Archive | book review

Review: THE FIXER by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Sometimes I can only describe reading books in food terms. When a book is good enough, I can feel my hunger to keep reading in the back of my throat like a gulp of hot chocolate. When a book is good enough, my inability to quit is like eating only one kernel of popcorn—impossible. That’s what this book was like. I read the entire thing, from beginning to end, in less than one work day, because I just couldn’t stop. Continue Reading →

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Review: FLIRTY DANCING by Jenny McLachlan

Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It’s just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands.

This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude . . . and dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.

Note: I read this book and wrote this review many months ago. I now work for Bloomsbury, but my opinions here were set in stone long before, and I stand by them.

Cute book alert! Gosh, I was hoping for cuteness when I requested this title from Bloomsbury, and my instincts were right on the money. This book is like if Disney Channel made an Original Movie out of a one of those Georgia Nicolson books, and the book happened to be about dancing. It’s quirky, British, hilarious, and just offbeat enough to keep me grooving along. Continue Reading →

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Review: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

I feel like I’ve been waiting to read this book forever. ADSOM came out in February, but I’ve been making grabby hands since Ms. Schwab first mentioned her work in progress (then dubbed “Pirates, Thieves, and Sadist Kings”) on Twitter. Everyone I follow seemed to love it, so the longer I had to wait for my library hold to come in, the more nervous I became. What if I was the black sheep?

Guys. I am so not the black sheep. THIS BOOK ROCKS.

I’m a white sheep, hooray!

Continue Reading →

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Review: JOYRIDE by Anna Banks

A popular guy and a shy girl with a secret become unlikely accomplices for midnight pranking, and are soon in over their heads—with the law and with each other—in this sparkling standalone from NYT-bestselling author Anna Banks.

It’s been years since Carly Vega’s parents were deported. She lives with her brother, studies hard, and works at a convenience store to contribute to getting her parents back from Mexico.

Arden Moss used to be the star quarterback at school. He dated popular blondes and had fun with his older sister, Amber. But now Amber’s dead, and Arden blames his father, the town sheriff who wouldn’t acknowledge Amber’s mental illness. Arden refuses to fulfill whatever his conservative father expects.

All Carly wants is to stay under the radar and do what her family expects. All Arden wants is to NOT do what his family expects. When their paths cross, they each realize they’ve been living according to others. Carly and Arden’s journey toward their true hearts—and one another—is funny, romantic, and sometimes harsh.

This book is like Rocky Road ice cream for me. I’m jammin’ out on the sweet, sweet chocolate, tolerating the marshmallows… and then along comes the almonds to throw me into a funk. Do I spit out the almonds but otherwise continue to enjoy the ice cream as a whole, or do I toss it all aside as a lost cause and seek out more chocolatey pastures?

Continue Reading →

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Review: MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

What a book. What. A. Book. If you’ve paid attention at all online, you’ve seen that this book has gotten some pretty solid press, including an endorsement by John Green. WELL-EARNED, I SAY! Continue Reading →

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DNF Review: LOVE FORTUNES AND OTHER DISASTERS by Kimberly Karalius

Love is real in the town of Grimbaud, and Fallon Dupree has dreamed of attending high school there for years. After all, generations of Duprees have successfully followed the (100% accurate!) love fortunes from Zita’s famous Love Charms Shop to happily marry their high school sweethearts. It’s a tradition. So she is both stunned and devastated when her fortune states that she will NEVER find love.

Fortunately, Fallon isn’t the only student with a terrible love fortune, and a rebellion is brewing. Fallon is determined to take control of her own fate—even if it means working with a notorious heartbreaker like Sebastian.

Will Fallon and Sebastian be able to overthrow Zita’s tyranny and fall in love?

I had such high hopes for this book. The synopsis was cute and the cover was cuter. The story opened with Love herself, physically personified as a thirteen-year-old girl. Apparently, Love wanders the world, helping couples out, but can only be seen and remembered by brides on their wedding days. (You’d think they’d need her help before the actual wedding.) Love is completely fed up with people ignoring her help and getting themselves into messes, so she teams up with a fortune-teller so that she can speak directly to the populace, and that’s how Grimbaud’s reputation for 100% accurate love charms comes to be.

It’s a really interesting and fluffy idea in theory. The main character, Fallon, is told she will never fall in love, a horrific thing to learn in a town that is obsessed with love and marriage. I do mean obsessed. Fallon’s parents, knowing she went to get her fortune told, call her and literally start planning her wedding over the phone. Did I mention that Fallon is FIFTEEN?! Fallon and her best friend Martin join a secret club looking to overthrow Zita’s stranglehold on the charms market, and that’s how Fallon teams up with her playboy neighbor, Sebastian.

First, I thought the concept of the club was interesting and I’m sad I couldn’t stick around to see how the plot fought the idea of romantic relationships being the be-all-to-end-all. On Fallon’s first day of school, she’s slipped a brochure to a home for spinsters. Again, SHE’S FIFTEEN. I was really looking forward to seeing how the club dismantled the town’s assumption that single people are somehow broken or lacking.

I also really wanted the romance to work out. Sebastian is an awful, heartbreaking cad, but he’s so awful that you can tell it ties in to his own (secret) fortune somehow. He’s also a bit like a poor man’s Bellamy Blake—handsome, charming, arrogant, calls the main character “Princess” a lot. Since Fallon, as his neighbor, is privy to all of his exploits, I kept my fingers crossed for a bit of a Pillow Talk arc between the two of them.

Unfortunately, there was too much I didn’t like to stick around for the stuff that I did. The writing is… not the best. I was fairly drowning in unnecessary physical description. For the love of poptarts, don’t stop the story to describe every single person from head to toe. Work in physical descriptions as necessitated by the plot or not at all. I also don’t need to know what outfit the main character is wearing every single time. And oh boy, was Fallon a drag. She’s an uptight, colorless little priss, and not in a way that made me root for her to change, either. She was just… boring. And annoying. And bland. If I had to hear one more time about how her perfect hair parted perfectly down her perfect scalp, I was going to barf.

Also, so much just did not make sense. Fallon keeps talking about how she doesn’t want to stay in the spinsters’ home, but she also doesn’t want to leave Grimbaud because it’s soooo wonderful. Why? What’s so wonderful about it? FLEE, CHILD! LIVE YOUR LIFE! At one point, Sebastian crunches a leaf… and expects it to scare her? I… what? Fallon has zero grasp of figurative language, because these are her literal thoughts after Sebastian accuses her of being a princess:

Nothing about her was princesslike. Nothing at all. Fallon lacked classic beauty, an affinity for animals, and was not, as Sebastian had insisted, delicate, no matter how well she cared for herself.

No, dear. He’s saying you’re a snooty priss. Whyyyyy are you being so literal? It’s not funny. Of course, this is the same girl who also thinks things like:

The plastic-covered library books at Grimbaud High had wrinkled pages and were tattooed with illegible margin notes. They smelled like sadness and temptation, drenched in dust motes that drifted like tiny stars.

Mmmm, because there’s nothing more tempting that plastic, sadness, and tiny floating flecks made out of other people’s dandruff, nosiree.

And Sebastian, my Bellamy/Rock Hudson mashup, turned out to be (surprise) a good-hearted soul whose big secret is that he… likes to record silence. (And don’t suggest that he just listen to blank tapes, because that’s “too artificial.”) That has to be the most pretentious thing I’ve ever heard, especially since he actually “records” the silence ON TAPES.

I… just… can’t.

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Review: THE PERILOUS PRINCESS PLOT by Sarah Courtauld

This is the story of two very different sisters–Eliza, who longs to ride into battle against villains and dragons, and Lavender, who would give anything to be a pampered princess. Before the end of the story both of them have had a chance to fulfill their dreams, though not quite in the way they intended…

Accompanied by their depressed goat, Gertrude, with their granny’s warnings about the Black Death ringing in their ears, they head out into the forest and come face to face with an evil count who definitely does not have their best interests at heart.

Most of the time when I read books, I just enjoy the book. I don’t think about target audiences or age ranges or anything like that. A good book is a good book. But then sometimes I pick up a book like this one and get thwacked between the eyes with the fact that I am not, in fact, the intended audience. And you know what? That’s okay, because kids are going to love this book. Continue Reading →

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Review: TWIST by Karen Akins

Bree Bennis finally has it all—a non-comatose mother, an uber-hot (albeit anachronistic) boyfriend named Finn, and a new-found mission to protect the timeline from those who would skew it for their own gain. But when she leans over one day to smooch said boyfriend, her lips meet those of her arch-nemesis Wyck instead. The timeline has been altered, and Bree is caught in the crosshairs. But when she goes back to repair the damage, she is stopped by none other than her Future Self, who delivers an urgent message: Someone is kidnapping Shifters from the distant past. It’s up to Bree to stop them. But first, she has to figure out who… and why.

To follow the trail of chronocrumbs, Bree reluctantly accepts her new undercover gig as Wyck’s girlfriend. Everything goes spiffy until Finn shows up in the 23rd century on the eager arm of a gorgeous fellow Shifter, Blark. Even as Bree struggles with jealousy, she battles the nagging dread that Finn might be better off with someone less chronologically complicated. Her worst fear is confirmed when Finn becomes the kidnapper’s next victim. As Bree zeroes in on the culprit, they unravel her life one timeline-change at a time. She realizes that she alone has the power to save herself and everyone she loves. But to do that, she may lose Finn forever.

Do you remember the first time you saw Inception or a movie like it? Do you remember trying to keep up with all the science, all the twisting timelines and revelations, only to give up and enjoy the ride? And then when it was over, you staggered out of the dark theater and squinted up at the sky trying to remember what your name was and what year it was, because your brain was still back in your seat, trying to figure out what the heck just happened? That is as close as I can come to describing what happened to me when I read this book.

Continue Reading →

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Review: 5 TO 1 by Holly Bodger

In the year 2054, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa, though, doesn’t want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view-Sudasa’s in verse and Kiran’s in prose-allowing readers to experience both characters’ pain and their brave struggle for hope.

Oh my stars, what a book. I could give Past Shae such a hug right now. When the publicist for this book (the lovely Cassie) asked if I wanted a review copy, I hesitated. I really didn’t have any extra space in my ARC queue, and half the book is in verse–I REALLY don’t do verse. But I was intrigued by the premise and the Indian setting, so I accepted on a whim. I AM SUCH AN EXCELLENT DECISION-MAKER. Continue Reading →

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Review: CRIMSON BOUND by Rosamund Hodge

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

Ms. Hodge’s first book, Cruel Beauty, was very much a mixed bag for me. There were things I liked and things I didn’t, and I left the book looking forward to see what her next book would be like. Enter Crimson Bound. After anxiously devouring this mashup retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and The Girl With No Hands, I’m no less settled on Ms. Hodge’s work than I was before. Continue Reading →

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