“Give it back” Danielle Esplin

Rated 2 stars ** ebook. 2017. Black Rose Writing.

Three women. Two sisters. Three stories. Two disappearances. Many suspects. One truth.

Give it backThrough flashbacks and the present time, Ella, her sister Lorraine, and Lorraine’s au pair Lexy tell their stories. Ella must come to grips with the fact that Lorraine has brain cancer, and that she’s been too busy with her job to concern herself with anyone or anything. Lorraine has been fixated for years on getting her long divorced husband to love her again, and has no intention of letting go of that bone. Meanwhile Lexy successfully hides the fact that she knows nothing about taking care of children, and came from London to Seattle to stalk an ex boyfriend. When Lexy and Logan (Lorraine’s 16-year-old son) disappear, and Lorraine’s cancer worsens, it’s up to Ella to make sense of differing accounts to figure out what happened.

I wasn’t a fan of this book, as I disliked how the women were portrayed. They were all either unloved by “the one” on whom they’d hung their hearts, so life was ruined, or were rendered unlovable because they worked too much. Other choices were to make them either ugly or insane. Compared to all of the women Ella was the strongest, but it wasn’t enough for me.

Though I didn’t like it, I will leave it up to you Adults to decide if you want to read it or not.

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

“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.

“The loose ends list” Carrie Firestone

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published June 7, 2017. Little Brown Books for Young Readers.     343 p.

TheLooseEndsListMaddie’s rich and eccentric grandmother is dying of cancer, and has planned out a bucket list of how she wants to live her last days. So, instead of spending the final summer before college hanging out with her best friends, seventeen-year-old Maggie finds herself on a cruise where everyone is dying and wanting to end their lives with dignity.

Maddie hates the thought of death and of losing her beloved grandmother, expecting the cruise to be the worst time of her life. Instead she finds herself learning to look beyond debilitating diseases to see the person behind the sickness, and finding a strength of character within herself she’d never known existed.

The right for the terminally ill to die with dignity, is a theme that’s brought to the forefront in this book. It will leave readers thinking long after they’ve turned the last page.

Recommended for ages 18 and older.

“It’s a wonderful death” Sarah J. Schmitt

Rated 4 stars **** 2015. Sky Pony Press. 306 p.

It'sAWonderfulDeathRJ, Queen Bee and Mean Girl at her high school, never expected life to end at the age of 17. However, the Grim Reaper accidentally takes her soul when a fortuneteller uses her as a shield against him. Highly upset at the consequences of his mistake, RJ refuses to be processed in the afterlife. Instead she insists her soul be returned to her body, and creates a stink about being wrongfully taken to anyone who’ll listen.

A Tribunal of angels is convened to rule on her case, and she is given a task to return to three important occasions in her life that could alter her destiny. IF she manages to change the course of her life, and influence others for the good, they will grant her request. If not, she will be shut away for years until her real death date occurs somewhere in the future.

RJ is determined to ace her tests though the Tribunal doesn’t seem to want her to succeed. Changing the pattern of the selfish life she’d led on Earth is not going to be easy, but if she wants to live in her own body again she’ll have to figure out a way.

Schmitt has a very active imagination, describing Saint Peter, life after death, heaven, hell, and even angels in ways that would never be found in any religious book. Though some conservative types might find her descriptions of RJ’s experiences in the afterlife to be sacrilegious, I found them to be original, highly imaginative and quite humorous.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.


“In case you missed it” Sarah Darer Littman

Rated 1 stars * ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Scholastic Press. 305 p.

incaseyoumisseditSammy’s junior year is ruined when protestors at her father’s bank hack its server. Along with personal texts and emails, her online journal (where she’d written her deepest thoughts and crushes) is revealed to her entire high school world. Besides having to deal with the fallout of having her personal thoughts shared on social media, she’s lost her best friends, and has to deal with the stress of upcoming AP exams, as well as the loss of her crush. She is officially persona non grata, and it looks like there will never be any relief. Just when she thinks life can’t get any worse, it does.

I wasn’t a fan of this book. Sammy sounded much more immature than a junior in high school, as her issues and constant whining sounded middle schoolish to me. Her brother RJ also presented as immature. Though he was supposed to be 14 years old, his dialogue and behavior was more like a 6 or 8 year old.

Overall I felt the storyline wasn’t interesting, and Sammy’s petulance didn’t help. However I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“The Same Sky” Amanda Eyre Ward

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published January 20, 2015. Ballantine Books (Random House).

TheSameSkyIn five-year-old Carla’s poor and crime riddled village of Tegucigalpa Honduras the only income comes from trying to sell trash from the town dump, so her mother made the dangerous trip to the United States to search for work. Her job enables her grandmother to provide food and clothing for Carla and her two baby brothers.

After a few years her mother saved enough to pay passage for one child to join her but, when her grandmother died a few years later, ten-year-old Carla and her six-year-old brother Junior were left alone. As they slowly began to starve, Carla was desperate to get to her mother in Texas. With nothing but water and a few dollars, she and Junior set out on an almost two thousand mile journey on foot to, hopefully, survive marauding gang members, murderers, rapists and robbers.

Cancer has rendered Alice infertile, and she is desperate to be a mother. She and her husband Jake have tried to adopt for 10 years, but have faced numerous disappointments. Nothing fills the hole of sadness she feels inside and, with bitterness slowly poisoning her marriage, Alice will have to look within to find the true answers to her sorrow.

In alternate voices Carla and Alice tell their stories of sorrow, pain, heartbreak and hope amidst despair. However, despite coming from two different worlds, they manage to leave a stamp on each other’s lives that will never be forgotten.

“The Same Sky” is a touching story of survival and love, shedding light on why so many undocumented workers and unaccompanied minors make the harrowing and incredibly dangerous journey to the United States. Their plight, and the circumstances they go through to get to America, broke my heart and had me reaching for tissues many different times. It will do the same for you.

Mature themes. Recommended for ages 16 and older.

“The Life of Glass” Jillian Cantor

HarperTeen, 2010. Hardcover. 340 pp.

Did you know glass won’t dissolve for a million years? Such are the types of facts collected by Melissa during the times she and her dad spent pondering the mysteries of the world. When he dies of cancer, Melissa is left with the bit of glass she’d found one day with her best friend Ryan, and Dad’s last words about the fate of glass. Starting high school without her dad is hard enough without her beautiful and popular sister Ashley reminding her everyday of how ugly and lonely she feels.

Two years later, even though Ashley seems to have moved on without a problem, and her mother begins to date a horse rancher, Melissa still feels like something is missing from her life. Daily she looks through her dad’s old journal trying to find some interesting fact or memory, especially when Ryan starts going out with the new girl at school, Courtney, and leaves her behind.

Melissa misses her friendship with Ryan and her dad and wishes she could talk with her mother about her feelings, especially when she finds a note from her father about a woman who’s not her mother. Melissa, now obsessed with finding out what this woman meant to her dad, is soon caught up in events that are more unsettling than she’d thought. It seems like her own life, and others, is being reduced to glass, slowly cracking and breaking away bit by bit.

This was a pretty good read, and I’m sure students in grades 7-10 would enjoy it.