“First & then” by Emma Mills

Rated 4 stars **** Henry Holt and Company. 2015. 267 p.

First & thenDevon and Cas have been best friends for years and, though she’s secretly in love with him, she keeps that part under wraps. Frustrated at her inability to feel any interest in everything that comes with college plans, she takes it out on Foster, her 14-year-old nerdy cousin, who has just moved in with them.

The worst part about school for Devon is having to take gym with a bunch of freshmen – including Foster. She and Ezra Lynley, the football team’s newest star, are the only seniors in the class but seem to rub each other the wrong way. It seems as if every conversation ends in disaster. When Ezra discovers Foster can kick a football extremely far, he becomes his mentor and helps Foster join the varsity team.

As Foster becomes cool with his fellow freshmen, Devon struggles with her feelings towards Cas, Lindsay and Ezra. Though he annoys her, she likes his protectiveness towards Foster. In time, Devon realizes she needs to look outside of the box she’s placed around herself in order to discover a real life instead of the make-believe one she’s fashioned for herself.

I empathized with Devon in her complicated feelings towards both Lindsay and Cas, and was glad she got her act together in regards to both Ezra and Foster, as they deserved more chances than life had given them. It was a good book and a quick read, though I’m a bit confused as to what the title is supposed to mean.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.


“The promise” by Michelle Vernal

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. 2018. Amazon Digital Services, LLC.

The promiseAfter Isabel’s boyfriend cheated on her, she took off for Australia to burn off her anger. While on a side trip to New Zealand she came across a car accident and promised a dying old woman she would find someone named Constance on the Island of Wight and apologize. With her promise weighing heavily on her heart, Isabel decided she needed to leave for the Island and begin her search for Constance.

On the Island of Wight Constance was feeling the full weight of her 89 years in the care home where she was now forced to live. It seemed as if the past was becoming her present as she relived the war years of 1944 when she met Henry, the love of her life. Though there were constant bombings, and Henry was recuperating from a war injury, Constance and Henry forgot it all in their world of love.

Eventually Isabel and Constance finally meet, and the result is nothing short of outstanding. I really enjoyed reading their stories, and thought the author did a great job in how she brought them together and in how their stories played out. My biggest criticism was that the author added herbal recipes during the narrative. There they were disruptive and should have been placed in a glossary, along with the rest of the herbal cures mentioned by Delwyn, Isabel, Molly and Constance.

Still, despite these interruptions in the narrative, I definitely enjoyed Isabel and Constance’s story and recommend this book to Adult readers.

“The inexplicable logic of my life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 452 p.

The inexplicable logic of my lifeWho am I? The year he turned 17, Salvador’s mind was full of unanswered questions. He had always been able to tell his best friend Samantha anything, as she was like a sister to him, but he felt he couldn’t tell her he didn’t want his wonderful and supportive gay father, who adopted him and who he dearly loved, to know he was thinking of his real father. He’d been getting into lots of fights; leaving him wondering if the anger he felt came from his real dad. Was he an offshoot of his dad? Did he inherit his dad’s anger issues? Who is he really? Sal doesn’t know.

Sal knows he doesn’t want to go to college, doesn’t want to write his admission essay, and doesn’t want his beloved grandmother Mima to leave him. He loves his family but has lots of questions about his place in the world. While Sal tries to figure out some answers to the craziness going on in his head, stuff keeps happening. Death, sadness, grief, anger and sorrow keep entering his life; along with the love that comes from a close knit family and good friends. Why does his life feel so messed up? Who is he really?

Many of Sal’s questions will ring true with teen readers, along with his emotional ups and downs. I was moved to tears by Mima and Sal’s friend Fito’s problems, and loved the strong friendship between Sal and Sammy. The strong and powerful love given to Sal by his dad is an example for all dads to follow. Once again Sáenz pens a winner.

Highly recommended for readers age 14 and older.

“Ghosts of the Shadow Market” by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link and Robin Wasserman

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Margaret K. McElderry Books. 607 p.

Ghosts of the Shadow MarketSeveral well-known Young Adult authors join with Cassandra Clare to pen 10 stories about Jem, Tessa and other characters from the “Mortal Instruments, “Infernal Devices” and “Dark Artifices” series in Shadow Markets of different locations and time periods.

Unlike “Tales of the Shadowhunter Academy”, “Ghosts of the Shadow Market” doesn’t waste time rehashing characters in each story. By now anyone who’s read the series knows the characters, so constantly describing them in each story is boring and repetitive for those of us who know all about them. Thank you for not taking more than a quick sentence or two to tell us about them in each story.

The stories take place between 1899 (when Matthew Fairchild was parabatai with James Herondale and Jem was still Brother Zacahriah) and 2013 (when Jem and Tessa are married and expecting their first child.) This time period is also when “Queen of Air and Darkness” ended, leading readers into what will definitely be a new series with Jace Herondale’s Thule double preparing to wreck disaster on the characters we’ve grown to know and love.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.






“Maiden Voyage: A Titanic story”

Maiden VoyageARC. 4 stars **** Sarah Jane. Published August 2018. Scholastic. (247 p.)

In April of 1912, three girls board the Titanic for her maiden voyage. Abby is an orphaned maid for Lucy and her ill mother, constantly distracted as she tries to figure out how to hide her stowaway brother and survive alone in New York. Isabella’s poor parents put her onboard with a letter telling her she’s adopted, and to search among the passengers for her really rich parents. Feeling abandoned Isabella knows she faces an impossible task. Lucy wishes her always-angry father would allow the three of them to be a real family and enjoy their time in first class on the Titanic. But, with her mother’s continued illness, she soon finds that his anger is the least of her troubles.

Eventually the three girls find each other and, as their stories are revealed, they realize their lives are forever intersected. However their sense of family and happiness is short lived because the Titanic has just hit an iceberg.

With short chapters and cliffhanger endings, “Maiden Voyage” is a good choice for reluctant readers ages 12 to 15.



“Taking flight: From war orphan to star ballerina” Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince

Rated 4 stars **** 2016. Ember. 246 p. (Includes an interview with Michaela DePrince).

TakingFlightHer parents in her Sierra Leone village loved their daughter Mabinty Bangura but, because of her leopard-like spots from vitiligo, she was shunned and despised by the villagers. Her parents could read, and defied tradition by educating her. They were a happy family until rebels killed her father. Without his support, she and her mother were forced to move into her despotic uncle’s house where they were starved. Within a short time her mother died, and she was abandoned at an orphanage.

Mabinty recounts her hard life in the orphanage, her adoption by an American family at the age of four, and her rebirth under the new name of Michaela. Inspired by a magazine picture, she was determined to become a ballerina. “Taking flight” is Michaela’s story of how she soared past the pain of her early life and into the world of ballet.

Michaela does an excellent job recounting her many trials and tribulations, the love she has for her parents and family members, as well as her successes. However the technical ballerina jargon used to describe various dance moves in several different chapters was very confusing. It would have been helpful to have a glossary, with photographs, of these dance terms at the end of the book.

Recommended for ages 12-18, due to the graphic nature of some of the war crimes described.

“Liars, Inc.” Paula Stokes

Rated 2 stars ** 2015. HarperTeen. 360 p.

LiarsIncMax grew up on the streets and in various foster homes, which made it hard to get to know people. Now a senior in high school, Max still feels on the edge of life as he struggles to make ends meet at a surfing job while his girlfriend Parvati and best friend Preston, who are both rich, glide through life without any worries.

Parvati’s father forbade their relationship, so Max plans to get detention to spend time with her. His taking the blame for someone else’s infraction creates the opportunity to do so for other students, and lays the groundwork for “Liars, Inc,” which Parvati and Preston decide would be the name of their new venture of creating excuses for money.

Max fabricates a lie that allows Preston to escape to Vegas for a weekend rendezvous with someone he met online. When he disappears, Max and Parvati team up to try and figure out what happened. Things become complicated when Preston’s blood is found in Max’s car, along with his missing cell phone. When Preston is found dead, Max becomes the main suspect and is soon on the run from FBI agents. As he and Parvati piece together clues, it becomes obvious that he is being framed. The question is who would do so, and why?

I wasn’t a fan of this book as I found the plot to be far-fetched and unrealistic. Thus I will leave it up to readers 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.