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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Haunted by Danielle Vega

I always enjoy a good horror story and The Haunted by Danielle Vega fit the bill.  When it comes to YA horror, there aren't too many that do it better than her.  This one was a fun ride from beginning to end.  Vega does a fantastic job of creating situations that give the reader chills and keeps them in suspense.  If you are looking for a fun and entertaining read, this is definitely a book for you!

The Haunted is the story of Hendricks, a teen girl who has moved to the small town of Drearford, hoping to start her life with a clean slate.  Her parents have purchased and are renovating Steele House, a home with a notorious and creepy past.  As Hendricks seems to find her place in school, things start to unravel at home.  Weird things happen and Hendricks is uneasy in the house.  With the help of the outcast neighbor boy, Eddie, she starts to understand more of Steele House's history.  This history includes the deaths of Eddie's sister and brother in the house.  But his family's history at Steele House may go much deeper than anyone ever knew and Hendricks may be the only one who can put all of the pieces together.  

From Amazon:

ONE OF ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY'S "BIGGEST AND BEST YA BOOKS OF THE SUMMER"

From Danielle Vega, YA's answer to Stephen King, comes a new paranormal novel about dark family secrets, deep-seated vengeance, and the horrifying truth that evil often lurks in the unlikeliest of places.


Clean slate. That's what Hendricks Becker-O'Malley's parents said when they moved their family to the tiny town of Drearfield, New York. Hendricks wants to lay low and forget her dark, traumatic past. Forget him. But things don't go as planned.

Hendricks learns from new friends at school that Steele House--the fixer upper her parents are so excited about--is notorious in town. Local legend says it's haunted. But Hendricks isn't sure if it's the demons of her past haunting her ...or of the present. Voices whisper in her ear as she lays in bed. Doors lock on their own. And, then, one night, things take a violent turn.

With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don't take her first.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay is a novel I have been anticipating for a long time.  I really enjoyed Ribay's last book After the Shot Drops, so I had really been looking forward to this one.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  This story is one that will stick with me for a long time.  It is a story about family and the past they share.  It is about discovering yourself and the role those around you share in doing that.  It is about grief and learning how to handle it.  It is about speaking up, even when it is the hard thing to do.  And it is a story about how to remember the good in people while at the same time reconciling the bad.  It is a phenomenal novel!

Patron Saints of Nothing is the story of Jay, a soon to be high school graduate.  Jay was born in the Philippines, but moved to the United STates after just one year of life.  It has been nearly eight years since he has been back to the island, but the death of a cousin, Jun, has made him desire to go back.  Jun and Jay were close growing up, often sending letters back and forth.  But Jay stopped writing a few years back and things went south for Jun.  When Jay hears about his cousin's death, a result of the president's drug war in the Philippines, something doesn't sit right with him. 

Jay convinces his parents to let him visit over Spring Break.  He is determined to discover what Jun was up to during his last few years of life and uncover the true story behind his death.  While doing so, Jay begins to learn about the life he left behind and struggles with how he can change things in a world that is often okay with the status quo.  He must figure out how to operate in a time that is filled with good and bad, while at the same time come to grips with the fact that it is okay to sometimes rock the boat.   

From Amazon:

"Brilliant, honest, and equal parts heartbreaking and soul-healing." --Laurie Halse Anderson, author of SHOUT 

"A singular voice in the world of literature." --Jason Reynolds, author of Long Way Down

A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin's murder.


Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth -- and the part he played in it.

As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Cracking the Bell by Geoff Herbach

Cracking the Bell by Geoff Herbach is an intense and important novel about concussions and the role of high school sports.  But it is also about the support systems we have around us and the trust we put in them to support us in the right way.  It is about forging our own path while at the same time relying on those closest to us to help guide us in the right direction.  Herbach hits on some tough issues in this novel, but delivers them in a way that makes us think deeply about each topic.

This is the story of Isaiah, a kid with a deeply troubled past, that discovers football when he begins high school.  The rush of the game, along with the camaraderie he feels with his teammates and coaches, has helped Isaiah move on from a past that includes run-ins with the law, his sister's tragic death, and his grandfather's murder.  He has become a star player for his high school, but when another traumatic concussion threatens to end his playing career, Isaiah has to fight the voice that tries to draw him back to his past.  With the help of friends and family, he is given a chance to fight for a future that he never dreamed was possible.  Isaiah's story will keep you cheering from the sidelines as you watch him navigate a life that has the potential for great things.   

From Amazon:

Friday Night Lights meets Concussion in this powerful and important novel by Geoff Herbach, author of the Stupid Fast series, exploring the dangerous concussion crisis in football through the eyes of a high school team captain.

Isaiah loves football. In fact, football saved Isaiah’s life, giving him structure and discipline after his sister’s death tore his family apart. But when Isaiah gets knocked out cold on the field, he learns there’s a lot more to lose than football.

While recovering from a concussion, Isaiah wonders what his life would look like without the game. All his friends are on the team, and Isaiah knows they can’t win without him. The scholarship offer from Cornell is only on the table if he keeps playing.

And without football, what would keep his family together? What would prevent him from sliding back into the habits that nearly destroyed him?

Isaiah must decide how much he’s willing to sacrifice for the sport that gave him everything, even if playing football threatens to take away his future.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman is such a beautifully told story about finding your true self and learning to love who you are.  It is about gaining self-confidence and using that confidence to follow your dreams.  The writing in this novel is fantastic and it is no wonder it was a Morris Award Finalist.  I'm just disappointed it took me so long to finally read this book.

Starfish is the story of Kiko Himura, a 17 year old girl who is half Japanese, but knows very little about this heritage.  In large part this is due to a mother who has always been distant and unsupportive.  Since Kiko and her two brothers don't look like their mom, blonde hair and blue eyes, she has spent most of their lives very hands-off.  Since her parents' divorce, Kiko has had to live with the belief that it was largely her fault, while also dealing with a mother who is more obsessed with herself than she will ever be with her kids.

When Kiko does not get accepted into the art school of her dreams, she wonders if she will be stuck in an unhappy life forever.  But a chance meeting with a childhood best friend sets her on a path of truth and self-acceptance.  Kiko begins to learn that she can be the one in charge of her own happiness.  And when she finally discovers her own worth, her future becomes full of the stars she has always dreamed of.  

From Amazon:

A William C. Morris Award Finalist
A New York Public Library 2017 Best Book for Teens

“Dazzling.” —Bustle
“One of the most compelling reads of the year.” —Paste Magazine
“This book is a gem.” —BookRiot

A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

After the Fire by Will Hill

I have a fascination with books about cults and After the Fire by Will Hill fit in perfectly.  It was a really intense read, but one that kept me turning the pages.  It is a story that portrays many of the terrifying aspects of life inside a cult, but really is about the survivors and the hope that resides in their future.  While there are many disturbing details throughout the story, this is a beautiful tale about one girl's life after the fire that destroyed the only reality she has ever known.

Moonbeam was born into the Lord's Legion and has never lived outside it's fences.  But as she grows, she starts to see their leader, Father John, for what he really is.  When outside authorities finally converge on the compound, the grounds go up in flames and gunfire erupts.  Only a handful of children survive, thanks in large part to Moonbeam.  With the help of Doctor Hernandez and FBI Agent Carlyle, Moonbeam is able to come to grips with her truth and finally giver herself a chance at a normal life.  

From Amazon:

An Edgar Award Finalist!
 

An Amazon Best Book of 2018!!

The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Before, she lived inside the fence. Before, she was never allowed to leave the property, never allowed to talk to Outsiders, never allowed to speak her mind. Because Father John controlled everything―and Father John liked rules. Disobeying Father John came with terrible consequences.
But there are lies behind Father John's words. Outside, there are different truths.

Then came the fire.

"Genuinely different...thrilling and spellbinding!"―Patrick Ness, #1 New York Times bestelling author

"The gripping story of survival and escape...It will keep you up late until you get to the very end."―Maureen Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of Truly Devious

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman is a frightening novel about what would happen to society if we suddenly had no water.  It is a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, if only to see the terrible fate many in this world are about to face.  While scary in many, many ways, this novel is also a story about hope and maintaining that hope during severe adversity.

And as frightening as this book may be, it is probably this way because of the possible reality we see in the world these characters live in.  We can see this same scenario playing out in our own existence and because of that, this novel becomes very, very real.  I would definitely suggest this to anyone looking for an intense and page-turning thriller.  

From Amazon:

When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

This book!  It's so hard to put in to words what I feel about Kate Allen's debut novel, The Line Tender.  It was such a beautiful journey in the life of twelve year old Lucy Everhart.  It is my favorite book I have read this year and I'm not afraid to say that it brought a tear (or two) to my eyes, in the best way possible.  I kept seeing people talk about this book on Twitter and also noticed that it had received 7 (!!!) starred reviews.  Plus, the main character's name is Lucy, so I had to read it.  And I am so thankful that I did.

The Line Tender is the story of Lucy Everhart, a girl that lost her mother 5 years prior.  But thanks to her dad, Fred (her best friend), and an interesting old neighbor, she has stayed afloat in her town of Rockport, Massachusetts.  When a local fisherman hauls in a great white shark, it starts the summer off with a bang.  Lucy's mother loved the ocean and great white sharks in particular.  In fact, it was while she was on a boat tracking these sharks that Lucy's mother suddenly died.  With a rash of new sightings in the Cape Cod area, Lucy and Fred have a new summer adventure.  But when tragedy strikes Lucy again, she must find a way to deal with the enormous grief.  By diving in to her mother's work, a research proposal she never got to finish, Lucy is able to start to piece together the mom she never really got a chance to know.  And in discovering the things that tethered her mother in place, she learns along the way how she will handle her new reality.  By learning about her past, she is given a chance to handle her grief and move forward with an even greater appreciation for those that are closest to her.  

From Amazon:

Funny, poignant, and deeply moving, The Line Tender is a story of nature's enduring mystery and a girl determined to find meaning and connection within it.

Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart's marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, collecting shark data when she died suddenly. Lucy was seven. Since then Lucy and her father have kept their heads above water--thanks in large part to a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a great white--and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was "meaningful" but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother's unfinished research on the Great White's return to Cape Cod. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she'll finally be able to look beyond what she's lost and toward what's left to be discovered.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

With the Fire on High, the second novel from award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo, was such a beautiful story.  Her first novel, The Poet X, won all the awards, so I was really excited to read this one.  And I loved every word of it.  This novel is an incredible  story about family love, perseverance, and following your dreams.  Anyone looking for a beautiful feel-good story, this is for you!

With the Fire on High is the story of Emoni, a teen mom and exceptional chef.  Since becoming pregnant during her freshman year, Emoni has made many sacrifices to care for her daughter.  She has focused on school and work and helping her Grandmother, who has raised her since she was very young.  And during this time she has continued to grow her passion in the kitchen.  She loves taking recipes and adding her own twist, elevating each dish to a new level.  When senior year starts, she has an opportunity, for the first time, to take a culinary arts class.  While she struggles to adjust to the strict nature of Chef Ayden instead of her own style of cooking, she grows closer to the new kid in class, Malachi.  Through her cooking and a class trip to Spain, Emoni learns to balance how things need to be done and how she wants them to be done.  She learns about being true to herself and finding a balance in her life.  She learns to grow with those people who are closest to her, and maybe even some she never expected to become a bigger part of her life.  It is such a beautiful story, one that will fill your heart as you flip through the pages. 

From Amazon:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

Let Me Hear a Rhyme is the third novel from Tiffany D. Jackson and I can't speak highly enough of her writing.  She is incredible.  I would read her grocery list if she published it.  I loved her first two novels, Allegedly and Monday's Not Coming, and I have been anticipating this one for a long time.  It did not disappoint.  This was such an incredible throw back to the 1990s and 90's rap and hip-hop.  But it is also a story about so much more.  It is about giving a voice to those who may have been taken too early.  It is about protecting those around you.  And it's also about being real with the people you care about most.

Let Me Hear a Rhyme is a story about three friends, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine who are determined to keep the memory of their murdered friend (and Jasmine's brother) alive, even if it means pretending that he is not dead.  Steph was an aspiring rapper, poised to be the biggest thing from Brooklyn since Notorious B.I.G.  But when he is unexpectedly killed, these three want to make sure everyone knows how talented he was, while at the same time wanting to solve his murder.  When they fall in with a big time producer, they have to figure out how to sign a deal as the Architect without giving away their secret first.  As they struggle to keep up with the demands of the hot-headed producer, they also must navigate their own personal secrets that are working at splitting apart their group.  When they discover the truth is the only way to make it all work, they can finally begin to heal and spread love.  It's the Brooklyn way!

From Amazon:

In this striking new novel by the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he's still alive.

Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph’s music lie forgotten under his bed after he’s murdered—not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party.

With the help of Steph’s younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, they need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.