Category Archives: ARC

With Malice by Eileen Cook

with-maliceJill Charon can’t remember anything that happened in the past six weeks. When she first awakens from her coma, in fact, she is initially concerned that she is waking up with a terrible hangover and that her mother will find out she was drinking the night before. Imagine her shock, then, when she discovers that she is actually waking up in the ICU after a horrific car crash.  Jill is worried that her parents won’t let her take her scheduled trip to Europe now that she has a broken leg, but that’s not really a concern.  You see, she doesn’t need a speedy recovery to go to Europe because she already took the trip — and the car accident actually took place in Italy.  To make matters worse, her parents are acting very strangely and being weirdly quiet about the accident.  Why?  Because her best friend died in that accident… And many people believe that Jill purposely crashed the car. Will she ever be able to recover the memories she lost?  How will she be able to move on with her life if she never remembers?  And what if Jill *does* start to regain her memories only to uncover something she would rather not remember?

Happy Reading!

All the Feels by Danika Stone

all-the-feelsLiv didn’t just hate the end of the final Starveil movie… It ruined her life.  As far as Liv was concerned, Starveil *was* life, and the death of her favorite character (Spartan) might as well have been the death of a family member.  Her mom and her best friend, Xander, didn’t really understand, but at least the rest of the fandom got it.  For a while, Liv simply moped about and grieved.  But then she had some take-out Chinese food and was inspired by a fortune cookie — It’s up to you to make your happy ending.  All of the sudden, she knew what she had to do.  Armed with a new (anonymous) Twitter account and some awesome , Liv set out to inspire the fandom and to seek out “evidence” that #SpartanSurvived!

Since my husband is one of the biggest Star Wars fanboys around and had a majorly difficult time accepting what happened in Episode VII, I read the description and just *knew* I had to read this book.  Whether you are a fangirl/fanboy or simply know someone else who is, this geeky romance is sure to give you #AllTheFeels.

Happy Reading!

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

flawedCelestine North has always played by the rules. Perhaps that was why she never really thought too hard about the consequences for people who broke them.  I mean, just follow the rules and you don’t have to worry about facing any punishments, right?  In her society, people who break the rules are branded Flawed.  As in actually branded, with a branding iron!  And once they are branded, they are literally second-class citizens who have a different set of rules to live by.  While riding the bus one morning, Celestine finally comes face-to-face with a situation that makes her question everything she’s ever known.  A woman with an injured leg takes one of the Flawed seats on the bus because it affords her more leg room, and then her friend takes the only other Flawed seat to make it easier to converse.  Then an elderly Flawed man gets on the bus, and he is forced to stand.  As he nears collapse from a coughing fit, Celestine tries to help him… and all hell breaks loose.  She ends up on trial for aiding a Flawed person, which could lead to her own Flawed classification.  But how could showing a little human decency ruin her whole life?

Though we don’t actually brand people Flawed in America, I think there are definitely plenty of situations in which Americans turn a blind eye to suffering and persecution under the mistaken impression that those people somehow deserve or earned their lot in life.  I think this would be a fantastic book to read to start a discussion about empathy and the ways people can change their views of “other” people.

Happy Reading!

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

you-were-hereHigh school graduation is often a time filled with celebration and excitement.  For Jaycee, though, graduation day dredges up feelings of anxiety and depression.  Why?  Because her older brother, Jake, died on his own graduation day.  Jaycee doesn’t know how to handle the fact that she will now, officially, be older than Jake ever was.  Though his death came as the result of a daredevil stunt gone wrong, Jaycee finds comfort in emulating his behavior.  Instead of seeing Jake’s death as a warning to be more careful, she finds herself repeating his stunts in an attempt to channel his spirit.  Jaycee expected to take this journey alone, but she ended up with a motley crew of [former?] friends who also needed to make their peace with Jake’s death.  Guided by Jake’s urban exploring journal, Jaycee followed both literally and figuratively in his footsteps and finally discovered that it’s possible to let go of grief without letting go of her loving memories.

I appreciated getting parts of the story directly from the perspectives of different characters, like Jaycee’s childhood BFF Natalie.  But, more than that, I enjoyed the different storytelling techniques that were employed — like the pictures of the poems Bishop crafted in his sketches and graffiti or the graphic novel panels that told the story of Mik, who refused to speak aloud but whose actions spoke for him.  McCarthy did a fabulous job of showing how the death of a loved one can alternately tear us apart and build us up stronger than before.  I recommend this story to readers who enjoyed See You at Harry’s and Before You Go.

Happy Reading!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

salt-to-the-seaI couldn’t believe how shocked I was when I read Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray.  I mean, I had taken a world history class with “in depth” unit about WWII and didn’t really know much of anything about what Stalin had done — nor had I even heard of the [Soviet] Holodomor (roughly translated to “death by hunger”) that rivaled the well-known [German] Holocaust.  After reading Between Shades of Gray, though, I felt like I had a much better grasp of WWII history…  And then I read this book.  How is it that there is yet another major piece of WWII history that has flown under the radar for so long?!?

Before reading Salt to the Sea, I had never even heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  I was stupefied to learn that OVER NINE THOUSAND people died in this tragedy.  Prior to reading this book, I would have been willing to bet that the Titanic and the Lusitania were the two largest maritime tragedies of all time.  Even when you combine the death tolls of those two ships, nevertheless, they only account for about a third of the losses of the Gustloff.  I wish American ethnocentrism didn’t extend to history classrooms in which *world* history is being taught, but it seems pretty evident to me that the anti-Germany sentiment surrounding WWII and the lack of American passengers aboard the ship have both contributed to a lack of American attention.  People from all walks of life [civilians, refugees, and soldiers] and of all ages [from babies to senior citizens] were aboard that ship.  It was a tragedy of unbelievable proportions.

Thank goodness Ruta Sepetys!  With her well-developed characters and gripping plots, Sepetys is providing readers with compelling stories that will also spread awareness of these previously unknown tragedies.  Who knows?  Maybe her books will even lead to better coverage in future history textbooks and classes.  I can only hope that the multiple points of view provided by this particular story will resonate with readers and finally bring much-deserved American attention to the great number of lives that were lost in the Baltic Sea [almost exactly] 71 years ago.

Happy Reading!

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

23354047[1]It’s really hard to put a label on this story.  On one hand, this is a quirky story about a girl who is new to town and trying to figure out how she might fit in.  On the other hand, it’s a mystery/crime novel in which a teenager thinks he might be able to prove a link between the kidnapping of a local girl and his own sister’s disappearance almost a decade ago. When the girl [Zoe] first meets the boy [Digby], it seems they might never get along.  After all, Zoe is just kinda bored and trying to take everything in, while Digby’s a bit manic and often acts without thinking things all the way through.  Digby frequently speaks his mind, to the extent that some people might find him rude, but I think Zoe found it rather endearing.  After all, she didn’t *have* to join him in all of his crazy adventures… but she just couldn’t quite find a reason to say no.

Some people might think this book is a little too cliche, but I really enjoyed it.  The fast-paced action and laugh-out-loud dialogue simply worked for me.  Though the plot is nowhere near the same, I thought this book read a lot like Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick.  Maybe it’s because it starts off in the middle of the insanity and then brings you back to the beginning to show how it all started?  Maybe it’s because one character is just so over-the-top and the other is so straight-laced it’s hard to believe they could end up working together?  I can’t say for sure exactly what it was, but I am happy to report that I absolutely LOVED it!  This would be a really fun book to read during the school break next week.  Last minute Christmas gift, anyone?!?

Happy Reading!

How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

how-to-be-braveIf you look back over my reviews through the years, you will notice quite a bit of doom and gloom — dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic/survival stories, and realistic/depressing novels tend to be my bread and butter.  I have found that reading and/or listening to too many depressing stories in a row can actually affect my mood, though, so it’s nice to throw a story like this into the mix.  While it had enough to satisfy my strange cravings for doom and gloom, this book left me with an overall feeling of hope.  Georgia was a great example of the fact that, while we can’t control what happens to us, we absolutely have control over the way we react to our circumstances.

Though Georgia was reeling from the loss of her mother, she was also determined to follow her mother’s final advice to “be brave.”  For Georgia, that meant creating a list of fifteen things she wanted to accomplish — like approaching the boy she had secretly been crushing on.  In the context of her mother’s recent passing, one could easily call it a bucket list.  I preferred Georgia’s take, nevertheless, that this was not a list of things to do before she died so much as a list of things to do so that she could truly live.  And while I certainly don’t wish my mother had died while I was in high school, I do wish that I had had the epiphany to stop caring so much what other people thought and to simply focus on living life to the fullest before I reached my 30s.  Granted, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had come out of my shell sooner… but I lament the time I wasted on caring what everyone else thought when my choices would only, ultimately, effect me.

Happy Reading!