Category Archives: ARC

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!

Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen

unfoldingJonah has a terrible case of scoliosis.  He was supposed to have surgery to have his back straightened when he was a kid, but things never got that far.  He should have known better than to even take the trip out for the surgery, since Stormi warned them not to go and her premonitions always seem to come true.  It was just too tempting to think about being “normal,” though, so he went.  And while he sat in a group therapy session for kids like him who were scheduled to have surgeries at that hospital, he experienced his first seizure.  He and his father decided to head back home right away, since they didn’t want to take any more chances going against Stormi’s warning.  Ever since, both his back and his epileptic seizures have gotten progressively worse.  But he doesn’t blame Stormi.  He knows that she doesn’t make things happen; she just predicts them.  Gullary is a small town where everyone seems to know everyone and everything, so most people listen when Stormi gives a warning.  When one of those warnings is followed by the death of a classmate, nevertheless, some of the townspeople turn on her.  Jonah and Stormi run away, fall in love, and [very slowly] discover the dark secret the people of Gullary have been hiding for many years.  Though I enjoyed this unique paranormal mystery, I found that it was just a little slower to unfold than I would have liked.

Happy Reading!

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

WintersongLiesl remembers when she used to go into the woods as a child and play with Der Erlkönig [the Goblin King].  She found it strange that he kept asking for her hand in marriage since she was only a child, but he persisted.  As she grew older, she stopped traveling so often into the woods, but she still heard tales of the Der Erlkönig — especially from her grandmother, Constanze, who urged Liesl to respect the “old laws” so that she could keep herself safe as the Der Erlkönig searched for his eternal bride.  Though Leisl was primarily occupied with helping to run her family’s inn, she preferred to spend her spare time composing and playing music with her brother, Josef.  She didn’t give much thought to Der Erlkönig and his search for an eternal bride, but then her sister, Käthe, was kidnapped by goblins.  Suddenly, Leisl’s entire world was turned upside down — because Der Erlkönig had not only taken her sister away, but he had also clouded the minds of everyone around her.

As she struggled to get out of the house and search for her missing sister, the people around her, who didn’t know who this “Käthe” was, seemed to think Leisl had a mental breakdown.  Only Constanze could see through this illusion, but her family thought of *her* as an old woman who had lost her own grip on reality long ago.  Fortunately, she conspired to sneak Leisl out of the house so that she could find Der Erlkönig and negotiate for her sister’s safe return.  Though this book was set at the turn of the 19th century and Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest was set in modern times, it somehow made me think of that story.  (Maybe it’s because of the forest setting?  Don’t ask.  I have no idea how my mind works!)  All I know is that I recommend fans of Black’s work to check this out when it’s released in February.

Happy Reading!

The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker

delphi-effectAnna Morgan is able to communicate with the dead.  Or, to be more accurate, the dead are able to communicate with Anna Morgan.  This communication doesn’t require fancy summoning rituals like a séance or anything; the spirits of the dead can be found nearly everywhere and many of them compete for her attention on a regular basis.  Why?  Because they are hoping she will be able to help them complete some final task before they move on.  These mental hitchhikers have been accosting Anna since she was a small child.  In fact, when she was only a toddler, Anna was abandoned in a food court with a note — “This child is possessed.” — pinned to her clothing.  Anna has spent most of her life being shuffled between foster homes and psychiatric institutions because people just don’t know what to make of her.  But, luckily, she has found two people she can count on — her best friend, Deo, and her therapist, Dr. Kelsey.  Deo is the closest thing Anna has to family, and the two of them look out for one another no matter what.  Dr. Kelsey, on the other hand, has helped Anna to deal with her gift and to erect mental walls to contain or keep out spirits as necessary.  Talk about an invaluable skill!

Occasionally, Anna lets down her guard to help a spirit in need and Molly is one such case.  Anna doesn’t know the entire story, but she knows that Molly was a murder victim who wants Anna’s help bringing her killer to justice.  First, though, they need to get in touch with Molly’s grandfather and convince him that Anna is not just a scam artist looking for a payday.  Since he has contacts in law enforcement, he is the best possible person to contact… but he is also very skeptical, so Anna has her work cut out for her.  This book is a wild ride with plenty of action and mystery throughout, and it even has a dash of conspiracy theories thrown into the mix.  With some fairly graphic descriptions of violence, though, I feel compelled to forewarn anyone who might be squeamish.  If you enjoy murder mysteries like The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, though, you should definitely check this one out.

Happy Reading!

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

geekerellaElle Wittimer is a die-hard Starfield fan.  It only makes sense, since her father was so obsessed with the single-season cult classic.  (Think Firefly.)  He was such an über geek, in fact, that he was one of the founders of the geek convention known as ExcelsiCon.  Elle has kept in touch with the fandom online and even writes a Starfield blog, under the pseudonym Rebelgunner, but she hasn’t been back to the con since her father died.  Now that Starfield is getting a reboot as a major motion picture, though, she has a very good reason to attend — the winner of the cosplay will win tickets to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball (a dream of her father’s) and a meet-and-greet with the actor who plays Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot.  It’s just too bad the guy they picked to be Carmindor is the annoying teen “heartthrob” Darien Freeman…

Darien Freeman is an über geek in his own right, but no one really knows it.  When he was younger, he used to live for Starfield and events like ExcelsiCon… It was always his dream to play Carmindor.  But, he feels like a fake because he is seriously lacking in geeky “street-cred” now that he is so well-known for role on a popular teen show called Seaside Cove.  It would have been hard enough for anyone to step into that role after David Singh’s amazing portrayal, but the very vocal lack of confidence of the Starfield fans has Darien feeling even more rattled.  So much so that he doesn’t even want to make his appearance at ExcelsiCon.  If only the number he found to get in touch with the person responsible for running ExcelsiCon wasn’t wrong, he might have been able to talk his way out of attending.  At the very least, though, he has “met” a pretty cool girl who seems to love Starfield as much as he does.  And, as long as she doesn’t know who is really texting her, he is free to just be himself.  (Kinda ironic, right?!?)

This modern adaptation of the Cinderella story is simply amazing.  With a falling-in-love via text homage to You’ve Got Mail, and a true understanding of geek culture reminiscent of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, it’s a #mustread for hopeless romantic geeks like myself.  Aside from the story, by the way, I think I am seriously fangirling over Ashley Poston.  I already loved her for creating this story, but her acknowledgements hit me right in the feels:

Never give up on your dreams, and never let anyone tell you that what you love is inconsequential or useless or a waste of time.  Because if you love it? If that OTP or children’s card game or abridged series or YA book or animated series makes you happy? That is never a waste of time. Because in the end we’re all just a bunch of weirdos standing in front of other weirdos, asking for their username.

Happy Reading!