Book Review | Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Aki and Christa are high schoolers who fall in like at first sight when their church groups join up in a small town to help with the construction of a new church. The girls sneak off in the evenings to make out with each other and deal with trying to hide their relationship by day. The book mainly addresses a teen coming to terms with her (bi)sexuality while on a summer youth group trip to Mexico, but also includes broader social issues within the context.

Our Own Private Universe keeps a decent pace and tells a story that holds the reader’s intrest. Some sections, especially that narrator’s internal monologue, are a bit repetitive. As a YA novel, it’s successful in its inclusion of diversity, budding sexuality, and melodrama. Adult readers may be put off by all of the characters lying to each other or the narrator’s tendency to blow things out of proportion. The book could serve as a good introduction to teens trying to orient themselves on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Check it out from a library near you.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

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Book Review | The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

hanging girl cover.jpgDuring Skye’s senior year of high school, a fellow classmate is kidnapped. After popular Paige goes missing, no one suspects tarot card reader Skye could be involved, which makes her the perfect choice of accomplice. Skye’s role is to feed tips to the police under the guise that she’s having visions about the crime. Problems arise when Paige doesn’t stick to their plans and Skye realizes she is in over her head.

As a young adult suspense mystery, The Hanging Girl is successful. The story is easy to follow and has enough plot twists to keep the reader guessing until the very end. Chapter breaks are frequent enough and the book’s length is appropriate. That said, the characters are difficult, in that they are rather unlikable, and the narrator is self-deprecating. Similes are overused and the writing style, at times, is a challenge. Readers who enjoy a book for its story that can overlook the stylistic annoyances will have a winner here. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of The Hanging Girl, may be interested in The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault (2017).

Book Review | The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

leaf reader cover.jpgProtagonist Marnie is not one of high school’s popular kids, but her hobby of tea leaf reading gets her involved with the in crowd after one of their own goes missing. Matt is attractive and popular, but something seems slightly off about him. As he searches for answers about his best friend’s disappearance, it’s unclear to Marnie whether he knows more than he’s letting on or has an ulterior motive. When Marnie begins having recurring dreams that involve her tea leaf readings and seeing images outside of the tea cups, she realizes she may be the only hope of solving the town’s mystery.

Definitely a YA book, The Leaf Reader was an enjoyable read. The writing is simple and straight-forward, with an easy to follow plot. The cast of characters is manageable, though somewhat flat. The mystery in this book is intriguing and certainly unpredictable. It’s a plot-driven, fast paced, quick and engaging read. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncopyedited edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The Leaf Reader, you may be interested in The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown (2017).

Book Review | Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt

rebels like usAgnes Murphy-Pujols has just been uprooted from her active life in Brooklyn halfway through her senior year in high school to move with her Irish mother to a small town in Georgia while her brother attends the Sorbonne and lives with their Dominican father in Paris. Feeling like she got the raw end of the deal, Agnes is equally pissed at her mother for “cheating on” her father, despite their separation, and stressed out at having to deal with fitting in at a new school. Luckily, her looks and fiery personality draw the interest of ultra-popular Doyle and they flirt their way through the semester. The book’s focus becomes more racial when Agnes finds out about her new school’s tradition of segregated proms and tries to create change.

At nearly 500 pages, Rebels Like Us is one of the longest YA books I’ve encountered. The writing is solid and the characters well developed. It’s likely to please those interested in a romance novel with a few tangents. While the book bills itself as focusing on racial issues, those really take a backseat to the relationship between Agnes and Doyle. That said, their courtship does not seem to be given adequate attention as an inter-racial relationship. Some important issues are broached, which could serve as a catalyst for thought in some young minds, but nothing new or earth shattering is really presented. A shorter length may have worked better for this piece, which is a bit slow to get going and does seem to go on for a while. The novel could actually work well as the basis for a film. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Rebels Like Us, you may be interested in The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras (2016).

Book Review | As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

As Red As Blood, the first book in Simukka’s ‘Snow White’ trilogy, is described as a Nordic noir thriller and has sold over a million copies internationally. In the vein of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the book features a young female protagonist who finds herself sleuthing in the Finnish world of organized crime. This undercover operation takes place after a few school mates of hers stumble on a bloody bag of money and plan to keep it, leading to her attempted kidnapping.

While this is a young adult book, it could certainly be enjoyed by adults. That said, expect it to be written for slightly younger readers in the sense that a few things seem overly explained or redundant. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the translation or how the original text reads. The story is interesting enough, though it does seem unrealistic at times and certain coincidences are a bit much. The flow of the writing and active plot keep the book flowing, though the protagonist is the only developed character. It’s a quick read with entertainment value and would work well for teens who appreciate edgy but aren’t really excited about reading, reluctant readers. There are already plans in place for the film series. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | The Best Possible Answer (YA) by E. Katherine Kottaras

Due to be released November 1, 2016, Kottaras has written a fine second YA novel in The Best Possible Answer. This book relays a challenging summer for protagonist Viviana, a high school junior dealing with some heavy stress. In addition to boy troubles, APs and SATs, Viviana is also dealing with some intense family issues, school humiliation and panic attacks. Aided by her best friend Sammie, Viviana does her best to work through her issues toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

Listed as “One of Barnes & Noble’s Most Anticipated Contemporary YAs of Fall 2016,” this book is unsurprisingly good. The story dives right in from the very beginning and continues to hold the reader’s attention. Chapter breaks are frequent and well placed. The main characters are rounded out enough and allow the plot to flow smoothly. For a YA book I would give it 4/5 stars and say it addresses most issues quite well and provides a positive outlook on difficult situations. While some books easily transfer to other audiences, this one is topically best suited for young adults or perhaps college students. Watch for it to come to a library near you in November!

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.