Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher | Book Review

Posted January 18, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher | Book ReviewStolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher
Published by Chicken House on May 4, 2009
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen-year-old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist--almost.

I’ve always had a weird fascination with kidnapping stories. I enjoy reading the stories of the survivors because I find them to be hopeful and inspiring. I sometimes get bogged down in my own life and forget to be thankful for what I do have. These stories remind me that I’m safe and I’m loved. And if these victims can survive and bring good from their experience (I’m thinking of people like Elizabeth Smart), then I can survive my own life too. Stolen really made me think, and I think that that’s what I loved most about it.

Stolen is a very unique take on the typical kidnapping/crime novel. The entire book is written as a letter from Gemma to her captor after her rescue, and I loved that about it. She actually talks to him, telling him her entire story as if he wasn’t there. We get to read her thoughts and her interpretations and her feelings about everything that happened while they were together in the Australian Outback. We know exactly how everything impacted her, and we get to see the evolution of her going from fight mode to complacency mode to sympathetic mode. We get to watch her as she goes from hating him with everything she had to almost loving him. I’ll admit, it even happened to me. I had to get real with myself and say, “Jana… he kidnapped her. He isolated her. He took away her freedom. Why are you hoping a romance blooms? That’s nuts!” And it is nuts! What Ty did to her was wrong, awful, traumatizing, despicable. I was frustrated with myself for falling into the same kind of trance Gemma did. It was all very real and emotional and so beautifully written. This book was real enough and sneaky enough to make me develop a little Stockholm Syndrome with her. If I didn’t believe that words had power before, I do now.

I don’t want to say much more, as this is a book you truly need to read and take in on your own in order to really understand it. I think it’s important to note, however, that Ty did nothing of a sexual nature to Gemma. There’s no rape, no sexual abuse, not even any touching. I know this happens more often than not in real life stories like Stolen, and that many captives are not a fraction as lucky as Gemma is. This would have been way too upsetting for me to read, though, so I am grateful that this was not a part of Gemma’s story.

All in all, this is a powerful, beautiful, emotionally confusing and enthralling read. I can see why it is recognized as a Printz honor book. It’s unique and really makes you think. I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone.

5 Stars

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Mini Book Review

Posted January 15, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Mini Book ReviewMr. Kiss and Tell by Jennifer Graham, Rob Thomas
Series: Veronica Mars #2
Published by Vintage Books on January 20, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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4 Stars

The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman's story.

The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?

In my raving review of The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line I explained how much I love Veronica Mars. And I’m going to pretty much ditto everything I said there in this review (so maybe go read that review as well?). Mr. Kiss and Tell is another great Veronica Mars mystery novel, although I did not love the mystery as much as I did the first one (although it’s very close to Veronica’s heart because of her own past). But that’s ok because Veronica and Logan!!! He wasn’t really around in the first book, save for some Skype calls (he’s in the military), but he’s here now and he brought all of wit and banter with him! This is what we marshmallows have been waiting for.

I don’t have much else to say because I don’t want to take away from anyone’s reading experience. I TOTALLY recommend this book and the first to fans of Veronica Mars.

4 Stars

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Book Review

Posted January 12, 2018 by Jana in About Me, Book Review / 10 Comments

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham | Book ReviewThe Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Jennifer Graham, Rob Thomas
Series: Veronica Mars #1
Published by Vintage Books on March 25, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 324
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She's traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it's spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is not a simple missing person's case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica's past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

I absolutely love Veronica Mars. I discovered the TV show a few years ago when my friend, Jess, sent me the complete DVD set as a gift after finding out I’d never seen it. And a huge fan was born! Even though I knew the TV series would end, I was still soooo sad when it did. Then I discovered that the writers of the show also wrote two books and I was elated. I was not disappointed. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. This book is definitely a gift to Veronica Mars fans. I’m sure you’d enjoy reading it if you’ve never seen the show, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to. This book takes place years after the series and the movie, so it really goes without saying that you’ll be happier and love it more if you watch all of those first.

2. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line reads like an episode of the show, and I LOVED that about it. Veronica’s inner monologues are still golden. Her snark is perfection. I was all smiles.

3. Veronica is back in Neptune, and so are all of our favorite characters (Mac) and not-so favorite characters (Sheriff Lamb).

4. The mystery is actually really amazing. I was invested not just because I love the characters and the world, but because I was legitimately curious about how the mystery of the missing girl would be solved. It was exciting and filled with twists and turns.

5. The writing was awesome. There’s a lot of books out there that serve as sequels of or extensions to TV shows or movies, and I can’t imagine that any of them were as well done or pleasant to read. Nothing was missing for me. I wasn’t wishing I was watching it instead of reading it. I just loved it, and that seems crazy to me!

Overall, if you loved the show you will love this book and then re-watch the TV series as soon as you’ve finished it. I loved being back in Neptune with the gang, tagging along on one of their cases again.

5 Stars

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano | Mini Book Review

Posted November 30, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 0 Comments

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano | Mini Book ReviewLost Girls by Merrie Destefano
Published by Entangled Teen on February 14, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 301
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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0.5 Stars

Yesterday, Rachel went to sleep listening to Taylor Swift, curled up in her grammy’s quilt, worrying about geometry. Today, she woke up in a ditch, bloodied, bruised, and missing a year of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the person she’s become: she’s popular. She wears nothing but black.

Black to cover the blood.

And she can fight.

Tell no one.

She’s not the only girl to go missing within the last year…but she’s the only girl to come back. She desperately wants to unravel what happened to her, to try and recover the rest of the Lost Girls.

But the more she discovers, the more her memories return. And as much as her new life scares her, it calls to her. Seductively. The good girl gone bad, sex, drugs, and raves, and something darker…something she still craves—the rush of the fight, the thrill of the win—something she can’t resist, that might still get her killed…

The only rule is: There are no rules.

So… This book sounded good. It really did. But I HATED it. I was excited to find out where these “lost girls” went, but as soon as I did (which happens quickly) I was like, “well crap.”. Seriously. This is not good. I have so little to say about this book. It was uninteresting, dark, unbelievable, farfetched, and so slow. I have so little to say that normally I wouldn’t even write a review. But I felt like I needed to warn those who are at risk of being swindled by the book’s synopsis like I was. Major spoiler ahead, so proceed at your own risk.

The lost girls? They’re kidnapped and forced into a teen underground fighting ring. If they’re good, they move to platinum level where they are sold and rape is implied. They’re drugged and abused and it’s awful. The book has so much depressing content, with absolutely no redeeming qualities.

You’ve been warned. Run away. Run far away.

 

0.5 Stars

Dangerous Boy by Mandy Hubbard | Mini Book Review

Posted November 13, 2017 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Dangerous Boy by Mandy Hubbard | Mini Book ReviewDangerous Boy by Mandy Hubbard
Published by Razorbill on September 4, 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Retelling
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
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2.5 Stars

A modern-day retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a chilling twist

Harper has never been worried about falling in love, something she is skeptical even exists. But everything changes when Logan moves to town, and to Harper's shock, the two tumble into an intense romance. It's everything she never thought she wanted.

Then she meets Logan's twin brother, Caleb, who was expelled from his last school. True, he's a bad boy, but Harper can't shake the feeling that there's something deeply sinister about him--something dangerous. When Logan starts pulling away, Harper is convinced that Caleb's shadowy past is the wedge being driven between them. But by the time she uncovers the truth, it may be too late.

The author of Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, and Ripple delivers a modern-day retelling of a famously gothic tale, full of suspense, lies, and romance.

This review is incredibly tiny because I don’t have much to say. I was very disappointed in what could have been an amazing book. Mandy’s writing was great, and her storytelling was wonderful. But the publisher did readers a huge disservice by telling us that this is a Jekyll and Hyde retelling. That’s a major spoiler, and it made me far less intrigued and curious. I knew what was going to happen before I even opened the book, and I was right on the money. This could have been very exciting and suspenseful, but all I could do was roll my eyes at the dumb decisions Harper made.

2.5 Stars

Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz | Mini Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted October 19, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz | Mini Book Review (+ Giveaway)Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by Disney Hyperion on October 18, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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3 Stars

THE FACTS
• Julian Roman, age sixteen, is an escapee from the Fairmount County Juvenile Detention Facility.
• His parents, Michael Roman and Jennifer Roman, are dead.
• Julian is wanted for murder.

THE QUESTIONS
• Why is Julian Roman on the run?
• Just how dangerous is he?
• And who did kill Michael and Jennifer Roman, if not Julian?

Seventeen-year-old Day Baker views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she pictures and the truths she believes-neatly captured in black and white-begin to blur.

Julian is not the "armed and dangerous" escapee the police are searching for, but his alibis don't quite add up, either. There is more to his story. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture . . . whatever it reveals. Did he? Or didn't he?

Day digs deeper into the case while Julian remains on the run. But the longer her list of facts becomes, the longer the list of questions becomes, too. It's also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels for him. Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

Laurie Faria Stolarz is a master of suspense and romance. In this page-turning thriller, Stolarz tackles dark truths with a powerful, contemporary voice. Shutter will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Welcome to my stop along the Shutter blog tour, hosted by the Irish Banana Review! Doesn’t the book synopsis sound awesome? I was totally on board as soon as I read about it, as I love reading mystery-type books in October. Shutter takes place during the exact same time of year as I read it, which I thought was a lot of fun. It got me so excited for fall and colder weather. I love this time of year, and the author did a great job of really capturing the season.

I liked Day a lot. Her obsession with photography was unique and fun to read about. I saw a lot of myself in her. I’ve always had an artistic outlet in my life, so I understood her passion and desire to always keep it close to her heart. I also understood her desire to help Julian. I would have wanted to do the same thing, especially since Julian is such a nice guy. I actually found him to be more interesting to read about, though. The chapters alternate between Day’s narration and Julian’s journal entries, and I liked getting more insight into Julian’s past and how he got to where he was even though some of it was very heartbreaking. He had a horrible family life as a child, and I really felt for him.

The story itself was very interesting, but not as mystery/thrillery as I expected it to be. I wasn’t biting my nails or wishing I could sleep with the lights on. It was a slower, more controlled mystery. Day goes on a hunt for the truth while hiding Julian in her barn in the backyard. It enjoyed reading his story and what other people had to say about him. His story never quite added up, so I wasn’t really sure I could trust him… and I wanted to slap Day for being SO trusting. He’s a wanted murder suspect! I could have done without the romance… I liked the story more before that happened, but it did add a complicated layer to things and that’s always entertaining. I was definitely eager to get to the end to see how everything turned out.

If you’re in the mood for a whodunit with a Nancy Drew-type detective, some heavier subject matter and a good dose of autumn, give this book a try!


About Laurie Faria Stolarz

Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston. 

Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author of young adult fiction novels, best known for her Blue is for Nightmares series. Her works, which feature teenage protagonists, blend elements found in mystery and romance novels.

Stolarz found sales success with her first novel, Blue is for Nightmares, and followed it up with three more titles in the series, White is for Magic, Silver is for Secrets, and Red is for Remembrance, as well as a companion graphic novel, Black is for Beginnings. Stolarz is also the author of the Touch series (Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, and Deadly Little Lessons), as well as Bleed and Project 17. With more than two million books sold worldwide, Stolarz’s titles have been named on various awards list.

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Tour Schedule:

10/10: Pretty Deadly Reviews – Review
10/11: The Irish Banana Review – Q&A
10/12: A Writer Named Charley – Review
10/13: Novelgossip – Guest Post
10/14: The Worn Bookmark – Review
10/17: Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Review
10/18: Bibliobuli YA – Guest Post
10/19: That Artsy Reader Girl – Review
10/20: In Wonderland – Top 10
10/21: Stuck In Books – Review

3 Stars

Frayed by Kara Terzis | Debut Author Book Review + Giveaway

Posted June 30, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 2 Comments

Frayed by Kara Terzis | Debut Author Book Review + Giveaway

Frayed by Kara Terzis | Debut Author Book Review + GiveawayFrayed by Kara Terzis
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on June 7, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Dear Kesley,

My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system and onto paper. I tell her it's a stupid idea.

But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. Where do I start? Where did our story begin? From the moment you were born...or died?

I'll start with the moment I found out the truth about you. Your lies and my pain. Because it always begins and ends with you.
And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town...

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister's killer...although she'll wish she hadn't. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley's murderer could be much closer than she thought...

A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, Frayed is a psychological whodunit that will keep you guessing!

Welcome to my stop along the blog tour for Kara Terzis’s debut novel, Frayed, hosted by The Irish Banana Review! I’m happy to be reviewing this creepy mystery today, and I’ll be keeping it very vague so as not to spoil anything for you. I find that it’s SO much easier to do that with mysteries than any other genre, so I’m keeping things short and sweet. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The synopsis claims that the novel will keep you guessing, and this definitely rang true for me. As the readers learns more about the circumstances surrounding Kesley’s life and death, they are continually adding and erasing people from the list of who they can trust. I was constantly suspecting that everyone did it… except the person who actually did. I read a lot of mysteries, and I’m happy when an author figures out how to keep me from figuring things out on my own.

2. We find out right off the bat (again, from the synopsis) that Ava is not doing too well with losing Kesley. She’s in therapy, and sections of the book contain pieces of the letter that her therapist suggests she write to Kesley. I found that reading these excerpts really added to the story. They give the reader a more detailed look at the troubling relationship these two sisters had, and that intensified the creep factor for me. Really, nobody in this book has their head on 100% straight, but these girls had a very toxic relationship beneath the surface.

3. I never grew to like any of the characters, so I had a bit of a tricky time caring or feeling sympathetic, especially towards Ava. Sure, I felt bad for her for the pain she was going through. But that was pretty much it. Each character gave me an uneasy, uncomfortable feeling so I never connected with anyone. I think that was kind of the point of the story, though, and it added to the mystery for me.

4. Frayed is very dark and depressing, so I was surprised to find that I didn’t ever feel like I had this weight of doom on my shoulders. I hate depressing, sad books… especially when characters are reeling from the death of a loved one. I was so curious that I never felt depressed, and I thank the author for treating the story that way.

5. The ending was great. I was completely surprised and had no idea things were going to go down like they did. Either I missed the foreshadowing completely, or there wasn’t any there. While I would have enjoyed a few more hints, the author’s choice to completely keep me in the dark made the ending that much more insane. It wasn’t the typical mystery novel climax, and that was refreshing.

All in all, Frayed was an enjoyable, intriguing mystery that threw me for a loop with its very unpredictable ending. I’ll be keeping an eye on Kara, and hope she continues writing books for us.


About Kara

Kara Terzis was twelve when she wrote her first novel, and hasn’t stopped writing since. Later she started publishing her work on Wattpad, where in 2013 she won the Sourcebooks Story Development Prize, leading to the publication of her debut novel, Frayed. She adores fairy tales, photography, rainy days, and film soundtracks. When she’s not writing, you can find her buried in a good book and daydreaming. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.

Her debut novel–FRAYED–will be out from Sourcebooks Fire on June 7th, 2016.

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Tour Schedule:

6/27: Here’s the Happy Endings – Q&A
6/28: Novel Ink – Letter to a Lost Loved One
6/29: Live to Read – Review
6/30: That Artsy Reader Girl – Review
7/1: With Love For Books – Review
7/4: Lekeisha the Booknerd – Dream Cast
7/5: Reading Is Better With Cupcakes – Review
7/6: One Night Book Stand – Top 10
7/7: Rebel Mommy Book Blog – Review
7/8: Just Commonly – Guest Post

3 Stars

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando | Boldly Bookish Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted June 22, 2016 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 5 Comments

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando | Boldly Bookish Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando | Boldly Bookish Blog Tour Book Review (+ Giveaway)The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on June 7, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back--with no idea of where they've been.

Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story.

Welcome to my stop along Bloomsbury’s Boldly Bookish blog tour, hosted by The Irish Banana Review! It’s week three of the tour, which means it’s all about Tara Altebrando’s The Leaving. This book is crazy and weird and intriguing and I’m excited to review it today! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I’ve always been a huge fan of mysteries involving missing persons and amnesia, and this book treats the topic differently than I’ve ever experienced. Six small children disappear from school one day, and five of them return eleven years later with no memories. At all. They remember snippets of life before “the leaving”, and they have small flashes of what happened while they were gone. For the most part, though, they have forgotten the last eleven years of their lives. What’s crazy is that they are very well educated and are able to transition into their proper grade level with ease after their return. They seem to have been well taken care of. So what happened? And where were they? And why can’t they answer these questions themselves? I was intrigued immediately.

2. The mystery is super unique because all five of these teens (and some family members of theirs) are working with the police and hypnotists and therapists and specialists to try to piece together the past. But nothing is really working. The flashes of memories that I mentioned before continually occur, and these teens are getting more and more confused because they don’t make sense. But this confusion causes them to vigorously search for answers, putting themselves in danger in the process. They don’t know who to trust, and as more information surfaces the reader is left possibly more clueless than the characters. It’s quite a page turner of a book!

3. The story is told in alternating perspectives by three narrators: two of the teens and the sister of the boy who never made it home. This is a really tricky thing to do, and Altebrando did a great job of giving each narrator a recognizable voice. For example, one of the narrators is a little bit crazier… or eccentric? Or maybe she is just not handling things well and is spiraling out of control. Some of her words and sentences made weird designs or were written backwards, and I thought that formatting was a cool touch and gave us more insight into how she was feeling. There were other unique formatting details, but I can tell from reading other early reviews that they did not transfer properly to my eARC.

4. I do wish all five of the returned teens got chapters to tell their thoughts. I would have liked to understand them better. Perhaps that would’ve made things too hard to keep track of, but what’s the point of having four more kids if they don’t contribute to the solving of the mystery?

5. There is some romance that I wish hadn’t been there. I was more focused on learning the why’s and how’s and the romance took me out of that mindset.

6. The suspense was palpable. Practically every chapter ended on a cliffhanger that was not resolved or even addressed until that specific narrator had their turn to talk again. I was just SO curious that I read this book in record time, flying from narrator to narrator and wanting more details and more answers. Altebrando knows what it takes to keep a reader up reading instead of sleeping.

7. The ending was a little anticlimactic and some of the answers went in a direction that almost completely switched the genre of the story. It was a surprise for sure, but I guess I hoped the story would end with more of a bang.

8. I had it all wrong. I thought I knew what was going on, but I was wrong. And that’s a good thing.

Despite my few qualms, I’ve come away from this story with an overall favorable opinion of it. I can’t give many specifics of why I liked it because I’ll end up spoiling things,which is why this review is vague and lukewarm. I was throughly entertained, and Altebrando pulled me out of a reading slump I didn’t know I was in! The unique storyline had me intrigued to the very end, and I enjoyed the ride. I haven’t read a book this fast in years. I’d definitely recommend it to people who are looking for a spin on the normal YA contemporary mysteries. There are twists and turns and details you won’t see coming!


About Tara

Tara Altebrando is the author of numerous books for young adult and middle-grade readers. Her upcoming book, THE LEAVING (Bloomsbury), is a YA thriller that received a starred PW review and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Her other YA novels include ROOMIES, coauthored with Sara Zarr; Dreamland Social Club (A Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens), The Best Night of (Your) Pathetic Life, What Happens Here, and The Pursuit of Happiness.

Tara is a Harvard graduate who lives in Queens, NY, with her husband and children.

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Tour Schedule:

Week 1 – BREAK ME LIKE A PROMISE by Tiffany Schmidt
6/6: Pretty Deadly Reviews – Review
6/7: The Young Folks – Q&A
6/8: Swoony Boys Podcast – Character Interview
6/9: In Wonderland – Review
6/10: Jenuine Cupcakes – Guest Post

Week 2 – THE LONG GAME by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
6/13: Beauty and the Bookshelf – Guest Post
6/14: YA Bibliophile – Review
6/15: Such A Novel Idea – Playlist
6/16: The Cover Contessa – Q&A
6/17: Avid Reader – Review

Week 3 – THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando
6/20: Once Upon A Twilight – Guest Post
6/21: Literary Lover – Review
6/22: That Artsy Reader Girl – Review
6/23: Novel Ink – Q&A
6/24: The Irish Banana Review – Top 10

3 Stars

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book Review

Posted July 10, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 0 Comments

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells | Book ReviewGirl Underwater by Claire Kells
Published by Dutton Adult on March 31, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Survival
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4 Stars

An adventurous debut novel that cross cuts between a competitive college swimmer’s harrowing days in the Rocky Mountains after a major airline disaster and her recovery supported by the two men who love her—only one of whom knows what really happened in the wilderness.

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but.

I love survival books and plane crash books (wow… does that sound insensitive!? Haha!). I love the excitement and survival instincts they bring out in our characters. Girl Underwater had been on my radar for quite some time, so I jumped on it as soon as I could. While it was not what I expected, I ended up really enjoying it anyway! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I know this has nothing to do with the story or the author, but Tracey Garvis-Graves, my favorite author ever, blurbed this book. She wrote the ultimate survival love story of our time (On the Island), so if she thinks that Girl Underwater is, “a powerful love story embedded in an action-packed tale of survival” then I’m going to be all over it. Her endorsement is a huge selling point for me.

2. I felt a little disconnected from the story. The plane crash and the beginning really hooked me, and then the story alternates back and forth between the snowy dangers of the Rocky Mountains and the realities that occurred after Avery’s rescue. I was disappointed in the fact that we knew right from chapter two that Avery makes it home. It kind of took away feelings of suspense or discomfort, and I was not on the edge of my seat as often as I could have been. I also hated being ripped out of the mountains to read about her life after her rescue. I wanted most of the book to take place on that mountain, with maybe some of the aftermath in the ending chapters or an epilogue. That’s what I mean when I say the book was not expecting. But once I got passed the fact that my expectations were inaccurate, I was able to enjoy the book for what it was.

3. I was expecting a survival story, but what I ended up getting was what happens in the aftermath of surviving. It’s a story about surviving life after you survive a disaster. We read a lot about Avery’s attempts to deal with her PTSD and her efforts to pick up where she left off the moment her plane went down. It was a very powerful, yet sometimes depressing, portrayal of someone who has gone through the unthinkable. You do not get this in books (or news stories) often, so I did appreciate the added details that are usually left behind the scenes.

4. I really loved the characters. Avery is strong in the mountains, and she is strong after she returns home. She was strong in two different ways, though. On the mountain she was strong for Colin and the three little boys she was stranded with. She did everything in her power for them, even if it meant risking her life. When she was back at home, she finally had to focus on herself. She had to be strong for herself, and that is oftentimes the hardest thing to do. I loved Colin so much. He’s the typical gentleman, who was concerned. He was also so swoony to me the way he treated those little boys. And the boys were very sweet and lovable.

5. There were so many feelings and emotions. It was quite a roller coaster, but I ended up really loving and appreciating that about the book. Girl Underwater acted as more than entertainment. I learned a lot about what goes through the mind of a PTSD victim, and I got to see what I think was a very accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be recognized in public for something you’d like to forget ever happened to you. I really felt for Avery. Moving on is hard when the media and your friends keep pulling you back to such a painful event.

6. I loved watching Avery learn to cope. And I loved watching her come to terms with her life and embrace the good parts of it, even if they make her remember the bad times. She never gave up on herself.

7. The romance was not the focus of the book by any means, but it was an underlying factor. I couldn’t help but hope for the best, and I was very happy with how things turned out for everyone involved. It was real, not ideal. And it was beautiful.

Overall, this book reminded me of how much I love reviewing books. I went into this wanting one thing, and the author gave me something I needed instead. I really loved reading about Avery’s and Colin’s stories, and I loved watching their lives change shapes as a result of what happened to them. I think this book would appeal to anyone. It definitely has young adult/new adult/adult crossover appeal, and it has a little but of everything for everyone. Highly recommended.

4 Stars

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller | Mini Book Review

Posted June 5, 2015 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller | Mini Book ReviewThe Devil You Know by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on June 2, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Mail)
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4.5 Stars

Eighteen-year-old Arcadia wants adventure. Living in a tiny Florida town with her dad and four-year-old brother, Cadie spends most of her time working, going to school, and taking care of her family. So when she meets two handsome cousins at a campfire party, she finally has a chance for fun. They invite her and friend to join them on a road trip, and it's just the risk she's been craving-the opportunity to escape. But what starts out as a fun, sexy journey quickly becomes dangerous when she discovers that one of them is not at all who he claims to be. One of them has deadly intentions.

A road trip fling turns terrifying in this contemporary story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

I gobble up mysteries and thrillers like the best of ’em, so I was all over The Devil You Know as soon as it arrived on my doorstep! Road trip + mystery + suspense + a little romantical intrigue and I was sold. And honestly, I loved it! I read it in one day because I was so creeped out that I worried I would not be able to sleep if I did not read the resolution and the wind-down of the story. The Devil You Know was exhilarating and refreshing and reminded me why I love reading so much.

Cadie, in an almost rebellion against her typical life and her typical self, daringly sets out on a road trip with two total strangers, doing many stupid and reckless things along the way. How could she NOT expect to end up in a boat load of trouble, unsure about who to trust? I mean… oh the scary. I kept wanting to tell her to stop! Go home! But the thing is, teens do this. Teen Jana NEVER would have, but I know teens who have done things like this, so I believed everything even though I was so flabbergasted that it was happening. I can only describe it as watching a train speed towards the end of the track with nobody in control. You know something is going to happen and you can’t do anything about it. This is the kind of thriller I love! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

This is my first book by Trish Doller, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of hers. I loved her writing style in this story, and her ability to completely transport you to the scene at hand. No matter what was going on in the story I was on pins and needles. There is this underlying feeling of discomfort that envelopes you from beginning to end, which is why I honestly could not stop until things were over. The characters are not the most important part of the story, and that shows. And it’s fine. Trish really focuses on feelings and settings and events more than the people involved, which actually made me feel even more nervous. The boys are both mysteries, and Cadie is a normal girl that I think most readers can relate to in some way or another. I felt like I was Cadie, and that I was the one in danger. The entire story is incredibly well done, and I continually think about it even though I finished it months ago. I really hope Trish writes more thrillers!

 

4.5 Stars