Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Revolution of Ivy

The Revolution of Ivy Book Cover The Revolution of Ivy
The Book of Ivy, Book 2
Amy Engel
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
November 3, 2015

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty-forced marriages and murder plots-for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall's borders. But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy's life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she's fought for.



While I’m a fan of the new trend of some series that don’t require three books moving to duologies, I feel like trying to fit the conclusion of Ivy’s story into “The Revolution of Ivy” took away from the book.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book and thought it flowed well with Ivy and Deacon’s story from “The Book of Ivy.”  Characterization was consistent and the romantic tension was wonderful.  I really enjoyed meeting some of the new characters and would have liked to know more about them.

Which is my beef with the book.  I feel like there was much more to be told about what happened in the first two-thirds of the book, and it would have been nice to have that part extended to create the middle book of a trilogy.  The ending felt rushed and deserved a lot more detail.  It could have easily been its own book.

Overall, I was satisfied with how “The Revolution of Ivy” ended, but I am stuck on what could have been.  I do think those who liked the first book of the series will find it enjoyable and a worthwhile read.


Content Review:

Mild Language, Sexual Situations, Violence

Did I Mention I Love You (DIMILY Book 1)

Did I Mention I Love You? Book Cover Did I Mention I Love You?
DMILY, Book 1
Estelle Maskame
Juvenile Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
December 1, 2015

Love is everything but expected. Eden Monro came to California for a summer of sun, sand and celebrities Â- what better way to forget about the drama back home? Until she meets her new family of strangers: a dad she hasn't seen in three years, a stepmonster and three stepbrothers. Eden gets her own room in her dad's fancy house in Santa Monica. A room right next door to her oldest stepbrother, Tyler Bruce. Whom shecannot stand. He's got angry green eyes and ego bigger than a Beverly Hills mansion. She's never felt such intense dislike for someone. But the two are constantly thrown together as his group of friends pull her into their world of rule-breaking, partying and pier-hanging. And the more she tries to understand what makes Tyler burn hotter than the California sun, the more Eden finds herself falling for the one person she shouldn't... Did I MentionI Love You? is the addictive first book in Wattpad sensation Estelle Maskame's DIMILY trilogy: three unforgettable summers of secrets, heartbreak and forbidden romance.



“Did I Mention I Love You” is a somewhat twisted love story that is geared toward older young adults and new adults.  It wasn’t my favorite book, but it was good enough to make me interested in reading the sequel.

The main characters of Eden and Tyler are well-developed, and they both range from completely unlikable to tolerable.  I never felt that I particularly liked either of them, but that didn’t bother me very much since I at least knew where they were coming from.  The secondary characters are more like high school clichés.  They fit in with the story being told, though, so I can’t complain too much about it.  What I do wish that the book had been trimmed down around 100 pages.  It was entirely too long.

I have two other problems with the book, and while one would think the “forbidden” romance may be one, it is not.  That part was a big selling point to the entire thing for me, to be honest.  What I do have is a deep concern that the series is going to lead down the dark path toward romanticizing unhealthy relationships.  I hope I’m wrong about that.

My other problem was with the excessive drinking.  Either I grew up in a bubble or these teenagers live a very different life on a very different planet.  I can’t think of even one of the wildest of my classmates (from the dark ages) who managed to party that hard virtually every single night.  Those kids must already have pickled livers from the level of alcohol consumed.  It seemed completely unrealistic.

“Did I Mention I Love You” will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it is most certainly not meant for young readers.  However, if you like forbidden romances and have some patience, then I recommend you to give it a try.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Child Abuse, Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Underage Drinking

For the Love of Mary

For the Love of Mary Book Cover For the Love of Mary
Christopher Meades
May 1, 2016

Fifteen-year-old Jacob feels almost on the inside: almost smart, almost funny, almost good-looking, almost worthy of falling in love. His sister is too busy dating guys in Whitesnake jackets to notice, and his best friend is occupied with his own painful pubescent crisis. Jacob’s mother has just started a curious (and rather un-Christian) holy war with the church across the street, while his father has secretly moved into the garage. Everything changes when Jacob meets Mary. Jacob thinks Mary is the most beautiful girl in the world. If only Mary’s father wasn’t the minister at the enormous rival church. If only she wasn’t dating a youth pastor with pristine white teeth and impeccably trimmed hair. If only Jacob could work up the courage to tell Mary how he feels . . . As the conflict between the churches escalates, a peeping Tom prowls the neighborhood, a bearded lady terrorizes unsuspecting Dairy Queen customers, a beautiful young girl entices Jacob into a carnal romp in a car wash, and the church parishioners prepare their annual re-enactment of Operation Desert Storm. For the Love of Mary is sidesplitting satire with a surprising amount of heart.



“For the Love of Mary” is the kind of coming-of-age story that anyone can relate to.  It’s also hilarious, and it had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe at some points.

The character development of Jacob and his friends, family, fellow parishioners, and other assorted characters is so good that it is off the charts.  The reader is made to feel as if they live in the small town themselves and know the residents personally.  Speaking of the town, it can be considered a character unto itself.  It’s developed as a living and breathing entity, and it shows.  Even a person who has never set foot in a tiny town will feel like they have lived there for much of their lives.

The plot is steady and meandering, much like the summer days of adolescence.  It brings back a lot of nostalgia.  I also need to mention that for anyone who lives in the Bible Belt, or anywhere with small churches that are the centers of the community for that matter, will truly appreciate the absurdity of an all-out war being started by church signs.  For those of you not from those places, it’s completely bizarre, but also something that actually happens.  Frequently.

“For the Love of Mary” is a great read for any adult or older young adult.  It’s entertaining, thought-provoking, and sentimental all at the same time.  You really won’t want it to end.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations

Ask Him Why

Ask Him Why Book Cover Ask Him Why
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Lake Union Publishing
December 15, 2015

From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes the stunning and emotional story of a young soldier’s unthinkable act…and the bonds of a sister and brother’s love.

Ruth and her little brother, Aubrey, are just teenagers when their older brother ships off to Iraq. When Joseph returns, uninjured, only three and a half months later, Ruth is happy he is safe but also deeply worried. How can it be that her courageous big brother has been dishonorably discharged for refusing to go out on duty? Aubrey can’t believe that his hero doesn’t have very good reasons.

Yet as the horrifying details of the incident emerge, Joseph disappears. In their attempts to find him, Ruth and Aubrey discover he has a past far darker than either of them could imagine. But even as they learn more about their brother, important questions remain unanswered—why did he betray his unit, his country, and now his family? Joseph’s refusal to speak ignites a fire in young Aubrey that results in a disastrous, and public, act of rebellion.

The impact of Joseph’s fateful decision one night in Baghdad will echo for years to come, with his siblings caught between their love for him and the media’s engulfing frenzy of judgment. Will their family ever make their way back to each other and find a way to forgive?



“Ask Him Why” is a very complex and emotionally taxing book about the price of war on both those fighting it and those close to them.  It’s also a very real examination of the nature of the press and how it can tear people apart.

The story is split between the events of a soldier returning from war to his family, including two younger siblings, after being dishonorably discharged and a period of reflection on the past that takes place a decade later.  I won’t spoil the reasons for the discharge, but the children are left in the dark while their parents and brother deal with a press that is brutal in their treatment of the very difficult situation in which he found himself.

The plot was good but there was a bit of  a problem with the pacing in the middle. That is my only reason for giving it four stars instead of five.  The ending picks back up nicely.

I recommend “Ask Him Why” to anyone willing to ask themselves difficult questions, most importantly “what constitutes the right thing to do in war” and “how can we judge the difficult decisions of others in such difficult circumstances?”   I, for one, will be looking at media coverage of certain stories through a new awareness.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

As this is an adult book, there is no content warning.

Shelter Dogs In A Photo Booth

Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth Book Cover Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth
Guinnevere Shuster
April 19, 2016

Man's best friend! What better way to showcase adoptable dogs than by letting their true personalities shine in a photo booth! Often seen as sad, rejected, and behind cold metal bars, it's no wonder people would avoid images of shelter dogs awaiting forever homes. From talented photographer (and now public figure and adoption champion) Guinnivere Shuster comes Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth, a guaranteed-to-make-you-smile photo book featuring shelter dogs in a brand-new light. Get ready to see the cutest canine portraits you've ever seen! Guinnevere's fantastic photos went viral and have been featured on websites, in magazines, and on television programs all over the world: Good Morning America, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, Time, The Daily Mail . . . even celebrities have gotten in on the action: Amy Poehler, Cesar Milan, and Zooey Deschanel have made statements and posts declaring their love of Guinnevere's work. After the adorable and up-for-adoption photos of these furry friends were seen and enjoyed by millions, adoption rates at Utah's Humane Society skyrocketed. The book features 100 dog photo booth style photographs, each accompanied by a short story about the dog's personality, how the dog ended up in the shelter, and the adoption date. A follow-up will conclude the book, with photos of some of them with their new families. A portion of the proceeds of this book will benefit the Humane Society of Utah and Best Friends Animal Society.



By now, most animal lovers have seen or heard of the photos of shelter dogs taken in photo booths.  “Shelter Dogs In A Photo Booth” is a collection of these photos, along with the stories of how they came to be in the shelter and their adoptions.

It’s wonderful to get to see the dogs’ personalities show through.  All too often they cannot show their true nature in shelters, and it causes many wonderful animals to be passed by.  The photos are a true delight and the book will make a great addition to any animal lover’s collection.  It is also a wonderful gift idea for those in your life who have dogs.

An added bonus is that a portion of the proceeds go to the Humane Society of Utah and Best Friends Animal Society.  If you’ve never heard of the latter, it is the home of the Vicktory Dogs who were unable to be adopted for various reasons.  The ones who were adopted went through rehab there and much was learned about how to rehabilitate fighting dogs, which will save many lives in the future.  The work they do is extraordinary.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Excessive Cuteness and Feels

Maybe A Fox

Maybe A Fox Book Cover Maybe A Fox
Kathi Appelt, Alison McGhee
Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
March 8, 2016

Worlds collide in a spectacular way when Newbery and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt and Pulitzer Prize nominee and #1 New York Times bestseller Alison McGhee team up to create a fantastical, heartbreaking, and gorgeous tale about two sisters, a fox cub, and what happens when one of the sisters disappears forever.

Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they’d be identical twins if only they’d been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn’t such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they’re not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.

At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She’s too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.

Writing in alternate voices—one Jules’s, the other the fox’s—Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee tell the searingly beautiful tale of one small family’s moment of heartbreak, a moment that unfolds into one that is epic, mythic, shimmering, and most of all, hopeful.



“Maybe A Fox” is an absolutely beautiful book that I have no doubt will be in the running, and will most likely win, many prestigious awards.  It’s one of the rare children’s books that present the issues they live with in a frank manner, thereby avoiding the patronizing attitude with which children’s literature so often suffers.

Somehow, there is whimsy and hope mixed in amongst the realities of war and death.  The resilience of family is a central theme, along with the promise of hope in even the darkest situations.  Everyone needs to read “Maybe A Fox.”  It’s the type of story that will stay with children, as well as adults, throughout their lifetimes.

I’m not crying.  You’re crying.

This book is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:


Of Better Blood

Of Better Blood Book Cover Of Better Blood
Susan Moger
Juvenile Fiction
AW Teen
February 1, 2016

Teenage polio survivor Rowan Collier is caught in the crossfire of a secret war against "the unfit." It's 1922, and eugenics--the movement dedicated to racial purity and good breeding--has taken hold in America. State laws allow institutions to sterilize minorities, the "feeble-minded," and the poor, while local eugenics councils set up exhibits at county fairs with "fitter family" contests and propaganda. After years of being confined to hospitals, Rowan is recruited at sixteen to play a born cripple in a county fair eugenics exhibit. But gutsy, outspoken Dorchy befriends Rowan and helps her realize her own inner strength and bravery. The two escape the fair and end up at a summer camp on a desolate island run by the New England Eugenics Council. There they discover something is happening to the children. Rowan must find a way to stop the horrors on the island...if she can escape them herself.



There are not enough stars available on any rating site for me to properly convey how much I loved “Of Better Blood.”  It is hands-down one of the best young adult historical novels I have ever read.

The very subject of eugenics is seldom so thoroughly explored in fiction, and it is quite an eye-opener to discover that the dystopias we fear have always existed in some way.  Winners write the history books, so not many students are taught that the United States was treating many of its citizens in the exact same way as Hitler.  The only difference?  We did it earlier.  Much earlier.  Hopefully readers will take heed that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.  Our world is not too far-removed from circling back around to the same type of situation with different people.

There are some major points about the characters that I loved.  The first is the fact that the main characters are two girls without any superpowers or extraordinary abilities who manage to kick some serious ass.  In fact, Rowan is a polio survivor with limited use of her legs.  She isn’t someone who wants, or needs, pity.  The book also keeps it all real.  They couldn’t change the entire world on their own.  Their job was to make some steps forward and lead others to do the same.  It’s something we could all do a little bit more of.

I recommend “Of Better Blood” to absolutely anyone in 7th grade and up.  There is no questionable content in terms of sex, and the profanity is mild.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Mild Language, Child Abuse, Discrimination

The Girlfriend Request

The Girlfriend Request Book Cover The Girlfriend Request
Jodie Andrefski
Entangled Publishing
January 11, 2016

Emma has been best friends with Eli since she moved to his neighborhood ten years ago. Tired of being cast in the role of the girl next door, Emma creates a fake Facebook profile in the hopes of starting an online friendship with Eli, which would hopefully lead to more. Like...way more. From friend request to In a Relationship--it all seemed so completely logical when she'd planned it. Eli can't figure out what Emma is up to. He's pretty sure she's the one behind the Facebook profile, but then again, why would she do something so drastic instead of just admitting she wants to be more than friends? And who the heck is this new guy he saw her with? Eli starts to think that just maybe...he missed his chance with the girl next door. Two best friends, one outlandish ruse. Their status is about to become way more than It's Complicated...



I tried really hard to like “The Girlfriend Request”.  I really did.

At the heart of the book is a really cute story about falling in love with your best friend.  The problem is that the story never quite gets going because it is cluttered with things that add nothing to the book.  Many of the chapters and situations were repetitive and gave me the feeling of being stuck in a never-ending “Who’s On First” routine.  On top of that, there is a subplot introduced near the end that would have made a good novel on its own, but was instead relegated to the dreaded “let’s solve this in one page and then forget it never happened” pile.  Honestly, I believe the book would have made a great short story.  The author writes some adorable scenes.  I wish that she would have stuck to those.

The two main characters were cute and interesting.  There was enough character development to give the reader a sense of connection to one or both of them.  I didn’t much care for Emma, but I’m not entirely sure that I was supposed to.  Their continuing story would actually be interesting if explored in a novella just focusing on the fluffy aspects of the two of them in a relationship.

In short, I was looking for a fluffy palate cleanser and was only met with frustration.  “The Girlfriend Request” may appeal to the younger ya crowd, but I don’t think it will quite satisfy anyone older.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Mild Language, Mild Sexual Content

The Truth

The Truth Book Cover The Truth
Jeffry W. Johnston
Sourcebooks Fire
February 2, 2016

When Chris wakes up tied to a chair in a dark basement, he knows that he's trapped-and why. He shot and killed Derek's little brother. He had his reasons, but no matter how far Derek goes to uncover the truth about that night, Chris's story won't change. It can't. There is far too much at stake...Derek is desperate to prove his brother didn't deserve to die. And if kidnapping his brother's killer is the only way to the truth, than he'll go to extremes. But Chris's truth is far more dangerous than Derek could have imagined, and knowing could cost both their lives...



“The Truth” is a thriller that starts rolling in the first chapter and never gives you a chance to catch your breath until the end.

Told through a combination of flashbacks and current events, the story unfolds in reverse and leaves the reader guessing until the very last page.  I pride myself on being able to catch plot twists in books, movies, and television shows, but the author managed to surprise me and catch me off-guard.  I only figured out a tiny piece of the puzzle.  I wish I could say more about it, but almost anything would be a spoiler, and that would suck the fun right out of the reading experience.

Perhaps the best part of the book is that it is a very quick read that will appeal to even the most reluctant of readers, while still engaging those who are true bibliophiles.  There is almost no romance in the story, so those who do not enjoy that will be satisfied.  I’m not going to lie, I felt afraid right along with the main character.  Any reader who enjoys young adult thrillers will be turning the pages as fast as they can to find out what happens next.

I recommend “The Truth” to anyone looking for a good thriller who is upper middle grade and up, especially reluctant readers.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Child Abuse,

Instructions for the End of the World

Instructions for the End of the World Book Cover Instructions for the End of the World
Jamie Kain
Juvenile Fiction
December 8, 2015

From the author of The Good Sister comes a gripping novel about two sisters who learn that there are things in life-love, loss, and self-discovery-that you simply can't prepare for.



I wish that I could give “Instructions for the End of the World” a better review.  It was a book with so much potential that went flat in the early chapters.  It seems as though the author tried to take on too many plots, and that caused a neglect of the main one.  It tried to be many things and did not succeed in any of them.

There is one good thing that I can say about the book, and that is that the central characters were extremely well-developed.  There is quite a bit of back-story combined with the details of their current circumstances.  Had it been limited to the three of them, the book may have turned out very differently.  Unfortunately, there were way too many minor characters.  Only a few could have been briefly mentioned and it not changed the story at all.  It is told through four alternating points of view, and one of them is completely unnecessary to anything.  It was an annoyance to even waste time with her sections.

The main storyline was a good idea in theory, but there were at least three other subplots that made the flow virtually non-existent.  While I understand that not every story can have a resolution, some of these were completely dropped or finished in a rush.  Some of them contained important and heavy themes, so it seems all the more important to either give them the respect and time they deserve or just leave them out completely.

I can’t recommend “Instructions for the End of the World” to anyone.  It was too frustrating and disjointed to be enjoyable.  The only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is for character development.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Dubious Consent, Drug Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, Child Neglect