Words in Deep Blue

REVIEW: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Summary


Once upon a time, Rachel and Henry were best friends. And Rachel wondered if it might be more than just friendship. In a moment of great bravery, just before she moves away, Rachel writes Henry a note about how she feels. She asks him to call when he gets it. He never mentions the note or her declaration.

Years later, Rachel returns. A lot has changed. She barely responded to Henry’s letters and emails while she was away. Even in the midst of personal tragedy, she didn’t reach out to him. Now, not only are they in the same town, but she’s working at his family’s bookstore. She’ll see him every day. How’s that going to work?

Henry’s thrilled to have his best friend back. But Rachel has changed. She’s angry and private. She won’t explain why she stopped talking to him. As his divorced parents discuss selling their home and the bookstore, though, Henry will need Rachel, his old best friend, who understands the value of the store and the memories they’ve made there.

Review


Is it possible to both like and not like a book at the same time? While not a happy story per se, this is a beautiful look at grief and loss, friendship and love, and the value of words. The author does an excellent job of describing the losses experienced by the characters and their attempts to move forward in life and in their grief.

I liked the main characters, although I wanted to shake them at times. Henry’s infatuation with Amy was frustrating as Rachel’s assessment of her motives was always completely on target. And that assessment should have clued her into some things that happened in the story. Many of the characters felt stuck, repeating the same choices or feeling like they had no other choices. I liked characters like Martin and Cal who seemed healthy and optimistic about the future.

I struggle to describe this sort of book. I liked it in that it was well written and emotionally honest with characters I wanted to see succeed. At the same time, it’s emotionally heavy. I can’t say that I enjoyed the journey with these characters all the time. If you are looking for a happy-go-lucky sort of story, this is not what you are looking for. But if you want to read something that will hit you emotionally and make you think, give this a try. I would recommend this to older teens and young adults due to language and the emotional weight of the story.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Waste of Space

REVIEW: Waste of Space by Gina Damico

Summary


The premise: Ten kids on a reality TV show where they get sent into space, facing challenges until there’s one left standing. It’s supposed to be a typical reality show. They have all the character types – the orphan, the nerd, the addict, the hippie, the bad boy.

Except the TV station has no intention of actually sending anyone into space. No one has the tech to pull that off. They don’t even have the tech to make the kids still on earth float around like they are in space. So they tell everyone they have created an artificial gravity for use in space. And the lies don’t stop there.

The kids are told everything is real. They think they are truly on a space ship in orbit of Earth. The show fits reality TV mold completely and is wildly popular.  But not everyone is who they appear to be. And some of the kids start to pick up clues that maybe their mission to “space” isn’t what it appears to be either. And then, in one moment, everything changes.

Review


This is such a fun and quirky story!

The format is terrific. It’s transcripts of phone calls and video from the show and unaired footage as well as interviews and commentary from the intern who is putting all the pieces together. This allows the reader to get into everyone’s head and see the story from different perspectives – the viewers, the producer who put it all together, the kids on the show.

The characters exceed their stereotypes, which is great. Motives change. What you think is true keeps changing. The whole premise is terrific. The TV producer is sleazy, creative and cutthroat. You hate him but at the same time you can’t look away, wondering what he will throw at the kids or at his crew next.

There’s a twist in the story about 2/3 of the way through, and from there, I couldn’t put the book down. I had to know what was going on. The truth was less flashy than I imagined from the set up , but it was still a good ending. (Language, sexual innuendo, drugs/alcohol/firearms)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

I received an electronic review copy of this book. Thanks to Netgalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read an early copy of Waste of Space in exchange for an honest review.

Dividing Eden

REVIEW: Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Summary


The kingdom of Eden is in the middle of a war. The king and crown prince are checking on the fighting before the prince’s wedding to the kingdom’s seer. The winter season will be starting soon which means the savage Xhelozi will be hunting the borders. It’s vital that Eden stay strong and keep the windmills collecting power for the kingdom.

But that strength is in danger when the king and crown prince are killed under mysterious circumstances. In the power vacuum, the Council of Elders starts maneuvering for power. Caught in the middle are the king and queen’s twins, Andreus and Carys. They have protected eachother’s secrets – and very lives – since they were born.  But now only one of them can rule. And only by winning a contest against the other.

Secrets and lies abound as the twins and other forces battle for control of Eden.

Review


Wow! This was great! This is a hard book to summarize. So many things are going on right from the outset. And the reader knows early on that most of the characters are hiding things and scheming for their own goals.

The twins at the center of the story are fascinating. On the surface, they are completely committed to one another. Carys sacrifices often to protect her brother’s big secret. And Andreus has her back when it comes to Carys’ secret too. But with the kingdom at stake and other voices whispering in their ears, their bond starts to fracture.

The scheming in this book is tremendous. Even at the end, I am not sure who is completely trustworthy. Secrets have secrets, and I’m confident I still only know maybe 40% of what’s truly going on. I was amazed to realize that while I was totally engrossed from start to finish, I had so many questions! That takes masterful plotting. Charbonneau has done a great job of crafting a page-turning story while still maintaining lots of mystery for the future.

I am looking forward to book 2!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Bookishly Ever After

REVIEW: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Summary


Phoebe is a devoted book nerd. She is always reading and knows about all the popular and upcoming books. Not caring how it looks to others, she dresses in costume for book releases and author signings. She even looks to her favorite books and characters to help her find romance.

While Phoebe has a crush on the class president, Kris, her best friend is convinced that Dev likes her. Kris doesn’t seem to know Phoebe exists, but Dev is around all the time. So Phoebe attempts some of her bookish moves, trying to channel the strong, confident heroines from her favorite books.

But Phoebe isn’t really like those characters. She’s uncertain and awkward. She loves what she loves, and she doesn’t hide it. So when a more confident girl moves in on Dev, Phoebe wonders if she should just stick to fictional relationships after all.

Review


This was SO fun! There are some GREAT bookish lines in the story. As a book nerd like Phoebe, some of these statements really clicked with me.

I loved Phoebe. I enjoyed her “nerdishness” and passion for books and knitting and music. The banter with Dev and Em and some of the other characters was great fun to read. The scenes from Phoebe’s books got old at times – I was far more interested in the characters in this story. But I loved that Phoebe tried to use her passion for fiction to help her in real life.

This reminded me of Fangirl and Geekerella – stories with characters who are passionate about something like pop culture, science fiction shows, book series, etc. I identify with these sorts of characters, and I find their stories fun to read.

This is a great Young Adult book. There’s a little bit of language and a gay relationship in the secondary characters that might make this a better fit for older teens in some cases. Book 2 in the series, Dramatically Ever After, which focuses on Em and Kris from this book, released earlier this month.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Relentless

REVIEW: Relentless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs

Summary


After the events of Powerless, Kenna and her friends are in trouble. Rebel’s dad took her and she is acting completely out of character. Draven has  been captured and arrested. He’ll have a sham of a trial so Rex Malone can make an example of him. Kenna’s mom is still missing.

Kenna is determined to find the truth and bring down the “heroes” who have been killing villains and dealing in secrets and lies. With the revelations from Powerless – and more yet to come – her team might have a chance to make things right. Or everything could blow up in their faces.

Review


It’s hard to summarize the second book in a duology (at least, I think this is the end of this series) without giving away some of the important plot twists from book one. This story picks up just a few weeks after the end of Powerless. The characters deal with the immediate issue of their friends’ captures, but the rest of the book is devoted to dealing with the main danger of heroes run amok with mad plans for power and control.

Kenna’s team has come together nicely. There are a couple new romantic relationships (including a gay couple) in the team which increases the tension and danger as they work their plans to take down the bad guys. Everyone is at risk. And there’s no guarantee everyone will make it out of the final confrontations alive.

I liked the blurring of the lines between “hero” and “villain” in both of these books. Kenna goes from a black and white thinker to someone who sees the shades of grey. So she realizes everyone with powers has potential to use their gifts to help others or to pursue their own ends. I wonder what criteria is used in this world for powered people to be marked as villain or hero.

The ending felt a little abrupt. I thought there might be a third book to sort out all the issues the group is facing. But in the end, all of the loose ends wrap up  (even though I would have liked more back story and some blanks in history filled in). Great action packed conclusion! (Some language)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Letters to the Lost

REVIEW: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Summary


Juliet is still grieving the death of her mother. And that takes the form of frequent trips to the cemetery and writing her mother letters. She leaves the letters by her mother’s headstone. Juliet wrote letters as a kid when her mom was on the road for work. She keeps up the practice as she tries to deal with her loss.

Declan mows the lawn at the cemetery. It’s his community service after getting drunk and crashing into a building. Usually he just trashes the things left around the headstones when he needs to mow. But for some reason, one day he reads a letter he finds – and he write’s the author back.

One response leads to an exchange of letters and then an exchange of emails as two hurting teens find connection through writing and transparency with one other person in the world. They each find someone who understands them. Someone they can really talk to and say all the things they are holding inside. And they also find that this relationship may give them the help and courage to address some things out loud in their real lives, too.

Review


This was a delight! I read it through in one sitting and when I was done I wanted to start all over from the beginning.

I love these characters. Juliet and Declan are so broken and so endearing. They each so badly need someone to really see them and hear them. Someone who draws out the best in them. Someone who sees past the prickliness of grief and pain.

One of the messages of the story is that there IS help available. Each of the kids has friends and teachers or mentors who want to help. They have to learn to ask for that help sometimes – or to accept it when it’s offered.

This story gave me the same feeling as A List of Cages when I was done. The subject matters wasn’t as dark in this one, but it left me with the same warm feelings from seeing teens find a community that loves them, knows them, and shows up for them. Fantastic! (Some language)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Royal Bastards

REVIEW: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Summary


In Tilla’s world, lineage matters. Since her mother was a castle servant, Tilla’s father, Lord Kent, would never make Tilla “legitimate.” He has other daughters for that. Tilla’s lot in life is to be one of the “bastards.” And sometimes she’s okay with that. She can hang out with her half brother, Jax, who is a stable hand. They explore the castle’s secret tunnels. And she can be relatively free of the demands of the aristocracy.

When Princess Lyriana comes to the West to visit House Kent, she is immediately drawn to Tilla and the other teen “bastards,” Miles and Zell. The princess wants to know more about the common people in her kingdom including the cast off children of the Lords and Ladies.

An excursion to the ocean with the princess changes everything when the teens witness something they were never supposed to see. They are soon running for their lives and questioning everything they thought they knew about their homes and their families.

Review


Wow! This was a great thriller. The premise was clever. I knew from the start that this would be a read-straight-through kind of story. The energy was high and the pacing was terrific. Twists kept me guessing what might happen next.

I loved the characters. The five main kids are well defined and bring something unique to their quest to stay alive. They ask hard questions about their task. It’s not always clear if they are on the “right” side. I liked that depth and the wrestling the characters had to do.

The ending wraps things up for this story – no cliff hangers. But there’s definitely going to be another book because this story is far from over. For me I’d say this is a high school and older book due to mature content including language and violence. This will be a terrific story for older readers, including adults who love a great thriller!

Thanks to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for an electronic review copy of this book, offered in exchange for an honest review!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Geography of You and Me

REVIEW: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Summary


Lucy and Owen meet in an elevator during a black out. They spend one evening together, touring the city in the dark, talking into the night. They share only small bits of themselves. But a connection is made.

They keep in touch from there, sending postcards across the miles as Lucy moves to Europe and Owen and his dad travel west. A few words scribbled in the small blank space on a postcard keep the connection going. Each of the teens feels a strong connection to the other. But they also question that connection because they spent so little time together. Their relationship seems like it should feel less real – less important – than the relationships right in front of them.

Long distance relationships are hard enough for people who’ve known each other for ages. How can a relationship based on less than 24 hours in something of a crisis situation ever hope to survive?

 

Review


This is the second book I’ve read by Jennifer E Smith. The tone of this one is similar to The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. I like this sort of teen romance because the focus is on the characters and the circumstances that could keep them apart. The reader cheers for the characters to triumph over their situation.

Lucy and Owen are solid characters. Each has things in the past that keep them from making a lot of friends. The blackout draws them into an unusual situation which helps them open up in ways they never have before.

So much of this story is about Lucy and Owen on their own, growing up and maturing through their circumstances and their relationships with their families. The thread that keeps them connected – the postcards – draws the reader through the story to see if the individual changes will help or hurt the relationship started that day in a stuck elevator.

The author just published a new book, Windfall, back in May. I am hoping to read it soon!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Double Down

REVIEW: Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond

Summary


Lois Lane and the other teens at the Daily Planet’s “Scoop” are back. Maddy’s twin sister is having weird out-of-body kinds of feelings. They seem to be related to a scientific study she participated in  two years ago for some extra money. The scientist there had told her to let him know if she had any issues. But the lab where she did the experiment has disappeared.

At the same time, James’ dad is home from prison. He’s supposed to be monitored at his home, but he was seen at City Hall during an incident. How could he be in two places at once? Lois’ nose for news tells her there’s more going on with the ex-mayor than anyone realizes.

As if that wasn’t enough, Strange Skies, the online “strange occurrences” message board where Lois met SmallvilleGuy has been infiltrated. Someone says they can guarantee sightings of the flying man who once saved Lois and her dad.

Lois, SmallvilleGuy and the rest of the teens will have to figure out who they can trust if there’s any chance of saving Maddy’s sister, James’ dad and Strange Skies!

 

Review


GREAT mystery/adventure story! Just as good as Fall Out. Lois is such a smart, tough and brave character. I loved seeing her new friendships grow in this book. Devin had a smaller role in this story, but I’m hoping to see more of him in book three. The SmallvilleGuy piece is a fun thread throughout the series, but he’s still a somewhat mysterious factor in Lois’ life.

There are three main mysteries/plots in play during the book and each one is strong. They differ in scale and level of danger, but each one fits perfectly into the larger whole. There are references to the mystery in the first book in the series, but I think a reader could start with this book and still be able to piece together what’s going on. Some of the interpersonal issues might be confusing at the beginning, though.

The author does a great job of keeping the reader aware that these are teenagers. Lois has an interesting relationship with her school principal. She tries to maintain a positive relationship with her little sister. She works to walk the line between pursing her stories and staying on the right side of her parents and her curfew. Her editor treats her with respect, but also as a teen, still learning and still responsible to her parents.

Book three is out now, Triple Threat. It is definitely on my TBR list!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Ryan Quinn and the Rebel's Escape

REVIEW: Ryan Quinn and the Rebel’s Escape by Ron McGee

Summary


Ryan Quinn has grown up all over the world. Now that he’s an 8th grader, his family is living in New York City, and Ryan has a chance at a normal life.

The first clue that his life is anything but normal comes when Ryan notices a guy following him through the city. The next comes when the CIA visits his mom’s store, looking for his dad, who is supposed to be on a business trip. When he sees his mom dragged off by a kidnapper, any illusion that his life is normal is gone for good.

Ryan will need the help of his best friend the tech genius and a mysterious young woman if he’s going to have any chance of finding his dad or saving his mom. Ryan’s been surrounded by secrets and lies all his life – and some of the biggest ones may still be yet to come.

Review


A fun teen spy adventure! Think Alex Rider or young James Bond. Ryan has skills he never realized were for the secret life his parents were leading. He lets concern for his family drive him to do things no normal teen would do. And he brings some new friends along for the ride.

You have to suspend disbelief a little to enjoy this. I know a lot of 8th graders. Not one would know what to do in half the situations Ryan encounters. But it doesn’t matter. He’s an endearing kid with fun friends and a compelling mission. I was happy to go along for the ride.

Major cliffhangers at the end set up book 2, Ryan Quinn and the Lion’s Claw, which will release this fall.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥