“Holding smoke” Elle Cosimano

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Hyperion. 322 p. (Includes Author’s Note.)

HoldingSmokeWhile going to school, John “Smoke” Conlan worked hard to pay bills his meth addicted father left unpaid. When his father attacked him with a wrench in a drug influenced rage, he floated above his dead, battered body before returning to life after 6 minutes. While recuperating in the hospital he realized his spirit could leave his body at will. Soon after, John is accused of brutally killing his favorite teacher as well as a student who witnessed the crime. He knows a hooded man killed her, and that he killed in self-defense, but is unable to tell the court that he had been floating outside of his body when the murder occurred.

Convicted and sentenced to a juvenile prison filled with dangerous young offenders, Smoke leaves his body behind to ghostly wander the city and fulfill requests from fellow inmates. With each trip the threads that hold him to his body get thinner, but he doesn’t care as he’s ready to leave his scarred life behind. On one trip he meets Pink a tough young waitress who, unlike others, can actually see him. He soon realizes someone wants them both dead and, with time running out, will have to find the strength to hang on to make sure they both survive.

Smoke and Pink remind me of Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg in the 1990 movie “Ghost.” Cosimano’s very believable characters, which stem from life as the daughter of a Warden and research, combine to open eyes to what goes on in many juvenile detention facilities across the country.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

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“How it ends” Catherine Lo

Rated 4 stars **** Ebook. ARC. 2016. HMH Books for Young Readers.

HowItEnds

Now 15, Jessie has been bullied since 7th grade by her former best friends. They have helped convince her that she’s a loser and will forever remain friendless. Her mother constantly gets on her case about her anxiety attacks, while she keeps all her feelings bottled up inside herself. When Annie befriends her Jessie can’t understand why a popular girl, who has her act all together, would want to be friends.

Annie was popular in her former school, and is not looking forward to being in a much smaller school. Her mother died when she was young, and her father married an evil stepmother. With her home life in turmoil she is thrilled to hang out with Jessie and her wonderful mom. She is sure Jessie is confident and the kind of girl she wants to be. Together the girls conquer the world, until they allow the influence of others to ruin their friendship.

In alternating voices, Jessie and Annie tell their stories. On their tumultuous ride from besties to enemies and back again, both ultimately learn the value of honesty and true friendship.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“The cholo tree” Daniel Chacón

Rated 3 stars *** 2017. Arte Público Press. 248 pp.

TheCholoTreeFourteen-year-old Victor is an aspiring artist and cook in his low income, gang filled neighborhood and, like most kids his age, doesn’t like school. He was very close to his father who was killed when Victor was very young, and holds his mother at an emotional distance. Though not a cholo (gang member) she believes he is one, and doesn’t trust him.

Victor doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life and is reluctant to choose a path, despite direction from a teacher he trusts and a very smart girlfriend who gives him some inspiration. As he aimlessly wanders through the life he’s chosen for himself, Victor has to sort through layers of experiences to decide if he already is a cholo. Does he want to be a cholo, or does he want to break free of the mold he created for himself in order to live the way he was meant to live?

Don Quixote-type fantasies intermingled with Victor’s hazy memories of his father, along with stories of his life, are pieced together to show four years of his struggles to discover who he is and what he wants to be. Though I wasn’t a big fan of the book, I did enjoy the author’s portrayal of Iliana as a strong, independent woman. She knew what she wanted, and went for it full speed ahead, the complete opposite of Victor. She didn’t let feelings get in the way of her future, and I admire her for having a goal and sticking to it.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Breaking Dawn: Twilight #4” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** 2008. Little, Brown and Company. 756 p.

BreakingDawnThis last book in the incredibly successful “Twilight” series is so much better than the others. Of course everyone knows Bella and Edward get married, as that was so inevitable. What wasn’t expected is her sudden pregnancy, and what happens because of that pregnancy, which is the reason for the book. Her entrance into the world of vampires has been expected since “Twilight,” but new things about this world are revealed to readers, which are very unexpected.

“Breaking dawn” breaks new ground in that Bella is much more self-assured and, though she does have a few insecurities, I think she’s finally grown up. There is a lot more laugh out loud humor, especially from Jacob, that will keep readers chuckling. The love between her and Edward is so much more pronounced, which shows me that I was right in choosing him over Jacob.

It’s interesting Meyer left the ending a little open ended, as if she expected to continue the not-quite-over conflict in another book. However, it’s been 9 years and nothing else has been written, so I guess she left it to the reader’s imagination to come up with our own sequel. That’s too bad. I would’ve liked the series to continue, and to have had some unanswered questions be answered. Goodbye Edward. I’ll miss you.

Now that I’ve reread the entire book series, I’m off to watch the movie series again. Can’t get enough of Robert Pattison aka Edward.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The short second life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse novella” (Twilight #3.5) Stephenie Meyer

Rated 3 stars *** 2010. Little, Brown and Company. 178 p.

TheShortSecondLifeOfBreeTannerAfter the werewolves and Cullens fought the newborn vampires at the end of “Eclipse,” only young Bree was left alive. Earlier in the battle she had surrendered to Carlisle, who offered her sanctuary. When the Volturi arrived, readers know what happened to her.

If you’d ever wondered how a fifteen-year-old vampire became part of Victoria’s newborn army, wonder no more. In this novella readers get the back-story on life with the newborns as Bree describes their hunting and tracking techniques, while giving readers insights into the vampire vs. human world.

I really didn’t see the need for this book, and believe it was a ploy by the publishers to make more money off the “Twilight” series after it ended with the release of “Breaking dawn” in 2008. It can stand alone, and doesn’t have to be read as part of the series.

If you’re 14 years old and older, and feel like you REALLY have to devour everything about the “Twilight” series, then I’ll recommend it for you.

“Eclipse: Twilight #3” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** 2007. Little, Brown and Company. 629 p.

Eclipse“Eclipse” continues the exciting story of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen by adding Jacob Black as a love interest, with both vying for her attention. Despite her feelings towards Edward, Jacob is sure she’ll choose him while Edward is determined to step away if that is her desire. Bella is unable to make a decision, as she loves both of them, but will have to make a choice whether she likes it or not. In the meantime, the Cullens and werewolves from La Push are forced to team up to try and stop an army of newborns who have one goal in mind – to kill Bella.

It’s easy for readers to split into Jacob vs. Edward camps, as each have redeeming factors. On the plus side Jacob is tall, dark haired, muscled, handsome, very fast, generates extremely warm body heat, understands Bella, and would do anything for her. On the negative side he’s at least 2 years younger, is a bit immature, and can change too quickly into a werewolf (especially when angry), which could be dangerous to Bella.

Edward’s positives points are that he’s tall, lighter haired than Jacob, chiseled and incredibly handsome, has mesmerizing eyes and breath, is very fast, has a velvety speaking voice, understands Bella, and would do anything for her. On the negative side he’s extremely cold, as hard as marble, is so strong he could accidentally crush Bella if he’s not careful, and regularly needs to hunt for blood since he is a vampire.

There are many instances where Jacob and Edward clash, including some humorous ones and, when you’re done, you’ll have to decide. Who would you choose? I like Jacob, but find myself in the Edward camp. His gentleness, protectiveness and incredible love for Bella are too hard to resist.

Meanwhile I’m still annoyed at Bella, as she continues to find too many ridiculous reasons to be insecure around Edward, keeps getting in his way, and generally gets on my nerves.

Recommended for 14 and older.

“New Moon: Twilight #2” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** EBook. 2006. Little, Brown and Company.

NewMoonIn this second book of the wildly successful “Twilight” series, Bella is heartbroken because Edward broke up with her. He told her he didn’t love her anymore, and felt it would be best if he and his family went away forever so she could move on with her life as if he’d never existed. True to his word, he disappeared – taking her heart and sanity with him.

Without Edward, Bella falls into a deep depression, which goes on for seven months. Her only escape from the unbearably lonely days and nights without Edward is time spent with Jacob Black, a young Native American from the nearby reservation who is an old family friend. As her friendship with Jacob intensifies, she learns of how he and others from his tribe turn into werewolves to protect their land from vampires – their natural enemies. As she continues spending time with him, she wonders if he can be enough to help her forget Edward. Could the love of a younger, but handsome and strong teen werewolf, help her forget the unforgettable and breathtakingly handsome vampire who broke her heart?

Bella is at her worst in “New Moon,” as she goes on and on about the hole in her body Edward left when he disappeared. She refuses to try to heal herself, and wallows constantly in self-pity. Readers will quickly get annoyed with her. The very bright spot in the book is the character of Jacob Black who, though briefly mentioned in “Twilight,” gets full billing in “New Moon.” Again make sure to read the book before you see the movie, as Taylor Lautner’s handsome face will forever be associated with Jacob.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.