29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan, read by Courtney, on 08/07/2014

I was so surprised when I met Holly Goldberg Sloan and she told me that there would be a sequel to I’ll Be There. It had felt like it wrapped up all the loose ends and, since it didn’t end of any sort of cliff-hanger, I didn’t even suspect that a sequel could be in the works. Since I adored its predecessor, I was definitely excited to read Just Call My Name. And then, lucky me, I got an ARC from the good folks at Little, Brown.
So, our story left off with Clarence Border in jail and his sons being taken care of by the Bell family. Sam and Emily are now an established couple. Riddle is starting to settle into the Bell household, much to the chagrin of Jared Bell. Sam lives on his own in an apartment while he takes summer school classes to prepare for college courses in the fall. Things seem pretty solid until a new girl comes to town. Her name is Destiny and she is the type of girl that seems to attract trouble. She’s tiny, bubbly, large chested and charismatic. She latches on to Emily, Sam and Robb (formerly Bobby, Emily’s unfortunate prom date from the last book). Emily can tell that the boys are attracted to her, even if they don’t want to admit to themselves. Sam can tell that Destiny is attracted to him and he becomes desperately afraid of being in her presence, lest he do something that will ruin his relationship with Emily. Robb seems infatuated with her and quickly finds himself finding a place for her to stay as it is established early on that she’s something of a transient. With Destiny disrupting the peaceful calm that the crew had found in the absence of Clarence Border. In the meantime, we watch Clarence plotting and scheming until he finds the perfect opportunity for escape. He’s got a score to settle with the Bell family and his boys. And he knows exactly how and where to find them.
So, I had some trouble figuring out what to rate this book. On the one hand, it was totally engaging, especially since I was already familiar with the vast majority of the characters and their circumstances. The idea of Clarence re-entering the picture is dreadful, but it’s what gives this story its sense of urgency. On the other hand, I’m not entirely certain that I’m loving the Destiny angle. The name “Destiny” and her characterization winds up feeling a tad heavy-handed in the context, though she is absolutely a compelling character. She represents the first major challenge for Emily and Sam’s relationship and acts as a distinct foil to Emily’s character. Otherwise, it’s a true pleasure to be back in the heads of these characters. We’re learning a bit more about Emily’s brother Jared, who’s having trouble sharing his space with this strange new kid, Riddle. Bobby, rechristened Robb, is almost exactly the same as he was went we saw him last in spite of his efforts to reinvent himself. Other than Clarence, the adults are mostly absent from this story. The characters are ultimately what make this pair of books shine and, in that sense, this sequel is a pleasure to read.

29. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Torn by David Massey, read by Angie, on 08/28/2014

Ellie is a 19-year-old medic in the British Army on her first tour of Afghanistan. She is stationed at a remote outpost and must figure out how things work very quickly. This involves becoming one of the guys to the guys in her squad, dealing with the irrational commanding officer who happens to be the only other medic and woman and figuring out how to handle herself on patrols through hostile territory. On her first patrol she has to help a squad-mate who has stepped on an IED and she gets her first glimpse of the mysterious Aroush, a young Afghan girl who seems to show up when death is coming. On the next patrol the squad captures a young Afghan boy, Husna, who is a member of the Young Martyrs, a group of young boys who fight everyone from the Taliban to the Afghan security forces to the coalition forces. Ellie and Husna develop a friendship as she questions him to try and find out more about the Young Martyrs and a weapons cache they stumbled across. Then they set out into the mountains to find Husna’s village and the cache accompanied by a group of U.S. Navy Seals. But there is more to this mission then they are told and there is more to Aroush than anyone knows. 

There were parts of this book I really liked. I liked the story of a young, naive, inexperienced soldier trying to figure things out in a war zone. Ellie’s reactions to the things happening around her seemed very appropriate for the most part. I actually enjoyed the conspiracy theory aspect of the mission as well. I especially liked the story of Husna and his village and his friendship with Ellie. I even thought the slightly supernatural Aroush worked with the story. What I thought was completely unnecessary was the budding romance between Ellie and the Navy Seal Lieutenant. The book only takes place over the span of about a week so the fact that this romance was even included in the story seems a bit farfetched. Every time Ellie got all dopey-eyed over the hotness of Ben I rolled my eyes. She seriously thought about his hotness while they were out on patrol and the Taliban were following them…really! I think the book could have been much stronger without this romance plot.

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Noelle

All I Love and Know by Judith Frank, read by Noelle, on 08/28/2014

Absolutely fantastic.  I give this book a starred review- Noelle

With the storytelling power of Wally Lamb and the emotional fidelity of Lorrie Moore, this is the searing drama of an American family on the brink of dissolution, one that explores adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found.

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed.

The deceased couple have left behind two young children, and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children’s guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. What is Matt’s place in an extended family that does not completely accept him or the commitment he and Daniel have made? How do Daniel’s complex feelings about Israel and this act of terror affect his ability to recover from his brother’s death? And what kind of parents can these two men really be to children who have lost so much?

The impact that this instant new family has on Matt, Daniel, and their relationship is subtle and heartbreaking, yet not without glimmers of hope. They must learn to reinvent and redefine their bond in profound, sometimes painful ways. How does a family become strong enough to stay together and endure when its very basis has drastically changed? And are there limits to honesty or commitment–or love?

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum, read by Lisa, on 08/22/2014

Where’d You Go, Bernadette meets Beautiful Ruins in this reverse love story set in Paris and London about a failed monogamist’s attempts to answer the question: Is it really possible to fall back in love?

Despite the success of his first solo show in Paris and the support of his brilliant French wife and young daughter, thirty-four-year-old British artist Richard Haddon is too busy mourning the loss of his American mistress to a famous cutlery designer to appreciate his fortune.

But after Richard discovers that a painting he originally made for his wife, Anne -when they were first married and deeply in love-has sold, it shocks him back to reality and he resolves to reinvest wholeheartedly in his family life . . . just in time for his wife to learn the extent of his affair. Rudderless and remorseful, Richard embarks on a series of misguided attempts to win Anne back while focusing his creative energy on a provocative art piece to prove that he’s still the man she once loved.

Skillfully balancing biting wit with a deep emotional undercurrent, debut novelist Courtney Maum has created the perfect portrait of an imperfect family-and a heartfelt exploration of marriage, love, and fidelity.

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler, read by Lisa, on 08/01/2014

In this middle-grade Bridesmaids, hilarity ensues as triplets have to stop a wedding!

One bride. Two boys. Three flower girls who won’t forever hold their peace. What could go wrong with this wedding? Everything!

The Brewster triplets, Dawn, Darby, and Delaney, would usually spend their summer eating ice cream, playing with their dog, and reading about the US Presidents. But this year they’re stuck planning their big sister Lily’s wedding. Lily used to date Alex, who was fun and nice and played trivia games with the triplets, and no one’s quite sure why they broke up. Burton, Lily’s groom-to-be, is not nice or fun, and he looks like an armadillo.

The triplets can’t stand to see Lily marry someone who’s completely wrong for her, so it’s up to them to stop the wedding before anyone says “I do!” The flower girls will stop at nothing to delay Lily’s big day, but will sprinklers, a photo slideshow, a muddy dog, and some unexpected allies be enough to prevent their big sister – and the whole Brewster family – from living unhappily ever after?

24. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, read by Tammy, on 08/24/2014

husbansExplores the secrets of multiple families and how they affect not only the person keeping the secret and their spouse their families and communities as well. Acclaimed author Moriarty creates a thought-provoking tale set in Australia but really could be set anywhere.

The first character the reader is introduced to is Cecilia Fitzpatrick and extremely well-organized lady who runs her spotless home as efficiently as she does her thriving Tupperware business. All is good in Cecilia’s world until she finds a letter written by her husband to be “opened only upon my death” among some papers in the attack. Does she open it? Does she as
k him about it? It really couldn’t be anything that bad could it?

We are also introduced to Rachel and Tess and discover their painful family secret early in their chapters. How the lives of all three ladies intertwine is what keeps moving this story along.

 

16. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Little Bee by Chris Cleave, read by Angie, on 08/15/2014

The world’s of Little Bee and Sarah collide on a Nigerian beach; they both come away changed. Two years later their lives collide again in London. Little Bee has spent the past two years in a detention center for refugees. Once she is out she seeks out Sarah and her husband Andrew, the only people she knows in England. Little Bee enters Sarah’s world on the day of Andrew’s funeral. He killed himself a few days before; he never recovered from what happened in Nigeria and the call from Little Bee just sent him over the edge and into suicide. Sarah and Little Bee form an alliance. Sarah feels guilty over leaving Little Bee in Nigeria and resolves to help her in any way she can. Little Bee just wants to live and starts to fall in love with Sarah and her young son Charlie. Theirs is a partnership built out of guilt and need and love, but will it be enough to save them?

I wasn’t sure what to think of this book at first. So much of the story of these two women is given out in little bites. I am not sure we ever really get the full story, but that doesn’t take away the power of the story. It is one of survival, but also of grief. When I finished the book I wanted more. More information about what was going on in Nigeria, more information on Sarah and Charlie and how their lives would end up, and especially more information on Little Bee and what would become of her.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown, read by Courtney, on 07/03/2014

Jersey’s life changes forever as a massive tornado bears down on her hometown of Elizabeth, MO. Jersey’s mother and sister are at dance practice when the sirens go off. Jersey makes it down to the basement in the nick of time. After the storm, Jersey discovers that most of her neighborhood has been completely demolished; the roads are impassible and all means of communication have been disrupted. A day or two later, she finally finds her step-father, only to be told that her mother and sister are both dead. Even worse, her grief-stricken step-father wants nothing more to do with her and quickly dumps her off on her long-estranged father; the father who walked out years ago and never came back. Jersey has no real desire to get to know him or his side of the family, but she really has no choice. As it turns out, her father is still a drunk and has remarried (to another drunk) and lives with his parents, his sister, and her family. Jersey is given a “bedroom” on the screened-in back porch. She is almost immediately taunted by her cousins, neglected by her father and largely ignored by her new grandparents. There is no love in this house and certainly no sympathy for a girl who has just lost all the family she’s ever known. Things only continue to get worse at her paternal grandparent’s house, so Jersey tries to run off, only to be sent off to her maternal grandparents instead. Jersey has never met this set of grandparents either; they had disowned Jersey’s mother long ago. All Jersey wants is to go back home and try to rebuild with her friends and even her step-father, but, once again, it’s out of her hands. Now, still grieving and nursing the wounds of her time at her father’s, Jersey feels more isolated than ever. Her mother kept these people out of their lives for a reason and Jersey is convinced that her mother would not have wanted her to live with them. The longer Jersey stays there, however, Jersey begins to discover that there really might be more than one side to the story of her mother’s upbringing.
So many terrible things keep happening to poor Jersey. As though losing one’s home isn’t enough, losing nearly all the family she’s ever known and then being sent to live with strangers who have exactly zero empathy make this a pretty depressing read. Even the step-father suddenly turns into a massive jerk, taking himself out of Jersey’s life altogether and preventing her from attending the funerals. There’s a bit of light at the end of the book, but by the time it appears, readers will wonder whether Jersey is even capable of perceiving it anymore. Few of the characters are particularly well-developed and Jersey’s mother’s motivations behind isolating the family are never made explicitly clear. Nevertheless, readers will still pull for Jersey to make it out of this mess without it destroying her.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, read by Courtney, on 07/01/2014

A group of friends, Ethan, Elizabeth, Jackson, and Luke, are all seniors at Selwyn Academy, a prestigious art school and the filming site for the current season of “For Art’s Sake”, a competition-style reality show. No one in the group is competing in the show, but that doesn’t stop the show from interfering in their lives in a number of frustrating ways. Ethan, the narrator, accidentally witnesses the show being filmed and realizes that not only is the show impeding actual learning and creativity, it’s also mostly scripted. Ethan doesn’t hesitate to share this information with the group. When Luke’s critical review of the show is rejected by the school newspaper for being unfavorable to the show (and the school’s participation in it), the group decides they ought to do something to make a statement. It’s not until they begin studying Ezra Pound that they figure out how they’re going to make their statement. Inspired by Pound’s Cantos, the group creates the Contracantos, a delightfully funny and scathing long poem. They then illustrate, hand-letter, print, and distribute the first installment of the Contracantos. Then they wait for a reaction. Imagine their surprise when Luke, the poet of the group, is approached by the show’s producers and subsequently added as a contestant. With Luke gone and not speaking to the rest of the group, Ethan and his friends must find a way to carry on. Good thing they’ve got the help of a gerbil named Baconnaise, who will prove to be surprisingly heroic for a rodent.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Ethan and crew are an intelligent and sarcastic bunch. I can’t help but feel that the secondary characters could have been better developed, but they may also have been a stylistic choice as the narrator has difficulty viewing others as much more than an archetype. The idea of a reality show essentially taking over a school, no matter how artsy, is abhorrent to me. Of course, I’m not a fan of the reality show genre in the first place, so this book may have been preaching to the choir in that sense. It definitely has a satirical tone to it. The whole “vigilante” artist thing is quite clever even if it’s hard to imagine someone who writes poetry as being fodder for a reality show. A fun and engaging read, complete with amusingly-named house pets.

05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, read by Lisa, on 07/21/2014

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

04. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Living by Matt de la Pena, read by Angie, on 08/04/2014

Shy is working on a Paradise Cruise ship when a man jumps overboard right in front of him. The story picks up on the next cruise and this time people are asking questions. A mysterious man in a suit starts asking about Shy and what the suicide victim might have said to him. Shy’s room is searched and the man keeps following him. We have no idea what this is about. Then a big storm approaches the cruise ship and we learn that “the Big One” has hit the west coast of America. A tsunami is headed towards the ship and in fact three waves hit and cause it to sink. Shy ends up on a broken lifeboat with no supplies. He rescues an older man and a young girl. The man has been bitten by a shark and eventually dies. The girl is a rich snob who picked on Shy on the ship. Addi and Shy have to come to terms with each other and fight to survive. Just when all hope is lost they are rescued and taken to a mysterious island where things just get even stranger. 

This book felt really disjointed like it wasn’t sure what kind of book it was going to be. The beginning was a realistic story about people from different backgrounds and socioeconomic status mingling on a ship and how they react to each other. The second part was pure apocalyptic with the earthquake and the tsunami and having to survive at sea. The end was a bit sci-fi mystery with the secret island and the weird scientists and the sickness infecting survivors. I think any of those books would have been interesting but together they were a bit of a mess. I wish the whole evil corporation bit would have been left off of the story because I think it would have been stronger with just the other two storylines. However, since this is the beginning of a series I guess you really needed somewhere to go. 

04. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, read by Angie, on 08/02/2014

Maggie is getting ready to start high school. She has been homeschooled and now must make the transition to public school. Her three older brothers are already there. Her dad is the new sheriff and her mom has taken off. And there is a ghost following her around. Maggie finds high school overwhelming and has a hard time making friends. The only people who will hang out with her are a brother/sister pair of punks. They become her group and they go to the movies and hang out. Of course her oldest brother doesn’t approve. Maggie has to navigate the mine field of high school and a home life that isn’t what it used to be. 

I really enjoy this graphic book. I thought Maggie’s experience with high school rang true. High school is overwhelming and scary to a lot of people and Maggie’s reactions completely mirrored that. I also liked the fact that Maggie and her brothers were portrayed very realistically. They fight, they have issues, but they stick together. I thought the ghost storyline was a bit confusing and I am not really sure what its purpose was other than to get Maggie and her friends in trouble. 

03. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

In Darkness by Nick Lake, read by Angie, on 08/02/2014

In Darkness is the dual tale of Shorty and Toussaint at two pivotal points in the history of Haiti. Shorty is a young gang member who is recovering from a gun shot wound in a hospital when the 2010 earthquake traps him in the rubble. While stuck in the darkness he has visions of Toussaint in the past. Toussaint is the slave who brought freedom to Haiti. He learned from the French Revolution and worked to overthrow the French in Haiti and end slavery. He brought both blacks and whites to his side and even though he was betrayed by Napoleon and died in prison, his vision eventually became a reality. Both men tell their stories in alternating narratives; explaining how they came to the end points of their stories. 

I had a difficult time with this book. I had to actually put the book down and do some research on Haiti, both past and present. I will admit that it is not a country I know much about and I had no idea who the people were that were discussed in the book (Aristide, Dread Wilme, Lavalas). I found Toussaint to be a much more sympathetic character than Shorty; at least he was fighting for a goal whereas Shorty admitted he liked killing people. I think the most disturbing thing about the book was the realistic descriptions of what live in Haiti is like. It truly does seem like hell on earth and the UN doesn’t seem to be doing any good there. Not sure what the situation is like after the earthquake, but I don’t expect it has changed all that much. It is sad when the gangs are the ones caring for the people and the UN is killing the gang bangers which leaves the poor with even less than before. I am not sure about the appeal of this book. I can’t see a lot of teens sticking with it or even picking it up in the first place, but then a lot of award-winning books are like that.

02. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, read by Madeline, on 07/17/2014

American audiences have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes. Ever since she debuted stateside, she has captivated readers and reviewers alike, and hit the New York Times bestseller list with the word-of-mouth sensation, Me Before You. Now, with One Plus One, she’s written another contemporary opposites-attract love story that reads like a modern-dayTwo for the Road.
 
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.
 
One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

31. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Motel Life by Willy Vlautin, read by Claudia, on 07/12/2014

The Motel Life

In a gritty debut, Vlautin explores a few weeks in the broken lives of two working-class brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, who abruptly ditch their Reno motel after Jerry Lee drunkenly kills a boy on a bicycle in a hit-and-run. The two are case studies in hard luck: their mother died when they were 14 and 16, respectively; their father is an ex-con deadbeat; neither finished high school. Frank has had just one girlfriend, motel neighbor Annie, whose mother is an abusive prostitute. An innocent simpleton, Jerry Lee is left feeling suicidal after the accident, despite his younger brother’s efforts (à la Of Mice and Men’s Lenny and George) to console him: “It was real quiet, the way he cried,” says Frank, “like he was whimpering.” On returning to Reno, an eventual reckoning awaits them. Vlautin’s coiled, poetically matter-of-fact prose calls to mind S.E. Hinton—a writer well-acquainted with male misfit protagonists seeking redemption, no matter how destructive. Despite the bleak story and its inevitably tragic ending, Vlautin, who plays in the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, transmits a quiet sense of resilience and hopefulness. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information, Review provided by Publisher’s Weekly

22. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Mystery, Noelle, Teen Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Noelle, on 07/16/2014

Each summer the wealthy, seemingly perfect Sinclair family meets on their private island. Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are a unit, especially during “summer 15,” marking their fifteenth year on Beechwood– the summer that Cady and Gat fall in love. Cady became involved in a mysterious accident, in which she sustained a blow to the head, and now suffers from debilitating migraines and memory loss. When she returns to Beechwood during summer 17 issues of guilt and blame, love and truth all come into play.

 

12. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, read by Angie, on 07/11/2014

Ari is a young man filled with anger and silence. He comes from a family with a father scarred by war, a mother devastated by a son’s actions and a brother who has disappeared from their lives since he went to prison. Ari has no friends and is melancholy. His only desires are for a truck and a dog. He likes to run and workout, both solitary activities. It all changes when he meets Dante. Dante is vibrant and chatty. He likes to draw and read poetry. He asks hard questions and truly wants to know the answers. Ari and Dante become best friends. Dante brings Ari out of his shell and gets him to talk and makes him realize it is ok for boys to cry. They are there for each other even when Dante moves to Chicago for a year. Their friendship holds up even when Dante confesses he would rather kiss boys than girls and would really like to kiss Ari. Ari cares so much for Dante that he saves his life and goes after a boy who hurt Dante. However, Ari is still conflicted and angry even if he doesn’t know what he is angry about. 

I thought this story was wonderful. I loved the friendship of Ari and Dante and the fact that Dante being gay really had no affect on it. Ari accepts Dante for who he is and who he loves. They are friends no matter what. I also loved the parents in this book, which is something I don’t often say. I thought both Ari and Dante’s parents were some of the best. The relationships were realistic and touching. I also really enjoyed the dialogue of this book. It is snappy and relevant and reminded me of the dialogue on some of my favorite tv shows. This is a great story about acceptance, both of others and yourself. It is a love story, a story about families, a story about self-awareness and a story about growing up into who you are meant to be. 

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready, read by Courtney, on 06/19/2014

David and Mara used to have a fairly ordinary life. Then, their older brother joined the armed forces and was killed. Now, the family is a complete mess. Over the course of their grieving, David’s parents first turn to the Evangelical Church for answers. It helps, to an extent. David is “saved” and his parents start to come out of their depression. David and Mara are taken out of the public schools and put into a religious homeschooling group. Over time, the church ceases to be enough for David’s parents and they find solace in a group that believes in the end of the world. Instead of calling it the “Rapture”, this new group calls it the “Rush” and claim to know exactly when it’s going to happen. David and his sister are dubious, but their parents appear completely convinced. As the date for the “Rush” draws nearer, David’s father becomes increasingly unhinged, speaking only in Bible verses. In the forty days before the “Rush”, David and his sister are asked to give up everything worldly to prepare for their salvation. Aside from not really believing that the end of the world is coming, David has some other problems with this situation. He’s a baseball star with college scouts following his every pitch. He’s got a girlfriend that he’s absolutely crazy about. In other words, he really doesn’t want to give up his entire life.
When the book opens, it is the night of the “Rush” and David and Mara have missed it. Instead of being at home with their parents on the night that they are supposed to be taken to Heaven, David and Mara have gone to an after-prom party and missed the deadline. When they return home, their parents are gone. No messages or notes. Their clothes laid on on the bed under the covers as though they had simply vanished. Needless to say, David and Mara are concerned. They don’t believed their parents have been “Rushed”, but something is clearly not right. Now they need to figure out what happened to their parents before word spreads that two teenagers are living by themselves.
The premise of this book is fascinating to me. I’m not a religious person, so it was interesting to see how a practitioner would view the world. Smith-Ready miraculously manages to keep this story from either glorifying or vilifying those of faith, but always remains critical of those who would use faith to achieve their own ends. I’m not 100% sold on the parents’ reaction to their eldest son’s death, but a catalyst was needed and grief is a powerful one. David and Mara make a great sibling team. David is a person of faith, while Mara is a skeptic who manages to play the part of a religious person to avoid confrontation with her parents. David’s girlfriend, Bailey, provides a great foil to David. Bailey is not religious either, but is curious and considerate when the topic of religion comes up, which happens frequently. I will admit that my brain fuzzed out a bit during the baseball-heavy portions of the book, but overall, this was a very engaging take on faith and religion. Would likely make a very good book club read.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Courtney, on 06/03/2014

I’m kind of feeling like E. Lockhart lulled me into a false sense of security with her more light-hearted previous novels. This one was devastating and I’m still kind of reeling from the final moments of the book.
Cadence Eastman Sinclair comes from an extremely wealthy family. The type that summers on a private island off the coast of New England. The type that plays tennis, owns pure-bred golden retrievers, and inherits mountains of money. These summers on the island are golden. Cadence and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, are joined by Johnny’s step-father’s nephew, Gat and all four are roughly the same age. They call themselves the Liars and set themselves apart from the rest of the family.
Something terrible happens the summer they are all 15, but Cadence can’t remember any of it. All she knows for certain is that she had some sort of head injury that leaves her with devastating migraines. Two years later, she finally returns to the island to find a lot of changes. The Liars are still there and they are very much the same as she remembers, but the main house has been rebuilt, the family tiptoes around the events of two summers ago, and the family’s patriarch is showing signs of Altzheimer’s. Cadence is determined to uncover the truth about that fateful summer, but no one wants to talk about it. Not even the Liars. Everyone wants Cadence to remember things on her own.
Gradually, the memories start coming back and Cadence is able to begin piecing together the events that have brought the family to this point. As it turns out, some things really are so painful that the brain will block them out. I don’t envy Cadence on any level.
This is one of those books with a surprise ending. Some readers may figure it out, but I wasn’t one of them. It completely caught me off guard and left my heart hurting. It’s a brilliant book with fantastic and intriguing characters, even if they’re not always likeable.

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora, read by Lisa, on 06/30/2014

When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.