Category Archives: ARC

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

jane-unlimitedJane led a relatively quiet life.  She was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, who was an adjunct professor best known for her work as a wildlife photographer.  Sadly, Aunt Magnolia was lost on one of her adventures in Antarctica, and Jane was left completely alone.  Though able to make ends meet, Jane barely did more than mourn her aunt, work, and construct umbrellas.  Construct umbrellas?  Yes, you read that right.  Jane was a bit of an artist, but her works were elaborately themed umbrellas rather than photographs or paintings.  (One of her favorites, for example, looked like a speckled bird’s egg.)

Everything changed, though, when Jane was visited by an acquaintance named Kiran Thrash.  Kiran insisted that Jane should come home with her — to her estate, Tu Reviens, for a gala.  Though Jane was reluctant to go, she recalled a time when Aunt Magnolia had made her promise that she would go to Tu Reviens if she was ever invited.  With nothing much to lose, she agreed.  And this was where everything went wacky…  Not only did Jane meet a variety of people — everyone from Kiran’s family to the caretakers of the Tu Reviens property — but she also found herself in the midst of a great heist.  Right as everyone was ramping up and preparing for the gala, some very famous (and very expensive) artwork went missing.

This was nothing like the Graceling [fantasy] stories, though I don’t think fans of that trilogy will necessarily be disappointed.  Jane, Unlimited was very much a mystery/spy story, but it had coming-of-age, romance, and science fiction elements as well.  In fact, I can’t imagine having to pin it down to a single genre.  Since it is very character driven, and there are SO MANY characters to get to know, it was a little slow for me to get into this one at first.  I think that perseverance paid off, but I feel compelled to “warn” readers, nevertheless, that this book has a bit of a Groundhog’s Day feel to it.   There were several times where I wondered if I had lost my place and read something over again only to realize that only some, not all, of that information had been revealed before.  I can’t say much more without giving away any spoilers, so I will just have to ask you to trust me on this one and read it when it comes out in September.  (Hope you like it as much as I did.)

Happy Reading!

This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

this-is-not-the-endImagine a world in which every person had the opportunity to resurrect someone on their 18th birthday.  It sounds kind of cool at first, but then you have to imagine making that incredibly difficult choice.  Do you think YOU could choose to bring someone back if you had to go through all the people you’ve lost in your lifetime and only pick one person?

For Lake Devereaux, the choice is nearly impossible.  You see, her parents have long expected her to use her resurrection to bring back her brother who had an accident and became a quadriplegic.  (There’s just that tricky little thing about how they would have to be sure to kill him first — minor detail!)  To complicate things even more, though, Lake ends up in a devastating car accident in which both her boyfriend (Will) and her best friend (Penny) die.  Not only does she need to go through the painful physical recovery after the accident, but she needs to sort out her emotions in a few short weeks before she turns 18.  She needs to decide whether she will go through with the original plan her parents concocted or whether she will bring back one of her friends.  Would she and Will have ended up breaking up at some point anyway, or was he her one true love?  And could she really feel right not choosing Penny even if it was for Will?  What will her parents do if she doesn’t choose her brother?  And does she even care?  Such a great premise for a story… I’m only sad that the rest of y’all have to wait until August to read it.

Happy Reading!

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

Even though Kacey was new to Broken Falls, she seemed to fit right in as soon as she arrived.  Her step-mother and step-brother were kind and loving, and her little [half] sister adored her.  She even ended up with a couple of close friends, Bailey and Jade, almost immediately.  But then something must have happened because her friends suddenly seemed distant.  Although they would usually show up and practically force her to go to a party even if she initially said no, they didn’t even text her before they went to a big party without her.  That would have been strange enough on its own, but then Bailey never made it home from the party.  And then Kacey found a bloody smear in the barn where the girls had recently performed a seance.  As the new girl in town, especially one with a troubled past, she was afraid everyone would think she was to blame for Bailey’s disappearance.  As the investigation proceeded, though, Kacey started to worry less about herself and more about whether someone who was close to her had something to hide…

Happy Reading!

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

defy-the-starsNoemi Vidal is a teen soldier from Genesis, a former colony of Earth that is now fighting for independence.  She loves Genesis and is more than willing to lay her own life on the line to help in the fight for independence — especially since she doesn’t really have anything to lose.  As an orphan, she is not even worried about leaving anyone behind if she should die.  The biggest problem, nevertheless, is that she has a very high likelihood of dying because the “mech” (robotic) armies have been overpowering the human armies of Genesis for decades.  She knows there must be *some* way for Genesis to prevail, but she isn’t all too sure she will be around to see whether it can be done.

Abel is a mech who *should* be her enemy, but he’s technically programmed to follow her command.  You’re probably thinking, “What?!?  I don’t get it.”  Well… When Abel was programmed, it never occurred to his creator that he might fall into “enemy” hands, so he didn’t include anything in Abel’s programming to specify that a non-Earth human should not be allowed control.  Add that little “glitch” to the his extraordinary talents, and you have a most unusual mech.  You see, most mechs only had one purpose — some were soldiers, some were mechanics, others were medics, and so on.  Abel was a prototype mech who was programmed to do all of those jobs and more.  He was even given DNA from his creator, practically making him a child rather than just a creation.  Topping it all off is the fact that, after being left all alone on a spaceship for thirty years, his programming evolved enough that he seemed to develop feelings and a personality.  A personality that makes him *resent* the fact that he needs to follow Noemi’s orders.  (His sass kind of reminded me of Iko from The Lunar Chronicles!)

I don’t know how much more I can say without getting all “spoilery” on you, but I think it goes without saying that a human who has been taught to mistrust mechs and a mech who doesn’t want to serve a particular human make for a rather unlikely team. But Abel doesn’t really have a choice and Noemi doesn’t really have any other special advantages in the fight against Earth, so teaming up is the only logical conclusion.

Happy Reading!

The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend

other-f-wordMilo’s moms are really great, but he sometimes wonders what life would be like with a mom and dad instead of two moms.  I mean, he loves his moms and all.  And he knows that they love him too.  But he just feels like they don’t “get” him sometimes and that maybe a dad, by virtue of also being a guy, would understand him more.  So, when Milo’s doctor suggests that genetic testing of his biological father could help develop a better treatment plan for his insanely varied and severe allergies, Milo latches onto the opportunity to find his bio dad.  The first step of which is to reach out to his half-sister, Hollis, whom he had met as a young child.  Hollis also had lesbian mothers who used the same sperm donor, which is how they came to meet in the first place, but she wasn’t really interested in finding her dad.  Nevertheless, reconnecting with Milo and his moms seemed to be the first thing to make Hollis’ mom, Leigh, happy since Hollis’ other mom, Pam, died years before… So, she decided to roll with it and see how things turned out.

What started out as a suggestion to request genetic testing relating to Milo’s allergies quickly morphed into something else.  After posting to a message board for the clinic their moms had used, Milo and Hollis discovered that they had three more half-siblings.  What were they like?  Would they get along?  Would they be able to work together and find their donor/dad?  What would this new “f-word” (family) look like in the end?!?

Happy Reading!

After the Fall by Kate Hart

after-the-fallImagine being smart enough to get into a really great college, but watching your single mother struggle to simply keep up with the bills every month.  Imagine being popular enough to be invited to lots of parties, but knowing that showing up will likely just add fuel to the flames of the various rumors about you.  Imagine having a best friend who has known you for practically your whole life, and who lets you curl up in his bed every time you have a nightmare, but feeling like he doesn’t really understand you.  Imagine going through an experience so traumatic that you aren’t even sure which pieces of your life you’d like to pick up, let alone how you might manage to accomplish such a feat.

This coming of age story tackles a variety of important topics like under-age drinking, consent, and grief.  Not only does it present a realistic/modern view of friendship and dating in high school, but it also provides a no-hold-barred examination of the sexist double-standards and slut-shaming that are so prevalent in our society.  I recommend this book to readers who liked Story of a Girl (Sara Zarr) and/or Inexcusable (Chris Lynch).

Happy Reading!

It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

started-with-goodbyeHave you ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time?  If so, you’ll probably empathize with the crazy mess Tatum got herself into.  She went on a shopping trip with her best friend, Ashlyn, and Ashlyn’s boyfriend tagged along.  Sick of watching them make out, she decided to purchase her own items and wait out front, in her car, for them to finish up and join her.  When they came out, though, they were followed by security — because Ashlyn’s boyfriend had been shoplifting.  It didn’t matter that Tatum wasn’t in on his plan.  She and Ashlyn were with him, so they were arrested too.  Not only did she receive a large fine and compulsory community service, but she and Ashlyn stopped talking after she agreed to give testimony for a lighter sentence.

Despite the fact that she didn’t “do” anything, her father grounded her (pretty much indefinitely) right before he left town for business.  Can you imagine?  Just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, her entire summer was ruined.  When she wasn’t out doing her community service, she was stuck on house arrest with her stepmother, Belén — who seemed to hate her and to look for any and every opportunity to punish her — and her stepsister, Tilly.  Tilly basically existed solely to dance [ballet], and was the apple of her mother’s eye, so it was kind of a given that the girls didn’t form any sort of sisterly bond.  There were two bright spots in this whole mess, though.  First of all, her step-abuela, Blanche, would be coming to stay for the summer.  Even though Blanche was coming to help keep an eye on Tatum, she seemed to be more of a “fairy grandmother” than a warden.  Second, there was the fact that Tatum would have plenty of time to spend on her web design skills and creating a company/portfolio to use for her college applications.

Although there were obvious Cinderella vibes, this story didn’t feel like it was *just* a modernized retelling.  I loved the diverse cast of characters, the look into the complications of blended families, the realistic teen angst, and the swoon-worthy romance.  I recommend this book to readers who enjoy contemporary romances by authors like Sarah Dessen, Carolyn Mackler, and Sara Zarr.

Happy Reading!