25 February 2016

Review: The Bitter Side of Sweet

The Bitter Side of Sweet
By Tara Sullivan 

Publication Date: February 23rd, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Son 

Slavery in modern times?  You might think it’s impossible, but it happens in the THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET. Brothers Amadou and Seydou left their home town of Mali to find work elsewhere, but they were not expecting to be slave laborers at a cacao farm.  For two years they’ve been working there, trying to collect a good amount of cacao each day to avoid getting beaten by one of their three bosses.  They have seen many other boys come in cars to work there, and they have seen people try and fail to escape.  But when a well fed girl shows up with a will to escape like no other, it re-energizes Amadou to take his brother and leave.  This is a fast paced realistic fiction book with many intense, well detailed, moments. 

18 February 2016

Review: Blackhearts

by Nicole Castroman

Publication Date: February 9th, 2016
Publisher: Simon Teen 

Before Blackbeard became the notorious pirate he is known as today, he was just a young merchants son who dreamed of adventures in faraway lands. Anne Barrett, the daughter of an ex-slave and merchant is left with nothing after the passing of her parents. Forced to work in the Drummond household, she soon acquaints herself with Teach, her masters son. Drawn together by a mutual longing for freedom, Teach and Anne learn that they might just be what the other was looking for. BLACKHEARTS is not your typical pirate book. In fact, I wouldnt consider it a pirate book at all. Although, this is the story of one the most famous pirates of all time, it never takes place on a ship. This is truly the story of Blackbeard before he became Blackbeard. Castroman hooks you in by telling the story through the eyes of a young African maid and rich merchants son, both feeling like outcasts in the worlds they were born into. This romanticized retelling of Blackbeards beginning is great for fans of historical fiction and romance. 

Review: Front Lines

Front Lines 
by Michael Grant 

Publication Date: January 26th, 2016
Publisher: Harper Teen

FRONT LINES is the kind of story which you simply cannot put down. You get pulled into the action, and are either constantly thinking about the stories, or actually reading them. I was at first skeptical about the multiple perspective narration, which follows different characters who are completely separate from one another. I found, however, that in FRONT LINES, the characters are distinct enough from each other, and their personalities are strong enough by themselves that they hold their own; I didn't find myself frustrated or bored with their stories. Grant has you follow the individual characters as they are changed by the war, and become stronger not only in their physical endeavors in the war, but also in their personalities. I loved FRONT LINES, and all my feelings of hesitation, and uncertainty for the topics and themes raised, were not warranted and I was impressed by just how well they turned out. 

16 February 2016

Review: Take The Fall

Take The Fall 
by Emily Hainsworth

Publication Date: February 16th, 2016
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/ Harperteen

TAKE THE FALL, tells the story of Sonia Feldmen.  After the death of her best friend Gretchen, she watches as her town, her family, and she, herself, fall apart. To the distress of everyone around her, she teams up with Gretchen's Ex- boyfriend, Marcus, the primary suspect.  She and Marcus attempt to uncover exactly what happened that night, and figure out their feelings for each other.  All is not what it seems, and the identity of the murderer will shock you. There are mature themes, and the topics the book discusses may be upsetting for a younger audience.  However, I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an exciting, and interesting read.

Review: The Girl From Everywhere

The Girl From Everywhere 
by Heidi Heilig

Publication Date: February 16th, 2016

Publisher: Greenwillow Books 

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE is a fantastical novel about a girl, Nix, her father, and a crew who navigates to different places in different time periods, with a mix of mythological stories. Nix and her father have a very complex relationship because of her father's obsession with going back to the time when his wife was alive, risking Nix's existence. It was interesting to see their dynamic and how they both try to solve their problems. Adventurous, mythical, and with a hint of romance, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE is a book for readers looking for a diverse, refreshing new read. 

12 February 2016

Review: Starflight

By Melissa Landers

Publication Date: February 2, 2016

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

STARFLIGHT, is an action-packed intergalactic tale of two (pardon my pun) star-crossed lovers.  Solara, a genius engineer from the slums, ends up working for Doran, her high-school bully. However, one event leads to another, and the two soon find themselves on a spaceship with a suspicious crew-- whose secrets they must learn. Starflight is a brilliant YA novel for those who are interested in sci-fi and romance; yet, the sci-fi aspect is in no way overpowering, so even those inexperienced with the genre (like myself) can enjoy it. If you're looking for a sci-fi romance that'll take you on a ride-- Starflight's your next book. 

Review: Zero Day

Zero Day 
By Jan Gangsei

Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 

ZERO DAY, by Jan Gangsei, is suspenseful to the core, with plenty of action.  Gangsei intertwines modern day politics with the haunted and mysterious past of the President, Mark Webster. His daughter, Addie, disappeared eight years ago, and she reappears at a strange time.  This thriller of a book kept me constantly anxious, waiting to see what happens next. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mystery, action, and page turning suspense.

09 February 2016

Review: The Dark Days Club

The Dark Days Club 
by Alison Goodman

Publication date: January 26th, 2016

Publisher: Viking Books For Young Readers

THE DARK DAYS CLUB is the first in the Lady Helen series. Set in Regency-era England, Helen is part of the nobility-- socializing, attending parties, and sewing (quite a lot). However, after one of the maids in her house goes missing, she's thrust into a world within her own-- a world of demonic-like creatures called Deceivers, the Reclaimers who kill them, and the Dark Days Club. This novel is an enthralling read that I'd recommend to fans of Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series, and to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with twists (and demons). 

Review: The Possibility of Now

The Possibility of Now 
by Kim Culbertson

Publication Date: January 26, 2016

Publisher: Point 

THE POSSIBILITY OF NOW tells the story of Mara, a high school junior who becomes over whelmed and disillusioned with her high pressure, overly academic school.  After having a break down in math class, which consequently goes viral, she decides she needs to leave.  She moves from San Diego to live in Lake Tahoe with her biological father, Trip. There, she discovers the freedom of the mountains.  She learns how to ski, and develops close relationships with those around her.  She learns there is more to Trip than it seems, discovers the meaning of true friendship and the possibility of romance. I really enjoyed this book.  I feel like it will be easy for any high school student to connect with the overwhelming academic pressure and worry about college.  This book does a great job of mixing more serious topics and relationships with humor.

Review: The Year We Fell Apart

The Year We Fell Apart 
by Emily Martin

Publication Date: January 26th, 2016

Publisher: Simon Pulse 

In this contemporary novel, Harper faces challenges as she learns about her mom’s cancer diagnosis and the return of her best friend Declan, who she had a falling out with a year prior. As much as they try to avoid each other, their lives end up intertwining. Filled with confusing emotions, Harper acts differently, and more destructively than her usual self. Like a lot of teenagers, she learns from her experiences and ends up trying her best to make up for past mistakes. If you're a sucker for best friend romances, second chances, and a Sarah Dessen-esque plot, THE YEAR WE FELL APART is the book for you. 

03 February 2016

Review: Passenger

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken 

Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 

PASSENGER is a captivating and refreshing look at exploration and adventure. Violin prodigy Etta Spencer is about to make her solo concert debut when she suddenly finds herself on board a privateer ship in the 1700’s. Etta discovers that she is part of a family of time travelers led by a ruthless and cutthroat patriarch, who will do anything to control the past, present, and future. In order to do that, he needs Etta to locate a priceless object that can potentially change history forever. With her mother’s life in the hands of the family, Etta has no choice but to journey through time and follow the clues scattered throughout history. Accompanied by a ship captain named Nicholas, who has his own complicated history, she is determined to save her mother and make everything right. But all is not what it seems, and everyone has a hidden agenda, including Etta herself.

While this may sound like a run-of-the-mill YA adventure novel, the writing style and characters really make this book stand out. It The author does a good job of incorporating time travel without making it too confusing, overbearing, or hard to follow, making it an excellent recommendation for realistic and historical fiction readers who are looking for a little variety. It reads much more poetically and fluidly than your average thriller novel, though there are still exciting action scenes. Every character is believable and complex, and issues with time traveling that would have never occurred to me, such as racism, are addressed in a thought-provoking manner. There’s even a little romance involved! 

Review: Hear

Hear by Robin Epstein

Publication Date: December 29, 2015
Publisher: Soho Teen 

Kassandra Black thought her life was over when she got expelled from her high school and the admission to her dream school revoked. With nowhere else to apply and her future in shambles, she must spend the summer working in her mysterious uncle's teen program, H.E.A.R., at Henley University in exchange for acceptance into the school. Turns out, she and her fellow students in H.E.A.R. are handpicked lab rats on her uncle's quest to analyze ESP capacity. Soon, Kassandra realizes that she is doing things with her mind she never thought possible, and she is terrified. If that weren't enough, an ominous mystery, with more questions being asked than answered every day, is taking over the lives of her and the other H.E.A.R.s. With their lives and others in danger every step closer they get to the truth, they must learn to use their gifts and work together in order to survive.
In the never ending stream of new books being released, it is rare to find a unique concept, let alone one as well written as this. The story moved along quickly without unnecessary prose, but gave enough details and emotions to add depth to the characters. I really enjoyed how the story focused more on the paranormal and dangerous aspects of their ESP rather than the romantic subplots. I found myself sucked into the story, reading for hours at a time in anticipation for what would happen next. I would highly recommend it for anyone with in interest in sci-fi, paranormal, mystery, action, romance, or fantasy.

02 February 2016

Review: Not If I See You First

Not If I See You First 
by Eric Lindstrom 

Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: Poppy Books 

There are a lot of great books that have the ability to completely take me out of my everyday life and transport me to another world entirely. But every so often I'll come across a rare book that gives me a whole new perspective on my own reality even after I've finished reading it. NOT IF I SEE YOU FIRST did just that. It is the story of Parker Grant, a girl who loves to run. Not unlike other high school students, her sport is the one thing she can count on while she faces a number of other problems. Struggling to maintain her childhood friendships, figuring out impossibly complicated boys, and making it through family hardships; all things many people might deal with, yet for Parker one thing is drastically different --she's blind.  Lindstrom does a great job of giving the reader a true sense of the world Parker is living in, by enabling us to experience it the way she would; without any sense of sight or visual descriptions. The power of this book for me lies in the fact that I felt I knew each and every character in the story so well; all the layers of their personality and who they truly were. And yet I had never been given a single physical description of them. I recommend this book for anyone, and I promise you will take away from it more than just an incredibly moving story, but also a new way to look at the world and everyone around you.

Review: Serendipity's Footsteps

Serendipity's Footsteps 
by Suzanne Nelson 

Publication Date: November 10, 2015
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers 

SERENDIPITY'S FOOTSTEPS tells the story of three different girls, with three very different lives, whose tales intertwine because of shoes (yes, shoes).  Whilst this may sound equivalent to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, it is anything but. Instead, these three girls are comprised of a holocaust survivor, a foster-child, and a young woman with Down syndrome. Each girl is faced with their own unique struggles, resulting in a riveting read. SERENDIPITY'S FOOTSTEPS touches upon harsh realities and the horrors of history, while managing to remain accessible. If you're interested in historical fiction or contemporary novels with well-developed characters then Serendipity's Footsteps ought to be the next book in your hands.