“One Paris Summer” Denise Grover Swank

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published June 7, 2016. Blink.

OneParisSummerSophie’s mom forced her and her older brother to spend the summer with their father in Paris. Neither wants to go since he abandoned them a year ago and is now getting remarried, but they don’t have a choice. Filled with anger at her father for leaving her behind, she also has to deal with her stepsister Camille’s hatred at her presence.

Sophie knows her time in Paris with her father’s new family would be bearable if she could release tension by playing the piano, but her father doesn’t have one. When she meets Camille’s friend Mathieu, Sophie gets two of her wishes answered. Not only is Mathieu incredibly handsome and interested in her, he also has a piano she can play.

As Sophie navigates the waters of distrust in her Parisian home, she finds herself enjoying the city and maturing in ways she’d never thought possible. When an invitation arises to audition for a spot at a conservatory for high schoolers, she has to decide if she’s willing to forgive her father and Camille in order to begin a new path towards her musical dreams. Change has never come easy for Sophie but, with summer coming to an end, she will have to make a decision that will forever change everything she’s ever known.

I really enjoyed “One Paris Summer.” Swank did a wonderful job recounting what first love feels like for a 16-year-old girl in a place as romantic as Paris, while her love for music and piano playing is also well documented. As Sophie travelled throughout the city, the realistic descriptions took me back to my time spent there, making me nostalgic and wishing I could turn back time. Anyone who has been to Paris will recognize her beauty, while those who haven’t will be aching to go by the final pages.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Last seen leaving” Caleb Roehrig

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Feiwel and Friends. To be published October 4, 2016.

LastSeenLeavingFlynn is devastated to find out his girlfriend, January, had been reported missing. Prying questions from the police triggered a secret he had been hiding from everyone, and his vague answers only served to convince them of his guilt. Determined to prove his innocence he starts to dig deeper into January’s disappearance but, as he reflects on their relationship, floodgates open to his own secret that will forever change his life.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers are drawn into Flynn and January’s lives as the author did a good job implicating various characters in the crime. I thought I knew who was guilty, but was fooled many different times.

Despite good clues in the whodunit portion, I found inconsistencies that were problematic. Would a 19-year-old be able to date a 15-year-old without anyone blinking an eye? Would the two of them be able to wander in and around a rich, private school without any kind of security system? It was these and other inconsistencies that made the story much less believable, and caused me to drop its rating down to 3 stars.

Despite my questions I will recommend “Last seen leaving” for ages 14 and older because Roehrig did a good job stringing along the reader in making several characters appear to be the “bad guy.”

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Dangerous Lies” Becca Fitzpatrick

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. 2015.

DangerousLiesEstella Goodwinn returns home late one night to find her mother in a drugged stupor alongside a dead body. She accuses Danny Balando, her mother’s dealer and leader of a local Philadelphia drug cartel, of the murder. With her life threatened, she is forced to leave behind her boyfriend Reed, given a new identity, and sent to live in Nebraska under the Witness Protection Program.

Now known as Stella, she angrily refuses to settle into her strange new life in Thunder Basin. Knowing she only has to wait a few months until she turns 18 and can leave, she spends days plotting her escape. Carmina, the long suffering retired cop who took her in, and Chet Falconer, the good looking neighbor boy, begin to whittle away at the bricks of pain, loneliness and confusion she’d built around her heart. As Stella begins to feel a pull towards Chet and life in Thunder Basin, she gets a reminder from her old life that will forever shake up her life.

Fitzgerald did a good job describing the witness protection program, but Stella’s bratty behavior towards Carmina, and her constant neediness for Reed was a little over the top. Her up and down emotions towards her mother and Chet was another downer, which is why I only gave it 3 stars.

Despite these bad spots, “Dangerous Lies” is a good read, and I will recommend it for ages 16 and older.

I received an electronic copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Consent” Nancy Ohlin

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. 2015.

ConsentBeatrice lives with her father who is always working and hardly ever home. Her mom died when she was born, and her older brother moved out years ago, so she spends most of her time secretly playing the piano and hanging out with her best friend Plum. Bea has never told anyone about her love for the piano, and how it makes her feel when she plays, because of how her mom died. It is her secret.

Now that it’s their senior year Plum has pulled out all the stops in her plans for them to attend the same college, but Bea doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. When she meets Mr. Dane Rossi, her incredibly young and handsome music history teacher, his love for music and the piano awakens a dormant part of herself that she never knew existed. Amazed by her musical prowess, Dane is determined to get her to envision a future that revolves around the piano but, as they begin to spend time together to plan for her musical future, they fall in love. Bea now has another secret.

Bea is 17 going on 18 and, though Dane is just a few years older, she knows people will think their relationship is bad. She loves him and knows he loves her but, as events build to a crescendo, Bea’s decisions will forever change the trajectory of both of their lives.

Is it okay for a student and teacher to have a sexual relationship? Ohlin addresses this question by giving readers an opportunity to see this situation from all angles through Bea’s point of view, and to draw their own conclusions. The open ending allows us to think about the clues Ohlin dropped, which give answers to what will happen in their future. “Consent” is very thought provoking, and will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

 

 

“Sugar”Deirdre Riordan Hall

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published June 1, 2015. Skyscape.

SugarAs a little girl, Mercy’s mother caught her eating sugar out of a bag and nicknamed her “Sugar.” She and her brothers were encouraged to eat more than normal because their mother didn’t want skinny kids. As a result they grew fat, while their morbidly obese mother was confined to bed with various ailments.

Now 17 years old, Sugar cooks, cleans and cares for her mother and younger brother, while enduring cruel verbal and physical abuse from them about her weight. Constant bullying at school makes eating sweets the only thing that appeases the cruelty she experiences daily, trapping her in a vicious cycle of eating to feel better then hating herself for gaining weight.

Sugar’s life changes when she meets Even with an “e” not an “a.” Even is a senior at her high school who sees the person Sugar wishes she could be, and encourages her to come out of the shell she’s been in her whole life. As Mercy begins to blossom under Even’s kindness, the reality of her cruel world soon forces her to a crossroads.

“Sugar” was beautifully written and, at times, brought me to tears. The struggles someone who is overweight goes through are hauntingly brought to the surface, and are eye openers. It will educate readers to their sufferings, and help us see them in a whole new light.

Highly recommended for 16 and older.

“Last man out” Mike Lupica

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published September 15, 2016. Philomel Books (Penguin.)

LastManOutTwelve-year-old Tommy Gallagher and his father Patrick have a very special relationship. His love of football came from his dad, and they bonded over practices, games and watching the Patriots. Dad has always been around for him and his little sister Em, explaining the importance of being a leader on and off the field, helping her become a soccer star, and just being there for them.

When his firefighter father never makes it out of a fire at the beginning of Tommy’s football season, he feels as if all his hopes and dreams died with his dad. Despite their mother’s attempts to keep things normal, Tommy believes things will never again be normal. With football no longer having the thrill it used to have for him, Tommy seeks alternate thrills, which don’t always lead to correct decisions. Em rebels by walking away from her soccer team right in the middle of their championship season.

As Tommy and Em struggle to reinvent themselves after the loss of their beloved father, they also strive to remain true to what he taught them while he was alive. In “Last man out” Lupica, once again, has brought heart, soul and sports together in a way that will leave his young readers engrossed, involved and thoughtful.

Highly recommended for ages 11-15.

“Baby Doll” Hollie Overton

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published July 12, 2016. Redhook Books (Hachette).

BabyDollLily and her twin sister Abby have always been attuned to each other’s feelings and thoughts, sharing unspoken pacts to always be there for each other. When 16-year-old Lily was kidnapped and held as a sex slave for 8 years, their lives were turned upside down. During those 3,110 days of captivity, Lily gave birth, bore numerous beatings, and learned to be a perfect Baby Doll. Despite his attempts to make her forget, she drew strength from memories of her family, and used that strength to escape the night her captor got careless.

Told through the voices of Lily, Abby, her mother, and her kidnapper, “Baby Doll” takes readers on a roller coaster of emotions as we learn what Lily endured during her 8 years of captivity, and the ramifications it had on her family. Lily’s freedom affects each one differently, but the revenge planned for her disobedience by Rick, her captor, brought goose bumps of horror. This psychological thriller kept me on the edge of my seat, and will do the same for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.