“Eleanor & Park” Rainbow Rowell

August 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. St. Martin’s Griffin. 328 pp.

Eleanor&ParkIt is 1986 and, in alternating voices, sixteen-year-old Eleanor and Park tell their stories of love, desperation, fear, heartache and hope.

Eleanor sees herself as fat and ugly with curly, tangled red hair that sticks out everywhere. Her father doesn’t want her; her stepfather Richie hates her, while her mother is too beaten up by Richie and life to care anymore. She shares a room with her little brothers and sisters, her few articles of clothing are hand me downs from Goodwill and her bra is held closed by safety pins. She doesn’t get enough to eat, has to take baths in a bathroom without a door, doesn’t own a toothbrush and is endlessly bullied at school. Life is hard.

Park sees himself as a girly looking Asian kid from a Korean mother and an American father. He’s lucky the neighborhood bullies usually leave him alone but, to be safe, buries himself in his headphones listening to music while reading comic books. His mom loves him while his father tolerates him. He’s learned to avoid trouble by ignoring everything and everyone, but everything changes when the new girl comes onto his school bus.

Despite feeling alone and different, with unspeakable forces trying to tear them apart, their love for each other rings true. As in “Romeo and Juliet,” light and dark have roles to play in this love story, requiring readers to have a box of tissues by their sides at all times. It is easy to see why “Eleanor & Park” won the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) 2014 Printz Honor Book award.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“Pretty Girl-13″ Liz Coley

August 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins). 350 pp. (Includes “Afterword” and “Author’s Note.”)

PrettyGirl-13Angie Chapman came home from her girl scout camping trip and was shocked to find out she’d been gone for 3 years. She can’t understand why she doesn’t remember this timeframe, and won’t believe her parents when they insist she is 16 years old. Gradually Angie finds out she has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and has blocked out her life for the past 3 years.

With the help of a therapist Angie struggles to piece together what happened over these lost years, but facing reality becomes more and more difficult. All she wants to do is to forget what happened in that little cabin out in the woods, but her inner selves won’t allow it. As memories from her personalities begin to be revealed, Angie’s fears and secrets threaten to overwhelm her. It will take great strength, determination and courage to keep her head above water, as well as love and acceptance from friends and family. As Angie discovers why these people came to live inside her head, she gradually realizes they each had a role to play in shaping her life and that without them, she wouldn’t be alive.

“Pretty Girl -13″ takes an unflinching, dark, raw, honest, eye-opening look at the effects of DID on the person who is experiencing these multiple personalities as well as its effects on their loved ones. Coley has painstakingly done her research into this disorder, and “Pretty Girl -13″ is the magnificent result.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Dangerous Creatures” Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

August 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** 2014. Dangerous Creatures, book #1. Little, Brown & Company (Hatchett Book Group). 327 pp. 

DangerousCreaturesLena, Ethan, and Link are finished with high school and ready to move on with their lives. While Lena and Ethan are planning to go to college, Liv and John are heading to Oxford. Ridley and Link’s on again off again romance is off because Link dared to say he loved her. Unable to tell him her true feelings, Ridley leaves Gatlin for New York where she loses at a high stakes gambling game and is bound to Lennox Gates, a dark Caster, for two house markers. One marker requires she provide his band with a drummer, which means making up with Link and tricking him into going to New York. The other marker she will owe him remains mysteriously unknown but Nox promises she will owe him big-time, and will be a year in his debt.

Afraid of the power Lennox now holds over her, and afraid for Link, Ridley is at Nox’s mercy. Unable to understand the strange attraction she has for Lennox, Ridley doesn’t know even darker forces have Nox in its grip. Unfortunately, those forces will stop at nothing to get her and Link to join Nox in a dark future of its choosing.

Once again Garcia & Stohl have mesmerized readers with this new, exciting series featuring Ridley, Link and the Caster world. The huge cliffhanger ending will leave everyone excitedly awaiting book #2. 

PS – Be sure to read the e-novella “Dangerous Dream” before you read “Dangerous Creatures” to have a better understanding of Ridley’s gambling losses and to learn more about how she and Lennox met.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“This Song Will Save Your Life” Leila Sales

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Farrar Straus Giroux. 214 pp. (Includes “Recommended Listening” song list).

ThisSongWillSaveYourLifeSixteen-year-old Elise Dembowski hates herself, and her life. After being ostracized by every single student in her school since fourth grade, and having this behavior continue through middle and high school, she decided to spend her summer studying fashion, song titles and other “cool” trends. Elise was ready to remake herself, and was sure the popular kids would like and accept her if she knew the right ways to be popular. When the taunting and bullying continued, Elise realized she would never be different and could never change. Thus, she felt her only recourse was to kill herself.

With her suicide attempt unsuccessful, Elise was at the end of her rope. Unable to sleep, she began walking the streets late at night where she came upon a weekly underground dance club. Despite being underage she was befriended by Vicky and Pippa, two girls who knew what they wanted in life and went out to get it. They introduced her to handsome Char, the club’s DJ, who took her under his wing teaching her how to mix music and other skills.

Elise soon discovered she had a natural talent as a DJ, along with several friends and a new, albeit secret, life. Looking forward to spending time at the club helped make her miserable days at school more bearable, but it was only a matter of time before online bullying reared its ugly head threatening Elise’s newfound strength and happiness.

Leila Sales paints a true-to-life story of a young girl living on the edge who finds friends who care about her wellbeing. I hope her readers will take seriously the importance of being a friend to someone in need of social acceptance.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

“Far From You” Tess Sharpe

August 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** 2014. Hyperion (Disney Book Group). 341 pp.

FarFromYouSophie was always in constant pain after a horrible car accident when she was just 14 years old. Oxy pills were her only relief as she learned to walk again, and even her best friend, neighbor and soul mate Mina couldn’t completely take away the pain. After spending the next 3 years addicted to Oxy, Mina intervenes and saves her from the death trap of drug addiction into which she was spiraling.

Now 17, Sophie is the prime suspect in a murder investigation because of a supposed drug deal gone badly. Mina is dead, but no one will believe that she has been clean for 6 months and didn’t have anything to do with buying drugs or killing her best friend. After being locked up in rehab for 3 months, Sophie has one thought in mind: revenge. She will find out who killed Mina and get justice. Unfortunately the murderer knows she’s looking, and will stop at nothing to remain hidden – even if it means murdering again.

This tension filled mystery, told through flashbacks, will keep readers eagerly turning pages to find out whodunit.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“Openly Straight” by Bill Konigsberg

August 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic.) 320 pp.

OpenlyStraightRafe came out of the closet when he was in 8th grade. It was surprisingly easy, as Boulder Colorado accepted everyone for everything. His hippie parents had no problem with it and neither did his best friend Claire Olivia, his neighbors, friends, schoolmates or teachers. 

By his junior year of high school Rafe began to feel like no one saw the real him because they only saw him as being “the gay guy.” Wanting to live a label free life, Rafe decided to attend an all boys’ school in Natick, Massachusetts and act straight so he could live without a label.

In Natick Rafe guarded his secret, became a jock, and hid his true self. Within a few months, his carefully built house of cards began to crumble when he fell in love with Ben, a jock. Rafe was now faced with a dilemma. If he told Ben his secret, he’d lose him. However, if he didn’t tell would he still lose?

In this humorous look at a serious subject, Konigsberg brings readers into Rafe’s mindset helping them to understand why he would undertake a new life in Natick, the importance of not assigning labels to others, and how to understand if you are running away from yourself to find yourself.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Where my reviews are posted

August 11, 2014 Leave a comment

For those of you following my blog, I want you to know the reviews I post go onto my Goodreads and Shelfari pages as well as onto Net Galley. If I get an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) through Edelweiss, then my reviews are also posted on their site.

In addition some publishers, like Arté Publico Press, publish my reviews on their Facebook page. Finally, reviews are also automatically published to my own Facebook page.

So, as you can see, my reviews receive a very wide audience. If you share them on a site that I didn’t already mention, please let me know in the comments section.

Thanks for following me, and tell all your friends!

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