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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Allegedly is a dark and gritty novel that will keep you turning the pages in search of answers.  What really happened to little Alyssa on that tragic night?  If Mary is innocent, why didn't she speak up sooner?  How can a mom do that to her little girl?  Is Mary really as innocent as she thinks she is?

All of these haunting questions will keep you reading until the very end.  I highly enjoyed this debut novel by Tiffany D. Jackson.  She brought us true to life characters and a story that will stick with you long after you finish the last page.  

From Amazon:

Orange Is the New Black meets Walter Dean Myer’s Monster in this gritty, twisty, and haunting debut by Tiffany D. Jackson about a girl convicted of murder seeking the truth while surviving life in a group home.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it?

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary’s fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy

This book was so much fun!  It was funny and thought provoking and intense and heart-warming all at the same time.  Learning to Swear in America is Katie Kennedy's debut novel, and she really knocked it out of the park.

Our narrator, Yuri, is a 17 year old genius from Russia who was brought to the United States to try and help stop an asteroid that is hurtling towards California and threatens its very existence.  Because his theories on antimatter haven't been fully explored, nobody will listen to him.  Along the way he meets Dovie, a 16 year old girl who will teach him what being a teenager and having friends is all about.  Being a boy genius, he has never quite lived like a normal kid, but he is about to start dipping his toes in that water.

Will he help stop the asteroid in time to give himself a chance at some normalcy, or will his life be over before he ever has the opportunity to learn some American swear words?  Kennedy's wonderful debut will keep you flipping the pages as you try and figure all of this out? 

From Amazon:

An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. A big, bad one. Maybe not kill-all-the-dinosaurs bad, but at least kill-everyone-in-California-and-wipe-out-Japan-with-a-tsunami bad. Yuri, a physicist prodigy from Russia, has been recruited to aid NASA as they calculate a plan to avoid disaster.

The good news is Yuri knows how to stop the asteroid--his research in antimatter will probably win him a Nobel prize if there's ever another Nobel prize awarded. But the trouble is, even though NASA asked for his help, no one there will listen to him. He's seventeen, and they've been studying physics longer than he's been alive.

Then he meets (pretty, wild, unpredictable) Dovie, who lives like a normal teenager, oblivious to the impending doom. Being with her, on the adventures she plans when he's not at NASA, Yuri catches a glimpse of what it means to save the world and live a life worth saving.

Prepare to laugh, cry, cringe, and have your mind burst open with the questions of the universe.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

I'll be honest.  When I first started The Smell of Other People's Houses, I didn't think I was going to like it.  I had heard good things about it and it was a finalist for the Morris Award (given to the best debut YA novel), so I was excited to read it.  After the first 25 pages or so I was not too excited about it.  But I kept reading and I am very glad I did.

This beautiful story is told through 4 different narrators, each having their own individual story.  These worlds eventually collide and as it all comes together, it will leave you wanting more. 

This was one of those books that I would often times catch myself smiling at, excited about how the book was working and happy for the incredible characters that Hitchcock developed during the story.  

From Amazon:

“Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s Alaska is beautiful and wholly unfamiliar…. A thrilling, arresting debut.” —Gayle Forman, New York Times bestselling author of If I Stay and I Was Here

“[A] singular debut. . . .  [Hitchcock] weav[es] the alternating voices of four young people into a seamless and continually surprising story of risk, love, redemption, catastrophe, and sacrifice.” —The Wall Street Journal

This deeply moving and authentic debut set in 1970s Alaska is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.

Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable William C. Morris Award finalist is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Call by Peadar O'Guilin

The Call was a thrilling ride that will keep you turning the page until the end.

This is the story of Ireland and the country's fight for survival.  Their future relies on the youth, but unfortunately they are all slowly dying.

At the age of 10, kids are sent off to Survival College to learn all about their country's past and learn how to survive when they eventually get "the Call."  Many years ago, the Sidhe were banished to the other world and now they are doing everything they can to become part of the natural world again.  Their way of taking over involves calling out the youth of the country one at a time.  Nobody knows when they will be called, but when they do, they have 3 minutes to survive.  Can the youth survive when their time is called and give the country some hope for the future?

This is a fun story and one that I am sure many of you will enjoy!

From Amazon:

THREE MINUTES

You wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. The Call has begun.

TWO MINUTES

The Sidhe are close. They're the most beautiful and terrible people you've ever seen. And they've seen you.

ONE MINUTE

Nessa will be Called soon. No one thinks she has any chance to survive. But she's determined to prove them wrong.

TIME'S UP

Could you survive the Call?

A genre-changing blend of fantasy, horror, and folkore, The Call won't ever leave your mind from the moment you choose to answer it.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

This is my favorite book of 2017!  It is raw and emotional and will definitely stick with you when it is all said and done.   It is a story of friendship and family and most importantly resilience. 

It is the beautiful story of two boys who were once like brothers.  Adam and Julian become reunited when Julian begins high school.  After struggling through the first month, he becomes "assigned" to Adam by the counselor.  This becomes something that both boys need, especially as the past, and now the present soon come in to focus for Adam.  He soon realizes what is really going on with Julian and the friendship that they share becomes of the utmost importance. 

I just can't praise this book enough.  It is an incredible story that will leave you thinking of it long after the last page. 

From Amazon:

FIVE STARRED REVIEWS! #1 BESTSELLER! 

"I love this book with my whole heart."--Jennifer Niven

"Remarkably gripping and moving."--Emma Donoghue

"Triumphant."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Beautiful and brilliant."--Shelf Awareness (starred review)

"Emotional, visceral...heartbreaking...and beautiful."--School Library Journal (starred review)


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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

I read this novel at the suggestion of author Andrew Smith. I completely understand why he was promoting this novel. It was a wonderful, but truly heartbreaking story of two young boys who must bond together to survive the emotional, mental, and physical abuse form their mean-spirited, yet charismatic father.

Through their father's manipulation, they leave Kansas, and their mother, to start a new life in New Mexico. So eager to gain the approval of their dad, the boys are willing to endure the abuse, until they finally realize that they can no longer do it.  It is a gripping story that will surely have you reaching out to help these two boys, only to understand that because they have each other, they may just be able to make it.

From Amazon:

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A “gripping and heartfelt” (The New York Times Book Review) story about two young brothers contending with the love they have for their abusive father, One of the Boys is a stunning, compact debut by a major new talent.

The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become worrisome, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then dangerous.

Set in the sublimely stark landscape of suburban New Mexico and a cramped apartment shut tight to the world, One of the Boys conveys with propulsive prose and extraordinary compassion a young boy’s struggle to hold onto the pieces of his shattered family. Tender, moving and beautiful, Daniel Magariel’s masterful debut is a story of resilience and survival: two foxhole-weary brothers banding together to protect each other from the father they once trusted, but no longer recognize. With the emotional core of A Little Life and the speed of We the Animals, One of the Boys is among the most remarkable debut novels you’ll ever read.

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

I read Kara Thomas' debut novel, The Darkest Corners, last summer and loved it, so I was really excited to get to read her second novel a little early (even though I have had it since November). This title won't be released until July 25 so if you want to read it before then, let me know.

And just like her first novel, I really enjoyed this one. It is a fun story full of suspense. It will keep you guessing from very early on and you won't want to put this one down. After reading this novel you won't be sure who you can trust.

Thomas has quickly become a must read author for me.

From Amazon:

For fans of Pretty Little Liars, Little Monsters is a new psychological thriller, from the author of The Darkest Corners, about appearances versus reality and the power of manipulation amongst teenage girls.

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn't exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Here is another book I wish I hadn't waited so long to read.  It was published several years ago, but I just now got around to it and I'm not exactly sure why.  I am a big fan of A.S. King, but haven't read much of her earlier works. 

Let's first say that I just loved this book.  It was a a wonderful story about a girl whose (former) best friend has recently died under mysterious circumstances.  She may know more about what happened, but it takes a journey of self-discovery to help her realize what she really knows. 

But most importantly along that journey she helps her dad discover who he really should be and their relationship blooms into something beautiful. 

Vera Dietz soon goes from invisible to invincible. 

From Amazon:

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith

As usual, Andrew Smith does not disappoint.  Although In the Path of Falling Objects is one of his first novels, I just now read it.  I'm disappointed it took me this long. 

This novel is grimy and gritty and unforgettable.  It is the story of two brothers, Jonah and Simon, who are leaving home in search of their older brother, or maybe their dad, or maybe anyone who can help them figure it all out.  They are picked up in a beautiful car by a strange and dangerous young man and a beautiful young girl. 

The road trip quickly becomes dangerous and violent and the boys will soon have to figure out who they can trust during this journey. 

This is a beautiful story of self discovery, trust, love, and the incredible bond between brothers.  It may take an improbable path to get there, but these two young boys must figure out how important it is to love one another and know that they must always have each others back. 

If you have every read and enjoyed anything by the amazing Andrew Smith, you will love this one just as much. 

From Amazon:

Two brothers leave home looking for their father, and find themselves hitching a ride with a violent killer – here is a road trip from hell.

Jonah and his younger brother, Simon, are on their own. They set out to find what's left of their family, carrying between them ten dollars, a backpack full of dirty clothes, a notebook, and a stack of letters from their brother, who is serving a tour in Vietnam. And soon into their journey, they have a ride. With a man and a beautiful girl who may be in love with Jonah. Or Simon. Or both of them.

The man is crazy. The girl is desperate. This violent ride is only just beginning. And it will leave the brothers taking cover from hard truths about loyalty, love, and survival that crash into their lives.

One more thing: The brothers have a gun. They're going to need it.

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick is a Printz Award winning author and multiple time Printz nominee.  I have never read any of his novels because he writes primarily fantasy, and fantasy is generally not a favorite of mine.  All of that being said, Saint Death was a wonderful novel.

Set in the border town of Juarez, Mexico, this novel deals with the dangers of growing up among the gangs and violence, especially the violence coming from the cartel.  For young people, the lure of the gang life is often too much.  It promises a life away from the poverty and the destitution that can be a part of so many lives.

When Arturo's long time friend comes to him needing help in escaping a dangerous situation involving the gang that has helped bring him a better life, Arturo does whatever he can to help his friend.  This not only puts Arturo in a quite dangerous situation himself, but it also helps him discover who he truly is and what it means to grown up and make the most difficult decision of his young life.

I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend this to anyone who will listen.   

From Amazon:

A propulsive, compelling, and unsparing novel set in the grimly violent world of the human and drug trade on the US-Mexican border.

On the outskirts of Juarez, Arturo scrapes together a living working odd jobs and staying out of sight. But his friend Faustino is in trouble: he’s stolen money from the narcos to smuggle his girlfriend and her baby into the US, and needs Arturo's help to get it back. To help his friend, Arturo must face the remorseless world of drug and human traffickers that surrounds him, and contend with a murky past.

Hovering over his story is the unsparing divinity Santa Muerte, Saint Death―and the relentless economic and social inequalities that haunt the border between Mexico and its rich northern neighbor. Crafted with poetry and cinematic pace and narrated with cold fury, Saint Death is a provocative tour de force from three-time Printz Award honoree Marcus Sedgwick.

This title has Common Core connections.