than he appears, but she can't imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. But when a grotesque, otherworldly man tries to attack her and Reece comes to her rescue, everything changes. Any minute, chaos could rain down on her town, on her family, on everyone she cares about. But that's only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

 

Review:

“Black Bird of the Gallows” was not a bad book, but it wasn’t for me.  I liked the backstory and the magical realism, but there seemed to be something missing in the actual execution.  I didn’t like the main character, so that was definitely part of the problem.  I can neither recommend nor not recommend it, so I suggest that if it looks good to you to give it a shot.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Animal Death

Blood and Ink

Blood and Ink Book Cover Blood and Ink
Stephen Davies
Young Adult Fiction
Charlesbridge Teen
September 19, 2017
224

Kadija is the music-loving daughter of a guardian of the library in the ancient city of Timbuktu, Ali is a former shepherd boy, trained by Islamist militants--and both are caught up in the war in Mali and on opposite sides of the stuggle to save the sacred Sufi manuscripts that the militants want to destroy.

 

Review:

“Blood and Ink” is a book that I can’t say that I enjoyed, but I did find it important and educational.  It covers the true story of what happened in Timbuktu in 2012.  The story is told in alternating points-of-view, one being that of a local resisting the invasion, and the other being that of a young fighter for a branch of Al-Qaeda.  It’s well-written and really made me think about what is going through the minds of those suffering in these situations.  Even though it takes place in our recent past, it’s just as important today.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass Book Cover Girls Made of Snow and Glass
Melissa Bashardoust
Young Adult Fiction
Flatiron Books
September 5, 2017
384

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother. Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known...or else defeat her once and for all. Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story. “In Girls Made of Snow and Glass, Melissa Bashardoust has given us exquisite displays of magic, complex mother-daughter relationships, and gloriously powerful women triumphing in a world that does not want them to be powerful. A gorgeous, feminist fairy tale.” —Traci Chee, New York Times bestselling author of The Reader “Melissa Bashardoust's debut novel is everything a fairy tale should be.” —Jodi Meadows, New York Times bestselling coauthor of My Lady Jane “Dark, fantastical, hauntingly evocative.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

 

Review:

“Girls Made of Snow and Glass” is a unique and imaginative retelling of “Snow White.”  Both of the main characters were complex and there was quite a bit of heartbreak while I was reading it over the circumstances of the infamous stepmother.  Add to it the lgbtq diversity and you get a solid and original read.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

The Best Kind of Magic (Windy City Magic, Book 1)

Windy City Magic, Book 1 The Best Kind of Magic Book Cover Windy City Magic, Book 1 The Best Kind of Magic
Windy City Magic, Book 1
Crystal Cestari
Juvenile Fiction
Disney-Hyperion
May 16, 2017
336

Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber's pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone's soul mate. Amber works at her mother's magic shop--Windy City Magic--in downtown Chicago, and she's confident she's seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one--her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor's son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father's missing girlfriend, she's distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can't see her own match, she can see his--and it's not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn't her match? The Best Kind of Magic is set in urban Chicago and will appeal to readers who long for magic in the real world. With a sharp-witted and sassy heroine, a quirky cast of mystical beings, and a heady dose of adventure, this novel will have you laughing out loud and questioning your belief in happy endings.

 

Review:

“The Best Kind of Magic” is a promising start to the new “Windy City Magic” series.  It has just the right blend of magical realism, suspense, the supernatural, and romance to make for a fun, light read.  It flows well and the sass of Amber kept me laughing.  It’s the perfect book for when you need a break from reality.  Good for grades 7 through adults.  Highly recommended!

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

The List

The List Book Cover The List
Patricia Forde
Juvenile Fiction
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 1, 2017
384

Farenheit 451 meets The Giver in this gripping story about the power of words and the dangers of censorship In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark's citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it's up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.

 

Review:

“The List” is a middle grade dystopia with a good premise: words are dangerous and by limiting them you can control how people spread ideas.  The city of Ark has 250 approved words, and it is up to Letta to keep the meanings of the others.  The problem is that the narrative is muddled and slow because so many other issues are tackled but not given any depth.  Everything from religion to the environment to prisoner’s rights are thrown in and it keeps the story from flowing well.  I would stick with “The Giver” when it comes to middle graders.

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

 

Content Warning:

Violence

Emma in the Night

Emma in the Night Book Cover Emma in the Night
Wendy Walker
Fiction
August 8, 2017
320

"Both twisted and twisty, this smart psychological thriller sets a new standard for unreliable narrators." –Booklist, Starred Review One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.

 

Review:

“Emma in the Night” is a taut psychological thriller that kept me reading from start to finish without putting it down.  Not only did I keep second-guessing my theories,  I kept feeling ill-at-ease in my own home.  It’s difficult to say much more than the book synopsis because to spoil it even a little would take away from the fun.  If you like thriller mysteries, you will probably enjoy this.

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