Tag Archives: realistic

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

 

 

The Warden’s Daughter

The Warden's Daughter Book Cover The Warden's Daughter
Jerry Spinelli
Juvenile Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 3, 2017
352

Cammie O'Reilly is the warden's daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she's also living in a prison of grief and anger about the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. And prison has made her mad. This girl's nickname is Cannonball. In the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything is in flux. Cammie's best friend is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand d killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the only mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. All will play a role in Cammie's coming-of-age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past.

 

Review:

“The Warden’s Daughter” is one of the best historical literary young-adult novels I have ever read.  I couldn’t put it down.

There are some flaws in the novel, with a child protagonist who is extremely limited in her view of others in the world.  However, these flaws are intentional and acknowledged by the adult narrator saying they come from memory and may not even be in the correct order.  I love that the big stories of the day were related only as to how they affected Cammie.  Isn’t that how most of our childhood memories are?  Actual awareness about the meaning of that summer came with age.

The entire idea of a child living inside of a prison is fascinating.  During the time period it wasn’t all that uncommon.  What is uncommon is her progressive father.  Once again, something only seen in hindsight.

The story is a slow-burn that is worth the time and commitment.  I think upper middle-graders through adults will enjoy “The Warden’s Daughter” if they have any interest in history or unique childhood situations.  Highly recommended!

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence

 

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

The Bone Sparrow

The Bone Sparrow Book Cover The Bone Sparrow
Zana Fraillon
Disney-Hyperion
November 1, 2016
Hardcover
240

"Indispensable."-Booklist (starred review)
GUARDIAN CHILDREN'S FICTION PRIZE 2016 FINALIST

Subhi is a refugee. He was born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, and the center is the only world he knows. But every night, the faraway whales sing to him, the birds tell him their stories, and the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts. As Subhi grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of the fences that contain him. Until one night, it seems to do just that.

Subhi sees a scruffy girl on the other side of the wire mesh, a girl named Jimmie, who appears with a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, Jimmie asks Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies that are penned there.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort-and maybe even freedom-as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before and made choices that could change everything.

 

Review:

There are not enough stars to give “The Bone Sparrow.”  Even a thousand would be insufficient.

Subhi, the main character, is a child born inside an Australian detention camp to a Burmese refugee.  The way the story progresses is a work of art, with the reader taking the journey with Subhi as he grows to realize the only world he has ever known is not at all normal or fair.  It’s a painful path to take with him.  There are occasional chapters written in third person about the life of Jimmie, a girl from the outside.  She provides both her own story and a way to see the contrast of what people think goes on and what actually happens inside of the camps.

The book is written for middle graders and does an excellent job of presenting very difficult subjects at an appropriate reading level without sugar-coating any of the horror.  I believe any age group ten and up should read “The Bone Sparrow,” but the fact that children can learn from the lessons contained within it gives me hope for the future of humanity.

Highly recommended.

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

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Abuse

One Was Lost

One Was Lost Book Cover One Was Lost
Natalie Richards
Young Adult Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
October 1, 2016
352

Sera must find the truth—before a killer finds her. Murder, justice, revenge... So not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior trip. She figured a hike through the woods would be safe, uneventful. Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. These are the words scrawled on their wrists when they wake up in the middle of nowhere. Their supplies are destroyed. Half the group is gone. And they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them. Suddenly it's clear; they're being hunted. And with the only nice word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion.

 

Review:

“One Was Lost” is a good book for those looking for a fast, creepy read.

The story begins immediately, without much explanation as to the backstory of the characters or the situation they’re in.  All of that is explained over the course of the book.  I would describe the plot as one of the current PG-13 horror movies out there.  It isn’t something complex, but it delivers on the chills and jumps.  The cover pretty much sums up the mood.

I recommend “One Was Lost” for those looking for a fun and fast read that may leave them afraid to turn off the lights.

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

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer Book Cover And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
Fredrik Backman
Atria Books
November 1, 2016
Hardcover
96

A little book with a big heart!

“I read this beautifully imagined and moving novella in one sitting, utterly wowed, wanting to share it with everyone I know.” —Lisa Genova, bestselling author of Still Alice

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here comes an exquisitely moving portrait of an elderly man’s struggle to hold on to his most precious memories, and his family’s efforts to care for him even as they must find a way to let go.

With all the same charm of his bestselling full-length novels, here Fredrik Backman once again reveals his unrivaled understanding of human nature and deep compassion for people in difficult circumstances. This is a tiny gem with a message you’ll treasure for a lifetime.

 

Review:

“And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer” is a beautifully written novella about Alzheimer’s.  It’s a one-sitting story that is unforgettable. I won’t lie; I ugly cried pretty much through the entire thing.

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

Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23)

Turbo Twenty-Three Book Cover Turbo Twenty-Three
Stephanie Plum, Book 23
Janet Evanovich
Fiction
Bantam
November 15, 2016
320

Speed is the name of the game as Stephanie Plum returns in Turbo Twenty-Three--the thrilling, fast-paced new adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

 

Review:

“Turbo Twenty-Three” is another funny and endearing novel in the Stephanie Plum series.  I found myself laughing quite a bit and thrilled at some plot threads  that were explored.  My only issue with it is that it feels like the author knows things need a bit of a shake-up after all this time, and began to go down the road, only to chicken out rather abruptly at the end.  I hope she takes some chances on the next one.