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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

After her amazing debut, One of Us Is Lying, I was really looking forward to the next book by Karen M. McManus, Two Can Keep A Secret.  It did not disappoint!  McManus is a master storyteller and knows how to keep an audience on the edge of their seats.  This murder mystery is another fantastic tale full of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing who is responsible for the crimes that have happened.  This is a true page turner!

In her second novel we meet Ellery and Ezra, twins who are moving to Echo Ridge, the mysterious hometown that their mother has never spoken much about.  This beautiful town has a dark past.  When she was just 17, Ellery and Ezra's aunt went missing, never again being seen.  Just five years ago, Lacy, the beautiful homecoming queen was brutally murdered.  Now, new messages are showing up around town, hinting that it is going to happen again.  And when another girl disappears, everyone is a suspect.  This story will have you playing detective, trying to decide who you can trust and who you can't.  

From Amazon:

"When it comes to YA suspense, Karen M. McManus is in a league of her own. Fresh off her best-selling breakout One of Us Is Lying . . . the author has returned with a juicy second novel. It's even better than what came before." --EW

The New York Times bestselling "must-read YA thriller" (Bustle) from the author of One of Us Is Lying!

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery's never been there, but she's heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it's hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone has declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she's in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous--and most people aren't good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it's safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

In A Room Away From the Wolves, Nova Ren Suma gives the reader a wonderfully told story full of questions that slowly unravel as this novel unfolds.  In the girls of Catherine House, Suma gives us a cast of characters that make us wonder about what is real, who is telling the truth, and question what is hiding below the surface of this strange home.  This ghost tale will continue to make you think as you quickly turn the pages in search of the answers that Suma so masterfully hides for the reader to discover. 

From Amazon:

Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will cost for her to leave . . .

In A Room Away from the Wolves, critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author Nova Ren Suma weaves a spellbinding ghost story about who deserves a second chance, how we lie to those around us and ourselves, and what lengths girls will go to in order to save each other.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Fadeaway by Maura Ellen Stokes

Fadeaway is the debut novel from Maura Ellen Stokes and it is wonderful.  It is a story about loss and grief, but also of acceptance and love.  It is a story about the redeeming strength of friendship and the power that is possible in high school sports.  It was a great novel that I know is going to stick with me for a long time.

Fadeaway is the story of Samantha and Reagan, best friends who are finishing up the summer before their Freshman year of high school just as they always have: riding bikes, eating ice cream, and most importantly playing basketball.  These two have been inseparable on the court for as long as they can remember and they are the future of Carlow High basketball.  That is until Reagan's heart gives out on her one day while playing basketball.  Reagan's death takes an obvious toll on Sam, spiraling her into an overwhelming grief.  She no longer has a desire to do anything, especially playing basketball without Reagan.  But with the help of her brother, an unexpected new friend, visits from Dead Reagan, and eventually her teammates on the basketball team, Sam is able to find a way to work through her grief while at the same time keeping the memory of Reagan alive. 

From Amazon:

When Sam's best friend Reagan dies after her heart suddenly gives out, Sam must learn to deal with her grief and ultimately discover who she is without her best friend by her side.

Fourteen-year-old Sam thinks she has all summer to hang out with her best friend, Reagan. But then her life changes forever. Sam's world, once filled with school, basketball, and Reagan, has now abruptly changed and she must learn to navigate high school on and off the court without her best friend.

But when Reagan suddenly "reappears," Sam clings to her friend's presence, even as it hurts rather than helps her grief. Can Sam learn to accept herself without her other half? This authentic, powerful story of friendship, grief, and discovering yourself is a can't-miss debut novel from Maura Ellen Stokes.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

My Favorite Reads of 2018

As the calendar changes to 2019, it's time again to put together the list of my favorite things I read in 2019.  This has always been a difficult task, and this year was no different.  I read so many good books this year by so many amazing authors.  I feel terrible when I have to narrow the list down to 10 (with a bonus 5 since I can't make up my mind) because I know I am leaving some incredible books off of this list.

I've said it before and I will say it again: This list could be completely different if I did it again tomorrow or the next day.  The order could be different.  The books on the list could be different.  As I said, it is so hard to narrow it down to this small of a number.  But I did and I'm going to put it out there.  The title of each book will be a link to my original post/review of the book if you want to go back and check out my full thoughts on any of these.

1. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
      -This was such an incredible book!  It deservedly won the National Book Award for YA Lit.  It is a story told in verse about finding your voice and discovering who you really are.  Phenomenal!!!

2. The Fall of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez
     -This book will break you, but you will love every minute of it.  It is such a beautiful and tragic story.

3. SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson  
     -It's hard to say this with all the wonderful stuff Laurie has written, but this may be her masterpiece.  SHOUT is Anderson's story, told in free verse, and it is a reminder that we must no longer be silent in this world.  This is a 2019 release, but I was lucky enough to read it in 2018.

4. Hooper by Geoff Herbach  
     -Herbach gave us a story not only about basketball, but about so many other things like family, love, integrity, and compassion.  Such a great book!

5. Dig by A.S. King
      -As usual, I was blown away by A.S. King's newest novel.  She is such a unique voice and gives us another stunner with Dig, a story about our roots, and how we don't always have to be what seems destined for us.  Another 2019 release that I was fortunate enough to  get my hands on early.  

6. Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson 
     -After Jackson's debut novel Allegedly, I was expecting big things from this novel.  It did not disappoint.  It is gritty and grimy and tragic, but beautiful at the same time.  I would read Jackson's grocery list if she published it.  

7. Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough  
     -Another novel told in verse on this list.  This one is historical fiction about 17th century painter Artemisia Gentileschi and finding our voice in a world that doesn't always want to listen.  I can't recommend this one highly enough.  

8. Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith
     -A year with a new book by Andrew Smith is definitely a good reading year.  I love everything that Andrew writes and this was no exception.  If there was ever a book that screams Andrew Smith, it is Rabbit & Robot!

9. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
     -This incredible book is a memoir told in graphic novel form.  It tells of Krosoczka's childhood and the trials and tribulations he faced in growing up and the resiliency he showed in making it out.  Such an inspiring story.

10. A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi
     -This is such a powerful and important book that tells of the dangers Syrian refugees face as they try to escape the war that has engulfed their everyday lives.  It should be an eye opener to so many.  

Honorable Mention (I had to find a way to get a few more books on this list):

Sadie by Courtney Summers
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas 
The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak 
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney was a beautifully written book that weaves the lives of five generations of one family into a special narrative.  Not only did this story tell us of the lives of current Liberian-Americans, but helped make the connection between America and Africa.  Starting with current day Minneapolis and traveling all the way back to the slave trade, Gibney tells of one families struggles to find freedom.  From escaping life on a plantation to trying to find one's place in the modern world, Gibney gives us both a heartbreaking and hopeful tale that should resonate with all readers.   

From Amazon:

The heartbreaking story of five generations of young people from a single African-and-American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom.

"Gut wrenching and incredible.”— Sabaa Tahir #1 New York Times bestselling author of An Ember in the Ashes

"This novel is a remarkable achievement."—Kelly Barnhill, New York Times bestselling author and Newbery medalist

"Beautifully epic."—Ibi Zoboi, author American Street and National Book Award finalist

Dream Country begins in suburban Minneapolis at the moment when seventeen-year-old Kollie Flomo begins to crack under the strain of his life as a Liberian refugee. He's exhausted by being at once too black and not black enough for his African American peers and worn down by the expectations of his own Liberian family and community. When his frustration finally spills into violence and his parents send him back to Monrovia to reform school, the story shifts. Like Kollie, readers travel back to Liberia, but also back in time, to the early twentieth century and the point of view of Togar Somah, an eighteen-year-old indigenous Liberian on the run from government militias that would force him to work the plantations of the Congo people, descendants of the African American slaves who colonized Liberia almost a century earlier. When Togar's section draws to a shocking close, the novel jumps again, back to America in 1827, to the children of Yasmine Wright, who leave a Virginia plantation with their mother for Liberia, where they're promised freedom and a chance at self-determination by the American Colonization Society. The Wrights begin their section by fleeing the whip and by its close, they are then the ones who wield it. With each new section, the novel uncovers fresh hope and resonating heartbreak, all based on historical fact.

In Dream Country, Shannon Gibney spins a riveting tale of the nightmarish spiral of death and exile connecting America and Africa, and of how one determined young dreamer tries to break free and gain control of her destiny.