All About Books

All About Books

My passion is reading, I especially enjoy children's, young adult, fantasy, science fiction and realistic fiction-but read a wide range of genres.

4 Stars
A Home for Abigail
A Home for Abigail - S. Marriott Cook
Loved it!

A Home for Abigail is a beautifully written and illustrated story about a dog who tries to find her place in a forever home. From the kid-friendly lessons about spay/neuter and microchipping told from the animals’ perspectives, to the charm the animals’ personalities add to the story, this is a must read for anyone who has enjoyed the companionship of a pet.

Heartwarming and memorable, A Home for Abigail will have you laughing in some parts while tearing up in others, and it will be a truly treasured book in any collection.

4 Stars
Spy Camp (Spy School)
Spy Camp (Spy School) - Stuart Gibbs
Excellent follow up to Spy School. I thought it was the perfect combination of humor and adventure. Gibbs did an excellent job of plot pacing and character development. Loved the addition of a few new characters. Ben, the main character, is quickly becoming a favorite.

In this installment Ben and his friends at Spy School find out they don't have the summer off but get to attend a CIA run spy camp that for Ben is like a nightmare. In the meantime Ben gets an ultimatum from the bad guys in SPYDER to join them or die.

4 Stars
Split Second
Split Second - Sophie McKenzie
***I received the eBook free as a review copy from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review***

Sophie McKenzie has an amazing talent for writing action packed YA thrillers that are simply impossible to put down. Split Second was no exception.

There was a high level of dystopian content which was done well, in that you weren’t bogged down with endless details at the very beginning. It was partly due to the fact it closely resembled the world we live in today but where society has changed drastically as a response to budget cuts and unemployment. You could clearly see the parallels, which was interesting; but I didn’t get the sense that the book was designed to make you think about your own life, any more than it was a story to enjoy.

It’s told through a dual narrative with Charlie and Nat as the main protagonists and narrators. Both characters were very different, but their strengths complimented the others weaknesses. I particularly loved Charlie’s bad-ass character, though it didn’t stop her getting into a few close scrapes…

There were so many twists and turns with regards to just about everything, it was hard to keep up so if that’s your type of thing (like it is mine) you should definitely pick this book up!
4 Stars
Spy School
Spy School - Stuart Gibbs
My cards on the table: Stuart Gibbs' Spy School is a lot of fun. It's a fun read and even though its target audience is children 8 to 12, there's enough there to interest adults.

Spy School is the story of Benjamin Ripley, a 12 year old boy who has a knack at math. He is visited by a secret agent who invites Ben to join the CIA Academy of Espionage. He excitedly accepts and his parents approve his attending an elite "science school" across the river in Washington DC. From the moment he enter the campus main building, Ben is the target of ninjas, secret agents, double agents, and kids looking for a hacker to dole out good grades. Ben soon learns that he isn't so much spy material as he is bait, to hopefully reveal a mole in the school's community.

Gibbs packs oodles of spy references amongst a colorful band of teenage characters. The main characters are fleshed out well, while the supporting cast fill in the mise-en-scene nicely. The story is set at a brisk pace and keeps the plot concise and focused, without too much in the way of layering subplots. After all, this story is aimed at the pre-teen reader.

I think the one aspect of the story that caught me off guard was the spy references that I felt would be beyond the young reader. For example, at one point, when Ben is labeled a "Fleming" it's meant to refer to his belief in the spy ideal within popular culture - James Bond. Now, I know that James Bond is pervasive in our cultural fabric, even at a teen level, however it is not often that Ian Fleming's name is brought up as being associated with James Bond. It's not like the new film trailers say "James Bond, the Ian Fleming created British Secret Agent" in the movie's tagline. I feel led to believe that this and others I found sprinkled throughout the book are more for the enjoyment of the adult reader who may be reading the story to their child.

Gibbs has written two more novels in this series: Spy Camp and Evil Spy School.
4 Stars
Promposal - Rhonda Helms
Promposal is one of those books that just sucks you in because it is so damn adorable. I went into this book knowing nothing about the author or the book itself. I just like fun romantic reads and this seemed like a good choice, and I was right. This was a very fast read, I finished it in one sitting.

I really loved the authenticity of the plot and its characters. I loved that the high school setting felt real and genuine, something that can be hard to do in this genre. I think my favorite part of this story was that we got two different POVs, Josh and Camilla. I liked reading these two stories because even though they are completely two different characters their stories interacted on many levels so no matter whose POV you were reading we were getting info on each character.

Joshua's story was my favorite, maybe it was because he was just a genuine characters and nice guy overall. Or maybe because I loved that his high school experience being gay was anything but tragic. I thought that was a nice change from many other books I have read. I loved that he was out and no one really cared that much. I thought his crush on his best friend was adorable and I was routing for him the entire way. Camilla was a very different reading experience for me. She was harder to like as a character and narrator. I think I wanted her to have more of a backbone in some scenarios, but overall I routed for her in the end.

Even though I knew how the book would end, because it was just that kind of story, I still really enjoyed the read, It was a fast and fun book that made me smile from beginning to end. A great weekend read for anyone who loves a good sweet contemporary.

4 Stars
Hit - Delilah S. Dawson
This book immediately starts off with a bang. We find out that the United States has been taken over by a bank called Valor National and that the government is no longer. Patsy, the protagonist, has been chosen to go after ten different people who are in extreme debt to this bank. Each of these ten people has to choose one of three things: pay off the debt now in full, become a bounty hunter like Patsy, or be shot right on the spot. Patsy was one of the people who chose to become a bounty hunter for her mother's debt. If Patsy doesn't do her job, her mother is going to be killed and that's definitely not something that she's okay with.

Hit was extremely suspenseful, especially because of the way that it started. It's never slow at all; it's always very fast-moving which I absolutely adored. Nobody likes to read a slow book! Throughout the entire book, I felt so sympathetic towards Patsy. I don't know how she manages to kill people and live with that blood on her hands. She freaks out about it a few times, but she always keeps moving forward because she wants to save her mothers life.

One of my favorite things about this book was Wyatt, the side character who was always there for Patsy. Wyatt's father was the very first name on Patsy's list, so she killed him immediately because he couldn't pay the debt in full. Wyatt ends up being Patsy's sidekick, even though his brother is #10 on the list. Wyatt was super funny and caring, though he seemed to have some anger issues at times when Patsy didn't realize the smallest things. I did like how he was willing to do anything for her though. However, I don't know how Wyatt managed to not cry and freak out over the loss of his father. I mean, his father just died yet he's willing to road trip everywhere with this girl whom he has just met! He doesn't seem to shed a tear even once. I blame it on love for Patsy.

When I first finished this book, I was mentally screaming inside because of that ending! I had no idea that it was part of a series, though I'm glad that it is because after you finish reading Hit, you'll be itching for more suspense-ridden scenes with Wyatt and Patsy.
I have so many questions that I hope the next book answers! I'd definitely suggest giving this one a read!

5 Stars
The Darkest Part of the Forest
The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black
A modern day fairytale with that old world feel

The Darkest Part of the Forest takes place in a modern town bordered by a forest full of fey. Its quite the hot tourist attraction what with the ageless young horned boy that lies asleep in a glass coffin in the woods. But the townspeople know that the fey can be dangerous and as they’ve lived alongside them for years they always take precautions that the tourists never do. Something has been changing though because not only are tourists being preyed upon by the fey but now townsfolk as well.

Kiss the boys and make them cry

Hazel is a bit of a heart breaker. She likes to have fun and she isn’t opposed to trysting with the boys at parties with a few heated kisses. But she never wants anything more then that…except maybe she does and is too afraid to go after the one boy she shouldn’t want…her brother’s best friend Jack.

The musician who refuses to make music

When Ben was just a baby his artist mother was painting in the woods and met a fey lady who bestowed a blessing/curse of music upon Ben. The gift was that of music – to be able to enrapture anyone that listens. But all gifts from the fey are double edged.

Of both worlds and neither

Jack is a changeling who grew up in the town of Fairfold as if he were any normal human boy – except in his case everyone in town knows he is a changeling. His foster mother realized as soon as he was swapped for her own child that she wasn’t the baby she had given birth to and thus hatched a plan to get her baby back but when she did she refused to give up Jack saying that any mother who would willingly leave her child doesn’t deserve them and so she raised both babies as her own.

Be careful what you wish for

This book revolves around Hazel (16) and her brother Ben (17). Mostly though this is Hazel’s story. She’s always held this childhood dream of being a knight ever since they were children playing in the woods that surround their town of Fairfold and discover a half eaten body by the lake. A nasty hag attacks Hazel and with the help of Ben and a sword Hazel finds they are able to put an end to the nasty water hag. From then on Hazel is determined to protect the people from harm. But she and her brother were in more danger then she wanted to admit and Ben soon puts a stop to their adventuring because of his mounting worry. But Hazel doesn’t ever want to stop – so she makes a bargain…now flash forward about 6 years…

Your debts are coming due

The horned boy in the glass coffin is missing and Hazel’s debt to the fey for her bargain has come due. Her and her brother who have both been in love with the horned boy since they were children are set on finding and helping him and enlist the help of Ben’s best friend Jack.

Magical, engrossing and a YA fantasy definitely not to be missed

The Darkest Part of the Forest was all around fun. At times dark and foreboding with parts that made me ache with sadness to others that were full of magic – the story did a fabulous job of embodying a true fairytale while placing it in a modern setting. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read thus far by this author. She has such a smooth and easy writing style that had me flying through the pages and at the end before the day was through. The characters were dynamic and the story didn’t seem to suffer any of the typical YA tropes that frequently plaque some of the other YA books I’ve read. If you are a lover of fairytales this right here is the book of goodies you want.

4 Stars
How to Catch a Prince
How to Catch a Prince - Rachel Hauck
What happens when you throw an heiress, a prince and a wee bit of fanciful magic into a mix? You end up with a delightful, yet poignant story that stays with you.

Hauck weaves histories, secrets and working through real life issues into a very well-written story. Her characters, Corina del Rey and Stephen Stratton may have prestige, but they are both real, believable characters. And they both have lessons to learn about loving well. Hauck deals with PTSD and with survivor’s guilt in a thoughtful, sensitive way.

Corina del Rey has spent the last five years wrapped in grief over the unexplained loss of her brother. She opens this story, determined to move on from that place, as well as move beyond a secret she’s carried that long. When her brother’s close friend, Prince Stephen Stratton, prince of Brighton, surprises her and asks for her signature on some papers, she realizes she can’t leave her unanswered questions about the past behind her.

Prince Stephen of Brighton, a fictitious island nation, finds relief from his regret in being a star national rugby player representing his nation and encouraging his people. When his brother, the king of Brighton, brings him some rather important papers that need his attention, Stephen is forced to deal with aspects of his past he’d rather avoid.

As Corina and Stephen find their paths intersecting frequently, the relationship they once shared rekindles. When the truth comes out that put them at odds, they must decide if they can move beyond it, or if those regrets will hold them in it’s grip forever.

Things I liked about the story: Both characters made me like them and wish I could hang out with them. I loved the way Hauck pulled real life aspects of society into the story—Twitter and celebrity talk shows, as well as the challenges many military personnel deal with on a daily basis. I loved the fairy tale aspect of the story, and the way Hauck brings in a spiritual element throughout the story. I loved the character growth of both main characters. Hauck’s writing made it easy to picture the what was happening in my mind’s eye. This story was unpredictable, which I always like in a book. I found myself laughing and with a few tears as I turned the pages of this book.

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Rachel Hauck. This book is no exception. If you enjoy modern day fairy tales with real-life and a bit of fanciful-ness mixed within its pages, this book will not disappoint.

4 Stars
True Fire
True Fire - Gary Meehan
True Fire captured my attention quickly and gripped me to the end. It's a wonderful tale with memorable characters whose flaws, fears and motivations keep you guessing and occasionally gasping in surprise. 16 year old Megan has seen her family murdered, her sister abducted and her village destroyed. She finds herself allied with the gorgeous Eleanor, dispossessed Countess, and Damon, ex-enemy soldier. Somehow this odd 'triple' must band together to save Megan's sister from the clutches of the invading army. I loved reading an exciting, adventure story set against an intriguing political/historical landscape that wasn't romance driven. There are warring factions with terrible agendas, mysterious allies with questionable pasts, twists and turns that give you whiplash and the best in snappy dialogue, rich description and a slew of brilliant one-liners. Meehan's wit and clever story telling makes this soooo much fun to read
3 Stars
Mr. Wilson Makes It Home: How One Little Dog Brought Us Hope, Happiness & Closure
Mr. Wilson Makes It Home: How One Little Dog Brought Us Hope, Happiness & Closure - Michael Morse
A thoroughly enjoyable book that is heartwarming and story of a dog that was given a good and loving home. A great read for all ages.

4 Stars
Get Happy
Get Happy - Mary Amato
Reading Get Happy actually made me extremely happy. I have never laughed so much reading a book in my life. It was so lighthearted and hilarious. Mary Amato wrote a story that captures what it is like to be a teenager, without making the main character unlikeable. Actually, I loved Minerva. She is honest, funny, sarcastic and insecure. She reminded me so much of myself when I was a teenager.

I was shocked at how good this book was. It wasn't exactly the storyline, but it was the writing that really made this book phenomenal. This book really cheered me up and I wish I could personally thank Mary Amato for that. I'm disappointed that it's over and I need to check out Guitar Notes by Mary Amato.

I received a copy of this book to review courtesy of Egmont USA and Netgalley
3 Stars
Dog with a Bone
Dog with a Bone - Hailey Edwards
I received this book from NetGalley for review

This book was, okay. The characters were interesting and I liked that the story had little to do with romance. Thierry was a very different female character, and I liked that her personality wasn't cliche or over the top awesome. Same goes for the story itself. Removing the supernatural aspects of the story, it would still be interesting.

Shaw was also a pretty good character, and there was a mutual attraction between Thierry and Shaw but I was never really all that clear on his age, or exactly what kind of fae Thierry is. The only down side of this story for me was that it was really slow paced and not that long. I would have liked more story and more information on the fae laws and what kind of fae can do what, as well more about Thierry herself. I liked this book and it was a quick fun read.
4 Stars
This Side Of Home
This Side Of Home - Renee Watson
Review copy: ARC via Netgalley

This Side of Home is a solid debut by Renée Watson. While it shares many of the same tropes as other coming-of-age stories, the execution is what sets this book apart. Watson does a commendable job of painting a community in transition as gentrification drives old residents out and changes narrator Maya’s world in both obvious and subtle ways. Watching Maya and her neighborhood as they handled—or didn’t handle—the tumult made for a compelling story.

There were many small scenes that sold me on the book, from the observation that a landlord didn’t bother making any improvements/doing any maintenance his (black) tenants had been asking for until he could raise the rent and have wealthier (white) tenants to a conversation between Maya and one of the older residents at a home-turned-coffee shop about the neighborhood’s history or a difficult but good breakup with a boyfriend. This Side of Home is filled with many gems like this, especially when it comes to moments where Maya widens her perspective.

Maya was a fascinating character, and I was particularly moved by watching her reconcile her dreams with reality—and grow up in the process. Her disagreements and fights with her friend, Essence, and her sister, Nikki, provided some great conflict, especially since each side in the arguments tended to be right about different points. I was less enthused about Maya’s constant conflict with Principal Green and some of her fellow students, but the obstacles the principal threw in her way sparked some of my favorite scenes, like the boycott of the Tastes of the World event or the poster war.

One of the most interesting—and complicated—storylines was Maya’s relationship with Tony. Romance can be a tricky thing for me, sometimes, but Watson struck a good balance between creating a friendship between them and then making sure neither Maya nor Tony could fully dodge the hard issues in their relationship. (Their conversation about whether or not Maya should apply to other colleges in addition to Spelman was one of my favorites.) Through their relationship, Watson was able to explore topics like racism and privilege without bring the narrative to an abrupt halt.

Recommendation: Buy it now if you’re a fan of contemporary books. This Side of Home is a thoroughly enjoyable coming-of-age story that also manages to tackle important social issues without forgetting to keep its focus on the characters. Maya’s growth comes through questioning the world and the people around her, and while it was often painful, it was also rewarding. I’m looking forward to future books from Renée Watson
4 Stars
Beau, Lee, The Bomb & Me
Beau, Lee, The Bomb & Me - Mary McKinley
If you have a memory of the time when you defended a friend for anything, felt the hopeless sting of school clique rejection, realized the strength and joy of bonding with those who are "different" or in desperate need, you will want to stand up and cheer for these four outcasts as they find their way in the bigger world.

Mary McKinley has a fresh and wonderful voice: she captures the pain, the indignity, the anxiety, and finally the triumph of the outcast teen. Love it.

ARC from Netgalley
5 Stars
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives - Martin Ganda, Caitlin Alifirenka, Liz Welch
Caitlin and Martin's story gives you faith that in the possibility of making a difference in the world.

I can definitely see this being a fantastic read for kids 10-12 who I think will be most inspired by and open to the push for greater engagement with the world that fill this book. They are also less likely to be scornful of its sentimentality and the simplicity of the writing style than the early teen crowd that Little, Brown seems to be targeting with its marketing push.

I know some have criticized this book for a variety of reasons -- sentimentality, choppy writing, perpetuating the idea of white saviors of impoverished black people, etc. Perhaps these are all valid on some level, but on the other hand, it left me with the impression that both Martin and Caitlin were profoundly changed by the relationship that built between them over many years. My fingers are crossed that their story will inspire similar changes for at least some of the kids--and adults--who take the time to

ARC from Edelweiss
3 Stars
Writing Great Books for Young Adults: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Landing a Publishing Deal
Writing Great Books for Young Adults: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Landing a Publishing Deal - Regina Brooks
I wanted to learn about this field, but this book didn't really teach me anything I didn't already know. The first 10 chapters are just basic story-craft. If you have never studied ANY literature -- or just don't remember your ninth grade English class -- this will be helpful; it is accurate and solid (and well-edited!). If, on the other hand, you have read most of the YA novels the author references, you already know everything she has to teach you (you just might not know the technical terms). As "Fiction 101," this book rates 5 stars; unfortunately, it is not being sold as "Fiction 101." It is being sold as "Everything You Need to Know," which it is definitely not.

Like other reviewers, I found it strangely bothersome that the author kept referring to the immaturity of YA readers. Okay, so young adults are by definition "immature," as in they have not reached the biological maturity of adulthood. Young adults still have growing to do. However, I would argue that complicated and serious fiction helps the growth process along. Talking down to your YA audience won't get you anywhere