Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Museum of Heartbreak

The Museum of Heartbreak Book Cover The Museum of Heartbreak
Meg Leder
Simon and Schuster
June 7, 2016

In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up. Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak. Well, actually, to Penelope Marx s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak. Heartbreak comes in all forms: There s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn t be more perfect for her. There s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There s Penelope s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there s Penelope s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately. But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken "



“The Museum of Heartbreak” is the sort of YA book that takes me right back to my high school years.  I was literally going through all of the emotions Penelope was feeling while reflecting on my own memories.

The format is a fun way to get to know the life of Penelope and her friends.  Each chapter contains a different item from the “museum catalogue” and revolves around the story behind it that helped shape where she is at the moment.  Some of them are flashbacks to elementary school and others are recent events.  It was a clever plot device and made me think about the small mementos I’ve accumulated over the years.  (To the young adults: This habit doesn’t stop when you get old and is perfectly fine.  Just don’t become a hoarder.)

There are all sorts of heartbreaks covered, but the one that resonated most for me was that of  growing up.  Everyone matures in different ways at different paces, and it really hurts to be the one who feels left behind during it all.  It was a good lesson to be able to see from the outside that maturing at a different speed isn’t a bad thing and there is no need to rush.

“The Museum of Heartbreak” is a book I can recommend for any young adult or adult who enjoys contemporary YA.  The pacing was fast and the dialogue realistic.  It will make for a perfect summer read or provide an escape from the real world.

This unbiased honest review is based upon a complimentary copy.

The Summer That Melted Everything

The Summer That Melted Everything Book Cover The Summer That Melted Everything
Tiffany McDaniel
St. Martin's Press
July 26, 2016

Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil. Sal seems to appear out of nowhere - a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he's welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he's a runaway from a nearby farm town. When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.



“The Summer That Melted Everything” is a book unlike any other I have ever read.  If you aren’t a fan of literary fiction, turn back now.  This book isn’t for you.  If you are a fan of literary fiction, you are in for a masterfully written book that a review can’t do justice.

As with most literary fiction, the plot is meandering.  Characters drive the narrative and everything from their names to their actions carry a level of symbolism that makes it almost impossible to take everything in on one reading. Set in 1984, many of the events of the period are covered, including the emergence of the AIDS crisis, homophobia, and racism.  The parallels drawn to today’s society are subtle and disturbing.  Given the current political climate, I honestly can’t think of a better time to release “The Summer That Melted Everything.”  There is a lot of food for thought, and the most uncomfortable parts will come when you realize that we are all guilty of some of the actions, purposefully or not.  The Devil didn’t just come to Breathed; he lives inside all of us.

The writing style is descriptive enough to make you feel as if you are there experiencing the oppressive heat of the town for yourself.  Even the most depressing of settings were painted in a way that made me feel at home there, and none of it slows down the pacing of the characters.  Fielding Bliss, the narrator, has a unique voice that both remains consistent and changed in the transitions between the past and his present.

The tone ranges from one of hope to an extreme darkness.  This is where I will note for the readers that request I do so that there is a disturbing animal death, as well as quite a bit of racism and homophobia.  I can promise that absolutely none of it is gratuitous, though.

“The Summer That Melted Everything” is one of those rare books that will always stick with me.  I feel like it made me a better person for having read it and hope my fellow literary fiction fans will try it and enjoy the experience as much as I did.

This unbiased and honest review is based upon a complimentary copy.

Strange History

Strange History Book Cover Strange History
Bathroom Readers' Institute
Portable Press
June 14, 2016

This exciting title from the folks at the Bathroom Readers' Institute contains the strangest short history articles from over 30 Bathroom Readers—along with 50 all-new pages. From the 20th century to the Old West, from the Age of Enlightenment to the Dark Ages, from ancient cultures all the way back to the dawn of time, Strange History is overflowing with mysterious artifacts, macabre legends, kooky inventions, reality-challenged rulers, boneheaded blunders, and mind-blowing facts. Read about…

*The curse of Macbeth
*Stupid history: Hollywood style
*The secret LSD experiments of the 1960s
*In search of the lost “Cloud People” of Peru
*The Swedish queen who declared war on fleas
*Unearthing the past with the Outhouse Detectives
*The Apollo astronaut who swears he saw a UFO
*How to brew a batch of 5,000-year-old beer
*The brutal bloodbaths at Rome’s Coliseum
*Ghostly soup from ancient China
*The bathroom of the 1970s

And much, much more!



“Strange History” is a fun history book filled with facts and stories that will have you either laughing, horrified, or thankful you don’t know what crazy stuff is going on right now behind-the-scenes.  All of the stories are short and can be read quickly.  It definitely makes history fun and accessible.  In fact, I recommend it for teachers or parents to get interesting anecdotes they can throw into relevant lessons to keep students engaged.

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

Cure for the Common Universe

Cure for the Common Universe Book Cover Cure for the Common Universe
Christian McKay Heidicker
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
June 14, 2016

Prepare to be cured by this quirky and hilarious debut novel about a sixteen-year-old loner who is sent to rehab for video game addiction—perfect for fans of Ned Vizzini and Jesse Andrews.

Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab…ten minutes after meeting a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon’s first date. Ever.

In rehab, Jaxon can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can’t slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

From a bright new voice in young adult literature comes the story of a young man with a serious case of arrested development—and carpal tunnel syndrome—who is about to discover what real life is all about.



Rounded Up From 3 1/2 Stars

“Cure for the Common Universe” is a fun and fast-paced read with a premise and setting any gamer is bound to love.

Set in a video game rehab facility which uses a game system of points to allow the patients to be released, it almost seems like a fun place to be.  That is unless you will miss your video games too much.  I’m not going to lie, if I had to give up the gigantic time suck of Animal Crossing it would not be pretty.  Someone has to weed my town, and it won’t be those lazy villagers.

Jaxon is the main character, and he is the perfect example of an unreliable narrator.  It takes a couple of chapters to figure him out, but once you do it’s fun to revel in his delusions.  The side characters are all quirky and interesting, while also having some depth that partially explains why they are addicts in the first place. And yes, they really are addicted to gaming.  The nature of addiction is explored in an accessible way without feeling preachy, and I think that will resonate with a lot of young adult readers.

The plot is fast-paced and quite an easy read.  The only reason I knocked off stars was the ending.  It sort of jumped off of the track.  However, it wasn’t so far off that it made the rest of the book unenjoyable.

“Cure for the Common Universe” is a particularly good book for reluctant readers who enjoy gaming.  It’s also great for someone looking for a funny and light read that still packs a bit of a punch.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations, Violence, Underage Drug and Alcohol Use

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You Book Cover The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You
Lily Anderson
Juvenile Fiction
May 17, 2016

After years of competing against each other, Trixie and Ben form a fandom-based tentative friendship when their best friends start dating each other, but after Trixie's friend gets expelled for cheating they have to choose which side they are on.



I am apparently in the minority in not being blown away by the sly and snarky retelling of “Much Ado About Nothing” that is “The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You.”  Before you throw the infamous rotting fruit of The Globe at me, please allow me to explain.

The characters of Trixie, Ben, and their friends were likable enough and well-developed.  They all had a good backstory and fit well within the Shakespearean framework.  The school was interesting and the mystery aspect of the plot was intriguing and well-done.

Here comes the issue.  It was great to see a female comic book geek who was into all things awesome.  The problem was, it was overdone.  So much of it felt like there was a neon sign with an arrow on it pointing at her and saying “geek here.”  What is really sad is that none of the pop culture references needed to be removed, just perhaps reworded or missing a sentence or two.  It was like being hit with an anvil when all you needed was a foam finger.  It really took me out of the story by about five chapters in.

As I said before, my opinion about “The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You” is not the popular one, so don’t let my review persuade you.  In fact, when I reflected on my thoughts I decided to give it one higher star than my initial reaction called for.  It is very clever, so give it a try if it appeals  to you.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Situations

Did I Mention I Need You (DIMILY, Book 2)

Did I Mention I Need You? Book Cover Did I Mention I Need You?
DIMILY, Book 2
Estelle Maskame
Juvenile Fiction
Sourcebooks Fire
March 1, 2016

Stepsiblings Eden Munro and Tyler Bruce have desperately tried to ignore their love for each other for the sake of their family. The Tyler invites her to spend the summer with him in New York...Alone together, away from their parents and friends, and caught up in the excitement of life in the Big Apple, they can't deny their feelings any longer. As their summer fling turns into something much more serious, Tyler and Eden must face up to reality and make some life-changing decisions. But how will their family react when they confess their secret romance -- and is their relationship strong enough to survive the devastating fallout?



I had such great hopes for “Did I Mention I Need You.”  Unfortunately, they fell far short.

Anyone who read my review of “Did I Mention I Love You” will know that I thought there were many flaws with the book, but I did think that they were fixable and was going to read the second because the premise was so good.  Let me tell you, the problems not only remained but managed to become worse.

Eden is infuriatingly naive and grating.  Tyler was actually pretty good until the out-of-nowhere ending.  There were A LOT of plot points that seemingly had no context.  It could also have used a hundred or so fewer pages.  I’m going to leave the review here, as the waste of a good premise is making me need blood pressure medication.

I can’t recommend this to anyone.  The two stars is for the obvious ability of the author to come up with a good story idea.  I’m hoping to see her fulfill it one day. There is a lot of potential left.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Adult Situations, Violence, Underage Drinking

The Way to Game the Walk of Shame

The Way to Game the Walk of Shame Book Cover The Way to Game the Walk of Shame
Jenn P. Nguyen, Phuong Anh Nguyen
Juvenile Fiction
Swoon Reads
June 7, 2016

Taylor Simmons is screwed. Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip. Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they're in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it's better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard. Readers will be ready to sign their own love contract after reading this fun and addicting contemporary YA romance.



“The Way to Game the Walk of Shame” is a good summer beach read.  I will say that the first couple of chapters had me thinking I would not enjoy the book, but once the pace picked up I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you have the temptation to put it down keep going a little bit longer, because odds are you will have the same reaction.

The main characters of Taylor and Evan were definitely romantic tropes, but in a fun way, and I enjoyed the way their interactions were written.  The dialogue is snappy and funny.  There isn’t much in the way of background character development aside from the parents.  It doesn’t detract from the book, though, as this is very much only their story.  I will say that the character of Evan’s mom made me grit my teeth.  She may have been written too sympathetically, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

The plot revolves around one of my favorite tropes: a fake relationship that turns real.  This was very well done with quite a bit of originality.  Think of them as Katniss and Peeta without the threat of death or familial dismemberment.  It moved quickly and kept me entertained after those dreaded first chapters.  The ending sequence was the best part.

I recommend “The Way to Game the Walk of Shame” to upper-middle graders to adults who enjoy a fun and light romance.

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


Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Brief Violence, Underage Drinking