“Even if we break” Marieke Nijkamp

Rated 4 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks Fire. 306 p. Published September 15, 2020.

Even if we breakFinn, Maddy, Ever, Carter and Liva became friends through gaming. Ever created the magical world of Gonfalon, and Liva created their costumes. In Gonfalon their normal problems disappeared, as they role played Ever’s adventures. Though cracks had appeared in their friendship due to recent events, they planned one last Gonfalon adventure in Liva’s remote mountain cabin in an attempt to recreate their past before some of them headed off to college.

Each of them have their own reasons for not wanting to be on the mountain, but come anyway because they want to salvage pieces of their friendships. After one of their Gonfalon characters is unexpectedly killed, it seemed as if fate turned against them. Mysterious music, blood, death, and the ghosts of murdered victims seemed to be haunting them. As their numbers start to decline, those who remain will have to find the will to survive whatever is hunting them down one-by-one.

Told through multiple points of view, this twisted story had side plots and innuendoes that gave clues to the situation at hand, but offered no answers. Readers will be surprised at the big reveal, and shocked to note why the rumors about the mountain were real.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

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

“Little Cruelties” Liz Nugent

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Simon & Schuster. To be published November 10, 2020.

Little CrueltiesA selfish mother, interested only in her singing career, raised Will, Brian and Luke. The oldest son Will was her favorite, Brian was tolerated and Luke, her youngest, was openly disliked. Their father showed them all love, but she pitted them against each other for crumbs of her affection. With their mother constantly egging them on, the brothers became competitive and hateful towards each other.

Now grown, the brothers continued the cruelty towards each other they’d learned from their mother. Will had become a successful filmmaker and womanizer, Brian was jealous of his brother’s successes, while Luke turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort even though he was a successful pop singer. As a result of their jealousy and competitiveness, one brother is killed. They learned their lessons well from Mommy Dearest, but who was her star pupil?

All the brothers take turns recalling important memories from their lives, going back and forth in time. I found the back and forth between the years to be very distracting as their memories would have been easier to follow if they had been sequential.

Though I wasn’t really a fan of this book I gave it 3 stars because it’s a good lesson on how NOT to train up your child. Readers be warned.

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



“You were never here” Kathleen Peacock

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. HarperTeen (HarperCollins). To be published October 20, 2020.

You were never hereSeventeen-year-old Cat Montgomery got into trouble in New York, which cost her a friend, her phone, her laptop and her freedom. Her angry father shipped her to Montgomery Falls Canada, where she was expected to spend the summer with her aunt at her boarding house.

Cat hadn’t been there in 5 years and was surprised to learn that Riley, her best friend and neighbor, had been missing for months. She doesn’t want to get involved in finding him but, when she finds a body, gives in to his grieving brother’s wish to use her family legacy to search for clues. What she finds out is worse than she’d ever imagined.

I was sucked in – hook, line and sinker. As I followed clues with Cat I thought I had a pretty good idea of the guilty party, but was SHOCKED to be proven wrong. Kathleen Peacock was very devious. Very devious indeed.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

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


“Junk boy” Tony Abbott

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins). To be published October 13, 2020.

Junk boyFifteen-year-old Bobby Long lived with his angry, drunk, invalid father in a broken down shack surrounded by junk. They existed side-by-side but couldn’t connect on anything. His father blamed him for his mother leaving, and Bobby blamed himself. The boys at school nicknamed him “Junk” because his house looked like a junkyard, and made his life miserable every chance they got. None of the teachers knew what to do with him, so he was mostly ignored. Bobby spent a lot of time in the woods, thinking and wondering about his mother.

Rachel was an amazing artist. Her mother beat her for being gay and insisted she go to church to be converted straight. As a result she hated her mother with a passion. When her parents split she wanted to change schools so she could live with her father and attend art school but her father thought she should stay with her mother. She didn’t know how she could survive without her art. As she and Bobby began to spend time together they found that they could see each other in ways no one else could see. Through their shared pain for what their lives had become, they struggled to understand what the future held in store for them.

Rachel and Bobby were so believable that my heart hurt for them. I read this book in one sitting, hoping for good things for both of them. I hope teens with similar issues will see there is hope beyond their pain, and that they have a future.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

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

“Every Body Looking” Candice Iloh

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Dutton Books (Penguin Random House). To be published September 22, 2020.

Every Body lookingThrough poetic verse and flashbacks from second grade through college, readers learn about Ada’s difficult relationship with her volatile, drug addict mother and Bible thumping Nigerian father. She’s had to shuttle between their homes for years, feeling free at her mother’s because of the lack of rules, while being stifled at her father’s. In his world, men give the orders and women obey.

Dancing motivates and excites Ada, but she can never reveal this to her strict father. She also can’t tell him she feels more comfortable with girls than boys. Her father believes that if she prays more she will become what he expects her to be, while her mother’s temper tantrums and demanding ways are exhausting. Now that she has experienced the freedom of college Ada has outgrown their expectations. If she wants to truly be free, she will have to turn her back to her parent’s demands and forge her own road.

I had a hard time following the storyline because it constantly jumped between past and present and because the verses were laid out in an almost haphazard way. It was almost as if the recent success of books in poetic verse made the author randomly place words on the page to make it “poetic.” I don’t know if they appeared this way because the book was an ARC, or if that’s how they’ll be in the final version. Either way I had to read several times to figure out what just happened. I also didn’t like the open ending. It felt as if the author was preparing us for a sequel, or didn’t know how to completely tie the knot to end the book.

However it did have some good spots, showcasing a teen girl struggling to figure out her life, so I will recommend it for ages 16 and older.

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



“All this time” Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. To be published September 29, 2020.

All this timeKyle had been in love with Kimberly since third grade. He asked her out in seventh grade, and they dated through high school. The night of their graduation party Kim tells him she wants to know what her life would be like without him. Kyle can’t imagine his life without her but, when she’s killed in a head on collision that leaves him with a broken leg and head injury, he has to learn.

Months are spent in self-loathing and grief before Kyle ventures to the cemetery to visit Kim. While there he meets Marley, grieving the death of her twin sister. She doesn’t want to tell sad stories, so Kyle sets about trying to make her happy. In time they realize how much they understand each other and settle into a comfortableness that has Kyle feeling as if he finally knows what his future could be like without Kim. But sad stories have a way of being told, and everything changes for both of them.

This book did a number on me. Without giving out spoilers there was a point where my neighbors could hear me screaming, “You did NOT just do that!” Visions of a certain Dallas episode and a Christopher Reeve movie (both of which have to remain nameless due to spoilers) danced in my head as I wished for Daughtry and Lippincott to take a different path.

“All this time” is a great read, and I highly recommend it for ages 16 and older.

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

“Lies like poison” Chelsea Pitcher

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Margaret K. McElderry Books. To be published November 10, 2020.

LIes like poisonThe story of who killed Evelyn, seventeen-year-old Raven’s evil stepmother, is told through the alternating voices and memories of Raven, his stepsister Lily, and his best friends Poppy and Bella. Three years earlier Poppy and Bella hated how Evelyn was mentally and emotionally torturing Raven. Bella, Poppy and Raven had role played fairy tales, with Bella taking the part of a witch so she wrote down a deadly brew for killing Evelyn that would involve poisoning her tea with petals from deadly belladonna and poppy plants. Lily insisted on being part of the plan, having her own reasons for wanting her mother dead. She suggested they also include lily petals and took Bella’s original recipe for safekeeping. However nothing happened because they backed out of the plan at the last minute.

Three years later, Evelyn is dead. The police find belladonna petals in her tea and Bella’s handwritten recipe. She is arrested and it’s up to the others to clear her name – if they can get through their suspicions of each other. Is Bella lying about her innocence? Do Poppy and Lily have something to gain by leaving her in prison? Who killed Evelyn?

This whodunit had many layers, which were cleverly unpeeled one at a time. When the truth is finally revealed readers will be in shock.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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


“Last chance Summer” Shannon Klare

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends & Macmillan Publishing Group). To be published July 21, 2020.

Last chance summerThe night eighteen-year-old Alex Reynolds decided to sneak out of her house to go to a party with her best friend was the night her life forever changed. She’d messed up before but not as bad so, at the end of their rope with her behavior and attitude, her parents shipped her off to her aunt. Now she was stuck spending the summer in the middle of the hot, sticky woods with a bunch of fourteen-year-olds and no idea how to be a camp counselor.

Her co-counselor is Grant, an incredibly handsome specimen of a man who is supposed to show her the ropes. Not happy at having to train someone who has no desire to be there, they soon engage in an epic battle of wills. The anger and frustration Alex feels has only one outlet, so prepare for a bumpy rollercoaster of emotions as their love-hate relationship goes full steam ahead.

This was a cute summer beach read, but I found Alex to be super annoying. She was a total downer, especially with her presumptions about everyone. Grant, on the other hand, was totally too good to be true. However, if he is real I’d like to meet his twin brother please. 🙂

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

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

“Never look back” Lilliam Rivera

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Bloomsbury YA (Bloomsbury Publishing). To be published September 1, 2020.

Never look backSeventeen-year-old Pheus is ready for a Bronx summer with his dad, his guitar, and his friends. He’s not ready to commit to anyone or anything unless fun is involved. Nicknamed “El Nuevo Nene de la Bachata” due to his mad skills on the guitar and his singing, Pheus is ready for a great summer.

Eury’s father left when she was just a little girl, but Ato understood her despair. As her only friend they spent a lot of time together, but he wanted more from her. After the devastation of their home by Hurricane Maria, she and her mom moved to Florida. Though Ato followed her from Puerto Rico, fear of him and what he would do next began to change her behavior. No one would believe she was seeing a spirit and, since her mom didn’t believe in therapists, Eury was sent to visit her aunt and regroup.

Pheus never expected to meet someone like Eury. Hopeless against Ato’s tormenting spirit Eury felt relief when she met Pheus. Together their love enables them to climb mountains and forge seas of chaos and uncertainty.

As a Puerto Rican Latina and New Yorker, I could hear the music, feel the beat, and understand the Spanish phrases that flowed throughout Pheus and Eury’s stories. Publicity material calls it a retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice but, since I don’t have familiarity with that myth, I can’t tell whether or not it matches. I CAN tell you I believe it should be in the running for a 2021 Pura Belpré award – especially now that the judging panel has been expanded to include YALSA. Listen in at 44 min. 55 sec. to hear the announcement made at the 2020 ALA Youth Media Awards. Remember that you read it here first!

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

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

“The two Mrs. Carlyles” Suzanne Rindell

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. G.P. Pubnam’s Sons (Penguin Random House). To be published July 28, 2020.

The two Mrs. CarlylesViolet, Flossie and Cora had grown up in an orphanage and, when it burned down, eked out a living in a boarding house for dancing girls. Violet was shy, Cora was vivacious, while Flossie was the peacemaker. In 1906, when their life got unbearable Violet uncovered something that threatened to rip their lives apart. Soon they were caught up in an earthquake that destroyed San Francisco and hid their secret. Though they profited from it, their knowledge about what had transpired came between them and caused them to go their separate ways.

Violet had never been without Cora and Flossie, and was terrified at the thought of making her own way in the city. Eventually she found a job and settled into a respectable living. One day she attracted the attention of Harry Carlyle, a rich widower. Violet couldn’t believe he was interested in her but, eventually, they married. Upon arrival at his mansion she was met by his dour housekeeper, and a home that was a shrine to his former wife.

It didn’t take long before Violet felt as if the house also hated her presence. At night she heard musical notes, saw open doors, and heard footsteps. Harry thought she was going insane but, as Violet began to lose her grip on reality, something happened that made her realize there was more hatred around her than she’d ever thought possible. Only true love could save her now.

I absolutely LOVED this book! I hung onto every word, turning pages in anticipation of what was going to happen next, while never expecting half of what DID happen. Suzanne Rindell leads her adult readers on a spooky, suspenseful whirlwind ride that ends with a twist. Great job Suzanne!

Highly recommended for Adults.

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