Friday, May 18, 2018

ARC Review: Aftermath by Kelley Armstrong

Aftermath
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publication: Crown Books for Young Readers (May 22, 2018)

Description: Secrets don't remain hidden for long in this thrilling read from a #1 New York Times bestselling author that's perfect for fans of Kara Thomas's The Darkest Corners and Lynn Weingarten's Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls.

Three years after losing her brother Luka in a school shooting, Skye Gilchrist is moving home. But there's no sympathy for Skye and her family because Luka wasn't a victim; he was a shooter.

Jesse Mandal knows all too well that the scars of the past don't heal easily. The shooting cost Jesse his brother and his best friend--Skye.

Ripped apart by tragedy, Jesse and Skye can't resist reopening the mysteries of their past. But old wounds hide darker secrets. And the closer Skye and Jesse get to the truth of what happened that day, the closer they get to a new killer.

My Thoughts: Skye Gilchrist is back home. When she was thirteen there was a school shooting at the high school. Her brother Luka was killed by the police when he came out of a bathroom with a gun. Skye can't understand why her brother would have been involved in a shooting, but the evidence is overwhelming. She was already dealing with an absentee father and a mother suffering from clinical depression. She and her mom went to live with her grandmother but she couldn't get out from the reputation as a shooter's sister. She was being harassed and persecuted for something her brother did.

After her grandmother suffers a second stroke, social services decides that she should live with her Aunt Mae who sends her back to school in the same town where the shooting happened. Her aunt feels that she needs to come to terms with her past. Only relatives of the victims are going to the same school as she is going to and they aren't going to let her put the past behind her.

Worst of all, Jesse Mandal is also going to the same school. Jesse and Skye were building a friendship into a first romance when the shooting happened and Jesse's brother Jamil was one of the victims. Jesse has been having a hard time too as he tries to fill the gap in his family left by his brother's death. Jesse was the academic brother; Jamil was an athlete. Jamil was also a bully who was constantly putting Jesse down. Now Jesse is just letting his schoolwork slide while he concentrates on track assisted by steroids given to him by his trainer.

She and Jesse start out with some misunderstandings but when Skye is being harassed again, including locking her in the school newspaper office and setting it on fire, he is there to help her figure out what is going on. It doesn't help at all that the high school vice principal is convinced that all the harassment that is happening is orchestrated by Skye in order to get attention. She did have a history of harmless pranks in her younger years. The principal has even convinced Aunt Mae that the  strange things like notes in her locker, eerie footsteps in what should be empty hallways, and other things are just cries for attention. All of this leaves Skye alone and unsupported.

The story had lots of tension, action, and danger. There were also quite a few people who could have been doing the harassment. I liked the way Skye and Jesse rebuilt their friendship. I also liked that Skye was determined to find out what happened three years earlier.

Favorite Quote:
I wanted to go to another school, no matter the travel time. Mae thought RivCol was best -- face my fears. I understand her reasoning, but there's a point when her encouragement starts to feel like a punishment.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Amazon Vine. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ARC Review: Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday's Not Coming
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (May 22, 2018)

Description: From the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly, Tiffany D. Jackson, comes a gripping new novel perfect for fans of E. Lockhart and Gillian Flynn about the mystery of one teenage girl’s disappearance and the traumatic effects of the truth.

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried.

When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

My Thoughts: This is a story of a girl who is looking for her missing friend. Claudia and Monday have been best friends since first grade but, when Claudia returns from a summer spent with her Grandmamma in Georgia, Monday is gone. They had big plans for this eighth grade year and Claudia can't imagine spending it without her best friend.

The main problem is that no one else thinks that Monday's disappearance is a problem. Claudia's mother says maybe she's sick. The school says she never enrolled. And even Claudia's favorite English teacher isn't able to get any answers when she questions the school or social services. Claudia keeps trying to call but the number is out of service. Despite the fact that her mother doesn't want her to go to Claudia's neighborhood which is the most dangerous in Washington, DC, Claudia doesn't find out anything when she talks to Monday's mother. Monday's older sister keeps giving her conflicting stories, i.e. that she's home sick, that she is living with her father, that she is living with an aunt.

Claudia really needs her friend at school. She is dyslexic but has been able to cover it up because Monday has been doing her writing for her and reading to her. Despite her learning disability, which she will do anything to hide, she is a talented dancer who has been moved up to a higher age level at her dancing school and talented as an artist which mainly shows up in the creative way she does nails.

The story is pretty straightforward and doesn't have a happy ending but the writing style adds depth to the story by shifting around in time with each chapter. Here are the first four chapter titles so that you can see what I mean: September, The Before, The After, One Year Before the Before. I was right there with Claudia feeling her frustration as she couldn't get anyone to care as much about Monday's disappearance as she did. The story was horrifying, heart-breaking, and the kind of story that will haunt my thoughts for a long time.

Favorite Quote:
Rumors are born with legs that can run a mile in less than a minute.
Rumors eat up dreams without condiments.
Rumors do not have expiration dates.
Rumors can be deadly.
Rumors can get you killed.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: Swipe by Evan Angler

Swipe
Author: Evan Angler
Series: Swipe (Book 1)
Publication: Thomas Nelson (April 30, 2012)

Description: Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong?

Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, Swipe follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.

The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It’s almost Logan Langly’s 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn’t been able to shake the feeling he’s being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago . . . and never came back.

When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers? Find out in the first book of this exciting series that is Left Behind meets Matched for middle-grade readers.

My Thoughts: This book begins a middle grade dystopian series. Logan Langly is the main character. He is approaching his thirteenth birthday when he will be eligible to get the Mark which makes him a citizen. With it, he can get a job, buy things, vote. But ever since his older sister Lily went for her mark and disappeared, Logan has felt like he is being watched and followed. His parents think he is paranoid.

Erin Arbitor is a new student at Spokie Middle. She and her father have relocated to Spokie because her dad is doing "government work" for DOME which is the police arm of the new world government. Erin wants to be back home in Beacon with both of her parents. Her mother stayed behind for her job. Erin is an excellent computer hacker.

Logan and Erin meet at school where he tries to convince her that he is being followed. Erin, having read her father's secret work files, thinks it would be a great idea to catch the criminal who is following Logan because it will get her and her father back to Beacon sooner.

The two of them investigate and learn that what the government is telling its citizens is not necessarily the truth. Lots of threads are left hanging in this first episode of the Swipe trilogy making the next books necessary.

While the book is generally enjoyable, I found the slang used for the Markless didn't make much sense. Using miser, tightwad, cheapskate, and other money related terms as pejoratives was really distracting for me because I kept wondering how things related to money. I also felt that the adults in the story were more-or-less cardboard characters. I also know that, while middle grade kids think, they are adults, these characters were mature well beyond their age and pretty unrealistic.

Favorite Quote:
"Who knows? The guy's Markless. He's a criminal."

Logan shook his head. "It isn't a crime to be Markless, no matter what age you are."

"It's not, no. Not by itself. But to survive like that...no way to eat...nowhere to stay...it'd make a criminal out of you pretty quick."
I got this ARC at ALA in 2013. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, May 11, 2018

ARC Review: The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo

The Game Can't Love You Back
Author: Karole Cozzo
Publication: Swoon Reads (May 15, 2018)

Description: Bitter sports rivalries and swoon-worthy romance intertwine, in Karole Cozzo’s classic enemies to lovers story where two former nemeses blur the lines between love and hate. 

Eve is used to being the odd woman out. As the only girl on her school's baseball team, she knows exactly how to put sweaty, macho baseball players in their place, and she's learned to focus on one thing and one thing only―being the best pitcher she can be.

But when a freak accident forces her school to be absorbed by the neighboring town, Eve has to contend with a new group of guys who aren't used to having a woman on their team. And the new team's star pitcher, Jamie, has no interest in being ousted from his throne. He can't afford to give up his starting slot to a new pitcher―especially to a girl.

As the competition between Jamie and Eve starts to heat up, so does their attraction to each other. Can they keep their heads in the game, or will they end up getting played?

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, The Game Can’t Love You Back follows Eve as she is forced to join a new baseball team and contend with the insufferable (and cute) rival pitcher.

My Thoughts: THE GAME CAN'T LOVE YOU BACK was a great sports romance. It is told in two viewpoints. Eve is an athlete and, whatever she plays, she wins. She has awards for soccer, basketball ... and baseball. Yup, she's been playing with the boys since she and her older brothers were all in Little League.

When her high school catches on fire, ruining the gym and some other areas, the school district decides that all the students will join their classmates at the other high school in the district. Now, the Bulldogs all have to become Pirates and fit into a new school.

The school merger might be the ruin of Eve's quest for the school's Cy Young trophy because the Pirates already have a star pitcher. Jamie Abrams needs the recognition of being an award winner. He is a talented baseball player but not a very good student. He is a popular guy with more than his fair share of girlfriends and hook-ups. His home life is also messed up. His mom has finally kicked out the latest bad boyfriend but it is hard to pay the bills on a job at Target. Jamie has also been working all he can at a burger place to help with the family's finances. A baseball scholarship is his best chance at college and a possible pro career.

Eve and Jamie are immediately rivals. Both are very competitive people. Also, being the only girl on the team adds additional pressure to Eve who has to gain the respect of a whole new bunch of teammates. But the attraction between them is growing. They recognize and like each other's strengths. The only problem for Eve is that things are already changing so much in her life as she physically matures and sees the end of her baseball life coming. She is starting to feel that she doesn't know herself.

The story was well-written. The sports scenes were realistic as were the emotions of devoted athletes. I really enjoyed this book and its memorable characters.

Favorite Quote:
"Why are you doing this to me?" I mutter under my breath, kicking at his desk leg as he makes the call.

Pushing the receiver away from his mouth, he tells me, "Because sometimes you have one hell of a time getting out of your own way."
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

ARC Review: Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over by Shani Petroff

Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over
Author: Shani Petroff
Publication: Swoon Reads (May 15, 2018)

Description: A bad storm, two cancelled flights, trapped with the guy who broke her heart…Shani Petroff delivers laugh out loud comedy and unforgettable disasters in this highly relatable comedy of errors about a teen stuck in an airport with her cheating ex. 

Flight delayed. Send help. Not him.

After Sari caught her boyfriend Zev cheating on her, their romantic Florida vacation was ruined. She can't get back to NYC soon enough. Unfortunately, Mother Nature may have different plans. A huge storm is brewing in the Northeast, and flights all over the country are getting canceled―including Sari's. She winds up stuck at the airport for hours. With Zev!

When another stranded passenger (a hot NYU guy) suggests a connecting flight to Boston, Sari jumps at the chance. But when her mom freaks out about her traveling alone, she has no choice―she has to include Zev, and somehow survive being trapped with the guy who broke her heart!

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, author Shani Petroff looks at both heartbreak and forgiveness in her latest YA comedy of errors, Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over.

My Thoughts: Sari Silver is having a bad Spring Break. First she walks into a party to find her boyfriend Zev liplocked with his ex-girlfriend. Then she realizes that they had both planned to head to Florida for Spring Break to visit their grandparents and spend some time together. Now, she doesn't want to be anywhere near him. He keeps texting and calling and saying that he can explain, but she doesn't give him a chance.

She hitches a ride to the airport with her best friend Trina and manages to get on an earlier flight. She spends the first part of her vacation holed up, broken-hearted, in her gram's house. But her gram sends her out to spend some time at the pool where she meets Fitz who is also down from New York to spend some time with his grandfather. They hang out together and Sari is glad to make a new friend but isn't interested in anything more.

She gets a call from the booking agent at a club where she hangs out listening to music offering her an opportunity to perform on Saturday night. She can't miss this opportunity which is what she has always wanted and could be the start of her musical career. She can't convince her parents to change her flight and a storm is coming.

She gets to the airport to find the Zev and Fitz are also trying to get flights home. After hours and many cancelled flights, they have a chance to fly to Boston where a friend of Fitz's has offered to drive them the rest of the way. But that means that she will have to travel with Zev! Besides, her mom is blowing up her phone, and Zev's when she can't get Sari to answer hers, because she is worried about her daughter. Her mom just doesn't understand how much she hates it that her mom is still communicating with Zev.

This was an emotionally intense story about young love, trust and betrayal. While I did think that Sari should have given Zev a chance to explain, I could understand how much what she saw as his betrayal hurt her. Fans of romances will enjoy this story.

Favorite Quote:
That stereotype about older drivers going, like, thirteen miles per hour on the highway? My gram definitely proved that one wrong. By the time we made it to the airport, my knuckles were white from clutching the door handle. I'd said I wanted to get there fast, but I seriously think my gram set some sort of record. If only gram were piloting the plane.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Book Review: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publication: Square Fish; Reprint edition (May 10, 2011)

Description: The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

"Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

My Thoughts: This classic YA novel tells the story of a girl who was raped at a high school party and goes silent to cope with it. Melinda called 911 after being raped at a party but was unable to tell what had happened to her. She has become an outcast for calling 911 which led to arrests. Now that school is starting again, she is trying to survive with no friends in a very hostile environment.

New girl Heather becomes her only friend but Heather is only using her until she finds her "people." Her parents don't seem to notice that she is having troubles until the school sends out report cards and they see that her grades are dropping and that she is skipping classes and not doing homework. However, rather than asking what's wrong and supporting her, they react by getting angry with her and with each other.

The teachers at the school also seem to be oblivious to Melinda's needs. The English teacher and Social Studies teacher both seem to have taken Melinda in dislike. Her only place of refuge is her Art class which has its own frustrations as the topic she drew to concentrate on for the year is "trees." The art teacher does provide some support but has his own issues with his job and the school board.

I liked Melinda's voice. She has an outsider's view at the daily happenings of her high school which seemed obsessed this year with choosing a new mascot. I liked watching her grow and find her own agency as the year progressed.

Favorite Quote:
Two hundred questions later, I get my results. I should consider a career in (a) forestry (b) firefighting (c) communications (d) mortuary science. Heather's results are clearer. She should be a nurse. It makes her jump up and down. 
I bought this one Feb. 20, 2012. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, May 4, 2018

ARC Review: Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett

Onyx & Ivory
Author: Mindee Arnett
Series: Onyx & Ivory
Publication: Balzer + Bray (May 15, 2018)

Description: Acclaimed author Mindee Arnett thrusts readers into a beautiful, dangerous, and magical world in this stunningly epic and romantic fantasy for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah Raasch.

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king of Rime.

Cast out of the nobility, Kate now works for the royal courier service. Only the most skilled ride for the Relay and only the fastest survive, for when night falls, the drakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: She is a wilder, born with forbidden magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals.

And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by drakes in broad daylight—the only survivor Corwin Tormaine, the son of the king. Her first love, the boy she swore to forget after he condemned her father to death.

With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin must put the past behind them to face this new threat and an even darker menace stirring in the kingdom.

My Thoughts: Fans looking for another epic fantasy with magic and romance will enjoy ONYX & IVORY. It is told from two viewpoints. Kate is known as Traitor Kate since her father attempted to assassinate the high king of Rime. She has fled the capital city and is working as a relay rider in another city. Kate is a wilder - having magic that lets her communicate with animals especially horses. She doesn't understand why her father, master of the king's horses and a friend of the king, would have tried to kill him. She would like to clear her father's name but doesn't know how.

The second point of view is Corwin's. He is a son of the king who has recently spent some years away from the kingdom. He and Kate were childhood friends and beginning to fall in love when the assassination attempt occurred. He has been waiting since he was young for the uror which is a magical contest to determine which of the king's sons will be the next high king. Corwin has always felt overshadowed by his older brother Edwin who has made a career of belittling Corwin. Corwin doesn't feel worthy of being the high king and wants to let his brother rule.

Corwin and Kate meet again after three years apart when she saves him from an attack by daydrakes. Nightdrakes and daydrakes make travel in the kingdom hazardous. Nightdrakes have been a long-time threat but daydrakes are new. Kate has a weapon - a revolver - created by her wilder friend Bonner who has a gift for metal. The new weapon saves the day and gives Corwin hope for a way of defeating the daydrakes.

Corwin gathers Bonner, Kate and their friend Signe who has the formula for making the powder that allows the gun to shoot and takes them to the capital city. They need to hide their wilder magic from the magists who are determined to root out all who have it. An Inquisition was begun around the time of the high king's near assassination and after a wilder attack killed Corwin's mother which makes being a wilder very, very dangerous.

While Bonner is working on the revolvers and trying to hide his magic, Kate is looking for any information that could tell her why her father tried to kill the high king and Corwin is involved both with court politics and the uror which has finally appeared. Secrets are uncovered and hidden enemies surface.

I recommend this story to fans of epic fantasy.

Favorite Quote:
Riding at the head of the caravan, Corwin couldn't keep himself from looking back at his new comapnaios with a sense of wonderment and dismay. They made for a strange party -- the Eshian, the blacksmith, and the traitor. It sounded like the start of some mythic journey. Or a bad tavern joke. To make things even more unusual, Master Raith was riding at the back of the pack, having volunteered for travel duty.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.